Most of the time when I cook, I don’t use recipes. This makes being a blogger a little difficult. I want to help others recreate healthy dishes that I’ve made, but I find it unrealistic to list specific ingredients, cooking times, and quantities and expect others to follow them every single time. Substitutions are common with cooking based on what is in season, on sale, and available in the neighborhood. If you understand a handful of cooking techniques and how to apply them in the kitchen with what you have on hand, you are much better off in the long-run than reading recipes and following them word-for-word. I hope to equip my readers with not just an arsenal of healthy recipes, but also universal techniques for success in the kitchen.
Introducing the How to Cook series! While I will still make sure to publish lots of specific recipes with detailed directions, ingredient lists, and suggested cooking times, I am peppering in some posts that address more widely applicable cooking techniques.
To make the above dish, I utilized three techniques which are detailed below: pan-searing a steak, roasting parsnips, and pureeing a butternut squash. I have also included a rough timeline of how to multi-task to get everything on the plate at the same time.
0:35 - Preheat oven to 400 for parsnips/steak, take steak out of fridge, peel/cube butternut squash and begin cooking on stovetop
0:27 - Chop parsnips and prep for roasting, get into the oven, get cast-iron skillet hot on stove
0:24 - Season + sear steak
0:18 - Steak into oven, clean up prep area
0:10 - Steak out of oven, let it rest, strain butternut squash cubes from liquid and mash, return to stovetop over low heat to let some liquid cook off
0:03 - Parsnips out
0:01 - Plate
How to Pan Sear a Steak
Remove steak from fridge to bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat cast-iron skillet over highest heat on the stove for at least 5 minutes. It should be scorching hot.
Melt a generous tablespoon of butter in the skillet and add in 1 smashed clove of garlic and 1 sprig of rosemary and/or thyme.
Pat steak dry with a paper towel (any liquid on the steak will cause the meat to steam instead of get crispy). Season liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Use tongs to begin to sear steak in the pan, beginning on the edge that has a fat cap if there is one (otherwise, pick any edge).
Here is the important part - once the edge of the steak has made contact with the pan, DO. NOT. TOUCH. Resist the urge to move the steak around or lift it up every two seconds to see how your sear is coming along. It needs to stay in contact with the cast iron pan!
Edges take 1-2 minutes to sear. Give the larger flat sides of your steak 2-4 minutes on each side to form a thick, crispy crust. Once all edges and sides have been seared, remove the garlic and herbs from the pan and transfer the skillet to the oven.
Cook in the oven until internal desired doneness has been reached. I recommend medium rare, or an internal temperature of 130 to 135 degrees (about 10 minutes at 350 degrees but will vary widely based on the thickness of your steak). When you gently press on the top of the steak, it will be only slightly firmer than the web of your thumb with your fingers spread out into an “L’ shape.
Remove the steak from the cast-iron skillet and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing so the juices redistribute throughout the meat.
Meanwhile, place the cast-iron skillet back on the stove over medium heat. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan along with a minced clove of garlic, fresh rosemary and/or thyme, and one chopped shallot. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
Splash a bit of red wine in the pan to deglaze the drippings from the bottom. Use a whisk to pick up all of the browned bits. Add ~¼ cup of beef stock or bone broth to the pan and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil, then back off the heat to just a simmer, and allow it to cook until you have a thick, syrup-y sauce, about 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs, garlic, and shallots and serve alongside the steak.
Try this technique with: skin-on chicken thighs, duck breast, bone-in lamb chops, bone-in pork chops
How to Roast Vegetables
I love this guide from the OG herself, Martha Stewart. To paraphrase, chop and trim your vegetables. The smaller they are, the faster they will cook. 425 degrees Fahrenheit is a good roasting temp. Toss the vegetables with ample olive oil, salt, and pepper. Don’t measure, just use a heavy hand. Make sure the vegetables aren’t touching in the pan, or they will steam instead of roast. Roast 25-35 minutes for light + watery vegetables, or 35-45 minutes for thick + starchy vegetables. Actual cooking time varies widely based on the vegetable itself, the size of the cut, and your oven, so just check on them every once in awhile. Feel free to stir/flip halfway through approximate cooking time.
Try this technique with: parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, onions, zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, cabbage wedges, fennel, butternut squash, cauliflower, broccoli
NOTE: I wrote 350 for the steak and 425 for the vegetables, but when I made this recipe, I turned the oven to 400 to accommodate both the steak and the vegetables and adjusted the cooking times accordingly. Use your best judgement.
How to Puree Root Vegetables
Peel and trim vegetables as need. Dice into uniform ¼ inch chunks.
Place in a medium saucepan and cover with a flavorful liquid. I like bone broth, but you could use heavy cream or coconut milk. Water also works.
Add any other flavors you’d like to infuse into the vegetables and cooking liquid, like a smashed clove of garlic or some fresh herbs. If you’re feeling fancy, wrap these up in some cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine to make a bundle, so they are easier to fish out later.
Bring liquid to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer until a cubed vegetable is VERY easily pierced with a fork, about 10-15 minutes based on the vegetable.
Strain liquid. Remove garlic and/or herbs if applicable.
For a classic, smooth puree, transfer vegetables to a blender or food processor. Blend completely and pass through a wire-mesh strainer to remove any chunks. For a thicker, more rustic mash, return the diced vegetables to the saucepan and use a large spoon or masher to break down the vegetables. If the texture is thinner than desired, return to saucepan and gently heat until some water has evaporated. Season puree or mash with butter, salt, and pepper.
Try this technique with: parsnips, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, celery root, acorn squash, english peas, cauliflower
NOTE: White potatoes cannot be blended or processed. They must either be passed through a ricer OR mashed by hand.
I hope you found this post educational and inspirational! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, or suggest techniques you are curious about for future How to Cook posts!