What I’ve Learned from The Food Network (Vol. 19)

*holds up right hand*

I am a Food Network addict.

I spend hours watching shows I record from the Food Network.  It’s the way I unwind.  My favorites are Barefoot Contessa (and I have ALL of her cookbooks), Emeril Live, Everyday Italian, and Good Eats — in about that order.  I do make some of their recipes, but many times I don’t.  Watching the shows doesn’t even really make me crave the food they make.  I just find immense satisfaction out of just watching them cook.

My husband does not get this.  If he happens to sit down and catch a few minutes of the show, he wants to eat it RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE.  Therefore he rarely watches with me.  Unless it’s Good Eats.  Alton’s show has just enough scientific geekiness to reel my husband in.

I’ve learned a lot over my years of watching the Food Network religiously, so I thought I’d share some of it.

1. After grilling or cooking, take the meat off and let it rest before cutting into it. This one is huge.  I do it with everything now — hamburgers, steak, roasts, chicken, any meat that I make.  If you let it rest 5-10 minutes, it will retain its juices and be moister and tastier.

2. Season every step of the way. By season, I mean salt.  This is another biggie.  I use kosher salt, and I have it in one of those old-fashioned sugar jars like they use at a diner.  (Yes, salt in a sugar container; it CAN be dangerous.)  Anyway, it makes it very easy to use that way.

I always season my meat when it’s raw before I cook it, and then season along the way.  Same with pasta and veggies — lots of salt in the water, then a little sprinkle at the end for good measure.

As Ina is fond of saying, “If you salt it before you cook it, it tastes seasoned; if you salt it at the end, it just tastes salty.”  Sometimes, of course, you DO want that salty crunch on top (with roasted veggies or fried foods, in particular) but you should ALWAYS salt first.

3. Use the highest quality, freshest ingredients you can find. This is key, especially when trying to cook healthier or when making simple dishes.  The fewer ingredients in a recipe, the more important it is that they are high quality.

I’ve begun growing fresh herbs in my kitchen so I always have them on hand.  I keep fresh lemons and limes around now.  I buy local veggies at the farm stand whenever possible.

4. Measure liquids with a liquid measure and dry ingredients with a dry measure. This sounds like a big, fat DUH, but I never knew it wasn’t okay to measure liquids in my measuring cups.

5. Separate eggs when they are cold but beat egg whites when they are room temp. This isn’t always feasible because I’m not a great planner when it comes to baking.  But whenever possible, I try to follow this rule.  It definitely makes egg whites with more volume.

6. Make pastry with COLD ingredients. This is how to make flaky pastry.  You don’t want the butter or shortening to melt, but to remain in little pea-sized balls.

7. Bake cookies and cakes with room temp ingredients. It works best to have all ingredients room temp when baking.  Leave the butter and eggs out a while before making those chocolate chip cookies.

8. Adding a couple tablespoons of coffee (preparead or coffee granules) to chocolate recipes makes the chocolate taste richer. This is another Ina tip.  She always has coffee in some form in her chocolate recipes.  I’ve tried it, and it DOES make a remarkable difference.

So that’s some of what I’ve learned over the years, watching the Food Network.  I hope some of those tips are useful to you.