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How to Flambe

The word Flambé is one that creates the impression of an extravagant and difficult to prepare meal. Many chefs stray away from desserts or meals that are prepared using this method because they fear that is simply an art that is too difficult to master. That or they are afraid they might accidentally burn down the house.

Flambé (which means flaming when translated in French) is one of the best ways to add an additional layer of flavor to your meal. The flambé method allows the chef to incorporate a flavor of the liqueur without having the harsh bite of alcohol remaining. This can be an effective method for meals ranging from meats to desserts and can create a very beautiful presentation when used in front of guests.

The first step when flambéing is to choose the liqueur to pair with your meal. You will want to use a brandy or high proof liqueur. It is best to choose a liqueur that is 80 proof; as anything containing a higher proof is viewed as too unstable for the flaming process and can yield explosive results (literally). However, liqueurs that are of a lower proof run the risk of not igniting when held to the flame. It is best to add a liqueur that resembles the flavor of the fruit or meat being prepared. A cognac or whiskey can compliment the flavor of a meat and will create a complexity that is hard to rival with other cooking methods.

Next heat the brandy or liqueur in a small sauce pan with high sides as most recipes will call for little more then 4 oz of liqueur (approximately ½ cup). You will want to heat the sauce pan until bubbles begin to form around the edges. This will happen as the liqueur reaches its boiling point of 175 degrees which is much lower then water (212 degrees).

At the same time in a separate pan heat the food that you are planning on flambéing. If the food is not warm when the liqueur is added you run the risk of cooling the liqueur too much and it may not light. It is important when using a gas stove not to poor the liqueur directly from the bottle over the stove as the flame can chase up the bottle and explode, which would not be a good thing. While flambéing can impress your guests a trip to the hospital can also impress them as well, just not in a way you were hoping for.

When both the liqueur and food have reached their temperatures simply add the liqueur from the sauce pan. If you are using a gas stove be prepared as the flame may ignite the fumes and begin the flambé process. If you are using an electric stove or the flame does not light the alcohol as it is added simply use a long lighter or match (like you would use for your fireplace) to begin the flaming process.

From here, simply let it cook until the flame has disappeared which signifies the burning off of the alcohol. As the flame burns simply move the pan in a back and forth motion being careful not to spill the contents over the side of the pan to ensure the burning off of all the alcohol. When finished, remove from the heat and serve immediately as most flambé recipes are meant to be served hot!

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Whats the best way to bake a potato Barbecue Baked Potato

What’s the best way to bake a potato you ask?

Well personally I think that this is dependent upon your time. There are three widely accepted methods of cooking a “baked” potato, each with it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

Method 1: Baking it in the oven.

What I love about baking a potato in the oven is that it seems to have a little more taste then that of a potato prepared by other methods. This is probably because it gets a nice crispy texture without getting too mushy. The downside of this method you ask? Well it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the spud!

Method 2: Microwave!

The advent of the microwave has greatly reduced the amount of time required to cook up many a things. There are both good sides and bad. The good is that a baked potato can be heated up in just 15 minutes. The downsides here come in the form of overcooked ends that become hardened in a hurry and no one wants that!

Method 3: Boiling – The choice of most restaurants.

While boiling a potato takes a little longer than that of it’s microwaved cousin it can cut down overall cooking time by 15 to 20 minutes when compared to the oven baking method. One other nice point is the addition of water to the cooking process allows for potatoes that are softer and because of the salt added sometimes a little more flavorful.

For me the best way to bake a potato really depends on the time in which I have. If I have all the time in the world I bake them in an oven. If I’m pressed for time the microwave or boiling methods work great! I do however; feel that the way in which you bake your potato doesn’t matter as much as how you plan on topping it.

Yesterday I started a series of posts about some of America’s greatest ball park foods. Coming in at my second favorite little league game favorite is the Barbecue Baked Potato! This portable potato is not only quick and easy to prepare its probably the best way to top a potato ever invented.

To begin our barbecue baked potatoes cook your “baked” potato using the method of your choice. Pull it out of the oven/microwave/pot and cut it open. Then using a fork, press the softened potato into a small bowl like so.

Once you have your bowl it’s time to fill it! Put your barbecue flavored pulled pork into the center. Now, if you have all the time in the world you can make this from scratch. Or if you’re looking to save some time I find that Lloyds makes a great BBQ pulled pork that can be heated up in the microwave in 2 minutes flat.

Once you have your barbecue goodness on the potato it’s time to add some cheese.

Now add some freshly cut chives!

Finally, no baked potato is complete without a dollop of sour cream! One thing I like to do is keep it in the tin foil used to bake it with (this is provided you don’t use the microwave or boiling options) to create a little portable dish. If you do choose another method there’s nothing stopping you from putting this innovative plate idea to use once your tater is cooked. See you at the game!

One more look at this bad boy….. Oh yeah!

Barbecue baked potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 large baked potatoes
  • 16 oz pulled pork (preferably Lloyds)
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh minced chives
  • 2 oz sour cream

Directions:

  1. Bake your potato using method of your choice. Using a fork create a bowl within the baked potato.
  2. Warm pulled pork according to directions and fill the bowl created in the baked potato.
  3. Top pulled pork with cheese, chives, and sour cream.
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How To make The Perfect Croque Madam

I am on a mission…..

And when I’m on a mission nothing can stand in my way. Not even the sacred traditions of what time certain meals are to be enjoyed.

Heck who am I kidding? I love to do breakfast for dinner all the time! Maybe it’s the kid in me but there is something about it that is comforting to me when you take a traditional breakfast meal and make it for dinner (like French toast).

But this week was a little different not only was this inspiration part kid it was also part MacGyver of me as I try to clean out my fridge (the very important mission).

Why is this such an important mission? Well in two weeks I will be taking a 1 week long vacation! I’m going to be heading north to Minnesota to stay at my family’s cabin in an effort to escape the heat of Texas.

Well I’m actually going because…well….I need a vacation…. Don’t we all?

As I was on this mission I noticed that a had an unusually large amount of Gruyere cheese left that desperately needed consuming (at least that’s what I told myself) as well as a couple dozen farm fresh eggs. Now when I say farm fresh eggs were talking strait from my parents neighbors farm where the chickens run free and peck at your feet as you collect your eggs fresh. I can’t even begin to tell you the difference these eggs make when you are baking (or in my case making Croque-Madames).

What I love about the Croque-Madame is the fact that it takes the already super delicious Croque-Monsieur and slams a fried egg on top to improve the already super nutritional meal. I can’t help but feel when the Croque-Madame was invented the very talented chef was on a mission to clean out his/her fridge as they were on their way to vacation.

I can even hear them in the kitchen going…. Gruyere…. Ham….Bread… well I could definitely do a Croque-Monsieur ….but what the heck am I going to do with all those eggs? I’m leaving for vacation in a week…. Hum… this gives me an idea!

To being our Croque-Madame we in fact start by creating a Croque-Monsieur. In a small saucepan melt some butter over low heat. Then add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook stirring for two minutes to create your (yup you guessed it) roux. What I love about a Roux is that all great sauces tend to begin with one!

Next we whisk in our milk and bring to a boil. The sauce will begin to thicken as we reduce the heat and allow to simmer for five minutes.

While the sauce is simmering shred a ½ cup Gruyere cheese. Add this and the mustard into the sauce and whisk until the cheese is melted.

Remove this form the heat and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. You now have a classic Mornay sauce (Which is one of the best parts of the Croque-Monsieur/Madame).

Now it’s time to build your sandwich. I know the recipe says to place the sauce on first but I find this difficult and confusing. Begin by buttering one side of our bread and placing it butter side down on a pan. Next spread 1 tablespoon Mornay sauce over your slices.

Stack your sandwich high with ham and some moderately thick slices of Gruyere. Don’t go skimping on the Gruyere here (you’ll thank me later).

Butter the remaining slices of bread and place them butter side up on top of the Gruyere. Allow these to cook on your skillet for a few minutes on each side until each side is a golden brown.

Spread the remaining Mornay sauce and place these in a broiling pan. If you don’t have a broiling pan don’t panic as it’s not really necessary here as this will not need to drain anything. Broil your sandwiches until the Mornay sauce begins to brown (about 2 minutes). While these are browning quickly fry up some eggs to place on top. When the Croque-Monsieurs come out of the oven allow to cool for 10 seconds and then make them Croque-Madames by placing the fried eggs on top. Bon Appetite!

Croque-Madame
A slightly altered recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces thinly sliced Gruyere
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
8 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts discarded
¼ pound thinly sliced ham

Directions:

Make the Sauce:

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small heavy sauce pan over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk and bringto a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop enough cheese to measure ½ cup. Whisk chopped cheese and mustard into sauce, then whisk until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with nutmeg. Cover with wax paper placed directly on surface to keep warm.

Make The Sandwich:

Lay 4 slices bread on work surface. Divide ham and remaining cheese slices among them. Spread 1 tablespoon Mornay sauce evenly on each of remaining bread slices and invert over ham and cheese. Spread half of remaining butter evenly on top of sandwiches and transfer, buttered sides down, to an oven proof 12 inch skillet. Spread remaining butter on top of sandwiches. Cook over low heat, turning ounces, until both sides are golden, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Preheat broiler. Leaving sandwiches in skillet, spread tops of sandwiches evenly with remaining Mornay sauce. Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat until sauce is bubbling and golden in patches, about 2 minutes. Transfer sandwiches to plates.

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Vacuum Food Sealers – Do You Have What You Need?

 Find out how to preserve your fresh finds from the grocery store.

Vacuum food sealers are used to remove the air from packages and containers. That is very important for the preservation of food. When food is exposed to air, it begins to break down, and soon will start to go bad or get stale. If you freeze food in packages that are not vacuum sealed, you will very soon see ice crystals begin to form inside your package.

Everything keeps longer when it is vacuum sealed. Crackers, cookies, dried pasta, potato chips, snacks and everything else that you can think of.

There are many different types of vacuum food sealers. Here are some of the basics to consider, along with their storage options.

Machine Types

  • Standard Units that usually offer one touch control 
  • Advanced units that offer variable speeds and on board roll storage with a built in roll cutter 
  • Units specifically for fish and game 
  • Professional Units 

Storage Options

  • Pre-Cut Bags for Quarts and Gallons 
  • Rolls – 8″ and 11″ wide – you determine the length and cut yourself 
  • Canisters – Huge variety of shapes and capacities 
  • Glass Mason or canning jars – they can take the pressure of the sealing

When you have opened your package of rice or dried beans, put the unused portion in a wide mouth glass mason jar, put the flat part of the lid on the jar and seal. This is a great way to keep your pantry bug-free.

Instead of standard canisters, store your dry goods like flour, sugar, coffee and baking goods in vacuum sealer canisters or mason jars. This keeps out moisture and bugs.

I think that you get the basics on storage, now let’s move on to cooking. When you prepare your meals, make extra portions and make your own “TV” dinners. Prepare your plate as you normally would, then slide the whole thing into a vacuum bag, seal, and put in the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, take it out of the bag and heat. If you are freezing soups or spaghetti sauce, just put it into a bag and seal. When you are ready to use it, just drop the bag in boiling water and heat through. No clean up! Just pour your soup into bowls or pour your sauce over your pasta.

There are many more uses for vacuum food sealers, but these cover the basics for the kitchen. If you use it just in that one room, just think how much money you will be able to save. In addition to saving money, you are able to serve fresh food that hasn’t started to go bad before its time.

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Want To Learn To Cook Like A Hotel Chef?

If most people visit a restaurant to enjoy food, some food enthusiasts come with the inclination of learning and discovering professional quality cookware used by its trained cooks. A lot of cooking adventurers believe that one way to know the most favorite and secret cookware to great food is through visiting popular and elite food places.

People learn cooking in many ways. Couples first learned cooking as they prepare meals together, others enrolled in cooking classes to explore about the world’s cooking techniques that could enhance the family’s dining experience. Along with all the learning how to cook is basic knowledge of cookwares required for certain dishes. For those who are fond of ethnic foods and are inclined of preparing them at home, they certainly need the kitchen pieces and tools that would make it cheaper than ordering for a take out.

Food is one of the things that keeps family together. Some families equipped their kitchens with approriate cookwares so they can enjoy cooking their favorite restaurant dishes at home rather than spending a lot for dining out. For them, cooking with the right cookware is just as delectable as some of their favorite restaurants in town. They can opt to save money by spending time together discussing about what food to prepare and the budget they needed for the food they want throughout the week. It is a perfect opportunity to bond as well as discover new ideas about things that could lessen expenses.

Shopping trips for a cookware can be a lot of fun. Aside from the certainty of what things to buy, the shopper could definitely save a ton of money from dining out. With the emerging of cookware choices at discounted prices, most families already have enjoyed different styles of food cooked at home. Finding a cookware to prepare warm breakfast, flavorful dinner, tasteful soups and hot drinks is just like dining out in a fine restaurant.

The choice for pots and pans have elegantly and innovatively expanded over the years. Families are now looking forward to find discounted cookware in different styles and uses like indoor grills, claybakers, pressure pans and all sorts of crockery that can be used both in the oven or the microwave. They can already prepare meals in lesser time giving them the occasion to enjoy and relax more with everyone.

Since households always have to set budgets for food for the entire family, the many promotional and discounted cookware prices offered these days are in perfect timing. People can start buying cheaper food stuffs like less choice cuts of meet to less expensive fish and poultry that they can enhance when cooked in an appropriate cookware. People no longer feel confined by their option of foods because purchasing a suitable cookware at a good discounted price is a clear opportunity of delicious food that is only served in fine restaurants.

It has smelled holidays and many cookware stores both online and offline have started offering great value holiday prices for quality cookwares. Grab your chance of that perfect cookware collection and make your family’s dining in as tasteful and fun as dining out.

Happy Holidays!

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Are Hotel Rates Increasing In line With Inflation?

I have recently noticed that even though there are many sites online that offer great hotel rates, each hotel stay that I make seems to have gotten more and more expensive. I often choose to pay the regular rate because many of the hotels that I like do not offer rooms through the well-known discount sites, or the prices are about the same as if I had called up and reserved the room on my own. I usually have quite a few hotel stays each summer, but it seems to me that they are getting higher and higher each year.

The increase in hotel rates was most notable last Autumn when I stayed at a favorite, the Craighaar Hotel and found it to be about twenty pounds more than it was the year before. I was stunned at the price, but because I am picky about where I stay, I paid it anyway and, I have to say it still represents amazing value compared to some of the larger city hotels. While a twenty quid difference in hotel rates is not going to hurt someone like me too much, I began to feel bad for those who book weeks at a time in one hotel, and those who much travel for business, sometimes at their own expense.

This summer when I went away again, I noticed that it wasn’t just that one place that had an increase in hotel rates. Another of my favorites is now about twenty five dollars more per night than it was just two years ago. While I usually don’t mind, this time the hike in hotel rates made me change my mind about staying there. It wasn’t essential to stay, it was just something I wanted to do. I have since changed my plans. Instead of staying in a hotel the night before an event, I will simply just drive both ways in one day. Not preferable, but right now, it’s the right choice for my finances.

This pinch could cause a lot of people to change their regular favorite hotels. Though for one night it is not too big of a deal, over the course of a week, they might not think it is worth the extra cost. Though I am picky, most aren’t quite as picky as me, and they will settle for a few less extras if they don’t have to pay as much in hotel rates. Before you book any vacation, check up on the rates and see if you can indeed find a way to save money. Check out the discount travel sites, and don’t dismiss your local travel agent. They might just find you the very best deal going.