I’ve been in the barbecue business all my life. This is just a small little place. I just build a fire and keep the fire low and cook it slow. ~ George Archibald, Jr.
Cooking can be daunting, but what you may not know is that a lot of foods are governed by some very basic math. Once you understand it, you’ll always be able to make a batch of freshly baked bread, make a rich and savory sauce, or mix up a simple syrup to sweeten cocktails or drinks. Knowing these ratios is liberating (you’ll never buy a pre-made box or mix again), and they serve as a platform for you to begin experimenting with your own favorite flavors and ideas. Think of it: Once you’ve mastered how to make any bread, it’s just a few minor tweaks to make something special, like a sourdough, or an herb bread, or to try something entirely new that you dreamt up, no recipe required.
“When you know a culinary ratio, it’s not like knowing a single recipe, it’s instantly knowing a thousand.”
Professional chefs understand the power of these ratios (although they don’t refer to them as such)—they’re part of any basic culinary education. This is also why professionals don’t need to fumble for a recipe every time they need to make bread, and why a good chef can instantly scale a recipe from a family of four to a banquet of four hundred without worry. So can you.
Vinaigrettes are always 3:1, oil to vinegar. Simple and easy—no matter what kind of vinaigrette you plan to make, this simple ratio should help you make it—and the best part is that once you start making your own, you’ll never buy bottled salad dressing again. Mix up some balsamic with a nice olive oil and you’re done. Expand the idea a bit by adding some diced shallots or chopped herbs for a little added freshness and flavor.
Stocks are generally, 3:2, water to bones. Want to make your own chicken or beef stock? Next time you roast a chicken (or even get a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket) or cook a bone-in beef roast, save the bones. Then get a nice big pot (or use your crock pot), and add in 3 parts water to 2 parts of the bones from your old meal. That alone will get you a simple stock. As usual, you can doctor it up with salt, herbs, and other seasonings, but this basic ratio will hold true and net you a stock that’s good for anything.
Bread is generally 5:3, flour to water (plus yeast/baking powder and salt). Almost any bread dough follows this general ratio. You’ll also need to add salt (a pinch is enough for a small batch, but the general rule is about 2% of the weight of the flour) and yeast or baking powder for leavening (1 teaspoon for baking powder for every 5 ounces of flour, or 1 teaspoon of yeast for every 16 oz/1 lb of flour). From there, the sky’s the limit on the flavor or type of bread you want to make. You’re free to add herbs like rosemary or thyme for an herb bread, or lemon and poppy-seeds for a savory quick-bread.
Low in saturated fat and cholesterol with tons of Niacin, Vitamin B6, Dietary Fiber and Vitamin C, this winter vegetable is made sublime with the addition of spinach, specially-prepared bacon, red pepper flakes, pastured butter, sea salt, cracked pepper and freshly-grated nutmeg.
Boldly-flavored and satisfying, this dish is inexpensive and easy to make..
1 organic spaghetti squash (cucurbita pepo, squaghetti)
1-1/2 cups spinach, blanched and squeezed dry
4 oz thick-cut bacon
1 cup filtered water, boiling
olive oil as needed
sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons pastured butter
red pepper flakes to taste
Split the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibrous material as you would do before carving a pumpkin for Halloween.
Place the squash cut-side-up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Mist with olive oil and season liberally with sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Place the squash in a 300 degree oven and roast slowly for 1-1/2 hours. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue to roast until squash begins to brown and char slightly, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside, keeping warm.
Meanwhile, prepare the bacon by cutting it into 1/2-inch strips and placing it in a heavy skillet set over medium high heat. Pour the boiling water over the bacon and allow to cook until the water is half gone.
Pour off the water and rendered fat and return the pan to medium-low heat. Cook the bacon until nicely browned, then remove from heat and set aside, keeping warm.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat.
Using the tines of a fork, shred the cooked squash into the pan with the butter, separating it as best you can.
Toss the squash so that its coated with the butter, then add the spinach and red pepper flakes and stir to combine.
Continue cooking and stirring the squash and spinach until heated through, then taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
Turn the squash out into serving bowls. Top with bacon (including some of the drippings) and just-grated nutmeg. Serve immediately.
“Spaghetti squash are relatively easy to grow, thriving in gardens or in containers.
The plants are monoecious, with male and female flowers on the same plant. Male flowers have long, thin stems that extend upwards from the vine. Female flowers are shorter, with a small round growth underneath the petals. This round growth turns into the squash if the flower is successfully pollinated.
Spaghetti squash plants may cross-pollinate with zucchini plants.”
Rarely seen in the US, these wild North Atlantic scallops with roe still attached are seared until opaque in a fiercely hot skillet with local, farm-fresh butter. The scallops are plated while black garlic, Louisiana shallots and bits of double-smoked bacon are sautéed and then quickly poured back over the top. Finished with a grind of black pepper and a few flakes of crunchy Fleur de Sel..
A diver scallop is a sea scallop that has been hand-picked off a rock by a scuba diver. More ecologically friendly and less gritty than the boat-harvested variety, mature scallops are selected from areas with strong water currents, helping to assure that they have firm, plump flesh and nice color. Diver scallops also tend to be fresher, since they are shipped directly instead of being held in boats while they are sorted. (paraphrased from cookthink)
- Scallops with chorizo and hedgerow garlic (independent.co.uk)