Cooking and Gadgets

atelier-des-chefsI was recently invited to join a Master Class in bread making at the L’Atelier des Chefs school in London. It is really a wonderful concept – a wide variety of classes are guided by expert chefs who have top restaurant experience and a great desire for teaching and sharing their knowledge. They have two locations in London - Oxford Circus and St Paul’s - and more in France and Belgium. Offering diverse cuisines and skill levels six days a week, it’s easy to find one that’s right for you. Prices range from just £15 (for their signature Cook, Eat & Run class which promises to teach you to cook a delicious main course in just 30 minutes) to £144 for their four hour Master Class.

My class was held on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the St Paul’s location, and I was joined by six other eager-to-learn students. It was an eclectic bunch, all ages with mostly beginner to intermediate cooking skills. There was a mother and her teenage son, who seemed less than thrilled to be there; a handsome bearded fellow from the northeastern part of France; two baby boomer types, one woman eager, the other somewhat timid; and a hip twenty-something guy, there on his third visit who shared rave reviews about his previous experiences. We were greeted warmly by the receptionist who presented us with new aprons (to keep as a souvenir) and led us to our classroom. The courses are conducted in a bright state-of-the-art kitchen with a large stainless steel work station which we gathered around to meet our instructor, Chef Daniel Stevens. Initially I had visions of Hell's Kitchen with some fire breathing Gordon Ramsey type instructor who would bark orders and humiliate us for any culinary mistakes

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"Every Grillmaster has a few tricks up their sleeves for ultimate grilling success, giving moist, juicy, flavorful results every time they light up the grill. Here are the Top 10 Secrets for Grilling Success that will make even a novice griller look like a pro."

1) Invest in a Meat Thermometer: Using a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of grilling. By knowing exact internal temps, you can remove meat at just the right time for moist, juicy results. I recommend the Thermapen — it’s an instant-read digital thermometer that shows temps in less than five seconds, so you’re not spilling valuable heat from the grill.

2) Know Minimum Internal Temperatures for Meat: These are the minimal internal temperatures for meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Keep in mind that when you take your meat off the grill, it continues to cook, so it is OK to pull it off when it’s a few degrees under the listed temperature.

Grilling-Success

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rub-630x407Sure, you could buy that grilling fanatic on your holiday gift list a new smoker or cutting-edge grill accessory. (For some suggestions, check out our barbecuers’ gift guide.) But sometimes, the most meaningful gifts are the ones you make yourself. Homemade gifts help you stretch your holiday shopping dollars, and in inclement weather, they’re a great way to channel your inner pit master without having to don your parka or fight for a parking spot.

Which brings us to one of my favorite homemade holiday gifts: made-from-scratch barbecue rubs. Simply defined, a rub is a mixture of salt, spices, and herbs used to flavor grilled or smoked meats, seafood, and even vegetables and tofu.

There are two ways to use a barbecue rub. The first is to apply it right before grilling or smoking, in which case it acts as a sort of seasoned salt. The second is to rub it into the meat a few hours or even a day before you plan to cook it, in which case the seasonings partially cure the meat, resulting in a richer, more complex flavor.

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deta-201.jpgWhile frantically trying to come up with great holiday gift ideas each year for various members of my family, I often ask them what they would like to receive, making the assumption that giving them something they want is better than the random shot-in-the-dark that often results in an unsuccessful or unwanted present.  When queried this year, my partner’s stepmother informed me that she wanted kitchen utensils “of any kind,” citing the fact that most of hers were at least twenty years old or older. 

With the notion fresh in my mind, I went flying out the door to the Broadway Panhandler, a local shop in the village which specializes in anything and everything relating to the kitchen.  Assuming I would be in-and-out and on my way in under twenty minutes, I was surprised when I emerged three hours later with a sack full of the latest kitchen gizmos and gadgets, as well as a variety of the newest versions of old standbys and favorite tools.

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picklesgiftsThis is a recipe “re-do” of a long time favorite that’s now a smart weapon in my war against weight…and it’s not only skinny-fied, it’s simplified: Cucumber and Pepper Pickles with Whole Spices.

The original recipe that I made for years had all the ingredients here, but also called for a cup of white sugar..and after making it both ways, I promise, that extra sugar is not missed!

And, since this version isn’t meant for shelving, but for storing and curing in the fridge, the step of cooking on the stove, sterilizing jars and sealing is avoided entirely…saving time, effort  and clean-up!

But, I have to warn you, plan ahead! Though the pickles take just 15 minutes to make, you need to wait at least a day or two before you eat them..they just get better and better.

As a stand alone snack, on a veggie, turkey or bison burger, on top of fish, on a skinny crostini, or on a grilled shrimp or chicken taco, these little jewels are a great way to add flavor and texture to loads of dishes without adding any extra calories!

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