SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
Sometimes when I tell Dave what this week's post is about, he looks at me with a furrowed brow and says, "Really? Isn't that, I don't know, a bit obvious?"
"Perhaps, but how long did it take us to figure it out?"
(He starts nodding his head.)
"AND, wouldn't it have been nice if someone had told us this a few years/decades ago?"
(Head nodding rate increases.)
"OK, OK, just write it already."
That's how the conversation went this week, so I just wrote it already.
It started when we jumped on the health food train. We started analyzing everything we ate, which lead us to start thinking about what we were cooking in, as well. A friend warned us about the possible dangers of aluminum cookware, so we donated our old pressure cooker and got a stainless steel one. (Two, actually: a 4 quart and a 6 quart.)
Then we started considering our nonstick pans. Everyone who has bought a new skillet or pan coated with Teflon has seen the warnings: Do not cook on anything higher than medium heat. But we all get impatient, think the water is going to boil more quickly if we turn it up just a little, and before we know it our nonstick coating is flaking off. We won't get into a discussion about how dangerous the FUMES are from cooking with this stuff. (Of course the manufacturers get away with it because if it is NEVER exposed to high temperatures it's supposedly perfectly safe. But again, humans are naturally impatient.) But once the coating starts showing up in dinner, it's really bad. So once again, we donated the entire set of Teflon coated pans and skillets and considered other options. Our first new "clean" addition to our cookware was what I call our million dollar pan. It wasn't quite that expensive, but when a pan costs more than your weekly food budget, it merits some special attention.
Dave has coveted Le Creuset sauce pans for years, so a few birthdays ago I bought him one as a thank you for all the wonderful meals he creates. Yes, it's heavy, yes, it's cast iron, but Eurisko is our home and I refuse to feel like I'm camping out. We have china plates, glass drinking glasses, and ceramic coffee cups. She's a heavy boat to begin with, she can handle it. (Besides, all the kids moved out so I've got 1,000 free pounds I can add before we're back to our waterline.)
The pan is enameled, and one of the recommendations on how to avoid damaging the enamel is to cook on low to medium heat. Because this pan was his favorite new kitchen tool, Dave actually followed the directions. Within a week we were noticing a HUGE difference. Because the pan is so heavy, it takes a while for it to heat up, but once it does, it retains that heat, allowing you to use less fuel and have the burner on for a shorter amount of time. We use this pan for my hardboiled egg trick. (I must credit my mother with this one.) Put as many eggs in a pan as you can cover with water, bring the water to a boil with the lid on, turn off the heat and wait until the water is room temperature. Your eggs are perfectly hardboiled. (We usually do this before bed at night if we know we want egg salad sandwiches for lunch the next day or something.) The heat is on only as long as it takes to boil the water, rather than the 10 minutes or so most recipes call for them to boil. Less heat, less cooking fuel. All it takes is a little advanced planning. And you can do this in ANY pan, no million dollar price tag required.
While it was the desire to baby his sauce pan that changed how we cooked in a pan, it was the stainless steel skillet that finally convinced us of the necessity and benefits of cooking on lower heat. With no nonstick, a stainless steel skillet can be a real challenge. Eggs stick and break when you flip them, pancakes become a scrambled mess, and don't even get me started about the crêpe that I could no longer attempt without ending up in tears as I scraped the bits off the !@#$%^ stainless steel skillet. I was ready to break down and buy another Teflon coated death skillet when it hit us, "Cook on lower heat, dummy." Not really thinking it would make that big of a difference (I really am a slow learner, huh?) I tried it on pancakes one day. Holy cow! They took only slightly longer to cook but they rose more, were more evenly cooked, and had a beautiful Maillard reaction going. The next day, I tried it with eggs. LOW heat, perfect over easy eggs like I've never cooked before. I was hooked! For my next trick, I attempted crêpe. In a stainless steel skillet with NO nonstick, I cooked "the best crêpe you've ever made," according to Dave. Low heat, low heat, low heat.
OK, so maybe this post seems a little bit obvious to some of you. But I really do wish someone had told me years ago that turning up the heat doesn't speed things along any, it just makes lower quality end products. Who needs poisonous nonstick when you know to cook on LOW HEAT. Time to go through Joy of Cooking and see what other recipes I've failed at in the past that I can now master with my latest trick.
Our friends at divein.com have created another awesome infographic for us that we'll share MONDAY.PREVIOUS
Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?
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