Sometimes we do the same things for years. The results are not great, but it is the way we have always done them. We do not realize that there are several better ways to make our cooking as good as a master chef. Here are a few tips.
Always read the entire recipe first. Many times I have realized too late that perhaps the meat needs to marinate for a few hours or the dough needs to refrigerate for 30 minutes. So do read beyond the ingredients. Prep all your items before starting. Chop everything and have all other ingredients measured and ready.
Baking from scratch is all the rage these days with our forced quarantine. There are a few things to make your baking successful. Do weigh your dry ingredients. Flour especially needs to be accurate. Flour in a bag or container can compress, and when you scoop with the measuring cup, you can use more than called for. Food scales are inexpensive and give you a better outcome. Do use fresh, good ingredients. Flour should be no more than six months old, kept in an airtight container. Butter and other fats should be fresh. Paying a bit more for imported full-fat unsalted butter will make any pastry better.
Always prepare cake pans before mixing the batter. The batter contains leavening that will lose its’ power sitting around. Line the cake pans with parchment paper for easy removal and smooth layers. Cakes need to be completely cool, even cold, before frosting. Not just so the frosting does not melt, but so the cake is firmer, less crumbling.
Meat of any kind will be more flavorful with searing. There are a few things to remember for a great sear. The drier the meat, the better the sear. Meat should be at room temperature, so leave out at least half an hour before cooking. Do not use a non-stick pan. They are great for eggs but not searing. They do not get hot enough. Cast iron is best. Pre-heat it till a drop of water evaporates immediately. Pat meat dry with paper towels before seasoning. Leave the meat alone, do not move it around. A good sear can take 3 minutes or more. If you need oil for a very lean cut, do not use olive oil or butter, its’ smoke point is too low. Use peanut oil.
Pasta is my favorite. Do salt the water. It is your only chance to really season it. Cook al dente; it will absorb the sauce better. Save some pasta water. It contains a lot of starch from the pasta and makes a great addition to any homemade sauce, especially olive oil-based one. It gives a silky texture and is suitable for thinning out any sauce. Add pasta to sauce rather than the other way around. It will absorb the sauce better. Do not rinse pasta after draining. It will rinse off the starch that will make the sauce cling better.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH AND DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO