"Vaut le Voyage" - Worth the Trip
Welcome to our gourmet blog/website/project/cookbook!
It's been said many times, many ways:
Worth the effort.
Worth the time.
Worth the calories!
And the extra 10 minutes on the bike or treadmill for the next week.
Cooking gourmet at home takes time, money, patience, practice and somebody to cook for. Or even better for AND with!
But is it REALLY worth it? In the last 20 years we've had literally (and we do mean literally, not figuratively) a handful of restaurant meals that we walked away from without saying immediately outside the door, "We could do that better."
You can too! This weekend even! But before you get started
Read our first two posts:
- We're Gonna Ruin It For You, and
- YOTWWI (yot t-ow ee): You're On The Wrong Website
What we lack as home-cooks is imagination! Inspiration! The fearlessness that comes from KNOWING what an ingredient or spice will do to the flavor of a dish.
A way to categorize flavors and techniques.
We're Gonna Ruin It For You.
(We're sorry. Kinda.)
Very soon after you start creating your own genius dishes you'll find the bar for a great dish set higher and higher!
Once you start cooking well you'll find virtually all home cooks make at least one fatal mistake in every dish they prepare. And it will jump out at you. We're sorry for that. Just smile and tell them it's wonderful. Then make your version next weekend.
We said "cooking well" instead of "cooking like a pro" on purpose: Your own dishes prepared and tweaked to your own palate, without the "benefits" of heat-lamps and wait times, will now start to bury almost all the restaurant fare out there. We're sorry for that too.
But all is not lost! Use these examples as inspiration to make your own version!
You will also find you have a MUCH greater appreciation for the time and effort that went into those dishes you may have been taking for granted!
Before starting your culinary journey you'll need to evaluate your ingredient availability. Take this list to your local grocery store and be honest up front to avoid heartbreak later:
-) USDA Choice beef
-) Fresh chives
-) Fresh sage
-) Asparagus with cut ends in water bins
-) Orange marmalade
-) 8-inch zucchini
-) Frozen squid
-) Chicken livers
-) Mission figs (okay that one's a stretch...)
If you had more than 3 misses we recommend taking up another hobby.
Quality ingredients do cost more, and they are worth every penny. They just taste better being less bland with more of the ingredient's flavor coming through. You will be putting a lot of sweat and tears into your dishes so stack the flavor deck in your favor right from the get-go.
How to know if
You're On The Wrong Website:
-) If you don't try every food you can, YOTWW.
-) If you don't have patience to learn, YOTWW.
-) If you can't stand comfortably for 3 hours, YOTWW.
-) If you've ever eaten at ANY diner and said, "That was pretty good," YOTWW.
-) If you don't like wine, YOTWW.
-) If you can't get really quality ingredients, we're so sorry.
-) If you smoke, YOTWW.
-) If you add salt at the table before tasting, YOTWW.
-) If you don't like pate.
-) If you think you can make Bolonese without cream, YOTWW.
-) If you don't like mushrooms or have any other freaky food fetish, YOTWW.
-) If you've ever uttered the words "ick" or "yuck" about food, YOTWW.
-) If you've ever thought the words "ick" or "yuck" about food, YOTWW.-) If you can't taste the difference between yellow, red, and white onions, YOTWW.
-) If you don't like blue cheese, YOTWW.
-) If you have any severe food allergies or someone you regularly cook for has them, YOTWW. And for that we really are sorry. We've heard good things about trains as a good hobby, they cost a lot too.
AND THE BIGGIE:
If you don't believe French cooking is better than all others, YOTWW.
Although sorta humorous (and a TOTAL rip-off of Jeff Foxworthy) these YOTWW guidelines should be taken as real advice so you don't waste your money, and more importantly, your time pursuing gourmet cooking at home. There's also golf to consider as an alternative if trains don't do it for you. Golf's pretty expensive too.
Pretty Food: We Eat First With Our Eyes.
If a dish looks, well yucky, we're predisposed to think it will taste yucky. Nobody ever (knowingly) stormed the castle for an ugly princess, right!
Once you've got your genius dish perfected take a couple of moments to make it look fab!
Here's some posts to check out to help your dishes look as good as they taste:
- The Art Of Plating
- Deconstruct, Deconstruct, Deconstruct
- Dress the Place Setting & Table
Use Your Words: Terminology Adds
Precision and Understanding
Yes Virginia, There IS A Correct Way To Eat That!
Why "Wokkon Cooking" you ask?
We wanted to call this cookbook/project/website "Vaut le Voyage" but being simple folks at heart, we opted to just call in "Wokkon Cooking." (Like "Rokkon Racing" our online and track-day racing pursuit.) (We sign all our Deaf Bunnys emails with "ROKKON!") (Get it?)
Health and Cleanliness Concerns
Smaller is better!
When preparing raw ingredients smaller is ALWAYS better! No fancy French chef cut a half pound potato into quarters and threw it in the pot.
LEARN YOUR KNIFE SKILLS!
Learn to use a sharp knifes! Learn to sharpen and hone your knives! And for pitty's, go buy a REALLY GOOD set of cooking knives!
(This may be the best advice on this entire darn site...)
"What Can I Bring?"
We say "peasant food" as a definition, not a judgment. For example, bologna: We recently had a guest bring us some bologna from their local day-trip while they were visiting. It was delicious! Peasant food, but outstanding!
We kicked that great bologna to "gourmet" status by adding great mustard, great horseradish, and great bread. Sauteed onions would have killed! Good beer and wine choices helped as always. The company and conversation guaranteed an outstanding afternoon!
We use "peasant food" to describe foods that are easy to find or make, and are usually taken for granted. Ha! Not anymore, right!?
How to drink wine with your Genius Dishes
Your Genius Dish(es)
These recipes are OUR Genius Dishes for OUR tastes. Only you can make them YOUR Genius Dishes for YOUR tastes. As you educate your palate you'll tweak everything so YOU love it!
1) Guests: What can I do
2) Bring the wine
Guest Assistance Doesn't Really Work
Our original concept was that we'd involve our guests in the preparation. What a disaster that's been!
Such a cool idea! Share what we know. Get them involved! They're always asking "What can I do?" Unfortunately they can't actually do anything quickly and/or correctly without way more instruction than you have time to give while prepping a meal.
And even if you tell them what to do they won't follow your instructions because they know "A Better Way." Boulderdash! They're not fit to wear your apron! (Almost all fo them...) What did they serve you
So here's our advice:
Tell them to just come visit your home, enjoy themselves, and have a great meal! Tell them to bring wine but make sure to be specific as to what you want. (See "Not All Wines Are Created Equal" post.)
Tastes Vary MUCH Less Than You May Think.
Most people like the same things: Examples; Pizza, Coca-Cola, waffles, chocolate, sausage. You will run across people who don't want to try something new or "fancy." Don't bother cooking for them, you've got LOTS of friends that will climb over each other to devour your dishes.
Fire Is Your Friend!
The more we've cooked the more we've brought the heat! It's a bit of a learning curve, but slow-cooking doesn't add that "fire flavor" that our cavemen ancestors fell in love with!
Cutting vs. Chopping
Tossing vs. Mixing or Folding
Deliberate action vs. random action
Arrowroot vs. Cornstarch vs. Creaam Of Tatar vs. Flour
1) Bread roll
2) Base proteins, usually a selection lunch-meats.
-) Cheese(s), they elevate the taste more than anything else
3) Garlishes, meaning vegetables.
4) Sauce, usually... hmmm... There are no "usual" sauces.
5) We don't care what you call them, a long sandwich on a roll with lots of ingredients is not American only but you can only get truly great COMPLEX ones in America. Thanks to our unparalleled distribution system!
*) Where we live, "grinders" usually means "heated".
**) Paninis are something else entirely.
There's no such thing as a "veggie hoagie:" Cold veggies on bread!?! What were you thinking!?
Schtuff You Don't Know.
-) TAKE NOTES!
1) Ramekins Don't Stack.
2) Use your thermometers: Is your oven really 400-degrees?
-) Use your timers: Consistency is needed to refine-refine-refine your recipe to create your genius dish.
3) Use your power-tools: Food-processors, blenders, slicers all make preparation easier and quicker.
4) Use your sous-chef/dish-washer, that's what they're for.
5) Keep it clean! Clean utensils and work-space as you go.
6) PLAN YOUR MEALS BEFORE YOU START COOKING.
-) You should have too many cookbooks. WA-A-Ay too many.
-) Lime-juice should come in the same sized bottles as lemon-juice. (It doesn't, but it should.)
-) You should almost always use the potatoe-skin as well.
-) Only a weirdo would create a great meal just for himself.