Anthony Bourdain: Basic Techniques/Dishes everyone should know how to make!
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Tonight’s episode of No Reservations is titled: Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll. According to Travel Channel, it is a special episode filled with behind the scenes looks and clips from several previous episodes. Now, they have done many specials in the past. It is an easy way to fill the order for the number of episodes while giving fans a special peek into the production of the show.
My favorite special was from season 6, called the techniques episode. In this episode, Anthony Bourdain and several of his chef friends show us some basic techniques for basic cooking (which really turns into just one technique as the rest are a part of cooking the dishes). They then show several dishes that are easy to prepare, hard to mess up, and that everyone should know how to make!
“I happen to believe that you should know how to feed yourself, and perhaps a few others.” – AB
Anthony Bourdain lists 7 things that everyone should know, and lucky for all, I took notes:
1. Basic Knife Work
The first thing that Tony covers is HOW TO USE A KNIFE. You want to hold the piece of food you are cutting with your fingers pulled in. Your knuckles become the main holders. This causes any cuts to become glancing blows instead of finger amputations. You also want to keep your thumb away for the same reason. You then proceed to cut as needed. Pretty basic, but Tony’s covering his bases. He’s not about to be sued by a 7 fingered fan of the show! He has one of his best quotes of the show when he says, “that excruciating pain you get from sinking a knife into your thumb… a lot of that pain comes from the knowledge that you are really an idiot!”
2. How to Cook Lobster
The next thing Tony covered, which I found surprisingly easy, is HOW TO COOK A LOBSTER. Lobsters are boiled. This probably isn’t a brilliant breakthrough for most. Ideally you should cook it in sea water for the salt. The General rule is to boil for 8 minutes per 1 pound of lobster, with an additional 2 minutes above that. SO, a 2 pound lobster’s boil time is 16 minutes (8×2 pounds) + 2 additional minutes = 18 total minutes. Then crack off the claws. Flip the lobster over and proceed to slice the lobster down the middle. Remove the intestinal track and big bits you don’t eat up top. Then whack the claws hard with a good rubber hammer to soften it to eat.
3. How to Cook Eggs/Omelette
Omelettes are a great way to show off some cooking skill. The chef says to not break your egg on an edge (counter or bowl, etc.) but to break it on the flat surface, because it can break the yoke and introduce bacteria into the egg. Once you crack a couple eggs into a bowl, give it a dash of salt and black pepper. Break the yoke and beat it very hard with a fork so that there are no egg whites left. Then cut some fresh chives and add it to the egg. (also add any other ingredients you want in omelette).
Butter a hot pan (not a big pan). Remember that with temperature, the hotter the pan, the harder the egg is cooked. Pour the omelette into the pan. Let the eggs begin to coagulate and as they do, gently pull the coagulated eggs towards the middle of the pan with your fork. repeat as the outside gets “crusty” again. Once it begins to thicken (but is still pretty wet), let it begin to cook across the bottom and begin folding it in half. Let it brown a bit and then place it on the plate.
4. How to Grill a Steak
According to Tony, most people murder steaks on a daily basis. Let it come to room temperature. Season it. You want the grill hot! But you don’t want the flames of the grill to be roaring and destroying your steak. It’s not about how it looks on the outside, but how it tastes on the inside.
Then place the steak on the grill. DON’T ever squeeze or press the steak. You will lose the juices and your steak will suck! Cook it for about 7 minutes and then turn it to get those nice criss crossed lines. Let it cook a bit more. Then flip it and do the same on this side. Only need to flip it once, otherwise you could lose juices and dry up the steak. It will also mess up your cool lines.
When you pull it off of the grill, DON’T go right to eating it. The juices inside the steak are still moving and repositioning themselves and settling. As soon as you cut into the steak, the steak is dead. Let the steak sit for around 5 minutes. The heat isn’t the issue, it is the flavor! Tony says it is better to have a fantastic moderately hot steak than a bad piping hot steak.
When serving, you may brush it with a little melted butter.
5. How to Roast Chicken
First, bring the chicken to room temperature. Then remove the wishbone. Take the wings and slide them under the body so it props up the bird while in a pan. Season the inside with salt and pepper. Add herbs inside if desired.
Then tie the bird with butchers twine to compact it so it cooks more evenly. To do this, slide the twin under the tail and create a figure 8 between the legs by going first over top and then under the legs. Then pull the legs tight into the breast. Then take the string up to the neck and do a simple knot.
Liberally salt the outside of the chicken. Always season from above so as the season falls from above, it separates nicely to evenly cover the chicken. Also add some pepper and a little bit of chopped thyme. Cook at around 400-450, the timing to bring the chicken to temperature will be different with each bird.
After cooking, carve and eat.
6. How to Cook a Hamburger
For this burger, they used 20% fat ground beef for good flavor. Shape the burger into good proportions, about 7oz for the patty. Season before cooking, butter both sides. You want some slight pink in the burger, some good color. DON’T press on the burger! You will lose all your juices. Let it char on both sides and flip it regularly. It will look ready well before it is ready.
This is how you tell when it is ready: clench your hand in a fist and poke the muscle right to side of your thumb on the top of your hand. That hardness of the muscle represents how it will feel poking the meat. Clenched = medium well. Released a bit = medium. Now open like holding invisible item = medium rare. Completely limp hand = rare.
Add cheese and cover the burger to melt the cheese. Cook the buns and bacon to nice toast and crisp. Add desired toppings.
7. How to Make a Stew
Tony says that this is a great dish if you aren’t confident in your culinary skills. The dish that he specifically prepares is called Beef Bourguignon. This dish works best with the cheapest cuts of meat. You want meat pieces that are fatty. But you want good fats, not the shiny rubbery fats because those don’t break down.
Cut the meat into similar sized, bite sized, chunks. Then season the meat. Wait until the last minute before you cook it. Use some sea salt and pepper. Next you want to get a big pan with a heavy bottom. The heavy bottom allows for an even cook, not something that is burnt on one end and cold on the other. Put a little oil into the pan.
Next start placing the meat into the pan. DON’T make the mistake of putting too much meat at one time because it will make the pan cold. Nicely place the meats evenly spaced about pan and brown the meat. Don’t burn them, we want brown.
After browning, remove the meat onto a plate temporarily and pour excess grease (you want some) out of pan but leave the nice brown bits clinging at the bottom. Cook diced onions in that stuff until they are a little brown. Don’t burn your onions.
Next take wine (preferably from burgundy as it is where the dish gets its name) and add it on top of the cooking onions. It doesn’t have to be expensive wine by any means. Tony says that “box burgundy will do in a pinch.” As you add the wine, crank up the heat for just a second and scrape and dislodge all those brown bits off the bottom. Then add in the meat and pull back down the heat.
Now, add some carrots in with the meat. Keep a watch on them and your only responsibility is to not let anything burn. Cook for at least a couple more hours. The longer the better, generally. After a few hours, the sauce will reduce substantially and you can move the stew into a smaller pot, also super thick bottom.
Grease and oils may build up on top, so remove them and throw them out. Keep an eye on the temperature and don’t let the sauce boil away. The sauce should be getting nice and thick. The meat should get nice and tender. Once ready, serve.
Tony describes this dish as the perfect dish for a party. You can cook it well before guests arrive. If you end up eating later because you’re guests are late, or because you are talking too much, no big thing! The dish only gets better with time.
While cooking they show a couple of other items that weren’t a part of the original 7 Tony listed. These are an added bonus to our collective culinary knowledge.
1. French Fries
First you peel the potatoes. Cut them into a french fry shape. Put them in cold water to remove the starch. Then strain them from the water. Place them in 260 degree oil for 10 minutes. Then let them dry and cool. Then cook them in 340 degrees until done, for about 5 minutes. Then put salt on them and eat them! Yum! The reason you cook it twice is to cook it all the way through.
2. Red Sauce
First, you want to boil the salt water. Then blanch the tomatoes you want to use for a couple of seconds in the water. By boiling them for a couple of seconds, it allows for the skins of the tomatoes to come off easily. Then peal the skin off the tomatoes and squeeze the tomatoes into a container to collect the juice and some of the seeds. Hold on to the juices because you may need them later.
Next take a very hot pan, add some extra virgin olive oil to it and add the tomatoes directly to pan. Give a large pinch of salt. Then mash the tomatoes to break them up really well. These will cook for about 40 minutes.
Now take a separate pot and add about 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil to it, add around 10 cloves of garlic, some fresh basil, and crushed red pepper and let it cook on a low flame until the flavor of the ingredients is infused into the olive oil. Think of it like a tea. Now strain the olive oil into the pot of mashed tomatoes. Stir well to incorporate it into the sauce.
To serve, take proper amount out of the big pot and place it in a sauté pan. Cook your noodles to about 90 percent in water, but let them finish cooking with the sauce in the pan. The noodles then really absorb the flavor. Add some pepper, oil, a little basil and butter. Then, carefully, flip the contents in the air, keeping it in the pan. This helps it become lighter and creamier.
What are some of your favorite basic dishes?
And check out all of our Anthony Bourdain posts here!