Chorizo is a bit like pornography. You’ll know it when you see it, but it’s a bit hard to define in the abstract.
That’s because there are several hundred varieties of this sausage made across at least three continents and many bear little resemblance to the others.
Making matters worse, chorizo makers in the U.S. are a pretty freewheeling bunch. No matter what the packages say, you never quite know what you’re getting.
The good news is that you don’t need to sift through all that to understand why this meat is well worth working into your dinner repertoire.
At its most basic level, chorizo is a sausage made from chopped or ground pork and a ton of seasonings, often including garlic.
The flavors are deeply smoky and savory, with varying degrees of heat. Most are assertive and peppery, but not truly spicy.
Roasted Chicken With Chorizo and Root Veggies »
Come cold weather, praises abound for slow cookers. I never got on that bandwagon. While I love low-and-slow cooking, when it comes to barbecue, I prefer my meals to come together more quickly on a daily basis. Why wait that long for a tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef stew when a pressure cooker can do the same job in less than an hour?
Back when I was a personal chef, I only had four to five hours to spend at each client’s house, to get five meals for four prepared from start to finish. Using a pressure cooker allowed me to not only multitask, but to prepare short ribs, pot roast and even soups in record time. It was just the primer I needed for feeding my own family years later.
Forget all your fears and the stories you’ve heard about pressure cookers in the past. In the 15 years I’ve been using mine, there’s never been an explosion. I started with a stovetop pressure cooker in the beginning, and in the last few years my electric one has become my new best friend. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll realize from the first bite that is one “fast food” busy parents can feel good about serving their kids.
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Feel like your cutting board just isn’t clean enough? Not to worry — you can get the board extra clean with some products likely found in your home.
1. Rinse immediately after use. Studies show that a prewash rinse eliminates enough bacteria so that levels are safe, while submerging the board in dishwater immediately after use transfers pathogens to the wash water. Since wood is a porous surface that absorbs water, submerging a dirtied board could also cause it to split and warp.
2. Disinfect using 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Pour it over the board and spread it around using a clean sponge. Let it stand for a few minutes as it fizzes to kill germs. Wipe off with the clean sponge and repeat as needed.
Remove stains with coarse salt or baking soda »
So you think you know steaks? Maybe you do.
But truth is, you probably only really know the particular cuts you buy over and over again. That’s good, but there’s a world of great beef out there to explore.
And many of those cuts (and by the way, butchers are creating new ones all the time) are far more versatile than you think.
You could spend ages learning the different cuts of beef and the various names for each (there isn’t nearly as much naming standardization as you would think). But I think it’s better to simply pick a cut you haven’t often prepared at home and start playing around with it. That’s how I learned to love flank steak.
First, the basics. Flank steaks are lean cuts from the rear side of the cow and are characterized by rich, deep, beefy flavor and a slightly chewy texture. Traditionally, London broils were made using flank steaks, though today any of the leaner, less tender cuts often are substituted.
Get the recipe for Balsamic-Pepper Flank Steak »
Did you know that the fifth most-common finger cut can happen while you split a bagel? It’s got a name too: BRI, or bagel-related injury. Sometimes avoiding these kitchen problems is easier said than done, so here are a few tips to help you navigate your kitchen more safely.
1. Safely Split a Bagel
Lay it flat on a work surface while pressing down with one hand to keep it steady with your fingers splayed upward and out of harm’s reach. Hold a sharp serrated bread knife in your other hand and slice the bagel horizontally, keeping the knife parallel to the work surface.
2. Wipe Up Spills Immediately
Always keep dishrags handy while you’re cooking in the kitchen and toss one over a spill you might not have time for at the moment as a visual reminder — and clean it up as soon as you have time.
Stabilize your cutting board and more »
Participating in The Big Waste on Food Network was as eye opening for me as it was to watch it. I consider myself fairly well-informed in matters of buying, selling or, most simply, eating what I buy for my restaurants and home. In short, I didn’t think there would be much to learn doing this show. Or at least that there wouldn’t be much I hadn’t already seen. I was wrong. There were small amounts of precious, expensive things wasted, like chocolate, espresso and prosciutto. There were the stunning amounts of vegetables like corn, in bulk quantity, that I was surprised to learn would never “make the cut” and have a chance to even be bought.
Here are a few things we can all think about when shopping and cooking that can help reduce the amount of food waste:
1. Don’t pick through an entire pile of tomatoes to find the biggest, most perfect one. Settle for a few of the nice, small ones on top. Moving the pile around and shifting the fruit can bruise them and increase the likelihood than people will leave those other bruised fruits behind. Same goes for peaches.
Five more tips to reduce the amount of food waste »
Mmmm … Nothing says good eats like soy residue.
Except that in Chinese cooking, it really can. And you very likely have enjoyed that soy residue. Many times and in many ways.
We’re talking about hoisin sauce, a classic ingredient for sauces — both for dipping at the table and basting during cooking — in China.
Hoisin is a thick, dark red-to-brown sauce that blends sweet-spicy-savory flavors, a profile not all that different from ketchup. It is made from the leftover mash of fermented soy beans produced when making traditional soy sauces. That mash is combined with sugar, chiles, garlic, vinegar, salt, sometimes five-spice powder and either flour or cornstarch (to thicken).
Though hoisin is widely used on grilled meats (as a barbecue sauce) and in dipping sauces, it’s best known for a starring role in Peking duck and moo shu pork.
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Twice a month, we’re giving readers a chance to ask Food Network Kitchens’ advice about an issue they’re having with a dish. They can’t reformulate a recipe for you, but they’re happy to help improve it.
Question: “How do I get my pizza crust to have that slightly chewy texture and hollow bubbles to obtain that authentic pizzeria-style crust?” — Stephanie.
Find out the answer to Stephanie’s question »
Many of you tuned in to Food Network’s special, The Big Waste, that aired last week, and we heard from lots of you about how eye-opening and shocking it is to see how much perfectly edible food ends up in the garbage. Even if you’re not tasked with cooking a meal for 100 people using wasted food like chefs Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burrell, Bobby Flay and Michael Symon were, you can still learn how to get the most out of your groceries with the tips below.
1. Treat fresh herbs like flowers and give them a vase. Who doesn’t hate it when you need a tablespoon of fresh parsley for a recipe but you’re forced to buy a giant bunch? You can hang on to the extras for another use if you treat them well. Fill a glass halfway with water, remove any twist ties or rubber bands from the herbs, and then place them in the glass, stems down. Cover with a plastic bag (the produce bag you probably brought them home in is perfect), then secure the bag to the glass with a rubber band. This will keep them fresh and usable for much longer than if you’d just tossed them in the crisper drawer.
Keep brown sugar soft and moist »
Not sure what crème fraiche is or why you should care?
Consider it a relative of sour cream. Except that while both are white, thick and creamy, crème fraiche is the richer, sexier and more talented relative.
Here’s the deal. Like yogurt, sour cream and crème fraiche are dairy products produced thanks to the miracle of beneficial bacteria.
But while yogurt is made by adding those bacteria to milk, sour cream and crème fraiche are made from cream.
So what’s the difference? Sour cream is made from cream that is 20 percent fat; crème fraiche sports an even more succulent 30 percent. That may not sound like a big difference, but it matters in both taste and versatility. That extra fat turns crème fraiche into a kitchen workhorse.
But first, taste. While sour cream tastes, well, sour, crème fraiche is rich and tart. And as a byproduct of the bacteria added to produce it, crème fraiche tends to make other foods taste buttery. But unlike yogurt, crème fraiche isn’t particularly acidic (so it’s not great for marinades).
Get the recipe for Croque Monsieur »