You know all those kitchen skills you have been meaning to learn but have just been too busy to tackle? Right now a lot of us have nothing but free time. And since cooking for your family (or even for yourself) can stave off the feelings of isolation and anxiety so many of us are experiencing right now, carve out some time in your daily schedule to indulge in a little culinary self-confidence boost.
Related Reading: 9 Online Cooking Classes for Every Taste, Skill Level, and Budget
1. Learn a Method for Perfectly Cooked Rice
“You don’t need to go to culinary school or have expensive equipment to make great food at home,” says Pujan Sarkar, chef de cuisine at ROOH San Francisco and ROOH Palo Alto. “To be a better home cook all you need is interest and a bit of skill [and] knowledge.” His easy, foolproof recipe for fragrant basmati rice results in grains that don’t stick together that are ready to be spooned next to curry lamb or chicken tikka masala.
Simply wash and soak 1 cup of basmati rice for one hour to remove excess starchiness, then drain and set aside. Heat 7 cups of water in a large saucepan, bring it to a boil, and add 2 teaspoons salt. Add the drained rice, boil for 5 to 7 minutes, and then drain and cover the pan with a plate. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then serve.
Related Reading: 9 Rice Recipes for the Slow Cooker
2. Make Recipe-Ready Chicken Broth
The chefs at The CIA Copia in Napa, the offshoot of the Culinary Institute of America geared towards home enthusiasts, shared this helpful video from chef-instructor Bill Briwa for making homemade chicken stock. Lower a whole chicken into a large stock pot filled with cold water. Bring it to a boil, skim off foam, and reduce to a simmer. Prepare a mirepoix of 1 cup chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped celery, and 2 cups chopped onions and add it to the pot along with a few thyme sprigs, 2-3 bay leaves, 2-3 peeled garlic cloves, and 15 peppercorns. Simmer for 1 hour. Then, using tongs, remove the chicken and let cool. Strip the meat from the bones and reserve for soup or another recipe. Strain the broth through a colander, discard vegetables and skim off fat from the surface. Use the broth right away or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for 3 months. Right now the CIA is also sharing recipes for using up pantry staples and working with limited ingredients in these uncertain times.
Related Reading: How to Make Effortless Chicken Stock in Your Slow Cooker
3. Learn to Make a Riffable Pan Sauce
A pan sauce is an indispensable topping for sauteed chicken, flank steak, or pork tenderloin. The basic recipe calls for deglazing the browned bits of meat or fish stuck to the bottom of the saute pan using wine, stock, beer, or water; depending on the recipe you may also add chopped garlic, shallots, or herbs, and thicken it with butter or cream. Pan sauces are quick, meaning you can make one in the time that your protein is resting, but they add huge flavor to your meal. The Reluctant Gourmet has some great variations on pan sauces, as does The Mom 100. And rather than always reaching for regular wine, consider a dry fino sherry, vermouth, or dry cider. Remember, though: If it’s not something you would drink, it’s not good enough to cook with.
4. Make Your Own Pasta with No Special Tools Required
“I strongly encourage you to cook items that bring about the good times of old, [like] cooking with parents or grandparents when you were younger,” suggests Jeff Vucko, chef at Travelle at The Langham in Chicago. “It could be something traditional or something for the soul.”
His recipe for ravioli filled with burrata uses spring ingredients that are just cropping up and may evoke memories of throwing flour around the house with grandma, he adds. Even if you’ve never tried making fresh pasta, it’s not as tricky as you might think. And since you may have limited ingredients on hand, we’ve adapted the recipe to hand-cut fettuccine which can be tossed with anything from a simple mix of butter, parmesan cheese, and spices to cherry tomatoes and olive oil (or try the ravioli filling as a sauce for the noodles).
Hand-Cut Fettuccine with Burrata, Bacon, and Spring Vegetables
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 big pinches salt
- 1 ¼ cups egg yolks
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz. burrata or mozzarella, chopped
- ¼ cup bacon, chopped and sauteed until crispy
- 1 cup snap peas, trimmed
- 3 leeks (white and parts only), thinly sliced
- Pinch chili flakes
- 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- Chopped chives, for garnish
- Crack and separate the egg yolks from the whites and set aside.
- Pour the flour on the counter or wooden cutting board and shape a well in the center. Add the yolks, olive oil, and salt and with a fork begin the stir the mixture gently in a circular motion. Once it begins to look like a dough ball knead the dough with your hands for 6 to 8 minutes to allow the gluten to form and hydrate properly.
- Once the dough looks smooth and can’t take on more flour, wrap it with plastic wrap and let set for at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to just under ⅛ inch. Using a knife, cut long ribbons of fettuccine. Place the prepared pasta in a bowl covered with a damp towel.
- In a saute pan on medium heat the olive oil, add the sliced leeks and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the bacon, garlic and snap peas and saute for another minute or two.
- In a mixing bowl add the burrata, season with the zest of one lemon, chili flakes, salt and black pepper to taste. Pour the leeks over the cheese and combine the mixture with a fork.
- Meanwhile, drop the pasta in boiled salted water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving some pasta water. Add a ladle or two of pasta water to the saute pan along with the juice of the lemon, cooked pasta, and salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, top with the prepared burrata or mozzarella, garnish with the chives and serve.
5. Bake Your Own Bread
Because the aroma of bread baking in the oven is undeniably comforting, not to mention the bragging rights you have about creating your own warm, crusty loaf. The flavor and texture of homemade bread is miles above what you can get in the grocery store (even at the best of times) and it’s also easier to digest since no emulsifiers or other ingredients are added like in their mass-produced counterparts. Keep things simple with a no-knead bread recipe you can bake in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.
Staub Cast Iron Round 6-Quart Cocotte, $249.96+ at Sur La Table
A kitchen workhorse.
Or, you can try your hand at this sourdough starter from Kirsten and Mandy Dixon of Within the Wild, who note that sourdough has a long history in Alaska when miners during the Gold Rush would wear leather pouches around their necks filled with it, believing if it froze it wouldn’t work in breadmaking. Not true, Mandy says. “Sourdough, in fact, freezes just fine, so once you start your starter, don’t worry about next year’s vacation away from home.” She gives her starters lively personalities and even names; theirs is a good one to start your obsession that can be used in a variety of sourdough recipes like this Sourdough Artisan Bread.
Sourdough Starter (courtesy of Kirsten and Mandy Dixon)
- 2 large tart, green apples (such as Granny Smith) washed, cored, unpeeled and cut into chunks
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 cups water
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- In a medium bowl, combine apples, sugar and ½ cup of the water. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and store in a warm place for 8 to 10 days, during which time the mixture will ferment and become aromatic, smelling like apple alcohol. Mash the mixture into a paste.
- In a glass water pitcher with a lid, stir together the remaining water and flour.
- Add in the apple paste. Cover the pitcher and let the mixture stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, during which it will begin to smell sour. Feed your starter 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour each week to replenish what you have used.
Level Up: Cure Your Own Salmon
This may not seem like a basic skill, but it is far easier than you think—and incredibly rewarding, too. Using salt, sugar, peppercorns, dill, parsley, and lemon you can easily and quickly cure a fillet of salmon to be placed atop bagels in the morning or between slices of rye bread for lunch.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Salmon
But to raise the bar a bit, how about using the lox to make salmon bacon? Kirsten and Mandy Dixon run the acclaimed culinary program at Within the Wild, an adventure company that operates wilderness lodges in south central Alaska; they are also the co-authors of several cookbooks detailing their experience of living and cooking in the Alaskan backcountry. In other words they are chefs who are already uniquely prepared for dealing with isolation and food safety issues. If you don’t have fresh or frozen rhubarb for the glaze feel free to substitute a bag of cranberries or omit it completely and reduce the amount of honey to balance the sweetness. Get their Salmon Bacon recipe.
Related Video: How to Make Perfect Hummus From Scratch
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