28. Master the broiler.
Think of a broiler as an inverted grill, ready to bring serious, concentrated heat to whatever food you place below it. Chicken breasts, pork chops, and steaks take about 10 minutes to broil; just be sure to flip them midway through the cooking process, as you would when grilling.
27. Time your salting.
Time your salting well. If you add salt to vegetables as soon as they hit the pan, the sodium will draw out moisture. (They’ll steam, not brown.) For deep, flavorful caramelization, add salt at the end.
26. Immerse your meat.
Put steaks and chops in a zip-top bag and then immerse the bag in tepid water for 30 to 60 minutes before cooking. Raising meat’s internal temperature makes it easier to cook evenly all the way through.
25. Salvage wilted produce.
Freshen up limp vegetables: Drop your aging produce into ice water before cooking. Plants wilt due to water loss; ice water penetrates their cells to restore crispness.
24. Brighten and balance flavors.
Keep a spray bottle of sherry or rice vinegar on hand while you’re cooking. “Misting a scallop, a piece of fish, or even a salad really helps brighten and balance all the flavors,” says Wylie Dufresne, chef at New York City’s wd-50.
23. Protect your fingers.
Don’t dice a digit. Cut awkward-to-slice vegetables—such as mushrooms, carrots, and peppers—by first cleaving them in half. Then rest the flat parts on the cutting board.
22. Revive overcooked meat.
Overcooked meat? Salvage dinner: Slice the meat thinly, put it on a plate, and top it with chopped tomato, onion, and jalapeño. Add olive oil and fresh lime juice (or a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette; see #6). The acid and oil will restore moisture and fat to the mistreated meat.
21. Prepare plates beforehand.
Warm food served on a cold plate is a ROOKIE MISTAKE. Heat your dishes in a 150°F oven for 10 minutes before plating a meal. On the flip side, lightly chilled plates (use your freezer) boost the freshness of cold dishes like summer salads.
20. Spice up your TV dinner.
Instantly improve your next TV dinner. After cooking, add fresh herbs, a squeeze of citrus, and a drizzle of olive oil to transform any frozen entree.
19. Cook fish skin side down first.
Always cook fish skin side down first. The skin keeps the flesh of the fish from drying out and provides a crunchy counterpoint to the tender meat. Cook your fillet undisturbed for 75 percent of the time on the skin side (about 5 minutes), and then flip it to the flesh side to finish.
18. Drain pasta prematurely.
If you want perfect al dente pasta, adapt the box directions. Drain the pasta about 1 minute before the package tells you to. Dump the noodles back into the pot and stir in the heated sauce. The pasta will finish cooking in the pot.
17. Pat meat and fish dry.
Pat meat and fish dry before cooking. Surface moisture creates steam when it hits a hot pan or grill, impeding caramelization. If your fish has skin, use a sharp knife to squeegee off the water trapped within it.
16. Shop on Wednesday.
Go to the supermarket on hump day. Research shows that only 11 percent of people shop for groceries on Wednesday, making it the best day to be in the aisles. And only 4 percent of people shop after 9 p.m. You may have to track down somebody to fetch fresh stuff from the back room, but what else do they have to do at that hour? Plus, shorter checkout lines mean less time reading the National Enquirer.
15. Sample as you cook.
The best tool in your kitchen is your mouth. Taste a dish at least three times during the cooking process, adjusting the seasoning every step of the way.
14. Puncture your meat.
The problem: Dense meats like steak, pork, or chicken legs can burn on the outside before they’re fully cooked on the inside. The solution: Insert a clean stainless-steel rod or nail into the thickest part of the meat, and finish cooking. “The nail will act as a conductor, drawing in heat and cooking the meat from the inside out,” says Roland Henin, CMC, U.S. coach for the 2009 Bocuse d’Or Culinary Olympics
13. Preheat the pan.
Pan roasting is a popular restaurant technique rarely employed by home cooks. Preheat a cast-iron or stainless-steel pan on the stove with a bit of olive oil until you see wisps of smoke rise. Add your chicken, steak, or fish, and cook until one side is nicely browned—about 3 to 4 minutes. Then flip it and place the entire pan in a 400°F oven to finish cooking.
12. Zap citrus fruits in the microwave.
More pucker for the price! Zap lemons, limes, or oranges for 15 seconds in the microwave before squeezing them. The fruit will yield twice as much juice. Another round of G&Ts, anyone?
11. Know when to shake and when to stir.
Great cocktails need serious shaking. Bond was wrong—martinis (and other drinks) that are made with clear spirits should be stirred. Shake only cocktails made with fruit juices.
10. Save your Teflon.
Teflon coatings can deteriorate on high heat, so save your nonstick pans for gentler tasks like cooking omelets and sauteing fish.
9. Blend butter and olive oil.
Try cooking with a 50:50 mixture of butter and olive oil. Butter brings big, rich flavors, but it burns and blackens at very low temperatures. Oil prevents the milk solids in butter from charring, allowing you to ratchet up the heat.
8. Refrigerate with caution.
Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator. And keep peaches, potatoes, onions, bread, garlic, and coffee out of there, too. Cold temperatures compromise the flavor and texture of these staples.
7. Water down your pasta sauce.
The secret to great pasta sauce? The cooking water. Save a cup of the pasta’s cooking water before you drain it, and add the water to your sauce as needed. The starch in it helps the sauce adhere to the pasta, creating a creamier, more flavorful final product.
6. Make your own vinaigrette.
Bottled dressings are a waste of money and calories. Make your own vinaigrette by whisking together three parts oil (olive, canola, or sesame) with one part vinegar (balsamic, red-wine, or rice), plus salt and pepper. Build extra flavor by adding minced shallot, Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, or honey.
5. Let meat rest.
If you slice into your meat right after it comes off the grill, those precious juices, still circulating with residual heat, will bleed out onto your plate. Let the meat rest: Wait 5 minutes before biting into burgers or grilled chicken, 7 minutes before cutting into steaks, and at least 15 minutes before carving a turkey or a larger roast.
4. Salt and refrigerate raw chicken.
Nothing beats crispy chicken skin. Buy a whole chicken the day before you’ll cook it, sprinkle on a tablespoon of kosher salt, and leave it uncovered in the fridge. The air and salt will draw out excess water.
3. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
For deeply flavored foods, don’t overcrowd the pan. Ingredient overload makes a pan’s temperature plummet, and foods end up steaming rather than caramelizing. This adds cooking time and subtracts taste. All ingredients should fit comfortably in one layer, so use a pan that’s big enough for the job, and cook in batches if necessary.
2. Counterbalance salt with vinegar.
Oops—too much salt? Use a splash of vinegar to provide a counterbalancing punch of acid and sweetness.
1. Lose your saltshaker.
Proper seasoning is paramount. First, lose your saltshaker. Pinch kosher salt straight from a dish. The coarse grains and the touch of your fingers give you maximum control. Add a pinch, taste, and repeat if necessary.
1. How To Make A Smokier Eggplant Dip
Einat Admony is the fiery, sardonic chef behind New York’s most beloved falafel (atTaim) and its most celebrated Israeli restaurant, Balaboosta. Her food is surprising because it’s so flavorful; in fact, Admony emphasizes flavor above all else. For her, flavor is far more important than presentation.
This makes sense when you first see her babaganoush. It’s is a purple gray color that not very sexy in the looks department (she addresses that by spreading it on toasted bread and topping it with a citrus herb salad) – but the flavor! When I cooked with her, Admony revealed her secret to maximizing the smoky eggplant flavor. She slices a large eggplant in half vertically, wraps it in aluminum foil, and places it in a dry skillet with another skillet on top of it, cooking it like that until the eggplant is charred black.
It’s a totally bizarre way to cook eggplant but the result is an eggplant dip that actually gets you excited when you hear the words “eggplant dip.” That’s a big deal.
2. How To Improvise a Fish Stew
When I was cooking with Jonathan Waxman at his restaurant Barbuto in New York, a fisherman delivered a huge slab of swordfish straight from the boat. As if it were the most casual thing in the world, Waxman had me cut a filet of swordfish into cubes, throw sliced garlic, shallot and fennel into a pot with olive oil, adding the fish once the shallot was soft, along with mussels, heirloom cherry tomatoes, white wine, lemon juice and a tablespoon or two of butter.
Moments later, it was as if we were on the beach in Italy, toasting our wine glasses and admiring the view. The stew was phenomenal. The key, it turns out, is just cooking the fish just enough. The moment it goes from translucent to opaque is the moment you want to take it off the heat. As for everything else, use what you have; as long as the fish is fresh, the rest takes care of itself.
3. How To Make Pie Dough Easy with the Clump Method
I love eating pie and hate making pie. That was until San Francisco chef Gary Dankotaught me his foolproof technique for making a pie dough (or, in his case, a crostada dough, though they’re interchangeable) that rolls out with incredible ease.
It comes down to his signature clump method. Let me walk you through it:
Add your flour and very cold butter to a food processor, pulse with the tiniest amount of cold water. Dump the sandy mixture on to a piece of parchment paper and then with your hand, grab up some of the “sand” and squeeze your fist. This makes a clump, which you should put on the other side of the parchment. Keep doing this until you have a pile of clumps and then use the parchment to bring the clumps together into a disc.
There you are! Refrigerate for one hour and roll out like a pro. Who knew clumps could make pie dough such a cinch?
4. How To Transform Your Indian Food At Home with One Key Ingredient
Asha Gomez, chef of one of the country’s best new restaurants (Cardamom Hill in Atlanta, Georgia), is from Kerala, India and had never heard of curry powder before she came to the United States. “In India, we don’t have curry powder,” she told me. “We don’t even know what that is.”
So what do Indian cooks use to impart a genuine curry flavor to their food? The answer: fresh curry leaves. Every dish that Gomez taught me (and I’ll say right here that these were some of the most extraordinary plates of food I tasted on my entire cookbook journey) began by heating oil and then flavoring that oil with fresh curry leaves stripped straight from the stem. She threw the stem in too for good measure. And the aroma that permeated the kitchen was so enticing, so exotic and alluring, everything that came after was almost irrelevant. That one ingredient made for the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted.
5. How To Make the Best French Onion Soup of Your Life
At Naomi Pomeroy’s Beast in Portland, Oregon, I had a French Onion Soup so good, I wanted to die after eating it because there was nothing left to live for.
What made the soup so good? Well, the onions were cooked for a very long time, until a deep, deep dark brown. The finished soup was seasoned with 30 year-aged balsamic vinegar and truffle salt (two of Pomeroy’s favorite ingredients). But the real reason for the soup’s magnificence was the stock she used to make it, a stock made with veal bones roasted in an oven and then simmered with water and other vegetables for almost 12 hours.
I adapted this recipe for the home cook while writing this book and recreated the soup in my kitchen. It’s probably the most involved recipe in the book, but the results speak for themselves. When you eat it, you’ll want to die too because life just doesn’t get any better than this.
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