Cooking Tips rss

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

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?

Lighter Fall Veggie Dishes

Take a break from the rich foods of the upcoming holiday season with these ideas for lighter vegetable sides. CeeBee finds that mashing a few carrots with potatoes adds an appealing sweetness that doesn’t leave her missing cream and butter. versificatrix does the same with parsnips. galleygirl says boiling potatoes for mashing in vegetable or chicken broth or skim milk “ups the tasty quotient.”

RosemaryHoney fills the cavities of pie pumpkins or winter squash with unsweetened applesauce and bakes, or makes a savory stuffed squash by sautéing chopped onions, apples, celery, and red cabbage with sage, deglazing the pan with apple cider, and stuffing the mixture in acorn or butternut squash halves before baking. RVAwino loves spaghetti squash with sausage filling. She uses chicken sausage.

operagirl likes celery Victor and shredded Brussels sprouts sautéed in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes. RosemaryHoney roasts assorted vegetables by tossing them with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, sprinkling with salt and a dash of sugar, placing on a heavy, preheated baking sheet, and roasting at 425°F until caramelized.

Board link: Hi, health-conscious Chowhounds — best seasonal vegetable recipes, please!

Sensational Salt Cod Dishes

Salt cod must be soaked in water for a day or more in order to remove much of the salt and make it pliable. Then it’s used in a variety of dishes. Here are some Chowhounds’ favorites.

Brandade—salt cod, mashed potatoes, butter, cream, and garlic, served hot as a spread with good bread—is one of TheSnowPea’s favorite appetizers. Barely set scrambled eggs with chunks of salt cod is one of the best tapas Miss Mac has ever had. tmso bakes soaked salt cod with olives, capers, onion, potatoes, and olive oil, and he says you can rinse pieces of it and let it reconstitute directly in a pot of simmering beans.

Lemon Curry recommends the Basque dish bacalao al pil-pil, salt cod in garlic sauce, which is made by slowly poaching salt cod in garlic-infused oil so its gelatin helps emulsify the oil into a sauce.

mrsleny likes the bacalhau from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, while jayt90 is a fan of the Caribbean dish ackee and saltfish, which he says justifies the high cost of ackee.

Board Link: Impulse buy- salt cod- now what?! Help!

Extra-Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

How do you get the fluffiest scrambled eggs? Chowhounds use a variety of methods. jerzzy asserts that a low burner and constant mixing are all that’s needed, but blue room adds a teaspoon or two of water for every two or three eggs. Miss Needle agrees that adding water makes fluffy scrambled eggs.

yayadave says that aerating with an immersion blender before scrambling does it, and maria lorraine whips with a hand-held mixer. tmso produced “scrambled egg clouds” by separating out half the whites, beating them to soft peaks, and folding the beaten eggs into the whites, then cooking. “Those were some seriously fluffy eggs.”

For a really unorthodox approach, Wiley adds a heaping tablespoon of creamed horseradish for every two eggs, saying the horseradish’s heat disappears as the eggs are cooked, but really fluffs them up somehow.

Board Link: Tip for fluffy scrambled eggs

Red Grapes in the Kitchen

There’s lots more to do with sweet red grapes than simply snacking on them—but, for snacking, pigtails recommends freezing them, saying they’re “very satisfying and sorbet-like straight from the freezer.”

katecm recommends roasting or sautéing them with some thin-sliced shallots, thyme, sage, and a splash of wine, and serving alongside red meat. Glencora likes to cook them with shallots and serve with grilled sausages and soft polenta.

adirao recommends CHOW’s Grape and Grappa Focaccia, and JalamaMama says pizza with grapes, rosemary, and blue cheese is great.

Finally, for a sweet treat, katecm washes and dries grapes well and chills until very cold, then drizzles them with melted bittersweet chocolate, tosses them in cocoa, and chills them again. “They’re crisp, delicious, and refreshing.”

Board Link: Ton of Grapes!

Super Short Ribs

Beef short ribs braised until fork-tender make terrific cool-weather eating. jfood starts short ribs two days ahead: First he marinates them overnight, then cooks them and chills them overnight, then reheats them on serving day.

Here are some short rib preparations Chowhounds love: MMRuth’s favorite is Balthazar’s braised beef ribs. Short ribs Provençale with crème fraîche mashed potatoes are fantastic, says kgebhard. John Besh’s Zinfandel-braised beef short ribs is jfood’s go-to recipe. Marge recommends Molly Stevens’ short ribs braised in porter ale with maple-rosemary glaze. Deenso calls these honey and vinegar–braised short ribs with spinach “absolute perfection.”

Board Link: “Wanted: World’s Best Beef Short Rib Recipe”

Just Add Prosciutto

Chowhounds have lots of great ideas for cooking with prosciutto. oldbaycupcake wraps prosciutto around chicken breasts stuffed with Boursin and cooks; waver loves asparagus wrapped with prosciutto, spread with Boursin, and grilled. cassoulady wraps it around pork chops, sears them on both sides, and finishes them in the oven. souschef seasons halved fresh figs with salt and pepper and drizzles with balsamic vinegar, wraps them with prosciutto, and grills the whole shebang. coll sautées frozen peas with prosciutto and pine nuts in butter, salt, and pepper.

pondrat says this artichoke-prosciutto gratin is so good, “people actually scrape the serving dish for scraps.” He substitutes Gruyère for Gorgonzola when making it for people who don’t like blue cheese.

Board Links: Need ideas for left over Prosciutto
Need ideas for leftover Prosciutto

Cooking With Hominy

Hominy, lye-treated corn with the hull removed, is sold in cans. It is used in posole, a Mexican pork stew. Here, Chowhounds share other uses for it.

KiltedCook makes a Southwestern succotash by simmering together one can each hominy with its liquid, diced green chiles, and drained and rinsed black beans, one tablespoon ground cumin, and one teaspoon chile powder until heated through. Serve with tortillas.

sadiefox recommends frying drained hominy in butter with your choice of seasonings and eating with eggs for breakfast. Will Owen likes to sauté it in butter with chopped onions and poblano chile, add eggs, and scramble all together.

Slurpy says this chicken posole is yummy and easy. soupkitten recommends a vegetarian posole, and says hominy makes a good addition to any hearty vegetable soup, especially Southwestern and South American-style ones.

Board Link: “What to do with a can of hominy?”