When restaurants began to shut down in early March most Americans found themselves cooking at home a lot more. Some decided to take the extra kitchen time and go from home cook to home chef.
Top Home Chef Skills
Using YouTube videos, foodie blogs, and recipe collections, many upped their gourmet game in a big way. These are some of the skills home chefs honed in quarantine.
At the beginning of the stay at home order, it seemed like everyone was making their own sourdough starter. With the extra time at home, home cooks moved away from quick, no-knead doughs and started devoting many hours to doughs that needed to rise multiple times and sit overnight. Baker Ken Forkish published the quintessential bread baking book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, and his YouTube videos have helped thousands bake everything from the perfect artisan bread to pizza dough. Some grocery stores have had trouble keeping flour stocked. Fortunately, home chefs took the shortages as a challenge and found substitutes for key ingredients like all-purpose or whole wheat flour. Spelt, pastry, and almond flour became some of the trendiest new flours for bread, cookies, and pie crusts in 2020.
Most people don’t make poached eggs at home and instead enjoy them for brunch at a favorite local restaurant. In quarantine, breakfast cooks stepped out of their comfort zone and gave these oozy orbs a try. The quest for the perfect poached egg can be daunting. Is it about creating a gentle whirlpool in the pot or the ratio of water to vinegar? Should you strain your eggs to prevent feathering or is cracking them into individual ramekins enough? Most home chefs came to their own verdict (usually part science and part culinary mysticism) about what processes work and how long to poach for the perfectly runny egg. Regardless of the chosen method, the experiments along the way were delicious.
A Whole Bird
A great way to save money on poultry is to buy a whole chicken and break it down yourself instead of buying pre-butchered cuts. Using a set of basic kitchen knives and this handy step-by-step guide many home cooks learned how to break down a bird in under 20 minutes. This is especially useful for cooks that don’t plan on cooking the entire chicken at once and want to save some cuts for another day. Alternatively, feed the entire family and roast the chicken whole. This guide to carving a roasted chicken uses pictures as well as step-by-step instructions to demystify the whole process. If you don’t finish the whole bird, there are lots of ways to reuse leftover chicken so nothing goes to waste. Delicious chicken salad, cheesy skillet enchiladas, or Thai green curry are just a few ways to get culinarily creative.
One of the best ways to make the most out of summer produce is to preserve it so it can be enjoyed all winter long. Home cooks have been frequenting their favorite farmer’s markets or getting involved with Community Supported Agriculture or produce shares more often since the shutdown. Make that farm-fresh goodness last and start pickling. Experiment using different types of vinegar, new collections of spices, and a diverse array of fruits and vegetables. Pickling can easily be done in large or small batches and, in many cases, doesn’t require canning equipment. Customize your own pickled cucumber recipe or recreate an authentic kimchi recipe with Napa cabbage.
Since bars were closed for quite some time, many decided to sign up for Cocktail Courier services to get their craft cocktail fix. These easy, DIY kits come with creative, pre-measured ingredients to make 2,6, or 12 cocktails. There are more than 20 recipes to choose from and they rotate seasonally. Or, start making your own cocktails from the ground up. Writer and chef, Will Budiamen, simplifies the process of making bitters at home in his book Handcrafted Bitters. Learn how to create extractions, tinctures, and infusions at home from the man who wrote the book on it, literally.
Limoncello is a classic and sweet way to end a delicious Italian meal. Although there are several brands available for purchase, many Italian families make their own with recipes handed down generation to generation. In quarantine, some home mixologists decided to get busy peeling lemons to make limoncello at home. The ingredients are simple: lemon peels (remove as much pith as possible), sugar, water, and vodka or Everclear. Aging the limoncello can take a month or more, but the end result is so sweet it is worth the effort.