Gourmet peasant food: cooking fewer things better
This Snake River Farm Wagyu rib roast (uncooked) cost $649 so best not overcook it…nothing is more succulent and primal than an untrimmed standing rib roast. So easy to prepare a powerlifter could do it: salt and pepper, insert meat thermometer into center of roast, place in a 350-degree oven. Roast is done when internal temperature hits 120-degrees. Let rest for 30-minutes. A true alpha male gets sexually aroused gazing at this photo….
There is no debating that it is ‘better’ to cook at home. It is cheaper for sure. It is almost always healthier than whatever you would be ordering at take out or eating at a restaurant. I think basic cooking skills are a virtue; that the ability to feed yourself with some degree of proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman. One might be reasonably expected to have a small but serviceable list of specialties.
What should every man, woman and teenager know how to do? They should know how to dice an onion. Mastery of such a simple task teaches basic knife skills. Everyone should know how to make an omelet. One learns, necessarily, to be gentle whilst acquiring omelet skills. Everyone should be able to roast a chicken. Everyone should be able to grill and properly rest a steak, regardless the cut.
Cooking vegetables to desired doneness is easy enough, and reasonable to expect of anyone voting age. Recognize when fish is fresh and how to steam shrimp, mussels, clams, or lobster – something a fairly bright chimp could do. Everyone should be encouraged to develop their own modest, unique, delicious repertoire of a few dishes they are proud to prepare and share.
A surprisingly large number of alpha males are completely flummoxed by simple food preparation. Their idea of good home cooking is a burnt burger, or a dried out boneless-skinless chicken breast, murdered on their overworked George Foreman Grill (‘It’s healthier!’) Add some green beans out of a can and steamed rice turned into mush through neglect and overcooking. Salad is damp and out of a bag then covered with some sort of insulin-spiking ‘heart healthy’ dressing. No wonder these men eat out all the time.
I have tried to stage culinary interventions for some of those most in need. Even the simplest of recipes (‘Turn the oven onto 350-degrees. Take the chicken out of the wrapper. Take the guts out of the cavity. Salt and pepper the outside and inside. Set whole chicken on the raised broiler pan that comes with every oven. Put bird in middle rack in oven, Wait an hour. Take it out. Let it sit for a few minutes. Eat it.) cause these kitchen-challenged alpha chimps to gaze at me in wide wonder, as if I had asked them to prepare cullus of grouse, Old Style, a 27-ingredient recipe from Escoffier's The Fine Art of Cookery.
Bourdain drives home the point: there is no reason that each of us cannot develop a narrow menu of Simple Simon dishes that are genuinely delicious and amplify our muscle-building strength-infusing training efforts. Done right, uber-simplistic food preparation produces what I refer to as, gourmet peasant food, perfectly cooked, nutrient-dense proteins, and fresh produce, expertly, simply and quickly (mostly) prepared, infused with vibrant taste and off-the-charts nutritional potency.
- Elite chefs seek out the freshest, most potent proteins and produce on account of freshness equates to intensity of flavor and taste.
- Strength athletes seeks the freshest, most potent proteins and produce on account of freshness equates to nutritional potency.
- Elite chefs and elite athletes seek the same foodstuffs for two entirely different reasons: flavor and potency are synonymous.
- Why not expropriate the preparation tactics elite chefs use to perfectly prepare the proteins and produce we repeatedly eat?
Learning how to cook is made simple with YouTube. Follow along as an expert chef prepares what you want to eat, step by step. Miss something? Stop it and back it up. Google up a foodstuff and you can have an expert giving you visual instruction inside one minute. Want to know exactly how to roast a chicken or a leg of lamb? Call it up! You will have a dozen chefs relating step-by-step procedures that take all the guesswork out of cooking. Use YouTube to reverse engineer your shopping list.
Suppose that you are at the grocery store and filet of salmon is on sale. You get a fantastic filet for 40% off. But it needs cooking right away: its marked down because it is ready to go bad. No problem, you can eat it for supper. That night, take a pair of poultry shears and cut the salmon filet into serving sizes. In a large non-stick skillet place enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
Bring the olive oil to a medium heat (not high!) and use tongs to lower portioned-size filets into pan, skin side down. Let the fish gently sauté for five minutes. Use the tongs to turn the fish over. After two minutes, insert probe thermometer. When fish hits 125-degrees, remove and let sit for 3-5 minutes. How hard is that?!
Be careful with hot oil. Don’t get careless. I have a bachelor alpha friend, a navy SEAL, that set the kitchen on fire fumbling around and spilling hot oil on kitchen curtains (“They ignited like gas-soaked newspapers!”)
Invest in a food thermometer. This tool is critical and takes all the guesswork out of determining doneness, an impossible task for a neophyte. Pick a thermometer up at Walmart for $15. Get the type with the long, braided wire leading to a probe tip. This wire allows you to monitor what is going on inside the oven or smoker. Watch on the digital readout as the temp rises. Most have alarms that can be set to buzz when the chicken hits 160 or the meatballs get to 150-degrees.
Stick a probe in every protein. Want to know the recommended temperatures for the differing foods? Google it up! Every YouTube chef worth their salt will relate the temperature goal for the protein they are preparing. Once you have a food thermometer, a whole universe of power food possibilities opens up.
Produce need not be boring. Learn to sauté onions, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, etc., baking potatoes is a snap. Potato doneness is attained when a probe enters and exists the baked potato cleanly and easily. Rice needs attention: make sure water is correct and follow cooking times exactly. Don’t space out.
Steaming is great for vegetables. Steam is also great for shrimp and shellfish. I use my spaghetti pot with a lid as a steamer. Be careful of over-steaming shrimp and shellfish, too long in steam turns them into uneatable rubber. Steamed vegetables have specific cook times that can be found online.
The bottom line is to get serious about food preparation. You will be dealing with food the rest of your life. Stop depending on others, mom, the wife, girlfriend, carryout joint or restaurant for your food-fuel. You can eat better and cheaper at home.
With expert instruction, free for the taking, there is no reason to not be creating scrumptious chicken, pork, beef, fish, shellfish and lamb proteins, no reason to not be consuming seasonally appropriate, locally sourced produce, preparing them simply and expertly. It is just as easy to expertly prepare outstanding foods as it is too ill-prepare those same foods.
Instead of spending $8 on fast food, take that $8 and get a pound of organic grass-fed burger or a monster chunk of salmon. Once you get the hang of home cooking, shopping becomes exciting as you hunt for something great: a giant steak, perhaps jumbo shrimp, or on sale on a leg of lamb or Saint Louis ribs marked down to half price. When you get excited about obtaining the power foods used in dishes you create, the nutritional portion of the transformational template is all but won.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.