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Absurdly, stupidly basic cooking questions (Part 1)


jhlurie
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What's the trick to doing that impressive flippy thing with the pan without making a mess in your kitchen?

Practice! :laugh:

Seriously, it's easier than you think. Go outside with your skillet (10" is a good size to start with) and a bag of dried beans. Start with a handful or two of beans in the pan and start flipping. When you get the knack of making them turn over en masse, add another handful and repeat. You'll pick it up fairly quickly, though you might feel a right fool while you're doing it. When you get back in the kitchen, start small - a fried egg, toasting spices to go in the mill/mortar, etc.

One other thing - once the food is in the air, pay attention to the pan, not the food. The food's got one direction to go, and that's down. If you make sure that the pan is under the food, gravity will take care of the rest.

Absolutely!

When I was in culinary school, that was the one thing I was afraid of doing. So I flipped tentatively, and naturally screwed it up. Then when we did a unit on eggs, my chef-instructor had me do one over-easy, and then said, "Flip it again." I did. "Again." I did. Then: "Keep flipping it until I tell you to stop" and WALKED OUT OF THE KITCHEN. :angry::angry: Grumble, flip, grumble, flip, grumble, flip, flip . . . And ever since, no problem. :raz:

I like the egg idea because it bends more than a piece of toast, and is less likely to scatter than beans. Although beans make fine practice once you've mastered the egg flip. The motion is sort of a push away, bounce the pan up as it reaches its farthest distance from you, then circle the pan up and around back towards you. Oh, that's what lala just said. :blush:

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At school, we practiced with a piece of dry toast - that way you'll know if you're flipping it right, as it does a complete turn in the air, and there's no little pieces to fly all over the place.

I learned by flipping flour tortillas - no mess at all - and I needed to toast them anyways.

The obvious - slope-sided pan and plenty of oil helps. :smile:

I still cringe when I'm flipping potentially messy stuff.

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Here's my dumb question...

Eggs, hard boiled. How do you get the shell to come off easily? How about keeping the yellow and white in good color (no green/grey)?

The best trick I've seen for this comes from some silly cooking show on tv. Just put the eggs back in the pan you boiled them in after they've been drained, put the top on and swirl them around and around a few times until the shell can be peeled off in one piece.

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In many Joy of Cooking recipes, when melting chocolate and the likes, why do they say "above but not in boiling water", and what exactly does that mean?  To place the bowl so that the steam is heating it?  Or just a dumbed down version to remind people not to forget to use a bowl?  I've always wondered about that.

Place the bowl so the steam is hitting it and the bowl itself isn't in the boiling water. It'll keep you from scalding your delicate chocolate.

But isn't the steam hotter than the water itself? Or am I imagining that?

Sorry, bleu. You're imagining it.

Steam gets significantly hotter than water. Ever hear of the Steam Engine? Geothermal Energy?

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QUOTE (Dave the Cook @ Apr 28 2004, 12:50 PM)

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.

I have several sizes of enameled cast iron lids (Descoware, similar to Le Cruset, which I have had since the 60s)

These lids are heavy enough to weight anything and I use the size that just fits inside the pot. These have a loop handle so are easy to lift out with a pot hook without scalding the fingers.

You can often find these at yard sales and swap meets.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Also - I first started doing the flippy thing, not with crepes, but with mu shu pancakes, which are made of a firmish dough, rolled together in pairs, and cooked dry. Much MUCH less messy if you blow it! That's the kind of practice that can really give you confidence before you start messing around with thin batters and melted butter

Using the beans is a terrific idea. Why didn't I learn that 40 years ago?

My first instructor in my first class in French method required that I make a French omelet and I had to work the omelet in the pan and flip it so one third of the omelet turned back on itself without using any utensil, swirling the mixture in the pan then giving it a push, lift and pull motion.

I can't even begin to tell you how many messes I cleaned off that stove before I got it down pat.

I can do it in my sleep now, especially if I use a non-stick pan, my training was before the Teflon era and my pans were tin-lined copper (which I still have). Nowadays I generally use the Calphalon.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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At work, I often cook with huge heavy sautee pans. I can do the flippy-thing just fine with them, but it gets tiring. I've found that jerking the pan back and forth on the stove rapidly and sharply works almost as well...and now it's second nature. It does tend to scrape up the bottom of your pans, so I don't do it at home where I have more expensive cookware, but frankly these work pans didn't look any better before I started working there than they look now.

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In many Joy of Cooking recipes, when melting chocolate and the likes, why do they say "above but not in boiling water", and what exactly does that mean?  To place the bowl so that the steam is heating it?  Or just a dumbed down version to remind people not to forget to use a bowl?  I've always wondered about that.

Place the bowl so the steam is hitting it and the bowl itself isn't in the boiling water. It'll keep you from scalding your delicate chocolate.

But isn't the steam hotter than the water itself? Or am I imagining that?

Sorry, bleu. You're imagining it.

Steam gets significantly hotter than water. Ever hear of the Steam Engine? Geothermal Energy?

I thought the power of those was because it is steam UNDER PRESSURE. Think "pressure cooker" -- it's the pressure that tenderizes the meat faster, not heat.

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QUOTE (Dave the Cook @ Apr 28 2004, 12:50 PM)

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.

I have several sizes of enameled cast iron lids (Descoware, similar to Le Cruset, which I have had since the 60s)

These lids are heavy enough to weight anything and I use the size that just fits inside the pot. These have a loop handle so are easy to lift out with a pot hook without scalding the fingers.

You can often find these at yard sales and swap meets.

Just wanted to add: do NOT try using a plate that has any unglazed part. Not that it will break (although it might), but that the food particles will seep into it and resist removal no matter how much you soak and scrub it. I learned this the hard way, with a batch of stuffed grape leaves that needed to be weighted. Can you say, "Moldy china"? :unsure:

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A question...would it be foolhardy to try to make black bean soup with canned beans? The soup would just be for me, not guests or anything. If the answer is "try it," I'd love suggestions as to how to adapt a recipe to accommodate canned beans.

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A question...would it be foolhardy to try to make black bean soup with canned beans? The soup would just be for me, not guests or anything. If the answer is "try it," I'd love suggestions as to how to adapt a recipe to accommodate canned beans.

If you have to do that make sure you rince the beans. I have noticed that if you don't it tastes funny.

Living hard will take its toll...
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Here's my Stupid Cooking Question, inspired by my pulling out all the green onions that somehow survived the winter and were starting to bloom:

Many recipes call for the "white part" only of green onions. Why? Is it just esthetics? And where does the white part begin? Are you just supposed to throw out the green part (which would be a waste in my eyes)?

I ask because once again I was tasting the "white part" and "green part" of some of this bounty that went into tonight's slaw, and I can't taste the difference. So I wondered if there was a reason that I'm missing.

I did warn you it was a stupid question :smile:.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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...

I did warn you it was a stupid question :smile:.

Marcia.

I don't think it is at all a stupid question - I don't think there is any such thing when you are seeking to understand something. I too, have no idea why and I usually ignore it. I do find a difference in the taste of the white and green parts but I like them both and I often want the colour that the green part adds. So I usually trim the ugly and floppy green tops but keep quite a lot of the firm green stems and then I line the onions up top to tail so I am cutting some white and some green with the same knife pass.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Sorry, bleu. You're imagining it.

Steam gets significantly hotter than water. Ever hear of the Steam Engine? Geothermal Energy?

I thought the power of those was because it is steam UNDER PRESSURE. Think "pressure cooker" -- it's the pressure that tenderizes the meat faster, not heat.

The temperature of the water and steam are pretty much equal at any given pressure. It is pressure that determines how hot water will get before it boils. It is the higher temperature within a pressure cooker that cooks things faster.

Jim

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Back on the black bean soup...I made it according to this recipe with the exception of the canned vs. dried beans.

The flavor? Amazing.

The consistency? Not so much. Even after 90 minutes of simmering, the consistency was broth-like. Any thoughts on why?

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I think that the recipe has too much stock if you are using canned not raw beans. I usually puree a small amount of the beans and add back at the end of the cooking process to thicken up the soup base. I do this with all bean soups (white, cranberry and pinto as well as black).

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Many recipes call for the "white part" only of green onions. Why? Is it just esthetics? And where does the white part begin? Are you just supposed to throw out the green part (which would be a waste in my eyes)?

I think they tell you to use either the white part or the green part of the scallion based upon what you're using it for. The whites can be put into longer cooking foods (or put in the dishes before the green parts) because they act more like regular onions - durable and fragrant. The greens are pretty fragile and kind of fall apart and get mushy if they get cooked too long.

I think the white part begins once it starts to get firm (vs. the floppy green part).

Don't throw out the green part! Save it for another dish, or slice it thinly on the diagonal and scatter across your finished dish like chives.

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I have another question...how do you know when corn is finished cooking (except for taking a bite out of it!)? And how long does it take? When boiling or steaming, do you keep the husk on or off? Salt in the water, or no?

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I think that the recipe has too much stock if you are using canned not raw beans.  I usually puree a small amount of the beans and add back at the end of the cooking process to thicken up the soup base.  I do this with all bean soups (white, cranberry and pinto as well as black).

Hi Jenny - For the soup, to adapt the recipe you posted above, to accomodate canned beans, I would omit any salt in the recipe, due to whatever's already in the canned beans, or just be really careful seasoning it at the end. For the recipe that you posted, I'd cook everything but the beans in the stock, reducing the liquid to 1/2 it's volume, and then cover and slowly simmer for what's left of 30-40 minutes. I second dlc's idea of pureeing about 1/2 cup of the beans with some stock and adding them at the end, and I would not add the beans, which are already fully cooked, until the last 15 to 20 minutes. In the recipe the 1-1 1/2 hours is essentially cooking time for the beans, but you don't need that if they are canned. The vegetables will be soft within 40 minutes time. Plus just my preference, I'd add a bay leaf, parsley, and sage in a bouquet ball to the soup while simmering and remove just before serving. :smile:

Hmmm, what is this cranberry and pinto soup you make dlc? Have you put it in the gullet yet? :rolleyes:

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Well about cooking over steam, I made a creme au buerre a l'anglaise (which I'm pretty sure is buttercream) this weekend for a birthday cake and actually put my bowl nesting in the pan, above the boiling water, with the steam hitting it, as discussed. It took about 5 times as long as it normally does and I can see that using this method there is barely any possibility of curdling the custard, that's for sure. Dying of boredome, yes. Although it took a long time, it was fulfilling in a strange sort of way, especially when it was ready. :biggrin: I have ruined custards more than once, now it's foolproof. :laugh::laugh:

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What a great thread!

Okay, how do you make a simple mayonnaise at home? I don't really like using it often, so I almost always end up wasting some if I purchase it at the store. I know I have seen someone (jinmyo, perhaps?) post regarding making it at home, but I think it's buried in a random-topic thread somewhere.

Also, applesauce? I have apples. I'm trying to use up the contents of our pantry (we are moving next week!), and would like to make a bread recipe I have which calls for applesauce. I assume I can just cook the apples down somehow. Any ideas would be appreciated!

Double boiler thing, as mentioned previously: I have run into that request in recipes, myself. How do the rest of you (assuming you don't actually do it) get around that instruction? The idea of introducing yet another specialty pan into my tiny European apt kitchen gives me a headache. :raz:

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Double boiler thing, as mentioned previously: I have run into that request in recipes, myself. How do the rest of you (assuming you don't actually do it) get around that instruction? The idea of introducing yet another specialty pan into my tiny European apt kitchen gives me a headache. :raz:

An inch of water in a sauce pan at a slow boil. Put a mixing bowl on top so that it does not touch the water below. Voila, double boiler.

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

Joe W

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I have another question...how do you know when corn is finished cooking (except for taking a bite out of it!)? And how long does it take? When boiling or steaming, do you keep the husk on or off? Salt in the water, or no

If I'm boiling the corn, then I remove the husks an cook until the colour of the kernels become a little yellower (maybe only a few minutes) in salted water. I like my corn crunchy though, so maybe I'm undercooking it.

However my favourite way to cook corn is to grill it. When I do this I remove all but the last layer of husk, and I never soak the husks in water. Then I just throw the corn on the grill or embers and wait for the husk to char (turning occassionaly). When the husk is burnt, it's ready. The corn will be nicely carmelized (some will say burnt, but what do they know), and it will be some of the sweetest corn you'll ever have. It's just like grilling Asparagus to bring out the natural sweetness.

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I've officially been eating mostly vegetarian too long.

How do I cook a steak?

<insert shameful ducking of head here>

Just some basic cuts and techniques - except round steak. I saw that thread. Hurry! Before the beef in my fridge goes bad! :)

--adoxograph

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Some of my non-stick cookware and bakeware aren't as non-stick as I would like for them to be, so whenever I used non-stick cooking spray on them, it left a discoloration and further ruined the non-stickedness of my cookware.

Does anyone here understand why one should not use non-stick cooking spray on non-stick bakeware and cookware?

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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