Cooking Tips rss

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

The Secret to Light and Crispy Beer Batter

If you prefer fried fish, onion rings, etc., with a light, crispy crust (vs. a denser, crunchy one), Pei has discovered the secret: incorporate beaten egg white into a typical beer batter. Here’s her recipe:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 T cornstarch
1 T baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 bottle of beer
2 egg whites

Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the beer, and stir to mix thoroughly. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Mix a little of the batter into the whites, then mix that all back into the batter. The mixture of dry ingredients and beer can sit as long as an hour–but beat the egg whites just before frying.

Board Links: Egg Whites for Beer Batter

Reduced-Sugar Fruit Sorbet

Good, dead-ripe fruit is sweet enough that it doesn’t require lots of extra sugar when making desserts. But sugar plays a larger role than just sweetening in making sorbet–it also affects texture and freezability. Too little sugar will produce a sorbet that freezes rock hard when stored, and will be full of ice crystals even when fresh. Here are some strategies for reducing sugar without compromising quality.

Instead of adding simple syrup to your fruit puree, try stirring sugar directly in (superfine sugar dissolves best). The taste will be cleanest, and you won’t be adding unnecessary water, which could help produce ice crystals. A pinch of salt helps bring out the fruit’s flavor.

Add a bit of alcohol (about 2 T of vodka for a neutral taste, or use a liqueur with a complementary flavor) toward the end of your ice cream machine’s freezing cycle. Alcohol inhibits overfreezing.

Remember that if your mixture has the perfect sweetness before freezing, it will be less sweet after, as freezing mutes sweetness. So adjust accordingly!

Board Links: Sorbet with a Reduced Sugar Simple Syrup–Will it work?

What the Devil’s Got into Your Eggs?

Hounds offer up their favorite variations for filling deviled eggs.

-smoked paprika in the filling and as a garnish

-mayo, soy sauce, and chili-garlic paste

-wasabi and smoked salmon, topped with white and black sesame seeds

-high-quality unsalted butter and anchovy paste

-plain yogurt and mayo, curry powder, mango chutney, cilantro leaf garnish

-crumbled bacon

Board Links: Deviled egg variations ? Favorites for fruit salads? Suggestions please!

Light Lemon Hotcakes: Brilliance for Breakfast

These light, frsh-tasting lemony hotcakes, topped with fruit and a bit of syrup, are a perfect way to start your day.

Here’s Peppermint Pate’s recipe:

Stir together:
1 scant cup buttermilk
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of 2 lemons
Fold in:
1 T melted butter

In another bowl, sift:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 T sugar (preferably superfine)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Stir to incorporate. Whip two egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into batter. Cook in a lightly buttered pan. Serves 3 to 4.

Board Links: Peppermint Pate’s lemon hotcakes–Brilliance for breakfast!

The Secret Life of Condensed Milk

Sweetened condensed milk (SCM) has lots of uses beyond key lime pie and Thai iced tea. And while it’s high in sugar, at least it’s natural (ingredients are just milk and sugar, with no additives or preservatives). And even the low-fat and fat-free versions taste pretty rich. Note that SCM is often much cheaper in Latino or Vietnamese markets. Here are some ingriguing uses for this stuff:

SCM is used in Vietnamese-style coffee, but a heaping teaspoonful in your standard American cup is a superior alternative to anything else when you’ve run out of milk (rworange).

A spoonful of SCM takes oatmeal to an amazing level; add raisins and cinnamon and it’s almost like eating rice pudding.

A little SCM is terrific poured over stewed fruits, such as rhubarb.

Crushed ice, lime juice, and SCM served in a tall glass with a spoon makes a great creamy citrus drink (petradish).

Mix SCM with lemon, lime, or orange juice and zest to taste and and freeze in popsicle molds to make creamy frozen citrus bars.

Candy recommends a recipe for chocolate natillas (rich pudding made with SCM); she recommends using a very dark chocolate. See the recipe.

Use SCM to make homemade dulce de leche. (recipe)

Nestle has a SCM brand aimed at the Latino market called La Lechera, and recently introduced a flip-top plastic squeeze bottle version that makes it easy to use just a spoonful and store the rest safely in the fridge. If you store it upside-down, the SCM is ready to flow, with no drips. Dommy is a convert: “Now that I got my bottle, there is NO going back for me!”

Board Links: Elsie the Cow’s condensed milk is udderly swell

Superior Shrimp Cocktail

The two commandments of the superior shrimp cocktail are:

1. Excellent shrimp
2. Do not overcook

The best shrimp cocktails begin, naturally, with the best shrimp. Look for American white or pink, and avoid imported farm-raised tiger shrimp, which just don’t taste good. Buy frozen if you can–the ones you see in your fishmonger’s case were frozen and defrosted, so you’ll get fresher results if you do the defrosting yourself right before you cook.

For the best flavor, cook shrimp in their shells. If you cut a slit down the back (through the shell) before cooking, shelling will be much easier. Bring a large pot of water to boil, adding seasonings if you wish (JudiAU puts in lots of salt plus four times the amount of crab boil seasoning suggested on the seasoning package). Add shrimp, and remove as soon as they’re opaque (just 2-3 minutes for medium-sized ones). Dump them in a bowl of ice water to chill, then shell.

Everyone has different sauce preferences, but hounds agree that homemade beats off-the-shelf cocktail sauce. Homemade includes, however, doctored-up treatments of store-bought ingredients. For example, fix up Heinz Chili Sauce with some added horseradish and fresh lemon juice (ChinoWayne).

Dommy offers her family’s recipe for a Mexican-style shrimp cocktail (a.k.a. coctel de gambas):

To cooled, drained shrimp, add the following, all chopped: cucumber, red onion, cilantro, firm avocado, and serrano chiles. Stir in a mixture of ketchup and lemon juice. Serve with saltines.

Board Links: What makes a “good” shrimp cocktail (or is that a misnomer)?

Simple Dressing Formulas

Here are some simple formulas for combining condiments (along with salt and pepper) to create common dressings, which you can amp up with herbs, spices, and other flavorings of your choice to taste.

Ketchup + mayonnaise = Russian dressing

Ketchup + mayonnaise + relish (+ capers) = Thousand Island dressing

Mayonnaise + lemon juice + relish (+ capers) = tartar sauce

Board Links: Salad Dressings

Cajun Seasoning Mix

This recipe for Cajun-style seasoning (courtesy of Fleur), can be used in many ways: as a rub, in flour for dredging, in salad dressing, mixed with olive oil as a marinade for grilled meat, fish, chicken, and vegetables.

2 1/2 T sweet paprika
2 T kosher salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried thyme

Combine all ingredients, mix well. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 2/3 cup. Keeps a long time, until you use it all up.

Board Links
Cajun seasoning???

Bounce Miracle Cure for Burnt Pots

Who knew? Bounce dryer sheets are a miracle cure for pots with bottoms burnt out and blackened when they’re forgotten on the stove and nothing else will do the trick.

Hot water and a couple of fabric softener sheets left to soak for a few days loosen up all that burnt-on gunk like a charm, swears Cynthia, who says the method even saved a pot from an impossibly crusted layer of would-be peach preserves turned to carbon.

Board Links
The Bounce Miracle Cure saved my stockpot!

Pepper Vinegar

Pepper vinegar is a snappy condiment for barbecue and barbecue-related foods. What couldn’t you dress up with a bottle of vinegar flavored with hot chiles?

It’s easy to make your own. Use a sterilized narrow-necked bottle; fill with any combination of small chiles (birds eye, tabasco, and cayenne are common). Heat white or cider vinegar and pour over the peppers. Close tightly and let sit in a cool place for a couple of weeks before using. Just replenish the vinegar in the bottle as you use it up. If you want to increase the heat, make slits in the chiles before you put them in the bottle, or follow Hungry Celeste“s recipe, and puree 2 T kosher salt and a small handful of chiles, and put the puree in the bottle with the whole peppers and vinegar.

Vinegar is a preservative, so you needn’t worry about the peppers going bad.

Board Links
Pepper vinegar?