Chef's tips

Yuca - How to Select and Use

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This root vegetable is never eaten raw.
Select firm roots that are odorless, hard and free of cracks and soft, slimy, or moldy spots. Since it spoils rather quickly, keep at room temperature for no longer than 3 days. It can be peeled and frozen for longer storage. If you cut off a portion of the yuca, leave the rest uncovered to seal over.
To peel yuca, cut the yuca crosswise into 3-inch sections with a sharp knife. Be sure to use a sharp knife. Stand a section upright on a cutting board. Starting at the top of the tuber, cut a strip of the bark and fibrous layer off with the downward motion of the knife. Rotating the yuca, cut off the remaining bark in this manner. Repeat for the other sections. Immerse the yuca in cold water after peeling until ready to use.

Refreshing Vegetables

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After blanching, remove foods from boiling water and immediately plunge into ice water. This stops the cooking process and cools foods to a manageable temperature. Refreshing is especially important with green vegetables (such as broccoli) when you want that bright green color but don't want to lose its natural crunch. When skinning tomatoes, refreshing them prevents them from overcooking and falling apart in your hands when sliding the skin off.

Waffles - How to Prepare

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Substitute cornstarch for part of the flour. Moist steam causes the average flour-based waffle to soften as it cools. Add cornstarch to the mix, however, and you increase the waffle's ability to hold moisture. As a cornstarch-enhanced waffle cools, moisture does not escape as quickly as if it had been made with just flour, and therefore the waffle stays crisper longer.
Separate the egg and whip the white. Waffles made with whipped egg whites are not only lighter and more airy, but also taller and more tender. Plus, they brown better.
Add sugar to the egg white rather than to the other dry ingredients. Beatingi in sugar softens and stabilizes the egg white, making it much easier to fold into the batter and improving the batter's longevity.
Add a generous amount of vegetable oil to the batter. A thin batter generally produces a crisper waffle. So a liquid fat, such as vegetable oil, makes a crisper waffle than one with solid butter or shortening. Don't skimp on the oil: Waffles made with relatively high amounts of oil are crisper.
Use a mixture of buttermilk and milk rather than just one or the other. Buttermilki waffles are more flavorful, but the batter is thick and the waffles are less crisp. Waffles made with milk, on the other hand, are more crisp, but less flavorful. A combination offers the best of both: milk for crisp texture, buttermilk for full flavor.
Add a touch of vanilla extract. Vanillai extract improves the flavor so dramatically that I often eat my waffles without butter or syrup.
Set the cooked waffles on the rack of a preheated 200 degree F oven for at least 5 minutes before serving. The warm oven accomplishes two things: You can make all the waffles before serving, so everyone can eat at the same time. And the low heat beautifully reinforces the waffles' crispness. Do not stack the waffles: They'll turn moist and limp within seconds. If you forget and stack them anyway, don't worry. Just separate them and place them in a single layer again. They'll crisp right back up.

Woods for Grilling

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MESQUITE: This wood produces a sweet smoke that gives a great flavor to grilled meats. When grilling with mesquite, be sure to use aged wood because the green wood is too oily. Do not use this wood for lengthy smoking or barbecuing of meats. Instead, use hickory or pecan wood. Mesquitei beans may also be used.
HICKORY: Known for a full, robust flavor. Often associated with Southern cooking, especially ham. Great with beef, chicken, pork, ribs or sausage.
APPLEWOOD: Imparts a more subtle smoke flavor. Use with pork, chicken or mild sausages like bratwurst.
CHERRYWOOD: Adds a smooth, lighter flavor. Goes well with lamb, vegetables, and duck.

Yeast Dough

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Dissolve one package of dry yeast into 1/4 cup of water that is slightly cool to the touch, about 85 degrees F. Yeasti is killed at temperatures of more than 105 degrees F, so while cool water may slow proofing time, it will avoid killing the yeast.
Add one teaspoon of sugar to feed the yeast. Yeast is a fungus that feeds on sugars and gluten in flour. It in turn multiplies and produces carbon dioxide as a by-product. Carbon dioxide bubbles cause dough to rise. Stiri to dissolve yeast and sugar. It will take about ten minutes until the yeast begins to bubble or foam. If it does not foam, it is not alive and should not be used.
Combine the entire proofed mixture with the liquid ingredients in your dough recipe. Remember that rich ingredients such as butter, oil, honey and even salt slow the rising action of the yeast, so be sure to allow for enough rising time when baking with these ingredients.

Vinegar - How To Use For Food Storage

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To keep large quantities of yellow cheese, bacon or ham fresh: Wrap in a cloth that has been soaked in vinegar and wrung out. From time to time, add more vinegar to the cloth. This also seems to make ham and bacon more tender.

Whipped Cream - Whipping Tip

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Have trouble making whipped cream? Can't get it to whip correctly? Be sure to put the bowl and egg beater in the refrigerator to chill

Yeast - How to Use

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Start with fresh yeast. It has a very short life span. Buy small amounts and always check the expiration date before using.
If you refrigerate yeast, always allow it to return to room temperature before adding it to water.
The water temperature in which the yeast is activated is very important. Too hot, and the yeast may be killed (it is a living, single-cell organism). Too cold, and it doesn't respond. An instant-read thermometer is a necessity. The temperature should be between 105 and 115?F.
Use the correct amount. Most packaging includes simple measurement conversion information.
Allow yeast dough to rise in a draft-free area that is between 70 and 85?F.

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.

Turkey

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If you hate the memory of dry turkey from the old days, buy a fresh-killed (meaning, never frozen) turkey. They truly are juicier, tenderer, and tastier than frozen birds.
Turkeys range in weight from the 6- to 8-pound category to as large as 26 pounds. Very small and super-big are not better. Small ones get blotchy. Big ones present food safety problems
because their mass resists total heat penetration. Best to go with a basic 12- to 16-pound turkey.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

Tortilla Cups

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Preheat canola oil in a deep fryer to 350 degrees F to 375 degrees F.
Cut slits in a corn tortilla. To do this, lay the tortilla flat. Cut as though you are cutting it into four sections, but only cut to within about an inch of the middle. In other words, do not cut all the way to the middle. Put tortilla in the deep fryer. Using a 3-inch diameter soup ladle, press down on the center of the tortilla so that a cup shape is formed. Hold the tortilla in its bowl shape under the oil until it becomes crisp, then drain the shell on a plain white paper towel. These are usually filled with a picadillo and garnished with shredded lettuce, chopped avocados, chopped tomatoes, grated Cheddari cheese and hot sauce.

Black Truffles

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Black truffles are earthier and woodsier than white ones. They're moist and supple, and are meant to accompany the flavor of stews and game birds. Possibly the ideal way to use them is to slip them under the skin of a duck or goose (or even a Cornish hen) before roasting. Instead of shaving them, as you do white truffles, slice them before using them. However, for use in stews, they can be shaved as well. Both black and white truffles are sometimes available in powder form, which is good for year-round use in the kitchen.

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.

Flour Tortillas

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Flouri tortillas are best stored in the freezer until needed. To soften tortillas, warm them on a hot ungreased skillet or griddle for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. They can be warmed at 150 degrees F in the oven for 15 minutes. They can also be wrapped in plastic wrap and microwaved on HIGH for 15 to 20 seconds.
To fill and fold, place a portion of the desired filling about halfway between the center of the tortilla and the edge nearest you. Foldi the edge of the tortilla nearest you securely over the filing, then fold the sides to your right and left to close each end that was left open by the first fold. Finish by rolling the tortilla away from you until it is completely closed.

Tofu - How to Make

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Utensils: A square box (a plastic tofu container with holes poked : through the bottom will do). Line the container with a piece : of gauze about four times the size of the box. Wooden long-handled spoon. Two-foot-square cotton cloth for straining the 'milk' from : the mash. Blenderi Large strainer Large mixing bowl Large cooking pot
Soak the soybeans in three times the amount of water overnight. The beans should triple in size.
When soft, drain off the water through a strainer, and pulverize in a blender on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until beans are completely pulverized.
Add 8 ounces of this mixture to 4 quarts boiling water.
Reducei the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. When it starts to boil up again, do not turn down the heat but add 2 or 3 drops of vegetable oil - this will keep it from boiling over. Continue to cook another 7-10 minutes.
Place a wire mesh strainer lined with cotton cloth in another bowl and pour Slowly through the lined strainer.
This separates the soybean milk from the mash. Pick up the corners of the cloth and gather and twist tight. The mixture is still hot, so using the long-handled spoon, force the remaining liquid into the bowl by pressing repeatedly on the twisted cloth. Be careful to keep a tight hold on the ends of the cloth gathered in your hand as you twist and push with the spoon. If you drop a corner, very hot liquid can spill on you and the okara (soybean mash) will escape. (the leftover mash is called 'okara'. The soybean milk is called 'tonyu' and can be refrigerated and drunk for a few days if you wish).
Place the tonyu in a large cooking pot and keep at about 140°F over low heat. In a separate bowl, mix 5 times the amount of water as the tonyu with a two-finger pinch of nigari until dissolved. Slowly add ½ to the tonyu, stirring constantly.
After 5 minutes, add the other half of the nigari and water slowly and stir. Cover and reduce to lowest possible heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes as the mixture begins to coagulate.
After coagulation, scoop the coagulated tofu out with your wooden spoon and evenly fill you lined container. Wrap the gauze over the top and let the container sit for 5 minutes to allow extra liquid to drain.
Immerse the container in a large mixing bowl filled with cold water, turn it over, gently pull off the container, and remove the gauze. Making tofu can be an interesting challange, but be careful not to burn yourself. The price of soybeans and nigari is negligible, but making tofu does take time and is painstaking. This process has been done by hand for centuries, beginning early each morning. Only someone who has made their own tofu knows how delicious the rewards can be.

Tomatoes - How to Cook

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Roasting tomatoes gives them an exotic flavor. Roasting works best with ripe, red tomatoes. To roast and peel tomatoes, set the oven to broil. Arrange cored tomatoes with their top surfaces about 5 inches from the heat. Broili, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and evenly browned, about 5 to 8 minutes. The skins will be easy to remove. If you roast them on aluminum foil, the cleanup will be easy, and you can also save the juice.
Another option for roasting tomatoes is to use an asador.
To skin and seed tomatoes, plunge them into boiling water to cover and leave them for exactly 15 seconds. Remove and put them into cold water to stop the cooking process. Remove the skin. Remove the core, cut the tomatoes crosswise into halves, then squeeze out seeds. Push the seeds through a strainer to extract the juice.
Tomatoes can also be grated by removing a thin slice from the top of the tomato. Put the tomato in the palm of your hand and rub it on a coarse grater. The flesh will become a fine pulp and the skin will be left in your hand.
To oven-dry plum tomatoes, split them in half lengthwise. Place them on a large drying rack set on top of a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little rosemary or thyme. Place in an oven set at 200?F for 6 to 8 hours, depending on the size and ripeness of the tomatoes. The tomatoes should be shriveled and reduced to about half their original size, but they should not be leathery.

Filling the Tamales

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Place the dried corn husks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak 30 minutes to one hour.
Drain and select as many as you can of the larger pieces, but be careful not to open the crinkled leaves of the core that are full of corn silk.
With a spoon, spread 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Masai dough mixture across the lower (wide) end of the husk, covering it from side to side and extending it about halfway up toward the narrow tip.
For chicken, beef or other filling, place about 1 heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the Masa mixture.
Foldi the left third over to the center and then fold the right side over it, then fold up the narrow end even with the wide end so the tamale is folded roughly in half crosswise. Place the tamales on a baking sheet until ready to steam.

Tamarind - How to Use

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Musti be soaked before using. Separate the tamarind pods, pulling away and discarding as much of the outer skin as you can. Cover with water and let the pulp soak for at least an hour (overnight, if possible). Squeeze the pulp well to extract the juice or rub as much pulp as you can through a fine mesh sieve.
Tamarindi is also available as a bottled ready-made paste.

Tomatillos - How to Select and Use

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Select tomatillos with their husks still drawn tightly around them. Husk and rinse off the sticky residue before using them.

Tomatoes - Quick Way to Can

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Fill large pot with water. Boil....Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for about 1 minute. Immediately remove the tomatoes and place in a colander. Pour ice cold water over them. This method will make the skin very easy to peel off. Put the tomatoes in sterilized jar and add cold water to cover them. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Seal and cover!

Steaming the Tamales

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Arrange the tamales in a steamer, open ends facing up. Place some of the unused corn husks (and/or a wrung-out wet tea towel) over the tamales to help absorb steam. Pour boiling water into the bottom of the steamer to a depth of at least 1 inch. Cover tightly and bring quickly to a full boil over high heat.
Reducei the heat to medium-low to maintain gentle bubbling.
Cook for about 1 hour or until husks pull away from filling. Replenish boiling water as needed. Let the tamales stand 10 minutes before serving.

Superfine Sugar

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To make, put white granulated sugar into a blender and pulse for a few seconds.