All Posts In How-to

Squeezed in the Middle

by in Entertaining, How-to, July 5th, 2012

key lime ice cream sandwiches
Growing up as I did in a house filled with junk food, I had many options. Cookies lined the shelves, each vying for my attention, screaming “Pick me!”

Passing over crunchy chocolate chip, I would quickly made my way to the sandwich cookies. Nutter Butters were my all-time favorites. So much so that my homemade variety appears on the cover of my upcoming cookbook.

I waited all year for Girl Scout cookie season, particularly for the Do-Si-Dos. I’m not sure if it’s the cookies or the filling that I love more. If I had to choose, I would say it’s those soft, peanut-buttery middles.

Baking cookies from scratch allows you to think outside the cookie box for filling ideas. Of course, there is the classic cream filling (think the “stuff” of Oreos), which you can make at home by creaming three simple ingredients: butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. I love adding citrus zest, espresso powder, cocoa nibs or even peanut butter for a twist. Heck, you can even fold in Cap’n Crunch cereal. The beauty of a filled cookie is there are endless possibilities.

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Fighting Summer Stains: Fruits and Berries

by in How-to, June 28th, 2012

summer berries
When we think of summer desserts, our minds turn to grilled plums, peach cobblers, fruit-filled pies and bowls of fresh blueberries and raspberries. The fruits of summer are ripe, sweet and juicy. They’re also pesky stain makers. As Tre Mitchell Wright, a fabric-care expert at Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science, points out, “Fruits were some of the original dyes; the longer they sit, especially on natural fabrics like cotton, the harder they’ll be to get out.”

Your best tactic for combating stains from fruits (both cooked and raw) is to first scrape any excess fruit off of the garment. If the garment is labeled “dry clean only,” don’t try to treat the stain. If washable, run the fabric under cold water to flush the stain out. Wring out the excess water and apply plain white vinegar to the stained area. Next work a laundry pretreatment or liquid detergent into the fabric with your hands and let it do its work for at least 10 minutes before laundering the piece using the warmest water the care label allows. If the discoloration remains after washing, try soaking the garment in a solution of color-safe bleach and then laundering it again.

Watch out for watermelon! Find out why

5 Tips for Successful Grilling

by in Food Network Magazine, How-to, June 26th, 2012

leah brickleyWe’re hard at work in the test kitchen months before grilling season starts. We often find ourselves developing summertime favorites in the middle of winter, and finding a spot to grill (sometimes in the snow) can be challenging. I’m lucky enough to have a backyard and both a gas and charcoal grill, so I volunteer on occasion to bundle up and test recipes from home to ensure accuracy.

Here are some tips I picked up this past winter while testing recipes for the June issue of Food Network Magazine.

5 Tips for Successful Grilling:

1.    Get organized. Make sure everything you need is organized and within reach of your grilling command station. Using a small baking sheet is a great way to keep sauces, seasonings, timers, thermometers, recipes and miscellaneous equipment nearby and ready.

2.    Invest in a thermometer. If you’re cooking larger, more expensive cuts of meat using a thermometer can help with accurate cooking temperatures — so you don’t overcook that pricey steak. We in the test kitchens like digital instant-read thermometers.

Click here for three more tips

Make a Quick Pickle

by in Food Network Magazine, How-to, June 22nd, 2012

Cold Asian Noodles with Pork

Hot tips from Food Network Kitchens’ Katherine Alford:

Homemade pickles are a fun way to customize sandwiches and salads, and they don’t have to take days. You can pickle vegetables by soaking them in a vinegar-based brine for just 20 minutes, like Food Network Magazine did for these Cold Asian Noodles With Pork. Use a hot brine to pickle beets, carrots and other dense vegetables, and a cold brine for more delicate vegetables, like the red onion in these Chicken Salad Sandwiches With Walnut-Dill Pesto.

Baking 101

by in How-to, June 20th, 2012

baking 101
I was classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America. The school prides itself on providing all its students the tools they need to succeed in the food industry. The most important tool I’ll pass along is “mise en place.” This is a French phrase used by chefs that translates to “everything in place.”

Baking 101 is, simply put, baking mise en place.

Baking can seem daunting to novices. I understand it seems very technical and can also be confusing. I will dispel many myths with these simple steps.

Before buying any ingredients for a recipe, read the entire recipe from start to finish. Look closely at all the ingredients. If for example, a recipe calls for room-temperature butter and eggs, make sure you pull them out of the fridge far enough in advance (at least one hour).

Preheating the oven is very important and should always be done before measuring out the ingredients.

Have a timer set and ready to go and more

That’s the Spirit: Using Liquor in Sweets

by in How-to, June 6th, 2012

plum upside down cake
I’m a bourbon girl, straight up. Neat or on the rocks, it doesn’t matter just as long as the vanilla, oak, caramel and spice notes work their magic. It’s pure craftsmanship at its best and only gets better with age.

But I’m also a pastry chef and one who loves to have fun exploring new flavor combinations. To limit a fine spirit to the bar alone would be criminal; at least, that’s what I think. Incorporating liquors into desserts reveals a whole new horizon of possibilities.

I love a good Manhattan. I also love the fact that bourbon works so well with chocolate, toasted nuts, peaches and even candied bacon. Two other spirits that round out my top three favorites when I bake are rum and Campari. Dark rum works well with tropical fruit and is a favorite of mine to use at our restaurant in Grand Cayman. Since there are so many great rums, taste a couple and use the one you like best. And Campari is a tad bitter, but it adds great balance to a dessert.

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Asparagus All the Time

by in How-to, In Season, May 30th, 2012

asparagus bundle
When shopping for asparagus, look for firm, clean and straight stalks. Wobbly stalks and discolored ends are telltale signs not to buy. Use a sharp knife to trim only the very bottom from the stalk; breaking it off causes more of the bottom to go to waste. With “pencil” asparagus, I find the stalks too thin to peel. For larger asparagus, I peel them (because the outer skin can be tough once cooked) and leave the top two inches intact. Not planning to use them right away? Fresh asparagus should be kept refrigerated. Placing the stalks upright in a little bit of water (as you would a bouquet of flowers, for example) can extend its shelf life.

I like asparagus al dente, a.k.a slightly crunchy. A six-ounce serving of asparagus will cook al dente in boiling water in about 2-3 minutes; add enough salt after the water begins to boil until it tastes like mild seawater. Once cooked, transfer the stalks to a bowl of cold water with ice to stop them from cooking further, dry them off and serve them whole drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. When I serve them chilled, I let them sit in the fridge in the dressing for a few minutes before serving. For something even richer, try a dressing with two parts hazelnut oil, a handful of chopped, toasted hazelnuts and one part lemon juice. Drain the asparagus, dry stalks of excess water and toss them, warm, into the bowl with the dressing. When I serve them warm, I have the dressing ready; I toss and eat right away.

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5 Burger Don’ts From Meat Master Pat LaFrieda, Jr.

by in Holidays, How-to, May 26th, 2012

perfect burger
Last year, we polled FN Dish readers: Burgers or hot dogs for Memorial Day weekend? While 44 percent said they would be indulging in both, 35 percent said they were all about the burger. To ensure you cook up tender and juicy burgers this upcoming long weekend, we asked the “Magician of Meat” Pat LaFrieda, Jr. to offer up some tips.

5 Things to Avoid Doing to Your Burger

Never place your burger on a grill that is not preheated. Always make sure your grill is hot enough and ready to cook on before placing the burger down. Too often people turn on the grill and immediately place the meat down to start cooking — and the end result is never pretty. If the grill is preheated to the right temperature, you’ll notice the difference.

Don’t do these four things to your burger

The Afterlife of a Vanilla Bean

by in How-to, May 23rd, 2012

vanilla beans
Every year in the restaurant and out in the field, I use a truckload of vanilla beans. To me, they are as important as flour, sugar, butter and eggs. I consider the vanilla bean the fifth essential ingredient.

So imagine gallons of ice cream flecked with pounds of vanilla beans. Yummers! And how about custards by the kilo with an equal amount of this decadent vanilla sprinkled through every last bite?

So what do you do with pods that served their duty, sometimes even double duty? I could throw them away, but that wouldn’t be prudent. They are extremely expensive and too special to sit in a landfill somewhere in Florida, never really enjoying the fruits of their labor.

A flashbulb went off in my brain. No, not the same magical 60 watt summoning to life the Easy-Bake Oven of my childhood, but a bigger and brighter new fangled one. I realized if I washed the used pods and dried them slowly in the oven on very low heat, I could grind them in a spice or coffee grinder and have the most wonderful vanilla dust.

Get Hedy’s Vanilla Dust recipe

How to Use Salt in Sweets

by in How-to, May 9th, 2012

salt
Savoring dessert carries a double meaning in my book. To fully enjoy most sweets, whether they are chocolate, fruit or candy-based, a little salt goes a long way to make the flavors pop. As the pastry chef at Miami’s top restaurant, I’m always trying to nudge guests a little bit outside their comfort zone. Sometimes the easiest way to do it is by baking some kosher salt into raw sugar-dusted sesame shortbread for a supportive boost you wouldn’t even know unless I told you. Or, better yet, go a little more obvious with a sprinkle of light and flaky Maldon sea salt on top of creamy, frozen truffle-like Milk Chocolate Cremoso. I love the raised eyebrows it provokes upon hitting the table — of course shortly followed by the, “Oh, I see, this completely makes sense,” look.

Just think about it. While it’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of dessert, it’s actually not that far-fetched of an idea. We’ve been baking salt into our desserts since we were kids. (Remember the Nestlé Toll House cookies package?) When baking at home, think outside the salt shaker. Try to pay attention to the types of salt you are using as there’s likely a perfect variety for each application in both the savory and the sweet kitchen.

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