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Is there an ingredient you are sort of afraid to cook (with)?

I've cooked some pretty interesting stuff in my life but the one thing that sort of gives me the creeps is geoduc.

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  1. I've gotten into charcuterie and use sodium nitrites and nitrates. The stuff is toxic and I was 'sort of afraid'. I'm still here so its been replaced with 'healthy respect'.

    1. chipotles in adobo; like herding cats.

      20 Replies
      1. re: Veggo

        Seriously! I tried using them once, and ended up using wayyy too much . . . and still had the rest of the can sitting in my refrigerator for months until I finally threw it out. A little goes a long way with those suckers.

        1. re: operagirl

          Operagirl, love your response. I've almost given up on chipoltles. They are just too hot for us most of the time. I just use the tiny bit that we need and throw the rest away rather than create another science experiment in the refrigerator.

          1. re: Pampatz

            Simply put the leftover chipotle in adobe in a ziploc bag and freeze it. You can break off pieces of a time from the freezer and they keep very well. I use them often in a black bean dip I got from chowhound.

            1. re: Rick

              rick, i have to ask...is it my black bean dip recipe? because that's the one reason i keep them in the house!

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                would you mind reposting yours? I love the stuff, but a little does go a long way!

                this is the one i've been using, although I usually flip on the mayo/ sc thing like most reviews suggest...

                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                1. re: geminigirl

                  sure...but it's a black bean dip - very different from the chipotle dip recipe you linked to...

                  GHG'S HEALTHY & HEARTY SMOKY BLACK BEAN DIP

                  1 19-oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
                  2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
                  2 Tbsp.coarsely chopped onion
                  ½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro [leaves & stems]
                  1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
                  2 Tbsp. low- or nonfat sour cream or yogurt
                  1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo, coarsely chopped [amount depends on heat preference]
                  1 tsp. ground cumin
                  ½ tsp. red chili powder
                  ½ tsp. smoked paprika [pimentón de la vera]
                  salt and freshly ground pepper

                  in a food processor, combine all ingredients except salt & pepper. process until smooth. taste for seasoning, add salt & pepper to taste, and blend thoroughly. if you prefer a thinner dip continue processing and add water 1 Tbsp. at a time until desired consistency is reached.

                  transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with 2 Tbsp. of chopped cilantro if desired, and serve with homemade chips [see below], and/or crudités.

                  a couple of notes:

                  re: consistency...i like my dips VERY thick, so depending on your preference you'll probably want to add some water to loosen it up a bit

                  re: heat...i love it, so i always go heavy on the pepper & chiles...but if you're not into spicy, start off with just a little. you can always add more.

                  SPICED CHILI-LIME CORN CHIPS
                  3 T lime juice
                  1 T canola oil
                  1 tsp. cumin
                  1 tsp. chili powder
                  1 tsp. smoked paprika
                  1 tsp. sea salt
                  1 pkg. corn tortillas

                  pour lime juice & oil in a mister/sprayer [i use a misto] and shake to combine.

                  combine cumin, paprika, sea salt & chili powder [increase this if you want more heat] in a bowl.

                  stack tortillas, cut into triangles & spread out on a sheet pan.

                  mist triangles lightly with lime juice/oil mixture, and sprinkle generously with spice mixture.

                  bake at 400 degrees for 3-4 min.

                  remove pan from oven, turn chips over, season other side, and return to oven for another 3-4 min.

                  cool on a rack for 10-15 min.

                  if there are any left over [which is rare], they keep really well in a sealed plastic bag.

                  enjoy!

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Thanks, I have been looking for another dip to use with the chipotles and this is perfect!

            2. re: Pampatz

              Pull them out, cut them open, wipe out most of the seeds and cut out the ribs. That will take 50% of the heat away. It's not as time consuming as it sounds.

            3. re: operagirl

              I use chipotles in adobo all the time. I blend them and keep refrigerated for a month. There are lots of great sauces to be made from chipotle puree and we use a bit of the puree in scrambled eggs, some sauces, etc... It is a must in my fridge.

              1. re: Deborah

                That is a great idea. I will have to try that. I love to make a chipotle lime tartar sauce for my shrimp tacos. I've been using chipoltle Tabasco b/c I hated wasting the can of chipotles. I didn't think about blending them and keeping them in the fridge for later.

                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                  This was an old post. Now, I blend the chipotles in adobo sauce but freeze them in small serving portions so I don't waste any of the puree. Just add a portion to soups, sauces etc...

              2. re: operagirl

                I start by pureeing the chipotles and the adobo in my Magic Bullet, then I freeze the whole batch, flat, in a Ziplock bag. When I need to use it, I break off a little corner or edge. I do the same with tomato paste.

                1. re: Jetgirly

                  I open a can use what I need and dump the rest into a rocks glass and cover with plastic. They will last for months--I only know because a glass of them got pushed to the back and were forgotten for 6 months--and will be fine.

              3. re: Veggo

                The problem with fresh/smoked chiles -- ALL chiles -- is that they are so unpredictable from pepper to pepper! Which is why I tend to fall back on commercially prepared canned/bottled/powder forms that are fairly reliable on degree of spiciness.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  My problem wasn't so much the spiciness as the overpowering smokiness. Chipotles will easily take over the flavor profile of anything you're making if you use too many.

                  1. re: operagirl

                    Dude, taste them before you add them to your cooking. If you don't have the hang of it yet, tasting is how you'll learn how much you should add.

                    1. re: tmso

                      Whazzup wid dese peeple? It's like they never had a chipotle before! I use chipotle powder, dried chipotles, c's in adobo and so on. I just did ribs for seven and part of the dinner was chipotle stuffed olives and black beans with chipotle powder.
                      You'll get the hang of it if you hang in and don't be a weenie!
                      IMHO, it's just like garlic and "other" strong flavors. I love it and I love garlic.

                    2. re: operagirl

                      This is so funny! The very first thing I thought of was smoked chilies and smoked pepper flakes! I am glad to know that I am not alone in this. I use them, but very sparingly because once over-seasoned, there is no going back and the dish is ruined.

                      1. re: operagirl

                        I agree. It's the smokiness not the heat that scares me off. I wish someone would make this in a tube like tomato paste that i could use just a little of without opening the whole can. The freezing thing just doesn't do it for me - frozen or not, it'd take me 5 years to go through all of the chipotle in just one of those little cans.

                        1. re: stephle

                          you could make a small batch fresh and cut the bottom of a toothpaste tube and clean it out, fill and re-crimp it. - gives me ideas...

                          (sorry I'm currently living in rural US where there is no trash service and recycling occurs when we hit a town 30 miles from here).

                  2. Ooh! I prepared geoduck about a month ago. It was actually really fun! I had the best time stripping the thick skin from the tail -- it was as satisfying as popping a pimple!

                    Ok. What freaks me out is dealing with live lobsters. I try to cut through the head before cooking as to kill them instantly as I've heard it's more "humane." I did one last night. Even though I chilled it in the freezer for a while, my knife skills aren't very good where I can do it in one clean shot. The lobster squirmed as I tried to make the cut. I think I may need to get a cleaver or something. And I've got an issue with the color -- I'm fine once it's red, but the dark color kind of scares me as it really looks like a humongous roach.

                    29 Replies
                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      The lobster issue also freaks me out. In general, I have trouble with sea food and fresh fish. I get intimidated by the price, the freshness, the anatomy, everything.

                      I also get intimidated by Fois gras, because of the price and that little blood vessel thing. I'm worried I am going to cook it into liquid fat! Well, I guess that wouldn't be so bad...

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        I don't cook veal or lamb at home because I'm afraid of spending a lot of money on something and then ruining it. As far as being scared to cook with something, it's a pressure cooker. I'm sure I'll blow up my kitchen.

                        1. re: brendastarlet

                          Equipment-wise, I have to agree with your caution with a pressure cooker. I don't even own one. I am also squeamish about my mandolin. I'm afraid I'll cut off a finger. I just traded my terrifying "professional" model for an Oxo. Hopefully the safety features will make me more comfortable about using it.

                          Ingredients I don't work with:
                          calamari (don't know how to clean them)
                          fava beans (too complicated)
                          uncommon -- for me -- ethnic seasonings like fenukeek or epazote (I don't understand how to use them)

                          1. re: chicgail

                            chicgail - if you have the opportunity, ask someone to show you how to clean calamari - maybe your fishmonger will let you observe. it's pretty simple [and sort of cool] once you get the hang of it.

                            1. re: chicgail

                              Smart exchange on the mandolin! As for the ingredients you don't work with, you can buy canned fava beans, then depending on the recipe, you may need to peel them which is fairly easily done by simply squeezing them. For epizote and fenugreek, just follow the recipe. I prefer fresh epizote to dried, and you can sometimes find it in Hispanic markets, but it is moderately hard to find.

                              As for squid, as ghg says, not all that difficult to clean. Here’s how. For clarity’s sake, let’s establish some definitions, though they may not be accurate in the real world. When you lay a squid on a cutting board, for our purposes lay it with the tentacles away from you and the body toward you. The tentacles, with the eyes just under them, are the “head.” And obviously that leaves the long bottom part as the “body,” but be forewarned; what you see as “the body” with the squid laid out like this is really the “tube” with the body inside it. So for all intents and purposes, the squid is really three parts; the tube, the body, the head. The tube fits around the body from the base up to just under the head like a sock. Now we’re good to go.

                              1. Pick up the squid and hold it by the end of the hood. There are a couple of little fins on each side of the hood that look sort of like ears sticking out. That’s about where you want to hold it. Now take hold of the head with your other hand, about between the eyes and the tentacles and pull with a slight twisting motion. The body should slide out of the hood easily. SOMETIMES the cuttlebone comes out with the body, sometimes it stays inside the hood. It looks like a clear piece of glass with a ridge down the center. If it’s still inside the hood, pull it out and toss it. Set the hood aside.

                              2. Now you’re left with the head and body in one piece. The body contains the ink sac. Some people like to use the ink – it costs a small fortune if you buy it – to flavor things, some people don’t bother. If you want to save the ink, now is the time to go for it. In that case, hold the squid over a small dish and cut a slit in the ink sac with a very sharp knife and allow to drain. It’s a very powerful concentrate, so a little goes a long way when cooking with it.

                              3. Rinse the body/tentacles under running water just so you aren’t playing finger-paint with any remaining ink. Lay the squid back down on your cutting board and pull the tentacles out straight. Cut the tentacles off just below the eyes. Pick up the tentacles and examine them. You’ll feel a hard part in the center of the tentacles when you open them like a flower. That’s the beak. It's what it bites its food off with. Squeeze the tentacles together in an upward motion and the beak should pop up making it easy to cut off. The beak is not edible; it's exactly like trying to eat teeth. Once cut off, rinse the tentacles and they’re ready to cook. They’re quite delicious and when cooked, they curl into a sort of “flower.” They can be used in that form in salads and sea food dishes, or the raw tentacles can be diced and used in a stuffing for the calamari hood. Discard the body.

                              4. Hold the hood by the “ears” and pull the rest of the hood through your thumb and index finger to ‘milk” it in order to make sure everything is out of it, then rinse inside and out under cold running water. The hood may be used as is, with the spotty skin on it, or the skin can be easily peeled away. If you’re making “calamari rings,” then peeling is standard and the hood is then sliced into rings. You can also stuff the whole hood for roasting or frying with or without being skinned.

                              A third way to prep the hood is to cut the ears off, then cut a small bit off the top where the ears were, then cut the squid down one side and lay it out flat in a large single piece. There are two ways to prep this opened hood. One is, if the squid is large enough, cut the hood into as large a circle as you can get out of it, the bigger the squid the better. I don’t know if they still do it, but there was a time when many “less than ethical” restaurants in southern California breaded and fried this “steak” and passed it off as abalone. (Talk about a high profit margin!) Breaded and with a squeeze of lemon, it’s not a bad approximation, if not exact. But it is tasty! And for home cooking, since you're not trying to fool anyone into thinking it's abalone, you can just bread and fry it in a rectangle. Who cares?

                              The other way to prepare the opened hood is to score it in small diamond shapes on the (peeled) skin side, first in one direction, then “cross hatch” in the other direction, being careful not to cut it all the way through. It will then curl into a very decorative tube with little diamonds all around it when cooked. With larger hoods, this scored piece can be cut into smaller sections. This method is most often used in compound Asian dishes that include vegetables and often other fish, but it can also be used in a pasta sauce, paella, or even chilled and added to a salad. In the case of sauces and paella, it's very fast cooking so don't make it tough by overcooking.

                              That’s it! Not difficult at all. And there are sooooo many good things you can make with squid. Try the squid steaks at least once. I haven’t checked, but Google can probably turn up tons of squid recipes for you too. LOL! Google can probably tell you how to clean a squid too! Oh well. Enjoy!

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                I like to keep the hoods whole and stuff them with falafel mix, and oven bake thm, tightly packed together and covered with tomato sugo.. kinda like cannelloni-style

                                1. re: purple goddess

                                  Being highly alergic to chic peas <sigh> I haven't tried that, but I have done a stuffing using either rice or bulgur and usually seafood in the mixture. Scallops, mussels, tentacles, whatever. When I'm sure -- well, relatively anyway -- no one is particularly squeamish, I have even lined the stuffed hoods up in a casserole, then tucked the tentacles into the end of the hood to approximate having it look like whole squid. Doesn't make it taste any different, but it's cute. '-)

                                  If you've never tried squid steaks and you do like abalone but can't get it because of endangerment or don't feel like paying a ridiculous price, give the steaks a try. Dry them well, dip in either condensed milk or buttermilk, then into lightly seasoned panko or flour and fry them in about a quarter inch of peanut oil. Brown quickly on both sides and remove because they do cook quickly.

                                  God I miss the (California) ocean, but the shore is so damned crowded!

                                2. re: Caroline1

                                  If you're not going to cut and open out the "hood" you can turn it inside out for better cleaning. Diamond incisions on both sides of hood opened out will give you strips that do not curl.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    What! And deny me the pleasure of telling people the curled strips are just "braided sea worms" if they ask? '-)

                              2. re: brendastarlet

                                No reason at all to be afraid of cooking with a pressure cooker. I love our pressure cooker! It cuts the amount of time needed to cook certain dishes, like beans, by more than half.

                                Modern pressure cookers have safety features that make it impossible to remove the lid while the pot is under pressure (the usual cause of the explosion), which was not the case with some pressure cookers of inferior design that were sold back in the 1940s and 1950s.

                              3. re: Miss Needle

                                Lobstermen call lobsters bugs.I've been bitten too many times, a big crusher claw can break a finger. Do you know lov\bsters are right and left clawed? The pincher claw is normally on the right and the crusher on the left. Revenge is sweet.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  Wow. I'm afraid to handle even crab. My parents used to get them live and cook them a lot. My mom used to make a production of it. But a lobster. . . .

                                  Also, I once screwed up tom yum gun by substituting the Thai chili paste with an Indonesian one, b/c my friend said they were equivalent. Turns out the Indonesian one is a zillion times spicier, so my poor guest and I had burned tongues from consuming the soup. It used to be a favorite winter soup, but I've been afraid to retry it since.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    the thought of doing "live lobster" just feels so inhumane. i have a hard enough time when i do indulge in anything that was alive (generally shellfish or fish), and to come face to face with it living before it's dead on my plate ten minutes later? oy the guilt. a boy once made me lobster, but after hearing that scream when dropped in the boiling water, i hadn't the stomach for anything.

                                    1. re: Emme

                                      Agree on lobster..

                                      actually, I get freaked out handling any raw meat. I mean, I do it, but I get all freaked out about it and try to get the fiancee to deal with it instead.

                                      I'm the one who is pulling the giblets out of the chicken with eyes closed going "oh god, oh god.."

                                      I don't kill spiders either.

                                      1. re: Jeters

                                        I think a lot of this has to do with what you're used to. I grew up eating fish on the bone. Doesn't bother me a bit. But I know people who refuse to even eat fish with the bone still on it. I didn't grow up dealing with chicken with the head still attached. Have no problem touching a dead chicken with the head and feet cut off. But I've recently been getting into buying chickens with the head still attached. I'm still a bit uncomfortable when I get to the head part. I'm getting better at it the more I do it.

                                        I remember prepping an eel many years ago. Freaked me out so much because it looked like a snake. I couldn't filet it until I cut it into a few pieces so it wouldn't look like a snake anymore. And I did this knife work with my eyes closed and wearing rubber gloves because I couldn't look at it or wanted to touch it.

                                        Aside from shellfish and fish, I haven't killed anything else (and roaches). While I'd like to think that if I'm eating it, I should have the decency to be able to look it in the eye and kill it, I find that's a bit more than I can swallow at this point. But I agree with that principle in theory.

                                      2. re: Emme

                                        If you put the live lobster in your freezer for about 15 minutes, it goes into a deep sleep (Lydia B. says), and then lay it on your cutting board on it's back. Take a sharp knife and insert it between the body and the tail, severing it's spinal coard will take care of your lobster for cooking

                                        Being a lobster fisherman for many years, we lose lobsters from all kinds of issues, sometimes by the hundreds. (mostly refrigeration issues) You have about 6 hours to cook them before they spoil.
                                        BTW, I have plunged tons of lobsters into water and have never heard a 'scream'.

                                        1. re: mcel215

                                          We've just lost a bunch of lobbers here in downeat Maine that were being shipped by air to Europe.

                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                            you're gonna make me cry, we don't get much lobster of any type where I am now. what a waste of crustacean flesh to lose it over handling issues.

                                      3. re: Miss Needle

                                        Miss Needle, love your description - made me laugh aloud! I've had geoduc but have not had the occasion to cook it. How long did you cook it for? What sort of dish did you cook?

                                        I understand what you're saying about the colour of lobster. I posted this down below, too, but in culinary school you have to just bite the bullet and kill the suckers. My first few were hard but now I find it second nature. Lots and lots of practice, though!

                                        1. re: chefathome

                                          I blanched the geoduck to loosen the skin. Then I joyously ripped off the skin from the tail. I ended up with what looked like a super duper Magnum condom. I cut the tail into very thin slices and sprinkled it with a bit of lemon and sea salt and ate it as sashimi. Then I cut the belly into small pieces, marinated them with some Asian sauces and chili peppers, floured them and stir-fried them. Really good!. This was actually the first time I prepared geoduck. It was a bit daunting at first as it kind of looks scary but really wasn't too bad. And it certainly beats paying more than twice what I spent at the fishmonger to eat it at a restaurant.

                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            if this -- and the analogy to pimple popping -- doesn't inspire the world to prepare geoduck, i don't know what will. ;)

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              um, you do know that isn't the "tail"?

                                              1. re: bluedog67

                                                Well, if it isn't the tail, I've got to say it's pretty impressive. ; )

                                            2. re: Miss Needle

                                              "A Humane Death for Lobsters?"
                                              http://themoment.blogs.nytimes.com/20...

                                              In general, I am afraid to cook anything that's still alive and moving. I'll never forget the day I woke up from a nap, opened my bedroom door, and found a very angry crab ready to bite my feet. Poor crab escaped from my parents' kitchen (for dinner that evening).

                                                1. re: gloriousfood

                                                  Interesting article, but no real answers. Seems to me that whatever method dispatches the critters fastest is the most humane. Only problem with that is we don't know if lobsters have a sense of time. Maybe to lobsters, numbing in cold water then sensing but not threshing through the steaming may be worse than trying to push the lid off the boiling pot to get out. Who knows? The bottom line seems to be that if you really like lobster (and I do!) and want it for dinner, the critter has to be put in an edible state. And that ain't gonna happen with it dressed in a thick green shell rattling its claws at you! Maybe the answer for the most squeamish among us is to buy them precooked? Let someone else bear the guilt!

                                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                                  needle, all your posts on this page had me LOL. you're right, uncooked lobster does look like a huge roach..and few things are as satisfying as popping a pimple :)

                                                  i can't think of anything that i'm too scared to cook. when i was a vegetarian i used to prepare meat for carnivores all the time...i just approached it as a scientific experiment.

                                                3. Squid ink. It's a murky, ill-defined zone.

                                                  1. Only one food scares me when it comes to cooking with it, and that's a green pepper I had in Turkey. Fortunately, there is NO chance of running into it in Plano, Texas! '-)

                                                    And then there are two foods I'm not afraid of. I just refuse to have anything to do with them: tripe and brains.

                                                    Beyond those exclusions, the world is my oyster! <slaps forehead> Ooops! How could I forget! Since Katrina, and the massive flooding of NOLA, I don't eat Gulf seafood. But the rest of the world is my oyster...! '-)