10 culinary crimes no foodie should ever make
10 culinary crimes no foodie should ever make
Culinary crime #1: It's not High Tea
Visions of scones, tiny sandwiches, and tartlets belong to a quintessential English tradition called Afternoon Tea. This is not to be confused with High Tea, which is a substantial meal of meat and fish dishes alongside plentiful breads and pastries served in the early evening at the main table. Afternoon Tea is a light meal in the late afternoon with tea and small pastries.
Culinary crime #2: There is no "Oriental" food
“Oriental” has somehow become synonymous with “Asian”, with respect to cuisine. Besides the vast differences between various Asian cuisines, such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and South Asian, the term “Oriental” is inaccurate in describing Asian foods, as the term originated in Europe to describe things that were from the lands directly to their east, what is now known as the Middle East. It was only later that the description of "Oriental" was extended to include Asia. More importantly, the term was used by Europeans to embody ideas of exoticism from the East. So, the terms “Orient” or “Oriental” have no concrete significance in food lingo.
Culinary crime #3: Peanuts are not nuts
Especially in the context of food allergies, peanuts are discussed together with nuts like cashews and almonds. This is unfortunate, because peanuts are actually legumes - similar to beans - a dried fruit within pods of plants in the fabaceae family. Legumes usually have seams opening naturally on both sides. Nuts are an edible dried seed or fruit located within hard shells that do not open on their own.
Culinary crime #4: Chili and Chile
The distinction between chili and chile is often muddled. Chili is the short form of the Mexican dish, Chili Con Carne, where chile pods are stewed with tomatoes, ground meat, and beans. The correct reference to actual hot peppers in the Capsicum genus is chile.
Culinary crime #5: Sautéing? You're probably sweating
Too many recipes instruct readers to sauté ingredients like onions and garlic over low to medium heat. That is a paradox, because the very definition of sautéing is to “jump” the food, or keep it moving in the pan over high heat, for the purpose of browning the food while retaining its moisture and flavour. "Sautéing over low heat" is actually confused with "sweating", in which the food is cooked over low heat to soften and bring out moisture so that the food "sweats" and cooks in its own juices.
Culinary crime #6: Poorly handled pasta
From the time the water boils to the post-cooking preparation, pasta is often mishandled.
• When cooking pasta: Starting with the water, fill the pot with a quart of water per serving of pasta. This will keep the pasta from sticking together and the water from boiling over.
• The water should be salted generously after it comes to a boil, so that it tastes like the sea, to quote renowned celebrity chef Mario Batali. At this point, do not add any oil to the water; this prevents any sauces added later from adhering to the pasta.
• When adding the pasta to the water, do not break it to try to submerge it, the long strands will soften and fall into the water on their own. Breaking the pasta makes it very difficult to be picked up.
• Finally, when the pasta is cooked to al dente, do not rinse the pasta to stop the cooking process, unless you are making a pasta salad which does not require a sauce. Rinsing pasta removes the starch that helps bind sauces to it.
Culinary crime #7: Slimy mushrooms
You see fresh mushrooms in the produce section, and you immediately reach for a clear plastic bag and you throw it in the crisper when you get home, right? Wrong! Moisture builds up inside plastic bags, causing water-rich mushrooms to wilt and rot quickly. The proper way to store mushrooms is in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator, but not the crisper, so that the bag can wick away excess moisture. Also, rinsing mushrooms with water does not make them absorb water; however, mushrooms should be wiped dry after washing.
Culinary crime #8: Not searing your meats
At the risk of dirtying the stove and backsplash, meat and seafood must be seared over high heat, preferably using stainless steel pans to allow a crust to form, as opposed to non-stick pans. Whether you're cooking steak or scallops, the most common cooking error is not having the pan hot enough, not having the ingredients dry enough, and turning the meat over too early before any caramelizing takes place. Time and intensity are important in the searing process.
Culinary crime #9: Butter substitutions
In many cookie and cake recipes, margarine is a close substitute for butter. However, when it comes to candy, caramel, or puff pastry recipes, margarine should not be used in place of butter because it has higher water content. The result could be longer cooking time and denser consistency than desired. Before making substitutions - of any kind - be sure to read any notes in the recipe or look up additional information.
Culinary crime #10: Treating herbs like they're vegetables
When it comes to fresh herbs, do not store them in the crisper with the same plastic containers they are sold in once they’ve been opened. Instead, wrap herb bouquets with a clean paper towel before storing them in plastic bags.
If you’re going to use the herbs within a few hours after purchasing, you can place the bunch in a glass with some cold water to keep them fresh. They are live plants, don't forget. As for dried herbs, always store them in an airtight container (not the plastic bags from the bulk food store with a twist-tie around it), and keep them in a dark cupboard.
When using them, rub them between your palms to warm them up and release the essential oils. Without warming them, you will have to use more of the herbs and the flavours will not be as pronounced. As a cooking instructor of mine once said, "you might as well snip the grass from your lawn and throw it in."