Tagged With the grown up kitchen

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Somehow, in the last few weeks, I have become someone who wakes up at 6:30 a.m. I did not choose this path - I would always rather be sleeping, thanks - but I'm trying to make the best of my body's sudden refusal to sleep in.

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It's hard to get excited about steamed vegetables. When done poorly, they range from totally unremarkable to actively disgusting - but done right, they're absolutely transcendent. I think this underrated technique deserves another look.

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Mussels are one of those sexy, evocative dishes that seems best executed by a fancy-pants chef at a corner bistro, but a big bowl of the bivalves is one of the most weeknight-friendly meals you can make. If you've ever been wary of cooking shellfish at home, mussels are a great place to start.

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Eating bone marrow is an experience best described as "viscerally decadent". Once roasted, the luscious meat butter inside the bones can be scraped out and spread on toast, mixed with rice and vegetables, or eaten on top of more meat for a crazy carnivorous experience.

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Chicken breasts don't have a particularly strong personality, but they're a very amicable protein. No matter what flavour profile you're going for, you can depend on the chicken breast to provide the perfect protein canvas without distracting from or clashing with bolder, more pronounced flavours. Structurally, they take very well to stuffing, making them the perfect vehicle for almost any filling you can dream up.

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Until recently, I never measured freshly ground pepper. If a recipe called for half a teaspoon, I would simply grind the berries over the dish until I thought I had "enough", based on nothing but my nose and how pungent I was feeling that day, because there was no elegant way to measure it by teaspoon from the grinder. But, if you take the time to do some measuring just once, you'll be able to dispense the amount needed in any recipe, no measuring spoon required.

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It's very easy to get excited at the cheese counter, and that excitement can lead to purchasing more cheese than one can (comfortably) eat in a single evening. As such, some cheese must be stored, but it must not be stored directly in plastic.

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Stock is the backbone of so many recipes. Whether it's used as a cooking liquid for rice or beans, or as the base of a soup or gravy, the quality of your stock influences the quality of your final dish. Though it isn't hard to make, there are a few tweaks you can make to ensure yours is a rich and tasty stock that's anything but watery.

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Garlic is great in all of its many forms but, like most plant parts, it is at its absolute best when roasted. Roasting garlic mellows its pungency and tempers its aggressive bite, but it also intensifies its sweetness and creates new, deeper flavours through that lovely little Maillard reaction. It's also a freaking cinch to make.

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Mise en place is a French phrase that roughly translates to "everything in its place". As a cooking technique, it's exactly what it sounds like: A method of preparing and organising ingredients to maximise a recipe's efficiency. So crucial is it to the function of a professional kitchen that, for most chefs, mise en place is a way of life - making it the original "pro tip" for home cooks.

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Stocking a spice cabinet can be a little overwhelming, simply for the reason that there are so many spices out there. It may be tempting to stock up on every exciting seasoning in sight, but these things do have an expiration date, and you can end up with a cabinet full of flavourless, expensive powders that need to be replaced.

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An over-easy egg on toast is one of my favourite simple breakfasts, but these eggs are equally at home atop a bed of rice, a burger, or even a piece of pizza. Hitting that sweet spot where the whites are fully cooked but the yolk is still nice and runny isn't difficult -- you just have to know what you're doing.

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Chicken breasts are not very exciting, but they are a versatile protein with a pretty healthy image, and for that reason people tend to buy and cook a lot of them. Unfortunately, their lopsided, teardrop shape makes them a pain to cook well, and one can end up with a piece of meat that is juicy but flavourless on one end, and dry and charred on the other.

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When you start out cooking, measuring everything exactly can be a big concern, which is why beginning cooks may be put off by recipes that list vague amounts such as "a pinch of salt" or "one medium onion". Though "pinch" has been pretty much standardised -- it's agreed upon to be an 1/8th of a teaspoon -- a "medium" onion is a little harder to pin down.

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There are a lot of "correct" ways to cook vegetables but -- though I'm not a huge fan of culinary presciptivism -- I'm going to go ahead and say that roasting is the most correct. Everything from tender green asparagus to hearty root vegetables tastes phenomenal when prepared this way, and it's super easy to execute.

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Knives are some of the most important tools in the kitchen, yet there are people who keep them in drawers, where they clang around, knocking into each other, getting all dinged up and sad. Do not do this. There are much better ways to store your knives, and some of them you can even make yourself.

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When I first started cooking for myself and others, I considered a steak dinner to be the epitome of sophisticated adult-ness, especially when served with an aggressively tannic bottle of red wine. I wasn't bad at making the meal, but one element always eluded me: The freaking pan sauce.