If you’re not already a subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated, you should be. I know I’ve touted the magazine before, but I’m doing it again. Chris Kimball is the founder, editor and visionary of the group of food publishing and TV shows. He was 29 when he started Cook’s Magazine (which eventually morphed to Cook’s Illustrated, I think). Many years ago, after I’d already been a loyal subscriber for many years, I went to a cooking class that he gave at our local Sur la Table store. I suppose he was introducing a new cookbook, or something. I don’t remember. But he talked about his roots, and about his love affair with Southwestern Vermont. He must have a house or apartment near Boston (to go to during the work week), because that’s where the Cook’s Illustrated headquarters are located, but his down-home kind of life style just tickles my fancy. I wouldn’t want to work a farm, but maybe I’d like the serenity of waking up to the complete quiet of a farm, hearing the honey bees or the birds before I heard a car horn engine zooming up or down my hill. Something about that lifestyle appeals to me sometimes.
Anyway, the latest issue that popped into my mailbox contained so many handy hints, I felt that a few of them might be worthy of a post.
Cleaning up sticky bread dough or batter – you know how your sponge or scrubber gets grungy with that stuff, trying to clean it out with lots of water, etc. Really icky. Grab a piece of aluminum foil, loosely scrunch it up and rub it all over in the bowl, turning it over to pick up more. It will gather up most of that stuff. Toss the foil in the recycle bin.
A cleaner, better pastry edge in a tart – use your pounder (picture of mine at right). Use it up against the edges – gently, really gently, pressing down and against the side. You might need to keep it floured so it doesn’t stick (that would be my thought). They caution about being gentle with it so you don’t make the dough too thin.
Chopping nuts more cleanly – wow, this is a stunner. I chop walnuts every week or so because I sprinkle them on my morning yogurt. I always use a gigantic butcher knife and the nuts fling and fly all over. Use a serrated blade. Haven’t tried it yet. They say that the scalloped serrated blade edge grabs each nut and holds it better. Somebody makes one with an offset handle – that would be nice, but if you could see the contents of my knife drawer you would likely say no way does she need one more knife! With a regular serrated edged knife (like my long bread knife) I’d just have to be extra careful to hold the handle over the edge of my cutting board – otherwise you would have difficulty getting the knife to slice through the nuts without rapping your knuckle with every chop.
Sprinkling streusel – why didn’t I think of this one? You know how, when you’re trying to sprinkle streusel or topping on cupcakes or muffins and the streusel goes all over everywhere? Cut out the bottom of a 6-ounce yogurt container and hold that cylinder over the muffin batter and drop the streusel down through the tube. It will stay put with little or no spray!
Whipping Cream – To Go – what an ingenious idea! Put the cream and a bit of powdered sugar in a Mason or Ball jar. Cap it and keep it chilled. When you’re ready to serve, shake the cream for about 4 minutes and you’ll have perfect whipped cream. One little jar, little clean-up and you’re done. They do say, however, that it won’t be as fluffy as usual because it can’t incorporate as much air as if you’d done it in a bowl. But hey, that’s a minor issue, I think, if you’re at a picnic or someone else’s home.
Garlic powder – who knew? You need to “bloom” garlic powder before it can reach its effectiveness. Dissolve the garlic powder is just a tetch of water (like 1/2 tsp garlic powder to 1/2 tsp water). Let it sit briefly, then add it to a pan with a tablespoon of butter and cook it just a little. Then continue with your dish. The taste testers were quite amazed at the increased flavor (they tested it in mashed potatoes).
Dutch process cocoa vs. regular cocoa – the tests they did said the chemistry of both worked fine, but there were definitely flavor differences. Regular cocoa tended to create a drier crumb. The Dutch process had a more chocolaty flavor (more like dark chocolate) and it is much darker in color too. They didn’t say this, but I’m supposing it’s more like the difference between milk chocolate (the regular cocoa) and dark chocolate (the Dutch processed).
Reheating Leftover Turkey – this is a great strategy . . . assuming you have either whole legs or breasts left over, leave them that way (bone in) to re-heat them. Wrap the turkey in heavy duty foil and pre-heat the oven to 275° F. If you have a big breast piece, cut it in half crosswise before re-heating. Bake until the internal temp of the turkey reaches 130°F, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from foil and brown the pieces in a lightly oiled pan (to crisp the skin). If you’re re-heating turkey breast slices, stack them up so they’re about the thickness of the whole breast. This slow-heating technique works just for that reason, it heats the meat slowly so it doesn’t lose too much moisture.
Insulated Food Carriers – I have some great insulating bowls with tight lids that I use to take salads or other such things when I need to cart them somewhere. But to carry a lasagna or a big casserole of some kind, no. They tested a variety of such big food carriers (including Pyrex’s). Their biggest concern was the drop in temp and they wanted it to stay hot, above 140°, for at least 2 hours. The only winner was Rachael Ray Expandable Lasagna Lugger, Purple. There are other colors available – they’re all about $27. I just ordered 4 for Christmas presents. The only down side, they said, was this one was a little harder to clean. The carrier expands up if needed from the photo there (kind of like expandable luggage).
I only provided you with a few of the tips in this issue. There were also numerous articles about cooking (like making a top sirloin roast, chocolate crinkle cookies, a French apple tart, salt and pepper shrimp, crispy pork belly and how to make a hot chocolate mix you’ll love). My DH loved top sirloin – he loved the beefy flavor in it better than in a New York, ribeye or a tenderloin for instance. But to me a top sirloin is too tough. Not my top pick for grilling. But this particular recipe is for making a juicy roast with it. I’ll have to invite someone over to try the technique. I need to get back into the kitchen in order to do that. One of these days maybe.
About Me: My 2nd cataract surgery was last week. It went fine and I can SEE so much better. Oh my goodness, I’m a happy camper. I’m out of the boot and trying to walk some. I don’t know whether my foot is better or not as it still hurts. It’s better in the mornings, but the more I walk on it the more it hurts that day. But then the next morning it’s improved some. Have an appointment with the doctor this week.