I'm all about making great food, as often as possible. And as I sit back and think about my journey from home cook to professional chef to somewhere in between (thanks COVID) realize I that I've developed a handful of kitchen habits that have really help me up my game in the kitchen.
I prep ahead of time.
A lot of my favorite recipes call for a lot of chopping, dicing and prep work. And while it may be tempting to cut corners here or skip this part or use store bought items, don't! One little thing I like to do when I have time, is to slice or dice veggies ahead of time and put them in the fridge or freezer for later.
Some of my favorite items to have on hand are mirepoix (carrots, onion & celery), holy trinity (celery, onion, bell pepper), and a variety of broths (beef, chicken, seafood and veggie). To be honest any unused fruit or veggie in my fridge is likely to get chopped and frozen for later.
Here's why this elevates my cooking (an how it can elevate yours too). First, because freezing locks in the freshness and flavor, you're still adding all that goodness to whatever you're cooking. Even a meal, made in thirty mins can taste like it simmered all day. Secondly, by doing the prep work ahead of time, I'm able to take my time and give more attention to the details. Even and uniformly diced pieces add another of level of precision to the final product.
I Grow My Own Herbs.
I know, I know... this one may sound like a bit much, but just hear me out. Potted herbs cost about the same as the clipped bundles, and if you're lucky your local grocery store probably sells both.
We all know that using fresh herbs adds more flavor to your dishes, and growing your own means you always have some on hand to add that extra *umph* to your meals. ....AND when you always have fresh herbs available, you'll start to get creative about how you use them, and that's next level cooking.
I Season, I don't salt
This one piggybacks off the last tip. In addition to using fresh herbs as often as possible, I also try to stay away from most commercial seasoning blends, choosing instead to use the individual herbs or spices for each dish.
Most store bought seasoning blends contain a lot of salt, and while they may make seasoning easier, they don't always make it better. They don't take into account the amount of salt that's already in my dish, and they don't allow me to fine tune my seasoning. Maybe this dish needs just a little more pepper or a dash more paprika, using individual herbs and spices gives me more control and precision over the final product with out adding tons of unnecessary salt.
...But When I Must Salt, I Make Sure to Use the Right One.
I currently have about 6 different types of salt in my pantry (8, if you count the truffle salt and the homemade herb salt) and each one has different qualities that can really elevate a dish when used appropriately.
Kosher salt and sea salt are probably the two I use the most often. I prefer kosher salt when seasoning meats or things before cooking, and sea salt for foods that are done cooking. I also have a pink Himalayan salt, and a flaky sea that's are for finishing dishes. Regular finely ground table salt is probably the one use the least. It's great for baking and a few other things but honestly it's one that I could go without.
I think doing any one of these things can upgrade a dish, but doing all of them will launch it into another stratosphere! But please, don't take my word for it. Try it yourself and tag me in your results @thecarolinacookery on IG and all social media.