Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mother's Day Brunch Recipes

Did you know that Mother's Day is the single busiest day of the year for restaurants? It's a fact. When you count brunch and dinner, more of us go out to eat on Mother's Day than on any other day.
Mother's Day Brunch Menu
Mother's Day Brunch
Photo c Danilo Alfaro

That means two things: big crowds and big bucks. If you think restaurants don't raise their prices for those special Mother's Day menus, think again.

So if you'd like to save some money and avoid the jostling crowds, why not treat the mom in your life to a homemade Mother's Day brunch? With these Mother's Day brunch menu recipes, you'll find several egg and omelet recipes, two kinds of waffles, two kinds of French toast, plus your choice of hash browns or home fries, fresh blueberry muffins or homemade scones. Not to mention a recipe for perfect crispy bacon.

You'll also find some cocktail recipes — with some non-alcoholic choices to go with the more "festive" variety. And here are some more great breakfast recipes:

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Definition: Mirepoix is a combination of chopped carrots, celery and onions used to add flavor and aroma to stocks, sauces, soups and other foods. The proportions (by weight) for making mirepoix are 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25% celery.

Pronunciation: Meer-pwah

See Also: More About Mirepoix

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Staphylococcus Aureus

Staphylococcus Aureus Bacteria:

Staphylococcus aureus is the bacteria that causes staph infections and a frequent culprit in cases of food poisoning, generally due to improper food handling and inadequate hygiene by food handlers. Rather than causing an infection directly, the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria produce a toxin which is what causes the illness.

Where Staphylococcus Aureus is Found:

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are found on human skin, hair, noses, throats and infected cuts and sores. The bacteria can live on the skin of people who are otherwise healthy. By some estimates, the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria live on the skin of up to 25 percent of people. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria reproduce very quickly at room temperatures, and produce a toxin that can't be destroyed by cooking.

How Staphylococcus Aureus is Transmitted:

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are mostly transmitted via person-to-person contact and through food as a result of improper food handling and inadequate hygiene on the part of foodservice workers.

The foods involved in outbreaks of poisoning from Staphylococcus aureus include meats and poultry, as well as other proteins such as eggs and tofu. Sandwiches and deli salads (tuna salad, egg salad, macaroni salad etc.) are also frequently involved in Staphylococcus aureus outbreaks. Dairy products including milk, cheese and cream-filled pastries can also be contaminated. Finally, because the Staphylococcus aureus toxin isn't killed by cooking, reheated foods of all kinds which have been handled by infected workers can also cause illness.

Staphylococcus Aureus Symptoms:

Symptoms of Staphylococcus aureus intoxication include severe nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, headache, muscle cramping and changes in blood pressure and heart rates can also occur. The incubation period of Staphylococcus aureus is short, with symptoms appearing in as little as an hour after the contaminated food has been eaten. Symptoms are generally felt within two to four hours. The illness itself usually lasts two to three days, but it can last longer if there is extreme dehydration.

You can read more here about food poisoning symptoms.

Preventing Staphylococcus Aureus:

Preventing Staphylococcus aureus sickness is complicated by the fact that the illness is caused by the toxins which are produced by the bacteria rather than from the bacteria alone. Although the bacteria themselves are easily killed by cooking, the toxins that actually cause the sickness are not. Therefore, the usual regime of heating foods to 165°F to kill the harmful pathogens isn't enough. Thus, the best thing you can do to prevent illness from Staphylococcus aureus is to prevent the food from becoming contaminated in the first place. That means washing hands frequently, and avoiding cross-contamination.

More Food-Borne Pathogens:

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Velouté Sauce Recipe

Veloute is one of the five so-called mother sauces of the culinary arts, and while it can be made with veal stock or fish stock, it's usually made with chicken stock.
Chicken velouté sauce
Chicken veloute sauce.
Photo c Danilo Alfaro

The veloute itself is not traditionally served as-is, but rather, it's the starting point for other sauces. Chicken veloute, for example, is the basis for the traditional Supreme sauce, as well as the classic Mushroom sauce, the Aurora sauce and many others.

Still, there's no reason you couldn't simply season a chicken veloute with salt and pepper and serve it much as you would a basic gravy — which, after all, is nothing but a veloute sauce made with the pan drippings from a roasted bird.

Here's the chicken veloute recipe. And here are a few related items:

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Definition: In the culinary arts, convection is a method of heat transfer where food is heated by a moving heat source such as hot air inside an oven that is circulated by a fan.


The movement of steam or the motion of boiling water in a pot are examples of convection.

Stirring a pot of soup would also be considered a form of convection, as it redistributes the heat from the bottom of a pot throughout the soup.

See Also: Conduction, Heat Transfer

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Mushroom Sauce III

Mushroom Sauce for Fish & Seafood
(Mushroom Sauce III)

This creamy mushroom sauce can be served with fish and seafood dishes. It's made by adding sauteed mushrooms to a basic White Wine Sauce.

Note: This recipe differs from Mushroom Sauce II in that it is based on a fish veloute rather than chicken or veal. For a version of the Mushroom Sauce based on the demi-glace that can be served with meat and pork dishes, see Mushroom Sauce I.

Prep Time: 5?minutes

Cook Time: 5?minutes

Total Time: 10?minutes



  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until it's frothy. Stir in the lemon juice, then add the mushrooms and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the White Wine Sauce. Bring to a simmer, cook for another 5 minutes and serve right away.
Makes about 1 quart of Mushroom Sauce.

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Definition: A canape is a type of hors d'oeuvre, or small, single-bite food, that is traditionally made with a base of a small piece of bread with some sort of topping.

Modern canapes may use a cracker, a small pancake or pastry as the base.

When building a canape, the bread is sometimes toasted, and then spread with butter, cream cheese, mayonnaise or some other spread. The canape is then topped with meat, fish, cheese, caviar or some other savory item. Finally, the canape is finished with a garnish.

Pronunciation: can-a-PAY

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Five Easy Muffin Recipes

A batch of fresh muffins hot from the oven is one of life's great simple pleasures. Whether it's blueberry muffins for brunch or double chocolate muffins for a decadent treat, the simple fact is that muffins make people happy.
Five Easy Muffin Recipes
Chocolate chocolate muffins.
Photo c Danilo Alfaro

And here's another reason to get happy: Because muffins are a member of the quick bread family, they're easy to make and you can bake up a batch of them in about half an hour. Here are Five Easy Muffin Recipes for you to try out. And here are a few more resources to do with baking:

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Graham Cracker Pie Crust

Graham crackers have been an American staple since a certain Sylvester Graham developed them nearly 200 years ago. Graham believed additive-free, whole-wheat flour was more nutritious than refined white flour. In this, he was correct. He also advocated vegetarianism as a cure for sexual urges. The jury's still out on that one.
Graham cracker pie crust recipe
Graham cracker pie crust.
Photo c Jennifer Sipala

Still, Graham's cracker remains ever popular — both as a snack and as a pie crust. This graham cracker pie crust is perfect for all kinds of unbaked pies like cream or chiffon pies, and it's really simple to make. For a variation, you can substitute chocolate graham cracker crumbs, vanilla wafer crumbs or gingersnap crumbs. Though I make no claims about what curative properties, if any, gingersnaps or vanilla wafers may possess. Here's some more about pies and pie crusts:

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Charcutiere Sauce Recipe

Charcutiere Sauce Recipe

The Charcutiere Sauce is a finished sauce made with onions, mustard, white wine and chopped cornichons, simmered in a basic demi-glaze. The Charcutiere Sauce is an ideal accompaniment for grilled pork and other meat dishes.

Prep Time: 5?minutes

Cook Time: 25?minutes

Total Time: 30?minutes


  • 1 quart demi-glaze
  • ? cup chopped onions
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • ? tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ? cup chopped cornichons


  1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lemon juice, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and cook the onions until soft and translucent, but don't let them turn brown.
  3. Add the wine, heat until the liquid boils, lower the heat a bit and continue simmering until the liquid has reduced by two-thirds.
  4. Add the demi-glace, then lower heat to a simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes.
  5. Strain through a mesh strainer, add the mustard and the sugar-lemon mixture. Garnish with chopped cornichons and serve right away.
Makes about 1 quart of Charcutiere Sauce.

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How to Make Frosting

If you want to add a delicious homemade touch to your cakes or cupcakes, try making your own frosting. There are a number of different kinds of frostings (or icings; they're they same thing), but the simplest kind is a basic buttercream that you can mix up using butter, shortening and confectioners sugar.
How to Make Frosting
How to Make Frosting.
Photo c Lisa Romerein / Getty Images

Some buttercreams require cooking, but this one doesn't. All you really need is a stand mixer. And here's a tip: When you're making frosting, make more than you think you need. Read more about How to Make Frosting. And here are a few more resources related to baking and desserts:

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Basic Corn Bread

Cornbread is one of those foods that people tend to have strong feelings about, mostly depending on what part of the country they grew up in. If you're from the South, you may have grown up with unsweetened corn bread. In other regions, corn bread can be slightly sweet. Both types of corn bread are valid, and both are delicious.
Basic Corn Bread Recipe
Basic corn bread.
Photo c Danilo Alfaro

This basic corn bread recipe is sweetened with honey and and sugar — though you can leave out one or the other, or both, if you like your cornbread less sweet, or not sweet at all. Either way, this corn bread is a perfect accompaniment for soup or chili, and it makes a great breakfast, too. And here are some more quick bread recipes:

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Definition: Hominy is a food made from kernels of corn which are soaked in an alkali solution of either lime or lye. The corrosive nature of the solution removes the hull and germ of the corn and causes the grain itself to puff up to about twice its normal size.

Hominy can be made with either white or yellow corn, specifically maize, which is the type of corn used in making corn meal and other grain products — as opposed to sweet corn, which is the vegetable that can be eaten on the cob and so forth.

Once soaked, hominy can be dried and then ground and simmered to make grits (also called hominy grits). Alternately, the processed hominy can be cooked until soft and then used in soups, stews and casseroles. Posole is a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy.

Hominy is available in dried and canned form. The process for preparing dried hominy requires soaking the hominy grains for about eight hours and then simmering for an additional hour or two. Canned hominy has already been cooked and is ready to use, making it a good time saver, although the texture will be slightly different.

Also Known As:
  • Hominy grits
  • Posole
  • Pozole
  • Samp
  • Big hominy

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sauces Made from Bechamel

Bechamel is a standard white sauce and one of the five mother sauces of classical cuisine. That means it's the starting point for making other sauces, called "small sauces." Here's a list of small sauces that are based on bechamel.

1. Bechamel Sauce Recipe

Bechamel Sauce Variations - Sauces Made from Bechamel - Bechamel Sauce RecipesPhoto c Michael Newman

A traditional bechamel is made by whisking hot milk into a simple flour-butter roux. The sauce is then simmered with onion, cloves and nutmeg until it is creamy and velvety smooth.

2. Cream Sauce Recipe

The Cream Sauce (or Creme Sauce) is a the original classic cream sauce and one of the simplest variations on the Bechamel sauce. It's made by whisking heavy cream into the finished bechamel.

3. Mornay Sauce Recipe

The Mornay Sauce is made by enriching a standard Bechamel sauce with Gruyere and Parmesan cheese. The Mornay Sauce is an ideal accompaniment for vegetables, pasta or fish.

4. Soubise Sauce Recipe

For the Soubise Sauce, a classic cream sauce for vegetables, we saute onions and then puree them before adding them to the Bechamel. For a simple variation on the classic Soubise sauce, you can add some tomato puree to the finished sauce just before serving.

5. Nantua Sauce Recipe

This version of the Nantua Sauce, a classic seafood sauce, is made by incorporating shrimp butter and cream into a basic Bechamel sauce. Traditionally, however, it is made with crayfish. The Nantua sauce is delicious with fish and seafood, especially shellfish.

6. Cheddar Cheese Sauce Recipe

The Cheddar Cheese Sauce is made by adding cheddar cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce to a standard Bechamel sauce. Like the Mornay sauce, the Cheddar Cheese sauce is great with vegetables, pasta and fish.

7. Mustard Sauce Recipe

Here's another bechamel variation that's easy to make. The Mustard Sauce is made by adding prepared mustard to a basic Bechamel sauce. This tangy sauce can be served with vegetables, eggs or chicken.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spanish Sauce Recipe

Spanish Sauce Recipe

The Spanish sauce is a spicy tomato sauce made with sauteed onions, green peppers, mushrooms and garlic.

NOTE: This recipe calls for 1 quart of the classic tomato sauce, which is one of the five so-called mother sauces of the culinary arts. You could instead use 1 quart of basic tomato pasta sauce, which is easier to make.

Prep Time: 5?minutes

Cook Time: 20?minutes

Total Time: 25?minutes


  • 1 quart tomato sauce
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • ? cup diced green pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Tabasco sauce (or another hot pepper sauce), to taste


  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the onions, green pepper and garlic until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are soft.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Season with the salt, pepper and Tabasco and serve right away.
Makes about 1 quart of Spanish Sauce.

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Definition: In the culinary arts, the word Florentine, or the term a la Florentine, refers to a recipe that is prepared in the style of the Italian region of Florence.

Florentine recipes will typically feature some main ingredient, such as meat, poultry or fish, served on a bed of spinach, and then topped with a Mornay sauce. A Florentine recipe may also be topped with cheese which is browned or au gratin.

One common Florentine recipe is Eggs Florentine, which is a variation on Eggs Benedict. Eggs Florentine features a poached egg over a bed of spinach on a grilled English muffin, and topped with Mornay sauce (although it's common to serve it with Hollandaise sauce instead).

Note that the word florentine also has another definition not related to recipes made with spinach and Mornay sauce. There's a thin, crunchy wafer or cookie that also goes by the name florentine. This florentine cookie is made with honey and nuts and is sometimes coated with chocolate.

Pronunciation: FLOR-en-teen

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Mint Sauce for Lamb

If you're making a roast leg of lamb for Easter, here's a simple mint sauce that you can serve with it: Mint Sauce for Lamb

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How to Roast a Leg of Lamb

Roast leg of lamb is a classic Easter dish, and you can get a 6-8 pound semi-boneless one that will feed anywhere from 8 to 12 people.
How to Roast a Leg of Lamb
How to Roast a Leg of Lamb.
Photo c Ben Fink / Getty Images

Semi-boneless means that it's had the hip and tail bone (which is also sometimes called the H-bone) removed, as well as the hinged end of the shank bone. These bones are great for making stock, so your best bet is to have the butcher do this for you from a whole leg of lamb so that you can take the bones home with you.

Here's an article that describes How to Roast a Leg of Lamb. Also check out this Roast Leg of Lamb Recipe. Finally, here are a few related resources:

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Moist-Heat Cooking

Moist Heat Cooking Methods

Moist heat cooking refers to various methods for cooking food with, or in, any type of liquid — whether it's steam, water, stock, wine or something else.

Relative to dry-heat cooking methods, moist-heat cooking uses lower temperatures, anywhere from 140°F on the low end to a maximum of 212°F — which is as hot as water can get.

Braising & Stewing

With braising, the item to be cooked is first seared or sauteed, then partially covered with liquid and simmered slowly at a relatively low temperature. Braising can be done on the stovetop, but it's best done in the oven so that the heat will fully surround the pot, causing the food to cook more evenly than if it were only heated from below.

Braising is a good technique for cooking tougher cuts of meat, such as those from older animals, or ones that naturally contain more connective tissues.

These tissues are what can make these cuts of meat tough and chewy when improperly cooked. But the long, slow application of moist heat dissolves these tissues, with the result being a tender piece of meat.

What's more, as the connective tissues break down, they dissolve and form gelatin, which thickens the cooking liquid and gives it body and shine.

Meanwhile, braising causes the muscle fibers to absorb moisture from the cooking liquid and steam. That gives you a juicy piece of meat. Braising also melds flavors from the stock, vegetables and any herbs and seasonings. Here's a list of 10 great braised recipes.

Poaching, Simmering & Boiling

Poaching, simmering and boiling are really three different stages of the same cooking method. Each of these methods describes cooking food by submerging it in hot water (or another waterlike liquid like stock).

What defines each one is an approximate range of temperatures, which can be identified by observing how the water (or other cooking liquid) behaves. Each one — boiling, simmering and poaching — has certain telltale characteristics:

Poaching refers to cooking food in liquid that has a temperature ranging from 140°F to 180°F. Poaching is typically reserved for cooking very delicate items like eggs and fish. At poaching temperatures, the liquid won't be bubbling at all, though small bubbles may form at the bottom of the pot.

Simmering is distinguished by cooking temperatures that are a bit hotter than with poaching — from 180°F to 205°F. Here we will see bubbles forming and gently rising to the surface of the water, but the water is not yet at a full rolling boil.

Because it surrounds the food in water that stays at a fairly constant temperature, food that is simmered cooks very evenly. It's the standard method for preparing stocks and soups, starchy items such as potatoes or pastas, and many others. One of the downsides to simmering is that vitamins and other nutrients can be leached out of the food and into the cooking liquid.

Boiling is the hottest of these three stages, where the water reaches its highest possible temperature of 212°F. It's actually the method that is least likely to be used in cooking. That's because the violent agitation caused by churning bubbles characteristic of a rolling boil will often damage the food.

Boiling would be a bad choice for cooking an egg outside its shell, as when preparing poached eggs, because the agitation would basically destroy the egg. The same holds true for pastas and delicate fish.


Once water is heated past the 212°F mark, it stops being water and turns into steam. As far as physical agitation goes, steaming is very gentle, making it ideal for cooking seafood and other delicate items. It also has the advantage of cooking quickly while avoiding the loss of nutrients through leaching.

Interestingly, steam's maximum temperature is also 212°F, just like water. But unlike water, steam can be forced to exceed this natural temperature limit by pressurizing it. The higher the pressure, the hotter the steam becomes. Cooking with pressurized steam requires specialized equipment, though, so it's not something that a home cook would typically use.

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to Glaze a Ham

A baked ham is a delicious holiday dish, and one of the best ways to turn a simple baked ham into something truly special is by glazing the ham.
How to Glaze a Ham
How to Glaze a Ham.
Photo c Annabelle Breakey / Getty Images

Glazing a ham basically involves brushing the ham with a combination of ingredients that feature sweet, tangy and pungent flavors. A semi-liquid base such as jam or preserves is good so that it will stick to the ham, but you can also make a ham glaze with maple syrup or honey. Mustard is another common ingredient, and soo is brown sugar.

Here's an article that describes How to Glaze a Ham. It also explains when to glaze the ham, and offers a few simple glaze recipes. You might also want to check out this recipe for Baked Ham with Fruit Glaze. Here are some related resources:

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What is Confectioners' Sugar?

From Saturday's mailbag comes this wonderfully concise question from Adam in Milwaukie, Oregon: "What is confectioners' sugar?"

Confectioners' sugar is another name for powdered sugar. A confectioner is someone who makes candies and other sweets, and because of its extremely fine granules, confectioners' sugar is especially well-suited to that kind of thing. To learn more, check out What is Confectioners' Sugar? And here are a few more resources to do with desserts and baking:

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Delmonico Steak

Definition: Delmonico steak is a steak cut from the beef short loin and named for Delmonico's, a steak house in New York where it is said to originate.

Delmonico steak is a triangular steak with an L-shaped bone. The Delmonico steak somewhat resembles a T-bone steak, but it comes from the front part of the short loin, the part nearest the rib. In contrast to the Delmonico steak, the T-bone steak comes from the center section of the short loin.

The Delmonico steak is also different from the T-bone in that the Delmonico steak doesn't have any of the tenderloin muscle.

Because it is a tender cut of meat, the Delmonico steak is good for dry-heat cooking methods such as grilling and broiling.

Also Known As:
  • Club steak
  • Country club steak
  • Shell steak
  • Top loin steak
  • Strip loin steak

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Definition: Cornichons are small pickled gherkins, which are a variety of cucumber. Cornichons are a traditionally served as a condiment with a number of classical French dishes like pate.

Cornichons have a tart, mildly sweet flavor, and they are used for both flavoring and as a garnish. Cornichons are frequently paired with capers.

Many recipes incorporate chopped cornichons, including beef stroganoff and steak tartare, as well as various cold salads like egg salad or potato salad.

Cornichons complement pork dishes, such as grilled pork chops, and are often included in sauces for pork.

Classic sauces featuring cornichons include the Charcutiere sauce and Gribiche sauce.

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Friday, March 30, 2012


Definition: Aspic is a savory gelatin made from consomme or clarified stock. Because consomme is high in gelatin, it hardens when it cools, forming aspic.

Aspic can be prepared as a mold with various ingredients such as meat, vegetables or egg set into the mold. The aspic is chilled and then sliced and served.

Used in this way, aspic is an effective method for preserving foods because the gelatin seals off the oxygen, preventing the bacteria that cause food spoilage.

Aspic can also be used as a glaze for appetizers and cold food platters.

Aspic is traditionally made from consomme, and this process can be time-consuming. To save time, some modern kitchens prepare aspic by fortifying water or ordinary stock with added gelatin. This technique produces an inferior product, in terms of both flavor and texture.

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Cooking at High Altitude

A reader who lives at 4,000 feet above sea level recently asked me if I'd ever written anything about cooking at high altitude. In case you didn't know, recipes don't necessarily work the same way at elevations higher than 3,000 feet or so, and it can be a source of frustration for cooks who live in high places.
Cooking at High Altitude - High Altitude Recipes
Pasta takes longer to cook at high altitude.
Photo c Lonnie Mann

The main issue is the fact that the atmospheric pressure is significantly lower at high altitude. This causes water to evaporate more quickly, and water actually boils at a lower temperature. If that's a difficult thing to get your mind around, then you can imagine what a strange experience high-altitude cooking can be.

There are other issues, too, and they tend to increase in severity as you get higher above sea level. Read all about cooking at high altitude. Even if you don't live at a high elevation, I think you'll find it interesting from a purely culinary standpoint.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blade Steak

Definition: Blade steak is a cut of meat from the shoulder section of either beef or pork.

Beef blade steak is a steak cut from the beef chuck. Beef blade steak is a relatively tough cut of meat, with a seam of connective tissue running through the center. Beef blade steak is best prepared by braising.

See also: Flat Iron Steak

Pork blade steak is cut from the Boston butt pork primal. Pork blade steak is slightly more tender than beef blade steak, so it can be grilled. But braising is probably a preferred cooking technique for the pork blade steak as well.

Whether beef or pork, blade steak is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat.

Also Known As: Beef blade steaks are also known as:
  • Chuck steak
  • Bottom chuck steak
  • Under blade steak
  • Book steak
  • Lifter steak
  • Petite steak
Pork blade steaks are sometimes called pork steaks or pork shoulder steaks.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Make Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of the classic comfort foods and they're easy to make if you know how to do it. Great mashed potatoes should be light and fluffy, not sodden and runny nor stiff and gluey.
How to Make Mashed Potatoes
How to Make Mashed Potatoes.
Photo c Sheri L Giblin / Getty Images

The way to accomplish this is by ensuring that the cooked potatoes are as dry as possible. And also, you don't want to overwork the potatoes. That means no pureeing them in a food processor. And of course, it helps to buy the right type of potatoes to begin with.

This simple guide, How to Make Mashed Potatoes, will explain the technique from start to finish. And here are some more great potato recipes:

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