Friday, January 11, 2013

"FOOD CRUSH: THE PIG AND THE FIG"

As I embark on the New Year steadfast in my resolution to cook with abandon, I mentioned there are three things it will take to right the ship in our house - determination, preparation,
and inspiration.

And while the first two are integral to make sure that loads of home cooking becomes a reality - without inspiration, it's drudgery.

To get those creative juices flowing, look no further than The Pig and The Fig, created by Michelle DeHaven.  Her blog is sleek, health-centric, and peppered with a dash of daring.  The mouth-watering photographs showcase her latest dish - and her laid-back style and prose make it look doable, and better yet fun!  Lucky locals, her newest feature is customized cooking classes in your home.

I got a chance to ask Michelle a few questions and here's some insider scoop from this fab food-guru:

Q: HOW AND WHEN DID COOKING BECOME A PASSION?
MICHELLE: I started cooking at about age 7 at the hip of my grandmother (we lived in the same house) and it grew from there.  My Dad was a kind of pioneer "foodie" who was somewhat obsessed with food from other cultures.  His (pre-hipster) idea of a good time was to travel to markets and food trucks and taste everything.  I grew up in a house where we had a smoker in the backyard, a huge vegetable garden and ducks draining in the sink.

Q: DO YOU BELIEVE IN PLANNING AND PREP? IF SO, WHAT'S YOUR STRATEGY FOR KEEPING UP WITH SO MANY HOME COOKED MEALS?
MICHELLE: I'm all about planning but not without room to change your mind.  I always have a well-stocked pantry which means a great meal is never really more than 30 minutes away.  I keep up with the pantry items and shop for perishable ingredients like fruits, vegetables, proteins and bread during the week.  This way it is WAY easier to quickly hop into a store, pick up a few things and go.  It also helps that my kitchen is set up for business.  You know that "mise en place" thing chefs always go on about on cooking shows? It works.  Having everything logically within reach makes the whole process from prep to clean up way more manageable.  Set up your "work station": have a variety of bowl sizes nearby, your spices organized within reach of your prep area, some kosher salt in a small bowl along with a pepper mill and olive oil on your counter near your stove top.  This way, you contain the mess to one area and you are not running around the kitchen when you could be busy cooking.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR BEST "GO TO" MEAL IF YOU NEED TO WING IT?
MICHELLE: I always have a huge chunk of parmesan, some bacon or pancetta, eggs, olive oil and pasta on hand.  Always. (Linguine this way or that).

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 5 KITCHEN TOOLS?
MICHELLE: A sharp 8" knife, a cast iron pan, a large good quality cutting board, a great blender and a food processor - with these you can do just about anything in the kitchen.  Having said that, the last two are optional but will make your life a whole lot easier and delicious.  Most importantly, make sure you ONLY cook the freshest and best quality products, never anything too processed.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEAL TO COOK?
MICHELLE: That's a hard one but if I HAVE to answer, I would say roast chicken.  I love the way the house smells like all is right in the world.  It's easy for me to throw a couple of chickens in the oven and putter around the house taking care of other things while knowing the most delicious dinner (and leftovers) await.

Q: ANY TIPS FOR COOKING FOR A FAMILY?
MICHELLE: Keep your pantry well stocked would be my number one tip.  Make recipes that can be easily adapted to satisfy a variety of palates (with the quick addition of some spice or something pickled, etc.) AND always roast two chickens at a time so that you have great leftovers for soup, sandwiches, tacos, etc.




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