The other night I was invited over to a friends to watch the Monday night football game. The text read simply "you bring bacon and I have scotch, you want to watch the game tonight". Who could refuse an invite like that. The game of the evening was the putrid Giants vs. Vikings Monday night debacle, it didn't take long before we had lost interest in the game and were focusing more on the scotch. Soon the topic changed to food and my Buddy stated that he really wanted to learn how to do some of the cooking that he sees me doing on this blog. I asked why he hadn't tried and he stated a few different reasons as to why he didn't cook. We discussed this for some time and I determined that one of the problems with cooking for beginners is that many of the recipes we see on TV and read in magazines contain a lot of vocabulary and ingredients that are unfamiliar to many people.
I have been thinking about this quite a bit this week and finally decided to put a few thoughts out there. I love food, I also love hunting, and when you fill the freezer with as much meat as I can you need to find new and interesting ways to cook it. I also love cooking and have spent a lot of time doing it. But it hasn't always been that way, there was a time that my idea of good cooking was when I would pour enough lowry's season salt on a deer steak to preserve it for a life time then grill it. I didn't know anything about cooking and all I wanted to do was mask the flavor of venison so I couldn't taste that gaminess that we have all heard of. It took time to learn how to cook but it also took a willingness to fail. Not everything I have cooked over the years turned out.
My wife was in a similar boat for a number of years, the kitchen intimidated her and she would tell me that she didn't have time to learn. I finally convinced her that she needed to pick 10 recipes that she would like to learn and only make those recipes. By doing the same recipes over and over she became very comfortable in the kitchen and now she can tear it up. What used to take her all afternoon to make she can throw together in 30 minutes, it just takes some practice and a desire to learn. Yes the terminology can be confusing and some ingredients seem to exotic, but most of the time you can substitute something less intimidating in for it.
One of the easiest things to do is roast a whole chicken, but it seems more complicated when recipes start talking about trussing a chicken or brining a chicken for 24 hours. None of it is actually all that difficult its just unfamiliar terminology to some. If you are really interested in learning how to cook the very best thing you can do is go out and buy a cook book that seems interesting to you and then read it cover to cover. Most cookbooks will walk you through the steps and are very helpful. Another very helpful tip is to read whatever recipe you are cooking all the way through. Sometimes people get started on a recipe only to find out there is a step in the middle that takes longer than they expected and that frustrates them and they give up. If you know it is going to take longer you can start earlier or try something that is less time consuming.
Here is a very simple meal that is literally only meat and potatoes, this is an antelope loin and some fingerling potatoes. I know that most people don't have antelope laying around but you can do the same thing with a pork loin or a venison loin if you want. For the potatoes I just tossed them with some olive oil and some penzey's seasoned salt (basically the same thing as lowry's) then put them in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking lay out your meat and get it ready, for this I just sprinkled it with seasoned salt and let it sit out for about 15 minutes.
When your potatoes have about 30 minutes left heat an oven proof pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in it. Place the meat in the pan and sear both sides, cooking it for about 2 minutes on each side. Then put it in the oven and roast it for 10 minutes, after ten minutes check the temperature for antelope I am looking for a temp of about 145 degrees for a nice medium rare. You don't want to cook it all the way to 145 though. Meat will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven and can continue cooking up to 15 degrees more after removed from the oven so only cook the meat to about 130 and then let it rest for ten minutes before cutting into it. One of the biggest mistakes people make when cooking meat is they don't let it rest after cooking it. If you cut into it while it is still hot, right out of the oven all of the juices will run out of the meat and you will end up with a dry tough piece of meat.
To go with my meat and potatoes I made a seasoned sour cream, which is just sour cream with some seasoned salt and dried thyme added to it. I didn't measure an amount to add to the sour cream I just added it little by little until it tasted the way I wanted it to. I also made a pan sauce using the drippings from the antelope. You just heat the pan you cooked the meat in and then pour in some cooking wine, in this case a little sherry. Then add about 1/2 cup chicken stock and reduce that by half. Reduce is a word that can confuse people. It simply means to boil a liquid until it concentrates, if you start with a cup of stock and boil it for a while it will gradually reduce in volume concentrating its flavor. After you have reduced the sherry and the stock by half remove it from the heat and add a few tablespoons of butter and whisk.
That's it, I know that it may seem like an imposing task but trust me, if a clown like me can figure it out so can you. Lastly, the first time you try any recipe plan on it taking a lot longer than the recipe calls for. If you only have an hour to get dinner ready beef bourguignon probably is the right choice. Everybody can be a good cook, it just takes a little time and practice, and a good bottle of wine doesn't hurt.