Friday, January 29, 2010

The Traveling Food Show!

In my group of friends, we appreciate cooking. And currently, (at least in the past year or so), we’re all pretty broke, so we’ve been spending quality time cooking together.

When you go to cook at someone else’s house, you never know what they have or don’t have. And you also aren’t used to their equipment, so disasters can easily abound if you don’t plan accordingly. However, if you plan ahead, cooking-in with friends can make for some affordable, easy, and delicious fun.

1. Plan what you are going to cook ahead of time.

Know all the ingredients you'll need for the entire meal. If you've agreed to split it, agree on that early enough so all parties can get (or make sure they have) their ingredients.

2. Know what ingredients you each have, and who needs to bring what.

Some things are a given, but currently, I'm out of basil - so if someone were to want to cook Italian over here, they'd want to make sure I had my basil. Even the simplest items are best to be checked. Your friend may not keep butter in the house - and any béchamel sauces made with butter "alternatives"… well, they just aren't as good. Assume NOTHING!

3. Know about the hardware availability.

This is very easy to forget. You get used to the pans and knives in your kitchen, and your REALLY don't want to transport them. However, if you're used to cooking on heavy duty Calphalon ® pans, and your friend has lightweight aluminum: You will burn! Also, if you keep your knives Samurai sharp and your friend has… not-so-sharp knives, you significantly increase your chances of cutting yourself. (Those non-Food-Network addicts may find this counter-intuitive, but it's not! Go watch some Alton Brown). The same goes for cookie sheets and gadgets. Ask, ask, ask! The last thing you want is to have started cooking, assuming your friend has something, and then realize she doesn't… when you don't have time to remedy it.

4. Run a cockpit check/ mis en place.

Before you start cooking, know where everything is. Even before-before you start cooking, make sure you don't put your chocolate chips down on someone's furnace-that-looks-like-a-counter so you have a chocolate disaster the next day. (Actual experience.) Know where all the pans are, where the utensils are (so you're not flailing wildly for a spatula), and have all your ingredients prepared and tools where you can easily reach them before you start applying heat.

5. Pick a leader.

On some occasions where I've gone to other people's house, I've tried to apply my own cooking wisdom to something a friend was taking lead on, and made a big mess. (And, versely, have had that done to me.) Pick ONE chef for the evening, and have everyone else be a good sous chef and do as they are told. Not only does this make the practice safer (you don't have multiple hands around damaging things like fire and knives - and you avoid cross contamination!), but it makes it a lot less stressful for everyone. Believe it or not, most people like knowing what they have to do and doing it. Once you're in the groove with your job, you can relax and have fun. That doesn't mean you don't offer help if someone looks stressed - but ask what that person needs. And verify with the evening's "chef."

Planning ahead and planning thoroughly are the keys to a good evening in, cooking with friends. A few simple steps is all it takes to put together a great meal that allows you all to have fun while cooking - and while eating. Try it for your next date with friends.


Anonymous said...

You have an Award on my blog

Trisha Wooldridge said...

Thank you! :) I enjoyed going through all your blogs, too. Will be happy to pass the Kreative Blogger along. & thank you for having me on your blog roll, too! :D

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