Food For Thought

(Nov. 30, 2018) Sharing interesting culinary trivia is fun and informative, especially for those who relish the art of cooking.

No matter your level of proficiency, increasing one’s understanding should always be on the horizon. Following are some tips that will spice up one’s repertoire of comprehension.

Kitchen scales are a must for those who adore the art of baking. In spite of careful calculations, measuring cups do not take into consideration that the density of solid ingredients can vary. Weighing as opposed to measuring dry ingredients is more accurate and the preferred choice.

The golden rule of cooking is to always taste your food before serving. The world’s best-known seasoning is salt; that being said, can you distinguish between table salt, kosher salt and sea salt?

Cooking is based on the premise of developing flavors; a little tasting might prove to be informative.

The best way to separate egg whites from egg yolks is to crack the shell on the countertop, not on the edge of the bowl, and quickly drop the whole egg into the hollow of your other hand. Let the white run out between the fingers into the bowl below and drop the yolk into another bowl.

There are two secrets to great potato salad. First, you need waxy potatoes with low starch content for perfect consistency; Yukon gold and red potatoes are a good choice.

Secondly, as soon as you take the potatoes off the stove, soak them for 30 seconds in equal parts of chicken stock and rice vinegar. Then drain and follow your favorite recipe. The stock and vinegar give the potatoes a subtle flavor that enhances the overall dish.

One might think that a microwave would zap fish in no time, but such is not the case. As a matter of fact, it takes exactly as much time to microwave fish as it does to oven-poach. The microwave saves you on cleanup time, but the end results cannot compare to the gentle style of poaching.

Pancetta and prosciutto are often confused, since both are traditional Italian cured pork products. Pancetta comes from the belly of the pig, whereas prosciutto comes from the hind leg.

Because pancetta is only cured, it must be cooked before eaten. On the other hand, prosciutto is salt-cured and air-dried for months making it safe to eat without cooking.

Pancetta is rolled and often put in a casing before being hung to dry to develop texture and flavor. It can be sliced to order or bought pre-sliced in packages.

Prosciutto is also sliced to order or bought pre-sliced in packages, but the slices are paper thin because of the richness and saltiness of the meat. Believe it or not, but the super thin slices enhance the taste of the meat and allow it to be used in many more ways.

If you are planning your holiday menu and want a special vegetable that will coincide with the upcoming festivities, consider roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta.

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap and it is because many cooks do not know how to properly cook them. A few suggestions might change your mind.

The first consideration is how to tone down the bitterness associated Brussels sprouts and still allow the natural flavor to come through.

Steaming the mini cabbages in chicken or vegetable stock is one option; the broth enhances the flavor and at the same time offsets the sharpness of the sprouts.

The texture is another concern. Brussels sprouts are notoriously undercooked or overcooked; finding a happy medium can be tricky.

I find roasting them with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil produces delectable delights. The roasting process also creates a caramelization which heightens the taste.

Brussels sprouts need salt and the addition of crispy pancetta is the perfect pairing. The pancetta needs to be chopped finely; otherwise, it will overpower the dish.

Christmas is around the corner and as one starts to plan their menu, Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta is a decadent delight. The simplicity of the recipe is another reason to celebrate. Enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Pancetta

Ingredients

3 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and any spotted leaves removed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1/3-pound pancetta, finely chopped

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cook pancetta in a medium skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a sheet pan, toss Brussels sprouts in 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.

3. Place Brussels sprouts under the broiler until you get a nice caramelization.

4. Remove Brussels sprouts from oven and place in a medium bowl. Add pancetta and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss and serve with a dusting of fresh pepper. Serve immediately.

Secret Ingredient – Thought. “Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts.”

— William Hazlitt

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