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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Kitchen Secrets

It seems that every good cook has their little secrets for making everything turn out perfect in the kitchen. Ever wanted to know some of their secrets? Here's a few!

  • For Better Browning: Meat will brown better if you blot any moisture off its surface. A paper towel makes a great blotter.
  • Better Bacon: To perfectly cook bacon without the mess and cleanup of pan or griddle frying, use the oven. Preheat it to 350. Place the bacon strips on a baking > sheet lined with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bacon is the way you like it. Transfer bacon to paper towel lined plate to absorb excess grease. Fold the foil around the grease and discard.
  • Flour duster: Keep a shaker container filled with flour in your kitchen for use dusting everything from meat to sauces. It's also handy for flouring your work area > when rolling out pie and pizza doughs.
  • Drip Free Gravy: To keep a gravy boat or cream pitcher from dripping onto the dinner table, rub a dab of butter on the pour spout. No drops on the tablecloth. This trick also works on syrup dispensers.
  • Easy Thawing: There's an easy way to store ground meat so that it will thaw faster when you're ready to cook it. Put one pound of ground meat into large resealable freezer bag, then flatten it like a pancake. it stores better and thaws in half the time.
  • Aromatic Rice: To enhance white or brown rice, toss a few stems or leaves of fresh herb, such as basil, rosemary or thyme, in with the water before cooking. Cook rice according to package directions. The flavor of the herbs will subtly permeate the rice.
  • Avoid Soggy Rice: When cooking rice, put a folded towel between the lid land the pot. That way, when the rice steams and creates moisture, the condensation doesn't drip back into the rice. It's absorbed into the towel. Cook the rice for the amount of time recommended on the package.
  • Hands Free Meatloaf: If you don't like getting your hands messy when mixing meatloaf, put the ingredients into large resealable plastic bag. Close the bag, then knead everything together until the ingredients are well mixed. Kids like helping with this, too.
  • Bamboo Skewers: There are two problems when making kebabs. Fist, soaking wooden skewers so they don't burn takes too long. And second, the food spins around when you turn the kebabs. Presoak a bunch of skewers and freeze them in a plastic bag. Then use two for each kebab, spacing them about 1 inch apart and sliding food onto both skewers. No more spinning food.
  • Skimming Fat: to remove excess grease from browned ground beef or sausage, blot extra fat from pan using a piece of bread. This also works for skimming fat from top of soup or chili, and it's good for absorbing oil when cleaning the bottom of a pan.
  • Holding Onto Flavor: To loosen the skin the breast of a hole bird and stuff with butter, slide the bowl of a dinner spoon upside down between meat and skin, moving the spoon carefully over the breast meat. This method doesn't tear the skin and leaves plenty of space to insert butter and other seasonings.
  • Chilly Shrimp: to keep shrimp cold on a buffet table, cover a frozen plastic ice pack with a cloth napkin. Set your platter of shrimp on top of the napkin. There's no melting ice and the shrimp will stay cold for hours.
  • Grilling Bacon: If you need to cook just a few pieces of bacon, try using your George foreman grill. It cooks bacon perfectly, controls splattering and the grease drips right into the drainage cup.
  • Vegetable Rack: Instead of a metal roasting rack, make a grid of carrots, celery, and onions. This acts like a mirepoix to flavor the pan drippings for gravy while elevating the meat for even roasting.
  • Peeling Butter: If your butter is too cold to spread easily, use a Y-shaped peeler to shave it off the top, like slicing cheese. You'll get a thin strip that will soften quickly for easier spreading.
  • Storing Ice Cream: To prevent ice crystals from forming on ice cream, place a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface. Press it firmly onto the ice cream so that it forms a tight seal. Cover with lid and return to the > freezer.
  • Whipping Cream Stand In: Most people don't keep heavy cream on hand for whipping, but many of us have vanilla ice cream. Put a scoop or two in a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment or use a hand mixer. Let ice cream thaw for a minute, then whip. It's almost a dead ringer for sweetened whipped cream.
  • Herbs to Butter: If you often have leftover herbs, make a compound butter with them and freeze. First, finely chop leftover herbs and mix them into soft butter. Then roll mixture in plastic wrap and freeze it. The herbs don't turn black, and the compound butter has many uses.
  • Solid Omelet: Here's a goof proof way to avoid runny omelets. Before beating eggs, turn on broiler. After forming the omelet in an ovenproof skillet, put your filling on top of the eggs and run omelet under broiler for 20 seconds. The omelet fluffs, cooks completely through and filling is heated as well.
  • Centering Yolks in hard Cooked Eggs: For centered yolks in your hard cooked eggs, try this: Twenty four hours before boiling eggs, wrap two rubber bands around the carton to hold it shut. Then rest the carton on its side in the refrigerator. When you boil the eggs, voilà...perfectly centered yolks!
  • Cream Shake: When you want whipped cream and don't have electricity or a mixer, place heavy cream in a chilled glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake, shake, shake. Whipped cream in 5 minutes.
  • Storing Cheese: To store a chunk of Parmesan or Romano cheese, place it in an airtight plastic container along with two or three sugar cubes. The sugar cubes absorb moisture and will prevent the cheese from getting moldy. Replace the sugar cubes when they get soggy.
  • Perforating Cheese: Before cutting into cheese topped baked dishes such as lasagna, first perforate the pieces using a fork. This simple step helps prevent the knife from pulling the layer of cheese off the top.
  • Cooling Rack Dicing: To dice a lot of hard boiled eggs for salad, (egg, macaroni, potato), use a cooling rack with square grids. Peel eggs, then press them through the rack directly into a bowl. It saves time and the eggs come out perfectly chopped. Cleanup is a breeze, too, especially with a nonstick rack.
  • Zesty Cheese: Need just a little grated cheese to top your pasta. Try using your zester. It's easy to use and faster to clean than a box grater.
  • Freezing Blue Cheese: When you have leftover blue cheese, throw it in the freezer in a resealable plastic bag. The frozen blue cheese breaks off easily and always is ready to go on top of salads and other dishes. You also can peel it off in curls using a vegetable peeler or paring knife.
  • Color Coded Eggs: To distinguish between raw and hard cooked eggs, tint the water in which you boil eggs with beet juice or food coloring. The shells will pick up the color, and you won't confuse cooked eggs with raw ones.
  • No Weep Meringue: Weeping meringues use to be a problem, but no more. First, beat whites until they form soft peaks, then sprinkle sugar on top of the whites. Let the whites and sugar sit for 5 minutes without stirring. Finely, beat them together until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie filling and bake as usual.
  • Hole Some Meatloaf: Do you hate it when meatloaf swims in fat? Try using a disposable foil bread pan with holes punched in the bottom. Place pan on cooling rack set inside a baking sheet, the fill pan with your meatloaf mixture and bake. The grease will drain out of the foil pan as the meatloaf cooks.
  • Frozen Gel Packs: Chilling the bowl helps cream whip faster and increases its volume. If you're in a hurry, grab a frozen gel pack from the freezer and put it beneath the mixing bowl. The cream will whip like magic. Best of all, the packs are reusable.
  • Garlic Butter in a Squeeze: Put cold butter and a couple of cloves of garlic into a garlic press. With just a squeeze, it makes perfectly manageable, soft garlic butter in seconds.
  • Preserving Feta: To keep feta cheese from spoiling quickly after opening, store it in salty water. Dissolve 2 t. salt in 1 cup water in a sealable container. Submerge the cheese in the water. The feta must be completely covered, so make more brine if needed. Seal the container and refrigerate it. The feta will keep up to three weeks.

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