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Absurdly, stupidly basic cooking questions (Part 1)


jhlurie
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2) How do I effectively thicken stew gravy. I make a really flavorful boeuf bourgognone but the sauce is always runny and I can never thicken it (I have tried lots of stuff).

Same way you'd thicken gravy itself. Use a roux. Mix equal parts flour and butter (oil or crisco if you prefer) and brown in a little pan. Lighter colored rouxs give you thicker gravies and sauces.

A roux is equal parts butter and flour? Who knew? Apparently everyone but me :blink::biggrin:

A roux is actually equal parts flour and any fat, not just butter.

Yes, and when thickening stews, I often skim the fat from the simmering stock and use that. And if you're wondering why they call it "roux," it's because as you cook just the roux alone, it goes through various stages of redness....all the way from light to a deep red so dark that it looks black.

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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Recipes almost never say, so I put a generic "Marsala" on my shopping list. Then I get to the wine shop, and I can choose between sweet or dry. (Or dry, very dry, Amontillado, etc., if it's sherry).

I rarely drink this stuff, so it's just for cooking. I get sweet Marsala for Zabaglione, but that's the only thing I'm pretty sure of.

Is there a Fortified Wine Rule?

The cardinal rule for cooking with wine especially fortified wine is: Use good wine. Cheap stuff will ruin your dish.

An excellent rule. I've usually heard it expressed this way: if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it.

Hmm. I tend in the opposite direction: if I'm going to drink it, I'm not going to cook with it. :rolleyes:

Noise is music. All else is food.

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I just can't see how I can fit that huge bundle of leaves in a fridge that is already loaded with a week's worth of groceries.  Maybe when I get a small bar fridge I can find room for it! Oh well, there's lots more foods to try.

I'm sticking my oar in here even though I have little experience with chard. What if you wash it, then stick the stems into a bowl of ice water, as though it's some herb or flower? Would it keep? The approach works well in the refrigerator with herbs, but I've no idea whether it would work on chard out on the counter. If I had access to chard and limited refrigerator space I'd give it a try. Maybe it would keep for a day, anyway? Think of the centerpiece it could make on your dinner table! :laugh:

Failing that, maybe you should invest in an ice chest or two? Wash it, wrap it in damp towels, lay it in the ice chest with something frozen?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I was never good at science but isn't boiling water at a constant temperature of 212 F/100 C? It can't go higher. I think.

Boiling water is a constant 212 deegrees. However, once you add salt, you no longer have just water. Salt has the effect of raising the boiling point and lowering the freezing point of water. That's why you add salt to water before you boil pasta and also why you add rock salt to ice when making ice cream.

Try picking up a copy of The Science and Lore Of Food, by Harold McGee. It's a wonderful reference work. You will learn more about the whys and wherefores of food than you ever knew theere was to learn.

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When you make risotto, you add the liquid to the rice a ladleful at a time. Why not dump most of it in at once?

Maybe it's obvious, but not to me ... maybe it's something to take your mind of all that stirring.

Stephen

The main reason is that the constant stirring and slow addition of the broth lead to a greater breakdown of the starch in the rice. This is what gives risotto its creamy texture, if you do it right. I have never once used cream or butter at the end to make my risotto have a nice, creamy texture. The reason for that is that I am scrupulous about constant stirring and never adding the broth more than a cup at a time.

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I was never good at science but isn't boiling water at a constant temperature of 212 F/100 C?  It can't go higher.  I think.

Boiling water is a constant 212 deegrees. However, once you add salt, you no longer have just water. Salt has the effect of raising the boiling point and lowering the freezing point of water. That's why you add salt to water before you boil pasta and also why you add rock salt to ice when making ice cream.

Try picking up a copy of The Science and Lore Of Food, by Harold McGee. It's a wonderful reference work. You will learn more about the whys and wherefores of food than you ever knew theere was to learn.

I agree that McGee's work is great. Here are a couple of things I learned from it:

The boiling temperature of water is not a constant 212 F -- just ask anyone who lives in Denver.

Reasonable amounts of salt for cooking purposes do not raise the boiling point significantly (and in fact any dissolved solid will have pretty much the same effect as salt, because you're increasing the density of the water). The reason to salt pasta water for is flavor.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I just can't see how I can fit that huge bundle of leaves in a fridge that is already loaded with a week's worth of groceries.  Maybe when I get a small bar fridge I can find room for it! Oh well, there's lots more foods to try.

I'm sticking my oar in here even though I have little experience with chard. What if you wash it, then stick the stems into a bowl of ice water, as though it's some herb or flower? Would it keep? The approach works well in the refrigerator with herbs, but I've no idea whether it would work on chard out on the counter. If I had access to chard and limited refrigerator space I'd give it a try. Maybe it would keep for a day, anyway? Think of the centerpiece it could make on your dinner table! :laugh:

Failing that, maybe you should invest in an ice chest or two? Wash it, wrap it in damp towels, lay it in the ice chest with something frozen?

I'm no expert either, but I did this recently. I got a lovely fresh bunch of chard and had no room in the fridge. So I filled a pitcher with cold (not ice) water, trimmed the stems about an inch, stuck it in the pitcher, set it on the counter (out of the sun) and it kept very nicely for 3 days! The bonus was that it was red chard and looked absolutely lovely!!

Edited to say that this was just last week. I made a lovely chard, bacon and potato chowder and still have some left-overs in the fridge. That is gonna be my dinner tomorrow night when DH is gone. YUM!

Edited by Maison Rustique (log)

Deb

Liberty, MO

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, here I go, pulling this topic back up to the top, because I've a confession that will make most of you cooks out there cringe. I just made creme anglais, and I'm not sure I got it right! <looks down at floor, shuffles feet> It isn't as thick as I'd expected it to be, based on written descriptions. I can't find a picture in any of my books. I was expecting oh, the consistency of Hershey's chocolate syrup at cool room temperature - something you could drizzle on a plate and have it keep its shape, more or less. I got the consistency of fairly warm syrup - that is, something that's likely to make a puddle on the plate instead. (I will note, however, that it will be a very tasty puddle. Yum!) :biggrin:

I know I cooked it long enough and got it to the right temperature (around 170), and judging by the slight curdling on the bottom of my pan I'd say I stopped the cooking not a moment too soon.

I took a couple liberties with the recipe, out of dire necessity related to "darned if I'm going to the grocery store AGAIN", and I'd like to know whether these would make a difference in the texture: first, about half the egg yolks were from pasteurized eggs; second, the "milk" was a mix of 2%, 1%, and half-and-half. Would either of these factors make a difference? Or was I expecting the wrong consistency?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Well, here I go, pulling this topic back up to the top, because I've a confession that will make most of you cooks out there cringe. I just made creme anglais, and I'm not sure I got it right! <looks down at floor, shuffles feet> It isn't as thick as I'd expected it to be, based on written descriptions. I can't find a picture in any of my books. I was expecting oh, the consistency of Hershey's chocolate syrup at cool room temperature - something you could drizzle on a plate and have it keep its shape, more or less. I got the consistency of fairly warm syrup - that is, something that's likely to make a puddle on the plate instead. (I will note, however, that it will be a very tasty puddle. Yum!) :biggrin:

I know I cooked it long enough and got it to the right temperature (around 170), and judging by the slight curdling on the bottom of my pan I'd say I stopped the cooking not a moment too soon.

I took a couple liberties with the recipe, out of dire necessity related to "darned if I'm going to the grocery store AGAIN", and I'd like to know whether these would make a difference in the texture: first, about half the egg yolks were from pasteurized eggs; second, the "milk" was a mix of 2%, 1%, and half-and-half. Would either of these factors make a difference? Or was I expecting the wrong consistency?

First let me say that I haven't made creme anglais in a long time. Not since I found out that a lot of places use melted vanilla ice cream instead. It's very similar. Admittedly, there are a few subtle differences, but for the most part, the consistency should be similar.

So, I think you were looking for the wrong thing. If it came out like a melted ice cream cone, you were where it's supposed to be.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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What do you do with all the "used" fat after deep frying french fries or chicken or whatever?

I've heard that it isn't safe to reuse the oil that home cooks use, and it seems messy/smelly/dangerous to keep it.

On the other hand, what's the best way to "throw" out the oil, especially if it's half a bottle's worth?

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I actually do filter it (several layers of paper towels or a couple of coffee filters) to reuse once. But after that, I figure it's too broken down, so I pour it into an empty container and put it in the regular trash.

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What do you do with all the "used" fat after deep frying french fries or chicken or whatever?

I've heard that it isn't safe to reuse the oil that home cooks use, and it seems messy/smelly/dangerous to keep it.

On the other hand, what's the best way to "throw" out the oil, especially if it's half a bottle's worth?

You can buy a converter for your car engine and use the spent oil as fuel.

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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What do you do with all the "used" fat after deep frying french fries or chicken or whatever?

I've heard that it isn't safe to reuse the oil that home cooks use, and it seems messy/smelly/dangerous to keep it.

On the other hand, what's the best way to "throw" out the oil, especially if it's half a bottle's worth?

You can buy a converter for your car engine and use the spent oil as fuel.

I believe the term is 'bio-diesel' and only works on diesel engines, but still, the idea is cool.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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OK - stupid question.

If making that starts with frying ground meat and onions, what is the best way round to do it?

I have seen recipes specify both ways, but if you do the onions first, the meat doesn't seem to brown as well, and if you do the meat first, the onions don't seem to 'fry' properly.

I started frying the meat first, in batches then removing it, then doing the onions, and then returning the meat, which works ok, but is a bit of a hassle.

Any tips?

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Have you tried doing the onions first and removing them, then doing the meat, then adding the onions back? Or do you have such a large quantity of onions that you will run into the same problem with batches?

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Strain it through a coffee filter or paper towel, and reuse it.  Fresh oil doesn't fry as well.

Where do you store the used oil? How many times can the frying oil be reused with good results?

Edited by bleachboy (log)

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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Strain it through a coffee filter or paper towel, and reuse it.  Fresh oil doesn't fry as well.

Where do you store the used oil? How many times can the frying oil be reused with good results?

I store it in mason jars in the fridge or cabinet. I've gone back and forth about fridge vs. cabinet, and haven't noticed much difference in how quickly it goes bad. Obviously if it starts smelling rancid, toss it.

You can use it probably four or five times before it'll start to really lose its effectiveness and smoke early and whatnot.

As I'm sure many other people would, I recommend Russ Parsons' book How to read a French Fry for more info on frying and oil and whatnot.

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I have a question about dishes that you start on the top of the stove and finish in the oven.

I bought a Dutch oven because so many recipes call for it. But I got one with plastic handles and a plastic knob on the lid--thick and heavy-duty, but still plastic. I'm assuming I can't put that in the oven...Rachael Ray said on one of her shows that if you put aluminum foil on the plastic handles of your skillet, etc., that you can put it in the oven. Doesn't make sense to me, is this true? Perhaps, could plastic-handled cookware go into the oven up to a certain heat, like 325, for example?

How about Teflon-coated stuff? Can that go in the oven? Is there a maximum heat for that?

Now how about Corningware on top of the stove? I have always used my Corningware to make rice, or to warm up a sauce or leftovers on the stovetop. But I've never tried to use it for something like browning an onion, for anything that requires high heat. I have 3- and 5-quart Corningware casseroles. What if I tried to, say, brown chicken thighs in it for a casserole, to finish in the oven? Would that work?

High on my list of pots/pans I'd like: a 12-inch skillet without a plastic handle, a Dutch oven that can go in the oven that is also bigger than the one I have, a stock pot!

Rachel Sincere
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I have a question about dishes that you start on the top of the stove and finish in the oven.

I bought a Dutch oven because so many recipes call for it.  But I got one with plastic handles and a plastic knob on the lid--thick and heavy-duty, but still plastic.  I'm assuming I can't put that in the oven...Rachael Ray said on one of her shows that if you put aluminum foil on the plastic handles of your skillet, etc., that you can put it in the oven.  Doesn't make sense to me, is this true?  Perhaps, could plastic-handled cookware go into the oven up to a certain heat, like 325, for example?

How about Teflon-coated stuff?  Can that go in the oven?  Is there a maximum heat for that?

Now how about Corningware on top of the stove?  I have always used my Corningware to make rice, or to warm up a sauce or leftovers on the stovetop.  But I've never tried to use it for something like browning an onion, for anything that requires high heat.  I have 3- and 5-quart Corningware casseroles.  What if I tried to, say, brown chicken thighs in it for a casserole, to finish in the oven?  Would that work?

High on my list of pots/pans I'd like:  a 12-inch skillet without a plastic handle, a Dutch oven that can go in the oven that is also bigger than the one I have, a stock pot!

There are too many types of plastic to generalize about whether or not any particular set of handles is oven-safe. Your safest route is to check the manufacturers web site and see if there is relevant information there; if not, contact them for more information. A second path is to tell us what you've got; chances are, someone on eGullet knows about it. The third path is to test it yourself. To minimize the consequences, just put the lid in the oven at 325 and monitor it carefully to see if the handles soften or melt. It will probably be fine -- it's hard to imagine a responsible manufacturer marketing a Dutch oven that wasn't safe at moderate temperatures, but irresponsibility is rampant, and it's always best to check it yourself. As for Rachel's suggestion, yes, it will work, at least up to a point -- attach the foil shiny side out. But I wouldn't employ this method repeatedly. If you're braising something for a couple of hours in the oven, a few bits of foil won't keep the handles from coming to ambient temperature eventually. If they're not oven safe, they'll eventually crack and/or break.

Teflon is safe to 550 F, with two caveats: 1) just because the Teflon is safe doesn't mean the rest of your pan (handles, outer shell, etc.) is; 2) don't heat Teflon to these temperatures if you have pet birds or infants in the vicinity. Almost all plastics release gases at elevated temperatures; some of them (and spefically the gases released by fluorocarbons like Teflon) are known to be poisonous to birds. The jury is still out on whether the gases are harmful to humans, but it's best not to take a chance.

Corning Ware isn't made for high temperatures on the cooktop. It's not that the material can't handle them, it's that the material doesn't accomodate significant temperature differentials across its surface. Part of the vessel will want to expand, but part of it won't. The tension will cause the pot to crack, and possibly shatter.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I have a question about dishes that you start on the top of the stove and finish in the oven.

I bought a Dutch oven because so many recipes call for it. But I got one with plastic handles and a plastic knob on the lid--thick and heavy-duty, but still plastic. I'm assuming I can't put that in the oven...Rachael Ray said on one of her shows that if you put aluminum foil on the plastic handles of your skillet, etc., that you can put it in the oven. Doesn't make sense to me, is this true? Perhaps, could plastic-handled cookware go into the oven up to a certain heat, like 325, for example?

How about Teflon-coated stuff? Can that go in the oven? Is there a maximum heat for that?

Now how about Corningware on top of the stove? I have always used my Corningware to make rice, or to warm up a sauce or leftovers on the stovetop. But I've never tried to use it for something like browning an onion, for anything that requires high heat. I have 3- and 5-quart Corningware casseroles. What if I tried to, say, brown chicken thighs in it for a casserole, to finish in the oven? Would that work?

High on my list of pots/pans I'd like: a 12-inch skillet without a plastic handle, a Dutch oven that can go in the oven that is also bigger than the one I have, a stock pot!

I recommend cast iron. (I'm starting to sound like Alton Brown...)

Heatproof, cheap, low-stick (once seasoned) and bulletproof. You can even store the things in the oven.

The plastics that reputable manufacturers use should (your mileage may vary) be good to about 350. I wouldn't want to go one degree over that. Also remember that oven temperatures can vary, especially electric ovens. They go through heating and cooling cycles, and the temperature can go over the 350 marked on the knob, by as much as 50 degrees or more.

I'd stick with all metal contruction, myself...

As far as Corningware on the stove, it's been done, but I don't like it. My wife tends to reheat stuff like that, straight from the fridge, onto a burner. We've had... discussions about it.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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A second path is to tell us what you've got; chances are, someone on eGullet knows about it.

I'll check the manufacturer as well, but just in case, I have a Dutch oven I got at an estate sale that has plastic handles, it says "Sears Roebuck And Co." on the bottom. It can't be toooo terribly old because it has Teflon inside. My new one from Walmart is "Revere." It's a five-quart. Believe me, I would buy better brands if I could. For now, this is what I have to work with.

edited to add, I checked for other Revere cookware on the web and while I didn't find my exact cheapy pot, there were several Revere pots mentioned where it said "oven safe to 350," including a 9-piece set on Walmart.com that went for $45. So I'd guess that mine is the same, but I'll probably still use aluminum foil just in case.

I recommend cast iron. (I'm starting to sound like Alton Brown...)

Heatproof, cheap, low-stick (once seasoned) and bulletproof. You can even store the things in the oven.

I think I might do that. I bought a huge cast-iron skillet a few years ago but after carefully seasoning it and using it a few times, I left it out and my husband put it in the dishwasher. :rolleyes: I threw it out. I have since seen tips for reviving cast iron when something like that happens, but at the time I thought it was wrecked.

As far as Corningware on the stove, it's been done, but I don't like it. My wife tends to reheat stuff like that, straight from the fridge, onto a burner. We've had... discussions about it.

That's funny. I'll continue to use it to simmer rice, though. I told my mom about this conversation and she got very defensive. "The ad used to say, from freezer to oven to table!" :laugh: Of course, she now makes her rice in the microwave...in her Corningware.

Edited by RSincere (log)
Rachel Sincere
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  • 2 months later...

How can I figure out how much sauce to put on lasagne? I have a great recipe for butternut squash lasagne with ricotta, mozz, and parmesean cheeses. The sauce is a bechamel. I have made this a couple of times with the results being either too "saucey" and sliding all over the plate, or too dry. Any suggestions? Oh, and I've tried making this with both cooked noodles and the no-boil kinds.

Melissa

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Hmm, I stick corningware in the oven all the time. I love to be able to just toss a plate of leftovers under the broiler for a bit and have it ready to eat again without having to dirty dishes or steaming it in the microwave.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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