My column in today’s Baltimore Sun is all about cooking — some lessons I’ve picked up from cooking every day and from watching some good chefs, professional and at-home, do their thing over stoves and countertops. It’s a data dump of 32 pointers and suggestions, offered for readers as the holiday cooking season gets underway. (I’ve done this sort of thing before, though not with any seriousness. Many years ago, I wrote a column lampooning the syndicated Heloise’s Helpful Hints, and my No. 1 tip was, “Never fry bacon while naked.”)
In the process of writing this — and in the hopes it would jar my thoughts — I asked an old foodie friend and former newspaper colleague, Alan Doelp, to share some of his kitchen tips. Here’s what Alan came up with, off the top:
Bacon is cured using a lot of sugar; if you cook it too hot, the sugar caramelizes and begins to scorch. Low and slow is the way to go, whether baking or frying.
Chicken stock: If you see a package of chicken feet in the store, grab it. Add to your stock pot with all the other ingredients. They are all collagen, and give you a broth so rich it sets up like Jell-o in the fridge. Also, of course, chill your stock overnight so you can scrape off the fat.
If you are peeling a lot of potatoes for any reason, save the peels, rinse, dry them and deep fry them. Best homemade potato chips ever.
Use a pizza cutter to slice flour tortillas into strips. Coat with non-stick cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and bake for 15 minutes. They make very good, and relatively low-cal, snack crackers.
For shrimp: Try boiling them in a 50-50 mix of cider vinegar and beer, with copious Old Bay stirred in.
The greener the celery, the more likely it will taste soapy if eaten raw. Solution: peel the outside of the celery ribs, and if you have time, soak in ice water for a few minutes before serving them or using them in cooking.
Always use unsalted butter. You can add salt if you need to, but it’s really hard to take it out.