Attention all chef-wanna-be’s, cooking ma’s and pa’s, and anyone else interested in learning a thing or two about cooking. Here’s some tricks (or, “trucs”) to make your life easier.
Rule #1: Cooking is Chemistry.
That’s right, it’s more science than art. So don’t worry about your pretty little pans. Learn the basics to getting it right and your food will perform like nothing else.
When you cook with meat you should sear it first. This allows the meat to retain all it’s wonderful juices. Just kidding!!! I learned today that it’s a myth. The real reason is because it allows the meat to develop complex flavors as a result of the browning process.
But before you sear, you want to rest your meat at room temperature for 30 minutes. If you don’t, the cold meat will bring down the temperature of the pan and delay the searing process. Speaking of the pan, it needs to be hot, hot, hot for proper searing. Whatever you do, don’t use extra virgin olive oil to sear your meat. Instead, use a pale, unflavored oil. I recommend canola oil. It has heart healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Once the pan and oil are ready, cook the meat 3-4 minutes on each side, until it is a golden color. After you sear, you might finish it off in the oven. It all depends on what you are cooking.
Storing Fruits and Vegetables
Store fruits and vegetables in a way that mimic their natural climate. Citrus, avocado and bananas suffer damage if stored below 45 degrees. So that’s why my oranges spoiled in the refrigerator. Carrots, cabbage, and lettuce should be stored in the crisper drawer because there’s more moisture in those babies. Store potatoes at room temperature to avoid turning the starches to sugars, which happens at cold temperatures. Onions, shallot and garlic should be stored at room temperature, unless you want them to get bitter on you!
The presenters argued against substitutions, especially when a recipe calls for whole milk or cream. You should not use skim or half-and-half or it will ruin your recipe. I can see the point, especially with certain dishes that need the fat for cooking purposes. However, there are many substitutions that work great. My advice if you are trying to cook light is to consider the amount used in the recipe and how many servings you get. If a recipe calls for ½ cup whole milk and serves 8, how much are you really getting per person? Don’t worry about it. If you are making something like a custard, don’t try to make it “low fat or fat free”. You won’t like the end result. You’re better off taking a small portion of the real deal and enjoying every last bite. Another idea is to look for a tried and true recipe that has low fat or low sugar substitutions already figured out for you.
Rule #2 Judge a Wine By It’s Bottle
There are three basic bottle shapes: with shoulders, without shoulders, and long and slender. You might be able to figure out the grape varietal by matching a California bottle to the shape of a French bottle.
With shoulders: Whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (CA) and White Bordeaux (FR). Reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (CA) and Red Bordeaux (FR).
Without shoulders: Whites, such as Chardonnay (CA) and White Burgundy (FR). Reds, such as Pinot Noir (CA) and Red Burgundy (FR).
Long Slender: Riesling (CA, Pacific NW), Alsace (FR)
Removing a floating cork: Been there, done that, once or twice. Here’s the best tip from the experts. Serve the wine away from the cork and display the bottle with it. All you need to do is filter the wine into a decanter and leave the cork in the bottle.
Saving leftover wine: Don’t be a weekday wino. Have a glass with dinner and save the rest for the weekend. You need a gadget – a VacuVin to be exact. It’s cheap and easy and with a few pumps it creates a vacuum in your bottle and caps off the top.
Tenderizing stews: Put a cork in it! I’m not kidding… Add 1-3 used wine corks to meat stews to tenderize the meat. It’s the tannins that the cork absorbs if you are wondering how the heck that works.
There were two more presenters, but I became so enthralled I had to ditch the blogging, sorry folks!
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