It’s funny when I think about the foods I cook well – Asian, Cajun, Mexican and desserts - I realized that those are the foods I not only crave but also eat most often.
These foods have totally educated my tastes and my desire for high-quality, local, fresh ingredients. These are also the things I refuse to give up just to save money.
Here are some of my observations…
You don’t need to buy a wok (too thin) – a good cast iron pan will serve you much better.
There is no substitute for a hot flame.
Use Great Rice – makes all the difference between a good dish and a unbelievable one.
Use Peanut Oil - definitely the choice for high heat cooking.
Cook for less time than the recipe says or the veggies will be too soft – I like my veggies crunchy so I usually toss them in the pan, stir twice and remove from the heat.
Use only the freshest ingredients, especially ginger, chilli and garlic.
Never use MSG... who introduced that dreadful ingredient anyway?
Sesame oil - the secret ingredient for great flavor…and just a little bit!
It’s all in the roux. Patience please and make it a dark.
There is an acknowledged TRINITY of chopped vegetables---onion, bell peppers, and celery which are standards. They are a good bet to always make a superb tasting dish.
An authentic Cajun meal is usually a three-pot affair, with one pot dedicated to the main dish, one dedicated to steamed rice, skillet cornbread, or some other grain dish, and the third containing whatever vegetable is plentiful or available. Local and fresh and speaking of fresh…
Only fresh Spices – grow them yourself or pick them up at your farmer’s market.
Good stock – make your stocks from scratch. Always use bones and plenty of veggies for flavor. The longer the simmer, the better the brew!
Chiles - There are many types of chiles such as the spicy jalapeno, the flavorful ancho and the fiery serrano. Start a garden and learn their differences.
Homemade tortillas –fresh “bread” is the key on most things and this is no exception. They are easy to make and are so much better than what you can buy in the store unless you have a market that delivers them freshly made every day.
Tomatillos – AH - good green chili sauce! I love green not red chili sauce on everything.
Frijoles – economical and healthy you can find a million recipes for refried beans. I try to eat them at least once a week.
Cheese – Queso Blanco, Queso Fresco, Crema…cheese is a key ingredient in Mexican food. Only use the best cheese you can find and sparingly. A little bit goes a long way to add flavor and keep the calories down.
Spices: chile powder, cumin, oregano, cilantro, epazote, cinnamon, and cocoa. Again, buy them fresh or learn to grow them.
Pies, Pastries, Cookies, Tortes, Cakes, Puddings, Ice Cream and everything else! All of them delicious, especially if they contain chocolate.