-Chef Jose Andres
Chefs like Jose Andres and Andrew Zimmern were a large inspiration for me to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts. They helped me to see that food is not only tasty, a way to earn a living, and a creative outlet, but that it is a way to build community, to learn about culture, and to cultivate human bonds around our tables. Despite changing the scope of my career, food still plays a big part in my life. When I cook for friends and family, we are able to be together at table, just like Jesus invites us to.
I see questions every day on social media from friends asking how best to cook this or bake that, for tips and tricks, so I figured I would provide some of my tips. So here are ten tips for cooking during the pandemic, quarantine, and crisis.
- Cook what you love. Remember, food isn’t just for nourishment, but for comfort. Eating the things that you love, that bring you comfort, is important for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
- With that being said, comfort food can be heavy, rich, and sometimes not very good for you. Cooking healthy doesn’t mean boring and bland. Try a new cooking method for vegetables (don’t just steam or boil), swap butter for oil (olive and canola oils are high in omega-3, 6, and/or 9 fatty acids), utilize complex carbohydrates, etc. Be creative!
- Try a new flavor profile. What does that mean? Take that chicken breast, steamed vegetables, and white rice and spice it up- make a chicken stir fry, arroz con pollo, or a chicken curry.
- Baking bread? A tip I shared online- if you’re looking for a crunchy crust on your home-baked bread, put a pan (cast iron is preferable) on the bottom rack of the oven and let it heat with the oven. As you put your bread in the oven, toss some water into the pan and close the door, the steam will provide you with the crust you’re looking for.
- Eat things that are budget friendly. I asked Chef Michael Symon (Iron Chef America, The Chew, owner of Lola Bistro in Cleveland, OH) who said, “Rice, beans, veg can really stretch the dollar…drop proteins down to 2oz per person…”
- I had a chef in culinary school who, every day, told us that a recipe is just a framework, not a step by step plan. Maybe you’re working with a higher lean/fat ratio ground beef than the recipe calls for, maybe there were no carrots but there were parsnips, etc. Don’t let small bumps derail a meal- use the internet, work with substitutes, and again, be creative!
- Use this time to work on techniques and skills- if your recipe calls for a cup of diced onion, don’t pull out the slap chop. Watch one of the many good videos on Youtube about knife skills and practice! You’ll learn a new skill and are one step closer to dinner!
- Cook for leftovers. If you’re trying to find ways to stretch what you buy, look for more inexpensive cuts of meat (think chicken legs/thighs instead of breasts, beef stew meat instead of steaks) and make “large scale meals” like stews, braises, etc. that you can reheat easily.
- Share the responsibilities. If you have a family or roommates, use this time to share in the responsibility of cooking, to spend time together sharing in a common goal, and to learn together. Who knows, someone may find a hidden love for cooking...!
- Improve the canned, jarred, and packaged foods that you have in the house. I made chilaquiles for a friend a few weeks ago and used a jar of salsa verde. It wasn’t the best, but once I tasted it, I realized that it could be made a lot better with a bit of fresh lime juice and salt. Those jarred pasta sauces, canned veg or beans, etc. might not be great out of the container, but taste them and improve them with different ingredients for tasty meals and snacks.
Brian Rhude is the Project Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center where he works in developing Center programming, assists in updating and creating new resources on the Center's website, collaborates on the development of social media content, and provides other services and collaborates including participation at and facilitation of various events and conferences.