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The Hardest Things to Cook Thread

What do you consider the hardest things to get right at home? More than just the equipment needed... what do you find yourself (or friends) most often failing at?

For me it's got to be Thai curry. I did find a solution:
http://www.jonvandalen.com/lte/?p=1459

Also,

- good (crispy, golden, fresh) french fries [I did figure it out finally

]

- good barbeque ribs [figured these out too, finally]

And, for some reason, a damn fried egg, especially over-light. I always break the yolk and nothing makes me more furious in the kitchen than watching that beautiful yellow liquid spilling all over the hot pan.

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  1. Croissants for me. Too much skill required.

    13 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      I'll teach you how to make perfect croissants in 4 hours if someone could teach me how to make a proper stir fry or curry on a residential stove.

      1. re: Kelli2006

        Haha. Well, here's my tip on stir fries on a residential stove - use a medium sized black steel "Lyon" pan (eg deBuyer) instead of a wok. Fry in batches at very high temperature settings. A regular stainless steel pan can work too, but not as well.

        On curries - hmmm...that just takes practice and a good cookbook or video. You may already know these tricks: toast whole spices before grinding; sizzle and pop whole spices in your ghee or oil, and when cooking your aromatics and your spices together - wait for the oil to separate out before proceeding to the next step (this gets rid of the raw, floury taste). My goto cookbooks are Vij's http://www.amazon.ca/Vijs-Elegant-Ins... for the recipes and 50 Great Curries for the technique http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/19049...

        1. re: fmed

          My curries improved when I used more salt and more oil.

        2. re: Kelli2006

          Rolling dough into a perfect rectangle with even height--if I could just get that, I'd be happy! I took a class, the instructor did it quickly, no problem but it's not that easy.

          1. re: chowser

            Rolling dough into a perfect shape and thickness is about controlling the pressure on the pin, and a lot of practice. Its fun to impress someone by doing it but it isn't very important.

            1. re: Kelli2006

              Can that be done with a strip of wood/plastic of the correct thickness on each side of the dough?

              1. re: Joebob

                You can roll a even thickness with wooden/plastic rods on either side of the dough, but you don't want to let the puff pastry touch the rods or it will disturb the layers.

                @JoeBob,
                You can make croissants in 4 hours but I prefer to let the dough chill for a bit longer because it makes it easier to work with when it is cold. Its not as difficult as many people make it out to be , but you must measure carefully and follow the techniques exactly if you want to be successful.

                There are many YouTube demonstrations to make croissants.
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxCE96...

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  THANKS MUCH!

            2. re: chowser

              Wish I could do that too, especially when making puff pastry (not just when rolling out the finished product).

            3. re: Kelli2006

              I would very much like to learn to make croissants in four hours, or did you mean that you would have to lecture us for four hours?

              1. re: Kelli2006

                Cooking lesson bartering! What a great idea!

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  Rich Indian curries traditionally get their texture from ground nuts used as thickeners. Cashews work quite well, but peanuts are a good choice and I've used all sorts of nuts(brazil, macadamia, chironji). I drop half a dozen nuts into the coffee grinder and add them to my curries to produce a nice texture.

                  Curry powders can make delicious dishes and the first two sentences of the method below can be substituted by a nice madras curry powder. However, if you make your curries with whole spices, you will have more control over their final color and fill your house with some very nice aromas.

                  Break a 2-inch cinnamon stick into a few pieces and drop it into 2 tablespoons of heated oil. Add 3 cloves, 4 cardamom pods, a bay leaf broken in half, a piece of mace, and 1tsp cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle, add 1 whole chopped onion with some salt and saute it until browned. Ginger and garlic should be added to the curry in whatever proportions you like, I add 2 tbl spoons of each ground and cook with the onion. Add a teaspoon of turmeric, tsp powdered cumin and bright red chili powder to taste, then mix in 2tsp finely ground nuts. An optional chopped tomato for richness, and some water to help it reduce.. mine usually takes about 15 minutes stirring occasionally at a higher heat. When the oil separates, add the beef/lamb and cook it through. Stir in 1/4 cup(or more!) of cream or coconut milk, salt to taste and finish with Corriander leaves.

                  If you want a yellower curry, add minced green chillies(jalapeno/serrano) instead of chilli powder and avoid the tomato. If you want the oil to separate out and finish your curry faster, add pre-cooked tomato sauce - I make a batch of sauce and use it throughout the week in curries and other things.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    You can do decent stir fry on a residential stove with a cheap $15 cast iron pan. Get it smoking hot, and cook things in small batches. For speed, you can even have two cast iron pans going at once...

                2. For me it's anything fried -- simply because I never learned the technique. I try to make Indian pakoras and dahi vada, and I just can't get the frying right. Even more lightly-fried items, like zucchini fritters, I can't seem to manage. I either burn them, or never get them crisp, or make them too oily, or get them so hot they pop out of the pan.... on the positive side, I guess it keeps me from cooking too much fatty food :)

                  I also have tried, multiple times, to make schaum torte, which is this meringue dessert popular in Milwaukee. I guess I can't do meringue, either. I mean, I can "make" it, but it never turns out correct.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: anakalia

                    made my husband his favorite last night. something I've never managed to perfect by the way. < chicken fried steak or is it country fried steak? either way, he loves Cotton Patch recipe in Dallas. I called them to ask for help, they didn't give me any. they said the seasoning is in a large bag that comes from the wearhouse and isn't marked with what the seasoning ingreds are. crud. last night, because I pounded the veal [I know, not the usual suspect] until my arms fell off, it was fork tender so that much I mastered, FINALLY. how or what so I use in the seasoning of the flour or is it in the egg wash that is seasoned? HELP

                    1. re: iL Divo

                      It seems to me highly unlikely that the Cotton Patch uses veal.

                      1. re: Joebob

                        oh Joebob, of course not.
                        I never said they did or would [it's way too expensive] but it's what I bought and I knew I had the pounder/tenderizer mallet and only hoped it would tenderize what may not be automatically tender. I succeeded.

                        now back to what to use in the flour for seasonings or it is the egg bath that gets the secret seasonings?

                        Sidebar: I've been told I need to take my husband to Randalls south of Norman OK. They're said to have perfect chicken fried steak, perhaps one day I will.

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          Season the meat and the flour. Egg wash really doesn't need to be seasoned. Use salt, pepper, garlic powder if you want, your favorite herb; you're making chicken fried steak so thyme is the herb of choice. I use this technique: lightly dredge the meat in flour first, then tenderize, then dredge in flour again, then into the eggs and then into the flour AGAIN, (so that's three trips through the flour) that's how you get the nice thick breading. Then fry.

                  2. Chinese hand-pulled noodles. I have tried and tried and tried and I can't get the dough to last more than 5 pulls. No wonder they say it takes 5 years to learn how to make these. I just had to check in case they were lyin'.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: runwestierun

                      listen Bob Bloomer had a really hard time and it took him a week with an instructor and he still didn't master it.

                    2. Tuilles. I can never get them the way I want them.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: AndrewK512

                        Ooh! Ooh! Tuilles!!! Me, too. They taste so delicious but I can never get them to bend around the mold without them slipping or clumping up. I ended up last time just giving up and serving them the way they came out....it looked like a 4 year old had made them out of clay...but they tasted great.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          What are you using for the mold? Some folding is expected and unavoidable, but they should stay on the mold.

                          1. re: oakjoan

                            Get one of those metal pans used for multiple baguettes. You just slide the tuiles in and they curve naturally.

                          2. re: AndrewK512

                            I just use a rolling pin. Since I collect rolling pins, its easy to find one that is fat enough or skinny enough depending on what I want my end result to be

                            1. re: AndrewK512

                              Yeah, I can't get tuiles either. Either I'm not mixing right, or not cooking them long enough. They'll curve round the rolling pin to start with but don't crisp up and when cool, they won't hold their shape. I need a really detailed recipe I think

                              1. re: loukoumades

                                I suspect that you are not spreading them out thinly enough on the baking sheet. I use a small offset spatula to spread them.

                                The recipe I have works well, except that it tells you to mix the sliced almonds in with the batter; I find that if you do that you cannot get a thin enough spread. Instead, I sprinkle the almonds on top and then press them in lightly.

                                1. re: souschef

                                  I think I'm with you on this cuz I do them very thin, like almost too thin and then immediately move them over to the awaiting rolling pin or wooden spoon depending........I know it wouldn't come out the same but have you tried placing them over a ramekin or a tea cup so they can be used as a cup/bowl for berries etc?

                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                    Yup, done that. Used them as a bowl to hold home-made ice cream. Turned out just as crisp

                            2. Stuffed camel. Always turns out a little dry, I find.

                              http://bertc.com/subfive/recipes/whol...

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Robin Joy

                                :-D

                                Desserts as a class, though probably because I have little interest in them.

                                1. re: Robin Joy

                                  It doesn't dry out, if you cook it whole, but it's a bitch getting the oven door to close.

                                  1. re: Robin Joy

                                    Robin Joy, I think you forgot to add the 3 vats of raki before lowering them into the pit.

                                    1. re: Robin Joy

                                      And they are so... unwieldy! And then if you punch thru the humps while stuffing - well there go the calories thru the next millennium.

                                      1. re: Robin Joy

                                        uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ;]

                                      2. Poached eggs never turn out as pretty as the ones on Food Network. Pretty embarrassing, but that's point of the post, right?

                                        17 Replies
                                        1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                          My poached eggs always turn out a bit shredded around the edges. Crate and Barrel has these little egg poaching cups that look interesting...

                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                            I have three tuna cans that I've taken the top and bottoms off of and (obviously) cleaned thoroughly. They work perfectly for poaching eggs.

                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                              Those swoopy little silicone ones? I bought 2, they WORK.

                                              1. re: runwestierun

                                                Recently bought a couple of PoachPods myself. Am a little torn. They turn out a very nice egg, but since the water and egg never touch it doesn't really count as a poached egg in my book. Really you're just baking/steaming the thing. I feel like I could have achieved the same result in a little ramekin and saved the $11. Think I'll end up using the pods when the whimsy strikes to throw a poached egg on top of a weeknight salad or entree, but will work to hammer down the real deal for guests and nicer meals.

                                                1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                  I don't like the pods at all. I tried them once and they weren't for me. I'll just keep working on the regular poaching.

                                              2. re: cheesecake17

                                                Add a bit of vinegar to the water, stir so the water turns in a circle, off the heat, slide in the egg.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  I've done that.. never seems to come out perfect though. I might just cave in and buy the little silicone cups.

                                                  I did buy something interesting today from William Sonoma- salt 'tablets.' Each one is the perfect amount of salt to salt the water for 1 box of pasta. Now I don't have to hear my husband constantly asking how much salt to add...

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    It also helps if the egg is impeccably fresh, that goes for over easy eggs too. As eggs age their whites thin out. If you can find a source for farm fresh eggs, like at a farmer's market, you'll have much better luck with simple egg dishes. For hard cooked eggs you need older eggs. The membrane that makes them so difficult to peel when fresh will have pulled away.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      I use the cling film method, again, not quite a poached egg, but works great. Drop the egginto a pocket of cling film and seal tightly, drop the ball in rolling hot water for desired done ness.
                                                      Always comes out perfect.

                                                      ETA: Just realised method was described below....I need to finish reading before posting

                                                      On a side note, one of my pet peeves is that there is not one single place in Kenya that does a decent eggs benedict for brunch....I do it myself but sometimes you just want to go out and indulge in mimosa's and good conversation over a leisurely outdoor brunch

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        Vinegar is the key to poached eggs -- it keeps the whites from spreading out.

                                                        I don't bother with the spinning water thing. Unless you've got the perfect rhythm and temp going, you're just as likely to make things worse.

                                                        The second, and maybe more important key, is to have the temp perfect. It needs to be turned down from a boil, to a simmer -- a simmer just before a boil. A real boil creates too much turbulence and spreads the whites.

                                                        Also, smoothly and swiftly pour the egg into the water, from a small condiment/ingredient bowl. You want to decrease the friction/impact of egg on the water's surface, length of time it takes to get the egg under water, and not over do the speed of the egg entering the water (too fast and the egg hits the pot's bottom and spreads before it solidifies enough). All these things make the egg spread out too much before hardening/cooking sets it.

                                                        Really fresh eggs matters too. Some packaged eggs have sat in storage for months before hitting the supermarket shelf. Fresh eggs (I don't know why) just cook better.. maybe their freshness gives the whites a firmness that they lose over time.

                                                        A few inches of water, 1 tsp of vinegar for each egg, simmering just near a boil, smart submersion of the egg. That's it.

                                                      2. re: cheesecake17

                                                        yep must agree they have to be floating in the water, and if you use the method Sam described they work beautifully. Practice makes perfect, and if that doesn't work, trim the frayed edeges off of the little suckers.

                                                        1. re: cheesecake17

                                                          Recently I came across an electric egg poacher that my sister and I had given to our parents years ago. Somehow it ended up with me and sat on a high shelf for a few years until I recently tried it.

                                                          WOW! The poacher is just a small set of molds in a circle with a plastic handle to lift it out of the poacher base after they're cooked. You just put a bit of butter, s and p in each mold, drop in an egg, put some water in the bottom of the base, put the mold thingie back in, put the top on and wait 2 minutes or 3 or however hard you want the yolk. It's fabulous and I don't know how I ever got along without it.

                                                          Every time I made them by "hand" I had to put them onto paper towels to drain off all the water. they'd often break or be overcooked, etc.

                                                          Not anymore! I don't even know if they make these things anymore. I think it was made by Salton.

                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                            I love my "older than I am" egg poacher. 3 little cups that lie on the rim of a nonstick smallish skillet with a lid. They make very nice eggs

                                                        2. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                          You might find it helpful to check out Jacques Pepin's technique, as shown on video.
                                                          http://www.kqed.org/w/morefastfoodmyway/
                                                          click episode titled "Super Savers", the egg demo starts at 3:20 of the episode.

                                                          1. re: Rmis32

                                                            Thanks! I've learned much from that show's site over the years, but somehow missed that segment. I also just bought those silicon cups, and will give them a shot this weekend.

                                                          2. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                            Another 'trick' is to boil the egg for 1 minute, break it by cracking on a flat surface, gently pour it back into the water which should be on a gentle simmer. It holds its shape better.

                                                            1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                              my folks poached eggs were always from an egg poacher pan. I got one a hundred years ago at Gemco. it's just a fry-ish style pan with insert of 3 rounds. you put water underneathe it, start it simmering butter your insert, drop in the egg gently put top on and in a few minutes you have perfectly poached eggs but they're shaped so not freestyle like the ones on TVFN. I've always wondered if vinegar is in the water to help or no, keep the water circling or no, take them out predone or no, do a bunch at a time or one?

                                                            2. caramel. I'm slowly improving, but I used to fail 3-4 tries for every one that works. Mine commonly forms a clear crystalline mess after about 20 minutes and NEVER colors.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: danna

                                                                You need to be brave and turn it up or it will never color.

                                                                I learned to bake from my maternal grandmother and paid my way though college by working 3-4 nights a week as a baker and then as a pastry cook.

                                                              2. Poached eggs.

                                                                To the extent that I no longer attempt them.

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                  Have you tried the teacup method? Line a teacup with cling/sarin, break the egg into it, make a little purse and simmer it for a couple of minutes. Fish it out with a slotted and unwrap onto toast. Job done.

                                                                  1. re: Robin Joy

                                                                    I hope you mean "saran" instead of "sarin" :) Unless, of course, you really dislike the people you're serving the eggs to!

                                                                    Sarin is a toxic nerve agent and chemical weapon.

                                                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                      Whoops! Tryping error,,,,,Us Brits just know it as clingfilm, and I was just trying to be a bit more "international".

                                                                      Hopefully the catering sections at the Pentagon can spell better than me, otherwise your troops could have some issues.

                                                                      1. re: Robin Joy

                                                                        And I appreciate your effort at "internationalness"--funny, I actually referred to the stuff as "cling film" the other day, perhaps a nod to my sometimes reading UK cooking magazines!

                                                                    2. re: Robin Joy

                                                                      Ta for the tip, Robin. I get the clingfilm idea to keep the shape. I presume you lower the cup into the pan but don't get water inside the cup? And presumably it takes a little while for the heat to get through the cup and into the egg.

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        No.

                                                                        You wrap the egg and tie it off while the egg in the cling film is in the cup. Then lower the egg in the clingfilm intoi the hot water until the egg is cooked.

                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                          Yep, and it works tremendously well. I was taught to spray a little spray-olive oil onto the clingwrap before you drop the egg into it. Perfect poached eggs, everytime.

                                                                    3. re: Harters

                                                                      I find making them in the microwave very easy. Boil water in small microwave pyrex cup 30 seconds and flip and cook another 10 seconds.

                                                                      1. re: classylady

                                                                        I learned this tip on this site and it works perfectly.

                                                                        1. re: classylady

                                                                          What? Do you put the egg in the water and then 30 seconds in the mic then flip and cook for ten? Or boil the water and then put in the egg? How much water. I love the idea of microegg.

                                                                        2. re: Harters

                                                                          my favorite breakfast 'out' is eggs benedict. but always when I order I gently ask them to please ensure the whites are done, if they're like $n0+ I can't and won't eat them. our daughter who's worked in restaurants forever, says I'm asking for them to do something awful to my eggs behind closed doors :(

                                                                        3. For the life if me, I cannot seem to get har gau dough right. I am sure if someone showed me it might not be so hard but when I try to do it from a recipe, and the recipe seems quite simple, or I look online and see pictures of how it's done, mine still comes out like crap...very frustrating.

                                                                          1. perfect hash browns..crispy...flavorful...soft inside

                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Tripper

                                                                              Perfect hash browns can only be made in dubious looking diners. They have to be cooked by a hairy line cook named "Mel" and served to you by a waitress who addresses you as "Hon." It's just one of those laws of nature.

                                                                              Our favorite place for breakfast here in Denver serves a heavenly version of what are actually fried potatoes, rather than genuine hash browns. I'm told their method is to cook rough chopped potatoes and onions on a griddle with gobs of butter until 3/4 done. Then the mix sits in the fridge overnight and is finished on the grill immediately before serving. I haven't tried this myself since I never think of it until morning.

                                                                              1. re: mandycat

                                                                                what's the name of the place in denver?? i'd love to check it out!

                                                                              2. re: Tripper

                                                                                The big thing is to put them in water after shredding them, the starch on the potatoes keeps it from getting a good crisp side. Once they are rinsed off dry them off, a salad spinner works great for this. Then just grab and cook like you have seen before.

                                                                                1. re: Tripper

                                                                                  Try shredding leftover baked potatoes. They need to chill out overnight or they won't shred right. Then season liberally before cooking in a well heated and oiled pan. Give the hash browns a little smoosh with the spatula to get them to stick together well, cook on med/high till crispy, flip, season, smoosh, cook to crisp perfection!

                                                                                  1. re: just_M

                                                                                    That's how I make mine Just_M - When I make baked potatoes, I always make a few extra for hash browns for the week.

                                                                                  2. re: Tripper

                                                                                    The key to crazy crisp outsides and billowy soft insides is a lot of oil and butter in the pan for BOTH sides. Flip only once. Shape your pile pretty thickly and try to get it the shape of your big offset spatula you will turn them with. I toss mine with lots of spice before I cook and I zap them (if frozen) in the micro for a minute to take the water crystals off to reduce the snapping and steaming. You want to fry, not steam. It also sometimes helps to smoosh the browns into a form so they will hold together (once in the pan). Use bacon grease if you have it. Did I need to say that?

                                                                                    1. re: Tripper

                                                                                      that's what I was going to say

                                                                                      1. re: Tripper

                                                                                        boy you are so right about that.............Crazy Otto's has a secret that they won't share, darn them........... :) is it precooking a bit the potes, using raw potes, lots of butter or very little butter, a really hot cast iron skillet or a nonstick, see, I'm still without the answer :(

                                                                                      2. Anything with dough. Bread, pizza, whatever. Fresh, frozen/thawed. Refrigerated, from the bakery dept in plastic bags, or in the paperboard tubes in the dairy case.

                                                                                        Mixing it works fine, but I can never spread it out without destroying it.

                                                                                        1. Just about everything on this thread I fail miserably at - croissants and actually all dough stuffs. Frying, stir fries. Poached eggs I've done once for my sis and even with the lil' cup things, they sucked.

                                                                                          Sigh.

                                                                                          Tomorrow's another day and another cooking adventure.

                                                                                          1. Baked sweet potato fries or chips. I love, love, LOVE them, but I feel like I've tried doing it a million different ways. Don't get me wrong, I'll still eat them, but I'd love to be able to eat crispy sweet potato fries instead of soggy ones.

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Al_Pal

                                                                                              Buy the costco ones. They are super crunchy, but soft on the inside. Do not cook them as long as they say. God I love those things.

                                                                                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                2nd Sal Vanilla's suggestion and add - don't crowd the pan, I find they steam instead of bake when they're stuffed together. Sogginess could also be an oven temp problem. Mine runs about 25F hot so I rely on my oven thermometer.

                                                                                                1. re: maplesugar

                                                                                                  What temp do you typically set your oven on? I don't really have a costco close by and I don't drive (I'm in Chicago), but I usually get the ones from Trader Joe's if I don't feel like slicing my own potato.

                                                                                                2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                  yea probably the end of the dilemma but the point is why can't we make 'em at home? aaaaaaaaaargh

                                                                                              2. I find it impossible to get a crispy crust on roast/corned beef hash--though I've yet to try adding *cream* to the mix, the latest tip I've heard.

                                                                                                Also, real fudge and real penuche can be tricky--but worth it.

                                                                                                1. Trying to get your guests and your soufflés to arrive at the table at the same time.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                                    I hate having guests because of exactly that. Nothing is HOT when it's time to eat, how does one make everything the right temp without it going overdone?

                                                                                                    1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                                      After all the trouble you take to make a soufflé you should have your guests wait at the table. If they are not prepared to do so, they have no business being there !

                                                                                                    2. apple pie.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                        apple pie=easy peasy.
                                                                                                        my all time favorite dessert.

                                                                                                      2. before I read all these, I did a search on a "bread machine" bread making recipe search and I tripped onto this thread.

                                                                                                        so, you and I have much in common. Thai curry, I've yet to try so don't know aobut that. french fries, sheeeesh, I've tried all the full proof ideas out there and still, not soft inside and crisp outside, I give up.

                                                                                                        as much as I love bbq rids, I have tried numerous recipes to usually be disappointed. why are they often times akin to rubber bands in between the ribs and I don't know how to ensure that won't be the case so I don't attempt them often at all.

                                                                                                        darn good at doing the perfect egg however, it just takes patience, the right skillet and a light touch.

                                                                                                        breads, darn, why is it so hard to make a good sourdough starter that is sour and yeasty inside of vinegary like flavored? who knows.

                                                                                                        1. What do you find difficult about Thai curry, out of curiosity?

                                                                                                          Here is my personal recipe for panaeng curry, and I've never had anything but rave reviews over it. It may be time consuming, but once the paste is made, it's not particularly difficult:

                                                                                                          http://www.chow.com/recipes/27627-pan...

                                                                                                          13 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                            THANKS vorpal. Have printed and will try. It is so hard to get the perfect coconut-peanut balance!

                                                                                                            1. re: Joebob

                                                                                                              Please let me know what you think if you do give it a try! I would love to know.

                                                                                                              Have you been using coconut cream in your curries? I find that they impart a very heavy and rich coconut taste that would be difficult to get from just coconut milk without using so much that your curry would be watery. In fact, these days I often just use coconut cream instead of coconut milk, period. Very rich and fattening, but delicious!

                                                                                                              1. re: Joebob

                                                                                                                Oh! My other tip: if you can, always buy coconut milk / cream in boxes instead of cans! I find the taste is much better and avoids that icky aluminum taste that is unavoidable from canned products. I've found a lovely coconut milk in a box here, and I simply scoop off the cream and use the rest of the liquid in baking.

                                                                                                              2. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                I'd have to take the ingredient list to a pharmacist. :)
                                                                                                                I only possess a few of the ingredients listed here.
                                                                                                                Don't know what many of them are or where to get them but I do have an idea.
                                                                                                                Going to Vancouver this weekend and think I know where I can get them.
                                                                                                                There is a store on 4th Ave up the street from Cypress where my favorite store is when I go there to browse just about anything. Across the street from Safeway is a fresh fruits and vegetables market [maybe it's Asian or another cultural for foods] that I always pop into. I bet they have these ingredients or know where I can find them, thank you for posting that recipe. It will be fun to do when I get the ingreds to make it.

                                                                                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                  You should be able to find most of the ingredients at any Asian grocer, I would think! A couple might be problematic:

                                                                                                                  * Coriander roots / cilantro roots (same thing): If you can't track down a bunch of cilantro with the roots attached, you can use stems instead, or omit. (Some people would strongly oppose the use of stems and say to simply omit, while others - myself included - find that while the taste is quite different, it still imparts a nice freshness.)

                                                                                                                  * Kaffir limes: Similar to coriander roots. If you can't find, you can substitute with four very finely minced lime leaves. (Again, some people would be violently opposed to this and recommend you just omit.) This ingredient is probably the hardest to find, IMO. If you can't track it down, seriously, no big deal. It's very nice to have, but not essential, and prior to moving to Ottawa, I could never find kaffir limes in Toronto so I had to make do with lime leaves all the time.

                                                                                                                  * Galangal: This one is pretty essential, I think. I'm not sure what I would do if I couldn't find it. You can try playing around with regular ginger instead but I don't know that that would work. Fortunately, I've never not been able to find galangal.

                                                                                                                  * Shrimp paste: Again, not necessary, and you can throw in a little salt if you omit it to account for the reduced sodium. I've accidentally forgotten it in the past, and while it rounds out the flavour, it's not the end of the world if you leave it out.

                                                                                                                  If you do end up making it, please let me know how you like it! I've spent a couple years working on it, tweaking it and trying to get it just right, and I'd love to know what you think! And the biggest suggestion I can offer you is to do google image searches of the ingredients you're not familiar with before heading off to your local Asian market so that you know what you're looking for. In my experience, it's often the case that the language barrier between you and the staff is too restrictive (unless, of course, you speak their language) for them to be able to help you locate specific ingredients once you arrive there.

                                                                                                                  1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                    I have Kaffir lime leaves that I did buy @ Granville Is. I also already have galangal bought same day. Shrimp paste I pretty much know I can get at that store above mentioned.

                                                                                                                    vorpal, I wouldn't make it without giving you my opinion. ;) But warning and let me advice that if I am not impressed I'll tell you that also and all variances. Same as if I think it's the bomb.com, I'm happy to give kudos
                                                                                                                    .
                                                                                                                    I love that you spent so much time on it perfecting it to your standards because that tells me you're passionate about this meal. I've spent my life tweeking also, in hopes of making something already good, great.

                                                                                                                    Best idea ever is the google image thing. That is brilliant because you must have followed me into these type stores in the past. There is a huge barrier there between me and the person I'm speaking to. Probably on my part, I barely speak this language very well ;)

                                                                                                                    Question about the birds eye peppers. Are they the little tiny things the size of lady bugs that are super hot? Asking because those that I'm speaking of are grown in Montecello, Virginia and I ate one. It's been a year and my mouth is still raging hot on fire.....wooooooo!
                                                                                                                    How important is palm sugar? I'm sure I can find it but is it in the Asian stores too? Not seen the coconut milk in cartons but will look for it because you're right, the tinny taste is unnavoidable no matter what brand I buy in cans.

                                                                                                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                      Sorry about the delay! I haven't checked this thread in some time and had forgotten about it. *blush*

                                                                                                                      Of course, if you try my recipe, I'd like honest feedback from you, and if you don't like it, I would definitely like to know why - so please don't be shy about telling me what you think!

                                                                                                                      Bird's eye peppers: they are quite small, but the ones I use are the standard chillies sold in most Asian grocers (maybe 1/2 - 2/3 the length of your pinky). I don't know how these compare to mouse-turd chillies (the standard Thai variety), but I'd love to hear from someone with better chili availability. My only concern would then be colour: I can't imagine getting a red colour to a curry paste using only a few mouse-turd chillies, since even with the larger red chilies, it's hard to overpower the greenness of the other ingredients.

                                                                                                                      Palm sugar: you can use regular sugar, but palm sugar has a delicious taste and you can eat it just like candy. It comes in small "pucks" at most Asian grocers and you can grate it or chop it up. I grate the pucks in a cheese grater (with a handle that turns). Coconut sugar would be a great substitution and possibly even preferable, although it has a strong flavour.

                                                                                                                      Coconut milk in cartons I've seen all over Spadina Chinatown, but not elsewhere. Definitely worth the effort of tracking down.

                                                                                                                      Happy cooking, and thanks for your interest! I just love Thai food and have made it an integral part of my life for about 12 years now. I'm making a huge Thai feast for some friends tonight and I'm very excited about it: even better than enjoying Thai food is sharing it with others.

                                                                                                                    2. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                      vorpal, mind telling me where you had the best luck finding those ingredients in toronto?

                                                                                                                      1. re: Hmm

                                                                                                                        I can help on some...

                                                                                                                        Coriander roots. My local (Toronto) Chinese supermarkets (MLCS) often have coriander with the roots attached. I prefer this because if you stick them in bleached water they last a long time. I didn't realise till I read vorpal's post that that was an edible part of the plant. The 'European' supermarkets usually cut off the roots. (Same goes for basil, leeks etc)

                                                                                                                        Birds Eye peppers are also in MLCS, usually in the vegetable fridge on a top shelf. Tends to be stored in the same 'zone' as mushrooms. The dried ones look similar to bay leaves, but they break up easier in cooking.

                                                                                                                        Kaffir Lime Leaves come from my My Local Indian Grocery Store, although they can be in the Indian section of MLCS. I usually buy the dried ones in those little cellophane packets, although the nearby Indian Bazaar sells fresh ones. You can grind up the leaves. This is easier if you mix them with something like sugar or a few grains of rice.

                                                                                                                        Dried galangal is easy to find. Like ginger, the dried and fresh flavours are somewhat different. Fresh, I can get this at both MLCS or MLIGS. It looks like fresh ginger with a clearer skin: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia...

                                                                                                                        Shrimp past is ubiquitous here in Toronto - in fact I could expect to find 20 varieties in any store. It is used by Indonesians and Philpinos as well as most countries mentioned in the Vietnam war. So if you have a local Dutch, Indonesian, Philipino, Vietnames etc community then you will get it there. Look for a jar with squiggly writing, blackish/ browny-orange / dark red gluggy contents and a picture of a shrimp on the front. There are other dried types. If you want to be adventurous and you have any form of china town, then you will find shops with baskets of tiny orange shrimp - you can then make something similar although it won't be fermented. I disagreee with Vorpal though - I think this is an important ingredient.

                                                                                                                        Now I will say something to the utmost disgust of Vorpal. You can alwys try the 'quick-fix' Thai red, green and yellow curry pastes. (Red is the hottest). You can get away with some stock, ginger and garlic plus something with a fragrance such as Angostura Bitters. Not authentic maybe, but pretty good for a slap-together bunch of curries that impress your (non-South-East-Asian) friends.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Hmm

                                                                                                                          Hmm: Sorry about the delay! I forgot about this thread and am only checking it now for the first time in ages.

                                                                                                                          I had the best luck in Spadina Chinatown, particularly with the big lower-level grocery (take a ramp or stairs down into the entranceway) that is on the west side of Spadina just north of Dundas, amongst all the fruit vendors. I also liked the two grocers in Chinatown East (on the south side of Gerrard, between Broadview and De Grassi): they didn't have the same availability as Spadina, but as they were much closer to me, I was able to make do most of the time.

                                                                                                                          Happy hunting!

                                                                                                                        2. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                          in Vancouver this past few days and never made it to the very markets I'd mentioned I wanted to go to. but that only gives me a good reason to go back and visit them in the near future

                                                                                                                        3. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                          Oh! See my other tip to Joebob above, too, about coconut milk in boxes!

                                                                                                                          1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                            you won't believe where I found it........WalMarchay ;)

                                                                                                                      2. I would reword my answer because it's the thing I do most wrong in the kitchen.
                                                                                                                        It's a staple problem for me and always has been.
                                                                                                                        I walk away from the stove that I have turned up way too high in hopes of getting [say] the vegetables done more quickly, and inevitably, they always burn, duh.
                                                                                                                        Sad thing is I always think about not leaving or at least turning down the fire and also I always think, "I'm gonna burn this if I walk away" but think to myself, "it's ok, I'll be right back". < big mistake on my part

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                          I have an excellent memory when I remember to remember. As age (with it's take no prisoners' philosophy) advances I have had to resort to timers. There are three of these attached to the fridge, normally set to something like 1min, 5 mins and an hour. It is second nature to me now that, as I leave the kitchen, I press one of them, whether it is to answer a call of nature or just the door.

                                                                                                                          My ideal timer does not exist - yet. I press and hold the start button and record "Take off the veg". When eventually the timer goes off ....

                                                                                                                          beep-beep-beep, Take off the veg . beep-beep-beep, Take off the veg...

                                                                                                                          1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                                                            well at least you have an excuse. it's always been my downfall. and again, I know I'm about to do it "again". rats...

                                                                                                                            the funny thing is several years ago as Christmas stocking stuffers I bought 9 timers. a store going out of business, $2 each, how could I not. to pass out to the kids and their new familys and have a few extra for me. do you think I know where they are? hahhahahahahahahh.................no can find where I put them, now that's a problem too........................ *)

                                                                                                                        2. Focaccia! Sounds easy I know, but mine always turns out hard or dry. The worst thing is the dough smells heavenly while rising, only to hugely dissapoint. I've tried several recipes and finally decided to give up.

                                                                                                                          1. I can bake anything, but when it comes to making meringue, I fail miserably :( Good thing I don't really like it and I prefer fresh sweet cream anyway..which is a breeze to make! Can't say I have ever tried to poach an egg, I usually just scramble mine in the skillet I just fried bacon in with heavy cream, salt, pepper, and a little bit of cream cheese. Those are the best!!!

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: amylovescupcakes

                                                                                                                              Okay, so you all got me to thinking about poaching eggs with this thread :) I found what looks like a yummy recipe-
                                                                                                                              http://www.cooksrecipes.com/breakfast...
                                                                                                                              I think I may have to use your tips and try poaching soon.

                                                                                                                            2. Chinese food, or at least that which requires maximum heat. My residential burners are simply not up to providing the heat I need. I have simply given up on it and just order take out.

                                                                                                                              1. Pie crust. It use to turn out heavy or tough or both. It was too hard for pie crust and too soft for concrete. ;-) Finally I can make good pie crust using a food processor.

                                                                                                                                1. Pad thai noodles. One of my faves when dining out, but no matter what I try, whether from scratch or using a prepared sauce (usually disastrous), I just can't get the same orgiastic flavor meld. Any suggestions?

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: lexthom

                                                                                                                                    How are you making the sauce? Are you soaking the rice noodles in cool water before you fry them?

                                                                                                                                  2. about the hard boiled egg controversy, we watched JC last night and her show was about hard boiled eggs. the channel turned off while she was peeling, I thought that was pretty funny especially since she was having trouble getting peels off...............just like I do