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Taking off on the "your flaws as a cook", how about a short list of your greatest strenghts as a home cook?

Because I'm curious :)

*strengths, obvi. Urgh, what a dork I am :)

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  1. No drama... I can pull together a meal... Be it pasta, meat on the grill, pizza, tacos without a recipe, with what happens to be on hand, for who happens to show up.

    1 Reply
    1. re: firecooked

      Yea I also have really developed the pull-it-together skill which usually results in a great meal. I usually get inspiration from recipes but rarely if ever actually follow one. It's great that I've learned what flavor combinations go together or what new combinations might be tasty and now have more confidence to just wing it.

    2. The most basic one is I enjoy it. For me 95% of the time it's fun to cook. And kraft makes blue box for the times I don't want to really cook but must feed toddler.

      And I love the challenge. My daughter is allergic to nuts so recreating dishes with out the nuts that are equally good has been a fun project. Coming up with a fun gluten free, vegan yet omnivore friendly, nut free super bowl party keeps me motivated, cause I want to top my best. I want what I serve you next time to be better than what I served you today.

      1. Love what I'm doing.Looks and tastes wonderful.
        Pop ins are welcome.

        1. Timing is definitely a strength of mine. For as long as I can remember I had a good sense of how to get everything on the table at the same time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

            My immediate thought when I saw the topic title.The goal (as mom once said) is "to have all the horses cross the finish line at the same time."

            I'm also good at having done as much prep in advance and having everything "mis en place." A fan of cooking shows since childhood, I always thought it so cool when Graham Kerr would have all shallots chopped, herbs minced, garlic sliced and available for immediate use in little ramekins. I'll do that for a main course, put all on a tray and be able to whip it out of the fridge to do my show. Guests love it.

            As for a once and only: I was invited to a dinner party where the host could not find the beaters to the electric hand mixer. No old fashioned egg beaters with the crank either. Whipped cream was critical to accompany my chocolate almond gateau (see "best compliment ever" thread) so, with chilled bowl and whisk, I held and insulated the bowl with a bath towel and made whipped cream by hand. Never before. Never since.They were impressed.

          2. What's in the fridge? What's in the pantry? I can almost always come up with something to eat from what I scavenge.

            I do like to follow new recipes. But most often I'm improvising.

            1. I have a really good eye, ear, and nose for it. I know what a recipe is going for and can tell if a recipe is just wrong.

              I can tell if pasta is ready by how it feels against my wooden spoon, can hear from the next room if a pot has come to boil (yes, it has a sound!) and I can smell when something is ready. When caramelizing onions, I have a certain way where I start off on highest heat and at the right moment, turn it down.

              When it comes to recipes, I don't need terms translated. Fold in x ingredient. Cream this and that. Mince, chop, dice, julienne, chiffonade, etc., etc.

              Like others here, I enjoy it. I think it's fun and I love feeding people. I mean, I've never had to cook three meals a day, day in, day out, for people who may or may not appreciate it, but until then, I think it's fun!

              Except washing up after. Don't like that. Will never like that.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Violatp

                My husband has excellent sense (scents?) of knowing when the cookies or muffins are ready to come out of the oven!

                1. re: firecooked

                  Can't recall what chef I saw making the point that brownies are ready to come out of the oven when you smell the hot chocolate. I think that's true of *many* baked or roasted foods and always include aroma in my calculus of "when it's done".

              2. I love being able to make a meal out of damn near anything, veggie or omnivore, and a good one at that. And I do not mind cleaning up!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Will Owen

                  I am good at knowing what the people I am cooking for will enjoy.

                2. Not sure if it counts, but one of my reliable skills is remembering the allergies, intolerances and general dislikes (as well as their likes) of the people I cook for and cross-referencing it to come up with a menu for when I cook for more than one of them at a time.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ultimatepotato

                    This is HUGE ... I do something similar and it always impresses people when I remember what they can and cannot have. I think it's because you took the time to remember something about them and something that is of concern/need for them. It's very gracious too.

                  2. Patience. And what a long time coming it was, too!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: elenacampana

                      So maybe there's hope for me in that department!

                    2. fearless

                      there is always pizza delivery if it all goes horrible wrong

                      1. Some great responses!
                        I think mine are that I'm organized so things don't usually go horribly wrong. And I'm pretty good about cleaning as I go, there's not a huge mess at the end.
                        I'm not afraid to try new things, and I'm not afraid of spice and heat.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: alliegator

                          Oh yea I'm a pro at the clean as you go technique. In fact, so much that I often have to hear words from SO about not having to clean up the last remaining pot and spoon before sitting down to eat. Oh, but wonderful SO, I do...so hush.

                        2. I'm organized, very much so. So organized I had spreadsheet schedules for Thanksgiving dinner. I keep a spreadsheet of what's in my freezer. I plan dinners a week ahead of time. Very rarely do I get home from work and not know what I'm going to make.

                          I have good knife skills.

                          I'm good at cooking meats. Very very rarely do I over or under-cook it.

                          I think I'm pretty good at picking out recipes. Since the beginning of 2012, I've tried probably 250+ recipes. So far only about 35 have been misses.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: juliejulez

                            I also forgot that I'm a rockstar baker. I just don't do it often because my other half doesn't like most sweets or bread, and my waistline doesn't like them either :)

                            1. re: juliejulez

                              I envy this. I just have no ability to stop once I start cooking. To do all the pre oven stuff, then throw it in and wait to see if it's great, god, I'd need to install a rock climbing wall in my kitchen or something to keep from messing with it.

                          2. I'm resourceful and I'm really good at winging it. I can make something good from what, at first glance, looks like nothing (a skill I learned from my Mom.)

                            When I shop I buy what looks good at the right price instead of shopping with a list. This works for us since eating fresh is what we prefer. As long as the spice cabinet stays well stocked and a few basics are here the possibilities are endless.

                            1. Like many others on this thread, I consider timing a strength. It's something I learned from my mother and I consider it the most valuable thing she ever taught me about cooking.

                              After almost fifteen years of low-carbing, I am an expert at cooking meat. My husband calls me the Meat Whisperer!

                              I am also really good at putting together a meal with what I can find in the fridge/pantry. I enjoy reading recipes, but I don't follow them too frequently - I'm much more likely to read them and absorb the ideas/techniques, then put them to work on whatever ingredients I have on hand.

                              1. Keeping a well-stocked pantry.

                                1. I have the cooking gene. Even as a kindergartner I insisted on helping in the kitchen.

                                  I am pretty fearless whether it is a pate or triple layer birthday cake with butter cream frosting I just go for it.

                                  My DH also is a great cook and bread baker. I got him in to baking bread before we were married and he bakes bread every weekend.

                                  The two of us in the kitchen at the same time is not a problem, if one of has to step away the other steps in. We were at my nieces home this spring for a birthday party for my mom's 90th. The two of us cooked all weekend for 18 people without a mishap and since we do clean as we cook the kitchen stayed as clean as when we started. I guess that is because we focus and are organized.

                                  1. My sister sat her daughters down and watched me cook a couple of meals going on and on about "this is multitasking' and "watch the timing".

                                    Imagination. I was doing mystery pantries long before the food channel. I am still amazed at what enigmas some of you have in your pantries. But my friends keep inviting me back.

                                    My tools are far better than my ability. From hand forged Japanese knives, French copper, Wusthof knives, 40 years of All-Clad purchases, and a commercial electric stove when I am in a house. I cannot blame my failures on my equipment.

                                    1. I can "taste" things in my imagination, so I have a knack for putting together combinations of things (components within a dish, or dishes within a meal) that really harmonize.

                                      1. I'm pretty good at making healthy, appealing meals out of what's inexpensive. Cheaper cuts of meat, seasonal veggies or veggies from my garden, or veggies from the about-to-expire section of the store, ends of cheese, etc.

                                        1. I have no problems cooking or making things that take a long time. Spaghetti sauce from scratch starting with roasting fresh tomatoes and cooking the meats and veggies all day to develop the sauce or smoking a pork butt for 15 hours is nothing. I mean things like liqueurs, charcuterie, beer, wine, or vinegar that take weeks or months or years before they're ready.

                                          Mise en place. I find it very relaxing and therapeutic prepping before you start cooking. I just love sitting down at the counter (I have tall chairs that are the perfect height and super comfy), taking my time, getting everything cut, chopped, ground, sliced, etc.

                                          I also love to sharpen knives. Every knife I own is literally razor sharp.

                                          Making up recipes in my head and having them come out exactly how I wanted it too. A few years ago I realized that with cocktails I have taken it to a whole new level. I can create the exact recipe in my head and have it come out tasting exactly how I wanted it to on the first try 90%+ of the time.

                                          Flavor memory. I can remember what something tasted like years ago. A year or two ago I won a competition where, in a blind tasting, named six vodkas as to brand and what they were made from.

                                          It's weird, but I'm a very good baker, but don't particularly enjoy it. So I only bake 3-4 times a year unless I get on a kick fine tuning a recipe for something like banana/walnut bread.

                                          Shopping. Some people hate shopping. I love it. I get groceries 4-5 times a week. Sometimes going to multiple stores to get what I want. I know which stores within a 20 minute drive have what, and the general price differences.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: JMF

                                            I love grocery shopping! Not as much in your standard workaday Jewels and Safeways and whatnot, but introduce me to a Rainbow or a Bi Rite or a Fox & Obel (before their sad decline) and I can wander around for ages looking at all the cool stuff on the shelves! I call them food galleries.

                                          2. I can open the pantry and fridge/freezer and come up with a meal pretty easily.

                                            I can time the holiday meal to all be done at the same time.

                                            1. I am really good at seeing a recipe and knowing just how it will work (or not work) and taste. This was more important before internet reviews and resources like the Chow boards, but still matters. A corollary: I know which dishes work together.

                                              I have a really good palate. This, unfortunately, is not a given for a lot of people. My brother is a professional cook yet constantly makes things that are oversalted, undersalted, or otherwise bland.

                                              1. I'm very good at being able to pair flavors. Which allows me to be creative. I'm very experimental and tend to improvise based on what I have available, what I'm inspired by at the market and what flavors I'm in the mood for.

                                                I also never think that I know it all - there is always a new trick, ingredient, cuisine or method to learn about!

                                                1. I rarely make a major mistake when cooking something from scratch. Most often, if I don't like the taste or texture of something, it's an item I have purchased. In either case, I am good at salvaging and repurposing, sometimes changing the direction of a recipe while the initial cooking is still in process. The motivation is my abhorrence of wasting food. Unless it's incinerated, spoiled, or tainted, I can turn it into something anywhere from passable to downright delicious. Latest example: hounds raved over Trader Joe's mixed berry scone mix. I made them and didn't like them. Yes, I know I could get a refund. I will return things that are spoiled or defective but not solely because they don't suit my palate. I had frozen some fresh blueberries and leftover whipping cream, so with the help of eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla, and sugar, I turned the scones into a very good bread pudding.

                                                  1. I am very proud of the fact that I can tell quite precisely when a steak or other piece of beef (such as tri-tip, which I grill often) is done to a perfect medium rare, merely by touch.

                                                    1. Can put together a meal with what's in the fridge and pantry without using a recipe -- and it will be damn good.

                                                      Make a risotto everyone loves -- without a recipe.

                                                      My husband and I know how to plan ahead and work ahead to put on dinner parties that look easy to the guests.

                                                      1. It's simple but I've become very good at cooking moist chicken breast nearly 95% of the time via many different methods. Everytime I sit down to a perfectly cooked chicken breast, I feel a sense of accomplishment, it's been many years coming.

                                                        1. I can always make a dish fun. Even the most boring of dishes, I can find a way to turn into something a little more creative.


                                                          1. As a vegetable loving vegetarian i can make some great veggie dishes. I've converted a few brussel sprout haters and can make a beautiful and filling main course salad- which is apparently something others don't make as often as i do.

                                                            I can also make a lovely vegan roast pumpkin soup (the secret is the cashew cream)

                                                            1. I'm good with making sauces of all sorts. Spaghetti sauce, ragu's, hollandaises, alfredos, etc... so my pasta dishes are usually good.

                                                              I also make killer home fries for breakfast.

                                                              Stuff like omelettes I'm decent at, but not as good as Jacque Peppin.

                                                              I can make a mean fried rice or stir fry as well.