when it came to shopping for groceries. He then requested that I take the time to tell him a little bit about the way I martial my resources when I hit the supermarket. So, here goes.
The first thing you have to understand about grocery shopping is that I don't always know what I'm going to cook when I walk in the door. Unless I have a yen for a particular dish, I generally make a beeline to the meat counter to see what looks good, as well as what's on special. Since the meat counter usually contains about 20-feet of beef, pork and chicken, it can take sometime to decide what looks good. That usually entails looking at the cut and the price, as well as picking up any meat selections that look good and sniffing them to make sure they're fresh. The worst thing to do is take your groceries home only to find out that you've got some stinky old meat. While a grocer can make old meat look red, they can't hide the smell of bad beef, chicken or pork.
Baked Asparagus or Broccoli - While asparagus or broccoli are terrific side dishes, the problem is that most folks choose to steam them. This is a mistake. If you steam either, you'll not only risk winding up with limp-as-a-noodle veggies, you'll also wind up with most of the nutrients in the water at the bottom of the pot. A better way to cook either is to bake them in a 400-degree oven. Before you do that, trim them and line them up on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Then pour a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of mustard into a bowl. Mix thoroughly before pouring the sauce over the veggies. Roll the asparagus or broccoli around in the sauce to coat them, then dust them with a bit of grated cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the edges are beginning to brown. Once you've tried asparagus or broccoli that's crunchy on the outside, you'll never go back to steaming them again.
Marvelous Mashed Potatoes - While mashed potatoes can be considered comfort food, as a rule mashed white potatoes can be a bit bland. That's why most folks pour a ton of gravy on taters to make them palatable. But I learned a simple trick to making mashed potatoes more flavorful by adding a 1/2 teaspoon of horseradish. I know what you're thinking, that horseradish is way too spicy to add to spuds. But you'd be wrong. All it does is amp up the flavor without making the dish too hot to handle.
Man Cave Man's Secret Weapons - Aside from horseradish, there are several other secret weapons that I employ to boost the gain on many recipes. Here's my top-10:
- Never run out of garlic. While most people think that garlic is only good in Italian cuisine, I've been known to add a clove or two of crushed garlic to everything from baked or pounded chicken to seafood and sauces.
- Time for lime. - I always keep a bottle of lime juice in the fridge. Lime is a great way to marinate meat and make fish taste less fishy. It's also a great addition to a pan full of sauteed chicken or pork cutlets.
- Butter is better for turning flour into roux which can then be turned into gravy or bechamel sauce with the addition of a tablespoon of grated cheese. Butter makes many dishes better, so you'd better add some to your cart the next time you go grocery shopping.
- There's no thyme like the present when it comes to making chicken and veggie dishes pop. A dash of ground thyme is an essential spice in my kitchen. If you can get some sprigs of fresh thyme, lay them atop a roasting chicken and you'll not only wind up with a flavorful bird, it'll make your home smell wonderful at the same time.
- Wine soaked raisins are another secret weapon that I use in everything from pancakes and coffee cakes to ground meat dishes like picadillo and stew. Simply take a handful of raisins from the box and place them in a container with a lid. Then drizzle a 1/4 cup of wine on them and let them soak for at least 3-days. I always have a tub of them ready to go in my kitchen.
- Flour Power - You can't make gravy, pancakes or custard without flour, so you'd best add that to the cart any time you run short. I's also recommend a container of gravy flour (Wondra) that will help you thicken sauces without having to make a roux.
- I feel the need for seeds. - Another thing I keep a supply of are caraway, dill and sesame seeds. Caraway seeds can make ordinary sauerkraut go gourmet by reducing the sourness and it can make ordinary white bread taste like rye bread. Dill seeds are super for flavoring chicken and fish dishes. Sesame seeds are an essential ingredient in many oriental dishes, not to mention they can lend breads added aroma and crunch.
- Green chilies will make your friends green with envy. They help me wow the crowd with everything from salsa and guacamole to soups and stews. I always keep a can on hand to help add pizzazz to many of my recipes. (Try a tablespoon in your tuna salad to give it a little south of the border flavor.)
- Wine is fine. In fact, it's an essential ingredient no chef should be without. Want to add some sex appeal to your steaks? Deglaze the pan with a shot of wine after you finish cooking them, then add a 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Cook the sauce down for about a minute before pouring it over your steak. Food of the gods. Wine can add pizzazz to spaghetti sauce, stews, shrooms and so much more. Even wine that has turned sour is good to use as cooking wine. So, never toss a bottle in the trash.
- Beer beats the blahs when it comes to cooking. Not only can you use it to add sex appeal to
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