Difficult things to cook
As part of The Week of Eating In, we're challenging the conventional wisdom that deems certain foods too hard to cook for the inexperienced. We understand that cooking may seem like a daunting task at times, but if you bear with us, we can show you that some things aren't as scary to cook as they look. Don't quit before you've even gotten started- you can whisk polenta into submission, just like the pros.
Check out our advice:
- It's less familiar to many of us than grits, or corn mush, but that's essentially what it is, too. Get a pot of salted water going at a roiling boil, and pour in a slow, steady stream of ground corn while whisking. Keep whisking, with the whole concoction bubbling a little- another minute or two, and you're done.
- If you have a small pot with a lid, a few drops of vinegar, and five minutes of your time, you can poach an egg to perfection. Bring enough water to submerge a whole egg to a boil; add the vinegar and turn off the heat. Crack the egg into a small bowl, and gingerly slip it into the water. Cover, and wait for about 4 minutes. If the white looks completely opaque and not ghostly translucent in spots, remove it with a slotted spoon. Now you're only an English muffin and slice of ham away from a $12 eggs benedict brunch special!
- There's also a sauce commonly served with Eggs Benedict called Hollandaise. This is egg yolks, tempered with hot butter when it's mixed in, and seasoned with fresh lemon juice and salt. You can make this at home, no problem, and it'll be guaranteed bacteria-free if you keep your eyes on it (semi-raw egg yolks are a feedlot for bacteria, so it's not one of the most efficient sauces to keep in a busy restaurant kitchen). But you can also fake it with another classic French sauce, bechamel. It's a tablespoon each of flour and butter, heated and stirred with a cupful of milk until thick and bubbly. It's the start for making a cheese sauce, for mac and cheese, and it can be used to thicken anything or take on any additional flavors as a gravy. And hey, for Eggs Benedict, add a squeeze of lemon, some salt and pepper.
- Everyone complains about incessant stirring required of this dish, but really, risotto just needs your attention every couple minutes or so. Keep the rice on a slow, steady simmer over low heat as you continue to add the stock, and in the meantime, prepare other ingredients for the garnish, perhaps, or other dishes to serve. In about 25 minutes, your risotto should be fully cooked- and your arm shouldn't ache from the effort.
- A home-baked loaf of bread hot out of the oven is incomparable to almost anything else edible; it'll fill your kitchen with that familiar, yeasty bakery smell, and it'll burst with steam once broken open. And leftover bread lends itself to countless dishes- if you bake one you won't have a reason not to cook throughout the week. Start with the easiest route, and take Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery's No-Knead Bread recipe for a spin. You can add more complicated loaves to your repertoire later on, but this will feed you for a week in the meantime.
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