Cooking Tips rss

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

Roast Your Pasta Sauce

Several Chowhounds roast their tomato sauce for pasta. “Roasting concentrates the flavors and enhances the sugar content of fruits and veggies,” explains Kelli2006.

Boccone Dolce recommends throwing the cooked sauce into a big roasting pan, and then into a hot oven for a while. “It’s goooood.” geminigirl roasts tomatoes with other summer veggies tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper until they’re soft; then puts them all in a blender to make a sauce. Once the vegetables are roasted, you don’t notice their skins, so she doesn’t bother peeling them beforehand. But Cookiefiend finds it’s easy to pluck off the tomatoes’ skins once they’re roasted, if you prefer your tomatoes peeled. She browns meatballs, deglazes the pan, and adds the roasted sauce to simmer with the meatballs.

Board Link: Why does roasting make everything taste better?

Lemon Curd Creations

While more than one hound attests that lemon curd is wonderful simply eaten with a spoon, or “with Greek yogurt if you want to fancy it up,” says Peg, it’s also terrific as a component of desserts.

JoanN stirs together an equal amount of lemon curd and whipped cream and layers the mixture with macerated strawberries in shortcakes. roxlet puts lemon curd in a baked tart shell and then covers it with raspberries.

nemo thinks lemon curd and blueberries are a great match, and suggests layering the curd in a parfait with fresh blueberries or using it to fill a roll cake and serving the cake with a blueberry sauce, which can be made with frozen berries.

weezycom uses lemon curd to fill the layers in a coconut cake, and tall sarah puts it on top of gingerbread.

abud loves it in Zazie’s ricotta pancakes with lemon curd and raspberry sauce, and ChefJune says it makes a great filling for crêpes.

Board Link: Favorite use for lemon curd?

Sweet, Spicy Cowboy Candy

jodymaryk discovered the addictively delicious candied jalapeños known as cowboy candy thanks to her nephew in Texas. He buys them jarred, but jodymaryk makes her own with this recipe, which she says tastes “sweet, with a nice spicy back bite.” She adds an habanero chile when she wants to up the spice.

“This is so-o-o good, s-o-o-o easy!” exclaims Cynsa. “I made it this morning and it’s nearly gone.” She likes it with cream cheese; jodymaryk uses it as a condiment for carne asada and also likes it mixed into plain yogurt and scooped up with crackers.

Board Link: Just have to share this recipe for Cowboy Candy…

Surprising Uses for Gin

Gin has a more pronounced flavor than most spirits used in cooking, but Chowhounds have found some interesting ways to capitalize on its herbal complexity.

gordeaux makes a gin sauce for scallops: First sear sea scallops until almost done. Add a good chunk of butter, and some garlic, shallot, salt, and pepper to the pan. Deglaze with a few ounces of gin, add a touch of heavy cream, and finish with chopped parsley. “The gin showcases the scallops’ sweetness like you wouldn’t believe.”

smalt makes a quick sauté of geoduck or razor clams and adds a combination of ginger, gin, and soy sauce to flavor it; he also uses this same trio of ingredients to marinate chicken and beef. And meatn3 says gin gives refrigerator pickles a very nice flavor.

Board Link: Cooking with Gin

Suggestions for Fresh Tarragon

Chowhounds have lots of ideas for things to do with fresh tarragon. For example, you can make a béarnaise sauce, says JoanN, to serve with steak or eggs. JoanN also likes tarragon with fish and will “stick a few sprigs into a whole fish before roasting it.”

karykat suggests making tarragon butter by mixing tarragon with softened butter, then shaping and freezing it. “Then you can lop off a chunk of the butter when you need it for sautéing chicken or fish or anything else.” MMruth uses tarragon butter to add quick flavor to a steak.

msmarabini loves tarragon with chicken. She adds chopped tarragon to a cold salad of rotisserie chicken, chopped celery, halved red grapes, and chopped pecans, with a honey, mustard, and plain yogurt dressing. kc girl enjoys whole tarragon leaves tossed in a green salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette.

Emme sears scallops in butter and olive oil, deglazes the pan with white wine and lemon juice, adds chopped tarragon and cream or half-and-half, and returns the scallops to coat. She serves this over asparagus.

Richard 16 thinks tarragon goes well with corn, and likes it in his father’s specialty: scrambled eggs with caramelized onions and corn. He also suggests baking onions with sprigs of tarragon.

Board Link: Ideas for Tarragon?

Broccoli Stems Take Center Stage

While it’s usually the florets of broccoli that get all the attention, a number of Chowhounds are mad about broccoli stems, which, notes scubaadoo97, are the sweetest part. The florets and stems are almost two different vegetables, says tmso. “I think I like the stalks better. When serving them, I’ve had guests ask what that wonderful vegetable was.”

scuzzo thinks broccoli stems are “gold,” and peels and eats them raw. ipsedixit juliennes raw stems and adds them to salads for a nice crunch, but notes that “99 percent of the people think that you’re serving some sort of ‘artisan’ cucumber.” And oryza and gwendolynmarie have both pickled broccoli stems.

tmso’s favorite way to serve broccoli stems is poached and tossed with brown butter. toodie jane slices peeled stems in thick chunks and sautés them quickly with celery, then serves them sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. It’s a good flavor combination, she says.

Sam Fujisaka serves cold steamed broccoli stems with a miso-lemon drizzle or dip. almccasland cuts the stems into chunks and grills them. gwendolynmarie recommends tossing broccoli stems with garlic, red chile flakes, cumin, and a bit of toasted sesame oil and then roasting them; she also says that if they’re steamed quite well and trimmed, their inner core is so soft and silky that it can be mashed to be eaten alone or made into a dip.

Board Link: Broccolli stems

Celebrating New Potatoes

Chowhounds have lots of ideas about how to cook new potatoes. They’re usually freshly dug, small, and tender. alkapal asserts that “their creamy sweetness is best in the simplest preparations.” She prefers her new potatoes steamed and dressed with sweet butter and salt and pepper, or rubbed with good olive oil and sea salt and roasted. “It is the savory simplicity that is the ‘wow!’ factor,” she says.

Passadumkeg serves them steamed with lots of butter and a little fresh dill, while berkleybabe halves them, tosses them with olive oil, and roasts them with garlic and fresh rosemary.

jackie de also pairs new potatoes with rosemary: Put them in a skillet with butter and sprigs of fresh rosemary and add chicken broth to half the depth of the potatoes. Cover and cook on medium heat until the potatoes are almost tender and the liquid is almost gone. Remove the lid, raise the heat, and cook until the potatoes are crispy. jackie de then serves them with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

Jimmy Buffet grills his new potatoes, basting them with olive oil and sprinkling them with coarse sea salt just as they finish cooking. And, finally, bw2082 sautés them in duck fat with shallots.

Board Link: Favorite way to cook red new potatoes?

Other Uses for a Food Dehydrator

You can do lots more with a food dehydrator than just dry fruit and make homemade jerky, according to amyzan. She says dehydrators produce great coconut macaroons, because the outsides of the cookies get dry and crispy while the interiors stay moist. “Somehow the contrast is greater than with those baked in an oven,” she says. “They’re different in a dehydrator, but deliciously so.”

amyzan also uses a dehydrator to maintain a steady temperature for proofing bread dough and culturing yogurt, and says it does a nice job of recrisping anything that’s gone stale.

Board Link: Food Dehydrator Ideas

Deviled Egg Innovation

There are some pretty wild places you can take deviled eggs. scoopG likes to mix shallots, minced cooked shrimp, finely chopped celery, and mayonnaise into the filling.

beejiewoman mixes the yolks with avocado, a little mayo, finely minced cilantro, fresh lime juice, and a pinch of ground coriander, then garnishes with a cilantro leaf.

Nonny uses finely grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese with a small amount of salsa and mayo.

SweetPhyl uses mayonnaise, mustard, bacon, and horseradish, while garfish uses olive brine in the filling, and tops with a dollop of tapenade.

For simple additions to traditional deviled eggs, firecooked likes finely chopped jalapeño-stuffed green olives; michelle cindy likes Old Bay Seasoning; ldkelley likes Sriracha; and Quine likes black truffle oil.

Board Link: what are your fav flavorings for deviled eggs?

Dried Cherries Go Savory

Dried cherries are fab in baked goods, but they’re also great in savory dishes. “They give a flavor burst that fresh cherries don’t give,” says sarah galvin.

cocktailhour soaks dried cherries in port, then makes a reduction for duck breasts. smile81 simmers them in port with a splash of balsamic vinegar to make a sauce for pork.

WCchopper uses dried cherries in lamb meatballs. sarah galvin adds them to fresh ingredients to make compote, which she says is great with lamb and wild game.

lcool likes them with wild rice, or as a side dish or salad made with good oil, shallots, and sweet onions. lgss recommends adding them to a quinoa pilaf.

PattiCakes combines bagged broccoli slaw, toasted pine nuts, dried cherries, and coleslaw dressing. phoenikia makes this Waldorf salad, which includes dried cherries. Janet and quazi add them to tossed salads.

Board Link: Uses for dried Cherries (not just baked goods)