Cooking Tips rss

Ideas, advice, and what to make now from Chowhound editors.

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"The way to salt a burger is to put about a half teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a preheated cast iron pan and then put the unsalted patty into the pan on top of the salt." - KaimukiMan

"Just for a variation here, add a cup of creamy peanut butter and 1/4 cup butterscotch to any of the finished hot fudge recipes and you'll have an awesome peanut butter fudge sauce for ice cream." - morwen

"The greatest error I'm aware of when using liquid smoke is that it's quite easy to use too much and allow the smoky flavor to overpower the dish. Start with small amounts, add a very little at a time until you achieve the level of smokiness you want." - todao

Tasty Teatime Sandwiches

Tiny, delicate tea sandwiches are primarily found at British afternoon tea, but you needn't be putting the kettle on to enjoy them, and hounds have lots of tasty ingredient ideas.

Shrimp salad is a classic filling; making it well is all about getting the details right. Use a medium shrimp, recommends alkapal, who thinks they're sweeter than large ones. Most hounds boil or poach shrimp for salad in the shell in water flavored with some combination of lemon, peppercorns, and herbs.

To your peeled, chopped shrimp, add "a little mayo, minced celery, shallot, S&P, maybe a tiny bit of very finely minced hot pepper, and you're good to go," says pikawicca. "I think the real key in any seafood salad is simply to barely dress it," advises dmd_kc. In addition to using in sandwiches, "try serving in boats made of hollowed-out ripe avocados, suggests pasuga. "Wonderful texture combination."

On the vegetarian front, smartie says classic cucumber sandwiches are made with thinly sliced white sandwich bread spread with salted butter, thinly sliced English cucumbers, and salt and pepper. "It's a great sandwich in amongst the other standards of a classic British afternoon tea," says Harters. But, he adds, "On their own, they're waste of space."

Hounds make cucumber variations that hold greater appeal. wineos uses Boursin cheese in place of butter. Others use mixtures of cream cheese, mayo, and grated onion; or cream cheese, garlic, dill, and lemon juice. Refrigerate these mixtures overnight so the flavors marry. LaLa says that, in Kentucky, a spread known as Benedictine is made by combining cream cheese, mayo, grated onion, salt, and drained grated cucumber, and tinting it with green food coloring.

Discuss: Shrimp Salad Sandwich
How to make cucumber sandwiches?

Buttermilk, Savory and Sweet

Buttermilk is a tangy cultured dairy product that enhances both savory and sweet dishes.

Several hounds love to use buttermilk in mashed potatoes. soupkitten suggests making buttermilk-herb dressing (here's CHOW's recipe), which you can use on a green salad and then "make the world's best mashed potatoes using the leftovers."

Buttermilk is often used to soak chicken before it's fried; Val likes this spicy oven-fried version. Sharuf's standard gravy uses buttermilk and Wondra flour or cornstarch. Just add them to the pan used for cooking meat. "This gives a sour cream flavor, minus the calories," she says. coll has used buttermilk in curries as a lower-fat alternative to coconut milk.

Buttermilk is a great base for creamy sweets such as panna cotta, smoothies, and mango lassi. "Though most Western recipes use yogurt to make lassi," notes Rasam, "it can be made with buttermilk." Hansel says this pineapple buttermilk sorbet is delicious and refreshing.

Discuss: Surplus of Buttermilk

Decadent-but-Fluffy Cheesecake

How can you make a cheesecake that's as rich and decadent as the dense, creamy New York style, but with a fluffy texture? another_adam's family recipe achieves this result via folding stiffly beaten egg whites into the batter. Cook's Illustrated's light and airy cheesecake uses the same method.

A friend of ChefJune's served an airy cheesecake "with all the great flavor of the New York cheesecake we know and love" in his restaurant, she says. "They achieved the texture," she explains, "by combining all the cake ingredients and then inserting the whisk attachment on the KitchenAid mixer and letting ’er rip! A few seconds later, the ingredients had a lot of air whipped into it, and when baked was extremely ethereal in texture." She now uses this trick at home.

Discuss: Airy/fluffy cheesecake?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I've steamed entire meals in my rice cooker. In addition to the rice, I also put in ceramic bowls of meat and veggies that steamed while the rice was cooking." - raytamsgv

"When I have a leftover ham bone or two, I'll throw it in with some chicken or beef bones to round out the flavor a little, and use it for either ramen-type noodle soups or kimchee soup. Yum." - joonjoon

"I tried it and it worked very, very well. It did get the temperature up to what you need for a pizza." - TSAW, on baking pizza on a preheated cast iron skillet

Half-Hour Dinners with Baked Fish

Baked fish fillets or steaks make easy, no-fuss meals, as using the oven is an easy way to cook dishes low in added fat.

Will Owen bakes fish in fresh salsa, such as pico de gallo, to which he adds capers and olive oil. He makes a bed of salsa, adds thick fillets or a double layer of thin fillets, covers with more salsa, and bakes at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. pasuga bakes salmon smothered in salsa and says, "The salsa keeps the fish very moist."

millygirl bakes fish in parchment with orange juice, a touch of olive oil, sliced fennel, a few black olives, red onion, herbs, salt, and pepper. "OMG, it is wonderful," she says. "I sometimes even add some rice or very small pasta. I've even served this dish for company and everyone loves how flavourful it is."

Veracruz-style red snapper "is always a good bet for healthy, delicious baked fish," says goodhealthgourmet. She also likes black sea bass with Moroccan vegetables and chile sauce.

valerie is a fan of a halibut with capers, olives, and tomatoes. janniecooks recommends cod in fennel-tomato broth, but thinks a shot of Pernod "is necessary to bring out the fennel flavor."

Discuss: your fave baked fish recipe

Taming Rapini’s Bitterness

Rapini, also called broccoli rabe, is a green with a bitter bite that "can be toned down by making it compete for attention with other flavors: sweet, salt, sour, umami. Or with spice," says Junie D. Bitterness also varies from bunch to bunch, she adds. Many also find that briefly blanching it before further cooking can reduce bitterness.

Favorite hound takes on rapini:

• Pasta with sautéed rapini, spicy italian sausage, golden raisins, garlic, chicken broth, and pecorino.
• Rapini with anchovies, garlic, and chiles sautéed in olive oil. It can then be served as a side, used in soup, and tossed with pasta, a classic treatment. mbfant blanches the rapini in boiling water before sautéing, lifts it out, and then cooks the pasta in the same water.
• Sautéed with garlic and oil, topped with tomato sauce, and used as a sandwich filling.

Discuss: Rapini

No More Naked Steak

Salt and pepper are all many Chowhounds require on a flavorful steak. If you wish to gild the lily, though, here are some delicious ways to dress your next one.

Many hounds like to finish steak with a pat of compound butter. weezycom uses sage, stone-ground mustard, parsley, and minced shallots in butter. Perilagu Khan uses salt and pepper, lemon juice zest, and a healthy amount of fresh thyme. Also good mixed into butter: smoked paprika or wasabi.

kasden sprinkles steak with garlic salt, then pats crushed peppercorns into the meat with a little olive oil and cooks in a cast iron skillet. Remove from pan, add sliced mushrooms and onions, and sauté until they begin to brown. Add some red wine and reduce, then add a pat of butter.

almansa likes a simple pan sauce of butter and Worcestershire sauce, while hannaone sautés sliced mushrooms, onions, and peppers in drippings from the steak. bitsubeats tops steak with harissa, and says, "holy crap is that good."

For steak with a sunny feel, try topping with CHOW's Chile-Lime-Tequila Compound Butter

Discuss: How Do You Top Your Steak?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I've fried these little guys in oil until they're brown and crunchy, then sprinkled them on top of nasi goreng and other Indonesian dishes. You'll often find them recommended in Southeast Asian cookbooks as a shortcut to making this traditional regional garnish." - heidipie, on dried minced onions

"I have lived without a microwave for most of the past decade. How I reheat something depends on what it is: lots of things, I will reheat in a bowl set in a bamboo steamer if I want them to be moist, in the toaster oven in foil if I want them to be crispy or less moist, or on the stove in a pot if they are of the right consistency (stew-like)." - lotuseedpaste

"For years I have microwaved chocolate and almond butter together, tossed in cereal, and coated the whole thing with a mix of powdered sugar and cocoa powder." - xcskier20, on microwave snacks

Eggs Make the Meal

Eggs are inexpensive, healthy, and cook quickly, making them a perfect centerpiece for lunch or dinner when combined with vegetables and other savory ingredients.

"I love making a composed salad with a poached egg on top," says smtucker. "Break the egg and it becomes part of the dressing."

sholli is a fan of asparagus topped with a poached egg and Parmesan, and says he puts poached or soft-boiled eggs "over anything—other hearty veggies (roasted Brussels sprouts, garlicky spinach or kale, etc.), homemade black beans with salsa, and even potatoes or a root veggie hash for a breakfast-as-dinner approach."

ziggylu loves French lentils braised in wine and topped with a poached egg.