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A sideways glance. A stifled cough. A "harrumph." On their own, they mean nothing. But when they come from your in-laws - while they're eating the food you've slaved for days to prepare - well, that's something else altogether. Not that they would ever actually say anything, but we know what they mean. This time, there's no way out. The creative ideas you've come up with in the past - a picnic, fancy restaurants, a barbecue - won't work this time. It's the Seder, and these people are here to eat your cooking. Only one problem - you can't cook for beans (or potatoes, if you don't eat kitniyot).
And cookbooks are no help - all those esoteric measurements and techniques (I thought "coddling" was something you did to kids, not soup). Even the "easy" cooking Web sites aren't much help; the recipes on most of them were obviously written by professionals, and try as we might, our final product never, ever looks like "the picture." It's as if there's always something missing in these recipes - which is probably on purpose, because if we were as good as the professionals, we wouldn't need them. What would really be helpful would be getting cooking help from people like us - non-professionals - who know how to cook. And if we could watch them in action, we'd be able to see exactly what "folding" and "shirring" is all about.
Luckily, there's ImCooked (www.imcooked.com/), a site with thousands of cooking videos that let you see exactly how to make the food that looks so good on those "other" sites. While you watch, the chef on the other side of the camera shows you what to do, and tells you how to do it. Many of the videos also have links to Web sites of the chef, where the text directions for the recipe are listed.
ImCooked isn't the only video recipe site around, but it's one of the better organized ones (try searching for "chicken recipes" in YouTube). Some of the chefs have multiple videos (like their own syndicated cooking series), but all of them are practical, with how-to tips that make sense - because you're watching them do it. Real food prepared by real people in real time - your guests will be really, really impressed.