Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Best Fry Station in the Nation

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So far we have covered three cooking methods—sauteeing, stirfrying, and pan frying—Now we begin our fourth cooking method—deep frying.

So far in your minimalist kitchen, there are several things that you should have either kept, updated, or bought…

As far what you should have in your minimalist kitchen at this point, you should have…

  • Cookie Sheet
  • Cooking Oil
  • Cutting Board
  • Knives
  • Mineral Oil
  • Saute pan
  • Skillet
  • Spatula
  • Spider
  • Thermometer
  • Tongs
  • Wire Cooling Racks
  • Wok…for stirfrtying

 

 

 

Now that we are starting to learn how to deep=fry, there are a few more things that you might need. These includfe…

 

 

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The Pot

One of the most obvious things that you will need when you’re deep-frying is something to deep-fry in.

Of the pans that you already have, your wok is your best option.

Another great option would be a large Dutch oven or a deep sauté pan with a heavy bottom, sides that are deep enough to allow you to fill the pan with a few inches of hot oil,  and a long handle.

Finally, you could choose to use a deep fryer. This is a great choice for people just learning to deep-fry because most deep fryer come equipped with min/max lines, temperature controls, and wire frying baskets.

 

 

 

Now let’s look at the cooking utensils that you already have…or should have…that you will also be using whenever you deep-fry. These include.,,

 

1. Thermometer

It is important that you have a good candy thermometer with a clip that sticks over the side of the pan, unless you buy a deep fryer that already has a thermostat. This will help you make sure that you are frying your food at the right temperature.

If you still haven’t bought such a thermometer, check to see if the oil bubbles around the stick end of a wooden spoon whenever you put a wooden spoon into the oil…or see if a popcorn kernel pops in hot oil whenever you put it into the pan. If one of these two things happen, then your oil is somewhere between 325 and 350 degrees…and you are ready to start cooking.

 

 

2. Tongs…You will also want to have a decent set of tongs on hand for removing food from whatever it has been cooked in.

 

 

3. A large slotted spoon…You will need these to help you remove and drain the food from the hot oil. Other great options to help you do this would include a wire basket or a kitchen spider

 

 

4. Paper towels…You will be using these to drain the food once it has been cooked.

 

 

5. Other…Other important utensils that you already have on hand include  wooden spoons, sieves, and fry baskets.

 

 

 

Okay, that was simple enough…not let’s learn what to do with all this “stuff” when it comes to deep-frying.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Caramelize Onions—Review of the Sauteeing Method of Cooking

Now we’ve covered all the different steps involved in our first cooking method—sauteeing.

But before we move on to our next cooking method and slowly re-begin our crawl through the raw foods pyramid, I’d like to review the method…by telling you how to caramelize onions…

Caramelizing an onion brings out the natural rich and savory sweetness of the onion and calms down some of its undeniable intensity, sharp spiciness notes, and tear-inducing gases.

By cooking the onions for an extended period of time, the natural sugars in the onions “caramelize” and you end with an intensely and wonderful flavor.

So what can you do with these “caramelized” onions?

Lots___

This is a cooking “staple” that adds a depth of flavor to just about anything, such as…

  • burgers
  • casseroles
  • dip
  • French onion soup
  • grilled cheese sandwiches
  • pasta and pasta sauces
  • pastries
  • pizza
  • quiche
  • salads
  • sandwiches
  • soups
  • stir-fries

Ingredients…Obvously if you are going to caramelize onions, you will need onions…

But there are so many different kinds of onions…which onions should you choose?

Actually we will be talking about onions in the near future as we start moving through the Food Pyramid again.

For now, let’s just use yellow onions. Yellow onions tend to caramelize the most readily and be the most versatile to add to the various dishes that you use them in.

How many onions?

This is totally up to you and how many caramelized onions you think you might need before having to make more… I usually caramelize two to three at a time.

The onions will cook down quite a lot.

Slicing and Dicing…When you are slicing and dicing your onions, you want your cuts to be clean and consistent.

First cut the stem and root ends off of each of the onions.

Next remove the skins and cut the onions in half.

Now cut the onions into thin slices. The onions will naturally separate half-rings. Take time to make sure that your slices are even. If not, some of the onions will be undercooked and some of the other will be burned.

You could also dice the onions, but I think onions “rings” are so much more attractive.

Actually before you start slicing and dicing your onions, you should start heating your pan over medium-low heat. be careful not to turn your heat too high…if you do, the onions will burn.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Don’t Just Gaze…When You Could Deglaze

Now that you have finished sauteeing whatever it is that you are sauteeing, you will find that your skillet has little bits of brown stuff still stuck to the bottom.

Your first thought as you gaze at this skillet that you dread cleaning is that you now have to get out a Brillo and clean the darn thing…all the time wondering if you’re gonna scratch the new skillet that you just forked over how much for…

But wait…

There is a way not only to make cleaning this skillet easier, but also to use these bits to make your food taste even better.

What you find stuck on your skillet is actually a mixture of browned sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and rendered fat that have collected on the bottom of the pan.

This caramelized “mess,” which the French call sucs, is actually packed with flavor and will only require some sort of liquid—such as wine, stock, or juice—to become something quite delicious.

How do I do that?

The way that you make this stuff actually taste good, not to mention cleaning your skillet is deglazing.

Deglazing transforms this messy residue into a delicious gravy or sauce that can be served with the food that you finished sauteeing or used to flavor sauces, soups, and gravies.

This will add an additional rich flavour to the dish, capture the food’s flavor that is lost during cooking, and tenderize the foods that have so often become dry as you have sautéed them.

So how do you deglaze?

First transfer whatever you have just cooked onto a platter and cover so that it stays warm while you are deglazing the skillet.

Next add a liquid—such as wine, beer, stock, wine, juice, or both—and any desired fresh herbs to the hot pan. Add enough liquid to make twice the amount of sauce you want to make.

The flavor of your sauce or gravy will ultimately be determined by the following three things…

  • the key ingredient
  • the liquid used for deglazing
  • any flavoring or finishing ingredients that you add—such as aromatics, herbs, or butter

Raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, and gently boil gently until the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and make them dissolve into the sauce.

Cook until the there seems to be half as much liquid as you started with.

Taste the sauce until you get the flavor that you like.

If you need to thicken your sauce or gravy so that you get a richer and more concentrated sauce or gravy, add some flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot…or simply simmer some more.

You could also add a tablespoon of whipping cream, olive oil, or butter to add even more flavor, give it a velvety texture, and thicken the sauce.

And there you go—not only a cleaner skillet that will be easier to wash, but also a delicious something extra to serve with whatever you had just sautéed…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Saute Your Meats and Vegetables

What is Sauteeing?…Sautéing uses relatively high, dry heat and motion to quickly brown meats and vegetables in a small amount of far.

Sautéing also gives food a lot of flavor in a short amount of time.

As far as meat, sautéing is a great way to cook meat because this method not only tenderizes the meat, but also takes advantage of the Maillard reaction, which is the caramelization of the sugars in food. Often this is done before continuing to cook the meat by another cooking method.

As far as veggies, sauteing is also a great way to cook veggies because this method brings out the true flavors of the food, produces a flavorful exterior with the best possible texture and color, and maintains the original flavor and texture of the veggies.

Sauteeing is very similar to two more cooking methods that we will be looking at—stir-frying and pan-frying. All three of these methods involve cooking food quickly in a small amount of fat.

However, stir-frying foods involves keeping the food in constant motion instead of letting the food rest at times during the cooking and requires higher heat….and pan-frying involves no tossing of your food, uses slightly more fat, and requires slightly lower temperatures.

So which foods can be sautéed, and which foods shouldn’t?…Virtually all foods can be sautéed, but since this is a quick cooking method, the food must be small and tender enough so that the center is done by the time the outside has browned.

This method works best with foods that are sliced thin so that they cook thoroughly without a lot of heat.

Since this is such a rapid technique, it does not offer the same tenderizing effect as some of other methods. For this reason, any food that you are going to sautee must be naturally tender.

Meat…As far as meat, sauteeing should only be used to cook the most tender cuts, those meats without a lot of tough connective tissue. If you try to sautée tough cuts of meat—such as a lamb shank or brisket—they will become even tougher because it is a dry heat method. These meats are much better suited for braising and other cooking methods that require a longer cooking time.

If you’re cooking a single serving of meat—such as a fish filet or pork chop, let the food develop the color and crust you want on one side before turning it over.

For chicken breasts or single-serving pieces of meat or fish, cook one side until golden brown, then flip over to brown the other side. This quick sear helps the food retain its natural juices.

  • Chicken…about 10min…until no longer pink and internal temperature is 170 degrees
  • Fish…about min…until golden and fish begins to flake when tested with a fork
  • Pork Chops…about 10min…to “medium” or 160
  • Steak: Cook until desired doneness—145 degrees for medium rare, 160 degrees for medium

Veggies…As far as veggies, any vegetable can be sautéed, but more tender vegetables—such as asparagus, baby artichokes, bell peppers, green beans, mushrooms, onions, peppers, sugar snap peas, and zucchini—are the best ones to choose.

Saute the veggies until they are al dente, meaning crisp-tender or almost “undercooked.” The veggies will continue to cooking even after you take them off the heat.

If you are going to be cooking several different vegetables together, start with those that will need a longer cooking times, and then add those that require shorter cooking times toward the end.

Overcrowding…Regardless if you are cooking veggies or meat, or a combination of the two. avoid overcrowding your skillet. Overcrowding your skillet will lower the heat of your skillet, and increase the chances that your food will be mushy and limp.

Your ingredients need enough space to move around, and any steam that is released as you cook needs enough room to escape, instead of staying in the pan in order for your food to brown, instead of steam.

Tossing and turning…You must keep the food moving as you sauté. This will make sure that your food cooks evenly keep the pan hot, and avoid food sticking to your skillet.

So often we see trained chefs on television shows, such as Iron Chef, holding the handle of the sauté pan firmly and then using a sharp elbow motion to quickly move the pan around….

And they make it look so easy. I am a normal home cook though, and my tossing and turning will never be quite the same as theirs…kinda like my pizza tossing skills…

So instead of even trying this at home, I use a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to move the food around.

Just stir the food in a circular direction around the heating source. Wait a a few seconds, and then stir again.

Here are a few more things to remember…

  • Cook only one layer of food cooks in your pan at a time.
  • Do not press down on your meats and veggies while you are cooking them in order to get them brown. If your pan is hot enough and contains enough fat, doing this will only rob them of both moisture and taste.
  • If you are cooking a lot of food, cook the food in batches instead.
  • If you are cooking meat, have at least 1/2″ between each piece of meat.
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Some Like It Hot

Before you start to actually sauté your ingredients, you should preheat your pan for a few minutes. 

Making sure that your pan is at the proper temperature before adding oil or ingredients.

Meat…As far as cooking meat, heating the skillet before adding any oil or ingredients—such as chicken or pork chop—will mean that your meat will not be as dry as if you had not done this. The reason is that tender cuts of meat needs to be cooked as quickly as possible in order to stay tender.

If your pan is cold when you add your meat, the meat will spend more time over the heat

If your pan is not hot enough when you add your meat, then the meat will just sit there until your pan slowly heats up enough to start cooking the meat.

As the meat just sits there waiting, eventually the juices will start leaking out and then boiling away….resulting in disgusting gray-colored soggy pork chops or tough, instead of tender,  chicken.

Veggies...As far as cooking veggies, heating the skillet before adding any oil or ingredients will mean that your veggies will steam them instead of sautéing. This will mean that you will have drab, mushy, overcooked vegetables—not crisp, flavorful and brightly-colored veggies because the veggies have spent too much time over the heat.

How Hot is Hot Enough?…To make sure that your pan is hot enough to add your meat and/or veggies, set a drop of water into the pan. If it’s ready, the water will jump and skitter around on the surface.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Choose the Right Spatulas to Saute Food

 

Now that we’ve learned how to choose the right saute pan, let’s move on to the next tool that you will need in order to saute food—the spatula.

Using a good spatula as you saute food in your new an is important because you don’t wants to scratch your pan or shorten its lifespan.

Don’t settle for using the metal spatula that you’ve been using for the last thirty years or a metal spoon to stir your food. This will definitely damage the surface.

Not only does having a good spatula keep your new pan looking like new, it also makes it easier to turn your meat, as well as softer foods—such as egg, pancakes, or tender fish—smoothly without disrupting their shape.

Although it’s always a good idea to have several different types and sizes of spatulas on hand to handle various cooking jobs, right now we’re only talking about one method—sauteeing…so we’re only going to choose the right ones for this job.

There are several factors to consider as you shop for your new spatula. These include…

  • Design
  • Durability
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to keep clean
  • Heat resistance
  • Long lasting
  • Materials used
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Style

 

 

Design...

One-piece design…Choose one that is only one unit, that does not have both a handle and body because these always tend to…

  • be difficult to clean
  • breed bacteria
  • detach from one another
  • get food stuck at the joint
  • Slotted…f the food you are cooking typically has a lot of grease, using a slotted spatula will allow the grease to pour off before you put it on the plate or serving platter

Handle…Three factors to look for as far as the handle are…

  • Flexible…they should be flexible enough to help you scrape out your pans
  • Heat-Resistant…will not turn hot when exposed to hot materials
  • Sturdy…they should be sturdy enough to handle meat

Hanging loop…Look for a hole at the end of the spatula that will allow you to hang it as you finish organizing your kitchen, should you choose not to stash it in a drawer or cram it into some sort of jar with every other utensil in your kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Materials…As far as materials, there are at least three different choices, including…

Plastic...Don’t even bother getting one of these to saute your food. They tend to curl at the ends and melt easily when used on heated pans and cookware, are very flimsy, and cannot handle much if any weight.

Silicone

  • Durability…extremely durable…will not melt or become misshapen…made to last decades…will look the same year after year unless they are purposely destroyed…won’t flake, peel, break, crack or even fade
  • Easy to Clean…can be washed in the dishwashee
  • Health Factor…bacteria resistant
  • Heat Resistant…able to withstand high heat…handles are cool to the touch so there is no fear of the user getting burned, even if it is left on the stovetop or somewhere else that is hot
  • Use…great for using on any kind of cookware, designed to handle high heat such as when stirring hot sauces on the stove

Wood

  • Easy to Clean…not dishwasher safe …also require conditioning from time to time so that they will not wear out.
  • Heat Resistance…poor conductora of heat…so you can comfortably hold it without getting burned
  • Use…great for scraping the browned bits of food off the bottom of the pan…can also be good for stirring….not very efficient for scraping since they do not have any flexibility
  •