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Aug 8, 2010 09:24 AM

New Ideas and Tips from Chefs

I'd like this thread to be a repository for new ideas that you've learned from chefs or cookbooks, or experience.

Today with Sara Moulton, Jasper White talked about a Portuguese dish with clams, in which a bay leaf is "browned" in the oil to release its flavors. He said the Portuguese always do this. News to me, but it makes sense. He made a clam and chorizo "cataplana."

He said the shellfish dishes are called "cataplana" after the Portuguese copper hinged pot used for cooking shellfish.

Chef White said that clams should have a silvery-gray tinge to the shells, and that after three days the shells become pure white, because of the calcium leaching up. So... whiter clamshells mean older clams.


From experience: Yesterday, we made "Caprese-Plus" Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Salad, and I put the leftover marinated tomatoes [with the basil, oregano, sliced garlic and a wee bit of rosemary, olive oil and (a little balsamic and a little red wine) vinegar] into a baggie in the fridge. I just made a tomato sandwich with the tomatoes, and it was so very, very nice and flavorful, although the tomatoes could've been firmer (next time, I'll purposefully marinate them just for the sandwich, and not overnight). Now don't freak out, but it was like a regular tomato sandwich, but with the marinated tomatoes. (Mayo on squishy white bread, yes, in fact it was!). Try it, tomato lovers, you'll like it.
So... please post here any new ideas on flavors, techniques, ingredients, etc.

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  1. jasper taught me that too years ago!

    when cooking with dried spices, like thyme or rosemary, cumin or ginger, i always add them to the fat first to release the oils. it makes a huge difference.

    escoffier does not recommend adding black pepper to a saute until the very end, to avoid a bitter flavor from it potentially burning.

    thomas keller does not use celery in chicken or veg stock. me neither now.

    6 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      I don't put anything in my stock. That way it's more versatile.

      1. re: c oliver

        I'm assuming you mean after the stock is made? Because I believe hotoynoodle was referring to using celery in the making of stock, not afterwards.

        1. re: schoenfelderp

          I use nothing but chicken feet and backs in my stock. It's not the most common way but that way I can go Asian or anything else without any incongruous flavors.

          1. re: c oliver

            I do the same. Up until a few batches ago I added onions and garlic, but determined that the onions weren't good for when I give leftovers to the dogs, and the garlic could easily enough be added into the dish at the time of cooking.

            1. re: c oliver

              I do use a brown onion skin, however. The brown onion skin goes far in givinig my chicken stock a nice golden brown color.

        2. re: hotoynoodle


          although we usually add celery to our stock, I do know that celery can be overly pungent, so when in doubt leave it out

        3. From the (no longer published) CIA newsletter (not the one from Langley): when steaming vegetables, keep the top lid just slightly ajar, allowing a little steam out. This prevents possible bitterness in the steamed food.

          7 Replies
          1. re: penthouse pup

            Julia and Jacques had a moment about this issue in one of the episodes of their show together. Julia always cracked the lid of everything (she thought closing a lid made things "sour") and told Jacques so. Jacques just kind of snorted, said he'd never heard of such a thing, and blew it off. That little tempest in a stock pot is still up for grabs in my mind since I respect them both.

            1. re: morwen

              sometimes they really had little snits, didn't they? as usual, jacques would just blow by it.... hilarious! i started a thread about julia child "moments."

              1. re: morwen

                I recently heard the same about braising pots. Can't remember where. The point was less about food getting "sour" than maintaining a low enough temp that the food wouldn't boil in a closed pot.

                I've been making sure my lid was offset a tiny bit and I really does make a difference in the tenderness of braised meats. Less "spitting" and clean up around the burner too.

                1. re: rainey

                  I'm curious about this lid thing too. If keeping the lid ajar (when is a door not a door...when it's ajar) keeps the food from getting 'sour', how can pressure cookers be explained?

                  1. re: John E.

                    Braising is a whole different thing than steaming vegetables. Vegetables: when water condenses on the lid, then falls onto the veggies being steamed, it can offset the flavor. Think of discolored broccoli. Many of the newer glass lids encourage water droplets to fall to the side, rather than on the cooking item. Tilting the lid encourages condensed water to drip to the side.

                    If you are braising, the lid should be very tight (to the point of creating pressure). An old school thing to do for braising is to make a flour paste, smearing it along the rim, making a very tight seal. There's no way that cracking the pot enhances the cooking process for braising.

                    1. re: rudeboy

                      Yeah, my commentcwas a reply about braising meat, but thank you.

              2. From Jacques Pepin: Hone a knife on the unglazed edge of an inverteed ceramic bowl.

                I posted this elsewhere but it's a great tip worth repeating, also from Jacques Pepin: After emptying wet ingredients from the food processor, turn it on again. Centrifugal force spins what remains to the edge of the bowl, so you don't have to risk injury trying to get it off the blade. In a similar vein, from ATK I think, spin cooked shaped pasta in a salad spinner to get ALL the water out.

                Martha Stewart: "bounce" a just-baked potato on the counter, hard. This will fluff up the inside. For a serving twist, cut cooked corn on the cob into half-inch rounds. Turns it into more manageable finger food for children and adults.

                17 Replies
                1. re: greygarious

                  miss grey, i can picture martha stewart whacking that potato, too! ;-).

                  i run my stick blender in a coffee cup with soapy water to clean it, right after using it. rinse and *done*!

                  1. re: alkapal

                    I clean my stick blender in my coffee cup too - although often the travel mug so I can get the gunk halfway up the wand.

                    After emptying my FP I'll often add a squirt of dish soap and a little water and hit pulse to clean it out. Usually doesn't clean the lid/chute but it gets the blade and bowl(which takes up so much space in the dishwasher/sink) and removes most of the risk of slicing a digit.

                    1. re: maplesugar

                      I realize this post is a few days old, but I don't understand the need for the coffee cup to clean a stick blender. I just hold it under running water in the sink and turn it on for a few seconds and it's clean as a whistle.

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          Just in the sink. I hold it almost upright with just enough tilt to get the water onto the blade from the side. I've never had an enormous amout of splashing. Now I'll have to go try it to see how much water does splash. I don't recall it being a problem. I only use the stick blender for soups mostly during the colder months.

                  2. re: greygarious

                    I just squeeze a baked potato in an oven mitt.

                    1. re: rainey

                      That's what I do too! Either that or gently roll on the counter. Both works!

                      1. re: boyzoma

                        That stick blender thing is brilliant!

                        Squeeze or roll the potato to accomplish what? I don't understand.

                        1. re: jvanderh

                          It fluffs up the flesh inside the skin. That makes it ready to be penetrated and lifted by a fork without having to break mouthfuls free from the large solid mass.

                      2. re: rainey

                        yes but the little "drop" on the counter is more satisfying for some reason :)

                        1. re: rainey

                          I like my *"true" baked potatoes overdone.
                          Love the skin really hard and crisp and like the inside pretty much the same way, I know, I'm weird :))

                          *not nuked but baked in an oven
                          just clarifying because now adays so many put their bakers in the nuker

                          1. re: iL Divo

                            I like my baked potatoes the same way, but I do nuke them when in a hurry. Just for me tho, wouldn't serve them to friends "nuked". There is a huge difference in flavor though.

                            1. re: iL Divo

                              I'm with you, I don't use the microwave unless I'm desperate, so rarely.
                              I have several ways to bake a potato and it depends on the potato and what I'm going to do with it. One of my favorite ways is for twice baked where you need the skin to be extra crispy to withstand handling.

                              1. re: iL Divo

                                I LOVE them with the hard crisp skin!

                                1. re: iL Divo

                                  While we don't often eat baked potatoes, we microwave them first and then finish them in a hot oven. It cuts the cooking time at least in half.

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    If you leave them damp and sprinkle them all over with salt, even just microwaved they seem more like real baked.

                            2. These are old ideas that a chef I know pointed out to me (hopefully new to someone else), he was my mentor for many years:

                              Best flavor on cooked vegetables is just plain old butter, salt and pepper. Taste the actual veggie flavor.

                              Iceberg lettuce is so appropriate in so many circumstances, don't be snobby about it.

                              Hard to go wrong with a squeeze of lemon and some peel added to almost anything.

                              And I'll probably think of a couple more. This chef is very upscale but likes to remember the basics too.He also taught me to be creative in the use of leftovers, a very important lesson. Never throw anything away except the packaging.

                              17 Replies
                              1. re: coll

                                Agree with the iceberg lettuce!

                                1. re: coll

                                  Totally agree with the iceberg here too; I haven't come to understand the snobbery about that one either. Maybe cafeteria style from the 60's and 70's drowning and wilting in dressing? I dunno. Iceberg has a distinctive bitter flavor, crisp with only a hint of a strong vinaigrette, LOVE it. And ditto on the lemon peel and lemon on almost everything (especially vegetables).

                                  I MUST clean raw chicken, lamb, and pork with acid of lemon juice or vinegar; honestly I don't have recollection where I got this habit from, but I feel it's necessary and I don't think it interferes with flavoring. At the very least, it helps eliminate the slime from packaging moreso than a quick rinse. Does anyone else do this? By all means, if I shouldn't be doing so please let me know. Would love to know where I picked up this habit from.

                                  1. re: lilgi

                                    Somebody posted here once that if iceberg lettuce were expensive, uncommon and hard to grow the best chefs would be using it and raving about it.

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      i think this is right. i love it with some braunschweiger.

                                  2. re: coll

                                    "Hard to go wrong with a squeeze of lemon and some peel added to almost anything"

                                    last night the kid asked what was for dinner. I told him chicken [simply in butter and bacon fat salt and pepper] white steamer rice and green beans. he likes very plain straightforward dinners, whereas I don't, I like them all fancied up. anyway, since there are so many oranges in the kitchen, I zested a bit of orange rind over the rice with a spray of butter from my WS butter sprayer [it limits the amount that goes on food] and son said, "nice touch mom".
                                    then hubby said, "it is a nice touch, but lemon could have been good too."

                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                      I'm big on citrus zest and juice as well. In most cases, if I'm using the juice I will add some zest of the same fruit. It brightens the flavors and makes them pop big time.

                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                        I've never heard of a butter sprayer. How does the butter stay or get liquified? Looked on WS website but didn't see this.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          yes, i've never seen a butter sprayer -- not that i'd like it necessarily, though! ;-). i use my olive oil sprayer quite a lot -- and i love that. but olive oil is the most viscous thing i can ever imagine in that sprayer. "pam" does offer a butter flavor spray -- in aerosol.

                                          il divo, is this a new product from w-s? how can i get one?

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Yeah, seems like it would have to be heated somehow. I find it quite easy to melt as little as I want in the MW and then add to whatever.

                                          2. re: c oliver

                                            i'm sure you could melt butter and pour it into a sprayer...i'm betting she just meant a standard mister. AFAIK there's no such thing as a dedicated butter sprayer - didn't turn up anything on the W-S site or Google.

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              butter milk fat solids would clog any kind of sprayer that i know. i don't think any "butter" sprayer exists other than the "i can't believe it's not butter" sprayer, or the like.

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                I suppose it would be possible to put ghee into one of those misters. We bought one and it worked for a while (olive oil) and then instead of a spray it came out in a stream. Since that time, we have been using a squirt bottle to dispense olive oil when cooking.

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    Duh...just like butter. I guess I was focusing on the milk solids.

                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      LOL, john, that's what i thought you might have been thinking -- once the milk solids were gone, then just the liquid gold! except the gold ain't liquid in them thar hills (until you heat it, of course).

                                        2. re: coll

                                          coll, I hope you mean zest rather than peel?

                                        3. Saw this on Heston Blumenthal's show. Instead of using a pizza stone when making pizza, heat a cast iron skillet until red hot, invert it, and put it in your super hot oven that also has broil on. Slide your pizza on top, and the whole thing will be done in a couple of minutes like it would be in a commercial pizza oven. I haven't tried it, but it seemed to make sense when I saw the show.