If you resolved to master your home bar in 2013, look no further; take cocktails from basic to brilliant with indispensable bartending techniques that go beyond shaking and stirring. From rimming glasses with salt or sugar to dry-shaking egg whites to add to light and frothy cocktails, these nine skills will add flair and flavor to cocktail hour.
Panfrying is exactly as the name implies — frying food in a pan atop a stove. While the name might be a no-brainer, the technique of mastering that coveted crisp exterior and moist, steamy interior is a little trickier. Typically used for larger proteins like chicken, fish, or veggie burgers, the food is partially submerged in the oil and must be flipped halfway through the cooking time so that both sides brown.
To try panfrying at home, place a large, thick skillet with a flat bottom atop a stove. Fill the pan a third of the way full with a high-heat oil like canola, refined peanut, or safflower. Heat the oil on a medium-high flame until it shimmers (about 325°F to 350°F). Transfer your protein to the pan, carefully positioning the food in the pan away from your body, to prevent any hot oil from splashing on you. Leave a few inches between each piece, to make it easier to flip the food and to ensure that plenty of hot oil circulates evenly throughout the pan.
Keep a watchful eye on the flame and food. Keep in mind that every time you add new food to the pan, the temperature of the oil will drop, and if the temperature's too cool, items can become soggy and oil-logged; adjust the flame accordingly to keep the oil hot and shimmery. Once the items are cooked on both sides, transfer them to a wire rack lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil and to cool the food slightly before serving. Toss any remaining oil or save it in a container to return to a health food store (most have recycling bins for used oil).
Throughout the years, I've seen several different ways of achieving perfectly wilted kale. Growing up, my mom would pan-fry the dark, leafy green, smothering it with soy sauce and diced red bell pepper to offset its bitter flavor. When I was in culinary school, I was taught to blanch and shock the kale, then sauté it à la minute. However, I think I've discovered the most simple method of kale preparation — steaming — and it requires less than five minutes and only one pot. Put away the sauces and oils and bust out the old-school stainless steel vegetable steamer, because you're going to love steamed kale, unadulterated.
Poaching may sound like an advanced technique, but it is actually nothing more than gently simmering food in liquid until it is cooked through. Poaching lends itself best to delicate ingredients that risk falling apart or drying out at high heats. Foods such as fish, chicken, eggs, and fruit poach beautifully; the low heat, kept between 140° to 180° Fahrenheit, preserves flavor, allowing for an incredibly tender and tasty result. Never allow the liquid to reach a rolling boil; rather, keep a watchful eye to make sure small bubbles form as the food gently simmers to perfection.
Poaching an ingredient doesn't require too much liquid — just enough to cover the ingredients.
A few ideal poaching liquids include water, milk, stock, or wine (my personal favorite). Depending on what I'm making I like to add whole spices to flavor the liquid, like bay leaf or peppercorns with salmon poached in white wine. What's your favorite thing to poach? Do you have any tried-and-true poaching recipes or tips?
Looking for a quick, easy, and enticing way to incorporate more vegetables into your life? Roasting may very well be just the solution you need. Not only does the blast of high heat cook vegetables to fork-tender in next to no time, but it also magically caramelizes the edges, making each bite slightly sweet and all the more enticing.
Little more than a bit of prep work and roughly 20-30 minutes of cook time separates your meal from the addition of a brightly colored, mouth-watering, and rather healthy side. And while methods vary slightly from vegetable to vegetable, follow these general guidelines:
- Preheat the oven: Aside from tomatoes and other delicate produce, which shine when slow-roasted at a lower temperature (try 200°F), most vegetables benefit from a blast of high heat, as it promotes browning and caramelization; generally, 400-450°F is a good place to start.
- Prep the vegetables: Usually this just means a quick scrub with a vegetable brush and a rough chop (1-inch cubes is pretty standard), but some produce like Winter squash requires a bit of peeling and even the removal of seeds but is still very easy to prep. For oddballs like brussels sprouts, trim off the woody stems, peel away any dried-out and tough outer leaves and halve the tiny cabbages so that they have a flat surface to rest on (flat surfaces allow the most pan contact and browning). Smaller root vegetables like carrots can be left whole (just trim off excess carrot tops).
Cooking en papillote (French for "in parchment") is a method of hand-sealing protein and vegetables in parchment paper, then oven-roasting them. While liquids aren't typically added to the pouch, ingredients seep out their own liquid and effectively steam in their own juices, resulting in a healthy meal that's bound to be filled with both moisture and flavor. In addition, other flavoring agents, like herbs and aromatics, get enveloped in the same steam-filled vessel, amping up the delicious factor.
To create a parchment paper pouch, arrange your ingredients on one half of a large piece of parchment (this method works with aluminum foil, too). Fold the other half on top of your ingredients. Fold up the open edges of the packet in pleats, working from one end to the other. Don't worry too much about how the package looks, as long as it's tightly sealed. When you open your parchment-wrapped meal, you'll find a moist, flavorful, and perfectly cooked meal ready to be plated.
Even though it is most commonly associated with fish and vegetables, other quick-cooking proteins like chicken breast can be cooked the same way. What do you like to cook in parchment?
Steaming is arguably one of the healthiest ways to cook vegetables, but that doesn't mean it's boring. Not only do properly steamed vegetables retain most of their nutrients, but the brightly colored vegetables are incredibly appetizing and full of flavor.
There are a few tricks to perfect steaming — and they don't necessarily involve having to own a steamer!
Firstly, the water should be boiling before you add the vegetables to your steamer basket to ensure even temperature throughout the cooking process. Try not to crowd the steamer with too many vegetables and take care to either properly layer your steamer basket according to cooking time or just cook up several batches. Firm vegetables like potatoes and carrots take longer to steam and should be placed toward the bottom of the steamer basket, while green beans and spinach take much less time and can be added later to the top.
Timing Is Everything
The most important part of steaming vegetables is the timing. Oversteam, and you'll suffer through bland, nutrient-poor, dull vegetables. But practice makes perfect; you'll soon learn what timing works for you.
For more steaming tips, keep reading.
A picture says a thousand words, and in 2012, we discovered that the best way to show prepping and cooking skills is through step-by-step instructionals. Whether you've always wanted to learn how to peel fava beans, cut through a tough squash, braid challah bread, or break down a turkey, keep clicking to learn 17 new skills in the kitchen.
If you've ever wondered what makes the chocolate in bonbons so smooth and shiny, it's a technique called tempering, which is a method of melting chocolate to a specific temperature in order for the fat and sugar molecules to collide so that when the chocolate sets, it creates an attractive sheen and toothsome snap. While it may seem like an elusive, mysterious technique that is better left to chocolatiers, it can be done at home in about two hours, as long as you have a candy thermometer and the proper chocolate. For the adventurous pastry cooks out there, here's how to temper dark chocolate, in pictures.
I've always praised butternut squash for its mild sweetness and versatility — but I was surprised when so many of you said you'd never prepared one before, or find it hard to work with. Since it'd be a bummer to miss out on this Fall vegetable at home (unless you're willing to pony up $400 for an automated butternut squash peeler!), I thought I'd help you out with instructions on how to prep it yourself. Here's a step-by-step lesson.
Photo: Nicole Perry