Cooking Tips rss

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

Can I Buy a Mini Turkey?

A turkey is often too much to swallow for a small gathering, and not everyone hosts meals for a huge crowd.

MMRuth suggests Cornish game hens. Some hounds opt for whole or half turkey breasts; anni roasts turkey legs for dark meat lovers. gibson roasts a capon, saying it’s enough for two with plenty of leftovers. Others have duck or pheasant.

CHOW has a Thanksgiving menu for six that includes a turkey breast recipe. And while swsidejim is happy doing a “20+ pound turducken” for his six-person gathering, most people suggest one pound per person, plus extra for leftovers.

Board Links: How big a turkey for 6 people?
Thanksgiving for two?

Thanksgiving Leftovers Transformed

Using up Thanksgiving leftovers is a high point of the holiday for some hounds, and they certainly do it creatively. Several make turkey “hash” with stuffing, chopped turkey, and gravy. Will Owen loves it for breakfast the next day, piled into a baking dish with eggs broken into depressions made with a spoon and baked until the eggs are set to your taste. Serve with griddled mashed potato cakes, more hot gravy on the side, and cranberry sauce.

SSqwerty loves to add leftover turkey to a Waldorf salad made with dried cranberries. MsMaryMc says these turkey enchiladas are great made with a roasted bird, but even better with smoked turkey. Turkey chowder with wild rice, cremini, and pancetta is very easy and very elegant, according to don515.

Pampatz’s husband makes fried potato balls from leftover mashed potatoes: Form thick, well-chilled mashed potatoes into balls about three inches in diameter. Push a cube of cream cheese coated with cayenne into the center of each and cover the hole. Roll each ball in beaten egg and milk, then in a mixture of seasoned flour and breadcrumbs and fry in about one inch of oil. Serve hot.

Board Links: Thanksgiving leftovers? What’s your fave?
Day after Thanksgiving breakfast?

Ultimate Brownies

Chowhounds are crazy for Ina Garten’s super-rich outrageous brownies, made with a pound of butter and a pound and a half of chocolate. Funwithfood recommends cutting them into half-inch squares and freezing extras.

cleopatra999 calls these triple-chocolate fudge brownies fantastic and really fudgy. The brownies from Bouchon bakery are not too sweet, super dark, and really moist, says sweet ginger

chowser recommends thick, fudgy man-catcher brownies, chewy supernatural brownies, and for a bittersweet, adult flavor, CHOW’s Intense Brownies, in which she uses a teaspoon of finely ground coffee instead of a teaspoon of brewed espresso.

Several hounds say their favorites are made from Trader Joe’s Truffle Brownie Mix. “That box mix makes some of the best brownies I’ve ever had,” confesses jencounter. coll adds a spoonful each Kahlua and instant espresso powder to the mix. Querencia glazes them: Combine 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup milk, and 1/3 cup butter in a saucepan, bring to a boil, boil for a minute, stirring, then take off the heat and stir in 1 cup chocolate chips until melted. Pour over hot brownies—it’ll set as they cool.

Board Link: In need of a brownie recipe

Beans Without Soaking

Despite the many bean recipes that call for dried beans to be soaked for a few hours or overnight before cooking, Chowhounds say there’s no need. Following a method from Rick Bayless, dexters covers the beans with water, brings them to a boil, reduces the heat to a simmer, and cooks for around two hours or until the beans are tender, adding more water if necessary. Don’t throw out the water, says dexters—it has a lot of flavor.

Pressure cookers are a good way to cook beans in a hurry. sarah galvin uses a pressure cooker, and says unsoaked beans take only about 15 minutes. lgss uses a pressure cooker too, and says that presoaked beans only take 3–6 minutes.

scubadoo97, another nonsoaker, adds that it’s fine to salt bean cooking water—it does not prevent beans from cooking, as some cooks say. “ACID will in fact keep beans from cooking,” scubadoo97 counsels Sallie, who was annoyed that a French bean soup recipe with wine took six hours to cook. “Add acid at or near the end,” says scubadoo97.

Board Links: How long should you soak black beans?
Red Beans and Rice—Presoak or no?

When to Sift Flour

There is no need to sift flour unless a recipe specifically instructs you to, say Chowhounds with professional baking experience. Scoop the flour, level it off, and pour it into the bowl, says todao, who adds that you should whisk or otherwise stir the flour and other dry ingredients together before combining them with wet ingredients. “Sifting flour, when the recipe calls for it, helps adjust for the compaction that the flour has experienced during processing and shipping. A recipe that doesn’t include sifting instructions has usually taken that into account in specifying the amount of flour to be used,” says todao.

If a recipe calls for “sifted flour,” the flour is sifted before measuring. On the other hand if the recipe calls for a cup of flour sifted, measure and then sift.

Board Link: when to sift

Creative Cranberry Sauces

Cranberry sauces made with wine are popular with Chowhounds. Val is devoted to cabernet cranberries. Nyleve says you needn’t use cabernet—any red wine works well. DaisyM says cranberry sauce with cherries, Marsala, and rosemary is “AMAZING. I couldn’t stop eating it.” SSqwerty loves spiced cranberry sauce with zinfandel, but cuts the sugar to a cup; she says it can be made and frozen up to a month ahead.

Kate is always hungry uses the recipe on the cranberry bag but add chunks of a tart green apple, a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, and the zest of one orange. Claudette throws clean, raw cranberries, orange or tangerine, a few slices of candied ginger, and sugar to taste into a food processor and purées it until chunky-smooth. She says it’s very simple and refreshing, especially if you don’t add too much sugar. valerie made triple cranberry sauce last year, and says it’s “so good that I have been thinking about it all year.”

Board Link: Your best cranberry sauce recipe please

Beyond Fried Green Tomatoes

There are lots of delicious ways to use up green tomatoes beyond frying them. melly thinks they’re good raw on sandwiches, where they give a nice, crunchy texture. alanbarnes makes green tomato pilaf with a little bacon, onion, and garlic. cimui simply sautées them with onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, and says leftovers are good in quiche. alliedawn_98 says Emeril Lagasse’s hot ’n’ spicy green tomato soup with crispy pancetta is delicious.

paprkutr likes pickling green onions as you would good kosher dills, with lots of garlic. pondrat pickles them with vinegar, kosher salt, garlic, fresh dill, and dill seeds, and adds a variety of fresh chiles to the canning jars.

Green tomatoes might seem an unlikely ingredient for desserts, but Hanky calls this green tomato cake with brown butter icing delicious and easy, and alanbarnes suggests green tomato and apple pie.

Board Link: Green tomato ideas?

Tips for Thick Chili

Chowhounds have plenty of tricks—some traditional, and some original—for making their chili nice and thick. danhole says a couple hours of simmering does the trick. Several recommend using masa harina (flour for corn tortillas) mixed with water; Will Owen mixes about a third of a cup with enough cold water to make a runny gruel and adds it to the simmering chili. tzurriz crumbles up and adds some tortilla chips (or just throws in a tortilla or two) and lets it simmer. The tortillas will dissolve and thicken the chili at the same time.

Davwud mashes some of the chili’s beans to help thicken it, while sheilal uses refried beans, and says they don’t alter the flavor much but thicken nicely. mamaciita has used canned pumpkin to thicken turkey and black bean chilis, and grrlscout adds mashed cooked sweet potato.

Board Link: How to make thicker chili?

Recipes from the Pumpkin Patch

It’s pumpkin season, and Chowhounds take pumpkin cuisine beyond pie, with favorite savory recipes and cakes. nofunlatte recommends this black bean pumpkin soup. yamalam likes a creamy puréed pumpkin soup. greygarious likes puréed pumpkin soup with curry powder (sautéed with the aromatics) and chopped apple.

bear calls this baked pumpkin packed with bread and cheese very good. She microwaves the empty pumpkin for about five minutes before filling it to cut down on baking time.

upstate girl says Paula Deen’s pumpkin gooey butter cake is “a huge hit. Really good.” drewb123 makes these spiced pumpkin cupcakes for Halloween.

Board link: Your favorite pumpkin dishes?

Shortcut Stock Substitutes

Several Chowhounds are fans of Better Than Bouillon stock base as a shortcut when small amounts of stock are called for. There’s “no comparison to those salty bouillon cubes,” says jorame, who’s a fan of the chicken flavor. “When you just need just a little enhancement—such as flavoring a stir fry, boosting sauces, making rice pilaf, adding zip to soups, stews—it’s great!” The Professor says it makes a great broth in a pinch, especially when simmered with a bit of meat. jcattles adds a teaspoon of chicken base to her mashed potatoes with milk and butter, giving them great flavor.

As a vegetarian, arifa thinks that “nothing beats their No Chicken and No Beef products when a recipe calls for meaty broths that I can’t use.” MMRuth keeps the vegetable base on hand, and oakjoan uses the mushroom quite often. C. Hamster thinks Minor’s Soup Bases have better flavor, though.

More Than Gourmet concentrates can be used as is as you would demi-glace, or diluted as stock. “They’re pricey,” says nemo, “but all the work is done!”

Board link: Better than bouillon?