I promised that I wouldn’t write more on this series in the near future. However, I also promised that I would do a takedown of the absurdly overcomplicated garbage that passes as cooking instruction. Besides that, I just had a highly relevant bathroom holocaust from my most recent cooking adventure. Neither of these individually deserve their own piece, but when these distinct notes are combined together they create a rich masterpiece, or at least that’s the idea.
Before going on vacation I hadn’t had a single meal that I didn’t make myself in months. This is because I typically cook a large enough dinner to feed myself for an additional two or three nights, and the food I cook is delicious. On vacation I had the experience of eating out at a restaurant, twice in fact. Actually, three times, with us ordering Korean BBQ chicken, our only fast-food type experience. I was far from a fan.
The sit down restaurants were Earls, and a Sunday brunch at a one off location in the Okanagan with some Italian name that I’ve forgotten. I think it was something like “Maistri.” It works somewhat against the impetus for this piece, but I can’t deny that I enjoyed the smoked salmon eggs benedict of my life at Maistri. The eggs were poached to perfection, perfectly cooked yet with dripping yokes. The hollandaise sauce was delectable, so much so that I considered asking for some on the side so that I could mix it with the excellently cooked potatoes on the side.
I don’t have any pictures of this, because I’m not one of those people who believes that if there’s no picture, it didn’t happen. This wasn’t a Michelin star restaurant, in fact the meal cost less than $30. But since I don’t have a picture, I’ll show Michelin star chef Gordon Ramsay cooking his version of eggs benedict instead.
I’ll be making fun of Gordon Ramsay later, but I can’t deny that he nailed this one. Just look at those runny yokes.
For more food porn we see Gordon Ramsay making crab eggs benedict on Masterchef. The premise here is that the experienced chefs are going to have to compete against each other to recreate this dish. The reason why they are competing against each other to do this, is because making perfect eggs benedict, let alone crab eggs benedict, is ****ing hard.
Here’s another MasterChef video where the competition is to make the perfect eggs benedict with just two eggs. There are four experienced cooks competing. Two of them have their sauce break, one terribly so, and the other somewhat overcooked her hollandaise which makes it lumpy. Two undercook the bacon. One of them overcooks her egg. None of them nail all the tiny little details in flavours, seasoning, and presentation that would be required at a top tier restaurant, although the guy comes fairly close. I’m impressed that none of them punctured the yolks when cracking the eggs. That’s a skill in and of itself.
I love eating eggs benedict. I don’t enjoy making it all that much, because the hollandaise sauce requires an egg yolk, and it bothers me to throw away the egg whites. Sure, you can use them for other dishes, but I don’t make anything that requires egg white, which are mostly pastries, so I would end up throwing them away. That’s one consideration that a home chef has, that professional chefs do not.
But the main takeaway is that cooking requires skill. Each particular dish requires the ability to properly prepare each individual component, and this difficulty becomes exponential when the various components must be made at the same time, as is true for eggs benedict. While you are poaching the egg, and making sure you don’t over or undercook it, you must be frying the ham, stirring the hollandaise, cutting up the lemon to add into the hollandaise sauce without seeds getting in there, dice up the chives, toast the english muffin, remove the eggs while getting rid of the water, and properly spice everything. Good luck!
It would certainly be easier if you could skip the hollandaise sauce. Same goes for the chives, the english muffin, the fried ham, and everything else except the poached eggs with seasoning and pepper. Believe it or not, you can do exactly that. Poached eggs are delicious on their own.
They’re also quite difficult to master, so there’s zero point in starting with anything more complex. You’ve got to strain the watery part of the egg white, add the right amount of vinegar, get the water at the right temperature – which is just before a boil and something she doesn’t mention but does – , use a slotted spoon to prune the fraying egg whites, and if you’re preparing them ahead of time, make an ice bath, and then a warm water bath when you want to heat them up again. Don’t make the warm water bath too hot, or you’ll overcook the eggs. Remember to not add salt to the poaching water, but don’t forget to add salt to the poached eggs themselves. Since you can’t taste the poached eggs without ruining them, you can only figure out how much salt you need to add through trial and error.
Oh, and you have to make sure that you don’t do what I’ve done more times than I care to admit, which is not having a high enough water level. Do that, and the very top of the egg yolk won’t get properly cooked, which will mean that you have to frantically pour hot water over all of them, just to still have a weirdly cooked egg that has a golf ball yoke that is only runny at the very top.
Everyone screws up their first poached eggs, some worse than others, because there are so many ways to get it wrong. That’s why you should start as simple as possible, and that’s true for everything that you cook. It’s also necessary for taste. If you add too many different things you won’t be able to tell what does what, and therefore what should be added or taken away, increased or decreased, added sooner or later, etcetera. You also won’t be able to tell what may not be properly cooked, because it’s been blended in with too many other things, although it will still ruin the dish.
All of which brings us to Gordon Ramsay’s “quick and easy” meatball recipe once again.
His “simple” meatballs contain 16 ingredients, 18 if you count salt and olive oil. I know I said otherwise in the first piece, but I miscounted by one. Here are the ingredients to his “quick and easy” meatballs. I have grouped them appropriately, and again not counting cooking oil or seasoning.
Aromatics: Garlic, Onion
Milk: Coconut milk, Cow Milk
Consistency: Bread crumbs
Meat: Beef mince
Spices: Chili flakes, Coriander seeds, Cardamom seeds, Turmeric, Cinammon, Dried chilis, Lemongrass, Crushed ginger, Lime zest, Lime juice
Gee wilikers Batman, that’s a whole lot of spices for a quick and easy dish!
Right after finishing this dish he says the following:
The secret to stress free cooking is making it easy for yourself.
Make it easy for yourself with 16 ingredient meatballs.
There are quite literally eleven spices in this dish, twelve if you count the coconut milk as flavouring more broadly. How the hell is a beginner chef, or even an intermediate one, supposed to taste the dish and figure out what amounts to add these in? Gordon doesn’t tell us, nor does he give us any indication for what time each addition should be added other than order, which can be crucially important. Not to mention that you need to figure out how you’re going to make all this work in the kitchen you’re cooking in, with respect to food prep, cutting boards, plating, etcetera. And of course you need to have all these ingredients on hand.
I’m quite certain that his meatballs are delicious, but this is still one of the most ridiculous cooking related videos I have ever seen. The problem is that you need to have some amount of experience in order to understand what a joke this is. Here is my recipe for actually easy meatballs:
You don’t even need to add milk and breadcrumbs to meatballs to get them to stick, the egg will take care of that just fine.
Also, salt is typically not included as an ingredient, since you should be adding it to everything. I added it here, because I’m writing for the inexperienced audience that might not know that the number one tip to making delicious food is to add the appropriate amount of salt, otherwise known as seasoning. It won’t make your dish taste salty until you add to much, it will just make it pop with flavour. Don’t ever listen to anyone telling you to cut sodium out of your home cooking. That’s a fast track to making bland food that will tempt you to eat the unhealthy goyfeed that is offered to you at these fine dining establishments.
Once you get good at cooking the meatball properly, you can add an aromatic such as garlic, and then one spice, such as cayenne pepper for heat, or mint for a wonderful clean taste. Build from there. Yes, it’s true that adding more flavours is a great way to get a complex, rich dish. It’s also a great way to make your cooking exponentially difficult, while getting diminishing marginal returns. And if your meatballs are going into some other dish, such as spaghetti, it doesn’t matter anyway.
If you’re not cooking for a Michelin star restaurant, stick to simple, at least at first. Although considering the Obese Landwhales vs Rotting Flesh Enjoyer Saga, Michelin stars aren’t what they used to be.
There’s a lot of bullshit in the world of fine dining, even if there are undoubtedly very real masterpieces.
By the way, using the bolognese mix that is half pork, half beef, is another very easy way to make the meatball taste more delicious. It’s ridiculous that Ramsay’s simple recipe doesn’t mention this, instead demanding that you add eleven different things plus coconut to flavour your meatballs.
I don’t bother counting any calories, nor do I focus on macros, with the exception of making sure that I eat a few deliciously prepared eggs here and there for the protein. What I focus on with my own cooking is flavour combined with healthy ingredients. The meals that I cook may not be three star Michelin meals, but they’re damn tasty.
Getting back to the vacation, while Maistri cooked us an exquisite brunch, the other meal at Earls was not so spectacular. In fairness, the appetizers we ordered were fantastic, but the main course, the “Bangkok Bowl,” left more than a little to be desired. I felt like a total fag pulling out my phone in the middle of the restaurant and snapping a pic, but I felt that I had to for documentary purposes.
What we see is a bland, uninspired hodgepodge of ingredients, clearly missing a sauce. It felt like the kind of meal that you get served on an airplane. Very dry, and very much thrown together haphazardly. Luckily, the displeasure of eating it was matched by an equal and opposite psychological pleasure that came from knowing that my home cooking was superior to at least this one particular restaurant meal.
The term “holistic,” gets thrown around far too often, but any holistic approach towards health should see you figure out how to cook at least a few very basic, tasty, and healthy dishes. I’m not tempted to eat the garbage that you get at fast food places, or even the more reasonable fare that you get at sit down restaurants. I don’t want to miss out on my own scrumptious cuisine, of which I have taken the liberty of (poorly) photographing for the past two weeks or so.
Basmati rice, cooked with a touch of paprika, salt, and butter. Chicken spiced with cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and garlic. One red beet, cooked with basil and honey. Zucchini with sage. Shallots and mushrooms added to both the veggie and chicken pans to add flavour and soak up the juices. Finally, mustard cream sauce and a touch of stock added for moisture. Truly delightful.
My favourite dish. Chicken, mushroom, and yellow pepper risotto cooked with arborio rice. Cayenne pepper and garlic to flavour the chicken and mushrooms, cooked together. Onion pre-cooked in the rice pot with a splash of white wine after the arborio rice is toasted, also added to clear out the frond from the other pans. Smoked paprika heavily added to the rice after the first ladle of chicken stock. Peppers cooked with a healthy topping of turmeric. Topped off with parmesan and a helping of black pepper. Do I even need to comment on how scrumptious this was?
Basmati rice, yellow and red peppers with mushrooms, cooked with garlic and cayenne pepper. Eggs added at the end for protein and extra flavour, seen below. All topped off with a mustard cream sauce.
Finally, a bolognese dish. I sort of forgot to take a picture of the finished product for this one, so here’s the pot. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was delighful. And a note with bolognese, use clam shells, penne, or rice, not spaghetti which it doesn’t stick to well.
If you were paying attention, a lot of things were similar. That’s because you don’t need to know how to cook forty billion different things in order to make a few delicious dishes. I make a delicious mustard cream sauce, with some variations that I have mastered. I put it on just about everything. Infused into rice dishes, on top of vegetables, drizzled on toast as part of scrambled eggs, you name it.
I mentioned cooking for someone with a dietary restriction before. That pan at the top left is that risotto. It contains vegetable stock, a touch of olive oil, and some arborio rice. Later, I added the yellow peppers, chicken, and mushrooms all cooking together in the skillet at the bottom left. Even when the risotto was just arborio rice and chicken stock is was quite tasty.
Don’t let Gordon Ramsay or anyone else complicate this. You don’t need much to make delicious food at home, and you should start as simple as possible in order to learn with as little frustration as possible. Cooking is like working out. There’s a lot to learn, and you need to know almost none of it unless you are a professional chef, or a professional bodybuilder, and you’ll still see great results.
However, it’s not all butterflies and roses. Last night I had a craving for a dish. An old favourite of mine. The basis is spaghetti with butter and parmesan. Utterly delicious, if not particularly nutritious. To add some nutrition, as well as some acidity to counter the heavy dish, I threw in some grape tomatoes. I also threw in some formerly frozen fish, which I had been thawing in the fridge for three days.
I hadn’t meant to thaw it for three days, it just happened that way. When I collected it from the fridge I noticed that it smelt very fishy indeed.
It wasn’t quite off, but it wasn’t quite right either. I pretended to myself that it was just aged, and not in the very first stage of going bad. Also, I was cooking it separately, so if it tasted off I could just not add it to the dish. What could go wrong?
It retained that ever-so-slightly off smell when being cooked. I added in some basil and waited. When it appeared cooked, I gave it a little taste. It was… almost good.
Good enough that I found myself in a place of denial. The dish was already lacking in protein, and the fish added a lot of that, as well as fishy flavour. In this case, perhaps too much flavour, but I decided that I would add the fish to my bowl, rather than the dish itself, and see how it tasted, with a generous squeezing of lemon juice to brighten up the flavour. It was delicious!
The fish didn’t quite pop out as much as I had hoped, but the dish itself was fantastic. So much so that I went back for a generous second bowl.
I couldn’t quite finish the second bowl because I was too stuffed. Stuffed with… almost not rotting fish.
I had convinced myself that the fish was okay. My mind was on board, and after soaking the fish in lemon juice, and dispersing it into the dish, my tongue was on board as well. The problem was that my gut was not so enthused.
It didn’t take long for the first few rumblings of protestation to come from deep within my intestinal track. Mr. Large Intestine knew what I ate, and he was NOT happy.
Not ten minutes after finishing that last bowl, I found myself on the toilet. And let me tell you, there was some power squeezin’.
After a good thirty minutes of peeing out of the wrong hole it was all over, or was it?
I knew, even when sitting there, that this was going to be a herpes like recurring villain. Even still, my chafed asshole and I stood up, pretending that the protestations going on deep within me were illusions. Spoiler warning: they weren’t.
I got up, walked around for a bit. Then I walked right back to the toilet and sat down for another power session. I repeated this four more times, each time depositing a small lake of mostly pure water into that unfortunate toilet.
After expelling the Atlantic Ocean, I thought it was over, or at least, I pretended to think that. Deep down inside I knew, even after showering and getting to bed, that Mr. Dysentery was coming back for the sixth time, like a bad anime villain. I lay in bed trying to sleep, hoping that the revenge of the sea would come sooner, or not at all. I was in luck, for not thirty minutes after shutting my eyes I got that familiar deep sickness. I walked to the toilet with the grim determination of a man walking to his hanging. But perhaps I’m being dramatic. How bad could it really be?
I experienced the closest thing to an anal prolapse that I hope to ever experience in this life. Memories were made on that toilet. Character was built. At one point I was afraid that the water level of the toilet might reach my sweet, soft cheeks. Flushing twice could have been advisable, but I’ve always lived life on the edge, and last night was no different.
We lost a lot of good men that day, but I survived. Finally it was over. The most cathartic experience of my life, over.
I walked out of there with a thousand yard stare, and a pep in my step partly due to going through hell and surviving, and partly because I’d just dropped about fifteen pounds and it really eased up on the joints. The moral of the story is: if the fish smells a little bad then don’t eat it. Maybe feed it to the cats, since their immune systems are designed to handle that kind of thing, but save yourself.
Also, learn how to cook, because when you’re not feeding yourself rotting fish it’ll really improve your health and the quality of your life.