Bonus Episode: Ask Chef Donna
Chef Donna answers the questions that so many of our listeners have asked over the course of Season 2. In each episode, we answer a lot of questions, but now Cherie takes all the other questions listeners have been asking and puts Chef Donna to task. Chef Donna happily shares her knowledge and love of cooking. There’s a lot to learn in this jam-packed episode!
We’ll be talking about…
- The process of sous vide cooking. Chef Donna’s opinion and advice for those who want to try it.
- Cookbooks that are worth considering. Chef Donna shares ideas to help you select cookbooks for solid home-cooking and learning. To learn to cook consider modern authors like Ina Garten. For a more focused approach to learning and technique try Naomi Pomeroy’s Taste & Technique. Chef Donna adores Alfred Portale’s cookbooks because he translates restaurant techniques into home-cooking with success. For solid, reliable home-cooking The Silver Palate Cookbook. Modern popular recipes can be found SkinnyTaste Fast and Slow or One & Done; The Minimalist Baker (plant-based and mostly gluten-free platform).
- Oils Chef Donna suggests keeping in your kitchen and routinely uses. For highest temperature cooking using peanut oil, it has a high smoke point. Chef Donna’s killer combo is Grapeseed Oil or Olive Oil plus butter. Use 2 tablespoons each grapeseed oil (or olive oil) and 2 tablespoons butter for sautéing, searing, pan-roasting, etc.
- Flavored Oils or finishing oils: Zesty Olive Oils, Hazelnut Oil, Avocado Oil; Pistachio Oil, Walnut Oil, Sesame Seed Oil (such as the La Tourangelle brand) to finish or use in vinaigrettes.
- Coconut Oil for medium-heat cooking.
- Unsalted butter vs. salted butter: unsalted butter is a neutral platform. Dress your unsalted butter with all-purpose seasonings or flavored/infused salts, Lava salt, or crystalline salts. Use code MOUTHFUL10 at spiceandtea.com and receive a one-time 10% discount at check-out.
- We refer to Episode 35 – The Purpose of All Purpose Seasonings where we talk in depth about salt. Here we explain the difference between Kosher salt – the go to salt because of its clean taste, granular but fast melting. Sea salts and finishing salts, unless flaked, are crystalline in shape so they don’t melt quickly, but rather provide a nice textural crunch to your dish.
- Ideas to be creative with grocery staples on a budget, for breakfast. Select your favored protein and invest your money there. Then build your meal(s) around that protein with one or two vegetables, chopped or diced; add a grain and buy bulk greens, not bagged. Frozen vegetables are affordable and can be portioned out. The practice of mise en place is your friend; see what speaks to you at the grocer, or select what you’re really hungry for.
- Breakfast ideas, other than overnight oatmeal. Consider grains for a base, then add eggs (quick fried or hard boiled); understand the need you are satisfying with breakfast (protein, energy, to fuel a workout, etc.) then design your “bowl” breakfast with ingredients that satisfy that need. Chia seeds make a wonderful “pudding” or “congee” (think porridge).
- Lunch ideas for making lunch fun, especially when you’re eating the same foods each day and don’t have access to a microwave? Focus on your needs, what do you really want to eat? Salad greens rule the day here. Chef Donna shares ideas how to properly store bulk greens so they last in your refrigerator and tips for layering your foods so everything stays crisp, fresh and moist.
- How to make olive oil blends, use them and store them. Start with a good grade of olive oil in a shallow or rimmed pan and warm it gently. Add your favorite spice blends or seasoning blends and swirl; off heat let the aromatics infuse. Taste and adjust to your liking. Store in a dry, cool spot and use within a week. Use your favorite ingredients of flavor profiles. Chef Donna suggests using dried mushrooms for a “poor-man’s truffle oil.”
- The differences between the varieties of cinnamon: true cinnamon (cassia) is shardlike and soft with a mild slightly sweet slightly citrus flavor, typically labeled as Korintje. Best for use baking or all-purpose uses. Vietnamese or Saigon Cinnamon are more spicy best for use with braises and meats. Paprika most popularly from Hungary or Spain. Hungarian has a deeper richer flavor; use for longer slower cooking times, marinades or rubs. Spanish paprika is lighter in flavor, lighter in color; use more as a seasoning rather than as a flavor builder.
- Chop ingredients going into a food processor to keep the size of your processed foods consistent.
- When sautéing to insure your foods properly brown and sear, Chef Donna explains how to make the magic happen with the steam-sauté technique.
- How to make deviled-egg filling smoother. We reference Episode 28 Breakfast for Dinner from Season 1 and Chef’s Donna’s method for perfectly cooked eggs, and how to perfectly peel them. Then use a sieve or strainer to smooth the filling.
- Where to buy spices and how to use them. Chef Donna shares her tips for buying spices in small quantities; grocery stores are limiting their single spice inventory. Make your own blends.
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