Okay, you've either gotten married or are planning to pretty soon. Congratulations! I'm sure you're aware that this means you will be responsible for at least half the meals you and your loved one will eat from here on out! Not to mention future children, your visiting family members and - of course - in-laws. A while back, one of my young daughters (who I hope wasn't getting any ideas), asked me which 10 recipes I thought every newly married person should be able to make. After thinking, off and on, about it for a few days, I came up with what I believe are the top ones. Before we get to the recipes, I'd like to just share a few words that would have made life a lot easier on me had someone shared them with me when I first began cooking!
Cooking is an art. It isn't a chore to be endured or a duty to get out of the way. It truly can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying things you'll ever do. Just like most things, anyone who wants to become good at it can. Anyone who wants to become great at it can. There's an ancient Chinese Proverb that says, "The only difference between a good housekeeper and a bad one is an hour a day." I took the liberty to edit the proverb to tell you, "The only difference between a good cook and a bad one is an hour a day." If you make up your mind to become a great cook and dedicate even just one hour a day to honing your skills, you'll earn your apron's stripes!
A few things you should always remember:
Never leave the kitchen when you're baking cookies or biscuits. I wouldn't advise ever wandering away from the kitchen while cooking, but when it's something like cookies or biscuits, doing so is usually disastrous. They're just looking for a reason to burn and take your departure as the open door they need.
When getting cookbooks, go to the used bookstores - or check online auctions or Amazon.com. The cookbooks that were written in the 70s and 80s were some of the best. You'll find ingredients you've actually heard of, for one thing, plus they tend to have more of the basic recipes you'll need for starting out.
Watch Food TV! It is really addictive, and even more informative. I'd suggest you not ever, under any circumstances, miss an episode of Paula Deen's "Paula's Home Cooking", Rachel Ray's "30 Minute Meals" or Alton Brown's "Good Eats". They're the top, in my opinion. After you're more familiar with your way around the pots and pans, you'll be ready for Emeril, but you have to work up to him!
Now, to the top ten recipes you'll need. Either consult some of those cookbooks I told you about, or a website, such as http://www.foodtv.com or http://www.buttermilkpress.com, or ask various family members for their favorite recipes for each. They'll get a real kick out of that. Plus, if you happen to ask an in-law for their favorite recipes, you'll get off on an especially agreeable note!
1. French Toast and Pancakes. Nothing will impress him or her quite like a tall, warm stack of delicious pancakes with butter melting off the sides.
2. Egg dishes: Scrambled, fried and poached. Note: When cooking eggs, remove them from the skillet before they actually look completely done. They continue cooking even after they're removed to the platter.
3. Buttermilk Biscuits. Buttermilk in a recipe makes everything instantly better. Whether it's biscuits, pancakes or cornbread, it's presence improves the flavor ten-fold.
4. Great coffee. You absolutely must be able to make a sensational pot of coffee. Do your research, try out different beans and always, always grind your own coffee. You can get a grinder for under $20.00, and it will be 20 of the wisest dollars you ever invest.
5. Hamburgers and their cousin, Cheeseburgers. I'll let you in on a family secret, a little garlic salt is the difference between, "Honey, this is good." and "Wow! My mom (dad) never made burgers like this!"
6. At least one really good homemade soup. I know, the little red and white cans are awfully convenient (and you'll find about 10 in my own pantry), but being able to make a sensational potato or vegetable soup is a great big feather in your culinary cap.
7. Fried Chicken. Back to the Buttermilk for a minute, soaking your chicken in buttermilk (in the fridge) for about an hour before coating and frying makes for a juicier, more flavorful meat.
8. Mashed potatoes. Never. Under. Any. Circumstances. Use. Instant. Potatoes. Don't even look their way in the store. Peel, boil, and mash your potatoes with milk, butter and....pssst, another family secret, sour cream. It's worth the effort.
9. Yeast rolls. Okay, I'll admit it, these aren't as easy to make as the other 10 or so foods talked about here. That's because yeast is temperamental. It can be likened to Goldilocks, of all things. It gets angry if the liquid is too hot, it gets angry if the liquid is too cold. It wants it just right, and when the temperature isn't just right, whereas Goldie laid down, your bread will lie down. Flat rolls. Ugly rolls.
10. (3-way tie!) Chocolate Chip Cookies, Apple Pie and Your sweetheart's favorite cake. Master the desserts and even when the main meal isn't up to par it'll be okay. The last thing a person eats, after all, is the thing they'll most recall. You know the saying, all's well that end's well.
Congratulations, good luck, and have fun. It may sound like something out of a 1940s cookbook, but that really is the biggest secret. To most things in life, actually.