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Who Would Have Thought Raw Fish Could Be So Tasty?

Sushi is an enjoyable part of a meal or enjoyed on its own. Traditionally made with cooked rice mixed with a little rice vinegar then shaped into bite-sized pieces topped with raw seafood. Other varieties come in the form of a long roll wrapped in seaweed "paper". This roll contains strips of vegetables and assorted seafood and is served by slicing it into small, bite-sized pieces.

In earlier days, sushi is regarded as exotic and can be found only in specialty Japanese restaurants. Now, this food item has transcended its origins and have become so popular that you can get your sushi fix from delis and supermarkets.

Making sushi at home can be a worthwhile experiment for the die-hard sushi lover. You get to choose what goes in your sushi and you get to have your favorite treat anytime. You will need a bamboo rolling mat, a cutting board, a sharp knife and a large bowl.

The rice is the foundation on which you will build your sushi. Good varieties include short grain or calrose rice. You might as well cook the fish you're planning on using if you insist on using brown or instant rice because you can never make decent sushi this way. Cook rice a little less compared to other Asian dishes. Never to the point of being mushy, sushi rice has to have a nice texture to it. Put your rice in a mixing bowl so you can add vinegar to it. A tablespoon of vinegar for every cup of rice is about the right proportion. Mix them well and let the mixture cool. Sushi is made with rice that has significantly cooled down.

While waiting for the rice to cool, you can prepare the other ingredients. Take your nori seaweed - bought from Asian specialty groceries - and lay it on top of your bamboo rolling mat. You can use plastic wrap over the bamboo mat to keep things clean. Spread rice over the seaweed, leaving around an inch of seaweed exposed for allowance when rolling. Don't fall for the common mistake of using too much rice. Limit thickness to just ¼ of an inch - the nori should still be visible through the rice layer. Overloading with rice will result in an uneven roll.

Chose one edge where you will place the fish and vegetables. You will start rolling from this edge. A new fusion of flavors is the California roll. It combines avocado with crab meat and cucumber. Other variations exist and you can experiment. The good thing about making sushi at home is that you are only limited by your imagination. You don't want to put too much weight on the bamboo mat when rolling. Just get one edge started and once that reaches around the midpoint of the nori sheet, you can start peeling away the plastic. Keep going until you reach the other end.

Roll it a few times on the bamboo mat to ensure that it will not unravel when you slice it. Slice the finished roll into six or eight equal parts. Serve by stacking but arrange in a way that the filling - with all its contrasting colors framed by the whiteness of the rice is shown to add to the appeal of this delicacy.


How to Cook Fish Properly

Many a cook has discovered that fish can overcook in no time. If there's one piece of advice for cooks who want to turn out peerless fish, it's this: Once it's on the grill or in the pan, leave it alone! Leaving fish undisturbed for two to four minutes helps the protein develop a nice crust. This crust makes it easy to turn the fish over.

Beyond this advice, there can be as many ways to cook fish as there are, well, fish in the sea.

For grilling, choose sturdy fish with plenty of fat, such as salmon, tuna, grouper, shark and swordfish. Clean the grill well and give it a light coating of oil before placing the fish on it. Lighter fish can be grilled in a basket or simply on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil placed over the grill. However, don't cover fish on the grill; the delicate flesh takes up too much smoke and becomes over-seasoned and sometimes dry.

A bamboo steamer is ideal for steaming fish, particularly for Asian recipes. To steam fish this way, put the stock or water into a large saucepan along with spices or herbs. Bring the liquid to simmer, not boil, because boiling liquid can overcook fish in mere seconds. Place the steamer over simmering water and keep a close eye on it. It's done when it flakes easily.

A lot of cooks might faint at the thought of cooking fish in a microwave oven, because the chances of overcooking fish are greater. However, a microwave can cook fish adequately if the cook adjusts for the nature of this cooking method. For starters, be sure to rotate the fish halfway through the recipe timing to assure even cooking. With filets of uneven thickness, fold the thinner part under so that the filet becomes closer to even thickness throughout. Also don't forget about standing time, which is important for microwave cooking. Always let fish stand on a cool, flat surface so that the cooking finishes correctly.

Broiling is one of the most popular ways to cook fish, because it gives a nice crust and seems to seal in seasonings, much like toasting spices enhances the flavor of Indian cuisine. To broil fish correctly, preheat the broiler, season the fish well, and position the pan four to six inches from the broiler. Then watch it carefully! Don't walk away to dress the salad or anything else, because you'll quickly have burned fish. Turn thick fillets of one inch or more once halfway through cooking; thin fillets don't need turning.

If you don't have much time consider getting a crock pot to make your dishes as crock pot recipes are really delicious and so easy to make, not to mention the time saving factors.

Baking and frying are two of the favorite ways to cook fish. Baking is the easiest; simply season as desired and follow instructions from any cookbook. Frying takes a little more skill, but when done properly, fried fish is absolutely heavenly. Farm-raised catfish is especially good when fried.

To fry fish properly, batter the fish with seasoned flour or cornmeal, and then gently lower it into oil at 375 degrees F. Don't guess; use a thermometer or a deep-fat fryer to ensure the proper temperature. If frying in a skillet, cook each side for about four minutes, turning gently just once. In a deep fryer, lower the fish gently into the oil and let cook according to the fryer instructions.

Anyway it's cooked; well-prepared fish makes for a truly splendid meal.


Tips For Preparing a Thanksgiving Turkey

It is almost that time of year again. The air is getting cooler and the leaves are starting to change, which is a sign that the holidays will be fast approaching. The holidays are hugely centered around food, whether it is holiday parties, cookie baking or the dinner themselves, cooking is a huge part of celebrating.

There is no better example of this than Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving turkey is at the center of the holiday and preparing a perfect turkey is much easier than you think.

First of all, you will want to decide what size turkey that will feed your guests. One handy rule of thumb is one pound per person. This amount will likely provide a generous amount to feed all your guests and leave you just enough for all those yummy holiday leftovers.

Once you determine what size turkey you need to buy, the next choice is brand. Your local grocery store will have a variety of brands available for you to choose from. Some brands, including your store brand turkey, will be very inexpensive, whereas others will be pricier but come with added benefits of built in thermometers to let you know when your bird is cooked to perfection. Whichever brand of turkey you choose, the secret to the perfect turkey is in the preparation.

The easiest and most foolproof way to achieve the tantalizing turkey you desire is to cook it in an oven bag. These are bags that take all the work out of cooking a turkey and leave little room for error. They also minimize the amount of cleanup you will have to perform. You can find them near the turkeys or in the plastic bag section.

Please remember that it will take a couple of days to thaw out your turkey if you buy it frozen. Too many Thanksgiving dinners have been ruined by a frozen turkey. The safest place to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator or in cold water. It is also important to remember safe guidelines for handling raw poultry when handling a turkey.

Once you have all your supplies, you just need to decide if you want to stuff your turkey or not. Many people feel that a stuffed turkey makes a prettier presentation with the added benefit that the stuffing will help flavor the turkey as it bakes. Whether your turkey is stuffed or not will directly impact how long it needs to cook. You can find exact baking instructions on the oven bags if you choose to use them. The cooking time will depend upon the weight of your turkey and if it is in an oven bag and/or stuffed. Regardless, the turkey needs to be at a temperature of 170-175 degrees at the thickest part of the breast to consume safely.

You will want to perform a few steps as you are preparing your turkey

* Make sure that your remove the neck and giblets from the body and neck cavity

* Drain and rinse your turkey and then blot dry with paper towels

* Stuff your turkey if desired making sure to retuck the legs

* Place your turkey in the oven bag or roaster with the breast side up

* Brush your turkey with butter and seasoning to keep the juices in.

Just by following these perfect steps and taking care not to overcook the turkey will reward you with a picture perfect turkey that even your mother would be proud of.


How to Cook With Wine

Actually, cooking with wine is far from fancy. There are more complicated cooking techniques out there. Cooking with wine is open to experimentation and individual expression. This article will open your eyes into one of the simplest but most effective cooking techniques. Cooking with wine intensifies the natural flavor of foods and will lend an essence to your food that is hard to explain.

How Much Wine to Use

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to cooking with wine; however, it is better to start with a little and then add more if you feel the dish needs more. It is important to realize that the flavor of wine when it is used in cooking doesn't come from the alcohol but from the true nature of the wine. In fact, very little alcohol is left in a finished dish, as most of it will evaporate.

You can also boil down the wine, as this will help concentrate the flavor, such as sweetness or acidity. You do have to be careful not to use too much, as it can easily overpower the flavor of the dish. Begin with a small amount to allow the flavors in the dish to blend. You can always add more, if needed.

What Makes a Good Cooking Wine

As a good rule of thumb, you want to cook with wine that you want to drink. Remember the reduction thing? Cooking with cheap wine that tastes awful is a recipe for disaster. You don't need to go overboard and buy a $100 bottle. Just look for wines with good value. There are good $10 deals around.

A common red or white wine that you enjoy would be a good starting point. For marinades, sauting, chicken, and seafood - applications not requiring intense flavor - it's hard to go wrong with a Sauvignon Blanc. Red meats or sauces with a red meat base have inherently deep flavor, so a more powerful wine is in order. A Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect for the job.

Try to avoid wines that have a heavy flavor from oak. It tends to give the food a bitter taste. In addition, if you use a wine that is quite sour or very fruity, the flavors will be very prevalent in your dishes. This is one reason to avoid the very cheapest bottles of wine.

Some More Tips

If a recipe calls for water, put in wine instead.
You can add a tablespoon or two to your gravy. Simmer until the alcohol fully evaporates.
Your favorite flavored oil plus wine makes a good marinade for meat and poultry.
Heat the wine before adding to meat dishes. Warm wine can tenderize meat while cold wine has the opposite effect. Don't overdo it. Too much heat will cook your wine, robbing it of its taste.
Heavier red meats need a dry red wine to flavor it or else it will seem that you put nothing in at all. Lighter meats, such as pork, poultry, and fish will be overpowered. It's best to use white wine in this case.
You can serve the same wine you cooked with along with a meal. If that is not possible, at least serve a matching variety. It is not very nice to serve a light white wine with a roast dinner flavoured with an intense red.

Closing Thoughts

Cooking with wine is a great way to add a new dimension to your favorite recipes. It only takes some experimentation to realize which wines are your favorites to cook with!


How To Cook Perfect Fondue Dishes

Fondue dishes, which had become popular in the U.S. three decades ago, are back in vogue and numerous restaurants specialized in fondue dishes have sprung up across the nation. With the return of fondue cooking, we thought it would be useful to provide you with some useful tips on how to cook food fondue style.

The first thing you'll need is to purchase a fondue pot and fondue sticks. Choose a pot size that is appropriate for your needs (fondue pots come in different sizes). Besides the traditional fondue pots that you use on an open flame, there are now electric pots that allow you to regulate the temperature inside the pot.

There are countless varieties of fondue dishes, but the three principal fondue types are cheese fondues, meat and vegetable fondues and dessert fondues. If they are part of a meal, cheese fondues are usually served as appetizers. Meat and vegetable fondues are used as a main course. Fondues do not necessarily have to be served as part of a meal; you can have a wine and cheese fondue party, for instance. Also, a meal is not normally made up entirely of fondue dishes.

Cheese fondues can be made with a variety of cheeses and cheese combinations. There are mild Muenster versions, sharp emmenthal and gruyere versions, cheddar, pepper jack, and Cajun cheese versions of this tasty and popular fondue dish. Heat the liquid in the fondue pot then add grated cheese that has been tossed with cornstarch. Stir gently until the cheese is grated. It is important to watch the heat level on cheese fondue to make sure that it doesn't burn or harden and clump due to not being warm enough.

Use broth or oil to cook meat and vegetable fondues. Season the liquid, put it in the fondue pot and heat until it starts to boil. You will be dipping uncooked meat into this liquid, so make sure the temperature is high enough to cook the meat thoroughly in a few seconds. Remember though that if you heat oil excessively it will splatter out of the pot.

Most dessert fondues are based on some kind of melted chocolate. For instance, you can cook a sumptuous chocolate fondue by melting chocolate with cream in the fondue pot. Use milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, or any combination of these. Chocolate fondues taste better if the chocolate used is good quality, so do not use cooking chocolate. Melt the chocolate at low temperatures. Melting chocolate at high temperatures will cause it to burn and harden.

Marshmallow crme, strawberry syrup and a variety of oils such as mint, vanilla, almond, hazelnut, amaretto or your favorite liqueur can be added to the melted chocolate to produce a delicious flavor.

You should have the food you will be dipping into the fondue pot prepared well before you sit down to sample your fondue dish. If you are making a cheese fondue, prepare bite-sized pieces of your choice of bread (French baguettes, crusty rolls, flatbreads ...). For a main course fondue dish, cut vegetables and / or meat into bite-sized portions as well. Meat cubes should not be more than one inch in size so that they will cook through in a short time. Prepare cookies, brownies, crackers, marshmallows or cake (cut into small pieces) to dip into your chocolate fondue.


Tips For Cooking Succulent, Tender Turkey

Amateur and even cooks with a little bit experience are often overwhelmed when tasked with preparing turkey for Thanksgiving. Perhaps it's the size of the bird, or the importance of the dish that makes them doubt their ability. But cooking turkey is a rather pleasurable experience - as long as you adhere to a few basic tips.

First you need to decide how big a turkey you will need to buy. It is wise to allot 3/4 of a pound to one pound for each person who you will be serving. If you are buying a frozen turkey make sure you allow adequate time to defrost the bird. You will want to let the turkey thaw in your refrigerator for two to five days to ensure that it is entirely defrosted. Turkeys that are still frozen on the inside will not cook through and through.

Once your turkey is ready to be cooked, it is good to rinse the skin then pat dry with a clean cloth. The inside cavities will need emptied of the gizzards and neck that are sometimes stored in them. These cavities should be rinsed and dried as well. Pre heat the oven while you are preparing the turkey. One way to cook a turkey that makes the process simple, the cleanup faster, and almosts guarantees a juicy turkey, is by using oven bags. If you decide to use an oven bag, add a couple of tablespoons of flour to the bag and shake well to coat before placing the turkey inside it. Follow the instructions for baking times and cutting air vents on the packaging of the oven bag.

You can do what expert chefs do to intensify the flavor by stuffing the turkey's skin with butter, herb, and spices. Just loosen it slightly by pinching and shifting it around with your hands. This will create "pockets" where you can stuff anything that will infuse the meat with flavor. You can then proceed to fill these with anything from butter, herbs, spices, juice, marinade mixes, even minced onions, apples, or garlic. Your turkey will end up more flavorful and it also helps it retain more of its natural moisture.

The stuffing is the area that often separates a great Thanksgiving turkey from a good one. People often reach out for the plate of stuffing as often as they reach out for a juicy piece of carved turkey. To indulge your guests, stuff your bird with a recipe that you got from Mom or Grandma. Put everything in and don't overfill so that you won't end up with a big mess. An alternative is to put in quartered apples and pears, chopped onions, and cloves of garlic as well as some herbs and spices to intensify the flavor. Be sure to account for the added time needed for all of this to cook as a stuffed bird takes a while longer.

You can use a wet rub or dry rub to flavor the turkey's skin. Use the same seasoning and marinade you used inside for a good harmony of flavor. Make sure to catch all the pan drippings so that you can make a rich gravy for later. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and let it sit a while before carving. Gather 'round the Thanksgiving table and enjoy!


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