It takes some chutzpah to decide you’re going to learn how to cook.
There’s always the dread of screwing up – of serving a piece of meat or chicken that’s burnt to a crisp on the outside and still gelatinous raw in the middle; of embarrassing yourself and your guests as both you and they politely attempt to gnaw on some barely recognizable, Frankensteinian version of what was supposed to be a simple hamburger, all while secretly hoping that no one gets poisoned; of spending hard-earned money at the grocery store and then spending hours in the kitchen, only to end up putting something inedible on the dinner table and having to order takeout anyway; of starting a fire and then having to read the directions on a fire extinguisher before dousing flames that are becoming increasingly… large.
I’ve been there. And I’ve done all of these things and worse. I’m not some great gourmet; I’ve never been to culinary school, and even after 15 years of cooking experience I still sometimes make dinners that go totally sideways. I, like you, am simply another home cook muddling his way through recipes and experiments in the kitchen.
So why, you ask, would I start a cooking blog? Three Reasons:
- I firmly believe that anyone can learn to cook. All it takes is a bit of courage, a little know-how and some practice to make better-than-restaurant-quality food in your own kitchen. Many people believe that there are two types of people in this world – those who can cook, and those who can’t. But I tend to agree with what my grandfather used to say: “If you can read, you can cook.” All it takes is being willing to boldly go where someone else already has gone before, taking a first leap of faith, and seeing what happens.
- My friends, family, and co-workers regularly ask me to share my recipes and my knowledge with them. At dinner time, my kids whip out their phones and take pictures of the food on their plates (many of these pictures will be featured in this blog). I hope this all means that I must not be too bad at what I do. I began cooking for myself in college because I didn’t have the money to eat out every night and couldn’t bring myself to eat the sludge that was served in the dormitory cafeterias. That was over 15 years ago now, and in that time I’ve learned a thing or two that might be helpful to someone out there. At this point, most of what I produce in the kitchen (although not everything) is pretty damn delicious – or at least so I’m told.
- I want to inspire people to try their hand in the kitchen. It’s not as scary as it seems. If this blog inspires one person to head to the grocery store and then their kitchen instead of the nearest crap-fast-food joint (or as my family calls it, “grr burger”) then it’s worth it.
This blog is therefore dedicated to people who love food and the sense of community and camaraderie that only sharing a delicious meal can bring, and who want more of that in their lives. It is dedicated to anyone who has ever said “I can’t cook” but secretly always wished they could. It is dedicated to people, like me, who don’t exactly have the cash on hand to spend premium dollars at expensive restaurants, but would still prefer not to eat McDonalds, Chinese take-out, frozen pizza, helper-roni and “grr burger” most nights of the week. Lastly, this blog is dedicated to those who have real lives and real jobs and therefore don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen every night. To that end, my commitment to you, my friend, is this:
- Most of the recipes in this blog shouldn’t take more than 60-90 minutes of active prep and cook time to prepare as long as there’s a little hustle involved – most will take less, a few will take more, but in the case of the latter that means there will be time to drink a beer while something smokes on the BBQ or simmers down on the stove. (Or you can do what I do, and drink a beer while you hustle.)
- Most of the recipes on this blog should be the same price as – or cheaper than – fast food. That means that I’m shooting for recipes that are in the range of $6-8 per plate. Again, many will be less, a few will be more. I’m not trying to compete with Ramen noodles or helper-roni in terms of price point here; if you want that, I can’t help you. But if you want to learn to cook something that would cost mucho dinero in a quality restaurant (and maybe even taste better) for the same price as “grr burger” then I probably can.
- The recipes in this blog should be easy to follow. One of the most daunting things about learning to cook is grabbing a cookbook, collecting the ingredients, and then not know what the hell the writer is talking about (i.e., “add X, deglaze and reduce…”) If I use terms like these, I promise to at least explain them if not write a whole other blog post on them.
- The meals in this blog should be complete. There’s nothing worse than finding a great recipe on the internet, going to the store feeling confident that you can pull it off, and then finding yourself standing in the check-out line thinking “Dammit. What the hell am I going to serve with this?” To that end, each post will include a main dish, several side-dishes, and a wine or beer pairing. (Note: You’re on your own for dessert until I can get my wife, the most amazing baker I’ve ever known, to contribute to this blog.)
So there you have it – the reason this blog exists. I invite you to try the recipes contained herein and contact me if you have any questions. I’m happy to help and inspire.
The Intrepid Gourmet
This blog is dedicated to the following people who have each inspired me to continue cooking and trying my hand in the kitchen: To my family, with whom it is my favorite thing to share a great meal and conversation around the dinner table – Claudia, my beloved wife who graciously eats what I make even if she doesn’t always like it, my two sons, Nick and Daniel, who appreciate my cooking and have contributed photos to this blog and always do the clean-up.
To my friend Jason, whom I am honored to call my friend and with whom I have shared many adventures as well as many ups-and-downs for more than 10 years; I treasure our times to share good food, good beer, great conversation and most importantly, life.
To my friend Jon, who shares my love of flavors, cooking, cheese and indulging in a good meal with close friends. Jon has been a close confidant for many years and also shares my love of the outdoors and philosophy. I’m so glad the thousands of miles haven’t separated us one bit.
To my friend Luke, who has always encouraged me to pursue my passions and my dreams, always lifted me up when I was feeling down, always set me straight when I was full of self-doubt, and who helped me realize that vegan recipes can totally be every bit as good as recipes that include animal protein.
And last but not least, to my friend John W, who helped me realize that I have a knack for flavors, and without whose encouragement I probably would never have ventured into the culinary world in the first place.
Cooking can be a thrilling experience, but is also inherently dangerous because most of the time it means using heat, which means fire, and sharp things, like knives, to say nothing of eating raw or undercooked things that might be housing various diseases, including but not limited to bacteria, salmonella, e Coli, trichinosis, etc. which can poison you.
By reading this blog, clicking on any links contained herein, or trying to prepare or eat any of the recipes contained herein, YOU, the reader, assume full responsibility for any and all outcomes (delicious or otherwise) related to the process of preparing, cooking or eating anything suggested in this blog. By interacting with this blog, reading its contents, or trying or eating any of the suggestions or recipes contained herein, you assume all liability and agree to hold harmless The Intrepid Gourmet, James Bradford (Jim) Gray, WordPress and any or all of their representatives.
Have fun out there. Eat well, live well, come home with all your fingers, don’t blow yourself up or set your kitchen on fire or eat anything poisonous. Best of luck!
All images and content (C) James Bradford Gray, the Intrepid Gourmet, 2016, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.