Watch Cooking Channel

Author Archive

Super Food Nerds: Make Hard Apple Cider from Scratch (Sort Of)

I’ve been pretty into hard cider for a while, so for this latest installment of Super Food Nerds I wanted to meet some people who could shed some light on the fermentation process. Through the magic of the Internet I found Hayley Jensen, the beer sommelier at Manhattan’s Taproom 307 who, along with her husband, Stephen Durley, the taproom’s chef, is an avid, multiple-award-winning homebrewer and has been making cider at home for a few years.

Jensen suggested we meet at her home instead of the restaurant, which we understood upon arrival: Their small spare bedroom is tricked out with racks and racks of professional-grade brewing equipment and hundreds of gallons of various brews, including Candy Crush, a caramel-apple-inspired “city cider” made from store-bought apple cider.

The couple started making city cider after a trip to Jensen’s sister’s farmhouse, where they’d made cider entirely from scratch. Durley explains: “It was a big process. It took basically a full day to juice all the apples, wash them and take them to the press. Then you have to grind them, press them, get the juice and bring it home. We really liked it, but I was like, ‘Wait: Can’t we just buy some apple juice and have some fun?”

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: Make Hard Apple Cider from Scratch (Sort Of)

Super Food Nerds: The Making of Sausages

Ever since making chorizo for Super Food Nerds several months ago, we haven’t stopped wondering how sausages are made. So, over the summer, we began debating doing a deep dive into the making of either sausage or hot dogs. We decided to let a poll on Facebook determine our fates, and the people spoke loud and clear: They wanted sausage. So we reached out to the proprietor of butcher shop Hudson & Charles, Jason Fox, who had visited our offices a few years ago to teach us how to break down pigs. The newly opened shop, named for the corner it’s on in New York City’s West Village, is co-owned by Jason and partners Kevin Haverty and Adam Gale.

The day we came by, Ian Halbwachs, their in-house charcutier, was making a batch of one of their best-selling sausages: the sweet Italian. It’s a combo of classic Italian seasonings (Parmesan, garlic, parsley and white wine) and classic pork seasonings (juniper, caraway and bay leaves). His go-to cut is pork shoulder, but because Hudson & Charles is a whole-animal butcher shop, he often ends up using trim. His main goal is to make sausages that are about 30 percent fat: “People want to cook sausages all the way through, and at about 30-percent fat ratio is where it stops feeling like overcooked hamburger.”

The steps he demonstrated reflect the basic tenets of sausage-making: Keep everything super-cold (if it’s not cold, the fat smears and the sausage gets crumbly and fatty), dice the meat into chunks, pass it through the grinder, mix in the seasonings and knead it well in a stand mixer until the salt and proteins in the meat start to bind together. Ian describes the binding as the most important step: “This is what makes it a sausage; more than the casing, more than the seasoning. If it’s not bound, it’s not a sausage.” And he’s been doing it for long enough that he can just hear when the meat hits the appropriate consistency. If you (like us) don’t have the professional charcutier’s ear, you’ll know sausage meat is ready when you grab a handful of meat, turn your hand upside down, and the meat continues to stick to your hand. That would also be the perfect time to fry a little test patty and taste it to check the seasoning.

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: The Making of Sausages

Super Food Nerds: Make Your Own Chorizo

About 10 months ago, I moved to a taco-free neighborhood. Not only does this mean no already-made tacos, it means no tortillas, no chorizo, nothing. I’ve been feeling pretty deprived, so I decided to take matters into my own hands — today, chorizo; tomorrow, the world. There are two kinds of chorizo: the Spanish-style stuff, which is dried and smoked and can be eaten as is, and the Mexican kind, which is fresh and needs cooking. I decided to tackle the Mexican variety.

I started with pork shoulder, as it’s a flavorful cut of meat that benefits from the grinding process (which softens its too-chewy texture), and added fatback to make it even juicier. (If you can’t find fatback, belly works too, or even bacon, though it’ll add a smoky note.) For seasoning, I decided to go pretty classic with achiote paste, cumin, chiles, Mexican oregano and garlic, along with salt and sugar for balance.

One of the keys to making delicious, juicy sausage (of any kind) is to make sure everything remains super cold throughout. If the meat warms up too much, its fat will melt, leaving you with crumbly, dry meat. Freezing the meat before you grind it also makes the grinder’s job easier, so you’ll end up with evenly ground meat. So toss the meat in the spices and pop it in the freezer. (Use this time to think about how good the eventual tacos will be.)

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: Make Your Own Chorizo

Super Food Nerds: Make Your Own Creme Fraiche

In my lifetime, I’ve bought (and eaten) a pretty significant amount of creme fraiche, which is like a thicker, tangier sour cream that falls somewhere between condiment and fresh cheese. I’m not a terribly fancy hors d’oeuvres person, but every so often there’s a recipe that calls for it, or a dessert that might otherwise be too sweet. I’m a big fan of serving it alongside chocolate cake, which I think I stole from April Bloomfield at The Spotted Pig long enough ago that it’s officially become my own personal thing.

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: Make Your Own Creme Fraiche

Super Food Nerds: Make Your Own Almond Milk

Welcome to Super Food Nerds, a column written in alternating installments by Rupa (food and beverage editor, culinary staff) and Jonathan (research librarian, same place). Each will be dedicated to a particular topic — how to DIY something you don’t normally DIY, how to perfect a dish usually taken for granted, plus best techniques, underlying chemistries and a handful of inexplicable preferences. Basically, if they can overthink it, they’re on it.

Our staff librarian and trend forecaster has been saying for ages that nut milks (almond, cashew and so on) are on the rise, almost poised to edge out soy milk in the not-milk-but-called-milk category. We thought we’d see what all the fuss was about — and if we could make almond milk at home.

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: Make Your Own Almond Milk

Perfect Pumpkin Pie: Which Squash Squashes the Competition?

In our humble opinion, Thanksgiving is superior to any other day of the year. In an effort to make this year’s feast the best of all time (sorry, Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe), we’re bringing you the recipes, how-tos and decorating ideas to help you become a Turkey Day pro.

Are you feeling pumpkin-ed out? We are fully entrenched in pumpkin season, with the pumpkin-centric holiday of Thanksgiving just around the corner and toothy jack-o’-lanterns still grinning devilishly from neighborhood doorsteps and windows. But a few weeks ago, before we slid too far down the rabbit hole of pumpkin lattes, cheesecakes and gnocchi, and with Thanksgiving dessert preparations on the brain, the Cooking Channel editorial and culinary teams began debating one very serious and simple question: Which pumpkin, or other kind of squash, makes the best pumpkin pie?

To find this important answer, we decided to set up a near-scientific experiment. We roasted various squash varieties, pureed their innards and baked them into the same pie recipe, comparing resulting pies for color, texture and flavor. We incorporated canned pumpkin and sweet potatoes into the test as experimental controls, since we generally knew what flavor and texture to expect from both. We tasted all of the purees as well as the final pies, focusing on the filling (since the pre-approved crust was the same for each).

To orient you in this taste test, we’ll tell you how the varieties of pumpkins and winter squash are related (pumpkins are a kind of winter squash — we’ll refer to them interchangeably in this test). There are three major families within that group:

Continue Reading Perfect Pumpkin Pie: Which Squash Squashes the Competition?

Super Food Nerds: Homemade Marshmallows

Welcome to Super Food Nerds, a column written in alternating installments by Rupa (food and beverage editor, culinary staff) and Jonathan (research librarian, same place). Each installment will be dedicated to a particular topic — how to DIY something you don’t normally DIY, how to perfect a dish usually taken for granted, plus best techniques, underlying chemistries and a handful of inexplicable preferences. Basically, if they can overthink it, they’re on it.

Confession time: I have a culinary degree and have worked at Food Network for almost a decade, and I have never given marshmallows a second thought. Sure, my favorite ice cream flavor is Rocky Road (mini marshmallows? Yes.). And I like s’mores as much as the next former Girl Scout, but I’ve never stopped to think about how marshmallows come into being.

It turns out, the process is shockingly easy. The marshmallow’s trademark springiness comes from egg whites that are beaten till airy and stiff, then whipped together with hot sugar syrup until the mixture is thick and ribbon-y (bakers call this Swiss meringue). It’s all then bound with a stabilizer, like gelatin. When they’re homemade, marshmallows come out creamier and richer than store-bought ones, with a more delicate sweetness. (Plus, they are even more amazing in s’mores.)

If you search online, there’s no shortage of recipes and ways to make marshmallows; most call for light corn syrup or golden syrup (if you’re British) because it’s a little easier to work with than just sugar alone, but having tried it both ways, I found the difference in difficulty to be marginal and the flavor of the all-sugar treats to be brighter.

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: Homemade Marshmallows

Super Food Nerds: How to Make Chicharron (aka Pork Rinds)

Welcome to Super Food Nerds, a  column written in alternating installments by Rupa (Food and Beverage Editor, Culinary Staff) and Jonathan (Research Librarian, same place). Each installment will be dedicated to a particular topic – how to DIY something you don’t normally DIY, how to perfect a dish usually taken for granted, plus best techniques, underlying chemistries and a handful of inexplicable preferences. Basically, if they can overthink it, they’re on it.

I don’t know what you eat on road trips, but my snack of choice is pork rinds, more often than not bought at a gas station. Something about the crispy-crunchy-porky deliciousness makes me give up all my usual scruples about only eating pastured pork raised by a farmer I’ve met, and also about not buying meat from gas stations.

But if you can have your pork and eat it too — that is, if you can have delicious, crispy-crunchy-porky snacks made out of good-quality pork and seasoned the way you like it, you’re pretty much winning at everything. This is a recipe that takes time (at a minimum, you’re looking at a 24-hour waiting period), but it’s mostly waiting, not working. And there are a few natural-feeling break points in the process that would let you put your pork on pause if you needed to.

Quick linguistic note: There are a couple of ways to refer to these. These are pork rinds, or chicharrones. Cracklings or scratchings are what’s left in the pan after you render fat also crispy and delicious, but not this.

So, I started by ordering some pork skin from my butcher. You may have to order skin-on belly to get skin, in which case, cut the skin off, use it for this recipe, and make bacon with the belly. (Or, your butcher may give you the skin for free or at minimal cost.) If your skin is super fatty, or you only had access to skin-on fatback, cut off any huge chunks of fat wherever possible and render it (follow instructions for that here) for later use as fry oil.

There’s something pretty amazing about taking something that looks like this…

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: How to Make Chicharron (aka Pork Rinds)

Super Food Nerds: How to Make Gravlax


Welcome to Super Food Nerds, a  column written in alternating installments by Rupa (Food and Beverage Editor, Culinary Staff) and Jonathan (Research Librarian, same place). Each installment will be dedicated to a particular topic – how to DIY something you don’t normally DIY, how to perfect a dish usually taken for granted, plus best techniques, underlying chemistries and a handful of inexplicable preferences. Basically, if they can overthink it, they’re on it.

Cured fish is basically my favorite food. Smoked eel, pickled herring, kippered whitefish, weird dried squid snacks you eat in Russian saunas — I’m all about it. But it’s expensive, and I’m on a budget, so I wanted to see if I could make it myself.

There are a few ways to go about curing fish: brining and cold-smoking (at a temperature of about 100 degrees F), like most smoked salmon you see sold with bagels; brining and hot-smoking (so it’s flaky and rich, mostly done with trout); and gravlax, a dry salt cure, which gets you the silky texture of cold-smoke without the smoking part.

Gravlax is a traditional Scandinavian way of curing fish — it translates literally to “buried salmon,” since the fish used to be buried in the ground to cure. Now the fish gets buried in the dry salt-sugar cure, and since it’s the quickest, easiest way to get the fish from zero to my mouth, that’s the method I picked.

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: How to Make Gravlax

Super Food Nerds: How to Make Your Own Bacon

A couple years ago, all the food blogs were aflame about making your own bacon. It was awesome, they said. You should try it, they said. It’s insanely easy and pays off in spades, they said. Very rarely do you ever hear an endorsement that roundly and completely glowing. What’d I do in response? I ignored it entirely. Didn’t make any bacon.

And frankly, now I’m feeling pretty dumb. Because I made bacon, and you know what? It’s awesome. You should try it. It’s insanely easy and it pays off in spades.

I started with a simple salt-sugar-pink salt cure. (Pink salt is curing salt – it gives bacon its characteristic color and flavor. You’ll want to mail-order this, or get some from a local spice shop.) The pork we generally get here in the Kitchens comes in astonishingly lean, and this belly was no exception. I was a little hesitant, but cured it anyway. A week later, I had what more or less amounted to Canadian bacon. Great, but not actual bacon (unless you’re Canadian).

Continue Reading Super Food Nerds: How to Make Your Own Bacon

c