Here are 15 classics that you should know how to make if you consider yourself an accomplished cook.
Yeast BreadThere's nothing more basic, yet more satisfying, than a loaf of homemade yeast bread. All the basic techniques of bread making are used in this recipe, so it's a good place to start if you are a beginning bread maker.
Beef Tenderloin SteaksKnowing how to cook a great steak will always get you rave reviews in the kitchen. No grill required here–the steak is cooked on the stovetop. With this recipe you'll also use the technique of deglazing as you add liquids to the meat drippings to make the sauce. This classic combination of beef tenderloin, red wine sauce, and blue cheese is always entertaining-worthy.
Cream PieMaking a cream pie will earn you points in three cooking categories: pastry crusts, custard fillings, and meringues. Mastering any one of these components alone is worthwhile, but when you put them all together in a luscious cream pie, it's the ultimate rush.
Créme BrûléeThis is one dessert that always gets "oohs" and "ahhs", and it's really not that hard to make. The key is to bake the custards in a water bath so that they don't get overcooked. Although sometimes a kitchen torch is used to melt the sugar on top of the custards, in the recipe, you just put them under the broiler.
FudgeIf you want to learn candy-making skills, start with fudge. Everything you learn when making fudge can apply to most other candy recipes. A candy thermometer is a key tool.
Cream PuffsBring out your inner pastry chef and make a cream puff dough, called pâte á choux, and then a luscious cream filling to pipe into the cream puffs. These are also the same basic components that you make for éclairs, but éclairs are usually topped with a sweet icing.
Crown RoastBeing a really great cook means that you can not only make decadent desserts, but can create impressive entrées as well. You can't be much more impressive than when you prepare a crown roast of pork–true main dish royalty.
Fried ChickenMaking fried chicken "just like Mama's" might not get you any gourmet cooking credits, but it sure will make you popular. When the chicken is juicy, not greasy, and the coating is perfectly golden and crispy, you've done something wonderful.
RouxThe key to great gumbo is the roux–a mixture of flour and fat that is slowly cooked over low heat. The roux gives the gumbo some of its thickness and rich flavor. There are three classic kinds of roux: white, blonde, and brown. The ingredients are basically the same for all three, but the color and flavor is determined by the length of time the mixture is cooked. The first two are usually used to thicken cream sauces and soups; the rich brown roux is used in gumbos and other Cajun and Creole dishes.
Pasta and Cream SauceCooking pasta properly and making a simple cream sauce are cooking skills that should not be overlooked just because they are simple. Having these two techniques in your cooking portfolio opens the door for an endless variety of tasty dishes.
Roasted Turkey and GravyWhen you prepare the turkey for the annual holiday feast, you'll know you've "arrived". And as long as you are receiving accolades for the bird, you might as well bow for the gravy as well, because you can make the gravy with turkey drippings. A savory, lump-free gravy is an accomplishment in itself.
Chocolate PuddingOnce you've made a thick, rich pudding from scratch, you'll never go back to the packaged instant pudding again. This one has super-rich flavor because of the bittersweet chocolate. You'll want to cook the egg mixture until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Layer CakeLayer cakes from scratch are not only tastier than cakes from a box, they're also surprisingly easy. In this decadent cake recipe, you'll make not only the chocolate cake layers, but a rich cream filling and a ganache (smooth icing made of chocolate and whipping cream) as well. See our how-to videos on making a ganache and making a layer cake.
SouffléWhat may look as if it takes an act of culinary genius to prepare actually couldn't be easier, but it's important to keep some key instructions in mind. Soufflés are delicate, rising and falling quickly, and, in most cases, must be eaten immediately. One of the most important factors in making a soufflé is beating the egg whites, so check out our video with tips for properly beating egg whites.
Chicken StockTo get the very best flavor in a soup, start with a stock instead of canned broth. The flavor will be richer and, in most cases, lower in sodium. The stock you make in this recipe is a white stock that uses chicken. Brown stock has a deeper flavor than white stock, and the procedure involves caramelizing chicken and vegetables in the oven for half the cooking time and then putting them in the stockpot to flavor the liquid.