A Bachelor's Guide to Cooking
by Trevor Stinson
Let’s suppose you’ve finally moved out of your mom’s basement. Good on you. You’ve got your own place, you’ve got a job (or are in school), and you’re ready to start really living your own life. So what’s the point of this blog post? Well, let’s also suppose that you’ve finally mustered up the nerve to talk to that cute barista at Starbucks, and you even manufactured so much confidence that she agreed to go on a date with you. Maybe you offered to cook her dinner at your place only to realize afterwards that you can barely make toast without burning it. That’s alright, we here at Mediocre Chef have got your back during this definitely made up, and totally 100% not real situation that absolutely hasn’t happened to the author.
So here I present to you: A Bachelor’s Guide to Cooking. Written by a bachelor for bachelors.
Disclaimer: Alright, so I feel like this shouldn’t have to be said, but in order to cover my ass I’ll say it: this isn’t necessarily for dudes looking to impress girls. It’s for anyone who needs to cook a reliable and non-poisonous meal for someone else.
Meal 1: Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce 🍝
Alright you Casanova. You’ve scored the digits, and she’s coming over. But you definitely either failed home economics or didn’t pay attention at all that semester and let your group mates carry you (fucking freeloader). So what are you going to do? Make spaghetti and tomato sauce. It’s simple and it can be made vegetarian and gluten free so it should be a pretty safe meal for almost anyone. You should probably check to make sure that your date likes spaghetti, because if she doesn't then you’ll look like a fool on the night of.
This dish consists of two parts — the tomato sauce and the noodles. We’re going to tackle the sauce first since it’s the most complicated and then we’ll circle back to the noodles, because as I found out recently, there are people out there who manage to fuck up boiling noodles.
For the tomato sauce we have three options: make a sauce from scratch, use a premade sauce, or use a premade sauce but dress it up a bit. I will state right now, for the record, that I almost always prefer to make my own sauce from scratch.
However, you're probably not ready for that yet. (And that's okay, you'll get there one day.) So that leaves us with a premade sauce. Premade sauce is usually pretty boring and bland and is unlikely to impress the hottie from Starbucks. So, we’re going to use a trick that my mom taught me many years ago. Instead of starting from scratch, we’re going to take a premade sauce and just add some ingredients to it to make it less bland.
Spaghetti Sauce Ingredients
- 1 jar tomato sauce
- 1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 - 1.5 cups of chopped mushrooms
- 1 small onion diced
- 3 - 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
- Chili powder to taste
- Chili flakes to taste
- Oregano to taste
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
First thing that we’re going to do is to sweat the veggies. Place the onion and olive oil in a large enough pot on a medium-high heat. When the onions start to turn clear, add in the garlic. Let everything cook for a few minutes until it starts to smell like garlicy/oniony heaven. Once this starts happening add in the bell pepper and mushrooms. Let these cook for a bit to release some of their moisture (let’s say 5 minutes max).
🍝Mediocre Tip: Don’t worry too much about things burning at this point. There’s a lot of moisture in the peppers and mushrooms that will be released preventing everything from burning. Just keep stirring the vegetables around and you’ll be fine.
Once the veggies have been sufficiently cooked it’s time to add the sauce. Open the jar and dump it in.
Sidenote: Since we’re cheating and dressing up a premade sauce, opt for a plain as possible sauce. Tomato sauce with a bit of basil is usually a safe bet. Avoid sauces with flavours like “4 cheese” or “roasted garlic”. These taste like crap and they make it tough to control the flavour of your sauce.
Once the sauce is in the pot you’re going to want to wait a bit. When it starts bubbling, turn the heat to low and add in your spices. Remember to add your seasonings a little bit at a time — you can always add more, but you can never take out. Start with salt and pepper, then add your oregano, chili powder, and chili flakes. For each seasoning you add, stir the sauce, taste it, and finally add more if necessary. Once your sauce has been seasoned, cover it, double check that the burner is on the lowest possible setting, and let it sit for a minimum of 45 minutes up to 90 minutes to let the flavours come together.
🍝 Mediocre Tip: Make sure to time this so that the sauce is done right as she’s arriving. Your apartment will smell delicious and she’ll think to herself, “Wow, he must really know what he’s doing”. Probably.
Okay, so your sauce has been simmering for at least 45 minutes, your crush has arrived at your place, and it’s almost time to eat. The only thing left to do is to cook the noodles.
How to Cook Noodles for Someone Who Doesn’t Know How to Cook Noodles
Fill a large pot approximately ¾ full of warm water.
Add in a tablespoon or two of salt.
Bring this pot of water to a boil.
Add spaghetti noodles. (Do not break them in half!)
After a minute, using tongs or a spoon, press down on the noodles in order to fully submerge them in the boiling water.
Wait the prescribed time on the noodle packaging (usually 8-10 minutes) stirring occasionally.
Strain the noodles from the water.
Congrats, you now have perfectly cooked spaghetti noodles! Maybe do a test run earlier in the day so you know that you can do it when she arrives. If you don't know if your noodles are done or not, you can always taste test a few to see if they're al dente.
Once your are noodles cooked, it’s go time. Let her dish out her own portion — not because you’re lazy, but because everyone’s portion size is different. For example, what I consider a normal portion of spaghetti is enough to keep a small child going for a day or two. Let her decide how much to eat.
🍝 Mediocre Tip: Pair this slightly above average meal with salad and garlic bread. If you don't have time to make them from scratch, just go to the store and buy premade garlic bread and a salad kit. Ta-da!
Congrats, you’ve successfully made a meal with very little know-how. If you want, ask her to bring dessert. That way it’ll be something she enjoys and you won’t have to guess. Also ask her if she wants to bring over a bottle of wine. She’ll probably have a better idea of what wine to drink than you will. (If you both are young and have no clue, opt for a red wine like a cabernet sauvignon, it’ll pair nicely with the tomato sauce).
Meal 2: Scrambled Eggs and Toast 🍳
So your first date went well. Incredibly well. So well that she stayed over the night! (Good job mate.) But now it’s morning and you’re both hungry. So you decide to be as cliche as possible and make her scrambled eggs.
Now, every asshole and their mother has their own way of making scrambled eggs. And, surprisingly, scrambled eggs are so easy to fuck up. They can easily be overcooked and can go so quickly from luxurious and creamy to hard bits of rubber. So I’m going to teach you how to make scrambled eggs that should be okay with your sleepover buddy.
Scrambled Eggs Ingredients
- 4-6 eggs*
- ⅛ cup of milk
- 1-2 tbsp of butter
*I usually go with 2-3 eggs per person, your mileage may vary.
To start with you’re going to want to crack the eggs into a bowl. If you're not experienced at cracking eggs, you might want to practice in advance.
🍳 Mediocre Tip: Don’t crack the egg on the side of the bowl, don’t use a knife, and don’t use anything with a sharp edge. Why? If you use a sharp edge you'll probably push some of the shell up into the egg. To avoid that, crack your eggs on a flat surface like your counter or cutting board. This will break and shatter the shell, but you won’t have eggshell bits all up in your yolk.
Once all the eggs are in the bowl whisk those bad boys with a whisk. (If you don't own a whisk, just use a fork.) Whisk until everything looks uniform. Then add in your milk.
This is the point where every armchair chef is going to tell me how wrong I am. Cooking is so subjective — on the topic of scrambled eggs I’ve heard: “Don’t ever add milk or cream”, “Add in the milk or cream only at the end”, or “Only use crème fraîche”. Do you see how contradictory that is? I’ve tried all these permutations and I don’t notice any difference. So add in the damn milk now and mix it together.
🍳 Mediocre Tip: Remember, a recipe isn’t a bible. If you don’t like adding milk to your eggs, don’t do it.
Now that the milk has been added, it’s time to add the 2-3 tablespoons of finely diced chives. Why add chives? They add a nice onion flavour to the eggs without being overpowering. They also have the side effect of being slightly salty so they season the eggs without having to add a ton of salt. Also, you’ll look like a badass chef if you add chives. Trust me.
It’s finally time to cook the eggs. Grab your best non stick frying pan and put the butter in. Turn the burner on to a medium-low temperature. Seriously, you want the heat low. Add the eggs and start stirring. Keep stirring until the curds start to form. Add a pinch of salt to season and when you’re satisfied with the consistency remove the pan from the heat, put the eggs onto a plate and that’s it. Oh, and season with pepper if that’s something you like. What’s the perfect consistency? That’s up to you and the barista babe. On one end of the spectrum is the Gordon Ramsay style which is essentially custard. On the other end is this hot mess. I usually aim for somewhere in between.
You’ve managed to not fuck up eggs — congrats. The only thing left is toast. Place a slice or two of bread in the toaster and turn it on. It’s really not hard at all. Just make sure the toaster isn’t too hot or else you’re burn the shit out of the bread. Serve with peanut butter, jam, jelly, or plain old butter. Or put the eggs on top of the toast. Up to you Don Juan.
Please note the lack of a picture of the final product. I was too hungry and in a rush and I totally forgot to snap a picture. Use your imagination. Ah yes, look how beautiful those eggs are.
Meal 3: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese 🍅
Disclaimer: This recipe comes from my good friend Emily. I’ve barely modified it, so if it sucks, blame her.
Your first date went really well. Your second date went just as well. gasp You’re in a relationship with that hottie! You two decided to have a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s also raining in this
fantasy scenario. So you decide to pull out your one last card and make lunch. What’s for lunch on this dreary afternoon? A bowl of hot tomato soup and a grilled cheese.
- 1 can of tomato soup
- ¾ cup of macaroni noodles
- 1 can of milk
- Dried basil
- Cheddar cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- 4 slices of bread
- 1 clove of garlic (optional)
First we're going to tackle the soup. We’re going to be adding macaroni noodles to the soup, so let’s deal with that first. You’ll need to par-cook the noodles, which is boiling the noodles until they're almost cooked. So, bring a pot of water to a boil and put the noodles in. You’re only going to be cooking them for about half of the time on the package — they will finish cooking in the soup.
When the noodles are cooked, strain them and put them back into the pot you just used to cook them in. Open the can of tomato soup and dump that into the pot as well. Fill the can up with milk and dump that into the pot too. Season with salt, pepper, and basil to taste. Turn the burner to low, put the pot on it, and let it simmer until it’s warm. Remove it from the heat when you see gentle bubbles form around the outside of the pot.
🍅 Mediocre Tip: Make sure the burner is low. This is condensed tomato soup and milk. It’ll burn real good if the temperature is too high or the soup might split. If this happens remove the pot from heat, add in some cold milk (maybe 1/4 of a cup) and start stirring vigorously. You won't be able to completely save it, but it should fix it a little.
Now it’s time for the grilled cheese. Like scrambled eggs, a grilled cheese is super easy to fuck up, so I’ll walk you through it. Take two slices of bread and butter one side each. Next take your mozzarella and cheddar cheese slices and start assembling.
Grilled Cheese Assembly Instructions
Slice of bread, butter side down.
Slice of bread, butter side up.
Place your assembled grilled cheese into a non-stick pan, turn the burner on to a medium heat and let it go for a few minutes.
🍅 Mediocre Tip: I prefer to cook grilled cheeses from a cold pan — sue me. Joking aside, I find it gives the cheese a better chance to properly melt.
When the first side is golden brown, flip the sandwich over. Let the sandwich continue to cook until the new side is golden brown. When both sides are toasted (but not burnt) and the cheese is melted, the grilled cheese is done.
🍅Mediocre Tip: If you want to elevate the grilled cheese a bit, cut a clove of garlic in half and rub it on the toasted side of the sandwich. It will impart a lovely garlic flavour to the grilled cheese. If you have garlic butter you can swap it for regular butter to achieve the same effect.
Remove the grilled cheese from the pan and cut it on the diagonal like a normal human being. Ladle the soup into a bowl, place the grilled cheese on a plate and you’re good to go. The final step to complete the meal is to shred some grated cheese and stir it into the soup.
I’m told by Emily that the best way to pull this whole meal together is to serve everything with a garlic pickle. Not a dill pickle, it has to be garlic. But you have slice it in half.
The only thing left is to turn on a somber indie playlist on Spotify and stare lovingly into each others eyes while you deepen your relationship. Or binge watch Rick and Morty together while slurping back soup — your choice.
This concludes my bachelor's guide to cooking! Do you have any simple meals that any idiot could cook? Do you think my recipes are whack? Let us know by tweeting angry things at us on Twitter. Or leave a comment down below — we'll read it and respond, probably.