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Posts Tagged ‘Rupa Bhattacharya’

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.)

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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…

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Super Food Nerds: How to Make Corned Beef

How to Make Corned Beef

Welcome to Super Food Nerds, a new column which will be written in alternating installments by me, Rupa (Food and Beverage Editor, Culinary Staff) and my colleague 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 we can overthink it, we’re on it.

So, spring’s in the air, and naturally our thoughts are turning to beef. OK, that’s a lie, I was already thinking about beef — specifically, corned beef. There’s the whole St. Patrick’s Day thing, and I also really like corned beef. I’ve kept a mysterious bucket of brining beef in our kitchens’ walk-in fridge since last week, and have taken out pieces here and there to braise. After decent testing and rigorous eating, I’m pretty happy with the end result.

To make corned beef, you take a big, flavorful piece of meat and infuse it with even more flavor in the form of a salt-sugar-spice solution (aka brine) for way longer than you’d ever think you could safely keep meat in a fridge. Then, you cook it. The cumulative effect of beef, salt, sugar, spices and time is so much more than the sum of its parts that it’s sort of mind-blowing and unbelievably rewarding.

Here’s the gist (FAQ and recipe follow):

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