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Ask the experts on StarChefs.com

Cooking tips, food info, and shopping advice
from America’s top chefs.

Ask your favorite celebrity chefs and food experts anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about food and we’ll get the answer for you!

StarChefs will do its best to make sure every question asked is answered. However, due to the high volume of questions asked, some questions will not be able to be answered.

 

 

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    31 through 41 of 40 postings.

Q:My granddaughter (age 21) has finally decided to learn to cook. I am looking for a beginners' basic cookbook. Can you help?

Ramona,
A:A great cookbook that contains recipes and instructions for most basic dishes and preparations, all written in a simple and straightforward manner is the Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker, which you can purchase here: http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-9171-joy-of-cooking-75th-anniversary-ed.aspx. Cooking by James Peterson (http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-20416-cooking.aspx ) , Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America (http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-4253-cooking-at-home-with-the-culinary-i.aspx ) and How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-21886-how-to-cook-everything.aspx) are all good options as well.

Alternatively, you can browse our cookbook archive at http://www.starchefs.com/cookbook/html/index.shtml for cookbooks on more specific subjects that may be of interest to you.

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:My goddaughter is in first year of post-secondary school to become a pastry chef. I would like to take her on a trip to taste different pastries, and meet the chefs who create them. Can you give me some suggestions for both in and outside of North America? Thanks very much!

DJ,
A:Paris and New York are the two epicenters of modern pastry right now, so any serious pastry-themed trip should try and make it to either or both of these cities. For recommendations in New York and in other US cities, be sure to consult our Rising Stars page, where you can find any pastry chef that has ever received a Rising Star award. You can access this at: http://www.starchefs.com/chefs/rising_stars/index.shtml
For Paris addresses, try our Paris travel feature, located at: http://www.starchefs.com/features/travel/paris/html/index.shtml
Another valuable resource for you would be our Chefs to Know book, which provides detailed information on over 70 great pastry chefs in the country and retails for $24.95 via our shopping page at: http://www.starchefs.com/shopping/
If you would like to send us more information about the style of pastry your goddaughter is interested in, we'll be able to send you more specific recommendations.

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:How come all my cakes fall in the middle? I live in Utah at about 7000 feet.

Jean,
A:The higher the altitude, the more the atmospheric pressure decreases, so with less air pressure weighing them down, leavening agents act faster causing your cakes to rise prematurely and deflate. Another contributing factor is that at higher altitudes, water evaporates faster, leaving a higher ratio of sugar and fat in the cake and causing the structure of the cake to be weaker. To prevent your cakes from deflating, you'll want to decrease the amount of baking powder by 25%, add 3 to 4 tablespoons more water to the liquid in your mixture (dough tends to be drier at such a high elevation), and raise the temperature of your oven about 20 degrees.

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:My question concerns wine storage. I manage a self storage facility with a wine storage vault. We maintain it at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent humidity, at least most of the time. While our temperature is rock solid our humidity fluctuates between 46 and 86 percent. How much of an impact is this? We're willing to do whatever it takes but don't have the requisite knowledge to know the importance of this fluctuation. Any help would be appreciated.

Ron,
A:We asked Belinda Chang, (Wine Director at The Modern) and Thomas Combescot-Lepere, (Wine Director at St. Regis Hotel New York and Adour Alain Ducasse) in New York City, for their input on your question.
Here is Belinda's answer:

"The importance of constant, high humidity varies with the age and delicacy of the wines being stored, and how long the wines are to be stored under those conditions. A high fill, just released California Cabernet will be relatively unaffected over the short term by the drastically fluctuating humidity levels. A low fill bottle of 1900 Margaux, on the other hand, could be ruined. If you plan to store fine wine as an investment for long periods of time, an adjustment will need to be made."

Here is Thomas's answer:

"If all the bottles are laying down, with the corks being constantly moist by the wine inside the bottle, the fluctuation of humidity is not such an issue. It can be a problem for fortified wines as they are usually stored vertically as the corks drying out and do not act anymore as barriers against oxygen from the outside. In some cellars in Paris, once or twice the week, they just spray the floor and the walls of the cellar with a water hose. You just want to make sure that you can drain the excess of water out and that the cellar is well aerated to avoid rot. In the Burgundy cellar of the Domaine Maillard, they have installed automatic sprinklers linked to a humidity monitor. It works pretty much the same that the salad/vegetable counters in a super market."

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:What is a good food costing program for me? I'm currently using a really old program that I learned from cooking school 9 years ago and it's out of date.

Allen Hsu,
A:If you want to keep up with the times, we suggest that you purchase a software or web-based food cost accounting program. These will provide a reliable and clear platform for you to track your costs from beginning to end, as well as analyze each dish's profitability and archive recipes ? all in one place. Here are three possibilities:

Menu Cost Pro ? Software that tracks food costs, profitability, purchasing history, and nutrition content.
http://www.menucostpro.com

Recipe Manager - Software that offers 3 different types of food costing methods, inventory tracking, margin calculations, raw materials costing, and menu writing capability. http://www.recipemgr.com/

StarChef ? Online service which offers recipe management (including ingredient database and costing), nutritional analysis and menu management. Available in different price packages.
http://www.starchef.net (Not related to StarChefs.com)

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:I have a recipe for a pina colada pie and the recipe call for pineapple-coconut nectar. Where would I be able to find this in upstate New York?

Cheryl,
A:Kern's Beverages manufactures a Pineapple-Coconut Nectar which you should be able to find at your local Krasdale Foods or Wal-Mart.

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:Can you just steam Taylor Bay scallops as is, leaving everything attached, or do you have to clean out everything first and then steam them?

TacChefs,
A:Taylor Bay scallops, which are farmed in the cold waters of Cape Cod Bay, can be steamed in the shell in the same manner as clams or mussels. These unusual scallops are always sold in the shell and are the only farm-raised bay scallops in the United States. They are grown for a year in suspended nets that can accommodate 500 growing scallops at once.

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:During these times of financial hardships, what are some strategies that restaurant owners are implementing to deal with peoples' reluctancy to spend a lot of money?

Brandon,
A:Here are several common strategies restaurants are implementing:

1) Restructuring their menu to offer more appetizers and ?small plate? items to accommodate smaller budgets. Customers will tend to order more of these items, as it gives them the impression of getting more for their money.
2) Replacing high-end cuts of meat with inexpensive, but still flavorful cuts.
3) Offering special menus on slower days or during slower hours.
4) Stretching daily business hours by opening between lunch and dinner.
5) Open additional days during the week.
6) Offering more wines by the glass, half-bottle, and quarto.

You can find out more information on how restaurants are dealing with the current state of the economy in our recently published economy survey results at http://www.starchefs.com/features/2008_summer_economy_survey/html/index.shtml

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:Why does my pesto sauce comes out lumpy? I make my pesto with 2 cups of basil, 1 cup olive oil, 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, and 5 cloves of garlic. I mix the basil, oil, and garlic in the blender and add the cheese in mixed by hand. When I add to my pasta sometimes it comes out smooth and sometime it clumps up. What am I doing wrong?

Christina,
A:Try this method for making a smooth pesto: blend the garlic while slowly drizzling in olive oil until the mixture is nearly smooth. Next, add the basil, parmesan cheese, and salt. Adjust your pesto to desired consistency by adding small amounts of water by the teaspoon ? this will help emulsify the sauce and create a smoother texture. Make sure you don't blend for too long after adding the basil because heat will expedite the oxidation process of the basil leaves, turning your pesto brown more quickly.

--by StarChefs Editors
--


Q:I have a friend who makes Chicken Marbella with boneless chicken breasts and thighs. Do I need to alter the cooking time or method to make this work?
This recipe comes from the Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins.

Sherrie,
A:You definitely need to alter the cooking time - meat on the bone (which is what the recipe calls for) takes significantly longer to cook than boneless meat. The internal temperature rises more slowly because of the presence of the bone. If you brown the boneless breasts and thighs first, they will probably only take about 5-8 minutes to finish cooking with the rest of the dish components. However, you will loose a bit of juiciness and flavor by using boneless meat.

--by StarChefs Editors
--

[ BACK 10 postings ] [ NEXT 10 postings ]

EMERIL LAGASSE’S
FAVORITE FARE
Knowing that you have a Portuguese background, I am wondering what your favorite Portuguese dish is. – Dale Brown, Springfield MO

Kale soup, I use lots of fresh kale, chorizo or andouille sausage, potatoes and chicken stock. My mom (who is Portuguese) used to make it. Mom ran the house so we grew up eating Portuguese food. – Emeril

TACO ADVICE
FROM BOBBY FLAY
I have a basic question: I cannot seem to get the right taste for my beef taco filling. I like a really spicy flavor, but nothing overpowering. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance! – Charlotte Stevens, Santa Barbara CA

Start with onions and garlic. Then add ground cumin, ground coriander, ancho chile powder, jalapeno or Serrano peppers, and chopped tomatoes. At the very end, add some chopped fresh cilantro. You can also experiment with some other dried chile powders such as pasilla, cascabel or chipotle. – Bobby

NORMAN VAN AKEN’S FLAVOR COMBINATIONS
What are your favorite food combinations?

Peanut butter and Jelly still works for me! Especially on a Ritz cracker… I’m only kidding – a little. Plantains and pork is another great one. It is in the contrast of combinations that I am most consistently drawn to. I love limejuice, sugar and fish sauce. I love passion fruit, honey and sesame oil. I love roasted beef and lamb with caramelized onions and root vegetables. My dessert interests are chocolate and mandarin orange, as well as curry and pineapple – Norman

A PAINT BRUSH FOR
MARCUS SAMUELSSON
What are staple ingredients in your kitchen?

It’s not ingredients, it’s a brush. It’s something I’ve had forever, since I was a kid. I paint on plates, for example. Anything is a vehicle for me to serve food on. I use tiles or glass bricks. I don’t buy the most expensive china, I design my own and use stuff [that exists] in everyday culture and I put it in my restaurant. –Marcus

SHOPPING
WITH ALICE WATERS
What tips can you give on the best way to shop in farmer’s markets for someone who’s only shopped in supermarkets. – Harry Gaulke, Pensacola FL

Most vendors at farmer’s markets will let you taste their produce. Tasting the food is a great part of the market. Also buy small amounts of lots of different things. This way you can see how to cook with them and work with a variety of foods, instead of getting a lot of one thing. I would go to the market without any expectations about what I want to eat and cook that day. See what is ripe and best and buy that. Then go back and look in cookbooks to see what you can do with it. - Alice

Great Chef de Partie Opportunity in Chicago
StarChefs.com will soon be tasting in Hawaii, The Carolinas, New England, and New York. Want to nominate someone? Do it here!
The Culinarian: A Kitchen Desk Reference
by Barbara Ann Kipfer
John Wiley & Sons
October 2011
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