17 Ways to Beat the Heat in the Kitchen

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Well, apparently, the devil is taking a vacation in the Pacific Northwest this week, with temps sky-rocketing to the 100+ (I’ve seen forecasts as high as 110F for the Portland/Metro area…Oy!)

Ways to Beat the Heat

1. Cook up a couple of pounds of pasta, rinse (this is the only time you EVER want to rinse you pasta!) and tuck in the fridge.

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This Zucchini and Bow-tie Pasta with Shallot Sauce, is one of my favorites!

2. Toss with some fresh veggies (tomatoes, cukes, etc.) a little fresh basil, and some dressing (I like Italian, or sun-dried tomatoes) for a refreshingly cool pasta salad. Penne and orzo are my favorites. I usually add some…

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3. 12 Minute Chicken
Use your microwave, and this recipe to poach enough chicken breasts for a couple of dinners. Great for salads and sandwiches.

4. Stock up on sandwich fixings, and toss a couple of extra loaves of bread in the freezer.

5. When the heat hits, both ice and bottled water will be at a premium, and likely limited to a couple of bags per purchase. Stock up now.

6. Likewise, the price of fresh fruit will likely go up (especially high water content items like melons, grapes, berries, etc.,) Buy extra and store in the fridge.

7. Deli meat is a life-saver.

Salads with deli-meat, chopped chicken, salad-shrimp, or some good canned tuna, and easy and refreshing.

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This Shrimp with Fresh Pico is a favorite.

My Sesame-Cilantro Slaw is lovely in hot weather, as well. 🙂

8. Keep some cherry tomatoes and sliced celery sticks in a pitcher of water, in the fridge, for snacking.

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9. The last thing you want to do, is kick-start the heat by cooking in the morning. If you’re not a cold cereal person, scramble up a big mess of eggs with some chopped bacon, onions, peppers, etc., and keep it in the fridge for a quick-nuke breakfast. Avoid using mushrooms, as they’ll get slimy.

10. Hard boil a dozen or more eggs, for a quick, cool, easy to peel protein source. Eat them straight-up, in salads, or as sandwiches.

11. If you must cook, use your crock-pot, or get up a couple of hours early, and cook while it’s still cool. Open the kitchen windows to let the heat out.

12. Invest in freezer pops!

As much as I hate to say it, don’t plan to BBQ or grill. 105F is too hot to be cooking outdoors, and standing over a grill in that heat it brutal (believe me, I know!)

13. This is a good time to invest in a rice cooker, and learn to make your own sushi! If that seems too daunting, toss up a sushi salad:

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Non-Food Tips

14. Toss some damp wash-clothes in a zip bag, and put them in the fridge. A cool cloth on the back of the neck (or anywhere else that’s overheated) is a wonderful thing.

15. Periodically, add some ice-cubes to your pet’s water bowl. Imagine wearing a fur coat in this heat!

16. Plan chores (especially outside chores) for early morning. Let the friggin’ grass grow, a perfect lawn isn’t worth heatstroke.

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Lastly, and this is a personal note…

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17. Carry a small cooler of ice and bottled water in your passenger seat.

Keep an eye out for homeless folks at intersections and street-corners, and pass along a couple of cold bottles to them, when you can. (Your local homeless shelter is probably desperate for a case of three as well, just sayin’…)

This kind of heat can be miserable for all of us, but people who don’t have shelter can (and do) die in these kinds of temps. 

Stay cool!

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

 

Easiest way to Grill a Mess of Shrimp

Easy Grilled Shrimp

So, I needed to grill up a whole mess of shrimp appetizers (recipe below) for a cook-out yesterday. While shopping, I found these kabob baskets on a clearance shelf for $3 each (normally about $10 for a set of two on Amazon), and had an epiphany.

What I don’t like about grilling shrimp kabobs:

  • It takes up a lot of grill space.
  • You’re constantly turning and keeping an eye on a lot of individual pieces of shrimp.
  • I always forget to soak my skewers long enough.
  • Served on the skewer (the way I like) can leave for sooty fingers, which my clients aren’t wild about.

What I like about shrimp kabobs:

  • They’re awesome.
  • They’re easy to eat.
  • They help with portion control (ie: everyone gets some, without breaking the bank on shrimp gluttons!)

So, I had a thought…what if I grilled up a bunch of these beauties at a time, and THEN added them to the skewers for serving. Problem: now instead of a dozen or two skewers to keep track ff, I have a couple of hundred individual shrimp to keep turning and moving…and quickly!

Shrimp will overcook or burn quicker than it takes to say, “Oh, S***!” Especially when marinated with an oil or alcohol base.

The solution? The kabob basket!

Kabob basket for grilling shrimpI loaded 40 large shrimp per basket, set them on the grill, and cooked about 3 minutes per side, flipping baskets (40 servings at a time) just three time each.

The best way to grill a lot of shrimp
Photo by Kristen Renner

Open the baskets, a quick flip of the wrist, and all the shrimp were in the bowl ready to skewer!

Grilling shrimp with a kabob basket
Photo by Kristen Renner

The result? Enough appetizers to keep the whole crowd happy, in less than 20 minutes, AND I was able to work on other dishes at the same time!

Then, just pop a couple of the en of each clean skewer, spritz with some lemon juice, and sprinkle the whole platter with chopped parsley.

I will NEVER grill shrimp any other way again!

Chef Perry

If you like what I’m posting, please share! If you love what I’m posting, and want to help me feed the hungry, and teach at-risk and special needs kids to cook for themselves, please consider becoming a patron at my Patreon page!

Shrimp Salmoriglio
Serves 40 (2 skewers each)

  • 1/2 cup salted capers
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 6 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • Coarse ground black pepper
  • 150 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon juice for spritzing
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, minced

On a cutting board, finely chop the drained capers with the basil leaves and garlic.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season the sauce with pepper.

Place shrimp in a large zip bag, pour in the marinade, seals and toss to coat. Let rest in the fridge 2-8 hours.

1 hour before grilling, remove from fridge and let sit on counter.

Light a grill, coals, etc

Drain the shrimp, and load as many as will fit into each kabob box, without packing them too tightly. Close the box.

Grill over high heat, turning once per side, until the shrimp are lightly charred and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Remove the shrimp from the box and transfer them to a platter (or a bowl, if you’re going to skewer them, 2-3 per skewer). Sprinkle more pepper on on top (optional), a healthy handful of minced parsley, and serve.

Home Chef Note: You could easily change this up to a great “South of the Border” version, by swapping the capers an basil for chili powder and minced jalapenos, limes for the lemons, and cilantro instead of parsley!

Mexican grilled shrimp

 

Home Chef Tip: The Best Knife for Cutting Tomatoes

Best for for cutting Tomatoes

Cutting tomatoes isn’t exactly rocket science, but there is still a hardway and an easy way.

By far, the best knife in your block for cutting tomatoes is the small serrated-blade, also called the “utility” knife. (About $12 at Kohl’s)

Using fresh tomatoes helps, as well. The older a tomato gets, the tougher the skin, and softer the insides. When combined, this can turned “slicing” into “squashing.” This is where the utility knife really earns its keep, slicing through the tougher outer membrane without enough force to smash the fruit.

The serrated blade is what my the knives in the old Ginsu commercials famously able to “cut through a Coke can, and STILL slice a tomato!” 😉

If you don’t have one, get one. It’s a great knife.

Chef Perry

 

Easiest Chicken Stock Recipe Ever

Simple Chx Stock

Growing up in my father’s kitchens, I have made, and helped make, oceans of chicken stock. The first job every morning, after turning on the lights and ovens, was to pull the leftover-roasted chicken, bones, and veggies from the walk-in, and get the stock started.

Real chicken stock is the backbone of countless dishes in a restaurant, from soups and gravies, to rice and potatoes, to pan sauces and poaching liquid.

It’s really indispensable.

I’m going to say, right up front, that there’s no replacement for a deep, rich stock that’s simmered for hours, pulling every bit from flavor out of the meat and veggies, and into the liquid.

However, there are easier ways to do it, and this is my favorite…using the crock pot!

You’ll need:

  • 3-4 roasted bone-in chicken thighs (get them from the hot deli counter at your favorite grocery. A whole “Costco” bird, breasts removed, is awesome for this, too!)
  • Half a dozen whole garlic cloves, peeled (chopped is fine)
  • 2 Tbs fine sea salt, divided
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sectioned
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. butter + 1 Tbs olive oil

In the morning before work (or before you go to bed at night…)

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and mix.

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When hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Saute until carrots are just starting to brown, and then add garlic cloves, and salt. Continue to saute, tossing often, until all veggies are golden. You can toss the roasted chicken thighs in as well, if you like, to add a little extra flavor to the rest.

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Transfer meat and veggies to a large crock-pot, add bay leaf, cover, and cook on high 8 hours.

Go to work, go to bed, go to the mall…whatever.

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Find this, and many more “use at home” professional cooking techniques and recipes in my new book, “The Home Chef!”    Available on Amazon.com

After 8 hours (carefully) pour the stock through a sieve to remove the solids. Spooning out the biggest pieces first, with a slotted spoon, can make this less messy. If you want an even clearer stock, you can do a second straining through cheesecloth.

Taste it now…”Meh”…right?

Here’s the secret…

Get out your largest skillet and heat it to high.

Carefully pour in a couple of inches of stock, and let it sizzle and boil, until reduced by at least half. Remove from heat, taste for salt (I usually add a little more salt, and some black pepper at this point.)

You stock is now ready to use! You can:

Cook with it immediately.

Pour it into a tall container and stick it in the fridge – in the morning you’ll have a thick layer of chicken fat or “schmaltz” on top. Skim this off and use it like you would butter.

It’s uh-mazing for cooking scrambled eggs!

If serving over chicken, try this… (before adding any additional salt!)

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Simple Lemon-Caper Pan Sauce

Leave one cup of stock in the skillet (still on high), add a healthy knob of butter, a few capers, a couple of slices of peeled lemon, and 1/4 cup of chopped parsley. Cook, stirring constantly, until reduced to a thickened sauce. Taste for seasoning, and drizzle over chicken. It’s so freakin’ good!

This stock is not only about a thousand times tastier than that tinny, nasty bullion-water that comes in the cans, it’s also MUCH healthier, as it’s not loaded with sodium and other preservative.

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I use this exact recipe for both my “Magical 12 Minute Chicken Piccata” and to cook the Garlic-Cilantro Rice that I serve with it.

(You can see me make this crazy-easy, and much healthier, Italian classic, in this clip from my recent appearance on AM Northwest.)

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

 

 

Q&A: Tips for Crispy Tofu

How to get tofu crispy

Facebook friend, Susan, asks: How do you make tofu nice and crisp?

Now, some of my readers might be surprised that I LOVE tofu, but I do…I just like it WITH meat, not INSTEAD of it. 😉

Most restaurants deep-fry crispy tofu, which, while delicious, negates the healthy aspect of the dish, plus is tricky to do at home without it coming out soggy and greasy.

The problem is, tofu has a LOT of water in it, and you have to get a LOT of that water out, before it will crisp up, instead of just sitting in the pan, poaching in it’s own liquid.

Sure, you can press it, but it takes a LONG time to do it right, and if you try to do it faster, chances are good you’re going to end up with a bowl of tofu mush.

Personally, I like (and use) Mark Bittman’s tofu hack:

Freeze and then thaw your block of tofu.

This allows the water pocket inside to expand, and the drain, which makes more room to soak up flavors.

Simmering Tofu

Simmer the block in salted water for 5-10 minutes.

This plumps and firms up the tofu, helping with the sometimes mushy consistency.

Cube and sauté in just a little oil

I use Grapeseed, which has a high smoke point, and is flavorless. Peanut oil is probably the most traditional, barring any allergies.

When crisp, lower heat and add flavoring.

I like ginger, garlic, and fish sauce. Spicy Thai peanut sauce is great too.

My favorite way to eat is is with some grilled chicken, and Amy Roloff’s Fried Rice recipe. I usually top with some chopped scallions and fresh-toasted sesame seeds.

Amy Roloff's Fried Rice

“Value Pack” Chicken Hindquarters, and what to do with them

value-chicken-hindquartersChef’s Tip: I often find these 10lb “value packs” of chicken hindquarters, under various brand names, for as low as .59 cents a pound at local grocery stores.

FYI…there’s nothing wrong with these cuts, they simply didn’t meet the weight standards of the producer for individual packaging, and are often from breeds raised to produce larger breast cuts, which means the rest of the chicken tends to be less robust.

The problem is that unless you cut away most of the skin and fat, thy tend to be greasy, the skin doesn’t crisp well, and they grill like they’ve been brined in napalm.

And, after all that, what little meat is on them is often stringy and tough.

That said…

Don’t turn your nose up at these “value” hindquarters, because what they do, they do exceptionally well. These cheap, fatty, stringing hen parts are the best ingredient for homemade chicken stocks and soups I’ve ever found! I buy a bag, individually vacuum-pack then them in pairs, and pop then in the freezer for my next 5-6 batches of stock.

As they say, the flavor’s in the fat, and if there’s one thing these babies have in spades, it’s fat!

Just thaw, rub generously with sea-salt and pepper, then roast until browned, and they’re ready for your favorite stock recipe. If you’re making soup or chowder with your stock, the meat, which will be falling off the bone tender, can be shredded and added as well. I’ve had great success with both corn chowder and chicken & dumplings, doing this.

BTW, if you don’t have a “favorite chicken stock recipe“, here’s mine.

Bonus: After straining and chilling, this stock will render twice as much schmaltz (hardened chicken fat) as stock done with the higher-priced stuff. Schmaltz has been used by Yiddish cooks for centuries for frying and other applications that would typically call for butter or lard. It makes for amazing scrambled eggs, as well!