53 New York Times Videos Teach Essential Cooking Techniques: From Poaching Eggs to Shucking Oysters

I was blessed to grow up around a grand­moth­er who cooked every meal like she was feed­ing a dozen fam­ished farmhands. She nev­er spelled out all her var­i­ous tricks and short cuts … let’s not call them hacks. She just did what she did, and I picked it up by osmo­sis, using a juice glass for a bis­cuit cut­ter and watch­ing for pock­marks in the pan­cake bat­ter. End­less hours in her kitchen made me a con­fi­dent chef long before I was in a posi­tion to buy my own gro­ceries.

Not every­one is so for­tu­nate, I know.

They get their infor­ma­tion from Julia Child, Martha Stew­art, some pseu­do­ny­mous food blog­ger or pos­si­bly my friend, Jesse, whose exper­tise as a builder extends to things culi­nary. He once insist­ed on show­ing me a more effi­cient way to cut up man­go. My grandmother’s trop­i­cal fruit expe­ri­ence maxed out at oranges, so I was on my own in the sep­a­rat­ing man­go flesh from man­go bone depart­ment. I tried it his way a cou­ple of times, before revert­ing to my non-way.

There’s unde­ni­able com­pet­i­tive­ness amongst those of us who pride our­selves on our cook­ing abil­i­ties. Our skills are our hon­or. So help me if I went on Top Chef, and some guest judge decreed I was doing some­thing wrong!

For the record, The New York Times endors­es Jesse’s man­go tech­nique above, in their short instruc­tion­al video series, Cook­ing Tech­niques. There are 53 videos in total.

I can see how such a col­lec­tion would come in handy for those who didn’t grow up around my grand­moth­er, Jesse, or me.

And speak­ing of handy, all fledg­ling chefs are advised to get a firm han­dle on knife tech­niques before pick­ing up a noto­ri­ous­ly slip­pery-fleshed fruit and cut­ting toward their own fin­gers! Such reck­less­ness would nev­er have passed muster with the edi­tors of the Bet­ty Crock­er New Boys and Girls Cook­book. The Times is liv­ing on the edge!

Some of the con­tent has a dopey wash-rinse-repeat vibe, abet­ted by an odd­ly fla­vor­less nar­ra­tive voice. (Not every­one has Thug Kitchen’s nar­ra­tive sparkle. I should be grate­ful for the per­son­al­i­ty shin­ing through oth­er Times videos, notably Bill Cunningham’s “On The Street.”)

I’ll eat those words should I ever need to shuck an oys­ter, anoth­er one of those culi­nary duties that had no place on my Mid­west­ern grandmother’s agen­da. Not to say that my kitchen abil­i­ties are limned by the culi­nary stan­dards of 1970s Indi­ana. I fling around fish sauce and coconuts with Siamese aban­don, but oys­ters always seem so damn daunt­ing. Could owe to ear­ly read­ings of Lewis Car­roll.

I don’t know what I was so afraid of. Appar­ent­ly all it takes is 30 sec­onds and a dish­tow­el. (And an oys­ter knife, but we’ve got draw­er­fuls of those, the trick­le down effect of my husband’s Cape Cod boy­hood.)

Ulti­mate­ly, it’s sol­id stuff, but though with apolo­gies to our veg­e­tar­i­an read­ers, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. You can poach eggs a la the Times, or do it my way by adding a table­spoon of vine­gar to the poach­ing water. No fussy pre-poach. Boom! Done!

Sim­i­lar­ly stem­ming greens. My way, gleaned, not from my gran, but a hand­writ­ten, illus­trat­ed zine ear­li­er this mil­len­ni­um, doesn’t even require a knife! Hold that kale stem side up, using your oth­er hand as an ersatz prong, tear­ing the leaf from stem to stern.

Good heav­ens. Is that where that expres­sion came from? Per­haps some­one at the Times would know…. See all 53 of their cook­ing tech­nique videos here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Cook­ing Can Change Your Life: A Short Ani­mat­ed Film Fea­tur­ing the Wis­dom of Michael Pol­lan

Sci­ence & Cook­ing: Harvard’s Free Course on Mak­ing Cakes, Pael­la & Oth­er Deli­cious Food

MIT Teach­es You How to Speak Ital­ian & Cook Ital­ian Food All at Once (Free Online Course)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, home­school­er, for­mer food blog­ger and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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Comments (3)
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  • scottd says:

    Hmm­mm. Watched the oys­ter shuck­ing one. It was incor­rect. Did not men­tion the top shell mes­sage.

  • Karla says:

    Ayun, I think you should make some “how to shuck oys­ters and debone man­go” videos!

  • Chris says:

    This recipe looks great! I actu­al­ly tried some­thing like this a while back, and this just brought back so many nos­tal­gic mem­o­ries, haha! I love cook­ing stuff like this. I always try to find new recipes on forums and I got great ones emailed to me from http://lovelyrecipesforyou.weebly.com and I gen­uine­ly enjoy them. Any­ways, thanks for post­ing this dish, I real­ly need to make this more often!

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