I cooked dinner and it didn't suck!

So, I don’t cook. I missed the whole parental guidance thing, and really have utterly abysmal food-prep abilities.

Usually my longsuffering husband cooks for us both, but his idea of adventuresome dinner is putting baby spinach leaves on the grilled hamburgers.

I also have a lovely stepfather who has an enormous garden, and just gave us a sackfull of sweet potatoes.

So, I remembered that over Thanksgiving, one of my relatives made this delicious thing that was basically cubed butternut squash and rosemary and olive oil.

Sweet potatoes are a little bit like butternut squash, right? Yeah!

So. Cleaned and skinned and cubed the sweet potatoes (they’re actually reddish outside also, under all that dirt - who knew?) and goddamn that was a lot of work.

Then I boiled them in salty water with some clove sticky-things like you poke into a pig for christmas.

Then I browned some sage-flavored sausage.

Then I drained the tatoes, mixed them with the meat, and liberally sprinkled the mess with fresh rosemary, dumped it into a glass casserole, and soused it with olive oil… And then remembered that if one wishes to use the oven, one usually pre-heats it.

So I played on the internet while the oven heated up, stuck it in there for about 30 minutes on 350 degrees, and it came out pretty tasty, after we picked the rosemary sprigs out of our teeth.

I’m still a bit in shock that I made a thing and it actually tasted mostly like I wanted it to, and didn’t burn or curdle or explode or cause food poisoning.

I swear I’m actually an adult. I just don’t cook often. :slight_smile:

The SO said she made her… Cousin? Aunt? jealous, saying ‘I’ve got a man who cooks for me.’ I just wish I could get her to be more adventurous. Turns out she doesn’t much care for lamb or duck.

I made something with orange sweet potatoes and squash a few months ago. Not what I was shooting for, but I cooked the kind of squash the SO brought home. It was still pretty tasty.


I love cooking, and am sorry you’ve only just come to appreciate it’s fabulosity.

In future, go ahead and stick in your whatevers while the oven heats up. It’s usually for baked goods, where you want a consistent temperature throughout, or high heat roasting, like for a pizza or roast chicken or something, that requires preheating. Something like you made will be fine getting warmer as the oven does.

Good for you! - since you’ve got to eat, you might as well learn to do it - and like anything else, it just takes practice…

Get yourself a basic cookbook (maybe Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”), pick something that sounds good to you, try it, learn from any mistakes, repeat…

It worked out for you this time, but in my experience it’s thoughts like that, common amongst non-foodies, which are the source of many of the problems they encounter.

“Honey is just sugar, right?”
“Raspberries and blueberries are almost alike, right?”
“A tablespoon is like quarter of a cup, right?”

There seems to be a mysterious belief, common among people who don’t cook very much, that using a recipe is somehow “cheating” or lame or uncool. In fact, 99% of the people I know who are “great cooks” use recipes 99% of the time.

If you have sweet potatoes and want to cok them roasted, just google “sweet potato roasted,” I promise the foodie police won’t knock down your door. Guanolad is right “a is just like b!” is where noncooks go horribly awry. My grandma is the “master” of the randomly disgusting substitution.

I’m not a fan if sweet and savory flavors combined so rosemary and sweet potatoes is a combination I would avoid, but that’s just personal taste. Congrats on your cooking adventure!

The hardest thing to learn about cooking is the fact that it really isn’t all that hard. When you get an idea, try it, and even if it doesn’t work out the way you expect, it still probably won’t be all that bad.

Don’t knock it: thinking like that is the source not only of problems, but of solutions. Every single dish foodies like is the result of someone, somewhere, thinking like that.

And all your examples can actually be workable solutions to a recipe problem, but it does depend on the recipe, of course.

I say experiment, make mistakes, and learn what works and what doesn’t.

I guess it depends on what you mean by “recipes.” You, of course, tend to start with recipes, figuring out how different ingredients fit together, and, after awhile, the basic recipe becomes engrained and, through experience, you learn how to substitute this and that, etc. It’s kind of learning the basic proportions involved, the science behind the steps and why you do them, and then you can go from there. I’d say the most important part is learning the techniques (like how to braise, caramelize, brown, make a roux, deglaze a pan, etc) and how to apply them than any specific recipes.

I’ve never heard of that perception. I can see how it might exist though, with all of the cooking shows that depict the cook just throwing things together. Unless I’m making it up as I go along, I always use a recipe when I make something for the first time. And the second. There are some things I’ve made so many times, and that are so simple, that I never look at a recipe. But there are other things that I’ve made many times, and I still refer to a recipe just to make sure I’ve remembered proportions correctly or to ensure that I remembered all of the ingredients.

zombywoof says, ‘learn from any mistakes, repeat…’ That’s correct. I learned how to cook by eating my mistakes. The trick to cooking isn’t the recipes. Dishes are flexible enough that you can omit ingredients if you don’t have them or if you forget, or add ingredients if you think they’ll be good. It may not turn out like the ‘ideal example’, but it will probably turn out fine. The trick is technique. Many people who are learning to cook use too much heat. Even people who cook a lot can get it wrong. For example, I made Mexican apple fried burritos last week. This is as simple as can be. Fill a flour tortilla with apple pie filling (or make your own, but I wanted ‘fast’ and didn’t feel like making it from scratch), fry it in oil, and sprinkle sugar on top. Only I don’t fry flour tortillas; only corn ones. I used the same heat I use for corn tortillas, and my first attempt came out… rather dark. I don’t know what she made, but the SO was cooking something a while back and burned the coating off one of my non-stick Calphalon pans. Speaking of the SO, she has trouble flipping eggs. I fry the eggs and make the omelettes. How many yolks had I broken before I learned how to turn a fried egg? How many ‘cheesy glops’ did I eat before I learned how to make a cheese omelette?

Cooking is a learning process. It’s not so much learning what goes into a dish, but learning how to apply the heat and learning the mechanical techniques of manipulating the food (or not manipulating the food! Sometimes you just have to let it do its thing.) while it cooks. Eat your mistakes, and you’ll learn what you did wrong, and how much leeway you have.

Or are too shy with the heat (which was more my problem.) I cook far more stuff on blazing hot pans, preheated, full-heat, than I used to. Cooking over high heat is scary for a lot of people, and doesn’t allow a lot of room for error, so I’ve personally found a lot of people tend to underheat, as much as overheat.

Quite true. I’ve noticed people don’t know how to sear meat, and apparently fear of fire and smoke is a major reason. And it does require attention, we’re in the age of ‘set it and forget it’, people don’t want to be actively cooking.