The Magic Of Compound Butter – How To Make It and Use It

The Magic Of Compound Butter – How To Make It and Use It

Compound Butter may seem intimidating. Especially when the name suggests something complex and when butter is $7.00 a pound. You don’t want to mess it up. However, compound butter is just a fancy name for butter with other ingredients mixed in. You’ll see in this post that making compound butter is easy, and it’s a great way to add flavour to your butter and stretch your butter a little further. This post has four recipes for compound butter. They are horseradish butter, lemon-thyme butter, herb butter, and finally, the best ever garlic butter. You will learn four ways to forum compound butter, store it, and, even more importantly, use it. So, are you ready? Good! Let’s get to it.


The Basics Of Compound Butter

Compound butter unsurprisingly starts with butter. You can use unsalted butter or salted butter to make compound butter. I prefer to use salted butter. When using salted butter, you know how much salt is in there. You don’t need to add any more, limiting the chance of the final compound butter being under or over seasoned. The butter has to be soft when making compound butter. Take it out of the fridge a few hours before you’re ready to use it to get it to room temperature. Then, beat the butter in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed. Beat the butter for 7 to 8 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl at least once or twice. The butter should be light and airy. If I were only making one type of compound butter, I would add the ingredients to the beaten butter and mix it with the electric mixer for a minute. However, because I made four kinds of compound butter for this post, I divided my butter into smaller portions and mixed the ingredients in by hand.

How To Store Compound Butter

You should store compound butter in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container. Depending on the ingredients you’ve added to the butter, it should last in the refrigerator for one week and a maximum of one month. In the freezer, compound butter will last for months. As you’ll see below, there are many different ways to form your butter to make it easy to use. The shape you use for your butter doesn’t matter. There’s no rule saying this kind of butter needs to be this shape, used for this, or has to look like this. Form the butter however you want.

Forming Compound Butter

There are four main ways to form compound butter. The first is by far the easiest. That’s to put the butter in a ramekin or small dish. The problem with this method is that if you’re storing the butter in the fridge or freezer, it will be difficult to use. You’ll have to soften it every time you want to use it. So, let’s forget about that method.

Rolling Compound Butter

The second easiest way to form compound butter is to roll it. To roll your butter, you can use plastic wrap, parchment, foil, or even waxed paper. For getting a nice tight roll, I prefer plastic wrap. For this method, lay a piece of wrapping flat on your work surface. Spread the butter in a line about two-thirds down the wrapping, then roll. If using plastic wrap, twist the ends until tight. You can store butter wrapped like this in the fridge or freezer. You can unwrap it and cut pieces as needed. Alternatively, you can chill the butter in the refrigerator for two hours, cut it into coins, and store those coins in an airtight container in the freezer.

Small Butter Rolls

Rather than making a large roll of butter, you can make a small roll. This method is excellent if you sprinkle herbs, seasonings, or even edible flowers into the butter. This works best with parchments or waxed paper. For this method, spread the butter out into a thin rectangle, sprinkle whatever ingredients you want over the butter, then roll it up and pull the paper back as you roll forward. You may find it easiest to chill the butter for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling to help it loosen from the paper. Once chilled, you can cut the butter into little nubs showing the rolled-in ingredients. I didn’t actually roll any additional ingredients into my butter, but you can see how it works below.

Quenelleing Butter

A quenelle is a fancy thing in cooking where we take two identical spoons and pass food between them, forming the food into a quenelle or football shape. It’s easiest to look at the pictures below rather than trying to read a description of the process. This takes practice, but it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. It’s a great way to form butter, as you can see below, but also mousse, ice cream, gelato, and even whipped cream. If you dip your spoons in hot water, you will get smooth edges on the butter, but you will also waste a little due to melting. Butter formed like this should be chilled or frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once chilled or frozen, the butter quenelles can be stored together in an airtight container.

Piping Butter

The prettiest way to form compound butter is to pipe it through a star tip. If you’ve ever piped icing, it’s the same. Put the piping tip into the bag, add the butter, and pipe it into little rosettes or whatever shape you’d like. Next, chill or freeze the butter in a single layer on a parchment or waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Once chilled, You may store the piped butter in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container. Butter shaped like this is great to have on hand if you regularly have people over. Whether serving dinner or a light lunch, serving butter like this elevates the meal.


Best Ever Garlic Butter

Arguably, the most common compound butter is garlic butter. You can buy it, though store-bought garlic butter is generally margarine instead of butter and would have garlic powder and dried parsley. I’m trying to say that the store-bought stuff isn’t good, especially after trying the recipe below. The garlic butter in this recipe is made of butter, fresh garlic, fresh parsley, and a little bit of brandy to tie it all together. You can omit the brandy, but I suggest keeping it in. You can buy a small bottle of brandy for under $15 and use it in cooking. Its sweetness adds a lot to pork, chicken, or fish dishes. Use brandy in place of wine in almost any recipe.

I don’t think I need to run through the common uses of garlic butter because we’re all pretty familiar with it. But I might as well share some of my favourite uses that aren’t so common. For example, I like to add it to steaks while resting. The butter sits on the steaks, melts, and adds lots of flavours. It’s also great to throw a tablespoon or two of garlic butter into a tomato-based pasta to finish it. So, imagine your sauce is all done, you’ve added the pasta, now toss in a bit of garlic butter, stir it until it melts, then serve. You won’t believe how much flavour that little bit of garlic butter adds to the pasta.

Best Ever Garlic Butter

Garlic butter is not only for garlic bread. Add it as a finishing ingredient to tomato-based pasta, and use it to top a resting steak.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Butter
Servings: 16 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 tbsp garlic
  • 2 tsp brandy
  • 2 tbsp parsley

Instructions

  • Put the softened butter in the bowl of a mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until the butter is light and airy. Scrape the sides of the bowl down at least once to ensure an even mix.
  • Add the garlic and parsley and beat on medium for two a minute.
  • While the mixer is running, pour the brandy into the butter and mix just until it's incorporated.
  • Stop the mixer and remove the bowl. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper.
  • Dip two spoons in hot water, then scoop up 1 tbsp of butter with one spoon. Pass the butter between the two spoons until the butter is a football shape.
  • Put the formed butter on the sheet pan and chill in the fridge for two hours or freeze. Once chilled or frozen, put the butter in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to three months.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Herb Butter

If you’d like an excellent table butter, meaning a butter you put on the table for dinner, you can’t go wrong with a herb compound butter. If using it as a table butter, I suggest piping it, but I did a flat roll with it here. This herb butter has parsley, thyme, rosemary, dill, oregano, and garlic. Herb butter is great for adding to soups or sauces. It also makes a great finishing butter for chicken or fish.

Herb Butter

Herb butter makes a great addition to fish, mashed potatoes, pasta, or sauces. It also makes a great table butter.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Butter
Servings: 16 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp minced garlic

Instructions

  • Put the softened butter in the mixer bowl and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until the butter is light and airy. Scrape the sides of the bowl down at least once to ensure an even mix.
  • Add the parsley, dill, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and garlic to the mixer and beat for 1 minute or until mixd.
  • Spread the butter out onto a 12-inch piece of parchment. Roll the butter into a thin log. Chill the butter for 30 minutes, remove the parchment and cut the butter into thumb-width pieces.
  • Put the formed butter on the sheet pan and chill in the fridge for two hours or freeze. Once chilled or frozen, put the butter in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to three months.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Lemon-Thyme Butter

Lemon-Thyme Butter is fantastic with chicken or fish, especially white fish like haddock or cod. You can put it on the fish before or after cooking. Either way, it is delicious. The ingredients are all pretty much there in the name, except black pepper. You can substitute the thyme for dill and get an equally delicious butter if you’d like.

Lemon-Thyme Butter

Lemon-Thyme Butter is great on fish, scones, or even chicken.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Butter
Servings: 16 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Put the softened butter in the mixer bowl and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until the butter is light and airy. Scrape the sides of the bowl down at least once to ensure an even mix.
  • Add the lemon zest, thyme and pepper. Mix for 1 minute.
  • Put the butter in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.
  • Pipe the butter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.
  • Put the formed butter on the sheet pan and chill in the fridge for two hours or freeze. Once chilled or frozen, put the butter in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to three months.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Horseradish Butter

Making horseradish butter is as simple as mixing prepared store-bought horseradish with softened, beaten butter. Horseradish butter is fantastic on a steak, salmon, or even a burger. Like any other compound butter mentioned in this post, You may use horseradish butter before or after cooking. For example, you can put room-temperature horseradish butter on a piece of salmon when it comes out of the oven or off the grill. The butter will melt over the salmon and add flavour. The butter also adds a nice glazed appearance. Alternatively, you can put cold horseradish butter on a piece of salmon, then roast or broil it. This will give the salmon a nutty flavour and a darker appearance.

Horseradish Butter

Horseradish Butter makes a great addition to salmon, steak, or even burgers.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Butter
Servings: 16 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp horseradish

Instructions

  • Put the softened butter in the mixer bowl and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until the butter is light and airy. Scrape the sides of the bowl down at least once to ensure an even mix.
  • Add the horseradish to the butter, and beat for 1 minute or until mixed.
  • Place a 12-inch long piece of plastic wrap flat on your work surface.
  • Put the butter in a long mound on the plastic wrap.
  • Fold the bottom of the plastic wrap up and over the butter, rolling forward to seal. Twist the end of the wrap to tighten the roll.
  • Chill the butter and leave it as is until you're ready to use it, or remove the plastic, cut the butter into medallions and store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to four months.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

The Wrap-Up

This list of compound butter is in no way definitive. The only limit to the possible flavours of compound butter is the human imagination. Hopefully, this post has sparked your imagination, and you’re thinking of all the other ingredients you could mix into your butter to add extra flavour and appearance. Try the ones I’ve listed, then create your own. When you make your own, I’d love for you to share them as they may inspire other people.

Thanks for reading! Remember that sharing is caring, so share this with your friends and leave a comment below to tell me what you think. Have a great day! I’ll see you back here next Thursday.

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How To Grill Chicken Breast, So It Stays Tender, Juicy and Delicious

How To Grill Chicken Breast, So It Stays Tender, Juicy and Delicious

People love chicken breast. I don’t really know why. It is the fifth-best part of a chicken, and chickens don’t really have more than five parts. But, despite how I feel about them, you will probably be throwing them on your grill this year. Since you’ll be grilling them anyway, why not grill them as well as possible? What I’m about to share with you is a foolproof method for cooking chicken breast, or anything for that matter, perfectly on the grill. You don’t even need to read the whole post. I’ll tell you the secret right now. Are you ready? Okay, here it is. Don’t overcook it. I know. Mind blown. That really is basically what I’m about to tell you. Of course, there’s more to it, but that’s the short version. If you love chicken breast and are planning on grilling some, keep reading. Let’s get to it.


Why Chicken Breast Sucks

Chicken breast sucks and is easy to ruin for the same reason that so many people like it. It is extremely lean. In a 3 oz (85 g) portion of skinless chicken breast, there are 140 calories. Of those 140 calories, only 3 grams are fat. That’s a pretty good ratio if your only focus is eating lean. However, whether you like it or not, fat equals flavour and juiciness. Lean meat tends to be dry and flavourless. They are also much less forgiving when even slightly overcooked. So, the two big questions that we need to answer are; How do you keep your chicken breast juicy? And, how do you impart as much flavour as possible?

Prepping The Chicken

I’ve seen a lot of people standing in front of their grill with a package of boneless, skinless chicken breast. They take the chicken right from the package to the grill. No seasoning, no nothing. I’m here to tell you, if you don’t already know, don’t do that. First of all, where is the flavour? Secondly, there is a little prep that you should do to help your chicken breast cook evenly.

Chicken Breasts

Removing the tender

If you flip over a chicken breast, you will see what is known as the “tender.” The tender (yes, that’s what breaded chicken tenders are made of) is a little flap of meat that hangs off the bottom of the chicken breast. You don’t have to go hunting for it; it’ll be pretty obvious. Using a sharp knife, cut the tender off. Why? Because the tender will create a little pocket between itself and the rest of the breast that will take a long time to cook. By the time this pocket is cooked, the rest of the breast will be overcooked.

What do you do with the tender?

Don’t throw the tender away! If you want to, you can throw it on the grill and cook it alongside your breasts. They only take a few minutes to cook and make a great addition to salads. You can also freeze them. Once you get a stockpile in your freezer, thaw them and make a big batch of homemade chicken fingers. You can substitute the turkey in the Turkey Tender Recipe below with the chicken tenders. Chicken tenders also make a great ingredient for a stir-fry or soup.

Oven-Baked Turkey Tenders

These Turkey Tenders will not only become an entertaining staple but you will want to eat them every day of the week. Pair them with the cranberry sweet and sour sauce and you have a real winner.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Keyword: appetizers, Sweet and Sour, Turkey
Servings: 12 pieces
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

Turkey Fingers

  • 300 g Turkey Breast Fillets, cut into 12 strips
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp White Pepper
  • 1 tsp Ground Sage
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 cup Bread crumbs (or more as needed)
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Flour (or more as needed)

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1/2 cup White Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Cranberry Juice
  • 1/4 cup Dried Cranberries
  • 2 tsp Cornstarch
  • 2 tsp Water

Instructions

Turkey Fingers

  • Add the spices to the flour and mix.
  • Dip the turkey in the flour, then the beaten eggs, then the bread crumbs.
  • Place the breaded turkey fingers on a greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake the turkey fingers in the oven at 400°f for 15 minutes then flip and bake for 10 more minutes or until cooked through.

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • Put the vinegar, water, sugar, cranberry juice, and dried cranberries in a medium pot and bring to a boil.
  • While the vinegar mixture is boiling combine the cornstarch and water and mix well.
  • Cook the sauce for 3-4 minutes, stir the cornstarch and water and add to the vinegar mixture.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Serve with the turkey fingers.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Butterfly the breast

Taking the tender off will help the breast cook more evenly. But, if you have an especially thick chicken breast, you may want to butterfly it. Butterflying will give you a thinner chicken breast with a larger overall surface area. This means that the breast will cook much quicker than if it was left whole, and it will have more of that delicious grilled flavour and more room for seasoning.

How to butterfly a chicken breast

To butterfly a chicken breast, remove the tender as described above, then place the chicken breast flat on your cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut halfway up the height of the breast. Keep cutting in long even strokes until you’ve cut about 80% of the way through the chicken breast. You should no be able to open the the breast like a book. That’s all there is to it. Just try your best to keep your knife as even as possible otherwise, you may cut through the top or bottom of the breast. This won’t hurt it, but it won’t be as pretty.

Note: I did not do a very good job butterflying my breast. I was too preoccupied with taking pictures. I should have grabbed a better knife. But never fear; I make mistakes, so you don’t have to. Yeah, that’s why I do it.

Seasoning the chicken breast

Okay, your chicken breast has had the tender removed, and the larger ones have been butterflied. It’s time to go to the grill, right? That was a test. If you said yes, you failed. It’s flavour time, not grill time. At this point, you can marinate your chicken breasts if you want, or you can season them with any number of seasonings. To make my point about seasoning, I flavoured all four of my chicken breasts differently. One is seasoned with a store-bought BBQ chicken seasoning. One has Italian seasoning. Another has Cajun seasoning. The final breast just has salt and pepper on it.

To oil or not to oil?

You may have noticed in the images above that I only oiled one breast. I know that many people, when grilling, tend to oil their food and their grill. If you are eating chicken breast becasue it is lean meat, adding a pile of oil to it kind of defeats the purpose. It is also unnecessary and is likely to cause flareups. Don’t believe me? It’s okay, you’ll see in a few minutes. If you want to add all that extra oil, go for it. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, but again, it is not needed.


Prepping Your Grill

Do you want to know the big secret to grilling? Here it is. Turn your grill on high. Leave it alone with the lid down for 10 to 15 minutes. Next, clean your grill with a grill brush or whatever new fangled grill cleaning tool you have. Put the lid back down, and leave it alone for another 5 minutes. Then, and only then, grill your food.

The secret to a non-stick grill

No matter what your grill is made of, it has the capacity to be non-stick. But, it comes down to you. The hotter your grill is when you add food to it, the less likely it is that food will stick. Also, the more you use your grill, the more grease from your food will build up and bake onto it. This will “season” your grill, just like a castiron pan. Seasoning the grill will also help it be nonstick. So don’t wipe the grill down with soap and water. Just get it hot and brush it off with your grill cleaning tool of preference.

Why your food sticks

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “But Ben, come on. I use my grill all the time. I let it heat up and I clean it with a grill brush. But everything still sticks.” Well, to that I have to say, it’s your fault. Harsh, I know, but hear me out. There are three main reasons your food, chicken breast or otherwise, is sticking to your grill.

  • You didn’t let your grill get hot enough, or you keep opening the lid and cooling the grill down too much. Or, you let your grill heat up but then turned the heat way down before you put your food on. We’ll talk about this in a minute.
  • You didn’t brush your grill off well enough, so the food you’re cooking is sticking to old bits of dried-on food.
  • Or, the most common reason, you are trying to flip your food before it’s ready to be flipped.

The Maillard Reaction and Grilling

We’ve talked before about the Maillard reaction in other posts. I’m not going to get too deep into the science here, but you can check out this Wikipedia article about it if you are interested. The short version is that the Maillard reaction is the process that causes food to brown. Think about the cheese and crust of a pizza. The Maillard reaction causes the golden brown colour. It’s the same with a perfect brown crust on a nicely seared steak. Well, that browning, the Maillard reaction, is vitally important when cooking on a grill.

When to flip your food

When your food hits the grill, it is being cooked by the heat transfer from the flames, the heat in the air, and the heat stored in the grill’s metal. Metal is a better conductor of heat than air, but it takes a while to absorb enough heat to maintain its temperature. So, the metal will be much hotter than the air, ideally. That’s why you get grill marks on your food. Those grill marks are more than just pretty. They are the key to your food not sticking. As the Maillard reaction happens, the food touching the grill will brown. As the food browns, it will release from the grill. But, this takes time. So, if you are concerned about your chicken breast, or other foods, burning, turn down the flames a little bit, but don’t force the food to flip. Once it is ready to flip, it will release from the grill easily. That’s why it is so important to pre-heat your grill.


How to grill chicken breast

Okay, we’ve covered a lot. But I think it’s important to know all of this before we get to actually cooking. At this point, your breasts should have the tenders removed. The larger breasts should be butterflied. All the chicken should be seasoned on both sides, and your grill should be nice and hot. Now, put the chicken breast on the grill, close the lid, and leave it alone for about 5 to 6 minutes. Before the chicken goes on the grill, the gas should be on a high. Once the chicken goes on and the lid is closed, wait until the thermometer comes back to about 400°f then turn the gas to medium. If you leave the gas on high, you risk burning the chicken. If you turn the gas down before the chicken is on the grill or before the grill comes back to temperature, you risk the metal cooling down too much and the chicken sticking.

grilled chicken breast

How do you know when to flip the chicken?

After 5 minutes, open the lid and gently lift the chicken breasts. If they are sticking, close the lid and leave them alone for another minute or two. Once the breasts easily pull away from the grill (notice I said pull away and not lift away), flip them, close the lid and leave them alone for another 4 to 5 minutes.

Even though the breasts shouldn’t stick to the grill, they likely aren’t going to lift off like they are being cooked in a non-stick pan, either. So you may need to pull them a little bit, but there should be no tearing, and there shouldn’t be any chicken left on the grill either.

How to tell when the chicken is cooked?

There is only really one foolproof way to ensure that your chicken breast has reached a safe temperature but isn’t overcooked. That is to use an instant-read probe thermometer. These cost between $10 and $30 and are worth every penny. You can find them on amazon, at most grocery stores, and all kitchen supply stores. If you’re the type of person that cuts into your chicken breast to see if it is cooked, stop. Two things. Colour is not a reliable indicator of whether or not chicken has reached a safe temperature (165°f for breast 170°f for thighs and whole birds). Secondly, when you cut into a piece of meat straight after cooking or while cooking, all the juice runs out, leaving it dry and flavourless. So, stop cutting into your chicken to see if it’s cooked. Spen the $20 and get a thermometer.

temperature check on a grilled chicken breast

How Long Should I Cook The Chicken Breast Per Side?

A minute ago, I said to cook your breast for 5 to 6 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. This is a good rough guide, but many factors determine how long it will take to grill your chicken breasts. Things like how thick your chicken is, the temperature of the chicken when it goes on the grill. How far away from the flames your grill is, how much air circulation does your barbecue have, what the temperature outside is and if it is windy or not? So, don’t try to tell the chicken breast when it is ready to flip or when it’s cooked. Let it tell you.


To keep it juicy let it rest.

The final step in ensuring your chicken is juicy and tender is to let it rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting it or serving it. We all know that we have to let steaks rest, but most people don’t think about resting chicken or pork. All meat needs to rest after cooking to allow the internal juices time to redistribute throughout the meat after being superheated. I know it can be hard to wait—your hungry. You’ve been working hard for this meal, but don’t ruin it by rushing. Take 5 minutes, set the table, pour yourself a drink, give your partner a few shoulder squeezes. Whatever it takes, don’t touch that chicken for 5 minutes.

grilled chicken breast

Grilled Chicken Breast

The finished chicken should have grill marks but not be burnt. When you cut into it (after waiting 5 minutes), you should be able to see how juicy it is. If you cut a piece and squeeze it, juice should run out, and it should feel tender. Congratulations! You just grilled the perfect chicken breast, and you didn’t even oil it. Oh, and I should mention, the breast I did oil, cooked just as well as the others and came off the grill just as well. There really wasn’t a difference. So, why add the oil at all?


The Wrap Up

Okay, I know that this was a lot of information. This post is quite a bit longer than I intended it to be, but I think it is important to understand the why just as much as the how. If you enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Also, remember to subscribe to Chef’s Notes below, so you never miss a post. And, if you want to help support the site, hit the donate button at the bottom of the page.

Thank you everyone, have a great week! I’ll see you right back here next Wednesday.

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Tequila Lime Scallops and How to Cook a Scallop Like a Pro

Tequila Lime Scallops and How to Cook a Scallop Like a Pro

Well-cooked scallops are like little tender morsels of ocean candy. But, poorly cooked scallops are like bland little rubber bullets. Unfortunately, the line between a well-prepared and a poorly prepared scallop is pretty thin. Today you’ll learn how to make one of my favourite scallops dishes; Tequila Lime Scallops. But, more importantly, you’ll learn how to prepare and cook scallops like a chef so that you can have tender morsels of ocean candy whenever you want. Let’s get to it.


How To Buy Scallops

The best way to ensure that you end up with great scallops is to start with great scallops. Buy fresh whenever you can. If you are buying fresh, make sure they are actually fresh. The scallops at the seafood counter in your local grocery store probably aren’t fresh even though they aren’t frozen. They are likely previously frozen. Ask if the scallops have been frozen or not before you pay a premium for “fresh scallops.”

There are two big differences between fresh and frozen scallops. First of all, fresh scallops are more tender and have a better texture. Frozen scallops tend to be slightly chewier. Frozen scallops also release a lot more liquid than fresh scallops when cooked. This makes it more difficult to get a nice sear on the scallops, and that sear is important for flavour development. If you aren’t sure if your scallops are fresh or previously frozen, cook one up, put it on a plate, and wait two minutes. With a fresh scallop, there will be little to no liquid on the plate after 2 minutes. If the scallops are previously frozen, there will be a white milky liquid on the plate after two minutes.

Size matters.

Usually, when you buy scallops, they come as either tiny bay scallops or sea scallops, which are large. However, a rating scale for scallops (and shrimp) is measured by a “U” followed by a number. For example, U10 or U20-30. The “U” stands for “under a pound,” and the number is how many scallops there should in a pound. So, the lower the number that follows the “U,” the bigger the scallops. If you buy U10 scallops, you can expect there to be 10 or less in a pound. Those are good-sized scallops. More often than not, the scallops you buy at the store are U20 to 30, so there are 20 to 30 scallops in a pound. These are a good medium-sized scallop. But, if you want large ones, ask for the U10s, especially if you are talking to a specialty seafood purveyor. To learn more about sizing and other scallop cooking tips, check out this post I did back in 2019.

It’s okay to buy frozen.

If all you can get are frozen scallops, it’s okay. They can still be delicious. You’ll have to be a little more diligent with them. For starters, you must give the scallops enough time to defrost properly. This means that you will have to transfer them from the freezer to the fridge at least 24 to 48 hours before you want to cook them. Never put them in the microwave to defrost them and never submerge them in water. The microwave will make them rubbery. Submerging them in water will cause them to absorb loads of extra water.

Defrosting Scallops

When defrosting scallops, remove them from their original package and place them on a plate or a sheet pan lined with a paper towel or a kitchen towel. Make sure the scallops have a little space between each one. This space will help them defrost. It’s best not to cover the scallops when they go in the fridge, but if you do need to cover them, do it with a paper towel or kitchen towel rather than a plastic wrap. The towels would be changed in an ideal world after about 12 hours, but you don’t have to do this. Changing the towel will help dry the scallops.

If you need frozen scallops in a hurry.

If for some reason, you need scallops in a hurry and they are frozen, you can quickly defrost them in cold running water. “But wait, you said not to submerge them in water.” Yes, I did say that, and I meant it. If you quickly defrost scallops under cold running water, the scallops must be in a sealed bag. Either the bag they came in or a zip-top bag. Put the bag of frozen scallops in a deep container, put the container in your sink (make sure the sink isn’t plugged) and run cold water over the bag in a slow, steady stream. Defrosting the scallops this way will take about an hour, give or take. It is important to keep the water running to maintain a safe temperature and so that the water doesn’t get too cold.

How To Prepare Scallops For Cooking

Whether you use fresh or defrosted scallops, they will be prepared for cooking the same way. First of all, remove the foot (it isn’t actually a foot, but that’s what people call it). The foot is the little piece of white meat that hangs off the side of the scallops. It is edible, but it gets very chewy when cooked, so it’s always best to remove it. Once that’s done, pat the scallops dry on both sides with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Again, the surface of the scallops must be as dry as possible to get that perfect sear.


How To Cook Scallops

Choosing the right pan for cooking scallops

Scallops are very quick and easy to cook once you know how. The key is to get your pan very, very hot. I know that a lot of people don’t like to cook on high heat. I get it. But, with scallops, if you want that nice sear and rich flavour, high heat is vital. The pan you use should be either a heavy-duty non-stick pan, a very heavy-duty stainless steel pan, or a cast-iron skillet. My preference is cast iron becasue you can get it really hot. But, becasue of the sauce we’re making for the scallop recipe today, a non-stick or stainless pan is best. Again get the pan very hot. If your burner goes to 10, turn it on to 8 or 9 and leave it alone for 2 to 3 minutes.

Cooking the scallops

Once your pan is very hot, add just enough oil to cover the pan’s surface. Don’t use olive oil for this because it will burn and smoke. Instead, use an oil with a high smoke point like canola, peanut, or grapeseed oil. Season the scallops lightly with salt and pepper, then gently place them in the pan one at a time, leaving space between each scallop. When placing the scallops in the pan, start by placing them around the outside edge of the pan, then work your way in. Once you get the last scallop in the pan, go back and check the first one to see how well its colour is developing. Once the first scallop develops a deep caramel brown colour (about 90 seconds of cooking), flip it. Next, go around the pan and flip each scallop in the order they entered the pan and as they colour. Once the last scallop is flipped, go back and recheck the first one. Once the bottom is browned, take it out of the pan and place it on a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat until all the scallops are brown on both sides and are out of the pan.

Don’t crowd the pan!

Wheater using fresh or frozen scallops, you can’t crowd your pan. You need to leave about 20% of the surface of the pan uncovered. This helps the pan maintain its heat. If the pan’s temperature drops too much from overcrowding or becasue it wasn’t hot enough to start with, the liquid will escape the scallops, pool in the bottom of the pan, and boil your scallops instead of searing them. Though this will happen with fresh scallops, it will be much more extreme with previously frozen ones.


Tequila Lime Sauce

At this point, you’ve perfectly cooked some scallops. You can enjoy them as they are, or you can take them one step further and make this delicious Tequila Lime Sauce. To make the sauce, remove the scallops from the pan and take the pan off the heat to let it cool down slightly. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan, wait for it to melt, then add 2 tablespoons of minced shallot or onion. Put the pan back on the heat and cook for about 2 minutes before adding 2 ounces of good quality tequila (the one I used). Cook the tequila for about a minute, then add the zest of half a lime and the juice of a whole lime. Add the scallops back into the pan and toss with about 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro, then serve.

Tequila Lime Scallops

Seared scallops in a quick Tequila lime sauce finished with cilantro. A quick scallop dish that tastes like summer.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: alcohol, Fish and Seafood, Scallops, Seafood, Summer, summer cooking
Servings: 4 people
Author: Chef Ben Kelly

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Scallops, foot removed and patted dry 454 g
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 2 tbsp minced shallot or onion
  • 2 oz Tequila
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime juice and zest

Instructions

  • Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is very hot.
  • Lightly season the scallops with salt and pepper.
  • Add the oil to the pan and gently place the scallops in one at a time. Leave the scallops alone for 90 seconds.
  • Gently lift one of the scallops. If the bottom is a deep caramel brown, flip the scallops and cook for 1 more minute. If the scallop is still white or just turning brown, leave it for another 30 seconds or so, then flip it and finish it on the second side for 1 minute.
  • Remove the scallops from the pan and onto a warmed plate. Set aside.
  • Take the pan off the heat and add the butter. Once the butter melts, add the shallots and return the pan to the heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the shallots soften and turn translucent.
  • Pour the tequila into the pan. If you use a gas range, lift the pan away from the flame before adding the tequila, then return the pan to the heat. Cook until the tequila has almost completely evaporated.
  • Take the pan off the heat and zest half the lime into it, then squeeze the juice from the whole lime into it. Return the pan to the heat for 30 seconds. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Take the pan from the heat and add the scallops into the pan, toss with the cilantro and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

The Wrap Up

I hope that you’re now excited to buy some scallops and cook them up for yourself. I know the process may seem complicated, but really, at its core, it’s just dry the scallops and cook them quickly in a very hot pan. There isn’t that much to it. If you’re wondering how to tell if your scallops are cooked, that’s not too difficult either. Right now, as you read this, hold your hand out and gently touch the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. Now, poke the bit of meat on your palm right below your thumb. A perfectly cooked scallop will feel the same when you poke it. I hope that helps. Thanks for reading, remember to share it, and have a great day and a great week! Oh, and if you cook some scallops, share some pictures of them on my Facebook page. I’d love to see them.

Remember to share this post on Facebook or Pinterest if you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading, and have a great day! Remember, there are new Chef’s Notes posts every Wednesday, and you can subscribe below, so you never miss one.

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How To Clean A Beef Tenderloin

How To Clean A Beef Tenderloin

Welcome to the comprehensive guide on how to clean and prepare a whole beef tenderloin. As a personal chef, my experience has shown that a perfectly roasted beef tenderloin is a crowd-pleaser at any gathering. Today, I’ll share with you the essential steps to transform a whole tenderloin into a culinary masterpiece.


Cleaning the Tenderloin

Begin by removing your whole beef tenderloin from its vacuum-sealed packaging. Expect some blood within the package; this is normal. Carefully line a baking sheet with paper towels, place the tenderloin on top, and pat it dry. Ensure to cut the packaging carefully, avoiding any accidental nicks in the meat.


Removing Excess Fat and Sinew

The key to a tender and flavorful beef tenderloin lies in removing the excess fat, sinew, and connective tissue. Pay particular attention to the ‘chain’, a strip of meat and fat running along the side of the tenderloin. While not suitable for direct consumption, it’s excellent for broths or can be trimmed further for skewers.


Eliminating Silver Skin

Silver skin is a tough connective membrane that doesn’t soften upon cooking, making it necessary to remove. Using a boning or fillet knife, gently slide the blade under the silver skin and strip it away in thin layers. While this process may result in a slight loss of meat, it’s crucial for ensuring the tenderness of your dish.


Flip the tenderloin

Once the silver skin is cut away, flip the tenderloin over. On the underside of the tenderloin, there’s going to some flaps of meat and fat. This is where the tenderloin is connected to the skeletal structure of the animal. This needs to be cleaned up too. All you can really do is cut it all away. Keep your knife as flat as possible and make long, smooth slices until the flaps are removed. The flaps can be used to make skewers or broth, so they aren’t going to waste.


What to do with the extra pieces

At one end of the beef tenderloin, there are two extra pieces of meat. These can be left on, but in the interest of even cooking, it’s better to take them off, but of course, they aren’t going to go to waste. To cut the pieces away, use your knife and make long, smooth slices down the outside edge of the tenderloin. The separation between the tenderloin and the other meat pieces will be more obvious with the smaller piece than the bigger piece, but it shouldn’t be too difficult either way. What you should have once those pieces are cutaway is a fully cleaned beef tenderloin.


To Tie or Not To Tie

At this point, you can cut the tenderloin into steaks or tie it to be cooked whole. If you are cutting it into steaks, trim the tapered ends and add them to the scrap pile. This will help you get more equally sized steaks. If you are roasting the tenderloin whole, as I prefer to do, you are going to want to tie it. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps the tenderloin keep its shape when cooked and helps it cook more evenly. Use butcher’s twine to tie the tenderloin. Butcher’s twine is a 100% cotton string that you can buy in most grocery stores.

Tieing the Tenderloin

There are a few ways to tie the tenderloin. The first way is to cut 12 10-inch pieces of twine and tie each one evenly around the tenderloin. The second way and the one I prefer is to use butcher’s knots. Tie one end of the twine around one end of the tenderloin. Make a big loop with the twine and twist it twice. Thread the tenderloin through the loop and pull it tight. The loop will tighten around the tenderloin. Do the same thing again and space the second loop out from the first one by about an inch. Repeat until the whole tenderloin is tied, then cut the string and tie it off with any basic knot. This technique takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes the easiest way to tie any roast.


The Scraps

Waste not! The scraps from your tenderloin, including the chain and trimmed fat, are perfect for making stocks or other dishes like skewers, stir-fries, or stroganoff. Every part of the tenderloin can contribute to a delicious meal.


Cooking the Tenderloin

Though this post focuses on cleaning, a basic cooking method involves rubbing the tenderloin with a mix of herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a preheated oven or on a barbecue, ensuring you achieve the perfect internal temperature for your desired doneness.

Storing Beef Tenderloin

If you plan to store the tenderloin, it can be frozen either cleaned or uncleaned without losing quality. For optimal results, consider using a vacuum sealer or the original packaging.


Conclusion

Understanding how to properly clean and prepare a beef tenderloin can transform your culinary experience. Not only does it make for a more enjoyable meal, but it’s also cost-effective, allowing you to feed more people with a single purchase. Share this guide with fellow cooking enthusiasts, and don’t forget to subscribe for more tips and tricks. Happy cooking!

7 Simple Tips For Perfect Scrambled Eggs

7 Simple Tips For Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Welcome to my ChefsNotes.com! Today, we will discuss something near and dear to my heart: scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs are one of the easiest dishes to cook, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. For years, I hated scrambled eggs – they were often heavy, had a weird taste, and looked strange. However, with time and practice, I learned that scrambled eggs could be amazing with just a few simple tips. In this post, I’ll share with you my seven easy tips for making perfect scrambled eggs every time, so you can enjoy this delicious dish just like I do!

Perfect scrambled eggs

Whisk Eggs Just Enough: Avoid Overworking Your Eggs

Whisking the eggs is the first step in making scrambled eggs, but it’s important not to overdo it. Over-whisking can lead to rubbery and tough eggs, while under-whisking can result in bits of white in your scramble.

To achieve the perfect consistency, whisk the eggs until the yolks and whites are fully blended and the mixture has a uniform yellow colour. Avoid incorporating too much air into the mixture, resulting in a spongy or rubbery texture.

Using a fork or whisk, aim for a smooth, consistent mixture with no visible bits of clear white. Whisk just enough to combine the yolks and whites, and then stop. Following this tip will help you achieve light, fluffy, tender scrambled eggs that are perfect every time.


6. Don’t Add Milk Or Water To Your Scrambled Eggs

One of the most common mistakes people make when preparing scrambled eggs is adding milk or water to the eggs. While some people believe this is necessary to achieve light and fluffy eggs, it’s actually an unnecessary step that can compromise the texture of your scramble.

The truth is that milk and water can weigh your eggs down, making them dense and heavy. Additionally, if your eggs are even slightly overcooked, the milk and water can separate from the eggs and create a watery mess on your plate. For perfect scrambled eggs, skip the milk and water altogether.

If you’re accustomed to adding milk or water to your eggs, try preparing them without these ingredients just once. You may be surprised to find that they’re just as fluffy and delicious without the added liquid. Instead, focus on cooking the eggs gently and stirring them frequently to create small, soft curds.

Remember, scrambled eggs are all about simplicity. By using only eggs, salt, and pepper, you can create a delicious and satisfying breakfast that’s perfect every time. So ditch the milk and water and give it a try!


5. Use Moderate Heat and a Pre-Heated Pan

Now that you’ve whisked your eggs to perfection and skipped the milk and water, it’s time to cook them. To start, place a non-stick pan on the stove over medium heat. Give the pan time to heat up for at least two to three minutes before adding your fat or oil and eggs.

A pre-heated pan is essential for cooking perfect scrambled eggs. If you use a cold pan, your eggs will stick like glue, making them difficult to cook and resulting in an unappetizing mess. A non-stick pan is ideal for this task, but if you don’t have one, a preheated stainless steel pan will also work.

Moderate heat is also key to creating light, fluffy scrambled eggs. Avoid setting the heat too high, leading to overcooked, tough eggs. On the other hand, if the heat is too low, the eggs will take longer to cook and may be too moist.

Using a preheated pan and moderate heat, you can achieve perfectly cooked scrambled eggs that are light and fluffy with just the right texture. Keep reading for our next tip on ensuring your eggs are cooked to perfection.


4. Use Butter for Delicious Scrambled Eggs

When it comes to cooking perfect scrambled eggs, the type of fat you use matters. While you don’t need a lot of it, I adamantly believe that butter is the best option for cooking scrambled eggs. There are a few reasons for this.

First, butter adds a rich, delicious flavour to your eggs that cooking oil or pan spray simply can’t match. Secondly, butter can help indicate when your pan is ready for the eggs. Heat your pan as described in the previous tip, then add a teaspoon or two of butter. Once the butter has melted and started to foam, the pan is ready for your eggs. Swirl the butter around the pan to coat it evenly, then pour in the eggs.

Another benefit of using butter is that it can help prevent the eggs from sticking to the pan. While there’s no official science to back this up, many cooks swear by butter for non-stick scrambled eggs. If you’re concerned about the cholesterol content of butter, you can use a plant-based alternative like coconut oil or vegan butter.

To make your scrambled eggs truly delicious, use high-quality butter and fresh eggs. By using these tips and tricks, you can create scrambled eggs that are light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious. Keep reading for our next tip on achieving perfect scrambled eggs every time!


3. Season Scrambled Eggs After Cooking

Salt and pepper are a classic seasoning combination for scrambled eggs, but it’s important to add them at the right time. Adding salt to the eggs before cooking can lead to several problems.

Firstly, the salt may draw moisture out of the eggs, leaving them dry and tough and resulting in a pool of unpleasant egg water on your plate. Secondly, salt can cause the eggs to discolour, leading to grey or even slightly green eggs with an off flavour.

To avoid these issues, it’s best to season your scrambled eggs after they are cooked. Once the eggs are cooked to your liking, remove them from the heat and then add salt and pepper to taste. This will ensure that your eggs are perfectly seasoned and full of flavour without being compromised by excess moisture or discoloration.

For an added burst of flavour, consider adding other seasonings like fresh herbs or spices to your scrambled eggs. Chives, thyme, or parsley are all great options for adding a pop of flavour to your scramble.


2. Don’t Over Scramble The Eggs

Believe it or not, it is possible to over-scramble your eggs. Over-scrambled eggs can look like tiny cheese curds before being pressed into cheese, with a texture that’s far from ideal. For perfect scrambled eggs, you want them to have some texture and body without being overworked.

The technique for achieving the perfect texture is simple. Start by pouring your whisked eggs into the preheated buttered pan, then let them sit for a few seconds. Next, stir the eggs gently with a rubber spatula, then let them sit for a few more seconds. Repeat this process for a minute to a minute and a half or until the eggs are just about cooked.

It’s important to note that the eggs will continue to cook even after you remove them from the heat, so it’s best to slightly undercook them to ensure they’re perfectly tender and not dry or rubbery. By gently stirring the eggs and letting them sit, you’ll create soft, delicate curds that are a joy to eat.

Remember, scrambled eggs should have some texture and body, but they shouldn’t be mashed to a pulp. By using a gentle hand and the right technique, you can create scrambled eggs that are light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious.


1. Don’t Over Cook Your Scrambled Eggs

The final, most obvious, and most important tip is not to overcook your eggs. The French style of making scrambled eggs is to leave them a little bit runny. That’s not what I’m suggesting. What I’m saying is don’t overcook them. When overcooked, they become tough, gritty, heavy, tasteless, and watery if you added liquid to them. Eggs especially scrambled eggs, are fragile when it comes to heat. They don’t like a lot of it. So, once the eggs are about three-quarters of the way cooked, take the pan off the heat. The residual heat in the pan will be more than enough to finish cooking the eggs. Once the eggs are cooked, take them out of the pan and serve them immediately. Perfectly cooked scrambled eggs are a bit shiny and moist. They don’t look dull and dry.


The Wrap Up

Scrambled eggs are a breakfast staple, but making them perfect every time can be challenging. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to go from terrible to amazing. By following the simple tips we’ve shared, you’ll be able to achieve perfect scrambled eggs that are light, fluffy, and full of flavour.

Remember, simplicity is key when it comes to cooking eggs. Eggs are already a nearly perfect food on their own, and they don’t need to be overcomplicated or overworked. The more you add or fuss with them, the more likely they are to go wrong.

Some of the essential tips for making perfect scrambled eggs include using high-quality eggs, avoiding over-whisking, cooking on moderate heat, using butter as a fat, seasoning after cooking, and avoiding overcooking. By following these simple tips, you can create scrambled eggs that are both beautiful and delicious.

If you have any other tips or tricks for perfect scrambled eggs that we missed, be sure to share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoy perfect scrambled eggs every time. Stay tuned for more cooking tips and delicious recipes!


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Uncommon uses for Common Spices and Seasonings

Uncommon uses for Common Spices and Seasonings

We’ve all got them. They may be in a neat and tidy spice rack or jammed into an overstuffed cupboard that avalanches out every time we open it. Either way, spices and seasonings are our gateway to flavour and our ticket to travel the world without ever leaving our kitchens. Today we will root around in the cupboard, find some very common spices and seasonings and look at how we can use them in uncommon ways to create incredible flavours. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get to it. After you read this, be sure to check out my post, 5 Cooking Principles for Success, to learn some real tips to improve your cooking.


Herbs

Thyme

thyme

Thyme is one of my all-time favourite herbs and one that I use more than almost any others. It can be used either fresh or dried, though I much prefer to use it fresh. Thyme is commonly used with pork though it is also fantastic with chicken, beef and fish. It can be added to soups, stews and chowders (especially clam chowder), sauces, roasted vegetables, and even bread. Thyme can also work well in sweet applications such as lemon and thyme muffins, blueberry crumble, or even apple crumble. This is an herb that I always have in the fridge and ready to go because it works with pretty much everything.

Rosemary

rosemary

Rosemary can be used fresh or dried, but like thyme, I prefer to use it fresh. In fact, assume unless I say otherwise that all the herbs on this list are used fresh. It will save us all a lot of time. Rosemary has a strong initial flavour, but it can break down fairly quickly when cooked for long periods of time. For this reason, it is better to add rosemary around the middle of cooking rather than at the start. Rosemary works incredibly well with red meat and chicken, pork and even halibut, cod, and mackerel. It is great with beans, grilled or roasted vegetables and pairs well with lemon and garlic. I love to use it when braising beef or lamb in tomato sauce with a little red wine. Mushrooms and rosemary are good friends and go very well together in pasta with sausage and white sauce or risotto. Rosemary and tomato, either fresh or as sauce goes very well together too.

Parsley

Parsley should always be used fresh. Dried parsley has little to no flavour and lacks the bright green colour of fresh parsley. You can buy either flat-leaf (Italian parsley) or curly parsley. If you have a choice go with the flat-leaf, it has a better flavour. If you don’t have a choice, either will do. I use parsley mostly as a finishing herb. Not that I sprinkle it over the plate for garnish. I mean, if I’m making pasta, I’ll toss the pasta and the sauce together and finish it with a handful of parmesan, a handful of chopped parsley, and a nub of butter. The parsley adds a fresh, vibrant flavour that doesn’t overpower the rest of the dish. It also adds a bit of colour. Parsley can also be added to soups and chowders. Because of its neutral, fresh flavour, parsley pairs well with just about anything.

Basil

Basil obviously can be used to make pesto and pairs incredibly well with tomato in any form. But, did you know that it can be used just as easily with strawberries (especially in strawberry shortcakes), blueberries, peaches and white chocolate? It is also fantastic with white fish, especially when served with white beans. Dried basil can be used in sauces, but fresh is the way to go for other applications. For a surprisingly delicious combination, throw a small handful of fresh basil into your next coconut curry.

Tarragon

tarragon

Tarragon is most commonly paired with deep flavours like mushrooms and beef. However, a little bit of tarragon in a seafood chowder is a thing of true beauty. It goes very well with chicken, especially with a little lemon as well as beets, and fish. In general, it is best to not use tarragon in combination with other herbs, as they have a tendency to clash.

Sage

sage

Sage goes well with beef, chicken, turkey, pork, rabbit, squash, and mushrooms. It can be used in stews and stuffings. It also goes very well with pasta combined with cream sauce, or brown butter, especially with ravioli stuffed with mushrooms, sausage, or squash. Sage can also be used with seafood, especially in Spanish paella.

Marjoram

marjoram

Margoram is like a milder version of oregano and it can be used in all of the same places. See oregano below for uses.

Oregano

Oregano

When most people think of oregano, they probably think of Italian food, especially pasta and pizza sauce, they’re not wrong, but that’s only part of the story. Oregano is common throughout the Mediterranian and in Mexican cuisine as well. There are many oregano varieties, but the oregano in your cupboard can be used for all purposes. I love to marinate lamb, chicken, or pork for Mediterranian flavours in a combination of garlic, red wine vinegar, oregano, and lemon juice. I’ll sometimes add a bit of mint in there too. If I’m going for Mexican flavours, I’ll marinated pork or chicken with oregano, chillies, a touch of cinnamon, orange and lime juice, annatto, onion and garlic. When roasted, pulled, and quickly fried, this will make some of the best tacos you’ve ever had.

Mint

Mint

Most people don’t cook with mint. That’s unfortunate becasue it can add such great flavour to so many dishes. I love to add it to homemade tzatziki sauce along with a bit of dill. And I use it in my Greek Salad dressing. It is also a secret ingredient in my butter chicken and many Indian curries I make. Once cooked, I finish butter chicken with a small handful each of mint and cilantro. It is incredible.

Cilantro

Cilantro

You either love cilantro, or you hate it. I absolutely love it. One of my favourites uses for it is also probably the simplest. I cut it up, mix it with an equal amount of minced onion and put it on top of tacos (real tacos, not old el Paso tacos). Cilantro is just as common in Indian and Thai cuisines as it is in Mexican. I love to add it to pineapple or mango salsa, salads, and chutneys. Like parsley, Cilantro is a finishing herb and should be added to dishes at the end of cooking. Otherwise, it will lose its flavour and may turn bitter. When making any curry, I throw a handful of cilantro in at the end.

I actually used to be one of those people that hated cilantro because I thought it tasted like soap. But at a restaurant I worked, we had smoked chicken poutine that was finished with a little sour cream and a handful of cilantro. It was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I still think about it often and occasionally make it. That poutine completely changed my view and taste of cilantro.

Bay Leaf

Bay Leaf

Bay leaf is commonly added to soups and stews, which is good. It is also an ingredient in Garam Masala. I use it a lot, in combination with star anise and occasionally other spices to flavour rice. It is a straightforward way to add some flavour to plain white rice. I add the bay leaf and other spices right in the beginning when I combine the water and rice. Once cooked and rested, the bay leaf and other spices sit right on top of the rice and can be picked out. Again, this is an effortless way to add flavour to rice with little to no effort.


Spices

Fenugreek

Fenugreek

Fenugreek may not actually be that common in North America, but I’ve seen it in enough spice cupboards to know that lots of people have it and have no idea what to do with it. It comes as either a powder, seeds (which are very hard) or a leaf more commonly known as methi (The Indian name). I prefer to use either the powder or the leaf because the seeds are just way too hard. Fenugreek is a common ingredient in Indian food and is one of the main flavours of butter chicken. Root vegetables tossed with olive oil, fenugreek and salt and pepper, then roasted are delicious. Fenugreek mixed with yogurt can make a fantastic marinade for chicken, lamb, pork, or even a salad dressing.

Cumin

Cumin

Cumin is most commonly used in Indian, Mexican and Moroccan cuisines. It is a key ingredient in Garam Masala, as well as hummus. I like to add a few toasted cumin seeds to rice along with a bay leaf at the start of cooking to add a lot of flavour. I use powdered cumin in barbecue sauce, baked beans, and marinades. Honestly, cumin is one of the most used spices in my kitchen. I love it! For something special, mix a little powdered cumin with yogurt and a splash of lemon juice, thinly slice a cucumber and toss it with the cumin yogurt. This makes a great and simple side salad for curry, lamb, or just about anything.

Coriander

coriander

I most commonly use coriander in tandem with cumin. I love the two of them together. Having said that, coriander is fantastic on its own as well. Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant though it doesn’t really taste much like cilantro. If you want to make homemade taco bell or old el Paso tacos, cumin and coriander are your secret (or not so secret) ingredients.

Turmeric

turmeric

Turmeric is often an ingredient in an ingredient, meaning you’ll find it in Curry powder, mustard, Ras el Hanout, etc. It has a slight, but not unpleasant, bitter flavour that awakens that palate and makes you salivate. A little bit of turmeric added to rice will turn the whole pot yellow, adding a nice colour element to your meal. Potatoes tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and turmeric, then roasted, are very delicious and come out a nice golden yellow colour.

Mustard Seeds

mustard seed

Mustard seeds are obviously the main ingredient in mustard. However, they have lots of other uses, whether whole or ground. Mustard acts as a binder when making vinaigrettes. It is also very commonly used in baked beans, barbecue sauce, and rubs. I add a spoon of mustard seeds to the pot when making boiled dinner or corned beef and cabbage because the mustard seeds help take away any foul smells produced from the cabbage and help you digest the meal. I also like to add a small spoon full of mustard seeds to rice when cooking it on their own or along with a bay leaf and cumin seeds. They add a nice flavour and, again, help with digestion.

Fennel Seeds

fennel seeds


Fennel seeds have a mild anise flavour that goes very well with pork (especially in sausages), duck and chicken. They are one of the five ingredients in Chinese Five Spice. You will also find it in Garam Masala, Herbes de Provence, and Ras el Hanout. One of my favourite uses for fennel seeds is to toast them and add them to pizza sauce. They add an incredible flavour that is hard for people to pin down. You will often find fennel seeds in Eastern European baked goods and even sauerkraut.

Star Anise

star anise

Star anise is not only the most photogenic of all the spices; it is also one of the most underused. Like fennel seeds, star anise is one of the five ingredients in Chinese Five Spice. I love star anise with anything pork. I often braise pork belly or ribs in a combination of soy sauce, honey, star anise, and pepper. The anise flavour pulls something really magical out of the pork. Star anise is another ingredient that I love to throw in rice. It can be used along with the other ingredients I mentioned, on its own, or just with a bay leaf. Either way, it will be some of the best rice you’ve ever tasted.

Cinnamon

cinnamon

Cinnamon is generally considered a sweet spice, commonly used in desserts, but that’s not even half the story. It is the third of five ingredients in Chinese Five Spice and a main ingredient in Garam Masala and Ras el Hanout. It is also widespread in Indian, Mexican and Middle Eastern foods. Cinnamon pairs very well with beef, lamb and goat, root vegetables and squash. One of my favourite uses of cinnamon is to add a little bit of it to a pot of Chili. It really brings out all of the other flavours. I think that cinnamon is one of the most underused and underrated spices in North America.

Nutmeg

nutmeg

The most obvious use for nutmeg is in pumpkin pie and pumpkin-spiced things. But, there is so much more to that little nut than pairing it with pumpkin. I like to add a tiny bit of nutmeg to cream sauces and even mashed potatoes. I add it to spinach and cottage (or ricotta) cheese when making lasagna or ravioli. It is fantastic with braised beef, lamb and fish. When making braised collard greens or swiss chard, I add nutmeg to boost the flavour. I also use it a lot when making Cuban food, especially red beans, and Jamaican food like jerk spice.


Conclusion

There is a world of possibilities held within the confines of your spice cupboard. I hope that this post has helped to illuminate that world to you. Obviously, this post is not exhaustive. There could be an entire blog dedicated to just this topic. We’ve only scratched the surface, but that’s better than nothing. The point is that I hope you look at the spices in your cupboard a little differently now. And that you experiment a little more with what they can do and be used for.

Thank you to Sue for suggesting this post. If you have a suggestion for a post, tell me in the comments, email me, or message me on social media.

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Creating The Perfect Holiday Charcuterie Board

Creating The Perfect Holiday Charcuterie Board

Whether you are having a big party (in any other year) or a small intimate evening in, nothing can beat a well presented Charcuterie Board. The key is that it has to be well presented. Otherwise, it’s just some meat and cheese on a plate. Today, I’ll share some tips and tricks with you so that you can make your next Charcuterie Board look just like the pros. Let’s get to it.


Getting Started

First things first, let’s talk about ingredients. There is no point in putting in the effort to make a beautiful charcuterie board using low-end ingredients. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying you need to spend loads of money here. But, we’re not making a supermarket deli tray either. Splurge and get a few nice cheeses and a few nice types of meat. That’s all you really need. Let’s look at some specifics.

Choosing The Right Cheese

There are three things that I think about when I choose the cheese for any charcuterie board. First and foremost, it has to taste good. If it doesn’t, why would you use it? Next, I think about shape and texture. If all of the cheese on the board is the same shape and texture, it will look boring, and it will be boring to eat. Yes, you can control the shape to some degree with how you cut and present the cheese, but there is only so much you can do. Finally, I think about variety and the style, and the taste of the cheese. Usually, I try to have one soft cheese like brie or camembert. I like blue cheese, so I pretty much always include one such as gorgonzola or stilton. And, I usually use a semi-firm to firm cheese. This can be anything from a really nice aged cheddar to asiago, to manchego, or Beemster.

If you want to really get into it, you can use cheese that comes from the same places as your meats. So, if you are using Italian meats, or Spanish meats, you would use Italian cheese, or Spanish cheese. I don’t generally worry about this too much unless the board itself is themed to a specific place. Using French cheese with Italian meat isn’t going to ruin your board or your experience.

One other tip when it come to the cheese is to avoid novelty cheese like beer-veined ones, or holiday shaped ones. For the most part, they aren’t going to taste good. They aren’t going to pair well with the other things on your board. And they are going to make your charcuterie board look kind of hokey.


Charcuterie Meats

When it comes to the meat on a Charcuterie Board, I actually really like the three packs of Italian meats you can get at most grocery stores. Please don’t buy the cheapest one. It will likely taste cheap. Having said that, you don’t have to buy the most expensive one either. These packs work best when making a board for two to six people, but any more than that, and you are going to want to go to the deli counter and get them to cut the meats fresh for you. This will save you a considerable amount of money.

If you have a specialty charcuterie store in your city, go there. It is going to be exponentially better than what you get at the grocery store. They will likely have some delicious paté, terrines and lots of other items that you can use on your Charcuterie Board as well. Speaking of paté, I don’t typically recommend grocery store paté, but if you like them, go for them.

Charcuterie Meats

Sauce

It’s always nice to serve at least one kind of sauce with your Charcuterie Board. This could be as simple as nice mustard to pair with the meat or a high-end jam to go with the cheese. I really like a savoury blueberry compote paired with cheese, especially brie and blue cheese. If you’d like to make my blueberry compote, you can find the recipe at the end of this post.


Bread

Every Charcuterie Board needs some type of bread item. This could be as simple as some torn up baguette or store-bought crackers. But, I find that toasting some bread (this is gluten-free sourdough from Promise Gluten-Free) with olive oil and aged balsamic or balsamic reduction not only tastes great but looks great too. It really adds that extra wow factor to the board. To make these, cut some bread into 5 cm x 5 cm squares, put them on a lined sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and thick balsamic vinegar (reduction or aged), then bake on 400°f for ten to twelve minutes.


Assembling Your Charcuterie Board

Now that we have the main components of our Charcuterie Board mapped out, let’s look at how to put it all togehter.

The Board

Obviously, you are going to need a plate or board to put your ingredients on. For two to six people, I use a twelve to sixteen-inch board. For two people, this would be a meal, not an appetizer. The board can be a cutting board, a sanded and oiled piece of maple, or even a long narrow plate. You can plate your charcuterie on a round plate, but that’s not what we are doing today. The board I’m using is from Ashwurks Cutting Boards.

The Cheese

I always start with the cheese becasue it helps shape the rest of the board and becasue the cheese is best served at room temperature. So, as I’m putting the rest of the board together, the cheese is coming up to the perfect eating temperature. I always put cheese on opposite corners when using a square or rectangular board, then one cheese in the middle. This helps to break the board up and gives me lots of room for everything else.

Brie and other wheels of cheese can be served as either a whole wheel or a half wheel. Obviously, you can buy bigger pieces of brie, in which case, you would not use a full or even half wheel. But, when buying small wheels, I will put a half wheel in a corner or put a full wheel right to the center of the board. I also like to pre-cut brie and other soft cheese becasue it is easier to cut when it’s cold, which prevents a large mess later on.

Blue cheese I don’t cut becasue it is typically pretty crumbly. I put a wedge of it in one corner and make sure to serve a cheese knife with it. Whatever it may be, the third cheese is what I use to break up the board visually. I avoid cutting the cheese into cubes like the plague. There is nothing that is going to make your board look cheaper than cubed cheese. Suppose the cheese comes in a wedge, cut across it to get thin triangles. If the cheese is rectangular, slice it, cut the slices into triangles if you can, or use the thin rectangles. Fan the third cheese out. This looks great and makes the cheese easy to grab.

How much meat and cheese to serve?

If the charcuterie board is served before a meal, aim to have about 56 grams or 2 ounces of cheese per person and the same amount of meat. If the board is the meal, aim for about 150 g or just over 5 ounces per person. That is cheese in total, not of each kind of cheese and the same with the meat.


Cups and bowls

After the cheese, I like to add any cups or ramekins that I may be using. On my example board, I use one small cup of blueberry compote. But you may have cups of mustard, pickles, olives, anything like that. Essentially, anything rigid should be added to the board, right after the cheese.

Your Charcuterie Meats

Next up, the meat gets added. Just as with cheese, you want to create different textures with the meats. Again, this isn’t a meat and cheese tray from your local grocery store’s deli section. Avoid rolling meats into tubes and stuff like that. How you present the meat really depends on what meat you have. With my example board, I have coppa, salami, and prosciutto. The coppa and salami are both round, and the prosciutto is prosciutto shaped. Generally, I fold salami into quarters. It holds well and looks nice enough. With the coppa, I pinch it gently in the middle and form it into a loose bunch.

There is a common mistake when it comes to preparing slices of prosciutto for a charcuterie board. People tend to roll it or fold it up, but it makes eating very unpleasant. Eating rolled prosciutto feels very similar to eating raw meat, which is not usually very much fun. Instead of rolling, gently fold the prosciutto into ribbons. When your guests eat it, they should be eating only one-two to layers at a time. This makes the prosciutto much more enjoyable to eat.

Position of the meats

As for where to place the meats on your board, I like to bunch them up with the cheese. You don’t have to do this, but I find it helps keep everything looking nice and tidy, and saves room for bread or crackers, and other garnishes.


Bread and Crackers

The next elements to be added to the board are the crackers or bread. I like to use these items as borders or dividers between the different sections of my board. There are salami and blue cheese at the top, then a bread border. At the bottom, coppa and brie, and a bread border. Again, this helps with the visual appeal, but it also puts the bread or crackers exactly where you want them next to the spreadable cheese.


Garnishing Your Charcuterie Board

The final step, and visually the most important, is to garnish your charcuterie board. For the best visual appeal and variety in eating, use a few different garnishes. I have grapes, cranberries, dried figs, pistachios, gherkins, olives, dried orange slices, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme on my board. So that you know, most of these items I had on hand already. Don’t spend more on garnish than your main items. Buy one or two things, then use whatever you have around the kitchen.

You don’t have to use the exact garnishes that I did, but the idea is to fill the blank space with pops of colour and different textures. Of course, you want most, if not all, of your garnish to be things that you actually want to eat. Also, don’t go overboard here. There is such a thing as too much garnish. A few pieces of each item is more than enough.


The Finished Charcuterie Board

Your finished charcuterie board should be visually stunning and easy and enjoyable to eat. This is food, after all. Ideally, your guests or partner will literally say, “Wow!” when they see it. If someone says, “I don’t want to eat it because it is too beautiful.” you know you’ve done your job.


Conclusion

There isn’t much difference between a professionally prepared Charcuterie Board and an amateur one. It’s mostly the same meats and the same cheese. Like with most things, it is the little extras that separate the two. Pay attention to the placement of things. Think about colour and texture. And use garnish to fill up the board and add pops of colour. Just like that, your amateur looking Charcuterie Board has become a masterpiece that any pro would be happy to serve.

You can find the Blueberry compote recipe below.

Thank you for reading the post. If you liked it, remember to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Did you know that Chefsnotes.com has over 400 posts just like this one? Subscribe to the blog below, and you will be notified of every new post so you will never a helpful tip or recipe again. And if you would like to know more about me, click the picture of me below to read my story “Life on the line.”

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Blueberry Compote

The perfect sauce for your Charcuterie Board, or for roasted or grilled pork.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Basic Sauces, Christmas, Holiday, Pork, pork chops
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh chopped thyme

Instructions

  • Heat a small pot over medium heat. Add the canola oil and shallot. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shallots start to soften.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until a spoon dragged across the bottom of the pot, leaves a line for at least one second.
  • Cool to room temperature and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
How To Make Polenta – Your New Favourite Side Dish

How To Make Polenta – Your New Favourite Side Dish

Polenta is creamy, buttery, cheesy, and oh so delicious. It also happens to be very simple to make. If you can boil water and stir, you can make polenta. But why should you? You should make polenta not only becasue it is delicious but because it makes a great side dish for meat sauce, vegetarian ragu, braised meats, and more. It also can be eaten on its own with butter and cheese or topped with sausage and egg for a hearty breakfast. The point is that polenta is one of those all-purpose dishes that is a must for anyone who loves to cook or eat. Today, I’m going to show you how to make it. Are you ready? Good, let’s get to it.

How to make polenta

What is Polenta?

what is polenta?

Polenta is ground dried corn (cornmeal) cooked in boiling liquid (water, milk, or stock). The cooked cornmeal thickens and takes on a porridge-like consistency that is great when paired with rich tomato-based sauces or with lots of cheese and butter.


Different Types of Polenta

There are two main ways to serve polenta. They are creamy and firm. Firm polenta is creamy polenta that has had a little more moisture cooked out of it, and then it has been left to cool, cut into shapes and recooked. Creamy polenta has a higher moisture content and is served fresh. Firm polenta can be cut into many different shapes and fried or seared to develop a crisp exterior and a soft interior. Creamy polenta should resemble scrambled eggs.


Polenta Ingredients

Polenta really only has a handful of ingredients. They are cornmeal, liquid (water, milk or stock), seasoning (salt and pepper), cheese (usually parmesan) and butter (to add flavour and creaminess). Other ingredients added to polenta can include bay leaves, herbs like thyme and rosemary, different types of cheese like cheddar and asiago, or even onion and garlic.


How To Make Polenta

To make polenta, bring a pot of water to a boil (use four to five times more liquid than cornmeal), add the seasoning and herbs if you’re using them, then whisk in the cornmeal. Turn the heat down to medium and cook, continuing to stir, for about twenty minutes. Once the cornmeal has softened, and it resembles scrambled eggs take it off the heat and stir in some parmesan cheese and butter. Taste the polenta and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.


What to serve polenta with

My favourite thing to serve with polenta is beef or pork braised in a rich tomato sauce. You can do the same with mushrooms. I also really like it served as a side with roasted meats. And I love it for breakfast with sausage, egg, and lots of cheese. Essentially, it can replace pasta or potato in most cases.


how to make polenta

Perfect Polenta

Have you ever dreamed of a creamy side dish, made of corn and loaded with butter and cheese? Yes, you have? Oh, fantastic! Have I got the thing for you. This polenta fits all of those wants.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Corn, Cornmeal, Polenta, Side Dish
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 4 cups Boiling Water
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 tbsp Butter

Instructions

  • Add the salt and pepper to the boiling water then whisk in the polenta.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and cook the polenta, stirring constantly until it resembles scrambled eggs. About 20 minutes.
  • Take the polenta off the heat and stir in the butter and parmesan cheese.
  • Serve the polenta as it is, as a side dish with meat sauce or roasted meat, with mushroom ragu, or for breakfast with fried eggs and sausage. You can also spread the polenta out on a sheet pan and cool it, then cut it into shapes, and pan fry it to get a crisp exterior and a soft interior.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Conclusion

Polenta is one of the most versatile, easy to make, and delicious side dishes you’ll find. Not only that, but it seems fancy. It seems like the kind of thing that can only be made by true masters, but it really isn’t. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, can make polenta. So what are you waiting for? You probably already have all the ingredients on hand. Get cooking! And for more on polenta, take a look at this post I wrote way back in September of 2018 called Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Polenta.

Thank you for reading the post. If you liked it, remember to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Did you know that Chefsnotes.com has over 400 posts just like this one? Subscribe to the blog below, and you will be notified of every new post so you will never a helpful tip or recipe again. And if you would like to know more about me, click the picture of me below to read my story “Life on the line.”

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7 Turkey Cooking Tips For This Thanksgiving

7 Turkey Cooking Tips For This Thanksgiving

It’s only a few days away. Can you believe it? Before you know it, you and your family (or maybe just you) will be gorging yourselves on mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and of course, turkey. Last Thanksgiving, I shared four different and unique turkey recipes in “A Tale of Four Turkeys.” This year, I will share my seven Thanksgiving turkey cooking tips with you to help you make one bird exceptionally well.

With everything going on this year, and people not being able to gather for Thanksgiving, many people will be cooking a turkey for the first time. But don’t worry, whether you are new to this, or you’ve been cooking turkey your whole life, I’m sure you will find some, if not all of the information in this post helpful. So, let’s get to it.


1. Defrost

Defrosting in The Fridge

First and foremost, you are likely buying a frozen turkey. It is important to defrost it properly to keep it safe. The last thing you want is to make anyone sick. The best way to defrost a turkey is in the fridge. But this takes a long time. For example, I recently defrosted a nine-pound turkey in the fridge for four days. After the four days, the body cavity was still full of ice. A bigger turkey may take up to six days to fully defrost in the fridge. Essentially, if your turkey isn’t in the fridge defrosting right now, it should be. If you defrost the turkey in the fridge, make sure to sit in a large pan or bowl to collect any liquid that melts off the bird.

Defrosting in Water

Another safe way to defrost a turkey is to put it in the sink or (clean) bathtub and submerge it in cold water. Change the water every hour until the bird is fully defrosted. This technique will defrost the bird in about a day. For a massive turkey, it may take two days.

Defrosting at Room Temperature

Defrosting a turkey at room temperature is a big no-no. I know that some people reading this have done this their whole lives and have not made anyone sick. But, it is very, very risky. At room temperature, the turkey’s surface will go into what is known as the danger zone. That’s the temperature range between 4°c and 60°c at which bacteria grow exponentially. Even though the turkey is mostly still frozen, bacteria are growing on the surface and have the potential to make people very sick. For this reason, it is never a good idea to defrost a turkey, or anything really for that matter, at room temperature.

2. Dry the bird

One step that people often miss when preparing their Thanksgiving turkey is to dry the skin. You can do this really simply with a paper towel, but it is best if it is left to air dry. I recommend uncovering the turkey a day or two before you are going to cook it. Put it on a rack set over a pan and put it back in the fridge. You can loosely cover the turkey with plastic wrap to prevent it from contaminating any other foods.

Why Dry The Skin

So, why do this? Why dry the turkey skin? Dry the turkey skin because it will get brown and crispy. That’s it. It just makes it more delicious and involves very little effort. So, why not do it? Right?

3. Grease it on or under the skin

Fat, on or under the turkey skin, be it butter, bacon fat, olive oil, lard, whatever. It will also help the skin get nice and crispy. There is the added benefit that fat pushed under the skin will make the breasts exceptionally moist and flavourful too. Now, pushing butter or bacon fat under the turkey skin will take practise. If you’re new to cooking a turkey, you might not want to go that far. So, just rub the turkey all over with melted butter or another fat of your choice.

Basting Tips

I’m going to talk about basting here really quickly too. If you don’t know, basting is when you take a liquid and pour it over the turkey (or another food item) during cooking. The old school way of thinking is that this will help the turkey stay moist and juicy and impart flavour. Basting will add some flavour, but we now know that it doesn’t really help with moisture or anything like that. The liquid isn’t going to penetrate the skin and get to the meat. What basting can do is help to develop an even brown colour and evenly crisp skin.

When basting, always use fat. It can be fat collected from the bottom of the roasting pan. It could be melted butter, olive oil, or whatever. What you don’t want is “juice” or anything watery. That will moisten the skin and prevent crisping and browning. Really all you want to do is every thirty to sixty minutes, take the turkey out of the oven and baste any light spots with fat. Put it back in the oven and keep doing that until the bird is fully cooked. This will give you that nice golden brown skin with a nice crisp texture.

4. Seasoning

Seasoning is what you put on the turkey to add flavour. For most people, this comes down to personal preference and family tradition. For my own turkey over the last year or so, I’ve been leaning into poultry seasoning, which you can make or buy. Here is a recipe from All Recipes that looks pretty good if you want to make it yourself. Our Thanksgiving turkey was always heavily flavoured with Summer Savoury, sage, and the like growing up. My mom would also put sausages or bacon around the turkey to add a little more flavour and fat. There is no right or wrong way to season a turkey. But, be generous with the seasoning and always use salt and pepper. For more unique seasoning options, check out last year’s Thanksgiving post.

5. Stuffing, yes or no

Stuffing. Of all my turkey cooking tips this one has gotten me in the most trouble. This has gotten me some angry emails in the past, but I have to stick to my guns. I don’t believe that you should stuff a turkey, and here’s why. When you stuff a turkey, you create a solid mass in the middle of an already dense bird. To make the stuffing safe to eat, it has to reach a temperature of 165°f. To get the stuffing to that temperature, the turkey has to be cooked to 180°f. Normally, you would only cook a turkey to 170°f. By the time the turkey rests and the residual heat dies down, 180°f is going to be closer to 200°f or, in other words, overcooked and dry.

I prefer to cook the stuffing outside of the bird (which makes it dressing). I pour some of the turkey juice over the stuffing as it cooks to add flavour. As for the turkey, I don’t leave it empty. I chop up an onion, throw it in there, and sometimes even a carrot and some celery. But, I keep it loosely packed. This adds loads of flavour to the turkey but makes it so I can cook it to 170°f and still get a nice juicy bird.

6. Cooking, temp and times/ get a thermometer

Turkey temperature

What temperature should you cook your Thanksgiving turkey on, for how long and to what temperature? Great questions. Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. Cook your unstuffed turkey until a meat thermometer inserted into the breast’s thickest part reaches 165°f and inserted into the thigh reaches 170°f. For a stuffed turkey, you want to cook it until the stuffing reaches 165°f. The breast will be around 175°f, and the thigh will be around 180°f.

Oven Temperature

Your oven temperature will depend on the bird’s size but generally, for any turkey over 10 lbs ( 5.5 kg), cook it at 325°f. Any turkey under 10 lbs (5.5kg) can be cooked at 325°f or 350°f. Larger birds are cooked at lower temperatures so that the outside of the turkey doesn’t overcook before the inside is cooked. With smaller birds that isn’t so much of a concern.

Turkey Cooking Times

Thanksgiving turkey cooking time depends on the bird’s size, whether it is stuffed, and the oven’s temperature. But generally, for an unstuffed bird being cooked at a temperature of 325°f, it will take about seventeen minutes per pound. Meaning a fifteen-pound unstuffed turkey will take about four hours and fifteen minutes. A stuffed turkey will take about twenty minutes per pound at 325°f. So, a fifteen pound stuffed turkey will take about five hours to cook. Cooking a smaller turkey at 350°f will take about thirteen to fifteen minutes per pound.

  • Unstuffed over ten pounds = Turkey Weight x 17 = time to cook at 325°f
  • Stuffed over ten pounds = Turkey Weight x 20 = time to cook at 325°f
  • Unstuffed under ten pounds = Turkey Weight x 13 = time to cook at 350°f
  • Stuffed under ten pounds = Turkey Weight x 15 = time to cook at 350°f

Of course, these cooking times are estimates and should be confirmed with a meat thermometer.

7. Resting

The last turkey cooking tip that I have for you is to let your turkey rest. For a turkey over ten pounds, let it rest for at least an hour, under ten pounds at least thirty minutes. Resting will allow the turkey juices to redistribute throughout the bird, making it juicier and more flavourful. There is no point in having gone through all the trouble of buying the turkey, defrosting it, seasoning it, cooking it, and then ruining it by cutting into it right away. Plus, letting the turkey rest will give you time to get the rest of the dinner cooked.

To rest the turkey, take it out of the oven, loosly cover it with a lid or foil, and set it in a warm part of your kitchen. That’s it.


Conclusion

Thanksgiving just isn’t the same without turkey. Whether you are with your family this year or not, don’t let the spirit of the holiday go. Enjoy some turkey, skype in with your family, and share a meal even if it is from a distance. Even though this year has been crazy and doesn’t always feel like it, we all have a lot to be thankful for. I think a bite of flavourful, juicy, tender turkey will help remind us all of that.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone. I’ll see you right back here next Wednesday. And if you are wondering what to do with all your leftover turkey check out thinkturkey.ca. They have lots of great recipes.

Thank you for reading the post. If you liked it, remember to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter by clicking the icon to the left of the right of the page. Did you know that Chefsnotes.com has almost 400 posts just like this one? Don’t ever miss a post again. Become a Chef’s Notes member right here. You will be notified of every new post. And if you would like to know more about me, click the link below to read my story.

How To Make Gnocchi and Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About It

How To Make Gnocchi and Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About It

Gnocchi, you’ve probably had it at your favourite Italian restaurant, or maybe you’re lucky enough to come from an Italian family or at least are friends with one. Either way, if you’ve eaten gnocchi, you’ve likely wondered how to make it. Well, wonder no more. Today, I will show you, step by step, how to make delicious, light gnocchi from scratch whenever you want. What’s going to blow your mind is just how simple this is. Are you ready? Yeah, me too. Let’s learn how to make homemade gnocchi.


What is Gnocchi?

I’m guessing that there are some people out there that don’t know what gnocchi is. No problem! Let’s get that out of the way first. You can think of gnocchi in two ways. The first way is as a little potato dumpling. Or, you can think of gnocchi as small balls of pasta made with potato. Both of those are correct. But here’s the thing, gnocchi is easier to make than pasta and dumplings. Really. You cook potatoes, peel them, mash them, mix them with egg, flour, butter, and a few flavourings, roll it, cut, and cook it. That’s it. Let’s look at that process in a little more depth.


How To Make Gnocchi

The Right Potato For Making Gnocchi

As I said, gnocchi is little bits of pasta or dumplings made with potato. So, we have to start with potatoes. Typically, for gnocchi, you don’t want to use a mealy potato like russets. You want a potato with a reasonably high starch content to help bind the dough. I suggest Yukon gold potatoes or other yellow-fleshed variety. These will provide a great flavour and the right consistency for your gnocchi.

Cooking The Potatoes

Some people say that when making gnocchi, it is best to bake the potatoes to prevent them from retaining too much moisture. I always either boil or steam my potatoes for gnocchi, and I have never found that there has been an issue with the moisture content being too high. However, I do find that boiling or steaming the potatoes whole, with the skin still on, does help prevent the potatoes from getting too wet.

To cook the potatoes, put them in a pot of cold, salted water. The cold water will help the potatoes cook more evenly than if they started in hot water. The last thing you want is for the outside of the potatoes to be mushy, while the middle is still hard. Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes or so depending on their size. Really, time isn’t what you should be paying attention too. What’s important is that the potatoes are cooked through but not overcooked. Cook the potatoes just until a knife slides easily into the middle of the potato.

Steam Drying The Potatoes

One other little thing that I find helps prevent any moisture issues is allowing the potatoes to steam dry for a few minutes before peeling them. All I mean by steam drying is that once the water is drained off the potatoes, they are left to sit in the colander for a few minutes before peeling. All the steam that is coming off of the potatoes is excess moisture leaving the potatoes. I go into this in more depth in this post I did way back in January all about 5 Tips For Better Mashed Potatoes. Make sure not to let the potatoes sit for more than a few minutes because you want them to be hot as you mash them. Cold potatoes will become a gummy mess that is next to impossible to work with.

Peeling The Potatoes

Because the potatoes are cooked, the peels will come off fairly quickly. However, the potatoes will still be hot. So, either hold the potato in a towel in one hand and scrape the skin off with a paring knife in the other hand. Or, rub the skin off using a kitchen towel. Rubbing the skin off works well, but it makes a pretty big mess.

Peeling Potatoes For Gnocchi

Mashing The Potatoes For Gnocchi

There are a few ways that you can “mash” the potatoes for gnocchi. The first and my least favourite is to use a regular old potato masher. I’m not a fan of this method because it is next to impossible to get perfectly smooth potatoes without overworking them and turning them into a gummy mess. The same goes for a mixer. The methods that I prefer are to use a food mill, potato ricer, or if you don’t have either of those, a cheese grater. The goal is to get the mash as smooth as possible while working the potato as little as possible. You also have to work quickly enough so that the potatoes don’t cool down too much. I promise that this is the most complicated this process gets.

Pushing the potatoes through a food mill while making gnocchi.

Adding Other Ingredients To That Potatoes

Okay, I think that we have covered just about everything there is to cover about the potato portion of the gnocchi. Of course, gnocchi isn’t just potato so let’s look at what else there is. Two ingredients that pretty much stay the same are egg and butter. For one pound of potatoes (before being cooked), use one large egg and a quarter cup of butter. To the mix, add in a big pinch of salt and a little bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Now, this is where things get mildly complicated again.

The Flour

First of all, I use all-purpose gluten-free flour to make my gnocchi. I notice no difference between my gnocchi now and when I could eat it with regular flour. So, gluten-free people, don’t despair. Our gnocchi can be just as good as everyone else’s.

Whether you are using gluten-free flour or regular flour, you have to keep a few things in mind when adding it into the gnocchi dough. The moisture content in the potatoes and the level of humidity in the air will affect how much flour the dough will need. Whatever recipe you’re using (I hope it’s mine which you can find at the end of this post), starts with only half the flour listed. Mix it in and add more as needed. You only want to add enough so that a cohesive dough forms. You want the gnocchi to be light but still hold together. The more flour you add, the heavier the gnocchi will be.

Forming the Gnocchi

To form the gnocchi, divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a snake about the width of your thumb. Cut the snake into pieces that are as big as your thumb from the tip to the first knuckle. While you are rolling the dough, keep the rest covered with a clean dishcloth. Once the gnocchi is formed, you can roll them on a gnocchi board or on a fork to get the classic gnocchi lines. Those lines will help the gnocchi hold on to whatever sauce you toss them in. You don’t have to do this last step, but it does make the gnocchi look cool and helps them collect the sauce a little better. Once the gnocchi is formed, put them on a lightly floured plate or sheet pan. Do not stack them. Be gentle with them. They should be pretty soft, and you don’t want to deform them.

One thing to keep in mind is the longer the other pieces of dough sit, the wetter they will get. So, you want to work as fast as you can. Even so, you may notice that the last two pieces of dough will be stickier than the first few. That’s okay. You’ll just need to put a little extra flour down on the counter when you are rolling them.

Storing the Gnocchi

With the gnocchi all formed, you have three options. You can cook the gnocchi right away. You can store them in the fridge for a few hours covered with a floured tea towel. Or, you can freeze them in a single layer on a floured sheet pan. Once they are frozen, you can break them apart and store them in the freezer in a ZipLock bag for a few months. Then, cook them right from frozen the same as you would with fresh gnocchi.

Cooking Gnocchi

You want to cook the gnocchi in two to three batches. The reason being that you don’t want to cool the cooking water down below the boiling point. If the water stops boiling, the gnocchi will sit on the bottom of the pot. If the gnocchi sits, they are going to stick and break apart. So, to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Divide the gnocchi into three batches. Take the first batch of gnocchi and gently drop them into the boiling water a few at a time until the whole batch is in the pot. If you dump them all in at once, you risk them breaking and sticking together.

The gnocchi are cooked when they float. Scoop them out of the pot and into your sauce using a slotted spoon. Don’t dump the gnocchi into a colander like you would with pasta. The force of the water will crush and break them. Just scoop them out. And just like that, you’ve made gnocchi.


Additions To The Dough

Like pasta, you can add other ingredients into gnocchi dough for colour and flavour. Cooked, chopped, well-drained spinach makes a great addition to gnocchi dough. You can substitute up to two-thirds of the potato for sweet potato or squash, but you may need to up the amount of flour. You can even add some ricotta or parmesan cheese into the mix. The point is that you can take this basic recipe, add another ingredient or two to it and make it something completely new. But of course, that is up to you and how creative you are feeling.


Sauces For Your Gnocchi

Gnocchi, like other forms of pasta, goes well with a variety of sauces. You can serve it with bolognese sauce, as I did in the picture at the beginning of this post. It goes well with classic tomato and basil. Gnocchi is fantastic in a blue cheese cream sauce. It even pairs perfectly with sage and brown butter, or pesto. Essentially, any sauce you can think of to put on pasta will probably be really good on gnocchi as well.


Gnocchi

An easy and delicious recipe for light and flavourful homemade gnocchi.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Gnocchi, pasta
Servings: 4 people
Author: Chef’s Notes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Yukon Gold or another yellow potato
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ cup Butter
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • tsp Nutmeg

Instructions

  • Boil the potatoes whole until they are tender when poked with a fork.
  • Let the potatoes cool slightly then peel.
  • Pass the potatoes through a food mill or grate on a cheese grater into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the egg, butter, flour, salt and nutmeg into the potatoes and mix just enough to combine all the ingredients.
  • Divide the dough in two. Cover half the dough with a tea towel and roll the other half of the dough on a floured surface into a finger-width rope.
  • Cut the rope of dough into 1-inch pieces and place them on a floured baking sheet.
  • Roll and cut the other piece of dough.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Place the gnocchi into the water and wait for about 3 minutes for them to cook. Once the gnocchi starts to float scoop them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and into your sauce.
  • Once all of the gnocchi have been scooped out of the pot, toss them with the sauce, garnish with parmesan and fresh parsley and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Conclusion

Nothing about making gnocchi is hard. Yes, you have to put some thought into it regarding moisture and flour and all of that, but it is not difficult. But here is the thing, it seems like it is. People think that it is. Even now, you probably are skeptical about how easy I’m making it seem. Because most people believe that gnocchi is hard to make, when you serve it to them, it will blow their minds. So, make this, get a feel for it, then the next time you have people coming over for dinner, make it again. You won’t believe the reaction you’ll get. Plus, it’s fun, and gnocchi is delicious, so what do you have to lose?

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