Several of my friends have asked me this question. It’s not an easy answer. Just it’s very simply. Preparation and organization are key to any recipe, be it something new you’re trying or something you know by heart. So let’s take a look at some of the basics of what I use and how I use them.
WHAT DO I KEEP IN MY KITCHEN?
Several appliances that I use in just about every meal are my Food Processor, Immersion Blender, mixing bowls both glass and stainless steel,sieves of various sizes, the usual knives and cutting boards. My slow cookers of various sizes each serve a different purpose. More on that later. The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer I don’t use quite as often but nevertheless, it’s a very handy money-saving tool.
I’m also an avid spice collector. Actually, I collect ingredients of every type. Some I’ve found in various ethnic groceries. A few years ago an old friend bought back an assortment of spices from Zanzibar, Africa. All in all, it’s enough to start a small spice war if these were different times.
On top of the spices, I’m a firm believer of fresh ingredients too. That means cutting lots of onions. Protective eye-wear is a must to prevent temporary blindness.
Preparing any type of meat:
I generally will take any sort of meat, be it beef, chicken, pork or lamb and I prep it at least a day or two in advance. By prepping I mean, trimming the parts that are not wanted, though I tend to like a bit of fat and gristle. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper till all sides are covered. Then add about a cup of red wine or white on the meat. Some say red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat. I’m not a stickler. You’re not drinking the wine. It simply helps break down the muscles and let flavor penetrate.
Vinegar also helps break down meat, but vinegar tends to leave a very strong taste, depending on which type you use. If I do use vinegar as a marinade, it’s generally balsamic and I add it to a wine mixture. The most versatile vinegar has to be balsamic for me. I use it in nearly every dish.
After the meat has been well prepared for a marinade, leave it covered in the fridge for at least 24 hours. I recommend taking it out after a few hours and turn the meat over so each side is adequately covered in marinade.
After the 12 hours, the meat is ready to be used in a variety of dishes, be it slow-roasted, sliced up for a stir-fry or cubed for a stew.
I’m also a big fan of pan searing the meat before using it either as a roast or in a stew-type dish. If the meat is going in the oven, many recipes call for the oven temperature to start off high for 30 minutes (to sear the meat) before being turned down low to be cooked for slow roasting (1-2 hours)
Organization my ingredients
The French call it Mise en place which means everything in its place. It’s used in professional kitchens and on a much smaller scale it helps in my kitchen.
Some people measure out their salt and pepper and other ingredients and set them out in small bowls. I’m not quite so organized, but any little bit of organization will help a lot. Once I see all my ingredients laid out before me, then it’s as simple as putting it all together.
By now, you must be aware of how much I love herbs and spices. I use spices, like turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, coriander just about every day. But do pay attention to the salt you use as well. Kosher, sea, Himalayan all taste very different and can affect the taste of your dish.
Also, do not underestimate the power of fresh herbs. I’ve only just started growing my own. But boy does it make it difference.