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Cooking for 26!


jrshaul
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Plain baked sweet potatoes are hugely popular in our house.

Indeed! And as mentioned before, excellent reheated for breakfast. My favorite farmer's market treat used to be a hot, baked sweet potato...until the board of health made my adorable seller stop bringing them because he didn't have a license to sell cooked food. :hmmm:

eGullet member #80.

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I also had some trouble stir-frying tofu. The wok in question just wouldn't stay hot with more than a few tiny pieces of tofu in it, and I don't know why. The stove in question is a big gas-burning monstrosity that appears to make a more than adequate flame, but I had a heck of a time cooking it properly. Any suggestions for crispy tofu?

Jrshaul - you have received some truly brilliant suggestions in this thread and although I hate to throw a wet dishtowel onto your wok, I'd respectfully advise you to start with some more manageable recipes than stirfry. Although I know it's tempting for many reasons, the facts are that you've said you are really a neophyte cook, and although stir-fry looks easy, it definitely is not, if you really want to do it well.

For one thing, your wok won't "stay hot" on your stove mainly because most regular stoves just don't get hot enough for that wok ever to work properly.

See this thread: Wok burner advice

And getting the technique down to keep everything crisp-cooked can take considerable time to perfect, even with the very best equipment.

I suspect you're thinking that stir-frying would allow you to use a little of this and a little of that, according to what you have available, say a carrot, half a bell pepper, some cabbage, some onions, maybe a little bit of left-over pork chop or other protein, etc.

But, to accomplish much the same thing on a less-daunting level, I'd suggest you explore the infinite possibilities of fried rice. The only caveat here is that, in my experience anyway, fried rice is best made with cold leftover rice that has been chilling (and drying) in the fridge at least overnight. True, that does require some advance planning, but you could do what I do which is, when I'm planning a meal that calls for rice, I make double the amount needed. That way, I've got some leftover for fried rice the next day.

But seriously, look over this thread, find some of the suggestions/recipes that seem very approachable, and start there. Save the wok tofu stirfry for a little farther down your culinary road.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Fried rice is a great suggestion and a fantastic way to use up odds and ends that are cluttering up the fridge. I would also caution you to stay away from wok cooking for now and stick to things like casseroles and one-pot meals like chili, stew, soups and the like. You can tart these meals up by making biscuits or cornbread to serve along side. Hot breads always seem like a treat and are very easy to make from scratch.

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It your wok isn't "seasoned" properly that's probably the reason food sticks... It's been decades since I used a wok so I don't feel confident describing how to season one. Note, the surface should be dark and shiny if it's correctly seasoned.

By the way, some gas burners are adjustable to produce more heat. Back in my Chinese cooking days I got the utility company to adjust my stove burners to put out more heat.

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Brilliant comments, Jaymes. I've been cooking for many decades, but when I am cooking for a group, dinner party, etc., I avoid like the plague anything that requires cooking at the last minute, other than just finishing off a dish that is well under way. Your best friends are braises or bakes, etc.

eGullet member #80.

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It seems the rate of sweet potato consumption was higher than I originally thought. People will often throw a few in here or there to help stretch the food supply, and I'm wondering if the lack of enthusiasm is just due to overexposure. Making a sweet potato curry would be a refreshing change of pace.

Jrshaul - you have received some truly brilliant suggestions in this thread and although I hate to throw a wet dishtowel onto your wok, I'd respectfully advise you to start with some more manageable recipes than stirfry. Although I know it's tempting for many reasons, the facts are that you've said you are really a neophyte cook, and although stir-fry looks easy, it definitely is not, if you really want to do it well.

I'm well aware of this. I've had some pretty good luck stir-frying on my electric stove at home - I usually do a tofu and broccoli that's a lot like a de-greased version of Chinese takeout. It's not going to win any authenticity awards, but it's tasty.

I'm not an expert on stir-fry, but I do know that the pan should be at well over 270F. My infrared thermometer suggests the pan is usually closer to 350 at home.

Can anyone elaborate on how to make huge quantities of fried rice? I was under the impression that this was inefficient.

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Chinese restaurant style fried rice

This is my go-to method for fried rice. It says this serves 2-4, but I make a half recipe and it easily makes 4 main dish servings. So, you could probably feed 6-8 with just one "batch". I always throw in some mushrooms, sliced scallions or onion, frozen peas, and whatever protein I have on hand (usually left over pork or chicken thighs). I've also added cabbage and that was really good. I usually also add some oyster sauce. You can make the "omelet" part ahead, as well as the rice. And, it holds well, even after it's all finished.

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And, it holds well, even after it's all finished.

It does hold well. Fried rice comes as a free bonus from our favorite Chinese takeout, so even if we haven't ordered it, or are not in the mood for it, preferring, as we do, steamed rice with our dinner main dishes, that fried rice sits in the fridge. Sometimes for several days. Whereupon we drag it out for lunch and serve it along with some nice pot stickers/dumplings or some other sort of dim sum dish.

It's always still really tasty.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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With lots of sweet potatoes and pumpkin, you can also look to Caribbean cooking for cooking ideas and recipes for soups, stews, casseroles, salads, etc. I think a sweet potato or pumpkin casserole along with a bit of Jamaican Jerk chicken thighs for the meat-eaters would be pretty awesome. But I realize Jerk chicken has a fairly lengthy list of ingredients and you may not have a ready-made Jerk mix. And it can be made a bit too spicy/hot for some tastes.

Still, I think having an Island Dinner night would be fun, if you were up to it.

One of many possibilities for a sweet potato and bean soup:

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/caribbean-sweet-potato-bean-stew-recipe.htm

here's a Trinidadian corn pie recipe:

http://latinfood.about.com/od/salsassaucesdips/r/trinidadian-corn-pie.htm

(If you have vegans, maybe sub rice or soy milk or coconut milk and use soy-based cheese?)

A Jamaican stew with sweet potato and black beans (I wonder if you could add or sub pumpkin?):

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/jamaican-black-bean-stew-recipe.htm

Edited by FauxPas (log)
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Oh, I meant to add about the fried rice... I've found it works better to do the mushrooms first, then add the already cooked protein, then the eggs and just cook briefly, so you get a softish mix of the protein and eggs. Dump that on a plate. Then do whatever other veg (minus the peas) and dump those on the plate. Then do the rice and add the other stuff back in, along with the frozen peas. You really just want the peas to get warm. I usually also add more scallions at the end, because I'm addicted to them and like some not cooked much. You can really play around with this and do lots of variations. You could even switch it up to non-Chinese flavors, depending on what you have available.

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jrshaul: Are you looking to feature fried rice as a main? Cooking large batches is going to cause you problems with consistancy since you really need to keep it moving while you are frying it. If it were me, I'd make fried rice for six or so and then make a second batch just so you aren't trying to manipulate a gigantic pan on a household sized stove. That way, you can use your wok without burning yourself or the food.

I have found that overcooking, burning, and undercooking are the problems novice cooks face most often. Add trying to double and treble recipes and you're just asking for grief.

Fried rice is traditionally served as a snack, but we serve it as a side dish in non-Asian households. If you take FauxPas' excellent suggestion to make a themed dinner night, most Asian feature at a minimum five dishes. Of course, you don't need to make that many and if your Chinese housemates complain, hand them an apron! :laugh:

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I am officially in Garbanzo Hell. After soaking the beans for 16 hours, boiling for an hour and a half, soaking some more, and then boiling for another two hours, the beans weren't quite done yet. I ended up dumping them and giving up.

Are the two-hour estimates on the internet complete nonsense? I've also heard that some baking soda can speed things up a bit.

On a more positive note, I can resurrect the broken Vita-Mix! The mechanical coupling splines have been sheared off and the carafe is beyond repair, but neither of these is particularly expensive.

With lots of sweet potatoes and pumpkin, you can also look to Caribbean cooking for cooking ideas and recipes for soups, stews, casseroles, salads, etc. I think a sweet potato or pumpkin casserole along with a bit of Jamaican Jerk chicken thighs for the meat-eaters would be pretty awesome. But I realize Jerk chicken has a fairly lengthy list of ingredients and you may not have a ready-made Jerk mix. And it can be made a bit too spicy/hot for some tastes.

Actually, Jerk Chicken is a very good idea. Nobody else has made it, and mixing together eleventy-six ingredients is worth it if I'm making vast amounts.

I'm cooking a week from today, and I'm thinking of making some sort of cheese sauce for pasta. Trader Joe's has some excellent cheese in the $5/lb range, and I figure four pounds of parmesan and asiago should make for a pleasantly strong sauce. (Also, someone asked me if I would.) Beyond making a bechamel with a little garlic and slowly dissolving the cheese, does anyone have any comments?

Edited by jrshaul (log)
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I am officially in Garbanzo Hell. After soaking the beans for 16 hours, boiling for an hour and a half, soaking some more, and then boiling for another two hours, the beans weren't quite done yet. I ended up dumping them and giving up.

Are the two-hour estimates on the internet complete nonsense? I've also heard that some baking soda can speed things up a bit.

On a more positive note, I can resurrect the broken Vita-Mix! The mechanical coupling splines have been sheared off and the carafe is beyond repair, but neither of these is particularly expensive.

With lots of sweet potatoes and pumpkin, you can also look to Caribbean cooking for cooking ideas and recipes for soups, stews, casseroles, salads, etc. I think a sweet potato or pumpkin casserole along with a bit of Jamaican Jerk chicken thighs for the meat-eaters would be pretty awesome. But I realize Jerk chicken has a fairly lengthy list of ingredients and you may not have a ready-made Jerk mix. And it can be made a bit too spicy/hot for some tastes.

Actually, Jerk Chicken is a very good idea. Nobody else has made it, and mixing together eleventy-six ingredients is worth it if I'm making vast amounts.

I'm cooking a week from today, and I'm thinking of making some sort of cheese sauce for pasta. Trader Joe's has some excellent cheese in the $5/lb range, and I figure four pounds of parmesan and asiago should make for a pleasantly strong sauce. (Also, someone asked me if I would.) Beyond making a bechamel with a little garlic and slowly dissolving the cheese, does anyone have any comments?

You probably have old beans and there's not much you can do about that unfortunately.

As for the cheese sauce, you should be aware that older cheeses will clump and separate rather than melt.

PS: I am a guy.

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That was the reason I urged you to go with the canned beans. Even if the bulk beans are "cheaper" they are not cheaper if they are labor-intensive and in the trash on top of that.

4 pounds of Asiago is a lot of Asiago. You could grate it up in the food processor: chop into smallish hunks, toss in workbowl and pulse until fine. It's technically not grated, but it's close enough. Make a big pot of spaghetti noodles, toss with olive oil and toasted bread crumbs, browned with garlic and pass the cheese on the side for you non-dairy eaters.

Parmesan and Asiago are similar cheeses but react to heat differently, in my experience. Also, Asiago has a sharper taste that some dislike. Ask if you can taste it before you buy any.

Good luck!

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That was the reason I urged you to go with the canned beans. Even if the bulk beans are "cheaper" they are not cheaper if they are labor-intensive and in the trash on top of that.

I might be pointing out the obvious and, if so, please forgive me, but when you go to the store to buy those garbanzo beans, don't just grab some cans from the shelf. Ask the manager if they'll give you a better deal if you buy them by the case.

I think Madison has both a Costco and a Sam's Club. Hummus is so popular these days that I feel pretty sure each store sells them. I'd recommend you do a price comparison.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'm going to Sam's next week, (albeit in Joplin) so I'll check on what they have in industrial sized cans. I know they have all kinds of scary stuff like chocolate pudding in a giant can, so it's quite possible they would have great big cans of garbanzo beans since a lot of places buy for food service there.

Jaymes, hummus always seems to be expensive, even at Sam's. I'm chalking it up to the tahini paste in it, which has been expensive everywhere I've lived. Since the OP has the more expensive portion of the hummus covered, I'm with you and would make a deal with the store manager to buy cases of garbanzo beans at a discount. I don't know if Madison has an Hispanic population, but Goya foods are often cheaper than some of the other brands available. I personally like their beans better.

If your house buys a Sam's membership (you can get a student discount) it is possible to buy large bags of produce in season, like avocados, tangerines, grapes and the like.

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I am officially in Garbanzo Hell. After soaking the beans for 16 hours, boiling for an hour and a half, soaking some more, and then boiling for another two hours, the beans weren't quite done yet. I ended up dumping them and giving up.

Are the two-hour estimates on the internet complete nonsense? I've also heard that some baking soda can speed things up a bit.

On a more positive note, I can resurrect the broken Vita-Mix! The mechanical coupling splines have been sheared off and the carafe is beyond repair, but neither of these is particularly expensive.

With lots of sweet potatoes and pumpkin, you can also look to Caribbean cooking for cooking ideas and recipes for soups, stews, casseroles, salads, etc. I think a sweet potato or pumpkin casserole along with a bit of Jamaican Jerk chicken thighs for the meat-eaters would be pretty awesome. But I realize Jerk chicken has a fairly lengthy list of ingredients and you may not have a ready-made Jerk mix. And it can be made a bit too spicy/hot for some tastes.

Actually, Jerk Chicken is a very good idea. Nobody else has made it, and mixing together eleventy-six ingredients is worth it if I'm making vast amounts.

I'm cooking a week from today, and I'm thinking of making some sort of cheese sauce for pasta. Trader Joe's has some excellent cheese in the $5/lb range, and I figure four pounds of parmesan and asiago should make for a pleasantly strong sauce. (Also, someone asked me if I would.) Beyond making a bechamel with a little garlic and slowly dissolving the cheese, does anyone have any comments?

A pinch of baking soda in the cooking water usually does the trick for garbanzo beans. Vita Mix has a lifetime guarantee. They are located in Ohio. If you send it back to them, they'll fix it for you.

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I'm cooking a week from today, and I'm thinking of making some sort of cheese sauce for pasta. Trader Joe's has some excellent cheese in the $5/lb range, and I figure four pounds of parmesan and asiago should make for a pleasantly strong sauce.

Only parm & asiago in a cheese sauce would be too strong, IMO. Also, neither is a creamy cheese and people want creaminess in a cheese sauce. Parm, asiago, & pecorino are hard, salty cheeses that are better used for seasoning. A little goes a long way. For pasta with cheese sauce, I would use a milder cheese for the base, and spike it with a stronger cheese like parm or asiago. Taste as you go so you don't overdo the strong cheeses.

I like this recipe from Joanne Weir. The mushrooms make a difference--big flavor and meatiness in a vegetarian dish. You can omit the dried mushrooms (I did), and sub a mild cheddar for the fontina. Imported fontina d'aosta is expensive. There's a milder, cheaper fontina in supermarkets that's very suitable. This is one of my faves for a mac & cheese type dish. On Googlebooks, page 197:

http://books.google.com/books?id=ReV1lS1J9NMC&pg=PA197&dq=weir+penne+with+mushrooms+fontina&hl=en&sa=X&ei=h-VDT8TJEYqviQLjt72iDg&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=weir%20penne%20with%20mushrooms%20fontina&f=false

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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alfredo is cream, parm, butter. Not too strong. Terribly popular.

So, bechamel, garlic and parm and asiago sounds pretty tasty to me, especially if bumped up w red pepper flakes or black pepper.

Some might like it better 'al olio' tho:

toss the pasta w oil, browned garlic, pepper. Stir in grated cheese, serve.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I have hard water where I live so dried beans won't soften no matter how long I boil them. The only way to cook them is by using a pressure cooking or adding baking soda to the boiling water. That said, I prefer using dried garbanzo beans to canned because they are much cheaper at the Indian grocer, and I can also use them for falafel, which doesn't work so well with the canned beans.

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I have hard water where I live so dried beans won't soften no matter how long I boil them. The only way to cook them is by using a pressure cooking or adding baking soda to the boiling water. That said, I prefer using dried garbanzo beans to canned because they are much cheaper at the Indian grocer, and I can also use them for falafel, which doesn't work so well with the canned beans.

Agreed about the hard water issue.

I live in a household of garbanzo haters, so I buy the canned beans and make small batches of hummus for myself. The Philistines here wouldn't eat a falafel if I paid them. I can't even get them to eat three bean salads in the heat of summer.

Edited by annabelle (log)
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I'm going to Sam's next week, (albeit in Joplin) so I'll check on what they have in industrial sized cans. I know they have all kinds of scary stuff like chocolate pudding in a giant can, so it's quite possible they would have great big cans of garbanzo beans since a lot of places buy for food service there.

That's not a bad idea. I wasn't aware that foodservice shopped there.

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I got a new small pressure cooker for Christmas and tried garbanzo beans today. The bag is three years old. 35 minutes under pressure and they are great.

The following article got me thinking of you:

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/chris_rickert/chris-rickert-put-deer-geese-on-the-local-food-menu/article_b692194c-3cc3-11e1-8404-0019bb2963f4.html

You could go retro. An old buddy used to cook Thursday night dinners for the Grateful Dead road crew. Critter Du Jour. The favorite was usually venison Stroganoff. Great way to use up that sour cream.

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