12/27/10

CheeseSauce Tips & Tricks

When cooking with cheese, there are just a few important points to keep in mind:

  • The less you heat cheese, the better. When making soup, sauce, or fondue, add the cheese last; then heat it only long enough to melt. Don't let it boil or it will become tough and curdled. Often, you can remove the pan from the burner; the residual heat will melt the cheese.
  • Shred, crumble, or finely dice the cheese before heating to ensure quick, smooth melting. (Remember that it's much easier to shred or dice cheese when it's cold.)
  • Allow the shredded cheese to come to room temperature before adding it to a hot mixture.
  • Starch (such as all-purpose flour, cornstarch, or potato flour) will keep the cheese from curdling. If using all-purpose flour, add it to the mixture before the cheese; it needs to be cooked for a few minutes to remove the starchy taste.
  • Adding an acidic ingredient such as wine or lemon juice will help prevent the cheese from becoming stringy. This is why most fondues have a base of white wine. Simply sprinkle some lemon juice over the shredded cheese before heating it.
  • Reduced-fat cheeses have different melting characteristics than regular cheeses. They will take longer to melt and will be tougher. Be sure to shred reduced-fat cheese very finely, and allow it to melt over very low heat while stirring constantly.


Gettin' Saucy

Classic cheese sauce begins with a béchamel sauce, a simple sauce made of butter, flour, milk, and a few seasonings.

To begin, make a roux:

  • Measure out equal amounts of butter and flour.
  • Dice the butter into small cubes and melt it in a saucepan over low heat.
  • Once the butter is melted, begin whisking in the flour.
  • When all the flour is incorporated, continue stirring and cooking for a few minutes to activate the starch granules.
  • If you're making a white or light-colored cheese sauce, keep the heat low enough so the roux does not brown.
  • Next comes the milk. If the roux is hot, the milk should be cool, but if the roux is cool, the milk should be hot. Combining the two ingredients at different temperatures ensures that they will heat up at a moderate rate--not too fast, and not too slow--creating a velvety-smooth sauce.
  • Whisk the mixture until smooth, then add seasonings if you wish. Traditional seasonings for béchamel are diced onion, a bay leaf, a couple cloves, and a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Allow the sauce to simmer until it has lost its "floury" taste (about 20 minutes), then strain out any seasonings.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and gently blend in the cheese. If the cheese doesn't seem to be melting, return the pan to very low heat, but watch it carefully and remove as soon as the cheese is melted.

Once you've mastered the basics, you can create an endless variety of cheese sauces by varying the kind of cheese you use, mixing in different herbs, spices, and veggies, and using milk, half and half, or heavy cream to alter the level of richness in the sauce.

Basic White Sauce

White sauce, also known as Béchamel, is used in a variety of dishes and is the base for many sauces. Here are the steps for a basic medium white sauce, with adjustments for other thicknesses.

Time Required:
15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Heavy saucepan
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk

Directions:

  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat.
  2. Blend 2 tablespoons of flour into the melted butter.
  3. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
  4. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes. Cooking for this length of time will minimize 'flour' taste.
  5. Slowly add 1 cup of milk, stirring constantly.
  6. Continue cooking slowly until smooth and thickened.
  7. For thin white sauce, follow the instructions above, but use 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour. Thin white sauce is used in cream soups.
  8. For thick white sauce, follow the instructions above, but use 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour. Thick white sauce is used in soufflés.
  9. For heavy white sauce, follow the instructions above, but use 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 tablespoons of flour. Heavy white sauce is used as a binder for croquettes.

Tips:

  1. Light stock, cream, or a combination may be used in place of the milk.

12/25/10

Slow-Cooked Green Chile Pork Tacos

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
3- to 4-lb boneless pork roast (cut into cubes)
¼ cup water
1 can La Victoria Green Enchilada Sauce
1 can (4 oz) La Preferida Diced Green Chilies
1 jar La Victoria Salsa Verde Thick & Chunky
1 large tomato, chopped (1 cup)
1 large onion chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
8 limes, cut in half
16 flour tortillas (6 inch)

Directions

* 1 In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork roast pieces. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides.

* 2 In 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker, place pork. Add water to skillet; cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, scraping up browned bits. Pour over pork. Top pork with enchilada sauce, salsa verde and chiles.

* 3 Cover and cook on Low heat setting 7 to 8 hours.

* 4 Remove pork from cooker to cutting board. Shred pork, using 2 forks. Return pork to juices in cooker

* 5 On serving platter, arrange tomato, cilantro and lime pieces. Warm tortillas as directed on package. Spoon pork onto tortillas, using slotted spoon; top with tomato, onion & cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over fillings. Fold tortillas in half over filling & enjoy!

For spicier tacos, chop 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles and add to the pork with the taco seasoning and green chiles.
Serve with Spanish rice and Queso Chihuahua topped refried beans.

10/6/10

Chicken Bacon Alfredo Pizza

This is a family favorite in our home!

1 package Oscar Mayer fully cooked crumbled bacon
1 ready to use pizza crust (like Mama Mary’s Pizza Crusts from Walmart)
1/2 cup of your favorite Alfredo Sauce (I suggest Creamy Garlic Alfredo from Di Sorrento Classico)
1 package (6oz) grilled chicken breast strips
1 cup of your favorite pizza shredded cheese (we like the Italian Blend from Kraft)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (we use the Kraft in a bottle on the shelf)
1/2 tsp Italian blend seasonings from McCormick Grinders

Pre-Heat oven to 400 degrees

Place pizza crust on the baking sheet; spread sauce to within 1" of the edge; top with bacon and other ingredients.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and pizza is heated through.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese just before serving

TIP: for an extra crispy crust toss it on the rack for 3 minutes before adding the sauce and toppings

3/24/10

Easy Rice Pudding

Serves 4-6 Hands-On Time: 05m Total Time: 15m

Ingredients

  • 2 cups instant rice (such as Minute Rice)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnishing (optional)

Directions

  1. Prepare the rice according to the package directions. Uncover, add the ice cream and cinnamon, and stir.
  2. Divide the pudding among individual bowls and top with additional cinnamon, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information

  • Per Serving
  • Calories 77
  • Calories From Fat 12%
  • Fat 1g
  • Sat Fat 1g
  • Cholesterol 4mg
  • Sodium 8mg
  • Carbohydrate 14g
  • Fiber 0g
  • Sugar 2g
  • Protein 2g

Quick Tip

Use your rice cooker to make hot cereal that's smoother and creamier than the stove top version.