In January Angela England and I launched #HomeChat, a weekly, hour-long Twitter chat where we discuss various topics and techniques valuable to most adults. It happens on Tuesdays at 9:00pm Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. We tend to alternate between food and other life skills. Tonight we’ll be discussing basic recipes that translate into many others.
In some cases these recipes are a technique that is used by many recipes, in others it’s just a recipe that can be modified in many ways for various meals.
Here are some examples and I would love it if you would link some of your own in the comments.
Techniques that expand:
A basic roux is an equal mixture of fat and flour that is the base of many sauces, cream soups and of course gravy.
The roux itself is pretty basic, you mix fat with flour and stir it over low to medium heat until the flour loses the raw taste. With bechamel or classic white sauce, this doesn’t take very long. Bechamel is a great substitute for all of those cream soups that so many casseroles or crockpot /slow cooker recipes rely.
Yes, you dirty a pan and a whisk, but you get flavor that can’t be beat AND more importantly you know exactly what is in your food.
Cajun or Creole cooking often calls for a darker where the flour is cooked much longer over heat. This creates a nutty, toasted flavor in the final dish. If you need a step-by-step tutorial, I have one in this recipe for shrimp étouffée.
The base of any good gravy is also roux. Pan juices or stock give their flavor.
Do you see how this one technique translates into so many different ideas?
Need another example?
Pilaf, chicken pilau, Spanish rice, and rice and peas all share a similar method. The raw rice is cooked in a little bit of fat, sometimes with aromatic vegetables, before the liquid and other ingredients are added.
First you have the classic fettuccine alfredo -I don’t know why, but I can never spell fettuccine correctly on the first go, thanks spell check. This a great easy meal, but it’s so easy turn fancy. How? Just add grilled or blackened beef, chicken, fish, scallops, or shrimp and you now have 10 different recipes without even having to learn any new techniques (provided you can grill or blacken). That’s not enough? If you flavor the alfredo sauce, you take the dish into a new direction, my favorite example is chicken picante, a version that uses peppers to give the sauce a bit of a kick.
What if you used the alfredo sauce over baked fish or chicken? Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting you drown everything in the alfredo, that wouldn’t be close to healthy, but used judiciously, alfredo can take a boring dinner to the next level.
Next up, how about the classic meatball?
Well, first you’ve got spaghetti with meatballs, amazing filling for calzones -I simmer the meatballs in my pizza sauce-, and don’t forget a meatball sub. You don’t have to have all of these in the same week, meatballs freeze wonderfully, just pull out what you need for a meal or a snack.
And meatloaf? First of all, meatloaf is just better the next day or on a sandwich, so you may as well make two if you go to the trouble of making one. If you stick to a basic meatloaf recipe it is amazing chopped up and added to vegetable soup or crumbled into spaghetti sauce. In fact, I vastly prefer it to plain ground beef.
These are just a few of the things we’ll be discussing tonight on #homechat. I hope you take the time to join Angela and I. If you have any questions about how to join in, just ask. I’m happy to help you get set up.
Send your domestic questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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