A lot of sweet things have happened to me since I started writing a blog, and one of the very sweetest is that I have made good friends all over the world, many of them also bloggers. I have good friends in Australia, Scotland, England, New Zealand, and Germany, as well as across the U.S. We support each others’ blogging efforts and we cheer each others’ successes and groan over each others’ challenges and try to help each other when we go through hard times. Now and then we even ask each other for a favor or two.
I asked my blogging friend Chef William, who blogs about healthy eating and also his much-envied (by me!!) retirement life in Mexico, if he’d have time (between his mountain hikes and his basking dates on the beach, that is!) 😉 to write a guest post for me, since I knew that our upcoming Show Week would be Pure Madness, to put it mildly. I know from experience that Show Week will be absolutely packed. We’ll be scrounging for last-minute props, writing a program, answering e-mails and phone calls about last-minute details, practicing music and dance numbers, and lots and lots (and lots!) of melodrama-related problem solving. That’s okay. I’m ready for it.
Bring it! Find turn-of-the-century(ish) soda glasses! Paint two more signs! Is that enough cash for the cash box? Where is the cash box? Make two more curtains and two tablecloths for the soda parlor–Amalia? Has anybody seen little Mack today . . . ? Has anybody let the dogs out yet? Lunch?? I don’t know–there are boiled eggs in the ‘fridge and . . . um . . . some salad . . .
It’s a dizzyingly busy and exciting and exhausting and exhilarating time for our family. I’ll barely have enough time to eat; I know that there will be precious little time for writing new blog posts throughout it all.
And that brings me back to my friend, the Chef. Chef William is a knowledgeable fellow and a gentleman and an all-around Good Egg, and he graciously agree to write a post for me, and he had it ready in a couple of days. I fancy myself a fairly well-rounded (in more ways than one, alas) cook, but I’ve always envied REAL chefs their professional training. I sit at the feet (figuratively speaking) of the professional chefs that I know, and pick up little tidbits of technique and food secrets (learning about mise en place, for instance, from Chef William has been very helpful to me!) from them hungrily (no pun intended).
So it’s your lucky day, my Gentle Reader, because you get to sit at a professional chef’s feet for a few moments and learn some cool culinary tips, too! So without further ado, here are some tips, just for you, from Chef William. (cue applause track!)
Working magic in your kitchen!
by Chef William of HealthyFoodandDiet.com
Do you feel that it is time for FUN when you head to the kitchen to start preparing a meal or a special snack . . . or not? The kitchen is usually the central meeting place for friends and family. For those of us that have spent a lifetime working with foods in the kitchens of the world, the kitchen is a happy place where we really enjoy spending a lot of time.
If it is not already a fun place for you, here is a way of looking at that time which could make it a little more enjoyable: consider your kitchen a magic show, and you are the magician. You are about to take a few food items, combine them together, and “Abracadabra!” you have created something completely different from the original items, right in front of your family’s eyes.
Of course, it might take a little more “magic” than just dropping a coin into a hat and pulling out a rabbit, but you are the magician and it is your show, remember, so use all the tricks that you have up your sleeve and wow them with the magic you perform with food.
As somewhat of a master magician in the kitchen, with a lifetime of performing on a daily basis, I have a nice little collection of magic tricks that help me perform at my best. I have learned from other magicians over the years, because we chefs like to share with each other. Today I will share a few of my favorite tricks with you, and hopefully you’ll be able to use a couple of them the next time you are called to perform magic in your kitchen, for your family or friends!
First, here’s a bit of very simple bit of magic I have used over the years that has never let me down. If you need an egg for a recipe but you find that you are out of eggs, what do you do? (that is, if you don’t have a coop full of chickens a couple hundred feet from your kitchen–note from Amy). Here’s what I do: I substitute two tablespoons of real mayonnaise for a large egg in any recipe (except egg recipes of course). Be sure not to used whipped salad dressing though, unless you want the extra salt that it contains. It is always best to check your inventory before starting a recipe, but things do happen, such as dropping the egg on the floor before you get a chance to add it to the recipe. (And then the dog slurping it up. Or the cat. Or the dog and the cat getting into a fight over it, and then your slipping on the egg in the melee, and ending up in the hospital with a concussion. Hey, it happens–oops, that’s from me again, I’m sorry, Chef, I’ll try to stay mum now–Amy–I just thought that was a very important thing to note. ;))
Secondly . . . let’s discuss butter. Walk into a grocery store and you will find that about 90 percent of the butter is salted. I almost never buy salted butter for the kitchen. I only buy the salted butters to use for serving to people in the restaurant. WHY do suppose this is? The answer: better control. The salt is added to butter for extra flavor and to help preserve it so it has a longer shelf life. The problem is that sometimes the salt in butter can be more than a recipe needs. Choosing unsalted butter gives you more control over how much salt your dish contains. If you only have salted butter, be sure to omit approximately ¼ teaspoon of salt per ½ cup (one stick) of butter used in the recipe, or your dish may taste too salty.
Hollandaise sauce is a good example of where you want to use butter without salt. The items you are going to put the sauce over will already be salted and will add their salt to the flavor of the Hollandaise sauce. You don’t want your delicate sauce to be spoiled by too much salt!
And speaking of frying foods. Does your oil always seem to be the wrong temperature when you want to fry something? Here’s a simple bit of magic which will show you if your oil is the right temperature: first, you need a bread cube. Got one? Toss it into the hot oil. Time how long it takes that bread cube to brown. If it browns in a minute, the oil is between 350 and 365 degrees, 40 seconds – 365 and 382 degrees, 20 seconds – 382 and 390 degrees. (If it turns black instantly, baby, your oil is too hot–that handy tip from yours truly). If you have one, you can use a thermometer, but this handy tip is for if you dropped it on the floor with that egg, and broke it, or you just can’t find it when you need it. Just be sure that it is a metal thermometer designed for deep fryers.
And that brings us to store bought tomato sauce. Store bought tomato sauce is an easy alternative to making your own. But sometimes it is too acidic or too salty for the dish you’re using it in. A great tip to cut the acidity of tomato sauce is to add about one-eighth of a cup of sugar. To reduce saltiness, add a little cream.
And now a word or two about salt . . . and meat . . . and salt with meat. One of the biggest faux pas when it comes to cooking meat, is to salt it prior to cooking. What the salt actually does is draws the juices out and impedes the browning of the meat. Instead, add salt once the meat is already half cooked. Then taste it when it’s done and if more salt is needed, you can add it then. The result is juicy, tasty meat that doesn’t contain more salt then it needs! So simple, yet such a dramatic difference!
Now let’s move on to the dessert: specifically, let’s talk CAKE, and stuff in cake. You can prevent ingredients such as chocolate chips, nuts and dried fruit from settling to the bottom of your cake by coating them with a light dusting of flour before mixing them into the batter. The flour absorbs some of the surface oil and water that exudes from these ingredients during baking, reducing their tendency to sink to the bottom. (Did you see this, Amalia? I’m sure it pertains to cupcakes, too! Please make some chocolate chip cupcakes for your mother NOW to test out this tip. With that fudgy frosting. Thank you.)
Now that I’ve got you good and hungry, I’m going to share a recipe with you, and that recipe even has a magical tip. Everyone seems to love fried chicken, and adding baking powder to the mix will make it extra crispy. Have you ever tried this? Here’s my favorite fried chicken recipe. Try it today, and it’ll probably be yours, too. (And mine, wow, definitely mine, this looks awesome, Chef!–Amy–oops–again . . .)
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce of your choice
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 Chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
- 2 cups flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 5 cups vegetable oil or shortening for frying
- In a large ziplock-type bag, combine buttermilk, hot pepper sauce, and 1 tsp salt.
- Add chicken pieces, turning to coat. Seal bag tightly, put into a large bowl, and refrigerate from 4 to 24 hours to marinate, turning once.
- In pie plate, stir together flour, baking powder, pepper, paprika and remaining 2 tsp sea salt.
- Remove chicken pieces from marinade, shaking to remove excess milk, a few pieces at a time, and coat in flour mixture.
- Put coated pieces on wire rack, set on waxed paper, not letting pieces touch.
- Let stand for 15 minutes to set coating; discard marinade mixture.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 250 degrees, and set aside two large baking sheets, covered with paper towels.
- Divide oil between two skillets (preferably electric) and heat to 360 degrees. There should be about a half-inch of oil in each one.
- In each skillet, add 4 or so chicken pieces, being careful not to let them touch, skin side down, and fry until golden brown on the bottom side, about 4 or 5 minutes.
- Turn over and fry, covered, for an additional 8 to 10 minutes (for white meat) or 13 to 15 minutes longer (for dark meat) turning pieces every 5 minutes or so.
- (Chef's note: it is important to remember to cook the dark meat longer than the white meat. The way I do this is to cook the two separately.)
- Your fried chicken is done when it is golden brown all over, and the juices run clear when the thickest part is poked with a sharp knife.
- Transfer chicken to prepared baking sheets, and keep warm in the oven while you repeat with remaining pieces. Then, get ready for a treat! Not to mention a stampede! The smell of frying chicken is irresistible!
Chef William–besides being my friend, is also is a best-selling Author, Executive Chef (retired) and a Natural Health Practitioner. He lives with his lovely wife in Mexico half of the year and in Wisconsin the other half. The above tips are excerpts from his latest book “Chef William’s Tips and Techniques for Cooking like a Chef” scheduled for release at the end of February via his website: Http://HealthyFoodandDiet.com.
Check it out! You’ll discover how generous Chef William is with his secrets!
I have the feeling that the nice folks over at Back to the Farm Blog Hop are going to enjoy this post, so I’m going to share it with them. Hop on over, and join me!
Also I’m linking up again with The Prairie Homestead’s Barn Hop, as is my wont. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s educational! Come on over!
- “The Fireman’s Flame”: rehearsal snapshots
- Pigs in the yard