Chef's tips

Corn Husks

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To use, soak the husks in hot water for at least 15 minutes, then remove them. Remove any silk and dry them lightly with a towel.


Corn Tortillas

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To soften the tortillas for recipes such as enchiladas, immerse the tortillas in about an inch of hot canola oil heated until a drop of water sputters instantly. Cook them just until they become pliable, then drain them on absorbent towels. In addition to making the tortillas supple enough so they can be rolled without cracking, the oil coating prevents the enchiladas from becoming soggy when the sauce is added.
To sauce the tortillas, either dip them in the prepared sauce or spoon some on both sides.
To make rolled or folded enchiladas, place a portion of the filling about 1 inch to either side of the tortilla's center and wrap it into a loose cylinder. A common mistake is to use too much filling and to wrap the enchiladas too tightly.
For final preparation of enchiladas, cover them with 1/2 cup or more of the desired sauce. Add optional items such as minced onion and sour cream. Sprinkle the enchiladas with grated cheese. To heat the enchiladas, place them in a 350ºF oven and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
To make the best chips, fry corn tortillas that are at least 1 day old.


Corn - How to Boil

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Never boil corn for more than 3 minutes. Be sure to place the corn in boiling water, and do not add salt. You will find the flavor is much better than cooking for 10 minutes or more. Corni will never get soft, no matter how long you cook it-it will only lose its taste.


Cole Slaw - How to Prepare

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Make cole slaw by putting hunks of cabbage with a little carrot and onion in the blender together with a couple of cups of water. Drain off the water before you add the dressing.


Cilantro - How to Store and Use

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Store it in the refrigerator with the stems in water and plastic loosely covering the leafy tops. To use, strip the leaves from the thick stems, discard the stems, and use the leaves either whole or coarsely chopped. If cilantro is unavailable, use parsley and/or basil.


Citrus Curls - Preparation

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Use a zester to cut the lemon, lime or grapefruit peel into long strips. Wrap strips around a chopstick or drinking straw and let sit for 30 minutes. Cut to desired lengths.


Coconut - How to Eat

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To open coconut, puncture eyes of coconut with ice pick; drain liquid. Bakei coconut at 375ºF for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Tap shell with hammer to open. Cut meat out of shell. Parei brown skin from coconut meat.


Coconut - How to Open

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Open the coconuts by flinging them onto a cement or rock surface (this is how the monkeys do it!) Don't worry about losing the liquid, as it's not the coconut milk called for in cooking. Each coconut should break in 3 to 4 pieces. It is also possible to open a coconut by piercing the eyes of the coconut with a screwdriver or ice pick, draining the liquid through the holes and placing the coconut in a 400 degrees F oven for 20 minutes. Wrap the coconut in a towel and hit it with a hammer to loosen the shell and split it into pieces. Pry out the white meat and then pare off the dark skin.


Chopsticks - How to Use

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Place the first chopstick so that thicker part rests at the base of your thumb and the thinner part rests on the lower side of your middle fingertip. Bring your thumb forward so that it traps the stick firmly in place. At least two or three inches of chopstick should extend beyond your fingertip. Relaxi. Now position the other chopstick so that it is held against the side of your index finger by the end of your thumb. Tap the ends of both sticks on the plate, while holding them at a slight angle to the table. Allow them to slide just a little so that the ends line up. Place a little pressure on the top chopstick. It will pivot on your index finger just above the second knuckle. Remember: the bottom chopstick is stationary. The tip of the top chopstick will move towards the tip of the bottom chopstick.Encourage this. Hold those tips together firmly enough to grasp a piece of food and lift it off the plate. Place delicately into your waiting mouth. Although there's no need to stoop, you may wish to lean over your plate a bit during your first attempts. It might save you a clean-up!


Citrus - How to Section

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Removing the sections of citrus intact from the tasteless membrane seems more complicated than just peeling and eating an orange. However, with patience, a little practice, and a sharp paring knife it will become a breeze. Begin by cutting off the top and bottom of the fruit down to the pulp using a back and forth sawing motion. Place the fruit on a cutting board and cut away the peel in strips from top to bottom using the edge of the previous cut as the starting point for the next. Remember to stay close to the pulp and maintain the sawing motion. Then, holding the fruit in one hand over a small bowl, slowly cut through it along one of the membranes down to the center using the sawing motion. Gently repeat this with the membrane on the other side of the section, which should then come free. Carefully place the section in a container for later use. After you have removed all of the sections, pour the excess juice into the container. You now have perfect citrus sections to use as a flavor component or garnish for salads, appetizers, entrees, or desserts.


Clay pot Cooking

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Clay pot cookingi is a technique of cooking food in an unglazed clay pot which has been soaked in water so as to release steam during the cooking process. This technique has a long history, streching back at least to ancient Roman times.
Typically, an unglazed clay pot is submerged for 15 to 30 minutes to absorb water before cooking, then filled with the food and placed into an oven. The walls of the pot help to diffuse the heat, and as the pot warms it releases the water as steam.
The food inside the clay pot loses none of its moisture because it is surrounded by steam, creating a tender, flavorful dish. The evaporation of the water prevents burning so long as the pot is not allowed to heat until it is completely dry. Because no oil needs to be added with this cooking technique, food cooked in a clay pot may be lower in fat compared with food prepared by other methods such as sauteing or frying. And unlike boiling, nutrients are not leached out into the water.
Because of the heat lost to the evaporation of water, clay pot cooking requires higher oven temperature and longer cooking times than traditional roasting with dry heat. Clay pots may be cleaned by scrubbing them with salt; soaps or detergents should not be used, because the clay may absorb them.


How to Grate Coconut Meat

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To grate the white meat, put the meat through the grating disk of a food processor or use a hand grater. You should get about 7 cups of grated coconut from the two coconuts, which will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.


Chocolate - How to Melt

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Tips for successful melting: follow directions carefully. Do not overheat; these products scorch easily. Microwave directions have been tested with microwave ovens ranging from 500 to 700 watts (output). Times given are to be considered guidelines; microwave ovens differ in timing and heating patterns.
Stirring frequently is important whether using rangetop directions or microwave directions. In the microwave oven, chocolate and other chips will keep their shape and may not appear melted after heating, but will become fluid after stirring. Handle glass microwave dishes with a hot pad after melting; the container may be hotter than the contents. Wash and dry the melting utensil thoroughly after each use. Any residue will affect the taste of the chocolate. Do not allow chocolate to come in contact with moisture during melting since this can cause lumping, tightening or 'seizing.' if this occurs, add one or two tablespoons shortening, such as crisco, for every six ounces chocolate; stir until fluid. Do not use butter or margarine since these may contain water. Do not use oil since this may prevent the mixture from setting up which is especially important if it is being used for a glaze. Break baking chocolate or candy bars into pieces to speed the melting process.


Chilli - Ristras

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Dark red chiles that have been dried and strung together with thread, they are completely edible as long as they are not sprayed with insecticide. Never ship them in plastic. They may rot or become infested with insects.


Chile Powder

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Roasti whole dried chiles in an ungreased, very hot cast iron skillet, shaking the pan from time to time to avoid any scorching. This only takes a little under a minute. Remove the chiles from the pan, let them cool enough to be handled, and break them apart. Discard the stems, seeds, inner veins and any dark spots. Grindi the pieces to a fine powder in a blender. Store the chili powder in a glass container in a cool, dark cupboard to retain its flavor.


Dried Chiles

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To bring out their natural oils, toast them over an asador or in a dry skillet just long enough to release their fragrance.


Chili Powder

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Chili powderi is NOT chile powder. Chili powder is a blend of ground chiles along with other spices.


Chilli - Preparation Methods

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To roast and peel chiles, cut a small slit in the chile close to the stem end so that the steam can escape. Put chiles on a baking sheet and put directly under the broiler or on a screen on the top of the stove. They can also be plunged into hot canola oil to loosen the skins.
Another method is to place the pods on a charcoal grill about five inches from the coals. Be sure the chiles are blistered all over so that they peel properly. However, do not let them blacken or they will be very difficult to peel. Immediately wrap the pods in damp paper towels and place them in a plastic bag to steam for about 15 minutes.
Another method is the propane torch method. Place the chiles in a cast iron skillet and light the torch. Adjust the flame to medium high and let the flame make contact with the surface of the chiles. Move the torch over the surface, pausing no more than necessary to split and blacken the skin. Using tongs or a fork, flip and turn the food as needed to facilitate even blackening. Since the torch cooks so quickly, chiles intended for sauces may need to be roasted in the oven very slightly after blackening and before proceeding.
Another method is to use hot oil. If you need to eel them in a hurry, or if you want a more delicate and less smoky flavor, sear the skins in hot oil. Use enough oil for the chiles to float without crowding. Heat oil to about 375ºF, or almost smoking, then add chiles carefully. Turn chiles as needed and cook them just until the skins are wrinkled, usually less than 1 minute. Drain well, then cover and let cool.
Wear rubber gloves during the peeling process. Remove the skin, stem and seeds of each pod and chop coarsely. Place the chopped chile in plastic ice cube trays and freeze them solid. Pop the cubes out and place them in freezer bags. They will keep in the freezer for at least one year.


How to Bone Chicken Breast

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With a little practice you can trim your grocery bill by learning to bone your own chicken breasts. Remove the skin from the breast by just sticking your fingers under the edge and pulling gently. You can also leave the skin on as it will help to keep the breast moist during cooking. Take a very sharp knife and scrape away the thin layer of meat above the wishbone of a whole chicken breast. Stick the tip of your knife under the bone and cut towards the end. This will expose the wishbone joint which can then be cut or pulled apart. Then cut into the breast along one side of the breastbone. Now with the tip of your knife continue to cut the breast away from the bone using slow, easy strokes with the knife edge turned towards the bone not the meat. After removing the other breast, trim away any pockets of fat. The bones can then be wrapped and frozen to make stock at some future time. Finally, do not forget to disinfect your knife and board using a bleach solution to prevent bacterial growth.


Chicken - How to Truss

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Prepare chicken for roasting. Draw skin of neck smoothly over back. Foldi wing tips under. Press wings and legs against body. Thread a large needle with white twine. Use double. Press needle through one wing at middle joint, through end of neck skin, and through second wing at middle joint. Pull cord firmly under breast and up across legs and thighs. Draw the legs close together, covering the opening made for drawing the fowl. Cross the string over the legs and tie them to the tail. Skewersi may be used to hold wings and legs against body. If desired, the wings may be folded tightly in position over the folded neck skin and the legs slipped through the vent opening.


Chile Paste

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Fryi chiles in a little canola oil until they just begin to darken and become fragrant. Or you can toast the chiles by placing them in a 275 degree F oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until they become fragrant; but do not allow them to scorch.
After frying or toasting the chiles, place them in a bowl, cover them with hot water, and soak them for 20 minutes. Remove the stems, seeds and veins, and place the chiles in a blender. Add just enough of the soaking liquid to blend the chiles to a paste. Straini the paste using a food mill.


Chicken Stock

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In a large pot, cover 4 pounds of washed, raw chicken bones or parts with cold water - enough to cover them by 5 inches. Necks and backs are the most flavorful bones of the chicken, so they are ideal, but you can also make a wonderful chicken stock with a whole, cut-up, raw chicken. Bring water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, skim the fat and scum that have risen to the top with a ladle or spoon. Add 1 pound of a combination of chopped carrots, onions and celery, and the herbs of your choice. Cook chicken stock for about three hours - long enough for the full flavor to come to the fore. It is important to make sure that the bones stay covered during the entire cooking process, so add more water if needed. Straini the stock through a sieve or a colander before using, refrigerating or freezing.


Chicken - How to Cut Up

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Dressi chicken. Wash carefully. Cut off neck. Remove wings by cutting through wing joint close to body. Foldi wings by putting tip back of shoulder joint. Remove legs by cutting through skin close to body. Bend the legs back to separate the joints. Cut through the flesh. Separate thigh from drum stick. Separate breast from back by cutting through the skin just below the breast bone. Insert the knife beneath the edges of the breast bone. Follow up the ribs to the shoulder. Disjoint. Cut through the flesh. Bend the back of chicken to break the back bone. Cut into back and rib sections. Cut through breast of chicken, separating the portion containing the wish-bone from the remainder. Cut remainder of breast in 2 portions if desired.


Chicken - Preparation

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After flouring chicken, chill for 1 hour. The coating adheres better during frying.
If you want to stew an old hen, soak it in vinegar for several hours before cooking. It will taste like a spring chicken.
Remove skin from chicken before cooking. If you remove the skin after cooking, the fat from the skin will be absorbed by the meat as it cooks.
For golden brown chicken every time, put a few drops of yellow food coloring in the shortening before it has heated.
Defrost frozen chicken by soaking in cold water that has been heavily salted. The meat will be pure white and very tasty.
Tenderize chicken and other fowl by rubbing them inside and outside with lemon juice after cleaning and before dressing.
To prevent roast poultry from sticking to the pan, simply place it on a row of celery stalks and carrot sticks you've tossed with a little salad oil, then roast as usual - no roasting rack needed.
Use leftover pancake batter to coat chicken for frying.
For golden brown chicken every time, put a few drops of yellow food coloring in the shortening before it has heated.
After flouring chicken, chill for 1 hour. The coating adheres better during frying.


Cherimoya

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Seed and purée to use in sauces, salad dressings and sorbets. They are at their peak in December, but are available through the early spring and sporadically throughout the summer.


Brining a Chicken

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Pour 4 cups of cold water into a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup kosher salt. Stiri to dissolve. Place pieces of a whole chicken, cut up, in brine, then set aside in a cool place to soak for two hours.
Drain, rinse, then pat dry with paper towels. This process keeps the chicken moist and tender on the inside throughout the frying process.


Sierra Cheese

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Romano or Parmesani cheese can be substituted.


Chestnut - How to Roast

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To roast fresh chestnuts, make a one-inch slash on the flat side of the nut's shell with a sharp knife, just barely revealing the flesh. Place the nuts on a cookie sheet in a preheated 400 degrees; oven until the skins split and the flesh begins to brown (about ten minutes). Peeli away the shell with the help of a knife. Chestnuts can also be blanched. After boiling for 3-4 minutes, wrap them in a towel and squeeze hard to crush the skins and extract the meat. Keep fresh chestnuts up to one week in a cool, dry place, or two weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.


Cheese - Queso Fresco

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Feta cheesei can be reasonably substituted for this cheese.


Cast Iron - Seasoning

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To season a new skillet, Dutch oveni, griddle, etc., rub the pan inside and out with lard, vegetable shortening or canola oil. Bakei it at 350 degrees F for about one hour.
Over the next few days, repeat the process. After you begin using the pan, clean it with water and a sponge. Avoid using soap, which can eventually undermine the effect of the seasoning. Immediately after washing the pan, dry it with heat, either on the burner of the stove or in a warm oven. This guards against rust.