The “R” rule may have been true 30 or 40 years ago, but thanks to advances in aquaculture it has fallen by the wayside. It used to be fishermen dug for oysters only in the colder “R” months (September through April) to avoid the spawning season.
Warm waters (above 60 degrees) encourage spawning, rendering oysters bland, soft-textured, and small. Once the spawning season is complete, oysters are generally plumper and better-tasting, thus commanding a higher price tag.
Today’s oysters are more likely to be farmed than found, with farmers having more control over the conditions in which they are grown, harvested, and stored. This means that oyster cultivators can plant oysters in cold waters, thereby staggering spawning and keeping their product available year-round. So forget the “R” rule—any time is fine for eating oysters.
Gelatin is a protein that dissolves in hot liquids and gels when cold. It is used to set light custards such as panna cotta among various other uses both sweet and savory.
The natural gelatin contained in meat and bones is what causes cold broth consommé or aspic to set.
Many of home cooks don’t like gelatin because if overused, it makes things rubbery. It’s best used in the smallest amount needed to get a liquid to set, about half the amount specified on the package, which says that one packet will set 1 cup liquid. In fact, one packet will barely set, which generally what you want, 2 cups of liquid.
When using powdered gelatin, soften it in about 3 tablespoons cold water per packet before adding it to hot or warm liquids.
Some recipes call for sheet gelatin, which happens to be the preferred form in Europe. When using sheet gelatin, soak it first in cold water until it becomes soft. It’s difficult to arrive at equivalents between sheet gelatin and powdered gelatin because different brands of sheet gelatin contain different amounts of gelatin per sheet.
Even If you’re not sure what sous vide exactly is, chances are you’ve tried it whether at that fancy French restaurant you save for special occasions or the egg bites you have with your latte at Starbucks.
A sous vide machine or immersion circulator is used to preheat a water bath to a precise temperature. Food is sealed in plastic bags, though you can also sous vide in glass jars and eggs can be cooked in their shells, and immersed in the bath. The food eventually reaches the same temperature as the water, which is often set to the ideal serving temperature of the final dish.
For meat, poultry, and fish, there is usually a quick searing step before serving. As opposed to conventional stovetop and oven methods, in which the heat used is much higher than the serving temperature of the food, making it imperative to remove the food at just the right moment, when it’s done but not overcooked.
Using sous vide there’s usually no risk of overcooking, making it a tempting technique, especially for temperature-sensitive foods such as fish or steak. The low cooking temperature ensures meat remains juicy; it’s never dry. And dialing in the precise temperature creates exceptionally consistent results that can’t be achieved with traditional methods.
Chop fresh herbs with slightly softened but still cold butter. Once the herb is well mixed into the butter, form the butter into a rough sausage shape on a sheet of wax paper and roll it up tightly. Twist the paper at the ends in opposite directions to tighten the shape.
Wrap this in aluminum foil to help it hold its shape and to keep the wax paper from coming away from the butter. Freeze for up to a year; refrigerate for up to a month.
Cut into slices and use it to top grilled meats and seafood or to whisk into other sauces.
Freshly grind pepper so that its aroma isn’t allowed to evaporate. A small simple pepper mill is best that allows for adjustments to the coarseness of the grind. For this very reason the Peugeot brand is found all over France. The Peugeot brand is designed so that by turning the mill clockwise, the pepper is ground fine, and by turning it counterclockwise, the pepper is coarse.
When to use pepper:
Don’t add pepper to foods until just before serving or just before browning; if you do, the flavor of the pepper will cook off and leave a harsh flavor. This is especially true for soups and broths, which should never be peppered before they are served.
At the very least an instant-read thermometer for sticking in pieces of meat or fish for an instant read of the internal temperature. These thermometers have made the old-fashioned meat thermometers that are left in the meat as it cooks obsolete.
If you fry a lot, a frying thermometer that clips on to the side of the pan and measures the temperature of the oil can be useful.
A candy thermometer or a chocolate thermometer can be nice, but instead buy an inelegant digital thermometer that measures in a range between 50° and 200°F.
False! False! Caviar only refers to the cured eggs of certain species of sturgeon. That’s it, don’t be fooled. Salmon, trout, paddlefish, etc. those are technically roe, but not caviar. Caviar is not a regulated term, so buyer beware.
What to look for:
Read the label. You want to see a far-off expiration date (most jars get at least two months from the time of packing), a lot harvest date to show tracking, and the scientific species, country of origin, and farm to know you’re getting what you’re paying for.
Be wary of the words:
“beluga,” “Caspian,” or “wild.” They are often black market
“Osstra” that is not specifically Acipenser gueldenstaedtii (Russian Sturgeon).
“Sodium tetraborate” a preservative that’s not necessarily bad, but is often used to mask off flavors
Look in the jar. You should see individual spheres, nothing smashed or deflated, no liquid pooling.
Good caviar needs nothing more than a buttery bread such as brioche or challah, crepes, or yeasted blini. Lay out an assortment of snipped chives, minced shallots, and sieved hard-boiled egg.