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

Roast Your Way to Cauliflower Bliss

Is it hard to imagine putting away a head of cauliflower in one sitting? Many hounds say they could easily do just that if the cauliflower is roasted. "I've been roasting cauliflower for years," says lawmann, "and have made quite a few converts—people who never liked cauliflower until they tasted it done this way." And chowser says, "It's one vegetable my kids fight over."

The basic technique: Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and salt, spread on a sheet pan, and roast at 425°F until tender and browned, about 25 minutes, turning once about halfway through. "Give a taste when they start looking pretty," advises eight_inch_pestle. QueenB Prefers to slice the head of cauliflower into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices because "you get more surface in contact with your pan, which gives more browning and flavor." Hounds recommend drying cauliflower well after washing for best results, and some let it drain and dry overnight in the fridge before roasting.

Cauliflower roasted with nothing but oil and salt is delicious, but "it's great with different spices and condiments—from curry to Dijon mustard to cumin," says chowser. BigSal is a fan of CHOW's Pepper-Roasted Cauliflower, which is seasoned with soy sauce. Others add a squeeze of lemon or some balsamic vinegar before roasting, or sprinkle with grated Parmesan when it comes out of the oven.

smtucker mashes roasted cauliflower into a purée. "Wonderful substitute for mashed potatoes under braised lamb shanks or duck legs," she says. "The braising juices coat the mash and it is delicious."

Discuss: OMG—Roasted Cauliflower

Savory Ricotta

Many recipes using ricotta cheese are for sweets or heavy baked pasta dishes, but ricotta also stars in some simple pasta sauces and other savory treats. Fresh ricotta only makes these better.

Ricotta and vegetables combine to make easy pasta sauces. mcf purées ricotta, roasted red pepper, garlic, and olive oil and tosses with pasta; top with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley. cheesecake17 tosses pasta with ricotta, roasted broccoli, lemon zest, chopped Kalamata olives, salt, and pepper, thinning it with a bit of pasta cooking water.

jen kalb likes a simple Marcella Hazan recipe: Sauté chopped bacon, add baby peas and cook until peas are done; toss with pasta, then mix in ricotta, lots of pepper, and grated Parmesan or Pecorino.

Green Omnivore makes a white pizza with a mixture of ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses spread on the crust; bake the pizza, and when it comes out of the oven, top with arugula dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

gwendolynmarie suggests combining ricotta, vegetables, and herbs to fill tarts or strudels made with puff pastry or phyllo. maplesugar recommends this herbed ricotta tart.

For crostini or sandwiches, consider CHOW's Herbed Ricotta Spread

Discuss: Fresh ricotta ideas (no sweets, please)

Techniques for Great Braising

There are lots of ways to make great braised meats, and hounds employ variations on basic techniques depending on their preferences and the results they want.

The basic method starts by searing the meat, then adding liquid. They should come part way up the depth of the meat, not submerge it. If it is cooked in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid at a steady temperature, the meat will cook evenly, even if not turned. Many do turn the meat, though, so that both sides will be exposed to the braising liquid and so it won't stick. valerie spoons some of the braising liquid over the meat periodically, which is a good option when braising large roasts.

Braised foods taste even better a day or two after cooking, and some hounds make them in advance and chill the dish overnight to reheat and serve the next day. c oliver cooks the day before, removes the meat from the liquid and refrigerates the two separately. "I can then easily lift off the congealed fat which is hard to do if the meat is in the liquid," she says. valerie slices braised brisket, lays it in a clean Dutch oven, covers with the sauce, and refrigerates.

There are many methods of creating a sauce from the braising liquid. Straining out the vegetables and reducing the liquid concentrates its flavors and makes an elegant sauce. If you wish to thicken the liquid, you can purée some or all of the vegetables and mix them into the liquid, or simply purée it all together in the pot, using a hand blender. Or thicken the liquid using a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry or a beurre manie (equal parts flour and butter kneaded together). "The beurre manie just adds that extra touch from the butter," thinks jcattles.

Discuss: A Few Questions Beyond the Braising Basics

The Domino’s Renaissance

A compelling business story in DailyFinance points out that since declaring their own (old recipe) pizza to be a bunch of cardboard-tasting garbage, the Domino's Pizza chain has done quite well for itself, indeed:

"Earlier this week, Domino's, America's second-largest pizza chain, reported that fourth quarter profits more than doubled year over year to $23.6 million from $11 million. Total revenue for the quarter came in at $462.9 million, an 8.1% increase over last year, with U.S. same-store sales climbing 1.4% and international same-store sales increasing by 3.9%."

READ MORE

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"And don't forget breaking off a big handful of rice noodles and dropping them into hot oil: fllooooosh—they silently and almost instantly inflate, curl, and cook." - Sam Fujisaka

"[S]auté equal parts chopped purslane and onion before scrambling in some eggs—it's a traditional Mexican dish called huevos con verdolagas. Lovely wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla." - plum

"I always make sure to stuff a lot of them inside the cavity of my chicken while roasting along with peppers and onions. I also chop them with the same mixture and put it under the skin of the chicken. It smells wonderful!" - cookieluvntasha, on celery leaves

You Can’t Take Him Anywhere

You Can’t Take Him Anywhere

How to teach your mate good table manners. READ MORE

Learn to Love Oxtails

RHT in JAX's oxtail experiences have not been promising. RHT in JAX has sampled oxtail at two restaurants, and "at each place, it seems like a chore to get the meat off the bone, as there is still a lot of fatty connective tissue." Is it worth trying again?

Don't give up, says giveittomikey. When prepared properly, they are delicious! "They should be fall off the bone tender," he says. "This way the natural gelatin in the bone has also thickened the gravy." There should be no problem getting the meat off the bone: "the problem seems to be that in some cases people do not allow enough time for them to simmer slowly," says giveittomikey. "When I fix oxtails, I cook them till the cartilage disks separate from the bones," says paulj.

In addition to cooking time, there's also a quality issue. "You need good tail and to cook it properly," says joonjoon. "There are cheap tail out there that never soften up no matter how long you cook it. For me the perfect oxtail is bursting with fat and gelatin and falls right off the bone." racer x agrees. "I prefer them meatier and fattier myself," he says. "The fatty ones are horrible for your health, I'm sure, which is why I rarely eat them nowadays, but they tend to be more tender and flavorful."

If you're going to try your hand at cooking oxtail, you might like this recipe for Oxtail and Barley Soup.

Discuss: Are ox tails just not for me?

Give Carob Another Chance

Carob is not a substitute for chocolate. "The poor carob pod and its syrup became horribly maligned during the 1970s as some kind of chocolate substitute," says Plain Jane. "Memories of carob brownies still make me shudder with revulsion." But it turns out that there are pleasures to be had from carob in its own right. "It wasn't until the last year that at the urging of a friend, I finally picked up and tried a carob pod on a wildflower hike in the countryside. It was love at first bite!" says Plain Jane, who lived in carob-growing Cypress. "Carob syrup is rich, dense, and complex like molasses, but not as thick or heavy," she says. "Use it when you want a flavor between molasses and honey." In particular, try carob syrup with fresh figs during fig season, says Plain Jane, preferably accompanied by some Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream.

Discuss: In defense of Carob syrup!

Zombies Come Back from the Grave!

Zombies Come Back from the Grave!

Bartenders shake up some serious tiki drinks. READ MORE

To Pick a Pepper

To Pick a Pepper

This week's mission: Can crispy peppers fill a new garnish niche? READ MORE