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Gifted Gourmet

The true test: how well does one execute the

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the true test of a cook's abilities is not how well they can execute the most complex dish in their repertoire, but rather how well they can do the most basic one.
Traveler's Lunchbox

What is the surest way to find out what one can prepare well?

Is your fanciest, most labor-intensive dish, your shining achievement?

Or, do you think that one's ability to make a very basic dish impeccably, best displays one's abilities as a cook?


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I think the latter, but I'm attracted to simpler foods. My happiest meals have been more peasant in origin - I'd rather eat honest food made with love than the most cerebral of haute cuisine.

To that end, I endlessly tinker with bettering my roast chicken, as I can think of no better meal on earth than a delicious roast chicken served with salad, good bread and red wine.

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I personally think that the more difficult the dish, the more is shows off the chef's ability. To pull together a myriad of flavors, textures, and techniques into one presentation is truly art. In deference to the previous poster, I think admiring simplicity is almost cliche. I've heard many a chef say the true test of a cook is how they prepare an egg or roast a chicken. I think they are being polite, as well as attempting to be profound. To me, it doesn't work on either count.

I do love roast chicken though.


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I personally think that the more difficult the dish, the more is shows off the chef's ability. To pull together a myriad of flavors, textures, and techniques into one presentation is truly art. In deference to the previous poster, I think admiring simplicity is almost cliche. I've heard many a chef say the true test of a cook is how they prepare an egg or roast a chicken. I think they are being polite, as well as attempting to be profound. To me, it doesn't work on either count.

I do love roast chicken though.

I used to ask new guys in the kitchen to boil me a pot of eggs. If they had green yolks, well, that told me something, usually to their detriment.

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I used to ask new guys in the kitchen to boil me a pot of eggs. If they had green yolks, well, that told me something, usually to their detriment.

How on earth would they end up with green yolks? :unsure:

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How on earth would they end up with green yolks?  :unsure:

Short answer? Overcooked eggs ...

Long answer:

A greenish grey film will form on the surface of the yolk when the temperature of the yolk exceeds 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This discoloration is not unhealthful. It's just a visual indicator of a natural chemical reaction... hydrogen sulphide from amino acids in the white of your egg (or albumen) is reacting with iron from the yolk which causes a film of ferrous sulphide to form on the yolk's surface.
Mr Breakfast

:wink:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I feel that elegant simplicity is the measure of talent. An overly-artistic presentation also makes me wary; delicate, varicolored dabs or swirls of sauce, half a cherry tomato poised on the tail of a single aragula leaf, too little to contribute flavor but looking upscale, make me feel like the chef is working on maintaining his/her image, rather than concentrating on the taste of the food. Am I a total Philistine? I hope not.

When sitting in front of the dish, I don't want to be impressed by the chef. I want to be stimulated by the food. If the food (complex or simple) lives up to sensuous anticipation, then I can appreciate the chef's talent. "An omelette and a glass of wine", well made and simply presented, tell me as much about the chef as I need to know.

Miriam


Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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...

What is the surest way to find out what one can prepare well?

Is your fanciest, most labor-intensive dish, your shining achievement?

Or, do you think that one's ability to make a very basic dish impeccably, best displays one's abilities as a cook?

I've made a few fancy and labour-intensive dishes and have been impressed by the result but not nearly as impressed as I am when I can pull together a tasty meal with limited ingredients and limited time. It is then that I will announce under my breath, "Self, you really can cook!". And a tasty soup is the crowning glory. It doesn't happen often but when it does, my hubris is so overblown I expect severe retribution from the kitchen gods. :biggrin:


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Anna's right when she mentions the meal as opposed to one dish.

Let's face facts. A dish is a dish. And a dish is one component of a meal. The true test of a cook's skill, in my opinion, is the meal as a whole, from soup to nuts. The ability to execute one dish to perfection, no matter how great it tastes, is only one element of the skill of a cook.

My goal is for my family and friends to leave the table happy and comfortable: a mix of conversation, ease of presentation, good choice of wines, dishes matched for flow and evolution right up through dessert and coffee, prepared with everything from that day's weather to the nature of my friendship with the guest (if I have a guest) in mind. The temperature of the foods and plates are important as well, as well as how the table looks.

It took me a long time to understand that striving for balance when making choices: simple and complex, self moderation, timing, not taking shortcuts, knowing my limits, and the flow of the courses are just as if not more important as the ability to execute a certain dish. If you have ever been a guest at someone's table who serves a meal so heavy or packed with attempts to wow or offers for seconds that it makes you tired, overwhelmed, or just plain stuffed, no matter how well prepared each dish is, there's no way you can really enjoy it.

I can't taste one dish, plain or fancy and say - this person is a good cook! I can sit at their table and eat a meal that they have prepared, and only then can I tell.

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the true test of a cook's abilities is not how well they can execute the most complex dish in their repertoire, but rather how well they can do the most basic one.
Traveler's Lunchbox

What is the surest way to find out what one can prepare well?

Is your fanciest, most labor-intensive dish, your shining achievement?

Or, do you think that one's ability to make a very basic dish impeccably, best displays one's abilities as a cook?

for me- There was as specific meal that made it clear to me I could cook under pressure. I was travelling to my mother-in-law's house for the first time. I knew that she was quite ill, but had no clue whether her apartment had a kitchen and if so what was in it. I was truly coming in blind and she ahad invited additional relatives. We went to the supermarket, I got the things on her list and a few additions.

My cream sauce came together without a hitch, it was right on target with the seasoning and the addition of cheese to finish the mac and chees did not seperate.

I later found out that this woman had been a home economic teacher for 20 years. The first thing she commented on was the cheese sauce. I knew at that moment I could cook. I have made more complicated dishes since then but nothing approches the sense of accomplishment that the murmurs of enjoyment from the people sittting around that table gave me that evening.

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Simplicity is very hard to produce with excellence. Most people are so over confident in their abilities with regards to the simple things, that they don't pay attention as much as they should. Techniques not as precise....

It's all about state of mind. Give me a simply prepared dish done well any day.

A grilled steak with new potatoes and asparagus

A fresh corn soup

A roast chicken

These are some of the best things that I have ever eaten.

Of course, using fancy ingredients or fancy techniques may make you LOOK like you know what you are doing....but any good chef out there knows that you start with the basics and perfect those things before moving on to the loftier preparations.

Just my 2 cents.

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Melissa, the link doesn't seem to work....


"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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accepting that the total is the sum of its parts you have to get the simple dishes correct in order to make the complicated dishes. Take a Salad Nicoise--not necessarily a complicated dish but it works as an example. If the tuna is over-coooked and mushy (assuming you are using fresh tuna) then the dish does not work. If the egg yolks are green--as per McDuff's example--then you have ruined a key element of the dish. If the potatoes are hard or soft then a basic part of the dish is wrong. If the green beans are soggy or the salad greens them selves are flat or the vinaigrette is overly spicy or bland....well, you get the point.


in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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Learning the basics before moving on to the more advanced. But everyone today seems to want instant gratification, resulting in misinterpreted and misunderstood cooking method and even more so a mile wide of "creativity" thats a 1/2 inch of " skill" deep.


Edited by Timh (log)

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Well, it has been publicly stated that classical--"difficult"-- cooking, complex though it may end up, is nothing more than a series of basic steps assembled in a given order to arrive at a specific conclusion. To that end, simple cookery gives those foundation skills a chance to really shine on their own merits. And though I've never been anything more than a line pig, I've always thought that the hallmark test of a cook was in soup. They're pretty easy to do, but they're kind of tricky to do well; and some of them can be deucedly difficult to do well consistently and repeatably.


This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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A perfectly made French omellete is a surefire way of judging a chefs abilities.

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A perfectly made French omellete is a surefire way of judging a chefs abilities.

Yeah, I read that somewhere too.... :unsure:


"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Definitely not all their abilities....I know people who can make a perfect French omelette, but can't make a stock to save their lives.....

Like I said....perfect ALL the basics, then start thinking that you can be the next Ferran Adria or Thomas Keller. Believe you me, these guys spent many years learning the basics first.

What I guess that I mean, is that understanding the basics and perfecting them will give one a good basis of knowledge about food and how it reacts in certain situations. Like I said, state of mind and paying attention to what is being done is more important than working with expensive ingredients or perceived difficult techniques.

Too many people eschew this process because they would rather advance quickly. This leads to "showy techniques" and very overthought presentation. They may advance quickly and then all of sudden they are in charge of a group of people who depend upon them for their food knowledge......(And no one can figure out why their hollandaise keeps splitting)....

I've seen too much of it.

I have not perfected all of my basics....but I'm still working on it.

I'll stick to simple things.

:wink:

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A Ceaser salad.

Lentil soup.

Carbonara.

That sauce with butter, egg, lemon, some salt.

Perfectly cooked/seasoned vegtables.


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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A perfectly made French omellete is a surefire way of judging a chefs abilities.

As long as the cook (this thread began about cooks, not chefs) is interested in making omelettes.

I'm not (nor am I a chef) and I couldn't care less how well I can make one.

Back to the original question: I think it comes down to quality of execution.

I can say that cooking Indian food stretches my abilities more than preparing a penne amatriciana. Neither is easy to do really well - you have to pay attention every step of the way - but Indian food requires more prep and more sustained attention.

More complex dishes may simply be a measure of your ability to stay focused over longer periods, in addition to your cooking skills.


Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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