All Posts In How-to

How to Make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

by in Food Network Magazine, How-to, February 29th, 2012

crispy chocolate chip cookies

Make chocolate chip cookies exactly how you like them with these tips from Food Network Magazine:

  • Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies (pictured above) bake longer than the average cookie so they end up brown all over, not just around the edges.
  • Superfine sugar makes for a fine crumb and crisp texture.
  • Vegetable oil helps the batter spread so the cookies come out extra thin.

Make the perfect chewy and cakey chocolate chip cookie »

Nutritional Yeast Flakes — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, February 23rd, 2012

pumpkin and white bean soup
It’s awfully hard to get excited about a food called “nutritional yeast flakes.”

It sounds like something you either need a prescription to get — or a prescription to get rid of. Even worse, it resembles yellow flaked fish food. But trust me, this is an ingredient worth looking at beyond its name and appearance.

Nutritional yeast flakes have been around for years, but they are all but unheard of outside the vegan world, which uses them to simulate the flavor of cheese.

There’s a reason they use them that way. These flakes are jammed with glutamates, the compounds that give us the savory wonderfulness in Parmesan and steak.

But let’s go back to the basics. Nutritional yeast flakes are produced by growing, harvesting and drying a variety of yeast that is different from that used in baking.

Pumpkin and White Bean Soup With Sourdough Croutons

Instant Coffee — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, February 16th, 2012

bourbon java steak tips
Most of us have to be suffering from a pretty mind-blowing caffeine-withdrawal migraine before we’ll reach for instant coffee.

Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy some. Because while instant coffee makes a generally lousy cup of java, it can do astounding things for your cooking.

And that is why it is such an overlooked and underappreciated ingredient.

First, an instant-coffee primer.

Coffee hounds have been tinkering with versions of instant coffee since at least the late 1700s, but it wasn’t until just before World War II that it became widely available.

Those early varieties were made by spraying brewed coffee into heated towers and drying it into granules. By 1964, a freeze-drying method had been perfected, which boasted superior aroma and body.

Get the recipe for Bourbon Java Steak Tips »

5 Things to Know About Your Refrigerator

by in How-to, February 15th, 2012

refrigerator safetyA refrigerator in tip-top condition provides prime storage conditions for your perishables and stops odors and bacteria from flourishing.

1. The temperature should remain between 30 degrees F and 40 degrees F. While freezers should clock in at zero or below, a refrigerator that hovers no higher than 40 degrees F is safest for food storage, as it inhibits bacterial growth.

2. Your refrigerator and freezer need to be cleaned each season. Freshen up the fridge and its contents by doing away with odors and lingering germs. Remove everything from inside, weeding out items that need to go. (Put edible odds and ends to use in everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salads, pizzas or soups.) Replace open boxes of baking soda, then take a bucket of water combined with a few spoonfuls of the replaced baking soda (it’s still effective as a household cleaner) and wipe down every surface.

Refrigerator door shelves are where it’s warmest »

Five-Spice Powder — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, February 9th, 2012

roast beef tenderloin
It’s all about harmony and yin-yang.

Which sounds tritely New Age-y, but really is the key to Chinese cuisine.

Because as with so much of Asian cooking, the blend of seasonings known as five-spice powder is intended to trigger a sense of balance in the mouth and nose.

How? A careful selection of spices that simultaneously hit notes of warm and cool, sweet and bitter, savory and searing.

Because that’s what you get with five-spice powder, a mix of fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and Sichuan peppercorns.

Like spice blends around the world, the proportions of those ingredients vary by region in China, but some variant of it is used throughout the country.

Read more

How to Make a Chocolate Bowl

by in Food Network Magazine, How-to, February 8th, 2012

Chocolate Bowl
Chocolate lovers won’t just lick these bowls clean — they’ll eat them whole. To make some yourself, temper one pound semisweet chocolate. Dip the top of a partially inflated balloon in the chocolate, flip the balloon back up and twirl it to distribute the chocolate. Hold the balloon upright and let dry for about a minute. Repeat the dipping process two more times, then spoon some melted chocolate onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and center the balloon, bowl-side down, on the melted chocolate base. Repeat with more balloons, reheating the chocolate as needed (1 pound chocolate will make 4 to 6 small bowls). Refrigerate until hard, about 1 hour, then pop the balloons and peel them away. Store the bowls in a cool, dry place for up to three days.

Photograph by James Wojcik

Chorizo — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, February 2nd, 2012

roasted chicken with chorizo
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 »

Under Pressure — Simple Scratch Cooking

by in Family, How-to, February 1st, 2012

pressure cooker
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.

Read more

5 Ways to Clean Your Cutting Board

by in How-to, January 31st, 2012

cutting board
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 »

Flank Steak — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, January 26th, 2012

balsamic pepper flank steak
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 »

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