There it is - the soup recipe or the stew recipe or the one for sauce - the one you’ve been wanting to make for ages. So why haven’t you made it? Because the list of ingredients is long and daunting. Minced garlic, minced onion, chopped thyme leaves, chopped rosemary, chopped sage, chopped parsley, stock, water plus the major ingredient, chicken perhaps or cauliflower or… It’s exhausting just to go through the list. Use these hacks to simplify your cooking life.
Do you hate peeling garlic and abhor mincing it? The usual preparation is to cut off the stem end, peel all the little pieces of sticky paper off, smash the naked garlic clove with a large bladed, flat knife and then, finally, mince it with rapid knife cuts. Repeat for the required number of garlic cloves.
Time consuming and annoying. One day a light bulb went off in my head. Use the microplane grater. First, with a thin bladed knife I loosened several garlic cloves from the garlic head.
Next, I cut off the stem, peeled the paper from the garlic clove and then grated it on a microplane grater. Better, but still takes a fair amount of time. Then, a couple of times when I was unable to peel all the paper off, I applied the only part-naked clove to the microplane. Marvelous microplane. The grated garlic was on the inside of the grater and the paper skin on the outside.
So it hit me. All you have to do is cut the stem off the clove and grate. No more peeling, no more tedious mincing!!!
Think of the time to mince a garlic clove the usual way and this new way: An additional virtue to this technique - the garlic is a smooth paste which easily blends into any soup, stew or sauce.
I use the same technique with ginger and other hard roots such as turmeric. It does not work with onion or shallots. Both are too full of water so that the microplane makes a mush.
The common aromatics in so many Western-style soups, stews and sauces are carrot, onion and celery. Some advice on selecting these vegetables: Choose large, mature carrots because, as is true of so many vegetables and fruits, carrots become sweeter with age. Use whole stalks of celery, not celery hearts. The tops of celery with some of the leaves makes the tastiest addition to your concoction. Almost always in a long -cooking preparation, yellow onions are best. I rough chop the carrots and process them to small pieces. Then add the softer celery and onion, also rough chopped, to the food processor and pulse until all three ingredients are in small pieces.
This hack came to me one day when preparing herbs for a large stew to serve 12 guests. The recipe called for chopped thyme, chopped rosemary and chopped sage.
I was tired already but thinking about stripping and chopping all those herbs was exhausting. I started to tediously strip the tiny thyme leaves from their stems. Fooey, I said. I have in the past used little packets made to hold herbs for cooking, but I was out of them. Solution - put all the herbs together in a bundle and secure them with ordinary thread. A wrapped bundle of herbs is often referred to as a bouquet garni but, typically, the recipe suggests the use of cooking twine or little packets of cheese cloth or linen. It is so much simpler to use ordinary thread. Many recipes also list a number of herbs, but specify chopped when that is not necessary.
I wrap the thread tightly around the bundle of herbs.
As long aș the concoction needs to simmer for 20 or more minutes, this technique will save you tons of time with the same savory results. Additionally, when your dish is done, you can remove the bundle of herbs quickly, leaving a smoother liquid that will not have to be passed through a sieve.
This will work for tough herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage. Tender herbs such as parsley or tarragon should be added only in the last minutes of cooking. Parsley is common addition for its sprightly flavor that enhances most concoctions, Parsley is easy to chop because you need not strip the leaves from the stems. The stems are tender and just as tasty as the leaves. For herbs such as tarragon, sorry, I have no hacks for fast preparation.