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Tips and Tricks


Easy Tip for Handling Stuffing

From a Cook's Illustrated subscriber comes this tip:

1. Make a cheesecloth bag by folding a piece of cheesecloth in half and sewing up the two sides.  (To keep the top edge from fraying, machine-hem along the bag top, if you like.)  Line the poultry cavity with the bag.  (Slip your hand inside the bag and insert into the cavity.  Leave a bit of cheesecloth extending from the cavity to use as a lip as you fill with stuffing.

2. Fill the bag three-quarters full with the stuffing, then roast the bird as usual.

3. When the bird is done, simply remove the bag from the cavity. Since cheesecloth is permeable, the stuffing will have absorbed the juices of the fowl, and you will have a clean carcass to use for soup or

Choosing & Preparing Chicken Breasts

Try to resist the impulse to reach only for skinless, boneless breasts--both skin and bones add flavor and keep the meat moist.

BREAST QUARTERS (with wings) are ideal for grilling, broiling and cooking in stews.

WHOLE BREASTS (on the bone with skin) are best for roasting whole, with stuffing under the skin or not, and for poaching.

BREAST HALVES (on the bone with skin) are great for grilling, broiling and roasting, with stuffing under the skin or not, and for poaching. Trim with shears to give them a nice, neat shape.

BONELESS BREASTS are the quick cook's dream; this tender cut is best cooked quickly over direct heat (sautéed, panfried, stir-fried, deep-fried, broiled and grilled) or cooked gently and briefly in a moist preparation such as soup or stew. In supermarkets, these are usually available as skinless whole or half breasts. Either way, they need to be trimmed of fat, membranes and pieces of cartilage. It's most economical to cut the breasts yourself from a whole bird. Simply cut around the wishbone at the rounded end of the breast and remove it. Then slice against the breastbone and follow the ribs with your knife to release the meat. Repeat on the other side.

BREAST TENDERS, or breast tenderloins, as their name implies, are the most delicate morsels of all. Cook them as you would boneless breasts, but very briefly. To remove the tough white tendon running along the length, hold the tendon with your fingers and scrape away from you with the back of a table knife.

World-Class Chicken Soup
From Sheila Lukin's All Around the World Cookbook

Have you ever looked at a steaming pot of homemade chicken soup and thought it could be even better?  Actually it's very easy to transform Mom's treasured soup recipe into a Mexican fiesta, a Turkish thrill, or a Singapore sensation.  First decide what you're in the mood for, then choose the flavoring palette from your desired country and begin with your basic recipe.  The following chart shows what ingredients can be added, and when, to your simmering broth to give it a new national identity.

Starters give the initial flavor to a great pot of chicken soup and remain essentially the same throughout the world.  On the other hand, the vegetables you add will vary greatly according to cultural preference.  In Russia, you would rarely come upon a pot of any soup without some cabbage, potatoes, or beets, while in Mexico or Chile, corn and tomatoes are essential.  Spices should be added early - before the liquid - in order to mellow their flavors.  As you can imagine, these too vary from country to country.  Chilies are found in soups from Southeast Asia to India, while a cinnamon stick would never be left out of North Africa's finest pots.  When it comes to thickeners, noodles, rice, and beans show up in endless variety and are used worldwide to add lushness and body to a broth.  Fresh herbs are a must in chicken broth, and depending on the amounts used, will add a delicate essence of a powerful punch.  For instance, dill used in a Turkish soup will take on a totally different character than dill used more frugally in Russian kitchens.

For a final touch as a soup finishes cooking, you can do as the Chinese do and sprinkle in a little chili oil or as the Spanish do and drizzle in a little dry sherry.  Then garnish with a flourish and you've got a world-class chicken soup.

Happy cooking!
Eileen in Seattle
Starters & Vegetables
garlic, ginger, Shiitake mushrooms
rice, noodles
rice vinegar, soy sauce
scallions, tofu, chives, cress
garlic, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, snow peas, 
bok choy, mung bean sprouts
bean curd, noodles
chili oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, scallions
scallions, chives, crispy noodles
garlic, ginger, tomatoes
thin noodles
lemongrass, basil, mint
lime juice
hard-cooked eggs, toasted coconut, cilantro, mung bean sprouts, fried shallots
garlic, ginger, onions, mung bean sprouts, 
scallions, mushrooms
coriander, mint
fish sauce, coconut milk, lime juice
coconut milk, hard-cooked eggs, cilantro, fried shallots
onions, garlic, wild mushrooms, beets, cabbage, 
celery root
caraway seeds, dill seed
potatoes, apples, barley
dill, parsley
lemon juice
hard-cooked eggs, garlic, croutons, sour cream
onions, garlic, bacon, parsnips, mushrooms, 
green bell peppers, cabbage
spaetzle, noodles, dumplings
marjoram, dill, parsley
sour cream
red cabbage, mushrooms, beets
tarragon, dill, chives
onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, spinach, 
apples, cauliflower
chilies, curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon sticks, cloves
mint, cilantro
lime juice
yogurt, coconut milk, toasted coconut
Onions, garlic, corn, tomatoes, red bell peppers
cinnamon, cumin, red chilies
beans, rice
cilantro, thyme, oregano
lime juice, slivered corn, tortillas
avocado, scallions
onions, garlic, corn, fava beans, tomatoes
basil, cilantro
orange juice
garlic, scallions, butternut squash, collard 
rice, black beans
lime juice
onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, buttternut 
squash, escarole
chilies, cumin
rice, chickpeas
chorizo, almonds, olive oil
garlic, ginger, okra, collard greens, tomatoes
chilies, allspice, curry powder
sweet potatoes, red beans
mint, cilantro
lime juice, pineapple
bananas, toasted coconut, avocado
onions, garlic, cured ham, potatoes
extra virgin olive oil, cilantro, hard-cooked eggs, orange 
onions, garlic, bell peppers
saffron, paprika, cinnamon
rice, beans
sherry, orange juice
orange zest
onions, garlic, carrots, Swiss chard, peas, 
green beans
potatoes, dried beans
chervil, basil, tarragon, chives, flat-leaf parsley
pistou (pesto), creme fraiche, croutons, Gruyere cheese
onions, garlic, pancetta, Swiss chard, tomatoes
dried oregano, dried red chilies
pasta, cannellini beans
basil, flat-leaf parsley
Parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil
onions, leeks, mushrooms, parsnips, Brussels 
onions, garlic, tomatoes, green beans
dried oregano, dried thyme
white beans, rice
lemon juice
onions, garlic, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini
dried thyme
rice, beans, lentils
mint, flat-leaf parsley
lemon juice, honey
extra virgin olive oil, yogurt, Kasseri cheese
onions, garlic, okra, bell peppers, tomatoes, 
turnips, leeks
chickpeas, potatoes
lemon juice
hard-cooked eggs
onions, garlic, yams, tomatoes, carrots, 
turnips, zucchini
cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin
chickpeas, prunes, dates
mint, cilantro
harissa, lemon juice
hard-cooked eggs

How to Cut Up A Chicken

Cutting up a chicken is a snap, and because whole fryers are usually cheaper than chicken parts, it can save you money. Start by cleaning out the cavity and giving the bird a good rinse in cool water. This is also a good time to start dividing what goes to stock and what doesn't. From the cavity, save the neck. Next, remove the legs, being sure to include the meaty "oyster"  located just in front of the hip joint. Divide the legs into drumsticks and thighs by cutting through the knee joint. There is a white line of fat that shows through the skin that will show you where to cut. Remove the wings (they can be left on the breast for some preparations, if you wish). There's little meat on the last joint, so remove it and add it to the stock pot. Cut through the ribs, removing both sides of the breast in one piece. Place the breast on the work surface and press down,flattening it slightly and breaking the breastbone. Cut through the breast lengthwise with a heavy knife. For bite-size pieces, cut through crosswise as well, being careful to leave some skin attached  to both pieces and to not press the fillet out from underneath. Place the back in the stock pot. You can save time by buying cut-up chickens; they will cost more but will give you more flexibility. For a stewed dish like this, for example, you might want to use only dark meat. LA Times Food-Wednesday, April 22, 1998

Tips for Cooking with Eggs

*If you spill a raw egg where it's difficult to pick up, cover it with salt and let it set; then pick it up with damp paper towels.

* It's easier to seperate the yolk from the white if the egg is very cold.

* Avoid beating eggs directly into any hot mixture-they'll curdle.  Either cool the mixture first or add small amounts of the hot mixture to the eggs, beating well between additions.  After the eggs are fairly well liquefied by the mixture, combine the two and beat again.

* Salt toughens eggs.  Add it to the egg dishes only after they're cooked.

* Cook all egg dishes at low or moderate heat, otherwise they'll toughen.

* Remove eggs from the refrigerator at least 1/2 hour before boiling, since very cold eggs may crack when you put them into boiling water.

* If you puncture the rounded end of a cold egg with a pin, it will be less likely to crack when you  put it into boiling water.

* If an egg cracks while boiling, immediately pour a large quantity of salt on crack, lowering the flame first.  This will oftne serve to seal the egg and stop a lot of white from escaping.

* Plunging hard-boiled eggs into running cold water while they are still hot will prevent a greenish ring from forming around the yolk.

* To hard-boil eggs so that the whites are firm and the yolk thoroughly cooked but still creamy, place the eggs in a pot, cover with cool water, and bring the water to a boil.  Cover the pot at once with a tight-fitting lid, turn off the flame, and let stand 25 minutes.  Egg cooked in this way are very good for stuffing or slicing.

* You can slice hard-boiled eggs so that the yolks won't crumble if you keep dipping the knife or egg slicer in cold water.

* When you're making stuffed eggs, slice off a tiny piece from the rounded bottom of each hard-boiled half; when you stuff and arrange then in the dish, they'll stand without any trouble.

* To distinguish between a hard-boiled egg with its shell on and and uncooked one, spin it on its end--an uncooked egg won't spin.

* Fried eggs continue to cook after they've been removed from the pan, so fry then just short of the point you like before sliding then off onto a plate.

* Scrambled eggs are always at their most tender if you cook them over hot water in the buttered top of a double boiler.  This assures a constant temperature.


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