At food festivals past, I've learned more than enough about new cooking tips and techniques I should be doing — but what about things we shouldn't be doing in the kitchen? At his seminar in Aspen, Cal-Italian maestro Michael Chiarello tackled spicy dishes from Calabria, Italy, but also took the time to touch upon a number of culinary no-nos. While some were highly specific and others were more general, many of his kitchen don'ts were revelations. Find out what they are when you read on.
- Don't cook for someone you don't like. Is your spouse's dreaded business partner coming over for dinner? Then buy a whole roasted chicken. "Why waste your culinary skills on someone you don't care about?" Michael points out.
- Don't ever apologize for your cooking. "This is gender-specific to all you women!" he exclaimed. It doesn't matter how it tastes; if it's made with love, the flavor will be there.
- Don't be fooled into thinking that expensive produce — especially "heirloom" varieties — are necessary. "Produce shouldn't cost the same as protein," he said, lamenting a recent purchase of a single $10 tomato. The same goes for fancy vegetables. "'Heirloom' just means it's an old seed; it doesn't mean it's better. They stopped growing a lot of them because they didn't taste so good!" Red beefsteak tomatoes are just fine.
- Don't cook with table salt, which Michael compares to self-rising flour. It has unnecessary additives like iodine, and has no nutritional value. Instead, he recommends gray salt, which contains 92 flavorless micronutrients.
- Don't create infusions by putting herbs in your olive oil. "Don't ever make those olive oils you see on the pages of, like, Martha Stewart — they're nasty, and they can potentially make someone sick because the plants contain bacteria." Instead, he recommends puréeing herbs with olive oil, bringing the mixture to a boil, and then straining it twice (through a fine sieve first, and then a coffee filter). The resulting infusion will last a month in the refrigerator.
Now that Michael's shared his culinary rules, tell me: what are yours?