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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday Tips

I was so remiss yesterday in not offering my condolences and good thoughts to those who lost loved ones, were injured or lost their homes in Oklahoma.  My thoughts were with those survivors but never made it through my fingers to the keyboard.  As with the rest of the country and the world, I suffer shellshock from all the disasters - caused both by nature and man- that have happened.  Oklahoma will be strong and rebuild.  Just watch!

Although it seems rather trivial to be posting tips about meat and seafood at a time like this, the world keeps revolving and our lives continue.  So, take a look.

For the best browning, use a paper towel to pat any excess moisture off the surface of meats before searing. Too much moisture will cause the meat to steam, not brown.

Can't use a full pound of bacon? Lay uncooked strips on wax paper 1/2 inch apart, top with a second sheet of paper, roll into a cylinder and freeze in a resealable freezer bag. Whenever you need bacon, remove the frozen strips and refreeze the remainder.

Oven-frying bacon is less messy than pan-frying. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil, arrange strips on the sheet, and roast at 350° F. for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain on paper towels. Let the drippings solidify before removing the foil.

Always let meats and poultry rest for at least 10 minutes after roasting and before carving. During cooking, juices concentrate at the center of the meat; resting allows them to redistribute throughout the meat. Early carving causes the juices to just leak onto the cutting board.

When roasting large cuts of meat or whole chicken, create a flavorful roasting "rack" by building a grid with stalks of celery, whole carrots and thick slices of onion. The vegetables will flavor the pan drippings, making for awesome gravy!

To safely transfer a roasted chicken to a cutting board, insert a sturdy metal skewer or the handle of a long wooden spoon through the cavity and use it to lift and move the bird. When removing skin from chicken pieces, get a grip on it with a paper towel so the chicken won't slip out of your hand.

Always slice cooked meats across (against) the grain. The "grain" is the direction the muscle fibers run, and cutting across the grain shortens the fibers, making the meat more tender.

Drain marinated meats well before grilling. Excess marinade or oil can drip into the flames, causing flare-ups and scorching on the surface of the meat.

When browning meat or chicken for soups or stews, it's best to do it in two or three batches. If the pan is overcrowded the meat will just steam and won't get as brown as it could.

To freeze homemade turkey, chicken or beef stock, divide the strained stock into smaller plastic containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top. Cool to room temperature, spoon off any fat from the surface, cover tightly, and freeze. Stock may be frozen for up to 6 months.

Choose fresh fish based on how it looks and smells. It should be firm, evenly colored and slightly translucent. And it should never, ever smell fishy or "off." If it does, pass it by.

Take care not to overcook fish and seafood—because it's so lean, it can turn dry and rubbery very quickly. If fish flakes easily with a fork, it's done. Shrimp and scallops are done when they're firm.

To thaw frozen shrimp quickly, place them in a large bowl, then cover with cold water. They'll be ready to use in about 15 minutes.

When preparing mussels for cooking, don't remove the beards (the wiry filaments on the side of the shell) until ready to cook. If removed too soon, the mussel will spoil. It's easiest to pull them off with a pair of pliers.  (Just a small, personal note:  Don't feel bad if you can't invite me over when you have mussels or steamers.  Let someone else have them, please!)

Meanwhile .... keep it simple and make it real.


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