4 Meals with Basics for Rookie Cooks

by DANIEL NEMAN
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
I made four simple, basic recipes that are easy to re-create and hard to mess up.
And each one introduces the first-time cook to a different, easy-to-master technique that can be used in countless other recipes.
Most important, each one makes a meal that is hearty and satisfying.
Even when your cooking skills improve - and they will - you'll want to return to them over and over again.

SIMMERING
Simmering is cooking a liquid at a relatively high temperature, but not so high that it boils.
When a liquid simmers, small bubbles rise to the surface.
While simmering, some of the water in the liquid evaporates, which intensifies the taste of the liquid that is left and often thickens it;
and the flavors of the ingredients in the liquid have the chance to blend together harmoniously.
I made a very simple tomato sauce that takes full advantage of these actions.
It is my go-to sauce for pasta, and I usually don't embellish it.
I use canned whole tomatoes, which I crush with my hands, but you could also use canned crushed tomatoes,
pureed tomatoes or diced tomatoes (do not use stewed tomatoes or tomato sauce).

ROASTING
Roasting is cooking meat or vegetables in the oven (or over a flame, technically) in an uncovered pot with no liquid.
The meat or vegetables are cooked entirely and evenly by the dry heat of the air around them.
I roasted a hunk of pork. The best cuts for roasting are the ones that aren't put to better use in other ways, such as chops and ribs.
A lot of people like to roast a pork loin because it is a fairly uniform size, so it cooks all at the same time.
Do not confuse it with a tenderloin, which will dry out if you overcook it at all.

BRAISING
Braising is cooking meat (and occasionally vegetables) in a small-to-medium amount of liquid in a covered pot or pan.
The food is cooked with a wet heat, and is ideal for large pieces of fairly tough meat.
A long, slow braise at a low temperature will make it tender and moist.
Despite its name, pot roast isn't a roast at all; it is actually a braise (which is needed to make the tough meat delicious).
I tossed a large hunk of beef in a pot - any beef cut with the word "roast" in it will be fine.
I added two carrots cut into 2-inch lengths, two ribs of celery cut into 2-inch lengths, one onion cut into wedges,
a can of beef broth and a sprig of oregano.
I covered it, stuck it in the oven at 300 degrees for about three hours, and when I took it out it was amazing.
Then I cut a couple of slices and put them on homemade toast, and it was amazinger.

SEARING
|Searing is cooking meat in a pan at a high temperature until the surface that is touching the pan turns a deep shade of brown.
The brown indicates that the sugars in the meat actually caramelize, which gives the meat a warm and rich flavor.
Searing meat, however, does not actually cook it, or at least no more than just the barest surface.
If you leave the meat over high heat for longer than it takes to sear, you will only end up burning it.
So the meat, once seared, has to be cooked in another way. One of my favorite dishes to cook is chicken that is first seared
and then braised. This is the best of all worlds.
I used white wine, but water works surprisingly well (it creates its own chicken broth to braise in); you can even use beer.
I added a sprig of fresh tarragon, because its faint licorice taste is, improbably, a perfect flavoring for chicken, but
several other herbs - fresh or dried - will do just as well.

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