A pep talk from Lynchburg Living’s tried-and-true (and sometimes bearded) food contributor
Anyone calling themselves a Man should be able to cook. No, I’m not talking about grilling a hot dog or microwaving leftovers, but a proper, kitchen-made meal, from scratch. Gone are the days when the kitchen was the realm of women. A modern man should be self-sufficient enough to feed himself without depending on his better half—or on takeout.
The good news for cooking-challenged dudes is that most anyone who can read and follow basic instructions can cook a fully edible meal. Why not make this the day when you step away from the sideline and join the game!
Cooking is not only a skill that will keep you alive and healthy, it will surely also score you some points with the ladies!
The three keys to cooking success:
1. Read the recipe from beginning to end before you start.
2. Make a time plan by counting backwards from the start time of your meal.
3. Measure out all ingredients in separate bowls/cups.
Get great recipes
I’m just going to come out and say it: Most cookbooks are garbage. They may tell fun stories and feature pictures of celebrities, but it’s not unusual that the recipe measurements are off or ingredients are left out altogether. Instead, search online for recipes by Ina Garten and Alton Brown, or get a cookbook from “America’s Test Kitchen” and you will not be disappointed by the outcome.
The truth about knives
Unlike what you’ll hear on an infomercial on late night TV, you seriously don’t need a lot of tools. Instead, use that money to get a good chef’s knife. An 8-inch Victorinox Fibrox will set you back less than $40 but will do the job better than most 15-knife sets that you’ll pay hundreds for.
Pro tip: Don’t fall for the siren song coming from that hand-forged $500 Burlwood and Damascus steel show piece. It might look good in your kitchen, but it won’t make you a better cook.
What about skillets?
You need two basic skillets; one cast iron and one non-stick. Generally speaking, cast iron is your go-to for browning meats, and a great Lodge brand cast iron skillet will only set you back about $35. The second skillet you need is a basic non-stick pan. You use that for fragile things that may stick in cast iron, such as fried eggs or fish. You can even go for the cheapest for about $20.
Pro tip: Replace your non-stick skillet every year or so because they get scratched up and you don’t want pieces of the coating in your food.
Splurge on quality ingredients when you can because they taste better and are better for you. Eggs from a local farm have higher nutrient density than factory-farmed eggs. Wild-caught fish from Alaska tastes better than the sewer-farmed stuff from China. And fresh produce from your neighborhood farmers market can’t be beat by the supermarket greens that were picked weeks ago and likely travelled from across the country—or the world!
Pro tip: If you can’t find local produce, explore the frozen veggie section of your supermarket for flavorful, affordable and long-lasting goodness.
Ok, now you know more about cooking than 90 percent of all home cooks, so let’s put your skills to the test with this easy, flavorful and filling Chicken Pot Pie recipe on the following page.
Chicken Pot Pie
SERVINGS: Makes 4 individual pot pies
TIME: Takes about 1h 45 min from start to finish
Special equipment: Four oven-safe ramekins, 12-14 oz each
3 chicken breasts (should make about 3 cups cooked, cubed)
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed in fridge overnight
1 egg (for egg-wash)
4 cups of chicken stock
1 stick of unsalted butter (that’s 8 tablespoons)
1 large onion (should make about 1.5 cups, chopped)
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 carrots (should make about 1.5 cups, diced)
1.5 cups frozen peas
1.5 cups pearl onions (not critical but great!)
1 bunch parsley (should make 1/2 cup, chopped)
3 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal kosher salt is seriously a magic ingredient!)
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet, smooth side up. Rub with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cook in the middle of the oven until the internal temp reaches 165 degrees, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then dice into half-inch cubes. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir for about 2 minutes, then add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Stir until the stock starts to thicken, then add the salt, pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, pearl onions and parsley and give everything a good stir to combine. Bring out your four ramekins and fill 90% full with chicken-veg mixture.
Go get your thawed sheet of puff pastry from the fridge. Unfold and place on a slightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until the sheet is about 25 percent larger. Cut out four circles, half an inch larger than the top of your ramekins.
In a cup, mix the egg with 1 tablespoon tap water to make an egg wash. Brush the top of each ramekin with the egg wash. Place one dough circle on each ramekin, crimping the edges slightly to seal. Brush the dough with egg wash and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Place your pot pies on a baking sheet and cook on middle rack for about an hour or until the top looks golden brown and delicious!
Photos by Ashlee Glen