Ideas, advice, and what to make now from the Chowhound community and CHOW editors.
Rose water is a traditional component of many Persian sweets, but Chowhounds like to use it in a variety of desserts. gourmet wife says a touch of rose water brings out the flavor of berries; she also adds a bit to tea and drinks it hot or iced.
Others use it in baking. Try pistachio cake with chilled rose syrup or Persian Love Cake, which has rose water in the frosting. farmersdaughter adds rose water to meringues before baking, then serves them with berries and cream whipped with some more rose water. And TimCarroll says many baklava recipes include it in the filling and syrup.
Rose water works with creamy desserts, too. Infomaniac says rice and rose water pudding is “a very simple and rich dessert.” Rose water, saffron, and pistachios flavor a classic Persian ice cream; you can make a shortcut version, or make it from scratch.
Board Link: desserts with rose water?
Chowhounds have flipped for penne with asparagus, sage, and peas, which is full of bright, springlike flavor. kattyeyes added about a quarter pound of pancetta and left out the butter, while maisonbistro added lemon zest.
kattyeyes has also enjoyed angel hair pasta with crab and country ham recently.
For more spring flavor, check out CHOW’s Cooking with Spring Ingredients. For more on pasta and what it pairs well with, see CHOW’s When Pasta Met Sauce.
Board Link: Penne with Asparagus, Sage and Peas (April Food & Wine)
A perfect sunny side up egg with nicely set, tender whites and a runny yolk, is a beautiful thing. It can be maddeningly difficult to achieve, however. alanbarnes has discoved one way to do it: He poured a fairly deep puddle of bacon fat (you can also use normal oil) into a skillet over low heat and broke the eggs in so that the fat came up over the whites, and the yolk sat above it. “Quite a bit of oil needed to be drained off before the eggs were served,” says alanbarnes, “but that’s why God put slots in spatulas, right?” Karl S says that this is how fried eggs are done in Europe, and adds that you should allow the eggs to float in the oil.
Chowhounds have other strategies for setting the egg whites without overcooking the yolks. You can baste the whites with hot oil from the pan to promote even cooking, says KTinNYC. Once the whites begin to firm up, JalamaMama adds a couple of teaspoons of water to the pan and puts a lid on it. “Maybe 3–4 minutes later I have a perfect egg—runny yolk yet firm whites,” she says. Joebob pokes slits in the whites with a spatula so the uncooked white can hit the pan and cook.
Board Link: The pefect fried egg (why did it take me 30 years to figure this out?)
Purple potatoes are a nice change from white and yellow varieties. They’re a medium-starch potato that many Chowhounds like best roasted. janeh roasts them with Yukon gold potatoes and yams for a variety of colors and flavors. She also mashes them unpeeled, and says, “the color is pretty spectacular.” Purple potatoes cook more quickly than other kinds when boiled, so watch carefully, warns scubadoo97.
kchurchill5 makes a red, white, and blue potato salad with purple, red-skinned, and white potatoes dressed with a light vinaigrette. ziggylu uses purple fingerlings to make a salad with either blanched snow peas or green beans. Toss with a bit of olive oil, some lemon juice, your favorite herbs, and salt and pepper.
Purple potatoes are also part of CHOW’s Lentil Hummus Wrap with Pomegranate Molasses.
Board Link: How should I prepare purple potatoes?
Monkey bread is a fun concept. Balls of bread dough are dipped in melted butter; once baked, you pull apart chunks to eat. Most versions are sweet, and involve rolling the butter-dipped dough in sugar or cinnamon sugar. Many recipes use frozen rolls and pudding mix, but there are great from-scratch recipes.
This monkey bread recipe has classic sweet roll flavors; it’s “fun and delicious to eat,” says sugarNspice. hummingbird makes this savory herbed monkey bread.
Board Link: Monkey Bread - Do you have a favourite recipe?
Saffron adds exotic flavor and an attractive color to both savory and sweet dishes. To get the most flavor and color, crumble saffron threads and dissolve them in a bit of water before adding to a recipe.
Saffron matches well with dairy. arifa grinds a few threads and blooms in a little water or milk, then mixes this with yogurt and sugar. Procrastibaker adds a pinch to the custard for honey-vanilla ice cream. relizabeth greases a baking dish with olive oil and sprinkles with salt, pepper, and a pinch of saffron, then tops with high-quality ricotta and more salt and pepper and bakes at 350°F for 25 minutes. Serve with salad, bread, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Saffron is also a natural with seafood: Try it in a seafood soup with fennel. JennyHunter steams mussels in a mixture of white wine, cream, shallots, garlic, and saffron, then adds a handful of fresh spinach. “Make sure you have a nice bread to soak up all of the sauce,” she advises.
More ideas: Add saffron to a basic risotto, couscous, plain basmati rice, garlic soup, or scrambled eggs; or try sautéed fennel with almonds, raisins, and saffron
Board Link: Saffron - I need your best recipe!
Soup is a comfort food that changes with the seasons, but certain ones are bliss in a bowl. One key to great soup is using homemade stock, which salsailsa says “makes a huge difference in the final product.”
Here are some soups that make hounds swoon:
• Cream of asparagus soup or crema di asparagi allo zafferano (asparagus soup with saffron)
• Quick avgolemono, orzo, and chicken soup
• Pasta e fagioli
• Corn and crab bisque
• Roasted curried butternut squash, or butternut squash and Fuji apple
• Chicken with dill and mashed potatoes whisked in (to thicken the soup)
Board Link: SOUP, SOUP, SOUP
Chowhounds adore vinegar, and keep many kinds on hand. There are a few that they deem essential, however:
• Red wine, white wine, or champagne vinegar: For salads and recipes
• Balsamic: Inexpensive for cooking, aged for drizzling
• Rice wine: For dipping sauces and Asian recipes
• Apple cider: For homey American cooking
• Sherry: For its sophisticated, nutty flavor in marinades and dressing
Board Link: How many vinegars can I *get by* with?
Fie on those fancy roasting racks. You don’t need anything more than a baking pan or cast iron skillet to create a crisp-skinned, juicy roast chicken, say hounds.
Many like to roast chickens on beds of potatoes and vegetables, so the veggies soak up all the delicious drippings (here’s how, step by step). EdwardAdams likes this garlic and thyme roasted chicken with crispy drippings croutons (requires registration), which is roasted on stale bread.
Many simply oil and season the chicken and place it in a baking pan, ceramic casserole, or cast iron skillet and roast. Some start it breast-side down, others start at high heat, then turn the heat down. My own favorite, Marcella Hazan’s roasted chicken with lemons, is cooked without a rack; the moist meat and the pan juices have a wonderful subtle lemon flavor.
Board Link: Baked whole chicken without roasting rack
Poached chicken is a versatile ingredient in sandwiches and salads. Perfect results depend on careful cooking; here are some techniques Chowhounds use to achieve moist, tender poached chicken.
Several hounds swear by placing chicken in a pot, adding water to cover, and bringing to a boil, then covering and taking off the heat. c oliver finds 10 minutes of standing time about right for boneless breasts, while chef chicklet says a whole chicken is done in an hour.
JoanN says, “I come closest to perfection with a poached chicken breast by allowing it to sit overnight, refrigerated, in its poaching liquid.” First, she brings bone-in breasts to a bare simmer in water to cover; when the water starts to simmer, she turns the heat to low and cooks for about 30 minutes. After cooling for a bit, she covers the pot and refrigerates overnight.
Some hounds poach in plain water, some add aromatics to the poaching liquid. The poaching water doesn’t take on much chicken flavor, but greygarious saves hers to use as a head start when making stock.
Board Link: Poaching Chicken - any tips?