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Simple things you can't get right

My travails with my current loaf of no-knead bread got me thinking about should-be-easy foods I just cannot cook well. I have mastered wedding cake, Momofuku ramen, cassoulet—any number of complicated dishes. But for the life of me I can't get a boiled egg right (yes, I have tried every method you are about to recommend; I now rely on a $20 infallible egg cooker), and my pancakes are never particularly good either. I used to also burn grilled cheese on a regular basis, but I have improved at least on that front.

What are your embarrassing weak spots?

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  1. Rice is virtually impossible for me. I don't even eat it all that often, but I'm tempted to get a rice cooker just so that I never have to think about it again (like your situation with the egg maker). However, the difference between rice and egg cooking is that rice is far more fickle a beast. There are more variables that can send a pot of rice off, which one of those fuzzy logic rice cookers can account for better than me.

    As for the boiled eggs, in a 4 qt saucepan cover 6 eggs with enough COLD water so they're submerged 1". Turn on high. Once it starts boiling, turn off the heat (especially if you have an electric range, be sure to move pot to cool area like a trivet) and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and set your timer for 11 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare a large dutch oven with a LOT of cold water (4 quarts). About 2 minutes before the timer beeps, dump two FULL ice cube trays (24 cubes) into the dutch oven. Drain the eggs in a colander.

    (At this point I swirl the eggs in the saucepan to crack the shells, which makes peeling them easier later, but that doesn't affect how the eggs cook).

    Plunge the still hot eggs into the ice water bath and let them fully cool for about 10 minutes.

    If you follow these directions exactly (using proportions and timing), virtually all the variables that could send your eggs off have been accounted for. Don't try to cook too many eggs at once, use the right sized cooking vessel with the right amount of water, and use more ice water than you think you're going to need.

    Mr Taster

    24 Replies
    1. re: Mr Taster

      I'm not even going to try!! I've given up! The egg cooker works great!

      1. re: sweetpotater

        After reading this method, what do you think make your eggs fail? I've included a lot of detail in order to eliminate any ambiguity, but the actual process is very simple.

        Unless your water boils at a different temperature than mine (if you're at a high altitude) everything should work just the same in your kitchen as in mine. I should add that I use an All-Clad tri-ply 4 qt saucepan... if you're using a thin, cheaper saucepan I suppose it could potentially heat the eggs quicker and send my numbers off a smidge.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          I don't know. I have done variations of that exact method (also in an All-Clad saucepan) and usually the yolks are not cooked enough. I do the ice-water bath in a plastic bowl usually, but I doubt that makes a significant difference (especially if undercooking is the problem).

          1. re: sweetpotater

            A variation of that method is not that method :)

            I prefer my eggs ever so slightly underdone so the yolk is still a tiny, tiny bit creamy and 10 minutes usually does it. If you want a more firmly cooked egg, I'd say 12 minutes should do it.

            And once the eggs are cooked for 12 minutes, ditch the plastic bowl (which is probably too small-- the hot eggs may heat the water too much) for a better vessel. I like my 7.25 qt cast iron dutch oven because it conducts cold just as well as it conducts heat, and it easily accommodates 4 qts of water + 2 ice cube trays.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: sweetpotater

              The best thing I ever learned about boiling eggs is that you shouldn't do it! The wonderful book "On Food and Cooking" has an entire chapter on eggs and, apparently, cooking them at boiling temperature makes them tougher and more sulfurous. Instead, it suggested cooking the eggs at a low simmer so that's what I do now--for about 10-12 minutes, followed by the cold water bath. The results are fabulous! The whites are solid, but more tender and not at all rubbery, and, yeah, there isn't that overly sulfurous taste that eggs can sometimes have. I'll never boil an egg again!

              As for things I screw up--well, I'm just starting to get the hang of polenta. The trick I've found is to start with a lot more liquid than the recipes call for and slowly cook it down. If I use the amount of liquid most recipes call for, I get thick goop almost immediately which then gets lumpy (even with stirring) if I try to cook it long enough to give it the creamy texture I want.

              1. re: Lady_Tenar

                I used to be scared of polenta, but have a lot of luck now that I use Mollie Katzen's approach. Boil 3 cups water, whisk together one cup of water with one cup of polenta and poor it into the polenta. You will have to lower the temperature to a low simmer after adding the polenta and water mixture. Whisk well and stir a few times while it cooks. Cook for 17-20 minutes. This is in the Vegetables I Can't Live Without Book. In the book she adds a cup of cheese after the polenta cooks and serves garlicky greens over the polenta. Yum!

                1. re: kellyts

                  This in an interesting way of doing it. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks. :)

            2. re: Mr Taster

              Another important variable is, as someone else suggested, the size of the eggs. And also the starting temperature of the eggs, not just whether the water heats up from cold or not.

              Along with Lady_Tenar, I also have decided that I don't like rubbery, sulferous boiled eggs.

              I've taken to cooking eggs in my sous-vide water bath where I can control the temperature precisely. I did a number of experiments (and ate a lot of eggs) before I figured out exactly how Iong and at what temperatures to cook various sizes of eggs fresh from the fridge in order to get both the white and the yolk done to my taste for various purposes. (The legendary "perfect egg" has a white that is a bit too underdone for me.)
              I found I never have any need for the eggs to reach over 80°C / 174°F. The water bath and my handy-dandy chart together make a great egg cooker.

              Following Mr Taster's method and habit of consistency, the desired effects can be achieved on the stovetop by varying the time required to bring the water to the boil, most easily and consistently achieved by varying the amount of water in the pot, I think, unless one has the rare burner that can be very precisely and reliably controlled.

              If the whites are getting too firm before the yolk is cooked enough, the temperature is going too high too fast -- the outer part is getting cooked before the heat has time to reach the center -- so add water or reduce heat to bring the water more slowly to the boil.

          2. re: Mr Taster

            I've always had problems cooking rice. I've tried every method & vessel I can think of over the years. This is what works for me: Take one cup of Basmati Rice, rinse it until clear, then put it in a large saucepan full of water, add salt & bring to a boil. Boil until just al dente. Drain it well, put back in the saucepan, cover & set aside until tender. (off the heat). This is the only way I can get rice to turn out.

            I have a problem with traditional fried chicken with the bone in. I use boneless chicken breasts now & they taste good but I'd really like to make it with thighs & legs. I think living at high altitude sometimes makes it harder, it's either raw in the center by the bone or too dark on the outside. My coating never stays nice & crisp either. The flavors are good and I can make an excellent gravy with the drippings, but it's just not traditional.

            Oh & my cakes ALWAYS collapse in the center. My daughter can follow the same exact recipe & gets great results. We've made her the default baker in the house. I'm the cook, she's the baker.

              1. re: jcattles

                If your cakes are collapsing in the middle you are either opening the door too much or they are under baked.

                1. re: psycho_fluff

                  or too much leavening. Wonder if the altitude has anything to do with it.

                  1. re: psycho_fluff

                    I would love for that to be the reason. I don't open the door until the end of the cooking time when I see that the cake is browning nicely. I really do think altitude plays a key role. I also think that some of us are just better at baking than others. It's ok, I love that my daughter (she's 10) loves to bake & is learning valuable lessons when we spend time together in the kitchen.

                    1. re: jcattles

                      You need to decrease the leavener and increase the liquid for cakes at high altitude. There is less pressure pushing down, so you need less leavener to push back up, and you need a little more liquid because it boils off more quickly at the lower boiling point.

                  2. re: jcattles

                    I had problems with rice until I discovered that if you let it rest covered for 20 minutes or more after all of the after had been absorbed made all the difference.

                    1. re: jcattles

                      I always make fried chicken with the bone in, using thighs. First, I brine it overnight using the Ad Hoc chicken brine recipe :) After I fry the chicken, I put it on a wire rack over a baking tray and have them cook in the oven for a little while. This way you can take out the chicken from the fryer at the right darkness, but still make sure they're cooked.

                    2. re: Mr Taster

                      As long as you rinse your rice well (unless sticky rice), slowly rain it into you boiling salted water & only stir once it should be ok. I used to be the same but these 3 things work. Its the opposite to pasta. Every time you walk past a pot of cooking pasta, you stir it. Rice you leave alone.

                      1. re: psycho_fluff

                        I second this. I am only recently able to get rice perfect, even trying this technique at first yielded me a few failures first. However lately I've turned out some awesome rice with every single grain fluffy and discrete.

                        The method on this website is what I've pretty much duplicated with success: http://shiokfood.com/notes/archives/0...

                        I've turned out some really yummy jasmine rice using coconut milk instead of water, too.

                      2. re: Mr Taster

                        Eleven minutes makes undercooked yolks for me.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          are you using extra-large eggs? because i've found that the yolks of large eggs tend to get chalky beyond 10 or 11 minutes .

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Always large. Because recipes usually are calibrated towards large.

                        2. re: Mr Taster

                          I'm not sure what fuzzy logic is but I can cook rice on the stovetop just fine and i STILL prefer a rice cooker for about 10,000 reasons. If you want to know what they are you'll just have to start a thread in cookware ;-)

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              What a helpful post!!! I have a similar method, but yours is even easier! I bring my eggs to a boil then turn the burner to as low as it goes for 8 minutes. Same cold water... and the colander. To test them I always pick one up with a slotted spoon and kind of judge the weight of it... I am never ever really sure, so I dunk it in the cold water and start peeling... much to my surprise I "usually" come up with a perfect boiled egg with a fluffy yellow center. WOW now I have a fool proof method for sure! Thanks Mr Taster!

                            2. BISCUITS! My are always hockey pucks and I have been trying for years.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: beanodc

                                beanodc, I've been on a biskit quest. First success was with America's Test Kitchen. They are "drop biscuits" Butter is melted then mixed with cold butter milk and this is mixed into the dry ingredients. A key, that I had to learn myself, is to reserve a little of the liquid and then add just enough for the dough to for a ball. Then you can play around with it a little, like a dash of cream of tartar. I also have been struggling with rice and will try the suggestion above.

                                1. re: stymie

                                  I will check out that recipe. I will tell you that I must have collected more than a dozen "never fail" recipes and I continue to make hockey pucks. But I will try again.

                                  1. re: beanodc

                                    Maybe you're over-working the dough? Or maybe your baking powder is old. A lot of people don't get new baking powder often enough, and it loses it's "punch" after a while. That would be an easy thing to fix!

                                    1. re: beanodc

                                      Please forgive me for being what I'm sure is the 24th person shoving glib tips at you, but I've had luck using animal fat or butter and doing the drop kind. If your biscuit dough is rollable without being chilled for a long time, it's going to make a dry biscuit.

                                      1. re: beanodc

                                        Have you tried the Popeyes copycat recipe with bisquick, sourcream SPRITE and melted butter?

                                        Its amazing.

                                    2. re: beanodc

                                      What recipes are you using? What kind of flour are you using and how old is your baking soda?

                                      My favorite chemical leavening biscuits are Peter Reinhardt's/Fine Cooking buttermilk biscuits.

                                      I made my own recipe for yeast biscuits from 2-3 recipes and finished products that I reverse engineered.

                                      1. re: beanodc

                                        overmixing is the problem, when it looks like it wont come together and you have massive chunks of butter roll it out, cut it, and bake. The large knobs of butter give you the layers and flaky product. and cold liquid and cold butter, they will be perfect.
                                        also check your recipe, it may be bunk

                                      2. I do not know how to cook fine cuts of meat. I have a long pork tenderloin in the fridge thawing now, and I am so dithering about whether to cut it in half or not before roasting. I've only cooked one pork tenderloin ever, and it wasn't very good.

                                        I can broil a steak, but I have never attempted prime rib, or even large cuts of pork. I've always been afraid of paying a lot for a nice cut of meat and then ruining it.

                                        So for me, it is fear that is holding me back. One the one hand I think my fear is ridiculous and on the other hand, I almost never buy fine meal.

                                        36 Replies
                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                          I'm with you on this. There's just the two of us, so I don't need that much for every day, and I'm afraid to experiment with some big roast for the first time whenever we have company. I always feel very secure with my salads, sides, and dessert, but if my husband doesn't grill it, I worry lots about my meats.

                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            I love pork tenderloin. it's tender and inexpensive. They only weigh about 1.25 pounds so they are fine for 2 people.

                                            I highly recommend brining them in a solution of 1/4 cup table salt and 14- 1/2 cup sugar per quart of water for about an 1 - 2 hours. Although I get even better results with 7-8 tablespoons of soy sauce and a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar in a plastic bag. Sear the roast then pop in in an oven at 350° F for about 15-20 minutes. I use a digital thermometer and take it out to rest at 149° F. It is just a little pink then. I mop on some BBQ sauce about 10 minutes before it's time to remove it from the oven. After it rests slice it in 1/4inch medallions and serve with a little extra BBQ sauce.

                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                              I knew I'd get advice about the tenderloin. This tenderloin is quite large and should serve perhaps 6 or 7 people. I should have written that I am terrified of brining too! I intend to do a dry rub of smashed peppercorns and salt, and perhaps some fresh rosemary, 'aging' it with the rub for a few hours before roasting it.

                                              I don't find tenderloin that inexpensive, although in this case it was on sale.

                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                What you have isn't a tenderloin of pork if it's that big - it's a loin. Loin tends to be a little less tender than tenderloin, and might require a little extra care since it's not quite as forgiving. However, as long as you don't cook it past 140-145 internal (and you let it rest for 20 mins before slicing), it should be juicy and delicious.

                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                  It was advertised as tenderloin, and is labeled that way. It weighs 2.40 lbs.

                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                    Is it in a single cryo-pak? If so, I'll bet you've got two tenderloins in the pack. Otherwise, that was a HUGE pig! :)

                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                      How set are you on keeping it whole?

                                                      my family's favorite recipe for pork tenderloin i slice it in about 1/2" medallions, then pound them to about 1/4", and cover them in a mix of flour, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, sear them off really quick with some shallot, garlic, and carrot, remove them from the pan, deglaze with balsamic, soy, cumin, dried cherries, capers, and lemon juice, then return the medallions to the pan while that sauce reduces to let it glaze them. its awesome served over broccoli and rice (or cous cous)

                                                      its delicious! sweet, spicy, and savory.... and they cant get enough of it. my brother requests it every time he comes home from school!

                                                      if ya wanna keep it whole, my suggestion is to marinate it, then grill it hot and fast

                                                      1. re: mattstolz

                                                        I do something similar. I cut medallions about an inch thick and moosh them flat just a bit with my hand. I pan sear them and when they're about done I remove and cover off heat. I add chopped shallots and one clove of minced garlic to the pan and saute them a bit in the fond, then I deglaze with a bit of wine. Cook that down a minute, and then add grainy dijon mustard, some cream, let it thicken a bit. Add the juices that collected in the dish with the pork. Then I add a few tablespoons of butter to smooth it out. Drizzle over the pork just before serving.

                                                        This was a "pantry save" one evening when we had lots of snow and I had to work with what I had in the fridge and pantry. My husband loves it.

                                                2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  I've been pulling them @ 135* and resting. New reports say there is little risk and no tric in pork anymore

                                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                                    There should not be trichinosis in American pork. And it is my understanding that we should not cook it as done as we were advised all those years ago. It is also leaner, and I've learned to like it unless it is presented as ham--most ham anyway. I've decided to follow a cooking method in a CI book but with a dry rub applied several hours before. I don't know whether to cut it half or not, so if this is in reality 2 tenderloins that problem is solved.

                                                    The only other time I did this cut, the tenderloin was pre marinated and both Mr. Sueatmo and I disliked it and wondered why people considered it so good.

                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                      Don't buy the pre marinated stuff. Just do a simple rub with spices you like. I might use a little cumin, garlic and onion powder, smoked paprika, brown sugar and salt as a rub. Depends on what I have on hand. I also haven't found a reason to brine it but haven't tried a brined tenderloin to compare.

                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                        I won't ever again buy a marinated tenderloin. Tonight my tender loin was very tasty. It cooked faster than I expected. I like the pepper/rosemary/salt rub.

                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                          glad to hear 1) that it was tasty and 2) that youre not gonna buy the crappy pre-marinated stuff anymore. so much better doin it yourself!

                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                              For great pork loin: marinate in 1/2 c whiskey and 1/2 c soy sauce for12 h.

                                                              Roast to 135 in the oven, remove, then tent with foil to come up to 140.

                                                              Serve with sauce of 1/2 c mayo, 1/2 c sour cream, 1 tbd. dry mustard and one finely chopped shallot.

                                                              1. re: JonParker

                                                                LOL. Sounds good except neither I nor Mr. Sueatmo imbibe. Someone here will love your recipe though, I am sure of it.

                                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                                  (Disclaimer: Your post reminded me of this story. Please note that in relating this, I am in no way inferring, implying or suggesting anything about you or Mr. Sueatmo's choice not to drink.)

                                                                  I often share my cooking creations with a colleague of mine at work who is a recovering alcoholic (sober over 20 years). I made a delicious coq au vin (which uses a whole bottle of red wine to tenderize and reduce into a rich, savory sauce). By the time I cause myself offering her some, it was too late. I apologized. Her reaction?

                                                                  "Honey, I drank to lose myself and forget about my problems. Do you really think eating chicken will do that? Now give me a taste."

                                                                  Mr Taster
                                                                  (whose coq au vin, despite using an entire bottle of pinot noir, is not boozy in the slightest)

                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                    Well note that the alcohol cooks off in the roasting. Also, you could try it with pure soy sauce.

                                                                    1. re: JonParker

                                                                      According to a Chow Tip, a lot of it doesn't cook off.

                                                                      1. re: jvanderh

                                                                        This chart shows how much alcohol burns off depending on the cooking method and time, per the USDA: http://homecooking.about.com/library/...

                                                                      2. re: JonParker

                                                                        No to that alcohol tip. It doesn't work like that, unless the food is stewed or braised for a very long time, and I do mean a VERY long time. I would never serve food with an alcohol content to someone who chooses not to imbibe for whatever reason, unless that someone told me specifically that it would be okay for them.

                                                                        1. re: JonParker

                                                                          "Well note that the alcohol cooks off in the roasting'

                                                                          For someone with......issues...I .think of it like "cooking off" peanuts, with a peanut allergy.

                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                            There's a difference between "don't imbibe" as the poster said and "having issues." Also, that's a ridiculous analogy.

                                                                            1. re: JonParker

                                                                              Consider me dully chastised!.....Musta had a little too much sherry in my mushroom sauce....

                                                                          2. re: JonParker

                                                                            (Step up on soap box)

                                                                            According the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory they concluded that simmering a product for 1 minute will remove 50% of the alcohol content. However please note that these were calculations not experiments.

                                                                            In experiments the amount of alcohol removed is greater in products that have higher alcohol content (liquor and liqueurs) than in beer and wine. In fact the residual amount of alcohol left when adding 2 ozs of hard liquor or 2 ozs of wine and then simmering for 10 minutes was virtually identical in tests that were performed. Btw the tests that I am referring to had only 31% of the alcohol remaining after 10 minutes.

                                                                            If you do the math and make a gallon of sauce and use 6 ozs of wine to deglaze with you will start with 6oz X 12%) .72 ozs of alcohol. After simmering for 10 minutes you will have *.22 ozs of alcohol left

                                                                            128 oz sauce

                                                                            6 oz wine

                                                                            134 ozs total

                                                                            8 oz lost due to summer

                                                                            126 Total amount of sauce

                                                                            For every ounce of sauce you will have .001746 ozs of alcohol.

                                                                            As an example non alcoholic beer contains between 0.2 and 0.4% alcohol (.00025 per ozs) but is considered under US federal law as being non alcoholic. Just FYI most naturally fruit juices usually measures around .2 - .4% alcohol content due to natural fermentation.

                                                                            So if you consumed 8 ozs of this sauce (a huge portion for sauce but maybe it's a soup you are having) in your meal you will receive .014 ozs of alcohol, which is equal to 1/10th of 1 oz of wine. On the other hand if you ordered a 8 oz glass of orange juice in its place you will consumed about .002 ozs of alcohol.

                                                                            NOTE: This is only or 10 minutes of simmering if you are roasting a product for 1 hour your numbers will be much closer to a glass of OJ than a quick 10 minute simmer.

                                                                            Hope this sort of comparison helps people to understand that the amount of alcohol you receive in food in so miniscule that unless one has religious reasons there is no reason to eschew a sauce or soup that has been flavored with alcohol.

                                                                            (step down from soapbox)

                                                                            1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                              Great post.
                                                                              I think it comes down to religion or someone who's belief in recovery involves completely and totally avoiding alcoholic beverages (and mouthwash).
                                                                              I think it's a bit extreme, because I've never felt any effects when consuming sauces made with alcohol, but I respect that everyone needs to do what they gotta do in their own way.

                                                        2. re: sueatmo

                                                          Yeah, fine cuts of meat are terrifying! I don't eat meat very often and, when I do, I get local, sustainably raised (read: expensive) meat, so usually I stick to stews and braises, which use cheaper, tougher cuts and which I'm great at. But once in a great while I want a steak and they intimidate the hell out of me. Last time I tried cooking a steak, (searing it in a pan and then finishing it in the oven) it ended up overdone (I like my steak medium.) I used it in steak salad and tacos, so it was okay, but I would really love to be able to properly cook a steak the way I want it, for the rare occasions that I have it.

                                                          1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                            It really doesn't matter the cooking method for steaks, the only sure fire way to not overcook a piece of meat is to use a thermometer. Pull it a few degrees shy of your target temp & let it rest. When cooking a steak, I find the touch method works pretty well. For rare, the steak should feel like the part of your hand between your thumb & forefinger when your hand is relaxed. For medium, make a loose fist, notice that area is firmer? For well done, make a tight fist, it's alot different right?. It's ok to touch the steak as it cooks, press on it gently and compare to your hand. Make sure to let the meat rest to re-absorb the juices before you cut into it.

                                                            1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                              If you have a good broiler, I'd use that. Broiling is old-fashioned, but for me it works well in my convection oven. Beyond that, though, I don't do steaks that often and so any other advice I might have would be not reliable. All I can do is commiserate. And it is good to know that I am not alone.

                                                              1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                                For you and the others who fear cooking meat -- I used to have the same problem, and like Lady T., I stuck to braises and stews.

                                                                The Complete Meat Cookbook by Aidells and Kelly got me out of my rut. It gives really clear instructions about exactly how to cook all the different cuts of meat. I bought the book and a good meat thermometer, and after several months of study and practice, I was able to roast fearlessly and pan sear a mean ribeye. I highly recommend it (with the caveat that their strange method for carnitas was a total flop for me).

                                                              2. re: sueatmo

                                                                I like to marinate pork loin in milk and soy sauce. Remove from marinade and dry off. Salt and pepper the meat and sear a couple of minutes on each side. Remove from pan and rub w/ 1/2 mayo and 1/2 brown mustars. Put on a rack on a pan at 350 for 15-20 min. Remove, rest for at least 10 min. and roll in finely crushed pistashio nuts. Best pork loin ever.

                                                                1. re: sherriberry

                                                                  A pork loin is probably out of my price point, truthfully. I have a tenderloin around because it was on sale, and my son will be in town for the weekend. So I bought it.

                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                    I meant tenderloin. With only two of us, I almost always do tenderloins, not a larger loin. Sorry for the confusion.

                                                                2. re: sueatmo

                                                                  The easest and most reliable method to cook meat is to use a meat thermometer. I stop cooking all red meat and pork when the internal temp hits 135. Cover it and let it rest 5 or 10 minutes and it will be perfect! The worst thing you can do to pork roasts is to over cook it.

                                                                  http://burghfeeding.blogspot.com/

                                                                  1. re: Burghfeeder

                                                                    Except for a lovely pork shoulder, cooked long and low. Yum.

                                                                3. Drip coffee. Seriously. It never comes out tasting good, even under direct and close supervision by DH. He's the coffee go-to guy in our house.
                                                                  AND....
                                                                  Poached eggs No problem if I use an egg poacher. But poaching in hot water/vinegar? Can't get it right. I don't even bother anymore!
                                                                  :)

                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                    Do you drip with an automatic coffee maker or with a manual filter? What kind of filter do you use?

                                                                    I use a French press. Once you discover a roast that you like, the rest is pretty easy. I use the Sweet Maria's method and leave nothing to chance.

                                                                    Each morning I weigh 16 oz of filtered water and set it on the kettle to boil. Meanwhile, I weigh to 27 grams of whole beans (Peet's house roast)

                                                                    I hand grind the beans in my Zassenhaus grinder (takes about 30 seconds). Grounds somewhat coarse, a little bigger than the size of couscous grains.

                                                                    Dump grains into French Press beaker (Bodum Chambord). Don't cheap out on a Mr. Coffee french press- they do not work as well as Bodum.

                                                                    Wait until kettle boils, then turn off heat. Open kettle lid and let water cool for about 30-40 seconds. (Necessary to get 212 F boiling water temperature to the ideal 195-205 for best tasting extraction).

                                                                    Pour water into grounds and stir with chopstick to moisten and submerge. Place filter lid on top to hold in heat. Set timer for 4 minutes. Plunge slowly after 4 minutes, and let stand for another 4 minutes and pour.

                                                                    Perfect coffee, every time.

                                                                    But remember, if you use crappy beans, or beans not to your taste, no method can redeem it.

                                                                    It sounds complicated, but I've been doing it for so long (a couple of years) that the whole process is second nature to me. It's my morning ritual of devotion to show my wife that I love her. (I'm not a big coffee drinker-- I only drink the little bit of coffee that doesn't fit in her travel mug.)

                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                      For the most part, I am a pretty adventurous cook. I take on odd challenges from all cultures, but a few basics seem to cause me grief. Although they're often perfect, I have an uncanny ability to undercook potatoes, particularly baby new potatoes, though I've buggered up a gratin or two as well. I think I've become paranoid after once or twice completely overcooking the tiny new potatoes, rendering them mealy and dusty-tasting. It's very humbling serving an otherwise lovely dinner and having a diner find a crunchy nugget in their mashed or steamed potatoes. I've taken to cutting new potatoes in half, tossing them with a bit of olive oil and roasting them in the oven. I've had total success with these.

                                                                      I also have a thing with hard cooked eggs. I often undercook them slightly, rendering them impossible to peel. But, even if I cook them perfectly, or let them sit a good while, they almost never peel cleanly. I've used all types of eggs from organic to free run, farm fresh to omega 3, and all cause me problems when trying to peel. I've had better luck with the lower end grocery staple eggs, but I don't care for their complete tastelessness and pale yellow yolks. I used to just take a spoon to the odd dud in a batch, but when they're all losers, how many eggs am I supposed to gobble?

                                                                      I've gotten better with rice, since using a Le Creuset pot and being more careful about water levels and heat levels, but the odd pot winds up mushy or with a few crunchy grains on top. Very annoying.

                                                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                        Try the method I outlined above which I learned about from Jacques Pepin. Something about smashing up the shells before plunging them into cold ice water allows them to peel more easily. It's not 100% perfect, but I have much better luck using this method than not using it.

                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                          Very fresh eggs are notoriously hard to peel. Let them age at least a week before you boil them.

                                                                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                            I haven't tried in awhile but my matso balls are always sinkers instead of floaters; i asked at a diner once where the matso balls were big and tender... they said they use seltzer water instead of regular tap water.. i know not to handle too much... no luck!

                                                                            1. re: betsydiver

                                                                              My matzo balls are always floaters. I think the trick is how long you let them sit after mixing - the longer they sit, the heavier they will be. I read about using seltzer or other carbonated water and some people add baking soda to their matzo balls but I have not tried any of these methods. I also like to cook them in chicken stock and not in water.

                                                                              1. re: herby

                                                                                You've just answered a few questions I had about matzo ball soup. A Jewish friend's mom told me, after I said (I'm not Jewish) that i made a pretty good matzo ball soup, she advised that what ever brand of matzo meal I buy, to follow the directions on the package exactly. I've sort of been wanting to vary a little from the instructions, but Zelda sort of scared it out of me. But my matzo balls sink to the bottom at first, then always rise to the top. Again, I've never had the nerve to vary from the recipe on the box (nearly always Manischevitz)

                                                                              2. re: betsydiver

                                                                                @betsydiver, try the seltzer trick - it does help. as does baking powder, but only add about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of matzo meal or you'll alter the flavor. also, add about 1 Tbsp more oil (or even better, schmaltz) than the recipe calls for, and *refrigerate* the formed matzo balls for 30 min to an hour before cooking.

                                                                                if you don't have hearty yet fluffy floaters after all that, blame it on altitude or atmospheric pressure ;)

                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                  If you want floaters, besides using seltzer or sparkling mineral water, be sure to add a little chicken fat. And most important, mix the egg yolks into the matzo meal mixture and beat the egg whites separately, until stiff. Fold the matzo meal mixture into the egg whites after all the other ingredients are well mixed. I always grate some raw onion and mash some cooked carrots into the matzo ball mixture, for flavor and coloring, but they also probably add to the lightness.

                                                                                  1. re: hmarano

                                                                                    i can't believe i forgot to mention whipping the egg whites separately! thanks for pointing that out...though i *did* suggest chicken fat, i just used the Yiddish word for it ;)

                                                                              3. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                I was raised in germany, and for new potatoes the recipe was always very simple -- parboil for 10 minutes or so, then fry/roast. It really helps keep the flesh creamy and moist, without overcooking the skin

                                                                              4. re: freia

                                                                                Most drip coffee pots just don't get hot enough for good coffee. I am the go to coffee person in my group of friends - here is my really simple method. Yes ,it's an extra step but completely makes a difference. It just seems like to much work for most people, I guess, but I only make coffee on the weekends.

                                                                                1) Put a kettle full of water on the stove and bring to boiling / whistling temperature
                                                                                2) While the water is heating, grind your beans
                                                                                3) Put the beans in the filter, and add about 1 cup or so of the boiling water to them, and stir with a chopstick as mentioned in Mr. Taster's comment for French Press.
                                                                                4) I put the rest of the water into my carafe, to heat it since I have a carafe style pot.
                                                                                5) After 3 to 5 mins, pour the rest of the water from the carafe to the water reservoir.

                                                                                Enjoy.
                                                                                You will get hot, flavorful coffee every time.

                                                                              5. most yeast breads elude me still. I have a very good pizza crust recipe that I love, and have a very good Bushman bread recipe (like outback/cheesecake factory's brown bread). but past that, rolls, buns, pretzels, loafs... never come out how i want them!

                                                                                I'm also about 50/50 on whether I will have a good gnocchi when I try. chicken and dumplins, fine, handmade fresh and dried pastas, fine. but gnocchi still gets me sometimes.

                                                                                as for pancakes, the secret to mine is vanilla greek yogurt subbed for part of the buttermilk! its delicious every time!

                                                                                1. microwaved bacon. i know a lot of people swear by this method, but i've never gotten the texture exactly the way i like it by zapping. i'll stick with the conventional oven.

                                                                                  15 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                      I can't get bacon right in the microwave either. I get the best results just by cooking it in a skillet. I haven't tried the oven-baked method yet.

                                                                                      1. re: BabsW

                                                                                        Oven-baked.

                                                                                        1. Leaves your stovetop free for other things.
                                                                                        2. You don't have to fuss with it as much.
                                                                                        3. It cooks MUCH more evenly - you don't get those bubbled-up fatty parts that don't get cooked.
                                                                                        4. I do it on a foil-lined baking sheet - after breakfast, I just roll up the foil and throw away most of the grease (unless I am saving it for something else).
                                                                                        5. It is easier to control the temperature of the oven than of your frying pan.

                                                                                      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                        it's nice to know i'm in good company!

                                                                                        @Babs, see here for an informative discussion about baking vs frying:
                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/457958

                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                          That was interesting. I still think I'll keep to the pan on the stovetop. My oven has no self-clean cycle and I don't get much splatter when I do it on the stove anyway. Though I have to say, the maple-syrup bacon is really tempting!

                                                                                          1. re: BabsW

                                                                                            IMO if you are sticking your bacon in the microwave, you have already resigned yourself to sub-par bacon. baking it is the way to go!

                                                                                            1. re: BabsW

                                                                                              I make bacon in the oven ALL the time, b/c it "stinks" up the place less (yeah, I like the smell of bacon, we all do, but not for hours afterwards). It takes a bit longer -- starting the slices in a cold oven mid-rack and setting the oven for 450. But they're generally done within 10-15 minutes, depending on desired crispiness -- I happen to like mine super-crunchy, they don't curl up as much as they do in the pan.... and I really never have had any splatter issues.

                                                                                              Give it a shot some time, I think you might like it.

                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                is there a better stink than bacon stink???

                                                                                                1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                  Fried things smell good until you leave the house and come back.

                                                                                                  1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                    Oh, roasted Brussels sprouts.... leave your house and come back. Made me wonder if the cat had taken a dump somewhere.

                                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                      Yes, which is absolutely tragic given how good they *taste* roasted...

                                                                                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                            When I cooked bacon prior to 2000, I did it in the micro. I used a pad of newspaper overlaid with a clean paper towel. I had to fiddle with the power settings, and it has been so long I don't remember what settings or times I used. I don't remember microcooking affecting the texture of bacon. I do remember that I felt it was superior to cooking it in the skillet. However, I was likely firing up the skillet very fast then, which is not a good method. Unless you are cooking for a crowd, I don't consider oven cooking energy efficient.

                                                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                              Unless you are cooking for a crowd, I don't consider oven cooking energy efficient.
                                                                                              ~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                              agree completely, which is why i tried the MW. i usually do it in my Breville counter top oven which requires a lot less energy than a full-size...but that's in storage 3000 miles away and i hate the burners here at Mom's so i was hoping the MW would be a good alternative to the wall oven.

                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                Well bummer about the oven in storage. I use my counter top frequently and appreciate it as an energy saver. I hope you get the bacon method down pat soon, whatever you use.

                                                                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                  I prefer it in a pan and have to say that one of our cats, who was bacon-crazed (she only got a tiny bit now and again), would not eat it if it were cooked in the microwave. Always wondered if she knew something I didn't.

                                                                                          3. Curing salmon. I just tried it once, and it seemed so simple -- salt, sugar, citrus zest, refrigerate -- but it wasn't quite right. A bit too salty, consistency a little too mushy. Suggestions welcome, because I'd like to try again!

                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: herring

                                                                                              time to troubleshoot:
                                                                                              - what was the ratio of sugar to salt?
                                                                                              - did you weight the salmon?
                                                                                              - did you drain off the expelled liquid at any point during the process?
                                                                                              - how long did you let it cure?

                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                I combined a few recipes I found online, so maybe that was my problem, though none were that different. I used an even/equal amount of turbinado sugar and coarse sea salt -- 3/4 cup each for .85 lb of salmon, which seemed like a bit much but it covered both sides pretty well. Some recipes called for skin-on, but Cook's Illustrated said to skin it, so I did.

                                                                                                I did drain the expelled liquid after 12+ hours or so; I let it cure for a bit more than 24 hours, but didn't like the little taste I took so re-wrapped it and left it for another 12 hours, probably.

                                                                                                Thoughts? Thanks, GHG!

                                                                                                1. re: herring

                                                                                                  well, gravlax is supposed to be salty and the 1:1 sugar:salt ratio is pretty standard, but you can tweak it a bit and go a little lighter on the salt & heavier on the sugar to suit your taste. you should also use *kosher* salt instead of sea salt - the crystals are a different shape and that can affect how they coat the salmon. and you didn't mention dill - i assume you didn't use any? it can help balance the flavor so the salt isn't quite so prominent.

                                                                                                  the mushy texture is usually an indication that it needed more curing time and/or you didn't use sufficiently heavy weights to press out the moisture.

                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                    You rock, ghg. I used cilantro instead of dill because I prefer the flavor, especially with the citrus zest. Thanks for the kosher salt note; I didn't have any and it didn't occur to me it would make a difference. Good to know for next time.

                                                                                                    I think the most likely culprit was the weighting, now that you mention it. I have a small fridge and stuck a jar of coconut oil and a box of soy milk (both full) on it, but didn't have room to pile more on. I worried it might not be enough, but it did give off a fair amount of liquid, but perhaps not enough.

                                                                                                    I'll definitely try again. I did it this time with a piece of salmon I had bought for that night's dinner but ended up going out and didn't want it to go to waste. Does the cut matter? Maybe this piece was too thick?

                                                                                                    Thanks again!

                                                                                                    1. re: herring

                                                                                                      in terms of cut, a standard fillet (not steak) is most common - anywhere from 1 -3 lbs.

                                                                                                      for weighting, use a heavy bag of rice or dried beans - it's much more effective than solid items because the bag will mold to the shape of the salmon if the thickness isn't uniform throughout, and ensure complete coverage. and try to use something that's at least twice as heavy as the fish (i prefer 3-4x the weight if possible).

                                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                        Terrific! Thanks so much. I may try again this weekend, though in addition to your suggestions, I may switch it up a little: I have an "Essential Pepin" on my DVR in which he does a molasses-cured salmon. Yum.

                                                                                                        1. re: herring

                                                                                                          well in that case:
                                                                                                          http://www.ocws.org/recipes/Cured%20S...

                                                                                                          and if you like the flavor of that one you might want to try a ginger, five-spice and chile variation next, or maybe Moroccan spices...
                                                                                                          http://events.nytimes.com/recipes/886...

                                                                                                        2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                          Last time I made gravlax I also put a lot of weight on the fish. (Cast iron plates, from Lodge.) It was a 6lb chunk of fish, so about 2x the weight, I figure.

                                                                                                          The texture was outstanding.

                                                                                                          I'd say the cut can't be too thick, but I also leave it to cure for 3-4 days, flipping it every 12 hours. I don't drain the liquid until done. In fact, this last time I vacuum sealed the fish.

                                                                                                          Isn't it difficult to slice, without the skin?

                                                                                                          1. re: pericolosa

                                                                                                            I follow my Norwegian BIL old family recipe for gravlax - 2:1 salt:sugar ratio, coarsely ground pepper, dill to cover all sides well and a good splash of aquavit. He puts the whole works in a plastic bag, wraps in newspaper and in the fridge it goes for 4-5 days flipping over every day. I sometimes put some weight on it and never drain the pickling fluid until it is done.

                                                                                              2. A proper poached egg (not in those horrible egg poacher pans). Cant get them right.

                                                                                                And pastry. Cant make pastry for love nor money. Apparently my hands are too warm. Not sure if its that or the fact that Im just crap at it. I stick to premade, its easier!

                                                                                                23 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: psycho_fluff

                                                                                                  What's your recipe and method? I think where a lot of people go wrong with pastry is that they try to make the mixture too uniform when they're cutting the fat into the flour. Do not fear lumps! Is the water you're adding cold? Are you chilling the fat before you cut it up? Cold matters a lot. I've made pastry in a warm kitchen before, which is rather stressful, and I just chill everything, every step of the way. It always comes out great.

                                                                                                  1. re: psycho_fluff

                                                                                                    psycho-fluff, from now on I am going to assume that my pie crust is so dreadful because my hands are too warm. Until now I had gone with the 'crap at it' assumption...but "my hands are too warm" sounds much nicer. My pie crust sucks. Oddly enough, I make good scones & decent biscuits, but pie crust...nope. Shoe leather.

                                                                                                    1. re: tonifi

                                                                                                      Highly recommend the "Foolproof Pie Crust" from Cooks Illustrated.

                                                                                                      They substitute vodka for water. The upshot of this is that liquid alcohol moistens flour like water does, but has the magical side effect of preventing gluten development!

                                                                                                      (Gluten is what makes bread chewy, and comes from kneading flour and water, and is exactly what you DON'T want to create in a tender cake or flaky pastry)

                                                                                                      Here you go.

                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                      Foolproof Pie Dough

                                                                                                      For one 9-inch Double-Crust Pie. Published September 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

                                                                                                      Why this recipe works:

                                                                                                      Since water bonds with flour to form gluten, too much of it makes a crust tough. But rolling out dry dough is difficult. For a pie dough recipe that baked up tender and flaky and rolled out easily every time, we found a magic ingredient: vodka. Using vodka, which is just 60 percent water, gave us an easy-to-roll crust recipe with less gluten and no alcohol flavor, since the alcohol vaporizes in the oven.

                                                                                                      Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).

                                                                                                      Ingredients

                                                                                                      2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
                                                                                                      1 teaspoon table salt
                                                                                                      2 tablespoons sugar
                                                                                                      12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
                                                                                                      1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 4 pieces
                                                                                                      1/4 cup vodka , cold
                                                                                                      1/4 cup cold water

                                                                                                      Instructions

                                                                                                      1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

                                                                                                      2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                        Bless you, Mr Taster...I'll try it. I willing to bet that mine will still suck, though...

                                                                                                      2. re: tonifi

                                                                                                        I have made the CI vodka piecrust, but I do prefer this one:

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

                                                                                                        The stand mixer allows the water to be mixed in before the dough is overworked.

                                                                                                      3. re: psycho_fluff

                                                                                                        Oh I can't wait to tell my husband that there's a reason to like my frigid hands! They are the keys to my success at making pie and puff pastry dough.

                                                                                                        Rice is an endless sorce of frustration for me, it's either still crunchy or falling apart mushy.

                                                                                                            1. re: painperdu

                                                                                                              See, I'm not sure I make rice often enough to justify buying a dedicated gadget.

                                                                                                              Reading through the thread it seems that rice and pie dough were what Einstein was referring to with his definition of insanity.

                                                                                                              1. re: zitronenmadchen

                                                                                                                I get your point, but now that I have a rice cooker and it's so easy to make perfect rice every time, I'm making rice far more often than I used to.

                                                                                                                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                                                                                  I fired up my rice cooker and made lovely brown rice to serve as a base for a stir fry. Very nice. Using a cooker makes it so easy and foolproof. I could concentrate on my stir fry (which is attention intensive) and not worry about the rice. I think that is the beauty of the cooker.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                    This thread finally got me off my butt to purchase a good quality rice cooker. The model I picked up is recommended by Cooks Illustrated and doubles as a steamer.

                                                                                                                    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000...

                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                      It looks like a good cooker. Whip up a batch or two and keep us posted. I note that it can make porridge. I have thought so many times that I would make oatmeal in mine, but alas, I am the only oatmeal lover in this house, so I don't. If you like to buy a cookbook to go with your small appliances (I do!) I recommend this title: The Ultimate Rice Cooker Coobook, by Beth Hesnperger. http://tinyurl.com/c574fw5

                                                                                                                      It looks like there is a new rev. due out after Christmas. But the original is quite good. It will tell you how to cook the various rices that are available now.

                                                                                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                        Good article by Roger Ebert about the many uses for a rice cooker:

                                                                                                                        http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/...

                                                                                                                        Also, I have started buying rice at H Mart. It's amazing how many wonderful types of rice there are in the world, which you never see sold in a regular supermarket. My personal favorite is Tamaki Haiga, which sells at H Mart for about $10 per 5 lb. bag. There is a BIG difference, which makes it totally worth the extra money.

                                                                                                                        http://www.amazon.com/ChefShop-Tamaki...

                                                                                                                        http://www.tamakimai.com/product.html

                                                                                                          1. re: zitronenmadchen

                                                                                                            Here is the technique my very Lebanese mother taught me to make rice. It has always served me well! For basmati rice, boil salted water (like salt water salty), pour in basmati rice (2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice),cover, once it starts boiling again, turn the heat all the way down to low and leave it alone for 20-25 minutes. You know it is done when you lift the lid after 20-25 minutes and there are holes on the surface, you'll know what I mean when you see them. Just fluff with a fork and serve. If you want to add a Lebanese flare, brown some crushed vermicelli noodles in some olive oil and butter (for 1 cup of rice, use 1/2 cup of vermicello noodles) and just increase the water content 1:1 ratio with the noodles. Make sure the noodles don't burn!Do this at the very beginning of the rice making process I described above in the same pot you will make the rice in. ENJOY!

                                                                                                            1. re: maabso

                                                                                                              The problem with this method is that it leaves out many variables that can seriously affect the quality of output.

                                                                                                              Is it old rice or new rice? Old rice is more dry, and thus will absorb more water (so you will need to add more water to begin with). And What is the heat output of your stove? Some "low" stoves are like "medium". Again, a hotter stove will cook out the water more quickly.

                                                                                                              I'm not saying it's impossible to do-- but cooking rice well does require more information than this generic recipe can account for.

                                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                Of course it's not impossible. But some of the best recipes are carried on by word of mouth from one generation to another with variables such as heat output and the age of certain ingredients left out. It takes the person who is trying out the recipe to tweak it to their own stove and try it a couple of times to get it just right, that is, if they are really committed to getting it right. That's my opinion at least!

                                                                                                                1. re: maabso

                                                                                                                  This sounds as if it would work just fine to me. It's pretty much how I've been making rice for years.

                                                                                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                  And how do you account for these differences?

                                                                                                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                    By using a rice cooker :)

                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                      No, I mean how do you know if the rice is old or dry and needs more water prior to cooking it in your rice cooker if cooking rice requires more information than a generic recipe.

                                                                                                            2. re: psycho_fluff

                                                                                                              My frustration with pastry is all the rules. I have worked the counter end of several bakeries and restaurants with talented chefs and I learned at least a half dozen techniques for pastry: smooshing the butter in, freezing and grating it in, using a food processor, layering butter and dough. There has to about 100 ways to make pastry.
                                                                                                              After a while it gets frustrating and you don't even want to make pie. I settled on Rulman's ratio recipe because the super high butter/fat content makes the crust taste awesome even if it turns out like cardboard. I also race to get it done as fast as possible because I hate making it. I use as little water as possible and that seems to have helped- as well as letting the dough rest in plastic before rolling it. Perfect crust is impossible. Just use a lot of butter and it will taste good. Use lard and it will probably be flake. It's hard to toughen a lard pie crust.

                                                                                                              1. re: CarlyJayne

                                                                                                                Hah, I see you know about the lard equation. It's what I use: leaf lard, and it does make good pies. I'm not wild about making pastry, same as you, but I do love me some pie.

                                                                                                            3. Elvis Presley s Favorite Pound Cake! I get very close every time, but having the batter with an even texture and rise continues to elude me! Something about the temperature of the butter through out the whipping process,

                                                                                                              "Its tender appeal is owed in part to cake flour and cream, and in part to beating the batter an extra 5 minutes.

                                                                                                              Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo..."

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                Beat for an extra 5 mins??? Surely not, over beating will develop too much gluten in the flour & it will be tough as old boots. Beat the butter & sugar by hand or in a mixer (slow ish speed) for 5-8 mins (you want the machine to mimic the speed you would do it by hand). It will be lighter. You mix (not beat) in the flour until only just combined.

                                                                                                                1. re: psycho_fluff

                                                                                                                  I know that's the usual rule, but when I get this right, it makes you want to smack your mother...and I have gotten it right at least once. It's cake flour, so gluten shouldn't be much of a problem. There are many threads about this cake on the WWW, and there is a science behind it, but I don't have a handle on it.

                                                                                                              2. Fail. Submerged two cans of condensed milk in water on stove top this morning. Simmered for 4 hours (fell asleep). Opened cans to find original contents of condensed milk and, no carmelization at all. Still shaking my head. Have successfully accomplished this in past.

                                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: mara44

                                                                                                                  Didnt keep topped up with hot water? Maybe that was it?

                                                                                                                  1. re: psycho_fluff

                                                                                                                    Pan was full of water covering cans at all times. I still failed.

                                                                                                                  2. re: mara44

                                                                                                                    it took almost 9-10 hours in my slow cooker. maybe 4 just wasnt long enough!

                                                                                                                    1. re: mara44

                                                                                                                      Can you explain what you're trying to accomplish here, and what you will be doing with scalding sealed cans of condensed milk? (Perhaps pillaging villages with tiny milk-can sized catapults?)

                                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                          I'm guessing Mara is making banoffee pie. This is the usual method for caramelising the condensed milk. Maybe the water wasn't hot enough the entire time?

                                                                                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                            Yes, you are correct! I was attempting dulce de leche for banoffee pie. Not even a hint of caramel was present in the opened cans after four hours of simmering in bath in hot water. It worked before in 3 hours. ????

                                                                                                                            1. re: mara44

                                                                                                                              I've never tried it, but I've heard that putting it in a crock-pot over night works well too.

                                                                                                                              1. re: mara44

                                                                                                                                I get my water boiing, not simmering ,use a very deep pot, and keep the lid on so it doesn't evaporate as much. This has never failed for me, but I'm wondering if the brand of milk matters. And not to question your cooking, but are you sure you had condensed, not evaporated milk? Lots of experienced cooks have made careless mistakes like this.

                                                                                                                                1. re: mara44

                                                                                                                                  Oh, wow. I'd never heard of banoffee pie until that Brit show "Come Dine With Me." I thought that show was a hoot. I loved the idea of home cooks doing their thing and the guests were very interesting.

                                                                                                                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                We've eaten boiled Eagle brand forever. It was a favorite childhood treat. It turns into a very rich caramel pudding-y thing that we used to eat from spoons like suckers.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                  Thanks Mr. Taster, you made me snort outloud at work :)

                                                                                                                                2. re: mara44

                                                                                                                                  Yeah... it didn't work for me the one time I tried it. Maybe another time.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: mara44

                                                                                                                                    My foolproof way: Buy the can of Dulce De Leche at the store. Both Nestle and La Lechera have it by me. I figure if I am starting with a can anyways, and just cooking it further, why not let them do that at the factory? It comes out perfetly evenly brown, and I usually add just a splash of cream to soften it a bit.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: CarrieFFX

                                                                                                                                      Me too. I think I've tried to make meringue 20 times, using various methods I've found on the web, and still failed.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: CarrieFFX

                                                                                                                                        If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer with a whip, you can do meringue. Just read directions either in the book supplied with the KA, or in a general cookbook. You do have to separate the eggs very carefully. Pay attention to whether you want soft peaks, or stiff peaks. Also adding cream of tartar is helpful. You can't use the cartons of separated egg whites, either. The carton states that they won't whip.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                          I have a mixer, and I don't whip egg whites either, ever. I really think I understand what makes egg whites fail to whip (plastic bowl or utensils have traces of grease, microscopic bit of yolk got in the whites, etc.), and had a baker friend show me how she does it without fail. I still have about an 80% fail rate and every time I try (like once a year) I swear it's the last time. I give up.

                                                                                                                                      2. Cooking fish. It turns out underdone, or, more often, overcooked and rubbery.

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: bitchincook

                                                                                                                                          I baked fish for years, and I found out how to tell if the fish was done by looking. You just have to keep doing it. We always ate it, but it took several tries to feel confident.

                                                                                                                                        2. I can't poach eggs without using those little silicone egg cups. And my fried eggs always stick to the pan.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                            Isolada, I taught my son how to poach eggs -over the phone- this weekend. He messed up about 4 and then finally got it.
                                                                                                                                            Heat a pot of water, add about 2T white vinegar (I've used apple cider in a pinch)
                                                                                                                                            Get your eggs ready, put each egg in its own little cup, no shells
                                                                                                                                            Reduce the heat, you want a simmer, just a mild little bubble action. Too much will tear the egg up, too little the egg won't cook properly
                                                                                                                                            Then when the water is just perfect, swirl the water counter clockwise with the end of a wooden spoon, not too fast. Then drop the eggs gently into the swirl, try two at a time.
                                                                                                                                            The swirling motion along with the vinegar helps the white stay together instead of feathering.
                                                                                                                                            The eggs sink. When they come back up to the top gently scoop them up with a slotted spoon check to see if the white around the yolk is cooked. Once that's done they're ready.
                                                                                                                                            Place them on a paper towel to drain. Keep your water simmering, if you're doing a lot of eggs, while you're preparing everything else, you might want to hold them in the spoon in the water to reheat for just a few seconds.
                                                                                                                                            easy peasy

                                                                                                                                          2. I can cook just about anything, but I can't scramble eggs. My godmother makes perfect, large curd, fluffy scrambled eggs. I have watched every step, I have googled 1000 recipes and techniques, and I can't duplicate her success.

                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: birdmonkey

                                                                                                                                                i think the tricks for eggs are 1) beating them (WELL!) with a little milk or cream 2) low heat and 3) taking them off the stove way before you think they are done

                                                                                                                                              2. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                                                                                                                You don't have to duplicate them you know. You can do them your way, and they will be delicious.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                                                                                                                  Asd mattstolz said, mix them very well (I dont add milk or cream), season well, medium low heat, decent non stick pan helps matters, always use a fair amount of proper butter & a wooden spoon. Take off well before they are cooked. Dont over mix them when they are in the pan cooking either or you wont get the large curds you are looking for.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                                                                                                                    low and slow. drawing the eggs into itself, you want them to look like a custard. Use a rubber spatula for best results. Sometimes I turn the heat off - the residual heat works great.

                                                                                                                                                  2. I'm also one of the "rice-challenged" group.....I can burn rice EVEN in my rice cooker! My solution is that I just make more than I need so I don't have to worry about the burnt stuff in the bottom of the cooker :)

                                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                                                                                      to many, the crusty rice on the bottom of the pot is a coveted treat!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                                                                        There is even a candy in Korea that simulates the scorched rice flavor, Nurungji. :)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: BabsW

                                                                                                                                                          Heck, I've had trouble getting Texans to even EAT rice! Converted last ex-bf by serving wild rice with fresh thyme, shallots & baby bella mushrooms.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                                                                                            You do know that there is a Texas rice, right? http://www.usarice.com/doclib/188/219...

                                                                                                                                                            There is a specific variety grown there, but I can't remember its name, although I've seen it often enough in the market. Someone here will know. Texans are very proud of their state. If you tell them this is native rice, they might be more inclined to eat it. (Maybe.)

                                                                                                                                                            I do love rice. It pains me to have to limit myself to only brown rice now.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                              sueatmo, he was from Indiana and had only lived here for less than a year. Thanks for the link.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                                                                                        Me too! If I don't run over as soon as it's switched to "warm" I have a brown crusty bottom. I thought my rice frustrations would be over when I asked for a rice cooker. The first time it was absolutely perfect. It has never been right since.
                                                                                                                                                        In regards to scrambled eggs, my mother taught me the key is to add WATER not milk , which can make eggs tough. If you add water when you're beating them, the steam when they are cooking fluffs them up, and yes, a rubber spatula or wooden spoon oddly seem to make a difference. Also, never salt them until they are done. Salt in the initial beaten egg before cooking will also toughen them.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: dianne0712

                                                                                                                                                          LL Cool J on omelets in Deep Blue Sea. is this in English? watched without sound. That's all I need!

                                                                                                                                                          http://youtu.be/5fOAvIHuxmg

                                                                                                                                                          you go, boi!

                                                                                                                                                      3. Baking bread. I want the loaves I could get in Germany. Bauernbrot, three korn, seven korn. I don't have the flour, the water, or the hot enough oven. And it would take too long to list the variations of providing steam for a good french baguette.

                                                                                                                                                        Some things you just have to go to the source for your version of authenticity. Like a good spotted dick. Getting it in England can be sublime, while the few times I have seen it here, it has been dismal.

                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                                                          You're so right about bread...alot has to do with the flour which we can't get at the store, and the yeast, too. While I think the average home baker can make very good bread, it just isn't what you would get in Germany or France. Don't get me started with croissants....
                                                                                                                                                          :)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                                                            :( i am with you on bread. unfortunately i think it is far less "simple" than it is made out to be!

                                                                                                                                                            1. For the life of me I cannot make good cornbread. "Southern style", "Northern style", either way I'm hosed. Every time I try, something different goes wrong.

                                                                                                                                                              I am also pretty bad at frying eggs (but I have poaching down, which I prefer anyway) and making coffee (but I usually drink tea, so no big deal).

                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: haveapeach

                                                                                                                                                                Yes, cornbread! I've tried numerous recipes and still can't get the texture I want. My husband's uncle, who lives in Arkansas, makes the best cornbread I've ever had. He doesn't use a recipe, just mixes it up & pops it in a cast iron pan.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: haveapeach

                                                                                                                                                                  I didn't know that there was a difference? What are they? I love the recipe on the Alber's box.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                                                                    the biggest difference is sugar - we Yankees tend to make ours sweeter.

                                                                                                                                                                2. Rice is fickle- I agree. I'm almost never brand loyal, but I am with rice- has to be Royal Basmati in the burlap sack. I think some rice is so old and dry that it doesn't cook through in any reasonable time- all your water is absorbed or evaporated, but the rice is still hard, then you add more water and bring it back to a boil, but you seem to get rice that's soggy on the outside and raw in the middle, no matter what you do. I also never had success with brown rice- same thing, soggy on the outside and raw in the middle. With the Royal, though, I bring barely to a boil, turn down the heat all the way, and cover for 20 min or so. It's perfect every time. I've read that soaking first helps with difficult rice and keep meaning to try it.

                                                                                                                                                                  I'm in the pie crust camp, too. I've turned out one or two good ones, but my latest one was definitely a flop- akin to shoe leather. Definitely did not do justice to the Lebovitz chocolate coffee caramel tart it was under. I remember having success with rolling the crust out in a ziploc bag, chilling it, then cutting off the bag- the cracks on the edges sealed up as they smushed against the edge of the bag. I'm going to try that again.

                                                                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                    I do hope you have read my pie crust post, above. It doesn't sound like you have!

                                                                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                      I can cook rice, but there are a million ways to do it, and I'm not recommending any.

                                                                                                                                                                      On the piecrust, I recommend choosing a recipe and making it repeatedly. No one will complain about your crust. The fact that you are making a pie from scratch is so rare, it is akin to cooking a peacock. After the 5th or 6th time you will get the hang of it. If I can make piecrust, you can make piecrust.The key is to keep doing it. And don't apologize. Even your worst attempt at homemade is better than any machine made crust.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                        I think you're right and that is my big problem with crusts. I don't attempt it until I'm desperate and rushed, not to mention feeling a sense of impending crust doom.

                                                                                                                                                                        I guess I'll get a big bottle of vodka on the way home and keep at it until I succeed with Mr. Tastee's method.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                          I'm pretty sure this crust was worse than storebought

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                          I had trouble with rice too, until I started cooking it as you would pasta. I use a pot with a colander insert because it makes it even easier. I add rice to a large amount of boiling water, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer and cook until it's almost done. When it's there, I pull out the colander and dump almost all of the water, then return the colander to the pot and cover it and let it sit for 10-15 mins. Any extra water in the rice eventually leaches out of the colander, and the steam from the water and the rice itself finishes the cooking process.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                                                            My method is similar. Rinse rice, then add to simmering water. Check it at 6:00 and every :30 thereafter until done. Drain, return to pot and let sit, covered and off the heat, for 5ish minutes. If it's still soggy, turn on the heat and fluff it a little 'til it dries. This is the only way for rice-challenged me. It's also pretty quick.

                                                                                                                                                                        3. Gnocchi. I can't make those little suckers to save my life, and I love them. The cheapest crappy shelf stable store version is better than what I can produce.

                                                                                                                                                                          Rice I think sounds simple but is kind of tricky. I had just finally gotten a method down for jasmine rice, and was still toying with brown rice, when I was given a rice maker. That was one of the best gifts I've ever gotten. It's perfect every single time, and you can wander off and do other things while it's cooking. Not such a big deal for white rice, but I usually cook brown basmati and that takes quite a while. Not a gadget person overall but I love the rice maker.

                                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ErnieD

                                                                                                                                                                            if you ever figure out how to make them well, please let me know! i love them at restos when theyre done well but mine are always dense little gut-bombs vs fluffy little pillows

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                                              My method for rice, which is the only one that has worked for me effectively is to put my rice in a dry pan, and drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Then cook it, stirring or swirling until you start to get toasted bits. Then add very hot water. It will come to a boil almost immediately. Turn it down to low and simmer until the water appears to be absorbed. Then turn it off, leave it covered, and walk away for 20 minutes. I do avoid sticky type rice though and prefer to cook long grain or jasmine type rice.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                                                                                                  i'm curious where you get the definition for rice pilaf - what LaureltQ is describing is very similar to i've made rice since i was a kid - taught by my south american mother - fry the rice first, then add the liquid. i thought pilaf just meant cooking with a flavored broth. the only thing i do different is after it comes to the boil, i keep it on high for a few minutes, then turn it all the way down to a bare simmer and keep the lid on for 20 minutes - flame still on. sometimes with just water & salt, sometimes with broth.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                                    frying rice in a little oil before adding the water is a common practice in the Middle East and in Latin countries. It is how I was taught to make rice and how my family ate it. I assume it's the Middle Eastern connection to pilaf or seasoned rice dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                                      actually, the way my man makes pilaf is he fries up orzo in butter first, then adds the rice and chicken broth. he makes a mean pilaf, that one. ah, love.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                                        A French style rice pilaf is rice that is cooked in oil until browned and has taken on the nutty aroma, hot broth is added, which immediately comes to a boil and then it is finished on the stove top or oven.

                                                                                                                                                                                        There are other pilafs in the world and I should have made myself clear that to most westerners this is probably what they are thinking of.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                                                                                                          interesting! i had no idea I was making pilaf all these years.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Mashed pertatas. I've given up on making them. Now either my wife makes 'em, or I make instant, which I actually like quite well.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. Add me to the pie crust impaired crowd. Mr. Tastee, I did read your post and will give it a try as soon as I can swing by the ABC store for vodka.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Also, fish, except for salmon. I am never thrilled with the results and have now developed a paranoia about cooking it.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Is a crepe considered a simple thing?

                                                                                                                                                                                    I also bought an egg separator because I was screwing up about 20% of eggs using the eggshell method.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I have a similar fail rate in trying to remove lasagna noodles intact from a pot after boiling.

                                                                                                                                                                                    21 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                                                                                                                      For the noodles, do you have a spider? I use mine, plus a pair of tongs, to remove.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't have a spider. I never get around to buying one.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I just use the noodles that don't have to be boiled. I've seen wontons used for mini-lasagna while flipping through the channels. I might screw around with that concept. I understand the basics, so it's not like I have to look up a recipe to understand how to use that.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                                                                                                                        I avoid that whole issue by following the Cook's Illustrated Lasagne method:
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Use no-boil lasagne noodles
                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Soak them for 8 minutes or so in very hot water
                                                                                                                                                                                        3. Drain and pat dry on paper towels or clean dishtowels
                                                                                                                                                                                        Use as per regular lasagne noodles. Cooks Illustrated found that precooked and traditionally prepared lasagne works equally well in recipes.
                                                                                                                                                                                        )

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                                                                                                                          My egg seperator is my hands. Crack on the counter or side of a cup, break into your hand |& let the whites fall through your fingers.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                                                                                                                            I have made lasagna's for over 30 years professionally before I heard of a housewife saying you need to boil the noodles. That was news to me and everyone else I knew in the restaurant business. To date I have never boiled a lasagna noodle and have never used those "no-boil" noodles. Just make your sauce with enough liquid to cook the noodles in the oven, btw, using this method the lasagna's tend to set up better due to the starch in the noodles being incorporated into the dish rather than the cooking water.

                                                                                                                                                                                            And use the hand method for separating eggs, virtually foolproof.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                                                                                                              Not sure if a "housewife" came up with the boil the noodles thing. I think it was on the side of the package. And I've never had luck with using a thin sauce, because the amount of thinness is hard to judge if you aren't making a ton of lasagnes. I personally hate 'sloppy' lasagnes.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                I personally hate 'sloppy' lasagnes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                ~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                                                                +1. IMO lasagna should hold together - i don't want everything sliding apart and drowning in a pool of sauce as soon as i tuck into it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                  recently I've had the opposite problem with my lasagna being too dry. I boil the noodles, but still the last time all of my sauce was sucked up by the noodles and I was disappointed. I think I ended up making a second batch of sauce for the leftover lasagna.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I looked on the one package of lasagna noodles I have that were store bought (De Cecco) they give both instructions for using raw and precooking for four minutes in water. I think people just thought you needed to cook the noodles like you would for spaghetti so noodle manufactures put that on the box to placate people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The only loose lasagna's I have had have been ones where people have pre-cooked the noodles so I think you are much more likely to get a consistently firm and well prepared lasagna if you allow the noodles to cook in the sauce and allow the starch to help bind the lasagna.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Consistency is the key and starting with the same raw noodles will result in the same amount of liquid absorption. IF you pre-cook the amount of liquid that gets absorbs and the amount of binding starch that is released is different each time unless you meticulously cook your noodles and shock them the exact same way every time, a virtual impossibility.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Like I said, I use the Cook's Illustrated method, which is a no-boil method and completely reproducable and predictable. If you soak the noodles in hot water and time it, and remove them, pat dry, then cook in sauce, I can get a nice tight lasagne that isn't sloppy every time. I've never had that experience using uncooked noodles or preboiled noodles/ And its nice to know that the cooking instructions are indeed on the box and not from some "housewife"...

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Freia,

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Maybe you took offense at the term housewife where none was intended, what I meant to show was that in a professional setting with both male and female chefs I have never seen anyone soak or cook the noodles first. I was unaware for many years that people actually do this until I saw a home-maker (is that better) do it. As far as instructions on sides of boxes go I don’t usually read them so I didn’t know there were any until I looked a couple of days ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      It still seems like extra and unnecessary work to soak noodles rather than just add a slightly more liquid to your sauce and cook them in the pan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Are you using regular noodles or the thin no-boil ones?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Is the soaking supposed to wash away some of the starch?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      What is the benefit of soaking that CI says?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                                                                                                                        RC,

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I used to par boil my lasagna sheets for five minutes up until a few years ago. I watched Ina Garten and she let them soak in hot, hot water. It makes them pliable and I like the consistency of them this way too. The only time I don't soak them is when I have fresh sheets of pasta. I have tried the "no boil" noodles and don't car for them either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I am sure your lasagna is delicious, but so is mine. I guess it's a matter of what we are used to. I never order lasagna or Italian "red sauce" dishes when I go out, because I really don't love them. Some tend to be too saucy, while others tend to be too dry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mcel215

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Mcel,

                                                                                                                                                                                                          You have a wonderful blog with some great photographs - I can see that soaking the noodles using the recipe on your blog would be a necessary - thanks for sharing and helping to educate us all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Retired Chef, how do you make lasagne, Bolognese/bechamel/Parmigiano-Reggiano or mozzarella/ricotta?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The short answer is yes - I make lasagna as varied as I make "pasta"

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Some of the real crowd pleasers are:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Spinach Gorgonzola
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Spicy Cauliflower
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Smoked Salmon and asparagus
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Butternut squash
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wild mushroom
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Shrimp and sun-dried tomato

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Why don't you favor us with a recipe? The spinach gorgonzola sounds good to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Since Retired Chef didn't reply, I thought I'd take a stab at it, Sue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I would make bechamel, and layer lasagne, bechamel, steamed and very well dried spinach, and gorgonzola. Maybe you'd add some parmigiano-reggiano, maybe not. Or maybe some fontina. They could go in the bechamel, even. Or just use the gorgonzola.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I also think toasted pine nuts and a pesto made from spinach and basil could work, in addition to the bechamel and gorgonzola.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Another favorite lasagne I had some years ago layered lasagne, bechamel, shrimp, and scallops. I think there was some kind of cheese -- an Italian no-no -- but it was awfully good. There was also something like marsala in it, maybe used while precooking the scallops and shrimp?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sounds good. Really good. I would probably make this as a casserole with whole wheat pasta using less of the pasta than normal, in order to keep the carb count down. I like the idea of gorgonzola and spinach and pine nuts sound really good too. Buttered spinach, gorgonzola, onion or shallot, pine nuts, maybe a little ricotta instead of a bechamel, I could eat this easily!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Jay Did a great job - it's really very simple - gorgonzola béchamel and sautéed chopped spinach - This lasagna benefits from multiple layers so I use a thin lasagna noodle (28-30 sheets per pound) and try to make this a 5 layer lasagna. The top layer is béchamel with extra gorgonzola sprinkled on top - no other cheeses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Rice...I have taken to a microwave method. It doesn't save any times, but saves the scorch and the sitting time seems to help with texture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: painperdu

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Absolutely the easiest most foolproof way to cook rice short of a dedicated rice cooker. I agree totally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                        @painperdu & @sueatmo are right on. The rest of you still struggling with rice are working too hard : )

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I posted my microwave method on my blog a while back if anyone else needs specifics [ http://slackerfoodie.net/recipes/real... ].

                                                                                                                                                                                                        A rice cooker is fine if you have room for it; I prefer to stay away from one-trick ponies like that unless it's for something I do over and over and it's a marked improvement over my existing method.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        My Achilles heel is beans, because I keep trying to find a way to cook them in a slow cooker. Neither overnight soaks nor quick soaks are sufficient that they'll soften up adequately, at least with everything I've tried so far (e.g., no salt, no acids, lengthy cooking times). I don't really want to give up on the slow cooker idea just yet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: SlackerFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Slacker, I have read that beans cooked entirely in the slow cooker are not safe, as the cooker does not reach the temperature required to get rid of some toxic substance (don't remember what) that is potentially in dried beans.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I also don't want a one-trick pony like a rice cooker taking up space. Also, most rice cookers I've seen are plastic. I try to avoid plastic, especially in cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks - I didn't realize that. Googled it, and apparently the substance is in red kidney and cannellini beans. I made a soup last night with red kidney beans. Oops.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also in my Googleing I find crockpot/dry bean success stories from reputable sites. Perhaps I'll give it another go, but avoid the beans with the toxic substances : )

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: SlackerFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think you can do a quick boil (5 minutes) on the stove and drain, then move them to the crockpot. The boil and drain also removes a lot of the gas-producing bits - a win-win!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yyeahhh...that's essentially what I did. By "quick soak" I meant a quick boil, followed by a soak (in this case it turned out to be a few hours), then drain and into the soup in the crockpot. They were edible, but hard-ish, even after hours in the crockpot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've heard that since the average supermarket shopper goes for canned beans the dried stock doesn't get rotated as it should, and that too-dry dried beans can cause them to stay hard unless you cook them a lot longer. It's easier to have that control if you haven't already added them to other recipe ingredients, expecting them to cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                BTW, I'm with you on cooking bacon in the oven.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: SlackerFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You need to do a hard boil I think. I think on low low crockpot temperatures, you'll be in for a super long cook time. I would try the beans on a full rolling boil for 5 minutes, then simmer for 30 minutes, then try the crockpot. I just think dried beans are one of those things that aren't carefree?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: SlackerFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh, that's the other thing. Thanks for reminding me. I always try to buy dried beans at places where the stock turns over quickly. A natural foods store, a Mexican grocery store, etc. Then the beans aren't too old and dry. The skins will be tough forever, even if you manage to get the insides to become soft, when the beans are too old.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: SlackerFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Slacker, I have two words for you: pressure cooker. That's the easiest way to cook beans I have ever used. Even when the beans go into the slow cooker or chili pot with other ingredients, I pressure cook them first. You have to do it a few times, but you get the hang of it, and you won't want to do it any other way. It is energy efficient too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                @sueatmo - Thank you for that tip. I have thought about a pressure cooker, but I cannot buy any more large toys without getting rid of something else and I need everything! However, I do have a pressure *canner* - too big for cooking a normal quantity of beans but I hear it works great to pressure can them. So maybe that's the route I go.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                @sandylc - Mexican grocery store - good idea. Guessing variety might be limited, but surely I could at least get pintos and black beans. I *wish* there was a bulk/natural store near me, but there are many Mexican grocers around - thanks : )

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: SlackerFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, to me my pc is not a toy, but a tool. That's how I rationalize any kitchen purchase. But I understand also about finite space and infinite desire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Finite space/infinite desire: bingo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Rice. OMG. I suck at it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          It used to be fried eggs, too, but since getting my own chickens I don't break yolks anymore, I guess because the eggs are fresher.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Like many others. for me it is rice. Or rather I should say, it WAS rice. I got a rice cooker a couple of years ago and voila! Perfect rice every time - problem solved!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I also can't make a pie crust like my mom's; she made the best I've ever had. I gave up years ago. I shouldn't be making pies anyway, so I don't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Caramelizing onions. Although that may be because I also have great difficulty slicing onions. I don't know why it is - I try to get nice, even, thin slices, and it never fails that I end up with a bunch of thick ones, or lopsided ones. I asked for a mandoline slicer for Christmas, and when I mentioned it to my husband, he joked, "You know, they already make these things for slicing vegetables. They're called knives." I replied that I knew that (har har), and I only needed it for onions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: JaclynM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I can't help you with the onion slicing, but my caramelized onions are much better once I learned to start them on higher heat. Just for a short time-maybe five minutes, until you barely start to see color, then reduce the heat and let them do their their thing for an hour or so. I do this with very thin slices as well as thicker chunks (for onion dip) and it works either way so maybe it would help cover for your slicing issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JaclynM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Try the Cook's Illustrated method. I will never do them any other way. Basically, you start slice 6 lbs of regular yellow onions pole to pole in 1/4" slices and throw them in a large dutch oven with some butter and a little salt (spray the oven with cooking spray first). Cover and stick in a 400 degree oven for an hour. Stir and crack the cover an inch, and roast for another hour. At this point they'll be nicely golden, but still not fully caramelized. Move the dutch oven to the stovetop and cook, stirring, until a dark brown fond forms, deglaze with water and allow the water to cook off. Repeat this process two or three times. You'll have the sweetest, most delicious onions ever when you're done!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Any kind of cookies that use cookie cutters. Tonight I told my daughter that I might sell my vintage aluminum cookie cutters on eBay. She asked why I never used them. I gave up trying 15 or so years ago. I had tried more than one recipie and even boxed mix but always end up fine until I remove the cutter and end up with a stuck mess. She is going to give it a shot and we will make an effort to keep the dough cold, but I don't have high hopes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: calliope_nh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    keep a small bowl of flour next to you while you're cutting out the cookies, and dip the cutter into it before each one. just be sure to shake/tap off any excess flour before pressing it into the dough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We will try this and the other good ideas. Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: calliope_nh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I roll mine out between sheets of parchment and then put the rolled out flat dough still covered in parchment into the fridge to chill. I take out one at a time and cut the cookies after dipping the cutters in flour. I remove the dough from around each cookie leaving the cookie exactly where it is on the parchment. Transfer the sheet back to the fridge to chill on the cookie sheet and then put int he oven.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      its a total PITA and i hate making sugar cookies but it works when they are needed for something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Astur

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This is such good advice. I have some intricate snowflake cutters that are gorgeous for gingerbread and rolling out small portions of dough, placing them on the baking sheet and *then* cutting/trimming is the ONLY way to go. I felt like a genius when I figured it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Aside from that, I am also a total cookie fail. They're either too puffy,too flat, too chewy, too crispy or just plain forgotten in the oven for one darned minute and burned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've turned my attention to candy making for the holidays. Much more mad-scientist friendly, and fun.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: calliope_nh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I wonder if greasing the top of the dough or the cutter would work. It helps with cutting slashes in sticky bread dough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thank you so much for that tip about greasing the cutter! You have no idea how happy you've made me that I finally, finally got the slashing right on my sourdough! It's in the oven right now rising beautifully!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: calliope_nh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I saw this trick on good eats today. First he rolls out the dough using icing sugar instead of flour (so the cookies don't get tough, from the gluten, he said). Then when it's rolled out to the appropriate thickness, he puts a sheet pan from the freezer on top of it. This rechills the dough, solidifying the fats (and is much easier than transferring the sheet of dough into the fridge/freezer). Then he sometimes dips the cookie cutter in the powdered sugar, sometimes not, and punches out the cookie. He said the main trick though is to get the dough cold again so it doesn't stick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. Hard boiled eggs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I could do them for about 10 years, then bupkis. It's infuriating as I love egg salad and deviled eggs. I can't even get them right in a hard boiled egg machine!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I just plain suck at making breads - sure they rise, sure they are ok, as is all fresh out of the oven made from scratch stuff, but really no luck. I do, however, succeed at making a large mess of the kitchen :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PotatoPuff

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              haha large messes: now theres something i am quite accomplished at whipping up in a jiffy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                caramel - i can't get the texture right - i've done everything including burn at least one good pot waiting for it to turn "amber." it just laughs at me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Carmel is a very complicated city in Northern California.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: teezeetoo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I whipped out a couple of batches of perfect caramel and thought I had it down pat. Then my next two batches seized up horribly and went straight in the trash. Per the interwebs, using cold cream can make it seize. I used cold cream the first two times too, with no problems. Maybe because the batch was smaller, it didn't matter? Or there was some weird additive in the cream the last time? Anyway, caramel is a fickle mistress.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: PotatoPuff

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  What is wrong with your bread and what do you want it to do that you're not achieving?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  @Teezeetoo, Making perfect caramel is very exacting and there are times when the candy gods aren't smiling on you. Ive had days when I am convinced that I could do it in my sleep and then there are times when I measure everything exactly and still I am left with a bubbling amber mess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PotatoPuff

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I finally got the traditional breadmaking method down, but it was so_much_work if you're doing ANYthing else. Then I heard about the Jim Lahey thing (Google no-knead bread), and *then* I found the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes books/site. The bread is so delicious - even when completely cool - and has that lovely chewy crust I love. With the Five-Minute method you're making a really wet dough in bulk, so you can make three loaves out of the same batch. No kneading, punchdown, etc. - check it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: SlackerFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Doh! I just realized that the OP had mentioned the no-knead method. I've had fairly good luck with it, FTR.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. I can't make cookies of any kind. And I love cookies! :-(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I used to have the worst problem with burning the bottoms of my cookies (biscuits, too). I tried EVERYTHING: greased pans, ungreased pans, parchment paper, glass dishes, insulated cookie sheets, lower heat setting, you name it and every time, most of the cookies were scorched on the bottom when the tops were barely starting to color. The insides of the cookie were perfect, but the burnt bottoms - yuck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Then I found Silpat baking mats and other silicone mats.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A revelation. I haven't burned a cookie or a biscuit since.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I used to hate making cookies because I basically, sucked at it. Silpat works wonders, and removing the cookies a little before they're done, that's the secret. Moist and chewy cookies every time. Pretty soon you'll get the hang of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Here's the deal. I don't get the whole moist, chewy thing for cookies. I immensely prefer the french style of allowing baked goods to caramelize richly and become crisp and delicious. Brown is beautiful!!! Cookies are not small moist cakes or even chewy brownies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. We need an exchange program. Anyone who is a wiz at pie crusts but challenged by cooking rice is welcome to come over to swap techniques.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          pie crust is easy once you get the knack [or] have a pastry chef gramma :} < I do

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My grandma was more of a "cocktails at 4, gin rummy, and TV dinner" sort of gal. Loads of fun, not so much of a culinary role model.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. although I know better, when quick steaming vegs, I always think it's ok to just walk away for a brief moment, to do, say, laundry. always come back to burned vegs/a blackened saucepan and kick myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Mine isn't a food, it's a very basic skill. I hold my knife with my index finger extended and resting on the top of the blade. I try and try to correct myself, but this is one habit that'll be with me until the end.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Keep trying to do the pinch grip. I use my finger on the spine when doing some delicate knife work at times. It's not that it's so wrong but depending on what you are doing. The pinch grip gives you better control in most cases and makes the knife a more extension of you hand but it's not for every application.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I do that a lot and I'm slowly working on breaking the habit but it's HARD.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Stirred custard (eggs, milk and sugar)--have NEVER been able to judge "till it coats a spoon" properly, and end up with a curdy mess...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ecd

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  why not just use a thermometer then?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. last year i had my kick with aioli. just mayo, actually. i failed innumerable times, and then finally achieved true emulsification ONCE. i haven't tried again since, cuz i'm afraid it was a fluke! i've heard/read/seen ALL the methods, and yes, i've tried them ALL - so, no need to tell me your can't-fail one, but i wish i could just perfectly whip up an aioli every time! i love the stuff so much. i guess i just have to get over the fear and try it again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I second/third/tenth the breads in a loaf pan. No matter what temp adjustments I make, recipes/ovens/pans I try, they always come out either wet inside and overcooked outside, or dry throughout. Pie crust? All over that. Cheesecakes? No problem, A+. Loaf pans? I've given up trying. I tell myself muffins & cupcakes are more fun/exciting anyway :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Challah. Pretty much anything with yeast is a problem for me, but all I eally care about is making a nice fluffy challah. I've many any attempts but there's always something wrong, and it's not always the same thing. Sometimes there's just way too much yeast flavor. It always seems to rise just fine, but it almost slways has a heaviness to ti. Or a dryness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I've tried so many recipes, always using the specific yeast called for. I always run out and buy new yeast even if what I have hasn't expired yet. I've tried with fresh yeast, even though that gave me the strongest unwelcome yeast flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But though I can cook and bake just about anything else, I can can never even come close to making challah I would serve to guests, much less the fresh challahs I buy in a good Brooklyn bakery.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: helou

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Have you tried the Bakers' Hotline at King Arthur Flour? I have found them very helpful in the past.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        http://www.kingarthurflour.com/contac...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          No, I haven't, but I certainly will. Thanks.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think that instead of going from recipe to recipe, what I really should do is to get a recipe for challah that I've tasted and liked, and then fine tune it. I need to develop a "sense" of how wet or dry the dough should be, how warm the water needs to be for the yeast, when the "sponge" is right, etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          With almost all my other cooking I barely follow the recipes - I add garlic, lemon juice, whatever, in amounts that feel right for.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think that's what I need to do for the challah. I just hate the idea of all that wasted time and effort, and flour all over the kitchen, and then a challah that's not even passable, and I'm running out to the bakery at the last minute.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: helou

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wolfgang Puck's or should i say, Sherry Yard's recipe is wonderful. Try that one before you give up, I love that challah recipe. If you can't find it, let me know, I'll paraphrase it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Chef Chicklet, please-please paraphrase that challah recipe!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'd like that recipe, please. I've been googling and there are a lot of references to the challah, but no the recipe itself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Omelettes. No matter what I do I always end up with a brown crispy skinned omelette. I love my eggs just barely done and I wish I could enjoy an omelette in this manner. I've tried everything to no avail lol. I even tried a Jamie Oliver trick of scrambling the eggs for the first 30 seconds when it hits the pan, but that only ended up in an omellette that stuck to the bottom of the pan -__-

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MDinCT

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              sounds like your pan might be too hot?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MDinCT

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Julia Child! Probably the best demo show on omelettes, EVER. Watch it at the link below...you'll be making perfect omelettes in no time flat...watch the whole thing for an "egg primer". Promise, its worth it!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                BUT the omelette part starts at 14:15.Filled Omelets at 21:10.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMdHjx...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  TRUE! That's where I learned how to make them. Note that these are true omelettes, not the giant puffy things sometimes served in the U.S. these days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    WORD to the above...I went to breakfast when in Vegas visiting family (note: we ate off the Strip somewhere out in the boonies) and O. M. G....we ordered an omelette and shared it between all 4 of us. It was a "single serving" omelette. Honestly. It was unbelievable...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Awesome video! I'm going to have to try that tomorrow. Thank you much :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for the recommendation and link to the video.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I watched it carefully and then for the first time in my life managed to prepare a couple of really yummy filled omelets. It's your fault!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. haven't read all the above replies, but for me... potatoes au gratin, or scallped potatoes - always separates, just cannot get the super creamy texture that makes this great (when it is!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: acecil

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Are you using the method which layers flour with potato slices, then pouring milk over all? If so, STOP! Make a bechamel, or white sauce, to layer (with or without cheese) between the potato slices. This will make a creamier but still simple potato dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Honestly, gave up on making this after trying so many recipes so long ago, I can't remember - but your suggestion makes sense. Hmmm, might have to give it another try soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: acecil

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wow. Potato gratin is one of my go-to dinner party sides, b/c it's so incredibly easy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Now -- I don't use eggs or bechamel, and my gratin version may well not be 'creamy' enough for you, but you might try it and like it. I never have leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 cup of light cream
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          5 cloves of garlic, grated or minced finely
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          more salt than you think is ok
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          a pinch of cayenne
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          some paprika

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Butter a pyrex dish generously on the bottom and sides. Layer thinly sliced potatoes, slightly overlapping in dish. Pour cream mixture on top. Top with your choice of grated cheese -- I like a mix of Swiss as a first layer, then pecorino & parmesan on top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Add a few small dabs of butter on top. Bake at 375˚ for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown and crunchy. Dig in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: acecil

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ha ha I posted about this same problem in another thread. I finally solved it by using fewer potatoes, baking longer, using less cream, and adding more cheese

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. Using a piping bag. I just did a trial run of my meringues, and had more batter on my hands than in the bag. Plus, the star tip kept getting clogged (recipe has mini choc chips, but they're tiny). So, resorted to drop meringues from a tablespoon--loses a lot of style points.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. My cornbread is flat out dry, dry, dry. Good thing something like chile is disguising just how dry it is. many methods tried, dry, dry, dry. hahaha

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For finer cuts of meat, and all really good cooks and chefs will probably shake their heads in disgust, but for the lesser talented, the Popiels "set it and forget it" rottissiere is amazing for prime rib, lamb and even whole chickens. invest in one and be afraid of more expensive meats no more

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Well, this is embarrassing, but tonight it was Marie Callender cornbread!!!! I mean all I had to do was add water, mix & bake. I wasn't paying attention and mixed equal parts mix & water instead of 2:1 and then used the rest of the bag of mix to try to make up. It is in the oven right now but doesn't look good. In hindsight, if I would have lowered the temp from 375 and cooked lots longer, do you think that would have helped?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You might have had spoonbread from that. How did it turn out?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A picture is worth a thousand words......

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Toasting nuts/sesame seeds. I've used the stove, oven and toaster oven. 9 out of 10 times I burn them. I have given up and make B do it now. Bacon at home is also a problem (although it's fine at work on the flat top).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: corneygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hi! Use the timer for the nuts. Oven 375 degrees. Set the timer on about 6 minutes for whole nuts, I don't know how long for sesame seeds (maybe 4?). Check and add a minute or two to the timer as needed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bake the bacon. For thick, 375, beginning at 12 minutes on the timer and adding more as needed. For thin, 425 and 12 minutes, plus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The timer is your friend! I use mine every day, all day!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I use my timer too. It pulls me back into focus so many times. I use it every time I cook anything of significance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Pie crust is my nemesis. In culinary school my crust actually melted during my baking practical. To this day I'm 50/50. Lol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: letsindulge

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I too had this pie crust problem, Julia Child's recipe/explanation helped me sort it out. I actually cried when I finally got it right, lol. Good luck!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: amitys

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I am awful, just awful, with pie crusts. I pretty much gave up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sweetpotater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I don't do pie crusts, but my ex made the best I ever had. As near as I can tell there are two secrets.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. If you're not using it, store it in the freezer. This goes for ingredients and equipment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Replace two-thirds of your liquid with vodka. The alcohol will evaporate, leaving you with s flaky, light crust.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: JonParker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've already outlined the Cooks Illustrated vodka method in detail, above.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8207...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You are correct. I missed that. So yeah, what Mr Taster said

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Cooking dried beans without them splitting. Doesn't matter whether I soak overnight, parboil, or don't soak or parboil.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PAO

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I thought when they split that is when you know they are done. I wasn't aware that splitting was a problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: PAO

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I pressure cook my beans and I've had to learn how to do it without them becoming overcooked and splitting. I do soak my beans for at least a few hours. I check a bean cooking time chart for the variety I am cooking, and then I subtract a few minutes from that time. I can check the beans and add time easier than dealing with mushy beans. When they are cooked the way I like them, I usually chill them to firm them up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      When pressure cooking the beans, I keep the cooker's pressure as low as I can and still maintain pressure. I back the heat off, in other words, but pressure is still maintained. I bring the pressure up on high, then back off to as low as possible. I've learned where that is through trial and error.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I hope this helps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If you end up with mushy, split beans, then you can turn them into soup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Seriously, Jell-o. The premixed stuff. Believe you me, I have done and tried everything. I know, and what makes it even MORE ridiculous, is I have no problem at all working with gelatine and fruit juice. How ridiculous is that?!!!!! I don't want any help with it, though. All the help in the world won't help my conflicted relationship to Jell-o,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Cooking sauerkraut. I've had wonderful sauerkraut prepared by someone else, years ago, but I've never been able to get it right, or even close, for that matter. It's sad. Otherwise, I'm a decent country cook. Oh, the irony. :-D

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: AbsoluteFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But you don't cook sauerkraut! You shred cabbage, add salt, weigh it down, and eventually the whole block will smell it. Sauerkraut is made sour from natural fermentation. No cooking required.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The fermentation is only the first step in the preperation of sauerkraut from cabbage. It then has to be braised for 4-8 hours before it is ready to eat, unless you prefer to eat it raw. Im German from both sides of the family and I would never think of eating it raw, but that is only my opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I don't come from a German home, and I won't pretend that I know about German (or German American) food traditions. But I have dabbled in pickles as a hobby. Here's my most recent foray into the world of fermentation:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/805067

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What I've learned is that while you can "pickle" using methods involving heat, canning and vinegar, many old world methods of pickling came from preserving only by salt. Vinegar especially is a modern method, an instant gratification of sorts, to get that sour taste immediately rather than having to wait for weeks for it to occur through natural fermentation. (Not saying you use vinegar to make your sauerkraut-- just using examples of old vs. new methods of making fermented products).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My grandmother always kept a kraut crock in the basement and I have never heard of this 4-8 hours of braising time, either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm with Mr Taster on this one - never heard anyone cooking the fermented cabbage to make 'sauerkraut'. About the closes you come is if you warm pack it when canning it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                But there are many dishes that are made with 'sauerkraut' that are then cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Exactly-- that's what I was thinking. Prepared sauerkraut is cooked into various dishes, but the actual product itself is very raw and very much alive unless you buy prepared supermarket versions in which it has been pasteurized and preserved with vinegar to help stabilize it and give it a longer shelf life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'll have to take an informal poll of my German friends and see how modern Germans make sauerkraut. I'll report back when I find out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When I make sauerkraut the raw kraut is washed and then cooked with pilsner beer or white wine, a diced onion, caraway, juniper berries, a peeled and diced apple plus salt and pepper for 4 to even 8 hours at a low 300°. It is usually cooked with one or more forms of pork such as a loin, chops, a roast, smoked ham or sausages.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ive never eaten kraut raw from the crock, and the thought of doing so is almost gag inducing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It sounds like we are cross-communicating here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You are describing how you cook raw kraut into a recipe, whereas RetiredChef and I were talking about how to make the kraut itself. So we're actually all in agreement about how kraut itself is actually made-- raw, salt-fermented. Not cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It is raw green cabbage that is shredded and then layered with kosher salt in a glass or ceramic container and then allowed to ferment for 6-10 weeks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Homemade raw kraut (IMO) is really pretty good - not to mention good for you. Same goes for kimchi.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That said, one of my favorite childhood meals was cooked kraut with pork chops (with mashed potatoes on the side of course) - do I assume correctly that your braising method will consistently produce the highly browned (caramelized?) version that I remember mom making? The reason I ask is that every time I try to duplicate mom's version I end up saying to myself, "It's not like moms" followed by a, "I think the kraut should have cooked longer, but I don't remember mom cooking it that long". Unfortunately at this point in time mom doesn't remember how she cooked anything, so I can't ask her.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    To clarify, I have been unable to cook the already fermented sauerkraut into a sauerkraut casserole of my liking. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: AbsoluteFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for the clarification!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Hummus. It's only what, 4-5 ingredients? It drives me nuts that countless restaurants seem to be able to produce acceptable versions. I dream of creamy delicious hummus like I used to have at Hummus Place in Manhattan. In reality mine starts out being mediocre and then hardens like cement after an hour in the fridge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mmonster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Add more liquid. The cooking liquid from the chickpeas or water or more lemon juice if you like it tart. Just know it thickens as it cools in the fridge so make it thinner if you will refrigerate

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Agreed. I make mine with chicken broth, and I leave out the oil. Also, for taste, you can't beat plenty of garlic. And, mine doesn't always go quite as creamy as I want. If you are using canned garbanzos, try the S & W brand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My new project: learn to cook garbanzos in the pressure cooker. Then make super hummus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I found some dried garbanzos at WF, the 365 Everyday brand. I intend to cook these next week. The only time I tried to cook garbanzos, I couldn't get them done. So, this time, I'll soak for several hours, and then put them into the pressure cooker. Wish me luck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Give your garbanzo beans an 8 hr soak and cook at pressure for 20 min maybe less and do a natural release. Miss Vickie's site says 20-25 min. I've cut it too 18 min and they were completely done. Remember the cooking liquid is gold when making hummus. I have also been seasoning the soaking water at the onset of soaking. This really infuses the salt and I like to add ground cumin into the beans as well
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            as making the cooking liquid more flavorful

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'd add some flavoring to the beans in the PC. I think beans pick up the flavors right when they soften and are cooked. I like to add bay leaf, peppercorns and perhaps an herb like rosemary. I don't season the soaking water, unless I add the bay leaf then. I pour off the soaking water, after all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I recently found that seasoning the soaking water at the onset of soaking had a bigger effect on seasoning of the bean than did seasoning the cooking liquid during the actual cooking. I never would have thought that was possible

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks everyone for the tips! I think part of my problem is that I always *think* I've added enough liquid, but it always ends up getting absorbed after a few hours. A pressure cooker sounds like a great idea. I don't have one but probably should - I live in Boulder, CO and lentils seem to take forever to cook at this altitude. Good luck with the pressure cooking sueatmo!! I'd love to hear how it turns out :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mmonster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My garbanzos are wonderful. I had some for lunch today. The broth is just lovely. I hope to make a little hummus tomorrow for lunch. After soaking 18 hours, (thanks scubadoo for the tip) they cooked in about 15 minutes in the PC. I say "about" because I forgot to set the timer. I stopped the cooking to check them and they were done. Beautiful

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I saw cannellini beans at WF, so they will be my next buy. I also picked up some blackeyed peas today at the regular grocer. I intend to establish a "bean bank: in my pantry. And I noticed that I can get black lentils (my favorite) at WF as well, so when I run out I know where to get more of these.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    S&W canned garbanzos are the best commercially canned ones I have ever had. But the homecooked ones are better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Cracking eggs. I'm either too wimpy or too violent. It's really quite pathetic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Cooking salmon or pork chops, they always come out too dry. I wish I knew how to get it right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: miss787

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If you haven't already, try investing in an instant read thermometer (or even just a meat thermometer). They're pretty cheap and worthwhile to have to ensure you're cooking everything to the right temperature. Also taking things out of the oven 5-10 degrees before doneness to ensure that the food doesn't get overcooked, because they continue to cook for a while after you take them out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: amitys

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I have a friend who overcooked a very expensive piece of meat this way at Christmas dinner. It was medium rare when he took it out of the oven, and medium when we ate it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Most of my family prefer beef medium well or well done. I'm one of those people who thinks it's pretty much a horrible sin to cook beef more than 30 seconds on each side (although some things I like medium rare instead of rare) so holiday dinners at my relatives' house are traumatizing for me. LOL!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: miss787

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Are you cooking your pork to medium or well done? I find that aiming for medium helps ensure moistness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I always cook pork well done. I have a digital thermometer but last time when I poked the meat with it a lot of juice came out and made it drier! It's depressing that I can't get it right because I love chops, maybe I need more practice? Or stick with smothered pork chops instead of pan fried? I do not buy "enhanced" pork so I know that's not the reason why they come out dry, it's me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: miss787

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Have you considered cooking pork to medium? I know that I've changed my approach to chops and cook until medium/still a bit pink the the middle.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Smothering mitigates a multitude of sins. I braised a chuck roast this past weekend, way too high and it dried out. I put more liquid in and smothered it with cheese for sandwiches.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: miss787

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Your biggest problem with your pork is cooking it well done. The chop or loin is so lean that it can't help but get dry if cooked to well done. Same with salmon even though it's not a lean fish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So your remedy to getting a too dry chop or fillet is to cook it less.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  True.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Pork shoulder, fresh ham = low, long, and slow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Loin, chops, tenderloin, etc. = quickly until ALMOST "done"; a hint of pink is perfect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I can never thicken any savory dishes with cornstarch. It's either still soupy or it would turn custardy (yuck). I have no idea why, I see other people do it easily, but it never worked for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: tsl_saga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Are you making a slurry first? Just curious.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I like using Wondra too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I like a roux much better than a slurry. It's hard to get rid of the raw flour taste with slurries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was referring to making a slurry with corn starch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh! Sorry! That's a whole different thing. My fault. I don't have a complaint with that, although I know some who do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I cannot get poached eggs right. It's completely embarrassing to me. No matter what I do, the yolk is not the right consistency, or the whites are rubbery. I don't know why I can't master this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: AnnaBaptist

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've been experimenting with poaching eggs in the micro, and I've been successful. I don't have all the tricks down to making sure the yolks are soft cooked yet though. If you have one of those mise en place bowls, use it. Add a little water, and heat it in the micro. Slip in your egg then, and cook at power level 3 or 4 for a couple of minutes. I usually add another minute to this before the egg is cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You have to experiment, but I think you will like poached eggs done this way. Drain the egg in a slotted spoon, and place over toast or cooked spinach.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I finally mastered pancakes after realizing that my baking powder had expired -- no wonder they were flat! But somehow good biscuits still elude me...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I always add water, salt, a little bit of oil, and the eggs all at once, and they slide off, but I am in a high altitude area as well. For grilled cheese, I spread butter on my bread before cooking in a dry pan add the cheese flip, just watch your fire, should be about medium

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I have never failed to burn the garlic bread. NEVER. It has become a joke at this point. Apparently, boiling some pasta and heating up some sauce is so complicated, that I forget it's in the oven. Unbelievable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply