Cooking tips

Vanilla Extract

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To make, chop 3 or 4 vanilla beans into small pieces. Do not lose any of the little black seeds. Drop the pieces into a clean jar and cover with 1/2 cup brandy and 1/2 cup water. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and keep in a dark place, shaking every other day. Vanillai Extract will be ready in about 2 weeks. Add a tiny bit more brandy if the beans still seem potent. The mixture can be added to indefinitely. Use just as you would store-bought vanilla extract. Store it anywhere, and it will keep for up to one year.

Turkey - Trussing

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The point of tying string around a turkey is to make the bird into a round -- no protrusions, no wings sticking out. This prevents burning of exposed areas. Twist the wing tips, which will burn first, under hemselves, using some force. Now run a strand of string under the turkey's girth and up each side, catching the wing tips under the string. Continue the string over to the drumsticks, catching them and the fatty tail flap (Pope's Nose), and tie tightly.

Turkey - Preparation

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With a basting needle, inject the raw turkey around the breast and thighs with 1/4 pound melted butter. You will have a juicier bird.

Turkey Tips

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Questions about the turkey need not add stress to holiday preparations; you have many options. Turkeyi is sold in a range of sizes, 5 to 8 pound fryer-roasters, 8 to 16 pound female turkeys, or hens, and 8 to 25 pound (or more) male turkeys, or toms. Higher priced free range turkeys are also available. If your family prefers white meat, you can buy a large turkey breast to debone and stuff. While just as tasty as white meat cooked on the whole bird, it is easier to carve. Should you buy a fresh or frozen turkey? While there is no substitute for the flavor of fresh turkeys, they are a bit more expensive and should not be bought too far in advance. Availability and price favor frozen birds, but there is all that thawing time. Finally, should you truss and stuff? Trussing helps to hold the stuffing and keeps the wings and legs close to the body making them less likely to overcook or burn. Stuffingi adds to the turkey's cooking time, and so there is a greater likelihood the breast will become dry. Additionally, if the stuffing is undercooked, it will harbor harmful bacteria. It may be less worrisome to cook the stuffing separately.

Vegetables - Dried, Minced Vegetables

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To make dried, minced vegetables, preheat oven to 120?F. Spread 1 to 2 cups of finely chopped vegetables (onions, mushrooms, red or green bell peppers, scallions, carrots, or celery) in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Dry in the oven until crisp. Leave the tray in the oven for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally. Cool and store immediately in a sterilized dry glass or metal container with a tight-fitting lid for 4 to 6 months on the shelf.

Vegetables - How to Blanche

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If you are tired of your vegetables losing color, texture, and flavor before you serve them, then blanching may be the solution. Prolonged exposure to heat deteriorates vegetables. Blanching lightly cooks only the outer layer of their flesh. To blanch vegetables plunge them into boiling salted water for a short period of time, and then immediately stop the cooking process by placing the vegetables into ice water until they cool. Green beansi and other fibrous vegetables retain their crispiness and color. For other vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes and peaches, a brief blanching loosens the skin while keeping the flesh firm, making them easier to peel. In all cases the color is set and the flavor is retained. You must remember not to overload the pot because this will increase the cooking time. Blanch in batches if necessary. The vegetables can be used immediately in salads and other cold dishes, or they can be stored or frozen for later use. A quick saute or stir fry is all that is needed to finish cooking the vegetables, and if they are being added to a dish such as a soup or stew, adding them during the last few minutes of cooking will insure colorful results.

Tripe - How to Cook

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Try to use honeycomb tripe, the most tender of the varieties. If the tripe has not come already cleaned, clean it as soon as possible because it perishes very quickly. Start a day in advance of cooking. Mixi together 1 cup kosher salt and 1 cup of inexpensive vinegar. Pour about one-third of the mixture into a large bowl and add the tripe. Scrub the tripe vigorously with a brush for about 5 minutes. Rinse the tripe under cold running water and repeat the process two more times. Transfer the tripe to a bowl and cover it with cold water. Chill, covered, at least 8 hours, or 16 hours if possible. Change the water once about halfway through.

Roma Tomatoes

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Do not refrigerate as they will lose their flavor.
They are excellent in salsa.

Flour Tortilla Shells

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In a deep 4-quart pan, heat 1 1/2 inches canola oil to 375 degrees F. Float 1 tortilla on top of the oil. With the bowl of a metal ladle, press down on the center of the tortilla until it touches the bottom of the pan and oil bubbles up around the tortilla. Hold tortilla down until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Lift from oil with tongs and a slotted spoon and drain over pan. Let cool and drain on paper towels. Repeat to cook the remaining tortillas (if made the night before, store in airtight container).

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

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Method 1
Wash and stem tomatoes. Slice horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. If desired, salt on both sides, allow to sit for 30 minutes, then rinse. Lay on mesh or foil-covered baking sheets. Cover lightly with cheesecloth. Place in the hot sun for several hours, turning occasionally, until desired dryness is achieved. Store in jars in a cool place.
Method 2
Make marinated sun-dried tomatoes by placing tomatoes in jars with olive oil, garlic and herbs; refrigerate immediately at 40 degrees F or below.
NOTE: Be sure you sun-dry your tomatoes on a day when the humidity is low.