Cooking may not be a gender-specific activity, but there are some characteristics that follow stereotypes more often than not (read on before you start to object). At least that’s what Steven Raichlen says – and we tend to agree. He’s the guy who has brought us more grilling books than one would think possible (most of the 30 books he’s written, including “Planet Barbecue!” and “Barbecue! Bible”).
Now Raichlen directs his considerable culinary knowledge to another subject he’s equally skilled at: teaching men to cook in “Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys” (Workman, 631 pages, $24.95).
As Raichlen takes the reader through a variety of cooking methods in 300 recipes, he intersperses technique and step-by-step photos with an engaging Q&A involving food dudes, from Spanish chef Jose Andres to Michael Pollan, Thomas Keller, Stanley Tucci, Andrew Zimmern and even a faux interview with Thomas Jefferson (via an academic). The interviews alone are worth the price of the book.
We thought Raichlen should answer some of those same questions himself.
What are the three dishes every guy should know how to cook?
Every guy should know how to cook a steak. Note I said cook a steak, not grill a steak. Every guy should know how to make an omelet because that’s your solo meal and you’ll never go hungry if you can make an omelet. Every guy should know how to cook a lobster, because if you’re ever in a party in mixed company and there’s a lobster around, it’s certain that the guy will be asked to cook it.
What three techniques should every guy know?
A guy should know how to handle a knife, good knifemanship. That means how to chop, how to slice, how to dice, how to sharpen a knife without taking your finger off. Every guy should know how to light and control a grill. Sorry, I’ve got to go back to my roots in that.
Every guy should know how to shuck an oyster because, again, if in mixed company, if someone comes up with a bushel of oysters, you’re going to be the one who shucks it.
What three ingredients do you need as a cook (let’s skip the salt and pepper)?
First of all, extra-virgin olive oil, You use it as a cooking fat, you use it as a basting mixture, you use it as a sauce, condiment or seasoning. It’s absolutely essential. The second is fresh lemon, ideally Meyer lemon. Again because the zest provides the flavor, the juice provides a second flavor, and there isn’t any food in the world that can’t be brightened by a squeeze of lemon juice. And quite incidentally, if you oversalt something, lemon juice will often bring it back. The third would be some kind of chili or hot sauce. I love fiery foods. I love the way hot sauce electrifies food. With those three ingredients, you can tackle just about anything.
Do you think men and women cook differently?
I do. I think there are several differences. One is that men tend to like bigger flavors than women, more assertive flavors. This can lead to many calamities. There’s something I call the Guy Syndrome. It says that if some of something is good, more of it is automatically better, as in 1 tablespoon of Tabasco sauce is great, so add a half a bottle. ...
I think when women cook, they think about a meal. When men cook, they think about a dish. ...
Guys also have a unique relationship with simplicity and complexity. In general, we want our food very simple – steaks, fried eggs, sandwiches – until we want it complicated. Then we want chili or barbecue sauce, where we use every ingredient in the spice rack.
Fire-eater chicken wings
Serves 6 as an appetizer
Note: Pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) can be found at most supermarkets or online at tienda.com. For a smokier flavor, grill the wings indirectly over charcoal that has 1 1/2 cups of soaked drained wood chips on them.
From “Man Made Meals,” by Steven Raichlen.
For the chicken wings and spice mixture:
3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken wings
1 tablespoon pimenton or sweet paprika
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon onion or garlic powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, optional
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil, plus extra for oiling the wire rack
For the sauce:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 to 6 jalapeño peppers (preferably red) or other hot peppers (depends on your tolerance for heat), thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot or Tabasco, to taste
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
To prepare chicken wings: Cut each chicken wing through the joints into 2 sections, the drumette (the part that looks like a little drumstick) and the flat, discarding the wing tips (or save them for stock). Place the wings in a large mixing bowl.
Combine the pimenton, salt, black pepper, onion or garlic powder, cayenne and celery seed in a small bowl, and mix them with your fingers. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the chicken wings and toss to mix. Add the olive oil and toss to mix.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a wire rack over an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Oil the rack with a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
Arrange chicken wings on the wire rack. Bake until browned and cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes, turning them once or twice with tongs. To check for doneness, make a slit in the thickest part of the largest drumette; there should be no traces of pink.
To prepare the sauce: Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When butter is hot, bubbles will dance when you dip a slice of jalapeño in it. Add the jalapeños and cilantro to the butter and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the hot sauce and let the mixture come to a boil. Add a few drops of liquid smoke, if desired.
Transfer baked chicken wings to a large shallow serving bowl. Pour the sauce over them and toss to mix.