Cooking Tips rss

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

Potatoes from Top to Bottom

A baked potato is a great blank canvas for a creative dinner, lunch, or snack. Toppings can span the globe.

Top a spud with:

• Crystal hot sauce and drizzled olive oil
• Well-cooked black beans and chopped cilantro
• Indian dal, channa masala, or saag paneer
• Caponata
• Balsamic vinegar and herb-infused oils
• Mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and blue cheese
• Shrimp with cream sauce or Creole sauce

Another creative option is removing some of the potato from the skin, mixing it with other ingredients, and restuffing. Mix potato flesh with crumbled strips of crisp bacon, sautéed cabbage, and garlic. Try a potato mix with smoked Gouda or smoked cheddar. And there is the always favorite spud stuffing: sour cream/crème fraîche, sharp cheddar, and chopped scallions.

And spuds for breakfast: Bake a large yam or sweet potato and top with granola and honey.

Board Link: Favorite Baked Potato Toppings?

Spätzle, Home Cooked

The cool weather arriving in many parts of the country brings an appetite for spätzle. With roasts or vegetables, in soups, or sauced, spätzle fills out a meal with handcrafted goodness.

“This is the recipe I use from a little German-American cookbook put together by the residents of Manning, Iowa. There’s no resting, no weirdness, no drama; and they come out perfect,” says revsharkie.

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup water

Combine all ingredients well in a medium bowl. Press through a coarse colander or spätzle maker into boiling water or broth.

Stir and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Drain and add 1 to 2 tablespoons butter, if desired.

Cooking time is about as long as it takes to wash the bowl and spätzle maker.

Here is an Austrian spätzle recipe:

4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
4 cups all-purpose flour (1 pound)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Pommery mustard
1/8 cup chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Using a mixer fitted with a dough hook, work all ingredients into a smooth batter. Let rest 1 hour. Prepare boiling salted water with a little oil. Grate spätzle into water using a large-holed colander with a pastry card, or use a spätzle machine. Spätzle is done when it floats to the surface.

Sauté in butter with generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley; cheese is optional.

Board Link: Spaezle

Thanksgiving Before-Feast Nibbles

There are two distinct schools of thought on pre-Thanksgiving dinner nibbles: the “light and tasty” approach that leaves room for the big dinner, and the “more is more” system that features substantial bites for the three- to four-hour window before the bird is done.

Some “light and tasty” options:
• Spiced nuts
• Stuffed mushrooms
• Icy cold shrimp cocktail
• The relish tray—crudités, olives, and gherkins
• Veggie tray with blue cheese dip or homemade onion dip
• Fresh fruit

Some “more is more” options:
• Cheese straws
• Ham biscuits
• Meatballs or sausage in cheese crust
• Pigs in a blanket
• Hot queso/chili dip
• Seven-layer Tex-Mex dip
• Brie en croûte
• Caviar pie

Here’s a recipe for caviar pie:

12 hard-cooked eggs
8 ounces softened cream cheese
16 ounces sour cream
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 large jar red caviar
2 large jars black caviar (or whatever you can afford)

Grease a 10-inch springform pan with a little mayo.

Mash eggs with enough mayo to hold the mixture together. Season with salt and pepper. Spread egg mixture in the bottom of the pan.

Mix cream cheese and sour cream together.

Spread onion on top of egg mixture and spread sour cream–cream cheese mixture on top of onion. Spread caviar on top in a cute design. Serve with plain crackers.

Board Link: What do you serve with drinks before Thanksgiving Dinner?

Pumpkin Butter!

In autumn, leaves turn color, and people turn to deep and luscious flavors. Pumpkin butter tastes like autumn in a jar.

Mix pumpkin butter with cream cheese and spread on muffins. Add a dollop on hot oatmeal. Or try this: Spread pumpkin butter on toast, top with Parmesan, and broil.

For lunch, assemble an open-face sandwich with pumpkin butter spread on toasted brioche and topped with roasted peppers, grilled eggplant, feta cheese, avocado, and baby greens.

For a pasta course, toss fettuccine with pumpkin butter, cream, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and baby spinach. Or use pumpkin butter as a base for a spicy pumpkin soup, garnished with croutons and pumpkin seeds.

In a graham cracker crust, pumpkin butter can be the foundation of a fast and light pumpkin pie. Or use it as a warm topping for vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

Board Link: Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter. GOOD!

Top Sandwiches Ever

Chowhounds’ best sandwiches range from childhood favorites to world cuisine between slices of bread. Here are a few to try.

Bacon works with almost anything in sandwiches:

• with mayo
• with avocado
• with fried eggs
• with bermuda onion
• with carrots on soda bread
• with peanut butter, grilled
• with radish sprouts and feta cheese

JungMann creates a variation on banh mi using white bread with mayo, sambal oelek, vinegar slaw, cilantro, head cheese, ham, and fish sauce.

Fruit is the star of many Chowhound favorites, as in:

• almond butter, figs, and honey
• peanut butter, orange marmalade, and strawberries
• peanut butter and chutney
• mango slices, goat cheese, and ham
• mango chutney, roast beef, and Stilton
• almond butter, apple or pear, and sea salt
• chicken, raspberries, romaine, cheese, and vinaigrette
• turkey, cranberry sauce, green apple, and Brie

And last but not least, these favorites:

viperlush recalls a white bread with butter and sprinkles (jimmies) sandwich from his childhood.

southernitalian makes a quick one with frozen fish sticks, baked and assembled on a toasted English muffin with melted cheese and tartar sauce.

malibumike makes a breakfast sandwich with fried Spam, a fried egg, American cheese, mayo, and tomato.

Board Link: Best sandwich I ever invented

Sidekicks for Rib-Eye Night

What goes well with rib-eye steak?

Sweet potato fries. Creamed baby potatoes and onions. Grilled asparagus seasoned with olive oil, pepper, and kosher salt. A crunchy salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, beets, peppers, and red onion with blue cheese dressing, or dressed with a good vinaigrette and a generous measure of blue cheese crumbled into the salad. Spinach sautéed with lemon and garlic, and seasoned with salt and pepper and a hit of hot sauce.

Dauphinoise potatoes are great. Here’s a recipe from BBC GoodFood and another from Epicurious.

Or try making blue cheese bread: Slice a baguette in half lengthwise. Lightly brush with olive oil and toast lightly. Mix equal amounts of cream cheese and good blue cheese. Pile on toasted bread and run under the broiler until cheese is bubbly.

Board Link: Some good sides for Ribeye Steak Night

Work Those Thighs!

Turkey thighs are a great value: inexpensive, flavorful, and versatile. Chowhounds braise, roast, bake, and sauce them with flavors from around the globe. Here are a couple of standout recipes:

Turkey tacos: Put several thighs in a pot with a quartered onion, 5 or 6 lightly smashed cloves of garlic, cumin, 2 bay leaves, and puréed rehydrated dried ancho chiles (plus hotter ones to your taste) or a can of chipotles in adobo. Add the juice of 2 limes, 1 orange, and water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cover until turkey is tender. Remove from liquid and let cool. Remove and discard (or purée with hand blender, minus bay leaves) other solids in the pot and turn the heat back on to medium to reduce the cooking liquid until it thickens.

When meat is cool, use your fingers to shred turkey meat. Remove cooking liquid from the pot, reserving 1/2 cup or so. Heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the pot. Add shredded turkey meat and allow to brown and stick in places to the pan. Add reserved cooking liquid, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with warmed tortillas, black beans, green or red sauce, avocado, sliced radishes, cilantro, and whatever else you like. Also great with chilaquiles, in a quesadilla, or as a tamale filling with rajas.

Grilled turkey thighs: Prepare 1 turkey thigh per person. Bone turkey thighs (leave skin on), cut in half, and pound to even out the thickness. Marinate in lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and olive oil for a couple of hours or overnight. Grill until done. Serve with pipian mole.

Thanksgiving for one: Season 1 turkey thigh with salt and pepper and your choice of herbs or seasoning (crosby_p likes Williams-Sonoma turkey herbs). Roast at 375°F for 75 minutes. Serve with stuffing, creamed onions, squash, or green beans with lemon zest and crushed hazelnuts.

Hounds also suggest these great sauces for turkey thighs:

• Mole sauce (homemade is best, but there are great commercial makes out there)
• Trader Joe’s mojito sauce
• Curry sauce (homemade or commercial). Trader Joe’s makes several good curry simmer sauces
• Combination of tamari, Worcestershire sauce, and concentrated shiitake broth boosts the “beefy flavor” of the turkey dark meat

Board Link: What to do with Turkey Thighs

Korean Recipes by Mom

Korean mom recipes are often hard to duplicate because so often moms cook by feel and by memory. Sometimes the translations into English are problematic as well.

Even so, hannaone has re-created recipes for kimchee pancakes, traditional rice cakes, and pork belly with kimchee. traceybell makes an Americanized version of kalbi chim, which her mom approves of and the whole family likes. See the board link below for the full recipes.

Board Link: korean recipes

Making Lard

Want to render your own lard? A warning: The process smells. Do it with a kitchen exhaust fan on or, better yet, outdoors on the grill.

Cut up the fat coarsely, removing chunks of meat. It’s not necessary to remove every last bit of meat. Put the fat with some water (Karl S uses 1/4 cup water for 3 pounds of fat) in a deep pan, to reduce spattering, and steam over medium heat. Stir and reduce heat to medium low. The mixture will foam.

Cook for two to three hours until the foaming is very fine. Strain the cracklings out and cool the mixture. Add 1/2 cup water, emulsify, and refrigerate. When lard is firm, pour off the water and remove any solids that have collected at the bottom.

Remelt the lard in another pot and pour into sterilized jars. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a month or freeze.

Board link: What do I need to know about rendering my own lard from pork fat?

So This Baker Walks into a Bar

kindofabigdeal is looking for impressive bars that he can bake and bring to work in hopes of wooing his co-workers (they’re nurses). Hounds gave him lots of ideas.

Pumpkin Bars
Perfect for fall, yummy, and simple!

Mix well together:
3 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
16 ounces canned pumpkin
1 cup oil

Mix dry ingredients together:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Add dry ingredients to the wet ones. Spread in an ungreased jelly-roll pan. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting (1/2 cup butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 8 ounces cream cheese, 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar). Refrigerate.

Figgy Raspberry Bars
These bars combine the best of fall fruits (if you can’t find figs, buy some fig jam and mix it with raspberry jam—it will be close enough):

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups figs, cut up
1 cup raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Cook filling ingredients over medium heat until fruit is completely broken down and creamy thick, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

For the bars:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups oats
1 3/4 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup very finely chopped pecans (for topping and/or filling; optional)

Cream brown sugar with butter until fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Split mixture in half.

In a well-greased and shallow 8-by-12-inch baking dish, line half the flour mix, then add filling, evenly distributing the fruit mix. Top with remaining flour mix and pecans, if using.

Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly brown. Cool and serve. Makes 12 big bars or 24 small ones.

Key Lime Blueberry Bars
Here’s a bar for citrus-lovers, combining Key lime and blueberries.

For the crust:
5 ounces animal crackers (or graham crackers, if you prefer)
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark)
Pinch table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the filling:
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lime zest, minced
Pinch table salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (Key lime or regular)
Zest from the juiced limes (add to taste, 1 to 2 tablespoons)
1 cup fresh blueberries (you can leave out if you wish, given the season)

For the garnish (optional):
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted until golden and crisp

Heat oven to 325°F. Place foil in and up the sides of an 8-inch square cake pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

To make the crust:
Pulse animal crackers in the bowl of a food processor until crumbs are evenly fine. Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine. Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

To make the filling:
Stir cream cheese, zest, and salt in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly). Mix in lime zest.

To assemble and bake:
Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Drizzle blueberries evenly right onto the filling. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, about 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

Loosen edges with a paring knife and lift bars from the baking pan using foil extensions. Cut bars into 16 squares, sprinkle with toasted coconut, if using, and serve.

Finally, for a layered bar with a chocolate base, try these Nanaimo bars, a (delicious) Canadian specialty.

Board Link: looking for great “bar” recipes (lemon bar, seven layer bar… etc.)