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Your Culinary Nemesis in the Kitchen


NeroW
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My nemesis is my stove & my oven. Both *shudder* are electric which I ABHOR.

I saw someone (sorry I've been reading the forums for about 3 hours, I can't remember!) whose garlic burning troubles were maybe from a heavy pan and an electric stove. I have the same problem with just about EVERYTHING that I cook on my stove top. I required a major adjustment in my cooking life when we got this house and couldn't afford to replace the stove.

My oven is about 35 degrees low, so you have to make adjustments whenever you use it. Even after living here for almost 3 years sometimes I forget and ruin things due to low oven temps.

I am also a poor baker/dessert maker. I think for me it's because I am more of an intuitive cook and baking is a pretty precise art. I am a little too impatient with my baking and it shows.

Back to lurking! :raz:

The stars above me are not real, they are the sparks from smitting steel - Michael Penn

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Diana would call you a lightweight, grin, and give you a lesson.

Would Diana care to hold a master class in gutting and scaling? I'd pay money for that.

Yes please do!

While I have no problem filleting a cooked fish, I have in the past always asked my fishmonger to gut & scale the beast. But now I am in the midwest and the options seem to be "pre-seasoned fillet o' catfish" or "you are a weirdo, that was just for decoration".

Suffice it to say, I came home with an otherwise lovely whole red snapper that had been gutted but not scaled, even though the guy at the counter said it had been :angry:

I did my best, but it was kind of a mess.

By the time I leave this freakin' place, I am going to be SUCH a good cook.

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However, there is a product that can produce pretty good results.

It is a meringue powder that contains a stabilizer and is for use when one is in conditions that are inhospitable to natural egg white use.

You can find the powder in small containers in shops that supply cake decorating and candymaking supplies. Usually it comes in 10 pound containers.

I am a total idiot when it comes to most technique-related cooking, but I have mastered the eggwhites. By hand, since I didn't have a mixer, and in the worst philly humid summer weather in top floor (hot!) apartment. This was largely based on info culled from science/food type books...

My low-tech system:

- Wash bowl with a little vinegar, until it's squeaky clean, then rinse thoroughly

- Put bowl in the fridge while I get my other stuff together

- cold eggs

- pinch of "Cream of Tartar"

- It takes just a couple of minutes to get stiff peaks. I'm sure it would be less exercise with a hand mixer.

I wonder if the meringue powder contains cream of tartar? I've also read that whipping the whites in a copper bowl has the same effect.

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I've always considered myself a lucky/confident cook - if I make a mistake I'll find a way around the problem, or, at worst, get it right the next time, but spaghetti carbonara beat me every time. I use the past tense because I gave up years ago trying - without exception and despite all variations I would scramble the eggs.

A chap can only withstand so many humiliations.

O! were mine eye-balls into bullets turn'd.

I used to get scrambled egg all the time until I started using Marcella Hazan's recipe... since then it has come out great every time.

You beat the eggs with cheese, in a big serving bowl. As soon as pasta is cooked, drain it quickly, dump it in the bowl with the cheese & egg mixture and toss until pasta is coated... the heat from the pasta cooks the eggs just enough, but the lack of direct heat keeps the eggs from getting solid. Then the hot bacon gets dumped on top of that, and everything is tossed again.

I would post the recipe but I am assuming there are copyright issues. (Anyway, that book is totally worth the price).

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On making hollaindaise (or whipping anything over a water bath). The best advice I ever got was to keep your arm from the shoulder to the elbow in contact with your body. You are forced to use your wrist only and your arm does not get tired (I can whisk for a very long time)-picture your arm in contact with your body to your waist.

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On jams and preserves- use a large shallow pot, so that your fruit and sugar is not more then 4-5 inches deep. You want a lot of surface area, so that the cooking time is not so long. In the restaurant, I use a pot that is 30 inches by 8. It is stainless (good color), and with a heavy core bottom (even heat). Taste your fruit; you want aprox the same amount of sugar to fruit (you can use less- it won't keep as well). Stir until the sugar dissolves and then simmer until you have thick (stirring often to keep from burning) bubbles- your inserted spoon will have thick "drips" that will barely fall from the spoon.

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Tart dough is not crisp and flakey (unless you are referring to puff pastry). The standard is sucre, which is like a sugar cookie- and meant to be sturdy- but tender and crumbly to the bite. A dough that shrinks is probably overworked;once you add the eggs to the flour you must pulse it (and never knead it), and mix it only to where it is combined.

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On making hollaindaise (or whipping anything over a water bath). The best advice I ever got was to keep your arm from the shoulder to the elbow in contact with your body. You are forced to use your wrist only and your arm does not get tired (I can whisk for a very long time)-picture your arm in contact with your body to your waist.

I second that...

I have to make zabaglione everyday at work and that is the way to do it...although I have to reach over a counter to submerge it in hot water, I try to keep my upper arm rather motionless and only use my wrist...it helps a lot...

"Make me some mignardises, &*%$@!" -Mateo

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Karen and Lee: Thank you for the advice. I'm actually pretty terrified as to what my chef would do if he walked in on me with an immersion blender doing the Hollandaise. I'm sure it would result in the blender being placed in a very bad place on my body.

Andrew

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Behemoth, you will get much better volume with room temp egg whites. There is no need for a chilled bowl.

Cool, I'll try that. (Or, should I say, room temp, I'll try that).

Part of it was, if the bowl was cold I wouldn't sweat so much while whipping. :rolleyes:

Let me please reiterate the request for a fish tutorial. Or any de-boning tutorial, actually. I was the cook for a vegetarian group-household & myself veg for a long time and while I can do pretty much anything I want with a vegetable, complicated boning procedures I'm not so good at. Butchering/where different cuts come from/how to get them, that kind of thing would be really helpful.

A charcuterie class might also be interesting...(when in the midwest, figure out what to do with the meat, I say).

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Copper bowls are great! I do remember the call from my brother- he had purchased the kitchenaid copper bowl after seeing mine ( mine was a gift). He said that he was "purchasing the freshest eggs", and that he could see no difference. I told him- you don't need fresh egg white for meringue, older is better. The week old white is more relaxed and enabled to encompass more air (my brother is becoming a pro).

I looked at this man that could not barbque chicken in another life- to a man that told me that his stock is never cloudy since I told him to skim it and not to boil it. (it shocks the hell out of me!). The last time I looked he only ate baloney; Iwent to visit and he went diving for ( and prepped), abalone during a north coast storm.

I love my brother.

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The best advice I can give you about boning- keep your knife in contact with the bone (so that knife and bone are one). Keep your knife very sharp and do not saw or slice- just bring your knife stright down. Butchering (like anything) takes time to learn. You need to work with someone who breaks down a lot of fish- it really is a "hands on" thing.

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Gnocchi.

I'm not sure whether I'm not preparing them correctly, or whether I just hate 'em. So long since I ate them in a restaurant that I can't even remember what I'm aiming for...

Copper bowls for meringue, yes! I lost mine moving houses, cities, countries, who knows, and I notice the difference.

Jams and preserves. This is an area where experience will definitely make a difference, and KarenS' advice is right on the mark. If you warm the sugar a little before you add it, you can cut cooking time down even more (the shorter the cooking time, the brighter the color).

My mother and grandmother made lots of jams etc., and watching them made it much easier for me. You will come to notice the difference in the bubbling foam as the jam approaches setting point. To me, the foam starts to look finer overall, with big, coarse "eyes" in it.

There are several tests for setting point -- a big spoon dipped and held sideways should show the drips slowly merging and dripping off in a big "flake" rather than a drop; a little jam dripped on a cold saucer should form a skin - blow on it and the surface will wrinkle.

I remember the first time I made marmalade -- it was so thin that I returned it to the pot, and boiled the hell out of it. When the jars finally cooled, the marmalade was not certainly "set" -- when I tried to get some out, it refused to part company with the rest of the jam, slipping off the knife and sproinging back into the jar like a rubber band!

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Pan sauces.

It's not so much actually making the sauce, but the time pressure to make it, while the rest of the dinner is ready to be served. Practice, practice, practice...

And a question. I'm afraid to deglaze a cast iron pan, so I either use a stainless steel saute pan, or make a sauce without the fond.

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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I'm afraid to deglaze a cast iron pan, so I either use a stainless steel saute pan, or make a sauce without the fond.

Why?

Noise is music. All else is food.

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Omelets. Yes, it's an awful cliche. But, everything I try, I end up losing my nerve and making scrambled eggs.

But, it's okay. I prefer scrambled. Really. Uh huh. That's my story, and I'm stickin to it.

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Omelets. Yes, it's an awful cliche. But, everything I try, I end up losing my nerve and making scrambled eggs.

But, it's okay. I prefer scrambled. Really. Uh huh. That's my story, and I'm stickin to it.

The "secret" to good omelets is cheap non-stick omelet pans. What have you been using? Robyn

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Pan sauces.

It's not so much actually making the sauce, but the time pressure to make it, while the rest of the dinner is ready to be served. Practice, practice, practice...

And a question. I'm afraid to deglaze a cast iron pan, so I either use a stainless steel saute pan, or make a sauce without the fond.

why not hold off on plating and just let the protein rest for a couple minutes while you whip up a pan sauce. Do you have the sauce ingredients laid out before you start?

"Make me some mignardises, &*%$@!" -Mateo

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I'm sure I have more nemesis, but I avoid them so perfectly that I've forgotten what they are. Meanwhile...

Sourdough -- I live in Japan, where sourdough starters are not growing on trees (unlike everywhere else, as you know). I read this website, and I SAW THE LIGHT...it works...no exposing to air, no mail order, etc...just whole wheat flour)

Sourdough starter using WW flour, no unpredictable airborne thingies

Biscuits. This is not about recipes. My mother and grandmother both made wonderful scones using absolutely opposite approaches. The thing they DID do the same was to give the dough a brief but definite knead (about 3 turns in the bowl), and bake them at the top of a very hot oven - 425 deg. F or so. Biscuits should be placed very close together (maybe even so close that they need to be pulled apart when baked). When removing them from the oven, I usually put a worn out teatowel on the cooling rack, and loosely cover them with half the teatowel so that they don't dry out too much as they cool.

Choux paste...I last baked it 25 years ago...when I was bringing them to a friend's party. I was running late, so I put the last two batches on the back seat of my car, still cooling on the baking trays. Then I set off, and took a corner way too fast. Oven trays landed on floor of car, knocking every last atom of air out of the choux. Arrived at party with nice range of chewy pancakes...

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I'm afraid to deglaze a cast iron pan, so I either use a stainless steel saute pan, or make a sauce without the fond.

Why?

I'm afraid to deglaze the pan seasoning. In the All-Clad I can see how the deglazing is going. Also, some wines can be quite acidic - can they be used with cast iron?

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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Pan sauces.

It's not so much actually making the sauce, but the time pressure to make it, while the rest of the dinner is ready to be served.  Practice, practice, practice...

And a question.  I'm afraid to deglaze a cast iron pan, so I either use a stainless steel saute pan, or make a sauce without the fond.

why not hold off on plating and just let the protein rest for a couple minutes while you whip up a pan sauce. Do you have the sauce ingredients laid out before you start?

Generally, I give steaks at least 5 minutes, more for larger chunks. It's a chicken and egg problem. I'm afraid to do it because of lack of practice, and that's why I'm not getting much practice. The difference is that when I'm peeling carrots for stock, it doesn't matter how long it takes. With a pan sauce, everything else is ready to go while I'm klutzing around.

OK, this thread helped me diagnose what I need to work on.

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Culinary nemesis: fudge.

I cannot make a real fudge. I try. I take its temperature carefully, I let it rest, I beat the heck out of it -- and every time, fudge bloody sauce.

Not that, you know, there's anything wrong with fudge sauce, specially on ice cream, but I truly would like a product I can slice. Or, you know, wrap for presents, not in a jar.

I don't get it. Shirley Corriher's N'Awlins Pralines have turned out for me pretty well the dozen or so times I've made them. They're similar -- so why not fudge?

Dang it!

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