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Archive for May, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Seasoning Steak, Cooking Steak

Season and cook steaks and chops like
the experts. Photo courtesy Allen Brothers.


Some experts advise not to season steaks and chops prior to cooking, because salt draws out moisture. Instead, they sprinkle the meat with salt when it comes off the fire.

Most people season their meat prior to cooking, for flavor and to get a surface crust.

Use this technique, from the experts at Allen Brothers, providers of fine meats to Morton’s The Steakhouse, Emeril Lagasse, Art Smith, Charlie Trotter and other chefs of renown:

How To Season Steak Like The Experts: Salt, Pepper & Olive Oil Mix

  • Fill a small dish with coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper and some minced garlic.
  • Add enough olive oil to cover the seasonings. Brush the meat with the mixture prior to cooking.

    Steaks and chops can be broiled or grilled:

    Sear & Roast
    This popular restaurant technique sears the meat on the stove top, then finishes it in the oven:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Season steaks/chops with salt and pepper (see technique above).
  • In a skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high heat until almost smoking.
  • Sear meat for 1 minute on each side.
  • Toast in oven 4-6 minutes on each side for medium-rare.
    Let the meat rest for 10-15 minutes when it comes off the fire. This allows the natural juices that seep to the center during cooking to redistribute throughout the cut, making the meat moister and juicier.

    Use a cooking thermometer*. Since food continues to cook after it is removed from the heat, use the guide below but remove the meat when the thermometer reaches 5° below the desire internal temperature.

    *We use this instant-read thermometer. It’s top-of-the-line; you can find a typical instant-read for $10-$20. But we love this one. It’s a great gift for a serious cook.

    Cooking Temperatures

  • Rare: 125° to 130°F
  • Medium Rare: 130° to 140°F
  • Medium: 140° to 150°F
  • Medium Well: 150° to 160°F
  • Well Done: not recommended
    How To Grill Steaks & Chops

  • Heat grill to medium-high.
  • Lightly brush meat with olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
  • Grill 6-8 minutes on each side for medium-rare. For thicker cuts such as filet mignon, grill 7-9 minutes on each side (check with meat thermometer).
    How To Broil Steaks & Chops

  • Preheat broiler to high.
  • Lightly brush meat with olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
  • Broil 4-6 minutes on each side for medium-rare. For thicker cuts such as filet mignon, broil 5-7 minutes on each side (check with meat thermometer).
    Find more about beef plus recipes in our Gourmet Beef section.


    RECIPE: Tomato Wellington Over Duck Confit Salad

    A few months ago, we tasked our Test Kitchen chef, Eric Dantis, with creating a recipe for the Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Recipe Challenge. Here is his entry.

    With summmer corn and tomatoes only weeks away, here’s the recipe. This is a dish to make if you are looking to impress your guests:



  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Fuji apple, cut into matchstick-thin strips
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

    Tomato Wellington over Duck Confit Salad:
    A dish to impress. Photo courtesy Pepperidge Farm.

  • 1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 (5- to 8-ounce) duck leg confit
  • 1 ear fresh corn on the cob
  • 1 package (5 ounces) baby arugula (about 8 cups)
  • Fresh-ground black pepper

  • Directions

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar in a 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the apple and let stand for 30 minutes.
    3. Place the tomatoes, cut-side down, onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the garlic. Arrange the thyme over the tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil.
    4. Bake for 45 minutes. Let the tomatoes cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack.
    5. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet to remove the fold marks. Cut the pastry sheet in quarters.
    6. Place 2 tomato halves in the center of each pastry quarter. Brush the edges of the pastries with the egg. Roll the pastries around the tomatoes. Press the seam and pinch the ends to seal. Brush the filled pastries with the egg. Place the pastries onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
    7. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Let the pastries cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut the pastries in half crosswise on the diagonal.
    8. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the duck leg confit and cook until well browned on all sides and heated through. Remove the duck leg confit to a cutting board. Using 2 forks, shred the meat. Discard the bone.
    9. Remove the apple from the vinegar mixture with a slotted spoon. Using a sharp knife, cut the corn from the cob.
    10. Place the apple, arugula, and duck leg confit into a large bowl. Season with the black pepper. Drizzle with the remaining oil and toss to coat. Divide the apple mixture among 4 plates. Top each with 2 pastry halves, cut-side up, and sprinkle with the corn. Enjoy!


    IN SEASON: Fresh Morel Mushrooms

    Exotic, delicious wild morels are a fleeting spring
    treat. Photo by Yin Yang | IST.


    While dried morel mushrooms are available year round—and are a treasured ingredient in soups, stews and sauces—this is fresh morel season.

    These incredibly flavorful gifts of nature, with their earthy and woodsy aroma and flavor, have a distinctive look: a honeycombed, hollow, cone-shaped cap atop a ’shroom that ranges in size from 2 to 4 inches high. Colors vary from blonde, grey or tan to an extremely dark brown.

    Morels are gathered by hand in the woods, and brought to specialty markets. Look for the #1 grade, meaning that each mushroom is a whole, young specimen with a white stem.

    FOOD TRIVIA: Morels are one of the first species to colonize forests after a fire, which may explain the intense earthy, smoky and nutty flavors that characterize their taste.

  • Everything you want to know about morels.
  • Morel recipes.
  • Meet the whole mushroom family in our Mushroom Glossary.


    Thanks to for inspiring this post.



    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Make Easy Food On A Stick

    You can convert these plain bamboo skewers into delicious hors d’oeuvre and party food. We created the skewer in the photo below just by opening the pantry door and removing jars of artichoke hearts, olives and roasted red peppers.

    Skewers typically can be found in different sizes: 4-inch skewers for single bites; 6-inch skewers for a multi-bite hors d’oeuvre or snack; and 10-inch skewers for main course “kebabs.”

    Just peek into the fridge and you’ll find what you need to assemble healthy skewers. A combination of textures and colors always looks good:


    You can turn this plain pile of skewers
    into glamorous hors d’oeuvre and snacks.
    Photo courtesy Charcoal Companion.


  • Chunks of cheese or ciliegine (bite-size mozzarella balls) marinated in olive oil, herbs and spices
  • Raw or roasted colorful vegetables such as orange, red and yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
  • Seafood such as shrimp and/or scallops (grilled or raw)
  • Novelties such as water chestnuts
  • Skewer-friendly fruit, such as grapes and berries
    Also consider ingredients for kids: hot dog chunks, cherry tomatoes and sweet pickles, for example.

    Some people offer skewers with a dip, for example, with plain chicken; or mustard with ham-and-cheese skewers.

    If you’re grilling wood skewers, always soak them in water for 20 minutes before assembling and grilling, to avoid charring.

    Skewers can be washed and re-used.

    What are your favorite foods to “skewer?”



    TIP OF THE DAY: Food On A Stick

    Our favorite solution to “what to do with
    the skewers.” Photo by River Soma |


    Food on a stick is such fun party fare, there’s a new cookbook devoted to it (called, appropriately, On A Stick).

    But what happens to all the sticks when the food is consumed?

    They typically lie like an unattractive pile of pick-up-sticks on the serving plate.

    Here’s a better idea:

  • Use a half lemon as the base for “disposing” of skewers.
  • After consuming the tidbit, the guest “skewers” the lemon. As the tray gets refilled, the lemon can be reused or replaced with a fresh half, as needed.
    This tip gracefully solved an ongoing problem for us, so we especially love it!




    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Lightlife

    A couple of months ago, we received an invitation to two industry events on the same evening.

    One was for the Lightlife brand of vegan “meat” products. The other was to the opening of celebrity chef Todd English’s new restaurant.

    We made plans to stop by and taste Lightlife, a product line we’d never tried, and then head to Todd English’s restaurant. Here’s how the evening turned out:

    We liked the Lightlife foods so much, we stayed the entire evening, happily tasting everything. We never made it to the restaurant. Could there be a better endorsement of how good the Lightlife “vegan meat” products are?

    We are neither vegetarian nor vegan. We eat everything that’s delicious, and nothing that isn’t.

    Eating more vegan foods (products without any animal-based ingredients) supports our personal commitment to eating more sustainably. As much a we love meat, cheese and dairy foods, producing them takes a big toll on the planet.


    Lightlife’s vegan Chick’n Corn Chowder
    is enhanced with “bacon.” Both meats are
    made from tempeh, a soy-based protein,
    and are delicious. Photo courtesy Lightlife Foods.


    The line is certified vegan and kosher by OK. Read the full review. It also explains the differences between tempeh, tofu and seitan.

    If you’re looking for delicious, prepared vegan food, also see these Top Picks Of The Week:

  • Field Roast Grain Meat Company
  • Vegetarian Plus Asian Entrées


  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Varietal Honey Types

    “Supermarket” honey is blended to achieve a
    generic sameness. This very distinctive black
    sage honey is from Savannah Bee Company.


    If you like honey as a sweetener, have you ventured beyond “generic” supermarket honey to fine varietal honeys?

    As with wine, it’s the difference between a bland jug wine and a varietal wine, which has the distinctly delightful characteristics of its particular grape.

    And as with wine, different honeys pair better with certain foods. See this comparison of nine top varietal honeys and the foods they complement.

    There are many different kinds of honey—300 varietals in the U.S. alone. While some people might make it a life’s work to try all of them, start small. In fact, start with the pairings we’ve just mentioned.

    Life’s too short to stick with generic honey.

  • Honey overview and the different types of honey.
  • The history of honey. It’s 40 million years old!
  • Honey trivia and a honey trivia quiz.

    Like flavored honey? These creme honeys in six flavors—apricot, blackberry, cranberry, lemon, raspberry and spiced—are among our favorites.




    PRODUCT: Pillsbury Sugar Free Brownies, Cake & Frosting

    Cake lovers can be despondent if the doctor advises them to lay off the refined sugar.

    But thanks to Pillsbury, there’s no reason to go without delicious cakes and brownies.

    Delivering all of the flavor without the sugar, Pillsbury Sugar Free brownies, cakes and frostings can delight anyone. The treats include:

  • Brownies in Chocolate Fudge and Milk Chocolate
  • Cakes in Classic Yellow and Devil’s Food
  • Frosting in Chocolate Fudge and Vanilla
    We tried everything. Actually, we did more than “try”: We consumed every last crumb.

    The products taste like they’re made with sugar—but, surprise—they’re sweetened with Splenda (sucralose) and sugar alcohols (isomalt, maltitol and sorbitol).


    Even if you can’t have sugar, you can have
    a delicious brownie or piece of cake. Photo
    courtesy Pillsbury.


    These are not low-calorie or low-carb foods. Cake still has flour and fat; a serving of frosting, which is 100 calories, comprises 60 calories of fat. A brownie has 150 calories, 70 from fat. But everything is cholesterol-free.

    As a surprise, bake a batch for a friend on a sugar-free diet. Just resist the temptation to devour it yourself.

    The line is certified kosher by OU.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Food Garnishing

    It doesn’t take much to make something
    plain look special. Photo by Hannah
    Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    You know that great gift wrap makes a gift more exciting. It’s the same with food, but the “wrapping” is the dish and the garnish. The finest restaurants match the plate to the food being served.

  • Buy dinner plates in solid colors or versatile patterns and find smaller plates in rectangular and square shapes for first courses and desserts. (We look for closeouts.)
  • Find an artistic garnish for each plate—a few strands of chive, a squash blossom, even a bright red chili pepper (with an announcement that it’s just there for design).
    If you’re artistic, there are books on vegetable garniture where you can indulge your talent for carving to create edible masterpieces for each plate:

  • The Art Of Garnishing
  • The Book Of Garnishes
  • Food Art: Garnishing Made Easy
  • Garnishing: A Feast For Your Eyes
    Take a look at our article, Garnish Glamour, which has dozens of ideas for sweet and savory foods.




    COOKING VIDEO: Caramelized Onions


    If you tried the caramelized onions in the recipe below, you may already be hooked.

    If you want to make large quantities of caramelized onions, you can use a slow cooker. It spares you from having to constantly stir the onions. However, the onions don’t get browned as they do in a skillet. You can try browning them in a hot skillet before serving.

    Watch how in this video, which combines the caramelized onions with mashed potatoes (so delicious!). While the video doesn’t add salt or pepper to the slow cooker, add some; then taste and adjust the seasonings at the end of cooking.




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