Cooking Tips rss

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

Dealing with Tough Cookies

When you’ve got cookies that are a little too hard, whether from overbaking or age, lmoy suggests that you soften them by wrapping a slice of soft bread loosely in a paper towel and placing it in an airtight container with the cookies. Within 24 hours, you’ll have soft cookies, hard bread.

The other alternative is to repurpose your cookies. Chowhounds suggest breaking them in pieces and using them as mix-ins for ice cream or in place of ladyfingers or cake in a trifle; or folding them into lightly sweetened whipped cream. Chill overnight to make a kind of cookie mousse. Or crush them and use them to make a crumb crust for a pie or cheesecake.

Board Link: Leftover chocolate chip cookies (slightly overbaked)

A Gumbo for Lent

Gumbo z’herbes, a traditional New Orleans Lenten meal, is a whole different pot o’ soup than the rich, roux-thickened, andouille-laden gumbos that are cooked year-round. speyerer explains that the name is a contraction of gumbo aux herbes. The dish is made with greens, and the more types used the better. Tradition holds that an odd number will bring good luck, and the number you use will be the number of friends you’ll make in the coming year.

Because it’s a Lenten dish, gumbo z’herbes traditionally is made without meat, though MakingSense says it is usually cooked with meat broth. It’s a light dish, made without roux, and unlike other gumbos it’s not served over rice. speyerer’s family recipe, which serves 20, doesn’t use meat broth. Here it is:

1 bunch mustard greens

1 bunch collard greens

1 bunch turnip greens

1 bunch spinach

1 bunch scallions

1 bunch Italian parsley

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch beet tops

1 bunch carrot tops

1 bunch radish tops

1 bunch dandelion greens

1/2 head green leaf lettuce (not iceberg)

1/2 head cabbage

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (enough to just cover the bottom of the pot)

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 small turnips, peeled and cubed

2 cups dry white wine

Water to cover

3 teaspoons Creole seasoning

Wash greens and drain well. Cut out stems and center ribs and tear greens into small pieces. In a cast iron pot, add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pot and heat oil until it is hot. Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add greens and cubed turnip. Add wine, water to cover, and Creole seasoning and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until greens are tender, about 2 hours. Serve greens hot with their cooking liquid or “pot likker.”

Board Link: Lenten Treat? --- Gumbo Z’herbes

How Green Is Your Garlic?

Green garlic is a great find in early spring farmers’ markets; you can also occasionally find it in season in some Chinese produce markets. It resembles scallions but has a distinctly garlicky scent and subtle garlic flavor. It’s delicious sliced and added to a sauté, or stir-fried over high heat with beef or lamb and finished simply with soy sauce and sesame oil. LNG212 minces green garlic along with fresh herbs and mixes them into soft, fresh goat cheese to make a tasty spread (with a little milk to loosen if necessary). torty uses green garlic to make salsa in a food processor with well-drained canned tomatoes, cilantro, chipotles en adobo, lime juice, and a touch of sugar.

Board Link: Green Garlic

Haddock, the Other White Fish

Haddock is a firm-fleshed, mild white fish; it can be used interchangeably with cod and can sometimes stand in for halibut. It’s a traditional choice for frying in fish and chips, but it cooks up well in plenty of other ways.

When baking haddock, flavoring can be as simple as salt and pepper with a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon, or a sprinkle of minced garlic and a slick of olive oil. For a homey dish, put salted-and-peppered fillets in a greased baking dish, coat them with mayo, and press on a mixture of crushed Ritz crackers and just enough melted butter to wet the crumbs slightly. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. For a Mediterranean twist, bake with a bit of olive oil, marinara sauce, broth (not enough to completely cover the fish), artichokes, olives, capers, and cherry or plum tomatoes at 400°F for around 20 minutes, uncovered.

Sautéed haddock can also take on many guises. Turn it into fish tacos by seasoning appropriately (e.g., with chili powder, garlic, and cumin) and sautéing in a bit of oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it’s done, squeeze on fresh lime juice and serve in tortillas with shredded cabbage and Mexican crema or sour cream, etc. jayt90 likes haddock in cheese sauce: Sauté scallions in butter, add the fillets, and sear briefly, then remove to a plate. Prepare the sauce in the pan, making a roux with flour and the butter you’ve used for sautéing, whisking in white wine and cream and some herbs, and melting in some cheese. Return the fish to the pan and gently spoon the sauce over it until it’s cooked, three to five minutes.

Poaching is another fast, simple way to prepare haddock. Bring water or broth and some white wine to a bare simmer (add some herbs if you like), poach the fillets for a few minutes, and then turn and poach a few minutes more—not more than 10 minutes per inch of thickness, and less will probably do it. Remove the fish to a warm plate. If you like, you can boil down the poaching liquid, add a pat of butter, and use it as a sauce. Poach chunks of haddock in any saucy base you might prepare: a Thai curry with coconut milk, a tomato-fennel fish stew, or any kind of soup.

Board Link: ISO–Haddock ideas

Smoky, Delicious … Salt

Smoked salt is delicious as a condiment or ingredient. The level of smokiness varies in intensity, with the most pungent varieties evoking the qualities of smoked meats; litchick describes hers as smelling “wonderfully of a blazing campfire full of bacon.”

It works very well in vegetable dishes, where it adds a somewhat meaty dimension, and in soups or chilis where bacon would be a complementary flavor. But its flavor is perhaps best appreciated—and most revelatory—when it is used as a condiment. Try it sprinkled on good bread spread with sweet butter; on baguette slices spread with mashed avocado spiked with lemon juice and topped with sliced radishes; or on a simple risotto. Smoked salt also makes a surprisingly good pairing with chocolate.

It tends to come in very coarse crystals, which you will need to grind in a salt grinder. KRS recommends Danish Viking-Smoked Sea Salt. Whole Foods also sells its own packaged smoked salt, which is often stocked near the cheese and olive bar.

Board Link: Smoked Salt

Roasted Red Peppers to Start a Meal

Chowhounds love home-roasted red peppers, especially in appetizers. Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best: Pile a few strips of pepper on some good bread, then dress with sea salt, cracked black pepper, and good olive oil. Or some simple variations on this include peppers and tapenade on a slice of toasted baguette; peppers, thinly sliced garlic, chopped garlic, and olive oil on bread; and blending roasted red peppers into hummus.

polish_girl slices them in long, thin strips and stirs them together with a couple of thinly sliced garlic cloves, some sherry vinegar, a bit of smoked Spanish paprika, and some olive oil; let it sit for a couple of hours before eating.

chloe103 uses roasted red peppers to make the Syrian dip muhammara, which she eats with pita. Here’s her recipe:

1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained (this works out to 2 to 3 whole roasted peppers)
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I use whole wheat)

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped
1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, blitz everything except the oil. With the motor running, gradually add oil and continue blending until everything is nicely mushed up together. Taste, and adjust as necessary. (Sometimes more oil, sometimes more cumin, etc.)

Board Link: How do you use roasted red peppers?

Electric Skillets Are Real Multitaskers

Electric skillets may seem like throwbacks, but they’re plenty useful for a variety of applications, say Chowhounds. They’re usually wide, and are deeper than stovetop frying pans, plus they’ve got controls that let you set their exact temperature. Many come with vented lids that allow steam to escape while food cooks, if you wish.

They’re great when you need an extra cooking surface for big meals and family breakfasts—and nothing’s better for producing perfectly cooked pancakes. The high sides and temperature controls make electric skillets excellent vessels for frying chicken and fish, since it’s easy to monitor the heat of your oil. They’re also perfect for tabletop, communal cooking, such as shabu-shabu and sukiyaki.

Board Link: Whether/why use electric skillet

Getting the Fat Out While the Sauce Is Hot

Chilling stock or sauce overnight to solidify the fat in a solid layer on top is the easiest way to remove extra fat or drippings, but what if you don’t have the time (or patience) to wait for a pot to chill? Here are a few solutions.

A fat separator (also called a gravy separator) is a liquid measure with a spout at the bottom; when the fat in your mixture rises to the top, you pour the defatted portion from the bottom of the measure and stop pouring before you get to the fat layer.

Alternatively, if you allow the liquid to cool a bit, you can pour it into a large zipper-lock bag, wait for the fat to rise, then snip off a bottom corner to carefully pour out your stock or sauce, leaving the fat behind. And, if you don’t have a large amount of liquid to defat, you can pour it into a tall glass and use a bulb baster to remove the liquid from the bottom, while leaving the fat floating at the top.

Board Link: Anyone got a good de-fatting equipment/techinique?

Korean Restaurant Faves in Your Kitchen

These spicy fried chicken wings, which proved a smash hit at several hounds’ Super Bowl parties, were one of the most popular specials at the Korean restaurant hannaone once owned:

1 pound sectioned chicken wings
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup milk
Vegetable oil for frying
1/3 cup cornstarch or potato starch

For the stir-fry sauce:
1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, chopped
4 cloves peeled garlic
2 tablespoons fine- or medium-ground red chile pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar, honey, or corn syrup
2 heaping tablespoons gochujang (Korean red chile paste)
1 tablespoon rice wine

For the garnish:
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Rinse chicken wing pieces in cold water, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let stand for about 15 minutes, then place in a large bowl and pour milk over them. Refrigerate for an hour, turning the wings two or three times. Meanwhile, make the stir-fry sauce: Purée ginger and garlic in a blender with just enough water to liquefy them. In a small bowl, combine purée with remaining sauce ingredients and mix well.

To cook chicken, discard milk and allow wing pieces to drain until just damp. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot to 350°F. Toss chicken to coat in cornstarch or potato starch and fry until golden brown. Transfer wings to a large skillet or wok over medium to medium-high heat, add sauce, and stir-fry until all liquid is gone. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with green onion and sesame seeds.

Barbecued beef and pork are easy to cook at home. Meat should be sliced superthin (about 1/8 inch); it is often available presliced at Korean markets. You can grill it quickly over charcoal or gas, or even in a grill pan on the stove with good ventilation. Serve the grilled meat with leaf lettuce for wrapping, plus kimchee, soy paste (loosened with hot water or a combo of soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil), and, if you like, raw or stir-fried garlic slices.

Here is hannaone’s recipe for a typical Korean barbecue marinade. hannaone notes that pork can stand up to plenty of garlic and spice, so you can increase the garlic by half and add 1 to 3 tablespoons of ground red chile powder.

1 small onion, chopped
1 small Asian pear or semisweet apple, chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
6 cloves garlic
3/4 cup natural brewed soy sauce
3/4 cup unsalted beef broth or water
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Put the onion, Asian pear or apple, ginger, and garlic in a blender with just enough water to blend into a smooth liquid. Pour into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Allow the marinade to stand for 15 minutes, then marinate meat for 1 to 24 hours before grilling.

Board Links: Korean Spicy Chicken Wings (the other Kfc)
Korean BBQ at Home

Foraging in the Garden

Can you harvest your weeds for your dining pleasure? How about your flowers? Sure! Some of them, anyway, as long as you’re 100 percent positive no herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals have been used on them or on surrounding plants (including lawns).

Young dandelion leaves are cherished by those who love bitter greens, whether in salads or simply steamed. Harvest them soon after they come up and while the buds are small, or they will be too bitter. dibob817 gives these instructions for harvesting the plant: Use a short, stiff, bladed knife to dig at an angle next to the dandelion, cutting its root completely through, three to six inches below the ground surface. You will end up with a rosette of leaves (the whole plant). But if you cut it too high and the leaves separate, they’re still fine. Dandelion buds also are a nice addition to salads. They have a sweet, honeylike flavor, and the younger and more tender they are, the better they taste, according to Gio, who says they are best eaten when tightly bunched in the center and about the size of a gumball.

Lots of flowers are edible, such as daylilies (not to be confused with true lilies, which are not edible), which can be prepared in the same manner as squash blossoms, or their petals can be cut off and used in desserts; and nasturtiums, which have a distinctive peppery flavor. This chart provides a roundup of edible flowers and describes their flavors.

Board Link: dandelion