Archive for May, 2012

How to pan-steam like a pro

You probably already know that steaming is a great way to cook vegetables because it helps them retain nutrients and adds no fat. It’s also fast and super easy.

If steaming has one transgression, though, it’s that it doesn’t add flavor.  When you’re depending on steam from boiling water to cook food held aloft in a basket, the flavor is ultimately dependent on the item being cooked. Begin with a rather plain veggie like cauliflower, for example, and you’ll end with up with a vegetable that is indeed softer and easier to chew, but whose flavor isn’t greatly enhanced.

Luckily, there’s a special method of steaming that is just as easy as the traditional one, yet offers much more flexibility when it comes to resulting flavor and what ends up on the plate. It’s even got a cool name that will make you sound like a kitchen rock star: pan steaming.

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How to make homemade hash browns

Shredded hash browns can be confidence killers in the kitchen. In restaurants they look and taste so darn good, we often think: “How hard can they be to make? Just shred potatoes and throw them in a pan, right?” And then we end up with mushy spuds that are overly browned on the outside but gray on the inside. To our chagrin, they’re anything but the crispy, delicious patties we get when dining out.

Some of us seek solace by making the easier, chunky style hash browns with diced potatoes, telling ourselves they’re just as good. Others never even try again.

Well, friends, buy a bag of Russets, ‘cause we’re about to change that.

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What is a potato ricer?

Here is a kitchen device whose name may belie its purpose. A potato ricer doesn’t really have anything to do with rice, but at least the “potato” in its name is correct.

A potato ricer consists mainly of a cylinder with holes in the bottom and two handles. They are made out of plastic, metal or both, and can be found online, at a well-stocked general merchandise store, or at stores like Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma that specialize in kitchen goodies. Potato ricers are most often used when making mashed potatoes. The way it works is super simple: Put cooked potatoes in the cylinder and squeeze. By forcing the potatoes through the small holes, you get a nice, creamy consistency that can be the basis for dynamite homemade mashed potatoes. In this respect, a potato ricer is like the world’s largest garlic press, as it works in the same manner.

But potato ricers can do more than just process spuds for mashed applications. If you happen to make shredded hash browns with any frequency, a potato is an invaluable tool to have.

For this application, you put raw, shredded potatoes into the canister and press to extract the liquid, which is the enemy to crispy, perfectly browned hash browns. When doing this, the object isn’t to push the potatoes through the holes, as with mashed, but rather wringing out as much liquid as possible.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, don’t attempt to put a raw potato in one of these things and try to make it come out the other side. You’ll probably end up with a bent or busted ricer. Yes, I know from experience.

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