Practical Advice For My Son #8 ~ Let The Pan Heat Slowly

There is something about cooking that people don’t tell you… it takes patience. When you want an egg, you want an egg. The temptation, and generally the action, is to put a pan on the stove and just heat the heck out of it. Especially on an electric stove, you just want to put it on high, or at least medium high, and go for it.

Unfortunately, when you take this approach to cooking a couple of things happen. First, you get rubbery weird eggs that are overcooked on the outside and too runny in the middle. Second, you get a pan requiring industrial cleaning because there is stuff burnt on to it.

Life is a lot like this process. When you go at things full blast, with no thought, you get some difficult results. First, you may have an incomplete or inappropriate solution and have to re-do whatever it is. Second, you may have relationships you have “burned” on the outside without resolving the mush on the inside. Third, you may say things that you either can’t take back or didn’t want heard.

So, when cooking an egg, or almost anything at all, it is best to set the pan on medium or medium low. Then wait until it is evenly as hot as you want it. Then put your food in and wait for it to cook evenly and thoroughly. When you are done not only will you have food that looks good and tastes good, you will have a pan that you can clean and put away without much trouble. Life is like that… let the pan heat slowly.

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Practical Advice For My Son #4 ~ How To Make A Roux

I have told you before, you can put almost anything in a good cream sauce and look like a genius cook to a date. To make a good cream sauce, you need to make a roux. I’ll bet you didn’t know how it was spelled, despite almost four years of French class. And we have been over this a few times, but I really don’t expect you will remember, so I am putting it here. Of course if you would like to call home and ask your mom, you can always do that too.

You need to melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Then add two tablespoons of flour, preferably Wondra, which is extra fine and will help you not have a lot of lumps but any flour will do. Normally you would whisk this up but I don’t really expect you to have a whisk, so take a large fork, use it flat and stir in circles against the bottom of the frying pan. Hopefully this is not a nonstick pan or it won’t survive many tries at this. Let this cook, stirring pretty frequently, until the flour turns golden brown. Once it is nice and golden, add 1 cup of milk and stir (whisk) constantly. You can use half milk and half broth if you like, it will be less creamy/thick and a bit more liquid, like a different kind of sauce. You can double this recipe, just keep the proportions the same. Generally I put a few drops of worcestershire and a few drops of tabasco to give it a bit of flavor. Salt and pepper will do.

You will want to let it bubble gently and it will thicken. If its too thick, add broth or milk. Generally speaking, a few sauteed boneless, skinless chicken breasts, some egg noodles and you are in business. Or some precooked shrimp (you can buy a bag) and some nice rice pilaf (comes in a box) and you are in business. Add a bagged salad and a storebought desert and poof! fabulous dinner for two.

If by some chance you want to make comfort food, one of your favorites, just buy a rotisserie chicken and cut it up and put it in the cream sauce, make buttered toast and voila! creamed chicken on toast. Remember if you add frozen peas, they will melt and add water so make your sauce a little thick.

A good roux can go a long way, there are many things you can do with a cream sauce. You can even put it over pork chops, or whatever. Experiment with flavors; just remember to smell things before you put them in… if it doesn’t smell good, if it doesn’t smell like it would go together, don’t do it.

Just remember 2, 2 and 1. Two tablespoons, two tablespoons and one cup. Roux is just one of those things that is good to know in life. It’s an easy trick that will take you far; like most things it is simple once you know how.

Things I Want My Son To Know #11 ~ Know How To Live On Your Own

I am amazed by how many young women, and men, simply don’t know how to do basic things, don’t have basic life skills. You should never be in a relationship because you can’t balance a checkbook or iron a shirt; these are not good reasons to pick a mate. And yes, you can pay people to do a lot of life skills things, but you may not always have the money for that, or wish to spend it on that. There are often far more important things to spend your money on; choices to be made. So it is important that you know how to live on your own and take care of yourself.

Remember we have always said there is nothing worse than a single man’s bathroom. If you want a second date, know how to clean a bathroom, especially the toilets. It not hard and you won’t catch anything. Spray, swish, wipe and don’t forget the underside, outside and the floor around the base!

Know how to cook a few basic meals. Remember you can put almost anything in a basic cream sauce and be impressive; butter, flour, milk, a little chicken, some rice, you are a genius. Spaghetti, eggs, salad, you know you can.

Know how to manage your own money, balance your checkbook and invest your savings intelligently. Shop sales and remember, never pay full price just because you want something today. Save something every time you get a paycheck. If you do you will retire with enough money to live. You will be able to help your children when they need it.

Know how to iron your shirts, when you have a job interview you need an ironed white shirt, always. And depending on where you work, you will need one for work sometimes. And know how to iron your pants. I hate to say it, but if you actually hang things up with a crease, they need less ironing. Maybe when you don’t have someone to iron for you, you will hang them up.

Know how to make good coffee, a reasonable cup of tea, a box of brownies. Know how to make your bed and run the washer/dryer. So many life tasks, so little space to write. Generally, be a competent self-sufficient human being. Know how to suit up and show up, feed yourself, do your bills and clean your house. Don’t depend on people to do these things for you. That way you can rely on yourself and find the people that enrich your life in real and special ways; not the people you need so you will have clean clothes.

Things I Want My Son To Know #7 ~ Cook With Your Children

Cook your family recipes; some things should be kept alive. In ethnic families there are rituals, usually tied to the religious, that are important and become part of the legacy and memories. In most families, eating together is a ritual that preserves legacy and memory. Even more, there are foods, cooked and eaten at particular times or times of year, prepared in a particular way, by particular people that especially preserve legacy and memory.

There are things you need to know. How to make the letter cookies your great grandmother, and then I, made when each of us in succeeding generations were small. How to make the cherry filled cookies that your great grandmother made for your grandfather and which are his very favorite. How to make your grandfather’s chopped liver (yes, the secret is in the schmaltz) and your grandma Joan’s lemon meringue pie which is too good to put in a pie, just make a double filling and eat it. I don’t know how you came to dislike brisket but you should still know how to make the best brisket on the planet, and the best potato latkes (you will always have friends at chanukah, guaranteed).

Whether you choose to be an observant or participating Jew, you should know how to make a seder. It is important to pass our story on to our children, year after year. The food is part of it, it is the glue that helps to bind our memories together, it keeps them real. The food is the taste and smell of the past and a path to the future. You know, being who I am, that I will have collected the recipes for you, and bound them in some kind of book for you to keep. But a book on a shelf isn’t enough. A few times a year, you need to take it down, make something yummy, and think of me, of your dad, of your grandparents, and the times we cooked and ate those foods together. And when your children are little, cook with them, and tell them the stories of the food and the memories… and they will live on.