The Science Of Cooking

what-einstein-told-his-cook

I love the fact that cooking is science!  The above is next on my list of books to read!!

I was reminded of kitchen science yesterday when I made an extra-healthy vegan vegetable stew. It was inexplicably sour.

I fixed it by adding a little honey and a little salt .”Just the scientific facts, Ma’am!”

Here is a handy guide to scientifically “correcting for taste.”

The four (five??) senses of taste are sour, sweet, salty and bitter and way too hot and spicy.

When you increase one taste to counter another, it changes the way your taste buds perceive the flavor.

If you alter one of the tastes, it will affect the others.

If it is too sour, add something sweet or add a little salt (or both!), depending on what you’re preparing.

If it’s too sweet, add something sour,  like lemon juice or vinegar.

If it is too salty, increase the amounts of sweet and sour and it will reduce the saltiness.

If it tastes bitter, increasing the sweet, sour and salty tastes will reduce  the bitter taste.

If it is too hot, adding a dairy product (such as sour cream) will help calm the heat.

 

Thanksgiving 2013 – Old-Fashioned Southern Green Beans

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Southern green beans. This is the real thing, and they’re even better the next day!

Yield:  12 servings

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs. fresh green beans

5 cups water

4-5 oz. smoked hog jowl

1 teaspoon salt (more or less, depending on saltiness of the seasoning meat)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon (or more) honey

A red-pepper pod or red-pepper flakes

1 onion, quartered

Directions:

Put the water, smoked hog jowl, honey, onion, red pepper, salt, and pepper in a 5-quart Dutch oven and bring to a boil on high heat. Place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or more.

While the hog jowl is simmering, you’ll have time to prepare the green beans. Remove the ends and strings, and snap into pieces of desired length, discarding any beans that are blemished or wilted. Wash the beans in cold water and drain.

When the hog jowl has simmered for at least 30 minutes, remove any scum from the surface of the water. Add the green beans to the pot, turn up the heat, and bring back to a boil.

Once the water has reached a good boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans — partially covered — for 3 full hours. It’s important to simmer the beans with the pot only partially covered. Between the pot and the edge of the lid, leave an opening of at least a quarter of an inch on one side, so that the steam can easily escape.

Once an hour or so, gently turn the beans so that those on the bottom are brought to the top and vice versa. The reason: the beans on the top will not be in contact with the water, and it’s important that all the beans in the pot get some time on top, out of the water.

In determining the heat setting on which to simmer the beans, the goal is to simmer them for 3 hours such that the water and the 3 hours run out at pretty much the same time. If you’ve simmered the beans for 3 hours and there is still water in the pot, just turn up the heat a tad and keep simmering until the water is gone. Of course, if you’ve used too much heat, you may have to add a little water before the end to keep the pot from boiling dry — just don’t cook the beans any less than 3 hours. You’ll probably find, however, that in a 5-quart Dutch oven 5 cups of water will just about be gone if you’ve simmered on low heat, with the lid 1/4 inch open, for 3 hours.

When done, the beans will be a good bit darker green than before being cooked. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Remove the beans from the pot and put them in a serving bowl.

Thanksgiving 2013 – Honey Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

Most people like the taste of spicy sweet pumpkin, but some (including me) aren’t crazy about the texture of pumpkin pie. A delicious and easy dessert alternative is Honey Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie!

Ingredients:

1 qt vanilla ice cream (softened)

3/4 cup pumpkin (canned)

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1 pinch nutmeg

1 pinch clove

1 9 inch graham cracker pie crust

1/2 cup pecans (chopped and toasted)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except shell and pecans) and pour into pie shell. Sprinkle with pecans and freeze until serving time. Serve with whipped cream  and drizzled honey on top.

Thanksgiving 2013 – Garlic Cheese Grits And Spinach Souffle

cheese grits and spinach

Let’s face it – Thanksgiving is all about carbs. I can’t just settle for mashed potatoes and mac and cheese — I must serve cheese grits as well!

This is a wonderful recipe. It combines the essence of the traditional cheese grits casserole with the sophistication of a spinach souffle. Your vegetarian guests will thank you!

Honey is a natural flavor enhancer. While there is only one tablespoon in this recipe, the honey makes the souffle tastier without making it sweet.

Yield: 12 generous servings

Ingredients:

1½ teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup finely grated Parmesan

3 2/3 cups milk (not skim)

1 cup stone-ground or old-fashioned grits

Salt and black pepper

1½ cups grated sharp cheddar

1 tablespoon honey

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

6 ounces baby spinach leaves (7½ cups loosely packed)

6 scallions thinly sliced (2/3 cup), 1 tablespoon reserved

Directions:  Grease a 2-quart souffle dish with 1½ teaspoons butter, dust with 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan, and set aside.

In a medium non-stick saucepan bring the milk and the 2 tablespoons of butter to a simmer over medium heat. Add the grits in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly. Add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring, until grits are thick and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan when you stir, 7 to 10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and stir in 1¼ cups of the cheddar, the remaining Parmesan, honey, garlic, hot pepper sauce, and black pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Taste the grits and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the egg yolks one at a time, stirring vigorously to incorporate each before adding the next. Stir in the spinach by handfuls.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they are thick and glossy and hold stiff peaks. Add a quarter of the whites to the grits mixture and, using a spatula, stir until just combined. Add remaining whites and rapidly but gently fold them in along with the scallions.

Spoon the batter into the prepared dish, smooth, sprinkle with the remaining cheddar, and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue baking until the souffle is puffed, golden brown, and barely jiggles when you shake the pan, 35 to 40 minutes longer. Sprinkle with reserved scallions and serve at once.

Thanksgiving 2013 – Ultimate Macaroni And Cheese

I’ve always assumed that serving macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving was purely a Southern thing.  Always tasty, mac and cheese is also a thoughtful dish to include for your vegetarian-inclined guests.

It turns out that our Victorian forebears were the originators of this custom, although you might be surprised at what they considered to be the Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese.

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing turkey and football player. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

In 1883, macaroni was said to be an acquired taste, and was still unfamiliar to many. To make macaroni and cheese, housekeepers were advised to boil the macaroni, then mix in a tablespoon of canned tomatoes, and then add a layer of freshly grated cheese.  On top of this, successive layers of boiled macaroni, canned tomatoes, and grated cheese, were added until the serving dish was filled.  When the resulting meal was delivered to the Thanksgiving table, it might be more familiar to us as a sort of lasagna instead of the macaroni and cheese we know.

Most of us today prefer the cheesy variety on our Thanksgiving table. This recipe is rich and delicious, to be served only a few times a year. That’s the real secret of Southern cooking!!

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Yield:  12 servings

Ingredients:

1 pound elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and macaroni and cook for 4 to 5 minutes (until the macaroni is half cooked).

Butter a 3-quart baking dish, add 1/3 of the cooked macaroni and then layer with cheese, salt, and pepper; repeat this until the elbows have all transferred. Pour the milk and heavy cream over the macaroni. Drizzle with honey.

Cover the macaroni and cheese with tinfoil and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the macaroni is brown and bubbling on top.

Thanksgiving 2013 – Sweet Potato Souffle With Honey And Egg Nog

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I’ve been looking for the perfect Thanksgiving sweet potato souffle recipe for years. I think this is it!

This recipe substitutes eggnog for condensed milk and honey for the brown sugar, maple syrup and tiny marshmallows. It’s just as sweet and tasty, but a bit more sophisticated. (Not that I have anything against tiny marshmallows!!)

This souffle is something your guests will actually LIKE to eat!!

Yield:  4 large or 8-10 small servings

Ingredients:

2 Large or 3 Medium Sweet Potatoes

Granulated Sugar for dusting the souffle dish

Powdered Sugar for dusting the top

3/4 cup Eggnog

3 Large Eggs, separated and room temperature

1 cup Honey

2 tablespoons Butter plus more for greasing the souffle dish

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Allspice

1 ounce Brandy (optional)

1/2 Lemon (juiced)

1/2 teaspoon Salt

Directions:

Place sweet potatoes in a stock pot and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until very tender. Drain and allow to cool before handling. Peel and discard skins.

Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and break up and mash using a spoon.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2-quart souffle dish; dust with sugar.

In a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium. Add flour, and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in eggnog; simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; mix in sweet potatoes and egg yolks. Stir in honey, vanilla, brandy  (if using), lemon juice, salt, and spices and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Whisk 1/4 of whites into sweet potato mixture; using a rubber spatula, gently fold in remaining whites. Pour mixture into prepared dish; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until puffed, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

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Cooking With Honey – Honey Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

How about some homemade treats for your little Goblin visitors?  These are tasty AND healthy!

Yield:  60 cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups honey

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet

Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

Directions:

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in honey, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.