Who are you? Where Am I?
I'm Jon O'Guin, your friendly neighborhood madman! I write this blog, with the help of my trusted ally Alan! Check out the About page for more details! As to where you are, I'm guessing either at home, or somewhere with Wi-Fi? I don't know. I didn't bring you here. Unless I did, in which case, why did you type this question?
Now That I’m here, what should I do?
Well, I suggest clicking the “Start Here” link at the top of the site, which will take you to an assortment of posts that we feel are emblematic of my style, as well as good drop-in points for several of our ongoing series. If you want a more free-range experience, like my chickens, just click on the archive, or the burning skillet in the top left, and wander until you see something you like.
What makes you so smart, eh? Why should we listen to you?
That seems like an abrupt tone shift, but it's a fair question. What does make me so smart? Well, there's ongoing debate, but my understanding is the general scientific consensus has concluded that it's mostly a matter of environment, that I was given good schools and teachers, and allowed to pursue my aptitud- oh, you meant directly in cooking.
In that case, well, honestly, I'm basically nobody. Well, okay, not NOBODY, but I’m a semi-pro at best. I've been cooking as a hobby for over 10 years, and I've worked at a couple different businesses dedicated to food, like bakeries and creameries, and a couple restaurants. I've even done a live cooking & improvised comedy show to open for a Shakespeare in the Park one time. That was…an idea.
My talent, such as it is, lies not in my skill, but my passion. I love cooking because it's fun, and making a mess is fun, and eating with your friends and loved ones should be fun. Kitchen Catastrophe is not about being a fantastic chef or a skilled cook, it's about all the nooks and crannies of the cooking world. The history, the humor, the screw-ups. I'm not here to make you perfect. I'm here to help you try new things, and laugh when they go terrible. Help YOU laugh when they go terrible. Not like, laugh AT YOU when they go…yeah.
For someone who claims to not be an expert, you sure talk a lot.
Yeah, I'm a mouthy sumbitch, that's true. It's funny, had you met me before the age of 18 or so, you'd have found me a quiet, withdrawn young man, willing to sit and not add to a conversation for hours, except for the occasional whispered aside. I'd spend all my free time reading, and picking things up, until right around my 18th birthday I got cast in the High School play, and started hanging out with theatre people. Within 12 months, I was rehearsing with Improv groups, and shouting in public places. I was mildly famous in my college town as "The Brightly Colored Pieces of Paper Guy", and my friend texted me that I could be heard shouting from over 100 yards away, through a brick wall.
Technically, if you've ever thought I talked too much, or yelled too loud, you can blame my old friend Joe McCoy, who said to me over lunch "You know, the fall play needs a snarky butler. I think you could play it."
Where do you find your recipes?
I sometimes forget to credit specific authors and publications, especially in our earlier posts. That's my bad. If you message me about a specific one, I'll look it up. However, here's the 4 biggest sources, split into 2 groups:
INITIATING SOURCES: By which, I mean, "Places I most often see a recipe and say 'Okay, I'll make that.'"
America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated/Cook's Country: I count these all as one, because they're one company. These guys are my go-to recipe resource, because most of their publications include their methodology for getting the recipe. Like, they don't just give you a recipe for coq au vin, they explain how they tweaked this ingredient, and changed that one, to get the final result. This "under the hood" view really helped me get a feel for how you can tweak and alter recipes.
Bon Appetit: If the first one's the workhorse, these guys are the show pony. Bon Appetit is where I hear about new food trends, and weird, off the wall experimentation. They did a great job expanding my horizons, so to speak, and getting me excited to get my hands on a new ingredient to see what it can do.
RUMINATING SOURCES: By which, I mean "Places I go when I already DECIDED on a meal, and need to find a recipe."
Allrecipes.com is a site I go to a lot, and end up taking from a lot. My Red Beans and Rice post, for instance, is from there. However, it more often tends to be the first step, or the mixing pot for
Everywhere. I get my recipes from basically everywhere. The Jambalaya post's recipes are just reproductions of the box instructions. When I decide I want to make a meal, I'll look through four or five recipes, and pick the one I like best, and then steal things from the others that I think would make it even better. Cooking is, to me, an Art, and therefore you should never be afraid to mix your colors a little.
Does anyone ever cook with you?
Pretty frequently, actually. It ties back into my belief that cooking should be fun, and preferably with friendts. If you click the "Guest" tag, the archive will only show you posts with guest cooks. If you yourself want to be a guest cook, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I warn you, I've got a lot of inertia: it'll take some poking and prodding to get me started, but once I get going, I start steam-rolling.
Can I submit recipes I'd like to see you try?
Absolutely, though I warn you that my turn-around time isn’t great. one friend of mine had to wait over 3 years for his Cioppino request to be delivered on. I'll take recipe suggestions anyway you send them to me: Twitter, E-mail, Facebook, comments. It might take me practically forever to get to it, but I'll reach back out to you when I do.
So you're a big, bearded, shouty kind of guy, and you do theatre. Any relation to famed actor of screen and stage, BRIAN BLESSED?
Tragically, no. I'd be super excited to meet him, actually. I think he's an inspiring sort, with his many Everest expeditions, and his well-known bombastic tone.
Speaking of screen and stage, why no video? Reading is for squares!
The simplest answer is: Because I'm lazy, this whole thing started out as me whining on a blog post, and I don't own a video camera. So, the simplest answerS, I guess. But yes, Kitchen Catastrophe started as a written piece of me complaining that it took me 4 goddamn hours to make a cheese soufflé, and evolved from there, so it's more that it hasn't gotten to video YET.
Which is indeed a YET, as, since the site started, we've been looking into making gifs and videos, and that was one of the reasons we started to make the Wednesday posts: as a place to try new things without damaging your once-a-week recipes for destruction.
Is pre-heating really necessary?
This is a bit of tricky question. Hell, given the variety of types of preheating, I could write an entire post solely on the concepts of heat in cooking, but the basic answer is: Yes.
Now, depending on what exactly you want, maybe not. This is because different food molecules react to heat in different ways. As a basic example: If you want a good steak, you want to preheat whatever you're cooking it on, because a steak's crust is formed by reactions between the meat proteins, sugars, and HIGH heat. However, notice I appended "Good" to the steak. If you JUST want food, and don't care how it tastes, then no, you can skip it. Just cook it an extra couple minutes, check with a food thermometer, and you're...good.
When is the optimal time to enjoy a microwave burrito?
In my personal opinion, the best time to enjoy a microwave burrito (By which, I'm assuming we're talking about the frozen ones you buy and cook in the microwave) is about 15 minutes after you walk into the house after hard exertion. The first five minutes are you getting to your favorite chair, dropping into it, and, after a minute of frozen inaction, working your shoes off. Then, you heave your head forward, and force yourself out of the chair. You enter the kitchen, and grab 4 things: paper towels, 2 burritos, and a cold drink. You wrap the burritos, and throw them in, and take your first pull from the drink as you sit, your back against the kitchen counter, staring at the ground just under the microwave. You brush something from your drink arm, dirt or sweat or sawdust, as you wait. Finally, it beeps. You pick up the plate, and quietly swear to yourself because the damn thing is always hot as shit right afterward, and now your fingers are burned. Shake the burritos out of their paper robes, and one will tear in half because one ALWAYS tears in half, as near as you can tell that's the only way you know they're not still cold in the middle. Then you make your way to your preferred entertainment box (computer or TV), and spend the next 3 minutes picking up a burrito, and setting it down because it's still too hot.
I eat mine with a little puddle of hot sauce and a little puddle of ranch to dip into.
Is yogurt a liquid or a solid?
Yogurts are technically a kind of colloid, or multi-state mixture. (Another example is Foam, which is gas (the bubbles) trapped in a liquid.) Specifically, they're gels, which are liquids trapped in solids. The easiest comparisons are Jello, which turns into liquid when hot, and chills to a solid (the molecular movement of heat undoes the retaining properties of the solids.), and dairy in general. (Think of how you can whip cream into butter, but then melt it back down into a liquid again, or add bacteria to cream to make yogurt/cheese)
There's a lot of food scientists who think these kind of things are the coolest thing ever. And I have to admit, they're pretty damn neat.
And those are all the questions we definitely get asked.