Monday, June 4, 2012

Interim post - Cooking Techniques!

I've been moving this week! Not that I regularly update, but when I do, I want my posts to be informative. I'm sorry for the lateness, but here's one to tide you over before my next one - re: first meal in new home!

Now, I found that I am scared away from baking because I lack the ability/technique that is required for baking, but cooking on the other hand...
There are tons of little tricks, from how to cut an onion, to knife skills and how to use a pizza stone that I have taken for granted. And the pursuit of creative cooking always first lies in the techniques you use, and once you have the basics down, then you can let the flavours fly!
But my abilities don't necessarily reflect everyone's abilities, so here are the things I have learned for quick kitchen skills:
Always transfer a prepared pizza from a wooden base
(pizza paddle, cutting board) to the HOT stone in the oven. 
How to use a pizza stone:
NEVER soak or drastically change the temperature of a pizza stone.
I just leave it in the oven, even when not baking on it.
When making pizzas, always PREHEAT the stone in the oven, and when cooking pizza, slide the pizza right onto the stone in the oven (chance of burning yourself is greater, but worth it for the crispy crust).
Usually preheat oven and stone to 500 degrees on the LOWEST rack.
Cook the pizza dough (fresh) for 5 - 15 minutes (dependant on crust thickness and desired crunchiness of crust)

A double man Henckels! My dream knife.  I already have
on for veggies...
Keep knives sharp:
A knife sharpener is very handy. You will have fewer accidents, and a much more fun time with sharp knives than dull ones. Avoid serrated knives unless used for certain breads, etc... Foods taste better when cut the way it should be cut - and not torn by serrated knifes or poor knife skills.

I tried perfecting this in graduate school - but failed.  But I learned one thing: carrots cook more slowly than onions...and overcooked meat is tough.  Don't add everything at once. Time it! :)

Browning before baking/slowcooking/boiling:
Roasting of veggies and or browning of meat (frying up exterior of meat on high heat) will make things taste better before you stick them in a roast, a soup or a slow-cooker.  Something about "sealing in the flavours". I don't know how it works, I just know it does.

Flavouring fats/oils for cooking:
I always add garlic or onions or shallots or proscuitto to the oil before I cook the rest of the meats and veggies, just to flavour the oil. Adding it first will make it the most prominent aroma. Avoid doing this around certain pregnant people or people who do not like strong aromas. 

Making a vinaigrette:
It's just oil and vinegar of any sort. Marinate basil in olive oil to have the oil soak up the basil flavor, and put garlic in vinegar (to take out the strong aroma) before combining to make a garlic/basil vinaigrette.
Or use lemon juice instead of vinegar for a lemon dressing, or add honey, raspberry, etc etc...
Whisk or blend the oil + vinegar + additions (salt/pepper/honey) until it forms a nice vinaigrette consistency (emulsion).
Use fruit acids for fruit vinaigrettes, or different vinegars to mix and match flavours.
Always use your best olive oil.

Hope these tricks help!  They are only a few of the basics I know of the kitchen, and I'm learning more everyday!

1 comment:

  1. A tip for your pizza stone technique:

    If you're using a paddle/cutting board/something to transfer your dough to your stone, put it on a half-sheet of parchment paper! This helps if you don't have or want to use cornmeal, which can add an extra grit you may not want... and will definitely get all over the bottom of your oven. Parchment slides beautifully onto the stone and doesn't burn, doesn't affect the crust you're aiming for, and helps to transfer the cooked product back ONTO your pizza peel/cutting board to take out of the oven. Just inch the edge of the peel under the parchment and pull the whole product back onto it.

    I also keep my stone in the oven at all times and it's what I use to bake pies, cakes, casseroles etc. Things cook better and faster on a preheated stone. It's ridiculous. And the PIES! Oh! The pies stay in one happy bubbly piece when you bake them on the stone on a piece of parchment, and then continue to stay in a happy bubbly piece when you use the parchment to pull them back onto your pizza peel when they're done! HAPPY BUBBLY!!!!

    ....okay that's all.