I am going to do something a little bit different this week! Instead of writing my regular column, I am going to give you my best cooking tips.
I’ve had a lot of experience over the years and have picked up a few tips that I thought you might enjoy. I have been having friends over for Sunday brunch for many years and have had more than 700 restaurant stories published in the newspaper and a handful of magazines, including right here in Our Mississippi Home.
I hope these tips will help you become a better cook:
- Please don’t overcook seafood. In a hot pan, shrimp are done in less than two minutes. Additional cooking only makes them tough and tasteless. Same goes for oysters.
- Olive oil should be flavorful, like wine. Look for pepper, citrus, or other bold flavors. The Europeans have been shipping their inferior (and tasteless) olive oils to the United States for ages. Thus, so many Americans think of oil as nothing but a lubricant. It’s an ingredient that adds flavor to any dish. Would you use butter that has no flavor?
- Invest in good quality pots and pans. They will last you a lifetime. Cast iron is great, just make sure to keep it seasoned (add oil, heat to smoking, turn off and let it sit). My favorite pots are a set of copper with stainless steel inserts. You need a good non-stick pan too, for things like frying eggs. Do not clean a non-stick pan with anything but a soft sponge.
- Spices and herbs have a shelf life of just six months. Buy the small containers and throw away the old stuff.
- Freshly ground black pepper is the best. Please do not buy previously ground pepper. It is stale.
- Grits, like coffee, are best when freshly ground. My favorite are made by Original Grit Girl in Oxford.
- Buy the best quality knives you can afford and keep them sharp with a steel. If they get really dull, have a go at them with a wet stone, course to fine, then the steel. Nothing is more dangerous than a dull knife.
- Salt is a flavor intensifier. Many chefs will tell you most people underutilize it. No wonder food in restaurants taste so good! Season as you go. Taste, then season and taste again.
- When having friends over, serve multiple small courses. If you serve one big family style meal, your dinner party will soon be over. The idea is to share food and conservation with your friends and family. Why rush?
- Also when having friends over, take your menu to your favorite wine shop and have them pair wines for each course. If that’s not in the budget, find one wine that will go well with most of the food. In the summertime, a good rosé is a good choice. Champagne goes with everything.