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This should be easy right? I mean, how hard is it to scramble an egg?

Reasons your scrambled eggs are tough and rubbery: you are cooking them too long at too high a temperature. Eggs are mainly protein and proteins like to be handled gently.

So, how do you make creamy scrambled eggs?

1. Lightly scramble your eggs in a bowl with a fork (whisks incorporate too much air).

2. Heat your NON-STICK (it’s just easier in a non-stick) pan over low to medium-low heat. Got that? Keep the temp relatively LOW.

3. This is optional but you can add some butter to the pan. Like a teaspoon or two. It sorta prevents the eggs from sticking… Let it foam up and then…

4. Put eggs in pan and scramble with your spatula or what have you. Want big curds? Scramble less often. Small curds? Mix it up more often.

5. Want them even more creamy? Yep – add butter, milk or cream to the pan. You could to this in step 1 as well.

6. This is the key – turn the heat off when the eggs are set, but still a little underdone (watery looking). The residual heat will continue the cooking. You can add your seasoning (and cheese!) at this point.

Voila! No more rubber eggs! And when you go out for brunch you will realize the eggs you get at your corner diner or $50 brunch buffet are dang nasty compared to the ones you can make at home.

 

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Why use shallots?

So often I come across recipes that call for shallots – a tablespoon here, a teaspoon there. And to be honest, for most of my cooking-life, I’ve just substituted red onions. The reason for this is sheer laziness and also the fact that I’m just cheap. Shallots can be pricey!

So anyway…shallots are more or less, a milder onion (google a better definition if you must). There are subs out there where you use a certain ratio of garlic to onion. I kind of say screw it to this idea and just use an onion (didn’t I just say I am lazy?). A long time ago, I heard that when you refrigerate an onion (like when you have a leftover half), it causes the onion to taste milder, hence more like a shallot. I’ve always bought into this idea since I almost always have a leftover onion on hand…whether or not it is really true…

Ok. There are a few applications where you really want to use an actual shallot and substitutes just won’t cut it:

1. In a sauce. Reason? Shallots break down and disintegrate into the sauce. Makes a smoother sauce. Don’t substitute here.

2. In a vinaigrette. Onions are just too overpowering. And the shallot sub is just too strong here too.

Extra tip: shallots are often way cheaper – and larger – at ethnic markets. I have no idea why. But load up when you are there. ūüôā

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Boiling is appropriate for some applications, simmering for others. Below are some quick guidelines:

Boiling is good for:
1. Pasta – to keep the pasta constantly moving (so it doesn’t stick) and to speed up cooking time
2. Non-starchy, non-delicate vegetables – to speed up cooking time. Vegetables need to be cooked quickly to preserve their color and texture.
Simmering is good for:
1. Animal proteins like meats and eggs – this is due to the nature of their proteins – at higher cooking temperatures, more moisture is squeezed out as the proteins contract causing the eggs/meat to be tough. Remember this when making hard boiled eggs or when poaching chicken for chicken salad.
2. Starchy vegetables like potatoes as well as delicate vegetables like brussels sprouts – boiling water is too rough and causes the vegetable to break apart.
3. Long cooking vegetables like beets are also better at a simmer – since it takes a long time for the center of the vegetable to come up to the same temperature as the exterior.

 

A few other tips:
What is the difference between boiling, rolling boil and a full boil? For cooking purposes, these all generally means the same thing.

¬†What is poaching? Cooking -usually animal protein – in barely simmering water. Remember that proteins don’t react well to boiling so keep it at a very low simmer – like…barely bubbling at all.

Always start with cold water – It is often recommended to bring a pot of cold water to a boil or simmer, not warm/hot water. The reason for this is that the warm/hot water can pick up off flavors from your pipes and your hot water heater. So…it is best to start with cold water.

Hope this helps improve your cooking! ūüôā

 

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Alright. I’m going to try something new and see if it will keep me interested. Originally, I started this blog to keep track of recipes. It progressed into something more and then got difficult and tiresome to maintain. I also…am tired of blogs in general. Recipe after recipe after recipe. Nothing new but a change in ingredients. Sure, people are making some fantastic things. And also are showing off their fabulous cameras and mad photography skills. ¬†I’m thinking in a new direction – maybe a “back to basics” approach. Cooking based on technique – not recipes. How to do simple things – make sauces. Choose the best ingredients. Something like that.

So here goes. Today I’m starting with eggs.

Eggs:

Brown vs white? The difference between brown eggs vs white vs blue is breed of the chicken. The end.

Should you refrigerate eggs? If you are in the US, yes. ¬†The reason is that in the US, during production, eggs are rinsed which washes away a natural protective coating on the egg. A new coating is added, but again, it’s not the egg’s natural protective coating. ¬†This process doesn’t happen in other countries and is why you may see eggs sitting out un-refrigerated (also, they have less government mandates). Of course, keeping eggs refrigerated will always keep them fresher longer. But this explains a little bit why you may see un-refrigerated eggs in your travels.

Color of the yolk is dependent upon the type of feed given to the bird.

How to determine egg freshness:

Sure, you can use the date on the carton. But how often do you have a package in the fridge that is one, two, or dear heavens, 4 weeks past the expiration date? You could throw them out. But if you are cheap like me, you could throw caution to the wind and use them anyway.

One way to find out if the eggs are still usable is to submit them to the float test – submerge the eggs in a bowl of cold water (make sure it’s a bowl deep enough to be able to submerge an egg standing on end). If the egg stands up, but doesn’t float, it is old but still usable. If it floats, discard it. The reason that older eggs float is due to the fact that as the egg ages, an air pocket is created in the egg.

Now, just cause the egg floats, that doesn’t mean it is rotten per se. It just means that is more likely to be bad. The reason is that as the egg ages, carbon dioxide contained in the white escape through the pores of the shell and oxygen and other gases seep in. The loss of carbon dioxide makes the egg more alkaline and thus more susceptible to bacteria.

You can see the aging of the eggs after you crack them open too (this is after you have determined your old eggs don’t float, of course). Egg whites are made of two different parts – a thicker white around the yolk and a thinner white beyond that. In older eggs, the white is thinner all around – you won’t see the distinction between the thicker and thinner white parts. Additionally, the yolk of older eggs begins to flatten.

What about all that other stuff like cage-free, no hormones, etc? I’m not even going to discuss that. Kind of up to you to research and decide what is important for you. For me, I pick cage-free, no hormones.

Egg size? For most baking applications, you want large eggs but pay attention to what the recipe calls for. Extra large, jumbo, etc could screw up your baking so just be aware.

Egg yolk vs egg white: The fat is in the yolk. This is where the emulsifying power (lecithin) of the egg is. The egg yolk is responsible for making sauces and baked goods creamier. The yolk also contains a good majority of the egg’s vitamins and other nutrients and a little less than half the protein. The white is the part that when whipped, creates airy structures and rise (think Angel Food Cake).

On to cooking…

Hard Boiled Eggs

The trick to making perfect hard boiled eggs is that you don’t actually boil your eggs – this causes your eggs to be tough. Simmer instead

Using older eggs means easier peeling because of the air pocket (mentioned above). Remember that the air pocket will be at the wide end of the egg – so might want to start at that end for easier peeling.

Salting water helps to coagulate egg faster. Up to you if you want to do this/think it is necessary (for the record, I’ve never done it).

Two good ways to create perfect hard boiled eggs:

Cold water method (this requires you to be paying more attention to the cooking process):
Put eggs in cold water. Bring water up to a boil. When it comes to a boil, turn it off, cover and let eggs sit for:
12 minutes for hard boiled
10 minutes for medium boiled
5 minute for soft boiled

Immediately place eggs into ice bath to stop cooking. This also prevents the grey/green ring on the yolk.

You can see with this method that you need to be around at the moment the water comes to a boil in order to turn the heat off.  Which makes things harder to control if you want soft boiled. However, you can put cold eggs straight from the refrigerator into the pot, which is a plus

Hot water method:

With this method – you need to bring the eggs up to room temperature to avoid them cracking when you put them in the hot water. But overall, you have more control over how cooked your eggs are.

Bring a pot of water up to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Place eggs gently into water using a large spoon. Timing:

12 minutes for hard boiled

10 minutes for medium boiled

8 minutes for soft boiled.

Again, stop the cooking process by putting the eggs into an ice bath.

The advantage of this method is that you don’t have to be watching to turn the heat off when the water comes to a boil.

Hope this helps!

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My new tins all lined up nicely.

Oh… my old spice rack. What a piece…

Well, let’s back up and first start with my kitchen and its faults. It is tiny, but it is efficient. There is not a lot of extra space to put stuff though. I have one very high cabinet that I use for spices. Since it is so high, there are times when even I (taller than your average woman) need the step ladder. Most notably, when reaching to the back of the spice rack. Invariably, I will knock a bottle over and the five bottles in front of it will also come tumbling down.

This was driving me insane.

I mean, sometimes I felt like if I just breathed wrong, they would projectile at my face.

My old solution to organize my spices was one of those step rack contraptions purchased probably at Ikea/Bed Bath and Beyond/Buy More Crap for Your Home places. The way it works is – you precariously balance all of your top heavy spice bottles on the rack in the cabinet. Then you shut the cabinet door and you hear them falling on top of each other. That’s about the¬†gist¬†of it.

So then you swear and swear and swear some more.

And then you get back on top of the step ladder, CAREFULLY open the door and catch all of the spice bottles that have displaced themselves before they fall and dent the stove. Again.

Old spice cabinet - sure is fug, no?

So I googled a solution to my predicament.

My requirements:

1. Not easy to knock over spices. So, containers need to be wider than tall.

2. Easy to get measuring spoons in/out.

3. Big enough to¬†accommodate¬†ALL my spices. Yeah – even you Sumac-that-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with. Some day I will find a use for you.

4. Um, cute? And designerly in some way?

So many options…

There was the cute, albeit totally impractical test tube rack. Then there was the racks of little tins held and the variation which was a board with the tins held on by a magnet Рwhich unfortunately only allowed for maybe 20 spices which is about 30 short of my total. I did see one solution that I was intrigued by Рthe pull out shelf. But I kept coming back to the cute little spice tins. However, the pre-made sets were never big enough.  Then I came across a DIY spice tin solution and thought it was just too cute to pass up. Even if it was a little impractical.

I forget where I saw this inspiration – Apartment Therapy? I have no idea. Which sucks cause the person I glommed the idea from had really cute pix.

Ok. Seriously, I’ve got to find that link…it was so freaking cute. You’ll just die.

So anyway…

The tins

I decided to buy a whole mess of tins from Specialty Bottle. They were very nice and easy to deal with. I, however, really didn’t know what I was doing. I knew from a little research that I wanted lids that screwed on – the kind that just push on/pull off apparently get spices crusted in them and get hard to open after awhile. Some are unlined, which is bad. Also, sometimes the tins have a tendency to rust (I think this is mostly the ones that are unlined). This might happen if you live in an especially humid environment. I’m hoping for the best up here in the Midwest….

Anyway, I bought the 3 oz twistlug tin. They are food safe. In retrospect, these might be just a smidge too small. But I’ve got 50 of them now, so I’ll make do.

The labels

Next up – the labels. I bought some labels from Paper Source (they have a nice little template for printing that you can download at their site). In retrospect – perhaps just plain paper labels is not the wisest choice. I am the kind of person who makes a gigando mess when I’m cooking and invariably, my hands are wet when I grab the spice tin. So, some sort of protective coating on the label would have been smart…

The font

Ok, the font. I got all picky and googled and googled and googled and found some lovely design sites. This site in particular – Eat Drink Chic – has some lovely font ideas. I swoon over people who are good with typography and this woman is killer. I chose one of the fonts she has listed on her site (Ecuyer DAX I think). Downloaded from Dafont.com – my favorite font site – and typed them up.

Then I slapped the labels on the tins. Only to find out…my labels are a smidge too big. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. And from afar, they sure are cute, n’est ce pas?

Whoah...that's a lot of spices!

DIY Spice Tins

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Instead of hacking up our fine feathered friends, we’ve moved on to creatures of the sea this week.

I don’t make a lot of fish at my house. And if I do make it, it is likely to come in nice little fillets. The reason for this?

It’s right here Ray… It’s looking at me.

Yeah, see, that’s the part of this that totally unnerves me. The fish have EYES. They…know things. Ugh… I mean, even in restaurants when the fish head will be served, I ask for it to be nicely lopped off beforehand. My food should not be able to look back at me.

Anyway…

Fillet of Sole, Baby, it’s my favorite dish*

So that aside, we had to tackle another one of my many “issues”. Some people like cute furry bunnies. I am partial to animals that live in the ocean. Jellyfish, rays and sharks are my favorite animals. Followed closely by flounder and sole – partly cause of the aforementioned song and partly because I love how they burrow in the sand. So I have a bit of an issue cutting them up. Plus, as I said earlier, these animals come to the school pretty much intact – all “innards” are, well, in there. I had to put on my brave face.

Cool facts:

Generally when we are talking about fish you cook, there are two types.

Round fish – are generally more, um, round. They have eyes on both sides of their head. And when you fillet them, you get 2 fillets. Examples – most fish – tuna, salmon, grouper, etc etc.

Flat fish – these are really cool. They start out their life as round fish – meaning they have an eye on either side of their head. Then when they are maybe like a month old or so, one eye migrates to the other side of the head so both eyes are then on one side. The fish, which used to be round and swam upright, starts to flatten out and swim on it’s side. Usually the fish is light colored on the bottom and dark on the top for camouflage purposes. Anyway. How cool is that? Oh – by the way – you get 4 fillets out of flat fish. Examples of flat fish – flounder, sole, halibut, turbo.

So maybe you fish and want to see how to fillet your own fish? Or maybe you’ve gone down to that really cool fishmonger that all the high end restaurants buy from and you don’t want to seem like a wuss buying the pre-filleted fish? Ok, here’s some video for you.

Filleting round fish

Filleting flat fish

Things to keep in mind:

A flexible boning knife is generally better for filleting fish.

Fish fins are very sharp – so use caution!

Also – some fish skin – especially that of flat fish – can be very tough. Again, use caution so you don’t cut yourself!

*Courtesy of The Dead Milkmen. One of my favorite bands in my youth. “Filet of sole baby. Is¬†my favorite dish.¬†Filet of sole baby. When the¬†dish is fish ‘Cause, oh, I lose control. When you serve¬†filet of sole.Yeah, I have issues. I know.

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Stuffed glove boned cornish game hen

We glove boned chickens and ducks today.

What does that mean exactly?

In a nutshell – it’s taking the bones out of a bird without making a slit in the skin.

Gasp!

Impossible! You say. It cannot be done!

Well, to an extent, it kinda is impossible. But you can get MOST of the bones out without slitting the skin. If you are careful.

Pretty much the only bones you will have left are at the very tip of the wing and the very tip of the leg bone.

So… How do you do it?

Here is a pretty good play by play of how to do it.

Why on earth would you want to do this?

Well, you could make a Turducken out of it I suppose – although that’s a bit different since you roll it up (not NEARLY the technical skills required for glove boning).

Or just impress all your friends with your butchering skills. The photo above is my stuffed cornish game hen (done at home). I stuffed it with an apple, raisin, bread stuffing. Many people like to stuff these birds with rice, but I have a rice aversion* so that’s a no-go for me.

So let’s take a look at how I did.

Attempt #1 = notice knife cut in the left leg

Attempt #2 = the champion!

Above is the front of the bird. Kinda looks like wrinkly old man. Ok, that was too far. I’m sorry for the bad¬†imagery. Notice, though, that there are no bones except the very tip of the wings and very tip of the drumstick. That’s it. Those legs? Empty except for the meat. The wings? Ditto except for that part sticking up in the champion pose.

Attempt #1 back = sad ūüė¶

Attempt #2 back = better!

And there is the back. As you can see, Attempt #1 didn’t go so well. Lots of places where my knife went through the chicken skin. Put it breast side up though and no one will be the wiser.

Attempt #1 took 45 minutes to do.

Attempt #2 took 17 minutes to do.

At least I am improving!!

So after I removed the bones, I stuffed them with the aforementioned stuffing and baked.

REMEMBER to adjust times accordingly! Since there are no bones, it bakes pretty fast. But since it’s stuffed, it may take a little longer. This is a time when a probe thermometer would really come in handy…

And one last picture… the CARNAGE!

The carcass...shudder...

* Yeah, rice. If asked to give up rice for the rest of my life, that would really be no problem.

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