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Tips for Great BBQ at Home

BBQ Ribs Ribs from Fatty ‘Cue in New York City

Last night, the Unique Eats crew ate their way through some of the best BBQ in the country. From the very best Texas-style brisket in Austin to whole hog sandwiches in North Carolina, the show hit all the highlights. One place that stood out for culinary inventiveness was Fatty ‘Cue in New York City. Here, chef Zac Pelaccio has found a way to introduce Asian flavors and techniques into BBQ. One of their signature dishes is the ‘Cue Coriander Bacon: bacon that’s been cured with coriander seed and a variety of other spices. It’s smoked and then served with an egg curry custard for a BBQ/Asian twist on bacon and eggs.

We reached out to Fatty ‘Cue for some tips on how to create great BBQ at home.

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Celebrate Birthdays with Cake Pops

Cooking Channel Cake Pops Recipe

We were thrilled when Cooking Channel asked us to bake up a batch of cake pops in celebration of their birthday. At our bakery, Stick&Pop, we specialize in the bite-size treats.  We focus on flavor — playing around with different cakes, binders, and toppings to create memorable treats.  We wanted to share our top tips for creating perfect cake pops on your own.

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Burger Season Is Here

Classic Burger Recipe

Simply put, I love burgers. The promise of a grilled burger compels me to accept invitations to the cookouts of friends who live in distant, inconvenient locations. I check out the burgers on menus wherever I go.  My devotion springs mostly from an attraction to their basic deliciousness, but I also appreciate how much a burger says about the person who made it. They’re adaptable and agreeable, inviting anyone who wants to engage with them to dress them up. Burger season is a celebration of individual taste.

So, when the season approached, I invited food people Ian Knauer (recipe developer) and Sarah Copeland (photographer) to the kitchen. We set out to make ten great burgers. We were not searching for perfection, but instead were seeking the characteristics that make a burger something to love. We wanted to press the boundaries of what a good burger could be. In the process, we stumbled on a few tenets of burger deliciousness over and over. These helped us better understand the obsession in order to tailor it, expand it, refine it, or okay, sometimes to perfect it.

Here is what we kept talking about:

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How to Write on a Cake Like a Pro

How to Write Happy Birthday on a Cake

Happy Birthday, Cooking Channel!

For many happy occasions you’ll want to write a special sentiment on a cake. The problem is not what to say, but how to make it both legible and gorgeous. Everyone has had a good chuckle over the cakes on Cake Wrecks, but we want to avoid having our efforts resemble those mishaps. With a few tricks of the trade and a bit of practice, anyone can write on a cake like a pro.

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Pre-Salting Poultry and Meat

Pre-Salting Meat and Poultry

I think it was my love of eating that turned me into a cook, one who is always searching for methods to make what I cook taste ever better. Like many home cooks I’ve found myself in the middle of trying a new recipe when suddenly I realize I’m in trouble–the language is vague and the process inadequately described– so I have to wing it. In my contributions to Devour, I’m eager to define in simple language the terms that recipes often leave vague and explore the techniques, tips, and tricks that chefs and long-time cooks have acquired over the years.

For years now I’ve been brining my chickens and meats to make them tender and tastier, but it’s always been something of a bother, an annoying and time consuming additional step in the cooking process. Recently I tried a pre-salting technique championed by San Francisco chef Judy Roberts (of the Zuni Café) and food science writer Harold McGee. I was attracted by its simplicity, but marveled at the results.

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Tax Day Recipes, for Richer or for Poorer

The tax man cometh, and he cometh today (or really, April 18th for those of you who really like to procrastinate. Thanks to some fancy governmental footwork, Tax Day 2011 was extended a bit.) But whether you owe Uncle Sam, or he owes you, you still gotta’ eat. If you’re expecting a big check, hopefully you’re planning a fancy feast, but if you’re the one writing the big check, don’t worry, you won’t be stuck eating Fancy Feast; we’ve got plenty of delectable options for those looking to save and for those who want to splurge.

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Baking Croissants with Sarabeth Levine

Sarabeth Levine's Croissants

Notice the layers in this side shot of Sarabeth Levine's perfectly flaky croissants, from her book Sarabeth’s Bakery: From my Hands to Yours.

Sarabeth's BakeryI once considered signing up for a croissant-making class but I decided to buy a cookbook instead. Then I bought more cookbooks and subscribed to more magazines and I bookmarked recipe after recipe online, and still I had never baked croissants. . . I’m quite the recipe hoarder. But when I flipped through my latest cookbook acquisition, Sarabeth’s Bakery: From my Hands to Yours (recently nominated for a 2011 James Beard Award), I was inspired to chat with Sarabeth Levine about the secrets to making those flaky, buttery croissants I occasionally snagged from her bakery in Chelsea Market.

“You have to flip to the first pages of my book and make them,” said Sarabeth, when we met and I blurted out the truth about my croissant-making procrastination. She explained that most people are intimidated by the final product, but croissants really aren’t that difficult to make. They only take a few ingredients and time-wise, you spend most of your time waiting for the dough to chill, freeze and proof. “Making a pound cake takes more focus,” she said.

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Make Pancakes for Mardi Gras

buttermilk pancakes

Indulge in a batch of buttermilk pancakes to celebrate Fat Tuesday.

Pancakes (along with fried bread and fatty pastries) are traditional Mardi Gras staples, since Fat Tuesday is the last chance to eat rich, fatty foods before the 40 day fasting of Lent. But even if you’re going to skip the fasting, go ahead and indulge in the feasting. There’s no better time to cook up fluffy buttermilk pancakes.

Here are some no-fail pancake making tips I rounded up, with a little help from The Pancake Handbook: Specialties from Bette’s Oceanview Diner.

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Risotto: A Rice Story

Risotto Jamie’s Grilled Musrhoom Risotto makes an easy and elegant Valentine’s Day dish, especially when made with carnaroli rice.

Stirring, ladling, stirring, ladling, tasting, stirring, second-guessing, ladling. . . Making the perfect risotto is a labor of love best undertaken with backup – your sweetheart, a friend or even an unsuspecting dinner guest with a strong arm will do. Because no matter what happens, if the salad needs mixing, the fish needs roasting, the cat’s tail catches fire, that risotto must be stirred and observed, with ladleful after ladleful of stock gradually added to the rice, for 17 to 30 minutes. This makes it both a bother and the most amazingly social, make-together dish imaginable, perfect for an intimate dinner for two (for Valentine’s Day!) or a small, friends-in-the-kitchen dinner party.

The magic of risotto is the alluring creaminess that emerges from the combination of just rice, broth and a little (okay, a lot of) stirring. I consulted Made In Italy: Food & Stories, by Giorgio Locatelli, and it turns out the starches are key to risotto’s unique texture. The rice contains two contrasting types of starch: soft amylopectin on the surface, which rubs off and gets reabsorbed by the rice, making risotto creamy, and firmer amylase inside the rice grains, which maintains the shape and keeps the cooked rice al dente, or firm to the bite.

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DIY Asian Dumplings

Pork and Cabbage Dumplings Steamed dumplings make a great at-home dim sum treat.

Dumpling making is the perfect project for a Chinese New Year celebration, a Valentine’s Day dinner-for-two or any ho-hum weekend at home. Rolling the wrappers, mixing up fillings and all that folding, crimping and shaping can be the ultimate social activity – it’s surprisingly easy and even misshapen mistakes make good eats.

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