Cooking Tips rss

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

Homemade Jalapeño Powder

Faced with an abundance of fresh jalapeños, JonParker created a homemade chile powder. He washed and dried the peppers, chopped them finely, and dehydrated them in a toaster oven. Once dry, he ground the pieces to powder in a spice grinder. “Now I have a jar of jalepeño powder that I can use for various dishes,” he says. “Today I’m doing red beans and rice, and I put a teaspoon into my onions/peppers/garlic when sautéeing them.”

JonParker notes that hotter chiles, such as habaneros, can give off fairly volatile fumes while dehydrating, so err on the side of caution.

Board Link: Jalapeño powder

Corn Pudding for the Harvest Months

Corn pudding, a savory casserole with a custard base and lots of corn kernels, is a favorite during the harvest months, and a Thanksgiving staple for many Chowhounds.

Ina Garten’s Sagaponack corn pudding is made with ricotta and cheddar. “Something about the fresh basil and the cheese, it always is a crowd pleaser,” says juli5122. This corn-chive pudding is “a good combination of savory and sweet,” according to lesliedm3. another_adam finds it quite sweet, so halves the sugar called for.

Querencia makes an easy version: Pulse a bag of frozen corn kernels, thawed, in a food processor. Beat 2 eggs with a cup of milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter, and 1/4 cup Bisquick, then stir in the corn and 9 ounces shredded sharp cheddar. Bake in a buttered casserole at 350°F until brown on top, about 45 minutes.

Board Link: Corn Pudding for Thanksgiving

Grandma’s Apple Pie, or Something New?

A well-made traditional apple pie is a thing of beauty, but variations can be equally good, say hounds.

shanagain highly recommends this apple pie by Grandma Ople for a traditional double-crust recipe. “My only tip is to follow the directions,” she says, “except feel free to add some typical pie spices—even though it honestly doesn’t need them. But cinnamon and cloves never hurt anything.” middydd calls the filling for this blue-ribbon apple pie, which uses four types of apples, the “best ever.”

Popkin tosses apples with flour and cinnamon, places them in a pie shell, sprinkles with equal amounts of raw sugar and maple syrup to taste, and covers with a top crust. valerie says this apple-cranberry crumb pie is “truly a delicious pie.”

And as an alternative to pie, amy_wong loves this French apple-almond tart. The almond custard “makes for a great flavor pairing” with the apple, she says.

Board Link: ISO Killer Apple Pie Recipe, but in which style?

A Gift from the Bay Tree

Bay leaves are good in more than just soups and braised meat dishes; they can also enliven vegetables and even drinks.

Beans and lentils are nice when cooked with a bay leaf or two, says nofunlatte, while sueatmo puts bay leaves under the skin of a chicken before roasting.

“Simple boiled potatoes with sautéed leeks are elevated to something higher when a bay leaf’s added to the boiling water,” says shaogo. Or turn on the oven: This recipe for potatoes roasted with olive oil uses 40 bay leaves. “It’s lovely!” says Ima Wurdibitsch.

dumpycactus adds bay leaves to chai, and lucygoosey likes bay leaf–infused simple syrup in cocktails, lemonade, and stirred into Greek yogurt. She uses five or more fresh leaves or two to three dried to infuse syrup, saying it gets strong fast.

CHOW’s Virgin Bramble includes bay leaf and juniper berry syrup.

Board Link: Bay leaves--anything interesting you use them for, besides meat dishes and…

Poached Pears in Formalwear

Fall is pear season, and poached pears make a wonderful dessert. They can be virtuous or decadent, depending on the recipe and what you serve it with.

“Simply add cognac, and a star anise to simple syrup—poach away,” recommends epabella, who notes that “adding a bit of unsalted butter at the very end is also good.” Chefpaulo poaches pears in ginger ale, stuffs them with a mixture of gorgonzola, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and chopped walnuts, then chills. To serve, bring to room temperature and drizzle with sherry.

Pears poached with red wine are popular. normalheightsfoodie poaches peeled, cored pears in sweet red wine and cinnamon. “The whole pear should turn red,” he says. “You can fill the middle with mascarpone.” jeniyo says this recipe for scarlet poached pears “looks festive and yummy indeed!!”

phoenikia likes poached pears with ginger and port, while CHOW’s recipe for Port Poached Pears uses cinnamon and allspice.

My favorite is poached pears with chocolate-pear sauce, served with raspberry sorbet.

Board Link: poached pear recipes?

Bake the Perfect Brownie

Your choice of brownie recipe depends partly on what type of brownies you want to end up with. Some are fudgy, some are cakey, some are chewy, and some are downright decadent.

buttertart’s go-to recipe is Nick Malgieri’s “supernatural” brownies, to which she adds 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, a few drops of almond extract, and walnuts or pecans, baking them only until solid in the center. These brownies must rest overnight before cutting to attain maximum fudginess. “They are completely different and nondescript if you don’t let them rest,” says buttertart. “It IS supernatural what happens to them.”

chowser likes the Malgieri recipe when she wants something chewy, but says that these man-catcher brownies are chocolaty, thick, and decadent, while CHOW’s Intense Brownies have a more adult flavor. When she wants to gild the lily, she makes Dorie Greenspan’s chipster-topped brownies, which are topped with a layer of chocolate-chip cookie dough.

Or you could always take the easy way out.

Board Link: Nick Malgieri’s Supernatural Brownies - is there really a better recipe? I think not.

Recipes for Mint-Lovers

If you adore fresh mint, hounds have lots of recipe ideas for you.

Chocolatechipkt loves this grilled zucchini and bell pepper fattoush, in which mint is a key ingredient. nomadchowwoman purées mint with olive oil and whisks this into mayonnaise, which she says is great on lamb sandwiches.

Harters makes a tasty mint relish: Simmer 15 ounces cider vinegar with 1 pound sugar and 2 teaspoons dry mustard until the sugar dissolves, leave to cool slightly, then combine with 1 pound chopped tart apples, 2 chopped onions, 8 ounces mint leaves, and some raisins.

Crushed mint added to simple syrup at the end of cooking is good with fruit salad, ice cream, lemonade, and iced tea, and says DebL. Meanwhile, jencounter takes the easier iced tea route by simply adding a huge handful of mint when she brews it.

CHOW’s Braised Lamb Shanks with Mint-Parsley Pesto is a contemporary spin on roasted lamb with mint sauce or jelly.

Board Link: Mint

Time-Saving Iced Tea Concentrate

You can have iced tea at the ready anytime by making some homemade concentrate, suggests opinionatedchef. She steeps eight tea bags in four cups of hot water (or around 1/3 cup loose leaves in two to four cups of water) long enough to get a strong brew, then stores the concentrate in the fridge. Diluted, this concentrate will make several pitchers of iced tea. opinionatedchef also takes small containers of the concentrate when traveling and adds water and sweetener while on the road.

Board Link: 9/09: ICED TEA Your Beverage of Choice? Space and Time Saving Technique

Do Right By Pork Ribs

Country-style pork ribs can be cooked using a variety of methods. While they take a long time to cook, once they’re done, they will be super tender.

Uncle Bob massages the ribs with a dry rub and bakes them at 225°F on a rack over a pan until he can pinch off a piece easily. Add sauce and bake 10 to 15 minutes more, or serve sauce on the side. gourdeaux agrees, saying, “There is enough fat in these things that they can simply be baked and will come out tender as all get out.”

meowzebub says the large amount of fat on ribs calls for braising. “Slow moist cooking melts much of the fat and the meat becomes luscious,” meowzebub says. He likes a braising liquid strong on citrus.

blue room cooks them on a bed of sauerkraut, apple, onion, and brown sugar. MARISKANY does them in a slow cooker with sliced onions, barbecue sauce, and crushed tomatoes.

Board Link: Pork shoulder country rib style (bone in)--how to make them delectable?

Perfect Panzanella

Panzanella, the Tuscan salad of stale bread, tomatoes, and herbs dressed with oil and vinegar, is ideal for the waning tomato season and a good platform for improvisation.

free sample addict aka Tracy L uses this Joanne Weir recipe, with the addition of 2 tablespoons of capers and 2 cloves of garlic.

rainey likes to use stale ciabatta, which soaks up the tomato juices and vinaigrette well. She adds thinly sliced fennel, chopped fennel greens, and red or yellow bell peppers, and lets it rest 6 to 8 hours, so the flavors really blend and mellow. chowser makes a caprese version with bocconcini, grape tomatoes, and basil. And CHOW’s panzanella recipe has cucumbers and a lemon vinaigrette.

Board Link: Your favorite panzanella recipe (tuscan bread salad)?