Cooking Tips rss

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

Effortless Chicken Stock in Your Slow Cooker

Clear, intensely chickeny chicken stock can be made in a slow cooker. It simmers away while you slumber, with no skimming and no adjusting the heat, and has marvelous flavor even when made from a roast chicken carcass and no supplemental raw parts. It tastes so good after 12 hours in the slow cooker, it needs no further reduction. Add the usual stock vegetables and aromatics (e.g., carrot, celery, onion, peppercorns, bay leaf) but no salt, and cook on the low setting for up to 12 hours. Add salt later, when you use the stock. So easy, you’ll be making homemade chicken stock all the time (and putting those takeout rotisserie chicken carcasses to work for you!).

Board Link: Finally tried it: stock in the slow cooker

Perfectly Creamy Homemade Ice Cream

Diana is as thrilled with her tropical-theme ice cream’s perfect, creamy consistency as she is with its standout flavor, saying it scoops like a dream with no iciness two days after it’s made—rare for homemade ice cream. Here’s the recipe:

4 bananas
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup good-quality gold rum
1/2 cup crushed macadamias
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Blend bananas and condensed milk in a blender or food processor until bananas are puréed. Whisk cream until it’s frothy, and mix it and rum into banana mixture. Chill until cold, then process in an ice cream maker; in the last few minutes of processing, add macadamias and chocolate. Scrape ice cream into a container and freeze until solid.

Board Link: banana Rum macadamia Chocolate chunk Ice Cream

Melon Baller Methodology

Making nice, round melon balls isn’t difficult once you learn the proper technique and practice a bit. Press the melon baller down firmly into the melon’s flesh, digging it in until the scoop is completely filled with fruit, then use your wrist to give the baller a twist inside the melon, making a full round.

Ripe, juicy melons can produce a lot of wet mess while you’re preparing them. Cut cantaloupes and similar melons in half before carving them out; the juice stays in the half melon, says ctl98. kitchenhag scoops melons in the kitchen sink to contain their juices. Melon ballers are also useful for neatly scooping the cores out of halved apples and pears.

Board Link: Melon Baller Techniques?

Preserving Garden Herbs

Drying fresh herbs can kill a lot of the flavor. Here are some good ideas, other than making pestos and vinegars, for preserving them without drying.

Blanch the herbs quickly in boiling water, shock in cold water, spin dry, vacuum seal, and freeze. Fresh herbs also can be combined with butter and frozen in logs, or mixed with a little olive oil and frozen in ice cube trays. Another option is to freeze the leaves, then crush them and store the flakes in an airtight jar.

Try mixing the herbs with a good sea salt. The leaves eventually will dry out, infusing the salt with tasty summer goodness. Stir occasionally to make sure the herbs are completely dry, then store the salt in a tightly closed jar.

Board Link: Good ways to preserve a garden full of mint, basil, thyme, parsley, sage etc.

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?