September 4th, 2017

Chef Tip – Thermometer Calibration

Posted in Tips

Re-calibrate Your Stem Thermometer

Cooking Tips

No matter if you’re a professional chef, or a home cook, more than likely you’re using a stem thermometer once in a while (especially on your chicken I hope…). They’re inexpensive, accurate, and compact. Plus, they don’t need batteries!

But ask yourself, when’s the last time you calibrated your thermometer? Have you ever?

Well, if not, or if you just need a refresher, it’s an important task to ensure you’re getting an accurate reading on your foods. They should be calibrated weekly and always after being dropped.

Let’s take a look at how to effectively calibrate your stem thermometer.

  1. In a perpendicular fashion, insert the stem of the thermometer into the hex shaped hole on the end of the pocket case.

  2. Fill and glass with crushed ice. Add cold tap water until the glass is full. Insert the thermometer stem into the center of the glass, using the pocket case as a rest.
    • Note: Try to prevent the stem from touching the bottom or sides of the glass. This could slightly effect the reading due to the variation of ambient temperatures.
  3. Allow the stem to rest submerged until the needles has fully stabilized. This could take up to a minute. At this point, turn the head of the thermometer against the walls of the hex mount in the pocket case in order to move the needle. Turn either left or right until the needle is on 32*F (0*C).

    Thermometer diagram

  4. To double check the accuracy, follow the same procedure except with a pot of boiling water. The temperature should read 212*F (100*C).
    • Note: Water boils at 212*F (100*C) at sea level. Areas of high elevation will have a lower boiling point. For more information on this subject see the USDA guide on High Altitude Cooking and Food Safety.

That’s it! Now you can rest assured that you’re serving safe, perfectly cooked food to your family, friends, and/or customers.

Thanks for reading along, now go out and eat some food!

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April 10th, 2017

Chef Tip: Saving Wilted Vegetables

Posted in Grocery, Healthy, Tips

How To Save Wilted Vegetables

It’s happened to all of us. As we rummage through the crisper we find that bunch of wilted vegetables or herbs we forgot all about.

As enlightened culinarians, we are swept by an initial feeling of regret over the neglect of these cruciferous crusaders and the resentment of having to put them in the compost. But fear not friends, there a chance we can revive that poor produce with a simple soaking method.

Cold Soak

Vegetables lose their perkiness first and foremost due to evaporation. Water is stored in the cellulose structure of the plant’s cell wall. As the plant ages and/or is exposed to heat the wall begins to weaken due to enzymatic activity and water is released to the atmosphere.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the best way to perk up sad vegetables is to soak them in an ice water bath. This slows enzymatic reactions and replaces lost water in the cell walls, leading to happy, revitalized produce. For most vegetables and herbs a soaking period of 15 – 60 minutes is adequate.

Wilted Vegetables

Image courtesy of Whole Foods Market

Now, it’s safe to say this won’t work with every bit of produce that has lost it’s way. Some will be too far gone, especially those that have succumbed to rot and decay. Cold water can’t heal them.

This trick also works great for simply maximizing the appeal of fresh produce. Soaking greens and herbs before serving in a salad or as garnish will give them extra vibrancy and crispiness. Fennel and carrots take to this method very well.

So experiment away and let us know what works and what doesn’t. Until next time…

 

Cheers!

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January 9th, 2017

Chef Tips: Garlic

Posted in Healthy, Locally Grown, Tips

Garlic

Let’s Talk Garlic

Garlic is a cook’s close friend and longtime companion. It can be chopped, minced, sliced, pasted, fermented, blackened, pickled, roasted, etc.

Not only does garlic provide flavor and aroma to food, it is also thought to provide a myriad of health benefits including the ability to “reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases, have anti-tumor and antimicrobial effects, and show benefit on high blood glucose concentration.”(source).

Picking Garlic

In U.S. markets, there are 2 major sources of garlic, California and China. Chinese garlic tends to be much less flavorful with a lower brix level and can have a metallic taste. California grown garlic is sweet, plump, and aromatic. The easiest way to spot California grown garlic is by flipping it over. If the root is still present, it’s more than likely CA grown. If the root has been removed, leaving a concave smooth spot, it’s likely Chinese. This method is not 100% accurate mind you. Some U.S. growers do remove the root for aesthetic purposes, but it’s less common.

Peeling Garlic

There’s certainly more than one way to peel garlic, and each cook has their own favorite method. I’ll share with you the basics.

To peel a single clove of garlic, remove the clove and place it flatly on a cutting board. With a chef’s knife, slice off the blunt (root) end (1). Now lay your blade flat on the clove and press down with your palm to break (2). You should now be able to pull the garlic clove away from the husk (3).

To peel a whole garlic bulb, start by setting the bulb top side down (root facing up) on a cutting board. Using your palm press straight down into the root, breaking the cloves away from each other (1). Discard the root stem and separate any remaining joined cloves (2). Place the garlic cloves in a steel bowl, cover with a second steel bowl rim to rim, and shake vigorously for 10-20 seconds. The cloves should now be separated from their husks (3).

Cutting Garlic

For beautiful thinly sliced garlic, ensure you either use the second peeling method listed above, or go the more laborious route by cutting the end of the garlic clove and manually removing the husk with your fingers (1). Smashing the clove will result in a broken clove that does not slice nicely. Once peeled, use a chef’s or paring knife to thinly slice (almost translucent) the garlic from the root to the tip (2), leaving delicate wheels of garlic (3). This type of garlic is best used for dishes like oil based pastas or stir-fry where the garlic will be highlighted, or toasted for garnish.

For chopped garlic break the clove with the flat end of a chef’s knife (1) then chop roughly to the desired size (2). This type of non-uniform product is best for use in slow, wet cooking, and when further processing will be involved, as in a tomato sauce that will be made uniform with an immersion or table top blender.

Minced Garlic

The process for minced garlic is similar like of chopped garlic, however, the goal is to create small, uniform pieces by chopping thoroughly with your knife. This allows the garlic to be cooked at precisely the same rate and is best for when the garlic must be sautéed at high heat momentarily, as in a braised meat dish or Indian curry.

Finally, pasted garlic begins with minced garlic. Sprinkle a pinch of course Kosher salt over the garlic for added grit (1) and using the flat side of your knife, scrape the garlic back and forth on the cutting board (2). With one hand, hold the handle to the knife, and with the other hand, apply pressure with your fingertips to the top of the blade. Use controlled motions and be methodical to prevent slippage. Pasted garlic (3) can be used unilaterally, but is best suited for finished dressings or for uses that don’t require cooking.

Cooking with Garlic

Cooks commonly believe that garlic must be heavily cooked or browned for dishes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Except for certain dishes like Indian bhindi, garlic is cooked and ready the moment it becomes fragrant. This normally happens around 30 seconds, depending on the temperature of the pot or pan.

Garlic can safely be cooked much longer in foods that contain high levels of moisture, as in tomato sauces or soups, because the liquid can only reach a maximum temperature 212 degrees Fahrenheit, protecting the garlic from burning. This protection does not exist in a dry cooking where the temperature can easily exceed over 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

That’s it for this week. We hope you learned something useful and until next time, keep cooking!

Cheers!

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