Helpful Kitchen Tips

In every article throughout the year, I include a recipe. This article is an exception. I am constantly asked for a certain soup recipe, a sauce for a meat dish or the best way to cook a piece of fish. Also, a lot of friends ask why their attempts don’t come out like mine when they make the same thing — even though they follow the same directions. This article is to clear up a few things I’m asked often.

Use potatoes as your thickener instead of roux to get the creaminess you would have had you used cream and roux.

Poached Eggs
Let’s start with breakfast. In the movie “Julie and Julia,” the main character (not Julia Child) was making poached eggs. She tried to keep the eggs together. OK, yes, it is possible to poach an egg using just boiling water, but I have to say, it is a pain in the butt and most times the whites will be floating around in the water far from the yolk.

Here’s a tip: Add a few drops of white vinegar to the water and bring the water to a low rolling boil instead of a hard boil. The eggs will hold together perfectly. Now, you can easily make Eggs Benedict for Sunday breakfast.

Try Smitty’s recipes for:
Eggs Benedict
New England Clam Chowder
Making roux
Hard-Boiled Eggs
Shrimp Cocktail

Roux alternatives
How about that cream soup you wanted to make but didn’t want all the calories? You also happen to be on a gluten-free diet, so you can’t thicken the soup with roux. Use potatoes as your thickener instead of roux to get the creaminess you would have had you used cream and roux. You save on calories since you cut out the cream and the extra butter.

Don’t forget about the flavor and consistency. Roux can have a few different tastes according to how much you cook it. Also the darker the roux, the more you need to achieve the same thickness. I will always use peeled red potatoes that I have sliced and added to the soup toward the end of the sautéing process before I add the stock. The potato will absorb the flavor of the veggies you are sautéing and won’t change the flavor whether you cook it more or less because it’s already in the soup.

New England Clam Chowder
Sometimes a roux is necessary. New England Clam Chowder is a great example of this. I have to say I love my chowder and I like it on the thick side, which means a pretty fair amount of roux. Be sure to thicken the chowder before you add the potatoes and clams. This way, it is a lot easier to thicken it without those dreaded lumps. Also, thicken it in a separate bowl, a little at a time adding the thickened portion back into your main pot. Repeat the process a few times until you get the consistency you like.

This is very important. Once the chowder is thickened, turn down the heat to low or even off, and stir often. If you don’t keep stirring and the heat is not low, the chowder will burn easily, and that taste is truly awful. Should you happen to forget to stir and it does burn, you can easily tell because the clams and potatoes will stick to the bottom of the pot. If this happens, scoop the chowder from the top tasting often to see exactly where the burned portion starts. Do not try to scrape the bottom of the pot until you are certain it is not burned, or you will ruin the entire batch.

The other reason to turn the heat way down is because the clams overcook quickly and overcooked clams are tough and rubbery.

One last hint to a great clam chowder is to add a little evaporated milk instead of all cream or half and half — whichever you decide to use. The evaporated milk will add a little sweetness that you would otherwise not get, which is truly delicious.

Roasting peppers
There are tons more tips to make life in the kitchen easier. When you take roasted red peppers out of the oven, put them in a bowl, cover them with plastic and stick them in the refrigerator to cool. The steam will help separate the skin to make peeling easier.

Peeling hard-boiled eggs
Speaking of easier peeling, a good amount of salt in the water when boiling eggs will make peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs a lot easier.

Shrimp Cocktail
One last tip:
Have a bowl of ice water ready before you drop your shrimp into the water for Shrimp Cocktail. It takes less than a minute for shrimp to go from light and crisp to tough and rubbery.

I hope these tips help you out. Have fun in the kitchen.