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VOL. 36 | NO. 44 | Friday, November 2, 2012
Kitchen tricks, tips learned over the years
This week, I have an article about useful kitchen tips that I hope will make your kitchen work and food preparation easier and faster.
Also, be sure to try the casserole recipe below. Most junk-foodies (or people with limited tastes like my family) will like it. It has a wonderful flavor and is easy and quick to assemble after you get home from work. I started making this years ago, when my family was young, and I have adapted the ingredients along the way. I never had a recipe, and don’t even remember if it had a name. But I do know it’s one of my family’s favorites!
Herbs and spices
All the little spice racks that are made to look cute sitting on the counter are … cute. But, for best results, store spices in a cool, dark place. Humidity, light and heat cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor. Also, when chopping herbs, toss a little salt onto the cutting board; it will keep the herbs from flying around.
Here’s a tip I use all the time. Easy bacon drippings storage: Pour the slightly cooled fat into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and place them into a zip-lock bag. Each cube will be approximately one heaping tablespoon.
For maximum flavor, allow cheese to come to room temperature before serving. Hard cheeses (Parmesan and Romano) are easier to grate at room temperature. Semi-soft cheeses (cheddar and mozzarella) stick to a box grater and cause a real mess when grating. Try this: Coat the grater with nonstick cooking spray before grating. The spray keeps the cheese from sticking to the surface of the grater.
Air is coffee’s worst enemy, so make sure there is as little air space as possible in the storage container. For canned coffee: once opened, pour coffee into a zip-lock bag and seal, eliminating air. Place the bag and the coffee back in the canister and then replace the lid.
Brewed coffee’s flavor begins to deteriorate within 15 minutes. Leaving coffee on the heating element, which causes evaporation of the aromatic oils, or reheating coffee makes the taste bitter and flat. Retain first cup flavor by transferring the coffee to a thermos or carafe after brewing.
Any time you’re using raw onions in salsa and you’re not going to eat that salsa in the next 20 minutes or so, rinse the diced onions under cold running water and then blot them dry to rid them of sulfurous, a gas that can ruin fresh salsa. This also works great with guacamole.
For best results when baking, leave the butter and the eggs at room temperature overnight. The weight of a gallon of milk is only slightly greater than a gallon of water, about 3 percent more. A U.S. gallon with 2 percent milk fat weighs about 8.4 pounds, compared to 8.6 pounds for whole milk and 8.35 pounds for a gallon of water.
Instead of placing a chicken on a roasting rack, cut thick slices of onion, put them in an oiled pan and then place the chicken on top. The onions will absorb the chicken juices. After roasting, let the chicken rest while you make a sauce with the onions by adding a little stock or water to the pan and cooking it for about three minutes on high heat.
Crowned Sausage and Green Bean Bake
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and quartered
6-8 slices of bacon
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 cans of green beans, drained
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 jar of sliced mushrooms, drained
1/2 cup of milk
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 smoked sausages
Boil the potatoes until they’re semi-tender. Drain and then place them in a large bowl. Fry, drain, crumble and set aside the bacon. Sauté the onion and garlic in the bacon drippings. Remove them from the drippings and add them to the potatoes along with the green beans, soup, mushrooms, milk, salt and pepper and crumbled bacon, saving enough of the latter for garnish. Pour the mixture into a bowl-type casserole dish. Cut the sausages in half and then slice each one half lengthwise. Outline the casserole with the sausages by placing them with the cut edge against the side of the casserole dish. Poke about halfway down into the mixture, leaving part of the sausage exposed. Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the sausage is browned and the casserole is bubbly. Remove it from the oven and serve!