Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Let’s All Get Boiling Mad Together

Yeah, I know…I said that we would crawl our way up the Raw Foods Pyramid one food at a time…one tier at a time…

But…

My family will never be content to eat nutritional yeast and raw sweet potatoes for the rest of their lives.

So instead I have been getting acquainted with all the different cooking methods…what foods work best for which technique…how to use each method in creating not only meals that are healthier, but also more delicious.

I began looking at these different cooking methods by starting with what I thought were “moist cooking methods”…specifially sauteeing, pan frying, and deep frying.

Let’s consider a few characteristics that make certain cooking methods “moist” cooking methods…

  • 1. Moist-heat cooking methods involve cooking food with, or in, some type of liquid—such as steam, water, stock, or wine. Lately I have learned that many people do not consider these three methods to be “moist” cooking methods because…but, hey, we’ve already talked about it…so let’s move on and not join in on that debate.
  • 2. Moist-heat cooking methods involve using lower temperatures—ranging from 140°F to 212°F—(yeah, I know, we just talked about frying foods at 300-ish degrees…just go with it)…
  • 3. Moist-heat cooking methods soften tough fibers—such as meat protein or plant cellulose….which can be good or bad depending on the food that you are figuring out what to do with.
  • 4. Moist-heat cooking methods are typically simple and economical.
  • 5. Moist-heat cooking methods are more likely to preserve and maintain the water-soluble vitamins and other nutrients of the food, taking advantage of that food’s nutritional potential.
  • 6. Moist-heat cooking methods preserve and even add moisture to the food as it is cooking…important for cooking foods that need softening—such as hard vegetables, tough meat or dry grains and beans….
  • 7. Moist-heat cooking methods bring out more of the natural flavor in the food.

We have already looked at sauteeing, pan frying, and deep frying.

Some more common moist-heat cooking methods are…

  • boiling
  • braising
  • poaching
  • simmering
  • steaming
  • stewing

So let’s get boiling mad together in these next few posts, okay?!

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Meat and Taters Around the World—Sweden

Getting my five year old ready to start “real school” in the fall has reminded how there’s always one of THEM in almost any crowd…

The sibling that gets your mom the most expensive gift of any other sibling

The nerd in the class that always aces the test that most of us have just failed

The homeroom mother eight months pregnant, kid in tow, perfectly organizing the homeroom Christmas…or whatever the heck THEY acknowledge the holiday as this week…party

The relative that brings the fanciest side dish to the Thanksgiving side dish to the annual “let’s all get together and pretend like we all like each other once a year” ordeal…

Your sister in law was so proud of her mashed potatoes…until you showed up with your twice-baked potatoes…

But lo and behold…here comes THAT sibling…the one you’ve competed with and lived in the shadows of your entire life walking in fashionably late with nothing but…

HASSELBACK POTATOES

We can all thank Leif Elisson for being the overachiever in his cooking school and creating these potatoes back in 1953…when he was a chef in training at the famous restaurant at the Hasselbacken Hotel in Stockholm…an elegant hotel that first opened in 1748.

By the way the word Hasselback actually translates  “Hazel Hill.”

In fact, they can’t be possibly be as hard as they look like they would be to make if the Swedes enjoy them not only for “red calendar day” events…but also for breakfast, appetizers, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

They are basically a baked potato…so I’m not gonna go into depth as far as cooking them…already talked about that in this previous post…

These just go extra by requiring that you make a special series of deep parallel cuts along the top of the potato so that it opens into their expected fan shape….and then so that you can showboat various toppings on top.

Surprisingly these potatoes only take a little more effort than a regular baked potato…and can make such an impact when served alongside a special dinner—such as a holiday roast, date night steak, or Easter ham.

The perfect Hasselback potatoes have perfectly crispy, crunchy, and golden edges of French fries on the outside…the soft, buttery, creamy goodness of mashed potatoes on the inside….and the perfect amounts of cheddar, Parmesan cheese, fresh chives, sour cream, bacon, crumbled feta, spring onions, etc. 

 

 

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PREP

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Arrange a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat to 425°F.

 

 

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SLICE

The one thing that separates a hasselback potato from a plain everyday baked potato is the way it is cut.

So settle on bringing mashed potatoes or twice-baked potatoes to the party until you master the technique.

First of all, it is important that you choose a good quality knife to cut your potatoes—one with a thin blade that is very sharp…(and have the number to the nearest CareNow clinic close at hand.)…

Slice a thin layer from the bottom of the potato to keep it from rolling around.

Place a potato between the handles of two wooden spoons or two chopsticks. This creates a “guardrail” that should help keep you from slicing the potato all the way through….the most important thing to not do whenever making this dish…(other than cooking them too long and burning both your potatoes and perhaps even your house.)

Another option to help guide you as you are making your cuts is to rest the potato in a large serving spoon.

Cut thin parallel slits about every 1/4″ across each of the potatoes, leaving 1/4″ at the bottom intact. The thinner the slices, the better the end result.

Push the knife straight down into the potato. Once your knife hits the chopsticks or edge of the spoon, stop slicing. Once again, it is important to make sure that the slices stay connected at the bottom of the potato.

Don’t worry about your slices being perfect, they will end up great regardless.

If all else fails, and you still suck at this, then order yourself a Hasselback potato cutting board…they’ll still be impressed…

Repeat with the remaining potatoes, sertting each on the prepared baking sheet once sliced.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are to dinner fare what hash browns are to breakfast fare…and in this post, we’re gonna learn how to make the best mashed potatoes ever.

The perfect mashed potatoes are rich, super-creamy, and thick…and flavored with butter, sour cream, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

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Which type of potatoes should I use?

The best variety of  potato to use when making mashed potatoes is Yukon Gold….(that’s why I put mashed potatoes in this section on Yukon Gold potatoes…go figure)…because they give your mashed potatoes an even creamier texture….

 

 

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Should I Cut or Peel My Potatoes? 

First of all, whether or not you peel the potatoes before cutting them is purely a matter of preference. Some people like the texture that the skin adds,while other don’t…Just remember that the skin is where all the extra nutrients and flavor.s are.

Regardless if you peel them or not, you will need to cut your potatoes into evenly-sized chunks, about an inch or so thick.  You do not want to boil whole potatoes Now transfer the potatoes  to a large stockpot full of cold water until all of the potatoes are cut and ready to go.

 

 


How do I cook my potatoes?

Place the potatoes In a 6-quart stockpot, and cover with enough cold water that the water line sits about 1″ above the potatoes. Add 1Tbsp salt. You do not want to boil or heat the water before addiong the potatoes because they might not cook evenly.

Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat down to medium-low. Cook about 15min…until you can stick a knife into the middle of the potato with almost no resistance.

Draining and steaming to finish helps pull out any remaining water for a fluffy final texture. …Whether or not you cook them without peeling them first is a matter of personal preference.

So carefully drain out all of the water.

Return the drained potatoes into the hot stockpot. Set back on the stove over low heat.  Gently shake the pan for about a minute to release some of the steam and moisture from the potatoes.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Set them aside until you are actually ready to mash your potatoes….this will make sure that all the liquid is evaporated.

 

 

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Now what do I do?

Heat 1/3C salted butter, 1C milk, and 2tsp salt together either in a small saucepan or in the microwave until warm…but avoid boiling the milk.  Set aside until ready to use. This keeps the potatoes hot and absorbs better. 

Return the potatoes to the hot stockpot. Place back on the hot burner, but first turn the heat down to low.  Using two oven mitts, carefully hold the handles on the stockpot and shake it gently on the burner for about a minute to help cook off some of the remaining steam within the potatoes. 

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, strong wooden spoon, or electric beaters until smooth, adding a little extra milk if needed…but be careful not to over beat or they will become gluey.

Add warm milk mixture, a little bit at a time, to the potatoes until they reach the desired consistency is reached.

Stir in 3 cloves garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, 1/2C sour cream, fresh herbs, onion, shredded cheddar, cooked bacon bits, chives…whatever you want.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect French Fries

Homemade French Fries…why even bother when it would be so much easier either to drive thru McDonald’s or grab a bag of frozen fries out of your freezer…the one that’s probably been hiding in there for the last couple of years at least…goal for today—clean out freezer!!!

Because we are talking about the deep frying cooking methods and potatoes, and of course the topic of French fries would eventually come up.

The perfect French fries are extra astonishingly crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.

French fries are actually very easy to make ahead and store in your freezer that you may never buy another bag of frozen fries ever, ever again…

 

 


The Potatoes

Which potatoes?

  • Yukon Gold…that’s why we’re learning about making French fries while we are on the topic of Yukon Gold potatoes…go figure, right?
  • Choose the largest ones you can find.

Why are Yukon Gold potatoes better?

  • …because they are less starchy and will turn out much crispier than any other type of potato.

How many potatoes?

  • Figure on two potatoes per person.

How do I slice the potatoes?

  • Slice the potatoes into ½” thick sticks. The thinner you cut your fries, the crispier they will be.
  • Wash the potatoes.
  • Peeling them at this point is purely a matter of personal preference.

Soaking Your Potatoes

Soak the potato slices in cold water for at least one hour, perhaps even overnight. The longer, the better.

Soaking your potatoes removes the starch and will end up making your French fries extra crispy and keep them from sticking to each other when you are cooking them.

 

 

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Cooking Your French Fries

 

Most cooks and chefs agree that the best way to getting those perfectly crispy fries that you’re craving is to double fry your potatoes—first for five or six minutes at 300° to cook the middle of the potato, and then frying them a second time at 400° to cook the outside.

Using a deep-fat thermometer will help ensure that the oil is at the proper temperature before you start adding your potatoes to the water.

Drain the potatoes.. Pat them dry with paper towels or a clean dishcloth.

Be sure to use a pot that is large and tall enough—such as a tall 8-quart soup pot, to contain the oil without overflowing when the potatoes are slipped in.

Pour enough oil into the pan that it measures about 1-1/2″ deep.

Heat the oil over high heat until it reaches 300.

Carefully drop small batches of potatoes to the hot oil. Frying too many French fries at once makes them less crispy.

The oil should bubble lightly.  The temperature of the oil will drop to about 260 F after the potatoes are added.

Gently stir the fries to ensure that they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan or stick to each other.  

Fry for about five minutes.

Remove from the oil using a pair of tongs or a slotted metal spoon.

At this point we’re only heating the potatoes, so don’t be disappointed if they’re not crisp yet.
Place the cooked potatoes on a paper towel lined plate.

 

Increase the heat to 400 degrees.

Fry a second time in batches about five more minutes, until they are crisp and golden-brown.

Remove them onto dry paper towels.
Sprinkle with salt as soon as they come out.
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

What’s Next?!

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Pan-Frying 101

 

2. Brining the Chicken…Typically when I frychicken, I cook approximately 3-3 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces….So let’s get started…
Soaking your chicken in some sort of brine will help the breading stick to the food better…and add moisture and flavor. Once you prepare the brine, simply add the chicken to the liquid and stick in the fridge at least thirty minutes, and even overnight.

 

4. Heating Your Oil…When frying chicken, it is important that the oil can be heated to a high temperature without burning. Peanut, canola or vegetable oil are your best options…Avoid using olive oil or butter.

 

 

 

5. Cooking Your Chicken…Gently place your breaded chicken skin side-down in your heated pan, being sure not to overcrowd the pan.

Replace the lid onto the pan. Cook the chicken about ten minutes, using your tongs to turn the chicken a few times while it cooks.

Remove the lid. Cook ten minutes more, uncovered…until the chicken is cooked through and the outside is a deep golden brown.

 

If you are using a probe thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken, the magic number is 165 degrees.

Remember to bring the oil back up to 350 degrees before you add the next batch of chicken.

 

 

 

Once your chicken has finished frying, place the hot chicken on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little salt for extra flavor.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

When done well, you should end up with a hallmark of great fried chicken—perfectly tender meat with plenty of that crunchy, dark brown crust that all of us Southerners so adore.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Shandong Campaign

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary—Zhejang Campaign

Zhejiang cuisine tends to be the simplest of all Chinese regional cuisines.

The focus of Zhejiang cuisine seems to be simplicity. The people of the region focus more on serving fresh seasonal produce served crispy, perhaps even raw or almost raw…much like Japanese food….fresh seafood…and

Zhejiang cuisine tends to be fresh, soft, and smooth with a mellow fragrance.,.,, with a good balance between saltiness and umami

Zhejiang cuisine uses a wide variety of cooking methods—including braising, sautéing, stewing, steaming, and deep-frying.

As far as meat, Zhejiang cuisins uses many different varieties of fresh seafood and freshwater fish caught from local rivers.

As far as sauce, Zhejiang cuisine tends to focus on simple marinades—such as a simple mixture of vinegar and sugar—instead of the more complicated sauces and marinades found in other Chinese regional cuisines.

As far as spices, Zhejiang cuisine tends to be lightly seasoned and veer on the salty side..

Examples of foods that you might find 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…