The Forgotten Basic Essentials

One of my favorite birthday gifts I received last month was the Kitchn’s official cookbook. In addition to recipes every cook should have in their back pocket, it includes chapters covering kitchen organization, key cooking tips, and entertaining advice – all important details that are usually absent and forgotten from traditional cookbooks.

I recently lent this to my dad and I’ve regretted it ever since

Okay, so this got me thinking – how often do I forget the basics? I’m not just talking about the proper way to chop garlic; I’m talking about the food we love – the kind that’s so simple, we often take it for granted. I’ve compiled a small list of favorites as a reminder to us all:

1. Scrambled Eggs

My sister and her now-husband lived with my family before they bought their first place as a married couple. One of the perks of living with them? I’d wake up every Sunday morning to the smell of them cooking breakfast for us. I was so spoiled and never had to cook my own… so by the time I was in college, I attempted to cook scrambled eggs for my roommates and I burnt them.

How stupid do you have to be to mess up scrambled eggs? Well, after a few more practice rounds, I got the hang of it. Now that I’m older and more sophisticated (lol), I’ve learned how to make some AMAZING scrambled eggs *pats self on back*. Friends don’t let other friends burn scrambled eggs. You’re welcome.

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Crack all of your eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk. You can use a regular whisk or a fork. The trick is to use your wrist when whisking. Make sure it all turns completely yellow and that there aren’t any lumps.
  2. Add a splash of milk. Don’t add too much, don’t add too little. Pretty straightforward, right? Sorry. Use a splash for every five eggs. You want them to be fluffy, not liquid-y.
  3. Add salt and pepper. I’d say about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Whisk the mixture.
  4. Meanwhile, add a half of a tablespoon of butter to a skillet and turn it on medium heat.
  5. While your butter is heating up, add cheese to the whisked, egg mixture. If you are using slices, I’d use two slices and rip them up into 1-inch pieces. If you’re using shredded, add 1/3 of a cup (you can always add more later as the eggs are cooking). Stir. NOTE: Try using softer cheese. It’ll melt better and have a gooey texture. If you use harder cheeses, you’re more likely to get a plastic texture.
  6. Once your cheese is added into the mixture, check your butter in the skillet. Lift the skillet and tilt it in each direction to spread the melted butter around. Set it back down, wet your fingers with water and flick it on the skillet. If it bubbles and you hear sizzling, it’s ready.
  7. Slowly pour your egg mixture into the skillet. Let it sit for a few seconds and then stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula. The trick is to keep it moving – don’t let it sit for too long or else it might burn or get rubbery. Keep stirring it every few seconds.
  8. When they’re getting close to being done, feel free to add more cheese.
  9. Once the liquid is absorbed and the eggs look fluffy, serve immediately. Add more salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Mashed Potatoes

I can’t take full credit for making these perfect mashed potatoes; Catie gave me an awesome recipe recently – so I’ve combined our efforts into the recipe below. Mashed potatoes can be so simple, you don’t even need a hand mixer to make them, but you MUST follow these steps.

Ingredients:

  • 5 russet or red-skinned potatoes
  • Salt
  • Minced garlic
  • Shredded cheese
  • Butter
  • Potato peeler
  • Whisk or hand mixer

Directions:

  1. Peel all of your potatoes. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just do the best you can.
  2. After the potatoes are peeled, cut each potato into fourths. This helps the potatoes cook faster and evenly.
  3. Throw (but not really; be gentle…) the potatoes into a larger pot and fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt and put a lid on the pot. NOTE: Adding salt and keeping the lid on the pot helps speed up the process.
  4. Put the pot on the stove and set to high heat. Wait for the water to boil and then turn down the heat so it’s at a rolling boil. Set your timer for 15-20 minutes. This is usually how long is takes to cook potatoes all the way through.
  5. To test if your potatoes are cooked, stick a fork in each. If the fork slides in very easily, they’re ready.
  6. Once your potatoes are ready, strain the water out. Add the potatoes to a mixing bowl and using your whisk or your hand mixer, mix potatoes a little so they mash.
  7. Add 1/4 cup of milk, a tablespoon of salt, a cup of shredded cheese, and a tablespoon of butter. Continue to mix.
  8. Keep adding more milk little by little until potatoes have a fluffy texture. Feel free to add more butter, too. Again, it’s about adding a little bit as you go. You don’t want them too clumpy or too liquid-y, so you’ll have to taste-test as you go.
  9. Add your minced garlic at the end. The amount is entirely up to you. I usually add about two tablespoons. Feel free to add more salt here, too. These puppies don’t even need gravy.

3. Grilled Cheese

Tom is the grilled cheese master, hands down. The trick here is to make sure the cheese is soft – it’s as straightforward as that. Sometimes I like to think I have a more refined palette, but that goes out the window when I tell everyone that Velveeta is the best cheese for a mouth-watering grilled cheese…

If you hate the thought of using Velveeta, trust me, I understand. Please do yourself a favor, though, and use soft cheese. Qualifiers include American, Swiss, Monterey Jack, cheddar, or fontina. Also, if you have the time, you should read the Kitchn’s 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Grilled Cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese, or 1 slice

Directions:

  1. Place a skillet over medium heat, add butter, and let it melt completely. Just like you did with your eggs, you’ll want to wet your hands, flick it on the butter, and if it sizzles, it’s ready. Spread the butter around with a spatula.
  2. Rub a piece of bread in the melted butter. You only need to rub one side.
  3. Pile your cheese on top of the bread in the skillet. Cover the pan with a lid and let the cheese melt until it’s almost entirely melted, but you can still see some distinct cheese pieces, 2 to 3 minutes. In the meantime, butter your other piece of bread on one side.
  4. Top the sandwich with the other piece of bread (buttered side up). Squish slightly so the top adheres to the melted cheese. Flip the sandwich over.
  5. Cook until toasted golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Feel free to flip over again, if you want the other side more toasted. Serve immediately.

Okay, so that’s your basic grilled cheese. I’ve heard of people adding veggies, such as jalapenos. You should get creative, but learn to master a perfect grilled cheese first.

The moral of the story? Never stop playing with your food, even the most basic recipes. Don’t take these meals for granted! *steps off soapbox*


Caitlin

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