Too Many People Can’t Make a Proper Grilled Cheese

There are few things as satisfying as a properly made, hot of the pan, grilled cheese sandwich. Anybody can make a fantastic grilled cheese, but not everybody does. Perhaps because it is so easy, many home cooks get complacent because it is so easy and manage to mess it up by not putting any thought into it at all, while others ruin them by overthinking, kind of like the reasons good golfers miss two foot putts.

Those who don’t put enough thought and effort into a grilled cheese throw a slice of processed cheese in between the bread, which is absolutely inexcusable. Aside from the fact you should not have processed cheese in your house in the first place, if you can’t take one minute to grate a handful of cheddar you are simply too lazy to ever been a respectable home cook.

On the other end of the spectrum people feel like a plain grilled cheese is beneath them and make the classic mistake of trying to improve upon perfection and ruin it by using real butter or whole grain bread. If you want to impress people with your cooking ability then make beef wellington. When it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, stick with what works. If you absolutely have to put some kind of personal touch then add a sprinkle of Monterrey jack with your cheddar.


Never Try to Make Real Sourdough Bread

I bought an award winning book from a French baker living in Sweden who is a passionate advocate of baking break using sourdough starter rather than yeast. Though I was suspicious of his tiresome raving against “industrial” bread and “multinational” corporations caused me to roll my eyes, I admit that I was intrigued by his description of the sourdough process, and I endeavoured to give it a try.

What intrigued me most of all was the idea that you could make bread rise without using anything other than flour, water, and salt. Essentially sourdough starter is made by adding water and flour together in a jar and letting the naturally occurring bacteria start to grow. At the beginning of the process I was actually rather impressed with myself as the mixture started to bubble just like it was supposed to. On the downside it also smelled awful. It also looked disgusting. I mean, who wants to have jar of wet flour fermenting away on your kitchen counter.

When it was time to make the sourdough bread I followed the author’s directions to the letter. In order to have a better personal connection or whatever to the bread, I dumped all the flour onto a board and made a well in the middle to add the water and the sourdough. When I added it the water immediately spilled over the top of the well and all over the floor. Then started wildly mashing together the flour and water into a messy pile of slop. I added what I thought was enough water to replace what spilled, but I’m not sure how accurate of a guess I made.

I finally managed to knead the thing into a ball and put it in a bowl to rise. It became zombie loaf; not entirely dead or alive but smelling terribly. After two days I threw it in the garbage and then made myself a wonderful loaf of French bread in a few hours using good old industrial yeast.

Prime Rib Is Overrated

Everyone says that prime rib is the best oven roast, and for years I’ve been listening to them. Every time prime rib is on sale, which isn’t that often, I feel like I should buy it. And every time I make it, end up spending more time trying to pull away the fat and grizzle then I do eating. I want to eat roast beef, not roast fat and grizzle.

All these celebrity chefs on TV talk about how all the fat marbling you get in prime rib ads so much flavour to the meat. Marbling is one thing, but there are huge chunks of pure fat as big around as your pinkie running throughout prime rib, not to mention all the grizzle.

Why would I pay more money for a roast when I have to trim off a third of it, not including the bones? When you factor in the actual edible parts of the prime rib it is actually as expensive as tenderloin. My dog loves prime rib. He loves how he gets to eat all the parts I cut off and then gets to gnaw on a meaty bone. If our world was run by dogs, it would make perfect sense that prime rib would be the most expensive roast, but it is beyond me that civilized human beings would bid up the price of this fatty, grizzly mess of a roast.

If the same logic applied to chicken, the thighs would be the most expensive part of the chicken. The same chefs who love prime rib also prefer the more grizzly and fatty chicken thighs, but yet they have been unable to brainwash the chicken buying public like they’ve done with the beef buying public. There are a couple of potential explanations. One is that chicken lovers are more independent thinkers and less susceptible to outside influence that beef lovers. The other, more plausible explanation is that many people have dogs, and prime rib is the preferred cut of beef among every single breed of dog.

If beef buyers took the same approach as chicken buyers, eye of round roast would cost twice as much as prime rib. It is pure beef, with no fat, grizzle, or bones. If you cook it slowly on low heat, you can make it every bit as tender as prime rib. Do yourself a favour, next time you want roast beef, buy an eye of round instead of prime rib and put your savings towards a nice bottle of red wine to go with it.

Home Cooks Need to Learn When to Ignore Celebrity Chefs

If you like cooking, you may also like watching cooking shows on TV or reading recipe books from your favourite celebrity chef. There is a lot to be learned from someone who has worked as a professional chef for many years, but there are also plenty of things to ignore. Knowing when not to take a celebrity chef’s advice is an important skill that every successful home cook needs to acquire.

You need to understand that to be a professional chef, you need to eat everything. To run a successful high end restaurant you need to serve a wide array of dishes as you have a wide array of customers, each of whom generally likes to try something new every time they come back to the restaurant. You can’t master cooking a recipe if you never actually taste what you are cooking, so chefs are by their nature extremely open minded and adventurous when it comes to trying something new. And because they are always pushing the envelope to create new and bold flavours, they have are much less sensitive to strong tasting foods. The average home cook, and particularly the friends and family members that he or she is cooking for, tend to have much less adventurous culinary tastes.

A huge proportion of the North American population eat pretty much the same thing over and over. Tacos are about as exotic a food as half the population has ever eaten, so when you want to try to impress a dinner guest with something new, you need to sometimes be careful not to try something too new. Maybe that Asian stew with the fish sauce and habanero peppers is not the way to go. Also, a lot of people don’t like their fish to be looking at them while they eat. Celebrity chefs love to serve a whole bass, but your neighbours are not celebrity chefs, so perhaps serve them a filet instead.

There is not a single chef in the world who likes their steak well done, or more accurately, there isn’t a single chef who would admit to liking their steak well done. The prevailing wisdom in the cooking industry is that the less a food is cooked, the more flavourful it will be, and so sophisticated diners who appreciate great food will have their food cooked as rare as possible while the uncultured, simpleton diners will lean toward well done. Don’t listen to any of that. Cook your food to whatever level of doneness you and your guests prefer. You are the one buying the food, not the chef on TV, so cook it however way you like it.

It is also important to know how to adjust recipes. For example, I find that most cookbook recipes call for at least twice as much garlic as I can handle, so whatever recipe I see, I always cut the amount of garlic in half. I also find that many recipes will overdo the onions, so I will often cut back a little bit, sometimes by using a small onion or substituting with shallots. When I see fish sauce I either omit it from the recipe or omit the recipe altogether. If you like the taste of rotting fish, feel free to add it. The point is that you need to adapt the celebrity chef’s recipes to your tastes, not adapt your taste to their recipes.