Archive for the 'Advice Column' Category

Ways to Use Asparagus

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

hey, corduroy–
Did you really say that you bought six pounds of asparagus? What on earth can you do with that much asparagus? Don’t you get sick of hollandaise sauce after a while?

Yes, I did buy 6 pound of spare grass, but I only kept 4 of them; I shared 2 with a friend. But, with the remaining 4 pounds, some of which still remains, I have not had hollandaise once. Here is a quick list off the top of my head of other ways to use this tasty spear:

Apple Salsa

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Hey Corduroy–

I really like fresh salsa but fresh tomatoes suck in winter.  Any suggestions for a wintertime fresh salsa?

You can make a salsa with all kinds of stuff (think mango/pineapple; black bean and corn, etc.), but this time of year, around here, apples are probably your best bet.

This apple salsa goes great on a cheddar quesadilla.  It might also be good with some bacon, grilled chicken, and/or black beans in a ‘dilla or a wrap if you wanted to make it more of a dinner instead of a lunch.  As presented, it’s about a 0.5 (or less) on a scale of 10 in terms of heat, which I think is about right: but if you wanted it spicer, it’s easy to add more jalapeno or use a different kind of chili pepper.

Apple Salsa

  • 1/2 red onion, cut to small dice
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut to small dice
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (meat of pepper only, no seeds or pith), minced
  • 2 apples cut to a small dice
  • juice of 1.5 limes (about 3 tablespoons
  • Salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice: to taste

Saute onions, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeno in a small amount of oil, with salt and spices.

When vegetables are soft and the onions have started to turn a bit brown at the edges, remove to a mixing bowl and combine with apples and lime juice.  Stir together to mix thouroughly.  Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Serve immediately or within about 3 days (kept refrigerated).

Turkey Question

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

I have a competition BBQ team and would like to come up with a really good smoked turkey recipe. I am going to brine my fresh natural turkey for about 12-16 hours with basic brine (no flavoring, just salt and sugar). I found your garlic hot sauce injection recipe which is similar to what I pull off with my Frank’s Hot Sauce Garlic Chicken.  Do you think if I use Frank’s for the sauce in your garlic injection recipe it will be good? 


I imagine Frank’s will do fine—I’ve used a variety of hot sauces for this recipe through the years, and I think Frank’s may have been in the rotation at some point in time.  my personal preference for hot sauces seems to be a cayenne pepper sauce, which, if I’m not mistaken, Frank’s is. 

Just be sure to strain the garlic out of the sauce after you’ve simmered its flavor into the Franks if you’ll be injecting it into the poultry—I remember one time when I was doing a fried turkey on-site for a private party and I’d forgotten to strain the sauce.  The garlic clogged the injection needle and nothing would go through.  I wasn’t in a  well-equipped kitchen, and I didn’t have my strainer with me.  I couldn’t even find any aluminum foil.  Eventually, I discovered an unopened jar of coffee that had a foil seal on it.  I poked holes in that foil and fitted it into a styrofoam cup that I tore the bottom out of, used that as a makeshift strainer, and got the garlic out of the garlic-flavored sauce. The fried turkey was saved and they lived happily ever after.

Best of luck with your competition, and please let me know how the smoked turkey turns out.

Proportions for Spice Mix

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

For the record–most people need amounts in order to duplicate a recipe. We tried this after watching you and messed up on proportions and it didn’t come out the same as when you did it. Please be a little more specific.


Thinking back about 14 years ago, I remember wanting to know how to make tuna salad. You gave me a list of ingredients, and I asked how much of each. “I don’t know,” you replied. “As much as you need.”  If those directions worked for tuna salad, why can’t they work for a spice mix, too?  You mix it up, taste it, evaluate the proportions, and correct it as need be.

Oh well, I’m not going to argue with you.  Instead, I went down into the kitchen and made a batch of the spice mix and measured how much of everything went into it.  I hope you enjoy the spice mix as presented here, but feel free to taste and adjust according to your own palate: too bitter?  Add a bit of sugar.  Too spicy?  Add a bit of everything but the pepper.  You get the idea.

Spicy-Sweet Spice Mix (great as a seasoning for grilled pineapple!)

  • Cinnamon: .3 oz by weight (approx 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons)
  • Salt: .2 oz by weight (approx. 1 teaspoon)
  • Crushed red pepper: .2 oz by weight (approx. 1 tablespoon)
  • Sugar [optional---not necessary for pineapple but useful when the spice mix is being used on something less naturally sweet]: .2 oz by weight (approx. 1 teaspoon)
  • Allspice: .1 oz by weight (approx. 1 teaspoon)

Yield: 1 ounce by weight (3 tablespoons by volume)

Hope this helps!

Revised Garlic Peeling Instructions

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

In text and video, I have recommended peeling garlic by first crushing it with the flat side of your chef’s knife.  I wish to revise my suggestion to indicate that crushing it with your bench scraper is a safer way to handle things.

Over the weekend, distracted by several things going on at once, using a wet knife, and exhibiting an overall carelessness and complacency while wielding a sharp knife, my hand slipped as I pressed down on a garlic clove and my wrist met the blade of my knife.  It sounds worse than it was: it was a very shallow cut and I was never in any sort of danger, but the placement of the wound was disconcerting in that had it been worse and had it been deep, I would have been in rough shape.

So, please, be safe.  Use your bench scraper to crush your garlic.

Improving Cutting Skills

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Dear Sir:
  I am a beginner cook. When I go for a job, they want me to have good knife skills. On a recent interview where I showed my doing julienne, my julienne of ginger was poor. It was slightly larger than fine julienne because I cut a slightly larger section of the small piece of ginger. Even though I thought the interviewer was jerking me off by giving me such a small piece of ginger, I would like to know how I can improve my knife skills to a level of professionalism that won’t impede me from being hired. I bought 1 book by Norman Weinstein. I will try practicing some cuts he does in book. Is there anything else I can do?



I wasn’t there, so i can’t comment on the size of the sous chef’s ginger—though once you’re comfortable with a knife, you ought to be able to cut things of any size into smaller, regularly sized pieces. 

If your knife isn’t extremely sharp, get it sharpened.  From there, practice is the most important thing.   I have found that seeing the knife in motion can be very instructional, so here are a couple of video posts to get you started: how to hold the knife properly and how to dice (potatoes)

I’ll have more videos up within the next several days.  In the meantime, check out some of my text-and-picture instructions, and see if they might be helpful for you as well.

‘Vegetable’ Oil

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

hey - I picked up a free bag of chips on my way through the Pitt move-in madness.  I was bored while I ate them, so was reading the back of the package.  The 2nd ingredient was vegetable oil (after potatoes, which was nice), and then in parentheses, it said “(contains one or more of the following: corn, peanut, cottonseed, soybean, and/or sunflower oil)”.  None of those struck me as a vegetable.  I count a grain, 2 legumes, a fiber and, what - a flower?  Does the “vegetable” in “vegetable oil” have anything to do with the source of the oil, or is it taking advantage of the perception that corn is a vegetable?



All toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads. I count a grain, 2 legumes, a fiber, a flower—and 5 vegetables.

Whereas some botanical categories are neatly defined (fruit, legume, conifer, etc.), vegetable is a looser term meaning edible vegetation; and, as such, there are many different botanical classifications that all figure into the vegetable category.

Take broccoli, for instance: a vegetable, but also a brassica–along with turnips, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and more.  Or tomatoes: a vegetable, but also a fruit.  Or corn: a grain but also a vegetable.

Hope this helps!

Farmers’ Market Resource Guides

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Do you know where I can find a COMPLETE list of local farmers’ markets? Citiparks only has the citiparks markets. . . For example, I know there’s one in Oakland on Fridays and one at Phipps on Wednesdays that aren’t listed. I’m wondering if there’s another one today (besides South Side).


A couple of options that might help you:

PASA’s Buy Fresh/ Buy Local program publishes a comprehensive bookmark that they distribute at Phipps on Wednesdays, Market Square on Thursdays, and elsewhere/when that lists the markets alphabetically.  Glancing at it now, I can tell you that on Tuesdays, one can find farmers’ markets in: Bethel Park, Blairsville, Canonsburg, Farrell, Greensburg, Indiana, Latrobe, Meadville, Moon Park, Mt. Washington, Natrona Heights, the South Side, and White Oak.

A guide on the Buy Fresh / Buy Local website will narrow down options by radius for you, but would then require you to click on each option to get its days and times.  This interactive map on the Post-Gazette website will be of more use to someone looking for a market on a specific day.  Each market is flagged with a different color “pin” to indicate which day of the week it operates on.

I hope this helps!  Now, go out and support your local farmers and enjoy the tastiest and freshest meats, eggs, and produce available.  If you need any ideas on how to prepare something, just let me know!

Mongoose Meat?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I’m looking for mongoose cooking recipies, & cooking history, please let me know if you can find anything.

—Cobra’s Revenge

Dear Cobra Commander:

After a brief bit of research, I can understand why you’d want revenge on a mongoose.  Most of the references I’ve been able to find to the species is in terms of their skill at fighting cobras (e.g. Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi).

In terms of eating Mongeese, though, it was tough to find reliable sources.  As Mongeese live throughout Africa and Asia, I checked all cookbooks I could find that describe cuisine from those continents, and found zero reference to Mongoosophagy. The internets provided little additional information.  The first reference I came across to butchering/ eating mongoose was guidelines for some sort of a role-playing game; hence, I’m hesitant to describe it as a credible resource.

After a bit more digging, though, I came across a reference from the scholarly journal Mammalia.  In #73, published March 2009, there is an article titled “Mongoose species in southern Benin: Preliminary ecological survey and local community perceptions.” Among the more interesting purposes the article describes mongooses being used for is “the marsh mongoose… whose head [8% of interviewees recognized as being] used to consult the oracle.”

As far as food purposes go, 60% of interviewees recognized the mongoose as being edible, with some species “considered food delicacies because of their rarity,” though it is worth noting that “11% of interviewees did not appreciate the mongoose meat because of its unpleasant musky odor coming from their scent glands.”

Therefore, should you trap a mongoose and butcher it for meat purposes, I would recommend that you identify and remove said scent glands as quickly as possible upon dispensing with the animal so as to reduce their influence on the character of the meat.  From there, unfortunately, you are on your own as the article provided no culinary guidance in terms of whether the Beninese tend to roast or stew their mongoose.

I figure the safest bet would be to stew all but the tenderloins: it is safe to assume that the tenderloins will respond well to roasting as they are little-used muscles.  Otherwise, though, a meat that can be roasted will come out fine when braised, but a meat that should only be braised would be destroyed by the roasting process.

Hope this helps.  if you actually eat a mongoose, please write up the experience for me and i’d be glad to post it as a guest post on this site.

What to do with Short Ribs?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I got some beef ribs and some stuff called boiling beef that looks like ribs.  What the heck am I supposed to do with them?

Braise them and they’ll be beautiful.  Especially if you make a barbecue sauce to go on them and finish them on the grill.

First, season them.  I like a nice chili rub: salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, and paprika.  Throw in a couple more kinds of pepper if you have them on hand; just adjust the toal amount of pepper used to match your idea of how spicy they ought to be.  I like to mix my spices together and taste them alone before I add them to my meat, just to make sure I like the combination of flavors.  At that point, I adjust as necessary.

So, rub your ribs with the spices and sear them quickly in a very hot cast iron skillet.  Transfer the ribs to a pan with a rack and a vary tall lip, cover them, and put them in a 250F oven for about three hours.  I repeat: make sure the pan has a tall lip–these ribs will drip a whole bunch of fat as they cook, and you don’t want it to land on the floor of your oven.

I like to save this fat when the ribs are done cooking.  You can pour it off into a mason jar and store it in your fridge.  This’ll be really good lard to saute with.  Also, if you happen to make a beef pot pie, you can use it as the fat for the pie crust to really pull the flavors of all of the layers to pull together….

As soon as you take the ribs out of the pan— deglaze the skillet with a bottle of good, dark beer.  Be quick!  You don’t want the stuff that came off the ribs to burn!  Stir with a wooden spoon to gather the fond of the bottom of the pan.  Bring the beer to a b oil then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Let the beer cook down.  When it’s reduced by two-thirds, whisk in some ketchup, mustard, molasses, pure maple syrup, and the spices you rubbed the beef with (minus the salt).  Whisk smooth, taste, and adjust to your liking.

Once the ribs have finished braising, slather them with the barbecue sauce you made and hit them onto a hot charcoal grill right quick to caramelize the sauce on them.  Devour with gusto (and a cloth napkin handy).