Posts Tagged ‘cooking lesson’

My husband is newly retired. This means he can spend time watching public television cooking programs.

My husband is a good cook. It’s why I married him. Well, OK, it isn’t why I married him, but it certainly has been a perk of having married him. I don’t particularly care for cooking (baking and canning – yes, cooking – no) and I am not particularly skilled at it. But I can make biscuits. (OK, that’s baking and I just said I like to bake.)

Don has been watching how to make perfect biscuits, specifically buttermilk biscuits. I do not believe I have ever made buttermilk biscuits as my fall-back recipe is always Baking Powder Biscuits which are incredibly simple:

preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2 C flour

3 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp salt

Cut in 6 T shortening

Stir in 2/3 cup milk.

Roll, cut, bake for 10-12 minutes.

Don wanted biscuits & gravy for dinner tonight, which is also a really simple meal to make if you don’t have a culinary degree. I didn’t ask him (and he didn’t offer) whether or not he wanted some of those fancy biscuits & gravy he watched some chef prepare on PBS. In fact, I didn’t know he had watched someone make them.

Now, normally, I chase everyone out of the kitchen when I am cooking. I simply prefer to cook alone. But tonight, I had an observer who watched me as I mixed the first batch of biscuits. I say “first” because it turned out that my shortening was rancid and I had to toss the dough out (and the nearly-empty shortening container). Fortunately, I had new shortening on hand, so all was not lost.

“You don’t measure exactly?” he inquired as I made a guess on the salt content.

“Accuracy in baking only counts in cakes and pie crusts,” I replied. “Besides, it reminds me of my 7th grade Home Ec teacher. She nearly had heart failure when she caught my girlfriend & I using out hands to measure a teaspoon. I mean, she had a serious conniption and yelled at us. We were totally baffled – both of us had been baking since we were ten and we knew how much a teaspoon was in the palm of our hands…”

“My grandmother measured that way,” he said.

“And it’s perfectly fine if you aren’t baking a cake.” What I didn’t tell him was that Trudi and I walked out of the class, looked at each other, and started to laugh. Miss Ring (that was her name) had no clue about real baking. She wouldn’t acknowledge that any of us had prior experience (and, indeed, most of the 6th grade class had never baked), but between the pair of us, we had been baking since we were at least 10 years old, perhaps earlier. To be sure, some of it was in an Easy Bake Oven, but not all of it. In 5th Grade, Trudi showed me how to make a wonderfully delicious chocolate cake using mayonnaise. The recipe was on the label.

“I heard you don’t over blend the ingredients,” Don went on to say.

“Nope. You mix just until it sticks together. Then you roll it out.” I don’t usually bother with rolling biscuit dough – you can flatten it with your hands and cut it.

The biscuits went into the over and I started the sausage in the cast iron.

“So, do you remove the meat before you start the gravy?”

Is he an alien? “No, why would I do that?”

“Well, this one chef I watched” (a graduate of a culinary school and a better cook than moi) “removed the meat and then started the gravy. But he also fried bacon to put into the gravy.”

“Well, bacon puts out a lot of grease. Sausage doesn’t usually have much grease.” But I was thinking: bacon in your sausage & biscuits? I may have to try that sometime, but it isn’t exactly down-home cooking.

Then I pulled out a can of evaporated milk. To be fair, I use evaporated milk in lieu of regular milk for a variety of reasons. When we had children living at home, they drank a lot of milk. Milk costs more than evaporated milk. I can take a can and cut it half-and-half with water for the same milk consistency for most recipes (cakes excepted). Evaporated milk is perfect for gravy making.

When the sausage was cooked through, I dumped approximately a half cup of flour onto the crumbles, then I slowly poured the milk into the mix, stirring until the roux was smooth. Then I added more milk & water & cooked it down to a thick gravy. Oh, and salt & pepper to taste.

The gravy was ready just a minute before the biscuits.

“I can do that,” my husband said. “Do you always use the same recipe?”

“Yeah, about that – if I make them often, I remember it. But when it’s not so often, Betty Crocker comes to the rescue. And I like the ‘richer biscuits’ recipe.”

Now, about cakes… You really need to measure the ingredients exactly. Use fresh baking soda or powder (if it is called for). Blend the ingredients until they are smooth. And blend another minute. Cakes are really, really picky. I have made my share of box-cakes, but I prefer “scratch” cakes, and they are really picky about the oven temperature, the mix of ingredients, the exact measurements.

No Culinary Degree Required.

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