Cooking Tips rss

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

Fish Sauce Adds a Stealthy Zing

Fish sauce can greatly enhance non-Asian dishes, say Chowhounds. As a potent source of umami it rounds out flavors in a way that salt on its own doesn’t: wayne keyser says that if you use it as a substitute for salt, then “many dishes will get compliments they never drew before.”

luckyfatima adds it to Italian pasta sauces and scrambled eggs. And heidipie says she splashed some into a pan of mashed butternut squash with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. “Wow, was it good!” she exclaims. “It rounded the flavor out unbelievably.”

Board Link: Fish Sauce for sneaky umami effects

Showcasing Colorful Tomatoes

Chowhounds have lots of ideas for showing off both the flavors and pretty hues of homegrown tomatoes, which are starting to come into season.

danna makes a tart with a baked biscuit crust filled with a mixture of goat cheese and a bit of mayo layered with sliced tomatoes.

kmr makes BLT salads with sweet butter lettuce, lots of different tomatoes, crumbled bacon, some quick-toasted croutons, and a mayo dressing. And an array of freshly picked tomatoes sliced and topped with balsamic or a nice vinaigrette, as well as kosher or Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper, makes for a simple and flavorful salad, says Funwithfood.

Foodnerds likes to make bruschetta with a variety of tomatoes, some garlic or shallot, extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh basil, and a baguette.

mimilulu suggests a side dish made with cherry tomatoes: Sauté them in a large, rimmed pan with a little olive oil. When they start to pop, take them off the heat. Season with sea salt and a little pepper, and sprinkle generously with chopped chives.

Board Link: Your Best Tomato Salad

Cheese Popcorn Without the Powder

For great cheese popcorn without all those orange artificial powders, all you need is a very fine grater (butter and whiskey recommends the Microplane brand) and some hard cheese. capetowngirlie grates Parmesan with short strokes directly over the warm popcorn. galleygirl suggests spraying the popcorn with some Pam first, so more of the cheese will stick. And butter and whiskey uses melted butter and a bit of minced rosemary along with grated cheese: “The rosemary may sound a bit nutz, but it works so well.”

Board Links: Cheese Popcorn recipe

Quick Cod Casserole

Will Owen has discovered a fast way to make cod casserole. He used to make French and Catalan cod casseroles the old-fashioned way. “They’re all dead easy, but do take some time: you cook this, then you parboil that, then you fry the fish, and then …” But, one day, pressed for time, he improvised a much faster method that’s “good enough to make me wonder about all the time I’d spent on the earlier versions.”

His new, simplified recipe calls for just 20 minutes simmering and another 20 minutes in a 350ºF oven. The whole thing comes together in about an hour and a half, which is far less time than the traditional methods. You can find his complete recipe by clicking on the board link below.

Board Link: Cod casserole, kinda Catalán

Mashed Potatoes and … Bananas?

For a unique mashed potato experience, try adding bananas. It’s a popular idea in Germany. “Bananas add a sweetness that plain potatoes sometimes lack,” says HannahBanana. You can also garnish with a bit of cinnamon, says ipsedixit, who adds that the end result is “definitely not the traditional mashed potatoes with gravy.” For an even sweeter experience, RGC1982 suggests a Tyler Florence recipe: sweet potatoes, mashed with oven-roasted bananas.

Mashed potatoes and carrots are good, says danhole, and also kind of sweet. millygirl has tried carrots, as well as peas and even cauliflower. They add color and enhance the taste. Her all-time favorite mashed potato add-in, though, is wasabi.

Board Link: Anyone ever add bananas to mashed potatoes?

Lots of Hazelnut Ideas

farmersdaughter loves hazelnuts chopped and tossed with green beans or leeks drizzled with hazelnut oil, while janniecooks makes hazelnut brown butter and pours it over steamed or boiled green beans. lgss makes jasmine rice with hazelnuts, sweet potatoes, and currants and serves with greens or broccoli on the side.

h2o recommends this homemade version of the popular chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella, and says it makes a great gift.

Chowhounds love to use hazelnuts in baking and desserts, too. janniecooks recommends this hazelnut brown butter cake and these hazelnut cinnamon rolls. mnosyne offers a recipe for brutti ma buoni, which are “ugly but good” Italian hazelnut meringue cookies. And abud loves Jamie Oliver’s hazelnut praline semifreddo, especially because you end up with extra praline crumbs, which she says are wonderful on everything.

janniecooks shares a foolproof way to remove the skins from raw hazelnuts: For 1/2 cup of nuts, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of baking soda (the water will spit and spatter a lot), then add the nuts and boil for 3 minutes. Test a nut under cold running water: Its skin should slip off easily. If not, boil the nuts for a couple minutes longer. When they’re ready, rinse the nuts well under cold running water, using your fingers to slip the skins off, then toast them in a 350ºF oven.

Also, janniecooks adds that hazelnuts go rancid fairly quickly, so large amounts should be stored in the freezer.

Board Link: Lots of roasted hazelnuts…

Reheating Steak

If you want to warm leftover steak without cooking it to further doneness, one simple method, says Karl S, is to place it in a food-storage bag with a good seal and run hot tap water over it. ipsedixit uses this technique and says it usually takes a minute or so, depending on the thickness of the beef. Karl S adds that this hot-running-water technique also works for reheating fish and most solid foods, and is especially handy for animal proteins that will easily recook if exposed to too much heat.

Board Link: Nuking steak?

A Tart for Chestnut-Lovers

A self-proclaimed chestnut maniac, buttertart recommends this chestnut tart recipe from master French baker Pierre Hermé, which uses chestnuts in three forms: roast, purée, and spread. It’s very easy to make, she says, and is fabulous both barely warm and chilled.

Board Link: Chestnut tart–best recipe I’ve ever found on any website

What to Do with Fresh Ginger

A large piece of fresh ginger will often dry out before you have the chance to use it all. There are a couple of ways to prevent this. Several Chowhounds recommend freezing whole pieces of ginger, pointing out that it can be grated easily on a rasp grater while still frozen. Another option is to put the ginger in a clean jar and cover with the alcohol of your choice (acme uses vodka; starkoch opts for dry sherry). The ginger’s texture and strength do not change, and the liquid it’s stored in is great in stir-fry sauces, says QueenB.

Some hounds use fresh ginger not to cook with, but to drink. hannaone makes ginger tea by slicing the cleaned root into pieces about an eighth- to quarter-inch thick, adding them to boiling water, and simmering for 30 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how strong you like it; use about two to three ounces of ginger per half gallon of water. You can add a quartered lemon about 15 minutes before it’s done simmering, if you like. cimui makes this, then chills it for iced tea.

miss louella minces up a bunch of ginger, puts it in a container with a bit of extra room, fills the container with honey, and stores it in the fridge. Mix a spoonful or two of the honey and ginger with sparkling water and add a squeeze of fresh lemon to make a refreshing drink.

Andiereid makes homemade ginger ale: Chop peel-on ginger in a food processor, and add two cups of this to two cups of sugar and six cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour. Strain the solids out and you’re left with an excellent ginger syrup with serious kick. Add about a third of a cup to a glass of ice, top with seltzer water, and stir.

A couple of hounds recommend recipes that use a great deal of fresh ginger if you have a lot that you need to use up. valerie loves Barefoot Contessa’s Indonesian ginger chicken. And scoopG recommends this fresh ginger cake, and adds that even though it calls for four ounces of ginger, he usually uses at least six.

Board Link: What to do with a lot of fresh ginger?

Rabbit Basics

Cooking moist and tender rabbit takes a bit of finesse, because it’s a lean meat with little subcutaneous fat and is therefore easy to overcook. Braising is the most reliable technique, thinks dagwood, who loves to do it Moroccan-style, with honey and apricots. carswell agrees, and says that not only should it be braised with the lowest possible simmer, but that initial browning should be done over low to medium heat as well, because high heat at this stage will also dry out the meat. He adds that marinating and braising in an acidic liquid will help tenderize it, and adding fat such as salt pork, bacon, or cream will increase the moistness.

For an alternative, dct’s favorite preparation is fried rabbit, done in the same manner as fried chicken. And, as a final note, Karl S feels rabbit liver is the finest liver of all, so it is worth getting a rabbit with giblets included.

Board Link: Anyone for Rabbit?