And now for something completely different.
After attending college for two and half years, I’ve come to an unsettling realization. Most people my age don’t know how to cook. Not only that, many Americans in general don’t know how to cook.
This horrifies me. It makes me angry. It makes me feel like we have been successfully duped by a prepackaged foods industry that has been pulling the wool over our eyes since the 50s, when they convinced us that frozen dinners were the food of the future.
Here’s the secret. Here’s the one little thing that they doesn’t want you know.
Cooking is extremely easy.
Not only is cooking easy, almost anything you make at home will be cheaper and healthier than eating out or buying prepackaged foods.
I grew up cooking on the knee of my Southern mother and I still have an inordinate fondness for cornmeal and green tomatoes. I worked as a line cook for one long, strange summer in the Berkshires. Today, I read cooking blogs for fun and test out recipes on my unsuspecting friends.
I want to synthesize my knowledge into easily digestible blog-sized pieces and share them with you, dear readers. I want to teach you how to cook something. So here’s a series about my easy, fairly thrifty, semi-healthy go-to meals. Even if you can barely boil water, you should be able to make these recipes. Start small. Learn some basics. It’ll be good for you in the long run. So, without further ado, I give you Remedial Cooking School. With A., your angry chef.
Let’s start with ramen, a product even the least culinary college student is probably already aware of. Ramen is a pretty neutral starch, like rice, potatoes, or pasta. Like many basic starches, it’s very, very cheap. Yes, ramen technically a prepackaged food. We’re starting small, remember? The trick is to utilize instant ramen as a base, not a complete meal. You’ll end up with a much tastier and more nutritious dinner, and it will only cost you minimally more time and effort than it would have to make plain ramen. This is a great meal to make when you’re sick, hungover, or otherwise listless and incapacitated.
Ramen You Can Almost Live On
You Will Need
one package instant ramen, preferably low-sodium
fresh or frozen vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces
Step One: Choose your ramen!
If you want to be somewhat healthier, I recommend choosing one of the “select” ramen options you’ll see in most grocery stores. They tend to be round, as opposed to rectangular blocks of noodles, with far less fat and sodium than regular ramen. In my opinion, they taste pretty much the same. They cost a little more, but they’re still very cheap. Beyond that, choose any flavor you like. I prefer chicken and shrimp. Sometimes I go for the mysterious “Oriental” flavor when I’m feeling adventurous.
Step Two: Boil it! Do it!
Prepare your ramen according to the instructions on the package. This usually involves boiling two cups of water, adding the noodles, and cooking them for three minutes.
Step Three: Vegetables are good for you! Eat them!
When the ramen has about a minute left to cook, toss in your veggies. I like to throw in fistfuls of baby spinach because I love baby spinach and I put it in everything. Raw mushrooms, sliced thin, are also delicious. You might also try out one a handful of one of those frozen stir fry vegetable mixes. If the vegetables are frozen, let the ramen cook for an extra minute.
Step Four: Eggy weggy!
Turn off the heat, but keep the pot on the warm burner. Crack a raw egg directly into the pot. Let the egg sit for a little bit until the white of the egg begins to cook. (Hint: It will turn white!). Now, take a fork and gently comb through the egg, breaking up the white and yolk and letting it cook in the hot water.
Step Five: It’s seasonin’ time!
Now we come to a crossroads. You can use the little seasoning packet that came with the ramen, or you can get experimental. Your ramen will already be pretty flavorful from the additions you made to it, so you might just squirt a little soy sauce or hoisin sauce in there and leave it at that. I like the salt bomb that is the ramen seasoning packet, though, so I tend to use about half of it and then throw some Sriracha hot sauce on top for good measure. Also good: fresh ground black pepper or red pepper flakes.
Congratulations. You just made a complete meal with starch, protein, and veggies. It cost you less than five dollars, and probably took you about five minutes to make. Who needs McDonald’s when you’ve got mad skills?
You can read more posts like this at my cooking blog: Knives Out.