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Epi-log: Notes from an overcaffeinated editor.



Last Build Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:37:12 -0500

 



Dress Up These Pigs in a Blanket for the Big Game (You'll Hardly Recognize Them)

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:37:12 -0500

Photo by Andrew Purcell, food styling by Carrie Purcell Stockpiled the beer? Picked the popcorn? Great. But there's still one more thing for you to do before the big game kicks off: Design your very own pigs-in-a-blanket. Oh, wait, were you planning to go with the basic model? They'll do in a pinch. But in just three simple steps, you can go beyond cocktail wieners and puff pastry, giving this old-school party snack an all-star makeover. PICK A NEW "PIG" There's no need to default to the cocktail wienie. Not when you can take your pick from the wide world of sausages. Duck sausage. Spicy pork sausage. Chicken-herb. Smoky kielbasa. The only points you need to know: The sausages need to be pre-cooked, so if you pick up a batch of raw sausages, just pan-fry them and let them cool to room temp before cutting them to cocktail-wiener size and wrapping your pigs in pastry. (Click here for the basic method.) There's only one kind of sausage you can't use: Dried sausages. They're too, well, dry. TUCK IN SOMETHING TASTY Great sausage stands on its own, sure, but no one would say no to biting into a pig that also features melted cheese or another flavor-packed ingredient. Just think about what your selected sausage would taste best with. Spicy Italian sausage with provolone and some sliced basil. Kielbasa with sauteed onions or sauerkraut. Chorizo with membrillo (quince paste). Hot dogs with pimento cheese. Chicken-herb sausage with pesto. And so on. Just keep the amounts on the small side so the pigs still roll up easily in the pastry. GARNISH YOUR "BLANKET" After you've rolled up your pigs, there's still time to add even more flavor before they bake. Just brush them with beaten egg and sprinkle them with something delicious. Cumin seeds. Dried oregano. Grated cheese. Smoked paprika. Flaky sea salt and/or cracked black pepper. Ready to get started? Here are three amazing upgrades on pigs-in-a-blanket to try: Pigs-in-a-Blanket with Sauerkraut and Mustard Pigs-in-a-Blanket with Hoisin and Scallion Pig-in-a-Blanket with Chorizo, Membrillo, and Manchego


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The Crunchy, Salty Snack Every Super Bowl Party Needs

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 13:45:59 -0500

You've prepped your wings (or drumsticks!), loaded up your nachos, and stocked your fridge with sausage. So you probably think you're all set for the big party this Sunday night, right? Wrong. You're not ready until you have a batch of something seriously snackable for guests to munch on from kick-off to the final whistle. That's where popcorn fits in. Here are five batches to whip up. Some are salty, some are sweet, some are spicy--but they're all crunchy and addictive. Caramel Corn with Smoked Almonds and Fleur de Sel Smoked almonds provide just the right amount of contrast in this upgraded caramel corn. Togarashi Popcorn Shichimi togarashi, also called seven spice powder, is a blend of chiles, dried orange peel, Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds, dried ginger, and seaweed. Spicy and savory, it's perfect sprinkled over this garlic-buttered popcorn. Spicy Popcorn with Piment D’Espelette and Marcona Almonds Piment d’Espelette is a chili powder that's made from chiles from the Basque region of France and Spain. Using it is a great way to add subtle heat without going overboard. Maple Pecan Popcorn How do you make popcorn even more crunchable? Add chopped and toasted pecans to the sweet, sticky mix. Bacon and Cashew Caramel Corn There isn't much that bacon can't make better, and this salty-sweet caramel corn is no exception.


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The Other Thing To Do With Bacon (Besides Eat It)

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:11:25 -0500

Photo by Ellen Silverman I didn't grow up eating bacon at home. Some kids look forward to going to a friend's house to binge on the sugar cereals they aren't allowed to eat at home--I looked forward to a plate of crisp bacon. All of this is to say that I came to one of the best cooking tips later in life than most--bacon fat is meant to be saved and cherished, not discarded in the trash. The process of saving bacon fat couldn't be easier. Whether you're cooking your strips on a sheet tray in the oven or in a cast iron pan on the stovetop, the process is the same: Devour cooked bacon while the fat leftover in the tray or pan cools down (you want it warm enough to still be fluid, cool enough not to scald you). Then carefully pour the liquid gold into a mason jar or any air-tight container and place it in the fridge. After a few batches, you'll have a stockpile of the stuff to start cooking with on a regular basis. The key to working bacon fat into your cooking routine is that you don't want to overdo it. It's extremely rich and shouldn't be a straight substitute for olive oil or butter. Believe me when I say that a little bit goes a long way. With that in mind, here are five ways to start (re)using bacon fat at home: Sautée Pretty Much Any Vegetable Greens like spinach and kale work particularly well when wilted with bacon fat, but just about any vegetable can take on its fatty richness. Just add a teaspoon to a pan of sunchokes, brussels sprouts, or mushrooms just before they're finished cooking. Make Refried Beans A can of beans is good. A batch of refried beans is great. Refried beans cooked in a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat? Hands-down the smokiest, most delicious way to do it. Cook Pancakes Tired of your flapjacks looking like blonde, pale versions of the ones in your dreams? A base layer of bacon fat will help get your pancakes achieve their full golden-brown potential. Build the Base of a Soup or Stew Something very important happens before any meat or stock gets added to soups and stew--vegetables like onions, celery, and garlic are cooked in oil to form a flavor foundation. Olive oil's a great fat and all, but try supplementing it with a tablespoon of bacon fat to give your bowl another dimension. Cook Up a Meaty Fish Sometimes you're cooking a delicate piece of pricy seafood like halibut or tuna and you're paying a premium to taste that fish's pure flavor. But if you're not paying $25 per pound, pan-searing with a bit of bacon fat will ensure the end result has perfectly crispy skin.


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The Juicy, Meaty Cut of Chicken You Forgot About

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 13:53:37 -0500

When it comes to chicken, we're not the only ones who advocate going to the dark side. By now most people know that chicken thighs are not only more affordable, but also more flavorful than chicken breasts. But what about the other half of the chicken leg, the oft-forgotten chicken drumstick? This cut is just as cheap (if not cheaper), juicy, and meaty as the thigh--and they have the finger-food fun of wings. Since drumsticks have more fat and connective tissue, they stand up to a wider range of cooking methods than breasts. They do well with high-heat, quick-cooking methods, like grilling or roasting, as well as slower-cooking methods, like baking or braising, which renders them fall-apart tender. You can substitute drumsticks for thighs in almost any recipe, as the two cuts cook in about the same amount of time and have the same flavor profile. Plan on serving about two drumsticks per person. Ready to switch up your weeknight chicken dinner? Try one of these recipes that highlight the versatility of the succulent and savory chicken drumstick: These oven-roasted Sweet and Spicy Chicken Drumsticks have a similar flavor as buffalo chicken wings, without the mess of frying. Serve these addictive, Parm and panko-crusted Deviled Chicken Drumsticks hot or at room temperature. These grilled Bourbon-Molasses Chicken Drumsticks get finished with a home-made BBQ sauce. Grilled Lemon-Oregano Chicken Drumsticks get a bath in a tangy marinade before hitting the grill. If you're looking for an Asian-inspired dish, try this sweet and sour Apricot-Glazed Chicken. Bake these Lemon-Chicken Drumsticks and serve them with their juices over orzo or rice. Who doesn't love fried chicken? Make this recipe for Rosemary-Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken as is, or swap out the thighs and wings and fry 16 drumsticks to feed 6 to 8 people.


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How To Turn an Overstocked Pantry Into an Addictive Meal

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 12:10:42 -0500

For a lot of the country, Winter Storm Juno was nothing more than 5 inches of disappointment. All that preparation, all that unearthing of blankets and flashlights--it was all for naught. And don't even get us started on the groceries we stockpiled. Actually, let's do get started on those. If we don't, all those groceries will go to waste. Let's turn all those pantry products and loaves of bread into a few seriously delicious meals. Yesterday, our food editor Rhoda Boone shared some great ideas on how to do just that with the NYPost; here, we share the recipes need to pull those dishes off. If you bought bread and wine, make Bite-Size Garlic Bread with Fresh Herbs "This appetizer is a great way to use up extra bread and wine. We reduce wine with garlic, then mix in red-pepper flakes and create a flavor-packed butter that's slathered over the toasted cubes," says Rhoda. You'll have wished you bought even more bread then you did once you make this snackable garlic bread. If you bought yogurt, chickpeas, and tomatoes, make Lamb Chops with Everything-Bagel Yogurt and Chickpeas "If you stocked up on yogurt, chickpeas, or canned tomatoes, turn them into this flavorful, Moroccan-influenced meal," says Rhoda. If you hold onto those items until the 14th, this is a perfect meal for Valentine's Day. But we won't hold it against you if you can't wait and whip it up this weekend instead. If you bought eggs and sausage, make Baked Eggs with Merguez Sausage, Tomatoes, and Smoky Paprika Invite your friends over for brunch this weekend to help you eat through your stockpile. "We love this recipe because it’s so easy to make for a crowd. The individual servings make it feel special, and the eggs bake in less than 15 minutes." If you bought macaroni, cheese, and milk, make Our Favorite Macaroni and Cheese With the Super Bowl right around the corner, use all that dry pasta to make crowd-pleasing cheddar and Parmesan mac and cheese. "The garlicky topping made with panko breadcrumbs (which are lighter and flakier than traditional breadcrumbs) take our version of mac and cheese to the next level." If you bought beer and chicken, make Beer-Brined Chicken with Thyme "If you went overboard on beer, try turning it into a brine that makes chicken extra juicy and flavorful," says Rhoda. This chicken recipe is another game-day score and comes from Nick Anderer, chef at the popular restaurant Marta in New York City. If you bought cheese, chips, and beans, make the Ultimate Nachos These two items are a huge touchdown--use both to make a killer platter of party-ready nachos. "For extra crispy nachos, top them with cheese and homemade bean dip right before blasting them in your oven. Add brightness after baking with fresh toppings like cilantro, red onion, and sour cream."


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We Buy These 7 Fruits and Vegetables Already Prepped, and Feel No Shame About It

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:52:48 -0500

At the Epicurious Test Kitchen we believe in cooking from scratch. We are home cooks who love the process of every step that goes into preparing a meal. Except that sometimes we don't. Because sometimes, we need to get dinner on the table faster than it would take if we washed and dried all our salad greens and peeled all our veggies. So when we shop the produce aisle at our local grocery store, we sometimes--sometimes--buy certain fresh fruits and veggies pre-prepared. We're not maniacs, of course. We have standards. These seven pre-prepped produce items are cool; stay tuned for our story on those that aren't. Peeled and seeded butternut squash If your supermarket sells it peeled, seeded, and halved, that's your best bet, since you can still control how you want to cut it. If you're going to be pureeing it into a soup, though, may as well go for the peeled, seeded, and cubed version. Washed and boxed greens We have a lot of ideas about how to buy the best prepared salad greens, but the most important place to start is to look for prepared greens sold in plastic clamshells rather than bags; those are less likely to be all squished and bruised by the time you get them home. Peeled and cooked beets Look for cooked and peeled beets vacuum-sealed in plastic--it saves you the effort (and mess!) of cooking and peeling beets for your favorite beet salad. Cubed pineapple Most fresh fruit is better when you eat it moments after peeling and slicing it. Fresh pineapple, however, stays fresh for a few days after cutting. Whether you're simply eating it (we like it with a pinch of chili and salt) or mixing it into a salad or salsa, be sure to use it within a couple days of purchasing. Peeled garlic If you're making any recipe that calls for more than 10 cloves of garlic--let alone 40--go ahead and buy that garlic already peeled. The cloves stay fresh for about two weeks in the fridge. Peeled pearl onions Pearl onions are notoriously annoying to peel, and freshly peeled pearl onions will keep in the fridge for about 10 days, so what's the downside? Go ahead and buy them pre-peeled and indulge in a side dish of glazed pearl onions. Baby carrots This one is probably the one you're already buying, right? Those peeled and "baby" portioned carrots are so easy to munch for instant snacks. But they're also a handy cooking shortcut. Making pureed carrot soup? Just throw those babies straight in the pot. Pomegranate seeds A sprinkle of fresh pomegranate seeds gives a winter salad new life. If you really don’t want to get the seeds out yourself, look for a package of pomegranate arils--but look out for juice hanging around in the bottom of the container, which can lead to sliminess.


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These Cookies Can All Be Made In Less Than An Hour

Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:32:09 -0500

Sometimes a cookie craving comes on strong and you need cookies fast--like five minutes ago fast. If that's happened to you--hey, maybe it's happening to you right now--fear not. With short ingredient lists and even shorter baking times, these eight crave-satisfying cookie recipes are just what you need: Chocolate Brownie Cookies Somewhere between a fudgy brownie and a chewy chocolate chip cookie, these naturally gluten-free cookies only take six ingredients and about half an hour to make. Shortbread Cookies Use your favorite jam for these simple, buttery six-ingredient cookies. They'll be ready in just 30 minutes. Chocolate Chip Cookies You'll need an electric mixer and just about half an hour to make this version of chocolate chip cookies with crunchy edges and soft centers. Nutty Crunch Cookies If you have a food processor, 50 minutes to spare, and a desire for perfectly crunchy nut-filled cookies, this recipe is for you. Chewy Molasses Cookies You may think of ginger-spiced cookies as belonging to the holidays, but they’re great any time of year. They take about 45 minutes to make and stay fresh for days, making them perfect for packing in lunch boxes. Tahini Cookies Tahini isn't just for hummus! You'll need to use a food processor to make these rich sesame cookies, but they'll be done in just 45 minutes. Flourless Oatmeal Chocolate-Chunk Cookies For gluten-free cookies in a hurry that are just a little bit healthier, chop up a bar of darkest dark chocolate to use instead of chocolate chips. Lauren's Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies A batch of classic, crowd-pleasing peanut cookies topped with chocolate kisses comes together in less than a hour, and keeps in an airtight container for about three days. And if you're making a batch of cookies that call for room temperature eggs or butter, read our test kitchen's tips for how to make it all happen faster.


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Better Hot Chocolate Is Just A Snow Day Away

Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:54:37 -0500

Winter snowstorms--whether in your area or halfway across the country--are opportunities for excuses. An excuse not to work. An excuse to stay in sweatpants all day. And an excuse to drink hot chocolate. The flipside of that excuse: If you're stuck at home all day with not much else to do but watch the snow fall, there's no reason not to make your hot chocolate the best it can be. Here are a few ways to give your drinking chocolate an upgrade. 1. Spike it with booze. Get the recipe: Brandied Hot Chocolate This just may be the best part about being an adult because, really, what isn't better with a bit of booze? Just stir in a shot of brandy, rum, or whiskey right before sipping. You're welcome. 2. Add serious spice. Sure, you can infuse hot chocolate with cinnamon and it will undoubtly be delicious. But go beyond the warming spices and try the more fiery ones. Here, ancho chili powder and a red chile are added to the mix. Get the recipe: Mexican Hot Cocoa 3. Pour it over ice cream, call it dessert. Because what isn't better with a scoop of ice cream? Typically made by pouring hot espresso over vanilla gelato, this take on the classic Italian dessert swaps out espresso for creamy hot cocoa. Don't limit this decadent combination to just peppermint ice cream--vanilla, coffee, or chocolate are also pretty perfect. Get the recipe: Hot-Cocoa Affogato with Peppermint Ice Cream 4. Go big with your toppings. Fact: Canned whipped cream and mini marshmallows are so passé. Go a heavy-handed dollop of freshly whipped cream, instead. (A drizzle of caramel sauce doesn't hurt, either.) Get the recipe: Caramel-Swirl Hot Chocolate


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A Can Of White Beans Just Saved Winter

Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:14:15 -0500

If you have a can of white beans in your pantry (or two...or eight...), this is the time to use it. These cans are perfect for snow days, because they offer quick, hearty dinners, lunches, breakfasts, and snacks--all with not much more effort than it takes to open a can. Creamy, comforting, protein-rich, and white like the snow outside, canned cannellini, navy, and Great Northern beans can all be used interchangeably in most recipes calling for white beans. Here's our 7 favorite things to do with a can of white beans. Make soup. Combine white beans with broth, canned tomatoes or tomato paste, and whatever fresh veggies you have on hand for an instantly satisfying soup. For extra flavor and texture, add some bacon or pancetta and your favorite whole grain. Want a creamier texture? Blend a portion of the soup and stir it back into the pot. Get the recipe: Toasted Spelt Soup With Escarole and White Beans Just add greens. Garlicky greens and beans are always a good idea, and it's a dish that works with spinach, kale, broccoli rabe, and mustard greens. Put an egg on it for breakfast or a vegetarian dinner, or serve it as a side with basically anything. To take it up a notch, add slices of lemon and anchovy fillets. Get the recipe: White Beans With Broccoli Rabe and Lemon Mix into pasta. Stir some white beans into your favorite pasta with red sauce for extra flavor, textural variety, and added protein. Mussels or shrimp work well in a bean pasta, too. Get the recipe: Spaghetti With Mussels and White Beans Make salad. With olive oil-packed tuna (another pantry essential!) and some chopped fresh veggies and herbs, you can make an almost instant but totally healthy and satisfying no-cook meal. For a vegetarian option, try this with hard boiled eggs instead. Get the recipe: White Bean and Tuna Salad With Radicchio Purée. With a little help from your food processor, a can of white beans can turn into an alternative to mashed potatoes, or a dairy-free creamy dip for crudités. Get the recipe: Broccoli Trees With Creamy White Bean Dip Top toast. Simply mash beans with chopped olives, parsley, olive oil and lemon and spread on toast for a simple and satisfying snack, or get a little more involved and make a brothy Italian ragout. Get the recipe: White Bean Ragout With Toast Bake with chicken. The ultimate one-pan dinner: a can of white beans, a can of stewed tomatoes, onions, bacon, and chicken thighs. Get the recipe: Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes


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The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Using Sugar

Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:36:21 -0500

Once upon a time, sugar might have been simple. Now it's anything but. Sugar isn't sugar anymore--it's turbinado sugar, superfine sugar, coconut sugar. Is it too much? Actually, it's not enough--this is the best time for sugar fiends, as all of these varities have unique flavors, textures and personalities. You just have to know what those traits are and how to best exploit them. Which is exactly what we break down in this definitive sugar buying guide. Granulated Sugar The most refined and common sugar. It's made from removing the juices of sugar beets or sugar cane, which are then processed to remove the molasses. Superfine sugar is a subset of granulated sugar that's best used in recipes where sugar needs to dissolve quickly. Dark Brown Sugar and Light Brown Sugar Brown sugar is refined white sugar with molasses added back in. Dark brown sugar has more molasses than the light variety, which accounts for the color differences. They can be used interchangeably, though dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor. Confectioner's Sugar More commonly known as powdered sugar, confectioner's sugar is granulated sugar that's been ground into a powder. Cornstarch is often added to prevent clumps from forming. Because it dissolves easily, it's favored for icings, frostings, and whipped cream. Caster Sugar Caster sugar is very, very fine and dissolves quickly, which makes it perfect for cocktails, meringues, or frostings. Turbinado Sugar Turbinado sugar is slightly refined raw cane sugar. It has a caramel-like flavor, which makes it a good choice for baked goods and beverages. It's especially great for sprinkling on top of baked goods to get a sugary, crunchy exterior. Demerara Sugar Another minimally-refined raw cane sugar that's usually used to sweeten beverages. The crystals are larger--and lighter in color--than turbinado sugar, which makes demerara a good candidate for sprinkling on baked goods. Muscovado Sugar Sticky and sandy, muscavado is similar to brown sugar except it comes from unrefined sugar that hasn't had the molasses removed. It can be used in place of brown sugar, but be careful--it has a much stronger flavor. Muscavado is perhaps best suited to barbecue and other sauces. Cane Sugar As the name suggests, cane sugar comes solely from sugarcane. It is a natural combination of sugar and molasses without any refining or added flavors, so many people prefer it for baking over brown sugar. Coconut Sugar Coconut sugar (also called coconut palm sugar) is made from the sap of the coconut plant. It has an earthy flavor and pairs especially well with baked goods containing chocolate. Palm Sugar Palm sugar comes from the nectar of the sugar palm tree. It's flavor is most similar to coconut sugar but with smoky caramel notes. Date Sugar Date sugar is made from dehydrated ground dates and can be used as an alternative to brown sugar. Pearl Sugar If you've ever had a Scandinavian cinnamon roll or other pastry, you may have noticed the large, white sugar crystals on top. This is pearl sugar...


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