Cream is made by skimming the layer of butterfat from the top of milk before the milk is homogenized. Varieties of cream are defined by how much milk fat they contain. Creams with less fat are fine for coffee, but they can’t be heated or whipped. Cultured creams (sour cream, crème fraîche) break down when heated, and are best drizzled or dolloped after you've finished cooking a dish.
The spectrum of cream from lowest to highest butterfat content:
Half & Half: A mix of half whole milk and half cream. No whipping. No heating.
Light Cream: AKA Table Cream - Usually contains 20% milk fat. No whipping. No heating.
Crème Fraîche, Mexican Crema and Sour Cream: The cultured creams. No whipping. No heating. Cultured creams have sour undertones that differ from the silky sweetness of creams that are not cultured.
Light Whipping Cream: Has more milk fat (30-36%) than light cream. Whips into soft peaks. Heats nicely, too.
Heavy Cream (aka, Heavy Whipping Cream): 36-40% milk fat. Can be whipped into stiff peaks. Heats to a silky, rich thickness.
Recipe: Pappardelle With Creminis, Cream And Sage (Cookthink)
Recipe: Cream Of Broccoli Soup (Cookthink)
Reference: What do I do with leftover heavy cream? (Cookthink)
Extra-virgin olive oil is the precious unrefined first result of cold-pressing olives to make a fruity liquid that contains less than one percent acid.
Extra-virgin olive oil is the most expensive olive oil variety, and it is best appreciated in salads or as a garnish to give preparations a final flourish. If you are using olive oil to cook, it's fine to use regular olive oil.
Greece is the #1 consumer of olive oil in the world and also the leading producer of extra virgin olive oils, which account for 82 percent of their olive oil production. The U.S. is not a member of the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC), which regulates olive oil standards worldwide, and the IOOC does not recognize the U.S. standards for extra-virgin oil.
There is much controversy in the olive oil world, with accusations of corruption and adulteration smearing consumer confidence and shedding doubt on the purity of so-called virgin olive oil.
"Al dente" means "to the tooth" in Italian. (Like "terroir", it's one of those concepts that poorly translates into English.) The phrase refers to the desired texture of cooked pasta, which should be soft but still slightly firm at the core of the noodle (or shell or spiral or alphabet letter). Some cooks define "al dente" as "not hard and not soft."
Pasta cooked "al dente" should require some chewing but not crunch or stick to the teeth when chewed. The firm texture should allow you to taste some of the pasta's flavor. Overcooked pasta tends to be mushy and flavorless.
So how do you know when your pasta is "al dente"? In my house growing up, we threw a strand of spaghetti at the wall -- as soon as it sticks, it's done. The problem with that test is that overcooked pasta sticks to the wall, too. So now I just use my teeth: Before I think it's ready, I draw a piece of pasta from the pot, let it cool a few seconds and take a bite. If it's ready, my mouth knows.
Related: What's the point of putting oil in my pasta water?
Related: How to cook garlic for pasta
Chorizo always refers to a pork sausage. The most common type is Spanish chorizo, a firm, red-colored pork sausage. Usually spiced with paprika and garlic, Spanish chorizo is cured and therefore doesn't need to be cooked (though it often still is). Sometimes, it's a little on the spicy side, but sometimes it's not. Like most types of sausages, there are as many variations of Spanish chorizo as there are people who eat it.
Mexican chorizo differs from Spanish chorizo in that it's an encased fresh sausage that must be cooked before eating. It also tends to be spicier (due to the addition of chile peppers) and fattier than its European counterpart.
Recipe: Chorizo And Eggs (Simply Recipes)
Reference: A Common Sense Guide to Chorizo and Spanish Sausages (La Tienda)
Reference: What is andouille? (Cookthink)
When you want a dish to have quintessential garlic flavor that permeates each bite, mince it. You can mince with a knife, or a garlic press.
Either way, you need to free the individual cloves. To do that, press down on the head with the heel of your palm. Apply firm, even pressure so the cloves don't fly all over the place.
To peel an individual clove, cut of the hard stem end where the clove attached to the bulb. Either stop the cut just short of the skin on the other side and peel the skin around to remove it, or make the cut all the way through and squeeze out the clove. The older the clove, the easier the skin releases.
You can also peel it by setting the side of your knife blade on the clove and pressing down until you feel the skin release, though not hard enough to pulverize it, or the skin will get mixed in with the garlic.
To mince with a knife, smash the peeled clove with the side of the knife. Then just run your knife back and forth across the smashed clove, chopping as you go until it's as fine as you like.
If you don't want individual little pieces of garlic and have a press, just put the whole peeled clove (or cloves, if you can fit them) in the press and squeeze. Use your knife to trim away any clinging garlic.
Storing fresh herbs is a battle against the inevitable, but here are a few tips for keeping them alive in time for you to eat them up:
1 Set a bushy herb like parsley, cilantro, chervil, or mint in a shallow glass of water and keep it on the counter or in the refrigerator for several days, just like a bouquet.
2 Or, rinse it, wrap it loosely in a paper or dish towel while still damp, and place it (with or without a plastic bag covering) in the crisper or at the bottom of the fridge.
3 Sturdy herbs such as rosemary or thyme can be stored in paper or loose plastic (either keep it loose or puncture some air holes to let out moisture). Or you can simply hang them upside down in the kitchen, where they will dry slowly.
4 Do not manhandle delicate herbs like chives, tarragon or basil. Rinse lightly, wrap loosely in paper and place in a plastic bag in the crisper.
5 Fresh herbs should last about a week if stored properly. If you're at the end of your garden's season and you have a tons of herbs left unused, you can most herbs to have later in the year. Kalyn's Kitchen breaks down the best way to freeze basil, rosemary and thyme.
Reference: Marjoram vs. oregano (Cookthink)
Reference: How to make pesto (Cookthink)
Leeks are underappreciated and underused. Their flavor is mellow, complex and more subtle than other members of the onion family, and they go tender and silky when cooked.
They’re known for their role in potato and cream-based soups (like vichyssoise) and in winter stews. They’re delicious raw and sliced thin in salads, stir-fried with beef (or anything, for that matter), simmered in water and served hot or cold with a vinaigrette, braised whole in wine or stock, or brought in anywhere you’d use an onion.
No matter what form you want your leek to take, you’ll need to isolate and clean the usable white and light green parts.
Start by cutting off and discarding the root from the leek’s bottom end. If you’re planning to cook the leeks whole or as halves, try to leave enough of the fibrous white part above the roots to hold the halves together. If you’re planning to slice the leeks, you don’t need to be so exact here.
Next, chop off the tough top part of the leek between the light green and dark green parts (let's call it medium green). Either discard the dark green part, or rinse it well and use it to flavor a stock, broth, or poaching liquid.
Next, cut the leek in half lengthwise. If you’d like insurance that the leek will stay together for washing, leave the root end intact.
Now it’s time to get rid of the sand and soil that wedges between the leek’s layers. Be thorough here — a gritty bite is a deal-breaker. Rinse the leek under cold running water, making sure to spread the layers apart with your fingers to remove any hidden sand or soil.
Alernatley, If this is too much, you can take the short cut and slice them sand and all, and afterwards rinse them well in a colander submerged in a bowl of cold water and pat them dry.
Now all you have to do is finish cutting the leek in half lengthwise (if you haven’t already), and choose your slice - crosswise for little half moons, or lenghtwise for matchstick sized pieces. Remember the longer the cooking time, the thicker the slice should be to hold up well.
"Clam" is a generic name for a dozen or so different bivalved sea creatures who dig themselves into the sand. Hard-shell clams, such as littlenecks and quahogs, are often served raw. Soft-shell longnecks and steamers have a more delicate shell and are served cooked.
Although they don't have a beard (like mussels do), clams do need to be cleaned and soaked before cooking. Scrub them with a stiff brush and then add some cornmeal to the water in which you soak them.
Eat clams as soon as possible after they've come out of the sand. If you do need to store them, keep them in a refrigerator, in a bowl covered with a damp towel.
If a clam opens before you cook it, tap on the shell. If it closes again, it's fine. If not, toss it. When exposed to heat, clams relax the muscles that hold their shells together. So be sure to toss any clams that don't open naturally with cooking.
Find out more by reading Root Source: Clams
Cleaning your Shellfish:
Before mussels and clams are cooked, the shells must be scrubbed in cold water with a stiff brush to remove any barnacles and sand. Reduce the amount of interior sand by soaking them in cold water mixed with a few handfuls of cornmeal for 30 to 60 minutes.
Debearding the Mussel
Wild mussels (mussels are also farmed) require an additional cleaning step -- debearding. Protruding between mussels' shells is a small bristle or beard, by which the mussel attaches itself to rocks or pilings. Shortly before cooking, remove the beard by tightly grasping the hairs near their base and giving a sharp tug. The beard should snap off along with a tiny bit of mussel flesh.
what you should know
"Clam" is a generic name for a dozen or so different bivalved sea creatures who dig themselves into the sand.
Clams fall into two general categories. Hard-shell clams, such as littlenecks and quahogs, are often served raw. Soft-shell longnecks and steamers have a more delicate shell and are served cooked.
scrub & soak Clams don't have a beard (like mussels do), but they do need to be cleaned and soaked before cooking. Scrub them with a stiff brush and then add some cornmeal to the water in which you soak them.
cold storage Clams should be eaten as soon as possible after they've come out of the sand. If you do need to store them, keep them in a refrigerator, in a bowl covered with a damp towel.
open & shut If a clam opens before you cook it, tap on the shell. If it closes again, it's fine. If not, toss it. When exposed to heat, clams relax the muscles that hold their shells together. So be sure to toss any clams that don't open naturally with cooking.
what you need
Though you can use a good paring knife to open those stubborn mollusks, the work is easier with a clam knife.
Want to learn how to properly shuck a raw clam? Pick up the new set of books by Norman Weinstein called Mastering Knife Skills.
Before cooking, clams need a good scrubbing with a stiff brush.
For a go-to guide on cooking seafood, try Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook.
what you do
For an elegant appetizer, take a page from James Peterson and bake your clams with a bit of breading and some bacon.
Steamed clams and mussels go well with a mint kefir dipping sauce. (Use the leftovers for a unique stew of braised lamb with clams.)
In the mood for comfort food? Try clam chowder or miso soup with clams.
Clams also make a delicious pizza topping -- Kristin's favorite way to eat clams -- and give a briny flavor to starchy pastas.
Featured: Clams and salmon meet in a savory herb broth in this week's Root Source Challenge featured recipe. Congratulations to Michelle of Je Mange La Ville!
Find more clam recipes at Cookthink.com. And if you haven't yet signed up for a free account at Cookthink, do it now!
It often happens that you have a little heavy cream left over from some other recipe. To use it up, try one of these easy suggestions:
- Whisk it together with an egg yolk, grated parmesan and red pepper flakes, then toss with hot noodles in a bowl.
- Add to scrambled eggs for an extra rich flavor.
- Drizzle over vegetables (fennel, asparagus, endive) in a gratin or casserole dish, sprinkle on some grated cheese and broil for a delicious side. (Recipe: Endive Gratin)
- Whisk together with herbs and vinegar or lemon juice for a creamy dressing.
- Stir it into a soup or stew for richness. (Recipe: White Bean And Green Pea Soup With Mint)