Cooking Tips rss

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

Add Bacon and Party!

Riffing on the contents of her fridge, tracylee created a hit party dish, mini apple-bacon tartlets with Gouda. Here’s how they’re made: Cook some bacon until crisp, set it aside and drain most of the fat. Sauté chopped apples and brown sugar in the remaining bacon fat, then combine the apples and crumbled reserved bacon. Line the cups of a mini muffin tin with pie dough, and fill each cup with a spoonful of apple mixture. Top with grated Gouda, place the muffin tin on a preheated baking sheet, and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes.

Board Link: Apple Bacon tartlets, any thoughts

How to Make the Best Latkes

Hanukkah is just around the corner, and Chowhounds have plenty of opinions about what makes the best potato latkes. Ruth Lafler asserts: “I can definitively say that the ‘best’ recipe is your grandmother’s.” But a couple of hounds recommend this latke recipe, which includes soaking and wringing out the grated potatoes. It’s “basic and great,” says Ellen, who adds that it “never fails.” ChrisVR says it was responsible for “hands down the best latkes I’ve ever made,” though she grates her potatoes fine.

Regardless of the recipe, most hounds agree that great latkes are all about technique. Several use the same old-fashioned wire mesh potato grater their grandmothers favored. Most remove as much water as possible from the potatoes before adding onion, egg, and flour or matzo meal if using, though Ruth Lafler believes squeezing them breaks them down and makes for gummy latkes. another_adam wrings them out in a dish cloth over a strainer set over a large bowl, then allows the collected liquid to sit for five minutes or so to allow the starch to settle. He then pours the water off and adds the separated potato starch to the latke batter. And ola notes that if you use a slotted spoon to form the latkes, you can remove even more liquid.

Ruth Lafler prefers to fry latkes in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), olive oil, or a combination of olive and neutral oil. Ellen says, “if you can cook them in duck fat, you will die happy.” Ruth Lafler also offers this tip: don’t drain latkes on paper towels, or they will become sodden. Instead, put them in a single layer on a cooling rack over paper towels; if you need to delay serving them, put the rack on a baking sheet in a warm oven.

And, if your latkes still aren’t working out after all that advice, then take a look at our video to find out why You’re Doing It All Wrong.

Board Link: best recipe for latkes

Duck Fat = Liquid Gold

Chowhounds are wild about food cooked in duck fat. The best french fries mrsfury ever had were fried in duck fat. pitu cuts potatoes into wedges, tosses them in duck fat and roasts them. “It’s like Thanksgiving in one bite,” he says. And, according to pikawicca, “Potatoes fried in duck fat are truly sublime, as is a really fresh egg from a free-range hen.”

carswell uses duck fat in place of butter in savory pastries, rubs it on poultry before roasting for a crisp, brown skin, and uses it to pop popcorn (sprinkle with sea salt; no need to drizzle with melted butter). Other hounds sautée cabbage and onions, poultry, peppers, or Brussels sprouts in the rendered fat.

If you save enough duck fat, you can make confit. RPMcMurphy thinks the rendered fat from one duck is just enough to confit two duck legs, especially if you make them a tight fit in the pan. Check out CHOW’s recipe for Slow Cooker Duck Confit.

Board Link: rendered duck fat -- what do you use it for

Your Buttermilk Problems Solved

When a recipe calls for buttermilk, do you really need it? What do you do when you’re caught without it? And how do you use up any leftovers?

Davwud notes that buttermilk freezes well, so it’s easy to portion and store the remainder of a quart for future use. If your main use for buttermilk is in baking, paulj recommends keeping powdered buttermilk on hand (add the appropriate amount of powder with the dry ingredients and water with the wet ingredients).

Cooks can also substitute plain milk with some acid added to replicate buttermilk’s acidity; use 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar per cup of milk. Let it sit a few minutes and it will thicken up like buttermilk. In many recipes, other acidic dairy products, such as yogurt or sour cream, can replace buttermilk, says soupkitten, and Bryn suggests thinning yogurt with plain milk.

Board Link: How to make Buttermilk

Better with Bacon Salt

If you think everything’s better with bacon, then Bacon Salt might be for you. It’s actually bacon-free, vegetarian, and kosher, and, according to rockycat, relatively low in sodium. But how does it taste?

danhole thinks Original flavor tastes most like bacon, while Hickory tastes more like liquid smoke. danhole’s favorite is the Peppered flavor, in soups, sprinkled on steak (especially Hickory or Peppered), on mac ’n’ cheese, in cheese grits, and in beans. “I’m a big fan, but just a dab will do you,” says danhole. “You can use too much, so you have to beware.”

Some other ways to use it: leanneabe sprinkles it over deviled eggs and adds it to scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and buttered popcorn. Clarkafella recommends using it in a turkey sandwich with mayo on white bread, a “truly outstanding” combo, agrees alkapal.

Not everyone’s a fan, though. oldbaycupcake finds it very smoky, with a chemical aftertaste rather than a solid bacon flavor. And pikawicca recommends getting your hands on artisanal Japanese smoked sea salt, which has a deep, complex smoke flavor.

Board Link: bacon salt: how do you use it?

Juicy Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder is a cut with enough fat to keep it juicy and give lots of flavor. Here are some favorite ways hounds use it.

Several recommend the cut for pulled pork, either roasted at low heat or cooked in a slow cooker. malibumike suggests serving it with North or South Carolina–style barbecue sauce and coleslaw on buns. alanbarnes prefers pork shoulder in chile verde.

esstrink likes pernil al horno, Puerto Rican garlic-marinated roast pork shoulder. “Super easy to make. And oh, so sabroso! Just make sure to let it slow roast until the meat is falling off the bone.”

upstate girl uses pork shoulder in pasta sauce, where she says the fat adds excellent flavor. Cut the meat into chunks, brown it in olive oil, and let it finish cooking in your homemade pasta sauce.

Board Link: Non-Carnitas Ideas For Pork Shoulder

How to Roast Chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts, that quintessential wintertime snack, are simple to make once you know the key tricks. The most important one is to score them to allow steam to escape as they roast, or they can explode. goodhealthgourmet instructs would-be roasters to cut an X in the round end of chestnuts with a paring knife and roast, scored side up, in a baking pan in a 425°F oven. You’ll know they’re done when they burst open and are soft inside, about 20 to 25 minutes.

pemma recommends using a chestnut knife, especially made for the job, and says it’s easier and safer to use than a kitchen knife. Instead of scoring with a knife, ipsedixit gives them a gentle squeeze with a nutcracker—just enough so small fissures show, but not enough to crack the nut. The nutcracker also makes the chestnuts easier to peel after roasting, a bonus.

goodhealthgourmet notes that it’s essential to peel them while still warm, or the shells won’t come off. Let them cool just until you can handle them. itryalot adds that wrapping them in a dishcloth for a few minutes helps, too.

Board Link: Roasting Chestnuts–How to?

Five-Star Ways with Five-Spice Powder

Five-spice powder is great with pork, Chowhounds agree (and is traditionally used to cook Chinese pork belly, says kobetobiko), but they like it in a variety of preparations.

Val loves this Vietnamese grilled five-spice chicken. jeniyo braises chicken thighs and potato wedges in wine, soy sauce, and five-spice, and applemomma bakes salmon in parchment with five-spice, fennel, a slice of lemon or orange, and sesame oil.

“I have discovered that a touch of five spice powder is THE secret ingredient in Chinese fried rice,” says RGC1982. “Since I have been adding it, the family has been raving about the fried rice.” yayadave uses it in his most successful butternut squash soup.

Phoo_d has made five-spice ice cream, which uses whole spices, and says, “[I]t was really good, an interesting blend of sweet and heat.”

Board Link: Five Spice Powder—-What’s your favorite recipe?

Versatile Ginger Spread

Chowhounds are crazy about Ginger People Ginger Spread, and have dreamed up a bunch of tasty uses for it. It’s great with Brie, or warmed and stirred into goat cheese, and hungrydyke likes it on peanut butter sandwiches.

allyally likes ginger spread in chicken or pork panini, and IrishInTexas uses it as a glaze for baked salmon. violabratsche adds a couple of spoonfuls to a pan of cooked carrots or beets. godsfavdiva says that mixing it into a good spaghetti sauce “is truly an amazing combination” and adds that it’s fabulous in chicken chili.

MMRuth thinks it’s wonderful with hot water and a squeeze of lemon. litchick likes it mixed into hot oatmeal, and AppleSister combines it with Greek yogurt and chopped nuts.

HillJ says ginger spread is wonderful swirled into cheesecake batter before baking, or spread atop a cheesecake after it’s chilled. allyally uses it in place of traditional raspberry jam in linzer cookies, and Emme suggests mixing it into cream cheese frosting for carrot cake.

Board Link: Ginger Spread

Cooking with Chickpea Flour

Chickpea flour, called besan in Hindi, is common in Indian cuisine, but is also used in Mediterranean cooking. Pan-roasting it before using brings out its flavor, says luckyfatima. Simply put it in a pan over a medium flame and stir until the color changes. “You will smell the perfume. Careful not to burn.”

Joebob makes onion bhaji: Mix chickpea flour, water, salt and pepper, and thinly sliced onions, and drop clumps into hot oil to deep-fry. Channa recommends making chickpea flour dosa, as demonstrated in this Manjula’s Kitchen video.

Ora seasons it and uses it to coat fish before frying. BratleFoodie adds roasted chickpea flour to a tomato sauce for flavor and to thicken. greygarious has made tasty crêpes by substituting it for one-third the wheat flour. According to luckyfatima, it works as a binder in fritters, and stirring it into yogurt or cream before cooking will prevent curdling or separation.

Board Link: Experimenting with besan (chickpea flour)