This week goes out to all y’all trying to cook for yourself. We know this shit isn’t easy, but the long-term payoffs are worth it. The food you eat literally becomes who you are; so why be built of take-out and canned soup? You only get one wild life. Use the food you eat to build a body you love and let it show you how vast and amazing our world is. Cooking lets you travel, learn the history of the world and people without ever leaving your kitchen. Don’t let room temperature delivery and microwaved malaise rob you of those experiences. When you learn how to cook you’ll improve your relationship with food, your body, you save money, AND (eventually) you get all your meals tailored exactly to your picky preferences. It’s all fucking upsides baby. So, stick with it and we’re here take a lil pressure off.
A lot of people let a fear of failure or perfectionism get in the way of a home cooked meal, but shake that shit off. You won’t get better at cooking if you avoid it because you’ve decided that it’s too difficult to master. It’s not. If you can do decent eyeliner, drive a car, read, or have the patience to play Dark Souls, you can fucking cook. So grab a knife and pay attention.
Start small. Use recipes on the weekends to master new techniques: our RCB burritos teach you how to season and roast veggies and beans, our Minestrone shows you how to layer flavors in a soup, and our Peanut Lime noodles show you how to sear tofu and make a sauce. Recipes are there to teach you how to cook as much as they are showing you how to execute specific dishes. Then, on weeknights, use whatever skills you learned over the weekend to whip something up without stressing about measurements, times, and making things perfect. Weeknights are not the time to be trying out new recipes, particularly if you’ve been working all day. Weeknights are for slappin shit together and trusting yourself. You aren’t cooking for anyone else’s palate but your own. Only folks in the kitchen get to chime in about the menu. Full stop. If it tastes good to you, then guess what? You fucking nailed it. Congrats. You’re a cook now.
Still confused? Let’s walk you through an example. You’ve made our RCB burritos, you get how to do it, but you can’t just keep eating the same 3 meals constantly. You’re tired of measuring every.single.thing. We get it. Now imagine it’s a Tuesday night and you’ve got a can of white beans, a delicata squash or sweet potato, red onions, spring mix, pasta, and rice. WTF are you gonna make? You’re probably not thinking of that RCB burrito recipe BUT it prepared you for this moment. Dump the beans outta that can, mix them with the onion and squash, throw some oil and seasoning on them, and roast them in the oven until the squash looks good and tender. You can now serve that over the greens like a fancy salad with some kind of dressing, toss it with some pasta, a little oil, vinegar, and extra seasoning, or throw it in a bowl over the rice and a little hot sauce or avocado. BOOM. That’s 3 different meals right there that you can hone to your tastes from what you had laying around. And you already knew how to do that shit just from making our burritos.
Are you sitting here thinking “bUt I DoN’t kNoW hOw hoT oR LoNG tO RoASt vEgGIes fOR?!?!?!?!?!” Here’s a lil secret: unlike meat, vegetables tend to have a large amount of time between being done vs being overcooked. And honestly, most veggies taste better with a little bit of burnt on them after roasting. Just warm up your oven to somewhere between 375-425 depending on how shitty that appliance is (Matt still uses a Magic Chef efficiency oven with 2 hot spots lol) and then check on them after 15 minutes to stir and see if you like how things are looking. Then start checking every 10 after that while you make a sauce, chop herbs, or answer emails. We promise it’s not that hard. If you can handle constantly switching between eight apps on your phone then you can multitask in the kitchen too. You’ll know if the veggies are getting too burnt. Have faith. You know what food should taste like and you know what you like. Fill a baking sheet with whatever you’ve got and go to town. You can do this.
So you’re on board with roasting but are you scared to buy spices? Well luckily there are like a bazillion seasoning blends that can help get you started. Try to grab one WITHOUT SALT because sometimes you want more herbs and spices but not extra salt. You can salt that shit on your own later. We recommend having an all-purpose seasoning blend (like Trader Joe’s 21 Spice Salute), chili powder, and something a little fancier like five spice, herbs de provence, or a za’atar blend. Between all these you have more than enough mindless ways to flavor your veggies before they hit the oven . Read the ingredients on these spice blends and try to pick out the flavors you like in them the most. Then go to the store and buy those herbs or spices for your spice rack. That’s how you learn and expand your palate all by yourself.
One last hot tip this week is something we’ve stressed in every single book and it will help every single meal you make: try to chop things a similar size. This allows everything to cook evenly. If you got big ol’ chunks of potato but tiny broccoli florets on a sheet pan then the broccoli is gonna get seriously fucked up long before the potato even gets tender. It doesn’t need to be perfect, some bigger chunks are ok, but aim for consistency. It’ll really help and won’t take you that much longer.
Now go forth and make yourself a freestyle dinner sometime this week. YOU GOT THIS SHIT. And DM or tag us in your final product, we’d love to see it.
This week on our weekly podcast Forked Up, we explore pork producers weaponizing wokeness, the demand of bodily fluids on the black market, and the ancient history behind your cardamom craving. Matt explains how a Blade Runner scene inspired a recipe photo while Michelle relives multiple family fires. Recipes discussed in this episode Wild Rice Peanut Ginger Pilaf and Red Curry Noodle both available on our site.
And if you still want more recipes, go preorder our brand new book Brave New Meal which comes out November 9. Plus, preordering gets you access to our FREE eBook, Vice House, which up on our site now to download. It has 14 brand new recipes all inspired by Texas ice house foods that Matt grew up on back in Houston. Don’t forget to download it because once Brave New Meal is out, Vice House is gone FOREVER. Also, up on our site now for free is the rainbow produce cover of Brave New Meal, without all the words and shit, for you to download if you are looking for a GORGEOUS lock screen or desktop. No purchase necessary; just free shit because we love y’all.
This week is also a great week to consider becoming a paid subscriber and support The Broiler Room because we have a brand-new recipe just for them straight out of the new book: our Blueberry Thyme Marble Rolls. They won’t be on the site, just in your inbox, so consider becoming a supporter. Unlike most food sites, we don’t run any ads so all of our funds come directly through your support like buying our books, merch, and this Substack. Your support keeps food on our table so we can keep fresh recipes in your inbox.
Stay safe, keep cooking, and we’ll talk to y’all next week.
Michelle and Matt