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Cooking Tips

Cheese: Fresh or processed mozzarella?

I recently got a question from Frank who wanted to make fried mozzarella cubes that are light, smooth, and stretchy “like eating a toasted marshmallow” rather than heavy and chewy. I told him that the secret is in the mozzarella and he may have to try several kinds before he…

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High altitude baking: What can I do to bake successfully in high altitude?

I recently got an e-mail from Nancy asking, “Why are my cookies always flat?” It turns out that she lives in Calgary and the increased altitude is affecting her baking. Fortunately there is lots of help these days. A recent book by renowned baker, Susan G. Purdy, is devoted to…

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Artichokes: How do you cook artichokes?

Fred recently e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask , “How do you cook artichokes?” I have been asked that so frequently that I included my favorite way in Sara Moulton Cooks at Home. I always steam whole artichokes rather than boil them. They lose some flavor and get watery when…

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Herbs: Substituting fresh for dried herbs

Callie e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask, “I am growing my own herbs this Spring and want to use them in all my recipes! However, most recipes call for dried herbs. Is the measurement of dried herbs the same for fresh herbs or should I uses less since the herb…

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Caramel: Is there an easy, fool-proof way to make caramel?

Norma recently e-mailed the KitchenShrink to ask, “Is there an easy fool-proof way to make caramel?”  I had been asked this question so often over the years that I included my favorite way to make caramel in Sara Moulton Cooks at Home. You can find it on page 54 and…

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Cheese: What are good melting cheeses?

Blondell recently e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask, “Which cheeses can be melted and poured?” While most people know that processed cheeses melt smoothly and easily into sauces, selecting a natural cheese that behaves as well isn’t always easy. Many hard grating cheeses don’t melt well and those known for…

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What is a good way to serve black-eyed peas?

A viewer recently e-mailed me that she wanted to cook black-eyed peas for New Year’s Day but wasn’t sure how to prepare them so that her family would like them. Serving black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and prosperity has been a tradition in the South-East since…

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Turkey: How do you decide which size turkey to buy?

It’s time to think about ordering your Thanksgiving turkey and each year as the holiday approaches I get questions about selecting the right size. The general rule is to buy 1 pound per person you are serving. However no one is disappointed if there is leftover turkey for the day…

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Pumpkin seeds: How do you toast pumpkin seeds?

Each year at this time I get e-mails from viewers asking how to prepare toasted pumpkin seeds. Toasting pumpkin seeds is easy, lots of fun, and a good activity to do with children after you carve your jack-o-lanterns. Just place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat…

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Cookies: Why do cookies deflate after baking?

Pam recently e-mailed the Kitchenshrink with several questions. With the help of my friend Jean Anderson, I answered one last week and Jean and I will take on the second this week, “Why do cookies deflate when you take them from the oven.  Especially chocolate chip?” My thought was that…

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Blueberries: Blueberry Muffin Tips

A viewer recently e-mailed me to say that when she added fresh blueberries to her favorite muffin batter the finished muffins had an unappetizing greenish haze around the blueberries. She wondered what caused it and if there is a way to prevent that from happening. When you bake with fresh…

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Eggs: Perfect Hard-cooked Eggs

This time of year I get a lot of e-mails asking me about the special technique for hard cooking eggs that I learned from Julia Child. When I was writing Sara’s Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners, I made the process even easier and here it is: Sara’s Hard-cooked Eggs This is…

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Asparagus: When should you peel asparagus and when don’t you have to?

Kathy e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask how you decide when to peel asparagus and when it is all right to leave it unpeeled. Asparagus comes in all different thicknesses, from pencil-thin to nearly an inch. The bottom woody inch or two of any asparagus should be discarded. Whether or…

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Herbs: What Is The Best Way To Store Fresh Herbs?

Put leafy herbs, such as basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro in a glass or glass measuring cup with water in the bottom (like cut flowers), cover with a plastic bag loosely over the top, and store in the fridge. They will keep for a week if set up this way.…

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Clams: How do you store and clean clams?

Bob e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to find out how to store and clean shellfish such as clams before cooking. It is best to purchase clams just before cooking them so there should be little storage to worry about. Clams are purchased alive and must be kept alive. If you do…

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Tripe: How do you cook tripe?

Last week Randy asked me this about tripe,  “I see this all of the time in the grocery store and I have to be honest, while it sort of scares me, it also fascinates me. Is there a way to cook this so that is actually tastes good? Is it…

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Salad Dressing: Can you give me an easy all-purpose salad dressing?

The Kitchen Shrink has gotten several requests for a good homemade salad dressing recently, so it seems like a good time to remind you of my favorite vinaigrette. My refrigerator is never without it. It is good on any basic savory salad and can be varied by changing the oil…

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Meat: How Can I Thinly Slice Raw Meat?

Steve e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask if there was a trick for thinly slicing raw meats for stir fry. As I mention in my recipe for Japanese Beef Fondue, the best way to thinly slice meat without a fancy slicing machine is to partially freeze the meat so it…

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Burgers: How can I keep burgers from plumping in the center?

Whenever I demonstrate one of my burger recipes, someone asks if there is a way to keep burgers from plumping in the center and becoming smaller in diameter as they cook. My favorite trick to solve this problem is to create an indentation in the center when I shape the…

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Shrimp: How can I cook shrimp so they will stay tender?

Terri e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink to ask for help in cooking shrimp. She said that no matter how she cooks them, her shrimp seem tough. Whether you deep fry, sauté, stir-fry, steam or boil shrimp, they cook to tender, juicy perfection very, very quickly and then overcook. Shrimp should be cooked just…

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Broccoli: What can you do with broccoli stems?

Sandy e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink that she hated to throw away the stems from fresh broccoli and wondered what she could use them for. Broccoli stems are just as delicious as the tops and can be used in either raw or cooked dishes. You should trim off the bottom 3/4-…

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Sauces: How do you use cornstarch and arrowroot to make clear thickened sauces?

Michael e-mailed the Kitchen Shrink with this question. He said that he wanted to make clear dessert sauces and had heard that cornstarch or arrowroot was the answer but he had never used either. Cornstarch and arrowroot are similar ingredients to work with. Both have almost twice the thickening power…

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Mushrooms: Why do you suggest removing the gills from portobello mushrooms?

While it is not necessary to remove the gills from portobello mushrooms before you use them, I feel that there are some good reasons to take the time to do it. The dark gills share their color with everything they touch and will discolor (turn black) any stuffings, sauces, and…

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Coconuts: How do I open a fresh coconut?

A few weeks ago Blondell asked the Kitchen Shrink how to open a fresh coconut and, with the spring holidays just around the corner, this seems like the perfect time to share my favorite method for this tricky procedure. I have tried lots of different ways of cracking a coconut…

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