Archive for the ‘Techniques’ category

Caramelized onions

April 27, 2020

This is a very useful and tasty ingredient to keep on hand. It freezes perfectly well and can be used in so many ways–in omelets, on pizza, in salads, a topping for steaks and burgers, etc. It’s easy to make although you must be attentive to get good results. The long slow cooking completely removes the hard onion taste and results in a slightly salty, slightly sweet relish with plenty of umami. These freeze perfectly well.

The cooking process reduces the volume by quite a bit, as the photos show. From 2 qts raw onion expect about 1-1/2 c caramelized onions. You’ll need a heavy-bottomed 12 inch skillet with a cover. Allow about 45 minutes for the cooking.

2 quarts yellow or white onions peeled and sliced into thin half-rings
1/4 c butter, olive oil, or a combination
1/2 c water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Put all ingredients in the skillet and bring to a moderate simmer. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, until most of the water is gone. Uncover, reduce the heat, and continue to cook. Regulate the heat–it will depend on your stove–to maintain a very gentle simmer. The water will soon be gone. Continue a very slow cooking action, stirring about every 5 minutes. The onions will continue to reduce and start to slowly turn brown. This is the danger zone–too-high heat or not enough stirring and the onions will burn, ruining them. Cook until the desired level of brownness is achieved. The photo shows a medium brown but you can cook a bit longer for a deeper brown with more intense flavor.

Home-cured corned beef

January 8, 2017

Corned beef is both delicious and versatile and it is so easy to make from scratch yourself. Compared with buying an already corned brisket to cook, you control the whole process, can make a point of getting a high quality cut to use, plus the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

Corned beef is, in essence, just salted beef. It’s name comes from the fact that in the old days, the salt that was used to cure the beef was in large crystals that looked a bit like corn kernels. Today we typically add some sugar and spices to the brine.

A whole brisket is quite large and it is usually cut in half for sale. The so-called first cut is rectangular in shape and a bit leaner, while the second cut is sort of triangular and has a bit more fat. Both are fine for corned beef, although the first cut makes for neater and larger slices. You want a nice cap of fat on the top.

To Pickle the Beef

One 4-5 lb brisket

Put the meat in a pot or bowl just large enough to hold it and add room-temperature tap water, measuring as you go, to cover by half an inch or so. Remove the meat and for each quart of water add:

1/2 c kosher salt
2 TB sugar
1 tsp pink salt (see note below)

Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Return the meat to the pot and toss in

4 minced garlic cloves
2 TB pickling spice

Put a plate or other clean object on top to ensure the meat stays submerged, then put in the fridge for 5-6 days.

To Cook the Beef

Remove the meat and discard the brine and spices. Rinse the meat under cold water. Return to the pot and cover with fresh water. Add 2 TB fresh pickling spice. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until fork-tender, about 3 hours. Replensish the water if needed to keep the meat covered,

About Pink Salt

Pink salt contains 93.75% regular table salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite. This is NOT the same as pink Himalayan salt. It is sometimes called Insta Cure #1 or Prague Powder #1. And yes it is really pink, it is dyed pink to make sure it is not accidentally mistaken for regular salt. It is used in very small quantities when making cured meats, sausage, etc. It has three benefits: inhibiting the growth of bacteria, improving taste, and giving the meat a better color. There are no demonstrated health dangers, you can read more here. You can omit it from this recipe but your result won’t be as tasty or attractive.

The versatile pork shoulder

October 28, 2014

This isn’t a recipe, really, but rather my approach to using the delicious and versatile pork shoulder. Pork is perhaps the most versatile of meats (chicken may be a close tie!), and the shoulder offers a lot of advantages. But, a shoulder typically weighs 6-10 pounds, and that’s a lot of meat! My approach is to cut it up and freeze the portions, then use them as desired. It’s fairly inexpensive cut, and the higher fat content makes it extra tasty for many uses.

  • You can get a couple of compact  1-1/2 to 2 lb roasts from the more “together” parts of the shoulder. These small roasts are perfect for pulled pork, lechén asado (Cuban roast pork), and a lot of other dishes.
  • Other regions of the shoulder can be cut into cubes for stews, soups, posole, and the like.
  • Remaining scraps can be ground for inclusion in meatballs or meatloaf, sausage, Chinese stir fries, or pork and fennel burgers.
  • If you used a bone-in shoulder, simmer the bone for a while with some aromatics to create pork stock, which has a host of uses.


Freezing shrimp and shrimp stock

May 1, 2011

We are fortunate to be able to go to the North Carolina coast, a few hours drive away, and get fresh-off-the-boat large shrimp for less than $3 a pound—but we have to buy 50 pounds! Now and then we bring back a load of 50 pounds, so we needed to find the best way to freeze them. Here’s what we have found to be the best way to preserve that fresh taste and texture.

1. Keep the shrimp ice-cold at all times, but do not allow them to soak in water.
2. Remove the heads, but leave the shells on. If desired, use the heads to make shrimp stock (see below).
3. Pack the shrimp into Tupperware-type containers.
4. Cover with cold water that has 1 tsp salt dissolved per quart.
5. Put the lid on the container and freeze as quickly as possible.

Recognizing fresh shrimp: First of all, ask to smell the shrimp. If you get even the slightest whiff of ammonia, fuggedaboudit. But, even shrimp without the ammonia smell can be more or less fresh, and here’s how to tell. This only works with head-on shrimp, obviously. Each shrimp has two long feelers, or antennae, on its head. They can be 6 or more inches in length. When the shrimp are really fresh, the feelers are flexible and relatively tough. Most or all of the shrimp should have the full feelers and you should be able to pick a shrimp up by a feeler. As freshness wanes, the feelers get brittle and break easily, so this test won’t work.

Making shrimp stock: When you have a bunch of shrimp heads, you can use them to make stock, useful in soups and other recipes. For about 2 lbs of heads, rinse under cold water and put in a stock pot with 2-1/2 quarts of water and 1/2 c each coarsely chopped onion, celery, and carrot. Add a halved garlic clove, a bay leaf, and a grinding of black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 60 minutes, skimming off any foam that comes to the surface. Strain and discard the solids. For a really clear stock, strain again through several layers of cheesecloth. Freeze in desired size portions.

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