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mlawson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:32 PM
Original message
DU cooks and chefs: What have you learned over the years??
Any bits of culinary wisdom you would like to state, and have discussed? Cooking has been one of my hobbies for about 30 years, and here are a few things I have discovered:

--- Pureeing green peppers / chiles in a blender produces a nauseating taste for your dish. (Red ones are fine, however.)

--- Tomatoes have an extremely pleasing affinity with sweet potatoes.

--- Using garlic powder will ruin any dish; fresh garlic is infinitely better.

--- Tomatoes (or tomato sauce) should be used in only one dish, per meal.

--- Freezing peppers or chiles will stink up your freezer; canning them is difficult. Better to use them fresh, or dry them if possible.

--- Steamed vegetables taste much better than boiled ones, and it's possible to steam just about all of them. Plus, far more nutrients are retained by steaming, if you use the steaming liquid in sauces, or for cooking rice.

Contributions, anyone?



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ScreamingMeemie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:34 PM
Response to Original message
1. I use garlic powder quite often. The trick is adding at the end of
cooking and not the beginning. No one has ever complained about my cooking. Most quite like it. :hi:
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mlawson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:40 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Hmmm. A friend of mine used garlic powder every time
he cooked anything. It was always horrible, but maybe he is just a really bad cook. I use a HEAD of garlic in most every dish I make. I have never used the powder.

No one else can eat my cooking, because it's so hot and 'spicy'.
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jmowreader Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-24-04 05:27 AM
Response to Reply #3
25. But it wards off vampires!
A HEAD of garlic? Man!
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burythehatchet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:36 PM
Response to Original message
2. The key to a salad is the complete removal of every molecule of water
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DS1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:41 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Sounds more like trail-mix at that point
:evilgrin:
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spinbaby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:43 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. And the best way to remove the water is...
... put the wet greens into a dish towel, hold the towel by the corners, go OUTSIDE, and spin the towel around in a big arc. Intant dry greens and much handier than a salad spinner.
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Habibi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 09:13 PM
Response to Reply #5
18. Plus,
the neighbors find it endlessly entertaining!
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wyldwolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:43 PM
Response to Original message
6. marinating chicken in pickle juice...
...will make it taste like Chic-fil-a.

In ginger ale - KFC original recipe...
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nothingshocksmeanymore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:44 PM
Response to Original message
7. Never stir white rice!
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spinbaby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:52 PM
Response to Reply #7
14. Stir it at the beginning
After it comes to a boil. give it a good stir, then cover and don't touch until it's done.
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SOteric Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:45 PM
Response to Original message
8. I was typing this for a different reason, -so...here's a copy:
1. Prep your ingredients. Have everything ready to roll before you actually start cooking. It will make you more efficient. It will make your cooking more enjoyable. And you wont have that pesky, last-minute oh damn, Im completely out of (insert vital product here)! which always seems to occur of the way through the recipe.


2. Use your sense of touch to determine the doneness of cuts of meat. Sticking a thermometer, a fork, a knife, etc. into them just causes all the lovely juices to run out into the dirtied pan. You want them in the meat.


3. Use coarse salt. Kosher salt and sea salt have a much better flavour than ordinary table salt. Kosher salt dissolves most swiftly, so if youre looking for expediency in finishing a sauce, theres your choice for you. Sea salts have the best flavours, so if youre not in a hurry or youre palatte is exceptionally discriminating, thats your best option.


4. Start with the best ingredients you can find. Imported parmigiano reggiano is so much better than American domestic Parmesan that the two cant even be compared; excellent chocolate with the proper ratio of fats will make the difference in cakes and pastries; and USDA prime will yield a moist and flavourful roast even if a few small things go horribly wrong.


5. Pay attention to how ingredients are measured. One cup flour, sifted is not the same as one cup sifted flour.


6. Have a really good chefs knife. Stop chopping garlic with a paring knife or one of those gimmicky little garlic presses. Once you get used to a chefs knife (also called a French knife), its longer, wider blade will give you speed, control and confidence.


7. Choke up on your chefs knife. For better control, choke up on the handle even to the point of putting your thumb and the side of your index finger onto the side of the blade right above the hilt.


8. Keep your knives sharp. A sharp knife makes slicing and chopping easier, neater, and quicker. Dull knives are dangerous, - and they make cooking a chore.


9. Cook your onions more. Burn the bottoms a little. Go on, get some colour on them, it softens and sweetens and renders complex the flavours. Leave em crisp or under-transluced and they actually sting the palatte. Transluce them only and theyve got almost nothing to offer your dish.


10. Cook your garlic less. It actually burns quite easily and adds an unpleasant flavour to a dish if its added too early or cooked at too high a heat for too long a period of time. It needs to be sauted to infuse properly, but keep it brief. No longer than the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday."


11. Remove excess grease from soups, sauces and stews. Its bothersome and it takes a few minutes, but the cleaner flavour is worth it.


12. Reduce liquids to concentrate flavour. If youve braised meat or vegetables, take the main ingredient out when its done and reduce the sauce a bit more before serving. When you deglaze a pan, be sure to reduce the added liquid by boiling it over high heat. Reduce homemade stocks before use, too. Just remember not to salt or season until after youve finished the reduction.


12. Let roasted meats rest before carving. Many roast will continue cooking for a full ten minutes after theyve been removed from the oven. Its called carry-over cooking, the heat from the exterior is still travelling toward the center of the roast. But the major reason to allow a roast to rest is that after its been removed from the heat source, the juices redistribute. Carve too soon and itll be dried out.


13. Invest in a few heavy-based pans with absolutely flat bottoms. Flat bottoms deliver the most even heat. The handles should be sturdy, comfortable and heatproof so the pot can go from the stove to the oven.


14. Dont be afraid of fat. Use a small bit of good quality butter, cream or olive oil. It adds richness and flavour. Forget margarine entirely. The stuff is awful for you and itll do nothing for your cooking.


15. Grind your own spices. Spices have the most flavour when ground just before use.


16. Toast your spices before grinding. You can accomplish this most easily by placing them in a dry pan over high heat and shuffling the spices from time to time. Toast your nuts and your coconut, too. It brings the oils that carry the flavours out.


17. Use stock instead of water in everything from rice and pasta to deglazing pans for quick sauces. Stock adds remarkable depth and richness to the simplest foods.


18. Begin checking for doneness well before the given times on a recipe. You can always keep cooking, but you cant undo overcooking.


19. Bake pie and tart crusts longer than you think you should. Pastry doughs taste much better when cooked long enough for the sugars in the crust to caramelise. Youre after brown, not pale blonde.


20. Take your ovens temperature. Ovens can vary by as much as 50 F, especially as they age and develop thermals. So buy an oven thermometer and get a handle on whether yours runs hot, cool or dead-on.


21. Always have fresh parsley and at least one other fresh herb on hand. Youll be surprised at how fresh herbs lift the flavours of everyday foods.


22. Add a final splash of acid (vinegar, ver jus, citrus juice) to almost any vegetable or meat dish, or fruit dessert at the last minute to perk up the flavour.


23. But add wine to a dish early in the cooking and cook off the harsh tastes of the alcohol. Adding raw wines to a dish just makes it winy.


24. Warm your plates and bowls before serving hot food. Chill your plates and bowls before serving cold food. Even a simple bowl of stew seems a luxury in a toasty warm bowl, and a plain spinach salad takes on an efficient crispness with served on a chilled plate.


25. Perfect your saut. A well-browned exterior adds tons of flavour, as well as an appealing colour, and other methods of cooking (braising and roasting, etc.) often begin with a competent saut.


26. Turn up the heat. The most important factor for a good saut is heat and lots of it. (Put your non-stick coated pans away for this. The coat will disintegrate in a month of use if youre sauting properly). Put the food in the pan only when the pan and the fat in it is searingly hot, - just beginning to smoke - if youre using canola oil.

27. Dont crowd the pan. Whether your cooking mushrooms and bacon or pan-searing chicken breasts be sure you can see the bottom of the pan between the pieces of food. Too much food will lower the temperature of the pan, creating steam, wich means you wont get good browning.


28. Let the food sit in the hot pan before tossing or turning it. To promote browning, leave the food alone -- for as long as a few minutes for some foods, -- before you move it or flip it.


29. Taste often and dont forget a final adjustment to the salt and seasoning. The human palatte has a range of 5 and sometimes 6 taste sensations it recognises. Salty, sweet, sour, bitter, spicey, and debatedly: umami. (Umami is a Japanese word which has no ideal translation into English.) But for these purposes, lets concentrate on the 5.


When seasoning a sauce, strive for a rounding of all 5 elements. A homemade marinara sauce is good, but add a pinch of sweetness, a dash of bitter, a trace of sea salts, the barest hint of a spice and suggestion of acid, and the same sauce garners comments like wow, and Holy shit, thats good! Engage the entire palatte. It elevates your cooking to legendary status.


30. Use a mirepoix. The classical French mirepoix is 1 part celery, 1 part carrot, and 2 parts onion. The Cajun mirepoix omits the carrot and replaces it with sweet bell pepper. White mirepoix uses parsnip in place of the carrot and adds plain white mushrooms.


Even if the vegetable mix is strained out of the finished sauce they release such flavour into the dish while cooking youll wonder why you ever thought you could cook without them.


31. If you want to deep-fry, fried chicken, fish and chips, samosas, whatever use peanut oil. It produces the most crisp, least greasy, most flavourful product. Canola oil is a close second, and the only choice of those with allergies.


32. Fry only at between 350 -375 F, no lower, no higher. Lower and the fried item absorbs too much oil while cooking. Higher and the exterior will be beautifully browned with the center is still raw. (Though, an old caterers trick is to fry all the chicken at about 400F until the coat is beautifully browned, then load it onto paper towels to drain, pack it onto a sheet pan and finish it in the oven at about 350.)


33. Brine your lean meats and cook them quickly at a very, very high temperature. A boneless, skinless chicken breast will come out perfectly moist and tender, brown and full of flavour every time if you brine it and cook it hot and fast.


34. Choose a well-marbled roast, marinate and rub for flavour, and cook in a very slow oven for a long, long, long time. The longer and slower the cooking for a large, fatty cut of meat, the greater the tendency for the finished product to cut with a spoon and melt in ones mouth.


35. Beans. Salt aids in softening, so a good soaking of dried beans in salted water can fix a hard-to-cook batch of beans.


36. Sugar inhibits beans from softening, so adding a sugar such as molasses or treacle to long-cooking beans prevents mushiness.


37. Acids prevent beans from softening. Add acids ingredients like tomato sauce or a squeeze of lemon once the beans are already tender.


38. When beating egg whites to stiff peaks, - make sure your beater, your bowl and any utensils you use are scrupulously clean and free of even the slightest trace of oils. Add a pinch of some acidic material like salt or cream of tartar, even a drop of vinegar if all else is unlikely; and start with eggs that are room temperature, they inflate and emulsify better than do cold eggs.


39. You can make a crumbly feta cheese creamy by storing it in milk for a few days. Gives it a spreadable consistency, and can be used in quiche, souffle and a variety of dishes where a smoothness is desireable.


40. Crystallisation has no effect on honeys nutritional content, taste or usability. Once a honey has crystalised it can only be liquefied again temporarily and will eventually revert to its crystalised form. To liquefy a crystallised honey, take the cap off and place the jar in a warm water bath, or microwave on high for 2 or 3 minutes, just until liquefied.


41. To produce brilliantly coloured, creamy smooth pestos and herb sauces, blanch the herbs briefly before preparing the recipe.


42. The fastest, easiest way to cut cheeses, other than a professional slicer is with a wire designed for the task. If you dont have one, use dental floss or fishing line. If you absolutely must use a knife, spray it with a pan release before slicing.


43. Never put food in a cold pan. To avoid having your meats stick to the pan when youre searing or pan-frying, heat the pan first, then add the oil, and only once the pan is oil is hot should you add the food. When a good sear has formed on the bottom of the meat, it will release easily from the pan surface.


44. If you enjoy pan-smoking, or adding a few smoker chips to your barbeque, soak the chips before hand in fruit juice to add an interesting flavour to the finished menu item.


45. Green vegetables are meant to be served a brilliant, vibrant green. If theyve become olive drab, youve expertly tortured all of the colour, most of the flavour and good deal of the nutritional value out of them. To get perfect texture and colour, parboil the vegetables ahead of time and at the last minute saut them and dress or season.


46. Cut up your own chickens. Youll save a great deal of money and your pieces will be more akin in size and thus cook up evenly. Not to mention youll have some lovely scraps and bones to enhance a homemade chicken stock.


47. For beautiful skin-on potato dishes made from those nifty little fingerling red potatoes Slice the potatoes (skin on) before you cook them. If you boil them whole in their skins they just look a mess when you cut them. And besides, they cook faster this way.


48. When roasting red peppers, never run them under water to remove the charred peel. It washes all the flavour off. Scrap them with a knife to remove the char.


49. The magic number for custards and custard-based sauces is 170 F.


50. Making pies and pastries in hot, humid weather can be tricky. Work in the cooler hours of the early-morning; chill everything, including your bowls and your work surface; instead of cutting in butter, freeze your butter and grate it into the flour; when you roll out the dough keep a sheet pan in the freezer and slide it under the dough for a quick chill if it softens; handle the dough as little as possible.

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GOPisEvil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 09:14 PM
Response to Reply #8
19. Bookmarked!
Thanks for the excellent advice. I knew some of that, but some is new to me.

:hi:
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spinbaby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:47 PM
Response to Original message
9. You don't need to use unsalted butter
Many recipes for baked goods specify unsalted butter and then add salt. A couple of generations ago, it was common to use salt to help hide the taste of inferior butter, so cookbooks commonly specified unsalted butter. Today, even the salted butter is good, so you can use it and eliminate the salt from the recipe.
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SOteric Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:50 PM
Response to Reply #9
12. Not really.
Many baked good rely on salt to expedite the rise in the recipe. Salted butter prevents one from precisely controlling the liquid/fat/leavener ratio and can result in unevenly risen baked goods.
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spinbaby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:55 PM
Response to Reply #12
15. Nope, never made a difference
A few years ago, I actually tried out a series of recipes with and without--made no difference whatsoever. The importance of precise salting is vastly overrated.
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SOteric Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:59 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. Yes, actually. It very much makes a difference.
I cannot speak for the recipes you used nor your technique nor your level of expertise. But I can state with certainty that I have seen salted butter make a distinct difference in more than a few baked dishes.
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spinbaby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-24-04 05:25 AM
Response to Reply #16
24. Just what are you baking?
I've used salted butter in everything from puff pastry to cream puffs, from bundtkuchen to spongecake and it works just fine. I think the salted butter thing is a superstition promoted by home economists.
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SiobhanClancy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:47 PM
Response to Original message
10. After spending days making fancy Christmas cookies...
then arranging them on a huge platter,covering them with Saran wrap and temporarily sticking them in the oven because you are OUT of storage space.....don't forget to CHECK the oven before turning it on to preheat the next day :(
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Habibi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 09:17 PM
Response to Reply #10
20. Excellent
and extremely down-to-earth!

(I did the same with a pecan pie once. Oh, the horror!)
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Catch22Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:50 PM
Response to Original message
11. Smoke your chickens with the skin on...
and separate the skin from the bird and put lots of garlic, peppers, and stuff there.
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AlCzervik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 08:50 PM
Response to Original message
13. lesson learned
I steam veggies and rice in chicken broth, make a huge difference.
I bake meatballs and never fry them that way the sauce doesnt have that well of oil floating on top plus they taste just as good as fried.
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Liberal Veteran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 09:03 PM
Response to Original message
17. When I say "keep stirring this" while I go chop some veggie or spice.
It doesn't mean go watch tv and come back to check on it every 5 minutes.
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lcooksey Donating Member (373 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 09:47 PM
Response to Original message
21. Good tools are worth the money
Really good knives are much faster and easier to use than old, crappy knives. And a cut from a very sharp knife heals quickly! :)

Cooks Illustrated magazine and Consumer Reports are great resources for reviews of kitchen tools and small appliances. Both like the Victorinox kitchen knives (sold under their Forschner brand). I don't think they're quite as nice as the Wusthof brand, but they're about 1/3 the cost.

Alton Brown is my hero. His books are both very good, and I love his show on Food Network, Good Eats.
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Rabrrrrrr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 09:53 PM
Response to Original message
22. If you have a restaurant supply store handy, buy there
you'll save a lot of money.
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Rabrrrrrr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-23-04 09:59 PM
Response to Original message
23. Eat as close to the source food as you can - it's healthier
That is, fresh veggies, not canned (unless you've canned your own). Frozen is okay, as long as no preservatives or other crap has been added.

Make your own soup, not canned stuff. Canned soups and pasta sauces and other stuff have SO much crud added to them, I'm appalled when I think of it.

Fresh pasta from the pasta store (or make your own), not preservative-filled dry macaroni. Not only does fresh taste WAY better, it cooks way faster.

And if you get pre-processed stuff, go organic. It always tastes better, and it's healthier, and doesn't support the chemical industry quite as much.

And please reuse your veggie bags and don't throw them away - you can use them to bundle veggies and stuff at the store for tens of times or more before they fall apart. Think of the oil you save.
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