Cooking Tips rss

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

Creative Ways with the Chicken

Chowhounds share some interesting ways to cook the most boring cut of chicken, boneless skinless breasts:

rworange poaches chicken breasts in coffee or tea enriched with assorted condiments. To a cup of brewed coffee or tea, she adds a bit of this and a bit of that—ketchup, garlic, chipotle, and brown sugar in coffee create a barbecue sauce–y flavor, and Lapsang Souchong tea with mustard, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and brown sugar gives a smoky Asian flavor. Play around with additions that seem complementary. Bring the tea or coffee and condiments to a boil, reduce to a simmer, add the chicken breasts, and simmer for around 15 minutes or until cooked through. You can further reduce the liquid to a sauce if you like, or simply serve it over rice. Result: supertender chicken and surprisingly complex sauce.

MMRuth recommends chicken breasts marinated in yogurt, garlic, and scallions, and other hounds find this simple treatment delicious as well (read the recipe here).

danhole coats boneless chicken breasts with teriyaki sauce and a bit of olive oil, then sprinkles them with Chinese five-spice powder and tarragon and lets them marinate in the fridge for an hour. Grill over coals or gas, in a grill pan, or pan-fry.

Board Link: Boneless chicken breast?

Wild Things

If you’re lucky enough to know a hunter who will share the season’s catch of elk or venison with you, then you get the glories of ultraflavorful game meat. You can adapt recipes for lamb or beef to cook the steaks, but it’s critical not to cook them beyond medium rare; the meat’s very lean and will become tough if cooked longer. Venison loin (called backstrap) is perfect cut into medallions and quickly seared in cast iron or on a hot grill. For tougher cuts such as shoulder, slow braises such as daubes are a good choice. captbob recommends marinating elk and venison in red wine and cider vinegar before cooking, saying the vinegar sweetens the meat and does away with any lingering funkiness.

Board Link: Help! I’m marrying a hunter…

Sling Those Brownies

The ultimate trick to getting brownies and bar cookies neatly out of the pan, say Chowhounds, is to build an aluminum foil “sling” before you pour in the batter or dough. Take a piece of foil the width of your pan and line the pan, allowing the foil to overhang both ends by a few inches. Grease the foil and pan sides, or spray them with a nonstick spray, and bake your brownies or bars as usual. After cooling, cut around the edges of the pan, then grasp the overhanging foil like handles and lift the entire panful of brownies or bars out in one piece. Place your baked good on a work surface, lay the foil flat, and cut it bakery-neat. The new nonstick foil makes this process even easier.

Board Link: removing brownies from the pan

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