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Recently converted Home Cook

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Hello internet people!

I am a recent convert to home cooking. Been at it about half a year.

I'm eating better than I ever have in my entire life. Don't get me wrong, my wife made some good meals, but I've really been getting after it as a hobby, cooking at least two, and often three meals a day. By the time I'm done cooking one meal, I'm already thinking about the next, excited about what amazing new flavors await.

It's been a great and rewarding journey.

Some highlights: Home cured bacon, home cured hams, home cured lox. Smoked chicken, Grilled veggies, home made no knead bread. Home made cheese and BBQ sauce. Chicken and dumplings. Beef Ribs. Low and Slow pork shoulder.

I've been watching the old Julia Child shows and learning how to make amazing Omlettes.

Still so much to learn.

I used to work as a line cook, but I wasn't really into food then, it was more of a job, putting together salads, making nachos and prepping plates for presentation, etc...nothing big, just a cook in a bar.

I don't have much in the way of cookbooks, but I do have Ruhlman's "Charcuterie" which is AMAZING. I've also been hanging out at some BBQ forums, etc...

I got into it because my wife was unhappy with the balance of the chore load. So I offered to take over all the cooking, to which she cheerfully agreed. Now it's become a hobby for me, I love it, I dream about it at night! We both have gained five pounds because the food is so good! I used to hate going food shopping, now I can't stay out, everytime I go to town I hit the grocery store to see what new tasty things are available.

My food is REALLY tasty, though most my dinners are improvised. I look at cookbooks, but I mostly use them for inspiration rather than recipies. I also really like "No Reservations," I'm hooked!

How did your interest start? What cookbooks do you love? What do you recommend to a fledgling foodie cook?

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  1. Welcome, Phogi. C'mon over to the WFD (What's For Dinner) thread. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/835770

    1. My father did the cooking at home when I was growing up, and I've no complaints about the food! I asked him later how he did it, and he said he used the Fanny Farmer cookbook and other recipe sources he couldn't remember. Later he got more ambitious, and I saw "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" on the kitchen shelf and sometimes in use. Not exactly a role model, but it kept me from assuming that home cooking is woman's work - it is, but it's men's work too.

      Took up cooking myself when I started living on my own in the late '60s. My go-to cookbooks then were James Beard's and Craig Claiborne's, and I still have them and use some of their recipes. But Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" are the cookbooks I use most, along with a few specialized books (bread, Louisiana cuisine), and the Internet is a fabulous source of practical and good-tasting recipes. Bittman is my choice because he really spells out quantities and times that other cookbook authors can sometimes be too casual about, and provides many alternatives to basic recipes, which encourages me to make up my own.

      Cookbooks are cumbersome and web downloads are tiresome to keep track of, so I use a program called "Living Cookbook" to store and retrieve the recipes I use, or want to use. I can print out the ones I have in mind for a meal without juggling a bunch of different sources; that way I've built up a cookbook of my very own. "Living Cookbook" comes with hundreds of recipes, nearly all of them useless to me, but they're easy to ignore. There's other software for the same purpose, but LC is highly rated and suits me.

      You can read a review here:

      http://meal-planning-software-review....

      And you can download the program and try it out for 30 days here:

      http://www.livingcookbook.com/

      1. It sounds like you already know what you need to know but here are some concepts you should be aware of. If you aren't research them on the web. When you're done, you will know about as much as anybody.

        Wet Techniques

        Braising
        Boiling
        Steaming
        Poaching
        Blanching

        Dry Techniques

        Frying
        Roasting oven and pan
        Sauteing
        Grilling
        Stir Frying
        Sweating
        Searing

        Here are some books that might help you. I'm sure there are scores of books not on the list that would be helpful.

        Cooking Know-How by Bruce Weinstein, Mark Scarbrough

        How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson

        The New Best Recipes by Cook’s Illustrated

        The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

        I’m just here for the food 1 and 2 by Alton brown

        The Joy of Cooking

          1. I grew up in my mama's kitchen because she didn't have the energy to chase me AND make dinner. I cooked for the family starting around age ten, and started really experimenting in my early teens. Like you, I improvise and use cookbooks mostly for inspiration. I love Kitchen Express because those are my kind of recipes ("a little of this, a little of that"), and my big picture-full Indian cookbooks, plus The Flexitarian Table and my good old fashioned More-With-Less cookbook.

            Recommendations? Set yourself a challenge to make unbelievably great-tasting food within limitations -- like invite your vegan friends over for dinner, or figure out how to make a great pot of beans without pork products, or give yourself a really restricted budget, or vow to make *something* from only what's in the cupboards, or whatever. Limitations are fantastic for your creativity. Other than that? Shoot, just keep doing what you're doing. You sound like you're on a great path.

            1. I've been cooking since I was a kid, but I wasn't a foodie at first. That's been a gradual process. Now I think about food while falling asleep, when I first wake up, and when I'm at work. It's as much a hobby as a way to sustain myself. My BF has also put on about 5 pounds since we've been dating. The worst part? When I go out to dinner and think, "I could have made this and it would have been better."

              I have about 45 cookbooks, but The Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated is one of my favorites. Always reliably good recipes. I recently bought Bittman's How to Cook Everything and really like it too. I use Epicurious, Allrecipes and the Chow boards the most though.

              The one thing I'd advise is don't be afraid to substitute. If you're out of something or don't like something, either leave it out or replace it with something similar that you do like.