This fourth installment of “Things Cooks Know” focuses on practical kitchen wisdom for dairy foods and eggs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines dairy as “all fluid milk products and foods made from milk, such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and butter.” Eggs, considered animal products, are part of the meat, poultry, fish, and eggs category. These tips can help you develop a keen sense of flavor and make culinary endeavors easier and more enjoyable.
Perfect Egg Pan
A sturdy, medium, nonstick frypan is the best choice for egg cookery. High-quality pans without toxic coatings include Zwilling Madura Plus, T-fal Professional, GreenPan Lima, and Ozeri’s Stone Earth Pan.
Creamier Scrambled Eggs
For a creamy texture, scramble four large eggs on medium-low heat, stirring continuously, then mix in a rounded tablespoon of sour cream or crème fraîche. Tiny diced cubes of cold butter scrambled with the eggs will also help keep them creamy. For fluffy, tender eggs, thoroughly whisk 2 to 3 tablespoons of milk into the eggs. When they begin to set in the pan, fold and stir until large curds form.
To center the yolks in hard-cooked eggs, wrap a couple of rubber bands or tape securely around the carton to keep it intact 24 hours before cooking. Place the carton on its side in the refrigerator. Put the eggs into cold water to cook.
Instant Egg Chopper
Chop hard-cooked eggs quickly by putting a small, cross wire cooling rack over a wide bowl and then pushing each hard-cooked egg through the rack using a small saucer or the bottom of a glass as a pusher. Make egg salad directly in the bowl, or remove chopped eggs for another use.
Make thick, Greek-style yogurt by scraping 2 cups high-quality, plain yogurt into a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth or paper coffee filters. Place strainer over a bowl; refrigerate 2 hours to drain off whey and thicken yogurt.
To prevent whipped cream from weeping, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin into 1 1/2 tablespoons water. Microwave in 5 second increments until gelatin dissolves. After adding vanilla and confectioners’ sugar (to taste) to 1 1/2 cups cold, heavy cream, drizzle in gelatin and whip until soft peaks form. Refrigerate or use at once. Some cooks stabilize the cream by whipping in 1/2 cup softened (still cool) mascarpone cheese.
Super Smooth Ice Cream
Chill ice cream “batter” in the refrigerator several hours or overnight before freezing to create ice cream with a better texture and flavor. It will churn faster and have smaller ice crystals. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons alcohol to your ice cream batter to keep it softer in the freezer and easier to scoop. Use a neutral-tasting 80 proof vodka or other flavorful spirits. Adding about 1/4 cup or more of alcohol to 1 quart of ice cream batter prevents freezing however.
To make yogurt cheese, prepare the yogurt as described in the tip above but increase the draining time from 12 to up to 24 hours until the consistency is like soft, spreadable cheese. Mix in ingredients such as fresh minced herbs, ground spices, or toasted, chopped nuts for extra flavor.
Recycle Cheese Rinds
Freeze scraps of rind left over from grating Parmigiano-Reggiano in an airtight Zip Top bag; add a piece to a simmering soup, ragu, stew, or stock to enrich the flavor. The simmered rind is also tasty.
Grating soft cheese can be messy. Put it into the freezer around 15 minutes to firm it up before grating. Spray a box-style cheese grater lightly with vegetable spray to help prevent sticking. For easy cleanup when grating or shredding blocks of cheese, grate them inside of a large, sturdy Zip Top plastic bag. Leftover cheese can be sealed inside the bag and stored in the refrigerator.
Make tasty cheese crisps by shaping 1-tablespoon mounds of quality, shredded parmesan cheese onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Cook at 400 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes until melted cheese is golden and crisp. If desired, toss some minced, fresh herbs into the cheese.
Butter for Baking
Salt in butter adds flavor and extends shelf life. Baking recipes usually call for unsalted butter, which has a slight taste difference and a higher percentage of butterfat. If only salted butter is available, reduce the salt in a recipe by 1/4 teaspoon for each stick of salted butter.
Clarified butter doesn’t burn in pan frying. Brushed on phyllo dough, butter makes the pastry crispy. Melt 2 to 4 sticks unsalted butter in a small, heavy saucepan over very low heat. Remove pan from the burner; wait 5 minutes and then skim off the foam. Pour the clear, golden butter through a cheesecloth-lined, mesh strainer into a bowl, leaving the milk solids behind. Refrigerate clarified butter.