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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. ; )

                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  exactly ;)

                                              2. re: Miss Needle

                                                Geoduck preparation

                                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=un7UjV...

                                            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

                                                Thanks for that interesting article.

                                                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...! '-)

                                                    1. saffron

                                                      9 Replies
                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        ipsedixit: saffron is fright inducing? (I assume you mean the price) it's dirt cheap in Spain, Provence and Morocco.

                                                        Maybe you can justify a fact finding mission...

                                                        C1: I was in NOLA about a year ago and had the oysters at Acme - as sweet and brilliant as ever. No fears. (of course I have few issues - as in get those damn cucumbers away!)

                                                        whatever got washed into the gulf has been washing in for years, just slower. the oyster tragedy is the damage to seed beds. and I think people with compromised immune systems are told to be circumspect.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Oh, I LOVE using saffron - use it often. I think once you do it you just won't be able to stop!! :)

                                                          1. re: chefathome

                                                            That's exactly my fear. I know that once I start using it I can't stop and with saffron being so pricey it CAN present quite a dilemma.

                                                            And, "hill food", unfortunately I don't live anywhere near Spain or Morocco, so I'll have to continue to settle for saffron that's more pricey than diamonds, platinum, gold, etc.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              I feel pretty sure you know this, but maybe some others reading this won't. Turmeric is often acceptable as a substitute for saffron, especially in dishes where color is the greater objective over flavor. For me the problem is I'm allergic to turmeric but not to saffron. Hey, I never said I'm not high maintenance! '-)

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                The problem with tumeric is that it has a much (and I mean, MUCH) stronger ginger and acidic flavor than saffron. It sort of punches you in the face; whereas saffron blows sweet gentle kisses on your cheeks.

                                                                Aside from color, annatto seeds (or oil) is a good way to stretch saffron, by mixing 1 part saffron with 2 parts annatto.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  Yeah, but you use so little of it in each dish. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it despite my um, saffron "habit."

                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                    ipse: I live no where near the Med either, but an excuse (if I ever have the cash) is an excuse.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      Yikes! You can't substitute saffron. It has a very definite taste. You can only add color. Just buy those little envelopes of pretend saffron (they're in my local bodegas). I'm not sure what you mean by turmeric having a strong flavor. Last week I made a thai curry paste with fresh turmeric root, and it had a very mild flavor -- hardly any flavor at all. Vaguely sweet, and a little musty. But very yellow orange!

                                                                      Saffron is wonderful. I'm addicted to dishes that require it (Provencal beef stew, steamed mussels, paella, even potato gratin). It's not that expensive if you order it from LaTienda dot com. It's cheaper in larger quantities (a whole ounce!), which you can store in cool place in light-tight container, or give some to friends as gifts.

                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                      Plus turmeric has been shown to kill (not just prevent, but KILL!) prostate cancer cells.

                                                              2. Tempeh - it's just gross looking, smelling and feeling. I've no idea what it tastes like though.

                                                                1. im always fearful of hot peppers - after using them once and failing to control the heat in a jamaican rice and peas recipe, and after burning my eyes out with the (what i thought was gone from my hands) "juice" i am terribly fearful.

                                                                  though i've made it, ceviche is still a trying one for me, as i'm always afraid i wont marinate/cook it enough.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Emme

                                                                    Advice tip: always wear rubber gloves when dealing with chilies. Seriously. Before I learned that, I burned myself in all sorts of unpleasant places.

                                                                    But I still remember buying 30# of Hatch chilies - allegedly "mild" - spending an entire afternoon cleaning them, packaging them for the freezer etc, all the while making a cauldron of green chile and pork stew, only to find out (when guests were arriving) that I had been sold peppers much hotter than mild, so I had a huge pot of incendiary stew, so fiery as to be inedible. We dined out that night, and later, I added tons more tomatillos and pork to reduce the stew to something fit for human consumption. But I had so much green chile around that I almost got sick of it.

                                                                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                                                                      use fork and knife with a sink full of soapy water waiting for complete wash-down after pepper mincing.

                                                                      love it in my food, not in my eyes.

                                                                      1. re: Ed Dibble

                                                                        I actually avoiided Hqatch chiles for several years because in my opinion they ran the gamut from hot to incendiary, and those were the mild ones. I think they've ratcheted down the heat a bit over the years, because now you can get actual mild Hatch chiles, but twenty years ago it was sort of an oxymoron. I like the whole range of heat, depending on what I'm eating, but kindly tell me what I'm buying and leave your machismo out of the equation, please.

                                                                        RE- chipotles- you can get them dried, you know. Far less waste and frankly I'm not real big on the pickled taste of the canned ones. The dried are pure smoky deliciousness.

                                                                        A friend and I went to Willcox a couple of months ago to pick chiles. We were starting to get tired and there were some rogue chile plants in with the sweet peppers, so we were picking those. They were NOT the mild ones, as it turned out. Some were too hot to eat . Note to self- from now on pick the chiles in the rows of mild chiles...

                                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                                          A chipotle is dried by definition, isnt' it? It's a smoked, dried jalapeno.

                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                            Well, yes, but I think from what I've read here the most common preparation that people see is the chipotles canned in an adobado, which reconstitutes them to a degree.

                                                                    2. Fearless, gimme it I cook it (just not Spam!), just a fun challenge. If it goes wrong, so what? Another lesson learned. We have 3 pressure cookers, use them all the time for dried beans and soups. Thanks for the idea of brains. The next deer I get, i gotta figure out a way the get the brain out of the skull. I use most of the rest of the deer, even the intestines for making sausage.
                                                                      Fearful? Fearful? Brief moments of doubt, on occasion, while picking wild mushrooms ( I don't pick it.). But don't tell my wife!
                                                                      Boy, don't I sound like some male macho moron? Apologies, ladies, but I am what I am and am what I am.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                        I'm with you 99% of the way there, but I'd avoid venison brains. They commonly carry a prion disease that may be transmittable to humans, so eating the actual neural matter is probably ill advised. I suppose you could always try to have a biopsy tested before eating it, but I'll stick with veal and porc brains, thanks.

                                                                        1. re: tmso

                                                                          You're right! I forgot about that. There was a thing in the news a couple of years ago about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease bing found in wild deer along the Canadian border. The hypothesis at the time was that the deer had helped themselves to cattle feed set out by farmers that contained animal meal.

                                                                          I wouldn't touch venison brains with a 2,000 foot pole! Same for veal. But since pigs are omnivores, pig brains should be just fine!

                                                                      2. Lobster and crab used to really bother me but in culinary school they kinda make you do that kind of thing. Now I'm fine with it - I do it very quickly without thinking about it. The longer I dwell on it the harder it is! :)

                                                                        Venison brains is something I have never cooked with - just won't do it.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: chefathome

                                                                          I never thought I was squeamish about food prep until last year when I bought a couple pounds of live spot prawns. Repeatedly ripping the heads off the jerking, snapping, wiggling carcasses of dozens of the little crustaceans got to me. The SO was having none of this, so I had to finish the job. Rather put me off spot prawn, and would never buy them live again for home consumption...

                                                                        2. Fish sauce (Nuoc Nam). The first time I used it, I used exactly as much as the recipe called for (I'm notorious for increasing seasoning amounts -- especially garlic). The result was . . . OK. But my wife and son hated it because of the pronounced flavor of the fish sauce.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: jmckee

                                                                            There's so much variation in fish sauces -- some are much more pungent than others. It's really difficult to follow a recipe with fish sauce verbatim. I think the best thing to do is use half the amount in the recipe and taste. Add more if it needs it.

                                                                          2. Just about any piece of fish intimidates me. I'm always afraid I'm going to overcook it and completely dry it out.

                                                                            1. I used to be afraid of puff pastry. I was silly.

                                                                              I just would never cook geoduck or lobster or calamari or squid. Not afraid so much as I just would never attempt and don't even want to. I don't eat them either. nor do I eat crayfish. mudbugs, ugh.

                                                                              1. Except for liver, I've never attempted to do variety meats at home. I fear them getting away from me somehow. I'm not even sure what I mean by that, but I know it's scary.

                                                                                Come to think of it, maybe it's related to Poltergeist.

                                                                                1. I used to be afraid of whole fish until the waiter at a Chinese restaurant showed me a beautiful technique for lifting the spine and all from a steamed fish after filleting off the top half. So simple, and works most of the time. When it doesn't the bits still taste good, anyway. I am afraid of monkfish, however. I watched Julia Child lug around a whole one when I was a kid in the seventies, and it scarred me for life.

                                                                                  As to the live lobster/crab issue, I figure that if I can kill something as cute as a mouse I gluetrapped in the pantry, I can deal with crustaceans.

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: amyzan

                                                                                    "however. I watched Julia Child lug around a whole one when I was a kid in the seventies, and it scarred me for life."

                                                                                    tell.

                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                      I just remember that epidose vividly. That fish was UGLY and unwieldy. I had a smiliar experience as a five year old at a pig picking in West Virginia. There was this humongous pig on a spit over an open fire, which I'm sure in retrospect was delicious, but at the time I was horrified. Utterly. I think it was the first time I realized that meat was an animal. Don't get me wrong, as I'm not a vegetarian, but it completely freaked me out. Sensitive kid, I guess.

                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                        Was it the episode where she put the giant fish on the cutting board, and then pulled out the biggest meat cleaver ever (at least in my 7-year-old opinion), and quickly beheaded it? That was the episode that made me know I wanted to be a chef.

                                                                                        1. re: beth1

                                                                                          Um, not sure, actually. I haven't seen Julia Child and Company as an adult, so I couldn't say accurately, but it's probable that was the one. I think I had vegetarian tendencies as a kid, and even had a bizarre compassion for dead, ugly fish, apparently. ;) Now I like to eat them, but I'd rather someone else prepare them for me. I have no problem with carcasses of all kinds, but those childhood aversions seem to stick with me. If I wanted to, I'm sure I could get over them, but as of yet, I don't have enough desire. Of course, as food prices increase, I may have more motivation to butcher all number of interesting creatures!

                                                                                          1. re: beth1

                                                                                            If you scroll down, there's a still from the episode: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgur...

                                                                                      2. i'm not completely terrified, but i tend to avoid recipes that involve finely mincing very hot peppers after one particularly bad incident when i was making a large amount of ceviche (with a large amount of minced peppers) for a crowd and somehow managed to smear the stuff all over myself. ow....

                                                                                        1. I've never even heard of geoduck - had to google it. Blimey those things are ugly! What do they taste like?

                                                                                          I'm another crustacean dodger, I'm afraid. I love to eat crab, but have to buy it dressed because I can't cope with the horrid, swivelly-eyed, scuttling, pincered creatures. Just thinking about a crab makes me feel a bit funny in my stomach.

                                                                                          I've never cleaned a squid either and am a bit squeamish about it - I should get round to that one of these days.

                                                                                          12 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                            I've cleaned squid, and the guy who taught me to do it described the process accurately as "like picking a giant nose." It was pretty gross, but not really difficult.

                                                                                            1. re: small h

                                                                                              Cleaning and cooking squid is something I do not mind doing at all for some reason. To me they don't look gross or intimidating. I absolutely love the tentacles in particular!

                                                                                              Small h, nice description! :)

                                                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                                                yeah, small h nails it, just time consuming and delicate.

                                                                                                chefathome: I get pissed when I don't get the tentacles in a restaurant.

                                                                                              2. re: small h

                                                                                                Yuck! Wsh I'd never read your post! '-)

                                                                                                When I clean a squid, first I marvel that the "bone" is as crystal clear as vitreous fluid, then I think to myself, "If I had a canary and this was a cuttlefish, I'd have a cuttlebone for my bird!

                                                                                                If I think of a giant nose the next time I clean squid, you'll be sorry!

                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  c'mon Caroline1, you're the last person I would expect to be squeamish.

                                                                                                  but it is indeed messy - reserve those ink sacs!

                                                                                              3. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                I love geoduck, esp. as sashimi. Get it all the time during dim sum.

                                                                                                You've got to try it sometime.

                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  As it's native to America and I live in London, that won't be happening any time soon!

                                                                                                2. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                  They look horrible. In my original post I said they creep me out (which they do) but I have never had the occasion to purchase one even if I wanted to. We definitely cannot get them on the Canadian prairies!! It is something I want to try to cook since I've tried so many other things (I have a list). Someday...

                                                                                                  They do taste good - like the texture, too. You just have to get beyond the looks.

                                                                                                  1. re: chefathome

                                                                                                    If you guys ever make it to seattle, they sell them at the U-district Farmers market and Im sure lots of other places (or you can dig for them yourself, a process that anthony bourdain akins to 'fisting shamu')

                                                                                                    Thems big suckers. They don't freak me out (my raw meat thing doesnt really apply to seafood as much) but I still have to work up the courage to buy one.

                                                                                                    1. re: Jeters

                                                                                                      god I wish I could find them that size on the East Coast.

                                                                                                      I'm still reviled for Calamari (steak) Parmesana.

                                                                                                      it WAS good. just can't get them here.

                                                                                                      ok sure full of cholestrol.

                                                                                                      1. re: Jeters

                                                                                                        Careful, it is illegal to harvest geoduck without a permit.

                                                                                                        1. re: Argol

                                                                                                          where are you Argol? I saw them all the time in Asian wet markets in CA - no need to tangle with the law.

                                                                                                  2. Bitter melon or sopropo....like to eat it in Chinese/Surinamese cooking, can't seem to turn it into anything edible in my own kitchen.

                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: markemorse

                                                                                                      Cut off ends, scoop out innards, stuff with a seasoned ground pork mixture heavy on pepper, cut in 2 inch sections, simmer gently in pork or chicken broth/stock till tender.

                                                                                                      1. re: torty

                                                                                                        I cut bitter gourd in half, scoop out innards and stuff and steam.

                                                                                                      2. re: markemorse

                                                                                                        I can cook nice things with bitter melon and I enjoy eating the end product, but preparing the bitter melon itself gives me the heebie jeebies. I hate cutting it up. Cutting off the bumps on the skin creeps me out.

                                                                                                      3. I can't deal with soft shell crabs. Before frying them (alive!) you have to cut off their eyes and rip out the gills. Freaks me out everytime. I had to do in a restaurant I worked in years ago, and it would just ruin my day. And the crabs didn't enjoy it either. I won't cook them or eat them, no matter how delicious people keep telling me they are -- I still feel too guilty.

                                                                                                        I don't mind boiling the odd lobster or crab -- I don't like it, but I'll do it. But I don't torture them first.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: chefbeth

                                                                                                          Oh yeah! I forgot about that! It's like you have to actually have to snip off their little faces. It's HORRIBLE.

                                                                                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                                            "It's like you have to actually have to snip off their little faces."
                                                                                                            ~~~~~~~
                                                                                                            yeah, it sucks, but it helps if you turn them over so they're not "looking" at you when you do it.

                                                                                                          2. re: chefbeth

                                                                                                            I forgot about those, too! I had a really hard time with those in school and have not done it since.

                                                                                                          3. Probably silly, but I avoid all recipes that use yeast!

                                                                                                            1. I try to avoid whole chickens if I can. Why? Because reaching inside the carcass to retrieve the innards makes me sooooo sad. I've literally cried doing it. And I mean literally. Not "practically". I can eat it, I can cut it up, no problem, but reaching inside makes me sad.
                                                                                                              I can't de-bone a cooked whole bird either. I started gagging as I de-boned the turkey this year.
                                                                                                              Otherwise, I'm a pretty adventurous cook.

                                                                                                              1. I love cleaning chickens, fish, cutting and handling raw meet. Skinning..etc. I'm not afraid of fish bones either or offal, liver.. intestines, I've watched our maid clean them out in the drain too.

                                                                                                                I'm pretty happy to find a heart in a chicken or quail, I'll fry it up with some butter, yum!! I've seen people avoid eating quails and things like that because they're just so small and it's sad. I won't eat a house sparrow because it's just so tiny, though in some parts of the world like egypt it makes a good soup.

                                                                                                                I am however a bit intimidated by artichokes, I know how to prep them knowledge wise but I don't think I've ever gotten around to buying them.

                                                                                                                I'll take the plunge one of these days.

                                                                                                                I remember crabs being intimidating, though they were dead, even parrot fish (just because they were so beautiful and sad to see them dead)

                                                                                                                1. I'm afraid of artichokes. Don't know how to buy 'em or cook 'em. Reading recipes that purport to explain their mysteries hasn't help but rather hurt. I used to be afraid of cooking risotto and I got over that, so maybe there is hope :-).

                                                                                                                  18 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                    I don't want to be that annoying person who insists that something isn't hard, even though someone else thinks it is. So ignore me if you want.

                                                                                                                    Buy an artichoke with tightly closed leaves and a not-too-dried-out stem end. Chop off the stem and peel it. Rip off the first row or two of leaves. Chop off the top third of the artichoke. Steam the artichoke and the stem over simmering water for an hour (which might be too long, but it's hard to overcook). You can add things to the water: lemon, garlic, wine, peppercorns, celery tops, whatever. Then eat the artichoke with vinaigrette or aioli or hollandaise or some other sauce you like better. The end.

                                                                                                                    1. re: small h

                                                                                                                      Thanks, small h, you are not "that person" at all! I've cut and pasted your very clear instructions into a file -- especially like the "hard to overcook" intell. Now all I have to do is find some artichokes with tightly closed leaves. The other reason I'm a bit afraid is I have a feeling the artichokes we get here are lame, having seen them in San Francisco at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and growning in Italy.

                                                                                                                      1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                        The artichokes in Manhattan are not the best, either. And they're often $2.50 each, to add insult to injury. When you're ready, check out Marcella Hazan's detailed and accurate instructions for preparing artichokes for roasting. That's a good way to cook un-fabulous artichokes.

                                                                                                                        1. re: small h

                                                                                                                          Or her artichoke and potato gratin...man that's good.

                                                                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                            With this thread and your good advice in mind I bought three rather nice looking 'chokes yesterday. They are softball sized and firm, unusual for me at least. They cost Cdn$5.07 for the triumvirate. Now we just need to eat them (dining out for the next several nights, oops). Who is Marcella Hazen BTW?

                                                                                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                              The doyenne of Italian cookery book writing in the US. Marcella Hazan. This gratin is from one of her Classic Italian Cooking books, I think the first. If you've never cooked them before, mightn't you want to try them just plain boiled first?

                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                That's what I was thinking of doing, following small h's fine instructions. But I'm filing the Hazan info away for later :-).

                                                                                                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                  You have a world of wonderful recipes awaiting you if you haven't delved into Marcella Hazan yet. Beaucoup information on Marcella on Home Cooking.

                                                                                                                              2. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                Okay, so I steamed up my three artichokes and ate 'em with the SO... actually I ate 'em with hollandaise, he went for lemon butter. They were tasty but nothing to write home about. Did I miss something?

                                                                                                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                  They do have a rather mild flavor. I like them quite a bit but can see that one might not take to them immediately. Try again? And the Marcella Hazan gratin has Parmesan cheese, butter, and onions as well as artichokes and potatoes, so it's hard not to like it!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                    I love the flavor of artichokes, especially the heart. But I can see how you might be underwhelmed. They're subtle.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                      One of the fascinating things about artichokes is how they impact the flavor of things you eat right after them. It makes choosing a wine to drink with artichokes pretty challenging.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                                                        Orange Rock Tokay was made to go w/ artichokes. Cheap too.

                                                                                                                            2. re: small h

                                                                                                                              of course peeled leaf by leaf and dipped in your choice each eaten sort of like an oreo (scraped between the teeth until one gets down to the heart (and after cutting out the rough fiber "choke")

                                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                That's what we did, but mostly the leaves were just kinda pithy. Maybe they weren't good ones, or I actually did manage to overcook them...

                                                                                                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                                  my punctuation failed in that post, but yeah, the base of the leaf is the sweet spot, don't feel guilty when leaving what is just not desirable, a lot of it isn't. and you didn't over cook, it's a fibrous thing to start with. (and voice of experience: NEVER shove the uneaten parts down the disposal unless you want to replace it - I hadn't had a disposal before)

                                                                                                                            3. re: grayelf

                                                                                                                              Check Mark Bittman's video today in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/02/din... . When buying, look for tight leaves with no brown or grey.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Argol

                                                                                                                                Thanks, guys -- and speaking of fibrous, I just thought of something else that I hesitate to cook with: leeks. Dunno why exactly, but I"ve never really used them, despite my mum being part Welsh. There is a lovely one in my fridge right now, however, that I'm going to use in a sweet trahana casserole. I've made a pact with myself to try something new, either prep or foodwise, every couple of months... risotto, souffles, artichokes and now leeks are the ones I've tackled so far with good success I might add :-).

                                                                                                                            4. Ladies, please excuse my beer induced bravado above. I am afraid of, yet desirous of one food, truffles. I want to eat them before i die. I'm afraid to order them. I'm afraid I will be underwhelmed after a life's time of anticipation. How to best cook them? White or Black?
                                                                                                                              Confession is good for the soul.

                                                                                                                              16 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                50-50, Pass, that you'll be disappointed.
                                                                                                                                I'm certainly no expert and so my opinion might be worth very little. I bought some truffles awhile back for the first time, something like $40 for 1 ounce or so. Although, they do pack lots of distinct flavor, I found it "underwhelming" as you say, or perhaps over-rated. Again, as I say, this one time trial period of the truffle world is not definitive for sure...

                                                                                                                                1. re: porker

                                                                                                                                  Thanks, I pick a lot of wild mushrooms, w/ great flavor (The colors before death are awesome!), Picking fiddelheads and ramps right now, on the lookout for morels.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                    Mmm, I love truffles, but then I'm a committed italophile, so I may be biased...I can't believe you've never tried them!

                                                                                                                                    But here's the way to eat them: go to Umbria and order umbrichelli al tartufo.
                                                                                                                                    http://www.linguasi.jp/img/fotolib/pa...

                                                                                                                                    I just don't trust their shipment overseas.

                                                                                                                                    I've never been to Piedmont, but I imagine the way to try white truffles would be the same: go to Alba in October.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                                                                      Will do. Ms Keg and I want to buy a VW camper in Europe and spend a year going w/ the the seasons, touring Europe, when we retire. Italy is high on the list.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                                                                        A simple pasta (chitarra, I think)n with truffles in Umbria counts as one of my all-time favourite dishes. Mind you, they put them in everything there!

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                        I've never had white (Italian) truffles, but I love black Perigourd (French) truffles. If you like morels, I'm confident you will like black truffles. I use them with beef.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                          Years ago I observed an elderly gentleman dining alone at the old, original, less tawdry Le Cirque in Manhattan. When his dinner arrived he retrieved a couple articles from his jacket, a pocket knife and a small bag that held a black truffle. He proceeded to shave a bit of the truffle onto his entree. I asked our server about it after the fellow left, and was told that he ate at that same table every night, and the truffle shaving ritual was every night, regardless of the meal.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                            I may steal this for my next novel. What is a good source for truffles?

                                                                                                                                          2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                            Black truffles from Perigord, so far as I know, are the same as black truffles from Umbria. I think those are the 2 places in the world they grow.

                                                                                                                                          3. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                            Oh to have morels within picking range. My favorite mushroom. I've never had white truffles but have had real French truffles in dishes and still prefer morels.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                              I even eat the poisonous false morels after a 10 min boil or drying. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS FOR THE NOVICE. I've been doing this since 1980 and this ain't my ghost typing, I hope.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                Mushrooming must be in your Finnish blood, I would eat any mushroom you picked. My dad was a great one for mushroom picking as well, used to drive my mom crazy with worry - but he knew what he was doing. Miss the old SOB.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                  Russian blood, 100%. I grew up picking mushrooms w/ my immigrant grandfather, uncles and dad. (Another excuse for beer drinking.) I took a mushroom picking course in Norwegian in Norway and picked w/ a couple of Finnish friends in Finland (Suomi). Neve pick a single mushroom in Bolivia, though. I hunt, fish (2 lake trout this morning), and gather; clams & mussels to mushrooms to fiddleheads to berries.
                                                                                                                                                  Edward Abbey is my hero. Check my profile.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                              Pass - really? I know nothing about mushrooms except to leave it to others, yet...I'm now living where they can sometimes be found and it's been a wet spring

                                                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                Yes, false morels are sold in the open air market in downtown Helsinki. Huge piles of them w/ no sign or warning. I love it.

                                                                                                                                          4. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                            I feel the exact same way.