Dancers Anonymous > Cooking from Scratch

Discussion in 'Dancers Anonymous' started by DanceMentor, Jun 8, 2013.

  1. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    My wife was watching an episode of a cooking show with Gordon Ramsey, and one of the chef's couldn't make a pizza, because they didn't know how to make the crust. Now I have worked at restaurants before, but if called upon to make bread from scratch, I wasn't sure I could do it either. Basically, it is flour, water and yeast. You can add things like salt, oil, cornmeal, etc, but to make bread at the most basic level, it is just water, flour and yeast.

    I feel like in this world of everything being processed and prepared for us, we have become far removed from one of the central ingredients to like... Food!

    So today, I am making a pizza crust. So far, so good!

    There are some nice tools we have today, one I find extremely helpful is a rice cooker with steamer on top. You can just add rice and water, and it does the rest. Cut up a vegetable and put it in the steamer and you have an easy meal, and easy to clean up too.

    So what kind of cooking from scratch are you doing?
  2. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member


    ima bit of a cooking junkie when i have time

    when i retire i will go to cooking school i love it

    dont eat bread and pasta so that makes scratch cooking easier!!
  3. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I'll let you know when I'm done, but I'm actually thinking the bread isn't too much work. A little mixing, stirring, waiting, then baking. We'll see.

    Here is rice cooker we got last week that I am absolutely loving. It is so easy to use and clean.

    [​IMG]Got on Amazon here

    Today, I made rice, through in some beans and peppers and had a chili. On top I steamed asparagus. It's stainless steel so easy to clean. The only real work was cutting a couple of vegetables.
    hereKittyKitty likes this.
  4. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    99% of restaurants either a pizza crust is purchased or it's something the prep cook, not the line cook, would make in large batches. I can see the average cook not having the slightest idea how to deal with a yeast-raised dough.

    I try to minimize the amount of cooking I do at home (lots of yogurt and cereal and unaltered fruit lately, and pre-made Meijer salads) but I just did a pasta with fresh asparagus, pan-roasted garlic, some paprika and evaporated milk (BEST sauce aid ever) with a touch of flour to thicken (I use nonfat evap which can sometimes not thicken well on its own. ) Doesn't take long.
  5. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    I recently got a copy of William Gibson's 1990 novel, "The Difference Engine", whose premise was that Charles Babbage succeeded in building his early mid-19th century computers and the Information Age started then; Gibson also gave us "cyber-space" and cyber-punk. The preface examined how this novel presaged steam-punk. According to the preface (by Cory Doctorow), steam-punk venerates the artisan and his skill while hating the factory that had stripped the artisan of his skills, loves the technology that the factories can produce while hating the factory system and what it does to people and to society.

    My father was the third generation of carpenters who spent their entire lives working in all aspects of the trades. He took on an apprentice who then left him for a better paying job building tract houses. The building of tract houses is a factory system with each worker only having one specific job. Instead of learning the carpentry trade, that guy's only tool was a screwdriver and all he ever learned was how to install door locks.

    Restaurants, especially chain restaurants, can be factories. They try to pre-make as much as they can in order to save time when the orders come in. We once got the cook's tour of the kitchen in an Italian chain's restaurant. The entrees were prepared ahead of time and each portion was sealed into a plastic bag. To prepare the meal for serving, the cook only had to drop the bag into boiling water for a set period of time, then pull it out, cut it open, and serve. It gets the job done and takes care of the volume of customers, but what do those cooks learn that they can take with them? It creates a class of cooks and chefs who can't cook.

    I used to bake bread for fun when I was in college and during my marriage whenever we'd make pizza I'd always make the dough from scratch -- as a kid I used to use pre-made dough, so I know it was sold and probably still is. Now a friend comes over every week to watch shows and movies that she can't get on her cable and we take turns making dinner. We always do as much as we can from scratch and with fresh ingredients, though we're not fanatics about it (eg, we don't make our own pasta).

    Of course, my problem is that most of the time I'm only cooking for one so it's harder to get motivated to cook from scratch and being able to cook during the week depends on whether I remember to thaw out some fish or chicken. Nor do I always have time, so it's cereal before rushing off to work (though a cereal mix of my own making) and then on Sunday I have time to make a frittata (with pancetta, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatos, as asiago cheese). And since I remembered last night to start the thaw, I'll try to use up more of those mushrooms tonight with tilapia marsala.
  6. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Indeed, I used to work in restaurants and saw for myself
    1. Fastfood - almost everything is brought in and there is very little prep work
    2. Chain but better than fastfood - a good deal of prep work with cutting vegetables, but typically there is a great deal brought in still.
    3. Independent - varies widely but often they have to cut corners to compete with the chains.

    I remember at Wendy's how they would take the burgers that weren't used on the grill and repurpose them for chili. At Pizza Hut there would be these bags of sausage and beef that were brought in as well as many other toppings as well. At an independent pizza place, they cut most of the vegetables including mushrooms and purchased some of the other items like beef and sausage from a local commissary.

    But the idea of anything being prepared and cooked to order is almost non-existent these days. I think there is a growing trend for restaurants to have smaller menus so there is ample time to cook to order, but I'm not sure if it will catch on large scale.

    Meanwhile, the food tastes so much better when I made it myself, and I hope to make my own pizza sauce next. Here is the pizza I made yesterday with the main not from scratch items being the sauce and a little vegan cheese.

    Vegan Pizza I Made
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
  7. dancelvr

    dancelvr Well-Known Member

    Vegan cheese? Neat. :) Have you ever tried "The Uncheese Cookbook?" If you are a fan of nutritional yeast (I am), this book contains dozens of recipes for vegan cheeses that are pretty easy to make, and taste great!
  8. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Today's cooking from scratch:

    Dry fried chicken. To be clear, this is a Chinese dish that is not related to southern fried chicken. I served it with rice noodles that were not made from scratch. Thinking about it though, homemade pasta might be nice next weekend.

    I also made some merlot ice cream.
    Sania likes this.
  9. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I always make crust from scratch when I make quiche ...and I use only fresh ingredients for that
  10. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    The advantage of sous vide is that you get consistent results, which is important in a restaurant environment. It also helps with consistent preparation of steak done-ness, because you can get a piece of meat to the right internal temperature, then finish the exterior on a pan or grill.

    Remember, cooks in restaurants aren't there to learn, they're there to prepare your food, and minimize your wait. Customers want their food consistently good, and they usually also want it consistently quick.
    danceronice likes this.
  11. Lioness

    Lioness Well-Known Member

    Today I made pizza dough from scratch...Greek yoghurt and self raising flour. One cup of each.

    Worked pretty well...I had a few issues cooking it, though. Didn't cook too well and I think I didn't roll it thin enough.
  12. stash

    stash Well-Known Member

    We cook most things from scratch in my house. It's kinda a must when you have a life-threatening food allergy to all dairy :p
  13. mindputtee

    mindputtee Well-Known Member

    You can actually do sous vide at home and get some excellent results. The preparation of meal is not only in how it is heated to temperature, but in how it was prepared, the spices used, the choices put together. Sous vide is just a means of heating that up to temperature. Not only that, but with steaks you can get a real long slow cook at lower temperatures that breaks down the tougher fibers in the meat, turning an inferior cut of meat into a wonderful tender morsel. You end up with a steak that is perfectly medium rare (or whatever temperature you have selected) all the way through and the sealed environment keeps all of the juices in. Toss them on a hot grill or under the broiler and then the finishing gives you the maillard browning reactions on the outside. We do this at home often and I would definitely consider that "from scratch".

    ETA: As I was finishing this I just realized my brother was prepping some steaks to sous vide them for dinner later tonight.
  14. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    And again, cooks are not bakers. (And bakers who are cooks are generally rather cranky because it's not remotely as fun as baking. Ask me how i know. Unfortunately there's a lot more jobs for cooks than bakers.) When it comes to making doughs from scratch, you are adding literally hours with something yeast-raised, which adds labor cost and time. Where most places use sous vide is not in immediate prep for the plate but how many things (soups, sauces, uncooked ground meats, etc) come in from a central kitchen (even suppliers like Sysco aren't reliable there are they're regional, so what one region gets for, say, Napa cabbage or cukes is not going to be the same as in another) so that each property produces a CONSISTENT product so when you go to one brand location, you will get more or less the same product. Believe me, customers DO notice and care. They also will whine and bitch if you do not have food out quickly and they don't feel they're getting value for money.

    There is a reason why the "highest"-end restaurants have tiny portions and are selling the experience as much as the food, which costs a fortune (add on even more money for organic as the producer-end costs to legally sell something as organic are enormous, without adding any real quality to the end product. You're paying for lower farm yields per acre and for a metric ton of USDA paperwork and inspections, plus product loss when, for example, your choice is medicate and "de-organic" an animal or let it die of something nasty.) Their operating costs are extremely high. Your end product is not necessarily better than anywhere else, but it cost a lot more to create the experience.

    Independents are a crapshoot. If you want to go in, know you are going to get decent-tasting food that will probably not make you sick, chains are you safest bet if you don't want to pay $200+ for a dinner for two minus alcohol. Some small places are okay, more are owned by "I wanna own a restaurant!" types who'd be far better served buying a franchise where they'd get hand-holding from corporate. What you see on "Kitchen Nightmares", "Restaurant Impossible" and "Restaurant Stakeout" are more the norm than most people realize. And of course the real secret is except for the places that are charging $250/head, they are ALL getting most of their product from the same places. Also, unless you live in a very temperate climate, if you're ordering, say, a green salad in November, it's from somewhere hundreds or thousands of miles away. It HAS to be; you can't magically grow mesclun mix in northern Wisconsin in December in commercial quantities.
    Joe likes this.
  15. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    My son grew up refusing to even try to cook. He wouldn't even try to boil water as if he was afraid that he might burn it. That all changed within a year after he left the state for university. He started watching the Food Network and educating himself. After a few initial disasters, he became quite good and is now legendary among family and friends.

    He refuses to bake. As he told me, when you bake, you need to follow the recipe exactly, especially with regard to the proportion of wet and dry ingredients. But when you cook, you are much more free with the ingredients and the amounts and can be much more creative, whereas in baking you're following a procedure.
    Liiza Nyambali and fascination like this.
  16. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    my son learned to cook everything from scratch when we was in the peace corps...he didn't learn to do the dishes, but he can make pizza from scratch including sauce and crust, and he can make tortillas as well.....he too, was further inspired by food shows...along with our daughter who is a vegetarian and prefers to make all of her own food...she and dh like to bake...son and I want no part of that, for the exact reason mentioned above...anti-precision
  17. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Among the people I have fed, I am generally considered a better baker than I am a cook. I am also a degreed chemist. These may not be completely unrelated facts.
  18. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    Cooking is art. Baking is science. You can monkey with a food recipe and still get something good (though your customers will whine that it's not exactly the same as before) but if you change a baking formula, you may get something edible, you may get a complete disaster. Most critically don't mess with leaveners (chemical or live)-baking soda =/= baking powder, for example, let alone baking ammonia. Baking's also more methodical and in a commercial situation less speed-pressured.

    (Funny, Chef and I were talking about cooking at home--he said how he stopped in a grocery store and got a rotisserie chicken while still wearing whites and people asked him "Why don't you go home and cook?" and he was like "I've been doing it all day. I want to go home, get out of these clothes because they stink [he's right; I feel less filthy after cleaning the barn than spending eight hours in a kitchen], take a shower, eat my chicken and go to bed. Just because I can spend four hours making a gourmet meal doesn't mean I want to get home and do it." I feel exactly the same way.
  19. 3wishes

    3wishes Well-Known Member

    hmmm, step-dad was an assistant chef for many many years, not a "cook", trained in Europe by starting to wash the dishes, no one, according to him, just jumps in and starts preparing dishes to serve, they started at the bottom always. Try growin' up with THAT in the house, mom...Italian/German,,,,there was not one processed thing EVER, even when she was a single parent. We had, and I continue to have, herb gardens, some veges and orchards of fresh fruit trees and nuts. If we ate processed,,,food,,,,it was at school lunch time.
    I love to bake. Baking is a passion, it was the one thing I could "out-do" my step-father in. DH has learned that pizza can taste "out of this world" with bar-b-que sauce instead of tomato. Or a blackbean base sauce. Experimentation is the word around here.
    DS started watching food network when he was 9 years old. He now does all the meals - always and has his own garden growing great, as well as DD who gets farm to table delivery and has her garden in her front yard.
    I love Pizza, it's a go-to food for me...although we get really creative around here, especially now with DH on Low Sodium for a life-time, and very serious food allergies that run in his family,,,like...don't even think of cross contamination between items. And, even at this age, when I take meals to step-dad,,,he still critiques
    I believe I'm the only "baker" in my family, it's always a new adventure - be it parents, kids or grandkids...everyone is in the kitchen-regardless of whose home it is.
    j_alexandra and stash like this.
  20. mindputtee

    mindputtee Well-Known Member

    He does make excellent cookies.
    JudeMorrigan likes this.

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