Category Archives: Back to Basics Cooking
This was a great article, so I thought I would share:
BY NATASHA GARDNER SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 9:07 AM
Frozen food doesn’t have to mean blocks of spinach or chicken nuggets. Instead, cooks in-the-know fill their freezer with stocks, farm-fresh produce, and ready-to-eat, healthy meals. Here, tips for making your freezer your grocery store.
1. Pace yourself: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t overbuy the first time you head to the butcher. (A family can only eat so many grass-fed steaks.) Stock up on basics over time by buying two of something at the store. Plan to roast chicken? Buy an extra bird and tuck it away. Want to grill salmon? Purchase two pounds, cook one and freeze the other. You get the idea.
2. Cook for a crowd: I grew up in a large family and have always had trouble downsizing recipes. Now, though, I greedily look at a recipe to see if I can double it (this works well for baked goods, like cookies) or make two (think: lasagna).
3. Take stock: Create a freezer inventory….
(You know the drill, click on the link and read the whole thing, there are some nice additional book recommendations at the end.)
I’m an avid freezer user – mine is stocked full of frozen veggies, meats, meals, leftover – ice cube sized – tomato paste, wine, juices. I also freeze leftover lime and lemon zests – I never waste a fresh lemon or lime peel. For more tips, head to the Meal Planning Page at the top of the blog.
Ok, put down the bird. I’ve been hearing this for a while, but didn’t think much of it. I generally don’t wash my chicken, though I do pat it dry after I thaw it. I do however, always wash my turkeys. This seems to be the definitive word on washing your bird. Don’t. Here from NPR’s THE SALT blog, is the explanation on why the change:
Julia Child Was Wrong: Don’t Wash Your Raw Chicken, Folks
by MARIA GODOY
It seems almost sacrilegious to question the wisdom of Julia Child.
First with her opus Mastering the Art of French Cooking and later with her PBS cooking show, the unflappably cheerful Child helped rescue home cookery from the clutches of convenience food. She taught us how to love — and take pride in — making something from scratch.
And yet, in at least one important kitchen skill, Child got it dead wrong: rinsing raw poultry.
“I just think it’s a safer thing to do,” Child tells viewers in one clip from The French Chef in which she shows us the ins and outs of roasting chicken.
“Oh, no!” says Drexel University food safety researcher Jennifer Quinlan when I inform her that Child was in the pro-bird-washing camp. “I don’t want to take on that.”
Yet take on the doyenne of TV chefs she must. For Quinlan is on a mission to get America’s home cooks to drop this widespread habit of washing poultry before cooking.
“There’s no reason, from a scientific point of view, to think you’re making it any safer,” she says, “and in fact, you’re making it less safe.”
That’s because washing increases the chances that you’ll spread the foodborne pathogens that are almost certainly on your bird all over the rest of your kitchen too, food safety experts say. We’re talking nasty stuff like salmonella and Campylobacter, which together are estimated to cause nearly 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. each year.
Some studies suggest bacteria can fly up to 3 feet away from where your meat is rinsed — though you can’t necessarily see it. If that thought alone doesn’t give you pause, perhaps this slimy “germ vision” animation will do the trick:
Quinlan and her collaborators at New Mexico State University’s Department of Media Productions have created a new public health campaign to get the word out about why washing poultry is a bad idea. Her focus-group surveys, conducted as part of a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, suggest as many as 90 percent of people rinse their raw birds — even though the USDA has advised against it for years. The practice is slightly more common among minorities, she says, but pretty much everyone does it.
And Quinlan expects some people will continue to cling to their bird-rinsing ways. Some people, she notes, just do it because they think their chicken is slimy. “If your chicken is so slimy that it needs washing, something is wrong,” she says. “Other people say, ‘That’s just how I was taught to do it.’ “
It doesn’t help, she says, that many celebrity TV chefs (not just Child) and cookbooks call for this as a first step. But science, says Quinlan, is really giving the lazy a free pass — nay, animperative — to cut out this step.
And some people for whom raw-chicken-meat baths have been a source of marital strife may welcome Quinlan’s message wholeheartedly.
As my colleague Dan Charles told me (sorry, Dan, I’m outing you here): “I never did [wash my chickens], but then my wife* forced me to. So as soon as this thing is posted, I’m sending it straight to her.”
* Footnote: Dan insisted I note his wife is lovely.
So there you go. Don’t wash your bird, but do wash your hands thoroughly when working with poultry. Head on over to THE SALT for more video and an audio clip of the entire piece.
I have made corned beef and cabbage a total of one time before prepping for tonight’s recipe exchange. It was early in my marriage and I was having a ball trying out family favorites out on my own. I followed the recipe completely and what I got for my trouble was dry, stringy, tough meat. The veggies were ok if I remember correctly. I never tried it again.
But I love corned beef and cabbage and decided I needed to try to find a way to make it simple and foolproof. I’d been experimenting with my pressure cooker while reviewing a pressure cooker cookbook (which was horrible but that’s a whole other post) and had a realization – the pressure cooker was the perfect solution to my corned beef cooking fears.
But don’t worry. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, I included a slow cooker recipe, too.
Corned beef is really one of the perfect foods to do in a pressure cooker. You get a nice, tender beef and instead of mushy, colorless vegetables, you get perfectly cooked vegetables infused with that great corned beef broth flavor.
The recipe below uses a bit of dill pickle juice in place of some of the water and a touch of spicy brown mustard. But I saw recipes that used chicken broth, sherry or beer in place of some of the water. I think you should experiment and use what sounds good to you. Me, I like dill pickle juice.
A lot of recipes call for 3-4 lbs of corned beef. When I shopping , 4 lbs was the smallest piece I could find, most were 5-6 lbs. You may have to cut a piece in half, but since both the pressure cooker and slow-cooker recipes are easy, you don’t need to save corned beef and cabbage for a special occasion. Just freeze the other half and save for another day.
And the best part, making Reuben’s with the leftovers. My mom makes the best ones, but I one up her by grilling mine Panini-style. Yum.
Are you a corned beef and cabbage household? Reuben fans? What about cooking disasters? Have any good stories about your failures in the kitchen?
On to the recipes:
And he loves the leftovers – see his gallery of Corned Beef Sandwiches here.
(you know there’ll be pretty pictures at those links)
And my family weighs in on their favorite ways to fix corned beef. (click here)
Now the featured recipes:
Pressure Cooker Corned Beef Dinner:
- 3 to 4 lbs corned beef, trim the fat to about 1/4 inch
- Spices included with corned beef or the following: 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp fennel seeds,
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 – 6 medium to large potatoes, cut into four to eight pieces, peeling optional
- 4-6 carrots, sliced in half and cut into 2” lengths
- Cabbage, cut into 4 to 6 pieces
pressure cooker and cooking rack
Remove the corned beef from the brine (discarding the brine), rinse thoroughly and place in the bottom of the pressure cooker, fatty side up. [You don’t really want to brown this beef, because it’s been brined.] Sprinkle spices over the top of the beef. Add enough liquid (water or water and a combination of ONE of the following: pickle juice, chicken broth, beer or wine) to come to the top of beef, about 3-4 cups usually. Cover and bring to pressure and let cook for 1 hour. I use the cold water method to depressurize.
The key to getting the perfect corned beef and vegetables with the pressure cooker is to cook them separately. Prep the vegetables during the last 15 or so minutes of beef cooking time. Once the beef is done, put it on a cutting board, cover loosely in foil and put a towel over the whole deal.
Remove all but enough liquid to come to the bottom of the cooking rack when placed in the pressure cooker. Place potatoes first on the tray, then carrots and then cabbage, cover and bring to pressure. Cook for about 12 minutes. The vegetables will be fork tender, not mushy and the beef will be fully rested. Slice, plate and serve.
For the slow-cooker:
Place rinsed beef in the bottom of the slow-cooker, sprinkle spices and add liquid to come to the top of the beef, and cover. Cook on low for 4 hours. At the 4 hour mark, add in order: potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Cook additional 4 hours. With the exception of adding the vegetables, try to resist the temptation to open the lid. You need it to stay covered to properly cook.
There you go, some easy ways to put together a nice corned beef dinner.
Interestingly there seemed to be a green cabbage shortage last week. I went to three different grocery stores and they were completely sold out. I didn’t want to use red cabbage because I don’t really like it. I decided to use Nappa cabbage and really liked it, much more than green cabbage, it’s sweeter and has a more delicate flavor and I think it will be my cabbage of choice from this point forward.
On a whim, I bought a specialty flour. It’s called Prairie Gold, it’s a white, whole wheat flour – the wheat itself if golden, not the darker brown of traditional wheat, so it’s buttery colored instead of the deeper brown.
It’s organic, grown in high altitude and has a high protein content. I was not expecting it to make any noticeable difference, but it did offer a way to make fluffier whole wheat baked goods, so I was on board. It didn’t hurt that is wasn’t that much more expensive than my plain old unbleached flour.
Was I in for a surprise. The biscuits I made were practically creamy. It’s hard to explain the texture, but it was light for whole wheat, creamy and still fluffy – not like white Pillsbury biscuit fluffy, but darn good. The flavor is slightly nutty and it gave the biscuits a richer flavor.
I’ll be using this a lot more.