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The Quintessential eG Kitchen Tips/Trucs

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I'm not one to admit defeat or the inability to select good produce in its prime , but more and more I'm tempted just to buy the pre-peeled, sliced, pre-packaged, fresh pineapples, because at least I can see what I'm getting.

Blasphemy! It's not all that hard to select a pineapple. Just pull on the leaves - out and a little up, not sideways. If they give way with a little effort, the pineapple is good to go. If it smells sweet, it's likely over-ripe.

I only get Hawaiian pineapples here in Las Vegas, because we're basically the ninth Hawaiian island. Seriously. A LOT of Hawaiians live here. So they showed me how to select a pineapple. Works for them. Works for me.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I'm not one to admit defeat or the inability to select good produce in its prime , but more and more I'm tempted just to buy the pre-peeled, sliced, pre-packaged, fresh pineapples, because at least I can see what I'm getting.

Sacrilege! That's just plain wrong. The minute you cut a pineapple it starts to lose its flavour - and I shudder to think about how much handling one of those pre-cut ones goes through before it's vac-packed. Yukkk.


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Just to get back to the tricky question of "to salt or not to salt".........If any one has followed this thread, you might be interested in taking a quick look at Cooking Issues, the food tech blog of the French Culinary Institute where they put their case. :smile:

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late to the discussion, but will comment a bit,On pie crusts etc, I do em in the FP,and put all the dry ingredients in the fp bowl,and into the freezerfor a while, and the butter/lards sliced in chunks

on platesinto the freezer with the bowl,

and for steaks and salmon strips,I salt at least20 minutes before searing/cooking,using canning and pickling salt,which is very fine,and pure...

Bud

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...mise is EVERYTHING. Mise is the difference between an "easy money" day and "dans la merde." Mise is more than just having a stack of towels and some bowls at the ready. It is a mindset -- a zen yoga jedi kung-fu mindset.

Before work, I show up one hour early. I drink coffee. And I visualize how my day is going to go. Even if I don't exactly know what I'm doing that day, I know what kitchen I'm in, so I know basically what's going to happen. I visualize the entire day's events, while chugging coffee. And then I get up, put my game face on, go to work, and rock 'n' roll. And when I'm cooking at home, same thing. I don't care if I'm cooking for 1 or 5,000. There's no difference.

Mise is the paddle that keeps you out of sh-- creek.

Yours is a weird but spot on post. You are obviously a pro. I am a housefrau. But we connect on the concept of conscious rehearsal of upcoming kitchen duty. During that last luxurious half hour of wakefulness before hopping (dragging) out of bed, I mentally rehearse all food prep and process I anticipate for the upcoming day, particularly so if I am giving a dinner party.

When the time approaches, I automatically reach for the mise, the bowl, the plate, the serving pieces without thought since I've done it all in my mind.


eGullet member #80.

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...mise is EVERYTHING. Mise is the difference between an "easy money" day and "dans la merde." Mise is more than just having a stack of towels and some bowls at the ready. It is a mindset -- a zen yoga jedi kung-fu mindset.

Before work, I show up one hour early. I drink coffee. And I visualize how my day is going to go. Even if I don't exactly know what I'm doing that day, I know what kitchen I'm in, so I know basically what's going to happen. I visualize the entire day's events, while chugging coffee. And then I get up, put my game face on, go to work, and rock 'n' roll. And when I'm cooking at home, same thing. I don't care if I'm cooking for 1 or 5,000. There's no difference.

Mise is the paddle that keeps you out of sh-- creek.

Yours is a weird but spot on post. You are obviously a pro. I am a housefrau. But we connect on the concept of conscious rehearsal of upcoming kitchen duty. During that last luxurious half hour of wakefulness before hopping (dragging) out of bed, I mentally rehearse all food prep and process I anticipate for the upcoming day, particularly so if I am giving a dinner party.

When the time approaches, I automatically reach for the mise, the bowl, the plate, the serving pieces without thought since I've done it all in my mind.

Great point - I am very visual so my conceptualizing includes a written component. Not a minute by minute flow chart, but enough to create that easy mental flow. People see my yellow pad and want to check out my detailed plans, then sort of tilt their heads sideways at my arrows, circled words and drawings.

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You can use a coffee/spice grinder/food processor to grind salt into an ultra-fine powder which can be useful to help with adhesion. For example, I use it when I need to sprinkle salt on popcorn or roasted nuts. I imagine it would also be useful for brines.

That's a great idea - I'm always frustrated at the way the salt runs past the popcorn, but it never crossed my mind to do this.

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. . . . I am very visual so my conceptualizing includes a written component. Not a minute by minute flow chart, but enough to create that easy mental flow. People see my yellow pad and want to check out my detailed plans, then sort of tilt their heads sideways at my arrows, circled words and drawings.

That sounds a little like what I do, although I'm particularly big on time lines; on a single page, I make one for each thing I'm preparing, which really helps pinpoint potential conflicts ahead of time, and really reduces the chance of unpleasant drama when coordinating a dinner party.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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. . . . I am very visual so my conceptualizing includes a written component. Not a minute by minute flow chart, but enough to create that easy mental flow. People see my yellow pad and want to check out my detailed plans, then sort of tilt their heads sideways at my arrows, circled words and drawings.

That sounds a little like what I do, although I'm particularly big on time lines; on a single page, I make one for each thing I'm preparing, which really helps pinpoint potential conflicts ahead of time, and really reduces the chance of unpleasant drama when coordinating a dinner party.

I'm with the planners and the mise-ers. All the dishes and potentially problematic ingredients... have to buy them, find them, thaw them, grate them, etc...go down on paper and also the steps to set the table.

Ed and I cook Chinese food together. He does the mises according to a printed step-by-step plan per dish I made for him and then I step in, like the chef :raz: , and cook everything at the last minute.

But then I have always lived by the list.


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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My best tip is my cheat sheet for measuring butter. Canadian butter comes in one pound blocks...not in sticks...and so getting the correct amount needed for a recipe can be a pain. American butter comes in convenient sticks.

On my fridge I have a small printed paper with the weight equivalents of 1 Tablespoon, 2 Tablespoons, etc. to one cup, covered in MacTac, with a tiny earth magnet taped to the back. One quick look tells me how many ounces of butter I need and weighing a small chunk of butter is much simpler than jamming it into a measuring cup. (I have the equivalents written down because I can no longer remember much of anything. :raz: )


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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Cooking is a joy when everything necessary to make the dish is within arm's reach in a stainless steel bowl, ramekin, custard cup, whatever. Sauté this, add that, add a couple more things, done. Brown this meat, soften those veg, deglaze with that liquid, braise, done.

There is nothing worse than having to mince garlic or herbs on-the-fly because it was skipped over during the mise stage. Or not having enough of something because it wasn't measured out in advance. Or missing a key ingredient entirely.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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One I just figured out today: If you're preparing a braise/pot roast for the oven, wipe down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water. This way, the sides are clean and far less likely to burn in the oven, reducing off flavors and also making it easier to clean.


PS: I am a guy.

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Just reading the hummus post reminded me of the two best secrets to a perfect hummus. Water-hulled tahini, which is paler and sweeter than non water-hulled and the addition of water which gives the light soft creaminess. Never use the brine liquid from the canned chickpeas or the boiling juice from dried chick peas, use fresh pure water, and adjust the lemon ,salt and pepper afterwards.

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My best tip is my cheat sheet for measuring butter. Canadian butter comes in one pound blocks...not in sticks...and so getting the correct amount needed for a recipe can be a pain. American butter comes in convenient sticks.

On my fridge I have a small printed paper with the weight equivalents of 1 Tablespoon, 2 Tablespoons, etc. to one cup, covered in MacTac, with a tiny earth magnet taped to the back. One quick look tells me how many ounces of butter I need and weighing a small chunk of butter is much simpler than jamming it into a measuring cup. (I have the equivalents written down because I can no longer remember much of anything. :raz: )

I also buy butter in 1-lb blocks. But I am accustomed to the convenience of the sticks for measuring, and also for serving on American butter dishes that are designed for the sticks.

So as soon as I bring home my block of butter, I carefully peel back the foil wrapper, take a very long knife, and cut it into sticks. Then I wrap the sticks individually in foil and put them back into the fridge.

As you no doubt know, it's pretty easy to guesstimate how large a slice one needs of those sticks to make 1 TB, or whatever.

This is easy to do and makes life much easier where measuring butter is concerned.

In fact, it really irritates me if somebody gets to that 1-lb block of butter before I do and starts just hacking it off willy-nilly. Totally messes up my measuring system.


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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Since alcohol evaporates quickly, usually in the early stages add dish liquid before adding to the food will absorb the taste and evaporate the alcohol itself. Alternatively, if you want more alcoholic taste, add the alcohol before the end of cooking.

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That's mostly a myth.

It takes over 2.5 hours of simmering to get down to only 5% of alcohol left in food. Here's info from the USDA on how much alcohol remains in food after various sorts of preparation:

Alcohol Burn-off Chart

Preparation Method Percent Retained

alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%

alcohol flamed 75%

no heat, stored overnight 70%

baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%

Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture:

15 minutes cooking time 40%

30 minutes cooking time 35%

1 hour cooking time 25%

1.5 hours cooking time 20%

2 hours cooking time 10%

2.5 hours cooking time 5%


Edited by Lisa Shock (log)

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I learned this from a friend of mine: When starting to work or cook in the kitchen, I toss an old towel or a few sheets of paper towels folded upon themselves onto the floor. Then, when there's a spill, I just push the towels over the mess with my foot, effecting an immediate cleanup without having to bend down and perhaps interrupt my work. It really does save time and some energy.


 ... Shel


 

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If you have old wonky kitchen drawers with gaps between them, get some thin insulating foam (like the stuff used down the back of radiators) and cut it into ~1cm strips. Stick them to the top of the front of your kitchen drawers. Then when you spill something down the front of the drawer there is a much lower probability that it will flow into the drawers and necessitate removing everything from the drawer, cleaning it, cleaning the drawer and replacing everything inside. (Although then you have to compensate for the lack of unexpected opportunities to clean the drawer by regularly cleaning your drawers...)

Eggs are easier to peel if you pierce them before boiling because the water rushes into the space between the egg and the shell and stops them sticking together. If you're boiling a lot of eggs, don't mess about with a pin - just put the eggs in the water and stab them with a knife. It doesn't matter where on the egg. The water pressure keeps the egg from coming out, provided you use a sharp knife and make a thin slit only.

If you can't get the top off a jar, you need to break the vacuum. Do this by 1) poking a knife-tip under the rim of the lid and twisting to let air in 2) (if you'll use the whole contents of the jar at once) stabbing a hole in the lid with a corkscrew or knife 3) bashing the edge of the lid on the counter to momentarily open a gap between lid and jar. Don't use good knifes!

If you have a juicer, put a plastic bag inside the bin where the pulp goes, rolling the top down over the edge like you would a rubbish bag. Then you don't have to wash the bin and you can stick the bag straight in the freezer to use the pulp in soup/cake later.

Print out some temperature and volume conversion charts and stick them on the inside of a cupboard door.

If you make sauerkraut or other fermented leaf food, save some whole leaves and roll them loosely to push the shredded cabbage underwater and stop the top going mouldy.

Save the silicone packets that come in medicine bottles and put them in with your dry goods to stop them getting damp. Put a few grains of rice in the salt cellar to absorb moisture.

If you have a large collection of, say, teas or flours and you keep them in caddies, cut off the part of the packet that says what the hell it is and put it in with the tea/flour. Then you'll actually know what you're eating or drinking.

If your broccoli or cauliflower or cut herbs or anything with a stem starts looking a bit sorry for itself in the fridge, cut off the end of the stalk as for cut flowers and stand it in room-temperature water for a few hours so it can get its good looks back.

If you get recipes off your iPad, put it in a freezer bag before taking it into the kitchen. Might save a few tears.

Put a shelf a few inches from the top of your freezer and keep it clear so you can put baking sheets in when freezing something like beans in a single layer.

Always grind pepper for a hot recipe onto a saucer/into a ramekin before adding it to the pot; otherwise the steam can rise up into the mill and make the pepper clump and stop the thing working properly.

Use a flannel-glove to clean your jars. It's super-easy.

Attach one of those small wire shelves with a rim that you're meant to put by the sink for your sponges, at eye-level in the place where you do your prep. You can put a cook-book in it on its end, out of the way, and the rim keeps the book open.

If you have a compost bucket/bin in your kitchen, save paper bags to line it with after you empty it. Less gross slime in your bucket that way.

Tuck a couple of tea-towels into the belt of your apron before you start cooking. They're very handy.

If you need boiling water to cook something like pasta, boil it in the kettle, not the pot. Way more efficient.

Make sure you use the correct burner for your pot. If the flame is too large the heat just escapes up the sides of the pot and doesn't heat the food.

If you wash up by hand, wash the knives first. Don't put them in with the rest of the dishes where they can amputate your finger under the suds.

Sprinkle the bottom of the oven with bicarbonate of soda before you cook something fatty like a roast, and wipe the sides of the oven with a soda solution. This absorbs all the fat and you can just clean it off with a cloth (no scrubbing) after.


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)
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Well, I was going to suggest wine in ice cube trays and using pyrex custard cups for the mise en place question, so I'll proceed on to my own "tips".

The first two are baking related, when you are supposed to get butter into little small bits for your biscuits. ATK had a clever biscuit recipe where you melted the butter (I know what you're thinking, but wait for it) and then let it cool somewhat. You then add the cooled liquid butter to the buttermilk for the recipe, and then stir vigorously. The coldness of the buttermilk instantly solidifies the liquid butter and you have a bunch of little balls of butter. The second ingenious method for doing this is from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, and you freeze your butter for a little bit before using it, until its stiff but not completely frozen, then you use a cheese grater to "grate" the frozen butter into your flour. Smart, huh?

My general tip has to do with stains on your clothing while cooking. Don't waste money on stain sticks. Grab your bottle of dishwashing liquid (Palmolive, Dawn, it doesn't matter which brand) and rub some of the liquid, without water, into the stain. Dishwashing liquid because of its chemical properties will help prevent the stain from bonding with the fibers in your clothing until you can get the fabric into the wash. ;D

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Well, I was going to suggest wine in ice cube trays and using pyrex custard cups for the mise en place question, so I'll proceed on to my own "tips".

The first two are baking related, when you are supposed to get butter into little small bits for your biscuits. ATK had a clever biscuit recipe where you melted the butter (I know what you're thinking, but wait for it) and then let it cool somewhat. You then add the cooled liquid butter to the buttermilk for the recipe, and then stir vigorously. The coldness of the buttermilk instantly solidifies the liquid butter and you have a bunch of little balls of butter. The second ingenious method for doing this is from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, and you freeze your butter for a little bit before using it, until its stiff

but not completely frozen, then you use a cheese grater to "grate" the frozen butter into your flour. Smart,

huh?

My general tip has to do with stains on your clothing while cooking. Don't waste money on stain sticks. Grab your bottle of dishwashing liquid (Palmolive, Dawn, it doesn't matter which brand) and rub some of the liquid, without water, into the stain. Dishwashing liquid because of its chemical properties will help prevent the stain from bonding with the fibers in your clothing until you can get the fabric into the wash. ;D

I beleive I first saw the grated butter trick in a Julia Child book...
Edited by heidih Fix quote tags (log)

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I do the majority of cooking for my elderly parents. My mother is obsessed with cabbage rolls. I find it tedious to get nice intact leaves. Until someone told me to put the head in the freezer, then let it thaw before rolling. It works great. Soft pliable intact leaves. Most of you probably know this one, but i love it. I make soup or something for the crockpot, put it in a big ziploc and freeze on a baking sheet flat in the freezer. Then i end up with nice thin little packages i can store vertically in a a little plastic file holder or in neat stacks.

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Well, I was going to suggest wine in ice cube trays and using pyrex custard cups for the mise en place question, so I'll proceed on to my own "tips".

The first two are baking related, when you are supposed to get butter into little small bits for your biscuits. ATK had a clever biscuit recipe where you melted the butter (I know what you're thinking, but wait for it) and then let it cool somewhat. You then add the cooled liquid butter to the buttermilk for the recipe, and then stir vigorously. The coldness of the buttermilk instantly solidifies the liquid butter and you have a bunch of little balls of butter. The second ingenious method for doing this is from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, and you freeze your butter for a little bit before using it, until its stiff

but not completely frozen, then you use a cheese grater to "grate" the frozen butter into your flour. Smart,

huh?

My general tip has to do with stains on your clothing while cooking. Don't waste money on stain sticks. Grab your bottle of dishwashing liquid (Palmolive, Dawn, it doesn't matter which brand) and rub some of the liquid, without water, into the stain. Dishwashing liquid because of its chemical properties will help prevent the stain from bonding with the fibers in your clothing until you can get the fabric into the wash. ;D

I beleive I first saw the grated butter trick in a Julia Child book...

There too? Well, maybe he got it from her, or came up with it on his own. There's not a thing cooking wise that one person can't think of that someone else (or many others) can't think up on their own, either contemporaneously or later. ;D

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