Cooking tips

Salt - How to Store and Use

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To prevent salt from clogging in the shaker, keep 5 to 10 grains of rice inside the shaker.
If you have over-salted a dish, try to save it by adding a teaspoon each of vinegar and sugar to the dish and simmer for a short while. This may save the dish.
Slices of raw potato will absorb extra salt. For a stew or soup, you can try adding thick slices of potato. The potato will attract and hold some of the excess salt and can be removed before serving the dish.

Italian tomato sauce

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A teaspoon or so of vanilla extract in Italian tomato sauces helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes.

Roux Preparation

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Melt butter in a small, heavy pan over low heat. (For most recipes, three tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons of flour are the right amount.) When the butter is melted, whisk in an equal amount of flour, continuing to whisk until the mixture is smooth. Allow the mixture to bubble slowly, whisking constantly so that it does not burn. Keep heat very low throughout the cooking process. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until it is pale golden in appearance. At this point, it will have lost some of its raw flour taste.
Some roux are cooked longer than this typical white roux. The longer you cook it, the more flavor it has.
Slightly darker, blond roux is darker and thinner in texture than a white roux, while brown roux is more pungent and nutty in flavor. A blond roux cooks for approximately 6 minutes. Browni roux, which has much less thickening power than white roux, is used primarily to thicken classic brown sauces and gravies.

Saffron

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Saffroni is the dried, bright red stigmas of the flower Crocus sativus, which is a relatively easy-to-grow perennial. It lies dormant all summer, then pushes its purple blossoms up through the mulch just as other plants are succumbing to frost. Each blossom offers up to three scarlet stigmas. Plant the bulbs in summer and harvest the stigmas in fall. A starter supply of about 50 bulbs costs about $30 and will produce about a tablespoon of the spice the first year. However, each year more flowers will grow, and therefore you'll get more of the spice. Ultimately, your investment will pay off. Fresh saffron threads can be used
immediately for cooking, or they can be dried and stored. To dry them, place on paper towels and leave for several days in a warm place. Then transfer them to an airtight container and keep in a cool, dry place.

Soft (Stirred) Custard Sauce

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Some cooks prefer to prepare soft custard over water in a double boiler for greater control over the coagulation process. It also works to constantly stir while cooking over low heat in a heavy saucepan.
The usual custard proportions are 1 egg plus 2 tablespoons sugar for each cup of milk. This is the minimum ratio of eggs to milk which will produce a properly thickened custard, although as many as 4 eggs may be used and the sugar may be increased to 1/4 cup. Increasing the sugar makes the custard less firm and lengthens the cooking time. Increasing the egg makes the custard more firm and shortens the cooking time. Two egg yolks may be substituted for 1 whole egg. Two egg whites will also thicken the custard as much as 1 whole egg, but the characteristic color and flavor will be missing.
Stiri constantly while cooking soft custard and be especially alert after about 12 to 15 minutes. Over low heat, it will take about 15 to 20 minutes for a standard recipe to reach doneness and the last few minutes are crucial. An undercooked custard sauce will be thin and watery; an overcooked sauce will curdle. The difference is a matter of only a few degrees. Test by dipping a metal spoon into the custard, using a thermometer, or both. When done, a thin film should cling to the spoon; the thermometer should register 160 degrees F.
To prevent overcooking and curdling, when it’s done, immediately remove the custard from the heat and cool it quickly. If the custard is to be served warm, use it immediately and refrigerate any leftovers. To serve chilled, prevent a skin from forming by pressing plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard. Chill thoroughly.
For safety, always make eggnog and ice cream from a cooked custard base.
An elegantly simple custard sauce makes a velvety topping for fresh fruit or steamed puddings, turns plain cake into a sumptuous trifle and serves as the golden pond over which poached meringues drift in Floating Island. You can also use the creamy sauce to enhance summer’s fresh fruits or to revive drying pieces of cake. Add more milk and lace with spirits, if you like, and you have eggnog. Enrich with cream and your favorite flavoring ingredients to make French-style frozen custard, the richest and smoothest of all ice creams. Nip soft custard with liqueur or Marsalai wine and whip it while cooking and you’ll produce the frothy delight known as sabayon to the French and zabaglione to the Italians.

Sandwich

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When making sandwiches for brown bag lunches, pack the bread and the fillings separately. Putting them together at lunchtime will avoid soggy bread.
French-toast your humdrum sandwiches by dipping the entire sandwich in a mixture of milk and egg. Fryi it in butter or margarine until it's golden-brown.
Spread mustard or chili sauce on slices of cold meat, then place under broiler just before serving.

Roux (Cajun)

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Rouxi is a thickening agent used in Cajuni cooking.
7 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup flour
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it begins to smoke (about 4 minutes). With a long handled metal whisk, gradually mix in flour, stirring until smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until roux is a dark red brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. (Be careful not to let it scorch in the pan or splash on your skin.) Remove from heat and use as needed. Extra roux may be kept in the refrigerator indefinitely.

How to Cook Basmati Rice

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Cook it in a non-stick pot on the stove, not in a rice cooker: first, be sure to rinse the rice with cold water until most of the starch is removed and the water pours off pretty clear. Then, add enough water to cover the rice and boil for about 7 minutes. Test the rice by biting into a few grains...it should be firm, but not crunchy. Be sure not to over-cook the rice at this stage (it's better to have it a little under-cooked). Drain in a colander and rinse the rice with about 2-3 cups fresh water. Put the rice back in the pot and steam with the lid on for 30-40 mins. Over low heat. The rice will develop a nice crunchy bottom that's delicious (eat this first so it doesn't get soggy!).

Pumpkin - How to Select and Store

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Pick a pumpkin that is heavy for its size.
The pumpkin should be blemish-free and should be bright in color.
The smaller the pumpkin, the more sweet and tender it will be.
If you are going to cook the pumpkin, pick one that is grown specifically for eating, such as a sugar or pie pumpkin.
Pumpkini can be prepared like most winter squash.
A pumpkin can be stored at room temperature for 1 month. After it has been cooked and mashed, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Ribboning

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The technique known as ribboning is the way to perfect cake-making. When your egg batter forms a ribbon when dropped from lifted beaters, then it's exactly right. The batter should drop in a wide, flat band that folds in on itself. If it falls in thin straight lines without folding in, keep beating. Ribboning ensures both that the sugar is completely dissolved and that the eggs are well aerated and evenly dispersed. For this reason, it's always preferable to use a mixer rather than a food processor for cake batters.