Every week, Express-News Taste writer Paul Stephen cooks several recipes for his work, often creating his own in the process. Cooking with Paul tells what he learned each week from that process. Enjoy!
Welcome back to my kitchen, folks. Things are super sweet here now. For this week’s Taste centerpiece, I made four strawberry-based dishes and bought 5 pounds of fruit to experiment on the go.
This column will not be about berries or what I learned about them. But it will include some sugary tips that helped me complete the process.
For starters, I’m good enough to keep a well-stocked pantry. But every now and then I slip and forget a key ingredient. Powdered sugar was the culprit this week.
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Fortunately, it is fairly easy to do from scratch. Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (avoids crowding) for each cup of granulated white sugar to a blender or coffee grinder and simply beat until you have a perfect cup of powdered sugar. If you’re a glutton for punishment (like me) or need a forearm workout, you can use a heavy mortar and hand to get the same effect, albeit slower.
Interesting fact here, too. Virtually all store-bought brown sugar is simply old-fashioned white sugar with added molasses. If you don’t have a bag waiting in the pantry for the next batch of cookies, make your own brown sugar by stirring 1 tablespoon of molasses in each cup of white sugar.
On the savory side of discoveries, I have a favorite cooking fat right now: ghee. Ghee begins life as butter, which is heated and strained to remove solids from milk. What remains is a clarified fat with the full aroma of butter but a significantly higher smoking point than butter thanks to the removal of milk solids, which burn at a lower temperature.
One of this week’s recipes was to fry some lamb chops, which I usually make in butter or olive oil. And you guessed it, I ran out of butter. In the pan goes a couple of tablespoons of ghee.
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I like my red meat quite rare but with a well charred crust, some call it “rare Pittsburgh” based on an old steel mill practice of hitting raw meat in a blast furnace to speed up cooking during the notoriously short lunch breaks. Trying to achieve that effect at home can easily turn a kitchen into a hazy opium den.
Ghee has a smoke point close to 500 degrees, with safflower and sunflower oil, but is infinitely tastier than any, making it ideal for the task of browning meat over high heat.
Have full bellies and happy homes until next week. And don’t forget the sugar.
Recipe: Dutch pancake with strawberries
Recipe: Easy Strawberry Crostini Appetizer
Recipe: Lamb Chops with Strawberry Mint Sauce
Recipe: classic strawberry tart
Paul Stephen is a food and beverage reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more about Paul, subscribe. [email protected] | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen