Perfecting a few basic techniques can make cooking more enjoyable, said Relish magazine's chef and cooking show director Brian Morris, who will be teaching at the Relish Cooking Show on Thursday, May 9, at Weber State University's Shepherd Union Building.
"What we've found recently is that there are a lot of folks who really would have so much more fun in the kitchen if they were confident about a few key things," Morris said in a telephone interview.
"For the first time in a long time, people are interested in getting back in the kitchen and making homemade things. But often, people don't learn the basics before they try to move on to more complicated cooking."
In the Relish show, he teaches some of those basics -- "like perfect roasted chicken, perfect stir-frying, perfect poaching. These are little things that make such a huge difference in so many recipes you do."
Morris, who was trained at The French Culinary Institute in New York City, travels with Relish magazine's show almost 12 months out of the year. He can also be found on the Relish Facebook page every Tuesday as the "Chef in Your Pocket."
There, he answers all sorts of cooking questions, sometimes posting short, impromptu videos.
Time constraints seem to be a universal challenge among the home cooks he interacts with around the country, he said.
One solution is to keep seasonal ingredients on hand, to get great flavor without a lot of effort. "Generally if you use what's fresh and in season, it doesn't need a whole lot else," he said.
A well-stocked pantry can help a cook pull together meals. His pantry contains a variety of condiments, such as infused vinegars, mustards and pickles, to punch up the flavor in recipes.
"I call them flavor freebies," he said. "And I always keep pasta, canned beans and canned tomatoes on hand."
Morris worked at Le Cirque 2000 and Jacques Torres Chocolates and as a private cooking instructor with a client list that includes Derek Jeter, Ally Sheedy, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Clint Black and Lisa Hartman.
"I've had a chance to work with a lot of really fun people, and each had a different thing they wanted to figure out," he said of his celebrity clients. "One of them had never made Thanksgiving dinner for the family, and wanted to be able to do this wonderful dinner for them.
"Another wanted to know how to cook with a limited amount of time throughout the week. Another person wanted to learn about Asian cuisines. But it all went back to learning the basics."
Morris said the cooking show talks technique in a fun, entertaining way.
"People leave with a lot of tools for their culinary tool belt, but they are also going to have their sides sore from laughing, because we have a lot of fun," he said. "It makes a great date night or a family night."
WHAT'S IN YOUR PANTRY?
The folks at Relish recommend a well-stocked pantry. Most of us have canned beans and tomatoes, but here are some ideas that can bring excitement to the kitchen.
- Anchovies (paste and fish)
- Fish sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Miso paste
- Soy sauce and tamair
- Curry paste
- Jarred salsa
- Tomato paste in a tube
- Roasted peppers
- Salsa Verde
- Almond butter
- Fire-roasted tomatoes
- Balsamic vinegar
- Rice vinegar
- Sherry vinegar
- Dried beans
- Canned beans
- Panko bread crumbs
- Smoked paprika
- Chipotle chile powder
- Roasted cumin
- Ancho chili powder
- Hickory smoked salt
- Chipotle chiles
- Fig preserves
- Orange marmalade
- Lemon curd
- Dried cranberries and cherries
- Golden raisins
- Prunes and apricots
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
SOME RECIPE IDEAS
* Salmon With Miso
Combine 2 tablespoon each brown sugar, miso paste, soy sauce and hot water. Spoon over 4 (5-ounce) salmon fillets, and broil 10 minutes. Serves 4.
* Couscous Chicken Salad
Combine 3 cups cooked garlic-flavored couscous, 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, 1 cup shredded lettuce, 1/2 cup chopped green onions and 2 tablespoons each sherry vinegar and olive oil. Serves 4.
* Chicken and Salsa Verde and Feta
Place 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a roasting pan. Pour 1 1/2 cups salsa verde over the top. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese. Bake 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Serves 6.
* Asian Pork Chops
Combine 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 2 teaspoons fish sauce and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Cut 2 thick boneless pork chops into 1/4-inch slices. Dip in hoisin mixture. Saute 5 to 10 minutes, until done. Serve with rice noodles and fresh cilantro. Serves 2.
* Curried Chicken Strips
Combine 1/2 cup orange juice concentrate with 3 tablespoons green or red curry paste and 1 tablespoon oil. Toss with 1 pound chicken tenders or strips. Roast 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Serves 4.
* Orange Scallops
Combine 3 tablespoons orange marmalade, 3 tablespoons chopped green onions and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Toss with 1/2 pound scallops. Saute scallops until done. Serves 2.
* Chipotle Salmon
Combine 1 chipotle chile and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce and 1/3 cup mayonnaise. Spread on top of 4 (5-ounce) salmon fillets. Broil 10 minutes. Serves 4.
* Rice Salad With Peppers and Feta
Combine 3 cups cold (leftover) rice, 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers, 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, 1 can white beans (rinsed and drained), 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Serves 4.
* Beef With Horseradish Sauce
Combine 1/4 cup each horseradish and sour cream with 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Serve with beef.
* Chinese Mustard Vinaigrette
Combine 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons Chinese mustard, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/4 cup walnut or peanut oil, 1 teaspoon minced shallot, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Drizzle over fish or vegetables.