If you couldn’t guess by now…I’m pretty lazy.
I love spandex pants – no zippers to zip.
I love spoiler websites – who wants to sit through the entire LOTR trilogy, anyway?
And I LOVE cooking cheats.
I’m not one of those cooks who thinks that you need to can your own jams and butcher your own hog to make a a homemade meal truly authentic. I’m not quite the Semi Homemade Nightmare that some celebrities are (nor am I subtle), but there are a few products that I just LOVE using to make my meals faster, easier, and more accessible. Here are my faves:
Stuff from heaven, nothing less. This is salty, savory, umami in a bottle. It’s made from anchovies, garlic, about a million spices, and other things, and let me tell you…it’s the missing ingredient in almost anything. It’s the key to my shortcut Caesar dressing, the star in every single burger, and I wouldn’t go near a Bloody Mary that doesn’t use the stuff. I never use anchovies – just use this potent stuff. it makes everything taste much deeper and richer, like you have been boiling stock all day just for your last minute bouillabaisse. Don’t leave home without this.
If you have a bumper crop of tomatoes and a bunch of time on your hands, by all means, put up your own tomatoes this week. However, if you have no desire to stand around the kitchen in the heat, boiling, seasoning, sterilizing, and washing for hours, then just buy the stuff in the cans. Nowadays, there are so many varieties of canned tomatoes—imported, Mexican, organic, and fire-roasted to name a few—that there is no reason that you can’t find the tomatoes you need for your recipe. Even when tomato is the star, store-bought canned tomatoes offer the same tang and acidity of home-canned ones. The low sodium ones are especially useful, so you can doctor them up yourself. I use them in salsa, in tomato sauce, and even roast them with plenty of garlic, basil, oregano, and olive oil.
I know, I know that homemade is best. And if I had a huge suburban freezer, I would totally just make a huge batch and keep it frozen year round to always have wonderfully gelatinous, rich stock at my disposal.
But, sadly, I have only a tiny NYC fridge.
And I like watching The Real Housewives more than I like boiling soup bones.
So boxed stock makes it into my soups, sauces, roasts, and purees. It often gets a bump from fresh herbs, but come on…this shortcut is a no brainer.
Pre Shredded Cheese
If I am making dinner for 3 or 4, sure I will grate the stuff fresh – it tastes much more vibrant and fresh, and it doesn’t have all of those weird ingredients that keep it from clumping. But when I am making 60 mac-and-cheese cups for the preschool party or 2 huge trays of tamale pie, I’m going with the pre-grated stuff. It might not be great, but it is quite good.
Because ain’t no one complaining about a freshly made cookie, no matter who made the dough.