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

Contrast and Conquer

Contrast and Conquer

This week's mission: A salty snack marries its sweetie. READ MORE

One Simple Trick Makes Perfect Cheesecake

There are several techniques that will ensure cheesecake success, but bozoyoyo has discovered a simple trick that results in a superior cheesecake: Use cold water for the water bath the cake bakes in. "My cheesecake was more evenly baked with the cold water," he says.

todao explains, "Baked goods prepared in cake pans cook from the outside rim to the center, meaning that the outside of the preparation cooks faster than the center. Using a water bath helps to equalize the distribution of heat." Using hot water accelerates the heat gain at the rim, so it will still bake more quickly than the center; cold water "retards the heat rise in the cheesecake, allowing it to more evenly absorb the heat," todao says.

There is a way to get a creamy, nonbrowned cheesecake with no cracks without a water bath, says chowser: Bake it overnight at a low temperature, as in this recipe.

Discuss: cheesecake, cold water bath

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Here's an Italian idea to use blossoms without frying: Chop blossoms into thin strips crossways. Sauté quickly in [extra virgin olive] oil with a small amount of finely chopped garlic. If you add too much garlic you will not taste the blossoms. Cool and mix with fresh ricotta and some grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and serve as a dip with crusty bread or spread on crostini." – madonnadelpiatto, on squash blossoms

"Wash them, cut 'x's on them, toss them in olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Now, toss them in a HOT cast iron skillet (already heated in a 400-degree oven) and bake till they are tender and 'exploded.' Fantastic." – Beckyleach, on freshly dug potatoes

"In all, how much pasta you use is entirely up to you. There is no correct answer. It depends on what place you give it in the rest of the meal. Is it only for lunch? Or as a first course in an elaborate evening menu? Then you will probably use less pasta than if you're planning to eat it as a single course for dinner. It also depends on what other ingredients you will use. If you use a heavy meat sauce you will probably need less pasta than if you use fresh clams." – damiano

Denny’s Is Japanese for Awesome

If you've never seen the Dadaist science fiction masterpiece known as Demolition Man, a) you're missing out, and b) you won't be familiar with the movie's thought experiment that in the future, every restaurant—even the fanciest purveyor of haute cuisine—will be Taco Bell, a result of that chain's triumph in the fast food wars of the present day.

Pause for video clip:


The Basics: How to Make Hummus

The Basics: How to Make Hummus

It's embarrassingly easy. READ MORE

Ayote: Butternut Squash on Steroids

Ayote is a Central American black squash—it has black skin and striking kelly green flesh that blackens during the cooking process. It's better than butternut squash, says rworange. The flavor is like butternut squash on steroids, she says—intensely sweet and deeply flavored.

It's not common in the United States. "I'm glad I never did find one of these in the U.S.," says rworange. "Cutting it open I probably would have screamed and thought it had gone very bad. However, now that I know it is supposed to look like that, I hope someplace does sell these."

paul balbin likes them, too. "My wife makes great pumpkin pie with these," he says. "You have to close your eyes to eat it since it comes out greenish black but it tastes great."

Discuss: Ayote: Black squash – better than butternut

Lovely Skate Wing, Disgusting Ammonia Fragrance

Bada Bing recently bought a skate wing to cook with. "Before cooking, it smelled a bit fishy but in a generic way and not too bad, and not the least hint of ammonia," says Bada Bing. "I battered and pan-fried it, and my son and I dug in. The fish actually didn't taste bad—my son kept eating until I asked him, doesn't this smell 'off'? I took a few close sniffs of the fillet and got an OVERPOWERING blast of ammonia smell." What to do?

The ammonia smell is normal, and nothing was wrong with the skate, says therealdoctorlew. "Ammonia is part of the skate smell. Yet, when made correctly, skate is delicious," says therealdoctorlew. "My go-to recipe is poached skate in brown butter sauce. The poaching is done in an acidulated court bouillon and the brown butter sauce has some vinegar and capers in it. The fish and kitchen are totally without the smell of ammonia when it is prepared this way."

Another dimension: "Skate, like shark, has to be bled and dressed properly, or else the ammonia odor will occur more quickly," says Karl S. "Likely it just was a skate that wasn't handled as properly as it should have been." Zeldog agrees. "It's not preparation, it's freshness. I've cooked fresh (or fresh frozen) skate many times with no special preparation and it was quite delicious," says Zeldog. " When buying unfrozen skate (or shark), always ask them to let you give it a sniff first. If they won't, go someplace else for your fish."

Discuss: Do I dare try skate wing again?

Green Papayas and Mangoes

Mango and papaya are sweet and fragrant when ripe. But many people in South Asia and Hawaii prefer the unripe, green versions. luckyfatima loves green papaya salad. "Green, unripened papaya ground with its skin is a great meat tenderizer and is used in making many types of kebabs in Pakistani/Indian cuisine," she says. In Hawaii, "we eat green mango plain, with mayo and shoyu," says Mag454. "You can also pickle the green mangoes. I have a friend who makes pickled mangoes every year (in fact, he should hopefully be giving me some soon!) and they are a very tasty treat."

Discuss: green papayas, green mangoes

The DIY Home Bar

The DIY Home Bar

Make your own falernum, grenadine, and maraschino cherries. READ MORE

Overheard on the General Topics Boards

"'Vuelve a la Vida' ('Back to Life' or 'Return to Life') is a ceviche cocktail that appears to have originated in Veracruz, Mexico. It contains various seafoods such as shrimp, octopus, oysters, crab, et al., with ketchup/tomato sauce/salsa, lime juice, onions, cilantro, and chile peppers. This 'corpse reviver' (sometimes called 'Levanta Muertos') is supposed to cure any hangover. That sounds so much better as a hangover cure than menudo or greasy Jack in the Box tacos." – rworange

"Rice, but not plain rice. It has to be mushy as in congee or loaded with toppings as in fried rice and ketchup or bibimbap." – JungMann, on a vegan hangover cure

"One doesn't necessarily 'need' binchotan, but it does burn much hotter and cleaner than ordinary hardwood charcoal." – MikeG, on binchotan charcoal