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Dec 15, 2007 10:47 AM

Two possibly stupid, unrelated cooking questions

I know, I know, there's no such thing as a stupid question. Still, at this point in my cooking experience, it's a little embarrassing that I don't know the answers to these two questions.

1) I have a decent quality farberware millenium stainless steel saute pan that seems to smoke up on the sides no matter what I do. I feverishly add oil or butter, I lower the heat as much as I possibly can given the recipe and yet I always get the black smoke thing on the sides. It sends me into a panic because I'm worried about ruining my food and/or filing the room with smoke. What gives? I use a gas stove, albiet it's a crappy stove, but still I am able to adjust the heat quickly when necessary. Do I live with the smoke, saute at a lower heat, what?

2) What's the story with Bay Leaves? I add them when a recipe calls for them, but do they REALLY add flavor? The dried ones smell like nothing before I put them in and after. I feel like it's more of a talisman than anything. Are we all just adding bay leaves for good luck?

Thanks for indulging me!

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  1. I can't speak to question 1, but the answer to question 2 is....yes, bay leaves add a distinctive flavor. The leaf itself won't have a heavy scent, but if you crumble it (dry) you should get at least a whiff of a slightly astringent, maybe a little "pickle-y" scent...which is what will perfume your dish. If you can't get even a faint scent when you crumble it, you may want to buy a fresher pack. If you're buying them off a supermarket shelf, reconsider. You'll want to find a spice store that turns over product quickly, or perhaps order Turkish bay leaves from an online source - maybe Penzey's.

    1. Bay leaves do have a scent, you just have to get good ones like Alice said. Bay is sort of like the harp in an orchestra; you don't really notice it all that much when it's there, but when it's not there you could swear there's something missing but can't quite put your finger on it.

      1. As to question 1. Is this the only pan that does this? Is it a larger or smaller diameter than any others you use? It sounds to me like you may need to have the burners adjusted the gas company can do this. When the fire is lit is the flame more yellow than blue? It should be mostly blue. It has to do with how much air is mixing with the gas.

        As to #2 I'm with you I never seem to notice if Bay leaf is used or not. I even bought some fresh ones and didn't really taste any difference

        1. Fresh bay leaves are unbelievably aromatic. If you don't smell anything, get some new ones.

          1. I would definately have the burners checked out by your local gas utility. Properly adjusted with the right mixture of air and gas it should never generate soot like that. It's always better to err on the safe side when you are dealing with gas.