Fearless Fresh https://fearlessfresh.com Learn to be a master cook! Sun, 21 May 2017 19:39:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 https://fearlessfresh.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/cropped-FlameMark_Color300-opt-32x32.jpg Fearless Fresh https://fearlessfresh.com 32 32 The Only 13 Kitchen Things You Need to Cook Like A Boss https://fearlessfresh.com/basic-kitchen-things-you-need/ https://fearlessfresh.com/basic-kitchen-things-you-need/#respond Tue, 02 May 2017 15:00:50 +0000 https://fearlessfresh.com/?p=22055 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Let’s talk about the concept of the Minimal Viable Cook (MVC). You might be familiar with the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP from business circles) and the concept makes a lot of sense when applied to any number of topics. In this context, minimum viable cook refers to what you need to create something delicious. That includes the minimum skills you’ll need, the minimum ingredients you’ll need, and the minimum tools you’ll need to find success in the kitchen. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, as I teach more and more people to cook. My students ...

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

The Only 13 Kitchen Items You Need to Cook Like A Boss on https://fearlessfresh.com

Let’s talk about the concept of the Minimal Viable Cook (MVC). You might be familiar with the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP from business circles) and the concept makes a lot of sense when applied to any number of topics. In this context, minimum viable cook refers to what you need to create something delicious. That includes the minimum skills you’ll need, the minimum ingredients you’ll need, and the minimum tools you’ll need to find success in the kitchen.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, as I teach more and more people to cook. My students have their eyes on the prize, and rightly so — that’s where the inspiration is. But the truth is there’s no getting out of the bullpen unless you earn your way out. Reining in your attention now will drastically decrease the amount of time and effort it takes to become an incredible cook.

Why this topic? Why now?

Someone recently emailed me to say she was putting together her new kitchen after a bad breakup, where her former beau kept all of the cooking equipment. First of all, fail, I’m so sorry. Your story made me stabby. 🔪🔪🔪 Second of all, I have lots of thoughts on this topic, because I’m one of those people who totally nerds out on cooking equipment and has one of everything. It creates a hassle for storage, and don’t even get me started on how much drama it adds when I have to move. (And let’s not EVEN get into what it’s like to move with over 1,000 cookbooks in tow.)

Because of all of this… baggage… I often think about the impracticality of having so many belongings. I was bumming around Europe for a while and had all of my kitchen equipment, etc., in storage, and I would fantasize that the storage unit would burn down and I’d be FREE of the weight of all that STUFF. Then a huge insurance check would show up (hey, it’s my dream!) and I’d tra-la-la into the sunset unfettered by a literal ton of pots, pans, gadgets, accessories, and cookbooks.

But, I digress. The concept of minimum viable cook absolutely applies to cookware. You can accomplish great things with relatively few tools, and it may even be easier. (Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?)

Obviously, I’m a fan of cooking toys — sigh — but I’m writing this post because a lot of people outfit their kitchens with way too much stuff too early in the game. When you’re still building your skills, too many gadgets can create a weird sense of overwhelm… especially if you’re not 100% comfortable using a lot of the things you own. (I’m looking at you, fancy-ass blenders with 50 digital settings.) And using cooking implements incorrectly, or for the wrong task, makes cooking a whole lot harder than it needs to be.

The point of this post is to drive home the fact that you don’t need a lot of stuff to be an epic cook. In fact, if I were to craft the perfect minimalist kitchen that would still get 99% of cooking jobs done admirably, everything would probably fit into a single box. This list is for anyone setting up a new kitchen: folks who live in shoebox apartment, former cohabiters suddenly living alone, parents setting up their newly-launched kids, or anyone who’s trying to approach their kitchen with a minimalist mindset and needs a list of what to keep while getting rid of everything else. (Apologies for the last clause but I’m suddenly suffering from punctuation fatigue)

Here’s a [relatively] short list of exactly what you need in your kitchen to cook like a freaking boss, somewhat in order of importance. Sure, there are other things that would be nice to have, but the scope of this list is to include only the most-needed items. Enjoy!

Don’t forget, you can get all of this stuff for CHEAP at the restaurant supply store, otherwise known as cookware Mecca.

  1. 8-inch chef’s knife – This is the most important thing in your kitchen. If you’re going to splurge on one item, let it be this. Your chef’s knife will cut almost anything, without needing much else.
  2. 3-inch paring knife – A smaller knife is handy for doing things like peeling apples and coring strawberries + a few smaller jobs that your 8″ chef’s knife might be too unwieldy for.
  3. 12-inch cutting board – When it comes to cutting boards, get a larger one because nothing will make your brain cramp like trying to chop food on a cutting board that’s halfway covered with other stuff. I prefer wooden cutting boards, which are actually more anti-bacterial than plastic cutting boards. (Yup — that’s a University of California scientist-proven fact!)
  4. Heavy-bottom 3-quart saucepan with lid x 2 – Having a few pots around is super important, because without them, you’re not making much of anything. If you want to see how important pots are, or how much you rely on them, try hiding all of the pots in your house and watch whomever you live with curse you to high heaven. Get a thicker-bottomed pot that will protect your food from your stove’s too-close heating element and allow for even cooking.
  5. Heavy-bottom stainless steel pan with lid – A frying pan is a necessity in any kitchen, and everyone needs one without a nonstick coating. This bad boy will help you sauté mushrooms, sear chicken, toast spices, and countless other things. A stainless-steel pan is the only way to get any sort of browning out of your food (and browning = flavor). I recommend a 11- or 12-inch with a thick bottom. Thinner-bottomed pans will not only heat unevenly, they increase the chances that you’ll burn your food since there’s no protection from the heat source. Check your local restaurant supply store for frying pans that will last and not cost you a small fortune.
  6. Heavy-bottom nonstick pan – For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT try to cook eggs in a stainless-steel pan, lest you spent the next 3 days trying to scrape the leftover residue out of your pan. For eggs and other similar items, nonstick is the way to go. Try to get a good brand (check the reviews) that won’t lose its coating in six months. Again, 11- to 12-inch is a good side to shoot for.
  7. 8-quart stock pot, with lid, which doubles as a perfect pasta pot – This is one item that a lot of people think is unnecessary, but a good one does SO many things: it makes soup, washes greens, makes chili, cooks beans, processes jars for making jam, and boils pasta without the noodles sticking together. 8-quart is a good size.
  8. Half-size (18″ x 13″) baking sheet, x2 – You can make anything with these babies. Cookies, baked French fries, even a roast turkey in a pinch. I recommend having two at hand because they have so many uses and you’ll often need more than one.
  9. 8-inch square glass baking dish – I make everything in my square baking dish: casseroles, brownies, roast chicken, roast vegetables… you name it. This is probably one of the biggest workhorses in my kitchen.
  10. Measuring spoons – Ever tried to bake without measuring spoons? What does 1 teaspoon of baking soda look like in your hand? Yeah, exactly. That’s why you need these.
  11. Measuring cups (for both liquid and dry ingredients) – A liquid measuring cup is one that you can see through and has gradations on the side, so you can pour liquid into the cup and see how much you’ve got. I recommend a 2-cup minimum, with a 4-cup being the ideal. For dry ingredients, you need a set of individual plastic or metal measuring cups that includes 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1 cup. Odd sizes are fine, but unnecessary if you’ve got the basics. (I.e., 3/4 cup = 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup)
  12. 10-inch strainer – Ok, this is something not a lot of people think about… until they go to strain their pasta or rinse a bowl of strawberries. There’s a special deity somewhere whose entire super power consists of dreaming up new curse words for that moment when you realize you don’t have a strainer. They’re only $5, so grab one. And make sure you get a metal strainer, because pouring boiling pasta water into a plastic strainer is most certainly NOT good eats.
  13. Electric hand mixer – I added this at the last minute because even though you can make whipped cream and beat egg whites by hand, I care about you and nerve damage in your elbow and shoulder SUCKS. (Speaking from experience here. :/) Sure, a big KitchenAid mixer is great, but you can totally get by with a $20 electric hand beater from Target… and you won’t end up in physical therapy.

Ok, I lied. Here are a few more minor things:

Thankfully almost all of them will fit in one big crock in one utensil holder on the counter, so they really only count as one more thing, right? 😇😇😇

  • Pot holders – Because picking up hot things without them is… not advised.
  • Silicon spatula – You’ll need one or two of these for scraping things out of bowls.
  • Plastic flipper – You’ll need a flipper for flipping things. Get a plastic one so you don’t damage your pans.
  • Wooden spoon – Grandma was right! This is perfect for baking and using in a non-stick pan, because it won’t scratch the bottom.
  • Balloon whisk – Baking without one of these will never yield more than 50% success. If you want lofty, fluffy anything, you’ll need a whisk.
  • Nylon-tipped tongs – For picking hot things up and turning them over. Seriously, my tongs are usually the first thing I reach for in the kitchen. Get a set with nylon tips so they don’t scratch your nonstick pan.
  • Can opener – Even tried to open a can without one? ‘Nuff said.
  • Slotted spoon – Because a huge puddle of water under your food is no bueno.

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How to Make Salad Dressing — Easy Vinaigrette Method https://fearlessfresh.com/how-to-make-salad-dressing-vinaigrette/ https://fearlessfresh.com/how-to-make-salad-dressing-vinaigrette/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 19:19:08 +0000 https://fearlessfresh.com/?p=22349 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

There are a million different ways to make salad dressing. You've seen row after row of dressings at the grocery store: Ranch, Italian, Russian, caesar, bleu cheese, thousand island... there are literally thousands to choose from. (And FYI, the term "French dressing" is just a fancy name for vinaigrette.) I'll eventually show you how to make all of these crazy salad dressings, but first we're going to start with the easiest: How to make a vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette is literally 4 or 5 ingredients, added to a jar and shaken. That's it. Now do you see why I'm starting here? 😇Also, vinaigrettes have a disproportionately high flavor to effort ratio, meaning they add a whole lot of awesome and require almost no work. In my book that gets an A+++++ WOUDL BUY AGAIN.

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

How to Make Salad Dressing -- Easy Vinaigrette

Learning how to make salad dressing — even a really easy vinaigrette — is NOT on my priority list.

I’ll be honest. I’m not a salad person and I will probably NEVER be a salad person. (Except for non-standard versions like this watermelon-feta salad recipe…) I came from a family where “salad” meant wilted brown iceberg lettuce and waxy pink tomatoes that tasted more like plastic than anything that came from the ground. Even as a modern adult, in a world where salads are piled high with all sorts of delicious things, I still have a hard thing thinking of salad as food.

Instead, my thoughts are more along the lines of, “Fine, I’ll eat it if I have to… but only if you guarantee it will keep me from dying a slow, horrible death.” And I’m not the only one that feels this way. (Warning: There are hilarious curse words at the other end of that link. 😂 <3 Kelsey.)

Really, that’s not a great way to think of salad. We need greens to, you know, stay alive and sh*t. So how can we make salad tempting? Or even, daresay, a feast you would actually want to eat?

The first step is learning how to make salad dressing… and the easiest kind of salad dressing to make is a vinaigrette.

How to make salad dressing – easy vinaigrette method

There are a million different ways to learn how to make salad dressing. You’ve seen row after row of dressings at the grocery store: Ranch, Italian, Russian, Caesar, bleu cheese, thousand island… there are literally thousands to choose from. (And FYI, the term “French dressing” is just a fancy name for vinaigrette.) I’ll eventually show you how to make all of these crazy salad dressings, but first we’re going to start with the easiest: How to make a vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette is literally four or five ingredients, added to a jar and shaken. That’s it. Now do you see why I’m starting here? 😇

Also, vinaigrettes have a disproportionately high flavor to effort ratio, meaning they add a whole lot of awesome and require almost no work. In my book that gets an A+++++ WOULD BUY AGAIN. [sic]

And, because I want you to win at this, I’ve created a free one-sheet printable chart that will show you how to mix and match flavor combos for your own signature vinaigrette recipe. FANCY. Click here to check it out:

How to Make Salad Dressing -- Easy Vinaigrette » Fearless Fresh

How it works

When learning how to make salad dressing, what exactly goes into a vinaigrette? Well, only two things are mandatory: Oil and acid. (Oh, and a little salt… because salad without salt tastes like licking the bottom of your green waste bin.) Here’s the master vinaigrette ratio:

3 parts base oil + 1 part simple acid + flavoring

Like I said above, you add these goodies to a jar, shake, and voila — instant salad dressing. That’s literally all you need to do. (What, no applause of the proper use of the word literally?) Now let’s go through each component step-by-step:

Base oils to start your vinaigrette

Let’s start with the easiest part, the oil. What kind of oil should you use as the base for your vinaigrette? Here’s a list of the most commons oils most people use:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Olive oil (extra virgin works great here, if it’s mildly flavored)

Now, here’s the important thing about base oils: They need to be relatively subtle or neutral, or they’ll overpower your vinaigrette. Even a really strong olive oil can beat you over the head if it’s not balanced with a new neutral oil. So stick with a neutral oil for your base and read below for more on how to use stronger flavored oils. ⬇️

Simple acids to boost your vinaigrette

This is where you can really go crazy and use almost anything you want. When it comes to simple acids to add to your salad dressing, you can use whatever you think tastes good. The sky’s the limit. (Having difficulty restraining my use of literally here…) Also, here’s a quick factoid: If you use citrus juice in your vinaigrette, then you’ve actually made a citronette.

Check out these acid options:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Champagne vinegar
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Malt vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar (also crazy strong)
  • White wine vinegar
  • Rice wine/rice vinegar/mirin
  • Red wine vinegar (careful, this one is SUPER strong)
  • Lemon juice
  • Orange juice

If you’re just learning how to make salad dressing, stick with one kind of vinegar to start. Once you’ve gotten the feel of how to make a vinaigrette, feel free to mix and match your acids. But REMEMBER: but don’t go over the 25% acid standard ratio. Remember, 3 parts oil to 1 part acid. That means don’t add any more vinegar until you’ve completely mixed your vinaigrette, tasted it, and decided it needs more acid.

Salt and pepper

There’s no solid amount of salt and pepper that you should add to salad dressing, but I usually add BARE MINIMUM 1/4 teaspoon of each, and that’s for a small amount of vinaigrette. I recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon, shaking up the jar, and then adding a little more salt and pepper to taste.

A note on emulsifiers

Here’s a little helpful food science if you’re new to making salad dressing. When you shake up a vinaigrette, you’re creating a simple emulsion. What the hell am I even saying? Here’s a quick explanation: oil and water obviously don’t like to mix. When you do manage to mix them — such as when you make mayonnaise — you’ve created an emulsion. An emulsion is basically an even dispersion of tiny droplets of oil into liquid (or liquid into oil).

Now, there are a couple different kinds of emulsions: permanent and temporary.

  1. A permanent, stable emulsion stays mixed (obvs). Stable emulsions include mayonnaise, cheese (!), and even chocolate (!!!). Mind blown?
  2. A temporary, unstable emulsion separates after a few minutes. It will mix again once agitated, then separate again. Unstable emulsions include… your vinaigrette.

What does this mean? It means your vinaigrette will separate once you’ve stopped shaking the jar, and within a few minutes will return to several layers of oil-and-vinegar stubbornness. BUT! There’s a trick that will help it stay mixed together for longer!

Enter everyday emulsifiers. Mustard and egg yolks* contain natural emulsifiers, which will hold your salad dressing together longer. Just add a small spoonful of either one to your jar and shake as usual. The longer you shake the jar, the longer the emulsion will hold.

*Raw egg yolks are obviously one of those “eat at your own risk” things. I eat them on occasion, but I buy farm-fresh eggs where I know the chickens personally. That said, I would never serve raw eggs to children, the elderly, or the infirmed. (It’s not cool to kill people, y0.) You might consider buying pasteurized egg yolks, which would be safer.

Stop here or keep going?

Now, at this point you can shake up your vinaigrette and serve it as-is, with just oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. If you’re just learning how to make salad dressing, you might want to stop here the first time and see what a clean, basic vinaigrette tastes like. OR! You can continue down the path to ninja-ness, and add a few more elements to boost the flavor. In which case…. continue.

How to make salad dressing: FLAVOR BOMBS

Adding flavor to vinaigrette takes only another 3 minutes, and you might be surprised at how some of these simple goodies will blast your taste buds through the roof. This is where we get into the really good stuff — like mind-blowing flavor that beats the pants off store-bought dressings… for WAY cheaper.

Adding fresh or dry herbs

Next, you’ll want to consider adding a few freshly chopped herbs (check out my best advice for working with fresh herbs). Fresh herbs add a TON of flavor to salad dressing without added effort or cost. You can use dry herbs as well, if that’s what you’ve got. I add 1 teaspoon of fresh herbs (or 1/2 teaspoon of dry) per 1 cup of vinaigrette. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Tarragon
  • Mint

How to Make Salad Dressing -- Easy Vinaigrette » Fearless Fresh

Other flavorings that will smack you in the face

So, what other extras can you add to a vinaigrette for even more flavor? Oh, my dear friend. Let me show you ALL THE THINGS you might add to your vinaigrette. You can add any one of these things, using about 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of vinaigrette:

  • Mustard -> a little Dijon will change your life here
  • Mayonnaise or aïoli
  • Red pepper flakes 🌶🔥
  • Crumbled bacon — YAAASSSSSS
  • Grated Parmesan cheese 🧀
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Honey 🍯
  • Brown sugar
  • Garlic or shallots (minced)
  • Capers (minced)
  • Cornichons (minced)
  • Anchovies 🐟 (minced) –> don’t twitch, I promise they’re really good.

Secondary oils

Also, you might have noticed that I used to term “base oil” above, which indicates there may be some other kind of secondary oil involved. (Gold star for noticing: ⭐️) There are many oils out there that are stronger in flavor, so you don’t want to use them as your base oil, lest you be overpowered by GACK.* But they’re perfectly happy being used as an additional flavoring, so you can add 1 or 2 teaspoons to 1 cup of vinaigrette for a little extra BLAMMO.

  • Sesame oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Almond oil
  • Peanut oil

SHAKE LIKE THE DICKENS

Once you’ve got all your ingredients in a jar, slap the lid on tightly and shake that jar like your life depended on it. The longer you shake the longer the emulsion will hold, especially if you’ve added a little mustard or egg yolk (see above for a note on emulsifiers). You can go ahead and serve your dressing now, but I like to add one more step.

Time for a disco nap

After all of this salad dressing excitement, I like to let my vinaigrette sit in the jar 5-10 minutes before I serve pour it over the salad, to let the flavors meld a little. Then just give it one final shake to re-mix, and dress your salad like a freaking pro! After this little rest, you can also strain out any bits if you prefer.

How to dress a salad

Now this might seem like a silly thing to explain, but I think it’s important to mention that you don’t just dump a bunch of dressing on a salad and call it a day. I mean, you CAN do it this way, but there’s a much better way. Here’s how the pros do it:

  1. First, don’t add dressing to the salad until right before you serve it, as the vinegar and salt will quickly wilt your greens and make them look really, really sad.
  2. Add salad greens to a large metal bowl. Bigger than you might think, to keep from making a huge mess.
  3. Use a large spoon to drizzle a couple spoonfuls of dressing over the greens. Using a spoon makes sure you don’t add to much on accident (which can happen when you pour).
  4. Use tongs, two forks, or your hands to toss the salad so that every leaf has a little vinaigrette on it. If you’re adding cheese, seeds, nuts, or additional herbs, add them now. Add a little more dressing if you need to, and keep tossing until well dressed. And I mean, well dressed. Dry salads suck.
  5. Now dish the dressed salad into individual bowls. Any excess dressing will stay in the large metal bowl and prevent over-dressing, so you’ll end up with the perfect amount of vinaigrette in your salad. Yay!

How long will your vinaigrette keep?

If you don’t finish your vinaigrette, just put the lid back on the jar and keep it in the fridge. Vinaigrette will hold up for up 3 days if kept sealed and chilled — the oil and vinegar won’t go bad, but any additional items you added to your dressing (herbs, egg yolk, etc.) will start to spoil after the 3-day mark. And vinaigrette doesn’t freeze very well, so I wouldn’t even bother trying.

PHEW! Now what?

That was a WHOLE LOT of information, wasn’t it? Below you’ll find a simple recipe for learning how to make a salad dressing using the easy vinaigrette method, but I’ve gone and done one even better for you: I’ve created a one-page full-color printable chart that will walk you through the entire process. Just print it out and keep it in your kitchen. You can grab it here for free.

*GACK = TFW you put something super overpowering in your mouth and panic while you decide if you want to spit it out or can force yourself to swallow it.
**TFW = That Feels When

 

How to Make Salad Dressing (Easy Vinaigrette)

When learning how to make salad dressing, a vinaigrette is maybe the easiest thing you can throw together in your kitchen — you literally add 4 ingredients to a jar (one of them is salt/pepper) and shake the jar. That’s it! You can get a little fancier if you want to add extra flavor, but that’s just a matter of chopping some herbs and tossing them in the jar. Voila, instant delicious salad in 2 minutes.

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh herbs (chopped (optional))
  1. Add all ingredients to a jar. Tightly place the lid on the jar and shake well. Remove the lid and taste. Does it need more salt, pepper, or vinegar? Then add a little more. Shake and taste again.

  2. Once the flavor balance is as you like it, let the salad dressing sit at least 5 minutes to let the flavors meld. Shake it again before pouring over your salad.

You can add almost anything to your vinaigrette to customize it to your preference. Click the image below to grab your free printable chart with instructions on how to make your own customized vinaigrette.  

How to Make Salad Dressing -- Easy Vinaigrette » Fearless Fresh

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Molasses Butter – One Ingredient Makeovers https://fearlessfresh.com/molasses-butter-recipe/ https://fearlessfresh.com/molasses-butter-recipe/#respond Wed, 05 Apr 2017 17:15:54 +0000 https://fearlessfresh.com/?p=21437 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Molasses butter is a super simple, but CRAZY delicious addition to your flavor library. You can whip it up in literally 3 minutes and slather it on anything that you want to give a hint of gingersnap flavor. Goes great with scones, buttermilk biscuits, or even just spread onto toast. LOVE IT. I've also included directions on how to make gingersnap butter, which tastes just like gingersnaps without all of the sugar. Seriously, my entire biscuit life changed once I developed this recipe. If you want to knock your biscuits out of the park, spend the $2 and 3 minutes necessary to create this awesome addition to your cooking repertoire.

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One Ingredient Makeovers: Molasses Butter on https://fearlessfresh.com

This molasses butter recipe is something I’m SO excited to share with you. If you’re surprised that I’m posting such a short recipe, there’s a reason for it: I’m starting an ongoing series called One Ingredient Makeovers: 1 single ingredient to supercharge your cooking. The purpose of this series is to show you that sometimes it only takes one small thing to cause a big effect, especially when it comes to flavor. I’ll be highlighting single ingredients that pack mega-power in new ways, along with simple blends of a few humble items that together create a big change.

Now, on to our first One Ingredient Makeover: molasses butter.

I first had molasses butter in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, not far from where I live. Just before the roads start to climb upwards to 7,000 feet at Donner Pass, there are a few little towns scattered through the golden hills and miles of evergreens. One town in particular has become a regular stop on our day-trip travels: Nevada City. A sweet little town with a gold-rush feel yet cultured with modern sensibilities, Nevada City has a few amazing restaurants that we can’t get enough of.

One place we almost always end up eating at is Bistro 221, located on the main drag just steps away from the famous National Hotel. Bistro 221 has some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten; it’s tender, flavorful, and crispy, without a lot of greasy heaviness. But it’s not the fried chicken I’m writing about today.

Before your dinner arrives, the waitress always drops off a plate of freshly baked buttermilk biscuits and a little bowl of butter. The biscuits are pretty incredible on their own right, but for me, the real star is THE FREAKING BUTTER.

Now, I had no idea one could much improve upon the near-perfect combination of buttermilk biscuits and melty salted butter. It’s probably one of my simplest, most favorite things in the world: how the biscuit erupts into a geyser of steam when you rip the top off, how the butter instantly turns into a blanket of creamy molten silk when it hits the hot bread. Seriously, how can it get any better than that?

Well, my friend. Let me educate you.

Molasses Butter: So simple, so good.

Someone, somewhere in Bistro 221’s kitchen learned to combine butter with something I never would have considered: molasses. Apparently this was an old Southern idea, but I’d never heard of it. Even typing it here, I’m like, “Meh, sounds kind of weird.” BUT! As it turns out, this combination of salty butter with the deep, earthy sweetness of molasses creates some sort of witchcraft that I can’t even explain. (Well I could explain the science of it, but it would probably get boring really fast.)

The simple act of mixing soft salted butter and room temp molasses creates a spread that is the perfect amount of sweet, salty, creamy, and just firm enough to hold its shape when it spreads. It still melts like butter, so it doesn’t lose that beloved molten quality, but it “sticks” more, if that makes sense. It really hangs onto that biscuit like its life depends on it.

I grilled my waitress about the molasses butter she’d just brought to the table and she was happy to share the ratio. So, I brought the recipe home and gave it a try, and guess what? It’s delicious and easy and made me the happiest person in the world for like 90 seconds.

The recipe is below. If you like, you can adjust the ratio a little. Do you want a deeper flavor for your molasses butter? Well, add more molasses! Or are you looking for a subtler flavor? Then reduce the molasses by 25% to lighten its intensity. And if you’re looking for a little extra something-something, I’ve included notes in the molasses butter recipe below to create something even more magical: gingersnap butter. If you’re a huge gingersnap fan, be forewarned that this might change your life.

Molasses butter goes great with pretty much any bready item: biscuits, scones, toast, bagels, waffles, and pancakes (like these cherry coconut scones). This super simple one-ingredient makeover also goes particularly well with wholesome whole grain breads, like the crazy heavy kind with all the seeds and nuts on top. Spread onto a thick wedge of rye bread, molasses butter is a revelation.

I’m hoping to post more of these one-ingredient makeovers going forward. (Click the link for an archive of all of them — there will be more in the future.)

To do for you:

Follow the simple recipe below to make your own molasses butter. Seriously, it only takes 2 minutes to complete. Then slather it onto your favorite bread or scone. Enjoy!

Do you have an incredible one-ingredient makeover you’d like to share? Maybe it’s a simple mixture that packs a surprising punch, or maybe it’s one single ingredient that you’ve used in a new or unique way that totally needs to be shared. Either way, let me know! Send an email to help at fearlessfresh.com, because I’d love to hear about it. Maybe I’ll make you the star of the next post. ?

 

Molasses Butter

Molasses butter is a super simple, but CRAZY delicious addition to your flavor library. You can whip it up in literally 2 minutes and slather it on anything that you want to give a hint of gingersnap flavor. Goes great with scones, buttermilk biscuits, or even just spread onto toast. LOVE IT. I like a stronger molasses flavor so I add more molasses to my butter, but I’ve created this recipe to be a little more conservative, allowing you to taste and then add more if your taste prefers it.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter ((1/2 cup), at room temperature)
  • 3 tablespoons molasses ((more to taste))
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Add butter and molasses to a small bowl and whip with a fork or small whisk until completely mixed. Taste and add more molasses if you like, whipping again before storing.
  2. Transfer molasses butter to a small airtight container. Serve at room temperature. You can store your molasses butter in the refrigerator for up to a month.
  3. See notes for the gingersnap butter variation!

Variation – Gingersnap Molasses Butter: If you want to make gingersnap butter, add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger and a small pinch of ground cinnamon to the butter along with the molasses. Taste after mixing, and add more ginger or cinnamon if you want a stronger flavor. So good! If you’re feeling sassy, you can even add the tiniest pinch of ground cloves. (Be careful — a little goes a loooooong way!)

This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.

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How to Cook Dried Beans – The Official Guide https://fearlessfresh.com/how-to-cook-dried-beans/ https://fearlessfresh.com/how-to-cook-dried-beans/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.theculinarylife.com/?p=2005 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Just a few weeks ago we talked about how to get more whole grains into your diet without taking up a ton of time. This week we're going to talk about everyone's favorite musical fruit: BEANS! Beans are not only a great source of fiber, they're are a healthy way to add more protein to your diet without adding a ton of fat or carbs. When it comes to beans, you have two options: canned or dried. While there's nothing wrong with canned beans - they are certainly healthier than a lot of the things you get out of a can - there are few things tastier than fresh beans made over a few hours on the stove.

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

How to Cook Dried Beans on https://www.fearlessfresh.com

This week we’re going to talk about everyone’s favorite musical fruit: how to cook dried BEANS — the easy and delicious way. This goes along with my other post, how to cook dried beans to perfection.

Beans are not only a great source of fiber, they’re are a healthy way to add more protein to your diet without adding a ton of fat or carbs. They’re also a great idea for dinner tonight when you don’t have much in your cupboard and the thought of going to the grocery store makes you want to jump off a bridge.

When it comes to cooking beans, you have two options: canned or dried. While there’s nothing wrong with canned beans — they are certainly healthier than a lot of the things you get out of a can — there are few things tastier than fresh beans made over a few hours on the stove (with very little actual work). And I’m here to show you how to cook dried beans without breaking a sweat.

I know, I said “few hours.” Don’t balk. I promise there’s a cheat.

How to cook dried beans from scratch.

Just like with whole grains, learning how to cook dried beans is an awesome and cheap way to clean up your diet. The problem is that dried beans are a time-consuming endeavor since they require a few hours to cook. Thankfully, also like grains, dried beans are easily prepared in large batches so that you can feed yourself for the rest of the week. I make four to five cups of beans on Sunday night, when I have time to cook, which gives me enough for dinner and quick, healthy lunches throughout the week.

Another plus? The more you eat beans, the less you’ll experience their, um, dolorous effects. They become a perfect option when you’re considering what to cook for dinner.

To soak or not to soak?

A note on soaking: many recipes suggest that you soak your beans overnight to get rid of their, um, musical attributes. While you can certainly do this, it really doesn’t make a difference. In fact, I don’t like soaking my beans overnight because I always wake up the next morning to a bowl of weird-looking, half-soaked lumps that have stretched out of their skins. Ick. They only cook a little bit faster when they’re soaked, and in the end it just adds another step to an already time-consuming process.

How to cook dried beans — it’s easy.

Learning how to cook dried beans so that they’re the perfect texture and flavor is surprisingly easy. Regardless of the type, beans are best prepared simply, with very little seasoning to compete with their natural flavor.  You can use the below method to cook almost any kind of beans: black beans, kidney beans, Great Northern beans, navy beans, pinto beans, you name it.

First, what should you cook beans in? Personally, I’m a total food nerd so I cook my beans in a terra-cotta olla, which is a traditional Spanish bean pot. But by all means, feel free to cook your beans in whatever pot or Dutch oven you have handy. Just make sure it has a lid. Beans are made for easy cooking, which means there are no crazy tools or bean pots necessary.

I start by heating 3 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium flame in my bean pot or Dutch oven. Once that’s good and hot, I toss in half a chopped onion, and let that cook until soft, about three minutes. Then I add one clove of chopped garlic and cook for another minute.

Once that’s all done, I toss in one pound of my beans of choice along with enough hot water to cover them by about 3 inches. Give the whole thing a stir and cover the pot, setting the lid slightly askew to let some of the steam escape. Lower the heat to a simmer.

Now, depending on the kind of beans you’re using, they could take anywhere from an hour to four hours to cook. Check every 20 minutes or so, eating one to test for doneness and to make sure there’s enough water in the pot to keep them moist. Once they’re almost done — say, once you try one and it’s almost tender — add the salt. You don’t want to salt your beans early on because this can lead to mushiness (ew).

Your beans are done when bite into them and they’re soft, without any crunch or other hardness. Some beans are creamy, some are firm, and some are starchy… but no varieties of beans should ever be tough or offer up any resistance to chewing. Do not overcook them or they will turn to mush. (Pro tip: If that happens accidentally, you could turn it into hummus or bean dip.)

Once your beans are done, stick them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Beans make a great addition to almost any dish you can think of. Add them to scrambled eggs, toss a handful into a salad, mash them up on toast, you name it. They’re a great source of fiber and protein, and can turn any lackluster last-minute dish into something you’ll actually be stoked to eat. If you want to get creative, look up a couple of recipes for how to make refried beans, winter bean soups, or some crafty, cheesy 1970s bean casseroles. If all else fails, try taco night!

For best CHEAP results, buy dried beans.

Canned beans are great and pretty healthy, but the truth is they’re expensive. At my local grocery store, a can of kidney beans is $1.25, while I can get almost two full pounds of dried beans for the same price. Where can you get fresh, dried beans? You can generally get them in the bulk bin at your local grocery store. Avoid buying mass-produced dried beans in bags, as they’ve often been sitting on that supermarket shelf for a very long time.

I’ve recently fallen in love with heirloom beans, which are varieties that have been around for long enough that their genes haven’t been tinkered with in a lab. No sir/ma’am, no Franken-beans for me! These days I either get mine in bulk from the local organic co-op, or I order them from Rancho Gordo, America’s most respected and sustainable heirloom bean grower. Rancho Gordo’s beans are mighty fresh and tasty, probably due to the fact that they’re guaranteed to be less than a year old – you don’t want to know how long those beans have been sitting on the shelf at your local chain grocery store.

How to freeze cooked beans

Now that you know how to cook dried beans, what’s next? Well, making a whole bunch of beans at once and then freezing them is a super ninja strategy to creating fast and healthy meals during the week. You just freeze your beans, then pull out a bag for dinner. They cook up in less than 10 minutes. Sweet!

Freezing beans can suck, because they all stick together into a big lump. I’ve got a fix for that!

  1. Take a large baking pan and line it with paper towels, then take another baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. Once the beans are done, pour off any excess liquid and spread them onto the paper towels to soak up any liquid that remains.
  2. Let them sit 20 minutes or so, then transfer the now-much-dryer beans from the paper towel to the parchment. Spread the beans out into one even layer, with no overlap, and stick the pan in the freezer.
  3. Once they’re frozen, pop the beans off the parchment and add them to a zip-top bag or freezer container. Since they’re mostly frozen individually at this point, they should stay pretty easy to separate (unless your freezer defrosts and freezes).

Note: ​I use this same method for freezing berries. :)

How long should you cook dried beans?

This is a tough question, because there are so many kinds of beans out there and it’s hard to say how long each kind takes to cook. (They all cook for completely different times. Sigh.) While this can be confusing for anyone in the beginning of learning how to cook dried beans, this can be frustrating because there’s no clear answer.

I’m going to be one of those people who says, “It takes as long as it takes.” I hate it when people say this to me, but in this case it’s true. When you factor in the fact that freshness is a HUGE variable with how long beans take to cook, well, it’s really tough to say. For example, I’ve had black beans cook in a little as three hours and as as long as five.

When I find that I’m cooking beans on a regular basis, here’s what I do to figure out the cooking time: I pick a specific brand and type of beans to stick with (in my case it’s usually Rancho Gordo cannellini beans), then I cook them once until they’re perfect and note the amount of time it took. I then apply that same time to that specific brand of beans going forward. It should be fairly consistent if you keep using the same beans.

The best recipe for BEAN PERFECTION!

I hope this dried bean primer has been helpful. Below you’ll find my master recipe for making the best dried beans known to man/womankind.

​To do this week:

  1. Go to the store, buy a bag of dried beans — black beans and pinto beans are great for starting out — and cook them up. Then report back and let me know how it went.
  2. If you run into any problems, join the Fearless Fresh Ninja Group on Facebook and post with what’s going on. We’ll help you figure it out. It’s a great community that exists ONLY so you can get your cooking questions answered, get free kitchen coaching from me, and be a part of a vibrant, supportive cooking community.

 

How to Cook Dried Beans

Learning how to cook dried beans is super easy. I’m here to show you how to make perfect home-cooked beans without breaking a sweat. This recipe will work for any kind of beans: Black beans, kidney beans, Great Northern beans, navy beans, pinto beans, you name it. They’ll turn out perfectly, every single time.

  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion (chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • 1 pound dried beans
  • Water for cooking
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat olive oil over a medium flame in your bean pot or Dutch oven. Once that’s good and hot, toss in the onion and let that cook until soft, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add one clove of chopped garlic and cook for another 1 minute.
  2. Toss in 1 pound of beans along with enough hot water to cover them by about 3 inches. Give the whole thing a stir and cover the pot. Set the lid slightly askew to let some of the steam escape. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook.
  3. Depending on the kind of beans you’re using, they could take anywhere from an hour to 4 hours to cook. Check every 20 minutes or so, testing for doneness and to make sure there’s enough water in the pot to keep them moist.
  4. Once they’re almost done (i.e., you taste a bean and find it’s almost tender) add salt. Don’t salt your beans too early, or they’ll end up mushy (ew).
  5. Your beans are done when bite into them and they’re soft, without any crunch or other hardness. Some beans are creamy, some are firm, and some are starchy… but none of them should ever be tough or offer up any resistance to chewing. Do not overcook them or they will turn to mush.
  6. Once your beans are done, stick them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Beans make a great addition to almost any dish you can think of. Add them to scrambled eggs, toss a handful into a salad, mash them up on toast, you name it. They’re a great source of fiber and protein, and can turn any lackluster last-minute dish into something you’ll actually be stoked to eat. If you want to get creative, look up a couple of recipes for how to make refried beans, winter bean soups, or some crafty 70s bean casseroles. If all else fails, try taco night!

This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.

 

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What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores https://fearlessfresh.com/restaurant-supply-stores/ https://fearlessfresh.com/restaurant-supply-stores/#respond Tue, 14 Mar 2017 15:00:08 +0000 https://fearlessfresh.com/?p=22120 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Last week I gushed about the magic of your local restaurant supply store and how it's Mecca for bulletproof cookware at cheap prices. I got a lot of emails in response, asking me for more details, so I thought I'd share a little more about all the goodness you can find at your local restaurant supply store. I even went down to my local restaurant supplier and took a ton of photos, so you can see exactly why I'm so excited about shopping there. Here is a handy list of some of the common things you need for your kitchen that you'll find for cheaper at your local restaurant supply store. If you need help finding one near you, click here for a Google search that will show any in your area.

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

 

Last week I gushed about the magic of restaurant supply stores and how they’re Mecca for bulletproof cookware at cheap prices. I got a lot of emails in response, asking me for more details, so I thought I’d share a little more about all the goodness you can find at your local restaurant supply store. I even went down to my local restaurant supplier and took a ton of photos, so you can see exactly why I’m so excited about shopping there.

Below is a handy list of some of the common things you need for your kitchen that you’ll find for cheaper at your local restaurant supply store. If you need help finding one near you, click here for a Google search that will show any in your area.

Restaurant supply stores: What to look for

You local restaurant supply store likely carries A TON of different cookware, and of course a wide selection of commercial-grade equipment like fryers, mega food processors, etc. So what can a home cook expect to find when shopping at a restaurant supplier? Here’s a quick list of some of my favorite buys:

Cake pans

If you bake a fair amount, then you’re probably aware of the cost of cake pans… and how quickly they can get rusty or dented at the drop of a hat. And if you’re at all like me, you like having more than one size cake pan around so you can make either small cakes or larger cakes. Well, good news: A lot of restaurant supply stores carry a good selection of cake pans for pretty cheap, in varying sizes and finishes. Here’s a photo of the insane selection of cake pans my local shop carries. So many that it requires two photos to show them all!

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

So many cake pans they wouldn’t all fit in one photo!

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

Canning supplies

Some of the larger restaurant supply stores carry canning supplies (and suppliers in areas where there’s a lot of farming will likely have a good selection as well). As you can see from the image below, my local supplier is THE place to go if you’re in need of canning equipment. Besides jars, they have every every kind of lid, ladle, jar lifter, and strainer known to man, as well as a great selection of other random goodies. They even have grape spirals and berry screens! Hallelujah!

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

Cocktail equipment

The restaurant supply store is also where restaurant owners buy supplies for their in-house bars. So if you’re a fan of cocktails and you’re tired of paying $50 for cocktail shakers at Williams Sonoma, check out this selection of commercial-grade bar goodies that are made to last a lot longer than the stuff meant for home use:

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

Cutting boards

Cutting boards are often taken for granted, which is sad because they are one of the hardest working pieces of equipment in your kitchen. It’s important to have a nice, high-quality cutting boards, but have you ever priced those babies out at your local mall cookware store? I was looking at cutting boards the other day, and Bed Bath & Beyond wanted $25 for a large plastic board. It’s literally a sheet of plastic with a hole in it… no features besides the fact that it’s flat and impervious to the blade of a knife. So what exactly was I getting for $25? Not much.

A restaurant supply store will likely carry a good selection of cutting boards because this is one piece of equipment that chefs need all the time. A cutting board the exact same size and the exact same plastic as the one I saw at the mall was $10. That’s like 60% off! (Please, don’t make me math.) Check out the selection of cutting boards at my local supplier:

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

And even more cutting boards…

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

 

Knives

Probably the most important tool in your kitchen, knives are the one thing you need to invest in more than anything else. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve inspected the knives of my students, friend, and family, only to find they’re as dull as a rolling pin, often with chips and dings on the blade. Yikes. Dull, chipped knives don’t cut very well (duh) so you’re far more likely to cut yourself. Why? Two reasons: 1) you have to apply a lot more pressure to get a dull knife to do its job, and 2) dull blades slip on firm foods that require more pressure to cut. Both of these problems increase the chances of the knife slipping and going straight for your fingers. Ugh.

Because no one looks stylish while sporting an ER bracelet, I recommend having your knives professionally sharpened every six months (if you use them a lot). I also advocate spending a little more money on good knives that will hold their edge longer. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on cutlery because your local restaurant supply store stocks very good knives for FAR less money than the mall stores. You might not find the fancy luxury brands (sorry Wüsthof and Global!) but the knives you buy there will be the very same ones chefs use every day in their professional kitchens. And if a knife is good enough for a chef to use every day, it’s good enough for you. :)

Check out this crazy selection of knives at my local supplier, all for a lot cheaper than you’d expect. It took THREE PHOTOS to capture their entire selection:

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

And more knives…

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

AAAAAAAAND, even more knives.

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

Bulletproof pots and pans

My post last week talked a lot about pots and pans, and the photo below is exactly what I was talking about. Look at that selection! A lot of these pots are much less expensive than you’d find at a mall store, and they’re of sturdy stock. (lol)

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

Commercial spatulas

In a pastry kitchen, you like and die by your spatula. Restaurant supply stores know this, so they tend to carry a huge selection. Check this out:

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

An endless selection of whisk sizes

Much like a good spatula, a good whisk is a MUST in a pro kitchen. A good supplier will have a good range of sizes and shapes, for pretty much any whisking needs knows to man. Just check out those crazy-huge whisks to the left of the photo!

 

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

 

Mixing bowls

My mixing bowls take a beating, and over the years they start to look like Caribbean steel drums. The last time I shopped at a mall store for mixing bowls, they tried to charge me $30 for three medium-sized bowls. (Um, no.) Your local restaurant supply store likely carries a variety of mixing bowls, in different shapes, sizes, and price points. Check out this huge selection of mixing bowls — at this shop I can literally pay $5 each for a medium bowl, or $9 for a huge bowl. WAY cheaper than the mall.

What to Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores on https://fearlessfresh.com

Muffin tins

I have to admit: I’m a muffin pan nerd. That said, I have never in my life seen such a selection of muffin tins in all sizes, shapes, and finishes as they have at my local restaurant supply store. I’m adding this photo mostly because I’m impressed with their selection. Check this out!

What to Buy at a Restaurant Supply Store on https://fearlessfresh.com

What to Buy at a Restaurant Supply Store on https://fearlessfresh.com

Piping and cake decorating supplies

Restaurant supply stores cater to pastry chefs as well (see the afore-mentioned insane cake pan and muffin tin selection) so you’ll often find cake decorating supplies as well. Some suppliers will have a better pastry selection than others, so you’ll have to scout your local shops to see what they’ve got.

What to Buy at a Restaurant Supply Store on https://fearlessfresh.com

An endless selection of ladle sizes

Ok, this might not seem relevant to you, a home cook, but I just thought this selection of ladles was crazytown and wanted to share! Ladles are really important in restaurant kitchens because they’re used as measuring devices when portioning out food. (Like, you use a 2-ounce ladle to quickly scoop out exactly 2-ounces of sauce for every dish you plate. Easy!) But if you’re ever in the market for a specific size of ladle, your local restaurant supply store is THE place to go for it. Check these out:

What to Buy at a Restaurant Supply Store on https://fearlessfresh.com

Pizza pans and peels

Apparently there are a lot of pizza shops in my area, because this is a huge selection of pizza pans and peels. Wow.

What to Buy at a Restaurant Supply Store on https://fearlessfresh.com

 

What to Buy at a Restaurant Supply Store on https://fearlessfresh.com

 

Whew, that’s a lot of cooking equipment to choose from. If you’re checking out your local restaurant supply store for the first time, I recommend you set aside a little time to really explore — especially if you live near a large supplier, like I do.

Again, click here for a Google search that will show any restaurant supply stores located in your area. Have fun!

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Restaurant Supply Store: The Pro Secret to Awesome + Cheap Cookware https://fearlessfresh.com/restaurant-supply-store-cheap-cookware/ https://fearlessfresh.com/restaurant-supply-store-cheap-cookware/#respond Thu, 09 Mar 2017 07:17:21 +0000 https://fearlessfresh.com/?p=20615 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

There's a pro secret to shopping for cookware that both awesome AND cheap. Stuff that's built to last, without costing a fortune. It's shockingly simple! I've gotten some incredible deals by shopping around at my local restaurant supply stores, such as my favorite spatula, which has lasted me five years and cost me $4. There's also my awesome mixing bowls, which literally cost $12 for three. A few weeks ago I found a nice marble slab for ruling out pastry ($30) and a clearance sale on chef-quality Mercer knives. ($40 for a $80 knife!)

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

The Restaurant Supply Store: The Pro Secret to Awesome + Cheap Cookware

I’d say 99% of people have never set foot in a restaurant supply store, even though it’s the very best place to buy cheap cookware that’s built to meet commercial quality standards. (Here’s a post on exactly what you can buy at a restaurant supply store — it’s pretty crazy!!) What exactly is commercial quality? Basically it means the equipment is built to withstand the rigors of restaurant life, which is HARD on cookware.

In other words, you can beat the holy crap out of your commercial pots and pans and they’ll take it, unlike consumer cookware which is usually built with relatively cheap parts and even cheaper manufacturing processes. What you buy at a restaurant supply store is built to last, while the cheap cookware you buy at Target (and even middle-tier cookware from stores like Williams-Sonoma) often falls apart within a year or two.

Have you ever looked at the reviews of a nonstick pan on Amazon? 95% of the reviews are from shiny new buyers who just bought it, or else they don’t use it frequently so it has the appearance of lasting a long time. “It works great!” They sing. “I’ve used it twice and the eggs slide right off. Cleans up like a dream!”

But… there’s a catch. If you click the one- and two-star link in the reviews section, you’ll see all the people who gave the item a bad review. These are often the people who used something quite a bit over an extended period of time, the ones who really test the quality of their cheap cookware. You’ll notice some similar complaints:

  • Disappointing pans, finish wears off and food sticks!
  • Sticks after 5 months with good care and not-too-frequent use
  • Got all scratched..
  • Cheap cookware!!
  • Poor quality control inspection
  • Lousy warranty services. Disappointing.

That last one is the worst. You buy a pan, use it for a year, and then try to replace it once it falls apart. Only the warranty has either just expired or you get a lackluster response from the support department, who gives you the runaround or tells you that the damage is your fault. No bueno! The real issue is that regular old cheap cookware just is not built to last.

To be fair, we are talking about nonstick pans here, which are basically the frail, sickly child of the cooking world. Some would say they’re not an accurate gauge of durability, since the coating is pretty much guaranteed to scratch off. I would argue otherwise. Nonstick pans and other cheap cookware are the canary in the coal mine. Since this is the type of cooking equipment most people use, they serve as a base measurement of what the majority of our society will experience when they purchase cooking equipment.

What’s wrong with regular cookware?

I have many nonstick pans, some cheap ones from Target or wherever, and a few nicer ones I bought from Sur la Table. The cheap T-Fal pans didn’t even make it a year before the coating scratched off and the handles loosened to the point that the pans were unsafe to use (and I baby my cookware). My Sur la Table-brand pans, which are good middle of the line construction, have lasted two years with some wear and tear but are generally champs. My Scanpan has proven to be the most bulletproof, clocking in at six years with minimal damage, beyond the one bonehead who tried to cut a steak in it. (MADE ME STABBY!!!!)

So clearly you can buy decent cookware at regular consumer outlets, but here’s the catch:

  • Sur la Table branded frying pans — decent quality — I paid $100 for two of them, and they didn’t come with lids
  • Scanpan frying pans — solid construction and durability — $175 for one pan with lid

You get what you pay for in the world of consumer-based cookware, whether it’s cheap or expensive. You’d better be willing to shell out some cash if you want equipment that lasts.

That is not the case in the restaurant world. Commercial equipment is put through the ringer every single day, 7-days a week in many cases. Pans in restaurant kitchens are set over commercial 30,000 BTU burners (which are six times hotter than your ~5,000 BTU home range) 10 to 50 times a night, then sent through a high-heat commercial dishwasher with industrial soap. These pots and pans are dropped, kicked, thrown at other cooks… you get the idea. Restaurant equipment needs to stand up to abuse.

Commercial pots and pans take a lifetime of beating that would make your home pans cry uncle after one use.

Do you think restaurant owners spend a ton of money at restaurant supply stores, shelling out $120 per pan, knowing full well their cooks are going to beat the holy shit out of it? Nope. The overhead costs of running a restaurant are already insane — with the soaring cost of labor, ingredients, insurance, utilities, appliances, rent (especially if your restaurant is in a well-trafficked area). There’s no way restaurant owners can afford to pay the same prices for quality cookware that home cooks are expected to pay.

What about caterers? They have an entirely different set of needs, and often even lower budgets than restaurateurs. They have the same need for durable cookware but are not likely able to spend a ton of money on equipment either.

Where can busy chefs and caterers, with high expectations and an intense need for quality, buy great cookware without spending a fortune? Enter the restaurant supply store.

Restaurant supply stores — your key to cheap cookware

When it comes to buying kitchen equipment, I shop almost exclusively at my local restaurant supply store because that’s where I was told to shop when I was in culinary school. Then that idea was reinforced when I worked in restaurants. It doesn’t matter what I’m looking for: pots, pans, knives, mixing bowls, spatulas, grill flippers, bread boxes, cake pans, pastry rings, storage containers. I even buy some of my glassware there, where pint glasses are half the cost of my local Target.

You may not find all your favorite brands there — no Calphalon, Circulon, Farberware, KitchenAid, Cuisinart, or T-Fal. I’ve seen some fancy brands like Le Creuset and All-Clad at some restaurant supply stores, but they’re generally not much cheaper than you’d find at Sur la Table.

What a restaurant supply store does sell is a selection of commercial brands you may have never heard of, without fancy logos or pretty packaging. Their goods may have some dust on them from sitting in a drafty warehouse-type building without flashy brand-name boxes to keep them covered. None of this says anythings about the quality of the equipment.

Now, it’s important to mention that you can still buy cheap cookware — like the crappy kind I warned you about above — at a restaurant supply store. Some restaurant owners shop for this type of cheap cookware, and restaurant suppliers are more than happy to sell it to them. So just like when you’re shopping for anything else, you need to be smart about making your purchase. What do you need to do to make sure you’re getting the most durable equipment a restaurant supply shop has to order? On to my next point.

Ask the staff.

The sales staff folks at restaurant supply stores are usually SUPER knowledgeable about the capabilities of what they sell, because they sell cooking equipment for a full-time living to buyers who have incredibly high expectations. If they don’t know their stuff, they get angry, stressed out chefs pounding on their door demanding a refund. Stressed out chefs are no fun. (Trust me on this. ?)

So if you’re looking for something super durable, ask the staff at the restaurant supply store and let them know what your budget is and that you are looking for an item that will last you for years to come. The staff will usually be able to give you a range of items at varying prices and qualities, and be able to explain the difference between them all so you can make an educated decision about what is the best choice for your needs.

Contrast this with the friendly staff at my local Williams-Sonoma, who can answer basic questions about their equipment, but watch their eyes glaze over when you ask them a more intense question like, “Will this pot handle withstand temperatures of more than 400°F?”  Not to knock the staff at my local mall cooking store, because I like those folks quite a bit. But they always end up referring to the website for more info and often leave me with unanswered questions, because they don’t know key information off the top of their heads or have an understanding of the practical science behind what they’re selling.

Where do I find a restaurant supply store nearby?

Every major city has a handful of restaurant supply stores, and even smaller town-type areas have one or two within the general vicinity. (Basically, if you have more than three or four restaurants within 20 minutes of your home, you likely have a restaurant supply shop within an hour’s driving time.) They’re usually unassuming places located in industrial areas, where warehouse space is cheap to help keep costs down. Click here to find one near you.

Restaurant supply stores don’t have a fancy-pants setup like Williams-Sonoma. Not even close. These places are setup in a no-nonsense way, allowing chefs to get in, get what they need, and get out. Once inside you’ll usually find endless rows of metal shelves, stacked floor to ceiling with every type of cooking tool you could ever imagine.

You’ll find pizza pans, muffin tins, mountains of mixing bowls, a selection of ladles in different sizes, spatulas, ice cream scoops, serving spoons, and chef’s knives. There will usually be a large selection of frying pans, lidded pots, heavy duty cutting boards, all sizes of baking sheets, and an entire row dedicated to Cambros (plastic storage boxes with pop-on lids). If your local restaurant supply store has a good baking section, you’ll see a variety of pastry rings, silicon baking molds, stacks of different-sized cake pans, and enough piping tips to frost thousands of cakes.  If you head over to the appliance side of the shop, you’ll see propane torches, commercial fryers, restaurant-grade food processors, and enormous steam kettles.

Now, not all restaurant supply stores are made equal. Like any other type of store, some places are cheaper than others. Some have a better variety of equipment, and of course one shop have a different selection from another. For example, one place may have a great selection of pastry and baking equipment, while another might concentrate more on the savory market with a better selection of knives, pots, pans, and dishware.

It’s smart to call ahead to see if the restaurant supply store near you has what you need, and they will usually answer honestly if you want to know how diverse their selection is for a certain type of equipment. (I.e., “Do you carry a wide selection of cake pans?”)

Now, go get on it!

I hope I’ve shared my enthusiasm for restaurant supply stores and convinced you to at least go check your local supplier. Even if you’re not 100% convinced, at least stop in and browse around. Consider it a culinary field trip. If your area has more than one supplier, you’ll probably find that one fits your needs more than the others. In my area one supplier has a better selection of pastry equipment than the others, so I end up going there more often. But also regularly drop in to the others from time to time, just to browse and see what they’ve got.

I’ve gotten some incredible deals by shopping around at my local restaurant supply stores, such as my favorite spatula, which has lasted me five years and cost me $4. There’s also my awesome mixing bowls, which literally cost $12 for three. A few weeks ago I found a nice marble slab for ruling out pastry ($30) and a clearance sale on chef-quality Mercer knives. ($40 for a $80 knife!)

Here’s a quick search that will show you any restaurant supply shops near you. Now go and have fun!

 

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Your Guide to Getting the Most Out of Fresh Herbs https://fearlessfresh.com/getting-the-most-out-of-fresh-herbs/ https://fearlessfresh.com/getting-the-most-out-of-fresh-herbs/#respond Thu, 02 Mar 2017 16:00:10 +0000 https://fearlessfresh.com/?p=22061 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Despite how easy they are to use, herbs are something I get a ton of questions about. Like, A LOT. When I polled my readers last year about what they want help with in the kitchen, 15% said learning how to use fresh herbs was at the top of their list. Since this is such a hot topic, I decided to put together a guide to the basics of using fresh herbs. Now, this isn't a list of flavor pairings -- though I am working on that. The below guide is my top 10 cardinal rules when it comes to using fresh herbs.

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Your Guide to Getting the Most Out of Fresh Herbs on https://fearlessfresh.com

Fresh herbs are perhaps the fastest way to wake up a lackluster dish. Whether you’re whizzing them into a bright green herb pesto or sprinkling them over a simple plate of scrambled eggs on toast, freshly chopped herbs take almost any savory dish to the next level.

Despite how easy they are to use, herbs are something I get a ton of questions about. Like, A LOT. When I polled my readers last year about what they wanted help with in the kitchen, 15% said learning how to use fresh herbs was at the top of their list.

Since this is such a hot topic, I decided to put together a guide to the basics of using fresh herbs. Now, this isn’t a list of flavor pairings — though I am working on that. The below guide is my top 10 cardinal rules when it comes to using fresh herbs. Keep in mind this list does not apply to dry herbs. That’s a whole different list on a whole different day.

So if you’re at all bored with your food, I highly recommend you get familiar with fresh herbs and learn how to leverage their flavor. Once you know how to use them, it’s a whole new world!

1. Be picky when selecting herbs.

Herbs are pure fragrance! There’s a reason we call them “aromats,” and every single thing you do with them — or to them — should respect this fat. The volatile compounds that make herbs fragrant and flavorful are easily damaged, so make sure the herbs you buy are in good shape when you select them.

This means avoid herbs that are bruised, brown, moldy, overly aged, or obviously abused. Before you make a final selection, give the herbs you’re considering a quick pinch to see how strongly they smell. (Yes, they should smell strongly.)

2. Give fresh herbs the royal treatment.

The fresher herbs are when you use them, the more flavorful they will be when you eat them. If you can, grow herbs in a small pot in your window and pick them right before using. If you don’t have space to grow them (or like me, you have a fuzzy Eat Beast who likes to destroy potted plants) try buying herbs with the roots still in tact, and then put them in a special herb box made for storing in the fridge.

Even if the herbs you buy don’t still have the roots attached, an herb box is a great investment. These containers hold a small amount of water and essentially create a little greenhouse for your herbs. Herbs will last for up to a month in one of these containers, sometimes longer if the conditions are right. The $20 you spend on the box will be quickly returned when your herbs last for a month and you don’t have to replace them as often!

3. Seasonality: Timing is everything.

Herbs are seasonal. They tend to taste better during the season in which they are naturally grown, and they also go best with other foods that are in season at the same time. Think basil and tomatoes, or rosemary and pumpkin. If they grow together, they’re probably good eats together.

4. Give fresh herbs a good rinse.

Herbs need to be washed and dried completely before using. They can pick up dirt and bugs just like any other produce, so they benefit from a thorough rinse. I recommend washing and drying fresh herbs shortly after you buy them, which will give them plenty of time to dry before you cook with them. This is important because……….

5. Dry them completely before cutting.

Wet herbs are a nightmare to chop. They stick to your knife and turn to literal mush on your cutting board, and any water that sits on them after they’ve been cut will dilute their magical fragrant compounds. To dry herbs naturally, lay them in a single layer on a paper towel for an hour. If you’re in a hurry to dry them, feel free to use a salad spinner.

6. A sharp knife is really important.

Herbs bruise really easily, so it’s important to to use a very sharp knife when chopping so that they’re not bruised or ripped while you cut them. Bruising causes herbs to oxidize and give up their flavor compounds much faster than if they’d been cut cleanly with a sharp knife. It’s also an aesthetic problem, since herbs can turn a gross black and brown when they’ve been abused. No one wants sad-looking black specks on their delicious dinner!

7. When chopping, show some restraint.

Do not overchop herbs! Even the sharpest knife will turn them into a pesto-like paste if you go at them with too much gusto. Herbs should be chopped evenly and only to the point that they are the size you need. Do not obliterate them by chopping them into dust.

8. Or try not chopping at all!

Gordon Ramsey said something very interesting once: The best part of parsley stays on the cutting board. And he’s right. Fresh herbs are very fragile — once you cut them, they leave a lot of their best compounds as a stain on your cutting surface. So consider dropping leaves of fresh herbs into your dish whole, leaving them entirely in tact. This will make them perfect little flavor bombs once you bit into them, letting not a fraction of their goodness go to waste. (FYI, this won’t work with tougher or strongly-flavored herbs like rosemary.)

9. Add herbs at the end.

This is maybe the most important rule here: Don’t add fresh herbs to your dish until the very end of cooking. Fresh green herbs are delicate and their volatile oils are literally vaporized by long exposure to heat, so sprinkle them in at the very end of cooking, or right before serving, for maximum impact.

10. Don’t waste the stems and clippings!

Leftover herb bits have other uses, so don’t waste them! Parsley stems should be saved and used for making stocks (just toss them into the stock pot with your soup bones). Sage and thyme stems can be simmered in soups or sauces for extra flavor, then plucked out just before serving. Rosemary stems are incredibly fragrant and flavorful skewers, and cilantro roots will take coconut-based dishes to the next level. Get creative! Try to waste NOTHING in your kitchen, using your imagination to see where you can make good use of little bits that are left over. This is a great sign of a creative home chef.

 

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Cooking Oil Smoke Points: A New Free Cheatsheet! https://fearlessfresh.com/cooking-oil-smoke-points-cheatsheet/ https://fearlessfresh.com/cooking-oil-smoke-points-cheatsheet/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 16:00:39 +0000 https://fearlessfresh.com/?p=21559 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Cooking oil smoke points are more important to how your food turns out than a lot of people realize. Question: What’s the fastest way to ruin your dinner and even contribute to cancer? Answer: Burning your oil when you cook. True story. When you overheat cooking oil, it tastes awful and makes everything it touches taste like burning oil, too. And burnt oil causes free radical damage, which has been linked to organ breakdown, premature aging, and even cancer. Not to mention the fact that burning cooking oil can stink up your house and ruin your cookware. No bueno! Thankfully it’s easy ...

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Cooking Oil Smoke Points Cheatsheet on https://fearlessfresh.com

Cooking oil smoke points are more important to how your food turns out than a lot of people realize. Question: What’s the fastest way to ruin your dinner and even contribute to cancer? Answer: Burning your oil when you cook. True story.

When you overheat cooking oil, it tastes awful and makes everything it touches taste like burning oil, too. And burnt oil causes free radical damage, which has been linked to organ breakdown, premature aging, and even cancer. Not to mention the fact that burning cooking oil can stink up your house and ruin your cookware. No bueno!

Thankfully it’s easy to avoid bumping up against cooking oil smoke points, especially if you know which are the right cooking oils to use for the job at hand. I’ll bet you can guess where I’m going with this, right? I’ve got a handy free resource for you.

Cooking Oil Smoke Points Cheatsheet (Free!)

How can you keep from burning your cooking oil and ruining the flavor of your dinner? And taxing your health as well? Well, I just happen to have a free download for you. I’ve been hard at work creating all sorts of new cooking guides for the free cooking library here on Fearless Fresh. I’ve got a few to share over the coming weeks, starting today.

The newest addition to the library is the Cooking Oil Smoke Points Cheatsheet. Different cooking oils burn at different temperatures, and burning oil is definitely not good eats. It’s important to know what kind of oil will work for which cooking task you’re performing, so I’ve created this easy-to-follow guide to teach you exactly what you need to know about using cooking oils.

This new guide to cooking oil smoke points and their safe use is yours to download, totally free. Click below to grab it.

Cooking Oil Smoke Points Cheatsheet on https://fearlessfresh.com


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How to Make Pasta, Perfectly, Every Single Time https://fearlessfresh.com/how-to-make-pasta-perfectly/ https://fearlessfresh.com/how-to-make-pasta-perfectly/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 16:00:17 +0000 https://www.theculinarylife.com/?p=16487 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Why write a whole post on how to make pasta? Isn't this a simple thing to do? Not necessarily. I get at lets one email a week from people asking my why their dry, boxed pasta is either crunchy or gummy. It appears that this simple food is not so simple for some folks. Since I wrote a whole damn book on cooking with pasta (and cheese) I thought it might be useful to spell out how to make pasta so that it's perfect every time, so even if you’re cooking with the cheap stuff you’ll have the best possible eating experience. I still argue that the best pasta is that which you make yourself, and I've covered that in another post. For now, here are a few tips to get the most out of dried pasta.

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

How to make pasta, perfectly, every time, on https://fearlessfresh.com

Why write a whole post on how to make pasta? Isn’t this a simple thing to do? Not necessarily. I get at least one email a week from people asking my why their dry, boxed pasta is either crunchy or gummy. It appears that this simple food is not so simple for some folks.

Since I wrote a whole damn book on cooking with pasta (and cheese) I thought it might be useful to spell out how to make pasta so that it’s perfect every time, so even if you’re cooking with the cheap stuff you’ll have the best possible eating experience. I still argue that the best pasta is that which you make yourself, but for now, here are a few tips to get the most out of dried pasta.

Note: This tutorial appears very long, but most of what I’ve written below is explanation. So, read it through once and then remember that making pasta is a simple skill that just involves a pot, a strainer, some water, and a little salt.

Another note: This post on how to make perfect pasta was so popular that I created a free printable cheat sheet to go along with it! Check it out — this one-page guide takes you through the perfect pasta process, step by step, in a visual form. If you want a free copy, click to sign up and a full-sized version will be delivered straight to your inbox:

Make Perfect Pasta Every Time -- on https://fearlessfresh.com

 

How to make pasta, perfectly

Step 1: The first step on how to make pasta is pretty basic — boil some water. This might seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of people get tripped up on this step and it’s downhill from there.

You want the pot of water to be large enough that the noodles can float and bob freely, bumping into each other as infrequently as possible to prevent sticking. If you cook your pasta in too little water, the noodles will stick together into a gummy, half-cooked mess. The minimum amount of water you want to boil your pasta in is one quart, and that’s the amount you’ll need for just two servings of noodles. Large quantities of pasta will require an even bigger pot. Don’t be afraid to bust out the stockpot if you’re feeding a large group.

–>The standard water : pasta ratio is 1 quart of water for every 1/4 pound (4 ounces) of pasta.

Perfect Pasta Cooking Ratio on https://fearlessfresh.comStep 1.5: DO NOT add oil to the water. Half of my family adds oil to their cooking water because they believe it prevents the noodles from sticking together, but it’s just not true. When you add oil to water, it floats on the surface. That’s it. Any oil that does grab the pasta will do nothing but slick it up. You actually want some sticky starch on the surface of your pasta so that sauce clings to the noodles. When learning how to make pasta, oil is a big fat no-no.

Step 2: Salt the water. Salted water is very important when preparing pasta. It does a lot to bring out the flavor in both the noodles and your overall dish. After you’ve tasted pasta cooked in well-salted water, noodles cooked in plain water will taste bland, bland, bland. When learning how to make pasta perfectly, this is a really important (but often ignored) tip.

Do not add the salt until the water is at a full, rolling boil. Salt raises the boiling temperature of water, which will affect how well your pasta cooks. Bring your water all the way to a rolling boil, add the salt, and then bring the water back to a boil before adding the pasta. Make sure to stir the noodles for about 30 seconds just after adding them to the water, and make sure to stir frequently to prevent sticking.

How salty should you make your pasta water? “You want the ocean on your stovetop,” is what my Italian grandma liked to say, salting her pasta water to the point that made a lot of her American guests uncomfortable. Don’t worry—not all of that salt will absorb into your noodles. If you’d like a guideline as to how much salt to use, try this:

–>The standard salt : water ratio is at least 1 tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water.

Perfect Pasta Cooking Ratio on https://fearlessfresh.comStep 3: Test the pasta partway through cooking. This is another point of confusion for a lot of people learning how to make pasta perfectly: how long should you cook your pasta? The answer is, it depends. If you’re making an uncooked sauce, like pesto, or just tossing with olive oil, herbs, and cheeses, you want to cook your noodles all the way to al dente.

For those not in the know, “al dente” literally means “to the tooth.” The practical meaning, as far as pasta is concerned, is that the noodles are cooked to the degree that they are firm but not hard or crunchy. You should be able to bite through them without any grit inside the noodle, but they should maintain a firm yet soft structure — never crunchy, squishy, or gummy.

If you’re preparing a cooked sauce for your pasta — such as a marinara or Bolognese — you should drain the noodles just before they get to the point of being al dente. You’ll want a little more firmness in the bite, with barely a touch of crunch at the very center of the noodle. You’ll finish the cooking process after you add the noodles to the sauce (more on this below).

In this case, you’ll also want to reserve 1 cup of your pasta’s cooking water, some of which you will add to your sauce to finish cooking the pasta. This also has the added bonus of creating a more velvety texture, as the starch in the water thickens the sauce a touch while adding a little body.

If you’re going to be baking your noodles, such as in a macaroni and cheese casserole, you might consider pulling the noodles from the water a minute earlier, while they’re just a little bit firmer at the core. This will allow the noodles to absorb the liquid in your casserole without getting soggy.

Step 3.5: DO NOT rinse the pasta. Another important tip when learning how to make pasta: Don’t rinse your pasta after straining unless you’re following a recipe that specifically calls for it. You’ll wash away all those gorgeously sticky starches that come in handy for keeping your sauce where it belongs: on the noodles. Rinsing can also make your pasta soggy while diluting the overall flavor of your dish. Rinsing may be necessary in some recipes to get the intended result, but if the recipe doesn’t call for it, avoid the temptation.

Many people rinse to keep their noodles from sticking while they complete the rest of the dish. Here’s an important rule of thumb: finish your sauce before you finish your noodles. Sauce is much more patient, waiting politely for its next assignment, while noodles give attitude and clump up like they’re consciously giving you the middle finger. If you have to let your pasta sit for a few minutes while you finish up another part of your dish, toss it excitedly every minute or so to keep it from sticking. Or better yet, learn to time your pasta so that it’s finished cooking exactly when you’re ready to use it.

Step 4: Sauce the pasta. When learning how to make pasta, a lot of folks serve their pasta in a big pile with a huge glob of their cooked sauce plopped in the middle of it. While there’s nothing wrong with this, per se, there is a better way. Since your pasta should be cooked to just al dente, you might have noticed that it still has a tiny bit more cooking to do. By finishing your pasta off with a few minutes’ worth of cooking in the sauce, your noodles will absorb a good deal more flavor than if you’d finished them off in boiling water and stirred the sauce in at the last minute.

Cooking the pasta in the sauce is arguably the most important step in creating your dish, and it’s most effectively performed when your sauce has been prepared in a large, wide saucepan with a lot of surface area, which will allow more sauce to come in contact with the noodles.

Different sauces will require variations of this method, but for your standard homemade cooked sauce, the following steps should do the trick:

  • When draining your pasta, reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  • Add 1/4 cup of this cooking water to your sauce, which should be quite hot. Stir well.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce, and set over medium heat. Cook the pasta until the sauce has reduced enough to coat the noodles. This should literally take 2 minutes.
  • If the sauce is reduced and the pasta still needs a bit more cooking, add in a little more of the starchy water. Only add 1 tablespoon at a time, otherwise your beautiful sauce will become a beautiful soup.
  • When the noodles are done, turn off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir just until the butter is melted. Serve immediately.

Note: When cooking noodles in a sauce, don’t go crazy stirring the whole thing constantly with your spoon, lest you mash your noodles into porridge. Another reason a wide shallow saucepan works well: to keep the noodles from burning, you can simply flip the pan with your wrist, which, if done right, should effectively rotate the noodles and keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan without creaming them with your spoon. (Thank you, Ming Tsai, for the video tutorial!)

Click to get the free printable cheat sheet that takes you through the perfect pasta process, step by step, in a visual form:

Make Perfect Pasta Every Time -- on https://fearlessfresh.com

The How to Make Pasta Challenge

With a little practice, learning how to make pasta with even the cheapest dry noodles can garner a respectable eating experience and act as a worthwhile base for your awesome sauce. I’d still argue that artisan-made dry pasta will be far more impressive, especially to those who have trained their palates to recognize quality foods, but make the best of what you’ve got.

Here’s “a how to make pasta” challenge: Go out and buy a box of the cheapest pasta you can find, and a box of some high-quality artisan-made pasta, such as Baia, Cipriani, or Rustichella d’Abruzzo. Cook them separately to their respective instructions and serve them with the same sauce, side by side. Do you notice a difference in the two pastas? How do they differ in flavor, texture, and body? Which do you prefer? Leave your findings in the comments here.

 

How to Make Pasta, Perfectly, Every Single Time
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: Serves 2
  • Calories: 261
  • Fat: 7g
  • Saturated fat: 4g
  • Unsaturated fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 42g
  • Sodium: 2194mg
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Cholesterol: 16mg
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Learning how to make perfect pasta is not hard at all! There are just a few keys steps you need to follow.
Ingredients
  • Your pasta sauce, made ahead of time
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 pound pasta (4 ounces by weight)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Gently heat the sauce in a saucepan. Turn the heat to very low and cover to keep warm.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a covered pot.
  3. Once the water is boiling, stir in the salt. Once the salt is dissolved, stir in the pasta.
  4. DO NOT ADD OIL.
  5. Stir constantly for 1 minute, then once a minute until the pasta is done.
  6. Test the pasta after 5 minutes of cooking. Is it still a little crunchy? Then cook it a little longer. Test a noodle every 1 minute until the pasta is done. You'll know it's done when the pasta is firm but not hard or crunchy. You should be able to bite through a noodle without any grit inside, but they should maintain a firm yet soft structure — never crunchy, squishy, or gummy.
  7. Dip a cup into the pasta pot and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Strain the pasta through a strainer. DO NOT RINSE THE PASTA. If you need to let the pasta sit in the strainer, give it a good bounce once a minute to keep the noodles from sticking together.
  8. Pour 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water into your sauce and stir well. Immediately add the strained pasta to your sauce and gently stir to coat the noodles. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the extra water is evaporated, stirring the noodles gently. Do no stir the noodles vigorously or you'll smash them. Test a noodle to see if it's done. If you need to add a little more water to the sauce to help the noodles cook completely, add only one tablespoon at a time... or your sauce will become soup.
  9. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, stirring until melted completely. Serve pasta while hot and fresh! Top with grated Parmesan.
Notes
Nutritional analysis is based on just the cooked pasta with butter, does not include your favorite sauce or the optional Parmesan cheese.
 

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Kasespatzle Recipe – Traditional German Macaroni and Cheese https://fearlessfresh.com/kasespatzle-recipe/ https://fearlessfresh.com/kasespatzle-recipe/#respond Thu, 09 Feb 2017 23:11:19 +0000 https://www.theculinarylife.com/?p=16497 FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Pronounced KAE-zeh-SHPET-zleh, this dish is a great example of simple German comfort food at its finest. While American renditions of this German dish may add any number of odd spices, such as nutmeg or mustard powder, a basic Kasespatzle consists only of soft, dumpling-like noodles mixed with melty, stretchy cheese and topped with a touch of caramelized onion. When made from scratch, Kasespatzle beckons to a simpler time when food didn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. It just had to be fresh.

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FEARLESS FRESH: Learn to cook like a boss.

Kasespatzle Recipe - Traditional German Macaroni and Cheese

When I say the word Kasespatzle sometimes people look at me funny, like I’m making up words. It’s a real thing, though. In fact, it’s a traditional German macaroni and cheese recipe. I wrote this recipe for my book, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese. If you’re looking for a hearty baked mac with crunchy sourdough croutons on top, check out this recipe.

Many folks believe that macaroni and cheese is a purely American dish. They’re surprised when I tell them that most European countries not only have their own versions, but that some of theses recipes appeared on the culinary map long before macaroni and cheese became popular in the United States. (Such as Kasespatzle!)

The Italians, stalwarts of all things cheese- and pasta-related, combined these two ingredients into many a hearty dish, such as baked ziti and cacio e pepe. The Swedes have their makaronipudding, a simple, stoic casserole of macaroni and any number of northern cheeses, such as Gruyère or Emmentaler. The French quite possibly perfected cheese sauce with their lovely Mornay, sister sauce to Our Lady of Béchamel, expanding upon the basic roux and milk combination with a few handfuls of shredded cheese.

Kasespatzle, AKA Traditional German Macaroni and Cheese

Even the Germans have a macaroni and cheese dish: Kasespatzle (or rather Käsespätzle). Found in many German homes and restaurants, Kasespatzle is just as entrenched in the traditional Deutsch comfort food lexicon as it is in ours.

Pronounced KAE-zeh-SHPET-zleh, this dish is a great example of simple German comfort food at its finest. While American renditions of this German dish may add any number of odd spices, such as nutmeg or mustard powder, a basic Kasespatzle consists only of soft, dumpling-like noodles mixed with melty, stretchy cheese and topped with a touch of caramelized onion. When made from scratch, Kasespatzle beckons to a simpler time when food didn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. It just had to be fresh.

To make spätzle, it helps to have a Spätzlehobel, or spätzle maker. This device is easy enough to use—you simply fill the hopper with batter, then slide it back and forth along a metal grate that is secured over a pot of boiling water. It’s an incredibly simple procedure, though you might appreciate a visual spätzle tutorial to give you an idea of how it’s supposed to work.

If you feel like channeling your dearly departed Oma (or someone else’s, in the event you’re not of German descent), you can also make it the old-fashioned way with a board and scraper, also known as a Spätzlebrett und Schaber. This method is particularly effective at giving you long, slender noodles, as opposed to those produced by the hopper contraption, which are shorter and rounder and somewhat resemble scrambled eggs.

If all else fails, you can also use a potato ricer or a large-holed colander. Hell, I’ve even seen people use a cheese grater to make spätzle, pushing batter through the holes with a rubber spatula. Remember, the keyword here is simple. Spätzle noodles are by their very nature imperfect, so don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how your finished product will look. Kasespatzle is a down home dish with little presence.

And for those of you who think that making Kasespatzle sounds too difficult, my friend Nico, a twelve-year-old chef in training, was able to master the method on his first try. So, no excuses.

Kasespatzle Recipe – Traditional German Macaroni and Cheese

Pronounced KAE-zeh-SHPET-zleh, this dish is a great example of simple German comfort food at its finest. While American renditions of this German dish may add any number of odd spices, such as nutmeg or mustard powder, a basic Kasespatzle consists only of soft, dumpling-like noodles mixed with melty, stretchy cheese and topped with a touch of caramelized onion. When made from scratch, Kasespatzle beckons to a simpler time when food didn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. It just had to be fresh.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 sweet onion (chopped)
  • Few tablespoons water
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream (divided)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces Gruyère (shredded)
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook just until they begin to brown. Turn the heat to low and slowly caramelize the onions until they are soft, brown, and sweetly fragrant, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Add a tablespoon of water here and there if necessary to keep them from cooking too fast. When they are done, remove the onions to a bowl and set the pan aside. Do not wash it.
  2. In a bowl, combine the eggs and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream, beating to mix. In another, smaller bowl, combine the flour, salt, and pepper, combining well. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring with a wooden spoon. Do not overmix: stop stirring as soon as the batter is smooth and the flour has disappeared into the cream and eggs. Cover the batter and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  3. While the batter is resting, bring a large pot of water to boil. Once it’s bubbling madly, add a few tablespoons of salt and bring it back up to a boil.
  4. Set your spätzle maker over the pot and press the dough through the holes into the boiling water. (If using a flat cheese grater, just press the dough through the holes with your fingers or a wooden spoon.) You’ll need to work in two or three batches depending on how big your pot is. Once the spätzle float to the top, let them cook for another 2 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set them to dry on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  5. Once all of your spätzle are done, add them to the pan that you cooked the onions in. Turn the heat to medium and cook the spätzle for 2 minutes, tossing a few times to get them to heat evenly. Add the shredded cheese and remaining 3 tablespoons of heavy cream, stirring until all the cheese is melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, topped with a teaspoon of caramelized onions.

 

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