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Old 03-02-2017, 02:08 PM   #1
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What cooking "rules" do you regularly break?

If you've watched enough cooking shows, or read enough about cooking techniques, you know what techniques are considered "wrong" by most chefs. I almost think some of these "rules" are ones that some chefs might disagree with, but would never say so publicly for fear of ridicule (and possible loss of business and maybe even spots as judges on cooking shows)

I know that I will never be a celebrity chef, no matter how good I get as a cook because there are two things I vehemently disagree with fancy pants chefs about (and a third one that's not quite so much):
  • Lumps in mashed potatoes are okay
  • Heavy cream can (almost) always be replaced by half-and-half.
  • Light butter is a great substitute for regular butter.

When it comes to mashed potatoes, I know that I would have to puree the lumps out of them if I ever get into a cooking contest that uses them. And, the bit about the butter is a pretty minor one.

But, I feel much more strongly about heavy cream. I've tried to like it...really, I have. Once I got past the enormous calories, I realized that the overwhelming richness of it is really off-putting. I've made bisques where I hardly notice the heavy cream. What's the point of all those calories if I don't know it's there?

What killed it for me was Creme Brulee. I first tried making it using the recipe that literally everyone uses (i.e., heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla). After the first few bites, I became aware of a greasy coating in my mouth. Did I make it wrong? I checked my steps, and they were exactly like every celebrity chef recipe I'd ever seen.

So, I tried using half-and-half instead. Here's what I came up with:

Butterscotch Creme Brulee Light) Recipe - Food.com

It tastes like a creme brulee is supposed to taste, but it has about half the calories. Best of all, no greasy aftertaste. In some recipes, you will have to adjust the quantity somewhat, since it's thinner than heavy cream. But, it works.


Enough of my heresy...does anyone else have anything they'd like to confess that fancy pants chefs would not approve?

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Old 03-02-2017, 02:18 PM   #2
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Searing meats seals in the juices - baloney
Heat your skillet before you add the oil so the food won't stick - hokum
Lumpy mashed potatoes are NOT rustic. They are lumpy.
No butter substitutes.
I don't make "lite" versions of dishes.

I'm sure there are more.
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Old 03-02-2017, 03:06 PM   #3
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What in the heck is "light butter?"
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Old 03-02-2017, 03:26 PM   #4
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In my book, 'classic' recipes are simply guidelines. At the end of the day, it comes down to what suits you. O.K. if you go and dine at a top end restaurant, you accept what they serve and how it's done. The same is true for any other restaurant you may choose to go to. We all have our versions of recipes that, when we're at home, can all be done according to our preferences - with the execption of sauces such as hollandaise and such like. There are also plenty of recipes available for lean, mean and 'healthy'. The choice is in the hands fo the cook, just as there are recipes that are full fat and voluptuous.

I don't subscribe to the idea that searing a steak on both sides doesn't contain the juices. I've never had that problem. Lumpy mashed potatoes, in my book, went out with the Ark years ago, but I do think that there's a knack of doing a good mash - by the way, didn't they call lumpy mash 'crushed potatoes'? I have a feeling that they did, but that was one fine example of snobbery in the kitchen! So there you have it!

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Old 03-02-2017, 04:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by jennyema View Post
What in the heck is "light butter?"
LOL... I was wondering the same thing. I mean, it's either butter or it isn't.

Oh gosh, where to start... I can already sense this is going to be a contentious topic.

I guess cream is a matter of personal taste. As for me, I go through a pint of cream a week, and will accept no substitutes. However, I eat a lot of fat in my diet and don't give a fig about calories.

And Andy, I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you about heating skillets - at least for certain foods. If I don't heat my skillet before adding (real) butter and eggs to the pan, they will indeed stick. Other foods don't seem to matter as much, but eggs and fish, forget about it. It might be the fact I use carbon steel pans, but I find preheating is absolutely necessary for those. It makes those eggs slip and slide around like hockey pucks on ice. It also makes for getting a great sear on meats.

If it makes a difference, I very much agree with what you said the other day about cooking eggs over lower heat. But I still preheat the pan.

A few others "myths" I disagree with:
  • Don't salt meat before cooking. My dad used to tell me you shouldn't salt your steaks until after grilling or they would dry out. Bollocks. No wonder his steaks had little flavor. With something as large as a roast, I might season it up to 2 days before cooking to allow it to penetrate deeply into the meat. Salt also makes the meat jucier, not drier - not to mention more forgiving to overcooking.
  • Alcohol burns off during cooking. Some does, yes, but not all.
  • With hot peppers, the heat is in the seeds and pith. Partially true. Capsaicin is more concentrated in the pith. I always remove the seeds, but often leave the pith, unless I'm deliberately trying to tone down the heat.
  • Don't salt eggs before cooking or they will give off more water. I've seen Jamie Oliver, Alton Brown, and other celeb chefs say this. I've never, ever found this to be true. I always salt my eggs before whisking them to make an omelet or scramble. There is never any water on my plate. I do, though, incorporate some type of fat into the eggs, either in the form of a splash of cream or small chunks of butter. Maybe this makes a difference. I don't know. I just know watery eggs isn't a problem I've run across.
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Old 03-02-2017, 04:31 PM   #6
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What cooking "rules" do you regularly break?

Rachel Ray always says don't wash your mushrooms, brush or wipe them. Bull. I always wash my mushrooms. Try brushing eight pounds of hen of the woods. I also wash my button, porcini, and any other mushrooms. No loss in quality.
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Old 03-02-2017, 04:32 PM   #7
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Steven kroll, if you pack meat in salt for weeks it does get dry....
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Old 03-02-2017, 04:41 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by di reston View Post
In my book, 'classic' recipes are simply guidelines. At the end of the day, it comes down to what suits you...
Classic recipes are classic for a reason. If you use a classic recipe as a starting point and change it to create your own original dish, that's fine as long as you change the name of the recipe.

Alfredo is a classic example of what I mean. The original recipe called for butter, cheese and pasta with a little pasta water to make a sauce. Since then, any white sauce served with pasta is now called Alfredo. I see recipes with cream, flour, cream cheese, egg and more that are called Alfredo.

Make whatever you want but don't presume to call it by the classic recipe's name.
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Old 03-02-2017, 04:48 PM   #9
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...And Andy, I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you about heating skillets - at least for certain foods. If I don't heat my skillet before adding (real) butter and eggs to the pan, they will indeed stick...

Steve, I made that statement because I questioned its veracity. So one morning I used a try-ply stainless steel skillet and real butter to cook two eggs.

For one, I started with a cold skillet and heated it, then added butter, waited until it melted and cooked an over easy egg.

For the other I cleaned and dried the skillet and added cold butter to the cold skillet and heated them together. Then I cooked an over easy egg.

My results were identical for both methods. Each egg started slightly sticking but broke free with very little coaxing. I was able to flip each, finish cooking and plate them.

Perhaps if I was using a different pan my results would be different.
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Old 03-02-2017, 05:26 PM   #10
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Oh gosh, where to start... I can already sense this is going to be a contentious topic.
  • With hot peppers, the heat is in the seeds and pith. Partially true. Capsaicin is more concentrated in the pith. I always remove the seeds, but often leave the pith, unless I'm deliberately trying to tone down the heat.
I hear TV chef's get this one wrong all the time. They say all the heat is in the seeds, but that just isn't true. Capsaicin is mostly in the membrane, or "pith" as you called it. That's the whitish part inside the pepper. You can adjust the heat of your food by how much of the membrane you leave in.

CD
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Old 03-02-2017, 05:26 PM   #11
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Steve, I made that statement because I questioned its veracity. So one morning I used a try-ply stainless steel skillet and real butter to cook two eggs.

For one, I started with a cold skillet and heated it, then added butter, waited until it melted and cooked an over easy egg.

For the other I cleaned and dried the skillet and added cold butter to the cold skillet and heated them together. Then I cooked an over easy egg.

My results were identical for both methods. Each egg started slightly sticking but broke free with very little coaxing. I was able to flip each, finish cooking and plate them.

Perhaps if I was using a different pan my results would be different.
Oh, I see. So you're still using a hot skillet. You're just testing the hot pan/cold oil theory. I thought you were saying you were starting food in a cold skillet.

In that case, I agree with you. You still have to pre-heat pans. Well, unless you're using Teflon, I guess.
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Old 03-02-2017, 05:28 PM   #12
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Steven kroll, if you pack meat in salt for weeks it does get dry....
Right. But that's a form of preservation or dry curing, rather than seasoning, where you pack the meat in a heavy layer of salt. It then sits for several weeks in an non-refrigerated location so the moisture evaporates into the air as it's drawn out of the meat.

That doesn't happen over a few days time in the refrigerator with the amount of salt you would use for seasoning. In this case, the salt (through osmosis) initially draws some water out of the meat (you'll see the meat "sweat"), but once the salt is saturated with moisture, it's then drawn back into the meat (osmosis again) where it flavors it.
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Old 03-02-2017, 05:30 PM   #13
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Oh, I see. So you're still using a hot skillet. You're just testing the hot pan/cold oil theory. I thought you were saying you were starting food in a cold skillet.

In that case, I agree with you. You still have to pre-heat pans. Well, unless you're using Teflon, I guess.
I heard not long ago to start bacon in a cold pan, and it will cook flatter. I tried it, and sure enough, it works. My bacon no longer wants to curl up on me.

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Old 03-02-2017, 05:54 PM   #14
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Steve, I have to agree with a lot of your statements. Thanks to DC, I now lightly salt my steaks, wrap in plastic wrap and let them sit for 24 hours in the fridge. In return I get tender and flavorful steaks.

With two of us here, I go through 4-6 half gallons of half and half a month. We drink a LOT of coffee. But I also use it for cooking.

When I am cooking protein like eggs or meat on the stovetop, I always use low heat. It gives me better control over the food.

Butter? Oh dear. Put a popsicle stick in the end of a stick of butter, and I could eat it like a popsicle. In my kitchen butter and garlic rule. I like a small amount of lumps in my 'taters. I like butter in my baked 'taters. I like butter on every thing I eat. And a couple of slices of garlic doesn't hurt even if it isn't called for. Doctors know that garlic is good for the heart and it helps control your sugar levels if you are diabetic. But I know my doctor would have a heart attack himself if he knew just how much butter I go through. No margarine for me.

Other fallacies I don't agree with:

I wash my mushrooms. Ask Jack Pepin why. He did a test on one of his shows. He measured a pound of dry mushrooms. Then he plunged them into a large bowl of water. Squished them around to show just how much dirt was in there at the bottom on the bowl. Took them out, weighed them again. There was only a miniscule amount of water added to the weight. Not even enough to mention. who has the patience to stand there and wipe down a pound or more of small mushrooms. Like Shitakes?

Letting a pasta sauce simmer for hours. Hokey! Ever watch Lidia make a sauce? When you simmer it for hours, it loses it freshness.

I also bake my meatballs. They hold together much nicer than when plopped into a boiling sauce. I don't care for standing at the stove and sauteing them first. Sometimes I have been known to serve meatballs with just brown gravy. I don't need a pasta sauce in order to serve them. And they are great with mashed taters with some small lumps.

Enough for now. Thanks for rattling my brain Steve.
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Old 03-02-2017, 06:00 PM   #15
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I heard not long ago to start bacon in a cold pan, and it will cook flatter. I tried it, and sure enough, it works. My bacon no longer wants to curl up on me.

CD
My mom taught me that. Not only does it lay more flat, but you don't have to add any fat to the pan. I've seen TV chefs put oil in a hot pan and then add bacon. Putting it in a cold pan allows it to render some fat before the meat starts cooking, so no added fat needed.
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Old 03-02-2017, 06:04 PM   #16
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I don't subscribe to the idea that searing a steak on both sides doesn't contain the juices. I've never had that problem.
So you think that searing seals in juices? People have done tests measuring moisture loss with searing and it doesn't happen.

Quote:
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Lumpy mashed potatoes, in my book, went out with the Ark years ago, but I do think that there's a knack of doing a good mash - by the way, didn't they call lumpy mash 'crushed potatoes'? I have a feeling that they did, but that was one fine example of snobbery in the kitchen! So there you have it!
I've made smashed potatoes and they're very good. Like a baked potato with crispy edges
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Old 03-02-2017, 06:11 PM   #17
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If you've watched enough cooking shows, or read enough about cooking techniques, you know what techniques are considered "wrong" by most chefs. I almost think some of these "rules" are ones that some chefs might disagree with, but would never say so publicly for fear of ridicule (and possible loss of business and maybe even spots as judges on cooking shows)
...
Enough of my heresy...does anyone else have anything they'd like to confess that fancy pants chefs would not approve?
You seem to be really hostile toward celebrity chefs. Why is that?

I think you need to be careful about what you ascribe to them. A lot of current scientific knowledge about cooking is fairly new but many of the shows are older and don't reflect what chefs currently do.
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Old 03-02-2017, 06:18 PM   #18
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I heard not long ago to start bacon in a cold pan, and it will cook flatter. I tried it, and sure enough, it works. My bacon no longer wants to curl up on me.

CD
Yeah, I do that, too, when I have the time.
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Old 03-02-2017, 06:39 PM   #19
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I have mixed feelings about celebrity chefs.

I agree with Julia Child's comment several years back that people like Emeril and Bobby Flay have done a fantastic job of getting Americans interested in cooking, again. I know watching a good cooking show gets me motivated to go into my kitchen and cook something.

As for learning anything, I generally just pick up ideas here and there. I have a lot of "I didn't know that" experiences watching cooking shows. Then there is Alton Brown -- he's funny, and very knowledgeable, but that man seems to find the hardest possible way to cook a meal. It makes my brain hurt. LOL

As for some other comments, searing (or browning) meat is all about building flavor. It really doesn't seal in any juices. That's been pretty well demonstrated over the years.

Salting a steak long in advance of cooking removes water, which is not what "juices" are in a juicy steak. "Juices" are rendered fat. Removing water enhances meat flavor, so go ahead and salt that raw steak.

I do slow simmer my pasta sauce. If nothing else, it makes the house smell soooooo good.

I agree on the mushroom thing, too. I wash them. IIRC, Alton Brown spent way too long explaining the science behind it, once, but washing mushrooms doesn't seem to cause any problems.

CD
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Old 03-02-2017, 07:09 PM   #20
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Steve, I have to agree with a lot of your statements. Thanks to DC, I now lightly salt my steaks, wrap in plastic wrap and let them sit for 24 hours in the fridge. In return I get tender and flavorful steaks.....
Actually Addie, if you're going to pre-salt a good steak and let it sit in the fridge overnight, it's better to leave it uncovered. The drier the steak, the better the sear. It's counterproductive to salt it and then wrap it. Give it a try next time.
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