Cooking Tips rss

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

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?

Skirt Steak Is Simple Beefy Goodness

Skirt steak is a thin cut with lots of good, beefy flavor. The secret: Don’t overcook it. Skirt steak will stay tender and juicy if cooked to medium rare, and no further. The key, say Chowhounds, is to use a hot grill, grill pan, or cast iron skillet and cook it for around two minutes per side for medium rare. Most slice it thin across the grain to serve (think fajitas, for which skirt is the traditional cut), but Mild Bill and jfood both cut it in five-inch sections before cooking and serve as they would any other steak, saying it’s tender enough that cross-grain slices aren’t necessary. Some like to marinate skirt steak, but many hounds say that it’s flavorful enough that they prefer to use salt and pepper only. And here are suggestions from CHOW on uses for skirt steak and other underappreciated cuts of meat.

Board Link: Skirt Steak! what to do? what to do?

The Arrival of Ramps

Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a much-anticipated spring arrival at East Coast farmers’ markets. Because they aren’t cultivated, their season is short and their area of availability is limited. But hounds have some good ideas for highlighting the flavor of this wild member of the onion family.

Ramps go very well with eggs: LNG212 had some in a “delicious” frittata, while relizabeth suggests cooking them in an omelet with ricotta cheese. Simple sautés also work well: MB fka MB sautéed some in olive oil with salt and pepper, and then tossed them with some pasta, and LNG212 sautés ramps with garlic as a side dish. relizabeth also recommends making ramp pesto.

HillJ uses them to make ramp soup, and MMRuth enjoyed this ramp risotto, though she used an entire bunch of ramps instead of the specified four.

Board Link: Ramps Recipes

Salt Your Pasta Water Well

Chowhounds agree: Salting the water you boil your pasta in makes a huge difference to its flavor. As it cooks, the pasta absorbs water, and the salt is incorporated into the pasta with the water, explains Ruth Lafler, who says that adding salt after cooking won’t have the same effect at all. Any kind of salt will do, and it doesn’t make much difference whether you add it before or after the water comes to a boil (though apparently adding it at the start may pit certain types of cookware, warns Nettie). But all agree that it’s important to use plenty of it; several hounds say pasta water should taste “as salty as the sea.”

Board Link: Do you add salt to boiled water for pasta?

Perfect Potato Pizza

“The classic recipe for potato pizza in Italy is quite simple: potato, rosemary, olive oil, and salt,” says vvvindaloo. To make it, lightly toss paper-thin slices of potato in olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt, with an optional tiny bit of either pepperoncini or black pepper. Bake on high until the top and edges are brown.

Other Chowhounds go nontraditional and add some cheese: Gruyère and raclette are favorites. Crushed garlic and caramelized onions are also additions that several hounds recommend. Some also precook their potatoes before adding them to the pizza to ensure they cook through. This allows you to make more toppings-heavy pies too. Agent Orange makes a pizza with pesto, roasted potato rounds, roasted garlic, and a few small dollops of chèvre cheese.

Board Link: how to do potato on pizza?

Ideas for Kale

Kale is a healthy green that can be cooked many ways, and even eaten raw. JungMann braises it with ham hocks as he does collards; Alice Letseat sautés hers with finely diced onions and garlic in olive oil, and adds red pepper flakes; lgss makes masamba, which is steamed ribbons of kale with a sauce of peanut butter and salsa, and serves it with potatoes.

Portuguese kale and potato soup, with or without chorizo, is hearty and filling. puppymomma likes this recipe with sausage; saltwater prefers a vegetarian version, using the kale stems to make broth.

sweetpotater spritzes kale leaves with olive oil, tosses them with salt and pepper, and then roasts them briefly at 425ºF, turning once, to eat them like potato chips.

Some Chowhounds are mad about salads made with raw dinosaur kale (also known as Tuscan kale and cavolo nero). karenfinan mixes two parts olive oil with one part each Bragg Liquid Aminos and nutritional yeast and pours it over raw chopped dinosaur kale. Several hounds rave over this raw Tuscan kale salad with pecorino (requires login) and this lacinato kale and ricotta salata salad.

Nettie likes this pesto made with cavolo nero.

Board Link: Kale-What Do YOU Do?”