Category Archives: Kitchen Matters

Recipes, menu planning, and food presentation ideas.

My Rookie Mistake

The spinach gratin recipe I was making recently called for a half cup of grated Parmesan cheese in the mixture and another half cup in the topping. Calculating that a half cup equals four ounces, I purchased two 4-ounce containers of the cheese and added them as instructed, although the amounts somehow seemed a bit overwhelming.

It wasn’t until later that I realized the recipe was calling for four ounces by volume, while the four ounces in the containers were measured by net weight. Luckily, it seems that there can’t be too much cheese, so the gratin still was delicious. But the dish could have been ruined if my mistake had involved an herb, let’s say, or some other potent, but lightweight ingredient.

When I shared my mistake with several friends, I was surprised to learn that they weren’t clear on the measurement distinction. So while I might otherwise have been too embarrassed to admit my error, I swallowed my pride in the hope of sparing you a disaster.

Roast and Rewarm

If you asked me, I’d have advised against cooking a roast and rewarming it hours later. But as it turns out, it depends on what cut you’re roasting.

When guests were coming to visit for a few days this week, I decided to finally try the New York Times recipe for “fake” porchetta (link to recipe below), which calls for roasting a pork shoulder for at least 2-1/2 hours. If you’re thinking that that’s a crazy thing to do when the thermometer is pushing 90 degrees, I agree. In addition, it would mean I’d be tied to the stove for several hours before dinner, instead of being free to show my guests a good time.

So despite some recommendations to the contrary from people to whom I’d turned for advice, I roasted the meat early in the day, covered it and left it on the counter. Then hours later, I sliced half of the boneless 6-1/2 lb. roast and rewarmed it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, covering it for the first 10.

It emerged pink and juicy, and I can’t imagine that it would have been better if I’d served it right out of the oven. But pork shoulder is very fatty and very forgiving. I wouldn’t want to try the same thing with pork loin or prime rib.

cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017068-porchetta-pork-roast

Summer Soup Spin

I never thought that I needed a freestanding blender. For that matter, I never understood why anyone who owns a food processor would need to clog their cabinets or clutter their countertop with an extra appliance. Then I made New York Times columnist Melissa Clark’s basil, buttermilk, corn blender soup for company last week and began to understand.

A processor is designed to chop, slice, shred and grate, and can only accept small amounts of liquid before it leaks. After having that annoying experience, I bought an immersion blender, which allows me to puree soup right in the pot. But it wasn’t quite up to the job of pulverizing the more than three cups of raw corn kernels called for by Clark’s recipe.

As Clark recommends in her excellent video demo, I persisted until no flecks of basil remained and the soup turned a lovely light green. But since my stick blender has limited power, I was left with too much corn sludge. Judging from the video, it appeared to be a lot more than remained in Clark’s strainer.

I served the soup in shot glasses as an hors d’oeuvre, and while it was nice, it struck me as slightly bitter. I think it would have been sweeter if I’d been able to incorporate more corn into the mix. What’s more, what was intended as the easiest warm weather recipe, turned out to be too much work without the power of a real blender, so maybe there’s one in my future.

If you’ve got a blender, you might want to try the recipe. Here’s a link:

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016659-chilled-corn-soup-with-basil

I’ll be taking a summer break. See you on August 18. THH