Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Q: A Reader Writes: Cooking with OPK (Other People's Kitchens)

We've all been there: you're just on your second glass of wine, the turkey is coming out of the oven, you're heading in to watch football when the hostess asks you to make the gravy! Or doctor the cranberry sauce. Or toss a salad. I love to help and enjoy whatever style of meal the cook has prepared, but what do you do for basics in a poorly equipped kitchen? (Sure, I once made the best turkey gravy of my life with minimal equipment standing in a friend's kitchen while a very good looking, single guy chatted me up, but that's an exception to the rule. I'm a pressure player.) A reader asks:

How do you cook well when you're at friends or family who do not have decent cooking utensils, or whose spices are 4 years old? How do you make do? What tricks keep you alive?
Any ideas?


dhonig said...

I once received the following advice from an Equity Player who supported himself between shows as a waiter in upscale restaurants:

Always have some brandy in your back pocket. Even if you don't know what you're doing, people will be impressed if you light things on fire.

LIZ said...

my sister, who is a caterer, keeps a set of professional chef's knives in her car to have on hand wherever she goes...according to her a decent knife is everthing

dhonig said...


Did you get my email about the Twitter Taste Live? I hope you can join us. Philip Van Deuson will be bringing some goodies from his soon-to-open gourmet food and wine store on 82nd Street, Pairings.

braingirl said...

got it -- still checking my schedule. Thanks for including me!

Anonymous said...

It's funny to see this question, because I bring my knives and sometimes more equipment when I visit my parents for a few days.

I guess the answer to me is to focus on the basics. If it is a sauce or dressing, does it need acid, sweetness, salt? You can then raid the pantry of your host-acid could be citrus juice, vinegar, etc... Sweetness could be sugar, honey, syrup.

Utensils are hard to compensate for, but again I think it goes back to basic techniques. Although a roux can thicken, so can a cornstarch slurry. Although you can braise in the oven, you can also do it on the range top if you have to. Parchment or aluminum foil can be a pan cover if you don't have one.

Finally, carmelization is huge. Food needs to be cooked at a high enough heat with little to no moisture present to brown those sugars. And don't crowd the pan.