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Tips Down Memory Lane

First off, I know I didn’t post last week. I’ve been sick with the flu for the last week and a half and I think by the time Wednesday came around I barely knew what day it was for the stuff stuffin’ up my head and tickling my throat.

Not a happy (nor productive) camper was I.

But I’m on the mend (and none too soon as it also put me behind on a Character Cocktail commission) and February’s goal is a renewed commitment to a routine and production schedule.

And so as not to have this post be all mea cupla and no substance, I was flipping through my old notebooks from Culinary School (bonus to moving? finding old stuff and deciding to use it!) and thought I’d share some notes that can be used no matter what you’re cooking.

7 Casual Kitchen Tips

  • In CUL 104 (Principles of Food), part of our final exam (yes, there were tests) was to create a fictitious restaurant and design it’s menu. Then, for the practical portion of the exam we had to cook 2 selections from it. The last two lines of the assignment were this: Being a chef means we think first, then we do. We anticipate what will happen, visualize what we want to accomplish, and then set out to do it. Excellent idea, in or out of the kitchen.
  • Have you ever seen Lite Olive Oil while out shopping? Contrary to popular opinion, “Lite” in terms of olive oil does NOT mean low-fat or low-calorie, merely lighter in color and/or flavor owing to additional refining and various other processes.
  • Herbs refer to the leaves, stems and flowers of aromatic plants used as flavorings while Spices refer to the barn, roots, seeds and berries. When experimenting with them, herbs OR spices, add them to the end of a preparation and taste after each addition to avoid overdoing it.
  • For a basic marinade, the proportions are 1 part acid to 3 parts oil. Marinades can impart flavor as well as tenderize tougher cuts of meat. The acid breaks down tough fibers but the fat keeps the acid from doing more work than it needs to.
  • Garnish gets a bad rap from most folks–those pieces of parsley or kale on the plate to make your fried food less brown? Not the point. The best garnishes highlight a flavor or texture already present in the dish OR act as a key part of it. Great soups, for instance, start with the garnish in the bottom of the bowl (vegetables or meat in or with the soup) with the soup poured over or around it. Oh, and keep the rims of plates and bowls clear of parsley flotsam.
  • Worcestershire Sauce (while named after the town of Worcester, England, where it was originally bottled) is actually based on a sauce from India. It’s main components are garlic, soy sauce, tamarind, onions, molasses, lime, anchovies (not vegan!), vinegar, shallots and a variety of seasonings.
  • Knife Skills 101: A falling knife has no handle. Seriously, if you drop a knife don’t try to grab for it–you’ll most likely catch the blade and it’s gonna hurt! Step back (watch those toes!) and let it fall. Better to pick up a dirty knife and have to clean it than stop work for stitches.

And over on Nibbles I posted about my recent marmalade escapade. It’s easier than you might think and oh-so-worth the minimal effort.

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