What are the most immensely satisfying things you do in the kitchen?
October 13, 2009 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Punching down risen dough (and slicing it with a dough scraper). Cooking garlic in sizzling hot butter. Putting potatoes through a ricer. Help me find more incredibly satisfying things to do in the kitchen!

I cook/bake a lot, and realized that I derive great happiness from certain aspects of food preparation that are immensely satisfying and fun, and want to learn more of these so that I can have even more fun in the kitchen.

I know it's subjective, but what are some of the most wonderfully fulfilling tricks/techniques/recipes that you use and love in the kitchen? Sights, sounds, smells, sensations... it's all fair game. It doesn't even have to be anything extraordinarily delicious, just really really satisfying.

posted by ORthey to Food & Drink (72 answers total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't already own a really good knife I highly recommend getting one and learning how to use it. Prep work will take on a whole new level of awesomeness.
posted by sickinthehead at 5:16 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Deglazing pans is one of my favorite things to do, see, hear, and smell in the kitchen.
posted by juliplease at 5:26 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I find making tortellini (or cappelletti or even just ravioli) from pasta dough you've made yourself is such a pleasure. You'll need a nice pasta machine, but that bit is great too. And seconding the prepping with an amazing knife.
posted by brighton at 5:26 PM on October 13, 2009

Seconding the really good knife suggestion. Consider a ceramic knife - I bought a Kyocera one a couple of years ago, it's never been sharpened and it's still astonishingly sharp. They are also profoundly cool - the white blades are translucent.

If you don't have a pasta machine, consider getting one. The texture that pasta dough gets as you fold it and roll it through the machine is a wonderful silky feel that I haven't experienced with any other food. Then, through the cutters and all of a sudden you've got mounds of noodles!
posted by tomble at 5:28 PM on October 13, 2009

Caramelizing onions. I slice mine into ring slices in my food processor and then cook them in olive oil and/or butter until they're all soft and golden brown. Great for soups and stews and the smell is awesome. I love watching them sizzle down.
posted by ishotjr at 5:30 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love pureeing soups with an immersion blender. Getting all the lumps out is so satisfying.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:31 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Grating carrots on an old-school metal grater.
posted by amyms at 5:40 PM on October 13, 2009

Rolling out pastry.

Kneading bread.

Squeezing lemons by hand. Run your thumb through to get all the juice.

Fine chopping/slicing through a mandoline (if you like to live dangerously).

Whipping up a meringue or whipping cream. Magic!

Pureeing soup in a blender. Very thorough. (Don't overfill the blender, and hold on the top with a dishcloth or oven mitt.)

Peeling an apple in long long peel. Takes practice.

Dropping minced or sliced garlic in hot oil and letting it cook until just fragrant.

Putting ground or whole spices in hot oil, as above.

Deep frying as the properly cooked item floats to the top.
posted by maudlin at 5:41 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Flambé! I love igniting the alcohol in things when I'm cooking. Flambé is super fun, but also super dangerous! Fun with fast-burning flames! I started with bananas foster and now try to find any reason to do it.
posted by banannafish at 5:44 PM on October 13, 2009

Oh --

Poaching an egg to perfection.

Grating cheese on a grater or rasp. Grating Parmesan in one of those rotary graters.

Folding meringue or a similar ingredient into a batter.

Searing meat to a proper crust that releases itself from the pan when it's ready.
posted by maudlin at 5:46 PM on October 13, 2009

I like making a roux. There's the butter (bacon fat, sausage fat, etc.). Here's some flour. Whisk, whisk, whisk, whisk, whisk, whi--BAM! thickened roux. Add cream and buttermilk, and throw the sausage back in, and you have gravy.

Searing a steak and then deglazing the fond with red wine (and some butter, and some green peppercorns) into a beautiful sauce.

Fried pocket pies.

Deep frying in general. I just bought a little home Fryilator last week... and it's so completely wonderful to make my own french fries. Even the frozen Ore-Ida variety are wonderful.

Cracking open the shell of a salt-crusted roast.
posted by Netzapper at 5:48 PM on October 13, 2009

Making stock, reducing it down to demi-glace and storing it is so satisfying. I freeze mine in ice-cube trays and just being able to whip out a tablespoon of ultra-thick stock to make a fantastic sauce makes me so happy.

People have suggested knives, but go the whole hog and get a good stone and a proper steel and learn how to use them. I loathe blunt knives - they're dangerous and they make more work. All my knives are in a magnetic knife rack and they're all sharp and ready to go. Looking at them gleaming in the light makes me feel so happy.
posted by ninazer0 at 5:52 PM on October 13, 2009

I've made a couple of comments recently about how I'm not eating meat currently, so this might sound weird, but I enjoy slicing through the joints of a chicken and twisting the leg segments in my hands until they separate. HA HA HA, I AM JULIET BANANA, DISMEMBERER OF LIMBS!!!

I'm all about making fresh pureed sauces (what I deem "Mexican style," the antithesis of French style sauces). For example, last night I threw half a bunch of cilantro, a handful of sunflower seeds, olive oil, an avocado, and some chipotle in the blender. It looked like a big mess until I watched it whirr into mint green smoothness and it tastes like a Middle Eastern version of pesto and I want to eat it on EVERYTHING. I feel like this about pretty much every uncooked sauce I blend. Nothing but fresh ingredients and pure flavor.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:54 PM on October 13, 2009 [8 favorites]

Learn to make Dutch Babies.

It's a wonderful excuse to get out your cast-iron pan again. The batter is easy enough to make, and should be finished by the time your oven is at temperature; that's when then fun starts. You must turn your oven light on, lean your forehead toward the glass and wait. At the five-minute mark, you should see the magic start--the amazing rise of a wall o'pancake. There's something immensely satisfying about watching your creation grow.

Remove the Dutch Babies from the oven, slather in raspberry jam and share with a friend.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:58 PM on October 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

I absolutely love love LOVE chopping garlic with the back of a spoon. It is very satisfying. You just put your thumb in the curvy part (that you usually eat your soup out of) and press the edge of the spoon to chop the garlic. Somehow it looks stupid written out like this, but fool around with it and you'll figure it out. This way you can't cut yourself and it makes a good sound on the cutting board.

And I also really like thinly slicing sweet potatoes, drizzling them with olive oil and sprinkling with fresh ground pepper and sea salt and then arranging them on the broiler. A few minutes on each side and VOILA! Crispy, yummy sweet potato chips. I like them when they have little burn blisters on them. Also very satisfying.
posted by cachondeo45 at 6:04 PM on October 13, 2009

Cutting tofu into neat little squares, and when using a food processor or blender, watching for when the unincorporated stuff on top finally gets sucked in to the swirly blended stuff.
posted by zizania at 6:05 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fried pocket pies.

what is this please
posted by palliser at 6:08 PM on October 13, 2009

I love roasting capsicum. It's an experience.

I put strips under the griller until the skin blackens and blisters, giving them about a minute in some kind of sealed container to steam with their own heat (I use a bowl with a plate on top) and then I peel each piece of burned capsicum skin off in one go. Put them on whatever else you're cooking for capsicum goodness or put them in oil in the fridge for later on. Fantastic.

Sometimes while I'm watching the capsicum roast I do that scream Linda Hamilton does in Terminator 2 when she's dreaming about the nuclear explosion. Am I a bad person?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:17 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Grating a nutmeg nut against a microplane. Wooooooo.

Using an old school spritz cookie press.
posted by oflinkey at 6:30 PM on October 13, 2009

Plating, specifically wiping down the edges of the bowl/plate and garnishing your dishes. It's like a magic spell where suddenly your food looks 5000X more interesting and tasty. Except instead of fairy dust you're using lime zest, freshly chopped cilantro, piñon nuts, microplaned nutmeg, or tiny piles of arugala.

It's a really nice "damn, I made that! And now I get to eat it!" moment.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:39 PM on October 13, 2009

Cooking the fat out of sliced chorizos, then sauteeing onion and garlic in the spicy red deliciousness. Best smell ever.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 6:40 PM on October 13, 2009

Making pie crust, pasta, bread and falafel - all from scratch. These are a few of my favorite things.
posted by torquemaniac at 6:45 PM on October 13, 2009

Also, I've never perfected it, but my dad crushes ice in his hand with the back of a spoon when he makes us drinks. It's so much cooler than the fridge-crushed ice.
posted by juliplease at 6:58 PM on October 13, 2009

Flip stuff in your pans! I never get tired of that. Especially something big, like an omelet.
posted by bunji at 7:03 PM on October 13, 2009

- Toasting spices
- snipping the ends off of a bowl of green beans
- watching more and more liquid get absorbed into risotto
- making juice with a juicer and then making little animals with the leftover pulp. They dry and get teeny!
posted by jessamyn at 7:07 PM on October 13, 2009

Using cast iron utensils. Frying ground spices in olive oil before sauteeing vegies. Nth good knife (I have Global vegetable and paring knives - all forged metal, will last approximately forever). Grinding spices in a mortar. 2nd plating.
posted by rainy at 7:15 PM on October 13, 2009

Homemade mashed potatoes! Using a potato masher is just fun, and homemade mashed potatoes are incredibly delicious.

Also, making spätzle! Watching the cooked squiggly-looking spätzle float to the top of the boiling saltwater and lifting them out with a slotted spoon - again, so much fun.

And homemade buttercream icing. It's so satisfying when all the confectioner's sugar and the butter and the small amounts of vanilla and milk suddenly go from being lumps of sugar-covered damp butter to deliciously creamy icing.
posted by ubersturm at 7:22 PM on October 13, 2009

When I buy bags of ice for a party I find it super satisfying to knock (relatively gently) the bag of ice a few times with my heavy, metal meat tenderizer. It breaks up the pieces. And it feels oh-so-good.
I also enjoy the action of scooping the ice with a big, wide ice scoop and then when my ice bucket is full, shoving the scoop into the ice filled bucket.

I like the sound of mixing things with a wooden spoon. Especially in a plastic or thick ceramic bowl. Metal bowls, not so much.

I love scraping batter off a mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. It becomes so clean and smooth. It's magical.

I like chopping hard, crunchy things. Like cutting apples, carrots, or jicama into strips.

I love, love, love cutting things with a good pair of scissors. Specifically things that have a chewy-ish texture. Like cooked pasta, or a grilled steak, or hotdogs. My grandma makes this rice cake with a crust on it... it's kinda sticky and chewy in the middle and a bit thicker and crunchy on the outside and the best way is to cut it with scissors. I LOVE cutting it.

Also turning on my gas range, pouring boiling water over loose-leaf tea in a ceramic pot, and scooping uncooked rice.

Mmm, satisfying.
posted by simplethings at 7:24 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make those shrimp chips that you get at the Thai restaurant with your tom yam gung. You buy a package of raw chips, which look like slices of pink plastic, and drop them in a wok of hot oil. They sink, bubble a few seconds, then suddenly explode to the top, where they float like styrofoam in the North Pacific Gyre. You fish them out, let them cool, then put one on your tongue where it sucks out the moisture and makes your tongue feel like it's shriveling up. Definitely gets you in touch with your inner 12-year-old.
posted by Quietgal at 7:27 PM on October 13, 2009

- The sizzle! when I add freshly-toasted pine nuts or sesame seeds to the other ingredients.
- Mise. All my little bowls with their prepped ingredients ready to go.
posted by desuetude at 7:27 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fried pocket pies.

what is this please

Well, first you need pocket pie dough/crust:

2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (NOT bread flour)

Put those in your food processor and give them a zap. Or, you know, be old fashioned and sift them together.

Then cut 2.5 Oz of butter or shortening into little cubes, and cut into the dry ingredients. Again, I just use the food processor, but you could use the old-fashioned pair-o'-forks method. Cut the fat into the dry stuff until you have a mixture that looks like coarse corn meal. Think biscuit dough.

Take that out of the processor, and put in a big mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add 3/4 cup milk. I do this one quarter cup at a time, mixing in between, and creating a new well each time. It should start to separate from the bowl in big, ragged chunks pretty soon.

Turn the dough out on a floured board and knead it until it stops being sticky, and turns smooth. Then wrap it in plastic and throw it in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes to firm the fat back up.

Then it's time to make the pies. Pinch off a golf ball of dough and form it into as perfect a sphere as possible (this is actually important, but don't kill yourself on it). Then roll it out into a flat and thin circle--2mm thick or so.

Add about a tablespoon or two of filling slightly off center. I like milk chocolate chips and a little butter for sweet ones. For savory ones, I put in crumbled (cooked!) pork sausage, grated cheddar cheese, and a little sausage gravy. Do not overfill.

Rub the edge with egg wash (egg + water). Fold the pie over and push the edges together gently with your fingers. Then work out all the air. After it's deflated, crimp the edge with a fork.

Then cook them, one at a time, in an inch of hot oil in a cast iron skillet. As the bottom browns, turn them once. Remove and drain on a rack.

Or, if you aren't into deep frying, bake them at 400°F for about 10 or 15 minutes. When I bake them, I like to smear the top with egg wash and sprinkle on either sugar or coarse kosher salt, depending on sweet or savoryness. You can also pan fry them in butter, although I find that gives the least satisfactory results.
posted by Netzapper at 7:41 PM on October 13, 2009 [14 favorites]

Ooh, this question is too fun! Some things I like:
-Making potstickers and gradually getting better at folding them into the right shape as you go.
-The smell of freshly grated nutmeg.
-Using colored (or sometimes white) plates that look good with the food you're serving (and attending to presentation in general).
-Making things to freeze for later (burritos, veggie patties, whatever...I just like looking at the stack of stores and knowing I'll have them available to me later. I should probably get into canning for the same reason.)
-Listening to music while cooking. It can really influence the meal.
-Using a wooden spoon.
-Peeling red bell peppers by parboiling them and then slipping the skin right off.
-Making cocktails in a shaker (and then possibly drinking them out of martini glasses) even if it's not really called for. Makes everything feel fancy!
-grilling green onions briefly and then squeezing lime on them
-making popcorn in a pot on the stove, with the added benefit that you can get crazy creative with how you flavor it.
posted by aka burlap at 7:51 PM on October 13, 2009

- Measuring all your ingredients out into separate bowls and pre-chopping your vegetables and having them all near you so that when you actually go to assemble your final meal you can just pour the ingredients in from their separate containers. i have a few nice glass bowls for this purpose and I always feel like I'm on a fancy food show when I do it.
- Having a kitchen towel tucked into your belt/wistband that you can wipe your hands on as you go.
posted by jessamyn at 7:56 PM on October 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Toasting cumin or mustard seeds in a dry pan. Toasting rice for pilaf and then hearing the broth crackle as you pour it in. Frying capers. (Dude, try this; they fan out into these crispy little salty flower shapes.) Pulling fresh thyme leaves off the stem and then your fingernails smell like thyme for the next 24 hours. Squeezing lemons. Browning butter. Rendering the fat out of chicken skins. Separating out an egg yolk using the two halves of the eggshell. Pulling slow-cooked meat off the bone. (Especially short ribs, for some reason — there's something really viscerally satisfying about the way the rib slides out of the little ring of collagen.) Making mayonnaise — if only because no matter how many times you do it, you never quite believe it's going to work, and then it does and you feel like a miracle worker.

And if you ever find yourself in a professional kitchen, opening #10 cans with the giant stabbity can opener and shredding cabbage in the machine that goes SHOOF-SHOOF-SHOOF are a fucking blast.

Also, this isn't a cooking technique per se, but once you learn how to strip the meat off of a chicken wing with your teeth, it is the best thing ever. Chewing your food has never been so exciting.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:09 PM on October 13, 2009

Ah! Quietgal reminded me with her post about shrimp chips: papadum! They're limp, slightly greasy disks straight from the package, but then you hold them over a hot stove element, turning as you go, and they toast and puff and get beautiful little charred spots and holes, while smelling more and more awesome. Once you crunch into them, it's like eating the Declaration of Independence, but with cumin seeds in it.

You can nuke or deep-fry them, too, but nothing beats the feeling of toasting, especially if you use open flame.
posted by maudlin at 8:22 PM on October 13, 2009

I have to agree with jessamyn and desuetude: mise en place is awesome. My food went from okay to awesome once I started prepping all my ingredients up front, just ready to dump in.

And is this where I confess that I talk to myself while cooking, narrating my progress? My childhood heroes and TV companions were Jeff Smith and Justin Wilson. Somewhere along the way, I internalized that you have to talk to yourself while cooking. "Oh, yeah. That roux's thickenin' right up. That's right. Little longer, though."
posted by Netzapper at 8:23 PM on October 13, 2009

In my kitchen, there is little that is more entertaining [for bystanders] or satisfying [for me] than wrapping up shredded potato for latkes in cheesecloth and using every available resource to get the moisture out of the damn stuff.

This includes, but is not limited to: hand squeezing, putting it in the sink and jump-pushing it flat, twisting it, punching it, and wrapping the mass in a towel and hugging it to death.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:31 PM on October 13, 2009

Wow, so many good suggestions. Mise en place may be the coolest. Sor t of the opposite is cleaning (without soap) a cast iron pan or a plain wok and then drying it on a gas flame until you can smell it--then wiping it out with a touch of neutral oil. It combines the self-righteousness of drying your good knives right away with the smell of toasting spices.
posted by Mngo at 8:31 PM on October 13, 2009

Snipping fresh herbs that you've grown yourself in your yard, or in pots on a balcony or windowsill if you're in an apartment.

Having herbs at their peak of freshness and being able to just take the amount you need as often as you want is wonderfully satisfying.
posted by marsha56 at 8:34 PM on October 13, 2009

Mincing kaffir lime leaves. The aroma...
posted by mqk at 8:53 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Prawn chips and papadums can both be done in the microwave, btw. Not as exciting but healthier...

I love opening a pack of spaghetti by slamming it end-on on the kitchen bench. BAM!
posted by the duck by the oboe at 9:08 PM on October 13, 2009

Making pretty much anything, but especially large roasts, in a slow-cooker (crock pot). Fifteen minutes of very simple prep before work, and then when you walk back in the door, the entire apartment smells amazing and you feel like a domestic goddess. You created something so delicious all your neighbors know about it! And you didn't even have to be present! That's just how awesome you are!
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:10 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Portioning out cookie dough with a tiny ice-cream scoop. Each cookie is exactly the same size, and no messy greasy rolling of the dough.

Cutting up a whole chicken into its parts. Makes me feel like a real chef with all the hacking apart and the neat little portions at the end.

Anything with a microplane grater, including, but not limited to, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, parmesan, zest.

The moment the meat thermometer says, "Yes. It is time".

Mixing pancake and muffin batter until it has the perfect balance of lumps to no lumps.

And yes to the roux, the searing and deglazing, stiff peaked egg whites, and folding.
posted by ms.v. at 9:24 PM on October 13, 2009

The point where whatever you've been stirring or whisking starts to thicken up for real. Cooked custard, whipped cream, egg whites...your arm is about to fall off but it finally starts to come together and that gives you the strength to finish it.
posted by bink at 9:36 PM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love the part in making avgolemono (Greek lemon-egg soup) where you temper the eggs. I don't always do it perfectly but it is fun to try.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:12 PM on October 13, 2009

Satisfying activity in the kitchen? A wooden block, a square cleaver, and something to ker-WHOP!
posted by majick at 10:26 PM on October 13, 2009

Using a round cutter (not a glass - because they get stuck and that's annoying) to cut out scones. Makes an awesome pfft-clunk noise.
posted by kjs4 at 3:21 AM on October 14, 2009

Once you've got a nice big sharp knife, keeping that knife sharp can absorb many happy hours of your life. Get one of those pricy double-sided sharpening stones from Minosharp and a steel, learn how to use them and enjoy the Zen absorption. Bonus: you will have a knife so sharp you can just stroke it over a tomato and the skin parts like butter.
posted by stuck on an island at 4:54 AM on October 14, 2009

The moment when pastry cream turns from a bubbling liquid into a semi-solid is always pretty satisfying... and if you use a real vanilla bean (steep it in the warm milk, cut it open & scrape the seeds into the mix before tempering in the eggs) it will make your kitchen smell pretty amazing.

The one time I made pâte à choux it was also pretty neat; you squeeze blobs of pastry batter goo onto a baking sheet, and it turns into a hollow shell in the oven. (Into which you can put the aforementioned pastry cream!)

Also, brewing beer.
posted by usonian at 5:54 AM on October 14, 2009

Kneading bread. I'm still a novice baker, but I'm finding the kneading is the most subjective yet satisfying part. There's a line between underkneading/kneading/overkneading and how much dough to toss in. It's a good way to get some aggression out and I've been known to put a podcast on my ipod, zone out, and knead for a good hour and a half (multiple loaves obviously).

Making risotto. It's just fun.

Making homemade whipped cream. Seriously, if you don't do this, please do, and it is always impressive, especially on a date. Substitute a small shot of your chosen liqueur instead of the normal vanilla extract. Avoid mint.

Tempering eggs, which I finally did for the first time. Now it's time to try custards.
posted by X-Himy at 6:51 AM on October 14, 2009

I picked up a barbers strop at a tag sale and the fftt fftt sound it makes going over the knife as it hones it to a razor sharpness is fabulous.

Baking bread. I use the no knead method but today I'm inspired to knead.
posted by mearls at 7:24 AM on October 14, 2009

I know that stuck on an island (hey, me too) just said this but I need to reiterate:

The gentle glide of a sharp knife over tomato skin and the sensation when it just falls through to the chopping board, just with the force of gravity. Sometimes I add tomatoes to a dish just so I can do that...
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 7:30 AM on October 14, 2009

Making pesto in a mortar and pestle. Ideally with basil grown on the windowsill.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:35 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Peeling the skin off a roasted bell pepper.

Running two fingers down each stem of rosemary, so the leaves just pop off into a neat little pile. This one is especially good when you get to demonstrate for someone who thought they were going to have to pick the leaves off one by one. You get the double reward of the popping leaf feeling AND seeing their eyes light up as they realize how not-annoying their task will be.

Tweaking the contents of all your drawers and cabinets 3 months after moving into a new home, so that everything is within easy reach from the place in the kitchen where you've found you normally use it.

Making a recipe from epicurious that is rated really well and takes a solid day of effort, then enjoying the fruits of your hard labor. (May I recommend Beef Braised in Red Wine?)

And from that last recipe, peeling cooked pearl onions. Whether this is satisfying or annoying depends on your mood and how many you have to peel, but... You just pare one end off these little marble-sized onions, and then squeeze the other end until the whole thing pops out of the papery skin.
posted by vytae at 7:41 AM on October 14, 2009

Make egg drop soup: drizzling beaten egg into broth and watching little eggy strands emerge, swirling.

Peeling tomatoes (probably similar feeling to peeling roasted bell pepper) Score an X on top of tomato and plop in boiling water for a few seconds. Retrieve and peel - skin slides off like magic.

Squeezing cooked edamame out of their pods. Preferably directly into mouth.
posted by kitkatcathy at 7:55 AM on October 14, 2009

Rounding bread dough. You've got your dough, it's all warm and risen, and you now streeetch and fold it under itself several times as you shape the loaf for baking. Your dough is so silky and stretchy and good to the touch, and the loaf is so perfectly smooth and round by the time you're finished, and your fresh-baked loaf will be with you soon!
posted by wyzewoman at 8:33 AM on October 14, 2009

papadums can both be done in the microwave

I never got the hang of doing it over an open flame, they go limp around the tongs, so I use a skillet and a clean kitchen towel. When the skillet is quite hot put in a papadum and pressing it down with the towel until the papadum begins to bubble and, brown slightly. Turn over, rinse and repeat until cooked through.

I like beating butter, sugar and eggs together for cakes and cookies with a wooden spoon. Pounding fresh spices with a mortar and pestle. Pounding garlic with the flat of a knife to free it from its papery covering. Slicing through vegetables with a mandolin and, preparing everything in advance before I start cooking.
posted by squeak at 10:21 AM on October 14, 2009

Clarifying stock by heating it with egg whites and broken egg shells only to see the cloudy broth magically go clear isn't physically satisfying, exactly, but it's so damn cool that I love to do it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:38 PM on October 14, 2009

Ooo, and the moment when your mousseline buttercream goes from gross and curdled and clearly utterly ruined to totally, lusciously perfect, instantly, as if by magic. That's fun too.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:59 PM on October 14, 2009

Making marshmallows was a lotof fun - just watching it get bigger and bigger is pretty satisfying. A word of advice though, rice krispy treats do not taste better if you double the marshmallows. Respect the ratio.

Buttercream frosting was a lot of fun to make even though I wasn't totally in love with the results. Any time you are training to maintain some kind of form... like not accidentally scrambling eggs, is a lot of fun. Fun to do with kids as well.
posted by mokeydraws at 1:06 PM on October 14, 2009

"Oh, yeah. That roux's thickenin' right up. That's right. Little longer, though."

I giggled when I read this, because I totally talk to the food to encourage it along. I say "baby" a lot more when I do it, though.
posted by desuetude at 3:44 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Decorating cookies. I like to frost them white and then paint with food coloring.
posted by jgirl at 6:38 PM on October 14, 2009

Emulsifying, emulsifying, emulsifying. A word that's hard to say three times, but a satisfaction worth repeating hundreds of times. Making an emulsion typifies what I find so satisfying about cooking, that fantastic alchemical feeling.

Because you see a good aïoli feels like nonsense: You have this bulb, and oil, and some vinegar, and an egg yolk and some salt, and you do some manual work, and if you do it right what results is an impossibly creamy substance with the essence of all its ingredients but the texture and mouthfeel of none of them. Like, what?

When I crack eggs for breakfast I often have to resist the urge to make mayo instead of an omelette.
posted by voronoi at 8:21 PM on October 14, 2009

Flipping pancakes with a snap of the wrist.
posted by lorbus at 11:21 PM on October 14, 2009

I find it satisfying to pull all the meat off a roast chicken carcass with my hands. This is my kitchen therapy.
posted by chronic sublime at 12:10 AM on October 15, 2009

Boning out a whole bird (no, not jessamyn style) is immensely satisfying.

Making a really, really silky creme anglaise (custard).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:42 AM on October 15, 2009

Peanut brittle - very cool to watch sugar melt
posted by TheOtherSide at 9:34 AM on October 15, 2009

Oh, some of my other favorites:

Fresh whipped cream. Ice a metal bowl, add some cream, add a little sweetener, whip. Wonderfully decadent

Fresh mayo
posted by TheOtherSide at 9:51 AM on October 15, 2009

I recently found making cheese (ricotta, specifically, using this recipe) to be fantastically satisfying.
posted by firei at 6:16 AM on October 16, 2009

Blanching stuff (peaches, tomoatoes, et al.) and then yanking off the skin is awesome.

I also like cooking something once everyone is in bed and then -- and here's the good part -- wrapping it up and putting it in the fridge & freezer, knowing that tomorrow or some other day there will be a good, home-cooked meal with no more preparation than if we were eating greasy take-out or something vile From Your Grocer's Freezer.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:13 AM on October 16, 2009

Oh my, how did I possibly miss this thread earlier...

My single most satisfying culinary task is grilling over charcoal, or better yet, well seasoned splits of firewood. It doesn't really matter what - wood-grilling pretty much anything is satisfying to me.

Also making food from scratch that most folks get partially or completely pre-prepared - pasta, cakes, cookies, cheese (mozzarella and paneer are pretty easy to make), yogurt, kefir, and beer. The smell of onions & garlic frying in either bacon fat or butter is one of the most intoxicating, and satisfying, smells I know. Flambe is fun as hell. Canning & preserving, and then eating something preserved in that way is immensely satisfying to me. And finally, building and tending my family's vegetable garden, and then cooking with what we make there, is RIDICULOUSLY satisfying. This past year, I made a batch of gazpacho where the only ingredients that weren't grown entirely in our own garden were the salt, pepper and vinegar - and we'll be able to make the vinegar ourselves in a couple of years when the apple trees start producing. It was the best gazpacho I've ever eaten.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:04 PM on October 16, 2009

My single most satisfying culinary task is grilling over charcoal

Ohhh, how did I forget to mention the joyous magic and satisfaction in the use of a chimney-starter for the grill!? Especially in the presence of skeptics who think that dinner will take FOREVER while we wait for the grill to heat. Coiling up pages of the free weekly newspaper, filling the starter with charcoal, lighting it, and poof! Before the first round of beer is down the hatch, the charcoal is perfect.
posted by desuetude at 10:50 PM on October 17, 2009

« Older I Need To Be Able To Get Down A Mountain   |   What to do with a giant back yard? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.