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How to Bake Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

by Elizabeth Skipper September 17th, 2014| Ask the Chef
sweet-potatoes-996_640I love baked sweet potato fries. However, no matter what I've tried (high heat, tossing in olive oil/cornstarch/flour, greasing the pan), I don't get crispy fries. Is there a way to bake sweet potatoes and get crispy fries?

Good question! I usually simply bake sweet potatoes, so this required some research. I wasn't able to ascertain whether the starch in sweet potatoes and white potatoes is the same, although they're both high in starch in the form of carbohydrates. I was wondering if sweet potatoes have more natural sugars, which might explain your problem, as sugars caramelize rather than crisp.
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Basting Brushes, Classic and Modern

by Elizabeth Skipper September 10th, 2014| Ask the Chef
silicon brush pdI own a classic basting brush.  My question is two-part.  First, what are the bristles in a classic brush made of? Second, should I upgrade to a silicone brush? It isn’t a matter of cost, I know, but I figure if what I have works, why change?  Thoughts?

Classic basting brushes, at least those made in France, are made of boar bristles. If you've never been up close to a live pig, you may not realize that they're hairy creatures. And their coarse hair makes a great brush. It's stiff yet flexible, and holds onto the basting liquid so it's
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Salmon with a Crispy Outside

by Elizabeth Skipper September 3rd, 2014| Ask the Chef
pan-seared-salmon-belly-250866_640How can I cook salmon so that it has a crunchy exterior but it isn’t overcooked?

Methods of cooking fish which are amenable to making the exterior crisp or crunchy would be baking, broiling, or grilling, which are all forms of dry heat cooking. You must compensate for the dryness of these methods, though, as fish – even salmon, one of the fattier fishes – have little of the interior fat which keeps meats moist.

Leaving the skin on enables the cook to prepare it so the skin is crispy. Some people don't care for fish skin, doubtless because they've only
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Forming Hamburgers- Is There a Proper Method

by Elizabeth Skipper August 27th, 2014| Ask the Chef
burgers n flameIs there a correct way to form hamburgers? I have hand-formed them and used a patty maker.  I also have made patties that are flat and added a dimple to them to help with cooking. Are any of these methods better than another, or is there a totally different way that I should be trying?

Is there one correct way to form hamburgers? I wouldn't say so, although there are basic principles to follow. A good burger patty shouldn't be overworked and compacted, or it will be tough. Other than that, form them any way you like. And there's
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Ask the Chef- Keeping Leftover Avocados

by Elizabeth Skipper August 20th, 2014| Ask the Chef
avocadoI needed only half an avocado for a recipe. I spritzed the remaining half with lime juice and wrapped it in plastic wrap. When I went to use it two days later, it was brown. Is there an effective way to save unused avocado, or should I have just eaten it all in one sitting?

I'm surprised you were able to abstain from eating half an avocado; I can't.

There are many methods which claim to keep avocado halves or guacamole from oxidizing. I have yet to find one that I'd consider successful. But I'll tell you the most common ones if
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Lobster Tails vs. Claws- What’s the Difference

by Elizabeth Skipper August 13th, 2014| Ask the Chef
lobsterWhenever I eat lobster with a group of people, personal preference on favorite part falls into two groups: tail or claw. However, I have noticed that one can buy tails individually at the fish counter but not claws.  Is there a reason for this?  Is lobster tail meat different, more delicate, better for cooking?

It wasn't until a few years ago that I even thought about the difference between lobster tail and lobster claw meat. Someone asked me my preference, and I had to think about it. Until then, I'd just consumed as much of the beast as I could
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Pomelo Zest — Beyond Lemon and Orange

by Elizabeth Skipper August 6th, 2014| Ask the Chef
grapefruit-395345_640I have used lemons, oranges, and limes for zesting in an assortment of recipes. This has me wondering, can all citrus fruits be zested? In particular I was wondering if I could use pomelo zest? If so, do you have any suggestions for a recipe?

Here in NH, I seldom see pomelos available for sale, certainly not in the local supermarkets. Perhaps next time I'm in an Asian market I'll try to find one. You've aroused my curiosity. I seem to remember trying it once, wondering if it was like an ugli fruit. I also remember not being impressed –
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What You Need to Caramelize Crème Brûlée

by Elizabeth Skipper July 30th, 2014| Ask the Chef
french-170370_640I don’t own a kitchen torch to make crème brûlée. I have heard that I can use my oven’s broiler. However, I also am worried about putting the glass dishes under the broiler. Won’t the combination of glass and a broiler have bad results?

Putting glass baking dishes like Pyrex or Anchor Hocking under the broiler is definitely not recommended; the manufacturers tell you so. However, don't confuse glass with porcelain or terracotta, both of which are made of clay. Their qualities differ, and both of those can take the heat of a broiler. The predominant material of choice is
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Overwhelmed by Zucchini? Here’s How to Freeze It

by Elizabeth Skipper July 23rd, 2014| Ask the Chef
zucchini-176880_640Zucchini season has begun.  Is there any way to freeze it for use in the winter? I know that I can pickle it, but I would prefer to have plain zucchini, which I can use in an assortment of dishes.

It's that time of year, when if your squash plants haven't been attacked by bugs, they're starting to produce in such quantities you'll soon be over-run. One to three plants are sufficient for most families, but sometimes it's hard to believe that and so we over-plant. Even if we don't, the kitchen counter starts to get buried, the neighbors are
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Make Your Own “Jello”, Only Better

by Elizabeth Skipper July 16th, 2014| Ask the Chef
file0001082961770I make most of my desserts from scratch:  cookies, cakes, pies, pudding.  However, I never have made gelatin from scratch. I always buy the flavored box mix.  Is it difficult to make homemade gelatin? I know that I can purchase plain gelatin but wasn’t sure how I would infuse flavors. Any suggestions?

For a minute there, I thought you were asking about making gelatin, not jelled desserts, from scratch. Then I realized you meant making a Jello equivalent, which is whole lot simpler! Making gelatin can be done, but it's a lengthy, somewhat messy, process. Making homemade Jello is easy.

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Creaming Butter and Sugar: How Long Does It Take?

by Elizabeth Skipper July 9th, 2014| Ask the Chef
00019Almost all cookie recipes call for the butter and sugar to be creamed.  I have read that you should beat them for 3-5 minutes. Do I really need to beat the mixture for that long? The dough seems well combined in 30-60 seconds.

Creaming is a method used in making many kinds of cookies, cakes, and quick breads. It's more extensive than mixing, which is simply combining ingredients until they're well incorporated.

When softened butter is creamed with sugar, the individual grains of sugar are distributed throughout the fat and fluff up the mixture. It's obvious to think of air bubbles
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Real Whipped Cream: Keep It Real, Keep It Whipped

by Elizabeth Skipper July 2nd, 2014| Ask the Chef
whipped-cream-354174_640I saw a recipe that has whipped topping (non-dairy) with blueberries and strawberries to make a flag design.  I personally detest whipped topping.  However, I think that homemade whipped cream won’t hold up as well at a cookout.  Any suggestions on what I could use as a topping? The base of the dessert is a simple yellow cake.

I've seen this cake – didn't it originally come from an advertisement? It's perfect for any patriotic occasion, and with July 4th coming up, what a great dessert for a cookout. Of course, it's hot in July; and using whipped topping makes
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