Re: gravy. My grandmother taught me to never, never use dairy products in a gravy. (It’s fine for a white sauce or a cream sauce, soup bases, etc.) She made a slurry of water and flour (you could use corn starch, but I like flour better) then whisked it in with the fat and whatever bits of meat left in the pan – it was her own sort of deglazing.
I was taught with a roux to use equal parts fat and flour. I season the flour first, and then might season the dish again after a taste, near the end. To make a white, creamy gravy, don’t let the roux cook as long as you would for a brown gravy – just don’t let it brown. Creamy golden yellow is fine. Once you’ve mastered the art of the roux, you can make about any gravy, sauce and soup.
Cookies: Never use a dark cookie sheet, gray, black etc. Nonstick cookware is evil and should be abolished. I use silpat sheets, but the alternative would be parchment to line the pans. Never grease a cookie sheet – it makes the cookies burn. Mix wet ingredents together first, then add the dry ingredients. Roll out cookies between two peices of parchment or wax paper – much easier and less messy than flinging flour all over the kitchen. Never put more than one cookie sheet in the oven at a time and that one should be in the middle.
Seafood: The secret to cooking seafood is that cooking too long makes it tough. Shrimp only need about three minutes, regardless if you’re frying, boiling, grilling or whatever. Fish need about 20 minutes for every one inch of thickness. Most shellfish only require a couple minutes.
Check any cookbook for a list of what herbs/spices go with what meats/veggies. I use a lot of herbs in my cooking and cannot even decide where to begin. Or find a cookbook specifically geared toward herbs. If you’re not into reading or don’t have the time, then my advice is to pick one herb at a time. Use it in everything. Once you’re familiar with the flavor that herb imparts, you’ll discover what it works well with and what it doesn’t. Use fresh if possible, but use more than you would if you use dry. Always, always always, add herbs in the last two minutes of cooking so the essential oils from the herbs don’t cook/boil off. I turn the heat off, throw in my herbs and serve a couple minutes later. Spices, on the other hand, I throw in at the beginning of cooking to allow time for the flavor to infuse into the dish. Difference betwen herbs and spices: herbs tend to be the green parts of a plant: stems and leaves. Spices tend to be the seeds, berries, bark or other non-green parts.