Saturday, August 26, 2006

can't stop cooking

I have a serious and long post in the works, really I do. It's about Iran and terrorism and all that and what I think we should do and all that and... and I got hungry.


Minor tips for cooks.

Hot Stuff. An amazing number of meals work better if the dishes are hot or cold. I'm going to give an example recipe near the end of this post, but this is about the dishes. Now, the most advice I've ever heard is to put your plates or other dishes into the oven (on low) for a period of time to heat them and keep them hot. The problem is, at least for me, if the oven's going I'm using it to cook. My solution is to put a small amount of water into the dish and put it in the microwave. Yes, it works with plates too - and you can stack them (though I recommend putting down a toothpick under the edge of each plate - the space will allow steam to escape more easily.)

Timing with Sauces. Sauces - gravies, glazes, and many others - have this problem with timing. They tend to fall apart or solidify while you're waiting for everything else to get done. And they need so much attention that it's hard to do anything else. So you wind up with everything else a bit cooler, or your sauce not-so-good. My favorite solution, learned from a restaurant cook way back when, is a soup thermos. You know, one of those broad-mouth 2-cup thermoses you put the kid's soup in for school. Yes, the narrow neck ones are 'better', and the steel looks and wears better. But the wide neck has two advantages. First, you can dip into it to get all the sauce out. Second, it's a heck of a lot easier to clean. Regardless, you can make your sauce first, set it in these, and plate it at the last second - the perfect instant, most of the time.

OK, I promised a recipe. It's a variation on one from Mark Bittman's "How to cook everything: Bittman takes on America's Chefs. At heart it's dirt simple:
Boil noodles.
Put pieces of ham in bowl
When noodles are done, drain and put on top of ham.
Add some butter.
Crack an egg over the noodles and stir or toss.
Top with a little grated cheese.

The heat from the noodles will cook the egg, but in the process it can really suck the heat from the noodles. I do two things to help it along. First, I heat the bowl (see, there's that tie I promised). I also drop the egg into the noodle water about 30 seconds before they're done. The water warms the egg.

Oh - Bittman's recipe uses more pans since he actually fries the egg sunny side up in butter, and adds the resulting browned butter as well as the egg. Browned butter adds yet another layer of very good taste. But it's another pan for me to clean.

Now it's worth noting that this isn't the first time I've seen the 'raw egg on hot stuff, stir to cook in the serving dish' trick. I had a scotsman do it with oatmeal, and a japanese friend drop a small egg into a bowl of hot broth-based soup (sort of miso but not really). This, however, puts a nice even coating on the noodles - enriching them slightly.

Oh - as Mark Bittman notes, if this is too dry you can add a bit of the hot water from the noodles (if you reserved any). You want a bit of a sauce - but since it's made from the ingredients in the bowl there's no need to open the thermos.


Post a Comment

<< Home