Cooking Louisiana - Tips and Tricks

Cooking is fun but when you know a few tricks to make things easier or tips on making something tastier it's just MORE fun! You can also impress your friends with the overabundance of brains that you have!

Freezing Crawfish Wilting Celery Chopping Parsley
Vegetables for dips Cooking Boudin Stay-Together hamburger patties
Freezing Portions Freezer Died? Too much salt
Okra Slime Heartburn Chili Peeling Eggs
Non Stick Pans Frozen Pizza Tip! Onion Tears
Tomato Paste Freeze that Roux! Baking Powder Freshness Test
I lost the measuring cup for my rice cooker!    

Vegetables for dips

Fresh Vegetables for dips can be pulverized in a food processor but they normally turn to mush. If you want just a little more consistency you can run them over a shredder

All non-stick pans

Here's a little trick I stumbled upon. Non-stick pots and pans (Teflon coated) are just that, but I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about your other aluminum, stainless and cast iron pans. Most of the time you'll be starting a dish with some sort of oil. To get the surface of the pan to be non stick just coat the entire bottom of the pan with peanut or other oil. Turn up the fire until it just starts to smoke. Turn the fire off and let it sit for 5 minutes or more before you begin your dish. Move the oil around as it cools. Be careful not to burn yourself.  When cooled down to warm just wipe (not wash) the excess oil out if you don't need all of it. Bingo!, it's done. Now, when you do your dish don't turn the fire wide open again with nothing in the pan. Just cut it back a tiny bit and your pan should remain non-stick. 

The theory to back this up is that metal expands different rates at different temperatures. It will also soak up oil and other things as it does this (which is why most foods stick). If the pan has soaked up the oil (a non-sticking agent) and does not release it the pan will remain non-stick. The non-stick condition will only remain if you don't get the pot as hot as you did the first time! This will not work with flour thrown in the pan. The flour will suck the oil out of the metal and WILL stick!!

Most of us will wash a pan with hot soapy water when we're done with it and POOF, there goes the oil! So you'll have to do this every time.

I'm sure you've done cornbread and the recipe calls for oiling the pan, putting it in the oven, and then, removing it to put the cornbread mixture in. Hey, same principle. Trick here is to heat the pan about 25F higher than you will cook the cornbread. Simple eh'?

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Cooking Boudin

Heat the oven to 300F. Place aluminum foil in a pan and spray with cooking spray. Place boudin on foil and bake for about an hour flipping it once or twice. The skin becomes crisp and stays together. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't split.

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Stay-Together hamburger patties

There's nothing like a good homemade hamburger filled with all your favorite seasonings. There's also nothing like having your patty fall to pieces as you flip it on the grill or in the pan. After years of mixing everything except concrete in the meat to make it stay together I think I  finally figured out why they actually fall apart!

Here's the deal. Ground beef is chunks of beef and fat cut and forced through a grinder. The grinder cuts the mixture in small pieces. When the mixture is put together (like in a hamburger patty) it sticks together because of the fat and small size of the meat pieces. When the mixture is cooked the fat begins to melt away leaving voids (spaces) in the meat and bingo, it falls apart. If you use the meat for a meat loaf it stays together pretty good because of the physical size of the loaf. In a patty we're using a thin layer of the mixture so if enough fat melts away it wants to fall apart. 

The problem with the patty (thin) is that the meat and fat particles are not mixed together well enough for that thickness. If you would pass the mixture through a grinder once again you would have a good fat dispersion for a hamburger patty but the meat particles would be too small which would make it too dense, so we don't want to do that. The bottom line is that you want to disperse the fat throughout the meat more than the grinding has done. 

Why?

Once mixed together better, the particles of fat get dispersed more and the "melt-away" during cooking doesn't have as great an affect of separation (leaving voids) therefore the patty doesn't fall apart as easily.

You can remedy this at home by working the ground meat with your hands. Take a handful of meat and squeeze it through your fingers (like making a fist. Keep doing this several times to the entire batch. You are basically spreading the fat out which is pretty close to what would happen if you passed it through a grinder again, but, this method doesn't chop the meat any finer. 

You wouldn't want to buy ground beef from the store that was ground twice because when you went to use it for a dressing where it must fall apart, you'd have a fight on your hands trying to get it separated because the meat particles would be too small.

Take a look at what I'm talking about. (click here) 

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Freezing portions:

Freeze your sauce dishes in small containers. When you're ready to take it out again you have the choice of serving as much as you need thereby not wasting any.

Freezer Died?

Think about it! How many freezers have gone out (that means "quit working") and the contents, beef, pork or whatever, never reached a temperature above 40F, yet, was all thrown away! Did you make the right move? The rule (USDA rule) is any perishable and refrigerated (even frozen already) food that reaches a temperature above 40F  is not good to keep.  That means if it stayed below 40F "THE MEAT IS STILL GOOD"! Just keep it at or below 40F and it will be just fine.

Here's a common sense solution to possibly avoid this. Keep a thermometer in your freezer at all times. If the freezer goes out, and, you're lucky enough to catch it, open the door and look at the thermometer. Bingo, there's your decision maker. If the temperature is below 40F you're okay. You can quickly ice the meat down and it's okay. Well I don't have enough ice chests you say!!!! Throw the bags of ice in the freezer, hey!, the freezer is insulated, it'll stay good! You've got to move quick on this though, and watch the thermometer! 

On the other hand if it is at, or above, 40F for more than two hours you're luck just ran out... throw it all in the trash! This rule holds true for all frozen meats and vegetables. Meats spoil between 40F and 140F, that's a proven fact.

Okay, I can tell by that look on your face that you don't quite believe me, so, here's the proof... (click here)

Flood Protection tip for your appliances.

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Too much salt

What to do when I accidentally put too much salt in the pot? This works okay for sauce dishes, if you added too much salt to a rice dish or casserole you're pretty much out of luck. Here's what I do. Cut a couple or more stalks of celery in 2" pieces and throw them in. You can shave the outside of the celery with a potato peeler and it'll pick up the salt even faster. Keep the fire low and stir every five minutes or so.  Taste after about 15 - 20 minutes. You can then scoop the celery out easily since they're in big pieces. The celery will also soak up some of the pepper but you can add more if needed. Some people use potatoes but to me the celery is better because it absorbs faster and won't fall apart.

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Okra Slime

Many people are hesitant to mess with okra because of the slime. Here's a little trick I learned using the microwave. It still slimes but it's easier to deal with. Put the sliced okra in a deep casserole dish  leaving a 1" space to the top. Add a few tablespoons of water and put the cover on. Microwave on high for about 10 minutes. Carefully (the steam will burn you) open the lid and stir it around. Microwave another 10 minutes and stir again. After two 10 minute sessions reduce the time to 5 minutes. Add a little more water and continue to go through the cook-stir cycles. Do this until the slime disappears. You're still dealing with the slime but it's a lot easier to manage in a glass dish as opposed to a pot on the stove. Be careful not to burn it. 

Here's another Tip sent in...

I had a good size mess of okra to cook but no time that day to tend a pot on the stove or the microwave. So as an experiment, I put the raw sliced okra in my 7 quart slow cooker along with about 2 cups of water. The temp was on Low. This was done about 7 pm. I didn't touch it until the next morning. It was perfect and not a speck of slime. This is now my new method of cooking okra.
C. Daigle... Bayou Blue

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Heartburn Chili

All tomato products have acid in them; it's just the nature of the tomato. Chili, which is already seasoning-heavy with peppers, will have even more acid in it. To solve this problem add about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (you can estimate this) for each cup of sauce right before the dish is done. Don't worry, you won't taste the sugar. This same rules also holds true for spaghetti dishes. 

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Peeling Eggs

Having problems with peeling your boiled eggs? Here's something that might help. I've heard that you should use eggs that are a week or more old. Well, if I go to the store and pick up eggs to boil for a potato salad that night I really don't think I can wait a week! Try this. Boil the eggs as usual and put them in cool water for a few minutes. Crack each one and put it back in the cool water. Sprinkle a little salt in the water. Take each egg and pick a good looking spot to peel away just a small portion of shell and be sure you break the membrane under the shell. Do this on two sides of the egg opposite of one another. Put them back in the water for about 15 minutes to finish cooling. You should be able to peel them easier. This is NOT foolproof! 

Onion Tears I

Onion chopping will often make you cry and the tears can be reduced by chopping them while breathing through your mouth. That's why  you've heard of putting a cracker or piece of bread between your teeth. Neither one has little if any effect on the onion fumes, they both keep you from breathing through your nose.

Onion Tears II

Just thought  I would share the trick my family has used for years when peeling onions.  Hold a couple of matches between your lips (head of the match sticking out).  The matches absorb the onion fumes.  This really works and will keep you from tearing.

Submitted by Patti C.

Onion Tears III

1. Refrigerate your onions before you use them
2. Slice in half then rinse well before chopping

Submitted by Therese C.

Frozen Pizza Upgrade

Frozen Pizza  is a pretty popular store item. Millions are purchased every year and the majority taste good. You can take a few minutes to Cajunize your frozen pizza and make it taste even better. Click Here to see how

Lost Rice Measuring Cup

I Lost the measuring cup for my rice cooker, I can't cook rice!

Never fear... Jack is here! Typically, rice cookers come with a measuring cup that you use to measure your un-cooked rice to put in a rice cooker. You put the desired amount of raw rice in the cooker, then, add water to the marked level on the cooking container and bingo... rice. Here's the deal... The "cooked rice" amount is what is specified by the rice cooker manufacturer, and, rice swells when it cooks (you already knew that!). If you cook 3/4 of a cup of raw rice you get 1 cup of cooked rice. If you loose that "precious cup" measure 3/4 of a cup of raw rice per cooked cup desired and you're home free! 

Tomato Paste

Tomato PasteAre you frustrating yourself trying to scoop and scrape tomato paste out of the can? Open both sides of the can with a can opener. Push on one side of the lid in the center with your finger or butt of a spoon and ALL the paste comes out! Stay away from the cut edges they may be sharp. This also works well for refried beans and cranberry sauce. This won't work with the new "One Touch" can opener.

 

Freeze that Roux

You know... when you make a roux, it's time consuming so, why not make a big roux and save it for later? Well this is what I do, make a very large batch of roux and let it cool, pour it into plastic ice trays and freeze it. After the roux is frozen solid, remove from trays and wrap each piece with wax paper and put them all into a large zipper-lock bag, and store in freezer. Whenever you need roux, just take out what you need.

I hope this helps... Ed "Big Daddy" Broussard

Baking Powder Freshness Test

Mix 1 tsp. baking powder with 1/3 cup hot water. If it bubbles real good it's okay to use.

Wilting Celery

Okay the celery has been in the fridge quite some time. It still looks fine except it's starting to wilt. Here's a little trick to bring it back to life. Put the celery in a coffee mug and put about an inch of water in it. Set it on the kitchen counter and in about 24 hours it'll look like new.

Chopping Parsley

This is normally a pain and some folks won't use fresh parsley because of the difficulty involved with chopping. Well, I've come up with a new way using an old kitchen tool. The pizza cutter! Simply wash the parsley and lay it on your cutting board. Take the pizza cutter and roll it back and forth over the parsley. You'll quickly have perfectly chopped parsley.

Freezing Crawfish

When Freezing your crawfish tails in water add a little lemon juice. They keep a while longer.
Make a "Fat" cube by separating the fat, simmer it a little with lemon juice and freezing it in an ice cube tray adding a little water. Once frozen remove from tray and put in zipper bags and back in the freezer.

D. Broussard

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Send me your tip or trick and I'll  post it.

 

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