I’ve been trolling the internet looking for some good content on parents cooking with kids, and I came upon the blog, My Daddy Cooks. It’s a fabulous site and what makes it so good is that it is a video blog so you get to see a kid actually cooking. It is easy to read about tips or recipe advice for cooking with children, but seeing the little ones in action is so much better and more inspirational.
The author, Nick Coffer, and his son, Archie, take on a wide range of dishes, and not only are the videos cute to watch, you can really sense how much fun they are having — mistakes and all. The videos are inspiring in many ways. Nick’s patience and gentle guidance are perfect, and the fact they are cooking in a micro kitchen (and filming) is amazing. In small kitchens, kids are often a bit more in the way and under foot, but Archie gets moved around in his chair like a large pepper grinder in what seems to be a seamless and effortless production — though I am sure that isn’t always the case.
The recipe I just watched (embedded below) was for Mediterranean baked fish with tomatoes and olives. It looks like a tasty dish and simple, and Nick even lets his son add the salt and olive oil and handle the raw fish. Handing over the salt was a ballsy move, and Archie even recounts a previous effort that ended up with way too much salt. The whole video keeps you smiling, and it is a great contribution to cooking with kids.
Nick Coffer is also coming out with a cookbook in the spring of 2011 called My Daddy Cooks: 100 Recipes for the Whole Family. Amazon lists the book, but there is no selling price or release date specified as of yet. Until that time, Nick’s videos are always available and definitely worth checking out. Good job Nick and Archie.
I started to really get into cooking when I was a stay-at-home father several years back. During that time it was hard to finish tasks completely let alone get anything done, but cooking food was required. Preparing a meal was the one to-do-list item that had to get done (somehow). As the years went along, the meals became more elaborate and I learned a lot of technique. I usually prepared two to three new dishes a week, and it was a fun hobby and a nice break from the baby and toddler food fare that dominated breakfast and lunch.
With that said, I wish I would have had a resource such as the Rouxbe online cooking school during that time. Rouxbe has a lot of professionally produced videos that teach everything from technique to elaborating on ingredients and recipes, but the site is a great place to learn about food in general. Take this video about eggs below. I’ve cracked countless eggs but I also learned a lot in this 2½-minute segment. And when cooking with children, such information can really come in handy to answer basic questions and also learn along with your child.
Rouxbe has videos on numerous subjects that would be good learn-along aids with children. You can find out about pasta and how to cook it properly, and there is a lot of content covering rice and how to cook it properly. And when your kid gets to the knife-wielding age, learning to use the pinch-and-claw method for cutting will help make sure fingers stay out of the way. (I would also suspect that many parents could benefit from the knife-skill videos too.) Becoming a better cook is one of the most valuable skills to pass on to children, and proper technique will assist them long into life. I still remember when I taught my daughter that a good sharp knife will help prevent browning of fruit when you cut it, and to this day she recounts this lesson when I give her cut fruit. Some parents teach sign language, but I’m teaching cooking skills.
Many Rouxbe videos are only for paid subscribers, but you can always access limited content for free on their website. There is also a 14-day free trial to obtain full access if you want to check the school out more thoroughly. A couple of years ago I took advantage of the trial period and eventually signed up for a lifetime membership. If you want to improve your cooking ability and knowledge but don’t have the time or opportunity to attend off-site classes, Rouxbe might be a good option.
After browsing the eGullet forums, I found a post entitled “Cooking with Dog” and that simply demanded checking into. Of course, it doesn’t involve cooking dog meat, but instead features a Japanese woman cooking next to a grey poodle named Francis. The cooking instruction videos are for traditional Japanese dishes and there is narration in English along with subtitles.
The dishes are rather simple and inspiring, especially if you haven’t cooked Japanese food before. The videos can also be pretty funny at points. There is just something about a dog dutifully sitting next to a cook and staring into the camera that builds an expectation of humor. You kind of wait for the dog to be a dog, and every now and then the poodle host will get distracted when a fish or something else that smells good comes along.
Anyhow, it is definitely worth checking out the videos, and with all the celebrity chefs these days, it is a nice change of pace to have a dog ‘cook’ — even if only as a mascot.
You can find these videos on YouTube at the Cooking With Dog channel.
From this issue, I am going to cull some of my favorites from the top 100, and the first one is The Fresh Loaf bread making website. I’ve never seen this site before, but it looks amazing and certainly deserves attention if want to make your own bread or already bake your own loaves.
According to the website The Fresh Loaf describes itself as providing “news and information for amateur bakers and artisan bread enthusiasts” and the site “contains featured recipes, lessons, book reviews, a community forum and recipe exchange, and baker blogs.”
The Fresh Loaf certainly does all of that, but the description also doesn’t do the site justice. Simply browse the baker blogs to get an idea of what you can do with the help of this site. In the blogs you will be lavished with picture after picture of fabulous looking bread with very detailed instructions on how it was created. Just looking at the pictures is inspiring (see above). So while the site does offer a lot of resources for the bread baker, even more importantly it offers inspiration.
The backbone of the site, however, is instruction. There is a bread baking handbook with useful information, and specifically I found the baker’s math section of interest as it gives you the basic proportions for ingredients and the math to adjust your recipes. There is also a lessons section that offers five instructionals such as “Your First Loaf,” “Glazing” and “Time and Temperature.” And if you ever have questions about baking a particular loaf or want to know what went wrong if you have less-than-satisfying results, there are plenty of places to post questions for individualized guidance.
This is a great site all around if you love bread.
The other day I was at the grocery store and avocados were on sale. After picking out five for $5, a lady asked me how to tell if they are good or not. I told her that unfortunately most of them were too ripe. They were squishy to the touch, and not worth buying.
So how does one pick out avocados at the grocery store?
I eat an amazing amount of avocados, and now I can just touch them and tell if they are perfectly ripe or will be ripe in a day, two days or longer, so I usually just choose the ripeness according to when I think I will use them. If you want one that is ready to eat or close to it, you should try to buy an avocado that gives slightly when lightly squeezed. You want a firm tenderness; not rock hard or too squishy. But don’t squeeze them too hard or else they might bruise.
An avocado that is rock hard will probably take more than three days to ripen, but you can speed up the ripening process by sealing the avocado in a paper bag with a banana or apple. These fruits release ethylene gas, which is a ripening agent. If an avocado is already ripe and you are not ready to eat it, you can store it in the fridge for up to a week.
For instruction on how to cut avocados, I found three internet videos useful. All three are good, but I have only embedded the Epicurious.com one in this post. You can also check out Chowhound and Rouxbe for their videos on how to pit and cut an avocado.
Since avocados can be rather expensive, especially when not in season, preservation is also a key. Avocados, once cut, will quickly start to brown, so when I make guacamole, I squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top so the leftover guacamole doesn’t brown.
If you are only going to eat half an avocado, you can also store the side with the pit in it in the fridge. A lot of people first squeeze lemon juice on it to prevent browning, but the Chowhound video below uses onions in a plastic container. It’s a good tip, and one which I will try the next time.
Avocados are often used to make guacamole, which is very easy to make in its most basic form. It is simply ripe avocados, salt and garlic, but a lot of recipes add other ingredients. Rick Bayless, the acclaimed chef and restaurateur, gives his recipe in stages so you can add different flavors as you see fit. Bayless also has his signature chunky guacamole that he serves at his restaurant, and you can find that version at The Recipe Link. If you search the web, you will no doubt find dozens of other guacamole recipes to suit your taste.
As for me, I often take the easy way out. I use Rick Baylsess’ Frontera Guacamole Mix. I know it isn’t fresh and might be missing some of those prominent lime, onion and tomato flavors, but it is still very flavorful and spicy. I think it is a good substitute if you like a hotter type of guacamole or you don’t have limes, cilantro, or other fresh vegetables around. Everyone I have served this to has commented on how much they like it.
If you want to know more about Rick Bayless and how he came to be one the premier chefs for Latin cuisine in the US, you can listen to this story on NPR. The NPR website also gives his recipe for roasted tomatillo guacamole.
Yesterday I purchased off of eBay the vintage wooden butter mold pictured to the right. One of my cooking goals for 2010 is to learn how to make my own butter. I know it isn’t that difficult, so I held myself to a higher standard of making butter for a special occasion. And even that seemed a bit too easy, so that led me to buying the butter mold, and now my plan is that on Christmas Eve I am going to bake a loaf of bread and make my own butter too. I think that will be a good combination.
So after buying my mold, I started looking into how exactly to make butter and ran into this video. You just have to shake heavy whipping cream in a jar for several minutes and rinse. That seemed too easy, and I had some cream already in the fridge, so I gave it a quick try. You are supposed to leave the cream out at room temperature for 6-12 hours to culture it first, but since I had a partial pint of cream already in the fridge and about to go bad, I decided to skip that step. So I got a Mason jar, poured in the very thick cream and started shaking.
After about 3-4 minutes I started to vigorously shake the jar as I wasn’t seeing the results that were in the video. He had a deliberate and steady shake, but I had to upgrade to a wild and violent shake. Maybe it didn’t form as quickly because the cream was chilled — I don’t know. Regardless, I did get the cream into a very thick state, but I still didn’t have the little globules of butter, so I just put in about a half cup of cold water and started shaking again. It only took about 10 seconds after that and I had nice, tangy fresh butter. I rinsed it a couple of times, smashed in some freshly ground pepper and kosher salt, and made some hot butter toast.
It took me only 10 minutes from the end of video to having warm toast with fresh butter. That was nice. And I think my daughter is going to like making ’shake’ butter too.
There are a lot of videos and instructional material on the web on how to make butter, but in addition to the video referenced above, I thought these two articles were interesting. One is from Cooking For Engineers and the other is from Saveur magazine. I will probably use a combination of their techniques when I make my final holiday butter.
If you want to buy butter molds, cookiemold.com has some nice hand-carved ones and Ruby Lane has interesting vintage molds and presses available. Just do a search for ‘butter molds’ on their website. Other than that, you can always check on eBay as I did.
Via the Food Wishes blog comes this video on how to eat chicken wings. Usually people struggle with eating a chicken wing and it turns into a battle of human versus tiny chicken bones — with the chicken bones often winning. And in the end our fingers end up all messy, and we have probably looked a bit ridiculous too.
Maybe it is just me, but whenever I am eating a chicken wing, I feel as if people are watching me and probably passing judgement with appropriate Midwestern shock, uttering things like ‘gosh’ and ‘oh my’ as I try to eat that itty bitty wing.
Anyhow, no longer will that happen. This presentation by Chef John is delightfully simple, and it is one of those videos that makes you question why it has taken so long to do it the right way. It is similar to when I learned 15 years ago how to open a banana correctly. (Look it up on YouTube; you may be doing it incorrectly.)
Aside from this video, the Food Wishes blog is an extremely good food site. Chef John presents a lot of fine recipes, and the videos are very well done. Where most food blogs hover at the amateur level, this one takes food blogging to the next step. The content and instructions are professional, and this site definitely deserves some props for that.
As for recipes, I thought the seared scallops with orange and jalapeno dressing and cauliflower soup with blue cheese fritters looked great. Chef John also has a post on how to make your own fromage blanc, which I think I am going to try.
This video of Hung Huynh, the season three winner of Top Chef, is interesting. It isn’t that great of an instructional, but it is always interesting to see chef’s with great knife skills. He also uses the Misono UX10 knife, and you can see this entire knife series at japanesechefsknife.com.
I tried searching for good instructional videos on knife skills and wasn’t too successful going through Amazon.com. There were some offerings, but they seemed to get mixed reviews. One source I did find was the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). They offer over 2 hours of instruction on knife skills on DVD. I haven’t seen the video myself, but the sample video appears to be well made. The cost is $99.95.
For free, there are some good videos at Rouxbe, an online cooking school associated with the Northwest Culinary Academy in Vancouver. Just click on the hyperlink above and then click on the tab for ‘tips and techniques’.
Another good free source comes from eGullet contributer, Marsha Lynch, who has put together a tutorial (with pictures) on the eGullet forum. It provides useful information on basic knife skills and cuts.
Sophie Uliano has several videos on the Eat Drink or Die website that instruct people how to be more environmentally friendly in the kitchen. She gives tips on buying organic produce, recycling, making healthy recipes and she also covers other topics. I like the video about how to make your own produce spray for when you buy non-organic produce.
On her own website she also has videos and I found the one interesting on how to read the little labels on produce. I didn’t know the numbers actually could tell you if the product is organic (starts with 9), genetically modified (starts with 8 ) or just not organic (starts with 4). She will give you a little mnemonic to help remember when you are out at the store.
You can become a member of Eat Drink or Die and follow her there, go to twitter at ‘sophieuliano‘, or go directly to her website gorgeouslygreen.com, which is also the name of her best selling book. She has videos on her Gorgeously Green website along with other useful information.
Rouxbe out of Vancouver, Canada offers a great online cooking school. I stumbled upon this site about a year ago and made one of their scallop recipes and it was fabulous. Since then I have made that recipe a few more times for others with many props. The instruction videos are well made, stylish, and teach you how to cook. It is not just a recipe site but a food learning experience. Here is one about knife skills as an example.
You can join their service for free, but if you want full access to their online cooking school, including personal chef support, it will cost you a little bit. For $199 though you can join for a lifetime and not have to worry about monthly fees. Rouxbe has also teamed up with Dean and DeLuca and will be offering cooking lessons through their site — though it is pretty hard to find this feature on the Dean and DeLuca site. MetroKitchen.com, another quality online kitchen store, has also teamed up with Rouxbe in the retail sphere, and Food and Wine has also noticed Rouxbe in their March 2009 issue in the Food Tech portion.
The site is really great to browse through and learn about cooking, and they also give 10% of their membership fees to feed hungry school children in developing countries.