Cooking Tips rss

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

Royal Fungus

King oyster mushrooms are almost all stem, with very little cap. They’ve got excellent flavor and texture, similar to oyster mushrooms but meatier. Use them anywhere you’d use oyster mushrooms or fresh porcini, advises Nyleve. They’re great in pastas, stir-fries, and risotto, or roasted with other vegetables. Or slice them thick on the bias and sauté in butter (with a bit of onion and garlic if you like) to really bring out their meatiness.

Board Link: What kind of mushroom is this??

A Square Cake in a Round Hole

If you want to bake your cake in a different configuration or don’t have the particular pan a recipe calls for, this handy chart provides cake pan size conversions, listing comparable pans by size and shape that will hold the same volume of batter. Keep in mind that pan size and depth changes will affect baking times and that finicky cakes, such as angel food, will bake correctly only in certain pan types.

Board Link: Baking Pan Conversion Chart

Behold the Buddha’s Hand

Buddha’s hand citron is a strange citrus fruit that “looks like a lemon that was adopted by a family of carrots,” says Cheese Boy. It’s a funky mass of long, pointed fingers. The fruit is extremely fragrant, with a distinct floral aroma, and a flavor that’s floral and sweetly spicy. Buddha’s hand is mostly peel, with very little flesh or juice, but unlike most citrus its pith isn’t bitter, so the whole fruit can be used in cooking. Store in the refrigerator, loose or in a paper bag.

Non Cognomina has made Buddha’s hand marmalade using a standard orange marmalade recipe; quarter the fruit and grate it coarsely. Because the Buddha’s hand doesn’t have any juice, you must add juice from other citrus fruits.

taqsim loves it in crème brûlée and uses it where he wants the brightness of citrus without the overt character of lemon. ozhead puts slices of Buddha’s hand peel in granulated sugar for a week, then removes them and dries the sugar in a low-temperature oven. He sprinkles this fragrant sugar over tart fruit and waffles.

jlafler adapted a limoncello recipe to make a delicious “Buddhacello.”

About 1/4 cup grated Buddha’s hand citron zest
1 750-milliliter bottle 100-proof vodka
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water

Put zest and vodka in a glass container, cover tightly, and let steep for about two weeks. After the mixture has steeped, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then remove from heat and allow to cool. While sugar syrup is cooling, strain solids out of vodka using a fine mesh strainer, then strain again through a dampened square of cloth placed in a strainer. (Note: Do not use cheesecloth, as it is too open; use muslin tea towels or clean pieces of old cotton sheets or T-shirts.) Add about half the sugar syrup to infused vodka, taste, and keep adding until it is sweetened to your liking. Pour into bottles and age for another two weeks.

Board Link: Has anyone used the buddha’s hand fruit?

Marvelous Preserves

Sherri makes little batches of marmalade in moments using her microwave, varying the flavors according to her whim and available citrus. Here’s how: Choose one large piece of citrus fruit or two small ones (orange, mandarin, lemon, lime, etc.). Wash well and cut into chunks (skin and all), remove seeds, then coarsely chop. Place equal measures of fruit and sugar in a deep, 2-quart, microwave-safe bowl. Stir to blend. Microwave on full power approximately 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened (timing may vary depending on your microwave). Pour into a jar, cover, and refrigerate.

If using grapefruit, discard its pith, as it can be extremely bitter. Remove the colored zest with a vegetable peeler, then peel away the thick white pith. Mince the zest, chop and seed the fruit, and combine them. The extra step is worthwhile, Sherri believes, because grapefruit marmalade is quite delicious.

Board Link: Microwave Marmalade

Can’t Beat Beet Greens

Beet greens taste a lot like chard; you can treat them exactly the same way in the kitchen. Steaming or blanching quickly, then sautéing in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes or in bacon fat, are popular preps. The stems take longer to cook than the leaves, so chop them up and let them cook for a few minutes before you add the leaves. Or save them to add to a vegetable soup, suggests violabratsche. Many like to combine beet greens with the beets they came with for a dish of striking color and flavor contrasts. Some even recommend salads of raw, tender beet greens and roasted or steamed beets dressed with a vinaigrette.

Board Link: Ideas for Beet Greens, Please?

’Tis the Season for Salads

Salads needn’t be dull when good tomatoes are the stuff of dreams. Hardy winter veggies, in-season fruits, and tasty add-ins bring depth to a plate of greens this time of year. Peppery or sturdy greens such as watercress, arugula, mizuna, and spinach are good choices as a base for toppings of fruits, nuts, and cheeses. Fennel, either roasted and chilled or sliced superthin and served raw, is another great winter salad veggie.

Fresh Fuyu persimmons, apples, and pears are seasonal fruits that marry well with savory salad ingredients. Dried fruits add intense bursts of flavor, as do pomegranate seeds. Toasted or candied nuts, toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and pine nuts all add crunch and texture. Cheeses of all kinds mix and match with these ingredients.

Try making unconventional croutons, from cornbread or fruit-and-nut breads, and using them with complementary flavors.

Board Link: Winter Salads

Where to Put the Ham

A holiday ham often yields plenty of leftovers. Here are some delicious uses for all that meat:

Add ham to quiche, use it to make eggs Benedict, or bake up some ham and cheese scones. A ham and potato gratin is cold-weather comfort food. Ham is fantastic in split pea soup and bean dishes.

Try it with pasta—in mac ’n’ cheese, in an Alfredo sauce with peas, and in baked rigatoni with ham, tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Make ham en croûte by spreading puff pastry with mustard, layering with ham and cheese, wrapping the dough over the top, and baking. It’s like a fancy hot ham sandwich, says thursday.

If you’ve got a ham bone, you can make a great broth, or a terrific lentil, split pea, or bean soup. Chowhounds warn, however, that HoneyBaked hams have lots of sugar on their bones and in their marrow, so you should plan on cooking something where the sweetness will work with the flavors of the dish. danhole uses hers to make a Cajun bean soup with some heat.

Board Link: How Should I Use Extra Ham?

Not Your Everyday Lentil Soup

How good can lentil soup be? sophia519 has made this French creamy lentil soup three times, and she still can’t believe how good it is. It might just be the little bit of balsamic vinegar added at the end that makes a difference. For Val, it’s the ham bone and cinnamon stick that make this hearty lentil and ham soup extra-special.

Board Link: Incredible lentil soup

Home Cooking 2007 Top 10 Roundup

1. Effortless Chicken Stock in Your Slow Cooker

2. Oreo and Cream Cheese “Truffles”

3. Homemade Dulce de Leche

4. Thou Shalt Salt Thy Pasta Cooking Water Liberally!

5. The Best Cake Ever, Thanks to Elvis

6. Scrumptious “Waffled” Eggplant

7. “The Universal Condiment”

8. Super Recipe Search Engine

9. Really Thick, Really Fudgy Brownies

10. Salted Coffee, You Say?

Distinctive Beer Bread

Beer bread is an endlessly adaptable quick bread that you can flavor with whatever strikes your fancy, or whatever you have on hand. It’s simple to make and takes very few ingredients. In fact, you don’t even need beer—club soda or seltzer supplies the necessary carbon dioxide just as well. But beer’s malty and yeasty flavors add dimension to the finished bread, and interesting beers impart their distinctive characters to each loaf.

To the basic recipe, hounds add for flavoring: chopped fresh basil or dill, Italian seasoning, mustard seed, dill seed, chopped or dried onion, and grated cheeses of all kinds. Some like to dot the top with butter; others mix melted butter into the batter. You can make a sweet version by increasing the sugar and including warm spices, nuts, or dried fruits; try using a spiced or fruit-flavored beer or a lambic here to complement the sweeter flavors.

Basic Beer Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
12 ounces beer

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and turn into a greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester inserted comes out clean.

Board Link: Fallen in love with 3-ingredient beer bread. What’s your twist?