Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Pan-frying…Chicken Fried Steak

 

Advertisements
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Skinny Dipping

5. Chill the  Breaded Food…

Cover the tray of breaded food with foil or Saran Wrap. Place in the fridge for thirty minutes to an hour.

This is priobably the one step that most of us feel like we could simply skip…

But chilling your food is actually extremely important beccause refrigerating the fooed allows the flour to become sticky and attach to the meat….ensuring that the breading stays on your food once you cook it.

4. Fry Until Golden Brown…After the breaded food has had time to chill, you’re ready to fry it.

a. First fill the pan that you have designated as your offricial frying pan with enough oil so the food you’re frying is half-covered. Make sure you use a heavy pan for frying so it conducts heat evenly.

b. Heat the oil until a few breadcrumbs sizzle when tossed in. The type of oil that you fryt your food in is actually a matter of preference. Use cooking oil that can withstand high temperatures.

Make sure that the oil is hot enough before adding the food…otherwise your fried food will absorb the oil like a sponge…resulting in soggy, oily food….and the breading will fall off the food into the pan.

Your oil should be somewhere between 300 and 400 degrees, depending on the recipe.

You can you tell if the oil is hot enough by using use a kitchen thermometer…or tossing a drop of batter or breadcrumbs into the oil to make sure that it sizzles…or sticking the end of a wooden spoon into the oil to see if little bubbles form around the spoon.

Also, if the oil in your ia hot enough, the oil will take on a distinct shimmer.

But it the oil is smoking, it’s too hot…either turn the heat down or start over.

Don’t try to rush the oil into reaching the right temperature by cranking your stove eye up as high as possible. The oil should heat up slowly. Trying to heat the oil too fast will lead to bitter, burned food.’

c. Gently lay your breaded food meat in your heated pan, being sure not to overcrowd.

Once the oil is at the right temperature, and you are ready to add your food to your pan, make sure that you do not overcrowd the pan. Crowding the pan will cause heat to be trapped underneath your food, causing it to steam rather than fry.

Even if you know that your pan coulfd hold more food, you do not want your pieces of food to touch each other. Either cook in batches or use two pans.

Remember that as you take out the cooked food and add another batch of uncooked food to your pan, the temperature of the oil will plummet. Allow the oil to come back up to temperature between batches of cooking…otherwise your food will be soggy.

d. Fry for a minute or two, until golden brown on the bottom, and then flip. You may want to use your probe thermometer to check the temperatures of the meat as you are cooking it.

Keep an eye on the food.

Keep the flame on medium to medium-high.

Make sure the temperature doesn’t get too high. If the oil starts to smoke or turn black, it’s too hot and you either need to let it cool down or start over with fresh oil.

To avoid your breading when you turn your food, it is imporrtant that you not turn the food too early or too often.

Remember that the second side always cooks faster than the first.

Be patient. Leave the food alone until it develops a crust and is easily lifts off the pan. If the food is still sticking to the pan, it isn’t ready to turn.

Be sure to use the proper utensils—such as tongs or a thin spatula—for turning your food, especially when the food is fragile.

e. Drain the cooked food on cooling racks placed over foil-lined cookie sheeta. Keep warm until ready to serve. You could also use either paper towels or brown paper sacks. Of these two, the sacks yields the crispest food.

Once the food has been fried and transferred to a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle it once more with kosher or sea salt.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Eentsy Weentsy Spider Went Into the Frying Pan

My husband and I have been married, and most night making dinner for about thirt-five years now..but there’s one thing that I have noticed. I tend to gravitate toward those cooking methods that do not require you to stand by the stove for forty-five minutes “keeping an eye” on something…and actually lean more towards stirring some stuff together, putting it in a 9×13, and walking away.

I guess there are two reasons for this.

First of all, I have this terrible fear ofr being burned.

But secondly, I am plain out lazy and just don’t want to stand up.

But that won’t get your fried okra or fried squash or fried anything else on the table, so I am determined to learn how to master these “stove-top” cooking methods…e ventually making it my goal to be like one of those impressive home chefs that can cook without using a recipe…kinda like those people who can sit down and play piano by ear, having not one day of the way-too-many piano lessons to count.

So far in this attempt to create not only healthier eating habits and cooking skills, I have been thinking about what I should, or would< keep in my kitchen if I totally gutted everything and started all over., we have collected a few things along the way…

Even though frying is considered a quick and easy cooking method, there are still issues that come up—such as ruined meals, messy oily splatter, burned fingers, and even minor kitchen fires.

But half the battle is having the right equipment and knowing how to use it the right way.

 

 

1.PanItems that you should have in your kitchen so far based on the cooking methods that we already talked about—sauteeing and stirfrying–you should at this point only have two pans—a saute pan and a wok.

 

Now we need to add two more pans to our collection—one for panfrying, and the other for deep frying.

 

As far as pan frying, many people like to fry with cast iron skillets because they retain heat well, cook evenly, and are just the right weight.

Enamel  or stainless-steel would also be a great option.

 

As far as non-stick pans, some people will tell you not to buy them because the coatings are not always able to stand the high heats  required for certain types of frying….while others will tell you that they are a good option because they help keep the breading on the food, rather than on the pan.

The size pan that you need will obviously depend on what you will be cooking.

If you’re making fried chicken,  you will need something like a large cast iron skillet,but if you are making something more like apple fritters, you will need to grab your taller stock pot or something similar.

 

The pan that you decide to use for any type of frying should be

  • deep enough to keep most of the “oil splatters” that happen as your food fries, contained in the pan itself
  • heavy-bottomed so that the pan will distribute heat evenly without hot spots.
  • large enough to avoid overcrowding your food…always choose a pan that is bigger than you might think you need

 

If you are buying a pan for deep-frying…(more on this later)…you will need to find a pan that will be able to hold 4 to 6 quarts of liquid…deep enough to hold at least 3″ of oil with another 3 inches space between the top of the oil and the top of the pan…something like a 6-quart, or even larger, Dutch oven or cast iron skillet

 

 

So at this point, you shoulld have four different types of pots in your kitchen…

  • Sautee pan…for sauteeing
  • Skillet…at least a 12” cast iron or similar…for panfrying
  • Dutch oven or something similar…for deep frying
  • Wok…for stirfrtying

 

2. Cookie Sheet/Wire Cooling Racks…A cooling rack like the one that you probably use whenever you’re making cookies placed over a sheet pan to drain fried food is a much better option than using a paper towel-lined plate.

Setting hot food on paper towels can make your food even more soggy and greasy. Having the food lifted up from the counter onto a rack will keep steam from forming between the paper towel and the hot cooked food.

Using a cooling rack and cookie sheet will also allow you to keep one batch warm in the oven on low heat while another batch cook.

Line the cookie sheet with paper towel, and then set the cooling rack on top. The paper towel will collect any excess grease that may drip from the food.

3. Spider…A “spider” is a wok tool with a wooden handle and a wire mesh basket designed to drain excess oil from foods when removing them from hot grease…and turn food while “hanging out” in the hot oil.

Because spiders are originally designed to be used with a wok, they are generally larger than what you need to be using when pan frying…so choose a smaller one out of the selection.

4.  Spatula…You will need some sort of spatula for flipping your food. Metal works so much better than either rubber or plastic, which might melt under the heat.

5. ThermometerKnowing the exact temperature of the oil that you are frying your food in is so very important.

As more food is added to the skillet, the oil will drop in temperature…and you may  need to adjust the heat on your stove.so tthat that every single cutlet is cooked to the same golden-brown perfection.

There are two different types of thermometers that you can use when frying food—candy thermometers that clip to the side of the pabn…’or probe thermometers.

Regardless which type of thermometer you are using, It is important that the be able to nake accurate measurements, especially in the temperature range of 350-400 degrees.

The candy thermometer simply clips onto the side of the pan as the food is frying so that you cacn keep an eyer on exactly how hot your grease is.

This type of thermomemter allows you to control the temperature of the oil that the food is frying in. If the oil  is too hot, your food can burn, but  if the oil isn’t hot enough, your food can burn on the ourside bvurt still not br cooked through on the inside.

The proble thermometer can be stuck into each piece of food as it is taken out of the pan to get an exact measurement of its internal temp. You at least want the inside of your meat to read 165°F.

6.  Tongs… You will need to use long-handled tongs to lower food into the hot oil and to flip items so that you can evenly fry both sides.

Use a second pair of  tongs to remove the cooked meat from the oil. It is never a good idea that the same utensils touch both raw meat and cooked meat…might make you sick of something..(another reason not to go eat Korean barbecue.perhaps(?!__…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

I Can Bring Home the Bacon…AND Fry It Up In a Pan

 

Panfrying is an easy and straightforward dry cooking method that is used all over the world, giving us such great foods as breaded pork chops and chicken cutlets.

Panfrying allows you to get dinner on the table more quickly than several of the other cooking methods that we have or will be discussing…as long as you prepare as much as possible before throwing the first pork chop into the oil…and as long as the food that you will be cooking is actually food suited for this cooking method.

Panfrying simply involves cooking food in a heavy pan containing a small amount of hot oil over moderate heat until it is brown on one side, then flipping it over so that the other side browns also.

The oil should only cover half of the food’s height, unlike deep frying where the food is completely suspended in oil. The fact that the food actually touches the bottom of the pan means that the crust will be even darker than if it had been floating in the oil.

Panfried foods are often covered with some sort of breading before being added to the hot oil…(more on this later)…

This layer creates a barrier that prevents the oil from soaking into the food and making it greasy

As food is panfried, the moisture contained in the inside part of the meat turns into steam and then has a battle with the very hot oil surrounding it. The steam fights to keep the oil out, while the oil  fights to keep the moisture in. 

Actually I was a little puzzled about why frying would be considered as a “dry cooking method” even though the food is cooked in liquid.

Supposedly this is the case because oil is actually a fat that contains no water at all.

Even though both oil and water are liquids, oil behaves much differently than water.

Fewer flavor compounds found in food dissolve in oil. This means that foods cooked in oil are less likely to lose their flavor than those same foods cooked in water.

Save water for making stocks and broths, since so much of the flavor originally found in the food will be dissolved into the water anyway..

The goal of panfrying is to maintain a moist interior while at the same time creating a crisp, tasty, golden-brown crust, Pan-fried foods are favored for these browned surfaces, crisp coatings, and tender interiors.

Panfrying is an effective way to not only retain the moisture and tenderness that these cuts of meat such as pork chops should have, but also to add rich, caramelized flavor.

Food that has been panfried correctly should have a moist interior and a crispy exterior that you refuse to share with anybody.

One primary difference between panfrying and sauteeing, that we talked about in this previous post, is that panfrying uses lower heat.

This lower heat is important because panfrying involves cooking whole pieces of meat, not food that has already been cut into smaller pieces before cooking. If your temperature is too high, the exterior of the food will overcook while the  interior of the food will be undercoked…(ever cut into a hot piece of chieken only to find that the interior is still pink)…

In these next few posts, we will discuss the right equipment, the proper oils, which foods are best for panfrying…and how frying food can be done so that it isn’t quite as bad for my diabetic husband and my own big fat butt…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Shandong Campaign

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Hunan Campaign

When I first decided to take a detour through the different Chinese cooking cuisines, I had no clue that this was going to take up a total of nine posts…what started as one post, soon led into about two or three weeks on my blog.

And all this time I have been thinking back on those times as a kid playing the game of Risk with my brother…fighting over who holds what territory.

 

But Chinese regional cuisine also poses a risk of a sort…the risk of cooking with the wrong methods and ingredients for taking care of a diabetic…as well as the risk of standing at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet debating between  getting Sichuan chicken or Hunan chicken for about twenty minutes and then settling for the orange chicken of the sweet-and-sour chicken like most of us do anyway…

 

 

Anyway, on to the next province…

 

The Hunan Province is a land-locked agricultural hub in south-central China that produces a broad range of vegetables and herbs.

And Hunan cuisine takes advantage of  the great variety of ingredients that its rolling hills and beautiful valleys that the region provides.

Hunan cuisine is very similar to Sichuan food, but even hotter.

But the fact that the spiciness is derived from chilies makes it even more delicious because you can actually taste the ingredients,  instead of only being able to taste mouth-numbing peppercorns.

 

 

Hunan cuisine is not only known for this spicy flavor, but also for its deep colors, oily texture, and fresh aromas.

Another characteristic of Hunan cuisine is an emphasis on sourness. All shapes, sorts, and sizes of pickles are popular in the Hunan region.

 

 

As far as meat, Hunan cuisine uses lots of peppered and smoked meats, such as cured hams

As far as spices, people in the Hunan region can’t even begin to imagine life with without chilies. In fact, no dish is complete without chilies…kinda like no dish is complete without sour cream to many people, including me..

As far as other ingredients, Hunan cuisine uses heaps of garlic, shallots, and tofu, fermented bean curd.

 

 

Examples of foods that you might find in the Hunan region include…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Fujian Campaign

 

Because the Fujian province is surrounded by both the mountains and sea, Fujian cuisine can be a true culinary adventure.

This cuisine takes advantage of both worlds by incorporating the best of both worlds..the offerings of the sea—such as mussels, shrimp, and various types of fish—as well as the offerings of the mountains woodland—such as forest-foraged herbs and mushrooms, garlic, bamboo shoots

 

The people of the Fujian province tend to prefer mild and lightly seasoned…with a great passion for what we know as “sweet and sour.”

The chefs of this region take great pride in their expert knife skills and use these skills to enhance the flavor, aroma and texture of their food.

 

Another factor that distinguishes Fujian cuisine from the other Chinese cuisines is the use of fermented products…making the region distinct by its reputation for  marinated dishes, soups, stews and stir-fries.

 

 

As far as meat, Fujian cuisine includes pork, duck, chicken and beef…but especially takes advantage of what the sea offers—such as mussels, shrimp, and various types of fish.

As far as sauces, Fujian cuisine takes advantage of many different sauces—such as fish sauce, shrimp paste, shacha sauce and preserved apricots. In addition to these, orange juice is often used for a little complexity and sweetness.

As far as spices, Fujian cuisine is known for the precise use of scintillating, but not tongue numbing, spices. Fujian cuisine uses sugar, much like Sichuan cuisine uses Sichuan peppers…probably not a bood thing for any of my diabetic readers, right?

 

Examples of Fujian cuisine recipes that you might find on the internet include…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Sichuan Campaign

Sichuan cuisine is the most unique of the eight main regional cuisines.

Famed for its bold flavors and use of strong spices, this cuisine was strongly influenced by Indian cuisine.

As foreigners, including Buddhist missionaries and Spanish traders, began travelling through this landlocked, mountain-ringed province along China’s famous “Silk Route.” they introduced the locals to the characteristic spicy flavors of Indian cuisine. The people of the area eventually developed their own unique cuisine based on these influences, a cuisine that is so very different and distinct from any other Chinese cooking styles.

Even though this cuisine is famous for being spicy, not all Sichuan dishes are spicy., many Sichuan dishes taste like fish or fried tangerine.

 

 

Let’s take a look at some of the conventional Sichuan ingtredients…

—As far as meat, Sichuan cuisine gives you your typical meats—such as chicken, freshwater fish, and pork…but you will also find more unconventional ingredients—such as shark fins and bear paws. You will also find that air-dried meats are commonly used.

—As far as sauce, Sichuan cuisine tends to use more sesame paste, fish sauce, ginger juice, sweet-sour sauce, garlic puree, red chili oil….(and soy sauce, of course)….

—As far as spices, Sichuan cuisine uses Sichuan pepper…lots and lots of Sichuan pepper…as well as chili peppers and garlic.

—As far as other ingredients, Sichuan cuisine leans more toward pungently flavored vegetables such as garlic and onions. Nuts and seeds are also commonly used in Sichuan cuisine.

 

A few of the most popular Sichuan entrees that you might find on the menu, kook for…

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a Home, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Peking Order of Chinese Regional Cuisine

Every now and then I like to step back and look forward to “What’s Next”…This is one of those posts…

Lately we have been talking about the different cooking methods—specifically sauteeing and stirfrying…

 

 

But before we leave the topic of stirfrying and move on to other cooking methods, I thought that it might be a good time to step back and learn about the “Eight Culinary Traditions” of China.

These are the different cuisines that are found in different provinces of China

These cuisines distinguish the unique flavors of the different regions of the country that vary because of factors such as…

  • agricultural structures
  • availability of resources
  • climate
  • cooking methods
  • cooking techniques
  • eating habits
  • geography, such as the riverlands of the South and mountain ranges of the North
  • history
  • ingredients
  • lifestyle
  • seasoning
  • staple crops grown in each specific region
  • terrain

 

For example, Northern cuisine seems to have more of a preferencfr for salt and noodles. Whereas Southern cuisine seems to have more of a preference for sweetness and rice. Eastern cuisine seems to have more of a preference for spiciness…and Western cuisine has more of a preference for acidity.

 

 

Even though these eight cuisines are considered the most commonly accepted categories of Chinese cuisine, they only represent about a fourth of Chinese cuisine.

 

So let’s take a look at the following regional cuisines, so that whether you’re loading up your plate at the local all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet or cooking healthy meals in your brand new wok at home, you will actually know the difference between Hunan chicken and Sichual porl…(other than the fact that one consists of chicken and one consists of pork, obviously)…

Now for the “bona fide” list…

  1. Anhui
  2. Fujian
  3. Guangdong
  4. Hunan
  5. Jiangsu
  6. Shandong
  7. Sichuan
  8. Zhejiang

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Black is Beautiful

Once you’ve chosen your new wok…or like most of us these days, had it delivered off Amazon, you may be tempted to rush to the nearest Half-Price Books, buy the biggest Chinese cookbook that you can find, and start cooking Chinese as devotely as Julie in the move Julie and Julia…

But wait…

‘Tis the season…

And the season is so very important that you don’t want to miss it.

 

 

So what is the season…and why is it so darn important?!

 

Your brand new wok will most likely have been coated with oil when it was being made in the factory. Manufacturers do this to protect the metal and keep it from rusting or tarnishing in the store before being sold.

Your goal is actually to turn your nice, shiny, and new wok into an even more beautiful*?!) black, nonstick wok with a patina that makes for excellent stir-fry..

So exactly why do you need to season your wok before you start making gourmet meals…and how do you go about it?

 

First the WHY…

Seasoning your new wok will not only removes any metallic taste and the preservative oil manufacturers place on it, but also prevents rust.

Seasoning supposedly also gives you a chance to get acquainted with your wok…

  • how heavy it is
  • how it responds to you
  • how to clean it
  • how to hold it

 

Seasoning your wok properly is so very important because if seasoning is not done properly, your food will probably stick to the pan.

 

 

So now for the HOW

  • Turn the stove burner on as high as it will go.
  • Set your wok on the burner for about a minute,
  • Now take the wok off the heat, Add 2Tbsp  oil,  swirling the pan around to make sure that the bottom and sides are coated.
  • Put the wok back on the heat.
  • Add 1 bunch chopped scallions and 1/2C sliced unpeeled ginger.
  • Reduce the heat to medium,
  • Stir-fry for about twenty minutes.
  • Smear the aromatics up the sides of the wok all the way to the edgem adding more oil if needed
  • Remove the wok from heat,
  • Once the wok has cooled down. rinse the wok with hot water
  • Finally heat the wok over low heat for a couple of minutes.

Even though you have taken all this time to season your wok, time to time you may find from that your wok has become “gummy” and rust spots have started to form. If this is the case, heat the pan as you did before, rub 1-1/2tsp oil and 1Tbsp kosher salt into the wok, and dry completely with a pad made from three layers of paper towels,

 

Cleaning Your Wok

To clean your wok after using, rinse with a soft sponge, dish soap optional…(depends on how much of a germophobe you are…but many chefs recommend avoiding soap). Never use metal utensils or scrubbers to clean your wok because this will weaken the coating.

Dry it off.

Once you have finished drying it off, heat the wok on the stove at a low setting for about a minute in order to evaporate any remaining water.

Now rub in a dab of oil before on the wok before storing. This cost of oil will help to seal any pits in the metal and keeps the surface non-stick.

If something is sticking to the pan that you can’t get off this way, add a dash of salt and scrub it gently with a paper towel..

 

Using Your Wok…After you have been using your wok for a while, you will find that the interior has changed from that shiny silver color that it had when you brought it home from the store to either a brownish, or even a black color.

Don’t worry…you have not ruined your pan.

Black is beautiful.

This is actually what you have been ultimately waiting for.

This permanent black patina makes sure that you have a flavorful meal each time you cook.

 

 

Cooking with Your New Wok

  1. Make sure your wok is very hot before adding your ingredients. There should actually be smoke rising from it.
  2. Now add oil to the pan before adding your ingredients.
  3. Be sure to spread the ingredients evenly and along the sides of the pan
  4. As your ingredients are cooking, only stir them as needed to prevent burning.  while cooking.
  5. Cook your food in batches. Overcrowding them may save you time, but will not be worth it in the long run.

 

Finally for a few more words of wisdom…

  • Hold off on using your wok to steam, boil, or poach.
  • Avoid cooking with any acidic foods—such as tomatoes, vinegar, and lemons—because acidic foods can damage the delicate surface of the wok.
  • And it probably goes without saying to be cautious when using a hot stove, especially when hot oil.