Saturday, October 20, 2012

Glam up your Protein

Seasoning your meat in the Caribbean and South America is a normal every day occurrence, with specific steps in place, it's given care and attention. A bathing is the first takes step in the process prior to the seasoning stage. 

 I recall the steps my parents took when preparing the meat for cooking; be it chicken or fish. The meat would be washed, yes washed with fresh squeezed lemons, or lime and if those weren't readily available, white vinegar would be used along with a dash of salt.  The meat would then be covered and left to sit for about one hour.

During that time the prep for the rub is put together; either wet or dry; depending on the type of dish being cooked.

After that time expired, the meat would be rinsed to remove the juice and salt, and then patted dry with a paper towel. The wet or dry seasoning (and I am not talking about salt and pepper here) is then massaged by hand into the meat and it's covered again for another 2 hours, and in some cases overnight before being cooked. 

In the typical  North American Caucasian, European and Chinese  homes, meat is not prepared in that fashion. The meat is washed with water; salt and black pepper added and maybe a dash of other dried herbs, then cooked according to the recipes' instruction.

Having tried both ways of preparing meats; hands down I prefer the method of allowing the meat to marinate in the seasoning for a period of time prior to cooking.  This process tends to make the meat more flavourful, and if you don't think this is the case; do your own experiment and then let me know.

So, let's talk a bit about Seasoning; dry, fresh or wet?  It all depends on your preference, what's handy and how much time you have to get the herbs ready.

Dry Herbs:
You can buy them at the grocery store in bulk or pre-packed, and mix a few together and store in a air tight jar for your chicken, then do a similar one for your fish etc.
The down side to using those herbs - you don't know the actual shelf life and how long they've been packaged, thus you don't know the strength of what you're getting.

Fresh Herbs:
It's the way to go in my opinion, but depending on what you're looking for, it could be tough to find as fresh herbs are seasonal, and if you do find them it could be costly. However, you can't beat the flavour of using fresh herbs against dry.

Wet Herbs:
Yeah, there is such a thing as wet herbs; well now there is-LOL!  It's what I grew up seeing my parents do, and continues to.  It's simple, easy, a time saver and way better than using dry herbs.
Buy loads of a variety of fresh herbs - basil, cilantro, green onions, spanish celery, hot scotch bonnet peppers (maybe not for some), thyme etc, 
Wash  thoroughly, add them to a blender, drizzle a bit of water, olive oil and salt and blend to a paste like consistency. Store in glass jars and keep in the fridge for 3-6 months.

Now you have fresh herbs with a bit of salt and olive oil to preserve it, and you're spared the extra work of chopping fresh herbs every time you want to season your meats. It is a great way to get as fresh as you can to using fresh herbs still full of flavour and a time saver.

Experiment to find which herbs work best on different meats, and make separate jars of the mixture and label them; chicken rub, fish rub, pork rub etc. 

Al-right, to your health and enjoyment. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kitchen Time is Play Time

Kids of all ages get stoked to visit Disney Land; I experience that same kind of exhilarated rush when I enter my kitchen. I am over the moon passionate about cooking as I am about writing and sharing on this wonderful art that continues to grow and expand in so many different ways. 

Today,  I want to touch on the subject of "Did you know" and periodically you'll find posts dedicated to "Did you know"; you can call it an expansion of "Tips" on a more in depth scale.

So, let's get to today's 

Did you Know:

 Experimenting in the kitchen can be very educational and creative, rewarding and lucrative empowering and fun.

Educational and Creative- the Kitchen, where you feel like and are the Queen or King of your domain, you can educate yourself.  You have the opportunity to strengthen your craft, and besides the hundreds of cooking shows on TV you have enough resources at your fingertips to sharpen your skill.
From mixing different liquids to create your own sauces, and dry spices and herbs to create your own signature rub. To substituting one ingredient for another, you keep what works and vibrates a resounding yes to your palate, and write off the ones that makes the muscles in your face twitch.

Rewarding and Lucrative - there's something to be said when you create or take an old recipe and make it your own. When you take ingredients on a whim and turn it into a crowd pleaser. When you run out of store bought BBQ sauce, and you make your own, or pancake, waffle and crepe syrup, and you decide - I am going to whip something together, and it becomes so amazingly delicious it has the potential to become a product sold in grocery stores. 

Empowering and Fun - it is in those moments that you realized that you are a chef; no you didn't attend culinary school though that has it's advantage, but you have a gift, you derive great joy from working with ingredients to make dishes for your family and friends to enjoy. There's a sense of excitement that comes when you watch what's in your mind unfolds and becomes something beautiful on a plate that awakens the sense of sight, smell and taste.
And, on an off day when the idea doesn't fully come together, you don't walk away in defeat; rather it's another important lesson learned for the next time. A little more, a little less, a pinch of this, a splash of that, let it simmer longer, you'll get it right.

Stir the pot of your mind  and make a dry rub or sauce from the ingredients available in your  kitchen, and use it in your next meal. You will be inspired, and another creative side to your your love for cooking will emerge.

To your enjoyment and health!