Posts tagged Tips
Sunday, September 4, 2011

preserving summer corn

in bags, ready to freeze

As we head into fall, I am both excited and bummed out. Fall means sweaters and hot cider; it means hot soups and comforting stews; it means my apartment doesn’t overheat when I go to bake a pie. But fall also means no more summer tomatoes, goodbye stone fruit, so long summer corn.

If you’re anything like me, you love sweet corn in the summer. It’s great for soups, salads, and just on the cob. I’ve even made corn ice cream last year. And while there is always corn available in the freezer section of our supermarket, I have found, in the past, that it tastes totally bland. I can’t taste the summer sweetness, no matter how generous a knob of butter I apply.

preserving summer corn

Last summer, I took a few ears of corn, cut off the kernels, and froze them in a small Ziploc bag. And then forgot about the bag completely. Sometime in January, while cleaning out my freezer in preparation for Andrew’s move-in, I found the bag of corn in the back. I warmed it in the pan with a bit of butter and salt and had the most amazing dinner treat that night. This year, I’m freezing 20 ears of corn to last me through the fall and early winter. It’s really all that my small apartment freezer will allow, but if you have more space, or another refrigerator/freezer going on in your household, consider preserving more.

I put the kernels in small bags, so each portion is contained, squeeze out extra air, and freeze. The sandwich size bags fit about 3 ears of corn. That should be enough as a side dish for two people. Of course, you can scale up more, should you need to.

Some people parboil their corn for 1 minute before freezing – it should slow down the conversion of sugar. I’ve been cutting and freezing without any problems in the past. If you want to parboil, go ahead – just cook corn for 1 minute before plunging it into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Here’s to summer memories in a few months!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

what salt to use?

Kosher salt

The other day, a reader left a comment on the blog asking about what is kosher salt. I directed him to an excellent piece in Wikipedia, hoping it hasn’t been altered by the likes of Sarah Palin, lest we learn that Paul Revere carried salt (as well as bells) with him on that famous ride. You never know.

But in all seriousness, it got me thinking about various salt that we use for cooking. Some folks swear by their regular table salt. Others rely solely on sea salt. And still there are some folks who like fine salts, boasting dozens in their kitchen rotation.

I happen to stand somewhere in the middle – I like fancy salts in some cases. I love the nuances different salts offer, and I have a few in my pantry (somewhere in there I have a wood-smoked salt from Japan – and it smells amazging!). But for standard cooking, particularly baking, I turn to kosher salt – it has a clean, unprocessed salt taste that works best, I think.

Still, even with kosher salt, there are questions: Morton’s or Diamond Crystal? Personally, I stick with the latter, though I find that it’s a little more difficult to procure in stores. But across the board, I see more chefs using it, it’s finer than Morton’s, and you should adjust the proportions accordingly to compensate for the difference – i.e. because Diamond Crystal is smaller and flakier, you might need more of it, and if using Morton’s (which is larger) might need less.

I hope this helps. And if anyone has any more questions, please post it in the comments and I’ll try to answer as well as I can.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

flipping the bird

Flipping a Roasting Chicken

If you like to make roasted chicken as much as I do, here’s a handy tip for how to flip mid- that bird (get it? flip the bird? ha! crickets….) mid-roast quickly, efficiently, and best of all – easily! That way you get nicely browned top and bottom of the chicken.

No more two wooden spoon/spatula acrobatics, which in my opinion make the whole procedure cumbersome. Simply, take your sturdy tongs (if you don’t own a pair yet, you simply must get one – you’ll wonder how you’ve lived without one for so long), insert one end into the cavity of the chicken, clamp down with the other and lift the bird up, flipping it on the other side. Voila! It’s done. Put the bird back in the oven and enjoy the rest of the waiting time sipping a glass of wine, preparing a salad, or reading your favorite book.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

cast iron 101

cast iron 101

Cast iron pans elicit as much fear as they do fervor. For every cook out there who swears by their cast iron skillet, there’s a cook out there who is petrified to use it. I asked a few of my friends and family what made them resist the siren call of cast iron and they all pointed to the same anxiety. They were afraid of its upkeep, which admittedly at first, can seem daunting. But with a few simple rules, you can maintain your cast iron indefinitely and even pass it on to your children or grandchildren. Personally, I’d be pretty excited to get one from either my mom or my grandmother, but I just learned, much to my horror, that their maintenance of it was incorrect (hence them having issues with it). And so, allow me to share a few tips with you about cooking in, caring for, maintaining, and reseasoning your cast iron skillets.

A properly seasoned cast iron will develop a non-stick like coating and will cook your food to perfection. That incredible heat retention and distribution will deliver magnificent results. There’s a reason that cast iron cookware has withstood the test of time. What could be simpler?

cast iron 101

1. Warm It Up, Chris*: When warming your cast iron, start with a low heat setting first and gradually increase. Don’t just place the pan on high heat, or place it in the hot oven (warm it inside the oven as it warms).

2. Cooking: When cooking in your cast iron, try not to cook foods with high acid content like tomatoes – it can damage the seasoning and also impart a metallic taste to your food. Stick to regular frying, sauteeing, and whatnot. If you want to bake with your cast iron, make sure it’s an older well-seasoned pan. New pans should be used only for frying to get more seasoned.

3. Don’t Be So Cold:After cooking, please don’t try to cool your pan by thrusting it in cold water – you can actually crack the pan that way.

cast iron 101

4. Washing: When washing your pan out – just use a stiff nylon pad or brush, never soap (as that strips the seasoning) and hot water. Wipe the pan dry. Some people choose to lightly coat the inside of theirs with a tiny bit of oil and heat to rub the oil in. Another good method, and one I use very often, is to dump a generous amount of kosher salt into the pan, and scrub with a washcloth you’re not sad to get greasy or a paper towel with a small amount of water. Rinse and dry immediately, preferably over a low flame.

5. Reseasoning: Sometimes the state of one’s cast iron pan gets to be quite dire. Not to worry – you can reseason it and it’ll be back to its great self in no time. What you want to do is to spread a thin coat of a neutral oil (like canola) on the inside and outside of the pan. However, the best oil to use is flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil, much like linseed oil used in oil painting to achieve a hard, shiny, dry finish, is a “drying oil”, except it’s edible (unlike its oil painting cousin). The process that occurs when your oil dries to a hard, shiny and not sticky finish is called “fat polymerization”. So the best oil to use for fat polymerization is a drying oil and flaxseed oil is the only edible drying oil out there.

Line the bottom of the oven with some tin foil to catch any drips, and heat your pan, upside down at 400 degrees F. I usually place my rack in the top third of the oven. After an hour, remove from the oven and let cool. Check your pan – has it blackened, or are you still looking at a few grey spots? It’s possible your cast iron could use another reseasoning session or two. Don’t be afraid of multiple sessions – just remember: you can always get the pan back to a well-seasoned shape.

6. Sticky!:There’s sticky gunk in your pan – what do you do? If the gunk is on the bottom, I have found that it’s not so bad trying to remove it if you boil some water in the pan and then try to loosen the gunk with a stiff nylon brush. On sides, a heated pan makes it easier for the gunk to come off, just be careful and not burn yourself. Always wash your pan in hot water to prevent it from cracking. Also, hot water is more effective at dissolving any stubborn sticky spots. Actually, one of the reasons I don’t coat my pan in oil after cleaning is that for some reason, I find that it always gets sticky afterward. I much rather keep the pan dry and reseason as needed.

7. Rust: Your cast iron skillet is showing some rust. You can easily remove rust by scrubbing with equal parts of oil and salt on the rusty spots. If rust is too pervasive, you can try using fine steel wool. Once done, wash the skillet, and dry it thoroughly. Reseason according to instructions above.

cast iron 101

There, I hope this has helped to clear up any mystery/confusion about cast iron pans. And I hope that those of you on the fence, afraid to give it a go, now feel excited and confident that you can maintain your cast iron in great condition. A little bit of effort with cast iron – can be extremely rewarding. It will soon become your go-to pan – you’ll see! And if you have any questions on the heels of this post, leave a comment below and I’ll answer to the best of my ability!

*(I’m about to!)

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Friday, January 21, 2011

vegetable stock bag


There’s absolutely no reason why you have to go out and buy new vegetables to make stock, vegetable or otherwise. Start a “stock bag” in your freezer and place whatever odds and ends of vegetables and herbs you’ve left with after you make a meal. Carrots gone soft and mushy? Your stock bag is the answer. Celery, once firm and crunchy, now looks wilted and bleak – don’t toss it, just add it to your stock bag. When the bag gets full, you’re ready to make a pot of stock – it’s that easy! Isn’t it great putting everything in your kitchen to good use and not wasting a scrap?

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Friday, December 10, 2010

make your own baking powder

Are you out of baking powder and don’t want to leave the house, but want/need to make those cookies? You can easily make your own by combining the following ingredients and amounts: 1 teaspoon baking soda + 2 teaspoons cream of tartar + 1 teaspoon corn starch. You can increase or decrease the amount, and once mixed, store in the refrigerator. Best part – you can ensure that your homemade baking powder is aluminum free.

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