Chef Pat’s Kitchen Tips for Fine Dining and more…
Everybody needs a little help in the kitchen. Here are a few secrets that chefs have learned over the years
Meat Cook Times
|Rare – Very Red, Cool Center||Medium Rare – Red, Warm Center||Medium – Pink Center||Medium Well – Slightly Pink Center||Well Done – Broiled Throughout, No Pink||Chef is NOT responsible for “Well Done” orders|
Cutting Board Safety Tips
Never use a dull knife – Using a dull knife causes you to apply too much pressure and increases the likelihood of the knife slipping and cutting you.
Cushion your cutting board – Place a damp kitchen towel beneath your cutting board to prevent rocking or slipping while you’re chopping or slicing foods.
Cut vegetables in half first – To avoid awkward cuts cleav vegetable in half first. Then rest the flat parts on the cutting board.
Bake your bacon – To perfectly cook bacon don’t use a pan. Bake it instead. Bacon tends to scrunch up. This makes for uneven cooking. Instead, place no more than 1/2 pound of bacon on a 12 x 18 baking dish or sheet with sides. Roast in a 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes. You’ll get perfectly crisp bacon.
Master the broiler – Think of the broiler as an inverted grill. It provides concentrated heat to whatever you place below it. Chicken breasts, pork chops, and steaks take about 10 minutes to broil. Remember to flip them midway through the cooking process.
Time your salting – Adding salt to vegetables as soon as they hit the pan,causes the sodium will draw out moisture. This causes them to steam, not brown. For deep, flavorful caramelization, add salt at the end.
Immerse your meat – Put steaks and chops in a zip-top bag and immerse the bag in tepid water for 30 to 60 minutes before cooking. This raises the meat’s internal temperature and makes it easier to cook evenly all the way through.
Salvage wilted produce – Drop aging produce in ice water before cooking. Plants wilt due to water loss; ice water penetrates their cells to restore crispness.
Brighten and balance flavors - Use a spray bottle of sherry or rice vinegar while cooking. Misting a scallop, fish, or even a salad helps brighten and balance all the flavors.
Revive overcooked meat - Slice the meat thinly, put it on a plate, and top it with chopped tomato, onion, and jalapeño. Add olive oil and fresh lime juice (or a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette; see #6). The acid and oil will restore moisture and fat to meat.
Prepare plates beforehand - Warm food should never be served on a cold plate. Heat dishes in a 150°F oven for 10 minutes before plating a meal. The opposite is true for cols dishes. Lightly chilled plates (use your freezer) boost the freshness of cold dishes like summer salads.
Spice up your dinner - Instantly improve your next dinner by adding fresh herbs, a squeeze of citrus, and a drizzle of olive oil after cooking to transform any entree.
Cook fish skin side down first – Cook fish skin side down first. The skin keeps the flesh of the fish from drying out and provides a crunchy counterpoint to the tender meat. Cook your fillet undisturbed for 75 percent of the time on the skin side (about 5 minutes), then flip it to the flesh side to finish.
Drain pasta prematurely – For perfect al dente pasta, drain the pasta about 1 minute before the package tells you to. Put the noodles back into the pot and stir in the heated sauce. The pasta will finish cooking in the pot.
Pat meat and fish dry before cooking – Moisture on the surface creates steam when it hits a hot pan or grill, impeding caramelization.
Sample as you cook – Taste a dish at least three times during the cooking process, adjusting the seasoning at each step.
Puncture your meat – Dense meats like steak, pork, or chicken legs can burn on the outside before they’re fully cooked inside. You can solve this by inserting a clean stainless-steel rod or nail into the thickest part of the meat, and finish cooking. The nail acts as a heat conductor. It draws in heat and cooks the meat from the inside out.
Preheat your cookware – Pan roasting is a popular restaurant technique. Preheat a cast-iron or stainless-steel pan on the stove with a bit of olive oil until you see wisps of smoke. Add your chicken, steak or fish, and cook until one side is nicely browned, usually about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the meat and place the entire pan in a 400°F oven to finish cooking.
Microwave citrus fruits before using them – Microwaving lemons, limes, or oranges for 15 seconds in the microwave before squeezing them. The fruit will yield twice as much juice.
Blend butter with olive oil – Try cooking with a 50:50 mix of butter and olive oil. Butter brings big, rich flavors, but burns at very low temperatures. Oil prevents the milk solids in butter from charring, allowing you to ratchet up the heat. Clairified butter has a higher burn point than regular butter has.
Refrigerate with caution – Never store tomatoes, peaches, potatoes, onions, bread, garlic or coffee in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures compromise the flavor and texture of these.
Add pasta water to your pasta sauce – The secret to great pasta sauce is the cooking water. Save a cup of the pasta’s cooking water before you drain it, and add it to your sauce as needed. The starch in it helps the sauce adhere to the pasta, creating a creamier, more flavorful sauce.
Make your own vinaigrette – Make your own vinaigrette by whisking together three parts oil (olive, canola, or sesame) with one part vinegar (balsamic, red-wine, or rice), plus salt and pepper. Add extra flavor by using minced shallot, Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, or honey.
Let meat rest – If you slice into meat right after cooking it, the juices that are still circulating with residual heat will leak out. Let the meat rest: Wait 5 minutes before biting into burgers or grilled chicken, 7 minutes before cutting into steaks, and at least 15 minutes before carving a turkey or a larger roast.
Salt and refrigerate raw chicken – Buy whole chicken the day before you’ll cook it. Sprinkle on a tablespoon of kosher salt, and leave it uncovered in the fridge. The air and salt will draw out excess water. This will also give you crispier chicken skin.
Don’t overcrowd the pan – For deeply flavored foods, don’t overcrowd the pan. Overloading makes a pan’s temperature drop severely and foods end up steaming rather than caramelizing. This adds to cooking time and subtracts from taste. All ingredients should fit comfortably in one layer. Use a larger pan or cook in batches if necessary.
Counterbalance salt with vinegar – Too much salt? A splash of vinegar provides a counterbalance of acid and sweetness.
Lose your saltshaker – Proper seasoning is paramount. Pinch kosher salt straight from a dish. The coarse grains and the touch of your fingers give you maximum control. Add a pinch, taste, and repeat if needed.
Herbs and Their Uses
|Basil||Sweet, warm, softly spicy, aromatic||White fish, veal, chicken, seafood, salad greens, eggs, tomatoes, pesto and other pasta sauces|
|Bay||Aromatic, pungent||Soups, stocks, stews, casseroles, sauces (especially béchamel)|
|Chervil||Delicate, slightly anise-like||Fish, chicken, omelettes, sauces|
|Chives||Mild, Oniony||Fish, eggs, cheese, salads, creamy soups, potatoes|
|Coriander||Intensely aromatic, spicy||Asian, Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes, carrots, salads, yogurt|
|Curry Leaves||Spicy “curry” flavor||Indian curries, casseroles, soups, seafood, stuffings|
|Dill||Delicate, anise-like||Salmon, soused herring, veal, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, mayonnaise, soured cream, soft fresh cheeses|
|Fennel||Anise-like||Fish soups, pork, seafood, eggs|
|Marjoram||Sweet, aromatic, pungent||Grilled meats, chicken, tomato sauces, eggs, cheese, flavored oils and marinades|
|Mint||Strong, sweet, clean||Cucumber, potatoes, peas, cheese, melon, chilled soups, lamb, yogurt|
|Oregano||Sweet, aromatic, pungent||Grilled meats, chicken, tomato sauces, eggs, cheese, flavoured oils and marinades|
|Parsley||Fresh, slightly spicy||Eggs, fish, soups, poultry, meat|
|Rosemary||Pungent, oily, aromatic||Lamb, chicken, pork, bread, potatoes|
|Sage||Aromatic, slightly bitter||Pork, veal, duck, goose, turkey, pulses, eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, risotto, pasta|
|Summery Savory||Pungent, lemony||Pulses, broad & French beans, eggs, cheese, grilled meats, tomato sauce|
|Tarragon||Aromatic, anise-like, cooling||Chicken, eggs, tomatoes, béarnaise|
|Thyme||Intensely aromatic||Poultry and meat roasts and casseroles, roast potatoes|