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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Salmon sans Regrets

Unless you have a powerful exhaust fan over your range, it’s most likely that pan-searing salmon on the stovetop will leave a lingering odor, sometimes for more than a day. The only guarantee against this is to avoid cooking salmon in an open pan over high heat. Luckily, salmon tastes great cooked several other ways; poached gently in liquid, baked, or broiled, it won’t cause a stink.

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salmon in the house–how to avoid the post p.u.

A Last Course in Molecular Gastronomy

Never thought of making stock from doughnuts for dessert? How about carbonating fruit before it becomes juice? It turns out that these exercises in sweet molecular gastronomy aren’t limited to the lab-like pro kitchens of their inventors–they’re fun projects you can undertake in your own kitchen.

Awall25 says doughnut soup is a lot of fun to make, and tastes “exactly like a doughnut, except it [is] somehow richer than a doughnut.” To accompany the doughnut soup, he made espresso foam, a neat effect achieved without high-tech or hard-to-come-by ingredients. Simply add a bit of soy lecithin, which you can buy at health food stores (get it in liquid form if you can–otherwise, you’ll need to dissolve granules in the coffee) and froth it with a stick blender. The soy lecithin helps the bubbles hold once it’s frothed.

If you luck into some dry ice, or have a handy local source, you can carbonate fruit. When dry ice melts, it turns directly into carbon dioxide, the stuff of carbonation, and with the proper set-up, you can put the bubbles inside your berries. jsaimd tried it with apple slices and said it was like having Martinelli’s sparkling cider in whole-fruit form!

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Need Help with ‘Molecular’ Desert

Corked Wine

In any wine that has been stopped with natural cork, a small percentage of bottles will be “corked”–tainted by chemicals that naturally occur in the cork, resulting in a bitter, acrid taste. In a restaurant, of course, you’d send the bottle back after tasting it. But what to do when you buy a bottle from a merchant and later discover cork taint?

In general, you should return it, say hounds. The seller will probably gladly replace your tainted bottle–as long as you haven’t drunk half of it! The exception is if you have bought an old, rare bottle. The rule with these bottles is understood to be “buyer beware,” says WineTravel. Old wines are always a bit of a crapshoot, and if you buy, you must keep in mind the possibility that you may end up pouring tainted wine down the drain.

When returning tainted wine, keep in mind that most states have “open container” laws–drive with the wine in the trunk.

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can you return corked wine?

In Defense of the Trifle

Trifle–known somewhat pejoratively in Italian cuisine as “zuppa inglese”–belongs squarely in the category of comfort food. Some of your best friends are trifle–like tiramisu. A trifle is basically a cake soaked in booze, layered with whatever fruit, custard, or other fillings you desire. It’s a great use for a delicious cake that broke in half when you unmolded it, and–like the humble casserole–it’s a versatile form within which to express one’s culinary creativity. Sherry, jam, Grand Marnier, vanilla-specked sweetened cream, farmers’ market strawberries, and lemon curd are all welcome (though not necessarily in the same trifle). Jell-O is viewed with extreme suspicion when used as a trifle layer. And leave out the bananas–their flavor is much too strong.

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Trifle? [split from Trifle on the LA board]

Put Some Free Meat on Those Bones

The lure of a free meal is hard for lots of us to resist, but what if you’re a skinny model with an excess of disposable income? As is reported by Reuters in the article “Restaurant Offers Skinny Models Free Meals,” one London restaurant is now offering gratis eats to the most waifish of models, in an apparent effort to combat anorexia in the fashion world. Apparently, models who visit Bumpkin, an English country-style eatery in Notting Hill, can claim their prize simply by showing a “modeling card” stating they’re a size zero.

Bumpkin is reportedly “popular with celebrities and fashionistas in the British capital” and hawks hearty fare like fish pies, lamb burgers, and seafood. The strange publicity stunt coincides with London Fashion Week.

Since two anorexic Latin American models died last year, the fashion community has finally started taking eating disorders and excessive thinness more seriously, banning the skinniest ladies from the catwalk during Madrid’s fashion week. But is Bumpkin’s offer another, funnier way of drawing attention to this issue? Or is it a cruel way of mocking people with real problems? I don’t know Bumpkin from bupkis or hang out with any size-zero models, but for some reason I doubt the restaurant will get many takers on its freebie deal.

Space Madness

OK, first of all, I didn’t even know that Valentine’s Day was celebrated in China. Now I find out that not only is it celebrated, but marketers in Shanghai are pushing a new food fad for couples to eat on the most romantic day of the year: space potatoes.

The BBC features a piece titled “Lift-Off for Chinese Space Potato,” in which it describes how the seeds of a purple variety of sweet potato accompanied Chinese astronauts on China’s second manned space mission, Shenzhou VI.

Experiments exposed seeds to radiation, different pressures and weightlessness.

After returning to earth, the seeds were later grown on terra firma.

Promoters say that exposing the seeds to space makes for a more hardy and nutritious plant. Ohhh kayyyy. Connoisseurs say there is little difference in flavor between the space potatoes and their earthbound counterparts, although the texture is reported to be a tad more “glutinous.”

Here’s to the lovers of Shanghai, who may be waking up on Valentine’s Day to a piping hot bowl of space potato congee and a glass of the most famous space drink of all.

Pop-Up Love

Take a break from all the roses and talking teddy bears tomorrow at one of Altoids’ temporary Anti-Valentine’s Day pop-up shops. Offering samples of the company’s new chocolate-dipped mints (plus lots of free swag, including free lattes and cupcakes from hipster-approved local bakeries), the shops are, of course, a big marketing gimmick, but the cynics among us (yes, you, and you too) appreciate the whole love-stinks angle as an antidote to the whole red-plush commercialization of Feb. 14, also known as “Buy Stuff or You Won’t Get Laid.”

The shops, which will be open through Valentine’s Day, can be found in Chicago (and here’s some feedback from Apartment Therapy and Chicagoist), New York City, and Miami.

A free latte and, even better, a free cupcake (plus a handful of mints) sounds swell. Now, if only Charmin were still running that much-appreciated, monthlong Times Square toilet installation. Because even more than a cupcake, nothing says “I love you” like a clean place to pee.

In the Beginning, There Was Water

The first thing human beings ingested? Water and ice. The latest? Deep-fried Coca-Cola. The Food Timeline was created by New Jersey reference librarian Lynne Olver to aid students intent on researching food history, and it’s a neat tool even for looky-loos. How else would we know that humans started eating apples sometime in 8000 BCE, but didn’t figure out how to make kimchi until the seventh century? Or that sushi arrived on our plates about 700 years before we filled our cups with coffee? Or that the prototypes for hot dogs came along about 100 years before the Aztecs invented salsa?

Me, I’m just excited that Space Food Sticks made the Food Timeline cut.

From “Top Chef” Hopeful to Wine-Store Mogul?

Twentysomething sommelier and one-time Top Chef villain Stephen Asprinio is nearing completion on two ambitious ventures, Slashfood reports. He’s launching the first, a “concept wine boutique” called Tastevin, in L.A. this spring; his goal with the shop is to create an unstuffy place for folks his age to discover good but affordable wine. As Slashfood explains,

The shop will be 1,000-square feet and will offer 40-50 boutique wines, none of which will be over $25 per bottle, on a rotating basis. The major selling point is that every wine they offer will be ‘on tap,’ thanks to a cutting-edge computerized wine tasting system that allows every buyer to taste up to three different wines before they buy them, ensuring that they get one they like every time. Not only will they be able to taste the wines, but brief, current descriptions of all the wines will be offered via audio wands. The wands will be similar to the audio tours offered in museums, but will be equipped with short descriptions of the wines and their history. This eliminates the need to clutter the space with all kinds of signs … many buyers in the target demographic can feel intimidated by the prospect of dealing with a wine expert or someone who will try to upsell them into an expensive bottle they’re not interested in.

Sounds pretty great. Though of course I wish it didn’t: If you watched season one, you may remember the perpetually designer-suited Stephen as the pretentious git who once declared that he’s in the top three percentile of everything he does. A talented chef, by all accounts, but one whose (deliberately?) arrogant persona made him the object of many viewers’ ire.

What about that second project? It’s another idea aimed at a younger crowd, and this one I’m not so sure about: a contemporary Tuscan restaurant called Forté d’Asprinio, scheduled to open this summer in Palm Beach. It’s supposed to appeal to “adventurous palates,” but as Slashfood explains, the real distinguishing feature is the fact that “not one member of management or the kitchen staff, including his executive chef, will be over the age of 30.” Eh? Apparently Stephen is willing to face the inevitable age-discrimination charges so that he can, as Slashfood puts it, “give other up and coming culinary stars a chance to showcase their talents, while at other restaurants they might be held back simply based on the seniority of older chefs.”

What do you think—do young chefs need this kind of leg up these days?

The Expanding World of Pinot Noir

The Expanding World of Pinot Noir

New Zealand gets in on the Pinot action. READ MORE