Throwing Away Buttermilk
- For many years Loraine and I have been throwing away gallons of buttermilk. We buy the smallest amount which is a liter and we use a small amount for a recipe and the rest goes bad in the refrigerator. We have found the solution - powdered buttermilk. You add 2 tablespoon of buttermilk powder to each cup of cold water, stir well and you have buttermilk. The buttermilk powder lasts forever, or close to that, no waste and it works just like regular buttermilk.
Light & Dark Soy Sauce
- Soy sauce is like wine, there are many different fermentations and they all taste a little different. First "light" soy sauce is not the light that we usually expect meaning lower in calories. Light describes the color. As a general rule of thumb, you use light soy sauce for seasoning and dark soy sauce for color. You want soy sauce that is naturally fermented. Some soy sauces, the cheaper ones, use chemicals to create a fermented product. Read the soy sauce labels carefully before you buy!
- If a recipe calls for separated eggs at room temperature, it is easier to separate eggs when they are cold. So, first separate the eggs and then let them sit on the counter to come to room temperature.
Out of Cake Flour?
- You can create cake flour from all purpose flour by removing 2 tablespoons of the all purpose flour from each cup of flour required and replacing it with 2 tablespoons of corn starch. The resultant all purpose flour corn starch mixture will perform identically to cake flour.
- One of Earl's greatest pet peeves are recipes that call for an oven to be pre-heated. Earl thinks that pre-heating is grammatically incorrect and that the oven should be heated to whatever temperature. He believes that pre-heating would suggest that additional heating will come at some point in the future. What are your thoughts? Should you preheat the oven to 350° F or should you heat the oven to 350° F?
- When cooking pasta, cook it for a minute or so less than what the instructions say. Remove the pasta from its cooking liquid and place the pasta in the pot or saucepan that contains the pasta sauce. Mix the pasta with the sauce and allow the pasta to finish its cooking in the sauce. You will find that by doing this you will maintain the al dente texture of the pasta as well as having the sauce blend with the pasta more efficiently.
Rehydrating Dried Mushrooms
- When you need to rehydrate dried mushrooms use cold water and allow the mushrooms to sit in the water for 8 hours or overnight. The mushrooms will retain more flavor if they are allowed to rehydrate in cold water. I know the instructions usually say something similar 20 to 30 minutes in warm water, but that's because they want you to purchase them and they think the longer rehydrating time will be a turn-off.
- Recently we went through an exercise to find dried Chinese black mushrooms. Turns out that Chinese black mushrooms are also known as shiitake or flower mushrooms. Our local Chinese food market had a large assortment of vacuum sealed bags of dried shiitake mushrooms. Many years ago we had the mushroom naming challenge with a British recipe that called for Chestnut mushrooms. After some research we found out that chestnut mushrooms are also named crimini mushrooms and brown mushrooms. Crimini mushrooms are available in every supermarket here.
Excess White Ganache
- If you have made too much white ganache for your recipe, you can put the excess in the refrigerator and bring it back to life using a double boiler. Just be careful and heat the ganache very slowly, stirring continuously.
Substitute White Wine with Vermouth
- One of the most frustrating things in cooking is a recipe that calls for a small quantity of wine, especially when you are cooking for two. You open a bottle and end up wasting at least half if not more. Well, there is a substitute for white wine, that puts an end to the waste.
When a recipe calls for white wine replace it with vermouth. Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine flavored with various botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices). It's also relatively inexpensive. Vermouth will remain good for at least 6 months in the refrigerator, some people say a year. We don't buy large bottles so ours is never in the refrigerator much longer than a few weeks.
We haven't found a good substitute for red wine, but we're working on it!
Soaking Split Peas
- We have found that there is no need to soak split peas before cooking unlike dried beans which should be soaked. Soaking split peas will lower the amount of time needed to cook them. But, we think that you get a better blend of flavors if you simmer the soup longer, so we don't soak my split peas before cooking. We do however rinse the split peas in cold water to remove any dirt and dust.
Baking Soda as a Cleaner
- We place a new box of baking soda in the refrigerator and freezer every 45 days or so in order to remove odors. It's a habit that both of our mother's always did and we have just carried on. Does it actually work, who knows for sure. But the point, that I will come to eventually, is that baking soda is an excellent cleaner for ceramic pots, stainless steel, copper and porcelain. So, if you place baking soda in your refrigerator and freezer don't throw it away, keep it as a cleaner!
- When you cook vegetables should you place them in hot or cold water before you start the cooking process? The simple answer is yes! Vegetables that grow in the ground such as potatoes, carrots, beets, etc.; should be placed in cold water and then that water should be brought to a boil. Vegetables that grow above the ground such as green beans, spinach, kale, cauliflower, etc.; should be placed in water that is already boiling.
- Do not add to much food to a hot pan or boiling water. As an example; if you had a lot of cauliflower, especially if it is refrigerator cold to a pot of boiling water it will bring the temperature down below boiling. The same applies to adding meat or vegetables to a pan of bubbling butter. To many items will reduce the heat and you will lose the cooking and browning capabilities of the butter. Learn to cook items in batches or use larger pots and pans when necessary.
Stop The Cooking Process
- Many times we apply our full concentration to the cooking of our food items, especially vegetables, but in a lot of cases stopping the cooking process is even more critical. When cooking vegetables such as cauliflower, green and waxed beans, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, etc always have a bowl of ice water available so that you can stop the vegetables from continuing to cook even though they have been removed from boiling water or a steamer. Placing the vegetables in ice water will seal in the sharpness of the color and avoid the vegetables turning into mush. Ice bath cooling also applies to stocks and broths. You want to cool them quickly and get them into the refrigerator or freezer in order to avoid bacteria from forming.
Save Seafood Scraps
- Never throw away seafood shells from shrimp, crab and lobster, or the fish backbones from whole fish and/or the fish heads. If you have a good relationship with your fish monger you might get a bag of backbones and heads for free, or close to it. It doesn't matter if they are cooked or raw. Place them in a freezer bag and save them for making your own fish stock. You will be amazed at how much different your recipes will taste if you are using a homemade fish stock.
Fresh Pasta Versus Dried Pasta
- From where we currently live to a local store that sells fresh pasta, made daily, is a little more than a mile. Yet, we often use dried pasta. If the dried pasta is high quality and cooked properly, in our opinion it is difficult to tell the difference between fresh and dried pasta. For dried pasta we only buy pasta made from durum semolina and produced in Italy, for some reason we find it superior to local brands.
Stocks & Broths
- Originally there was a difference between a stock and a broth. A stock was made from bones with very little if any meat whereas a broth was made with meat with few if any bones. However, over the last 20 or 30 years the two words have become interchangeable even among some of the world's top chefs. We consider that a stock is the base of a soup or other recipe and contains no salt and a broth is a soup that you can actually consume as it is, even though ingredients may be added to them.
So many recipes, especially soups and sauces, depend on a rich deep flavored stock as the backbone of the dish, while others use stock as the primary flavor enhancer. We used to put great emphasis on making our own stocks. After all, what is the sense of choosing the best meats and vegetables and then cooking them with a low quality and/or chemically enhanced canned stock. The use of bouillon (the French word for broth) cubes was definitely out as the number one ingredient is usually salt.
We are very lucky as our butcher makes his own chicken, (turkey at thanksgiving and Christmas), beef and veal stock. While our fish monger makes an excellent fish stock (we do make our own shrimp stock). That being said, if we are making a soup that requires a high quality stock such as a chicken noodle soup or French onion soup we still make our own.