Cooking Tips rss

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

A Blue Cheesecake

chazzer answered a request for Gorgonzola and pear cheesecake with a recipe for blue cheese cheesecake. Some tips on making it: The pear should be very ripe. High-priced cheese is not necessary; a decent midpriced blue works fine. The cheesecake is quite rich and should be served with baguette slices or mild crackers.

Pecan-Crusted Blue Cheesecake
Serves 16 as an appetizer or light lunch with a salad.

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups dry breadcrumbs
3/4 cup chopped pecans
4 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the cake:
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups crumbled blue cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 ripe pear, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced

1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix breadcrumbs, pecans, and Parmesan cheese together in a food processor. Pulse until nuts are finely ground. Add butter and process until mixture holds together. Press firmly into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while preparing filling.

Beat together cream cheese and blue cheese in a mixer on medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until just blended. [Editor’s note: Recipe did not include instruction for adding heavy cream.] Pour half mixture over crust. Lay pear slices over filling to cover. Pour remaining filling over.

Bake 1 hour, until center of cake is almost set. Remove from the oven and knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake. Sprinkle coarsely chopped pecans around top edge of cake. Cool completely before removing from the pan. Refrigerate 4 hours–overnight.

Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Board Link: Gorgonzola and pear cheesecake?

Squash Add-Ons

So yellow squash needs a bit more flavor when cooked. What to add to make it pop? The answer: simplicity and butter.

A simple solution is sautéing the squash in butter, then adding salt and pepper and a splash of white wine. Butter is the key to many of the add-ons for this delicate vegetable.

Other tasty options include mixing diced tomato with freshly steamed squash. White pepper and nutmeg bring great flavor, as do Penzeys spice mixes.

A classic preparation is with onions sautéed until they’re translucent and/or caramelized. A small sprinkling of thyme complements the sweet flavor with a citrusy, herbal zest.

Board Link: Sauted Yellow Squash? what to add?

Hold the Bacon, Hold the Eggs

Trying to avoid pork or eggs in the main dish for brunch? Kedgeree is a spicy alternative. A mix of curried rice with flaked salmon, served with lemon wedges and chutney, offers a flavorful main course.

Salmon is another good choice, served as gravlax, smoked or poached. It’s also tasty made into tea sandwiches with cucumber and cream cheese.

Chicken and gravy is a favorite. Chunks of boneless chicken in a chicken gravy are served over homemade biscuits. Chicken also makes its way into tamales.

Seafood is another option, including shrimp Creole served with spoon bread, or shrimp with grits and cheese soufflé.

Buckwheat is high in protein and perfect for hearty pancakes. A hot cereal of oatmeal, amaranth, or quinoa also ups the protein profile and is paired with fruit, dried or fresh.

Or consider a tofu scramble, served with salsa and guac in burritos; or chilaquiles—a casserole of corn tortillas, layered with chicken, enchilada sauce, and cheese.

Board Link: Brunch dish…protein…no eggs or pork

Dad’s Cooking

Chowhounds remember the stuff their noncooking dads made—with lots of love, and not much skill. There was the canned soup (watery, burned) and a “clean the fridge” soup using jam, olives, leftovers, veggies, and you-get-to-guess-the-ingredients.

Fried bologna sandwiches with Miracle Whip or mayo are burned into the collective unconscious.

Charred wrecks of grilled protein also litter memory lane. One hound sums it up, “I always knew dinner was ready when I heard, ‘sh&t, I burnt the f*%g _’ and he filled in the blank with the name of the meat/poultry.”

And then there were the “healing” beverages: several references to guggle muggles (a.k.a. guggala muggalas), a concoction of warm milk, honey, and raw egg, whiskey optional, that loomed as a cold remedy.

squid kun summed it up for all the lame noncooking dads: “What he brought to the kitchen was attention and love.”

Board Link: Things Your Non-cooking Dad Made

On Matsutake Mushrooms

These aromatic mushrooms retain their piney, musky, cinnamony scent better when grilled rather than sautéed. Slice the caps and stalks, roast or grill until they turn a light brown, then eat with oil and salt.

Or you can try bulavinaka’s method, steaming them in a rice cooker with soy sauce, sake, and a little grilled diced onion or deep-fried tofu skin.

They work well in a simple soup: a basic dashi with matsutakes, sliced daikon, and carrots.

HLing offers another preparation: Steam the mushrooms in a chawanmushi cup (an egg-custard dish, one with a lid) for five minutes. Drink the nectar that forms, then slice the mushroom and eat with ginger soy sauce or wasabi.

kobetobiko prepares them as tempura. They’re ethereal, crunchy outside and juicy and flavorful inside.

Board Link: Matsutake Tokusen–best way to prepare?

Keep the Bacon Fat

There are tons of uses for saved bacon fat. cayjohan uses it in a vinaigrette for beet salad, while dinner belle puts some in her cheese grits and adds a bit to a pot of white beans. chocchipcookie uses bacon fat in her Caesar salad dressing. fearlessemily adds a tablespoon to a pound of burger meat with some milk-soaked bread and grills. You won’t taste bacon in the burger, but it is just luscious.

With all this good advice, chef chicklet got creative and used it to sauté up garlic, onions, and zucchini—the “best tasting zucchini” ever.

Board Link: Bacon Fat–do you use it? How?

Candied Ginger Purée

How do you use candied ginger purée?

leanneabe says spread it as a layer underneath pears in a crostata or tart.

Jyg08 says, “Take a log of chevre. Coat with the ginger puree. Stand back so you don’t get trampled.”

Querencia uses the purée to rub on chicken and pork before cooking it, and places a big spoonful in the center of acorn squash before baking.

Budino makes a fast ginger tea by dissolving a big tablespoon of the purée in a cup of hot water; with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of cayenne, it helps with a sore throat.

Board Link: Any great recipes using Candied Ginger Puree?

Pancake Toppings

NAtiveNewYorker suggests a topping of macerated strawberries, adding in blueberries to the batter, or topping with bananas sautéed in butter and sugar. KingsKetz cuts up the pancakes and dips the pieces in a mixture of fresh fruit salad and yogurt. reannd goes the savory route and mixes green onions or chives into cornmeal pancakes and sometimes tops them with queso fresco. erns53 shares, “If it’s the kind of day where I don’t have to move too much,” she tops the ’cake with chèvre and a sunny-side-up egg. Now that’s breakfast!

Board Link: How do I dress up pancakes?

We Love Yellow Onions

Which are the best onions to use in onion soup? Chowhounds actually have thought about this question a lot, and the consensus is: plain old yellow cooking onions.

The key to great onion soup is not using expensive, specialty onions. The requirements are a long, low, slow caramelization of the onions and a good stock. chazzerking says specialty onions like Walla Wallas and Vidalias lose their sweetness differential after caramelizing. cmkdvs tried sweet onions and found them to be much too sweet after caramelizing.

Karl S caramelizes in a rectangular nonstick electric skillet for best temperature control and no scorching.

Large onions are preferable to small ones, just because they’re easier to slice.

Board Link: Best onions for onion soup?

The Best Cake Ever, Thanks to Elvis

krissywats has had an out-of-body experience: the best cake ever.

It’s banana cake with chocolate chips, peanut butter frosting, and chocolate shavings on top. Some people call it the Elvis Cake.

Use cake flour, butter, and regular chocolate chips in the cake and then Scharffen Berger 62 percent cocoa shavings on the outside. Also add an extra 1/2 cup of peanut butter and 1/4 cup butter to the frosting to make it more peanut buttery. Oh, and use buttermilk to add tang.

What you get is totally crazy. It stays moist for four days without refrigeration, and it’s impossible to eat without milk. It’s a classic.

krissywats says don’t add the cayenne to the frosting, but halene says to try it. It’s “surprisingly yummy.”

Board Link: With out question–the best cake I’ve had