Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Most Valuable Piece of Cooking Advice You Will Ever Get

And a Crash Course on Flavor Adjustment



With the year coming to an end and bloggers and TV personalities bombarding everyone with elaborate Christmas and New Year dinner menus, it’s time to go back to the basics. Sometimes no matter how diligently you follow a recipe, something still goes wrong and the flavor is off. Luckily there is a way to nip potential problems in the bud, and it comes down to one very simple trick:

TASTE YOUR FOOD

That’s right, taste your food.

Taste your salad dressing before putting on your salad. Taste your marinade before pouring it over your meat. Taste your frosting before spreading it on your cake. Taste your sauce before adding it to your pasta.

If you don’t like the taste, neither will your guests.

Trust your palate. You’ve had good food before and you’ve had bad food. You know when something is too salty or too sweet or too spicy or too acidic or too rich.

If you feel the flavor of your food is lacking, adjust it according to the basic flavors: sweet, salty, fatty/richness, acidic, spicy, and umami (that meaty flavor you find in cooked mushrooms, meat, and soy sauce).

You adjust by adding an ingredient with one of those flavors, A LITTLE AT A TIME, to your food.

Here are some examples of what you can use.

SWEET
Sugar, Brown Sugar, Honey, Maple Syrup, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Agave
Liquid sweeteners will mix into liquids like marinades and sauces better than powdered ones, especially if the liquid you’re mixing it into is warm or hot. Powdered sweeteners like sugar will give something more liquidy like a runny frosting some bulk and substance.
Some sweeteners like Maple Syrup, Brown Sugar and Molasses have stronger flavors than plain sugar so be mindful of that when choosing what to add, and remember that brown sugar is a little acidic.

SALTY
Table Salt, Sea Salt, Kosher Salt.
You can even get flavored salts like smoked salt, but if you’re a beginner, the ones listed here are safe bets.

FATTY/RICHNESS
Olive Oil, Butter, Margarine, Ghee (clarified butter), Bacon Fat, Greek Yogurt, Sour Cream, Table or Whipping Cream
Oils, butter, and fatty dairy products are great ways to add richness to a dish. Like the sweeteners, some like Olive Oil, Butter, and Bacon Fat have stronger flavors than others.

ACIDIC
White Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice
Some of these are stronger than others, so keep that in mind when deciding what to add.

SPICY
Hot Sauce i.e. Sriracha, Frank’s Red Hot, Tabasco, Cayenne Pepper, Chili Flakes, Jalapeños, Habaneros
Some sources of spiciness are stronger than others and if you plan to use raw chillies like Jalapenos or Habanero peppers ALWAYS USE GLOVES AND NEVER TOUCH YOUR EYES DIRECTLY AFTER HANDLING THEM. Remember that leaving the seeds in the pepper will double the spiciness factor in any dish as the membrane that connects the seed to the flesh is the hottest part.
If you use a liquid hot sauce, smell it before adding it as some hot sauces are more acidic and others have a smokey taste to them, the scent of the sauce will usually be enough to tell.

UMAMI
Soy Sauce, Worcestshire Sauce, Tomato Paste, Miso Paste
Miso is the funkiest tasting of the three and doesn’t react as well to heat. Tomato paste needs to be cooked a little in a dish after it’s added to purge the canned taste. Add these VERY sparingly as they can also be very salty.

These can not only boost your food, but also cancel out or help to neutralize an overly dominant flavor in a dish.

Salt, Umami, or Acidity will neutralize blandness.

Sweetness and Richness will help neutralize spiciness.

Richness can also neutralize acidity and saltiness.

Acidity will help neutralize richness.

Spiciness will give your food an extra kick.

TASTE YOUR FOOD AND ADJUST AS NEEDED.

It might be just the thing to turn something boring into something extraordinary.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.

















Sunday, December 11, 2016

Easy Greek Style Chicken and Potatoes

A Healthy Pre-Holiday Meal


With the holidays just around the corner it’s time to make an extra effort to eat healthy before the calorie-laden festive feeding frenzy begins.

When I want to make a healthy meal I generally turn to one of two types of cuisine: Asian, which includes masterfully prepared vegetables, and Mediterranean which knows how to use simple ingredients and healthy fats to prepare quick tasty meals.

For this dish, I took my inspiration from Greece, marinating chicken breast in Greek yogurt and olive oil flavored with lemon and garlic before roasting in the oven. The potatoes are roasted in Olive oil, herbs and spices just long enough to make em so crispy you’d think they’d been fried.

The best part about this dish?  You hardly need to be in the kitchen to make it. Your fridge and oven do most of the work. Set a timer on your phone and go back in for the extra steps. If you want to make the meal REALLY Greek, serve with a Greek Salad.

Togas are optional.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep time: 5 - 10 Minutes
Marinating Time: Minimum 1 Hour
Cook Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

CHICKEN

3 Chicken Breasts cut into 1 inch wide strips

¼ Cup Plain Greek Yogurt

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 Large Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Zest of 1 Lemon – The zest will impart all the flavor of the fruit without the acidity of the juice, which would cure the meat before it’s cooked.

1 ½ Teaspoons of Oregano

1 Teaspoon of Salt

½ a Teaspoon of Pepper – Freshly ground is ideal, but you what you have

POTATOES

3 to 4 Potatoes, washed and cut into evenly sized pieces – Yellow fleshed potatoes, often known as “Yukon Gold” are ideal, but use what you have or what's on sale

½ Teaspoon of Paprika

½ Teaspoon of Garlic Powder – I normally prefer fresh garlic, but for potatoes that are going to be a while in the oven the powder works better because it distributes evenly over them and there’s no risk of the garlic burning and turning bitter

1 Teaspoon of Oregano

½ a Teaspoon each of Salt and Pepper – You may want to adjust this amount after cooking, but this is a good place to start.

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Lemon Juice – Feel free to get the juice from the same lemon you got the zest from for the marinade

Equipment

2 Baking Pans

2 Spatulas - 1 for the chicken, 1 for the potatoes

1 Large Zip top Bag

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Whisk

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Cooking Spray

TO MARINATE THE CHICKEN

In a bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon zest, salt, pepper and garlic and whisk it all together to combine.

Dump the yogurt mixture into a zip top bag and add the chicken strips. Close the bag, making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible and squish the bag around so the chicken gets evenly coated.

Stick the bag in the fridge and walk away for at least an hour to let that marinade really sink in. You could also prep this chicken in the morning and let it marinate all day in the fridge.

WHEN YOU’RE READY TO GET COOKING

Preheat the oven to 350 oF.

In your first baking pan, dump in all the ingredients for the potatoes and mix them around with your hands to evenly coat them with the herbs, spices, oil, salt and pepper.

Stick the pan on the lower rack of your oven and walk away for 30 minutes.

When the time is up, coat your second baking pan with cooking spray and put in the marinated chicken.

Stick the pan with the chicken on the top rack of the oven and take out the potatoes.

With your trusty first spatula, flip the potatoes over and stick the pan back on the bottom rack.

Close the oven and walk away for 30 minutes.

When the time is up, take out the potatoes but leave the chicken in and turn the oven on broil.

Leave the chicken in the oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes to brown it a bit.

Let the chicken rest in the pan for 5 minutes and serve with the potatoes.

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.











Monday, December 5, 2016

Speedy Spicy Red Curry and Pumpkin Soup


Anyone who’s ever made a dessert with pumpkin has come to acknowledge one universal rule: there is always too much or too little pumpkin in a single can than any recipe calls for. It is due to this dilemma that I came up with this recipe which, unlike others, actually uses a whole can of the stuff.

This is a cold weather miracle. It’s warming, healthy, cheap to make, and ready start to finish in 15 minutes. It’s also ideal for cold sufferers as it’s sinus-clearingly spicy, but if you can’t take the heat you can easily temper it by cutting the amount of red curry paste in half.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep and Cook Time: 15 Minutes

Serves 4 to 6 as a meal or more as an appetizer

Ingredients

3 Cups or 1 Whole Can Puréed Pumpkin

2 Cans (400 oz each) Coconut Milk

2 Cloves of Garlic, grated or finely minced

1 to 3 Tablespoons of Red Curry Paste – Available in the Asian foods’ section of most grocery stores and in Asian market. This is potent stuff and the coconut milk and pumpkin help to temper it. If you’re wary of all things spicy, start with one tablespoon and then increase by half tablespoons until it’s how you like it.

2 Cups of Water

Salt – To Taste

IF YA WANNA GET FANCY…

A Sprig of Fresh cilantro/coriander – It adds a wonderful brightness and makes the soup look pretty, but if it tastes like soap to you, don’t add it.

Equipment

1 Medium or Large Pot

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Grater or Knife and Cutting Board – For the Garlic

1 Wooden Spoon

Dump all the ingredients except the salt into a pot, stir it all together with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil.

Taste the soup and adjust the salt to your taste.

Serve and Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.