Do you have any cooking tips or tricks?
I just have the usual home cook stuff. Let’s see. Um. Giving cooking advice is always slightly controversial. For example, I do not cook our pan-seared steaks in a bath of butter. One, we don’t need the extra calories and saturated fats and especially lactose; two, steak is delicious on its own and all the aromatics in the world stuffed into that butter do not significantly alter the taste; and three, it requires two different pans because cast iron is way too hot after searing and would burn the butter and I’m too lazy to wash two pans.
::pauses for a chorus of “How dare you!” from the comments::
I stand by my statement. Don’t link videos to me about bathing steak in a pound of butter with crushed garlic and rosemary. I have tried it, and I won’t be doing it. If I want a flavored steak, I’ll either marinade it or mix my homemade teriyaki sauce and pour it on in the last 30 seconds of cooking.
Homemade teriyaki sauce:
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup mirin
- 1/3 cup brown sugar or honey
Heat everything, reduce to desired consistency. Can be cooked in advance. Just before cooking with it, I like to add crushed garlic and powdered ginger and heat it up for a few minutes to let the flavors blend.
You can also buy the Sweet Soy Sauce by Kikkoman. It does the job.
In the last 30 seconds of cooking, pour some over the steak. Flip the steak a couple of times to get the sauce to caramelize.
So, tips and tricks. Right.
Salt your steak.
Always salt your steak prior to searing. Salt both sides and let the salt sit on there for about 30-40 minutes. Salt will draw out the juices in the meat, dissolve into it, and form a brine. The brine will tenderize the meat and flavor it once reabsorbed. It will also give the steak a better sear. The sear is the result of a Maillard reaction, which requires high heat and dry surfaces. Kosher salt is best for this. On the geeky side, what we perceive as browning actually rearranges amino acids and some simple sugars into circular formations. You can find a cool chart about it at Food Chemistry.
Brine your chicken.
The other day Gordon wanted roasted chicken and potatoes. My go-to for roasted chicken is skin on chicken thighs and drumsticks. However, due to a shopping oversight, I only had boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Boneless chicken can go dry during roasting. I defrosted them in the microwave and stuck them into brine for a couple of hours. It made all the difference. The chicken thighs were moist, flavorful, and tender, and I even nuked them with the broiler toward the end because even if I cook the meat to the perfect temperature, my husband will maintain that it is undercooked unless there is a brown crust on top of it.
Basic brine recipe:
- 8 cups of water
- 8 pieces of chicken (about 3 lbs with bone in) or a single chicken cut up
- 1/4 cup of salt
- ¼ cup of sugar
- Aromatics and herbs that float your boat: bay leaf, rosemary, tarragon, fennel for basic European-savory taste, or you can mess with it and add cloves, chili, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a different take, or chili, cumin, cilantro for a South-Western spin, etc. It depends on what kind of chicken you are aiming for. I usually stick to bay leaf, coriander, and then go with whatever smells good.
Mix everything together, making sure the salt and sugar are dissolved, add chicken, refrigerate for 2 hours. Afterward, bake like normal. The chicken will release a lot of liquid during baking.
For potatoes, I cut them into pieces, tossed them with sunflower oil, salt, paprika, and some fresh dill and stuck them in the oven. Also broiled them a tiny bit before the end, so they would look brown enough.
Kale is good for you. Kale also has a tendency to taste like weeds. Not like soft weeds either. However, if you ever bought a prepared kale salad at store, it actually tastes decent. Kale also has the fun quality of keeping well. You can make a salad base with kale ahead of time and it will happily sit in your fridge for 3 days or so. You can take it out as needed and add perishables like tomatoes.
Get a bag of washed kale. Dump it into a large bowl. Add a splash of olive oil, preferably light-tasting, unless you really love the olive oil and want it in your salad for three days straight. I prefer sunflower oil, actually. I was raised with sunflower oil, it has a very high smoking point, and I love it, but not everyone does. Once you splashed the olive oil in, get in there with your hands, and really rub the oil into the kale. Squish it. It’s almost a kneading motion. The kale will wilt a little bit and decrease in size, but it will remain green and pretty.
I’ve looked it up and apparently the technical term is “massaging.” Massage your kale, heh.
Throw some sun-dried tomatoes in there, some slivered or sliced almonds, and other fun stuff like golden raisins or cranberries. Mix everything. Separate into containers, if you are me, or just cover the bowl and stick it in the fridge.
If you want to save time or plan on eating this as a meal, I also cook a small bag of tortellini – al dente – drain, wash to cool, allow to dry a bit, and I add that to the base.
I know most of us are conditioned to add acid to salad, but unless you are planning on eating it immediately, I would resist the urge to reach for vinegar. Acid will start breaking things down and you will get mush over time. So no vinegar at this stage, but you can add it before serving.
This salad base is edible by itself. However, it’s boring to just eat it nonstop, so that’s when we can get creative. Take out a portion of salad. Add tomatoes, shredded Parmesan, a bit of basil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Mix. You have an Italian-inspired salad. Or add boiled egg, onion, tomatoes, and a bit of bacon. A Cobb-inspired salad. You get my drift. You can flavor it with a little bit of store-made dressing like Ranch – and you only need a small amount because the oil is already in there flavoring things. That steak we cooked earlier – if there is any of it left, you could slice that in there. Hehe.
And now it’s your turn to share cooking tips. I have to go and keep company with Curran and Kate.