Some foods make your knees quake because cooking them can be so tricky. One wrong move and your night’s a disaster. MF features editor Nate Millado asked Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s Chopped, to help us conquer the 11 most intimidating foods a guy can prepare. Your fears are almost over.
What's to fear? Being a murderer. “Lobster may be the only food where the end user is expected to do the killing,” says Allen.
Get over it: If you want to punt on the “murder” thing, stock up on frozen lobster tails. But if you’re going to boil live lobsters, try massaging the critter between its antennae before you do the deed. This motion will kind of hypnotize them, causing them to coil their tail obligingly. Once the tail curls, quickly toss the animal in a stockpot filled with boiling water, put the lid on, and “don’t look back!” Allen says. If you’d rather instantly kill the lobster, take the point of your knife and insert it right behind its antennae before cooking.
What's to fear? “Whole fish tends to gross some people out when there’s an eyeball staring at you,” says Allen. There are also bones to deal with, as well as scales and even guts, if you caught the fish yourself.
Get over it: To eliminate the “ick” factor, always buy your fresh fish the day you’re planning to serve it. It will taste better and will likely still smell like clean water so it won’t stink up your house. Cooking fish on the bone provides better flavor and helps to keep the meat tender, but if you want the easiest option, skip whole fish and reach for the fillets. As for cooking, just remember these three numbers: 8, 10, and 400. An 8-ounce portion of almost any fish will cook nicely in a 400° oven for 10 minutes. With that basic knowledge, you can cook almost anything from salmon to sea bass to red snapper, regardless of whether you’re serving one person or 20.
What's to fear? The unknown—most Americans don’t eat lamb often. As a staple in Middle Eastern cooking, it can also seem exotic. “There’s also an inaccurate perception that lamb tastes gamey,” says Allen. “But it actually looks exactly like beef and tastes somewhat similar to it.”
Get over it: Get some ground lamb and make lamb burgers topped in a yogurt sauce with a little bit of garlic, lemon, and dill. One of the most elegant dishes you can impress a date with is rack of lamb. It’s not necessarily low fat or low calorie, but you can easily keep portions under control—four ribs make a very satisfying entrée. Season the meat with a little salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary leaves and roast in a 475° oven until medium rare (around 130°). It’s so flavorful, you don’t even need to make a sauce.