Your cooking and food prep secrets ....

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by schmoozer, Apr 21, 2010.

  1. schmoozer

    schmoozer

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    Yesterday, while reading Judy Rodgers' book, The Zuni Café Cookbook, I read one of Judy's little secrets to making an excellent salad.  We all know that the salad ingredients need to be dry before adding any dressing, and Judy's little secret is to toss the ingredients with a few pieces of absorbant paper towels.  The towels will absorb any residual moisture left after spinning or the first drying steps.  Last night I tried the technique, and it works very well.

    So, what little techniques and secrets do you use that you might want to share?
     
  2. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Trouble with questions like that, Schmoozer, is that most of us have little tricks, as you surmise. But it's not that they're secret; just the opposite. We usually assume that everybody knows them already.

    I'm gonna try and make a list, while others answer. We'll see what we all can come up with.
     
  3. french fries

    french fries

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    Since we're talking salad... I like to mince a bit of shallots very finely, and let it steep in the vinegar along with salt and pepper for a few minutes while washing and spinning the salad. Once the salt is dissolved and the shallots softened by the vinegar, I build the vinaigrette (typically just dijon mustard and olive oil). I usually toss the salad with my (washed) hands - best tool available to not bruise the salad cells. Just do it in the kitchen before you bring it to the guests.

    And even though I tend to use much less salt than I used to when cooking in general, I also use much more salt than I used to when making salad dressing. I find that most people undersalt dressing, and I was one of them for years.

    Same thing with pasta water: you don't want to skimp on the salt. Otherwise your pasta will be bland.

    I look forward to reading tips from others!
     
  4. bughut

    bughut

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    Speaking of salads and steeping.I love fruit in a mixed salad, Raisins, apricots, cranberries etc plump up nicely if you soak for an hour in boiling water.
    I would then mezzaluna them quite finely with roasted nuts,mixed olives and mixed seeds to add to rocket and red onions. You'll find you dont even need a dressing.
     
  5. blueicus

    blueicus

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    My personal philosophy regarding browning anything for sauce... if it's not practically black it's not ready.  If it smells burnt throw it out, but if it doesn't, it's perfect.
     
  6. gerdosh

    gerdosh

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    Great topic! And yes, I agree with KYHeirloomer--these are not secrets but we all have little tricks that may not be obvious (like tossing salad greens with paper towel!) that we can share.

    Here is one: when making deviled eggs, cut the eggs into two halves not along the long axis but across the eggs. They look different and prettier. Before I cut them into halves, I snip a tiny bit off where the bottoms will be so they sit more firmly on the tray.

    George (author of What Recipes Don't Tell You)
     
  7. siduri

    siduri

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    I have lots, but the one that comes to mind right now is that any time i make a fruit salad of any kind, i boil sugar and water rather than put granulated or powdered sugar directly on the fruit.  I find it lightly cooks the outside of the fruit, rendering more juice, and it has a different taste - i swear it does. 
    My favorite is pineapple, oranges and grapefruit - peel the citrus with a big chef's knife, cutting away the white as well as the peel, all in quick movements, and then cut crosswise in horizontal thick slices, and then cut through them.  The membrane will not be on the outside and they let more juice out. 

    Ah, and i put black or black and pink pepper in the oil i sautee in, to release more flavor.  If it doesn't release more flavor, it certainly releases more smell and the kitchen makes your mouth water  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
  8. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Well, I've thought of three worth sharing.

    1. When halving olives, radishes, cherry tomatoes and the like, instead of doing one at a time arrange the whole batch on a plastic lid from a coffee can or storage container. Top with a second lid. Press down slightly, then just slice between the two lids.

    2. To clean a spice grinder, wipe it out. Then grind a tablespoon or so of raw rice, discard, and wipe again. This will minimize (you'll never totally eliminate) residual spice dust and aromas.

    3. To judge the doneness of a steak: Touch your thumb and index finger tips together. With your other hand, press on the ball at the base of your thumb. That's what a rare steak will feel like. Touch thumb to middle finger and you have medium. Touch thumb to ring finger and your as the inedi....uh, well done stage.

    And just thought of another: 

    4. If your cutlery collection doesn't include a good set of kitchen shears, shame on you!

    Will post more as they occur.
     
  9. nichole

    nichole

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    Wow.. I have to admit that i tried this immediately after reading. And you are right it does work quite well.  Everybody looked at me weird though :)

    Sometimes the seemingly absurd is the most practical...
     
  10. gypsy2727

    gypsy2727

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    Side Towels  101
    I.If your working in a professional kitchen ...as soon as the linen delivery comes in grab your side towels for the week! Never in my wildest dreams would I think that cooks would go through as many as they do. 
    2. Do not lend your side towels for any reason  ( everyone should have their own ,refer to lesson 1)
    3. If you call someone to the stove to pick something up either out of the oven or off the stove (refer to lesson 2)
    4. Keep 2 with you at all times as you should have enough. (refer to lesson 1)

     
     
  11. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Aw, Gypsy, you're giving away a trade secret.

    You know, in the civilized world, people fight over gold, and jewels, and politcal/religious beliefs.
    In a commercial kitchen, they fight over rags.

    Who'd a thunk it!

    One amendment to your rule #1 above:

    Grab the side towels you think you'll need for the week. Then add at least five or six more, cuz you're gonna run out!

    Corrallary to that: Leave your watch, and your wallet, and that gold broach laying around. But lock up your towels, or they're gonna disappear.
     
  12. gypsy2727

    gypsy2727

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    Yes I agree Heirloomer, 
                                         Better be on time ,everytime in this biz ...early bird catches the worm ...you snooze you lose ..well these are little things that most over look.  It's a learning experiance as most will agree.
     
  13. skatz85

    skatz85

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    thats hilarious we have the same problem, sometime towels are hard to get especially towards the end of the week. i used to grab alot and hide them but got yelled at because i used too many(but i use it throughout the week, i think its cause i wouldnt give them out hahaha) so now i just come early and hide them. but yeah towels are a hot item. at one of my older jobs when we would run out we would run them through a dishwasher and let them dry out or wring them out dry, sucks but has to be done. my cooking and prep secret is doing prep the right way and as quick as i can to get it done before we open. we have a salad spinnar for our greens but i sometimes use the towl trick or lay some towels on the bottom and top.
     
  14. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    It's hard to think up all my tricks so I'll post as they pop into my head.

    Tip - Open up a couple of vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds.  Place the seeds and the beans inside a quart of sugar, cover and shake then leave them in there.  Anytime a recipe calls for vanilla and sugar I use this instead - great for rice puddings, creme caramel, or even stirring into hot beverages. (Or melting into sugar syrup for fruit salads Siduri!)

    Tip - Anytime a recipe calls for white wine I use dry vermouth.  It keeps better and doesn't lend an unwanted wine taste.
     
  15. gerdosh

    gerdosh

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    This is asparagus season. To store asparagus, I place them in a large jar or yogurt container with a little water on bottom (like cut flowers), cover loosely with a plastic bag to retain moisture -- they keep beautiful and fresh for well over a week. I store broccoli the same way, also parsley, cilantro or any fresh herbs.

    Author of What Recipes Don't Tell You  (filled with similar ideas)
     
  16. schmoozer

    schmoozer

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    When making omelets I never use a disk-bottomed pan, and slowly heat the slope-sided skillet until the sides and bottom are of equal temperature.  This can take as much as five minutes, sometimes more, depending on which pan is being used.  I test the temp of the pan with a drop of lightly scrambled egg on the sides.
     
  17. siduri

    siduri

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    Here's one: when in doubt, cook at the highest temperature possible. 

    Obviously doesn;t work for everything, but then usually i'm not in doubt. 
     
  18. gunnar

    gunnar

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    when dealing with pomegranates peel them underwater..all the white pith and outer rind will float leaving nice clean nodules under water, skim the water with a strainer and enjoy.

    When dealing with egg roll wrappers (I hate these things) get a towel wet and barely wring it out (just enough to not drip) and place in a 2 inch half pan. when peeling back wrappers before stuffing and you need 500 (gah!) separate as fast as possible while not tearing them and place inside the fold of the towel. keeping them covered and moist.

    maybe more later,.....
     
  19. fr33_mason

    fr33_mason

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    When slicing button mushrooms, cut a small slice off the button and use the flat side as a base to slice the rest of the mushroom up.

     Cooking fish, use half a lemon to clean up anything that the fish touched.

      Use egg white on a fresh burn.  It will usually keep the burn from blistering and most burns dissapear by the next day.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
  20. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    cut a small slice off the button and use the flat side as a base

    That actually applies to most things, in fact, not just mushrooms. By creating a flat you make the item stable, and thus safer to cut. One of the reasons for BDL's oft-stated block-plank-stick-cube progression is that you always have stable pieces to work with.

    BTW, when I slice mushrooms I make that first cut the same thickness as the other slices will be, and everything cooks evenly.

    Which leads us to another tip: The more similar in size things are the more they will cook in the same time.