Cooking Tips rss

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

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?

How to Cook Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are wild, bright green, curly, and quite tasty with the proper preparation. They’re in season late spring and early summer. They must be cooked before being eaten, as they may harbor toxins.

Nyleve blanches them by tossing them in a large pot of boiling water, allowing the water to come back to a boil, and cooking for one minute. She finds that this method removes any bitterness. Both Nyleve and DBrooks sauté blanched fiddleheads with good olive oil and lots of fresh garlic, salt, and pepper.

jayt90 keeps it simple by steaming them and serving with butter and lemon. carswell says his favorite preparation gives fiddleheads a mineral intensity: Soak them for 30 minutes in water acidulated with lemon, then drain well, and slowly cook in butter in a skillet.

rcallner makes a pasta topping with blanched fiddleheads, morels, garlic, shallots, parsley, and a drizzle of white truffle oil at the end. “In getting creative with fiddleheads,” she says, “I find it helpful to think of them like asparagus, but thin and curly.”

Board Link: Fiddleheads

Soy Sauce Plus Butter Equals Great Sauce

Soy sauce with melted butter, by itself or augmented with a few ingredients, make a surprisingly delicious sauce for many foods, say Chowhounds. Chowpatty uses the combo on popcorn, and says it’s “amazing.” mmalmad likes soy and butter on pasta, with black pepper and sesame oil. moki sautés thinly sliced potatoes with garlic, soy, and butter for a hearty side with rice.

dockhl uses soy, butter, and lemon as a marinade for grilled swordfish, while food_eater79 uses the same combination for salmon. Analisas mom says soy, butter, and brown sugar is a great marinade for any type of meat or seafood, especially grilled sea bass.

Sam Fujisaka sautés thin slices of beef in soy sauce and butter, while Ruth Lafler tosses thin slices of raw beef in soy and butter and eats it like carpaccio.

Board Link: Soy sauce + butter = yum!

Soft-Shell Crabs

The allure of soft-shell crabs (blue crabs that have shed their shells and are almost wholly edible) is “the crunch of the outside combined with the juicy sweet meaty goodness of the innards,” according to Miss Needle. food2u dusts them lightly with flour and sautés them with canola oil, and says you can also batter them as you would a cutlet: dip in flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs, then fry. mschow loves these soft-shelled crabs meunière.

Board Link: Soft Shell Crabs.

Cleaning Morels

Morel mushrooms need a bit of care before cooking. All their pores can harbor critters, says monavano, so soak them in salt water for 5 to 10 minutes to kill anything hiding inside.

Cookiefiend made a cream sauce with some sliced morels and a bit of shallot, and served this over soft scrambled eggs. mgebs cuts morels in half, cooks them with butter for a few minutes, deglazes the pan with white wine, and serves this over toast points.

Board Link: Quick Morel Question…

The Secret Ingredient for Moist Meatballs

To make meatballs and meatloaf moister, greygarious adds leftover coleslaw to the usual mixture of seasoned beef, onion, bread, and milk. The cabbage adds tender sweetness, and is not recognizable by either taste or appearance. You should either microwave and cool, or freeze and thaw the coleslaw before adding it, as this breaks down the cabbage’s cell walls, says greygarious, allowing it to meld into the meat more thoroughly. Also, reduce the amount of milk in your recipe a little.

greygarious uses about three-fourths of a cup each of coleslaw and onion per pound of meat for his meatballs and meatloaf, and notes that an extra egg will help hold the mixture together if you use such a high ratio. If you fry your meatballs, sauté them slowly because the cabbage can scorch easily. Any chopped, cooked cabbage will also work to moisten meatballs, adds greygarious, but slaw is tastiest.

Board Link: For moister meatloaf or meatballs

Simple Seafood Sauce

Sauce-making doesn’t get much more simple than mixing mayonnaise with water. jerry i h has discovered that taking a couple of large spoonfuls of mayo and adding water until the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream, then seasoning with an herb or spice, makes an ideal sauce for fish. “It does not taste like mayo anymore,” he says. “It is rich and creamy but not overly so, with just a faint hint of acid.”

AnneInMnpls uses lemon juice instead of water. toutefrite adds flavor and color to the sauce with saffron softened in boiling water and paprika. gordeaux makes variations using sesame oil and hot chili powder; finely chopped canned chipotles and lime juice; wasabi; and cilantro chutney. hannaone suggests making it with poppy seeds, honey, and lemon juice.

Board Link: Secret Seafood Sauce: mayo + water?

The Versatile Potato Ricer

With a potato ricer, making fluffy mashed potatoes is effortless, according to pharmnerd. But Chowhounds use their ricers for much more than this, pointing out that the appliance is a must for making potato gnocchi, for example.

Sam Fujisaka uses his for squeezing water from raw grated potato before making hash browns. MakingSense says a ricer is also the best tool for squeezing spinach dry, even when it’s still hot. Similarly, FoodFuser finds it useful for getting moisture out of chopped, salted cabbage to make crunchy coleslaw.

Finally, GDFLS uses a ricer to fragment the soaked bread that goes into his meatballs, saying that it ends up so fine that it almost dissolves into the meat.

Board Link: Should I get a potato ricer?