Learn about food. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to grab whatever’s in the refrigerator and create a decent meal with minimal effort. On one of my annual shopping jaunts to the King Arthur store in Norwich, Vermont, I happened to leaf through The Cook’s Bible by Christopher Kimball. It has become the most important asset on my kitchen bookshelf. It’s full of “test kitchen” results and basic recipes for common foods. The most useful thing I learned from this book is that for most foods, there’s the best way and there’s every other way. The book armed me with the information I need to turn a bad recipe into a good one, turn a difficult one into an easy one and best of all, create my own.
Buy cookbooks compiled by famous restaurants or the chefs that work for them. Have you ever eaten in a great restaurant packed full of patrons and wondered how your order made it to your table in 15 minutes? The masters who prepared your meal know how to create great dishes that don’t require a lot of time and effort. I’ve listed a few of my favorites…
- Culinary Secrets of Great Virginia Chefs: Elegant Dining from Colonial Williamsburg to Historic Richmond by The Virginia Chefs Association and Martha Hollis Robinson
- The “21” Cookbook by Michael Lomonaco with Donna Forsman
- The Dean and DeLuca Cookbook by David Rosegarten with Joel Dean and Giorgio DeLuca
- Jacques Pepin’s Table: The Complete Today’s Gourmet by Jacques Pepin
- The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant Complete Seafood Cookbook compiled and edited by Mark Abrahamson
Don’t assume that a good cut of meat has to be expensive. Louisiana Cajun’s were traditionally a poor society where slow cooking methods were necessary to improve texture and flavor. A brisket cooked properly at 200° for 10 hours will be more tender and flavorful than the beef served at your favorite steak house.
Keep a well-stocked kitchen. Grocery shopping is time-consuming. Once a month, I spend several hours stocking my pantry… then I only need to do one quick weekly trip for meats and another quick mid-week trip for milk or vegetables.