You know well always tell you that cooking from scratch is better. And it is: Making something yourself is more satisfying than opening a can or tearing open a box.
Except well, sometimes you may wonder if thats true. Convenience products have such ramped-up flavors so much sodium, so many flavor enhancers, so many shortcuts.
Are we the only ones who sometimes find the version we labor over seems disappointing?
Yeah, like theres no there there, agreed Lucinda Scala Quinn. You know how depressing it is when you cook and you get to the table and it just lays there.
Shes the author of two Mad Hungry books on feeding her three sons and the executive food director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, for crying out loud. But even she has dishes that need help.
Most experienced cooks figure out little tricks that can boost flavor, small additions that can make a big difference. One of Quinns favorites is vinegar, either stirred in right at the end of a dish or added to a pan to deglaze it.
It leaves behind a deep, delicious tanginess, she says. My family loves it because it creates such depth of flavor.
David Tanis, the New York Times columnist whose latest book is One Good Dish, thinks the first step in cooking better is cooking often.
It takes time and practice to become a good cook, he says. If you only cook once a month, it will take a long time to gain experience.
In many cases, he says, there are important steps at the beginning of a dish that help to build the flavor you will get at the end. For instance, slowly sauteing, or sweating, the vegetables when you start a chicken stock will draw out more flavor than simply starting with raw vegetables, chicken pieces and water.
For me, the best way to learn to cook better has always been to cook with someone who is a better cook, he says.
We thought about three dishes that ought to be special, but arent always: Chicken noodle soup that tastes watery, pasta salad that comes out gummy and bland, and brownies that arent as chocolatey as the ones from a box.
Then we asked three very experienced cooks Quinn, Tanis and baking author Dorie Greenspan to help us come up with tricks to make them better.
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