Destination: Yum!

The kitchen isn’t Easy Street… But more importantly, it’s not a one-way road.

I hate driving, so the fact that I’m alluding to it while writing about something I love is insane. But it works.

There are so many different routes to take when getting to your delicious destination. There are aprons, but no seat belts… burns, but no tickets… ingredient shortages, but no speed bumps. Of course, ‘Are we there yet?’ gets kicked to the curb and, ‘Is it done yet??’ takes its place – but that I can handle, usually.

When cooking, you don’t have to rely on the voice of a fancy-accented woman who can’t pronounce names or numbers properly. You might use a recipe, a cookbook, or a TV show to guide you, but none of those sources is the end-all-be-all. If you decide to make a tasty turn on the way, you’ll still get there. You might be worn out and look like you’ve been splatter-painted, but at least you’ll have a better sense of what route works best for you.

In the last few days, I’ve had scrambled eggs twice. The first time, I cracked the eggs in a bowl, added a few treats and poured the mixture into a hot pan. The second time, I cracked them in a mug that I coated in butter-flavored cooking spray. I added a few goodies, did the fork tornado, threw the mug in the nuker, and bam, breakfast is served. Both times I got scrambled eggs. Though they took separate routes, both made it to my belly, which was very pleased.

So, my question is: How do you do it?

This week I put a picture of a plate holding avocados, tomatoes, and limes. The caption: ‘A beautiful sight!’. Then came the comments.. assumptions of guacamole.. but also, suspicions that my guac would only contain those three ingredients. People wrote, “Onions, hello!”,”Adding some jalapeños to that?”, “Be sure to add chopped onion, cilantro and ground cumin!”

At first, I was thinking that people questioned my ability to make a tortilla chip’s best friend. I was insulted. But, as I’ve thought about it since then, I’ve realized that they were sharing their thoughts on what makes a good green goop. They weren’t wrong. They were all right. That’s what I love about food. We all do our own thing. That’s what makes it fun. That’s why the Food Network exists. That’s why I have a tower of cook books in my kitchen. That’s why I cook!

When I eat a friend’s creation, I always ask, ‘How’d you do that?!’ If I tell someone what I’m making for dinner, they’ll usually say, ‘How do you do that?’ or ‘I made that the other night, here’s what I did.’

I invite you to answer the question: How do you do it?

And, by “invite”, I mean, would really like you to participate.

The lovely comment section below is begging for your ingredient input, your meal methods, your concoction configurations. Tell me!

I’ve made some fairly common dishes, none of which are a natural for me given my background.

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1) Biscuits & gravy – I was born in NY, grew up in Florida. I say pee-can.

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2) Guacamole – I studied Spanish extensively, but I’ve never been to Spain or Mexico.

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3) Baby back ribs – I don’t own a smoker. I’m never worked at Chili’s.. but I bet you’d eat my baby-back-baby-back-baby-back riiiibs, with homemade sauce..

For #1, I browned some breakfast sausage in a pan (I used the kind with sage, but I prefer the spicy version). I don’t use a non-stick pan here. A regular pan helps create that dishwasher’s nightmare, which is also a cook’s dream. That dark, hard coating is concentrated flavor. Once the sausage is brown, I make a well in the middle, add some butter and flour. Let it bubble up.. then I add milk.. scraping up that dark coating (your dishwasher will hear Angels singing). Stir it all up. I add garlic powder (the Italian in me), salt and a lot of cracked black pepper. If it’s not thick enough, I make a paste of corn starch and milk, then add it in.

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For #2, I combine minced garlic cloves (3), diced Roma tomatoes (seeds removed), a diced jalapeno (seeds removed), half of a red onion (minced) and the avocados. I use a muddler (a bartender’s friend) and smash everything. Then I squirt in the juice of a lime. Add lots of salt and pepper, some garlic powder and a good bit of cumin. To me, cilantro tastes like Palmolive, so I leave it out. My partner in cuisine crime adores it, so he gets his own dish and ruins .. er.. spices it up with cilantro.

For #3, I made a rub (brown sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, ground ginger and ground cumin), coated the meat and let it sit in the fridge for about 4 hours on a rimmed baking sheet wrapped tightly in foil. Then, I open the foil, add a bit of water, close the foil and bake the ribs for an hour at 350. While this is happening, I made a sauce (brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, ketchup, Sriracha, soy sauce, freshly grated ginger). After the ribs cooked for an hour, I took them out, removed the foil and brushed them with the sauce. Continue baking for 30 minutes, saucing them frequently. When they come out. Sauce them again.

Your turn.

Buckle up, buckle down and hit the gas (or electric, like me).

Tip: Sign up for all those mailing lists at restaurants, especially if they promise something for your birthday. In the days leading up to mine, I got about 10 offers in my inbox. I’ve saved so much money. They don’t spam you. You’ll get a few advertisements for their latest special, but mostly you’ll get great coupons. I do it everywhere I go. I even do the surveys asked of me by the receipts. If there’s a deal, I’ll do it. You should, too.

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