Peter's Prejudices

Most of these recipes are Pat's – she collects and adapts them almost compulsively. She loves finding and trying new recipes.

There are some recipes I make that aren't here because I tend to use one or two major sources. They are first and foremost Joy of Cooking, which is to me, the non-pareille of general cookbooks. Then comes the Julia Child Television Cookbook, her second thirteen television shows (the first thirteen were lost). Finally, I recommend Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for those days when you get adventurous. For our British friends, we recommend Delia Smith’s cookery books.

And lately, the many excellent books by Mark Bittman of the New York Times.

These are some of the things I believe about ingredients and about the cooking process. You don’t have to agree, but I hope you will think about them.

In principle, don’t cook with something you wouldn’t eat, preferably raw. That includes margarine, lousy wine, and lots of other things.

Butter: I like American-style, sweet cream, salted butter as the basic butter for cooking. You can get it in Europe (In Germany, Ravensburger Faßbutter, or France, Beurre President). For me, nothing else gives food the full, rich taste. Normal German butter, for example, is made from sour cream with no salt. Its flavor is quite different. Other fats, such as lard, bacon fat, etc. are useful when called for in a recipe but not as a general substitute for butter. And, cheap butter tastes cheap. Don't be confused by our interest in Better Butter. It's still butter, mixed with good oil. Fewer saturated fats. We still use 'whole' butter when it's indicated.

Garlic: We love it, probably use more than indicated, but it always tastes great. We always put a clove or two of garlic in when boiling potatoes, it makes them taste so much better.

Hard-boiled eggs: Everyone has his or her own method. Ours: Prick each egg with a needle before boiling. My method is to put eggs in the cold water, turn on the heat, set the timer for 15 minutes. Pat's method is to put the eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, remove pan from heat, cover and set a timer for 10 minutes. We then run the eggs under cold water and add a tray full of ice cubes to make them easier to peel. Great eggs with creamy yolks.

Cholesterol: This is the dreaded word for anything somebody else doesn’t like. The cholesterol issue has ruined many a good cook’s repertoire.

Here is my take on the subject: If you don’t have high blood pressure, if your pulse rate is normal, if your doctor isn’t threatening you, don’t worry about cholesterol. At the same time, don’t over-indulge in fats. Fatty food is harder to digest, and the point of fats in food is to make the dish taste better. Use genuine animal fats (unless you are vegetarian) and the highest quality butter, olive oil or whatever you can get. Use them in adequate amounts to provide the flavor you seek.

Wine: Cooking with wine means using the same wine in the food that you will drink at the table. Never use ‘cooking wine’. Of course, if you a serving a $60.00 bottle with dinner, you can probably cook with your normal table wine. But otherwise, no compromise.

Herbs and Spices: Whenever possible, use fresh herbs. Keep a pot of basil growing somewhere and use it with tomatoes, for pesto, whatever. Thyme, rosemary and sage plants last forever, they're perennials. The fresh herbs add real flavor that dried herbs cannot match. And they grow almost anywhere.

Spicy foods: I used to hate ‘hot’ foods. Then, our Indian friends began cooking for us, and Pat learned some middle-eastern and Indian recipes. I herewith re-state my prejudice on spicy foods:

Spicy foods should be full of flavor, and you should be able to tell that there are many flavors involved. Food that burns your mouth is not good food, it is oral self-abuse.

Avoid ‘Curry Powder’ if you can. It is usually mono-chromatic and dulls the flavor of whatever it is added to. Indians do not use it (or rarely). They mix up different spices for their curries, and no two taste the same. Just usually wonderful.

Other rants:


Olive oil

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