How I Learned to Cook: Turkey Day, Preparation

This year I’ll be cooking my first turkey. I have never cooked a turkey before this year. I’ll be using a dry brine and Spatchcocking the turkey. I have no idea if Spatchcocking is a word.

“I have no idea if Spatchcocking is a word.”

I’ve learned how to cook better by using J. Kenji López-Alt‘s Serious Eats blog and his cookbook The Food Lab. I don’t have the pantry the Food Lab asks for but it has taught me some really cool stuff so that I don’t have to experiment. López-Alt explains the science of how flavor’s and textures are created in food. As well as what happens to the molecules of the ingredients and other science-y stuff. Its something I appreciate because I have a curious mind.

Through López-Alt, I learned how to spatchcock a bird. I tested this on a chicken first using special scissors as requested by López-Alt. The chicken I cooked was my trial run for learning the spatchcock technique and I think I achieved it successfully. My only complaint is that no one warns you that the sound of cracking rib cages may kill you a little bit. Its something I don’t look forward to with the turkey.

“sound of cracking rib cages may kill you a little bit.”

Today I’ll be spatchcocking and using a dry rub the turkey for a three-day dry brine. It’s a 10 lbs turkey because I won’t be feeding too many mouths. The turkey has been thawing in my fridge since Thursday afternoon. It does have a brine so I’ll have to wash it off a little and use less salt for the dry-brine.

I’ll try to post again tomorrow if not later this week. Please leave comments, like, and share. I’m still learning the whole blogging thing and appreciate any feed back.

Thanks for reading!

 

How I Learned to Cook: Keeping it simple (not eggs part 2)

I didn’t get back into a kitchen until my junior year of college. After high school and my parents’ home, I lived in the dorm and then at my parents’ house during college. I did not have a necessity to cook until I lived in an apartment with 3 other guys.

I didn’t know anything about spices or food. I shopped at Aldi’s and Schnucks, my local grocer. I grew up eating rice so each meal had rice. I didn’t know how to handle meat, which actually grossed me out. A slab of beef just felt like a cold, slimy existence that should not be handled. Devoid of life, it should be buried and ignored, but, as a necessity, I cooked beef. Specifically beef stew chunks because I didn’t know anything about beef at age 21 and thought all beef was the same. (I now know different and its pretty life changing.)

My go to meal was sauteed onions, mushrooms, and beef stew chunks served over rice. It was simple, it did the job, and it did not taste fantastic. To make this, I’d first caramelized the onions, using butter and medium-high heat. I had a cheap non-stick pan and an electric stove top. I started with high heat and then turned down the temperature. I learned to do this with eggs so I thought, “Oh hey, this should work too.”

As they were caramelizing, I’d throw in chopped mushrooms too, nothing fancy, just whatever was cheapest, and then I’d throw in the beef, cooking it to well done because I didn’t know any better. (I was always scared of food poisoning because I have never had it before. I know better now after having food poisoning from a restaurant.) Then I’d serve it over rice and be a happy college kid.

I kept it simple, food was a necessity and not a pleasure. Cooking was a chore and not a hobby. I didn’t care to test things. The local burger joint tasted great. Home cooked meals were not where I found pleasure. I’d use pre-made food packages whenever I could. I didn’t know any better until I went to New York to visit an old friend. That trip changed my life.

Eggs part 2 will not be in the next post. Thank you for reading.

 

How I learned to cook: Eggs Part 1

Hello reader,

My name is Kevin Chau and I never considered myself a cook until the past year, when people informed me that I  could cook food. I think I can cook, but I don’t consider myself a chef. To me, a chef is a cook that can make an original creation with what they have at their disposal. If you’re looking to be a chef, this probably isn’t the blog for you. If you’re just curious as how people start their cooking journey, than keep reading.

 


 

Cooking was as a necessity for me. In high school, I needed to diversify my breakfast from cereal and pop tarts. I learned how to cook eggs and maybe hash browns. (Thank you Mom and Dad for letting me waste food.)

For both eggs and hash browns, I knew what the final product was, I knew what I was looking for. My dad taught me how to make scrambled eggs by using salt, butter, and milk. I beat the eggs using chopsticks because, since I grew up in a Chinese household, chopsticks were a utility tool. Then I would add salt and just a drop of milk. If I used the heat correctly, this would always make the fluffiest eggs (at the time, I know how to make even fluffier ones now. TY RAMSEY.)

Heat is the key word in the last paragraph. It seems pretty negligible in the grand scheme of cooking food, but through eggs, I learned that heat is one of the most important factors in cooking. When I first cooked eggs on my own, without parental guidance, I burned the eggs to a crisp. The scrambled eggs would shrivel up into little burnt balls of egg protein because I would always cook the eggs on high heat. My brain said, heat + eggs = food.

In the age of instant gratification, learning how to cook an egg was mind numbing for a 15-year old. I also didn’t want to make any mistakes so I actually switched to hard boiling eggs for a long time because I was scared to make scrambled eggs. Even during my time hard boiling eggs, I made mistakes, but I was more forgiving towards myself than scrambled eggs.

My issue with hard boiling eggs was that I always boiled the eggs straight from a cold fridge. To me, that seemed pretty normal, but half the time I would boiled it from the fridge, the shell would crack, and I simply thought that was because I cracking it myself, instead of from temperature shock.

After a time of watching my mom how to cook eggs, I learned to use room temperature eggs whenever I cooked eggs. I also learned how to gauge a pan’s temperature using water. Water will sizzle off if the pan is too hot in a time that you think is normal. If it was too hot, I’d shut off the heat until it was a temperature I wanted, then I would proceed to cook the eggs and switch the temp to a low heat to keep the temperature consistent. I inadvertently learned how temperature was important for cooking by watching my parents cook.

That’s about it though. The rest of my cooking was learned from cook books, YouTube videos, and the Spendid Table. Cooking was a necessity because I wanted to save money, but more on that later in this series.

Next, hash browns…I never learned how to cook hash browns and I still don’t know how to cook hash browns. Its not on the list either so :-/