Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Importance of Seasoning

Everything I learned about cooking I learned from my mom's kitchen and the Food Network. One of the most important lessons I have learned is the importance of seasoning every layer when cooking.

I have often given away recipes for chilis, soup, stews, and casseroles. More than once, a friend has come back and told me it was good, it just wasn't as good as when I made it. This isn't because I have some sort of magical powers or heavenly gift of cooking! I honestly believe it's because my friends weren't seasoning every layer when assembling the dishes.

I'll use the following recipe as an example....this is what I put in the crockpot for dinner tonight. Mom came up with this copycat recipe after eating the soup at Olive Garden. I revised it slightly to make it in the crock pot.

Pasta e Fagioli (a la Olive Garden)

2 tbsp. EVOO
1 to 1 ½ pound lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can Kidney Beans, washed and drained
1 can Garbanzo Beans, washed and drained
1 can Pinto Beans, washed and drained
1 cup macaroni noodles, uncooked
4-6 c. beef broth
1/2 tsp dry basil
Black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese (garnish)
Fresh basil (garnish)
Heat oil in large saucepan; add beef and saute’ until pink is almost gone; season. Add onion and garlic; season. Saute for a few more minutes until beef is cooked through and onions are tender; drain off excess oil. Empty all three cans of beans into colander; rinse and drain. Combine beef mixture, beans, tomatoes, uncooked macaroni, and beef broth into crock pot. Season with salt, pepper, and dried basil. Heat on LOW for 6-8 hours. Serve garnished with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

When I say "season", I mean salt and pepper. I suggest keeping a small bowl of kosher salt and a fresh pepper grinder in your kitchen by the stove. I don't measure things exactly....I use the Rachel Ray method. A good rule of thumb is once around the pot with a good-sized pinch of salt (about 1/2 t. for Type A personalities) and 5-8 grinds of the pepper mill.

Every time you add a new layer of ingredients, you add a new layer of seasoning. In this case, I would season the ground beef, season again after I add the onions/garlic, and season again after combining all ingredients in the crock pot. This method of seasoning allows each ingredient to fully develop it's flavor within the dish. I'm telling you....IT WORKS!

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