Cooking Tips








  Jim Coleman Cooking Tips

Fire-Roasted Salsa
If you like to make some salsa at home - try this trick to create a smoky, roasted flavor. I like to take all the ingredients for my salsa - onions, Chiles, garlic, and tomatoes and roast them whole on the grill. First peel the onions and garlic. Let all the ingredients get charred all over. Take the stems off the Chiles and tomatoes, and lightly puree the ingredients in a food processor with cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper. This salsa has a great, roasted flavor.

Grilling Seafood
Grilled seafood is an excellent and healthy choice for a BBQ party. You should use fish that has a firm texture, unless you're planning to grill a whole fish. For filets, I would recommend salmon, tuna or swordfish. If you like to marinate your fish, only marinate the fish for about an hour, otherwise the fish will start to taste like seviche! I don't use foil when I am grilling fish, make sure the grill is very hot and clean. Set the oiled, skinless filet on the grill and don't move it around too much. After a few minutes, turn carefully using a spatula. I like to season the fish when I take it off the grill, because otherwise, the seasoning makes the fish stick to the grill. If you're grilling shrimp, put them on a skewer so it is easier to turn them. If you're grilling lobster, split them in half, crack the claws, and grill them shell-side down the whole time, otherwise, the tail will get done and the claws are still raw.

Lemon Grass
And on to our quick cooking tip for the week - lemon grass adds a wonderful citrus flavor without the acid usually associated with lemons - the flavor comes from the oils within the stalk. You can buy the long stalks at many stores and markets, and they are actually very easy to use. The key is to bring the essential oils out - you can steep the stalks in water or whatever liquid you are using. First smash the stalks with the back end of a knife and then steep for at least fifteen minutes. Remove the stalks. Or you could finely mince the bottom part of the stalks and add them to your dish. If you're making lemon-grass vinaigrette make sure you let it sit for a while so the flavor can permeate. I love to make lemon-grass ice cream - just add smashed stalks to your vanilla custard while you're heating it and let it steep. Remove the stalk before you put the mixture in your ice cream maker.

Butterflying is a great way to roast whole chicken because the thigh and leg meat takes about the same length of time to cook as the breast. Normally, the leg meat of chicken tends to be overcooked by the time the breast meat is done.

Fat-free Salad Dressing
We got a question from Arthur Gordon in Philadelphia - he wants to know how to make a tasty fat-free dressing for a healthy salad: here is a recipe that I use at the hotel - you replace the oil with tofu:

  • 10 1/2 ounces of soft tofu
  • 3 tbs of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • one bunch of fresh chives
  • salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the chives and combine all ingredients in a food processor - blend until smooth. You can refrigerate this dressing for up to a week. It also works great as an ingredient in dips!

Cooking with Beer
When you're cooking with beer, remember three things; hops makes beer bitter, malt makes it sweet and the fermentation gives it a yeast flavor. Naturally, beer is bitter - if you use sweeter ingredients like a caramelized onion or corn, beer will work great. To avoid an overly bitter dish, add only a small amount at a time and keep tasting. Also, the more the beer cooks down, the more intense its flavor gets, so add it in the end.
The yeast in beer is perfect for baking, add beer to breads, pancakes, or muffins, it makes for a fluffy texture and nice crust. Beer also works great in tenderizing meats, and it's good for marinades. To make Beer batter for deep frying, use 3/4 of a cup of light colored beer, and the same amount of flour , by the way, pastry flour works great - and add a pinch of salt! Vegetable oil is best for frying, and the oil should be between 350 to 375 degrees, don't overcrowd the pan. A good old brown paper bag is still the best thing to use to drain your fried ingredients on.

Wild Rice
Wild rice is not really rice, it's the seed of a grass. When you prepare it, forget everything you know about cooking rice, because it's not the same thing. Wild rice is native to North America, and Native Americans were eating it long before settlers brought white rice here. Here are a few things to keep in mind: One cup of dry wild rice will make three cups of cooked wild rice. Usually, when you cook rice, you use two cups of liquid for each cup of rice. Wild rice cooks more like pasta - cook it in lots of boiling water with some salt.
Cook the wild rice until the grains pop open, the cooking time differs depending on where the wild rice is from, but it will take at least 30 minutes. I like to serve wild rice with fowl or wild game, and it's very easy to form wild rice into little cakes.

Boosting Flavor
We have all made a dish that just didn't taste right in the end - it needed a little kick or a flavor boost. Salt and fat are actually the ideal flavor boosters, but if you're trying to eat healthy, you wouldn't want to add a big amount of either one to your recipe. Next to salt and fat, acidic liquids also work well as flavor boosters. You could add bit of vinegar to a sauce, or lemon juice. If you're using vinegar, choose a mild variety like Balsamic Vinegar, or Red Wine Vinegar. I have also found that ginger juice works extremely well - just puree a big piece of ginger and strain, or you can buy bottled ginger juice in Asian stores or specialty food markets. As far as techniques go, reduction is a big flavor booster. Let your sauce or gravy simmer until it has cooked down to half of what you originally had, and you will end up with a much more intense flavor.

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