Cooking and Gadgets

Chicken Under a Brick

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by Joseph Erdos

chickenunderbrick.jpgEveryone loves grilled chicken, but most people shy away from grilling it at home. But here's a method that has been perfected by the Italians and is uniquely different. Pollo al mattone, or chicken under a brick, is a popular dish in Tuscany, where it is often prepared by families in the countryside. It's easy to make on the grill any time. Make it this weekend before summer is completely over—your family will love you for it.

First, the chicken is specially prepared by spatchcocking, which involves removing the backbone, breastbone, and wing tips. The chicken can then be opened up and laid flat, skin-side down, on the grill. A brick or cast-iron press is placed on top to weigt the chicken down so that it cooks more evenly. This method means the bird will cook in half the time than if left whole. Plus it will produce super moist meat and crispy crackling skin.

Whipped Cream, Ya'll

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by James Farmer III

whippedcream.jpgSo whipping cream is delicious. It, like butter, just amazes me how many things can come from milk. It’s life’s first beverage. It’s a must on every trip to the grocery store. It’s milk! If you haven’t hooked onto organic milk and cream yet, you are missing out! The lactose free milk is about the best glass of anything you’ll ever drink! I digress…

Whipped cream is simply divine. The science of physically changing a liquid into a solid is astounding, but what is so amazing to me is the taste. With a scant bit of sugar, some good vanilla, and the inside of a vanilla bean pod, you can have the best of dessert toppings in a matter of minutes.

Homemade Ketchup

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by Susan Salzman

ketchup.1.jpgThe supermaket shelves are lined with bbq sauces, ketchup, salad dressings, and marinades. Over the past couple of years, I have stopped purchasing almost everything and anything, such as the list above, that can easily be made with pantry ingredients. I have always made my own salad dressings, I keep jars of homemade barbeque sauce in the fridge, and making fresh salsa could not be easier. My freezer is filled to capacity with chicken stock, beef stock, vegetable stock, marinara sauce, bolognese, pesto, doughs of all kinds, and red enchilada sauce.

I have spent the last three months trying my hand at ketchup. The first few batches were very “vinegary”. Others were too spicy. The rest were too thick. I have lots of ketchup that I can not throw away. I have found ways to use up the not-so-perfect ketchup. My BBQ sauce calls for 4 1/2 cups, I slather my turkey loaf with ketchup before baking, and my homemade baked beans uses 28 ounces of ketchup. Needless to say, I have a lot of barbeque sauce on hand. Who wants some?

Learning About Pie, Learning About Myself

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by Matt Armendariz

pie-collage-550-final1.jpgI woke up like I do any other morning, except for a nagging dream that came to me in my sleep and wouldn’t disappear until I did something about it.

I needed to learn how to make pie.

Now I have no idea where this came from. But the way the whole thing worked out I’m beginning to see that this yearning for pie came from a higher power, or at least from deep inside my subconscious. And it needed to be addressed.

In my dream I became adept at taking summer fruit, putting it into a pie made with love and then handing them to others to enjoy, to share, to eat. I gave them to friends and strangers at picnics, made a few for our summer outings, and had one on the counter for anyone that stopped by and wanted a piece. I suspect this is exactly why people make pies but me? My pie skills were embarrassing. So embarrassing that I shied away from making them for others. How could I make something for others when clearly there are pie makers with generations of experience, expertise and knowledge?

It turns out my adventure – and my feelings of pie self-worthlessness – had absolutely nothing to do with pie and everything to do with me.

Cola-Braised Pork Shoulder with Onions and Dried Cherries

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by Joseph Erdos

porkstew.jpgBraising is one of those cooking techniques that's made for winter. When you've got the time and you're stuck indoors on a cold day, braising low and slow is the way to go. Almost anything can be braised, but tough cuts of meat like beef chuck, lamb shoulder, and pork shoulder are the best. Under a tight-lidded pot, these meats go meltingly tender—with the touch of a fork it falls apart.

The key to a flavorful braise is the liquid. Many classic recipes use red wine or beer, such as ale or stout. But braising in soda, either ginger ale or cola, also produces mouthwatering results. Since a standard cola recipe uses a number of ingredients (including roots, spices, and herbs), the soda acts like a very flavorful broth. It all lends wonderful flavor to the meat. This pork shoulder braise features the flavors of Mexican cola.

To enhance the flavor further, I add balsamic vinegar for tanginess and brown sugar for sweetness. Dried cherries lend another level of flavor as well as texture. Since I love cherry cola, it's a win-win. After braising the meat, I like to reduce the liquid to create a luscious sauce. Simply serve the pork thickly sliced with the sauce alongside plus some boiled or mashed potatoes—it's the perfect Sunday dinner.

The Difference Between Radicchio and Red Cabbage

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by Susan Russo

redcabbage.jpgLast time I was at the supermarket, the cashier picked up my head of radicchio and punched in the code for red cabbage. The price came up as 70 cents.

I said, "Actually, that's radicchio, not red cabbage."

She voided it and punched in the correct code for radicchio. The new price came up as $5.50.

"Wow! That's expensive!" she said. "You should just get the red cabbage instead."

Get the red cabbage instead? Is she serious?

So what's behind this $5 difference between red cabbage and radicchio? Is it cabbage inflation? Is the Mafia getting kickbacks on radicchio sales?

My Love Affair with Risotto

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by Lisa Dinsmore

ImageI LOVE risotto. It's one of the many things I had never eaten before I moved to California. Never even heard of it in my two decades of growing up in Western Massachusetts. I know that seems hard to believe, but I made my parents risotto when they came out to visit 5 years ago and they had no idea what it was. Seriously. Italian food growing up was lasagna, pasta with red sauce or pizza. I can't remember the first risotto I ever ate, but I know I was instantly hooked because it's the dish I always order whenever I see it on the menu...or hear it as the special. I just can't help myself. I love the creamy, chewy consistency of it, the homeyness, the endless possibilities. It's a dish I make at least 3-4 times a month, as it's fairly simple and hard to screw up. Or so I thought. Apparently, I've been serving it all wrong.

I got a hint of my wrongdoing when I watched a recent Top Chef All-Star show and Tre, one of the chef/contestants, got lambasted by Tom Colicchio and Anthony Bourdain, two of the judges, for making risotto that was too thick and sticky. Apparently, it's supposed to be more fluid and al dente, spreading out to cover the plate without any help – like a wave. He offended their risotto sensibilities and was sent home. It got me thinking. Clearly I had rarely eaten a "proper" risotto and never, in all my delicious attempts, ever made one either. Apparently, I was making an Italian rice bowl. I had to do better. And that's where another All-Star contestant comes in.

The recipe for a great cioppino? Your imagination.

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by Russ Parsons

From the LA Times

ImageI don't think I've ever written about cioppino without getting into an argument. That's probably as it should be.

One of the definitive California dishes, cioppino is a classic soup of fish in a garlicky tomato-wine broth. And that's probably where the agreement ends. Definitive and classic though it may be, there are as many cioppino recipes as there are cioppino cooks.

Maybe even more. Just in my own kitchen, I rarely prepare it the same way twice. Part of this, of course, is because it is based on a mixture of fish and shellfish, and rarely will you go to the market and find exactly the same proportion of the same species you bought last time, all in perfect condition.

Maybe more to the point, this is California, and here we tend to believe that provided a good final dish, how you get there is pretty much your own business. If you need the security of definitive, classic recipes in which every ingredient and garnish is specified with no room for deviation or inspiration, pick up a copy of Escoffier.

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A Red Sauce Rich With Flavor

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by Sue Doeden

ImageIt’s funny how years ago when I made an easy baked Italian rigatoni dish, a jar of Ragu seemed to work just fine. Now, I can’t even remember the last time I purchased a jar of pasta sauce.

There must have been a time when I was inspired to try making a sauce from scratch. Once I discovered how easy it was to produce a fine tasting red sauce to spoon over pasta, I began experimenting until finally, Rich Red Sauce for Pasta was the recipe I wrote in a little book that holds my recipe collection.

As you read the recipe you'll probably stop when you get to the garlic. Sixteen cloves of garlic? That’s right. You'll be so surprised as you eat the sauce – you’d never guess it holds that much garlic.

French Bread Times Two

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by Sue Doeden

ImageSnow days keeping me tucked inside my warm, cozy house with my favorite guy, a sweet puppy, a fire in the fireplace, hot soup, homemade bread and a bottle of red wine — winter life in northern Minnesota really doesn’t get much better than that.

Making your own bread does not have to be difficult. French Bread Times Two proves it.

I learned of this recipe that makes two loaves of French bread from an energetic friend of my mom’s years ago. This friend loved to cook and bake and entertain. She excitedly shared the recipe with my mom, explaining how she loved being able to conveniently pull the chilled loaves from her refrigerator and bake them just before her dinner guests arrived, bringing her all kinds of raving compliments and incredulous ooohs and aaaahs.

Well, my mom was duly impressed. Unfortunately, she was never very interested in making bread from scratch. After all, those frozen loaves of dough from the freezer case at the grocery store were awfully good and demanded no effort at all.

My mom passed the recipe over to me.

 

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