Photo: Photo Courtesy Of PBS
I often hear from family and friends, “You are such a great cook, Diana,” or, “I can’t even boil spaghetti, let alone know what to do with Swiss chard.”
Here’s my secret: I’m not always a good cook.
Some things turn out great, others not so much. But you know what, I’m not afraid to experiment or fail.
Julia Child: The Original Kitchen Rockstar
To become a rockstar in your kitchen, it takes the Julia mentality!
She was fierce and feisty. She wasn’t afraid to try something new, and through her failures, she conquered the world of French cuisine.
I adopt her attitude in my kitchen. I go at it full force, never taking the easy, boxed route. And, you know what starts to happen after awhile: you learn.
You learn new methods and techniques. You begin to understand what flavors compliment each another. You even begin to understand texture in foods and notice when dishes need a bit more “acidity.”
All in all, it takes confidence, never being afraid to fail, and perseverance.
Top 5 Tips For How To Be A Rockstar In The Kitchen
1. Read, read, read well-written cookbooks
Photo: anthro_aya (Flickr)
We often neglect to realize that learning is done through reading books.
In university, each class starts with a book. The class is centered around that book. After reading through its entirety, we call ourselves educated on that subject.
Just like that, we can learn through cookbooks. Some of my favorite cookbooks include:
- Julia Child’s, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1
- Mexican Everyday (Recipes Featured on Season 4 of the PBS-TV series “Mexico One Plate at a Time”)
- 1080 Recipes
- Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
- The Food of Spain and Portugal: A Regional Celebration
- In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart
- Harvest to Heat: Cooking with America’s Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans
- Five-a-Day Fruit & Vegetable Cookbook
- The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread
- Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
With the enormous world of food blogging these days, be careful to not get overwhelmed by what you see online. Relax and read a book, and focus on one recipe at a time.
2. Cook recipes from those books
Photo: edwardkimuk (Flickr)
Remember, these are your textbooks. Mark them up. Highlight your favorites. Research the ingredients and cook, cook, cook. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail!
If the recipe doesn’t turn out to your liking, start something new. The more you do this, the more you’ll increase your knowledge in the kitchen.
3. Adapt recipes
Photo: Elle-Epp (Flickr)
Once you’ve become comfortable making recipes from cookbooks, you’ll be quite surprised at how free you’ll start to feel in the kitchen. If a recipe calls for marjoram, use thyme. If a recipe calls for buttermilk, use sour cream. Make it yours! Just be sure to always give credit to where you adapted the recipe from, especially if you’re a blogger.
4. Grow your own food or shop at farmers markets but most importantly, learn your seasons
Photo: cleber (Flickr)
The best dishes start with the freshest ingredients.
Growing a garden will encourage you to cook more, and you’ll learn first hand about the growing season and what’s available during what part of the year. It’s when you understand the seasons that you can truly begin to cook.
It’s no surprise that fresh spring greens taste amazing with mint. Why? Because they are in season at the same time of the year. Spring trout and tarragon? For the same reason, they go hand in hand.
If you don’t garden, visit your farmers market and explore new vegetables and herbs. Utilize them in familiar recipes and make them your own.
5. Collect homemade staple ingredients and cultivate a well stocked pantry.
Photo: I Believe I Can Fry (Flickr)
It goes without saying that the secret to great dishes starts with homemade staples including broth, ghee, yogurt, and creme fraiche. Making your own sauces and salsas using these staples will elevate your dishes to another level.
Most importantly, everything begins with a well-stocked pantry of grains, legumes, and dried and fresh herbs. Note, I didn’t write a huge-stocked pantry but instead, a well-stocked pantry.