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Archive for September, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Peanut Brittle

Americans have grown accustomed to a sweet dessert after dinner, or a baked treat as a snack with a cup of coffee.

Instead, consider a couple of pieces of peanut brittle. They deliver sweetness, satisfying crunch and protein-packed peanuts. This recipe has a hint of coffee to complement your cup of joe.

The prep time is 20 minutes, cook time 15 minutes, for a yield of ten 1/4-cup servings. And for those who don’t like corn syrup: This peanut brittle recipe is made without corn syrup.

Switch It Up

  • You can make chocolate brittle by replacing the coffee with 2 tablespoons of baking cocoa.
  • You can substitute another nut to make almond brittle, macadamia brittle, pecan brittle, pistachio brittle or walnut brittle.
  • After you taste the first batch, you can adjust the sweetness the next time. (We typically use less sugar.)
    You can also make batches as hostess/host gifts.


    It’s easy to make your own peanut brittle. Recipe and photo courtesy Nescafé.

    If you don’t want to make your own, head over to, where Grandma’s secret recipe is made into cashew brittle, peanut brittle and pecan brittle, sold in bags and tins for gifts and party favors.



  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts or other nuts

    1. PREPARE. Line a large baking sheet or tray with wax paper; spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE. Mix the coffee granules, baking soda and salt in small bowl; set aside. Combine sugar, water and cream of tartar in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Stir with wooden spoon over low heat until sugar is dissolved, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush if needed.

    3. BOIL. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes or until the mixture is a light brown color. Remove from heat; add butter and coffee mixture (mixture will foam) and stir quickly to combine.

    4. POUR & COOL. Pour mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Tilt the sheet to spread the mixture evenly (it should spread to roughly 12 x 9-inches in diameter). Quickly sprinkle with peanuts. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

    5. CRACK. Break the brittle into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

    Find more of our favorite candy products and recipes.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake Buttermilk Biscuits

    Mmm, hot biscuits. Photo © Robyn Mac |


    Centuries ago, cooks discovered that the acid in buttermilk reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide bubbles. Buttermilk became a must-have ingredient to create light, tender, highest-rising biscuits, breads and muffins, pancakes and layer cakes.

    It’s Sunday and it’s National Biscuit Month. What more worthy activity is there than baking a batch of biscuits for breakfast, lunch or dinner?

    Up until the mid-20th century, many families who had cooks (or very energetic moms) looked forward to hot buttermilk biscuits at the breakfast table. This recipe, from specialty food doyenne Sarabeth Levine, goes equally well with fresh butter or with Sarabeth’s delicious jams and preserves (we’re particularly fond of her blood orange marmalade).

    Do you remember this tongue-twister from childhood: A batch of biscuits/a batch of mixed biscuits/a biscuit mixer? Say it several times quickly.

    Then, check out this recipe and whip up some fragrant, tender biscuits.




  • 3¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ inch sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½ inch thick cubes
  • 1½ cups buttermilk (regular or nonfat/skim)

    1. PREHEAT. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

    2. SIFT & MIX. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Add the butter. Mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-size pieces of butter. Add the buttermilk, mixing in just until the dough barely comes together.

    3. KNEAD. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until the dough is smooth. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll it out to ¾ inch thick or slightly thicker.

    4. CUT. Using a 2-¼ inch fluted biscuit cutter (you can substitute a round cookie cutter), dipping the cutter into flour between cuts, cut out the biscuits and place 1 inch apart on the pan. Gently press the scraps together (do not over handle the dough). Repeat rolling and cutting.

    5. BAKE. Bake until the biscuits are well risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm. To reheat the biscuits, wrap in aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.

    Makes 16 biscuits.



    Many people who buy buttermilk for baking lament that it only comes in quarts, not pints. A cup is generally enough for any recipe. Buttermilk is expensive.

    But you don’t need to waste the leftover buttermilk.

    Drink It

    If you like yogurt or kefir, buttermilk is has similar flavors. If you don’t like yogurt, you have friends who might appreciate the buttermilk.

    Freeze It

    In our recent article on other things to do with your ice cube tray, we suggested freezing buttermilk.

  • Measure how many tablespoons of liquid go into each compartment of your ice cube tray (you don’t need to fill the compartments to the brim, as with ice cubes).
  • Then, fill with the leftover buttermilk. When it’s frozen, remove the cubes to a plastic freezer bag and mark the tablespoon equivalent on the bag.

    A jar of Sarabeth’s preserves is a treat for biscuits and a welcome small gift. Here, peach apricot preserves. Photo courtesy Sarabeth.


  • The next time you need buttermilk for a recipe, it defrost on the counter or in the microwave. Four tablespoons equal 1/4 cup, so you may want to freeze in two-tablespoon portions.
    Substitute It
    Buttermilk can also be substituted for whole milk or skim milk in many recipes, from baked goods, frozen desserts and puddings to sauces and soups.
    Use It In A Marinade Or Breading

    The acidic properties of buttermilk make it a tenderizing and flavorful marinade. Hunters soak fresh venison in buttermilk overnight to reduce the gamy taste.

    Also use it to adhere the breading for fish, meat and poultry.
    Try Other Recipes

    There are scores of recipes where buttermilk’s richness is welcome.

  • For breakfast: biscuits, breads, muffins, scones, pancakes and waffles, soda breads and quick breads.
  • For dessert and snacks: banana bread, cookies, cobblers, coffee cake, pies, pound cake, salad dressing. You can bake fish fillets in buttermilk.
  • For dinner: baked chicken, baked fish (recipe in footnote) fried chicken.
    *BAKED FISH RECIPE. Ingredients for two portions: 1 pound cod or other white fish fillets, 1/2 cup sherry, 1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill, 1 cup buttermilk (regular or nonfat), salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Preparation: Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Add the sherry and mushrooms to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sherry has evaporated. Place the fillets in a single layer in a baking dish and top with the mushrooms. Sprinkle the dill, salt and pepper. Pour the buttermilk over the fillets and bake for 20 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Vary the spices to your liking: for example, lemon or orange zest or chili flakes for heat.


    Unlike butter, for which it is named, buttermilk is low in calories. Like nonfat milk, nonfat (skim) buttermilk has 80 calories per cup and the same amount of protein, calcium, other minerals and vitamins as conventional milk.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook Your Steak The Way Steakhouse Chefs Do It

    Those who like their meat rare to medium
    rare should choose filet mignon. Photo


    Yesterday we discussed the best cuts of steak to choose at a steakhouse. What if you want to grill at home?

    Whether at home or at a restaurant, how rare or well done you like your meat can impact your choice of cut. As meat cooks, the fibers break down: That’s why medium-well-done meat is easier to chew than rare meat of the same cut. However, the more done the meat, the less juicy it is.

    Some of the tougher cuts, like hanger steak, can’t be cooked rare: You need to go with medium to avoid the chewiness.

  • If you like rare meat should consider filet mignon, the tenderest cut, or rib eye, the second most tender cut.
  • If you prefer a medium doneness, go for a porterhouse or sirloin.

    Want to know how steakhouse chefs cook steak? Chef Arturo McLeod of Benjamin Steak House suggests grilling times and techniques for the perfect steak:


    In general, medium rare is considered to deliver the best flavor. However, your preference also depends on the size and thickness of the steak.
    Filet Mignon

    Filet mignon is best served rare or medium rare.

  • Rare: Grill 3 minutes on each side.
  • Medium Rare: Grill 4 minutes on each side.
  • Medium: Grill 7 minutes on each side.

    Porterhouse is best served medium rare to medium.

  • Medium Rare: Grill 8 minutes on each side.
  • Medium: Grill 10 minutes on each side.
    Rib Eye

    Rib eye is best served medium rare.

  • Medium Rare: Grill 8 minutes on each side.
  • Medium: Grill 10 minutes on each side.

    Sirloin is best served medium rare to medium.

  • Medium Rare: Grill 8 minutes on each side.
  • Medium: Grill 10 minutes on each side.


    For USDA prime beef, opt for the best local butchers rather than chain grocery stores, says Chef McLeod. Some grocery stores don’t even carry choice, the second best grade of beef (see the different USDA grades of beef). You won’t know unless you ask.

    Request aged beef; however, not all butchers and stores sell aged beef. Call around to see who has it in your area; or order it online from companies like Allen Brothers.

    Most butchers don’t carry the same quality of meat as a top steakhouse. Even thought they might like to, only 3% of the typical steer is USDA prime, and top restaurants compete that small amount of meat.

    Chef McLeod advises to buy porterhouse or New York strip steaks: They’re the better offering at your local butcher.

    Before you buy, he advises:


    Porterhouse: filet mignon and sirloin, separated by a T-shaped bone (hence, its other name, T-bone steak). Photo courtesy


  • Check the color. Make sure the beef is red throughout entire cut (grass fed beef will be darker in color.
  • Check for consistent marbling throughout. This indicates a steak that will be tender and juicy.

  • ROOM TEMPERATURE. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking so the meat will cook evenly. Otherwise, the outside will cook faster than the inside. If you want to trim the fat before cooking, do so while the meat is cold.
  • BROILER. Use your broiler instead of the stove top to simulate restaurant grills. To finish in the oven as steak houses do, preheat the oven to 450°F for thinner steaks, 500°F for thicker steaks. Use a grill pan that can go into the oven.
  • SALT. Lightly season the meat with kosher salt.
  • COOK. Cook under the broiler according to the times above, but save the final two minutes per side for oven finishing.
  • TURN. Turn the steak with tongs instead of a fork. A fork pierces the meat and juices will run out.
  • BUTTER. Add a pat of unsalted butter to the bottom of pan and insert the pan into the oven.
  • OVEN. Place the grill pan in the oven for two minutes; turn with tongs and cook for the final two minutes.
  • JUICES. Save the natural pan juices and drizzle them over meat. Serve.
    If you have questions for Chef McLeod, use the Contact Us link on this page.

    Check out the many cuts of beef in our Beef Glossary.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Choose Your Steak

    Rib eye or ribeye: the best combination of
    beefiness and tenderness. Photo courtesy
    Allen Brothers, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The


    Some people have a “signature steak.” At a steakhouse, our brother always chooses filet mignon; his friend Robert always orders the porterhouse; When we recently ordered a hanger steak, our brother taste it an declared it too chewy.

    Chewy, juicy, flavorful: What’s your preference? We asked Chef Arturo McLeod of Benjamin Steakhouse in New York City and White Plains New York—someone who has perhaps eaten as much steak as anyone—for an expert point of view.

    His immediate preference: “Porterhouse steak, for sure. Comprising both the strip sirloin and the filet mignon, the Porterhouse is the ‘King of the T-Bones‘— the best of both worlds.

    Benjamin Steakhouse offers six cuts of dry-aged beef, from 36-ounce porterhouses to top sirloins to juicy and tender rib eyes to succulent filet mignon. This is part one of a two-part article. Tomorrow: how to buy and cook the best steak.


    In alphabetical order, we present the chef’s choices: the four most popular steakhouse cuts:


    Filet Mignon

    Of all the prime cuts, filet mignon has the least marbling. This means that it is leaner and does not have as much flavor as the other cuts. But is also incredibly tender, with almost a buttery texture. Because this cut is so thick, it also takes the longest to prepare, especially when ordered medium-well to well-done. (Editor’s Note: Well done filet mignon? Say it isn’t so!)


    The most popular cut at Benjamin Steakhouse, the porterhouse includes the filet and the sirloin, with the T-bone in the middle (it’s also called a T-bone steak). The Porterhouse is best served simply, grilled with just a dusting of kosher salt. The largest cut, it can be divided among two, three, or four people—or one extremely hungry carnivore.

    Porterhouse is the ideal meat for grilling because the center bone conducts heat in the middle of the meat. This enables the steak to cook more evenly and prevents the meat from drying out and shrinking during cooking. For people who don’t like to struggle with the bone: At Benjamin Steakhouse, the porterhouse is served pre-sliced and presented on a piping hot platter, so that it literally sizzles as it is being served.


    Rib Eye

    Of all the cuts on the menu, the rib eye steak has the most marbling, which means it is fattier but also has the most flavor. It is this marbling that makes the rib eye the richest and beefiest cut. At Benjamin Steakhouse, it is also served on the bone.


    Sirloin has medium marbling, so it still delivers a nice, juicy flavor. The flavor is not as robust as the rib eye, but it is much easier to trim. There are no large pockets of fat, making it an easy-to-cook, easy-to-eat cut.

    Benjamin’s serves the sirloin on the bone, which helps it to cook more evenly. Chefs and customers alike agree that any steak cooked on bone—even though it’s on the side, not in the center as with porterhouse—produces a more flavorful piece of meat.


    Porterhouse: Combining filet mignon and sirloin, it’s the best of both worlds. Photo courtesy Allen Brothers.


    Check out the many other cuts of beef in our Beef Glossary.


    The best steakhouses use only USDA prime beef, carefully dry-aged in specially built aging boxes. The beef is chilled to a precise temperature and humidity level, for a minimum of 28 days.

    The dry-aging process enhances the flavor of the steak over time, as moisture evaporates from within the beef. It also tenderizes the beef by allowing the tissues to break down.

    This is a time-consuming, and therefore expensive, undertaking, but for a good reason: The key effect of the dry aging process is the concentration of flavor. Dry aged beef needs to be seasoned only with kosher salt, to allow the well developed flavors of the steak to shine.
    TOMORROW: Grill your own steak with Chef MacLeod’s advice on buying and cooking.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Beer & Other Fall Craft Beers

    Invite Fat Jack and Oktoberfest to a fall beer
    tasting. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE


    We received an email from Innis & Gunn, an Edinburgh brewer that ages beer in oak bourbon barrels, announcing that their Spiced Rum Aged beer has arrived in the U.S.

    It was a reminder that it’s time to switch to “fall beer.” Just as cooks make lighter or heavier recipes based on the weather, so do brewers. Some of the delights of the fall season are pumpkin beer and other spiced beers.

    These beers aren’t sweet pumpkin pie, but you can certainly serve them with the pie. No matter how you serve them, you’re in for a treat: The pumpkin adds body, smoothness and richness to the beer, and the seasonal spices add complex notes.

    One of Samuel Adams’ Small Batch Series, Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale adds 28 pounds of pumpkin to each barrel, along with allspice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, The AVB* is a hefty 8.5% (by comparison, Budweiser is 5% ABV). Along with toasty smoked malts, this delectable brew salutes fall with layers and layers of flavor.


    Samuel Adams also makes an Oktoberfest beer with those same roasted malts. After a sweet start, the roasty malt comes up; the beer finishes with a hoppy, biscuity taste we enjoy.

    So when you’re next at the supermarket, roll down the beer aisle and see what fall treats await. Entertain your friends with a fall beer tasting to determine the best pumpkin beer, spiced beer, and other types you find.


    Industry reports from chain stores selling beer across the USA show that:

  • More than half of the 25 top selling SKUs† for import and craft beers—including three of the top five SKUs—were seasonal beers or variety packs. These specialty products are from craft brewers, who produce small batches and have the flexibility to make seasonal and other special brews. This parade of new beers has developed fans who are continually on the lookout for new and exciting brews.
  • At the end of 2011, there were 6,607 beer SKUs in chain stores nationwide (not every store carries every SKU; some SKUs are only available locally/regionally). A whopping 743 new SKUs were introduced during 2011. Not only are there a lot of beer choices in the marketplace, but the rate of new launches is accelerating.
  • According to the data, the average chain branch carries 1,202 SKUs (that sounds incredible!). A growing number of beers are competing for limited shelf-space. Retailers carry what sells the best, so support your favorites!

    Check out our Beer Glossary.
    *Alcohol by volume.

    †A SKU, pronounced “skew” and short for stock-keeping unit, is a number/code used to identify each unique product or item for sale in a store. Different sizes of the exact same product (8 ounces versus 16 ounces, for example) are different SKUs.


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