Cooking Tips rss

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

Real-Deal Mai Tai

The mai tai, a sweet, rum-based drink, was invented at tiki-themed Trader Vic’s. Here’s the history of the mai tai, along with the evolution of the Trader Vic’s recipe. JK Grence the Cosmic Jester, a bartender at Trader Vic’s, says using the original component ingredients instead of the two premixes currently in use makes for a more complex and delicious drink; he also shares his own mai tai recipe.

Board Link: Mai Tai - how to?

Baked, Not Stirred

They’re unorthodox, but delicious recipes do exist for baked risottos whose texture isn’t entirely off the mark—even if they don’t quite achieve the heights of the attentively stirred classic, say hounds with experience.

“[I]t’s a different dish to the stovetop version. It’s the constant stirring that gives risotto its creaminess,” says greedygirl, who nonetheless finds this oven-baked wild mushroom risotto very tasty. Also recommended: baked chicken, lemon, and pea risotto and baked risotto with asparagus, spinach, and Parmesan.

Board Link: Baked Risotto?

Wonderfully Light and Lemony Cake

Chowhounds are swooning over Barefoot Contessa’s lemon yogurt cake. bigfatbroad calls it “divine,” and sblagrave describes it as “wonderfully light and just the perfect lemon flavor.” shpitzlefan thinks it tastes better than the original, more fattening version.

Board Link: Barefoot Contessa Lemon Yogurt Cake

Lentil Love

barefootpris needed ways to use a surfeit of lentils, and hounds came through with plenty of ideas.

Euonymous likes lentils with kielbasa, as a soup or a heftier bean dish. orangewasabi bakes green lentils and brown rice together in equal quantities, and uses this is a base for a stir-fry. It is “a lot heartier than just rice with a nice nutty taste.”

One of renz’s favorite lentil dishes is mujadarrah, which is lentils with rice and caramelized crispy onions. Val loves this lentil salad with balsamic vinaigrette. She replaces the radicchio with crispy romaine lettuce, and tops it with a few dabs of goat cheese.

Kagey likes this “very simple and forgiving” recipe for Italian lentil soup (see sixth paragraph).

Board Link: Tons of Lentils

Sushi Rice Is Risotto Rice

Deftly crossing the globe, the short-grain rice used for sushi also makes excellent risotto. Sam Fujisaka explains that sushi rice and Arborio are very similar. The California-developed Calrose rice can also be used for risotto, says Antilope, who adds that this variety makes a really creamy rice pudding too.

Board Link: Can I make risotto with sushi rice?

Savory Ways with Buttermilk

When you’ve had enough cornbread, pancakes, and even devil’s food cake, it’s time for some savory cooking with buttermilk.

Sharuf uses one cup buttermilk mixed with one tablespoon cornstarch or two tablespoons Wondra as her standard gravy base. Pour it into the pan you’ve used to pan-fry chops or other meat and you’ve got a pan gravy with a sour cream flavor, but without the calories.

A buttermilk soak is traditional for fried chicken, and also works for fried fish. If you don’t want to fry, Val recommends spicy oven-fried chicken.

Diane in Bexley shares her buttermilk-rich recipe for ranch dressing: “So good with iceberg lettuce wedges, cucumbers and tomatoes.” And MeffaBabe advises mixing buttermilk with “sour cream, mayo and a touch of lemon juice, add blue cheese and you now have the absolute best blue cheese dressing!”

Board Links: Uses for leftover buttermilk?
What to do with too much buttermilk?

Head Tuna

If you’re lucky enough to score the head of a nice, fatty fish like a tuna, Chowhounds offer advice on preparing it so as not to miss out on what some say are the tastiest bits of the whole fish: the collar and cheeks.

The collar is the curved section that braces the head and brackets the gill opening, explains Sam Fujisaka. Feel the bone structure around the gill opening, and cut all of it out. “Broiled with a bit of salt, it’s the best fish dish in the world,” he says. “Rich, oily delicious meat!”

You can broil the rest of the head separately and pick out the cheeks and other meaty bits (the collar cooks more quickly, so it will overcook if not done separately, Sam notes). Or you can put it in a soup. wearybashful suggests rolling the whole head, collar intact, in melted butter, then roasting it at 450°F.

Leucadian recommends making fish head curry, a fusion favorite in Singapore.

Board Link: Someone gave me a fish head

Fresh Passion Fruit

Jennalynn requested suggestions for what to do with “a bunch of fresh purple passionfruit,” and Chowhounds responded.

mlgb uses fresh passion fruit anywhere one might use lemon juice, such as fruit salad, yogurt, salad dressing, or fish. “One of my favorite dishes now is pangrilled salmon with a passion fruit squeezed over,” says mlgb.

Leucadian makes passion fruit–ade by diluting 1/2 cup sieved passion fruit pulp with 2 cups water, then dissolving 1/4 cup sugar in this mixture. You can add passion fruit juice to hot or cold tea, or mix it with fresh orange juice. coll uses it in New Orleans’s renowned Hurricane cocktail, while RPPR recommends this recipe for passion fruit sorbet.

Board Link: ISO Fresh Passionfruit Ideas

Ready-When-You-Are Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can combine the taste of homemade chocolate chip cookies with the convenience of purchased, ready-made dough by whipping up your favorite recipe and storing it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Many hounds scoop cookie dough onto baking sheets, which they freeze before transferring the individual cookies into zipper-lock bags. You can bake them from frozen, adding two to four extra minutes to the recipe’s normal baking time. JoanN bakes just a couple at a time in her toaster oven.

jlafler rolls her cookie dough into a log and wraps it in waxed paper, then refrigerates; when she wants to bake cookies, she slices them from the log.

Board Link: Bake-when-ready Chocolate Chip cookie dough?

Proper English Scones

Traditional English scones are different from the hardy, muffin-size sort that populate U.S. pastry cases. The original variety are smaller and much more delicate, with a tender crumb, most often made with currants or raisins. Here are some recipes that pass muster with British hounds.

emily recommends a scone recipe from Claire Clark, who is pastry chef at the French Laundry.

A couple of hounds also insist you can’t go wrong with Delia Smith’s illustrated scone recipe. nanette says superfine sugar is a reasonable substitute for castor sugar.

Cream scones that use no fat but heavy cream are simple to make and have a wonderful texture. Anne, who used a recipe with the same proportions when she baked scones for a café, points out that you can use any sort of dried fruit (currants, dried cranberries, raisins), chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or coconut as your add-in.

Board Link: SCONE RECIPE WANTED: must be good