Cooking Tips rss

Ideas, advice, and what to make now from the Chowhound community and CHOW editors.

Overnight Oatmeal for Grab-and-Go Breakfasts

Even if you lack the time or inclination to cook in the morning, you can have a hearty and healthful oatmeal breakfast ready to go with minimal labor the night before.

Hot old-fashioned rolled oats will cook overnight in an insulated beverage container, rworange has found. "Using Quaker rolled oats (not quick), I put 2/3 cups boiling water in a thermos and add 1/3 cup rolled oats," she says. "The next morning I open it and ... hot oatmeal." Sometimes she adds dried fruit and cinnamon when she sets it up. This works best with a stainless steel thermos, rworange notes.

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Luscious Olive Oil Gelato

What does olive oil lend to the sweet treat that is gelato? rainey thinks it gives a "hard-to-define fruity quality" that's quite delicious. HillJ says, "The back flavor is olive oil essence and the mouthfeel much smoother with the inclusion of olive oil."

This recipe is the most delicious that HillJ has tried; she makes it with an extra-light olive oil. markabauman uses a similar recipe, but infuses the milk with basil. rainey makes this Meyer lemon olive oil ice cream with lemon olive oil and limoncello.

Discuss: Olive Oil Gelato

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"The other day I tried a recipe for white bean gratin which was absolutely fantastic. I couldn't believe how tasty it was despite its simplicity. It had an amazing depth of flavour without containing stock, and it was incredibly creamy without containing any dairy." - NickMontreal

"Just miso paste and hot water isn't bad if you're in a hurry and want something hot, but I think miso soup made with dashi is a whole lot more flavorful/complex/etc. and only takes about 5–8 minutes longer." - kilercow

"I like it on roast chicken, with roast pork or in a seasoning mix with cracked coriander for beef. It imparts a spiciness to food and tends to numb the tongue. You can put it on green vegetables, as well." - bushwickgirl, on Sichuan peppercorns

Beef Stew with Soul

The correct cooking techniques and ingredients rich in umami will take a basic beef stew from simply hearty to deeply flavorful.

"The biggest key for me is browning the meat well," says alanbarnes. "Not just cooking it until it loses its reddish color, but subjecting it to very high heat (skillet, broiler, gas grill, blowtorch, whatever) until it has a really good mahogany-colored crust on the outside."

Seasoning is also vital. "Don't underestimate the role of salt in your stew," advises TorontoJo. "Salt and pepper the meat before browning it. Salt the stew while it's cooking, taste it after the salt has had a chance to blend in, add more salt if you think it needs it. I also like to use soy sauce to add saltiness and an extra boost of umami."

Richly flavored braising liquid helps. Hounds like to use good beef stock, especially in combination with fruity red wine or a stout or ale. "Guinness is a magical ingredient paired with beef," says kattyeyes, while joonjoon likes Chimay in stew.

Beef stew's flavor can be punched up with umami-rich ingredients. Try minced rehydrated dried mushrooms or powdered dried mushrooms, tomato paste, or Worcestershire sauce. "A few minced anchovies sautéed with the onions after browning the meat give a nice added dimension," says King of Northern Blvd.

For a different spin on the dish, Val recommends this recipe for mahogany beef stew with red wine and hoisin sauce, which she says is "utterly awesome with horseradish mashed potatoes." karykat says the hoisin "adds a sweet-sour-spicy note that is good." Both reduce the hoisin a bit to avoid making the dish too sweet.

Discuss: How to give beef stew more punch?

Crazy for Eggplant

Eggplant is great as the base for a dip or spread. "Eggplant roasted into submission, minced garlic, mayo, salt, pepper" is the_MU's simple recipe. "That's it," says the_MU. "Serve with warm pita, or eat with spoon." eight_inch_pestle purées roasted eggplant with Parmesan, minced parsley, and garlic, and stirs in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Baba Ghanoush is karianne's favorite, "hands down."

Jetgirly likes eggplant-heavy Thai-style roasted vegetables (she uses yellow curry paste).
cheesemaestro loves a Northern Burmese recipe from the cookbook Hot Sour Salty Sweet titled the best eggplant dish ever (scroll down).

fearlessemily recommends Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce. gourmet wife dresses steamed eggplant with a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, chile sauce or oil, vinegar, and cilantro.

Many hounds love eggplant Parmesan, either made the traditional way with fried eggplant, or with roasted or grilled eggplant, and fearlessemily likes Ina Garten's rich eggplant and tomato gratin.

TorontoJo is a fan of scuzzo's method of cooking eggplant on a waffle iron.

Discuss: Your favorite recipe for eggplant

Lentils from Paris to Bombay

Chowhounds love lentils in a range of dishes representing cuisines from around the world. nomadchowwoman loves lentils with garlic and ginger, and says it is good served hot, room temperature, or cold (which also makes it ideal for picnics). "I always use French green lentils, which hold their shape so well," she says, "and this makes all the difference."

i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream is a fan of Ina Garten's stewed lentils and tomatoes. "It is so, so easy to whip up and really comforting on a cold night," he says. nofunlatte likes lentils with wine-glazed vegetables.

Lentils are frequently used in South Asian cooking. rainey says this red lentil curry is "quick and easy to prepare and extremely tasty." "I'm rather keen on Ottolenghi's spiced red lentils at the moment," says Channa. "It calls for a long list of ingredients, but the dish absolutely bursts with flavour."

"The one critical thing for any lentil recipe," counsels GretchenS, "is some acid—citrus juice, vinegar, what have you. Anytime lentils are sort of meh they can be lifted with a good squirt of lemon or vinegar." Aggressive spicing is often called for as well: CHOW's Red Lentil Pâté relies on smoked paprika for a savory kick.

Discuss: Best Lentil Recipe?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Nut crusts are wonderful with fish since they add flavor as well as texture. Almonds are a classic, but pecans and hazelnuts are good, too. You just need to dip a fillet in a bit of egg white and dip in ground nuts." - JoanN

"For me the best falafel is made with fava beans, or a mix of fava beans and chickpeas. Never precook, and never, never use canned unless you want something that tastes like a fried dumpling with a mushy interior. I tried it once, and that was one too many times." - Zeldog

"I usually use a cast iron pan and once the steak is resting, I save the fat and cook the Brussels sprouts in the fat instead of bacon or butter. It's really quite good, especially if your steak leaves you with yummy fatty goodness." - gourmet wife

Low-Cost, High-Flavor Meats

Canny home cooks know that many inexpensive cuts of meat have deep flavor. Depending on the cut, it might need long braising or only a quick sear to bring out its best qualities.

"Day in and day out," says fourunder, "pork cuts, in my opinion, are always the most flavorful value protein for my money." Pork shoulder "is tasty and very tender when treated to slow and moist cooking methods," says stilton, who adds, "It's often the least expensive cut of pork around in my neck of the woods." c oliver grinds it to make homemade pork sausage. Zeldog says pork cheeks work well in recipes calling for belly.

It is more difficult to find bargain cuts of beef, but they can be had. wallyz likes to grill chuck and 7-bone steaks to medium rare: "A little tougher," he says, "but lots of flavor." Flank and blade steaks take well to the same treatment, when sliced thin across the grain, and are also good for stir-frying. Chuck roasts are great for braising whole as pot roast or for stews; beef shin costs even less and is also good for braising. Oxtails aren't as inexpensive as they once were, but can often be found at a good price at ethnic markets, and make a good stand-in for beef short ribs.

Lamb neck is a bargain. emmee likes this 10-hour braised lamb neck. "The meat falls off the bone and is rich, flavorful, and delicious," she says.

EricMM buys well-priced duck legs at an Asian market and makes faux Peking duck by glazing them with soy sauce, sugar, and five-spice powder, and roasting them; he then shreds them and eats them with the traditional pancakes, scallions, and hoisin sauce. I use duck legs in this stovetop Chinese "roast" duck (as a bonus, it yields lots of rendered duck fat ).

And, of course, most offal is bargain priced. Many hounds are fans of chicken livers, hearts, and gizzards. cimui likes them grilled, yakitori style, or braised in soy sauce, five-spice, ginger, and sugar. ipsedixit soaks gizzards in buttermilk for 12 hours to tenderize, and then cooks them in a cast iron skillet with bacon fat, onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes.

For more clever ways to use underrated cuts like brisket and heart meat, see CHOW's Beyond the Porterhouse.

Discuss: Cheap yet good cuts of meat
Chicken Gizzards- How To Prepare And Your Favorite Recipes Please

A (Delicious) Chicken in Every Pot

Chicken, whether cooked whole or in serving pieces, is the star of many affordable one-pot meals, both homey and elegant.

thew describes a basic technique for a braised one-pot chicken dish that he notes is endlessly adaptable, depending on the combination of ingredients you use: "Cut the chicken into parts, brown, set aside. Sauté aromatics of choice. Return chicken to pan. Add vegetable matter. Add spices. Add liquid to halfway up the chicken, or all the way if you prefer. Simmer." cheesecake17 follows these steps using onion, garlic, red and green bell peppers, and button mushrooms, seasoning with thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes; add a can or two of stewed or diced tomatoes and their juices for the braising liquid and finish with capers and green olives.

ptwasheater is a fan of Marcella Hazan's chicken fricassees. "Her cacciatore [scroll down] is TOTALLY different than an American version," says ptwasheater. "It's divine." toveggiegirl thinks Hazan's chicken fricassee with red cabbage is excellent, too.

joonjoon loves Cook's Illustrated's French chicken in a pot. "The amount of chicken flavor you get out of chicken in a pot is incredible," joonjoon says. "When I bit into that chicken it was like ... wow, now that tastes like chicken!" Other French-inflected hound favorites include chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and chicken bouillabaisse from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

For a French-country-style braise, try CHOW's Chicken Basquaise.

Discuss: Looking for yummy, inexpensive, and delicious recipe for a one-pot meal with chicken

Salmon, Simple but Super

It's easy to make flat-out delicious salmon main dishes with a few flavorful ingredients and the right cooking technique.

Sam Fujisaka mixes soy sauce, finely grated ginger, and toasted sesame oil and sprinkles this on salmon, then microwaves for a couple of minutes. iahebert makes a marinade from soy sauce, olive oil, brown sugar, lime juice, garlic, ginger, sriracha, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters, marinates salmon for a couple of hours, and grills.

"I always think serving salmon en papillote seems impressive," says The Dairy Queen, "even though it's super simple." pcdarnell says salmon with vermouth sauce, with ingredients inspired by a martini, is "easy enough to cook on a weeknight, but makes a really terrific meal and presentation."

todao counsels a minimalist approach: "There are several varieties of salmon (five Pacific varieties alone)," he says, "and each deserves to be respected in any recipe for its individuality. Additionally, I hate to see salmon prepared with a lot of 'stuff' that does little more than cover up the natural flavors." He steams skinned sockeye fillets with a bit of shredded ginger and green onion, and serves with a squeeze of lemon.

For an easy but special occasion-worthy approach, check out CHOW's Salmon en Croûte.

Discuss: Salmon .. take it to the next level