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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Top Ten Tips to save time in the kitchen

  1. Spend some money on a good knife: Buy a good sharpening steel and get good at using it, and have your knife professionally sharpened every 6 months. Also only use this good expensive knife on proper cutting surfaces like wood or plastic, not granite!
  2. A good chef is very organized: I always work from shopping and prep lists.
  3. Mise en place: This is how a restaurant kitchen can make so many different items so fast at the same time. This means get all your cutting and prepping done ahead of time whenever possible. This is extremely important in Asian cuisines.
  4. The freezer is your friend: Any chef worth anything always knows what's in the freezer and can throw a meal together in minutes when necessary. It's very important that everything be well-wrapped, labeled, and dated. Just because it's frozen doesn't make it immortal. Things to keep in your freezer: frozen beef and chicken stock; duck and goose fat; a few rolls of slice-and-bake cookie dough; a few rolls of savory cracker dough; a few pie crusts; some phyllo dough; frozen fresh herbs; pesto; fruit purees; chopped lemongrass.
  5. Chopped garlic: If it's chopped and in a little olive oil in your fridge you will use it. Don't do more then you can use in a week as it will start to ferment. It makes adding garlic to everything so easy!
  6. Flavor boosters — extracts and oils: These are great ways to add an intense flavor to foods both sweet and savory and will last for a long time. Orange and lemon oil, vanilla extract, almond extract, maple extract, tangerine oil, homemade infused oils of basil, mint, rosemary, lemongrass. You can also make infused syrups. Orange juice concentrate is really handy for sauces, aiolis, and vinaigrettes.
  7. Herbs de Provence: If you have one herb, this is a great mixture to work with. The original mix from southern France contains savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, and lavender flowers. But there is much variation in the blend.
  8. When in doubt, put it in pastry! Old chicken and over cooked vegetables can be combined with a rich delicious cream sauce and a fantastic chicken pot pie is born. Overripe fruit can be wrapped in phyllo to make a delicious, flaky, last-minute strudel.
  9. Less is more: If you don't have time to fuss, just go out and buy 3 exotic expensive ingredients and serve them together beautifully arranged on a large platter.
  10. A professional kitchen should have no waste: Everything can become a dip or soup (or a staff meal) if you know how to creatively combine leftovers. And if it's left over and you don't know what to do with it, freeze it for later.