I love to cook, write and laugh. The idea to incorporate these things came out of a conversation with my ex-boyfriend when he insisted one of my chicken dishes had to have a name. This is how the Foulmouthed Chef was born. The object of this blog is to provide you with great recipes; my favorite tips, tricks and ingredients; and suggestions for preparation and kitchen tools. I hope that the names of these recipes and their stories make you smile and laugh. Laughter is good for digestion.
THE GARLIC TWIST I love garlic, but I hate mincing it. Dicing is not only labor intensive, but also you don’t release the oils and you end up with smelly fingers for days. I’ve tried presses and found I usually ended up with big mushy chunks that I had to cut up anyway. Santa left a Garlic Twist in my stocking a couple of years ago, and I’ve been twisting ever since. Here is a link if you are interested: The Garlic Twist. I do recommend that you only twist three to four cloves at a time unless you’re a muscle man.
A GOOD ALL-PURPOSE KNIFE I have a knife block with a decent set of knifes, but I find that for most food preparation, I use one particular knife 75% of the time. My favorite knife is the Global Cromova 18 stainless steel paring knife. Its blade is wide enough for most of my chopping, dicing and mincing. I’ve added a couple other Global knives onto my amazon.com wish list. They’re expensive knives but well balanced, very sharp and easy to sharpen. The kitchen universe has a great selection and prices on these knives.
A HEAVY, LARGE SAUTÉ PAN WITH A LID I’ve gone through plenty of cheap, lightweight, non-stick pans. While it’s tempting to spend less than $10, if you cook frequently you’ll find they’re horribly scratched after just a couple of months and they don’t cook food evenly because they’re so lightweight they won’t sit flush on the burner. I’ve tried cast iron but have never learned the trick to cleaning them without rusting them. Faberware and Emeril’s lines are awesome, but expensive. Next is a link to a high-quality option for a great deal: Calphalon Commercial Hard-Anodized 12-Inch Everyday Pan with Lid.
RICE COOKER Everyone knows that whole grain rice has much more nutritional value that white rice. But have you tried to cook it from scratch on your stovetop or bake it in the oven in a casserole? Crunch city! I’ve found that I get much better if I use a rice cooker. Here is a link to the same one that I use: Aroma Rice Cooker and Steamer. Two tips when using a rice cooker for better results: 1. Be sure to follow the liquid/rice ratios that come with the rice, not the directions that come with the rice cooker. 2. Try using vegetable or chicken stock instead of water.
BLENDER WITH GLASS—NOT PLASTIC—BLENDER JAR I don’t have a food processor. They take up a lot of counter space, have too many parts and are a pain to clean. I find manually chopping and dicing cathartic. However, sometimes I am in a hurry or my recipe calls for processing or grinding, a blender does the trick. I’ve had my Oster Classic Beehive Blender for years and I love it. The reason I think it’s important to have a glass blender jar is because plastic jars scratch really easily. I once ground whole cloves in a plastic blender jar and in less than 30 seconds it was completely frosted! And believe it or not, a plastic blender jar breaks much more easily than a heavy glass jar.
BROAD-HANDLED PEELER When I took over cooking holiday dinners for my extended family (15-20 people), my mom found me the relatively painless solution to the blisters, cramped knuckles and indentations I was plagued with while peeling a mountain of potatoes with an old-fashioned, metal peeler. It’s all in the grip! Get yourself a peeler like this good grips peeler and you’ll be much more comfortable and have more control.
CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE STOCK
These are a key element in many recipes. You can use stock to add flavor to rice and pasta. Keep a few cans of your favorite brand in your cupboard. Alternatively, bouillon cubes work well—although tend to be a little heavy on the sodium.
There is also an alternative to canned stock and bouillon cubes: Better than Bouillon meat bases. These have less sodium and more flavor and store for ages in your refrigerator. You can find information and purchase online from this link, but you can also find these products in your local grocery store.
Finally, you can make your own stock! This is labor intensive and you will need to either freeze or can your stock for long-term keeping, but you can’t beat the flavor of fresh stock. Here’s a link to a chicken stock recipe to get you started http://www.gatewaygourmet.com/chicken_stock.htm. Of course, you can add your own spices and seasonings and use the same principals for other meat stocks as well as vegetable stocks.
All kinds of alcohol add to and enhance the flavor of your food. It doesn’t get you drunk as the cooking process burns-off the alcohol. I use chardonnay most frequently in my recipes because I find it’s more versatile than other white wines. I think cooking wine is atrocious as it is super high in sodium because it has already been partially reduced and sat on shelf for ages.
FRESH AND DRIED HERBS
If you love to cook, you’ve already discovered the wonderful flavors that come from using fresh herbs. You can buy them in package form in the produce section of your grocery store, but I highly recommend growing them yourself, which is not only convenient but most more cost effective. Even if you live in an apartment building, it’s easy to grow fresh herbs on a windowsill or even on your kitchen counter. For example, you can buy one of these kits online: windowsill garden trio or chia herb garden. If you have a bit of soil outside your door, why not plant some herbs right there.
I plant a rosemary shrub outside wherever I live as it is one of my favorite herbs to use fresh and it’s evergreen, so it grows all year.
Dried herbs are also an important staple of every kitchen. I always have an Italian herb blend in dried form, as it is both convenient and versatile. Specific spices I recommend you keep on-hand in dried form are bay leaves, dill weed, saffron, black pepper corns (keep a pepper mill so you can always fresh grind), ground white pepper, curry, paprika and tarragon.
Those little bottles of dried herbs in the grocery store are quite expensive. You can cut your costs considerably if you buy in bulk form. My favorite place to purchase them is at Wild Oats grocery stores. They keep they’re bulk herbs in jars and provide both zipper plastic baggies and labels for you to fill yourself.
You can make your own with a pasta machine or a manual pasta maker if you’re an ultimate freshness nut (this also allows you to customize your pasta recipes) or you can buy fresh pasta in your local grocery store and pop in the freezer for storage.
To pep up the flavor of your pasta try boiling it in bouillon or stock instead of plain water.
Oh, how I love garlic. Of course I keep some granulated garlic as a spice, but I am never without fresh garlic. It compliments so many foods and its aroma is cozy and mouth-watering. Store your fresh garlic is a dark, cool, dry place.
HEAVY (WHIPPING) CREAM
The most tasty and versatile dairy product next to unsalted butter. Yes, it has a lot of fat—but you don’t have to use much to add flavor and texture to your sauces.
You’ll look like a gourmet by using the whisk on your electric mixer to whip heavy cream with a little confectioner’s sugar for toppings on desserts, pancakes and waffles—it takes just minutes and tastes far superior to store-bought whipped topping.
LEMON JUICE/LIME JUICE
Not only are these juices flavor enhancing and hugely versatile, but they can replace salt in many recipes for those watching their sodium intake and they act as a natural preservative.
Honey is not only a sweetener, but also a flavor enhancer. I use small amounts of honey in many of my recipes for this reason. I always use raw honey in part for the same reason I don’t use cooking wine—it hasn’t been processed and therefore lost flavor and freshness. Additionally, cooked honey has been leached of its health benefits.
You can usually find one brand of raw honey in your grocery store, but I recommend exploring your local farmers markets for a great variety of local raw honeys. I usually purchase mine at Portland’s Saturday Market and experiment with different flavors. Two of my favorites are Snow Berry—which has a wonderful piney taste to it and Blackberry.
Did you know that the flavor sea salt is more intense than regular table salt? So if you are concerned with your sodium intake, you should switch to sea salt because you can use less without giving up the flavor. Sea salt also adds a wonderful, crunchy texture to your dishes.
TOMATO SAUCE AND TOMATO PASTE
These are a staple in any cook’s kitchen. They are a great base for many sauces, stews and meat dishes and add tremendous flavor.
A word to the wise: organic tomato pastes and sauces in particular vary greatly in sweetness and intensity. Experiment with different brands to find which suits your dishes and taste buds the most.
I felt so vindicated when margarine as the “healthier” alternative to butter was dethroned. Besides, like heavy cream, it only takes a little to add texture and flavor.
It is important to use unsalted butter because you can always add salt to your dish, but you can’t really remove it.