Learning to cook has been one of my favorite creative outlets and sources of self-care in my 20s and 30s. As my friends became less interested in nights out at the bar and more interested in sharing stories over good food and wine, learning to cook became a central focus for my mid-twenties. I think most of those years I was playing dress up, trying to figure out what kind of adult I was, how I brought friends into my house, and who I wanted to be as a well-rounded adult human.
My mom is a great baker and loves to cook, but it just wasn’t something that we spent time doing together. I didn’t learn a whole lot about cooking or preparing meals as a kid, so I was starting out basically a beginner the first time I picked up a skillet.
Since so many of you might be in a similar boat and may not know where to start, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of my most basic and used recipes that I turn to over and over again. Ideally, these recipes will serve as a great foundation for learning to cook and bake a variety of dishes that will not only teach you how to be a better cook, but will also allow you to serve something you made with love and care to the people you’re hosting.
The hallmark of any good restaurant is how good their roast chicken is. What I like about starting with a roast chicken as the first thing you learn how to cook is that you learn a lot about temperature, cause and effect (in terms of what you add onto the bird), and how to properly prepare something so it cooks evenly—it’s a great way to start off as a beginner in the kitchen.
This roast chicken only requires 3 ingredients—1 roast chicken, salt, and thyme leaves—so it’s really important to follow the instructions that Thomas Keller puts together. Make sure you aren’t creating too much steam in the oven (this inhibits the crispiness and tenderness of the chicken) and that you’re trussing the chicken correctly, and understand that you probably need more salt than you’re used to using to get the chicken to the flavor you really want. I love to serve chicken with a little bit of dijon mustard, roasted potatoes, and a really great green salad.
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