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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Salt Water Makes Shrimp Snappy

Brining is a popular technique for keeping poultry moist, but it also works to improve texture. "Brining shrimp makes the texture really pop," say thew. "I can't say I always do it, but whenever I do, I think the texture of the shrimp is way better." "Brining is a fantastic thing to do if you're going to dry-cook the shrimp," says C. Hamster. C. Hamster recommends a brine of 1/2 cup kosher salt dissolved in 4 cups cold water; soak the shrimp for 20 minutes and rinse.

"Brine them (briefly) with the shells on and then toss them with melted butter, Worcestershire, cayenne, garlic, and smoked paprika and roast them hot and fast!" recommends WCchopper. "Wear an old shirt and sit outside with someone you're very comfortable looking foolish in front of and enjoy!" chowser likes Alton Brown's shrimp cocktail, which begins with brining.

Discuss: Brining Shrimp before cooking?

The Magic of a Menu

If you're getting married—or, hell, just having a really good dinner party—you might want to give a bit of thought to your menu. And by "menu," we mean an actual paper or card stock list of what's for supper.

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Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Racks of lamb (or individual chops, which I prefer) are probably the tenderest meat you'll ever come across and certainly need no marination. But if you must do something the oil/lemon/garlic/herb idea will do (I use it for cubes of leg or shoulder that I'm making into kebabs)." - Harters

"I just finished making Emeril's ham and split pea soup. It was delicious. The recipe calls for a ham hock, but I just used the ham bone from my Easter ham and added more ham. It is a classic recipe but tastes so much brighter than other pea soups I've had. As reviewers suggested, I doubled the celery, carrots and onion." - sophia 519, on this recipe

"Use beef and/or chicken broth, with bite-sized bits of lamb, in making bean soup. My mother made soup with dried lima beans (a.k.a. butter beans), a lamb shank, garlic, onions, carrot, and celery. Although I'd prefer using a shank (gelatin improves the mouthfeel), if I had leftover lamb I'd add it toward the end of making this soup." - greygarious

Hey Developers, Make This Food App!

The mania over the iPad has got me thinking about recipe apps, and how they could be better. This is what I'd like to see in my dream cooking app:

From the moment I choose my recipe, I don't want to have to touch the iPad. Instead, voice activation would guide me through the steps. If you happened to be really slow, you could say "pause" or "repeat" to hear the step again. When I'm baking, I usually have to look back at the amount of baking soda about five times, so it would be nice to just ask, "How much baking soda?" and get a response. Bonus points: You could have the voices tailored to the dish you're making—I'd love to hear an Elizabethan robot describe how to make a mincemeat pie. READ MORE

Meatless Mondays Now, Gay Bar Tuesdays Next?

Score one for idealistic vegetarian policy wonks: San Francisco's SF Examiner reported Tuesday that the city Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation denoting each Monday as "meat-free." The legislation is fairly toothless, merely asking “all restaurants, grocery stores and schools to offer a greater variety of plant-based options to improve the health of San Francisco residents and visitors and to increase the awareness of the impact a green diet would be on our planet.” It doesn't authorize Citizen Burger Arrests or anything. But there's still been a fair amount of blowback. Brock Keeling of irascible San Francisco metro blog SFist points out that San Francisco is already heavily frosted with vegetarian restaurants, farmers' markets, hippies, and vegetarian tasting menus: "Who in this city needs to learn about alternatives to meat? No one, that's who. Absurd. This is like, say, passing a Gay Bar Tuesdays resolution."

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iCan iPad iCook?

The iPad has officially arrived, along with endless hype for its movie-watching, web surfing, and app-mania functionality. But the important question (to us) is, how it will fare in the kitchen? How will cooking a recipe from the iPad work and will it be good enough to replace real cookbooks? READ MORE

The Color of Asparagus

ipsedixit adores asparagus in all its permutations—but can't detect any noticeable difference in taste between the different colors of asparagus (green, purple, and white). "I've tried them raw, lightly steamed, stir-fried, cooked to fork tender, and it really doesn't seem to matter," says ipsedixit. "They all taste the same." LauraGrace agrees: "It boggled my mind to watch folks in Germany pay 17 or 18 Euro for a plate of steamed fat white asparagus in beurre blanc, and slice it with such care and absolutely roll their eyes back in their heads with pleasure as they ate it!"

The colored varieties do taste different from each other, says Pata_Negra. "Green and purple have a pronounced bitterness (high chlorophyll content). White is mild and most exquisite." But here's where the confusion comes in: The white asparagus you're likely to find in the United States is NOT the divine spargel folks pay 18 euro a plate for over on the Continent. "German white asparagus is also known as white gold," says linguafood. "The flavor is unique, and you won't get anything even close to that outside Germany. I made the mistake of buying white asparagus in the U.S. once. Blah. Basically flavorless." "The American varieties aren't even from the same planet," agrees dmd_kc.

Chalk it up to terroir—and stick with the flavorful green or purple varieties in the States. "Green is one of my favorite vegetables, but I truly detest U.S. domestic white," says dmd_kc. "It has a funky, acrid flavor, which I think is complemented by the chlorophyll in green."

Discuss Asparagus ... can you taste the color difference?

Jerk That Perks

Jerk That Perks

This week's mission: the bastard child of beef jerky and a cuppa joe. READ MORE

A Walk on the Mild Side

A Walk on the Mild Side

This week's mission: a marijuana-inspired soda for the anxious set. READ MORE

Portuguese Street Food You Can Make at Home

Grilled sardines, or sardinhas asadas, are summer street food in Portugal, says Pata_Negra. There are no fancy recipes—the treatment is extremely simple. "Dry the fish, brush with some oil and grill," advises Pata_Negra. "Sprinkle salt flakes over and devour by the dozen. Wash everything down with a vinho verde." It's a dish that's also common in Spanish tapas restaurants—again, treated very simply with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon, says ML8000. And leave the heads on—Portuguese cooks don't even scale the sardines before they grill them, says Pata_Negra.

If you want to give grilling sardines a shot, RAGHOUND notes that fresh sardines are frequently available at Asian markets—although the fattest, sweetest sardines come from Portugal, says Pata_Negra.

Discuss: Grilled Sardines