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Absurdly, stupidly basic cooking questions (Part 1)


jhlurie
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OK, I'm back with another one that arose today. When I'm making chicken stock, the general rule is to add water to cover any parts that might be sticking out. Well, a chicken (without air in the cavity) will still float somewhat. I always have a little part that's sticking up above the water level. Is this normal? I typically flip them about halfway through just to make sure I'm getting all of the flavor out the bird/parts.

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OK, I'm back with another one that arose today.  When I'm making chicken stock, the general rule is to add water to cover any parts that might be sticking out.  Well, a chicken (without air in the cavity) will still float somewhat.  I always have a little part that's sticking up above the water level.  Is this normal?  I typically flip them about halfway through just to make sure I'm getting all of the flavor out the bird/parts.

Thank you for letting me introduce one of my favorite tricks: use an upside-down collapsible steamer basket to keep everything submerged. This also helps with scum-skimming (mentioned up-thread), and is also useful when brining.

(I admit that I used to think it was a kludge, but changed my mind when I saw Alton Brown do the same thing.)

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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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:

To be utterly technical, a roux is the cooked version. The uncooked version of equal parts butter and flour, uncooked, is a beurre manie.

another way to thicken the sauce in stews that doesn't resort to rouxs or slurries (or reduction, if reducing too much will make the sauce bitter), is to take out some of the vegetables (you may wish to add a few more to begin with), puree them in a blender, then add the puree back into the stew.

ok, then here's another stupid question. Do you melt the butter first and add the flour to it and mix together, or do you add each part to the sauce separately?

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Thank you for letting me introduce one of my favorite tricks: use an upside-down collapsible steamer basket to keep everything submerged. This also helps with scum-skimming (mentioned up-thread), and is also useful when brining.

(I admit that I used to think it was a kludge, but changed my mind when I saw Alton Brown do the same thing.)

Awesome. I'll be sure to try this next time. I was about to dump a pile of river rocks on top of the damned thing.

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Marmish, I'm in total agreement about The Complete Meat Cookbook! It is absolutely beautiful, the stories are great, funny, entertaining and I've never gone wrong with any meat recipe in them. The meat charts are simple to comprehend....that's my go to book when I don't want to wade through gunk to get a great recipe...it is fabulous for any carnivore!

I love the stories about their travels, too. I also really appreciate the pretty comprehensive list of synonyms for the different cuts in that handy chart. I think I have only made one thing from it that I didn't care for, and I am sure that was personal taste, not the recipe.

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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:

To be utterly technical, a roux is the cooked version. The uncooked version of equal parts butter and flour, uncooked, is a beurre manie.

another way to thicken the sauce in stews that doesn't resort to rouxs or slurries (or reduction, if reducing too much will make the sauce bitter), is to take out some of the vegetables (you may wish to add a few more to begin with), puree them in a blender, then add the puree back into the stew.

ok, then here's another stupid question. Do you melt the butter first and add the flour to it and mix together, or do you add each part to the sauce separately?

Make the roux in a separate pan, then add enough liquid to it, a half-cup or so at a time, to make a decent liaison (usually a couple of cups is enough). Then stir the liaison back into the main pot.

If you just toss fat and flour into the liquid without binding them in some way first (either through a beurre manie or a roux), you'll most likely end up with a nasty mess. The hot liquid will encapsulate the flour by cooking the outer layer and making it impervious to liquid, and therefore useless. (Technically, these are called "lumps.")

To be clear, the fat has little or no thickening power, which is why a slurry will also work. The purpose of the fat is to coat the flour particles (and add flavor, but that's another story). This keeps them from sticking together and turning into "lumps."

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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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:

To be utterly technical, a roux is the cooked version. The uncooked version of equal parts butter and flour, uncooked, is a beurre manie.

another way to thicken the sauce in stews that doesn't resort to rouxs or slurries (or reduction, if reducing too much will make the sauce bitter), is to take out some of the vegetables (you may wish to add a few more to begin with), puree them in a blender, then add the puree back into the stew.

ok, then here's another stupid question. Do you melt the butter first and add the flour to it and mix together, or do you add each part to the sauce separately?

If you mix the flour with softened butter, you've got "beurre manié." You pinch off bits of it and stir it well into the sauce to be thickened. You can add it little by little, letting each addition cook, before adding the next bit.

This is different from a roux, for which you melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook it to the desired color, and then add the liquid (or if you're making gumbo, adding the cooked roux to the liquid). Beurre manié is easier to use, IMO, when thickening sauces that are already there in the pot. And you can made up a batch of it to keep in the fridge or freezer in small balls, for whenever you need it.

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OK, I would like to play too:

There has been some talk about how to select rice, but I'm befuddled when it comes to cooking it. My mother must never know, but I never paid attention to the rice/water ratio.

Is there a rule of thumb for ratios when cooking short grain rice?

How about long grain?

Timings? White rice and brown? Uncover or don't? Simmer or boil?

There must be general proportions and guidelines.

Risottos and pilafs I do ok with.

White long or short grain: twice as much water as rice. Bring to boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cook, covered, 18-20 minutes.

Brown rice: roughly 2.25 cups of water to one cup of rice. Bring to boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cook, covered, 45 minutes. Take off heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Here's how I roast garlic:

Slice the top bit of the garlic head (not clove) off.

One of the posts above reminded me of one of the questions I've always had about roasting garlic. Why do you have to slice the top part of the garlic head off when roasting garlic? I've always been too chicken to risk ruining good garlic, so I've never tried roasting it with the top ON.

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OK, I would like to play too:

There has been some talk about how to select rice, but I'm befuddled when it comes to cooking it.  My mother must never know, but I never paid attention to the rice/water ratio. 

Is there a rule of thumb for ratios when cooking short grain rice?

How about long grain?

Timings?  White rice and brown?  Uncover or don't?  Simmer or boil?

There must be general proportions and guidelines.

Risottos and pilafs I do ok with.

White long or short grain: twice as much water as rice. Bring to boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cook, covered, 18-20 minutes.

Brown rice: roughly 2.25 cups of water to one cup of rice. Bring to boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cook, covered, 45 minutes. Take off heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.

Good guidelines.

If I have an oven available, I heat it to 300 F and put the covered pot in it once the water has come back to the boil, for 18 minutes. This eliminates any error due to "lowest setting" variations.

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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Here's how I roast garlic:

Slice the top bit of the garlic head (not clove) off.

One of the posts above reminded me of one of the questions I've always had about roasting garlic. Why do you have to slice the top part of the garlic head off when roasting garlic? I've always been too chicken to risk ruining good garlic, so I've never tried roasting it with the top ON.

It's easier to squeeze the good stuff out after roasting if the top has already been removed. Note that recipes that call for individual roasted cloves rarely tell you to snip the tops/ends off.

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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Since I like to have roast garlic puree on hand, I break up the head into individual, unpeeled cloves, put them in a baking dish with olive oil, and bake as already directed above until the cloves are lightly browned -- if they get too dark, they will end up burnt and bitter. I let them cool some, then dump the whole mess into a food mill. Drain off the oil (and of course save it in a jar in the fridge), then pass the garlic through the mill. The skins stay, and I end up with a lovely puree. Keeps quite well in the fridge, especially if I put some of the oil back on top to seal it.

I don't have the fun of squeezing the soft sweet garlic out of the cloves that way, but I've got it for whenever I need it. :smile:

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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?

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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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?

I rarely use Marsala for anything other than Veal Marsala, and for that you want the driest Marsala you can get.

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Here is my stupid question. I was watching that "Tuscan Style" show the other day and Ciarello (sp?) said that you shouldn't use olive oil that is older than six months. Now, if olive season is once a year, wouldn't that mean we should go without for the rest of the time?

Six months seems extreme. If you keep it in a dark cool place it will last longer than that. But fresh oil DOES make a helluva difference. I know someone who once "aged" a bottle of olive oil. Why the hell she did that, who knows, I didn't want to ask.

here's MY stupid question:

Why is it that I see people on cooking shows making yeast dough adding the salt right before or right after they add the yeast? Any time I let salt get within breathing distance of yeast, I know the dough is gonna fail, yeast DEAD, end of story. How the hell do these people do it???

Born Free, Now Expensive

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I rarely use Marsala for anything other than Veal Marsala, and for that you want the driest Marsala you can get.

Well, here's the thing: tonight, I was making Shrimp and Grits with Red-Eye Gravy. The recipe I favor uses Madeira. Decent Marsala is cheaper than decent Madeira -- not to mention that I almost always have some sort of Marsala on hand, and almost never have Madeira. I subbed half sweet Marsala (which was close to hand) and half dry sherry. It was pretty good -- maybe better than when I use Madeira, if the truth be told. But in another situation, do you have any advice? Is the preference always dry for savory dishes?

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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Here is my stupid question. I was watching that "Tuscan Style" show the other day and Ciarello (sp?) said that you shouldn't use olive oil that is older than six months. Now, if olive season is once a year, wouldn't that mean we should go without for the rest of the time?

Six months seems extreme. If you keep it in a dark cool place it will last longer than that. But fresh oil DOES make a helluva difference. I know someone who once "aged" a bottle of olive oil. Why the hell she did that, who knows, I didn't want to ask.

Good (evoo) olive oil is best used in the year in which it's pressed. Many high quality evoo's now carry a press date somewhere on the label. I learned this a few years ago in a lecture by Faith Willinger, author of those Italian cookbooks and guidebooks. She gave out samples of oils from different years/same producer, and there was a marked deterioration in quality (they lost that lovely 'zing') as the oils got older.

edited cus I dont' spil too gud when Im tired..

Edited by lala (log)

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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I rarely use Marsala for anything other than Veal Marsala, and for that you want the driest Marsala you can get.

Well, here's the thing: tonight, I was making Shrimp and Grits with Red-Eye Gravy. The recipe I favor uses Madeira. Decent Marsala is cheaper than decent Madeira -- not to mention that I almost always have some sort of Marsala on hand, and almost never have Madeira. I subbed half sweet Marsala (which was close to hand) and half dry sherry. It was pretty good -- maybe better than when I use Madeira, if the truth be told. But in another situation, do you have any advice? Is the preference always dry for savory dishes?

'Fraid there isn't really a rule, as far as that goes - if it isn't specified, then it's a question of taste. Mine generally tends to run to drier wines for savory dishes; in the case of veal marsala it's not so much a matter of principle as that to my palate a sweet marsala clashes with the veal - there's something jarring about it, almost harsh. I wouldn't dare use sweet marsala with, say, sweetbreads (actually, where sweetbreads are concerned I've been totally spoiled since I discovered that it is still possible to get Malmsey :wub: ). But for most dishes I think you can be your own law on this. You just said it yourself: when you used dry sherry and sweet marsala the dish was better than when you use Madeira. Great! so use dry sherry and sweet marsala. In your shoes that's certainly what I'd have tried if I'd needed to approximate the effect of Madeira. And it worked. It ain't broke, don't fix it.

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I admit I buy my olive oil by the can, but it never lasts more than a year, and lives in a cold basement. (I refill my kitchen bottle when I run low). I know what he was trying to say but I wish he gave his audience a little more credit -- declairing a six-month cutoff seems like it would just scare away a beginner. Good olive oil at $15+ per liter can expensive and rather than tell people to toss the leftovers outright you could talk about how to keep it good for as long as possible.

Anyway, here is my real ignorance-based question:

What is the difference between spanish paprika and the stuff you get in an indian grocery store? I realize buying an ancient jar of hungarian from the supermarket would be not so great, but at a high-turnover indian place freshness isn't as much of an issue. Is there really a big flavor difference all other things being equal?

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"don't crowd the pan". sure, but how, then, to fry more than 3-4 steaks at a time, even in a big (say, 12") frying pan?

(3-4 european steaks, that is. that would be 2 american steaks, i believe)

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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"don't crowd the pan". sure, but how, then, to fry more than 3-4 steaks at a time, even in a big (say, 12") frying pan?

(3-4 european steaks, that is. that would be 2 american steaks, i believe)

Get a second pan.

Seriously. There is no way around it. If you crowd your pan, you won't get a good sear on your steaks, and how fun is that?

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"don't crowd the pan". sure, but how, then, to fry more than 3-4 steaks at a time, even in a big (say, 12") frying pan?

Get a second pan.

Seriously. There is no way around it. If you crowd your pan, you won't get a good sear on your steaks, and how fun is that?

but...i've only got one burner that's powerful enough to drive some real frying.

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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"don't crowd the pan". sure, but how, then, to fry more than 3-4 steaks at a time, even in a big (say, 12") frying pan?

Get a second pan.

Seriously. There is no way around it. If you crowd your pan, you won't get a good sear on your steaks, and how fun is that?

but...i've only got one burner that's powerful enough to drive some real frying.

Do batches. First batch goes on a plate or a sheet in a warm (whatever the bottom temp on your range is) oven. Bring all up to heat at the same time by roasting at a higher temp.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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Well, a chicken (without air in the cavity) will still float somewhat. I always have a little part that's sticking up above the water level. Is this normal?

I would chop the carcass up, easier to extract all the flavor from it and less of a floating problem...

Beurre manié is easier to use, IMO, when thickening sauces that are already there in the pot.

Easier to use, but it doesn't have the same thickening power as a roux...

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