The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

August 21, 2013

Cheryle Finley: Some kitchen calamities easy to solve

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Is everything that's made in your kitchen perfect? I know sometimes I hit the mark, and sometimes I miss the whole target. Unfortunately, I don't always know what went wrong. Information from may help all of us.

Using the wrong knife is a mistake we all probably make. Use that big, long blade of the chef's knife for chopping, not peeling, and a serrated knife for breads and, believe it or not, delicate meringues.

Speaking of knives, are you putting them in the dishwasher? Doing so won't make any difference in your cooking, but it will affect the life of a knife. The same goes for non-stick pans.

No good sear on your steak or chop? You are turning the meat too often. Be patient.

Cookies spreading into flat discs when they bake? Overly softened butter is the culprit. Leave butter at room temperature for about an hour before using it in baked goods. To hurry the process, cut the butter into small chunks. A big mistake is using the microwave to soften the butter.

If you are trying to get perfect peaks with your egg whites, make sure the eggs are at room temperature, not cold. And, by all means, avoid using a plastic bowl. Bowls made of copper, stainless steel or glass work best. I used to wonder why my egg whites never turned out when I made them in my favorite plastic bowl. Using a glass bowl was a very helpful tip.

If your chicken or other meats are consistently overdone, invest in a meat thermometer and learn the perfect temperature for all types of meat. Removing meat from heat at the right time assures that the extra bit of cooking it does once it's out of the oven will not be too much.

Tired of soggy salad? Handle the greens with care. Dry them well and add the dressing just before serving. Putting dressing on salad too early will cause it to be absorbed by the leaves, and the salad will look wilted.

If your fried foods are always greasy when you bite into them, your cooking oil is not hot enough. Heat the oil to between 325 and 400 degrees before even thinking about using it to fry food. Cook the food in small, single-layer batches to help keep the temperature of the oil high enough for cooking. Overcrowding is sure to give you less-than-desired results. Be patient, and don't try to make two batches into one.

Are some of your recipes ending up just a little off? Maybe you are using the wrong measuring cups. Your glass cup with the measurements on the side is for wet ingredients, and nesting cups are for dry ingredients. I'm guilty of using dry ingredient cups for everything and need to rethink that habit. Though the difference between the two is ever so slight, it's enough to alter a recipe.

Maybe the most important thing you can do for roasted or baked chicken is let it rest before taking a knife to it. Again, patience is important here. Tent the chicken with foil and give it 10 or 15 minutes Ñ the meat will be juicier and more flavorful.

I'm noticing a common theme in these tips that has my name all over it: patience. Being patient in food preparation has a big effect on the final results.

I'm looking forward to Tuesday when I visit Carol Parker on KSN at noon. Our plan is to talk about easy school lunches that are great for kids of all ages.

The peaches we have been getting lately are so delicious that I want to share a fresh peach salsa recipe. I omit the cilantro because I'm not a fan. The salsa is ideal for chicken or fish, or just for dipping with pita chips. This recipe is from "Taste of Home Summer Appetizers."

While I usually make potato pancakes from leftover mashed potatoes, the recipe today from "Country Cook" is a nice side dish without the mashing. The crispier the better. It's important to follow the hot oil rule and also avoid overcrowding. From "Grandma's Kitchen" comes a breakfast roll for those with a sweet tooth. They are so good, they even make a good dessert biscuit. Have a wonderful week and happy eating.


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