C H I C K E N
CLEAN A lot of cooking is done with the hands, and sometimes you just have to dig in.Â With your thumb pressed close to the backbone scoop out the lung and organ mass next to the spine (all of the white and the dark red stuff), then rinse under cold running tap water. Â You can buy chicken quarters with the backbone removed, but in boiling chicken for stock, more bones are better. Â Breast quarters donâ€™t need much cleaning, just rinse under running water.
SKIN Most of the skin can be easily pulled off a whole chicken or parts by hand.Â Use a small serrated knife, as needed, to cut skin away from the bone.Â Donâ€™t bother trying to remove skin from wings if youâ€™re using a whole chicken to make stock or soup; itâ€™s just too time consuming at this point. Â Pull off the soft, yellow fat below the skin. Â Remove as much skin as you can, because boiling will extract the fat into the cooking liquid. Â The rendered fat will eventually be skimmed off when cool, and discarded so donâ€™t let fear of skinning a chicken stand in your way. Â If you cook it with the skin left on, you will just have more to skim at the other end.Â Fear of skin is no reason to shy from cooking.Â You can always pick up a package of latex surgical/food service gloves.
FREEZING Chickenshould be cleaned before freezing.Â Frozen with the organs attached to the backbone will cause it to rot â€“ yes, even in the freezer, although it may actually occur during defrosting.Â The absorbent paper between the chicken & the Styrofoam tray & the plastic wrap from the grocery store is not freezer-worthy.Â So get rid of the old packaging, clean the chicken, trim the excess fat but leave on the skin for a little added protection.Â Freeze in grip-lock storage freezer bags.Â If you only have refrigerator grip-locks, just double bag them.
GOING BAD Chicken feels slimy when beginning to turn, even before it begins to smell. Spoilage begins at the skin (the part exposed to air) and works it way inward.Â If you cannot use the chicken you bought within three days of purchase, clean it, repackage it & throw it in the freezer.Â Don’t buy any chicken where the package seems to have begun to fill up with air or has a swollen appearance.Â This is a sure sign that there is already significant spoilage going on.Â Don’t buy it!
C O O L I N G
Foods that need to be cooled before preparing or combining with other ingredients:
COOKED CHICKEN/PARTS used in making stock can simply be laid on a platter to cool at room temperature. When cool to the touch, bone the chicken & return the bones to the pot.Â Cover & refrigerate chicken meat to use in soup & other dishes.
GRAINS, PASTA, VEGETABLES can be put into a colander and placed in the refrigerator briefly.Â When holding grains or pasta or longer periods of time, toss (while hot) with a little olive or corn oil to keep them from sticking together.
CREAM OR SAUCE INGREDIENTS (MILK, EGG MIXTURES) Put into the top of a double boiler.Â Add ice cubes and water to the bottom of the double boiler.Â Cover.
All preparations at Stop Blogging And Cook uses flour that isÂ unsifted, unless ‘sifted’ is indicated.Â This is an important distinction since sifting changes the volume of flour.Â Â Use a dry – rather than liquid – measuring cup.Â Fill dry measuring cup past the rim.Â Level off the excess flour with a knife.Â Take care not to pack down flour as this will alter the amount, giving you too much flour.
SIFTED The whole point of sifting is to introduce air in between the flour granules for a consistent measure.Â Put flour in a sifter & sift over a dry measuring cup.Â Level off the excess flour with a knife.
G R A V Y
The accumulated juices produced during the roasting of meats.Â Used in making gravy.
Boil down cooking liquid to evaporate the water & concentrate the flavor.Â Used in finishing soups, gravies & sauces.
Stir in thickening agent such as cornstarch, arrowroot, flour, or a roux (flour & butter).Â Care should be taken to insure that any dry thickening agent is mixed with water before adding to soup, sauce or gravy base.
L E T T U C E
Place fresh salad greens (lettuce, arugula, basil, ) in a wire lettuce basket vertically, with firm edges at the bottom.Â Don’t overload by trying to dry more lettuce than for six servingsÂ at once.Â Close the top by grasping the double handle.Â Go outside, to the basement, large bathroom or laundry room.Â Swing your arm 360 degrees a few times.Â Open the basket and rearrange the leaves a little.Â Swing your arm again.Â Centrifugal force will remove all drops of moisture. Â Â
To dry with paper towels, place rinsed lettuce in a colander to let drain.Â On a dry counter top, lay down a paper towel.Â Shake a few lettuce leaves at a time over the sink to remove as much water a possible. Place the shaken leaves on the paper towel.Â Lay down another paper towel on top of the lettuce, place more shaken leaves on the towel.Â Continue until all of the lettuce is sandwiched between the paper towels, then roll up loosely.Â Unroll and your lettuce will be dry.Â Use paper towels to clean the salad bowl when done, to clean mushrooms, or let dry on counter & use to clean spills.Â See how handy a wire lettuce basket is?
PI N E Â N U T S
To toast,ï»¿ a toaster oven is best because pine nuts are tiny and toast quickly.Â If no toaster oven is available, use a conventional oven (low, 250ÂºF) but keep an eye on them.Â Toast in a single layer, no need to turn.Â They will brown nicely within 5 minutes or less.
S H R I M P
To clean, cook, shell & devein, rinse shrimp quickly in cold running water.Â Cook by steeping 3 to 5 minutes in boiling water, depending upon size, until light pink and opaque.Â Cool.Â Cut off the head.Â Grab the legs and pull off the shell.Â The shell comes off easily except for around the tail.Â Shrimp look best if care is taken to remove the shell without tearing the tail off. Â Remove the central black vein running along the back of each shrimp with a deveining tool or a small, sharp knife.