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cooking 101 - when you don't know what to do... — LiveJournal
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cooking 101
So my best friend is a bachelor. He's in the Army, lives alone, and doesn't know how to cook. He's at that point in his life where food sticks around way beyond its welcome, so he needs to get more nutrition in his diet than one can get from a microwave meal.

I've volunteered to teach him how to cook. What I want to do is teach him basic principles and techniques that he can apply to easy recipes. I have a couple of cookbooks in mind that I'm going to give him (Where's Mom Now That I Need Her and Joy of Cooking, though Apocalypse Chow is in the running, too). My question is, what basic, beginning recipes would be good to get him started out, learning the principles of cooking? I don't want him to just learn by rote; I want him to apply techniques to other recipes. (Assume he has the tools he needs -- there's going to be a shopping trip.)


i feel: curious curious

27 trips or shoot the rapids
spotweld From: spotweld Date: February 11th, 2007 05:34 am (UTC) (base camp)
Um.. how do you feel about getting him some Alton Brown torrents?

How clueless in the kitchess is he?
If he can already manage tunafish and Mac&Cheese, then he's already got some of th basics.

Actaul recipes that would be good to start with: Meatballs&Pasta (and canned suace), Casserole, Chocolate Chip cookies .
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 05:40 am (UTC) (base camp)
I'm wondering if AB would just annoy him. No need for torrents, either; he can always watch them when they're broadcast. He can probably manage tuna, but I'm not even sure he knows how to cook pasta, so mac n cheese will likely be out.
spotweld From: spotweld Date: February 11th, 2007 05:45 am (UTC) (base camp)
Alton Brown goes over well with folks who have somewhat high geek-factor.

Another suggestion would be those "one-skillet" stir fry meals that are out there now.
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 05:53 am (UTC) (base camp)
He has a decent geek-factor, but a low tolerance for the absurd. He doesn't get Weebl and Bob or Ill Will Press, for heaven's sake.

I'll take a look at the skillet meals -- I don't know what they're nutrition info is like, and I'm trying to get him into cooking fresh food.
esmerel From: esmerel Date: February 11th, 2007 05:44 am (UTC) (base camp)
Wow, that bad off, is he?

I'd suggest maybe some form of baked chicken? Mashed potatoes? If he can handle that, then maybe something truly crazy like a basic gravy, which would give him a use for the chicken drippings and be a really useful technique for so many other things. I mean, if you can make a decent gravy, you can cover up just about anything, right?
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 06:03 am (UTC) (base camp)
Good idea. I also might see if he's interested in learning to use a crock pot. That way he can make stuff that will be ready when he gets home from work and have leftovers for later in the week.
ciorstan From: ciorstan Date: February 11th, 2007 05:51 am (UTC) (base camp)
Find an older, used copy of Joy of Cooking. There was a major, major change in the 1997 editions onwards and it's NOT the same any more. It was radically rewritten with 'healthy eating' guidelines and a lot of the charmingly goofy personal anecdotes were taken out, along with a whole lot of plain, good eating. My edition is the one that was in print between 1975 and 1996.


tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 05:54 am (UTC) (base camp)
I'll see what I can come up with. I like my Mom's... probably circa 1966.
xianghua From: xianghua Date: February 11th, 2007 07:33 am (UTC) (base camp)
Actually, the brand new one is GREAT- I got it for Christmas- lots of the good stuff is back in!
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 07:43 am (UTC) (base camp)
I already got him Apocalypse Chow and Where's Mom -- yesterday was his 40th birthday! I'll flip through Joy at the bookstore and see what I think. I'm also starting a book for him with my mom's recipes; he loves her cooking.
From: linuxwitch Date: February 11th, 2007 06:03 am (UTC) (base camp)
"How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman is a great tome to have around.
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 06:19 am (UTC) (base camp)
Ooh. There's a website. Thanks!
rani23 From: rani23 Date: February 11th, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC) (base camp)
I second that book. It's great. That and the Joy of Cooking are my cooking bibles.
(Deleted comment)
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 06:48 am (UTC) (base camp)
Oh, he's got the cleaning down pat -- no worries on that account.

beard5 From: beard5 Date: February 11th, 2007 07:01 am (UTC) (base camp)
For the basics, I recommend, older edition of Joy of Cooking, older edition of Fanny Farmer, and my favorite new cook cookbook, is James Beard's Pasta cookbook. The recipes in the front part can be a bit much, but the list for pantry based sauces is a life saver, seriously.
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 07:17 am (UTC) (base camp)
I don't want to get too complex on him. At this point, I seriously don't think he knows how to make anything more complex than ramen noodles.
beard5 From: beard5 Date: February 11th, 2007 07:45 am (UTC) (base camp)
Drop me an email bobd2 AT tellink DOT net and I'll send you a pdf with the useful section of James Beard. I like the rest for the reading, but the pantry list is pretty good and simple. About as complex as ramen.
misoranomegami From: misoranomegami Date: February 11th, 2007 07:30 am (UTC) (base camp)
If he's a geek, he might enjoy Cooking for Geeks! It's similar to Alton Brown only without the fun props. Most of its recipes step by step instructions including lots of pictures and then have a little simple engineering diagram at the bottom. Other than that you might want to walk him through some basic techniques that work on a variaty of dishes. Boiling macaroni, spaghetti, linguini etc isn't all that different in my opinion from each other or other boiled items like vegtables. So if I were going to teach someone what considered the absolute basics I would probably include boiling, frying, sauteing, baking, roasting with an eye towards what you could change out to make it a different recipe. But what can I say, I live by modular cooking. I never follow a recipe exactly.
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 11th, 2007 07:43 am (UTC) (base camp)
Good idea! Thanks!
misoranomegami From: misoranomegami Date: February 11th, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC) (base camp)
Oh and the other thing I would absolutely recommend some sort of food thermostat. I personally love my digital one and I think I got it for less than $15 at Target. It's probably the best investment in cooking meat I've ever made since I've always had an over that ran hot or cold. Plus my mother apparently got sick off of some undercooked meat when she was just learning so for the entire duration of my life every meal she's cooked that includes meat has been almost charred. My father actually thanked me for getting her one like mine. You stick it into the deepest part of the meat, set it for the done temperature they give you on the back and then wait for it to beep without fear of food poisoning.
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 12th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC) (base camp)
My husband is the same way -- he prefers his beef crunchy. I usually start his meat, then halfway through, put mine on. That way we both get our meat cooked the way we like, and it's done at the same time.

This is going to be an expensive proposition for him, but with any luck, it'll be worth it, and he'll learn that a great, nutritious meal doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming.
misoranomegami From: misoranomegami Date: February 14th, 2007 05:52 am (UTC) (base camp)
Okay 1 more recommendation then I'll stop. I promise. If he's not specifically trying to cut down sodium intake or avoid mixes or anything he can sign up at www.kraftfoods.com for their free Food & Family magazine. They send out 4 a year, no charge and it's usually about 60-70 pages of quick, fairly easy recipes. They do tend to call for a lot of their own products but it mostly goes in the form of "Use Kraft brand (tm) Mayonaise!" etc. They've got nice pictures and really easy step by step instructions. They also have a modular meal section where they'll give a basic recipe like meatloaf and then give 6 different variations (southwest, barbecue, etc) by listing different things you can mix in, put on top and serve it with. And I have to say all of the recipes I've tried have come out pretty well.
tashabear From: tashabear Date: February 14th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC) (base camp)
Heck with him... I'll sign up for that! Thanks!
rani23 From: rani23 Date: February 11th, 2007 01:00 pm (UTC) (base camp)
My very first cookbook was called "The Starving Student's Cookbook" -- it was funny, amusing and taught you how to fry and egg. :)

You might want to consider picking up something like this -- a "Cooking for Dummies" sort of thing. :)
mangojellytoast From: mangojellytoast Date: February 11th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC) (base camp)
I was going to say what spidersweb said about Stir-fry type cooking. Everything goes in one pot, and it's easy to incorporate lots of veggies and protein without bad fats and processed sugars.
cellio From: cellio Date: February 11th, 2007 11:10 pm (UTC) (base camp)
The I Never Cooked Before Cookbook is good for beginners, but apparently out of print. (Dani speaks highly of it from his bachelor days.)

If he's got a geekish bent, check out Cooking For Engineers. Pictures, precision, and good explanations.

As for what to cook: baked chicken (he can later move up to sauces and roasting), stir-fry, tuna casserole (entry point for other noodle-based dishes), chili (make a lot; freeze some). Oh, and teach him some salads (basic tossed, carrot/raisin, cole slaw, spinach with fruit), which are easy and get more veggies into his diet.
redsquirrel From: redsquirrel Date: February 13th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC) (base camp)
Soup. Kind of goes along with the crock-pot idea. It's very forgiving, doesn't require exact quantities. Can be made with pantry staples and left-over meats and veggies. Make up or buy a pre-mixed seasoning packet, cans of broth or bouillon cubes/jars, onions, carrots, basic starch (potato, noodles rice), and veggies and meats as available. As with crock-pot meals, you can make a big batch and eat for a long time.
27 trips or shoot the rapids