Wednesday 13 December 2017

On Cooking

Reading through this festering nightmare of a blog you'd probably expect me to be complete piece of shit, fucking asshole, misogynistic pig, people-hating, ratbag, other-man's wife-fucking, etc etc etc whose blood boils over at the slightest provocation.

Fucking oath.

However (there's always a however) I do have a few soft spots. One of them is actually for children - even though you'd expect my attitude to be along the lines of "are they best baked, fried, or roasted?" I really don't like it when they get the shaft, which they do on a regular basis in our current society.

Another soft spot is cooking. I kinda enjoy that. Something almost peaceful and zen about it. Also healthier than many other habits out there.

Of course, most women can't cook for shit. (What? You expected me to keep teh wimminz out of it? Bah humbug!)

That said, this post was actually inspired by a woman having lunch at work a couple days ago. A few sprigs of limp-looking lettuce, some pathetic-looking crumbed fish. What really bought it to my attention was her grumbling aka semi-bitching about how bland it was.

Because I kinda have a soft spot with food (90kg weight-training fat bastard that I am) I actually talked with her about food. (The other reason is that I've known her for over 15 years, I know that she's not a complete cunt. Say what you like, there are a few. That doesn't make her a NAWALT of any stripe - just not a complete cunt.)

Gave her a few ideas, in the process it kinda struck me: younger single guys also sometimes have trouble cooking. Not because they're useless or anything, it's because they've not been told the basics behind it. (Plus many cooking sites are just recipes and cutesy shit for a group of 4, etc. Overkill for single men. You also don't learn squat about cooking from a bunch of random recipes.)

So here's your basic, reasonably minimalist kitchen guide to gear and cooking and the *why* behind some of it.

Gear - you need the following:

1 small teflon frying pan with lid (enough for 2 scrambled eggs or an omelet or the like)
1 small pot with lid (enough to boil an egg, a kumara/potato, a carrot, some peas and the like)
1 plastic spatula (don't bugger up the surface of your teflon frying pan with a metal one)
1 plastic slotted spoon (easy draining/serving from the pot)
1 large bamboo cutting-board (about 1 x 1.5 ft or 300 x 500 mm)
1 chef knife (Global brand - be warned, it's sharp enough to take a finger off)
2 paring knives (anything that isn't utter crap - you will get these as sharp as the chef knife)
1 water sharpener for the Global chef knife, use with all the knives (with extra ceramic rollers)

That's all the cooking gear you need. You're not baking a cake, you're not making cookies or biscuits or scones or the like. This is for basic day-to-day cooking. (Note: no ceramic knives in evidence. Anywhere. That shit is just too delicate for jobs that your chef knife will handle with ease.)

I'm gonna assume that you don't have a problem with how to make sandwiches, cereal (oats soaked in milk overnight in the fridge is good), scrambled eggs, various forms of salad, smoothies, etc. What people do seem to have a hassle with is the making of a proper end-of-day meal - what we call "dinner" in New Zealand. (I forget what it's called in America. Supper?)

Here is your real basic meal.

Mains: chicken breast or steak.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast costs about $2 per each in New Zealand (that's 250g or 1/2 pound of chicken - you can get 1kg or 2 pound for $8 here - yes, it's generally cage chickens, too bad).

Steak, a decent cut of 1 inch / 2.5 cm thick rump, I buy for about $22 a kilogram from a good butcher (*never* buy cheap cuts from a supermarket, it's generally mystery meat that's been glued together with meat glue - I'm lucky in that all meat in NZ is grass-fed beef).

Cooking meat in the frying pan: put in 1 tablespoon of butter (olive oil and coconut oil are not recommended - olive oil degrades with heat, coconut oil has a very high heating-point). Turn heat to medium. Note: your meat should *never* be frozen inside - if it is, leave it in the fridge for 24 hours to thaw (or on your bench for an hour or so - just make certain that the dog/cat/flies/whatever cannot get at it).

Chicken: put in the pan, swirl around quickly once, flip - that gets melted butter on the top. Grind over it some salt and pepper or whatever spices you prefer. Cook for 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low (1/4), flip, put the top on the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, remove chicken from pan, leave on plate to relax for 5+ minutes. Makes perfect juicy chicken.

Beef: put in the pain, swirl around quickly once, flip. Again with the salt and pepper, or you can use some form of sauce if that's your preference. Cook for 6 minutes. Flip, cook for 6 more minutes. Remove pan from heat, remove beef from pan, leave on plate to relax for 5+ minutes. Makes medium-rare steak (might need a little longer, depending on the thickness of your steak).

Note: the concept of letting meat "relax". A lotta people don't know what this means. The thing is that with the above cooking, the inside of the meat isn't fully cooked yet, plus the juices around the outside are still very liquid. If you slice into the chicken/beef the moment it comes off the pan (or BBQ) the juice will come pouring out of it, leaving you with juice/blood everywhere on the plate and your chicken or beef rubbery and somewhat tasteless.

When you let it relax, the heat in the outside does a little bit more cooking inside plus the juices seal into the cells of the meat as things cool, plus you don't burn your damnfool mouth 'cause it's too damn hot to eat right away. Give it a minimum of 5 minutes, 10 is better.

Sides: steamed via the microwave. Use a large-ish bowl. Half-fill with broccoli, sliced carrot, defrosted peas, possibly even corn (not on the cob). Put in 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water. Cover with a plate. Nuke on high for 2.5 minutes. Be careful, it's hot! Remove cover, drain away the remaining water. Perfectly steamed vegetables (carrot may take another 1 minute, try it and see).

Cooked in a pot: 1/3rd fill with water, salt, bring to a boil. Dice in 1 carrot, cook 3 minutes. Chop in 1 kumara or potato, cook 3 minutes. Add 1/2 corn on the cob or 1/2 cup of defrosted peas or broccoli or cauliflower, cook 3 minutes - or until you can get a fork into the kumara/potato easily (not rock-hard, not flaking apart like mush).

Couscous (carb): you don't even need to cook this. Put a 1/4 cup in a cereal bowl, 1 teaspoon of butter or olive oil, 1/2 cup of boiling water, let it sit for 2-3 minutes (maybe stir once or twice). It soaks the liquid up. If you taste a little and it's still hard, add a little more boiling water.

If you like fried mushrooms or mushrooms in gravy, slice the mushrooms into the pan after the chicken/beef is put on the plate to relax. Stir them around and flip them a few times. Add water to dissolve the crunchier bits of chicken/beef, perhaps some chicken/beef stock if you have it on hand, a teaspoon to a tablespoon of flour well-stirred into things to thicken them up right before serving (a spot of milk also optional for milk gravy). Salt also optional.

There you have several options for simple meals - 1/2 hour tops to cook, take 10-15 minutes to eat, clean up immediately once done. (For cleaning your teflon pan: a soft sponge, hot water, a squirt of soap - do *not* use any form of scouring pad, don't use a scrubbing brush, you'll fuck the surface in a few short months and have to buy another one. Or go batshit crazy as everything sticks like superglue.)

For myself, being in a cutting phase at the moment, I'm doing fried chicken breast and steamed broccoli with salt'n'pepper and some cheese melted over the top. Sliced tomato with salt'n'pepper as another side. Could do steamed or raw carrot too, if I wanted.

Have a play. Enjoy. Remember two things:

* undercooked (semi-raw) chicken = puking and shitting your guts out overnight or a visit to the hospital

* too-rare beef = not so great stomach plus potential visit to the hospital

Your mileage may vary on the last two bits. Depends how young and tough you are. Especially watch it with the chicken though - if you cut into it and it's still somehow raw inside, straight back into the pan to cook that fucker more (and throw away anything else on the plate that might have gotten uncooked chicken juice on it).

When handling raw chicken, put it in the pan and *immediately* wash your hands and utensils (unless you're cooking the chicken with them) with dish soap and warm water. Ditto for the packaging. One drop of that stuff can ruin your whole week if you're really unlucky on the salmonella count (bloody cage chickens).

Don't forget the occasional beverage, too. Time for a small glass of Grand Marnier. Enjoy!


  1. A Cast Iron pan is a definite must, also a well seasoned steel/copper pan is good. Low heat cooking with coconut oil produces great results.

    First and foremost, good cooking requires patience. My sixteen year old daughter is a queen of cooking and such a gifted person (NAWALT), too bad life is so F'd up now-a-days. I don't think she will ever find a person for whom she can have lots of children.

    Sad, and damned sad.

  2. Eduardo the Magnificent14 December 2017 at 04:00

    My only quibble: cast iron skillets. Season them properly and your grandchildren will still be using them. Not that much more expensive to buy than a Teflon skillet, either.

    1. True indeed - they can last through several generations if kept well. I'll admit that I have no experience with them personally. Perhaps I should give one a try.

  3. I should have added: when you use your knives, wash and sharpen them immediately once done. Instructions come with the water sharpener.

    If you go the Global brand, you've got what is currently the sharpest chef knife in the world.