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Chefs take on the cook’s little dilemmas

From gummy pasta to undercooked chicken, being a chef in your own kitchen can be challenging. I asked some professionals for solutions to common cooking dilemmas and learned several new things myself. For example, did you know in Utah, due to our elevation, liquids boil 10 degrees cooler than in lower elevations? That helped me understand why my pasta water takes forever to boil. From baking a cake that doesn’t fall to cooking vegetables “tender-crisp,” these local chefs share some great tips to make your next home cooking adventure go off without a hitch.

How to keep a cake from falling
Chef Tom Woodbury, former TV chef, now with Compliance Mate:
“Leavening, anything baked with baking soda or baking powder, tends to fall when you bake it at elevation. If you are making a cake from scratch, an easy solution is using just 75% of the leavener the recipe calls for. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda, use just ¾ of a teaspoon. There is less vapor pressure on the cake when it is in the oven at a higher elevation. When you over-leaven your cake, which was probably developed at sea level, the leavener acts ungoverned, causing it to raise quickly and actually overrise, and then it falls. It has nothing to do with kids bouncing around in the kitchen or making too much noise; the reality is we are at a different environmental barometric pressure.”

How to prevent limp veggies
Chef Anny Sooksri of Fav Bistro, Chabaar Beyond Thai, Siam Noodle Bar and Tea Rose Diner:
“At our restaurants, we know what goes in the pan first and what goes in last. If you cook broccoli, bell peppers or mushrooms, they go into the pan last. Bamboo and baby corn both need to cook a longer time. In fact, no matter how long you cook bamboo, it will come out the same—it is a weird thing. Blanching your fresh vegetables in water before you add to a pan to stir-fry also helps. I always put tofu in last, you don’t want it to break it down. Zucchini, I don’t cook much, but carrots have to cook longer. If they are ‘young’ carrots they take less time, while ‘older’ carrots have to cook a bit longer.”

Fav Bistro, 1984 E. Murray Holladay Road, Holladay
801-676-9300, ASooksri.com

How to cook the perfect pasta
Chef Justin Shifflett of Stoneground Kitchen:
“Dry and fresh pasta cook very different. The key to cooking any pasta is to add the pasta to water that is already boiling and salty. It does not matter if you add the salt before or after the water boils, but salted water does come to a boil faster. Make sure you put only enough pasta in for how much water you have; people tend to add too much and end up with gummy pasta. You have to remember that all that starch is being released into the water. When I am cooking pasta, I will have my sauce ready and finish my pasta off in the sauce the last minute or two. This also helps the sauce stick to the noodles better. If you are cooking pasta in a bundle, I will stir the water as I am adding the pasta to break up the bundles. Fresh noodles should be stirred into the water as well, otherwise they could end up cooking into a large ball of noodles.”

249 E. 400 South, SLC

How to cook chicken just right
Chef de cuisine Amanda McGraw of Provisions:
“I recommend everyone get organized before they begin—mise en place—the French term that means ‘putting in place’. Have all your bowls of ingredients all set up before you start. No matter what piece of chicken you are cooking, always make sure your chicken is dry first. You can always use the thermometer method, making sure the internal temp is at 160 degrees. In restaurant cooking, we press down near the bone and if is squishy and soft, it needs to cook longer. If you are cooking a half chicken, cook it skin side down, you can even throw a weight on it, like a brick, and sear it over medium/low heat to get the skin golden brown and crispy. Flip it over and put a little chicken stock in the pan and put it in the oven to finish it off, around 10 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. This will make the chicken moist and tender and completely done.”

3364 S. 2300 East, SLC

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