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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Cooking

TIP OF THE DAY: Cedar Paper Grilling Wraps

Cedar-Wrapped-Halibut-Fire&Flavor-230r

Halibut wrapped in cedar grilling paper, for
cooking on the stove top. It’s served with
citrus pesto. Here’s the recipe. Photo
courtesy Fire & Flavor.

 

No grill? If you want an infusion of cedar flavor in your food, that’s no problem. Instead of a grill with cedar chips, get some cedar grilling papers.

Made from a very thin, pliable slice of cedar, cedar grilling papers infuse a subtle but clear flavor while keeping food moist and tender.

Wrap your favorite seafood, meats, vegetables, and fruits in Fire & Flavor’s All Natural Western Red Cedar Papers. One hundred percent all-natural western red cedar was chosen because it provides the best flavor and compliments the widest variety of foods.

You can use the grilling papers indoors, in the oven, stove-top skillet or pannini press; or outdoors on the grill without the need for wood chips.

A package of eight single-use grilling papers, 6″ x 7.25″, and 8 cotton strings for tying is $8.99 at FireAndFlavor.com.

Cedar papers are easy to use and can be prepared in four easy steps: soak, heat, smoke, eat.

 
FOUR EASY STEPS

1. Soak
Soak the grilling papers in a shallow dish for 10 minutes. Use a small bottle to weight down the papers to keep them fully submerged. Cedar grill papers only need to be soaked long enough to become pliable, but it’s fine to soak for several hours before use. You can also soak in tequila, wine and other liquids—details below.
 
2. Heat
Heat a grill, oven or skillet to 400°F or medium-high heat. Place the food face down in the center of a soaked cedar paper, parallel to the grain of the wood. Fold the paper’s edges toward each other until they overlap. Tie the paper together with cotton string (included with the papers) or butcher’s twine; or place them seam side down on the grill grate, skillet or pan.

  • Place citrus slices or other flavor infusions below the fillets before wrapping. This will push more of their flavor into the food above them.
  •  
    3. Smoke
    Smoke the wrapped food directly on the grill grates or in the grill pan. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes per side until food is done to your liking (close the lid if using a grill). During cooking, the cedar papers will blacken. This makes for great presentation.

  • Cedar paper can withstand high heat because the cooking times are usually short: 6-8 ounce chicken fillets can be cooked in less than 10 minutes.
  • Food will continue to conce removed from grill, so remove it from the heat a minute or two early. If unsure about the cook time, use recipe-suggested cook times.
  •  
    4. Eat
    Place the packets on plates or a platter, bring to the table and enjoy. Cedar wrapped foods will stay warm and moist for long periods of time.

  • Drizzle flavored oils, vinegars, or citrus juice on the foods right after unwrapping.
  •  

    PILING ON THE FLAVOR

    You can soak the papers in any liquid you like. Experiment with these soaking ideas from the Fire & Flavor Test Kitchen, and dream up your own.

  • Soak the papers in tequila. Then wrap shrimp, crab or lobster with some mango salsa. The acid of tequila and sweetness of the salsa pair perfectly.
  • Soak the papers in white wine. The subtle flavor of the fish will be enhanced with cedar notes. Wrap any white fish with asparagus or your favorite green veggie.
  • Soak the papers in red wine. Then wrap more flavorful fish like salmon, sea bass or red snapper with sliced lemon and thyme. The bold flavor of these fish withstands the influence of lemon and red wine.
  • Soak the papers in saké. Think beyond fish and meat to your favorite vegetables. Wrap mushrooms with goat cheese and your favorite spices.
  • Soak the papers in juice. Citrus juices like orange or lime add refreshing flavors. Wrap a spiced salmon fillet with salsa in “juiced” papers.
  •  

    salmon-cedar-paper-230

    Give cedar grilling paper as gifts to friends who cook. Photo courtesy Fire & Flavor.

     

    MORE COOKING TIPS

  • Nonstick Spray. Spray cedar papers with non stick spray before wrapping to prevent foods from sticking to the papers as they dry.
  • Indoor Grilling. Grill pans and panini presses with deep grill grooves allow for the best air circulation.
  • Best Flavor. Before closing the wrap, top fish with julienned vegetables and a spiced butter or rub. As the fish cooks, the flavors meld together with the smokey cedar.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Add More Flavor To Everything You Grill

    Ready, set, grill! While you may have had the grill on for a while, Memorial Day is considered the launch of grilling season in the Northeast, where we live.

    McCormick & Company, a leader in what’s hot in flavor, has released a grilling edition of its 2015 Flavor Forecast, with links to yummy recipes.

    Of course, they have all the hot flavors you need to perk up your food, from burger mix-ins to marinades to seasoned grilling salts.

    The the hottest trends to enhance your grilled flavors all season are:

  • Backyard Brunch: Bacon, eggs and even donuts are grilled to add smoky flavor and and served outside.
  • Boss Burgers: Forget plain ketchup and sliced onions. Now, it’s all about the build. Add mix-ins to burgers, then build flavor with toppers and condiments like grilled avocado, mango slaw or lime mayo. Check out this Southwestern Smoky Ranchero Burger with Grilled Avocado and this Vietnamese Banh Mi Burger with Sriracha Mayo.
  •    

    Bacon_and_Eggs_Flatbread-mccormick--230

    Grill your bacon and eggs, with spinach and Gruyère cheese. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy McCormick.

  • Grilling Salts: Shake up classic salt and pepper by adding other flavors to the shaker. McCormick makes it easy with pre-filled sea ssalt grinders. See more about them below, and use them to add texture and flavor.
  • Reverse Sear: There’ll be no more dry chicken coming off your grates with this technique. Check out this recipe for Sweet Soy Bourbon Chicken infused with bourbon, brown sugar and soy sauce.
  •  

    Chipotle-Sea-Salt-Blend-230

    Chipotle Sea Salt, one of four trending flavored sea salts available in grinders.
    Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
  • Smokin’ Veggie Starters: Most people love grilled veggies, but don’t wait for the main course and sides to serve them. For starters, try this Grilled Vegetable Antipasto Bruschetta, a fusion of Italian bruschetta on top of Middle Eastern hummus.
     
    GRILLING SALTS

    One of the easiest ways to add flavor, during and after cooking, is with seasoned salts.

    McCormick’s easy-to-use sea salt grinders are favorites of ours. Flavors include:

  • Chipotle Sea Salt Blend
  • Lemon Zest Sea Salt Blend
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Sweet Onion Sea Salt Blend
  •  
    As gifts for grilling hosts, we like to package all four inside a related gift like this Weber grilling basket that keeps mushrooms, chiles and other small vegetables from falling onto the coals

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Roasted Fish

    Have you ever roasted (or baked—here’s the difference*) a whole fish? It’s easy and a lot less expensive than fillets.

    Here are the simple steps to serving succulent, low-caloric, healthful roast fish (or grilled, if you prefer). Our tip was inspired by these photos from Eataly Chicago.

    1. CHOOSE A FISH

    Start with one of these varieties, which should cost around $11-12/pound. Plan on one pound per two people.

  • Branzino, flaky and slightly firm with a mild, buttery flavor.
  • Dorade (a.k.a. orata and sea bream), a flaky white flesh with a rich, succulent, meaty flavor, similar to pompano or red snapper.
  • Rainbow trout, delicate and tender flesh with a mild flavor.
  •  
    Have your fishmonger remove the guts and scales. See the next section, on how to pick the freshest fish.

    Then, choose your aromatics.

    But first, some tips on how to select the freshest fish.

       

    branzino-whole-for-roasting-eataly-chicago-230

    Branzino with aromatics, ready to roast. Photo courtesy Eataly | Chicago.

     
    *ROASTING VS. BAKING: Roasting and baking are both dry heat cooking methods that employ hot air, typically at 300°F or higher. Today the terms are synonymous, but before modern ovens and broilers, roasting referred to food food cooked over an open flame. Today, both roasting and baking are done in an oven, where the heat browns and crisps the exterior of the food. While used interchangeably, each term sounds better for certain types of foods. Would you rather have baked vegetables or roasted vegetables?
     
    How To Pick Fresh Fish

    Here’s the scoop, straight from our grandmother:

    1. LOOK at the eyes. They should be clear and plumped out, not cloudy and sinking down.

    2. CHECK the gills. They should look wet fresh-looking (like pulled from the water), the color red, orange or brown, depending on the fish. If they look dark brown and/or dried out, pick something else.

    3. PRESS the flesh gently. If it springs back, the fish is fresh. If it leaves a permanent dent, pick something else.

    4. AROMA. A fresh fish aroma is fine; a “fishy” aroma or whiff of ammonia is not.
     
    What Are Aromatics?

    Aromatics are herbs and vegetables that release delicious aromas and impart deep flavors into the dish.

    They provide the flavor foundation in many dishes. Braises, sauces, sautés, soups, stews, stir-fries and stocks are some of the dishes that rely on aromatics.

    For roasting fish, you don’t have to use one selection from every category below. We do use them all; but if you want to simplify your purchases, choose just one citrus and one herb.
     
    2. PICK SOMETHING FROM THE CITRUS FAMILY

    Slice it and insert it into the cavity (slice the grapefruit to fit). Buy an extra to cut into wedges for garnish.

  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  •  

    branzino-finished-roasting-eataly-chicago-230

    One of the branzinos above, roasted and ready to eat. Photo courtesy Eataly | Chicago.

     

    3. PICK SOMETHING FROM THE CELERY FAMILY†

  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Fennel
  •  
    4. PICK A FRESH HERB

  • Basil
  • Ginger
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  •  
    Save some extra sprigs for garnish.
     
    †The Apiaceae family of plants is commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family—mostly aromatic plants. Others of the more than 3,700 species are anise, caraway, chervil, coriander/cilantro, culantro, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage and parsnip.

     
    5. PICK SOMETHING FROM THE ONION FAMILY

  • Chive
  • Garlic cloves
  • Green onion
  • Red onion
  •  
    6. OPTIONAL: USE WHITE WINE

    If you have an open bottle with two cups of white wine you want to use up, use a baking dish instead of the baking sheet indicated below. Add the wine before the fish.

     
    7. ROAST THE FISH

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Soak the entire fish in salted water for 10 minutes. Pat it dry. If the fish is particularly thick, cut three half-inch slashes on each side, no more than a half inch deep, to help the heat penetrate. Rub olive oil over the surface. Sprinkle the surface and the cavity with salt and pepper.

    2. STUFF the aromatics into the cavity of the fish and transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. You can cover the sheet with foil or parchment for easier cleanup. If you have leftover aromatics (other than the pieces for garnish), you can place them in the center of the tray and lay the fish on top.

    3. ROAST the fish until the fish is just cooked through (we actually prefer ours rare), and a cooking thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish reads about 135°F. The skin should be crispy. Cooking time will vary based on the weight and thickness of the fish, but it will be ready to test at 30 minutes.

    4. GARNISH with citrus wedges and herb sprigs and serve. While this article may be long, once you’ve done it the first time, roasting whole fish is a snap!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Use More Fresh Herbs

    asian-basil-siam-queen_bonnieplants-230-L

    Asian cooks add basil to summer rolls. Add
    them to your own wraps and sandwiches.
    Photo courtesy Bonnie Plants.

     

    The first week in May is National Herb Week, a time to focus on using more fresh herbs in your cooking.

    Fresh herbs offer tons of flavor and good nutrition with virtually no calories. The flavor they provide lets you cut back on salt. They can be used in any savory dish (and some sweet ones).

    So, why not use more fresh herbs?

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERBS & SPICES

    The two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are important differences.

  • Herbs are the leaves of a plant (although stems may also be used). They grow in any climate warm enough to grow vegetables.
  • Spices are from the seeds, roots, fruit or bark, and typically used in dried form. Most originate in tropical or semi-tropical regions.
  •  
    It’s possible for one plant to contain both herb and spice. For example:

  • The coriander plant’s leaves are the herb cilantro, while coriander seeds are a spice in their own right.
  • Dill weed, an herb, and dill seed, a spice, come from the same plant.
  •  

    TIPS FOR COOKING WITH FRESH HERBS

  • Remove any twiggy, wiry or woody parts of the herb. Unless the recipe specifies otherwise, you can chop up soft stems. At any rate, don’t throw them away: They add deliciousness to soups and stews.
  • Avoid over-chopping herbs into teeny pieces. The diameter should measure between 1/8 and 1/4 inches.
  • Strip the leaves off of rosemary branches, but don’t throw the branches away. Freeze them for when you need a skewers. Cut the bottom at an angle to better skewer the food.
  • Plant some basic herbs; they grow well indoors and outdoors. For starters, plant basil, parsley, spearmint and English thyme. Avoid pre-planted pots that contain an assortment of herbs; their need for water varies.
  • Use flat-leaf (Italian) parsley for cooked dishes: It’s more strongly flavored than curly leaf parsley.
  • Add delicate herbs (basil, dill) to a hot recipe towards the end of cooking.
  •  
    Converting Dry Measures For Fresh Herbs

    In recipes, if dried herbs are specified, a larger quantity of fresh herbs is required. Here’s are the equivalents:

  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried herbs
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground dried herbs
  • 1 tablespoon finely cut fresh herbs
  •  

    EVERYDAY USES FOR FRESH HERBS

  • Breakfast: A must in omelets, frittatas and baked egg dishes.
  • Lunch: Add punch to grain salads, green salads and protein salads (egg, chicken, tuna, etc.). Place a few basil leaves in a sandwich or wrap. Garnish soups with fresh-snipped herbs.
  • Dinner: Add herbs to everything you cook! Just a few: Toss cooked pasta, rice and other grains with flat-leaf parsley. Add dill to roasted vegetables. Snip chives onto baked potatoes and vinaigrettes.
  • All Meals: Sprinkle or snip herbs as garnishes for just about everything. If your herbs blossom, use the blossoms as well.
  •  
    POPULAR HERB & FOOD PAIRINGS

  • Basil: pasta sauce, peas, pesto, tomatoes, zucchini
  • Chives: dips, potatoes, tomatoes
  • Cilantro: salsa, tomatoes, plus many Asian, Caribbean and Mexican dishes
  • Dill: carrots, cottage cheese, fish, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes
  • Mint: carrots, desserts, fruit salad, parsley, peas, tabouli, tea
  • Oregano: peppers, tomatoes
  •  

    chive-blossoms-moreguefile-230

    When herbs blossom, like these chive blossoms, don’t cut and toss them. They’re beautiful plate garnishes. Photo courtesy Morguefile.

  • Parsley: egg salad and other protein salads, potato salad and other vegetable salads, tabouli, sandwiches
  • Rosemary: chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews, tomatoes
  • Thyme: eggs, lima and other beans, potatoes, poultry, summer squash, tomatoes
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Plate Decorations

    If you admire the fancy plate decoration done by fine chefs, here’s a tip: It’s easy to makes everyday food look quite spectacular!

    There are three easy steps:
    1. Consider placing a bright-colored sauce or purée atop the plate, under the food. If you’re not using a sauce, try a circular or zig-zag drizzle.

    2. Add a garnish/garnishes around the rim of a plate.

    3. Top with herbs (chiffonade, leaves or sprigs), microgreens or sprouts.

    Just decide on what you want to garnish your plate. Choose from:

    RIM GARNISHES

  • Capers/caperberries
  • Caviar/roe: lumpfish, salmon roe, whitefish (plain or flavor-infused)
  • Citrus zest
  • Cress, microgreens or sprouts
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Minced herbs
  • Spices—chili flakes, mustard seeds, pink peppercorns
  •  
    DRIZZLES & DROPLETS

  • Balsamic or flavored vinegar
  • Flavored or plain olive oil
  • Gourmet mustard
  •    

    grilled-fish-rockcentercafe-230

    Grilled fish garnished with a bit of everything: balsamic droplets, pomegranate arils. Photo courtesy Rock Center Café | NYC.

  • Seasoned mayonnaise or aïoli
  • Vegetable or fruit purée
  •  

    lamb-loin-tatsoi-pomwonderful-230

    A simpler version: roast lamb on a bed of sunchoke purée with red sorrel and tatsoi. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     

    BEDS FOR PROTEINS

  • Chopped or diced vegetables, raw or cooked
  • Sauces or coulis (strained purée)
  • Grains and legumes (look for color: red rice, yellow lentils, e.g.)
  • Grain and legume/vegetable blends (rice and beans, succotash)
  • Mashed or puréed vegetables
  •  
     
    MORE GARNISH TIPS

    Collect photos and keep them in a file in the kitchen.

    Check out our many garnish ideas for both sweet and savory dishes, and a separate article on soup garnishes.

     

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Spatter Guard For Mixers

    spatter-guard-kuhnrikon-230

    No more cake mix spatters! Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon.

     

    Love to bake, but hate the messy mixer splatters?

    Kuhn Rikon, which has helped keep kitchens clean with its Splatter Guard cover for skillets and woks and a combination spatter shield and strainer, now brings neatness to baking.

    There’s a new spatter guard for electric mixers!

    You can keep the batter in the bowl with the Mixer Splatter Guard, which protects your work area from spatters generated by electric mixers.

    It works with bowls up to 12 inches in diameter. The transparent lid fits most handheld and stand mixers and allows you to see inside the bowl.

     
    For Immersion Blenders, Too

    The new mixer shield also works with immersion blenders, bringing neatness to soup-making as well.
     

    Head to Amazon.com to order yours, and perhaps a few extras as gifts for your favorite bakers.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fish Fillet Vs. Fish Steak

    salmon-filet-dailyperricone-230

    A salmon fillet: no bone, but skin on the
    bottom. Photo courtesy DailyPerricone.com.

     

    You’ll note that some fish recipes, like the one below for Pretzel-Crusted Tuna, call for fish steaks. Other recipes call for fillets. What’s the difference?

    It’s all about the cut.
     
    FISH FILLET

  • To fillet (it’s a verb as well as a noun), the flesh is cut whole away from the backbone of the fish by cutting lengthwise along one side, parallel to the backbone.
  • Fillets do not contain any pieces of the larger bones, but some species have smaller, intramuscular bones (called pins) within the flesh.
  • Butterfly fillets are a specialty cut, produced by cutting the fillets on each side in such a way that they are held together by the flesh and skin of the belly.
  • The skin may be removed before the fish is filleted.
  •  

    What’s the difference between a fillet and a filet?

    Just the language, which impacts spelling and pronunciation. Fillet (FILL-it) is English and filet (fee-LAY) is French.

     

    FISH STEAK

  • With a steak, the flesh is cut crosswise (perpendicular to the spine), cutting through the bone. The resulting steak may include a piece of bone and skin, or it can be boneless and skinless, especially with larger fish.
  • Steaks are usually cut with fish that are larger than 10 pounds.
  • With very large fish (a swordfish or tuna can be hundreds of pounds, if not 1,000 pounds or more), a cross-cut is too large for a single serving. With such large fish, the steaks are cut into smaller pieces that resemble fillets, but are more even/rectangular.
  •  
    IS ONE BETTER THAN THE OTHER?

    Considered more elegant in appearance than steaks, fillets have been traditionally used by restaurant chefs. More casual eateries are more likely to use salmon steaks these days; and of course, they’re in your grocer’s fresh and frozen fish cases.

     

    salmon-steak-tbilisi.all.biz-230

    A salmon steak. Photo courtesy Tbilisi.all.biz.

     

    However, more than a few people claim that bone-in beef steaks taste so much better than boneless cuts. So why wouldn’t it be the same with bone-in fish?

    This article does a very good job of explaining why the argument for bone superiority may be specious.

    There are also recipes that require one or the other by definition. Fish and chips, for example, requires fillets.

    A final consideration: Because they are thicker than fish fillets, fish steaks are less likely to fall apart when cooking. Cod, dorado (mahi-mahi), tuna, larger varieties of salmon, and swordfish are typically cut into steaks.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Food In A Cone

    Perhaps eight years ago, we saw an article in a trade magazine about a pilot pizza chain in California. All the pizza varieties were served in cones made of pizza dough. The founder’s concept was to make it easy to walk down the street eating from a cone instead of a drippy slice.

    We loved the idea, but to our knowledge, the business never went anywhere.*

    Recently, we discovered a pizza cone kit from Pizzacraft that enables you to turn out pizza cones at home. The kit is less than $19, is easy to use and includes everything you need to make two pizza cones at a time (you supply the food items).

    You can eat most any food in a cone, and as an alternative to pizza dough, can make waffle cones on a round waffle maker or a pizzelle maker. (Leave the sugar out of the recipe unless you’re using them for dessert.)

    Then, fill with any of your favorite fixings, including:

  • Scrambled eggs, cheese and pico de gallo
  • Chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, etc.
  •  

    pizza-cones-pizzacraft-amz-230

    Pizza in a cone. Photo courtesy Pizzacraft.

  • Chopped salad (a way to get kids to east more salad?)
  • Reverse chicken and waffles, with diced crispy chicken, Granny Smith apples and maple syrup
  • Taco fillings
  • Meatballs
  • Any diced or sliced protein and veggies
  •  
    Can’t wait? Neither can we!
     
    *UPDATE

    Right after we published this, we read today’s newsletter from Nation’s Restaurant News and learned, by pure coincidence, about Kono Pizza. The franchise chain has breakfast, lunch/dinner and dessert cones. The concept was created in Italy and is “popular around the world,” with 140 locations. The first franchise just opened in Edison, NJ, with Orlando and Iowa scheduled next.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking In Parchment (En Papillote)

    carrots-en-papilotte-paperchef-230r

    Proteins and vegetables cook easily and
    mess-free in parchment pouches. Photo
    courtesy PaperChef.

     

    Many of us use parchment paper to line baking sheets. But if you haven’t yet used that parchment for en papillote cooking, you’re in for a treat: less mess and fewer calories, for starters, along with juicier, moister food.

    Cooking en papillote (pah-pee-YOHT), French for “in parchment,” is a classic technique where food, often in individual portions, is enclosed in a folded pouch and steamed in the oven.

    This simple yet refined culinary tradition works by trapping the moisture from the food in the pouch. It helps the food cook quickly, with little or no added fat, without losing flavor and retaining luscious aromas.

    And there’s no pot or pan to clean. Just dispose of the pouch.

    The technique dates to the early days of cooking food, where people took local foliage—banana leaves, corn husks and grape leaves, for example—and wrapped food in them prior to placing them on the fire. The leaves/husks took the place of pots and pans.

    These days in the U.S., aluminum foil and parchment paper are the wrappings of choice, and the food is placed in the oven (or microwave) along with herbs and/or other seasonings. No special equipment is required. Poultry, seafood and vegetables are popular foods for en papillote cooking.

     

    You’ll immediately discover the joy of infusion. Topping a piece of fish with a slice of lemon or fresh herbs infuses the protein with those flavors. You’ll have fun playing with the flavors of broths, herbs, juices and spices.

    Steaming en papillote (pah-pee-YOHT) requires no special equipment, just the food and a roll of parchment paper or aluminum foil.

  • Parchment can be used with any food, but is especially important when steaming foods with a salt rub or acid (citrus juice, vinegar). Anything but the lightest touch of the latter can cause discoloration or a chemical aroma from reaction with aluminum.
  • Another benefit of parchment is environmental: it decomposes easily in landfill.
  • And if you’re not good at folding paper into pouches, Paper Chef has a solution: parchment bags. Just put the ingredients inside and fold the top to close. (See the photo below.)
  •  
    Why doesn’t the paper bag or folded pocket leak? Parchment baking paper has been treated with an acid and coated with silicone. The result is a liquid-proof, burn-resistant paper (the parchment will brown but not burn, up to 450°F). It’s also nonstick; hence, its popular use as a baking sheet and cake pan liner.

     

    How To Buy Parchment Paper

    You can buy parchment in rolls, bags and individually-cut sheets. Rolls provide the most flexibility for baking sheets as well as pockets.

    What about bleached versus unbleached parchment paper?

    Environmentalists go for unbleached parchment. It’s more expensive, but also more environmentally friendly.

    Bleached parchment uses not only chlorine, but typically employs both chlorine and Quilon®, a cheaper alternative to silicone.

    Quilon is a chemical solution that contains chrome, a heavy metal. When incinerated it becomes toxic and leaves trace elements. It is approved by the FDA and the USDA, but that doesn’t mean it’s environmentally friendly.

    If you have leisure time this weekend, get some parchment and cook en papillote. You can start with these videos from PaperChef.com, which also has plenty of recipes.

     

    parchment-bag-paperchef-230r

    No more need to fold pouches: Just add the ingredients to parchment bags. Photo courtesy PaperChef.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Slow Cooker Short Ribs

    We love short ribs, but they do take a long time to cook and tenderize. If you have a pressure cooker, you can do it in 45 minutes (here’s a recipe). If not, a slow cooker does just as nicely.

    With this recipe from McCormick, prep time is 30 minutes, slow cooker time is 8 hours.

    This short ribs recipe is “Asian fusion.” The inspiration is Sauerbraten (sour beef), the German classic that marinates the beef in a mixture of vinegar or wine (the “sour”), spices and seasonings.

    Here, the Asian twist comes from the use of rice vinegar, soy sauce and bok choy.

    Consider this dish for Super Bowl Sunday or Valentine’s Day. For Valentine’s Day, garnish the dish with some pomegranate arils.

    RECIPE: ASIAN-STYLE SLOW COOKER SHORT RIBS

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 jar (1-1/2 ounces) mixed pickling spices (see recipe below)
  • 3 pounds boneless beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  •    

    Slow_Cooker_Asian_Style_Beef_Short_Ribs_mccormick-230

    It’s easy to make short ribs in a slow cooker. Photo courtesy McCormick.

  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 2 cups)
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups beef stock
  • 3/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 cup crushed gingersnaps, about 20 cookies
  • 1/2 head bok choy, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the pickling spice in the center of a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Tie tightly with a long piece of string. Set aside. Coat the short ribs with flour.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of the short ribs; cook 5 to 10 minutes or until browned on all sides. Add the short ribs to slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining short ribs.

    3. PLACE the vegetables and the spice bundle over the short ribs. Mix the beef stock, soy sauce, vinegar and ginger. Pour over the top.

    4. COVER and cook for 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH, or until the short ribs are tender. Stir in the crushed gingersnaps during last 30 minutes of cooking. Stir in the bok choy during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Discard the spice bundle. Serve the short ribs and vegetables over cooked Asian noodles.

     

    pickling-spices-chilefoundry-230

    Pickling spices. Buy them or blend your own using the recipe below. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    WHAT ARE ASIAN NOODLES?

    Ribbon pasta—long cut pasta—originated in Asia. This is the type of pasta “discovered” by Marco Polo and brought back to Venice.

    Because communications were not so great in those days, he didn’t know that Arab traders had brought pasta back with them centuries before, and introduced it to Southern Italy when they invaded in the 8th century. Pasta was a convenience food for travelers: One only needed to boil water to turn the dried pasta in one’s pocket into a nutritious meal.

    An even earlier Italian pasta was an Etrusco-Roman noodle made from durum wheat called lagane, the descendant of the modern word lasagna, which was mentioned way back in the first century C.E. It was not boiled, as it is today, but baked in an oven.

    But back to Asia, the motherland of pasta:

     
    There are numerous types of Asian noodles based on ingredients alone: arrowroot starch, bean curd skin, bean starch (cellophane noodles), buckhwheat (soba), mung bean threads, rice noodles, sweet potato starch, tofu and yes, wheat noodles (udon).

    Asian noodles are also made in a broad variety of shapes and sizes. The type of noodle used depends on country and purpose.

    Some Chinese noodles contain eggs, e.g. Chinese egg noodles, although the majority of Asian noodles do not.

    Unlike Italian noodles and other Western pasta, Asian noodles are generally not eaten with a sauce on top, but are stir-fried or used in soups and salads.
     
    WHAT ARE PICKLING SPICES?

    Picking spices are a blend of different spices, ground or whole. They are added to vinegar for making cucumber pickles and other pickled foods.

    You can purchase them ready-blended, or make your own from this easy combination:

  • 1 tablespoon each of black peppercorns, cloves, coriander seed and mustard seeds
  • 3 dried red chiles
  • 1-inch piece dried ginger root
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 dried bay leaves, broken up
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients; measure and use as needed.

    2. KEEP the unused blend in an airtight container, away from light and heat.

      

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