Monday, February 14, 2011

Houston, we have a Problem....

I don't know if I'd call food an obsession - I know what I like and don't like to settle.  It doesn't have to be high end, it can be simple as an egg yolk or pasta with tomato and basil (as long as its good).  I've always been able to cook (dating back to my crunchy yellow rice in college), but my culinary renaissance occurred in Spain.  Everything was delicious: the tapas (croquettas, pinchos, & chorizo), suckling pig (at Botin), paella, and the most amazing market in the world - Mercat de la Boqueria.  I came back inspired, got completely roped in by the Food Network, and experiment with new things each week: from risotto to seafood to French sauces (and it doesn't hurt to have an expense account).  Here are a couple of lessons I've learned in my short tenure as an Iron Chef:

* Buy and use fresh herbs.  They are relatively cheap ($1.99-$2.99 at supermarkets or a farmer's market), they spruce up the window sill, and nothing compares when adding different dashes of taste to a meal.  I always keep basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives, mint, and oregano around.
* Dry ingredients are garbage when compared to their real counterpart - just throw away your ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and dry herbs (AKA sawdust).  There's a significant difference between fresh ground cinnamon sticks / nutmeg and fresh cut herbs.
* Shallots, unsalted butter, chicken / beef stock, and heavy cream are now staples.
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