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Cooking Secrets The Why and How ...
By Hervé Laurent Maralyn D. Hill Brenda C. Hill
Infinity PublishingCopyright © 2005 Hervé Laurent, Maralyn Hill & Brenda Hill
All right reserved.
Apples oxidize when exposed to air. The solution is adding lemon juice, and covering with cling/film/plastic wrap.
A few tips to improve presentation:
Peel the apple without coring.
Cut a lemon in half and pass over surface of the apple.
Cut the apple in half to remove the seeds.
Organization and rapidity are the keys.
If you get fresh artichokes, you can use a special technique to turn the artichoke. Peel while turning. Instead of cutting the stalk, I recommend breaking the stalk in order to remove the strings inside of the heart.
For a nice presentation and to avoid dark coloration, add lemon juice to the artichoke hearts right after turning them (after lemon is cut in half, pass it around the artichoke). Cut the ends of leaves with a bread knife. Use the second half of lemon for cooking. Make a paste of water and flour and add to the pot of water. Cooking this way with the lemon and white flour gives artichoke hearts a whiter color and nicer taste.
As long as the artichokes are floating on thesurface while cooking, I suggest placing parchment paper on top of the water. The steam will help cook the artichokes and prevent them from browning.
After cooking, artichokes will keep in the cooking liquor/stock until ready to serve.
After buying asparagus, place the bunch in a wet towel, heads up. The vegetable will keep moist and fresh.
It is not necessary to peel green asparagus. Break it in half between your hands to keep the tender top part (bottoms can be used for soup and purée).
Tie several stalks together, according to size, as this makes cooking easier.
Asparagus, like all green vegetables, contains chlorophyll, which needs light. Therefore, cook uncovered. Also, if you have a light above your cooking surface, be sure to turn it on. Best results are obtained by cooking in large amounts of water. This way, the liquid will not cool down when you add vegetables. Keep cooking liquor for other uses, making sure you cover the pot with cling film to keep the green color.
Salt is also important, as salty as the ocean. This gives a nice bright green color. When vegetables are refreshed in the ice water, the saltiness goes away.
Vegetables gain color by cooking, not overcooking. Have an ice water bath prepared to plunge the vegetables. This will set color. Vegetables will keep longer in the fridge.
Remember these tips:
Results will be fantastic, more nutrients and vitamins, more taste, and better presentation.
If you want to keep avocados longer, cover them with flour.
As soon as the stone/seed is removed, its flesh starts to turn brown. Therefore, the stone/seed can be very useful for adding to your guacamole to curtail browning.
A new experiment resulted in this tip: Add a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese (or up to the 1/2 maximum amount of the avocado i.e., 1 pound cheese to 2 pounds guacamole). This acidity in the cream cheese will provide one week of a fresh green product and smooth consistency.
In addition to this, it is necessary to place cling/film/plastic wrap so it is touching the guacamole surface.
To peel in best condition, cut the avocado in half lengthwise, remove the stone/seed with a knife, squeeze lemon juice on plate or tray and place the inside surface of the avocado in contact with juice.
The following step involves cutting the skin as shown on step 3 with the tip of a paring knife and peel like banana. The avocado when ripe is difficult to peel without mashing. This will help for best presentation.
Another tip while slicing the avocado is to make sure you are using a paring knife and slide the tip of the knife while cutting. This will assist in keeping the shape and color of avocado intact.
Recipe: Avocado and Shrimp Salad with Pink Dressing
Since smoked bacon is tastier, it is the better choice.
Do you think bacon is too greasy and salty? Blanch bacon before frying by placing it in a pan with water, just enough to cover, then bring to the boil. You can see impurities rising up. Strain, then refresh and wash in cold water.
Now, you are ready to pan fry bacon with very little oil, to avoid sticking. Plus, after cooking, you can remove excess fat by placing bacon on plate with paper towels.
First make sure the grill is perfectly clean. A metal brush is necessary, and then clean with a towel. The grill has to be very hot.
You'll like this one: a pinch of rock salt on hot charcoal will generate less smoke, and the hot temperature will last longer.
Prepare soup plate or bowl with the meat (any meat product would be the same), or vegetables, and cover with oil. Then, oil the grill and cook the meat/vegetables immediately.
Touching the meat to see how it feels is an easy way to determine its inside temperature. Your fingers will get used to the heat and the feel. However, a meat thermometer is always a safe choice.
You'll never go wrong if you watch for the drops of meat juice surfacing. They will tell you for certain your meat is medium rare.
If you marinate meat, make sure there is no salt. Salt takes off juices, dries out and toughens the meat. Season your meat at the very last minute to maintain the most effective flavor.
Let's talk about dry beans. There are several tips to remember:
Wash beans in large pot of water. This allows bad ones to come to the surface and be removed-efficient, fast, easy.
Soak them overnight with 5 times the water volume as beans to lessen cooking time.
Soak beans in the refrigerator, unless you have an air-conditioned or cool room. Otherwise, beans will ferment and foam on top will appear.
It is important to start cooking beans with cold water, so the skin does not get hard from the shock of temperatures. They will require longer cooking if you use hot water.
When cooking beans, wait until the end to season with salt, since it toughens the skin.
Beef lovers like their beef as tender as possible. The quality of the product, storage, and good cooking, are all important:
Red meat loses juice, when either raw or cooked.
Blood provides moisture and tenderness.
Use thick paper towels to dry raw meat.
Drain right after cooking.
Make sure the meat is not too cold when you cook it, since extreme contrasts of temperatures will toughen meat.
Recipe: Beef Fillet in Bread Dough with Mushroom Filling, Onions, Thyme & Merlot Marmalade
You can use fresh beetroot/beets, blended as a natural colorant. Purée it for inclusion in salad dressing and sauces.
Cooking with 1 tablespoon /15 milliliters of red wine vinegar will keep the color.
Wash all berries right before serving, or they will spoil rapidly.
To keep berries longer if not using the same day, it is best to place them on a flat tray with paper towels underneath and leave uncovered in the refrigerator. Strawberries are fragile and the weight will mash the fruit.
Blanching is a useful technique for working with meats and vegetables.
Let's take an example-chicken white stew. Place the chicken pieces in a large pan, covered with cold water. Bring to a boil. Impurities including blood and excess fat will come to the surface. Then skim the fat, strain, and wash the chicken pieces. The advantage will be seen in the finishing sauce-clean, clear and lean.
Another example is cabbage. The best way to remove its strong flavor is to boil a large amount of salted water, add sliced cabbage, and then boil for 2 minutes. Strain and refresh it in ice water. This will stop the cooking and set and improve the color.
Recipes: Lobster Mousse with Tomato and Chives Dressing; Back of Rabbit Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, Gherkins, and Dijon Mustard Sauce
Do you buy bread everyday? If you buy it in the morning, place it in a plastic bag, closing it tight.
Freezing bread when fresh gives excellent results.
Recipes: French Farm Breads with Cumin Seeds, Olives, Sundry Tomatoes, Basil or Coriander Leaves; Traditional French Baguette
You will succeed every time by using this tip. Beurre blanc is a reduction by evaporation of shallots and dry white wine, followed by whisking in fresh butter. The tip is to add some cream before the butter, so the sauce will not separate.
Wash broccoli, and use a drop of white vinegar in water. The vinegar eliminates undesirable parasites. This will help to wash the broccoli thoroughly.
For cooking, use the same technique as asparagus.
What a wonderful dish, easy and creative, while it can be made in 5 minutes. If you make it with salmon or beef filet, place the salmon or beef in the freezer 30 minutes before cutting. It will be much easier to make nice thin slices. I almost want to prepare it right now!
How to remove the stone/seed/pit and still keep its shape? Use a paper clip: Open the paper clip first. Insert paperclip at stem, twist and pull to remove stone/seed/pit. See drawings below.
This technique can also be used for black olives.
No strings attached. It tastes much better when strings are peeled. Celery can be used as a base, boat shape, for a cocktail party or snack. Simply fill it with smoked salmon, marinated fish, or soft cream cheese. Remember, you can add some fresh-diced herbs to flavor the cream cheese. Basil or chives add a wonderful flavor.
The best way to keep cheese is to wrap each piece in greaseproof paper and refrigerate, uncovered. The advantage of parchment paper allows the cheese to breathe.
Cheese, like wine, is alive!
Most cheese is sold in plastic wrap of some sort. This reduces quality and life of the product. Cook smart by taking the time to remove the plastic. Rewrap it in greaseproof paper.
Peeling chestnuts takes too long. Try deep-frying them. It's so easy.
Home-made roasted chicken is a wonderful dish. Tying chicken is necessary to avoid legs and wings drying out-see picture below.
Browning chicken on all sides before roasting will seal in juices and flavor.
Then place chicken on leg side and bake 20 minutes at 400ºF/200ºC. Now, turn to other leg side for an additional 20 minutes with the temperature lowered to 350ºF/180ºC. To finish, turn chicken on back and cook for 15 minutes more. Chicken legs cook better this way, and the breast stays moist. This is based on a 21/2-pound/1.2 kilo chicken.
To see if the chicken is cooked, prick with a fork between leg and breast and lift it using a spoon to catch the juice:
If juice coming out is red, it is undercooked.
If juice is white and clear, then it's perfectly cooked.
No juice, chicken overcooked!
A good tip is to wrap the chicken right after cooking in aluminum foil. The meat will then be tender and juicy. This will allow you to prepare the chicken 20 minutes to 1 hour early and enjoy having more time to spend with your guests. This technique also applies to turkey and other poultry.
Recipe: Farm Chicken Breast Stuffed with Wild Shrimps, Coriander & Pesto Sauce
Did you ever try to make chicken mousse? Use a food processor with 2.2-pounds/1 kilo of chicken breast pieces; add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon/20grams of salt and purée. Add 2 whole eggs and blend. Next slowly drizzle in the liquid whole cream (between 1 pint to 1 quart/1/2 liter to 1 liter of cream). Make sure all ingredients are very cold so you can achieve smooth and thick consistency. Consider freezing the bowl and cutter/blade 15 minutes, to aid in keeping all ingredients chilled while preparing.
This method can also be used for fish.
Recipe: Lobster Mousse with Tomato and Chives Dressing
Why does dark chocolate get white on the surface? Because of big changes of temperature. When in the car, or on the plane, the only way is to carry it with you.
You can easily freeze chocolate. But, you will have to defrost it in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before using. Now, chocolate can be moved from the refrigerator to the preparation area.
For making chocolate curls, you can use the Parmesan cheese technique. However, gloves will be necessary to keep the heat of your hands from melting the chocolate.
Recipe: Chocolate Tart
See "Zest." Recipe: Citrus Sponge Cake
COOKING LIQUOR/COURT BOUILLON
Cooking liquor, known as court bouillon, can be used for crustaceans (i.e., lobster, crab, craw fish) and other dishes.
Lobster is the best example. Prepare overnight a vegetable stock made of water, sliced onions, carrots, leek, celery, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns.
The Cajun way is to combine oranges, lemons, spices, and green peppers.
Boil 30 minutes and refrigerate all night. Vegetables will marinate.
The following day, strain the stock, add your lobster and cook according to the size, between 4 and 6 minutes, until the lobster turns bright red.
You can re-use the same stock again to cook crabs or shrimps. Court bouillon is a good base for seafood sauces.
To keep cooked lobster fresh, keep it in the shell until preparation time. Removing it ahead of time can cause it to get a soft, cottony consistency, losing its firmness.
Recipe: Melon and King Crab Salad
Be careful with instructions in recipe books. Cooking times depend on quantity of product and type of oven. I advise you to check frequently. Use a timer and take notes. I highly advise avoiding phone calls. Remember, cooking is 80% of the result.
Liquid whole cream is best for cooking and whipping.
Mix cream well before opening. The best of the cream is sticking to the bottle.
Prevent cream from separating in the sauce because of acidity. For example, when using onions in a cream sauce, it is necessary to boil the cream first in a separate pan. Then, add it to your sauce. If sauce has already separated, blend the sauce with a mixer. It will save your sauce, but some of the thickness will disappear.
If you do not like washing up, neither do I! To boil cream and milk successfully, put a little water in the bottom of the pan before adding cream or milk. Water will protect the pan's bottom surface. I think of it as a game. If there is no cooked cream or milk surface to scrub, I win. I much prefer winning to scrubbing.
DEEP-FRYING If you do not have a deep fryer available, use a minimum of 2-1/4 quarts/2 liters of oil in a large pan. Check the temperature by dipping a piece of bread in the hot oil. It should brown quickly.
Deep-frying need not result in more fat. The finished product from deep-frying can contain more or less fat depending on proper preparation. Less fat makes more fat. The larger the volume of fat used for frying the less fat that will be absorbed. Example: If you pack a fryer basket full of frozen French fries or onion rings, the temperature of the oil comes down fast and soaks into fries while they cook slowly. If you only fill the basket 1/3 of the way, it allows the temperature of the oil to remain hot, cook the fries rapidly, resulting in less oil being absorbed like a sponge.
The right temperature should quickly brown and seal the outside while the inside cooks, resulting in a product that is not greasy-hence, more fat makes less fat.
Excerpted from Cooking Secrets The Why and How ... by Hervé Laurent Maralyn D. Hill Brenda C. Hill Copyright © 2005 by Hervé Laurent, Maralyn Hill & Brenda Hill. Excerpted by permission.
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