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Content about DIY

The Paupered Chef officially endorses the convenient practice.
I, Nick Kindelsperger, wholeheartedly endorse the practice of freezing chicken stock in ice cube trays. Doing so allows one to crack them into zip-lock bags and stash them in the freezer for safe keeping. It is convenient, fairly easy to do, and downright practical (in a slightly embarrassing way). Of course, the problem with dishing out little kitchen tips and tricks like this one is that there are enough of them to make even the most...
For those who don't particularly like rhubarb.
"I hate rhubarb." That was the first sentence uttered by my local butcher after I described this sauce I wanted to make to pair with some pork chops. To be fair, rhubarb is a much-maligned spring vegetable. I was just convinced that I had to love it, and that I’d instantly find all kind of amazing uses for it. Though rhubarb and I don’t have much history to contend with, in cooking more that one dish with it in the...
Plus, a Killer Recipe To Use It In
We are thrilled to be participating in Charcutepalooza, an organized blogging movement of people writing about the noble art of charcuterie. Scores of people around the country (or even the world?) are making and writing about bacon, pancetta, and other delicious variations this fine month of February—and throughout the year, will be embarking on ever-cooler projects like brining, and smoking and drying and fermenting (the organizers...
Some pasilla chiles and avocado leaves make all the difference.
If you happened to stumble across the recipe for “Seasoned Black Beans” in Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca al Gusto there wouldn’t be much to immediately keep you from turning the page. Dont get me wrong, it is housed in a beautiful book, it is just that besides the boring name and lack of picture, this is all Kennedy says in the headnote: “This fried bean paste is used for filling tamales, for tetelas, or to...
A fool-proof method discovered.
If you don’t want to go to all the bother of soaking and cooking them, canned chickpeas work extraordinarily well - James Beard, Beard on Food I wanted to go to all the bother of cooking dried chickpeas from scratch. Why? Well, because I never had cooked dried chickpeas before, and I really wanted to see whether taking the time to cook them from scratch would make for a more delicious and cheaper hummus. I had already toyed...
On a search for the lesser-known ingredient in hummus
Is store bought tahini best? The goal is to make hummus at home with no shortcuts. I’m an apprehensive hummus fan at best, having dipped one carrot stick too many into something chalky and pasty, which claimed to be hummus but was purchased quickly from the grocery store. You could say that I’ve been ruined by the silky smooth texture of real hummus, the kind the comes with a sheen of rich olive oil on top, which is spiked by...
What if there was a method for making stock that not only dispensed with the time-consuming part, but also produced something that tasted better?
In practice, significantly more flavor is extracted from the meat. [...] When combined with good ingredients, these factors produce remarkable stocks in significantly less time. -Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck Cookbook I started making stock when I realized that you could stash the carcasses from roast chickens in the freezer and save them up for an empty Sunday and a few hours of simmering. That certainly got me past the cost...
April 23, 2010
Trying (and for now failing) to recreate British Heinz baked beans
Baked beans should have been the easiest part. When I set off on this crazy Full English Breakfast challenge I figured I'd spend most of my time stuffing sausages, or learning how to cure a completely different kind of bacon. The beans should have required a few hours on lazy Saturday afternoon. The one problem -- the only problem -- was finding a recipe. There are no recipes. Zero. Or at least none that I could trust. Every single...
How to save the oyster while cutting up chicken.
The chicken oyster. It sounds strange. But also intriguing enough to suggest deliciousness. I've heard other people talk about this elusive piece of meat hidden somewhere on the chicken. Only smart cooks know about it, like Thomas Keller, who mentions it in his recipe for "My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken" in the Bouchon cookbook. When the chicken is done roasting, the skin golden and fragrant, he locates the oyster on each...
Great pizza doesn't have to cost much.
If you're not down with pizza stones, it's time. Bread-bakers and home pizza afficionados praise them for their heat-retaining, moisture-wicking ability to imitate the floor of a brick oven. You put it in your oven and it not only provides a rustic surface to bake the bread on, but it also keeps the heat of the oven steady. Especially when it comes to pizza, that ever-important underside char and blistering (sometimes known as the...
Other uses for the unloved spirit.
I have this large bottle of vodka and I don't know what to do with it. It was lugged over by a friend (Blake) during a party as some kind of gift for the festivities, but I could see through his evil plan. He was trying to pawn this half finished bottle off on me because he didn't want to drink it. Sure enough, while the whiskey and gin were manhandled during the party, stirred and shaken into all manner of cocktails, that bottle of...
Can steamed duck legs tasted better than ones poached in duck fat?
The question about whether a steamed duck leg tastes as good duck confit has been boggling my mind for months ever since I read this article in the New York Times. Finally, last night, after spending the previous three days hacking up two ducks, rendering loads of fat, and figuring out what to do with the heads (Jonathan Gold actually sent me some interesting options on Twitter), I finally sat down to a blind taste test.  A...
Last year I fell in love with blood sausage.  Maybe that sounds strange.  So let me explain. In Estonia, around Christmastime, they begin to fill up the meat counters, black and smooth. Just piles of them.  When Christmas comes, everyone roasts pork and potatoes, makes sauerkraut, and serves them with blood sausages.  And it wasn't until I had them as apart of this ritual that I began to understand. Blood...
How to transform cheap meat.
This is why beef chuck roast cooked in a 131°F–140°F (55°C–60°C) water bath for 24–48 hours has the texture of filet mignon. - Douglas Baldwin, A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking After my experiments with sous-vide chicken resulted in one of the finest birds I'd ever eaten, I immediately set off on a crusade to transform the cheapest cut of beef I could find into filet mignon. I know this...
November 6, 2009
The Indian speciality is easier than you think.
The concept of making cheese has always fascinated me, the idea that you can take milk and add a little acid (or rennet) to magically separate it into curds and whey. Milk seems like such a stable liquid, a wholesome elixir of childhood, but with a little citric acid, lemon juice, yogurt, or rennet it completely de-stabalizes into thin, watery whey and fat chunks of curd. What you do with the curd presents endless possibilities. In...
October 29, 2009
Our guide to turning apple juice into booze.
As we realized on our last post, it was time to stop talking emphatically about the cultural significance of cider, and start getting to the business of making it. Though we had read more websites, emails, and books than we could know what to do with, we were still confused, and more importantly, l didn't have a solid recipe. It was beginning to be a problem. At its simplest, hard apple cider is pressed and strained apples that are...
October 22, 2009
Why every American should drink more cider.
Currently Blake and I have four gallons of apple cider fermenting in the back of his bedroom closet. The hope is that in a few days, thanks to some hungry yeast, we'll have something that might resemble hard apple cider. We're honestly nervous. We've undertaken ridiculous experiments before, but nothing that could potentially get us hammered. If it works, then we'll have made an alcoholic drink for less than it costs to buy...
Some tricks to improve this classic soup.
It's cold season, and everyone's coming down with something.  Chicken soup is a nourishing potion, one that seems almost automatic even though I've never really questioned why. Most of the time this tradition involves nothing more than opening a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup: somehow those minuscule pellets of chicken and mushy noodles are okay once your temperature is above 100. But when my sick wife had...
Make both of those at home.
The tomatoes were turning on me. A few weeks ago they were red and rosy, destined for a starring role in a BLT. Now, I'm not sure if they can withstand the scrutiny of the spotlight. They are still light years beyond what appears during the winter here in the Midwest, but not quite the ones you can slice up, sprinkle with salt, and eat raw. I kind of wish I would have known this before I bought a huge batch of them at the farmers market...
August 31, 2009
This Mexican classic deserves a little love.
Around hour five, I became terribly exhausted from what felt like continuous marathon of chopping, sautéing, blending, grinding, broiling, stuffing, whisking, dipping, and frying. It was the most complex and curious chile relleno I'd ever laid eyes on and the flavor nearly bawled me over. Every bite revealed layers of flavor, from the salsa, pork stuffing, to the batter. Nothing was an afterthought. Though it doesn't exactly...
How to create the perfect cucumber sandwich.
I feel like I finally understand the cucumber sandwich. After weeks of thinking about it, and trying to recreate the most authentic version I could muster, it finally sunk in. The taste isn't rich, indulgent, spicy, acidic, comforting, salty, or fatty. It's cool, calm, and collected. The strongest reaction I had towards one was a contented sigh, a sort of momentary delight. So why was I breaking a sweat trying to make one? I had...
Starting with the perfect loaf of bread.
(Check out Part Two of My Cucumber Sandwich Revenge for the sandwich recipe) I went to see a man about a loaf pan. All the traditional outlets had failed (Crate and Barrel, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and four restaurant supply stores) and I was starting to get desperate. See, I needed a very peculiar kind of loaf pan, one that would help me create the mysterious loaf, pain de mie, which would hopefully provide the base for the perfect...
How the most chickeny chicken dish imaginable.
Every morning we would roast thirty-six chickens just for their juices, rather than for the meat...Thirty-six chicken provided enough juices for thirty portions of freshly cooked chicken. In other words, the customer had the juice of more than one whole chicken accompanying his dish...It was extreme. - Marco Pierre White, Devil in the Kitchen The flavor of natural roasting juices...cannot be surpassed. - James Peterson, Sauces I...
How to make great beans in less time.
It seems that in the past few years there have been a few monumental revelations of the "everything you thought you knew about cooking was wrong" variety. - Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy", Executive Director, eGullet Society When the timer sounded, I was caught off guard.  I reached for a kitchen towel, carefully folded it around the hot handles of my dutch oven, and transfered the hulking pot to the top of the...
April 22, 2009
Hey everyone!  Check out the most recent DIY issue of Time Out Chicago and you'll see me!  The issue is online today and should be sent out tomorrow.  The article focuses on some of the more absurd projects Blake and I have done here on the site.  It also quite accurately describes the chaos of creation and the battle scars that occasionally result.  There's even a great picture of me in my cleaner-than-usual kitchen...
January 29, 2009
The best chili starts with the best chili powder.
That meant forgoing the blend I had in my spice rack and picking up a load of dried chilies from the local Mexican market.  I needed to create my own blend, something that was completely unique to me, but where do I start?  There honestly aren't that many recipes for chili powder out there.  My only real resources were Homesick Texan (great site) and Alton Brown.  Thanks to the large Mexican population in...
Lard is the secret to this Mexican classic.
By the time I fished the three pounds of pork hunks from the lard and stacked them on the cutting board,far more guests had arrived than I had originally planned.  It was a New Year's Eve party, but I thought dinner would just be an intimate gathering of 5 or so, and then we'd meet up with more friends later in the night.  But apparently my calls for meeting up later meant that they should come over right then and make me...
A different method for hard boiling eggs.
And what better place to find proof than Harold McGee?  His On Food and Cooking had a whole section on long cooked eggs.  He calls them “an intriguing alternative” which can be cooked for anywhere between “6 to 18 hours.”  Still no recipe, but I’m finally on to something.  The most interesting aspect about the process is what happens to the flavor, which he says generates “flavors and...
June 9, 2006
The best fried fish tacos we've ever had.
Our own version culled from a few different recipes, an emulation of the classic recipe of homemade tortillas, lightly fried tempura-style fish, a dairy-based white sauce, and fresh, crunchy, gently spicy cabbage. Real Baja fish tacos are nothing like what you're used to eating when it comes to Mexican food.  In fact, true Mexican cuisine might be our biggest missed chance.  Satisfied by the (admittedly tasty) Tex-Mex-style...