Chop: A larger cut. About 1/2" cube unless specified
Dice: A smaller cut. About 1/4" cube
Garlic: To peel and smash, take the flat side of your knife and press down with the heel of your hand to lightly crush an unpeeled garlic clove. The skin will come right off.
Ginger: Peel it with the edge of a spoon, then either mince with a knife or grate with a Microplane
Mince: A very fine cut. Less than 1/8" cube
Sliver: Long skinny cut, aka julienne or ribbon
Cutting Board: Buy a BIG wooden one with a moat around the edge to catch drippings. A larger board will allow you to cut more, without having to move everything off into separate bowls. This actually saves a lot of time and dishes. I'd recommend buying a second, smaller one for prepping raw meats. Also, the material matters. Get a wooden one. There are lots of sanitary reasons, but for me, there is something so satisfying about the feel and sound of chopping on wood. Toss the plastic mats please.
Knife: Invest in a decent chef's knife. Mine is 8" and I use it for almost everything. I promise, one big knife and a few YouTube knife skills videos will save you hours of prep time.
Microplane Grater: I use the finest size often for zesting citrus, ginger, and nutmeg
Pot: Usually a larger size 3 quarts or liters+, typically for stews and soups
Saucepan: A smaller pot with a handle, with taller sides and a narrower opening than a skillet. Keeps liquids from reducing too much
Skillet: Any saute pan, frying pan, omelet pan... the key thing is that the pan is wide and relatively flat with a broad surface area for browning and reducing
Most recipes are quoted in US/Metric and Fahrenheit/Celsius. I hate looking up conversions! But I admit, I'm not much for measuring in general. Here are some terms you'll see me use:
Glug: A hefty pour, about 1.5 Tbs/22 mL. For wine, more like 1/4 cup/60 mL.
Pinch: The amount that thumb and forefinger could pick up
Handful: About 1 cup/235g, unpacked
Pantry & Fridge Essentials and Tips
Herbs, Dried - Thyme and Oregano. For most other herbs, try to use fresh unless specified
Hot Sauce - Sriracha and Tapatio are my go-tos but I LOVE to experiment when I travel
Oil - Grapeseed or Canola Oil, Olive Oil. Olive oil has a lower smoke point and isn't ideal for high-heat cooking like stir fries, plus much of the flavor burns off anyway.
Soy Sauce - Good quality
Spices and Seasonings - Black Pepper Grinder, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Cumin, Red Pepper Flakes, Salt
Wine - Red, White, Chinese rice wine or Sherry. Avoid "cooking wine" unless you really can't find the real thing elsewhere.
Vinegar - Red, White, Sherry, Rice wine and Balsamic
Fish - Buy the good stuff from a reputable fishmonger and avoid frozen
Garlic - Fresh. not pre-chopped
Herbs, Fresh - Cilantro, Thyme, Italian Parsley and Basil. Fresh herbs make a huge difference when cooking - don't skimp here. Plan your recipes so you have another meal to use up all your herbs, or make a batch of Green Sauce with extras.
Lemons or Limes - FRESH. No concentrated juice. Again, big difference!
Mustard - Dijon, grainy
Shrimp - Most of what's available in the US is frozen at some point. So buy frozen, not defrosted.
Yogurt - Plain Greek gets a lot of mileage in my kitchen
Making a Pan Sauce
- Season your protein with salt and pepper. Sear it in a heavy skillet (NOT nonstick) in canola or grapeseed oil (or half oil, half butter) until done. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
- Turn the heat to medium high, and deglaze with your liquid, scraping up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Reduce by about half, or more for a deeper flavor. If you’re using alcohol, add it first and reduce til nearly evaporated, then add the stock and reduce by about half.
- Turn off the heat and taste it. Add some salt and pepper, if necessary. Swirl in a pat of cold butter or a touch of cream.
Poaching an Egg
This is my favorite technique, with the limitation that it only poaches one egg at a time. If you're cooking for a crowd, you can actually poach eggs in advance, put them on a plate, then give them all a quick dip in boiling water just before serving.
- Fill your saucepan with water, a good pinch of salt and a glug of white vinegar. The vinegar really helps tame your egg whites.
- Bring water to a strong simmer, but not a rolling boil. Make sure the water stays at that simmer the whole time – too high and the whites get all foamy, too low and the egg sinks to the bottom and flattens.
- Crack your egg into a small bowl. Once the water is fully simmering, swirl the the water into a whirlpool with the spoon handle. Slip the egg into the vortex, and watch it spin into a neat little ball.
- Using a slotted spoon, gently remove the egg after 2.5 minutes - this will give you a soft poach with very runny yolks.
A note on eggs: Using the freshest eggs you can get will always make a better poach