Archive for the 'Cooking Technique' Category

How to cut up a bunch of strawberries the easy way

This sounds easy, and it is. And, in the past I’ve cut up pounds and pounds of strawberries. I’ve sliced them, diced them, and chopped them. And usually they leave red berry stains on my cutting board, on my counter and on my hands.
Well, no more.
Here is an easy way to cut up strawberries that is also fast:

  1. Using a paring knife, cut the stem and core out. The core is sightly bitter and it’s a good idea to get rid of it. You don’t have to go very deep, about 1/4” to 3/8” should do it.
  2. Place the cored strawberry on the cutting board sitting on its fat end.
  3. Do all the strawberries this way (see photo above)
  4. Next, take each strawberry and cut twice vertically from the top end to the bottom cutting the berry into quarters (see photo above).
  5. Grab the whole strawberry near the base and throw it into a bowl.

Once you get the hang of this technique, it goes really fast.
Because of the way they are cut, the berries stick together and you do not have to handle the cut edges of the berries so everything stays cleaner. Especially your hands.
Now, go cut up some strawberries and make some great strawberry short cake!

Kitchen Safety and the Sliced Finger

This past Sunday, I was helping make dinner. I decided to make the Japanese cucumber salad with sugar and rice wine vinegar (recipe here). Rather than get the food processor out, I  got our plastic chef’s mandolin, pealed the cucumbers and started slicing away.
As luck (or unlucky) would have it, my hand slipped off the cucumber and I cut an 1/8th-inch slice off the end of my middle finger. Worst accident I have ever had cooking.
So, what happened?
First, I did not use the guard.
Lesson learned: always use the guard.
Second, I tried to cut the long cucumber without cutting it down to size first.
Lesson learned: cut vegetables down to manageable size before slicing on the mandolin.
I know this sounds like common sense, and it is. It’s just when you do not use a piece of equipment often, remember to review the safety procedures and think about what you are doing before you start.
Oh yea, watch out for the edge of the blade on the food processor. It is really sharp, too.
So, think before you start and work  safely in the kitchen.

How to Poach an Egg the Right Way

Poaching eggs is not all that hard. It just takes the right equipment and some time. And, don’t try to hurry the process. Before you start, take the eggs out of the refrigerator so they can come to room temperature. Or, put them in a bowl of warm water to take the chill of off them.
You will need a skillet that is about three inches deep. A sauté pan works great. Fill the skillet with about 2-1/2 inches of water and heat over medium heat until it boils. You want the eggs to sit on the bottom of the skillet and be covered with water.
While the water is heating up, add about one teaspoon salt and two tablespoons of white vinegar to the water. This will help stabilize the egg whites and make for better looking poached eggs.
Now, once the water starts to boil, turn the heat down until the water is just simmering.
If you have an instant read thermometer (here), the water should be about 160 to 180 degrees F. You do not want the water boiling!
Take your room temperature eggs and crack each one into a ramekin or coffee cup. When the water is the right temperature, place the lip of the cup about a half inch into the water and let the egg slid into the water. You can most likely cook two eggs at a time by using your right and left hand to slide the eggs into the water. If you want to cook more eggs at one time, get help.
Eggs take about three to four minutes to poach (it’s closer to four minutes for me). Watch the top of each egg and the white will creep up on the yolk. Then about a minute or two after that, the egg are done.
Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and plate up on slices of toast or toasted sourdough English muffin (here).
Enjoy.