Cooking Tips rss

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

Go Ape for Monkey Bread

Monkey bread is a fun concept. Balls of bread dough are dipped in melted butter; once baked, you pull apart chunks to eat. Most versions are sweet, and involve rolling the butter-dipped dough in sugar or cinnamon sugar. Many recipes use frozen rolls and pudding mix, but there are great from-scratch recipes.

This monkey bread recipe has classic sweet roll flavors; it’s “fun and delicious to eat,” says sugarNspice. hummingbird makes this savory herbed monkey bread.

Board Link: Monkey Bread - Do you have a favourite recipe?

Winning Ways with Saffron

Saffron adds exotic flavor and an attractive color to both savory and sweet dishes. To get the most flavor and color, crumble saffron threads and dissolve them in a bit of water before adding to a recipe.

Saffron matches well with dairy. arifa grinds a few threads and blooms in a little water or milk, then mixes this with yogurt and sugar. Procrastibaker adds a pinch to the custard for honey-vanilla ice cream. relizabeth greases a baking dish with olive oil and sprinkles with salt, pepper, and a pinch of saffron, then tops with high-quality ricotta and more salt and pepper and bakes at 350°F for 25 minutes. Serve with salad, bread, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Saffron is also a natural with seafood: Try it in a seafood soup with fennel. JennyHunter steams mussels in a mixture of white wine, cream, shallots, garlic, and saffron, then adds a handful of fresh spinach. “Make sure you have a nice bread to soak up all of the sauce,” she advises.

More ideas: Add saffron to a basic risotto, couscous, plain basmati rice, garlic soup, or scrambled eggs; or try sautéed fennel with almonds, raisins, and saffron

Board Link: Saffron - I need your best recipe!

Bliss in a Bowl

Soup is a comfort food that changes with the seasons, but certain ones are bliss in a bowl. One key to great soup is using homemade stock, which salsailsa says “makes a huge difference in the final product.”

Here are some soups that make hounds swoon:

Cream of asparagus soup or crema di asparagi allo zafferano (asparagus soup with saffron)
• Quick avgolemono, orzo, and chicken soup
Pasta e fagioli
Corn and crab bisque
• Roasted curried butternut squash, or butternut squash and Fuji apple
• Chicken with dill and mashed potatoes whisked in (to thicken the soup)

Board Link: SOUP, SOUP, SOUP

Essential Vinegars

Chowhounds adore vinegar, and keep many kinds on hand. There are a few that they deem essential, however:

• Red wine, white wine, or champagne vinegar: For salads and recipes
• Balsamic: Inexpensive for cooking, aged for drizzling
• Rice wine: For dipping sauces and Asian recipes
• Apple cider: For homey American cooking
• Sherry: For its sophisticated, nutty flavor in marinades and dressing

Board Link: How many vinegars can I *get by* with?

Rackless Roasting

Fie on those fancy roasting racks. You don’t need anything more than a baking pan or cast iron skillet to create a crisp-skinned, juicy roast chicken, say hounds.

Many like to roast chickens on beds of potatoes and vegetables, so the veggies soak up all the delicious drippings (here’s how, step by step). EdwardAdams likes this garlic and thyme roasted chicken with crispy drippings croutons (requires registration), which is roasted on stale bread.

Many simply oil and season the chicken and place it in a baking pan, ceramic casserole, or cast iron skillet and roast. Some start it breast-side down, others start at high heat, then turn the heat down. My own favorite, Marcella Hazan’s roasted chicken with lemons, is cooked without a rack; the moist meat and the pan juices have a wonderful subtle lemon flavor.

Board Link: Baked whole chicken without roasting rack

Poached Chicken Primer

Poached chicken is a versatile ingredient in sandwiches and salads. Perfect results depend on careful cooking; here are some techniques Chowhounds use to achieve moist, tender poached chicken.

Several hounds swear by placing chicken in a pot, adding water to cover, and bringing to a boil, then covering and taking off the heat. c oliver finds 10 minutes of standing time about right for boneless breasts, while chef chicklet says a whole chicken is done in an hour.

JoanN says, “I come closest to perfection with a poached chicken breast by allowing it to sit overnight, refrigerated, in its poaching liquid.” First, she brings bone-in breasts to a bare simmer in water to cover; when the water starts to simmer, she turns the heat to low and cooks for about 30 minutes. After cooling for a bit, she covers the pot and refrigerates overnight.

Some hounds poach in plain water, some add aromatics to the poaching liquid. The poaching water doesn’t take on much chicken flavor, but greygarious saves hers to use as a head start when making stock.

Board Link: Poaching Chicken - any tips?

Candied Ginger Adds Sugar and Spice

Candied ginger is an addictive combination of sweet and hot that adds a welcome burst of flavor to many sweet dishes, and a few savory preps as well.

Add diced candied ginger to homemade granola, pear pies or tarts, or the topping of a fruit crisp, or mix it into good vanilla ice cream. Use it along with ground and fresh ginger for “some of the best damn gingerbread ever,” recommends LindaWhit.

Candied ginger gives ginger cookies extra oomph. Brown sugar ginger crisps are “homely but divine,” says PAO. And coll raves about these chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies: “I’ll never make plain gingerbread again!”

another_adam adds finely chopped candied ginger to roasted or braised sweet potatoes or carrots, and says it works especially well along with onions, raisins, or apricots, and a splash of orange juice. He also puts a bit in baked acorn squash halves with some butter and honey.

Board Link: TJ’s Crystallized Candied Ginger- what to do?

How to Cook Corned Beef

Corned beef is the quintessential Irish-American St. Patrick’s Day meal. You can make it tender and moist in the oven; applehome has consistently great results cooking corned beef in the oven in a deep roasting pan half filled with water and tightly covered with foil, at 300°F for about an hour per pound. However, most Chowhounds seem to prefer simmering over low heat on the stovetop, covered in water, for three to four hours, depending on weight.

Whosyerkitty simmers hers in dark beer, and says this makes a great broth. Several hounds simmer corned beef on the stove, then remove it from the water, rub with a glaze of mustard and brown sugar, and bake until the glaze forms a nice crust. PattiCakes reserves the cooking liquid and uses it as the base for split pea soup later in the week.

CHOW has a clever time-saving method if you want to make your own corned beef rather than buying a nitrate-laden ready-made corned beef from the supermarket. You can also make a fine Reuben with the leftovers.

Board Link: Corned beef… oven or stove?

Enough Garlic to Kill a Vampire

Garlic is healthful and tasty, and dishes with lots of garlic can be extra-delicious. weinstein5 is a fan of super-garlicky thick-style Lebanese garlic sauce, while thew makes a hearty garlic soup by simmering browned sausage, a couple heads of chopped garlic, chopped basil, cubed Italian bread, salt, pepper, saffron, and chicken stock for an hour or so.

Hounds like the classic chicken with 40 cloves of garlic; wolfe recommends Alton Brown’s version. Not enough garlic for you? CHOW’s Garlicky Roasted Chicken with Garlic Jus on Garlic Toast uses three whole heads.

There are a couple of good ways to prepare garlic so you can keep it on hand and ready to add to foods. Top roasted garlic with a thin film of oil and refrigerate, or freeze for longer storage. rainey is a fan of Alice Waters’ garlic purée: “It’s a wonderful thing to have on hand. It lasts a long time and gives you the ability to use just the tiniest bit or a whole lot in a second flat. And the poaching liquid is fabulous for braising meat.”

Board Link: 6 heads of Garlic

Go Ahead, Mock My Pie

Have you ever wondered what the bizarre-sounding Ritz Cracker mock apple pie tastes like, and if it’s good to eat? Chowhounds say it really tastes like apples, and they like it.

“To my surprise it’s actually quite good; in fact, it’s very good. Almost makes me wonder if I ever need to use apples again,” muses ipsedixit, who adds that a downside is the lack of apple aroma while baking. karykat used to get a kick out of passing it off as real apple pie, and notes that the cracker layers resemble apple slices when baked. Hounds point out that the Ritz version may be more expensive to bake, and is certainly higher in fat and calories than real apple pie.

Others have had surprising results with other “mock” pies. pigtails makes a vinegar pie that tasted like lemon custard, and greygarious made an oatmeal-coconut pie that looked and tasted like pecan pie made with chopped nuts.

Board Link: RITZ® Mock Apple Pie