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4 Quick Cooking Lessons for Grads

Posted on June 11, 2014

Sweet and Tangy Chicken Wings

College grads these days can most definitely put together a primo power point, find an app for anything under the sun and navigate social media with the best of ’em, but there’s one area of the real world where they just may feel a little behind the curve–the kitchen. Between 4 years of lecture halls and study groups, there are likely still a few very important life lessons they have yet to learn. Fortunately, we’ve put together a little Cooking 101 to catch them up to speed. Give this gift of grub to your favorite grad.

Bring on the Heat: If you can only afford one pan, make sure it’s a sturdy stainless steal 12-inch sauté pan. Use it for stir-fries or pan searing chicken breast and you can’t go wrong. Simply heat over a high flame and pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan (about 2 teaspoons). Just before the oil begins to smoke, if you’re really attentive, you’ll see a little ripple in the air just above the pan indicating that the temperature is just right. Carefully slide chicken into the pan so that it is moving away from you. Don’t jostle the pan, and instead just allow browning to happen on its own. After a few minutes, using a pair of tongs you can check if the chicken separates easily from the pan. If it looks perfectly seared (browned), then it’s time to flip and cook the remaining side. Make sure your chicken is cooked through until opaque in the center and the internal temperature should be 165ºF.

When in Doubt, Wing It: Delivery may have been great for the dorm, but it’s time to step it up in your new digs. Easy. Grab a package of FreeBird drumettes, toss them in a little olive oil with some salt and pepper and spread them in one even layer on a high-sided cooking sheet. Bake in a 450ºF oven for an hour. Now, melt butter and your favorite hot wing sauce in a sauté pan and toss in those wings until coated. Serve with blue cheese or ranch just like that.

Mari Up: One of the easiest ways to add flavor to your dishes is through marinating your meats and poultry. Acids like red or white wine, balsamic vinegar and citrus juices penetrate proteins not only giving them extra flavor, but tenderizing as well. Smooth out those strong flavors by mixing in honey or balance these high notes with sweet or salty ingredients like honey or soy sauce. Aromatics like chopped onions, garlic, fennel and celery will also impart great flavor. Lastly, fresh or dried herbs and spices can be added to provide infinite flavor combinations. When it comes to marinades, you definitely have permission to play with your food.

Dress for Success: The general rule for making a tasty vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar (or acidic juice such as lemon or lime). Whisk any additional ingredients like minced shallots, Dijon mustard or fresh chopped thyme or tarragon into vinegar. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the vinegar mixture while constantly whisking. Season with a little salt and pepper. Then test out on a lettuce leaf. Still tastes a little acidic? Whisk in more oil. Not flavorful enough? Spike with more vinegar. Adjusting takes a little time, but it beats a bottle of store bought any day.