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Why You Need A POS System For Your Restaurant

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, people paid with cash.

It sure seems that way, doesn’t it?

If you ask someone today if they have change for a $20, you will likely be met with a blank stare. As a restaurant, you are probably keenly aware of this if your POS (Point of Sale) system has ever malfunctioned. Tell your customers to go to the bank machine and they will likely never come back. It is the Bermuda Triangle of excursions.

We are used to living in a time of extreme convenience. A high-quality, well-functioning POS System is probably the most useful piece of equipment you can invest in for your restaurant.

Setting up your POS is not difficult, even if you grew up in a slower and less technologically dependent time. You need to make some decisions, such as figuring out which POS System is the optimal choice for your restaurant. You also must choose the computer that will be in charge of maintaining the system and information database. This should be the computer within your restaurant with the most memory. Your server computer should be as healthy as a horse. Or as healthy as a brand spanking new, virus-free computer.

Then, realistically determine how many other POS terminals are required to enter orders and process payments. Notice that it doesn’t have to be complicated – at all. A very simple POS system example is a card reader attached to an iPhone. Of course, it can get increasingly more complex. If you have multiple computers and systems, consider investing in an uninterrupted power supply. In the event of a power outage, this will help you to save your last transactions by keeping your system active for 20 additional minutes. Those 20 minutes could be the difference between you with a full head of hair or you having a look more like George Costanza of Seinfeld fame.

If you are still kicking it old school, rocking your high tops and your old timey cash register, you might be reluctant to see why it is important to “get with the times” and invest in a POS System for your restaurant. With David Lettermen set to retire, we have made our list a top 8, so that he can keep his claim-to-fame. In no particular order, here are the top 8 reasons you should put your money where your POS system is:

1) Tracking Your Sales.

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All POS Systems ring up sales and track inventory. They will help you to track your success and adapt your menu accordingly, rather than having you stuck with a whole lot of paperwork at the end of the month. Even if you like the creative process, you can free up the right side of the brain for the things that matter. If you are paying someone to uncover this information, it is time to embrace the robot.

2) More Secure For Customers, More Secure For You.

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Although late night television programs tend to focus on the POS hacks, there are ways to increase the security of your POS, allowing both you and your customers to sleep better at night. Some examples are: using strong passwords, updating POS software applications and the good ol’ standbys: firewalls and antiviruses. To further add to the security bucket, many POS Systems act as credit card processors, making swiping credit cards more secure for the customer and for your business.

3) Simplify Your Communication.

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Remember the day when you realized that you could check your email from your phone? Suddenly, it was much easier to get your work done from anywhere. The verdict is out as to whether or not that it is a positive thing, but we will keep the debating for another time. Your POS system will simplify the communication between the kitchen and the staff. There will be fewer misunderstandings and a happier staff will lead to happier customers. It is a small step towards world peace. Who knew a machine could help with that?

4) Make Payroll Easier.

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Everyone loves a payday, except, perhaps, the person behind the scene of those checks. Payroll services are often integrated into your POS. It can help you do everything from direct deposit to printing out paychecks. It can coordinate with the labor schedule that you input into the system and it can even help you with your taxes. The only thing it won’t yet do is call your mother.

5) Speed Up Service.

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Your customers often walk in the door hungry. Although you can buy some time with a well-placed bread basket, it certainly isn’t going to delay the signs of impatience for long: the drumming of the fingers. The tapping of the feet. The well vocalized sigh. No one likes a disgruntled customer. Your POS system will help to speed up the order-taking process and can deliver the order directly to the kitchen. Supply some exceptional training for your staff (although many POS systems can be learned in under 15 minutes). Less employee turnover and more customer turnover per day; win-win. Just give us an apple turnover and we might call it the best thing ever.

6) Getting With The Times.

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Your grandpa might be able to get away with a flip phone, but it is not wise in any industry to stay behind on the technological trends. A cash register might be going the way of the typewriter: charming but inefficient. The vast majority of restaurants in a recent survey said that the next upgrade they intend to make is adding a mobile POS. Are you keeping up?

7) Foster Healthy Competition.

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From tablet integration to social media savvy, restaurants around you have already entered this century. Without a proper POS, a business is likely to fall back on the cutting edge (who, you?). Your POS System will help you to remain competitive, in a friendly sort of way.

8) Prevent Shortage of Supplies.

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Flickr Image, https://flic.kr/p/8Ahn2g

It is not exactly the most professional move to have a customer step into a restaurant and be told what they can’t order rather than what they can. In order to stay on top of your ingredients, your POS can help keep the inventory at your fingertips. Not only will this help to keep everything from fresh basil to toilet paper in house, it will also prevent you from wasting any excess.

The great news is that there are so many POS systems that are vying for your affection. Many offer free trials, so let them try to woo you. Keep in mind that you need to be able to customize orders easily, as without that function there is almost no point of a POS. However, don’t overbuy. You can always get the bells and whistles later. For now, all you need is a machine that will make running your business a little easier.

Are you convinced? Will a POS upgrade affect your restaurant?

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Fine Dining Restaurant

Like many words in the English language, the word “fine” can have many different meanings. When someone asks how you are doing and you answer “fine” they may imagine that it is code for “not very well at all.” Yet when we bring the word “fine” before the word “dining”, the tables turn. We expect a little somethin’ somethin’. We want to be impressed. If you can’t roll out the red carpet, then a white linen tablecloth will do.

Fine dining is often synonymous with super expensive. As such, everything has to be “just so.” And by so, we mean perfect. We will review three categories: menu, service and atmosphere to pinpoint a dining experience so fine, it will need another word to drive the point home. Let’s go with “exceptional.”

Menu

We shall begin with the exceedingly important point of satisfying hunger. Give your menu the utmost attention. Shall we get on with it? (We imagine speaking that in a snooty accent, but do as you will):

High quality food

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If people are putting down more than they pay for their weekly groceries on a single meal, they not only want the taste of the food to be sublime, but also the texture and appearance. Even when it comes to salt, Ben Jacobsen of the Jacobsen Salt company believes that a fine finishing salt is dependent on “taste, texture and appearance.” Every point of the dish should be more than one step above what the home cook can accomplish.

Be unique

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Fine dining doesn’t have to follow a mold. You can offer what your competition refuses to. Fine dining restaurant expenditures plummeted during the recession, but the good news is, 2014 had much stronger sales. Be different, whether you experiment with colors or stay away from finicky food trends. Rework your uniqueness year by year, following the Steve Jobs mantra: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

Creative dishes, unlimited potential

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Living your life in a creative way opens the door for even more creativity. Break out of every box and let your menu be a piece of art in itself. Consider Head chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, who works in Spain at the hit restaurant Mugaritz. The restaurant was ranked in the top 15 in The Elite Traveler & Laurent-Perrier Top 100 Restaurants in the World list. One of his inventive dishes is ‘la yema helada y las flores blancas.’ This is translated as ‘the broken egg, the frozen yolk and the white flowers.’ You won’t have that anywhere else.

Exceptional liquor

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Fine food deserves fine liquor. Chef Thomas Keller said, “This idea that we have, that we want to have the very best and pay the very least is something that is kind of ingrained in Americans.” Have a variety of price points, of course, but there will be people willing to splash out. Keller adds, “ It doesn’t actually have to do with the very best, it has to do with your perception of the very best because you paid what you wanted to pay.”

Season and whim

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When you are cooking the best food in a creative way, chances are that you are following the seasons closely. For some time, cooking seasonally has been a big restaurant trend. Although some see this as overrated, it will likely be one of the elements that brings your patrons in the door.

Service

A beautiful menu is nothing if you have waiters with stained aprons and clumsy waitresses spilling water on the table. Service is an important step on the road to culinary perfection (which of course, you are always striving towards). Here are some things to keep in mind:

Be attentive

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Although there may have been a period of time when snobbery was the norm, a fine dining experience has a built in expectation. There should be personal and attentive treatment of each customer, with a leisurely pace. It is more than a meal: it is an experience. Being people-oriented is one of the main qualities you should look for in your waitstaff.

Be mindful

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The adage “Be mindful – even when your mind is full” is important for every server. They may have a lot of requests to balance, but they have to stay on task. They have to look calm and collected. Fine diners have a rare uninterrupted moment (as most fancy restaurants are not particularly welcoming to kids). Join the patrons in the present.

Rigorous training

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It is certainly not enough to bring the food and keep the water glasses filled. Serving patrons in a fine dining establishment is an art. How the patrons are greeted is exceedingly important, as is how they are seated, and how the food is served to them. The acronym S.E.R.V.I.C.E. is a great guideline for staff: Social. Enthusiastic. Responsible. Vibrant. Intelligent. Courteous. Engaged.

No task too small

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When people shell out the big bucks, they may start getting more demanding than they would in most circles. Let their demands be heard. Let it seem like it is your whole restaurant’s pleasure to help them. That touch is what keeps people coming back. Some upscale restaurants have inattentive servers and this will make you stand out.

Atmosphere

You have set the stage. You have the best staff. You have an impressive menu. Now, let’s set the stage. Imagine Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast singing along with you: “Be. Our. Guest.”

China and silverware

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Flickr Image, https://flic.kr/p/4Fdk1E

Mismatched plates may have a retro chic vibe that is making the restaurant circuit, but fine dining should have a level of organization and cleanliness that is rare in the “real world.” Have cutlery for everything, from a butter knife to a soup spoon and make sure everything is in its appropriate place. There is something oddly soothing about this dining order that will encourage everyone to slow down as soon as they enter.

Linens

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Flickr Image, https://flic.kr/p/6huK1K

White linen napery has the feel that the fine dining clientele expect. It will absorb every splatter and crumb, but it may be worth it, as it seems to highlight a heavenly experience. The white linen tablecloth goes back to biblical times. You might as well stick with it.

Classic or hip – your choice

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There aren’t hard or fast rules over which colors you should use or how it should look. Some colour experts maintain that warm earth tones are best for fine dining. You restaurant should look clean and orderly, sure, but it should also look like the people who own it. If you don’t love it, who will?

Subtle music

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Flickr Image, https://flic.kr/p/6FgtiL

It is like clothing: you don’t want the outfit to wear you. You want to be the wearer. You also don’t want the restaurant’s many high points to be overshadowed by loud music. Whether it is classical or acoustic, choose something soft and soothing and be diligent about the volume. People want to be able to hear themselves say “yum.”

The importance of lighting

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Flickr Image, https://flic.kr/p/bjfZvc

The first great thing about low lighting is that it makes everything look better, from your date to the food. The second great thing about low lighting is that it discourages food bloggers. We can all do with a little less Instagram foodie pictures. Don’t make it too low, however, as low lighting and soft music help us eat less. This may not be the desired effect.

Working on the details of fine dining means that more seats may be filled with wine sniffing, decadently dressed customers. More importantly, it will ensure that every person leaves your restaurant satisfied and smiling. At any price point, isn’t that we are all looking for from our dining experiences?

But of course.

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How to Make The Perfect Shrimp Scampi Every Time

As Christmas approaches each year, I get more and more excited for one of my favorite southern Italian traditions: The Feast of the Seven Fishes (Festa dei sette pesce). There are many variations of this feast and the number of fish can even vary, up to as many as thirteen different kinds! Regardless of how many fish appear on the table, it’s an amazing way to celebrate the holidays with family, friends, and a huge assortment of delicious food.

For the past few years, we’ve been celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes at my in-laws’ home. Family comes in from near and far and we start eating as soon as everyone has arrived and we don’t stop until it’s nearly Christmas morning. And, let’s be honest, after we open presents we start in on the leftovers.

One of my favorite recipes from this annual meal is shrimp scampi. It’s so simple, but manages to be extremely decadent at the same time. I love the rich buttery sauce paired with the tangy zest of freshly squeezed lemons and a healthy splash of white wine. It’s the perfect intermezzo between appetizers of fried calamari and baked clams and an entree of hearty pasta in a creamy crab sauce.

When I’m serving shrimp scampi with pasta or rice, I like to use a smaller shrimp – for this recipe, I used one pound of 31/40 count shrimp. That number means there are between 31 and 40 shrimp to a pound. If the shrimp are going to be served with only a vegetable or you really want them to stand out on your plate, choose a larger size. You’ll need to increase your cooking time accordingly.

Shrimp cook very quickly and have a tendency to seize up and get tough when cooked on very high heat. Try to keep your heat between medium and medium high and resist the urge to leave them in the pan longer than necessary. They will continue to cook a little after you take them off the heat and they will be much more pleasing to eat if they are tender. I remove the tails because someone in my family doesn’t like to have shells on his plate, but leaving them on will add more shrimp flavor to your final dish.

Don’t be afraid of how much garlic is in this recipe, either. It’s a delightful accompaniment to all of the butter and wine used. It adds a complex, spicy flavor without being overwhelming for your palate. Mincing is the best route for this fast cooking dish as it will bring out the garlic flavors quickly without the risk of over- or under-cooking it.

There is also a generous portion of butter in this dish. If you follow the directions to emulsify the butter – instead of just letting it melt – you will end up with a rich and silky sauce instead of a greasy mess. The constant, fast movement while the butter is added coupled with the butter being divided into tablespoon-sized portions for easy melting is really important to avoid an oil-slicked plate.

And please, only use fresh parsley for this dish. Dried parsley just does not pack the flavor punch of the fresh stuff. I tend to prefer flat leaf to curley because I think it adds a more intense parsley flavor. However, don’t I know it, sometimes the grocery store only has the curly variety, and that will be just fine. Chop it up really fine with a really sharp knife (to avoid bruising the leaves) and remember to reserve some extra to sprinkle over the plates before serving.

I also like to be extremely generous with my lemon juice. This recipe calls for the juice from one half of a large lemon. Don’t be afraid of that zing! By the time you add the lemon juice, the acidity from the white wine has largely been cooked away. The lemon will give the dish that bright, forward lemon flavor that is the mark of an extraordinary shrimp scampi. By mixing in some of the lemon zest at the end, you’ll add a layer of sweeter lemon flavor for a more complex final product.

What’s your favorite holiday meal? If your family celebrates the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which fish dish are you most excited for?

Perfect Shrimp Scampi Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb 31/40 count shrimp, peeled and deveined, tossed in 1/4 tsp salt (leave the tail on if you want, the shells do add more flavor to your sauce)

5 Tbs olive oil, divided

4 Tbs unsalted butter, divided into tablespoon portions for easy melting

2/3 cup dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc

5 cloves garlic, minced

juice from one half of large lemon

zest from one half of large lemon

2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped

1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional

salt to taste

Directions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium pan until shimmering.

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2. Add half of the shrimp and cook for about two minutes, tossing with a spatula. Remove them from the pan when they have just turned pink and are not cooked all the way through. This will help you avoid over-cooked, hard and chewy shrimp.

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3. Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in your pan and allow to heat until shimmering again. This will happen quickly.

4. Add the remaining shrimp and remove when just turning pink and barely cooked.

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5. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pan and heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant.

6. Add the white wine and simmer until it’s reduced by about half. This will take about 4-5 minutes depending on how wide your pan is.

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7. Add butter. Shake and stir vigorously to emulsify. You can add a little bit of water if your sauce breaks and stir it quickly to re-emulsify if needed.

8. Remove from heat to add the lemon juice. Stir in and return to heat.

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9. Stir shrimp and accumulated juices back into sauce along with parsley and lemon zest. Cook 1-2 minutes until shrimp are just cooked through and serve immediately.

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10. If serving with pasta, reserve some of the pasta water to toss with the shrimp and sauce when you combine them. This will help keep the pasta from sticking and the starch from water will help keep your sauce creamy without being too loose.

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Serving suggestions:

  • I like to serve shrimp scampi or pasta or wild rice, but it’s just as good over sauteed vegetables or as an appetizer with crusty bread for sopping up all of the delicious garlicky-lemony sauce.
  • Try subbing out the white wine for a sweeter liquor like vermouth or sherry.
  • Depending on your access to herbs, incorporating some fresh tarragon or oregano will liven up the herbal palate in this dish.
  • I have subbed out parsley for cilantro and lemon for lime for a Mexican-inspired scampi that was quite the hit at our dinner table.
  • Try serving this sauce over chicken, tilapia, or scallops. You can’t really go wrong with a lemon-butter sauce.
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Preservation Techniques: Pickling, Fermenting, Smoking, Sous Vide

Preserving your own foods allows you to pickle your favorite fruits and veggies with your own unique blend of seasonings, smoke your favorite meat to get that perfect woody flavor, or even ferment your favorite veggies to get some healthy probiotics into your diet. Have you ever thought about preserving your own fruits and veggies, eggs, or even meats but held back because you didn’t quite know how to do it? Wait no more! Read on to learn how to pickle, ferment, smoke, and sous vide some of your favorite foods.

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How to Make Creamy Ice Cream

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Photo via Flickr member purits

Is there any delight as singular as dreamy, creamy ice cream? Whether it’s served in a cone or a cup, ice cream is a treat that immediately evokes images of summer, but is delicious year round. And no matter what flavor is your favorite, there’s one thing most people will agree on: the creamier, the better.

What makes “creamy” ice cream?

So what’s the secret to the “creamy” factor in ice cream? First and foremost, fat–but there’s more to the story than that. Here’s an explanation of the different factors that affect the “creaminess” of ice cream.

Ingredients

Dairy

A key factor in ice cream’s creaminess is the dairy: cream, but often milk or half and half are included as well. The fat content is a contributor to the texture of your ice cream: the higher, the creamier your end result. The range of milk fat used in ice cream can actually have a pretty dramatic range, from 10 percent to 16 percent or so. Many premium ice creams will hover around 15 percent.

Eggs

While not present in every ice cream recipe, egg yolks appear often in ice cream, and add increased creaminess. How do they do it? Not only do they add more fat to the mix, but they are a natural emulsifier, which means that they can bind fat and water together to form a creamy union.

Preparation methods

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Photo via CakeSpy

Incorporating air

Believe it or not, a lot of what gives a creamy texture to ice cream is…well, air. Teeny tiny air bubbles, and lots of them, actually make the ice cream far smoother once it hits your mouth. Think: soft serve ice cream. An ice cream company will have a large, industrial machine which can incorporate significant amounts of air in a fairly short time, which is how they will often get a smooth, even texture in their ice cream.

Churning and chilling

One of the major impediments to creaminess is the formation of ice crystals in your ice cream. Sure, a few ice crystals at the top of an old carton is common, but if the ice cream has ice crystals throughout, it’s just distracting. Churning is necessary to discourage the formation of ice crystals. Constant churning and chilling will make the water in ice cream form teeny tiny ice crystals rather than more substantial ones. The movement of the crystals helps them from attaching and becoming larger.

Dairy alternatives

The fact that ice cream’s creaminess relies not only on ingredients, but on method, opens the door to creating creamy “ice cream” with even non-dairy alternatives. Some common ones include coconut, soy, and rice. Typically, while the recipes will not include dairy, they will follow the same general process of making ice cream, including churning and freezing to prevent ice crystals from forming. In my opinion, coconut in particular works well for non-dairy ice cream because its fat content gives it an extra-creamy texture. However, the one drawback about coconut ice cream is that even if it’s flavored, it retains a strong coconut flavor. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your thoughts about coconut. More mild flavors like soy ice cream or “rice” cream can be flavored in a greater variety of ways.

Fruit can be used to make “ice cream” as well. Bananas in particular yield an amazingly creamy, rich-tasting and naturally sweet result when frozen and then blended until a completely smooth, pureed state is reached.

Making creamy ice cream at home

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Photo via CakeSpy

Tools: Do you need an ice cream maker?

Short answer? No, you do not need an ice cream maker to make ice cream. But to make really creamy ice cream, your results will be far more reliable and it will require far less work if you do have an ice cream maker.

An ice cream maker is an appliance which can help you make small batches of ice cream (or gelato) at home. There are a few different types of machines, from fancy self-cooling electric machines to electric machines with a detachable freezer bowl, to manual hand-crank machines. Machines will have different individual instructions, but typically you will pour your ingredients into the machine’s chamber, and basically, it will worry about the churning and cooling for you.

In spite of the ease which an ice cream maker brings to the process, they can take up a lot of space and can be quite expensive, with fancier models running over $200.

My suggestion is that you try out making ice cream without a machine at first, so that you can get a feel for the method and for how to compose flavors. While it’s not difficult to do, it does require some vigilance: if you don’t mix vigorously or regularly enough, your ice cream may form crystals and have a slightly grainy texture.

If you realize that ice cream making is a passion, you can pick up a machine to take your interest to the next level.

Ice cream without an ice cream machine

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place the first five ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to discourage scorching.

Continue to cook until the temperature has reached 160 degrees F. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and transfer to an ice bath.

While the cream mixture chills, place a stainless steel bowl (fairly shallow) or baking pan in the freezer to chill.

Note: If you had an ice cream maker, you’d put the mixture in now and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Once the mixture has cooled, gently pour it into the cold pan. Take care that no drops of water from the bottom of the pan get in the mixture.

Place the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan. Chances are, it has begun to “set” along the sides a little bit. Use a spatula to loosen the edges, and a whisk to break up the partially set ice cream. Stir for about a minute, as vigorously as possible without making the mixture fly. You don’t have to worry about over-stirring.

Return the mixture to the freezer. Repeat the removing and stirring procedure every 20 minutes for 6 cycles. The mixture will be slightly thicker every time. If at any point it is too thick, place the mixture in the refrigerator to soften slightly before stirring.

If you’d like to stir in any flavorings, add them in on the last stirring cycle. Return to the freezer to completely chill and set. Be sure to cover it or transfer to a container for storing in the freezer.

Examples of some delicious ice cream variations

Now that you know how to make ice cream, here are some inspiring ideas for mix-ins and flavors to try.

Bubblegum ice cream

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Photo via CakeSpy

Bubblegum ice cream is a childhood classic and easy to make: just stir in candy coated bubblegum.

Carrot cake ice cream

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Photo via Flickr member joyosity

Why not stir in some carrot cake mixings to create a one of a kind gourmet treat? This version features rum-soaked raisins and candied carrots, and is bound to make for a memorable ice cream experience.

Pumpkin ice cream

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Photo via CakeSpy

Most popular in the fall, this treat is delicious all year long: stir in pumpkin, a bit of sugar, and some pumpkin pie spice and you’ve got a creamy treat with earthy undertones.

Corn ice cream

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Photo via CakeSpy

Sweet corn puree can add an intriguing flavor to your ice cream; perfect for hot summer days.

Raspberry ice cream

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Photo via Flickr member ralphandjenny

Raspberries not only contribute a lovely color to your ice cream, but it makes for extra fancy ice cream sandwiches.

Have you ever made ice cream?

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How to Make the Perfect Prime Rib

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Photo via Flickr member thedelicious

While growing up, there were some families in my community who would regularly kick back on Sundays with a late afternoon meal of luxuriant prime rib, an impressive cut of beef roasted in its own juices for an unctuous flavor. My family was not one of them: we just ate a regular, comparatively boring dinner to cap out the week. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t blame my parents for denying me this pleasure. I grew up all right. But in my adult life, the ability to mark special occasions with prime rib is something that I value: it tastes like nostalgia, and I can almost taste the memory of family and friend-filled meals past and future.

What is prime rib?

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Photo via Flickr member crazyoctopus

What exactly is prime rib? Is it a cut, or a preparation?

What we call “prime rib” refers foremost to the preparation of a beef rib primal cut. There are nine “primal cuts” of beef–these are the primary cuts of meat separated from the carcass during the butchering–like the primary colors, these are the cuts from which a whole spectrum of beef cuts and dishes will begin.

The term “prime rib” seems to denote premium quality, but the name doesn’t necessarily refer to the quality of the cut. The USDA requires a cut to be officially graded “prime” before being so labeled, so you’ll often see it called other things at the supermarket, such as “bone-In Rib roast” or just “rib roast”, though once cooked, most will refer to the dish as “prime rib”.

While a classic prime rib is most often roasted “standing”, with the rib bones keeping the meat upright so it does not make contact with the pan, it can still be made without the bones and is often referred to by the same name. Technically the boneless version is a rib-eye roast, but anecdotally, I feel that more people tend to still call it prime rib.

Beautiful examples of prime rib

Prime rib has a reputation as a Sunday supper or Christmas dinner, but it’s not limited to just holidays and special occasions. This substantial cut of beef can be prepared and eaten in a variety of delicious ways. Here are some inspiring examples of ways to enjoy prime rib:

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Photo via Flickr member thedelicious

Celebrity chef Thomas Keller advocates a fascinating and highly delicious method of making prime rib…using a blowtorch. Sound dangerous? Perhaps. But you will be rewarded with a juicy cut of meat with a perfectly charred exterior.

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Photo via Flickr member edsel

Smoking prime rib is a long process, but it will result in a rich, unctuous flavor. Serve it with some vegetables on the side, and boom, you’ve got yourself a satisfying meal.

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Photo via Flickr member arndog

Got leftovers? Here are four small words that might just change your world for the better: Prime rib fried rice.

Getting started with prime rib

If you’re just getting started, prime rib can seem intimidating. Let’s break it down into manageable portions.

Buying prime rib

When you go to the supermarket, you might not see “prime rib”. It may be labeled “standing rib roast”, “bone-in rib roast”, or just “rib roast”. Whether at the market or going to a butcher, if you ask about prime rib, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Which ribs to go for

The whole beef cut for making prime rib consists of ribs 6 through 12, but you won’t always buy the entire unit unless you’re feeding a crowd. Some butchers will suggest that you go for the “first cut” or “loin end”, where the ribs are smaller and there’s more meat as opposed to bone.

Fat

Some rib roasts are sold with a thick cap of fat on top of the meat; some are trimmed. If you want to remove or cut down on the fat, your butcher should be able to do this for you with ease. Leaving a little bit of fat on the meat can help with the flavor, but too much fat can make it hard to cut.

Bones

Bones add flavor, but they can make the meat very difficult to cut. You can ask the butcher to remove the top end of the bones, but to tie them back on the roast, so that they can be present during the cooking but easily removed for easy cutting once roasted.

Safety note

If in the supermarket, always check the date on the meat. If it looks dried or brown at all, choose another. It should look red and juicy.

Ingredients and tools

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Photo via flickr member thedelicious

I suggest you keep it simple to start. The key tools you’ll need to make prime rib are as follows:

  • A roasting pan with high walls so that you can easily reach in for juice to baste the roast while you cook, without liquid sloshing over the side.
  • A meat thermometer, preferably instant-read, so you can determine doneness.
  • A carving knife, for serving.

As for ingredients, you can make it as complex or as easy as you like. I personally prefer keeping it simple, perhaps adding some spices on top of the roast but mainly just letting the meat do its thing.

Prepping the meat

Let’s talk about prepping the meat for cooking.

Temperature

Bring the roast to room temperature before cooking. If you’ve had it in the refrigerator, let it sit at room temperature for 2-4 hours to come to room temperature (longer for larger roasts). By doing this, you’ll ensure that your roast will cook evenly. If it is still cold in the center, it will take longer to bring to a safe temperature for consumption, and the exterior may overcook.

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Photo via Flickr member dottorpeni

What about dry aged meat?

Dry aging will impart a fantastic flavor and texture on your rib roast. By aging it in this way, it allows the enzymes to break down some of the protein in your meat.

Unless you’re experienced with dry aging at home, it might not be the best method for making your first prime rib; I’d suggest mastering the cooking and then upgrading to dry aged meat. Dry aging at home takes time and purchasing dry aged meat can be expensive.

To salt or not?

Some people like to salt their meat before cooking. I generally am one of them, but not in the case of prime rib–it just dries it out too much. I suggest salting the meat after cooking rather than before, to taste. Herbs and spices are fine on top of the roast, though.

Making prime rib

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Photo via flickr member jseita

Ingredients:

Prime Rib Roast, at room temperature

2 tablespoons butter or lard, room temperature

Herbs or spices, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Wash and completely pat dry the rib roast with paper towels. Smear the exposed cut ends with butter or lard.
  3. If desired, you can add herbs to the top of the roast. I find that salt results in dryness, so I suggest salting the meat after cooking rather than before.
  4. Place the roast with the ribs aligned downward in a deep metal roasting pan. If you have had the bones removed, you can use a metal rack; otherwise, the ribs act as a rack.
  5. Sear the roast for 15 minutes in the hot oven, and then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F for the remainder of the baking time, which may be close to 3 hours total. Every half hour or so, baste the exposed ends (the ones you buttered) with the fat from the roasting pan. This is easier with a bone-in roast.
  6. After the bake time has totaled about 2 hours (including the searing time), check the internal temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer.
  7. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the cut, not on fat or bone. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 130-135 F for medium rare. My advice is that you take the roast out of the oven at 125 degrees or so, because the temperature will elevate about 5 degrees after being removed from the oven.
  8. Let the roast rest, covered with foil, for 15 to 20 minutes before serving to let the temperature even out and the retain moisture.

Have you ever made prime rib before?

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Getting Started With Dutch Oven Cooking

What kind of pot can be used indoors and out, for baking and frying, and braising and roasting? The Dutch oven.

Dutch oven cooking is, in my opinion, not given the attention it deserves. It’s one of the oldest, tested-and-true cooking methods in the United States, and yet in the general population, few people even know what it entails.

Curious to learn more about the art of the Dutch oven? This post is dedicated to Dutch oven cooking, including what it is, how to choose the right Dutch oven for you, and a discussion of all of the delicious things you can create with this unique vessel.

What is Dutch oven cooking?

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Photo via Flickr member naotakem

Dutch oven cooking refers to any number of recipes which are characterized by a unique vessel: a thick-walled cooking pot with a snug-fitting lid.

The style is referred to as “Dutch” because in the late 17th century, the production of these vessels was perfected in the Netherlands, where artisans used dry sand to create molds which yielded a smoother surface. Their work was imported to Britain, and from Britain it traveled to the original American colonies.

Over time, the Dutch oven enjoyed some technologic advancement, though the name stuck. The pot itself became shallower and legs were added to suspend the oven above coals (and also helped lend it a new nickname, “spider”). The lid was reformulated so that coals could rest on top, too, while heating from above and below, yet not in the food.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of Dutch oven cooking in the early days of the United states. A Dutch oven was among the gear packed by famous explorers Lewis and Clark; many westward travelers in horse drawn carriages brought their Dutch oven as a vital item. Perhaps its role in feeding travelers plays into the fact that the Dutch oven is the official cooking pot of Texas, Utah, and Arkansas.

Why Dutch oven cooking?

Dutch oven cooking has persisted for a reason. The Dutch oven is a versatile vessel which can be used for boiling, baking, braising, frying, roasting, and more. It could be used to make dinner, bread, dessert, and more. Its durability made it an enduring and worthwhile investment: in fact, during the 18th and 19th centuries, Dutch oven collections were frequently given their own listing in final will and testaments.

As you’ll see in this post, Dutch oven cooking remains just as versatile today.

Supplies: Choosing a Dutch oven

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Photo via Flickr member saaby

The most important supply for Dutch oven cooking is, of course, the pot itself. If you start to browse online or in stores, you’ll find a huge variety of materials, sizes, and prices. Which one is right for you?

Material

Dutch ovens can be made out of materials as varied as ceramic, clay, aluminum, or cast iron. Hands down, cast iron is the most durable sort, suited to the most purposes, and you’ll find it’s the most commonly and readily available in stores. So for this post, we’re going to primarily discuss this type.

Money matters

Unfortunately, Dutch ovens are not cheap. Starting around $50 on the low end and ascending to $300 and above, they are a significant investment. However, you get what you pay for, because this versatile cooking vessel will quickly become part of your regular cooking repertoire, and a well-made one might even outlive you.

What to look for

Choose a well-made, heavy Dutch oven with thick walls and a thick bottom and a snug fitting lid. Make sure the handles and knob on top feel comfortable to you; test holding it with oven mitts if possible. Ask store employees for suggestions; ask your friends if they have a suggested brand of Dutch oven.

How big should it be?

To start, choose a Dutch oven which has at least a 6-quart capacity. This will be large enough to braise a significant piece of meat such as a chicken, or make enough soup to serve and store leftovers. If you get a Dutch oven that is too small, you’ll find that you don’t use it as much.

Characteristics of Dutch ovens

There are many subtle differences between Dutch ovens. By learning the function of some of the different designs, you can choose the oven best suited to your cooking style.

With an indented lip on top

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Photo via Flickr member wfryer

A Dutch oven with a lip on top is designed to hold charcoal on top, so that if you’re cooking over a fire outdoors, you can apply heat both above and below what’s cooking. If you intend on using your Dutch oven outdoors, this is a good thing; if you’re mostly going to use it indoors, this might not be of high importance.

Without a lip on top

A Dutch oven without a lip on the top, or with a tiny lip but a rounded shape, such as the one pictured at the top of the post, is better suited to indoor cooking. While you can stack charcoal on top, it’s not as easy to balance.

Spikes in the lid

You might see that some Dutch ovens have little spikes in the lid. No, these are not torture devices for your food. They help the condensation easily drip back down as you cook, so that the moisture won’t degrade the cast iron.

Long handle

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Photo via Flickr member dvortygirl

In addition to a knob/small handle on top, many Dutch ovens will come with long handle along the circumference of the top of the pot. This makes for easier handling outdoors, although a Dutch oven with a handle can be used indoors, too.

Necessary accessory: lid lifter

If you intend on cooking outdoors with your Dutch oven, a lid lifter is a vital accessory. It helps you lift the lid without venturing into the dangerous fire zone.

With feet or without?

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Photo via Flickr member little_kingfisher

Some Dutch ovens have feet: these are designed to help the vessel stay upright and raised slightly above coals. If you’re using your Dutch oven for outdoor cooking, the feet can be helpful. They also make it possible to stack Dutch ovens, to cook multiple dishes at once. However, these feet make it difficult to use your Dutch oven on the stovetop or in the oven.

Personally, I suggest starting with a Dutch oven sans feet, because this will allow you the freedom to easily cook indoors and can still be used outdoors.

Caring for your Dutch oven

Like any piece of cast iron cooking tool, a Dutch oven requires care to stay in top working order. You can find a helpful article on seasoning and caring for cast iron pieces here.

Indoor versus outdoor Dutch oven cooking

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Photo via Flickr member chippenziedeutsch

Should you cook indoors or outdoors with your Dutch oven? Mostly, it’s up to you. Here is a basic rundown of a few ways a Dutch oven can be used both indoors and out.

Indoors

Indoors, a Dutch oven can be put on the stovetop or in the oven, or sometimes will start on the stovetop and be transferred to the oven to finish cooking or to keep the dish warm.

Outdoors

Outdoors, you can light a fire with charcoal in a grill or with charcoal or wood on a campfire site or grilling pit. An advantage of charcoal is that it can be placed on top of the Dutch oven, too, ensuring even cooking. You can even stack Dutch ovens to cook multiple courses at once!

Dutch oven inspiration

Ready to try your hand at Dutch oven cooking? Here are some inspiring examples of Dutch oven cookery.

Cinnamon rolls

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Photo via Flickr member little_kingfisher

Cinnamon rolls cooked outdoors? Believe it: you can line a greased Dutch oven with store-bought cinnamon rolls and cook them to toasty perfection.

Dinner and a side at once

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Photo via Flickr member busbeytheelder

See how the salmon and asparagus are being loaded into a Dutch oven at the same time, with a parchment paper divider? This will allow both of the items to cook at the same time and absorb the flavors of the supporting cast of ingredients for a memorable dinner.

Crisps and cobblers

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Photo via Flickr member dangregson

Baking with a Dutch oven is a snap both indoors and out. This Dutch oven is loaded with the makings of a cherry crisp, and the thick bottom of the pot ensures that the bottom of the dessert won’t scorch.

Chicken Cacciatore

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Photo via Flickr member ionntag

The Dutch oven is ideal for a slow cooked one-pot dinner such as this Chicken Cacciatore. Not limited to meat, you can also create soups, stews, and vegetables in a Dutch oven.

Have you ever tried cooking with a Dutch oven?

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How to be Exceptional in The World of Fine Dining

Like many words in the English language, the word “fine” can have many different meanings. When someone asks how you are doing and you answer “fine” they may imagine that it is code for “not very well at all.” Yet when we bring the word “fine” before the word “dining”, the tables turn. We expect a little somethin’ somethin’. We want to be impressed. If you can’t roll out the red carpet, then a white linen tablecloth will do.

Fine dining is often synonymous with super expensive. As such, everything has to be “just so.” And by so, we mean perfect. We will review three categories: menu, service and atmosphere to pinpoint a dining experience so fine, it will need another word to drive the point home. Let’s go with “exceptional.”

Menu

We shall begin with the exceedingly important point of satisfying hunger. Give your menu the utmost attention. Shall we get on with it? (We imagine speaking that in a snooty accent, but do as you will):

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High quality food - If people are putting down more than they pay for their weekly groceries on a single meal, they not only want the taste of the food to be sublime, but also the texture and appearance. Every point of the dish should be more than one step above what the home cook can accomplish. This begins with the food itself.

Be unique

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Fine dining doesn’t have to follow a mold. You can offer what your competition refuses to. Fine dining restaurant expenditures plummeted during the recession, but the good news is, 2014 had much stronger sales. Be different, whether you experiment with colors or stay away from finicky food trends. Rework your uniqueness year by year, following the Steve Jobs mantra: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

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Creative dishes, unlimited potential - Living your life in a creative way opens the door for even more creativity. As you design your menu, think about the flourishes and flair that make every dish feel like a celebration. Break out of every box and let your menu be a piece of art in itself. Consider Head chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, who works in Spain at the hit restaurant Mugaritz. The restaurant was ranked in the top 15 in The Elite Traveler & Laurent-Perrier Top 100 Restaurants in the World list. Here is one of his inventive dishes ‘la yema helada y las flores blancas.’ This is translated as ‘the broken egg, the frozen yolk and the white flowers.’ You may have to pick up the fine diners’ jaws off the floor.

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Exceptional liquor - Fine food deserves fine liquor. Otherwise, what is the point? Have a variety of price points, of course, but there will be people willing to splash out. It changes yearly, but in 2014, the wine Henri Javer Richebourg Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France went for $15,887 on average. Kind of makes $100 a bottle look like chump change.

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Season and whim - When you are cooking the best food in a creative way, chances are that you are following the seasons closely. For some time, cooking seasonally has been a big restaurant trend. It will likely be one of the elements that brings your patrons in the door.

Service

A beautiful menu is nothing if you have waiters with stained aprons and clumsy waitresses spilling water on the table. Service is an important step on the road to culinary perfection (which of course, you are always striving towards). Here are some things to keep in mind:

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Be (extra) attentive - Although there may have been a period of time when snobbery was the norm, a fine dining experience has a built in expectation. There should be personal and attentive treatment of each customer, with a leisurely pace. It is more than a meal: it is an experience.

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Be mindful (make you exceptional) – The adage “Be mindful – even when your mind is full” is important for every server. They may have a lot of requests to balance, but they have to stay on task. They have to look calm and collected. Fine diners have a rare uninterrupted moment (as most fancy restaurants are not particularly welcoming to kids). Join the patrons in the present.

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Rigorous training - It is certainly not enough to bring the food and keep the water glasses filled. Serving patrons in a fine dining establishment is an art. How the patrons are greeted is exceedingly important, as is how they are seated, and how the food is served to them. This requires practice (as does any skill).

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No task too small - When people shell out the big bucks, they may start getting more demanding than they would in most circles. Let their demands be heard. Let it seem like it is your whole restaurant’s pleasure to help them. That touch is what keeps people coming back.

Atmosphere

You have set the stage. You have the best staff. You have an impressive menu. Now, let’s set the stage. Imagine Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast singing along with you: “Be. Our. Guest.”

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Mismatched plates may have a retro chic vibe that is making the restaurant circuit, but fine dining should have a level of organization and cleanliness that is rare in the “real world.” Have cutlery for everything, from a butter knife to a soup spoon and make sure everything is in its appropriate place. There is something oddly soothing about this dining order that will encourage everyone to slow down as soon as they enter.

Linens

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China and silverware - White linen napery has the feel that the fine dining clientele expect. It will absorb every splatter and crumb, but it may be worth it, as it seems to highlight a heavenly experience. The white linen tablecloth goes back to biblical times. You might as well stick with it.

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Theme - There aren’t hard or fast rules over which colors you should use or how it should look. You restaurant should look clean and orderly, sure, but it should also look like the people who own it. If you don’t love it, who will?

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Subtle music – It is like clothing: you don’t want the outfit to wear you. You want to be the wearer. You also don’t want the restaurant’s many high points to be overshadowed by loud music. Whether it is classical or acoustic, choose something soft and soothing and be diligent about the volume. People want to be able to hear themselves say “yum.”

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The importance of lighting - The first great thing about low lighting is that it makes everything look better, from your date to the food. The second great thing about low lighting is that it discourages food bloggers. We can all do with a little less Instagram foodie pictures. Don’t make it too low, however, as low lighting and soft music help us eat less. This may not be the desired effect.

Working on the details of fine dining means that more seats may be filled with wine sniffing, decadently dressed customers. More importantly, it will ensure that every person leaves your restaurant satisfied and smiling. At any price point, isn’t that we are all looking for from our dining experiences?

But of course.

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Talking Turkey: The Truth About Brining Turkey

Photo via Flickr member Quintanamedia

To many, perfectly cooking a whole turkey remains a fairy-tale dream. In real life, the results are often less perfect, with the turkey cooked so long that it becomes dry and unpalatable. Or on the flip side, perhaps the turkey looks perfectly cooked from the outside, but once cut into, a raw, pink interior is revealed.

But how do you avoid these pitfalls and get it just right? For some, brining is a gateway step into cooking the perfect turkey.

What does it mean to brine a turkey?

Brining turkey is a process of adding moisture and flavor to the meat by submerging it in a saltwater mixture. The mixture imparts moisture, which can give you a little more wiggle room and protection from over-cooking.

Why does brining always come up around Thanksgiving?

Brining often comes up around Thanksgiving. Not only is it the biggest turkey-eating holiday of the year, but it’s an occasion on which people frequently cook an entire large turkey, versus smaller portions of the bird. Cooking an entire turkey is an art: it’s tough to cook it through without drying out the turkey. Adding extra moisture via a brine can help even out the cooking process, keeping the exterior portions of the bird moist while allowing the inside to cook completely. You can brine a turkey before just about any cooking method, from roasting to frying to grilling, so it’s versatile.

Is brining right for you? 

Brining isn’t something you do idly; it requires significant time and space. Before you decide to brine, there are some things you will need to strongly consider.

Space

Photo via Flickr member termie

You’ll need a rather large vessel in which you can completely submerge the turkey in liquid.

You’ll also need to make plenty of space in your refrigerator. The brining liquid does not preserve the meat, so you’ll need to keep it cool: below 40 degrees F at all times. Do check that your container will fit in the refrigerator before putting your bird in a brining solution.

If you don’t have enough space in your refrigerator, it doesn’t mean that brining is out of the question. You can place the meat and brine in a cooler and place ice, freezer bags full of ice, or reusable ice packs in the solution. Keep an eye on the temperature to ensure it remains under 40 degrees F.

Photo via Flickr member andrewmalone

Time

Brining also requires a significant time investment. Brining can take up to 24 hours, so it’s not something you can really decide to do on the fly.

Flavor

Here’s a biggie: brining doesn’t necessarily impart a whole lot of flavor. The brine may keep your turkey from over-drying, but that added juiciness doesn’t necessarily equate to more flavor on the interior of the bird. Still, a slightly diluted flavor for an ideal texture can be an empowering way to begin to master cooking a turkey.

A brining alternative

If brining seems like a huge hassle, you could take another tactic of adding moisture without brining by salting the meat. You do this by literally covering it with salt, and covering it in the fridge overnight or for several hours. Rinse, pat dry, and roast. It won’t do the same as brining, but it will give you a little added moisture which can help keep your turkey from drying out.

Basics: Before you brine

Photo via Flickr member pheezy

Make sure it’s not pre-brined

Before brining your turkey, check to make sure that it hasn’t already been brined. It’s not unheard-of for store bought turkeys to be injected with brine to impart moisture. If you see a label that has ingredients other than turkey, your bird may be pre-brined. If you brine a pre-brined turkey, you will end up with a very salty Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Timing is everything

Be sure to give yourself ample time to brine and cook the turkey before it’s time to eat. Reverse the clock starting at the time you’d like to serve dinner. Subtract the cooking time, 20 minutes for the turkey to sit before carving, and between 6 and 24 hours to brine (this time is up to you). This means if Thanksgiving is on Thursday, you’re going to have to start working on the turkey on Wednesday.

Ingredients: Flavoring brine

In its most basic form, brine will include salt and water. From there, you can make it more complex, adding brown sugar, spices, herbs, or flavorings of your choice. Don’t use a mixture that is too highly acidic, though: acidic ingredients can actually prematurely start the cooking process by denaturing the meat (basically, this means that the acids break down the proteins) and ultimately dry out the meat rather than add moisture.

Size and type of turkey

Brining can be done for any size and type of turkey; once again, though, you’ll have to consider the vessel. Can you fit a container that big in your fridge, or do you have a cooler big enough for your bird?

Examples of brining success

These are some stunning examples of turkeys which have been brined before cooking.

Apple brined smoked turkey

Photo via Flickr member austinmatherne

After brining in an apple mixture, this turkey was smoked, yielding a crispy and colorful exterior.

Pecan wood smoked brined turkey


Photo via Flickr member eekim

Sugar in the brine is what gives this turkey its deep nut-brown hue. Slow cooked in a pecan wood grill, this turkey looks delicious.

Photo via Flickr member dongkwan

12 hours of brining helped keep this turkey, which was roasted for 2 ½ hours, nice and moist.

How to brine (a simple recipe)

  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 gallons water
  • Optional: 1 cup brown sugar, spices, aromatics, or fruits and vegetables of your choosing

Note: if this amount of liquid is not sufficient for your turkey, you can add more using this ratio: ½ cup salt per gallon of water.

To make the brining solution, dissolve the salt in 2 gallons of cold water in a container large enough to hold the turkey and liquid. A large bucket, stockpot, or even a heavy duty plastic bag can work (such as a clean bucket or large stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, plastic garbage bag). Add in any flavorings you’d like.

Let the turkey sit completely submerged in the mixture for 6 to 24 hours. Monitor the temperature every so often to make sure it remains under 40 degrees F.

You can rinse the turkey after the brining, or not. It’s suggested for brining solutions containing sugar, as the sugar can caramelize and brown prematurely on the turkey.

Pat the turkey dry, and cook however you’d like.

Storing brined turkey

Once the turkey has brined, it should be washed and roasted or cooked right away.

Leftover turkey should be carved from the bone, separated from any stuffing, and stored in a container in the refrigerator for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Don’t throw away the bones! Save the carcass, as you can make an amazing turkey soup flavored with these leftover bits.

Which do you prefer: dark or white meat?

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Cheesy Pepperoni Garlic Knots

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As a native New Yorker, I take pizza seriously.

About a year ago, I decided to take matters into my own hands and begin making my own pizza to bring a little New York City flavor to western Massachusetts.

It wasn’t long before other pizzeria treats were making their way into our kitchen.

It started with calzones, then shortly I was craving one of my favorite pizzeria snacks: garlic knots.

It’s a lot of fun to make your own pizza dough and it’s really easy. This recipe and this one are both tried and true favorites in my kitchen.

Remember! Pizza dough is a yeast bread. That means there will be proofing and rising time before you are able to cook with it.

You really can’t get home from work and whip up a batch of dough – you’ll need to make it either the morning of or the day before depending on your recipe.

I have had good luck freezing the dough after it’s been proofed. Sometimes I will make a double or a triple batch (I make each batch separately – the ratios don’t always work out quite the same way when you increase a baking recipe) and freeze portions of dough for later use.

All I have to do is move the dough to the fridge the morning before I am ready to use it and then let it sit on the counter for about one hour after I get home from work. Then I’m ready to whip up a fresh pizza or a delicious batch of pepperoni garlic knots!

All I have to do is move the dough to the fridge the morning before I am ready to use it and then let it sit on the counter for about one hour after I get home from work. Then I’m ready to whip up a fresh pizza or a delicious batch of pepperoni garlic knots!

When you’re truly in a pinch, don’t feel guilty about buying ready-made dough. Like I said, yeast doughs are a time-consuming process, so it’s great to be able to head to your grocery store or your local pizzeria to get prepared dough. It’s a huge time saver as well because making dough is the most time-consuming part of making fresh pizza or garlic knots. For this recipe, I picked up one serving of ready-made dough from the deli counter of my local supermarket. It worked perfectly and I didn’t have to wait for it to rise; I was able to jump right into my recipe.

These pepperoni garlic knots are awesome served next to a saucy pasta dish or a thick, hearty stew. I admit that I also like to eat them for breakfast (I just make sure I have some breath mints so my co-workers don’t hate me). I also like to eat them for lunch. They’re all around delicious and go well with any meal of the day.

They’re crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and every bite is filled with spicy pepperoni, zesty garlic, and cheesy goodness. I’ve used traditional Italian seasonings, but these knots are very versatile and you can use pretty much any flavor combination you can think of.

Don’t be afraid to try them with cinnamon and sugar. I once, briefly, worked in a pizzeria and we would shake up the raw knots in a big brown paper bag full of cinnamon and sugar before baking them. Delicious!

I baked my knots in a baking dish so they would expand and bake together, creating a pull-apart experience.

You can certainly bake them on a baking sheet with about two inches in between them to allow room for growth. Either way is fine – it’s really a personal preference.

Mind the baking time if you allow them more space as the heat will be circulating around each individual knot. I would take a peek at them about fifteen minutes into cooking time to make sure they’re not burning.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (or 1 serving) of ready to use pizza dough (either homemade or storebought) at room temperature cut in half
  • 3.5 oz pepperoni, cut into 1/4” cubes or dice it up if it’s pre-sliced
  • 4-5 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, finely grated, plus an additional 2-3 Tbs for sprinkling on top
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 Tbs olive oil, plus more for baking dish and for drizzling over the top
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional), substitute crushed red pepper flakes if you don’t have cayenne
  • pinch salt

Step #1: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Step #2: On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of your dough.

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Step #3: Cut into 1/2” strips. You should get between ten and twelve strips from each half of dough. Don’t get too hung up on how many you end up with, though.

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Step #4: Tie each strip into a knot. You can stretch them out a bit if they’re too short or double them up if they’re too long. The best part about this recipe is that you don’t have to be too fussy with it and pizza dough is pretty tough!

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Step #5: Place all of your other ingredients in a big, deep bowl.

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Step #6: Add the knots and toss by hand until they are well coated. You don’t have to make everything stick to the knots – whatever doesn’t stick can be sprinkled over the top of them before baking.

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Step #7: Brush your baking dish or baking sheet with about one tablespoon of olive oil. Pack your knots into the dish or spread them about two inches apart on your baking sheet.

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Step #8: Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes – until knots are golden brown.

Step #9: Sprinkle with some more pecorino, allow to cool slightly, and enjoy!

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Variations:

  • Swap out all ingredients for cinnamon, sugar, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter for a delicious dessert that’s perfect for holidays and potlucks.
  • Use parmesan instead of pecorino if you prefer a more mild cheese. Pecorino romano is much sharper than parmesan.
  • Try other cured meats instead of pepperoni. This recipe would be just as delicious with sopressata or salami or a combination of a few different kinds! You can even leave out the meat all together for a vegetarian version of the recipe.
  • If you’re making your own dough, and you’d like a whole wheat crust, sub out about 1/3 of the white flour for whole wheat flour. If you use too much whole wheat flour, your dough will end up really heavy and won’t rise properly.

Enjoy!

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