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Old 01-24-2005, 02:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amber
If a recipe calls for deep frying, which we all know is not healthy, try coming up with a baked version if possible. For example, some on here posted a recipe for baked onion rings. They were dipped in egg whites, then sprayed with cooking oil, and baked. Those were yummy!
Good point... a cookie sheet and a cooling rack can produce really crispy food.
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Old 01-24-2005, 05:08 PM   #12
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Have all of the ingredients for the recipe on the counter and ready to go before you start constructing the dish (mis en place).

Make sure your sink is empty before you start prepping/cooking. Empty the dishwasher, then wash off the dishes and utensils as you go and put them in the dishwasher. If you can clean off a bowl, pot, pan, utensil and use it again in another step, do so.

Keep a plastic bag nearby (the type you carry your groceries home in) and toss out the peelings, shells, bones, fat, anything that will wind up in the garbage as you go. All this will help enormously when the meal is over and you need to clean up.
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Old 01-24-2005, 05:27 PM   #13
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When boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes or potato salad and when boiling pasta be sure to salt the water. The salt is absorbed into the potato and into the pasta - once cooked it is too late.

Absolutely no oil should be added to your pasta water.

When you are sauteing fish watch it turn opaque from the bottom up - when almost to the middle turn fish over - when cooked the rest of the way (the very, very center can even be a little underdone) put the fish on a plate or in a different pan and cover with foil. Fish will steam the rest of the way.

Read your recipe, get out ingredients and if there's anything to chop or measure do it before you ever start to cook. Line up everything in the order you need them. You'll save yourself a lot of aggrevation because two things - you will find out if you are out of anything and you will be forced to read the recipe from start to finish, eliminating some unnecessary mistakes.

Don't be afraid to use your herbs and spices. Look on the bottles/jars/containers to see what they suggest using it with - if that's what you are having add some - flavor is a good thing!

Salt AND pepper can do wonders for a dish.

Keep a covered bowl by stove filled with kosher salt - comes in very handy. Or 1 cup salt plus 3 TBS white pepper- this is also good for cooking.

Having a garbage bowl at your prep area saves a bunch of time. It saves steps and prevents things from dripping i.e., poultry.

When handling fish/poultry/meat/anything raw- make sure all your bottles are open and ready to pour, cans have been opened, and use a spoon for the salt versus your contaminated fingers.

Wash your hands after handling anything that used to be breathing immediatelyafter handling before touching everything.

Always thaw in cold water.
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Old 01-24-2005, 05:47 PM   #14
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Usually the smaller the pepper, the hotter the pepper. Exclusions will be the LAME-O Heat free Jalapeno's.
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Old 01-24-2005, 06:06 PM   #15
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Get a couple different sizes of enamel covered cast iron pots with lids.
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Old 01-24-2005, 07:17 PM   #16
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Heat resistant spatulas and spoonulas are wonderful and affordable kitchen tools!
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Old 01-24-2005, 07:33 PM   #17
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Along the lines of writing things down:

This is one of the reasons why I always type my recipes onto my computer, then print a hardcopy. I have a thumbtack stuck into one of my cupboads, and hang a butterfly paperclip from that. I hang the printed copy from the clip. This lets me look up at the recipe (like I look up at a ticket in the window at work), and keeps my precious counterspace clean. Never take a cookbook into the kitchen, as it will get all "boogered up".

Also, I will make changes in the recipe during the cooking process, as well as after. I keep a pencil handy for this, and just scratch out the stuff I want to replace, and write in new text. This works for both ingredients as well as method. Later, I will go back to my computer, call the document back up, make the noted changes, and save. I then trash the old printout, so that I have to print a new one when I make it again (keeps me from using an older version).
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Old 01-24-2005, 08:19 PM   #18
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I hate to sound like a "ditto head" but if you follow the suggestions of auntdot, kitchenelf, and AllenMI (among others) you won't go wrong. Some things I've perfected and have made so many times I don't need a recipe any more ... for everything else I do the same thing Allen does. But, in any case, I make sure I have all of my ingredients before I begin, then I prep everything before I get started. As you gain experience you'll learn where you can take shortcuts.

Go to a used bookstore and find an old (1995 or earlier) copy of "Joy of Cooking" (NOT the NEW Joy of Cooking). It tells you a LOT about methods and ingredients. If you only ever have just one cookbook - this is the one to have.
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Old 01-24-2005, 08:56 PM   #19
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Learn basic definitions and what they mean -

Beat, blend, whip, fold for baking.

Saute, sear, stir-fry, brown, 'sweat', for pan-frying.

Simmer, boil, braise, roast, reduce.

Mince, chop, slice, julienne -

oh, gosh - I gotta stop! Seriously, unless you absolutely in your heart of hearts know what 'beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy' means, you've not 'gotten' that basic.

Watch as many 'valid' cooking shows as you can, or rent videos - Jacques Pepin has an excellent series on video of the basics - it's totally awesome!

Make sure your equipment is in good order; a good knife was already mentioned; oven temperature accuracy is a must; a good fry pan, a pasta pot, and a good roasting pan, some cookie sheets that can double to roast veggies.
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Old 01-24-2005, 10:12 PM   #20
 
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Well done people!

You guys get onto these things way earlier in the day than I can manage!

A few other thoughts:

1) A digital meat probe is an invaluable investment.

2) To follow the analogy of a "carpenter", his work is done to a quality limited by his skills and his tools. A "Cook" is not that much different...you can build up your "skills and experience" quotient, but "tools" are very important, too! Witness the testimonials on "good" knives!

Buy the best "cooking tools" you can, even if this means going "short" for a bit on other things...that really good set of pots, or a really "good" saucepan, osteriser, waffle plate, griddle...(even reaching down to an ergonomic potato peeler!) are worth tose extra dimes or dollars! While they may be superceded by future designs of cookware, there is a good chance they will not, but become "obsolete" or unattainable...buy "ONCE", buy "smart", and buy the very best you can...if any of my children were to be smart enough to ask for a good "tool" you could bet the mortgage I'd get it for them as a gift at Christmas or Birthday...

3) Some earlier valid advice on "spicing" your dishes...but don't forget that spices have a shelf life, too...usually about 3 months! Use an "Avery Label" or a permanent marker to note on the spice bottle what date it was first opened. If its out of "date" its almost universally "out of flavour" too!

4) If you make something that turns out "superbly", remember to "make notes" (while its fresh in your mind) on what you did, so you can repeat it. If it comes out badly, take heart! This happens to each and every one of us on occaision, or has happened at some point previously...taste the "carrion" again, and try and determine where you overdid or underdid it, so you can "coorect" in your next attempt...

Likewise, ask, at restaurants or hosted parties, "just how that was done?" Again, "Take Notes"!

5) Goodweed is so "exactly" right! You can add spices or herbs, but you cannot take them out! And both (but herbs mostly!) will "flower" (imagine the little daisy or rose flower "opening up") as they cook...so don't be embarassed or ashamed to get your face down by what you are cooking/mixing, and getting a really good "sniff"...once you've got the "nose" of it, try a spoonfull...(and CLOSE YOUR EYES when doing this)..we can make it "look pretty" later, but shutting off that visual sense will enhance the "small/taste" senses...

6) Another Member had such good advice here, too! Print out your recipe, and tape it up on the counter, or range hood, or cupboard, at eye level, for easy reference...the "one sheet" note pad allows you to easily record the "tweaks" or "screw ups" of each step, and allows for better "forensic" rebuilding of "what went right/what went wrong", when the outcome is known...

7) If in doubt, "undercook"...you can always overheat it later. If its "overdone", you cannot go back...

8) When "dinner planning", "walk backwards" through the process...if you want it plated and served at 1800, for instance, give 15 mins for general dinner call and actual "service", allow yourself time for unhurried "carving" as applicable, the "work" must "set" for a time from exiting the oven to being carved, and of course, ovens, BBQ's etc are notoriously variable in "cooking times", so resorting to "tenting" is one side, but feverishly "turning up the heat" to "finish" earlier is seldom a good choice...so when do you have to "start" the process? Error on giving yourself extra time...

9) Those TV Chefs aren't entirely dumb...they will show you themselves rapidly chopping up components of meals, but rest assured you will almost certainly never get that good...so have your "components" chopped and ready BEFORE you start any critical "time lines"

10) Kitchen Elf, as always, makes a super point...WASH YOUR HANDS AND IMPLEMENTS at every opportunity and every time there is the slightest doubt about health issues! What point in a really good meal, if somebody gets sick?

11) Never be afraid to "try" something new! Make it in small quantity, and taste test each step to familiarise yourself with processes and "handling"...once you get the hang of it, its easy to expand and serve to a crowd!

12) There's an "old saw" about entering love and cooking with "total abandon". Believe in this, (unlessyou are trying to do this professionally, in which case I do not know!) because it really is easier to get forgiveness than permission!

Am looking forward to dinner with Goodweed at his place, and comparing methods and ingredients! Expect we will both go through a "learning curve", and be forever "screwed" with scratching our heads and wondering "However did he DO that?"...

Lifter
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