Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Answering Some Questions This Week

I've had questions from several people recently and thought this would be a good time and way to answer them so that it helps everyone that reads my blog.

The first question is "What's the difference between frying meat and cooking meat?"  This may seem silly to some but it is not to a new or inexperienced cook.  Below are basic definitions of the two words "Cooking" and "Frying."  I'll continue after you read them.

"Cooking" is the act of preparing food for consumption. It encompasses a vast range of methods, tools and combinations of ingredients to improve the flavor and/or digestibility of food. It generally requires the selection, measurement and combining of ingredients in an ordered procedure in an effort to achieve the desired result. Constraints on success include the variability of ingredients, ambient conditions, tools and the skill of the person cooking.  Cooking frequently, though not always, involves applying heat in order to chemically transform a food, thus changing its flavor, texture, appearance, or nutritional properties.

"Frying" is to cook over in a vessel (pan, pot, etc.) direct heat with oil or fat.

Let me expand on the "Frying" definition.  This can be done with a minimal amount of oil or fat and enough to submerge (deep fry) the food.

The two words also are interchangeable in some uses.  Saying "I'm going to cook some steak for dinner tonight" may refer to frying, grilling or broiling the steak.

In saying "I'm going to fry a steak tonight for dinner" is defining the cooking method you are going to use in preparing the steak.

A second question was asking about an action and if it really worked.  The question was "If you add a tablespoon of water to the pan while frying meat, will this pull the grease away from the meat?"  In reaching this I could not find anything to support the idea.

If one is frying a steak in a pan, the adding of water while frying the steak does possible harm.  In frying the steak this way you would use minimal amount of oil or fat because the steak (depending on cut) will render you it's own fat.  Now you have a hot pan with oil or fat in it.  By adding any amount of water, you will cause a couple of things to happen.  The water will sizzle while evaporating and cause the grease and water to splatter all over you and the space around the pan.  Just adds to the mess.  Secondly, it cools down the pan and changes and/or prolongs the cooking process.  It can also de-glaze the pan loosing all those tasty morsels stuck to the pan's bottom.  You want to de-glaze after finishing the cooking process to make pan sauces to top your cooked steak.

A third question had to do with "Quinoa".  Quinoa is a whole grain and I discussed in an earlier blog and included a recipe using Quinoa.  The question basically asked why it was such a hot ingredient these days.

It's a popular ingredient because it satisfies several parts of your diet.  Being a whole grain it provides an excellent source for fiber in your diet and we all need that.  But a surprising bonus in Quinoa is that it is also a  great protein source for you.  In fact, it happens to be one of the best protein sources outside of animal produced protein.  It has all the same protein properties of an egg (best example) or meat product without the bad fat.  So it should be a staple in a vegetarian or vegan diet.

I did just learn from a friend, Chef Tim, that you should wash Quinoa before using it.  There is an outer shell on Quinoa that tends to be a little bitter.  By rinsing the Quinoa in a fine strainer and using your hands to toss it around a little, that outer shell comes off.  Do rinse a second time and drain well before continuing with the cooking process.

I hope these bits of information will help all of you in the future.  Remember, if you have some question in regards to cooking, ingredients, equipment, processes or techniques just let me know.  I'll do what I can to help you.

I've included a recipe for a Quinoa salad, "Southwest Quinoa", this week as well as one using fresh garden vegetables.  It is "String Bean & Tomato Salad" and I hope you enjoy both.  "Happy Cooking."

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