This is really more out of being bored than anything so I figure I would Q & A myself (somewhat). Actually, people have asked me the following questions over time (just in conversation). Nothing major or heated this is right and this is wrong. Just some simple things to consider. So some of this could help someone down the road.
Q: How can you make soup thick?
A: I have used corn starch, flour and things such as rice but this is something I tried a while back. Ever tried using a roux in a soup such as a chicken & noodles/dumplings? It worked like a charm for me. It was pretty thick and the roux complimented the natural thickness of the noodles or dumplings. I have to admit one thing. I don't always get it right.
Q: Fresh garlic or garlic powder?
Both depending on what you're making. A sauce or a roast I would prefer fresh garlic but I'm not above using powder if that's all I have. If you making something like a rub, I ALWAYS use powder. It's consistant with the rest of the spices (all of which are dry). If I use garlic powder for a soup or sauce, that is the last ingredient I add. In fact, I may add some when I reheat the meal. Some people may take offense to that but that's how I feel.
Q: What about food allergies?
A: I'm allergic to fish & seafood. In fact, shell fish will kill me within 30 minutes or so (if I don't get treated). That's something I don't believe many people think about. I worked with a guy who had allergic to nuts (any type), another to soy, and yet another to wheat. So this is something people should really take seriously. If you want to find out more, I would say do an engine search of "food allergies" and some very good resources will come up. Check out this video featuring Trace Adkins, whose daughter is allergic to nuts, dairy and eggs.
My parents know first hand as Trace Adkins did when my shellfish allergy first showed up (around age 7). They let people know of my allergy when I would go to their homes and all my relatives and friends know of my condition as well. It's bad enough where if fish has been cooked (airborne), I risk having a reaction. I've experienced a few episodes of anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death. Trust me. It doesn't feel good. In fact, when I was younger, my parents brought some food from an ethnic restaurant. They told the owners of my situation and let them know to please put my order and all non-seafood dishes in different bags. They also asked if seafood and meat were either handled or cooked with the same tools? They were told no. Guess what? I ate mine and I had a reaction. Needless to say, my folks called the place and gave them an earful (aka spoke their peace). As a result, they quit eating at this place.
Q: I can't cook Macaroni properly so how can you cook it so well?
A: People make more of making Mac & cheese than it need be. It is SO SIMPLE I've done it since I was 9. First, can you boil water? Good. Now can you read the box? Better. So far, we're doing very well. Next. The cheese. Generally, I the yellow box (aka, Velveeta) every time. Cut it into thing pieces and after the pasta is done, put the cheese in and let it melt slowly. I don't drain all the pasta water because there is some start in it (which will make it thick). Now that the pasta is cooked, can you open a can? More on that later.
Now here's where it gets fun. When you boil the water, make sure you put some salt and olive oil in the water. This will make sure the pasta doesn't stick. I also add pepper and some other seasonings to it that I will add once the pasta is done. As for the cheese, you can use just about any cheese you can find- goats milk (had that in Maui years back), colby, jack or a mix of whatever cheese you like. I don't think mozzarella works alone personally but that's my preference. Remember the "open the can" comment I made earlier? Well this is where you can really let your imagination fly. This is just a sample of things I put in macaroni- mushroom, tomato, various chiles and peppers, onion (raw, roasted, sautéed, grilled), and chicken just to name a few- fresh or canned works. Or you can mix whatever you put into the macaroni, place it in the over and finish it that way. I prefer to top with bread crumbs towards the end of cooking. Again, be aware of who your cooking for, especially if you add cheese, egg, milk or dairy. Some people are allergic to one, some to a few things I mentioned and some people to all.
Q: What's one of the strangest things or mistakes you ever made that actually turned out well?
A: I made some chicken & noodle soup once. My Mom had made some black eyed peas and had some left over. So I decide that I would mix the two and it worked. In fact, I've done it several times since, more when I cook black eyed peas and know I will make chicken & noodle (or rice but not so much with dumplings). One of my personal best successes from an accident. It's not like discovering the french dip, but it tasted good to me.
Q: Gas or charcoal grill?
A: There are some places in the country where if you said gas, they don't know you. I used a gas grill once and didn't like it at all. I might as well as cooked it inside. Now some of the combo grills (with the burners for pots and pans) would be nice to have during the summer. When it's hot outside, you can cook the entire meal outside and not heat up the house. I prefer charcoal because that is what I am used to. The prep of building the fire and keeping the temperature where it needs to be is almost second nature to me. Plus, I've spent so much time trying to learn how to grill and bbq properly I would be clueless if I had to use a gas grill.
For example, about 2 years ago, I did some slow cooking. I cooked a piece of pork shoulder (about 3 lbs) and took about 6 or 7 hours. I kept the hear low so I can cook it properly and not hurry. Most of the best meats have been done over indirect heat and over a long period of time (not cooked over 225 degrees). A grill is almost like a sauna. One day, I might build a pit (aka, an emu as seen in Hawaii). In order to use an emu, you must have the proper lava rocks (which are like gold because those who have them won't give them up). So if you have the time and the patience to do this, you won't be sorry but you may need to keep your schedule clear.
Q: Is bison, elk and deer that good?
A: I love them all. Each is a bit different in taste, which is pretty hard to explain. In fact, I had gone years without eating deer when my Dad brought some home his friend gave him. He didn't tell me it was deer until after I ate it. Had he not told me the difference, I would have never known. All of those meats (along with ostrich) are actually better for you than regular meat. All very low in cholesterol and fat. In fact, you may need to add some fatty meat (such as a small portion of beef) to keep it from shrinking. If you cook any of those meats more medium, you're better off eating you shoe because of how lean it is. If I could hunt regularly or could afford to buy these meats, I would eat them exclusively.
Q: Veggie you hate the most?
A: Brussell sprouts. I CAN'T STAND brussel spouts and will avoid them at all costs. I have tried to eat them cooked every way possible and still don't like them. If they're in front of me, I'll eat them but would prefer not to if I don't have to. I know some people in this world have a lot less than that to eat but I still prefer not to eat them.
Q: Create a date meal?
A: Haven’t ever really dated. Nothing that would warrant that anyway.
Q: Create a dream meal.
A: That's a difficult one but I'll try. How about a rib eye or a porterhouse (2 cuts of meat on the same plate, can you beat that), macaroni & cheese, asparagus and/or some mixed vegetables (like steamed peas and sautéed mushrooms, creamed spinach or all of the above). Would I put a salad in here? Sure, with say ranch or blue cheese dressing. I don't think rolls will hurt the case either. A soup? Well, you could add a french onion on the one hand or have jambalaya or gumbo on the other. Then again, the latter two are a meal on their own. In other words, the theme is simple. Something that is:
1. red and dead.
2. nice and cheesy or creaming.
3. veggie(s) with a subtle flavor and a healthy dose of garlic mixed in.
Q: You're having a gathering of people at your home. Pick your favorite TV Chefs and what dish you would ask them to make. Anyone and as many as you like.
A. First, I would get Chefs Prudhomme, Lagasse and Justin Wilson (lets say he's still alive for this). One cooks gumbo, one jambalaya, and the third red beans and rice. Draw straws to see who makes what. Then, I would call Jack McDavid (he could bring Flay for a "Grillin & Chillin" reunion) and the Neely's to cook some special BBQ such as ribs and beef brisket. Since there are only two of them, they flip a coin to see who does what. Now for a south of the border flavor, I cal Rick Bayless for some grilled banana leaf pork, roasted mecian chicken, salsas amd guacamole (of course you need the chips). Aaron "Big Daddy" McCargo & "Chef Jeff" Henderson can cook as they sees fit (seafood aside and keep it simple). I would have Paula Deen make the side dishes (macaroni, potato salads, baked beans) because I know she'll knock them out of the park (or to speak more formally, she will do them VERY well). The Iron Chefs can create some soups and sauces to complement the meal. Deserts? I'll leave that to Warren Brown and Sandra Dee. Paula could make come of those gooey gooey browies or even a chocolate-pecan pice (which I am a HUGE fan of; I made it once). You leave this event hungry, that's on you.