Okay, it’s day 11 of our 20-Day/20-Part series of blog posts titled “Tips, Tricks, and Secrets of Professional Chefs”. Last post, we talked about Mise en Place, or preparing and putting in order what you need to cook.
Today, let’s talk about a personal soapbox of mine…using “real food” in your recipes. Our boxed, bottles, packaged, and preserved society would like you to think that “convenience foods” are, well…convenient.
Don’t believe it.
Good chefs know that, for flavor and nutrition, nothing beats the freshest possible ingredients. They also know that it really doesn’t cost any more…if you know what you’re doing!
Not expensive food, not even “fancy” food (though that can be a lot of fun, when you can swing it), but good, real, recognizable food.
Start small, instead of buying that can of diced tomatoes, buy three roma tomatoes (about the same price), dice them in a bowl, and sprinkle a little salt and sugar on them.
10 minutes later you’ll have the same, but far superior tasting ingredient: diced tomatoes in juice…and really, was it that hard?
And I’m not even going to bring up the subject of the health benefits of freshly made food, vs. pre-packaged.
Now, let’s take that one tiny step further…now that you have your diced tomatoes, is it really that much harder to dice up an onion, a little garlic, and squirt some olive oil in a pan? Saute (that means fry without all the extra oil) for 10 minutes. Toss in some fresh herbs (which you can now buy pre-packaged in about any combination you could need) and your diced tomatoes, and give a stir.
Throw some pasta in a pot…spaghetti, linguine, angel-hair, whatever, and let heat and water work it’s crazy magic for you.
Meanwhile, grill a chicken breast, or some ground beef rolled into ping-pong-ball-sized rounds, or some sliced zucchini, or if you’re feeling really crazy, a dozen little-neck clams in their shells…a few minutes per side (don’t flip the clams), with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper…don’t worry about a bunch of spices, see the what food tastes like first, and to quote a guy I know…”Bam!” you’ve got a dish of pasta that probably cost less, and certainly tastes much better than you’ll ever get from that bottled muck on the shelves.
Sprinkle on a tablespoon or so of fresh grated asiago cheese (it’s in the deli section, it’s expensive, and it’s worth it. Plus, a little goes a LONG way) spin up a big folk-full, and I promise you…I PROMISE you, you will never, willingly, go back to prepared, bottled”spaghetti sauce.”
Why’s it so darn good? Not because it’s that much harder to make (it really wasn’t, was it?) Certainly not not because it was more expensive…it wasn’t, at least not much.
No, it tastes so darn good because you used “real” food to make it!
Just like chefs do.
– Chef Perry
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