Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Foolproof Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder Recipe

Roasted pork shoulder - Photo © Danilo Alfaro
Photo © Danilo Alfaro
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Spicy, sweet and succulent, this slow roasted pork recipe is definitely one for the ages. It's made with boneless pork shoulder (sometimes also called a Boston blade roast or Boston butt).

First, we smear the roast with a spice rub made from dried chilis, brown sugar, Kosher salt and a few other ingredients. Then we roast it — first at a very high temperature to brown the outside, and then finish it at a very low temperature, to maximize juiciness.

The secret here is that by using a digital probe thermometer, we take all the guesswork out of getting the temperature right. Just insert the probe into the deepest part of the roast, set the device to 140°F and it will beep when it's time to take it out.

As long as you insert the tip of the probe into the very center, and take care not to his bone (which isn't a factor here since we're doing a boneless pork shoulder), the technique is foolproof.

And by the way, if you're thinking to yourself, "Wait, I thought we had to cook pork to 160°F, that was before 2011 when the USDA changed their recommended target temperature for cooking pork to 145°F. Which is great, because 160°F was always too high. You can read more about that here: How to Cook Pork (Without Overcooking it)

You can use this technique for a smaller roast. For instance, I did it with a 3-pound roast, and all I did differently was roast it at 500°F for 15 minutes instead of 20. Everything else stays the same (although a smaller roast won't need as much of the spice paste).

See Also
How to Cook Pork (Without Overcooking It)
How to Cook Pork Chops
Pork Ribs: A Beginner's Guide
  • 3½-4 lbs boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 1 Tbsp dried crushed red peppers
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1½ Tbsp Kosher salt (NOT sea salt or table salt)
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 140 minutes
  • Total Time: 160 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
  1. Preheat oven to 500°F.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together (everything but the roast itself) in a small bowl to form a paste. Smear it all over the roast. (You might have some left over, depending on the size of your roast.)
  3. Roast at 500°F for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 250°F and cook until your probe thermometer reads 140°F, which will take another 2 hours or so. It'll be a beautiful brown color on the outside.
  1. Remove the roast from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes, during which time the temperature will continue to rice until it reaches the target temperature of 145°F. Then slice, serve, and enjoy, while marveling at its perfect juiciness.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Prime Rib Roast: The Closed-Oven Method

Prime rib roast - Phillip Jones / Getty Images
Phillip Jones / Getty Images

This technique produces a perfectly medium-rare prime rib with a gorgeous brown crust on the outside. It works best for smaller prime ribs of between 4 and 8 pounds. For a bone-in prime rib, figure two servings per rib, while a boneless roast will yield two servings per pound.

The key to this method is knowing the exact weight of your prime rib. Just copy it off the label, write it on a Post-it and stick it on your fridge. I say this because I know how easy it is to just tear off the butcher paper and throw it away, and you really don't want to have to go digging through the trash to find the label.

Also, you don't actually need a meat thermometer with this technique, although if you're paranoid you can certainly use one anyway.

Also see: How to Roast Prime Rib

See Also
Prime Rib Roast: The Traditional Method
Prime Rib Roast: The Sear-Last Method
Prime Rib Roast: The Slow-Roast Method
  • 1 boneless or bone-in beef rib roast, trimmed and tied
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 120 minutes
  • Total Time: 125 minutes
  • Yield: 1 roasted prime rib
  1. The night before you are going to cook the prime rib, unwrap the roast and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator. This will dry out the surface, which makes it easier to get a nice brown color on the roast.
  2. Three hours before you want to begin cooking, take the roast out of the fridge and place it on a cutting board at room temperature.
  3. Half an hour before you start roasting, pre-heat your oven to 500°F and season the roast generously with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  1. Now it's time to do your calculation. All you do is multiply the weight of your roast by five. That's your total roasting time, in minutes. Sounds crazy, right? But stay with me.
  2. For instance, if you have a four-pound roast, 4 × 5 = 20 minutes. An eight-pound roast? 8 × 5 = 40 minutes. Remember that number.
  3. When you're ready to cook, set the roast in a roasting pan with a rack, fat-side-up for a boneless prime rib. Or for a bone-in prime rib, skip the roasting rack and just set the roast bone-side-down in the roasting pan. If you're nervous about this crazy technique, you can insert a meat thermometer or a digital probe thermometer into the deepest part of the meat, being careful not to hit bone. If nothing else, it will provide you with some peace of mind.
  4. All right, now put the roast in the oven and roast it for exactly however many minutes you calculated above. When the time's up, turn off the oven and walk away. Don't open the oven door for any reason for the next two hours.
  5. I'll say it again because it bears repeating: Do not open the oven door, for any reason, for the next two hours. Here's a simple Au Jus Recipe you can make when there's about 30 minutes left. Or try this creamy Horseradish Sauce.
  1. In two hours, take the prime rib out of the oven, carve and serve right away. If you did use a thermometer, you'll see that the internal temperature of the meat has reached 130°F — in other words, perfect medium-rare. How easy was that?

Serves 4 to 8 people depending on the size of the roast.

Also see: Why You Need to Have a Great Butcher

How To Make Amazing Turkey Gravy

How to make turkey gravy - Lew Robertson / Getty Images
How to make turkey gravy.  Lew Robertson / Getty Images

Making gravy is one of those fundamental culinary skills that, broadly speaking, establishes the informal boundary between knowing what you're doing in the kitchen as opposed to not (or at least not yet). Not that it's so difficult — in fact, it's pretty easy.

But that's my point. It requires a relatively modest level of competency to move from that second group into the first, which, since you're reading this site, is presumably where you want to be.

Transforming a thin stock or broth into a rich, velvety-thick sauce that grabs onto your food instead of dripping through the tongs of your fork and back onto your plate, is a kind of culinary magic — at least where flour and butter are involved.

Furthermore, performing this act of alchemy on Thanksgiving is like hitting a home run in Game 7 of the World Series — there is no grander stage when it comes to dinner.

If you can cook up a yummy, flavorful gravy on Thanksgiving (especially when so many turkeys turn out so dry these days), you'll earn yourself the equivalent of a ticker-tape parade.

So: What's going to happen is you're going to make a paste of butter and flour called roux, then add your stock or broth (plus the pan drippings from your turkey) to the roux, and then cook the sauce until it's thick and smooth.

Now, here's the most important information you need to pull this off: Make sure your stock or broth is warm but not boiling. And not cold, either. And the same goes for your roux. If your roux is too cold, or if your broth is too hot, you'll end up with lumpy gravy. Basically, both your roux and your stock should be warm — not too hot or cold.

Here's what you'll need to make about 4 cups of gravy:

  • 4 cups Chicken stock or turkey stock (or broth)
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter and 45 grams flour (about 5 Tbsp)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Mesh strainer
  • Pan drippings from a roasted turkey (optional)
  • 3-4 Tbsp chopped carrots, celery and/or onion


    1. Warm the stock. Heat four cups of stock or broth in a saucepan over a low to medium heat, just until it's warm but not boiling. If you have the pan drippings from a roasted bird, add them to the stock or broth, but be sure to drain off any excessive amounts of fat first.
    2. Sauté the veggies. Melt four tablespoons of butter (or the fat from Step 1 above) in another saucepan over medium heat. If you have carrots, celery and/or onions: Chop them up (about a tablespoon of each for every cup of broth you're using) and cook them in the hot butter or fat until slightly browned but not burnt.
    3. Make the roux. Stir the flour into the pan with the hot butter (with or without the veggies) to make a paste called a roux. Cook for a minute or two, until the roux is a golden brown color, then let it cool until it's warm but not cold.
    4. Whisk in the liquid. Slowly pour the warm stock or broth into the pan with the warm roux, whisking the mixture as you add it. Return to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and reduce the sauce by about a third.
    5. Season and serve. Strain the gravy through a mesh strainer. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper and serve.


    • A bay leaf will add flavor and aroma to the gravy. You can add a bay leaf to the stock or broth while you are first heating it up, or add it to the gravy in Step 5 before reducing it.
    • Add a finely minced clove of garlic to the carrot-celery-onion mixture in Step 2.
    • You can hold the gravy on the stove for a while, but it may continue to thicken. If this happens, just thin it out with some more hot stock, broth or water.

    More Thanksgiving Sides:
    • Green Bean Casserole
    • Glazed Carrots Recipe
    • How to Cook Corn on the Cob
    • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
    • Cranberry Sauce Recipe
    • Homemade Stuffing Recipe
    • Cornbread Stuffing Recipe

    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    How NOT to Thaw a Frozen Turkey

    Frozen turkeys - Paul Swansen / Flickr
    Paul Swansen / Flickr

    There are four ways to thaw a frozen turkey — and three of them are bad. Each one, for one reason or another, increases the likelihood of someone coming down with a case of food poisoning. And that's not the way you want to remember your Thanksgiving.

    There's only one safe way to thaw a frozen turkey, and we'll get to it in a moment. But first, here are three ways NOT to do it:

    1. Don't Thaw At Room Temperature

    Like on the kitchen counter, or the dining room table, or in any other room of your house.

    Besides being really weird to have a turkey defrosting in some random bedroom or dare I say it, the bathroom, thawing a turkey at room temperature is a terrible idea. Uncooked meat or poultry (including frozen) shouldn't be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Any longer than that and you're just begging for a case of food poisoning.

    So, don't even think about this one.

    2. Don't Thaw In the Microwave

    First of all, most microwaves are too small. If you have a turkey small enough to cram into your microwave, you don't really need to resort to this method in the first place. There's a better option for you a bit further down the page.

    But even supposing you had some colossal microwave oven, this still would not be a very good plan. Given the number of different wattages, power levels, minutes per pound and other variables, the most likely outcome of microwave thawing is a turkey that's still frozen in some parts, while other parts are already cooked. Not good. Stay away from this method.

    3. Don't Thaw In Cold Water

    It's technically possible to safely thaw a frozen turkey in a sink full of cold water, but it won't be easy.

    The problem is, you need to allow 30 minutes of thawing time for every pound of frozen bird, and you MUST keep the water at 40°F or colder the entire time. For a large turkey, that means monitoring the temperature with an instant-read thermometer and changing the water every half hour for 12 hours!

    What's so special about 40°F? That's the lower limit of the Food Temperature Danger Zone. If the turkey gets any warmer than that, it gives dangerous bacteria a chance to multiply like crazy. So unless you're strictly committed to changing the water up to 24 times, don't bother with this method.

    And by the way, whatever you do, don't try to thaw a turkey in HOT water. That's even worse. I saw someone recommending that in the comments section of some web site, and I just about choked on my eggnog.

    So that's three wrong ways to thaw a frozen turkey. Now for the right way:

    4. Do Thaw In the Refrigerator

    Thawing in the refrigerator is the ONLY safe way to defrost a frozen turkey. Here's how to do it:

    • Make sure that your refrigerator is at 40°F or colder.
    • Leave the turkey in its original wrapper.
    • Place the bird on a tray or in a pan to collect any juices that leak out.
    • Keep it at the bottom of your fridge so that any leakage won't contaminate anything below.
    • Allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of frozen turkey.

    Here are the basic weight guidelines for refrigerator thawing:

    Turkey WeightThawing Time
    Up to 12 lbs1-3 days
    12 to 16 lbs3-4 days
    16 to 20 lbs4-5 days
    20 to 24 lbs5-6 days

    As you can see, thawing a 20-pound turkey in the refrigerator will take the better part of a week. So plan ahead! A bit of preparation will ensure that you're not faced with a still-frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning.

    Also see: Thanksgiving Pie Recipes

    More for Thanksgiving:
    • Green Bean Casserole
    • Glazed Carrots Recipe
    • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
    • Corn on the Cob
    • Cranberry Sauce Recipe

    Homemade Oven-Baked Stuffing with Fresh Sage

    Stuffing and wine glasses on table - Maren Caruso / Getty Images
    Maren Caruso / Getty Images
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    This homemade stuffing recipe never sees the inside of a turkey, so it's up to you whether to call it "stuffing" or "dressing." Either way, baking it in its own dish is better because the oven gets the top nice and crispy. Besides, cooking stuffing inside the bird is a major food safety risk.

    There's always a debate among stuffing aficionados over whether to include an egg. Personally, I like an egg in my stuffing, and some people like to add two, while others prefer zero. It's all a matter of taste and whether you like your stuffing to be slightly bound together or not. This recipe includes one egg, but you can use two or just leave it out, as you prefer.

    As for the herbs, my feeling is that you absolutely need fresh sage in homemade stuffing. Sage is one of those herbs where if you're doing a big harvest (as opposed to just snipping off a leaf or three), it's best to do it a couple of months before the first frost. So it makes sense that sage is so traditional in Thanksgiving stuffing. You can use additional herbs as well, like thyme and/or marjoram, but definitely make sure of the sage.

    Also, if you're adding any nuts or fruit (slivered almonds, raisins, diced apples, etc), do it between steps #4 and #5, just before adding the stock.

    See Also
    How to Make Turkey Gravy
    Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe
    Sweet Potato Mash
    • 8 slices white bread, diced (about 4 cups)
    • ½ cup chopped onion
    • ½ cup chopped celery
    • ½ stick butter
    • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
    • 1 Tbsp chopped sage, thyme and/or marjoram
    • 1 cup chicken stock or turkey stock
    • Optional: 1 cup walnuts or slivered almonds and/or raisins or diced apples.
    • Prep Time: 15 minutes
    • Cook Time: 45 minutes
    • Total Time: 60 minutes
    • Yield: Serves 6 - 8
    1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. Spread the diced bread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Give the pan a shake midway through so the cubes brown evenly. Remove pan and let the bread cool.
    3. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery until the onion is slightly translucent. Remove from heat and let cool.
    4. Transfer the toasted bread, chopped herbs and the cooked celery and onions to a large bowl. You'd add the nuts or fruit at this stage too. Give it all a toss to combine.
    1. Now, drizzle a bit of the stock over the bread cubes and gently mix. Repeat until all the bread is  moistened but not soggy. Now add the egg and toss until all the ingredients are coated.
    2. Butter a baking dish, transfer the dressing to the dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is crispy. Serve hot.

    Also see: Thanksgiving Pie Recipes

      More Thanksgiving Sides:

      • Cornbread Stuffing Recipe
      • Green Bean Casserole
      • Glazed Carrots Recipe
      • How to Cook Corn on the Cob
      • Dinner Rolls Recipe
      • How to Make Cranberry Sauce

      Friday, November 6, 2015

      Measuring Ingredients in Baking

       - Teresa Short / Getty Images
      Teresa Short / Getty Images

      When it comes to baking, weighing your ingredients is much more accurate than using volume measurements like cups and pints. If you've ever had a cake turn out too dense or too small, or maybe cracked on top, those are all problems that result from measuring your flour incorrectly.

      And you probably didn't realize you were doing it.

      Flour is particularly problematic, because the usual ways of measuring it are notoriously unreliable.

      If you scoop the flour straight out of the bag with the measuring cup, you'll wind up with more flour in your cup than if you spoon it from the bag into the cup.

      Also, sifted flour has more air in it, so there's less flour in a cup of sifted flour. With all these variables, a so-called "cup" of flour could contain anywhere between 100 and 150 grams.

      So much for precision.

      On the other hand, 130 grams is always 130 grams, whether it's scooped, spooned, sifted or whatever. And it doesn't matter whether it's all-purpose flour, bread flour or cake flour. Grams are grams.

      Weighing is Critical in Baking

      In other areas of the culinary arts, this degree of precision is less important. A recipe doesn't fail or succeed because you used 27 green beans rather than 30. But with baking, you're not just dealing with recipes — you're working with formulas.

      Commercial bakers use weights for all the ingredients in their recipes, including eggs, butter, sugar, salt and even baking powder and baking soda.

      At home, where we don't deal in large quantities, there's no reason to weigh the salt or baking powder — the amounts are too tiny.

      Teaspoons and tablespoons are fine for that. But when it comes to flour, using too much or too little can really affect the recipe, so at the very least, you should weigh your flour.

      And that means you're going to want to get yourself a digital scale that can be set to grams, and preferably one with what's called a "tare" setting, which lets you put a bowl on the scale and then zero it out.

      The one I use was about 12 bucks.

      How Much Does a Cup of Flour Weigh?

      The main thing you need to know is that a cup of all-purpose flour weighs 125 to 130 grams. The exact weight will differ across different brands of flour, but if you use 130 grams you'll be all right. So when recipe calls for a cup of flour, just weigh out 130 grams and you'll be all set.

      I try to write recipes using grams for the flour and maybe the sugar and butter or shortening. Because you never know when someone creates a recipe how they measured their flour. If they spooned their flour and you scoop, your measurements will be off. But if the recipe says 130 grams and you use 130 grams, you'll know you're accurate.

      Wednesday, November 4, 2015

      What Are Collard Greens?

      Plate of collard greens with smoked turkey wings and corn bread - Andre Baranowski / Getty Images
      Plate of collard greens with smoked turkey wings and corn bread.  Andre Baranowski / Getty Images

      Collard greens are a type of leafy green vegetable that is common in southern U.S. cooking.

      Collards feature dark green leaves with tough stems.

      They're a member of the same group of plants that also includes kale, turnips and mustard.

      Indeed, collard greens share many characteristics with kale, turnip greens and mustard greens, and they're all typically prepared in the same way (at least in the southern U.S., which is where they're most popular).

      In addition to being tough, collards can also be bitter. Both of these qualities can be remedied by long, slow cooking using moist heat.

      The fact is, for all the culinary innovation happening in the latter half of the 2010s, it's difficult to imagine a better way of preparing collard greens than the tried-and-true method of braising them with a smoked or cured meat like a ham hock or turkey wing.

      Nor is it clear that there is any need to improve on it. Sometimes a dish is fully realized, and apart from a minor tweak (like whether to include things like vinegar, garlic, hot sauce), the classic southern collard greens recipe is canonical.

      It simply is what it is. Just like the best way to prepare skirt steak is by cooking it very quickly on the hottest surface available. You can season it different ways, but there's only one way to cook it.

      The same goes for collard greens. You could choose to steam them for five minutes, or sauté them, but why? These alternate cooking techniques aren't refinements, they're novelties, like pumpkin spice martinis.

      Preparing Collard Greens

      Collard greens need to be washed thoroughly before cooking them, as they can carry a lot of grit in them.

      But there's no point washing the parts you're not going to cook. So the first step is to remove the stems.

      You can just fold the leaves in half lengthwise and trim the stems off with a knife. Or you can tear the leaves away from the stems.

      Then fill up the sink with cold water and add the leaves. Swish them around a bit to loosen the grit, which will settle on the bottom of the sink.

      Drain the sink, refill and repeat as necessary until no more grit settles on the bottom. Then chop the leaves up into 1-inch pieces and simmer them in enough water to cover them along with a smoked ham hock or pork cheek, smoked turkey wing, or turkey neck.

      Note that simmering refers to a temperature range of 180° to 205°F, so the water should not be at a full rolling boil.

      Separately you can sauté some onion and garlic, and maybe a sliced serrano pepper, and add them to the pot. When the greens are done (in anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes), remove the ham hock (or whatever you used), pull off the meat, chop it up and return it to the pot.

      The flavorful cooking liquid, known as "pot liquor," is highly prized, and is especially wonderful sopped up with homemade cornbread.

      Blancmange? It Used to Be a Boozy (and Bougie) Dessert

      Vanilla blancmange surrounded by berry sauce - Joris Luyten / Getty Images
      Joris Luyten / Getty Images

      Blancmange (pronounced "bluh-MONGE") is a classic French dessert, similar to panna cotta or Bavarian cream, which today is made from milk (or cream) and sugar, and thickened with gelatin (or cornstarch), and prepared in a mold or dish.

      When the blancmange is chilled and set, it can either be served in the dish or mold, or turned out from the mold beforehand.

      But this is a lot different from the way blancmange used to be made.

      Traditional Blancmange: A Rare Delicacy

      The earliest version of blancmange in classical French cuisine was made with the milk of crushed almonds, rather than ordinary milk. And it was thickened with a substance called isinglass, which was derived from the swim bladders of European sturgeon (aka beluga, as in beluga caviar).

      As such, it was considered a delicacy, since isinglass was expensive and difficult to obtain. Plus, preparing the blancmange required the dish to be submerged for several hours in crushed ice, which (other than during the wintertime) was only available to the very wealthiest people.

      The word blancmange translates literally into "white food," from "blanc" (the French word for "white") and "mange" (the French word for "eat").

      Indeed, the earliest blancmanges were prized for their whiteness and their smoothness. Which makes sense when one considers the fact that it was made by pounding blanched almonds into a fine paste using a mortar and pestle, then diluting with water and squeezing the the resulting almond milk through a cloth napkin.

      Thus its whiteness was a function of how thoroughly the almond milk was extracted from the almonds; and its smoothness (always prized in French cuisine) a function of ensuring that no small bits of crushed almond made it through the squeezing process.

      Additionally, traditional cooks used a combination of sweet and bitter almonds.

      Sometimes they'd substitute hazelnuts or pistachios for almonds. Alternate flavorings including coffee, vanilla, chocolate, citrus and other fruits were also common.

      Another important distinction: Blancmange was unquestionably a boozy dessert. Rum, brandy or flavored liqueurs were non-optional ingredients. A glance at a few modern blancmange recipes suggests that this practice has largely fallen by the wayside.

      English Vs. French Blancmange

      At some point in the recipe's evolution, isinglass was replaced by gelatin, which was much cheaper; and almond milk was replaced by ordinary milk (or cream) and flavored with almond extract.

      This milk-based version is considered "English" blancmange, while the French version is still made using almond paste.

      Note that the almond milk product that you can buy in supermarkets these days is a much weaker version of the almond milk made by pressing almonds, and it doesn't taste like almonds. So if you wanted to make a non-dairy blancmange, you could certainly use commercial almond milk, but you'd still have to flavor it with almond extract.

      Finally, most modern recipes for blancmange call for thickening it with cornstarch rather than gelatin.

      Cooking with Cast Iron (Benefits and Drawbacks)

      Cooking steak in a cast iron skillet - Jason Poole / Getty Images
      Steak in a cast iron skillet.  Jason Poole / Getty Images

      Cast iron cookware is cheap, versatile, and practically indestructible. If you treat it right, not only will your cast iron last pretty much forever, it will also develop an excellent nonstick surface.

      Benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron

      Cast iron can get very hot, and it holds heat extremely well, making it perfect for searing meats. It can also go straight from the stovetop to the oven. Foods like steaks and pork chops turn out great cooked this way, because you want to get them brown on the outside but not overcook them in the middle.

      Cast iron also happens to be terrific for deep-frying (or pan-frying, as in this buttermilk fried chicken recipe), because it holds the heat so well. One of the tricks to deep-frying is making sure the cooking oil stays at the proper temperature. If the oil isn't hot enough, the food can come out greasy.

      In fact, a cast iron skillet is so versatile, you can use it for baking brownies, cornbread, pies, crumbles, cobblers, and even pizza.

      You can also plunk it straight on the grill, which is great for caramelizing onions or even braising, when you might not want to heat up your kitchen.

      By the way, another benefit is that food cooked in cast iron will actually absorb trace amounts of iron, which is an important nutrient and one that many people are deficient in.

      Potential Drawbacks of Cast Iron

      One downside of cast iron is that it takes longer to heat up than other types of cookware, and it also takes longer to cool off after you're done cooking.

      It's also heavy — especially when it's full of food.

      Using two hands, with two oven mitts, can be essential. And if you have one of those glass cooktops, be careful not to scratch or crack it.

      And of course, cast iron does need a bit more maintenance than ordinary cookware, but it's nothing too intense. (Contrary to what you might have heard, it's perfectly okay to use soap on cast iron.

      See How to Clean Cast Iron Cookware for details.)

      Cast iron cookware wouldn't be my first choice for long braises involving tomato-based sauces or any other acidic ingredients. The acid can react with the iron and give the food a metallic taste. However, a cast iron Dutch oven with an enameled coating is perfect for that sort of thing.

      Is Cast Iron Really Nonstick?

      Let's compare the nonstick properties of a cast iron pan with a pan that has a nonstick coating on it (i.e. a Teflon pan).

      A new cast iron pan takes time to develop its nonstick properties. When oil is heated in a cast iron pan, it reacts with the iron and forms an impermeable layer that bonds to the surface of the pan. Over time, this nonstick layer gets thicker and thicker, which is called seasoning.

      Once that seasoning is in place, it'll stay there as long as you take reasonable care of the pan.

      On the other hand, a Teflon pan starts out nonstick but gradually loses its nonstick coating over time, as it's scraped and scratched and otherwise abused. Not only that, but high temperatures cause the Teflon to break down and release fumes into the air.

      Leaving aside the question of whether breathing these fumes is harmful to your health, if the coating has turned into fumes, then it's not on the pan anymore.

      In short, Teflon pans become LESS nonstick over time, and eventually have to be replaced, while cast iron ones become MORE nonstick over time, and can last forever.

      More About Seasoning Cast Iron

      You can buy cast iron pans seasoned or unseasoned. Unseasoned means you have to season it yourself, which can be a messy process, and if you've never done it before, you might end up with a brand new pan covered with sticky burnt oil. As such, my recommendation is to buy your pan already seasoned.

      It's a very slight seasoning, to be sure — nothing like what will build up after years of use — but it's enough to get you started. You'll want to use a bit of fat to cook (oil or butter), just as you would with any other pan. The more you cook with your cast iron, the more that seasoning will develop, until you can actually cook eggs in it without them sticking.

      Here's a 12-inch pre-seasoned 12-inch cast iron skillet, which is a good size for pretty much anything you might want to do.

      Do You REALLY Have to Refrigerate Butter?

      close-up view of knife cutting butter - Jamie Grill Photography/Getty Images
      Jamie Grill Photography/Getty Images

      Not only is this one of the questions I get most frequently, I'm pretty sure it's the very first question a reader ever sent me, not long after this site went live back in late 2007.

      In one form or another, the question boils down to this:

      "MUST one refrigerate one's butter, causing it to harden into an unyielding yellow brick, wholly unspreadable, good only for ripping one's toast or pancakes or muffins to shreds? Or may civilized folk instead leave it fondly on the counter, so that it remains soft, smooth, oh-so-spreadable, and altogether lovely?"

      That the question needs to be asked at all is slightly discouraging, particularly considering the progress human beings have made in so many other areas: eradicating polio, landing astronauts on the moon, developing the periodic table and so on.

      And I've certainly learned over the years to take the world as it is, not as it should be.

      Still, I feel it's my solemn culinary duty to do what I can to help banish, once and for all, the brutal and unnecessary practice of refrigerating butter. If I accomplish nothing else as a food writer, I'll consider it a worthy achievement.

      So the short answer is: PLEASE DO NOT REFRIGERATE YOUR BUTTER.

      Seriously. It makes the butter cry, and it makes me cry.

      Can Room-Temperature Butter Make You Sick?

      At the root of the question seems to be a concern about food safety, and it's worth addressing.

      The bacteria that cause food poisoning require (among other things) a relatively protein-rich environment in order to multiply, which is why you can leave an onion out on the counter overnight but not a steak.

      And butter is mostly fat. It contains a small amount of water (16–17 percent), and a very small amount of protein, somewhere in the range of 3–4 percent. Not enough to promote significant bacteria growth. This is especially the case with salted butter, since salt inhibits the growth of bacteria.

      Salted butter will keep for weeks at room temperature.

      But realistically, if you don't go through at least a stick of butter per week, you're 1) not cooking right, and 2) probably not reading this article because you don't care about butter.

      Further up the spectrum is clarified butter (sometimes referred to as ghee). Clarified butter is pure butterfat, without the water and milk solids, which means it has a very long shelf life. You could keep clarified butter at room temperature for several months.

      Spoiled Butter Vs. Rancid Butter

      A much bigger concern with butter is that the fat can oxidize and become rancid. It should be pointed out that rancid butter can't make you sick, but it won't taste or smell very good.

      Rancidity is caused by exposure to oxygen, light and heat.

      So, to prevent rancidity, keep your butter in an opaque butter dish with a lid. Opaque meaning you can't see through it. I keep my butter in a white butter dish like this one. Don't get a clear one, because light is one of the things that can cause butter to become rancid.

      Indeed, I keep my butter in the wrapper in the butter dish. This is as much out of laziness as anything, but keeping it wrapped does leave less surface area that can come into contact with oxygen. It may or may not also make the butter dish easier to wash.

      Also please note that what I'm recommending is leaving one stick of butter at a time in a butter dish on the counter. Not the whole pound of butter. Leave the rest in the fridge, obviously. I'm not crazy.

      Additional Considerations, Tips and Conclusions

      To be sure, certain kinds of baking (like making flaky pie crust or puff pastry) require cold butter. So depending on what goes on in your kitchen, you're going to want to keep some butter in the fridge. All I'm talking about is the butter that goes on your toast in the morning.

      Which is also why I don't advocate letting your butter sit out all day, putting it in the fridge at night and then taking it out again first thing in the morning. Because when are you most likely to eat toast? The morning. Therefore, when would this technique tend to be the least helpful? Exactly.

      (If you happen to have one of those wine refrigerators, that chills your wine to like 55°F, you could keep your butter in there overnight, especially during the summer months. But I feel like if you have one of those wine refrigerators, your life is already pretty perfect and I kind of don't mind if your toast gets wrecked in the morning.)

      Oh, and you'll thank me for this: If some well-meaning knave should happen to put your butter in the fridge without your knowledge, and you learn of their foul deed only after your bread is already in the toaster, well, fear not! You can grate your rock-hard butter on a cheese grater, and the little butter shreds will spread much more easily.

      By the way, the cheese grater trick is also a great technique for cutting butter into flour.

      Finally, if you keep your butter near the stove, or near the toaster, or if it stays above, say, 80°F in your kitchen, your mileage is going to vary. But again, the only real issue is rancidity, not bacterial spoilage. Other than via direct cross-contamination, there's really no plausible way for butter to make you sick.

      Which means, if you've been keeping your butter in the fridge because you're concerned about food poisoning, your life just got a whole lot easier.

      How To Make Perfect Bacon in the Oven

      How to make perfect bacon - Vasko Miokovic / Getty Images
      Perfect oven-baked bacon.  Vasko Miokovic / Getty Images

      Of all the ways you can cook bacon — including on a skillet or griddle, in the microwave, or even in a deep-fryer — it turns out that the very best way of all is to bake it in the oven.

      Bacon is fatty, so it needs to be cooked slowly, at a low temperature, so that most (but not all) of the fat renders away while leaving the finished product crispy and golden brown.

      And you can try to do that in a skillet or a griddle, but there are a couple of problems.

      One, an average skillet isn't wide enough to accommodate whole slices of bacon. They'll just crowd each other and end up sticking together.

      But even if your skillet or griddle is extra-wide (or you decide to cut your bacon in half), you're still cooking the bacon from below, which is more likely to cause it to scorch.

      So it turns out crumbly rather than crispy.

      You're also going to have to flip it so that both sides of the bacon are cooked. Flipping bacon isn't a major challenge, but I think we can agree that having to flip your bacon is more difficult than NOT having to flip it.

      Plus, cooking bacon on the stovetop uses up one of your burners (or maybe two if you're using one of those double-burner griddles), which means you have less room for making your eggs or home fries or Hollandaise sauce or even just boiling water to make coffee.

      Finally, cooking bacon on the stovetop is messy — bacon fat is going to spatter all over the place, maybe onto you.

      Any one of these — the fact that it's easier, that it frees up space on your stovetop and is a lot less messy — would be reason enough to cook your bacon in the oven.

      But it so happens that those are really only side benefits, because bacon cooked in the oven is the best bacon you'll ever have. The oven cooks it evenly so that it comes out crispy and, yes, perfect.

      Do NOT Preheat Your Oven

      So here are the steps. But let me first give you a heads-up that the most important part of this technique is putting the bacon into a cold oven.

      Don't preheat! Starting with a cold oven ensures that the bacon will cook slowly, like it needs to.

      1. Arrange the bacon slices on a sheet pan and place the pan on the center rack of a cold oven. (Try not to stretch the slices out. Just gently drape the bacon across the pan.) Close the oven door. Turn the oven on to 400°F. Walk away.
      2. Come back 17 to 20 minutes later. As soon as the bacon is golden brown, but not excessively crisp, it's done. The exact time will depend on the thickness of the bacon slices, and also on how quickly your oven reaches the target temperature.
      3. Remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the bacon to a second sheet pan (or a plate or dish) lined with paper towels to absorb any excess fat.

      REMEMBER: Don't pre-heat the oven! Make sure the oven is cold when you put the bacon in.

      Also, keep your eye on the bacon during the final few minutes of cooking to make sure that it doesn't burn.

      Another thing: Remove the cooked bacon from the hot pan right away. If you leave it in the pan too long, the heat from the pan and the hot bacon fat will continue cooking it.

      Another Benefit: Bacon Butter!

      One of the lovely consequences of cooking bacon this way is that the bacon fat renders off beautifully. I'll pour the hot bacon fat into a heat-proof ramekin and save it in the fridge for other uses.

      And by "other uses" I mean everything. I'll sauté with it, cook eggs with it, bake cookies with it — seriously, anywhere I might use butter, I'll use bacon butter. I'll even spread it on toast, and although I've never tried this, I have a feeling a peanut butter and bacon butter sandwich would be kind of divine.

      You'll notice that since the fat doesn't burn while you cook the bacon, it'll be almost transparent when you pour it, and have a lovely, creamy white color once it cools in the fridge.

      I used to strain the liquid fat through cheesecloth when I poured it into the ramekin, but I actually don't mind having little bacon particles in it. They'll sink to the bottom in any case.

      Truly, sometimes I'm not sure it's the bacon I'm "making" and the bacon butter is the "byproduct," or if it's the other way around.

      What About Lining the Pan With Foil?

      The question of whether to line the pan with foil has come up occasionally. I don't use foil when I do my bacon, because I don't mind washing the pan later, and I find that the sheet of foil can complicate matters when I go to pour off the fat. Plus, that's a pretty big piece of foil, and maybe it seems a bit wasteful.

      Really, the foil is mainly about keeping your sheet pan (relatively) clean. One advantage of this technique, however, is that since we cook the bacon slowly and gently, it really shouldn't stick.

      However, if you find your bacon is sticking, try crumpling up the foil a little before you line the sheet pan with it. The little crumples in the foil will help the cooked bacon lift right off.

      Finally have an answer for "What's for dinner?"  Sign up to receive a new recipe every day for a week's worth of tasty inspiration.

      What is Cannelloni?

      Spinach and ricotta cannelloni - Georgia Glynn Smith / Getty Images
      Spinach and ricotta cannelloni.  Georgia Glynn Smith / Getty Images

      Cannelloni (pronounced "can-uh-LOW-nee") is a type of pasta shaped like a short, wide tube. Traditionally, cannelloni is made by wrapping sheets of fresh pasta into cylinders. But you can buy dried cannelloni at the store.

      Dried cannelloni are more difficult to fill than the fresh kind, because with fresh cannelloni you can simply place your fillings on the sheets and then roll them into tubes. With dried cannelloni you have to sort of thread your fillings into the tube.

      But it's not brain surgery.

      Alternately, guess what? You can make cannelloni by boiling sheets of dried lasagna pasta and then rolling them into tubes.

      Note that there's another large tubular pasta called manicotti, which is more or less the same as cannelloni, only it has ridged sides instead of smooth ones.

      Classic Recipe: Cannelloni with Spinach and Ricotta

      This classic dish is traditionally made with fresh pasta: flour and egg yolks are mixed together and then pressed into a dough. The rested dough is then flattened and rolled in a pasta machine into thin sheets which are cut into squares. So far, so good.

      Meanwhile, cooked spinach is combined with ricotta cheese, egg and béchamel (a simple white sauce that happens to be one of the five mother sauces of the culinary arts), along with garlic, onions, salt and pepper. Other cheeses might also be added, such as Romano and/or Parmesan.

      Finally, the spinach filling is spooned onto the pasta squares, and the squares are rolled into tubes and sealed with a little bit of water or egg wash.

      The filled tubes are placed in a baking dish with a layer of basic red sauce underneath, and then topped with more béchamel and baked. It's good stuff.

      Cannelloni Vs. Cannellini Vs. Cannoli

      If you're like many people, you'll find it confusing that the word cannelloni sounds so much like the word cannellini ("can-uh-LEE-nee"), which is a type of white bean that's very popular in southern Italian cooking and is similar to navy beans or great northern beans.

      Moreover, there's an Italian specialty called a cannoli ("can-OH-lee"), which is a tube of fried pastry dough stuffed with sweet ricotta cheese, which adds to the confusion not merely because it sounds the same but also because it's another form of cheese-filled dough-tube.

      One time at a party, I said something about "cannelloni beans" and the person I was talking to looked at me like I had seven heads. So I came up with this system to keep them straight: Cannelloni has an "O" in it, which is like the tube in the pasta. Cannellini rhymes with "beany." And cannoli has the word "no" in it, as in "no, this is not a type of pasta or a type of bean." Foolproof.

      Orange Simple Syrup Recipe

      Orange simple syrup - Lisa Hubbard / Getty Images
      Lisa Hubbard / Getty Images

      Simple syrup is a solution of equal parts (by weight) sugar and water. It can be used to sweeten and add moisture to cakes and other desserts.

      It's also handy for sweetening cold drinks like iced coffee and iced tea, since granulated sugar doesn't dissolve as well in a cold drinks as it does in hot ones.

      There are also a slew of cocktails that use simple syrup, like the Old Fashioned and the Mojito.

      The thing about simple syrup is that traditionally it's made by boiling the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. The resulting syrup is then cooled and then stored in a bottle or jar. You can infuse it with orange flavor by simmering orange peel in the syrup, which might be nice for brushing onto the layers of a classic genoise cake.

      There are a couple of problems with this technique, however. One, if you should accidentally splatter a drop of boiling-hot simple syrup on yourself, you're going to be in a lot of pain. And two, the pot you used to simmer the syrup is going to be a pain to clean — so much so that you might prefer the pain of being burned by the stuff.

      And also, you have to wait for it to cool.

      Fortunately, you can make simple syrup without boiling. Just combine the sugar and water in a jar or bottle and let it sit for about 20 minutes, giving it a shake or stir every five minutes or so. Zero cleanup, zero waiting for it to cool, and zero chance of sustaining second-degree burns.

      Still, boiled simple syrup will keep a lot longer, because boiling gets rid of any bacteria that might cause it to go bad. But we're talking the difference between keeping for three months with the stirred syrup versus more or less indefinitely with the boiled kind. So if you're planning to use it up quickly, the shaken version will work just fine.

      Of course, if you're not cooking the syrup, you can't flavor it by simmering orange peels in it. But you can just stir in half a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (per liter of syrup), or 1/4 lemon juice and 1/4 cup orange juice.

      And if you're just using your simple syrup to sweeten drinks, feel free to leave out the citrus juice altogether.

      By the way, you can buy a simple syrup kit which is basically a bottle with markings on it to indicate how much sugar and water to add. You just cork it and shake it up. Totally unnecessary, but still kind of cool and might make a nice gift.

      See Also
      Chocolate Pudding Recipe
      How to Make Frosting
      New York Cheesecake
      • 1 quart filtered or distilled water
      • ½ lb granulated sugar
      • Peels of about 3 oranges, sliced
      • Prep Time: 0 minutes
      • Cook Time: 15 minutes
      • Total Time: 15 minutes
      • Yield: 1 liter
      1. Combine the water, sugar and orange peels in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
      2. Remove from heat, remove the peels and let the syrup cool. Transfer to a bottle or jar. Store in the fridge for longest life.

      Basic, Simple Bran Muffin Recipe (With Raisins)

      Plain basic bran muffins recipe - Rick Gayle Studio/Fuse / Getty Images
      Plain, basic bran muffins. With raisins.  Rick Gayle Studio/Fuse / Getty Images

      Oddly enough, it's surprisingly hard to find a recipe for plain-old basic bran muffins, the assumption (I guess) being either that everyone already knows how to make them, or that they're somehow boring if they haven't been doctored up in some way.

      But is that really what the world has come to? That a muffin recipe is boring if it doesn't feature popcorn or M&Ms or cream cheese or carrots? Here's what I think: I think bran muffins are a classic, and someone somewhere ought to be the guardian and custodian of the basic recipe.

      Might as well be me. So here's a basic bran muffin recipe. Not gluten-free, not vegan, not lowfat, not with blueberries, not made with oat bran or bananas or in a crockpot. Not that there's anything wrong with any of those things. But sometimes you just want a straight-up bran muffin.

      This recipe does have raisins. But that's kind of mandatory in a bran muffin, right?

      OK, another thing. Rather than using bran cereal or something, I like to use actual wheat bran. You can get it at the store, possibly in the "healthy" aisle that most stores seem to have these days (but you can also get it online).

      Also see: What is Bran?

      See Also
      Measuring Ingredients in Baking
      All About Bread Flour, Cake Flour, All-Purpose Flour and More
      Baking Soda and Baking Powder: What's the Difference?
      • 180 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups), sifted
      • 80 grams wheat bran (about 1 1/3 cups)
      • ½ cup granulated sugar
      • 1 Tbsp baking powder
      • ½ tsp salt
      • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
      • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
      • 1/2 cup raisins
      • 4 Tbsp butter (½ stick)
      • 1 large egg
      • 1 cup whole milk
      • 40 grams molasses (about 1/4 cup)
      • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
      • Prep Time: 15 minutes
      • Cook Time: 20 minutes
      • Total Time: 35 minutes
      • Yield: 1 dozen
      1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
      2. Combine the flour, bran, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and raisins and stir to distribute everything evenly. Mixing the raisins in with the dry ingredients helps prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins while they bake.
      3. Heat the butter in the microwave, in a microwave-safe bowl, for about a minute, until it's liquefied but not sizzling. You just want to be able to pour it.
      1. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, then add the milk, molasses, and vanilla.
      2. Thoroughly grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan (or use paper muffin liners).
      3. Make sure the melted butter is warm but not hot. Pour it slowly into the bowl with the liquid ingredients, whisking with a fork to incorporate it thoroughly.
      4. Now add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mix gently with a wooden spoon to combine. Scrape down toward the bottom of the bowl to make sure any pockets of dry ingredients get mixed in. But don't mix too long or too forcefully. Slow and gentle. Stop stirring once everything is moistened. The batter will still look lumpy.
      5. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes, to allow any dry pockets of flour to dissolve while the glutens in the flour have time to relax.
      6. Gently spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan and get them into the oven right away.
      7. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5–10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.

        Pasteurized Eggs: Where to Buy Them, How Do They Taste?

        Davidson's Safest Choice pasteurized eggs - Photo courtesy Davidson's Safest Choice
        Photo courtesy Davidson's Safest Choice Rating

        Pasteurized eggs are a great product for anyone who's got special concerns about food safety. But not every grocery store carries them.

        A company called Safest Choice sells pasteurized eggs in grocery stores across the country, and they have a store locator to help you find stores in your area that carry them.

        I got my hands on some and tried them out. The flavor and texture do leave something to be desired, especially for preparing basic egg dishes like omelets or scrambled eggs.

        Still, pasteurized eggs provide peace of mind when it comes to food safety, particularly when preparing recipes that call for uncooked eggs. And if you're cooking for young kids, pregnant women, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system, the safety you get with using pasteurized eggs might be worth the flavor trade-off.

        All things considered, I give them five stars for safety and peace of mind, and three stars for flavor — four stars overall.

        Pasteurized Eggs: Pros & Cons

        Eggs carry salmonella, which is the leading cause of food poisoning in the United States. Cooking kills the salmonella bacteria, but that still leaves two problems.

        One, some recipes, like eggnog, spaghetti carbonara and Caesar salad dressing, call for uncooked eggs.

        And two, even when preparing cooked eggs, you run the risk of cross-contamination. A little speck of raw egg on your hands or cutting board can be transferred to something else and ultimately make someone sick.

        The solution is to use pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized eggs are gently heated in their shells, just enough to kill the bacteria but not enough to actually cook the egg, making them safe to use in any recipe that calls for uncooked or partially cooked eggs.

        Note that poached eggs and eggs prepared over-easy or sunnyside-up aren't fully cooked.

        Moreover, because of cross-contamination risk, if you're cooking for someone in one of the categories mentioned above, you might want to use pasteurized eggs anyway.

        Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs

        That's where Safest Choice eggs come in.

        For a long time, the only pasteurized egg products that were available to consumers were liquid eggs or liquid egg whites. It was difficult, if not impossible, to find pasteurized shell eggs in a normal grocery store.

        And while Safest Choice eggs aren't available everywhere, they are getting their products into more and more stores across the country. And they'll send you some coupons if you fill out a survey on their web site. (I never actually got my coupons, so I can't totally vouch for that, but they say they'll send you some.)

        In any case, if you're into food safety, Safest Choice seems to be a company that genuinely shares your concerns.

        That's the good news.

        The slightly less-than-amazing news is that the eggs don't taste that great. Or rather, they taste okay, if a little bit flat or bland. That eggy flavor you want from an egg was a little thinned-out somehow. Maybe you wouldn't notice the difference. A little salt will help, in any case.

        The bigger issue to me was one of texture. "Mushy" is not a nice word to use for describing eggs, but it's the word that comes to mind. The eggs just weren't as firm as regular fresh eggs — they definitely lacked some of that "bite" you expect from a properly cooked, fluffy scrambled egg.

        Another problem is that pasteurized eggs are terrible for preparations where you want to whip the egg whites to get stiff peaks. The pasteurization process affects the ability of the proteins in the eggs to get firm. Unfortunately, that's just the reality of pasteurized eggs.

        The obvious solution: use regular eggs for cooked egg recipes, and use pasteurized eggs for sauces and other recipes that call for raw eggs. That's unless you're cooking for someone in one of those high-risk groups I talked about before, in which case, safety trumps flavor.

        Chanterelle Mushrooms: An Autumn Delicacy

        1 of 1

        Chanterelles: Golden Goodness

        Use to navigate.

        Sautéed Chanterelle Mushrooms - Photo © Danilo Alfaro
        Sautéed chanterelle mushrooms. Photo Credit: Photo © Danilo Alfaro

        Chanterelle mushrooms are in season during the autumn months, which is when the farmer's markets will be full of them, but you can get them for most of the year if you really want them. They'll sometimes pop up in the springtime, too, so you just never know.

        Chanterelles are probably my favorite mushrooms, and they have a really complex nutty, fruity, woody flavor, so I like to prepare them as simply as possible.

        First I brush off any loose dirt and pine needles (they come from the forest). I don't wash them, because mushrooms are like sponges, and if you get them wet they'll just soak up water, which makes them difficult to cook.

        Once they're clean, I cut them into bite-sized pieces and sauté them for about 20 minutes in a hot pan with a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil.

        Cooking Chanterelle Mushrooms

        Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. I find that I can reasonably cook about two cups of chanterelles at one time. If you try to cram too many into the pan, all the liquid they give off will cool the pan down and you won't get the nice caramelized sear on the mushrooms that we're after. It'll be like they're steaming or simmering rather than sautéeing.

        Some people suggest sautéeing the chanterelles in a dry pan and adding the butter later, but since many of the flavor compounds in the chanterelles are fat-soluble, cooking them in some sort of fat brings out more flavor.

        Heat the oil and butter in the pan over medium heat and then drop the chanterelles in, sprinkle them with Kosher salt and toss them around in the butter and oil.

        Salting them now rather than later will help to pull out more moisture. Then let them cook for 10 minutes without moving them.

        After 10 minutes the chanterelles will be brown on the bottom. I like to use a pair of tongs and flip each one individually so I'm sure I haven't missed any. Then cook for another 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are well browned and bordering on crispy. It's really important to cook out all the water, because you don't want to eat squishy chanterelles.

        Add Garlic and Fresh Herbs

        At this point you can add a clove of thinly sliced garlic and some fresh herbs and cook for another minute or two. I have thyme growing in my garden so that's what I use, and I think it complements the earthy flavor of the chanterelles really well.

        You can stir in a little bit more butter and squeeze some fresh lemon juice to finish, adjust seasoning with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve them just like this. I love chanterelles with roasted chicken. But you can also use them in another recipe, like in crepes or an omelet or in a sauce or in mashed potatoes or with polenta or risotto — the possibilities are endless.

        9 Signs You Might Have Food Poisoning

        Woman sitting on bed holding stomach, head bowed - Tom Le Golf/Photodisc/Getty Images
        Tom Le Golf/Photodisc/Getty Images

        The symptoms of food poisoning can vary depending on what sort of bug you might be dealing with, but there are definitely some characteristic signs that show up in most cases.

        For example, Salmonella poisoning, the most common type of food poisoning in America, features abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms are quite general, and are likely to be present in pretty much every form of food poisoning you can think of.

        Moreover, while you're in the throes of sickness, you may not be in the frame of mind to make a fine distinction between abdominal cramps and abdominal pain.

        Food Poisoning or Flu?

        Also, you might wonder whether the symptoms you're experiencing are really signs of food poisoning, or whether it's merely some sort of stomach flu or stomach bug.

        In reality, though, the terms "stomach flu" or "stomach bug" are just expressions used to describe symptoms that are, for the most part, caused by food poisoning. In other words, if you have the stomach flu or a stomach bug, you probably got it by eating something that gave you a case of food poisoning.

        For that reason, simply looking at symptoms isn't always enough to diagnose a case of food poisoning. You might also want to think about what you recently ate and where you ate it. For example, many people tend to feel a little queasy after their Thanksgiving dinner. It's easy to attribute that to having eaten too much, when in reality it may be a case of Salmonella poisoning.

        So, if someone else who ate the same food also has the same symptoms, that's a strong indicator of a case of food poisoning.

        This is an important point, because the question of whether it's a "stomach bug" or food poisoning may seem like a matter of semantics. But it's actually crucial to know, because if you ate contaminated food, you're going to want to know about it so no one else in your household eats the same food. Alternately, if you got food poisoning from a restaurant, that could be a major public health hazard and it would be important for the local health department to know about it.

        Note that there's one special form of food poisoning, with its own unique set of symptoms and conditions, that we'll get to at the end of this article. Here, then, are some of the most common food poisoning symptoms, and some of their most likely causes:


        Vomiting is one of the most common signs of food poisoning. This makes sense, because if you ate something bad, your body is going to try to get it out. Sending it back out the same way it came in is the best way to accomplish that.

        Vomiting is one of the signs of food poisoning caused by the following bacteria:

        • Salmonella
        • Shigella
        • Listeria
        • Campylobacter jejuni
        • E. coli


        Diarrhea is another common food poisoning symptom, and it's characteristic of the following bacteria:

        • Salmonella
        • Shigella (diarrhea could be bloody)
        • Listeria
        • Staphylococcus aureus
        • Clostridium perfringens
        • Campylobacter jejuni (diarrhea can be watery or bloody)
        • E. coli (watery, can turn bloody)


        Yes, even a headache can be a sign of food poisoning, but usually it will occur in combination with some of the other symptoms described here. Headache can be present in food poisoning caused by these bugs:

        • Salmonella
        • Listeria
        • Staphylococcus aureus (in severe cases)
        • Clostridium perfringens
        • Campylobacter jejuni

        Abdominal Pain / Abdominal Cramping

        Again, there's a pretty fine distinction to be made here, as it may not be so easy to isolate abdominal pain caused by cramping from some other type of abdominal pain. Nevertheless, this can be a symptom of some of these foodborne illnesses:

        • Salmonella
        • Shigella
        • Staphylococcus aureus
        • Clostridium perfringens
        • Campylobacter jejuni
        • E. coli (pain is severe)


        Another very basic symptom and not so easy to quantify, nausea can range anywhere from a mild queasiness to vomiting and severe abdominal cramping. Like headache, it will likely present itself in conjunction with some of the other symptoms listed here. Nausea is among the signs of these kinds of food poisoning:

        • Salmonella
        • Shigella
        • Listeria
        • Staphylococcus aureus
        • Clostridium perfringens
        • Campylobacter jejuni


        Because the bacteria that transmit the illness are generally (but not always) causing an infection, one of the most common symptoms of food poisoning is a fever, as seen in the cases caused by these bacteria:

        • Salmonella
        • Shigella
        • Listeria (fever can be quite persistent)
        • Campylobacter jejuni
        • E. coli (sometimes; can be mild)


        Dehydration can be caused by vomiting and diarrhea, so it's another symptom that's difficult to distinguish on its own. Still, you may experience dehydration when suffering from any of these forms of food poisoning:

        • Salmonella (particularly in very young or very old people)
        • Shigella
        • Clostridium perfringens

        Muscle Pain / Muscle Cramping

        Another reason people sometimes mistake food poisoning for the flu is that the flu can cause muscle aches, and so can some forms of food poisoning, including:

        • Listeria (backache)
        • Staphylococcus aureus
        • Campylobacter jejuni

        Botulism: A Special Case

        Botulism is one of the most deadly forms of food poisoning, and it's caused by a bacteria that lives in an oxygen-free environment. This makes it different from other foodborne pathogens. Botulism also presents its own unique set of symptoms. You can see that they're quite different from the symptoms described above. Botulism symptoms include:

        • Fatigue / weakness
        • Dizziness
        • Double vision or blurred vision
        • Dry mouth
        • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
        • Paralysis (in extremely advanced cases)

        Here's an article that goes into much more depth about botulism.

        What IS a Frittata? (On a Deep Level, I Mean)

        How to Make The Perfect 5-Minute Omelet

        How to make an omelet - Westend61 / Getty Images
        Westend61 / Getty Images
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        Some people are intimidated by omelets, but trust me: if you can make scrambled eggs, you can make an omelet.

        Part of the secret is using the right tools. You should always make an omelet in a nonstick pan. The best choice for a 2-egg omelet is an 8-inch omelet pan, especially when you're first learning. But any nonstick sauté pan will do as long as it's round with sloped sides and between 6 inches and 10 inches in diameter.

        But don't try to make a 3-egg omelet in a smaller pan. Once you've mastered the technique, you can move up to a 3-egg omelet, but you'll want to use a 10-inch omelet pan for that. (Here's a set that includes an 8-inch and a 10-inch pan.)

        Also, you should always use a heat-resistant silicone spatula, so that it doesn't melt and so that you don't scratch your nonstick pan.

        See Also
        How to Make French Toast
        How To Make Perfect Bacon
        Basic Waffle Recipe
        • 2 eggs
        • 2 Tbsp. whole milk
        • 2 Tbsp clarified butter or whole butter
        • Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
        • Prep Time: 5 minutes
        • Cook Time: 5 minutes
        • Total Time: 10 minutes
        • Yield: N/A
        1. Crack the eggs into a glass mixing bowl and beat them until they turn a pale yellow color.
        2. Heat a heavy-bottomed nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the butter and let it melt.
        3. Add the milk to the eggs and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Then, grab your whisk and whisk like crazy. You're going to want to work up a sweat here. If you're not up for that, you can use an electric beater or stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whatever device you use, you're trying to beat as much air as possible into the eggs.
        1. When the butter in the pan is hot enough to make a drop of water hiss, pour in the eggs. Don't stir! Let the eggs cook for up to a minute or until the bottom starts to set.
        2. With a heat-resistant rubber spatula, gently push one edge of the egg into the center of the pan, while tilting the pan to allow the still liquid egg to flow in underneath. Repeat with the other edges, until there's no liquid left.
        3. Your eggs should now resemble a bright yellow pancake, which should easily slide around on the nonstick surface. If it sticks at all, loosen it with your spatula.
        4. Now gently flip the egg pancake over, using your spatula to ease it over if necessary. Cook for another few seconds, or until there is no uncooked egg left.
        5. If you're adding any other ingredients, now's the time to do it. (See below.) Spoon your filling across the center of the egg in straight line.
        6. With your spatula, lift one edge of the egg and fold it across and over, so that the edges line up. Cook for another minute or so, but don't overcook or allow the egg to turn brown. If necessary, you can flip the entire omelet over to cook the top for 30 seconds or so. Just don't let it get brown.
        1. Gently transfer the finished omelet to a plate. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs if desired.
        NOTE: There's no limit to the number of fillings you can use with this basic omelet recipe.

        Some suggestions include:
        • Grated cheese
        • Sautéed mushrooms
        • Diced and sautéed onion
        • Chopped cooked bacon
        • Diced ham

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        What are Croquettes?

        Croquettes: Deep fried breaded goodness - Lauri Patterson / Getty Images
        Deep fried risotto and mozzarella: Aka, a croquette.  Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

        A croquette is a small patty, ball or cylinder of puréed salmon, potatoes or some other item that is usually breaded and deep-fried.

        Croquettes are bound together with eggs and a starch such as potatoes, rice or bread crumbs, and sometimes a basic white sauce.

        The most basic kind is potato, which is basically mashed potatoes with some egg yolks mixed in to hold it together, then rolled in breadcrumbs and fried until crispy.

        These are great, because almost anything deep-fried until crispy is great. These days, crab cakes and salmon cakes are typical examples of croquettes.

        But in the old days, chefs used to make croquettes out of anything they could get their hands on, and it was a great way to use up leftovers, which was always one of the biggest priorities for chefs in the old days, because the old days I'm referring to are the days before refrigeration.

        Thus, ingredients like meat, game, veal, poultry, foie gras, offal (such as brains and organ meats), seafood (fish, lobster, mussels, oysters), vegetables, cheese and pasta were made into croquettes. In addition to savory croquettes, sweet ones, made with fruit and/or nuts, combined with pastry cream, were also common.

        The standard procedure involved chopping up the main ingredient and then cooking it along with diced mushrooms and truffles plus a bit of wine, such as madeira. Next, the mixture would be combined with a béchamel sauce, or sometimes a basic brown sauce, plus a few egg yolks, and then cooked a bit more, before turning the mixture out onto a dish and layering with butter.

        After it cooled, the filling would be divided into portions, dipped in egg, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden brown.

        I don't know about you, but a croquette made with wine, béchamel, truffles, mushrooms and chopped up meat or offal or oysters or brie cheese sounds like something to seriously write home about. And the point is, you can totally make that. Whether it's with leftovers, or something you go out and buy especially for this purpose, there's really nothing to it.

        Simply choose your ingredients, chop them up into a kind of hash, combine with egg yolks and béchamel, roll into cylinders, bread and then fry.

        See the picture above? It's called arancini, which is a type of croquette made in Italy using leftover risotto (but you can use ordinary rice) plus mozzarella cheese, fresh parsley and roasted red peppers, then breaded and fried. Check out this article on the standard breading procedure, and this one on deep-frying.

        Monday, October 26, 2015

        Homemade Cloverleaf Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

        Soft, homemade buttermilk rolls - Susan McWhinney / Getty Images
        Susan McWhinney / Getty Images

        These buttermilk yeast rolls are soft and fluffy and they're great for holiday dinners.

        They're made in the cloverleaf style, which means that they're baked in a muffin pan with three little dough balls in each muffin cup. But you could also simply roll the dough into 12 balls and bake them on a sheet pan.

        Besides adding a tangy flavor, buttermilk helps produce softer rolls because the lactic acid in it relaxes the glutens in the flour. I imagine bakers in ye olden times originally added buttermilk (which at that time was a byproduct of churning butter) to their bread dough because "why not? We might as well use it for something." And then discovered that their bread turned out not only yummy but also pleasantly soft.

        Today, buttermilk is a cultured product (like yogurt) rather than a butter byproduct. If you haven't got any, and maybe there's a blizzard and you can't get to the store, there are a few ways you can make your own buttermilk so that you can still make this recipe.

        You can also use powdered buttermilk, which is a good product to have on hand and keeps well in the fridge for quite a while. Follow the instructions on the container for mixing up one cup of buttermilk.

        • 400 grams all-purpose flour (about 3 1/4 cups)
        • 1 tsp salt
        • 1 package active dry yeast
        • 1 cup buttermilk, warmed to 115°F
        • 1 Tbsp honey
        • 3 Tbsp butter, melted, plus more for brushing the tops and greasing the pan
        • 1 egg
        • Prep Time: 90 minutes
        • Cook Time: 25 minutes
        • Total Time: 115 minutes
        • Yield: 1 dozen rolls
        1. Butter a 12-muffin baking pan.
        2. Combine half the flour, along with the salt and yeast and stir until blended.
        3. Combine the warm buttermilk with the honey, egg and melted butter and whisk to blend. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until thick. Add the rest of the flour and stir until it comes together in a soft, sticky mass.
        4. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for about 7 to 8 minutes or until a smooth ball forms.
        1. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, then cut each piece into thirds, so you have 36 pieces all together. Now gently roll each piece into a ball. Don't roll them too tightly, though,  or your rolls will turn out like little rocks.
        2. Place three dough balls in each cup of your prepared muffin pan. Brush the tops with melted butter, then cover with a kitchen towel and set the pan someplace warm for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in volume.
        3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush the rolls with a bit more butter and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

        More Bread Recipes:
        Easy Bread Recipe
        Whole Wheat Bread
        Basic Dinner Rolls

        Three Pie Recipes:
        Pumpkin Pie Recipe
        Pecan Pie Recipe
        Custard Pie Recipe