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By Chef Todd

How To Cut Onions Without Buying A Chopper Device

If you want to know how to cut onions and aren’t easily fooled by late night TV commercials, I’m about to save you a tremendous amount of time and money.

I have a neighbor that owns every kitchen gadget and appliance available.  She must have the QVC shopping network on speed-dial.  These devices are advertised to save your time and lower your kitchen stress, but they do just the opposite.

I imagine a race between my neighbor and I.  We’ll both dice an onion, she with her chopper/dicer device, me with my chef’s knife that I bought 17 years ago for twenty dollars.  Ready?  Go!

She has to take out a knife anyway to cut the onion in half and peel the skin off.  A chopper/dicer doesn’t peel the onion for her, and it’s too big to fit into the appliance.  Then, she has to go to the kitchen cabinet to retrieve the gadget.  Then plug it in and try to attach the chopper bowl.  Well, we all know they never fit quite right, so with a bit of monkey-ing, it finally clicks into place.

Then comes the blade, and there’s only one way that it fits correctly onto the motor, so more monkey-ing until it snaps on.  Place the onion in the chopper, screw the lid on tight and press the button a few times to zap the onion.

She empties the inconsistently cut pieces of onion into a bowl or cutting board, and now must disassemble the device, rinse all the pieces, place it in the dishwasher, later to return to the kitchen cabinet.  There!  Just about 10 simple steps.

That’s not how to cut onions.  In my onion race fantasy, I’ve long since finished dicing my item into nice, consistent pieces.  My chef’s knife has no moving parts, it wipes clean in seconds, never breaks, takes little maintenance, and is easier to control and an electric appliance.

Since the root end of the onion holds the layers together, I consider the root end my friend.  I’ll try to leave that in tact.  First, I cut the onion from blossom end to root end to give myself a flat surface to work from.  This avoids rolling onions and bleeding fingers.

Leaving my root end friend in tact, I remove the blossom end and peel the onion.  Now, with 4 horizontal strokes and 4 vertical strokes, I’ve created a checkerboard fashion in the onion.  Cutting down and across the top of the onion half has the item simply fall apart in consistent pieces.

Since consistency of cut is consistency of cook, I will have a better final dish than my neighbor who basically pureed her onions.

The 5 Steps on How To Cut Onions:

1)  Cut from north pole to south pole (root end to blossom end)

2)  Peel away the skin

3)  Make horizontal cuts across the layers

4)  Make vertical cuts to make a checkerboard design

5)  Cut down across the previous two cuts to create diced onion.

You don’t need additional kitchen appliances to cut kitchen ingredients, they waste your time and money.  The device is meant for only one purpose.  Once you discover the correct method for using a chefs knife, you’ll be preparing beautiful meals from fresh, wholesome ingredients without having to give your credit card to the TV shopping network.

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By Chef Todd

Great Sauces Always Start With Roux

Great sauces can save a badly cooked piece of chicken. However, a bad sauce will ruin the best cooked meal. Being able to consistently create flavorful and smooth sauces is one of the best skills to have in the home kitchen.

When you can make a variety of sauces, you multiply the number of meals you can create. A grilled chicken breast is an entirely different dish with a white cheese sauce over it than a dark Cajun spicy sauce. It’s still a chicken breast, but now it’s two different meals.

Sauces are simple. They’re just a liquid plus a thickening agent. The liquid adds flavor, but the thickening agent gives body and texture. Roux is not the only way to thicken a liquid, but it is the most flavorful and reliable.

I’ll admit that great sauces can also be made with a cornstarch slurry, or by simple reduction. Those are two other ways to thicken liquid, but a well made roux adds flavor and texture that these two options do not.

Roux is the combination of fat and starch. You can experiment with a wide variety of fat starch combinations, but generally butter and flour are used. To make a standard roux, use equal proportions. For a thicker roux, add more flour. This will have more thickening power, but might not be as smooth in the end.

Making Roux for Great Sauces:

1) Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Be careful not to burn or separate the butter. The goal is to keep the butter yellow, and not see white milk solids floating on the top. This means you’ve broken the emulsion of fat/milk solids/water that butter is made of.

The best thing for melting butter is melted butter. As soon as some of the butter melts under the heat, remove the pan and surround the solid butter with the melted butter. Agitate the pan to add friction, and even return it to the flame for 5 seconds if you need more heat. But, try to keep it yellow.

2) Add flour - In small increments, add flour to the melted butter until you have something that looks like wallpaper paste. It’s not too runny, and it’s not like cookie dough. Whisk this together until it’s smooth.

3) Cook the flour - In order to avoid a pasty-tasting sauce, the proteins must be cooked out of the flour to create a proper roux. You’ll notice that the roux changes from beige/yellow to white as the proteins are cooked. The roux will get bubbly and give off a nutty smell. When your fat/flour mixture is entirely white, without starting to turn brown, it’s ready to thicken any liquid.

Great sauces await the roux you just made, and you can start right now or wait until later. However, there’s something important to remember.

When using roux to thicken liquids, the roux and liquid must be opposite ends of the temperature spectrum. If you’ve just created this thickening agent and it’s still hot, then a COLD liquid like broths or milk can be used to make a sauce.

If you have milk or broth simmering on the stove, it’s a COLD roux that is needed to thicken the hot liquid. A cold roux is the roux you made yesterday and stored in the refrigerator. You simply crumble the cooked and chilled butter/flour mixture into the simmering liquid and you have instant gravy!

Once you can make a great roux, then the entire world of liquids will dictate the type of sauce you can create. This one method can be used as an inspiration for endless great sauces in your own kitchen.

By Chef Todd

Food TV Won’t Teach You To Cook

Watching Food TV won’t teach you to cook. Perhaps you shouldn’t believe or attempt everything on your flat screen that’s designed for entertainment value, not educational value.

Neither will you learn to cook from a cookbook. Written recipes won’t teach you to cook any more than sheet music teaches you how to play piano.

However, with 5 basic skills, you can empower yourself past the advertising and written rules to cook the way you want, with what you want.

I consider the Food Network to be the MTV of food. MTV used to play music, now they’re entertainment about music. Food TV is entertainment about food; they don’t teach anyone HOW to cook.

Neither should there be any crying in cooking, unless you’re chopping onions. On Food TV reality shows, contestants CRY when their dishes come out. They’re crying because they could be ELIMINATED from the kitchen! What pressure!

Cooking is not crying. Cooking is not a competition. Cooking is an art form that everyone can interpret for themselves. You don’t have to cook like a celebrity chef, or imitate Martha Stewart to provide wholesome, nutritious, soul-satisfying food for your family.

If I ran The Food Network, I’d concentrate on 5 basic elements that will free all cooks from written recipes. Then again, if I did that I’d probably destroy Food TV itself. I’d be out of a job quickly when all the advertisers left because viewers were actually in their kitchens…cooking!

First, don’t trust recipes. They have inherent variables and flaws that make them impossible to duplicate. You are allowed to change recipes for your desire. Use them for inspiration if you’d like, but cook with the ingredients and in a fashion to your liking, not the authors.

Second, practice your knife skills. To use fresh ingredients in cooking, you’ll have to do some prep. Farmers market ingredients don’t come already cut-up in little glass dishes like on Food TV.

Third, understand the transfer of heat. A few basics in HOW cooking works, rather than WHAT you’ll be cooking will empower you to cook everything! The differences between direct and indirect heat, dry and moist cooking will make you a skilled home cook.

Fourth, stock your pantry. Have condiments and ingredients ready to become instant flavor profiles. Sautéing a chicken breast on the stove top can become an ethnic dish from Mexico if you add Salsa to the pan. It can be from Asia with some Soy Sauce, or India with jarred Masala.

Lastly, sauce-making is the key. If you can make a smooth, flavorful sauce, you can create an endless number of dishes. A great sauce will save a poorly cooked piece of meat, but the worst sauce will certainly ruin the best prepared items.

Write it down? Why would you ever have to write it down? When you use these five simple skills in combination, you can create a new dish every night. Just think of the extra cabinet space you now have where all the cookbooks used to be!

Why duplicate when you can create? Food TV wants you to keep watching Food TV, not actually learn HOW to cook. That’s my job.

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By Chef Todd

Learn How to Saute For Countless Quick Dinners

When you know how to sauté, then you have power over your food choices. It’s quick, easy, and you can sauté almost anything!

Most cookbooks concentrate on the list of ingredients and forget to tell you HOW to cook. When you can repeat one cooking method, then the ingredients don’t matter.

Certainly there are other very important skills to have in the kitchen, such as using your knives for cutting vegetables, and how to make sauces, but HOW you transfer heat to food makes the biggest difference of all.

Saute’ is a conductive cooking process. This means that the heat is directly transferred to the food via the sauté pan. As opposed to cooking with hot air in an oven, which is convective cooking, conductive is quicker and easier to control.

It’s easy to learn how to sauté, because the steps are always the same regardless of what you’re cooking. Mastering this one method will have you creating dinner without recipes in no time.

The basic sauté procedure is this:
1) Pan Hot First – Always start with a hot sauté pan. The best way to judge the relative heat in the pan is to sprinkle a little water from the tips of your fingers. If the water immediately boils and evaporates, you know the pan is at least 212F/100C.
2) Add Fat – A small amount of fat is used for sauté. It’s not pan frying and it’s not deep frying. Only enough butter or oil is used to barely cover the bottom of the pan. The role of fat in sauté is less about flavor and more about transferring heat.
3) Fat Hot – You must heat this fat to a point JUST BEFORE it’s about to smoke. Once the oil reaches its smoke temperature, it will impart burnt flavors to your food. However, if you start cooking right before it smokes, you’re capturing the most heat. Most fats will change from being perfectly smooth in appearance to moving about the pan and looking streaky.
4) Protein Product – Whether you’re cooking chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, fish, or tofu, it’s all the same. Add your protein product to the hot fat in the pan to promote caramelization of sugars, the nice brown color.
5) Cook 75/25 - Cook the protein product ¾ of the way on the first side so that you can witness the changes that tell you when to turn it over. As proteins coagulate, they stiffen and shrink. A chicken breast will begin to turn white on the sides. When the white reaches 75% of the way up the side of the protein product, finish it on the other side and remove to a warm plate.
6) Aromatics – Now is the time to sauté onions, celery, carrots, peppers, garlic, or any other vegetable you’d like to incorporate in the dish. These items will also pick up the flavor of the “fond”, the brown bits of rendered fat and sugars left in the pan by the protein product.
7) Deglaze - Adding a cold liquid to the pan drops the temperature quickly and dramatically, releasing the fond from the bottom of the pan. This is not only the beginning of a flavorful sauce, but also changes the cooking process from dry to moist. The liquid can then be reduced through evaporation or thickened with roux or cornstarch slurry.
8 ) Return Protein Product - Since we’ve changed from dry to moist cooking, there is less chance of burning the protein product so it can be returned to the pan to steam with the other items. You’ll know when it’s fully cooked when it reaches the desired internal temperature on your thermometer.

If you know how to sauté, you can create a French dish on Monday, a Mexican dish on Tuesday, an Asian dish on Wednesday, and all with the single, simple cooking method. Basic sauté opens up a world of endless dinner ideas because the ingredients are within your control.

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By Chef Todd

How to Make Sauces Quickly

Knowing how to make sauces is a necessary kitchen skill. The best sauce can make up for a dry piece of chicken, but the worst sauce will certainly ruin any dish.

There are three basic ways to thicken liquids, but they all have to do with gelatinization of starches, the point at which starch molecules absorb liquids and swell. This is what thickens sauces.

The quickest and easiest way to thicken a flavorful liquid is something that Grandma has been doing for years. She makes a quick and easy gravy from turkey drippings with a cornstarch slurry.

A cornstarch slurry simply means dissolving some cornstarch in liquid. This can be the same liquid that’s the basis for your gravy, or a different flavor entirely.

This is especially useful in Asian stir-fry. Once you’re done cutting vegetables and you’ve cooked all your proteins and vegetables, and added some chicken or vegetable broth, a slurry with soy sauce is the perfect thickener that also adds flavor.

The quickest way how to make sauces is with this method, but cornstarch leaves a glassy taste, and every sauce is reminiscent of Asian cuisine. The most flavorful thickening agent for sauces is a roux.
This is the turkey gravy thickener that Grandma ignored. Roux is the combination of starch and fat. While it’s most often butter and flour, it can be any kind of fat and starch.

It’s very easy to make a roux, and after just a few tries you’ll be a pro. It’s simply melting butter in a sauce pan and whisking in flour until it resembles a thick paste. Then, cook the roux until it begins to bubble, turns whiter, and gives off a nutty smell.

Now you’ve cooked all the proteins out of the flour so you don’t get a pasty taste. This cooked roux can be used to thicken any liquid. This is my favorite way to make Macaroni and Cheese. Milk is added to roux until it’s the desired thickness before my favorite cheese is added.

If you can make a smooth roux consistently, you know how to make sauces of all different varieties. The only thing that changes is the liquid you’ve chosen to thicken. Any gravy or sauce is now at your finger tips.

But, what about in an emergency? What about those times that your sauce is still just too thin and won’t stick to your food? What did you do wrong, how can you fix it?

The third method for thickening liquids quickly and easily is called “Beurre Manie” in French culinary terms. It’s an un-cooked roux. Simply by squeezing flour into a pat or raw butter, you can make a raw roux to be added to hot liquids. This is not the preferred method, because the uncooked flour may leave a pasty taste.

When you concentrate on these three methods of thickening liquids; cornstarch slurry, roux, and beurre manie, you’ll know how to make sauces like the professional chefs do, without a recipe.

By Chef Todd

Cutting Vegetables Blindfolded is Still Easier

Cutting vegetables is so much easier when you don’t have to take out your chopper/dicer device. You might think that the electric gadget is quicker and easier than your standard chef’s knife, but you’d be wrong.

Let’s have a race. Ready, go! Get your chopper appliance down from the cabinet. Plug it in to the electric outlet. Then, fiddle with the bowl a little because it never fits just right the first time. Next comes the blade. You have to twist it a few times before it finally clicks into place.

Now, you have to use a knife to peel and cut the onion in half so it fits in the chopper. If you can fit a whole onion, then the lid goes on and you push the button a few times to turn the onion into dust. Not equally diced pieces, but mush and water.

Okay, empty the electric onion into a bowl, and unplug the gadget from the wall. Rinse out the chopper bowl, remove the blade and clean it off. Wipe down the counter and the electric motor before returning it to the cabinet.

Stop! Now it’s the chefs knife turn. Step one, peel and chop the onion. Step two, rinse the knife. Done. If you want to cook better and use fresh ingredients, you MUST use a knife.

Cutting vegetables becomes more fun when you know how to hold and use the chef’s knife correctly. It’s actually quicker, easier, safer, and cleaner than any device you can buy, but it takes a little practice.

How you hold the knife is most important. Many people mistakenly hold the knife like a club. All fingers wrapped around the handle, meeting the thumb on the other side. However, the knife can spin in the hand if held this way, making it dangerous.

The correct way to hold a chefs knife is between thumb and forefinger at the point where the handle meets the blade. Then, your other three fingers wrap around the handle. This way, the knife is “locked” into place by your index finger resting on the spine of the knife.

The motion you use for cutting vegetables is also important. Rather than a straight up-and-down motion, the tip of the knife should always stay in contact with the cutting board. This is called “tip-fulcrum method”, and the motion is down, forward a bit, and up again. It’s like dipping water from a bucket with a spoon.

The most important hand in using the chef’s knife is the one that is NOT holding the knife. It has the greatest opportunity to be cut, especially exposed finger tips. So, I use “kung-fu grip”, curling my fingers and thumb under my palm so only the knuckles stick out.

The knuckles are very important because the chef’s knife will use the non-knife hand as a guide. As long as the knife rides against the knuckle, you always know where the sharp blade is. It’s the non-knife hand that dictates the increment of the cut.

Moving the left hand in greater increments when cutting vegetables gives bigger pieces. Moving in smaller increments yields thinner pieces.

The knife hand is dumb. Its only job is to perform tip-fulcrum method and stay in contact with that knuckle on the non-knife hand. It’s the hand that’s NOT holding the knife that’s the brains of the operation.

Where’s the enjoyment in cutting vegetables with an electric chopper? You learn no new skills; you have no pride in what you’ve done. Start using your chef’s knife and you’ll enjoy visually appealing food and a skill to last a lifetime.

By Chef Todd

Boil Corn On The Cob and You Lose

Boil corn on the cob and you’ll notice the corn tastes like water and the water like corn. If you think about it, you can make a flavorful vegetable broth by simmering onions, carrots, and celery in water. So, are you trying to cook your corn or make corn broth?

Boiling is a moist conductive cooking process. This means that your corn is in direct contact with the heat, in this case it’s boiling water. The flavorless liquid takes on the characteristics of the item you’re cooking. Also, the cooked item absorbs bland water, affecting the taste of your fresh ingredients.

Most delicate vegetables are better cooked in an indirect fashion. This means that the source of the heat doesn’t directly touch the food being cooked. This is the best way to retain color, texture, flavor, and nutrition. If you enjoy healthy cooking, then local fresh ingredients are important.

Don’t boil corn on the cob. Steaming is the best way to cook corn. Steaming is an indirect moist cooking method where the heat source is simmering liquid from below. Boil corn on the cob if you want, but you’re losing flavor, texture, color, and nutrition over steaming.

Boiling is to steaming as sauté is to roasting. When something is placed in a sauté pan, it’s accepting heat directly from the source, just like boiling, except sauté is a dry method of cooking. If you were to place something in the oven, it will cook by the indirect application of hot air, similar to the moist air used to steam corn on the cob.

The best way to cook the summer’s bounty is in a large pot with a small amount of water that will not actually touch the corn because they’re suspended above by a steamer basket or wire rack. This way, flavors and nutrition don’t leach into the cooking liquid, making corn soup and watery corn.

Now, you’ve kept the integrity of seasonal fresh corn in tact. But what if you have more fresh corn than you can possibly eat before it goes bad?

Freezing corn on the cob enables you to store the flavor of summer for later use. Summer is fantastic for fresh ingredients, but eating seasonally presents a small problem. Many fresh fruits and vegetables have a very short season, yielding great amounts of ingredients, but too much to eat at once.

Fresh corn tastes best directly from the field, but when you’ve got more corn than your family can eat in a week, summer must be preserved.

All things that grow in dirt must be ‘sanitized’ before freezing, canning or storing. Bacteria in the soil can cause illness when allowed to grow over long periods of time. Freezing doesn’t kill many types of bacteria, but high temperatures do. So, before sending our corn to the deep freeze, it’ll have to be shocked first.

Shocking vegetables means cooking very briefly in water or steam, then plunging the item into an ice water bath to stop the cooking immediately. The purpose is not to cook the corn, but to kill any residual bacteria before storage.

Freezing corn on the cob means removing the kernels from the cob. You can’t freeze the entire cob, and there’s not much reason to. The ingredient you’re trying to preserve is the corn kernels, not the cob.

After the shocked cobs are fully cooled and dried, they’re stood on end and a chef’s knife will cut a straight line downward behind the kernels but in front of the cob to cut all the flavorful parts off for freezing.

Then, simply gather the corn that’s been removed from the cob and store in plastic bags for the freezer. Sometimes, I’ll toast the corn in a cast iron skillet for use in Mexican or Latin dishes, or for a flavorful vegetable salad.

A fresh ear of corn is one of the fantastic flavors of summer, but it can be quickly ruined by improper cooking and storage. Boil corn on the cob and you’ve left the flavors of summer in your pot of water. Steaming and then freezing corn on the cob is the best way to have seasonal flavors any time of the year, no matter what you’re cooking.

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By Chef Todd

Grilling How To: New Ideas From Cleaning Your Grill to Non-Stick Fish

I’m inspired to create this “Grilling How To” because outdoor cooking season is now upon us! It’s my favorite cooking time of the year, but before I actually get grilling, I’ll have to inspect my barbeque and decide whether it will survive another summer.

My poor, poor barbeque grill, it took some abuse this winter. It had snow piled on top of it, freezing temperatures, spiders, dust, and carbonized pieces of last year’s hamburger spend an intimate winter with it.

A clean grill means that dirt and debris aren’t stealing heat from your food. For the most efficient and successful outdoor cooking this summer, start with these basic maintenance tips.

There are three basic areas that you’ll want to inspect, clean and repair before you start cooking outdoors this year.

1) The Gas - Liquid Propane (LP) gas grills are potentially dangerous because of the flammable nature of the LP.
Inspect the LP canister for leaks or breaks. With some soapy water and a soft-bristled paintbrush, brush the water on the areas where the tank and gas lead are coupled. Also brush valve stem and valve of the tank. Bubbles indicate gas leaks and should be repaired immediately.
Be sure you have enough gas. Unless you have a pressure gauge on the tank, the only see how much gas you have is by weight. The average canister weighs 18 pounds empty.

2) The Grates - Clean and inspect the cooking grates for wear, rust, or remnants of July 4, 2010. This includes the lava rocks that are suspended above the burner. Vacuum the grates, rocks and bottom of the grill to remove debris

3) The Burner – The most important part of your grilling often goes neglected. Remove the I-shaped or H-shaped burner from the grill and inspect the propane holes for wear. If it has deteriorated such that the holes have joined together, making a large hole, this is potentially dangerous and the burner should be replaced.

With a clean grill, you’ll enjoy your grilling, how to make it better, and appreciate the cooking season more fully because your equipment will allow your true outdoor cooking talent to shine through, and one of my favorite things to cook outdoors is a basic hamburger.

I can grill hamburgers perfectly because of the control I have over my grill’s heat. The outdoor barbeque is the hottest cooking element most of us have available in the home, but that doesn’t mean it always has to be used at the highest flame.

I can alter the heat in my oven. I don’t always cook at the highest set temperature indoors. I can control the heat on the stove-top burner. Not everything is cooked to a wild violent boil.

The same theory can be applied to steaks for grilling or when you grill hamburgers. The secret to success in grilling, how to change the type of heat that is cooking your dinner, and knowing when to switch cooking methods, is the key.

While most people use their grills strictly for direct conductive heat, it can also be used like an oven with indirect heat. Rather than letting your hamburger burn on the bottom while it remains raw in the middle, change the grill heat to a method that will finish the cooking without creating a hard crust.

By turning one side of the grill off, moving the meat away from the direct flame, and closing the grill lid, I’ve created a softer convective environment for cooking. Now I can grill hamburgers that have attractive grill marks, but are consistently cooked throughout.

The ONLY way to tell if your patties are done is with an instant-read thermometer. There are many old-wives tales about unquantifiable ways to tell doneness of grilled items. Touching your cheek or palm and comparing it to the meat is absolutely useless.

Finished Beef Temperatures:

Rare 130F 55C
Medium 140F 60C
Well 150F 65C
Hockey Puck 160F 70C

You can grill hamburgers that everyone raves about when you control the heat you’re cooking them with. Softer indirect convective heat can help retain moisture and flavor without the potential of charred exterior and grill flame-ups of the intense direct conductive heat of the barbeque grill.

However, delicate products like fish are much different than steaks. Because white fish filets are so delicate and your barbeque is so intense, when the two meet the result is burned, dry fish that is destroyed when it sticks to the grill. But, changing your grill’s heat is also a grilling how-to for cooking fish without it sticking to the grates.

The cause of delicate products sticking to the grill is the same thing that gives you attractive marks when you grill hamburgers or steak, the coagulation of proteins and caramelization of sugars.

Coagulation is the stiffening and shrinking of proteins. That’s why your grilled hamburger is considerably smaller than the raw burger you started with. Caramelization occurs when sugars reach 320F / 160C and turn brown.

However, fish is much more delicate than steaks for grilling, and need to be treated differently. Technically, fish proteins will coagulate before sugars caramelize, stiffening and shrinking around the grill grates, holding on tightly.

By the time you’ve achieved the grill marks and caramelization of sugars that will release the fish from the grill’s grasp, it’s too late. Your fish is burned.

How to grill fish without sticking lies in changing the way your grill is delivering heat during the cooking process. By turning one side of the grill’s heat off, and placing a pan of water on the opposite side, and closing the lid, you can create a moist, indirect conductive cooking method to delicately cook the fragile fish.

When you place the fish on the indirect-heat side of the grill, you can cook with the confidence that you’re not subjecting the soft proteins to the intense dry heat of the barbeque. With this method, you’ll know all the grilling how to so you can grill fish confidently without leaving most of your dinner stuck to the grill.

My best grilling how-to advice is centered around controlling the heat of your barbecue in the same way you would when cooking indoors. Don’t ALWAYS cook on high, and treat delicate items in a delicate manner.

By Chef Todd

Why Grass Fed Beef Makes the Best Steaks for Grilling

The best steaks for grilling are the ones that will return the best flavor and nutrition while retaining moisture and tenderness. To accomplish the best results, I always start with the best ingredients I can find.

Because grilling is direct, conductive, intense heat, it will never tenderize a steak during cooking. For the best beef meal, you need to start with the most tender and flavorful beef. You needn’t use heavy marinades or even long cooking times when you begin with the best ingredients. You don’t even have to worry if you have the best grill or not. Better ingredients are easier to cook, it’s a fact.

John Wood of US Wellness Meats is a fifth generation cattle rancher who has broken from traditional thinking and stopped feeding corn to his cows. The natural foraging diet returns a more flavorful steak that is higher in nutrition and even cooks faster!

This method of raising cattle goes back as far as cows and farmers, and is better for the animal, the land, and human beings. John’s pasture is separated into 36 paddocks, and the herd is moved from section to section to dine on fresh, nutrient rich clover and grasses.

“It’s cookies and ice cream time,” says John as the cattle hurry to the undisturbed pasture for an afternoon snack, “the energy in the grass is highest at 4pm, so that’s when we move the herd”.

To over-simplify the explanation, John Wood and grass fed beef farmers like him use the cow to convert grass energy into steaks for grilling for human beings. Cows have 4 stomachs, the first is a fermentation stomach called the rumen. It breaks down the grass to digestible material.

Bacteria in the rumen help in this natural process that keeps the cows happy and healthy. However, most beef for slaughter in the US spends the last weeks of their lives being fattened with steroids and corn.

The bacteria in the rumen don’t like corn as well, causing sickness in the animal, causing the rancher to give it antibiotics and other un-natural elements. This is a vicious cycle that harms the animal, the planet and human beings. Even if you’re unconcerned about those things, the steak has much less flavor too.

The result breaks all conventional thought about having beef as the main part of your diet. There’s a prevalent belief that eating too much red meat is bad for you. This may be the case when we’re talking about feedlot beef that’s fed corn, however the opposite is true of grass fed beef.

Grass fed beef has an ideal Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of 2 to 1. This is equal the nutritional qualities of fish. This type of steaks for grilling has 1/3 less calories than grain-fed beef, contains no antibiotics, no hormones and has 4 times the CLA than grain-fed beef.

What’s CLA? It’s Conjugated Lenoleic Acid. It’s believed to be an anti-carcinogenic, increases lean body mass, prevents arteriosclerosis, and slows or halts the onset of diabetes. Grass fed beef produces higher levels of CLA than grain-fed beef and can play an even more prominent roll in cancer prevention than fish oils.

The best steaks for grilling are the ones that will nourish your body and senses most completely. Grass fed beef farmers like John Wood are working hard to supply wholesome, natural food products that improve our health, not endanger it.

By Chef Todd

3 No Recipe Uses For The Season’s Best Strawberries

No recipe will tell me what to do when it’s strawberry season. It’s one of the great seasonal joys in fresh food, and I take full advantage of the short time. The best strawberries come from your local farm, local farmer, local rain and soil.

I celebrate the beginning of strawberry season with a visit to DJ’s Berry Patch and speak with Jessica, the owner/farmer.

Strawberries are one of the most difficult crops to grow because of the long season, hard labor, and fragile nature of the fruit. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to grow the best strawberries, but the difference is worth it and worth your money as well.

If you bite into a strawberry and it’s white in the middle, you don’t have the freshest berry. The likelihood is that this berry was picked before ripe and shipped long distances, robbing you of the great flavor and nutrients that fresh strawberries can offer.

For the best strawberries, visit your local farm and eat them when they’re in-season. I’d rather have fantastic, flavorful strawberries for only a month than access to bland berries all year long.

Now that I’m taking home a big bucket of fresh berries, but I don’t want to waste a lot of time searching for strawberry recipes. I want to make some quick and easy dishes using the valuable fruit, no recipe required.

Using my knowledge of successes I’ve had in the past, and basic cooking methods, I’ve decided to make Strawberry Pancakes, Strawberry Syrup, and a Balsamic Strawberry salad.

Strawberry pancakes are one of my favorite items to make when I get a hold of great, fresh strawberries. The flavor of the best strawberries that are just-picked baked into a griddle cake is a true summer pleasure.

I can even make the pancakes with a pre-made mix. However, Aunt Jemima is over 100 years old. Her hot cakes don’t spring up like they used to.

I want my fresh diced strawberries to be surrounded by pancake batter, not have them sticking out the top because the mixture is too thin. What I need is extra leavening to make a pancake that has strawberries inside.

Luckily, with a basic knowledge of baking principles and leavening agents, I can give the old lady a facelift and no recipe is needed. By adding baking powder and citric acid to the boxed mix, I can get an extra chemical reaction for the biggest, fluffiest strawberry pancakes ever.

Even strawberry pancakes made with a boxed mix can be customed for my liking. Aunt Jemima never looked so good after the facelift we’ve given her.

This same principle can be used for banana pancakes, blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, granola pancakes, and many more.

But, I still have a lot of fruit in my bucket and I want to preserve as well as enjoy the best strawberries I’ll have all year. Strawberry sauce is a great solution because it can be used as an ingredient in other foods and the sugar syrup will preserve the fresh fruit flavor as well.

Strawberry sauce can be made like candy syrup when you know the right temperature.
All it takes is strawberries, sugar, water, and a thermometer to apply a No Recipe approach to making syrup from fresh fruit that is naturally sweet and has a smooth texture.

After capping and dicing the fresh berries, I’ll bring them to a soft simmer in a sauce pan with water and a spoonful of sugar.

I’m not trying to sweeten the strawberry sauce by adding sugar. I’m using the best strawberries, so they already have the best flavor. A small amount of added sugar will “set” the color of the berries, inhibiting their desire to turn brown after being pureed.

However, there’s an extra trick I’ll show you that will keep the strawberry sauce from cooling and forming sugar crystals. Remember our friend Cream of Tartar from the strawberry pancakes we just made? It’ll have an entirely different roll in strawberry sauce.

Cream of Tartar helped in the chemical reaction needed to give Aunt Jemima a facelift and leaven pancakes. Today, the acidic quality of this bake shop staple will help inhibit crystallization of sugars in our strawberry sauce.

Once the sauce cools, sugar crystals can start to form crunchy bits in the syrup. I certainly don’t want a crunchy sauce, so just the “tip of the knife” of an acid will help limit this effect. There is no recipe that will alert you to this.

Strawberry sauce can be used for dozens of applications during the spring and summer. I love to use it for drinks, to decorate dessert plates, or to flavor and moisten a cake. It’s a simple way to preserve your strawberry picking efforts and create an ingredient you can use again and again.

However, not everything you make with the best strawberries has to be sweet. Even a fresh strawberry salad doesn’t always have to be sweet. I’m going to play with my diner’s palates by throwing sour and bitter at them too!

The real art and talent of a great chef or cook is to manipulate the palate of the people you’re serving. I’m going to hit on all four of the senses on the tongue with one single salad.

Since my fresh strawberries are so sweet, I’m going to off-set that sensation with balsamic vinegar, a sour liquid. Then, perhaps raw onion and honey to really wake up the mouth.

However, the salad I’ll make today with no recipe will attempt to combine flavors that will play contrast with the sweet fresh-picked fruit.

Since my fresh strawberries are so sweet, I’m going to off-set that sensation with balsamic vinegar, a sour liquid. Then, perhaps I’ll add raw onion and honey to really wake up the mouth.

This is a great method to keep in mind no matter what you’re cooking, baking, or combining ingredients in your kitchen. What can you do to cause unexpected flavors in your food that will make your guests wonder how you did it?

There are plenty of unconventional flavor combinations all over the world, and using them in contrast can make for the most exciting dishes.

When you are enjoying the fantastic flavor of the best strawberries that are local and in-season, time is of the essence. The season is short, and there’s no recipe that will tell you exactly what your tastes require. Only you can decide that.

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