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Ever since the book French Women Don’t Get Fat I have been in love with Leeks. If you add a leek to a recipe often you don’t need to add anything else for flavor! Not even salt! You can actually make soup that is delicious with nothing more than leeks butter and chicken broth. But first you have to know what to do with a leek. What on a leek is even edible? In order to cut up a leek you must get a large sharp kitchen knife. It has to be sharp to work. Next hold the leek by the white end and whittle off the dark green ends in three or four long strokes. you should be left with the white end and a long pointy light green end. Next cut off the roots from the white end. Slit the leek in half lengthwise and then chop how ever you want. Leeks tend to be gritty and sandy on the inside so be sure to wash them well. When it comes to cooking just treat them as you would any onion.
I was pretty excited to learn this one! Asparagus is delicious but the woody bottom of the stalk can ruin a perfectly good asparagus experience. Lets face it, if you are going to spend that much money on a veggie you better enjoy every last bite! I use to tap down the stem with a knife until the knife easily cut into the stalk. But one day my uncle saw me doing that and he showed me that if you just hold the asparagus at each end and snap it that it will always snap off at the exact spot between tender and tough. So there you go simply snap your asparagus into your colander before your rinse it off and then cook it in your favorite way. I still love good old-fashioned steamed asparagus but grilled is pretty darn good too.
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Poaching is one of the easiest ways to cook an egg and I’m always surprised to hear how many people have not been taught how. So for those of you who have always wanted to know. Here you go!
A pot of simmering water
A slotted spoon
A towel or paper towel
Bread for toasting
Bring a pot of water to a simmer on your stove. Be sure that the water is deep enough that the eggs won’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add a splash of vinegar to the water. I like the taste of the vinegar so I usually add about a quarter cup but adding a few tablespoons is fine too. The vinegar will stabilize the white of the egg and prevent it from spreading around the pot. Vinegar makes egg whites slightly firmer than usual; some people find this unappealing. You can always choose to omit the vinegar but in my opinion it is the best part of poached eggs. Personally I love the crisp fresh flavor the vinegar gives to the eggs. I find it especially refreshing to the palate when poached eggs are accompanied by a heavy sauce like hollandaise in eggs Benedict.
Next crack your eggs into separate bowls and have them ready for the water. It takes 3 to 5 minutes to poach an egg depending on your preference. If you want a perfect medium egg use your toast as a timer. Simply put your toast down just before you add your egg to the water and by the time it pops you will have a perfect egg. Using your slotted spoon scoop your egg out of the water and touch the bottom of the spoon to the towel or paper towel before sliding it on to your toast.This will prevent you from getting a soggy spot on your toast. Add salt and pepper and enjoy!
Just like anything else practice makes perfect. You will find the perfect speed of simmer for your water and your favorite amount of vinegar. Play with this technique and make it your own.
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I have to say most of the time when I think about making a cake I just want to decorate it. I tend to use boxed cake mixes the majority of the time. I’m sure this will change when my daughter wants to help me bake but for now I want something quick and easy and reliable. having said that there is no reason not to be as creative as possible with those cakes.
If you want a boxed cake mix to taste deceptively decadent it’s easy; just do some simple substitutions.
- Use yolks instead of what ever kind of eggs it calls for. Yolks add richness to the cake that makes it seem too good to be from a box. This works perfectly if you use the left overs from the Swiss Meringue Butter-Cream and leaves nothing to go to waste. Adding yolks to a white cake rather than whites will technically make the cake a yellow cake but really unless you are baking a white wedding cake who cares?
- Add an extra egg. This adds richness if you don’t happen to have yolks to use up.
- Substitute fruit juice, beer or milk for water. This will also make the cake richer. Fruit juice or beer will leave people wondering what your secret ingredient is. I’m sure you could use pop too but I have never tried that one.
- Exchange butter for oil. Butter is always better.
- Add fruit puree mixed half and half with your liquid of choice.
- Add flavors. Cinnamon, mint extract, coconut, nuts, dried fruit, banana. the sky is the limit!
Have fun! The very worst case scenario your cake will flop. Not a big deal. You may even discover something new!