Chef Gary's Recipes from the Farm

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My Methodology

Please read before using my recipes - My recipes will come out a lot better if you understand how my mind works first - I don't say fresh ground pepper in every recipe because nothing else is acceptable. Definitely the same with butter; margarine is not allowed, if you want it to "taste like butter" USE BUTTER!

Just because - The fact that I have an engineering background probably has a huge effect upon my cooking methodology coupled with the fact that I am anal retentive just adds to the fire. I tend to see things a little differently. For one thing I find it completely insane not to list recipe ingredients in the order that they are used. I could deal with alphabetical, but never ever just random! I equate this to the fact that we put men on the moon before we put wheels on luggage. When you use my recipes the ingredients are listed in the order in which they are used in the recipe. The item also is usually noted with the method of preparation i.e.: 1 yellow onion - diced. I assume you are experienced enough to know you should peel it first. Just trying to keep the text as brief and concise as possible.

Organic - You already know we think organic, natural, whole foods are important. I see no reason to put "organic" or "natural" in front of every ingredient or sentence it just seems to be redundant to me. We believe everything in moderation. The more healthy you eat the healthier you will be. I try to use raw sugar most of the time because I believe it is healthier for me to eat. However, if you have cookies that are made with bleached sugar, do not get between me and the cookies! Especially chocolate chip.... or peanut butter, or oatmeal raison; well OK any cookie.

Mistakes - If you think professional chefs don't make mistakes you are the one mistaken. They make mistakes all the time. The difference is two things: 1) Not being discouraged and giving up. I say it is only a failure if the dog won't eat it. 2) Know how to recover from your mistakes. When I wanted to learn how to make croissants I found about 15 different recipes and made a different batch every day until I found one I liked. Now I can make a great croissant, but what I learned was that if I want great croissants - go to a good bakery, because they are a pain in the butt to make from scratch!

Cooking Order - As I describe in the Soups 101 article there is a big difference in the flavor of a dish dependent upon the order in which the ingredients are added/cooked. Rule of thumb; Hard vegetables like peppers first, softer more delicate vegetables like garlic last. Things like fresh spinach leaves literally take just seconds to blanch in a hot soup. Tough cuts of meat may need to cook a long time at a low temperature to make them more tender, then add the vegetables. This is why I cook a lot of things in separate pans and add them together at the appropriate time.

Prep Time - This is a big-big deal, I see organization and timing as one of the biggest shortfalls of beginning cooks or chefs. When making a meal think about the cooking time of every single item. You do not steam the asparagus first then put the steak on the grill because the asparagus will either be stone cold or mush before the steak is anywhere near ready. Write it down; When I was catering I put every single item in a list with the cooking time and subtracted them from the serving time so that I knew exactly when it had to go on the stove or in the oven so that everything was done at the same time. This will be really helpful next time you host Thanksgiving dinner.

New Recipes - I could not count the number of times a person has asked for one of my recipes and then came back and said, "mine just doesn't taste like yours". The conversation usually continues to resolve the issue. They didn't put in the onions, because they don't like onions. They didn't put in peppers, because the kids won't eat peppers. They used margarine instead of butter or olive oil, so on and so forth. Follow the recipe the first time so that you will know what the dish is supposed to taste like. Then if you want to experiment (and you should) you will have a bench mark to work from. Plus, if it was so delicious you just had to have the recipe why would you want to change it by leaving out half of the ingredients.

Measuring Spoons - I literally had to buy a set of measuring spoons in order to quantify my recipe ingredients to write my cook book. I don't think you will see too many great 'old grandma cooks" or chefs using measuring spoons. Most do as I do; they know (have learned) what the proper amount looks like in the palm of their hand or in the bowl. Start paying attention to what proper quantities look like. This will allow you to start duplicating dishes that you may have eaten somewhere and don't have a recipe for.

Salt & Pepper - Salt should almost always be fresh ground sea salt. The exception is large quantities like salting water for pasta, where most of the salt will actually end up going down the drain, why waste the expensive sea salt. You will note many of my recipes do not call for a quantity of salt or pepper. That is because everyone has a different taste for the amount needed. Here is how I do it; If there are 4 servings in the dish, salt as if you were doing one serving, then do it 4 times. Or 6 or 8 times depending on the number of servings in the dish. Try grinding out 4 servings in a bowl and then pour it in the palm of your hand or put it in a measuring spoon so that you learn what 4 helpings of salt looks and feels like in the palm of your hand. Salt for 4 servings usually ends up being about a level teaspoon (for my taste). Use the same method for pepper, and pepper should ALWAYS be fresh ground. In my case we like lots of pepper so I dedicated a coffee grinder as a bulk pepper grinder. I do a batch every few days and keep it in a corked bottle beside stove.

Over cooking - Over cooked vegetables and meat is another big problem for many cooks. A meat thermometer is essential and the only true test of weather meat is cooked properly. Most vegetable taste better if they still have a little crunch left after cooking. Read more Temperature Chart & Sanitation

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