Love to cook? Read on for professional tips on building flavor without all the calories!

Posts tagged ‘Chef Lynn tips’

Fish Baked in Salt

Finished Dish

Finished Dish

If you want to make a dish that’s a little exotic and impressive yet very easy, fish baked in salt might be your answer! This absolutely delicious preparation has a very lightly seasoned taste. Contrary to popular belief, the meat is not extremely salty. The salt bakes into a crust that is easily removed and outside the skin. The meat itself is delicate and moist because it basically steams inside the salt crust.

For starters, you will need a very large roasting pan and a lot of salt. It’s difficult to say how much because it depends on the size of your pan and the size of your fish. Generally, for one large fish you will need two boxes of kosher salt and 4 egg whites. (You can get kosher salt at Kroger or any grocery store for a few dollars a box.)

The fish should be completely whole with the skin on – and yes, also with the head on. Snapper, salmon and other larger fish work best, but you can also use trout or other smaller fish like mackerel. Smaller fish can be cooked together in the same crust – as many as will fit in your pan. You can cut off the heads and peel the skin away before you serve it. Just as an aside, when you are shopping for your fish, make sure it will fit in your pan and that your pan will fit in your oven. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Fish in salt

If you want to get really fancy, you can crack the crust and serve the fish at the table. I don’t recommend that though because salt tends to fly around and it – well – it makes a mess. But anyway, back to the basics.

To bake fish in salt, first clean your fish (no guts), wash it and pat it dry. Measure the thickest part of the fish. Then mix the salt with the egg whites. Use enough egg whites so the salt is slightly moist. Put 1/2” salt in the bottom of your pan. Put the fish on top of that. Cover the fish with ½” of the salt/egg white mixture. Make sure that the fish is completely buried. Bake in a preheated 425 F oven, 10 minutes per inch of fish.

Fish covered in salt

Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Then crack the crust and serve the deliciously tender and moist fish meat that you find inside. (I often do this in or near the sink to catch flying salt.) Enjoy!

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Spice up your life!

Dieters: Think of spice as your secret weapon! When you eat something spicy, you feel more full and it stays with you longer. Oh, you don’t like hot food, you say? Of course, if you can make it hot enough to taste spicy that’s the best, but even if you just add enough so it doesn’t taste hot but has just a little bite, it will help.It will linger on the back of your tongue and give your food a more fulfilling taste.

You can accomplish this in many different ways… by using ground spices like cayenne and hot curry, by using hot pepper flakes, by adding bits of chopped hot peppers, or by using hot pepper pastes like Ahi Amarillo or chili paste, or simply by adding a shot of hot pepper sauces like Tabasco. Each ethnic group has its own offering in this spice department!

Here’s why it’s so satisfying to add some spice from chilies to your diet. Chilies contain capsaicin, which stimulates the nerves in your mouth, which in turn stimulate the brain, which in turn releases endorphins. And we all know about endorphins. They make us feel really good. The spicier the food then, the more endorphins get released. So here’s where you have to figure out how much makes sense for you.

Chilies will also speed up your metabolism, so it has been suggested that will help in weight loss, but it has not been proven. Sounds good, though! Some of you won’t be able to take this advice due to stomach issues, but actually studies have shown that there is no higher incidence of ulcers in Mexico and other countries where chilies are a predominant food than any place else. You just have to know your own body and what it can tolerate. Peppers are really good for you in other ways. They are really high in beta carotene and vitamin C, two things that fight cancer and heart disease.

Added into a dish with a little salt and some citric acid (like lemon or lime juice or wine), they can be invaluable in increasing flavor. So how do you figure out how much of these flavors to add? First, always, always, always taste what you are serving to your guests before you give it to them. Soup is a good one to start with because you can take out a ladle full and experiment on it without ruining the whole batch. Add small amounts at a time of each individual spice – first salt, then lemon, then Tabasco sauce. Experience the difference in the taste after each addition. Get each one right and then move on to the next. If you overdo one, start over. This little exercise will tremendously increase the flavor in your cooking and help you to understand the power of spices and how they work together. Give it a try and report back!

Nightmare Clean ups

This post is for Ed, who asked me how I keep from having nightmare style clean ups after preparing meals. Standing at the kitchen sink for an hour after eating is taking the enjoyment out of his cooking! So here’s my advice on how to handle it.

1. Every chef quickly gets familiar with the concept of mis-en-place. That’s a French term meaning everything in its place and it’s one of the first things addressed in culinary school. First, spend 10 minutes setting up your work station (cutting board, knives, pans needed, etc.) and getting out the ingredients you need for your dishes. Measure out what you need and place them on the counter in the order you will use them. Then put any leftover food products back where they will be stored or in the refrigerator. By the way, this is a safer practice for food that will be used in the future. This is another huge topic, but in a nutshell, uncooked and cooked foods both can only be safely kept at room temperature for so long and this time is cumulative. For me, that’s more reason to do it than the fact that 1/4 of your clean up just got done.

2. Also before you begin cooking, empty the dishwasher. Then clean up as you go. Some of your time while cooking is spent waiting , so use that time to rinse what you just used and put it in the dishwasher. Now you’re at 3/4  of your clean-up done before you sit down. All you will have is the last 1/4 after dinner – plates, silverware, serving utensils. If you are really lucky, everyone will carry their own plate over and you can just rinse and stash.

3. Hang as much on the wall as you can. There are all kinds of different rack systems available. I use Roesli (a German brand) because I like the flat bars and the utensils are cool. The racks hang all around my kitchen, with the utensils on them near the areas where they are most used. That helps me to cook efficiently because I can look and grab – no sorting through drawers to find what I want. In some places I also have hanging jars (with vegetable powders and spices in them) and shelves where I store food rings and other things I use often. When they’re in plain sight, it’s as easy to put them away as it is to grab and use them.

4. The last bit of organization has to do with cupboards. Most kitchens have piles of things in cupboards because of  the cupboard design. A standard 30″ cupboard will normally have two shelves. That means one of two things. Either things are piled up and hard to get at and/or you have a lot of dead space. To fix this, I had a carpenter install an extra shelf in most of my cupboards. Voila! No more piles and I could actually fit more in each one. It makes it a lot easier to see what you have, to get things out and to put things away, saving more time.

So you see, it’s simply a matter of keeping a good, organized routine. Nightmare clean ups: Be gone!

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