Where There S Smoke There S Flavor Smoking Foods On Gas Grills
Today's grillers are hungrier than ever for more flavorful foods, as evidenced by the steady increase in the sales of wood chips and wood chunks over the last several years (according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association).
"When you add particular kinds of wood smoke to your food, you are taking advantage of a technique that most people associate with charcoal. Actually, it's just about as easy to control wood smoke with a gas grill, and the results are fantastic," says Chef Jamie Purviance, author of "Weber's Real Grilling."
As one of the country's top grilling and barbecue experts, Purviance offers consumers useful tips when smoking meats, fish and vegetables on gas grills:
Choosing a Smoking Flavor. "The world of barbecue has its traditional pairings of certain woods with certain meats, like hickory with pork and mesquite with beef. Those traditions wouldn't last if they didn't taste great, but keep in mind that there are many flavors of wood and foods, other than pork and beef, that improve with a touch of smoke," says Purviance. Purviance suggests smoking with hardwoods provided they are sold dry and untreated. Avoid softwoods, like pine and fir, because they are too resinous for smoking.
According to Purviance, hardwood chips and chunks fall into three categories of flavor intensity: pungent (mesquite, hickory and pecan), moderate (oak, maple and alder) and mild (apple, cherry and pear). "Beef, lamb and pork handle the pungent woods really well," he adds. "For the moderate woods, I like fish, pork and poultry. It's amazing what a handful or two of oak chips can do for chicken pieces. Very quickly they pick up a deep wood-fired flavor without any bitterness. The mild woods have an even sweeter, fruitier quality, which works beautifully with chicken and also with vegetables."
Prepping the Wood. Not quite ready for grilling, wood chips should be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes; chunks need at least a one-hour soak. Soaking ensures that chips/chunks will smolder rather than simply burn. Thoroughly drain and loosely fill the gas grill's smoker box, such as the one featured on some Weber Summit
North America Gets Cheesy With Raclette Grills
Yes, the fondue pot of the 70's was pretty cheesy, but in this century, nothing is more cheesy than raclette. In recent years fondue pots have experienced a resurgence in popularity, and with them has come the raclette grill. Though not traditionally well known in the US and Canada, raclette is suddenly experiencing a boom in popularity.
Raclette is a semi-soft, relatively mild, easily melted cheese from Switzerland. The term also refers to the cooking method of melting cheese at a tabletop grill and serving with a variety of accompaniments.
Legend has it that the original method for melting the raclette cheese began when Swiss herdsmen settled down for the night in their camps. They placed a hunk of cheese near their campfire and as it melted, scraped it off onto a slice of bread.
Today, this same meal is mimicked but with much greater variety of foods, and with electric raclette grills that are much more convenient. Though the melting method has changed over the years, this simple and entertaining meal has remained just as enjoyable for entertaining evenings with friends and family.
There are several kinds of raclette grills that you can choose from. Traditional raclette grills hold a half- or quarter-round of raclette cheese on an angle, with a heating element melting the surface of the cheese, which drips onto a plate of dried meats and other accompaniments.
Today, the most common raclette sets include a cheese-melting element with a grill for cooking meats at the table. They provide up to 8 people with individual cheese pans and feature non-stick, dishwasher safe surfaces for convenience and easy cleanup. Perfect for entertaining!
Portable raclette using fondue-type burners are also available for camping and picnicking.
A raclette grill can provide not only a delicious, hot-off-the-grill meal, but also provide a lot of fun for family and friends. For optimum enjoyment, serve traditional raclette with a Fendant or other light-bodied dry white wine. If you are grilling meats, serve a wine appropriate for the meats.
A traditional Swiss raclette meal uses raclette cheese with the following accompaniments:
- baguette bread
- small cooked potatoes
- small gherkins
- pickled onions
- charcuterie meats such as salami or proscuitto
You can also get very creative with a raclette meal. A departure from tradition - but an adventure in taste - could include:
Raw meat for grilling and dipping into sauces:
- Italian sausage cut into 1/4? slices
- Chicken tenderloins cut into 1? pieces
- Beef tenderloin cut into 1/2? cubes
- Shrimp and Scallops
Thinly sliced cheeses:
Vegetables, blanched to al-dente, such as:
Here are two excellent recipes for dipping sauces for your meats and vegetables:
3/4 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1/2 cup canned pimentos or 1 red bell pepper, roasted with skin removed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Blend all ingredients in a blender. Season to taste. Serve chilled.
Cucumber Garlic Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 gloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives or green onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Mix well all ingredients. Serve chilled.
Deep Fryer Pieces Of Wisdom
For a time I worked in a convenience store as a clerk and cook and I used a deep fryer quite a bit for cooking battered chicken and French fried potatoes.
Of course the chicken doesn't start out battered. It comes delivered frozen in big cardboard boxes. Before the chicken is ready for the cooking part it must be prepared and time to thaw out. Each piece of chicken is rinsed in cold water, then put in a vat of tenderising, salty water to soak for several hours in a refrigerated area. It is again rinsed and kept cold, until needed for cooking.
When needed for cooking the chicken is breaded in a special spicy flour mix, dipped in spice water, and breaded with mix again. Each piece is than carefully placed in the boiling oil in the deep fryer; starting with the large, meaty pieces, and finishing with the thin bony pieces. This gives the thick meaty pieces more time to cook. They get the hottest oil in the pot to start off the cooking process. The deep fryer is on a timer and part way through the cooking process the timer sets off an alarm which notifies you that it's time to stir the chicken, so it gets all sides cooked evenly, even the sides touching when first put in the fryer. After stirring the chicken it cooks until the end of cooking cycle alarm goes off. Then the pot elevator will automatically lift the cooking basket out of the hot oil, allowing the chicken to drip off the excess oil.
The deep fryer also cooks French fried potatoes. After cutting the potatoes into the elongated cube shape in a cutter, the fries are battered, dipped and battered again. They then can be gently lowered in hands full, into the boiling oil. The cooking is again controlled by a timer, which sounds when the cooking cycle has completed. After 4 cooks the oil in the fryer needs to be filtered to clean it for future cooking cycles. Another alarm indicates when oil filtering needs to occur.
The heat on the oil is turned off, so the oil can cool down enough to work with. The cooking basket is raised and removed from the fryer. A valve is turned to allow the oil to drain down into the filtering drawer. When the oil has drained the empty oil reservoir is brushed, including the heating coil element, to remove anything sticking to their surfaces. A pump is turned on which circulates the oil repeatedly through the filter. The filtering can take place for 10 or 15 minutes, depending how dark the oil appears in color. When the oil has become lighter in color it is pumped back up to the oil reservoir, after the valve at the bottom of the pot has been closed. The heating element is turned on and the oil is brought back up to cooking temperature. The unpleasant part is scooping out the sludge at the bottom of the filter drawer. Then the cleaned filter is dusted with a special powder, put back in its place under the fryer pot, and all is ready to go again.
Yes the fryer does most of the cooking for you but watch out for the hot oil when loading the food into the cooking basket. Even wearing rubber gloves won't stop the oil from burning you, should it splash on your hands as the food drops into the hot oil. The secret is to be brave and gutsy. Get the food close to the oil before you drop it in. That way the splash is really small, and doesn't jump up to fry your wrist.
Happy cooking. Cook, but don't be cooked.
Kitchen Survival Recipe Guide
You open the cookbook and see a recipe title or a photo that tempts your tastebuds. Then you start to read the recipe, realize the preparation is more difficult than you first thought, and put the book back on the shelf.
Sound Familiar? Well here's a simple guide to help get you started:
1. Abbreviations for Measuring
Tsp. = teaspoon
Tbsp. = tablespoon, which equals 3 teaspoons
C = cup.
Tip: Get a set of measuring spoons. The set will usually have 1/4 tsp., 1/3 tsp., 1/2 tsp., 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon.
Dry measure cups look like little saucepans and can be leveled off with a knife or other straight-edged tool. They come in sets like the measuring spoons. Liquid measuring cups have ounce marking lines so you can measure however many ounces you need.
Tip: Some recipes require exact measurements to turn out right so learn to measure correctly.
2. Common Ingredients
Make sure you know what you need.
- Baking powder and baking soda are not the same.
- Ask the produce manager at the market about fruits and vegetables, the meat manager about cuts of meat.
- When trying something new, buy ONE. You can always go back for more if it turns out well.
3. Common Terminology
- Bake: Dry heat in the oven. Set oven control to the desired temperature while you're preparing the dish to be baked. Once the light that says it's heating turns off, the oven is at the proper temperature. Then put in the food-for best results, center it in the oven.
- Boil: Heat a liquid until it bubbles. The faster the bubbles rise and the more bubbles you get, the hotter the liquid. Some recipes call for a gentle boil-barely bubbling-or a rolling boil-just short of boiling over. Watch so it doesn't boil over.
- Braise: A moist cooking method using a little liquid that barely bubbles on the top of the stove or in the oven. This is a good way to tenderize cheaper cuts of meat. The pan should be heavy and shallow with a tight-fitting lid to keep the liquid from boiling away. There's a lot that can be done for flavoring in your choice of liquid and of vegetables to cook with the meat.
- Broil: Turn the oven to its highest setting. Put the food on broiler pan-a 2 piece pan that allows the grease to drain away from the food. In an electric oven on the broil setting only the upper element heats, and you can regulate how fast the food cooks by how close to the element you place it. Watch your cooking time-it's easy to overcook food in the broiler.
- Brown: Cook until the food gets light brown. Usually used for frying or baking. Ground beef should usually be browned (use a frying pan) and have the grease drained before adding it to a casserole or meat sauce.
- Fold: A gentle mixing method that moves the spoon down to the bottom of the bowl and then sweeps up, folding what was on the bottom up over the top. This is used to mix delicate ingredients such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites. These ingredients just had air whipped into them, so you don't want to reverse that process by mixing too vigorously.
- Simmer: Heat to just the start of a boil and keep it at that point for as long as the recipe requires. The recipe will usually call for either constant stirring or stirring at certain intervals.
Now you are ready to do the shopping and prepare that recipe that you've always wanted to try!
Gluten Free Cooking
When it comes to cooking, there are many dietary restrictions that will be encountered along the way. One restriction that is gaining some degree of notoriety in recent years is the need for a gluten free diet. Gluten is a substance that is commonly found in flour products that a decent sized portion of the population has a negative reaction to in some form or another. For these people, gluten free isn't a choice it is absolutely necessary.
Gluten free cooking does impose many restrictions and often makes it quite difficult to enjoy something the vast majority of us take for granted-dining out. The good news from those who require gluten free cooking is that more and more restaurants are beginning to acknowledge this condition and offer some selections that are gluten free. It takes time, just as it did with low carb craze for the demand for these products to make it worth the industries while to make adjustments in their way of preparing foods.
While on the one hand it is frustrating to not have the option of dining out, there is some challenge to finding new and tasty foods and combinations for cooking each and every night without falling into a rut of the same old foods that you know you can eat without worry. Consider cooking gluten free a challenge rather than a chore and you may find that the process is much more enjoyable. You might even find that you appreciate the meals you've worked hard to prepare even better because of the great sense of accomplishment.
There are many resources available for those who need to eat gluten free foods. There are even more and more 'convenience' or prepackaged foods that are designated for gluten free cooking. This means that those who once had no option but creating meals from scratch do now have the occasional shortcut available to them. We are even finding cookie and cake mixes that are now gluten free in order to enjoy some of the finer things in life for those who would have been completely deprived only a few short years ago.
Changes are being made and resources are being shared through the Internet that help not only adults that require special gluten free cooking and diets but also support for the parents of children who must have gluten free diets. Cooking for children in the best of circumstances is often difficult. It is even more difficult when there are excessive dietary restrictions that often eliminate the possibility of our children enjoying childhood favorites. That is why it is so important to seek out the many resources and recipes that are available for gluten free cooking.
If you require a gluten free diet and have no idea where to start or what you should be cooking you should check out the many websites and blogs online that address the issues and needs that are faced by those requiring gluten restrictions. You will probably be amazed at the wealth of information that is available. Also, if you have a Trader Joes or Whole Foods store in your area, most of them either offer or will order gluten free products for your cooking needs.
Gluten free cooking does not have to be the chore many of us think it must be and all gluten free food doesn't taste like cardboard. Take the time to get to know the wonderful gluten free recipes that abound and incorporate them one at a time into your cooking repertoire. You will be amazed at how wonderful you feel as well as how great the food tastes.
How To Satisfy Summer Time Fresh Tomato Cravings Today
Disappointment reigns heavily when it comes to out of season tomatoes. Yes, summer is over as the harsh freezing cold temperatures blanket the entire North American continent and we are missing, craving more than likely, the incredible taste of vine ripe tomatoes straight from the garden. Perfectly picked at their peek of freshness and aromatic fragrance.
Sure you try the produce market at you local grocery looking for bright red tomatoes that give a little to the touch but don't feel mushy. Your journey is unsuccessful instead you settle for the less than perfect specimen, pale and still a little green in color. Your hope is it will ripen at room temperature on the kitchen counter and be ready to use in a couple of days. Disappointment follows it has no taste whatsoever.
Cravings are persistent and lead to more intense desires for the fresh taste of summer time tomatoes.
Ouch, did you hear the weather report? Several more days of below freezing temperatures are ahead with no end in sight.
Capt'n Salsa has a simple and acceptable solution for you. Considering the snow covered garden out the back window and your cravings are growing more intense each day it is time to reach for the "canned tomatoes".
Hey hear me out just a minute, okay?
Canned tomatoes, yes whole canned tomatoes are the closest tasting to fresh tomatoes you can find. Look for whole tomatoes packed in juice not the sauce or the puree for the best taste. The whole canned tomatoes can easily be chopped or even added whole during cooking to most of your favorite recipes. Actually, go ahead and use the diced canned tomatoes again grabbing the ones packed in juice.
Diced tomatoes are coarsely chopped during the canning process saving you a lot of time and of course the messy cleanup of chopping canned whole tomatoes. Add them right out of the can to your favorite sauces, soups and pasta dishes, using them just as you would your fresh garden tomatoes.
Homemade tomato salsa?
Sure, just remember to drain the juice first reserving it for a special "Bloody Mary" later.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar For Oil And Vinegar Recipes And Gifts
Traditionally, balsamic vinegar originates from Modena, Italy.
Even today, the most renown balsamic vinegar is only produced in Modena and Reggio, Italy. The first documented reference to balsamic vinegar was allegedly made in 1046.
A bottle of balsamic vinegar was a gift given by Marquess Bonifacio, Sir of the Canossa castle to the Emperor Enrico III of Franconia. It was famous as an effective disinfectant during the Middle Ages. It was also used for medicinal purposes and known as a miracle cure for variety of problems ranging from sore throats to labor pains. Giving balsamic vinegar as a gift has continued through the centuries. Even today, it is in vogue to give gourmet balsamic vinegar as a housewarming gift.
The making of balsamic vinegar has transcended centuries of family tradition and expertise. Some believe the first batch of balsamic vinegar was made by accident, a gift of circumstance. It is presumed a small quantity of cooked grapes, or 'must,' was forgotten and found after a long period of time. Over time, it had undergone a process of natural acetification, (a process of conversion to acetic acid or vinegar). The aged vinegar had acquired a thick consistency and a sweet and sour taste.
Today, the production process of balsamic vinegar is complex and has been perfected over years of research and scientific improvement. The 'must' (unfermented juice) of grapes is used. The Trebbiano variety is used for red and Spergola is for white sauvignon. This 'must' is cooked slowly in copper vessels over an open direct flame. It is cooked till the content is reduced to half resulting in a thick fruity syrup. 'Mother' of vinegar is sometimes added at this point. It is a slimy substance comprising of yeast and bacteria that forms over the vinegar surface. Alternatively, older aged balsamic vinegar is also added. This assists the acetification process.
The liquid is put into wooden barrels for aging. The varieties of wood permitted to be used in casks are chestnut, oak, cherry, mulberry, ash, juniper and acacia. The barrels are changed periodically so that the vinegar imbibes the flavors of the different woods into its own. In Italy, balsamic vinegar is aged for a minimum period of 12 years, to acquire the label of 'balsamic vinegar'. When choosing a balsamic vinegar to give as a gourmet gift, it is important to know the quality of the vinegar. A 12 year aged vinegar is labeled as 'Traditional' and those that have been aged for over 25 years are called Extra Vecchio. The quality is decided by a consortium governing body similar to those that label French and Italian wines. The balsamic vinegars that are available off-the-shelf without labels have usually been aged between 6 months and 1 year in stainless steel tanks. They may also have been aged in wooden casks for a period of 2 to 12 years. Numerous vinegars on the market that are not labeled 'Traditionale" are mixtures of vinegar, syrup and other additives and are not true balsamic according to Italian requirements. Many of these type vinegars appear in nominal gift baskets.
Balsamic vinaigrette recipes have become extremely popular. Given below is a recipe for a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing to liven up your salads.
Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Preparation time : 15 minutes Servings : 10
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of fresh Garlic, crushed
Cooking With Children
I am fairly certain that most of us have either seen or at the very least heard of the hit situation comedy "Married with Children" that dominated television for quite a few years and is still shown in syndication in many markets around the world. There are some wonderful insights that are shown by this often dysfunctional family and a few pearls to bring into your every day lives. The same can be said when it comes to cooking with children.
There is little on this earth that can teach you about yourself and the way your children view you as easily as cooking with your children. Of course, this is the perfect opportunity for many of us to let our hair down a little, relax, and have fun in the kitchen. Unfortunately, if you are anything like me, this is a difficult process to say the least. I am a bit of a control freak in my kitchen. It is my domain or sovereign territory so to speak. For this reason it is difficult to give up that little bit of control and hand over the reigns to any one of my children.
On the other hand, I know they are learning important skills that they honestly need to know in life. This knowledge of course doesn't make it any less difficult when I'm scraping tomato sauce out of places I would never have thought to discover it on my own. If you are considering cooking with children you need to make sure you have the proper ingredients on hand before beginning. You certainly do not want to be caught without that cup full of patience you will be requiring nor do you wish to need to leave in the middle of things for a run to the local grocery store to pick up the missing ingredients.
Another great rule of thumb when it comes to cooking with children is the KISS rule. Keep it simple silly. This rule will help out more than you ever realize. First of all, most children have relatively short attention spans. While they want to learn and help mommy out, they also do not want to have enough time to get bored with the details. Use simple recipes when cooking with children and your chances for success will be much greater than with overly complicated or ingredient intense recipes.
As if this wasn't enough to absorb another very important rule when it comes to cooking with children is to clean as you go whenever possible. Trust me on this. While there is part of you who will want to put off the task of cleaning the messes that are made until later, or wait till the end and only clean once, this allows the opportunity for messes to layer and compound themselves. Constantly clean throughout the process for the best possible results. You should enlist your children in the cleaning process as well. While it may be easier to do yourself, it is far more important to teach them the basics of cleaning as you go. Remember one day they will more than likely invade your kitchen while you're not looking.
Cooking with children can be an incredible way to have a fun day if you are able to let go of the control that you too often hold over the kitchen. Give over the keys to your kingdom for a day of fun and frolicking among the flour and sugar and see just how many wonderful memories you can make with your little ones along the way.
Delivering Kisses And Miracles
There are many ways chocolate makes people happy and one of the worthiest is a tour that has been described as the "chocolate lover's dream."
For 10 years, the Hershey's Kissmobile Cruisers have crisscrossed the country to raise awareness of and donations for the 170 nonprofit Children's Miracle Network hospitals.
The Kissmobile Cruisers visit more than 70 North American cities and drive more than 70,000 miles each year. The tour showcases new products (more than 230,000 Hershey's Kisses chocolates can fit into a refrigerated compartment) as well as staging fun events, such as sing-along contests and beanbag tosses and crafts. Last year the tour reached the fundraising goal of $1 million in donations to Children's Miracle Network.
While waiting for the tour to reach your hometown, you may want to make these delicious cookies:
Kissables Thumbprint Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
11/3 cups granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (16 oz.) vanilla frosting
Additional powdered sugar
11/3 cups (10.5-oz. pkg.) Hershey's Kissables Brand Chocolate Candies
1. Beat butter, granulated sugar, egg yolks, milk and vanilla until fluffy. Combine flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Cover; refrigerate dough about 2 hours or until firm enough to handle.
2. Heat oven to 350
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