I love seafood. I love crabs. Dungeness, Alaskan Snow, soft-shell, King- you name it, I’ll eat it.
Sure I love a good crab cake (thank you Maryland), I love soft-shell crab battered and fried, and for sure I’ll take my crab in any gumbo, étouffée, soup or stew there is. But my favorite way to prepare and eat crab- simple steam or boil in salty like the ocean water. This method works best with Dungeness crab.
It might seem tedious to suggest flavoring an ingredient that is already used to flavor food, flavored salts can be an easy alternative for bringing maximum taste to otherwise boring dishes. The idea of flavoring salt isn’t anything new; seasoning salts and spice rubs with salt have been on grocery store shelves for years. I’m a fan of brands like Old Bay and Adobo seasoning, I’m not a fan of all of the additives like MSG. Making your own flavored salt allows you to control and create whatever flavor combinations you want, without all of the extra added ingredients.
Another reason why I like flavored salts is that it’s really good way to take care of some loose ends around the kitchen. Is your garlic starting to sprout? Did you buy a whole bunch of rosemary or thyme when you only needed a few sprigs? Don’t let those go to waste, flavor your salt with it! The salt and the fact that it will dry out for a bit will help preserve it for at least a few months.
The key to flavoring salt is pretty simple and basically comes down to 3 steps:
1. Chop everything up with kosher salt. Aim for a 3:1 flavor-salt ratio.
2. Spread the salt out to dry for a day or so.
3. Store the salt in a clean container in a cool area.
To bring us back to the garlic that is two days from becoming a full grown plant or the rest of those herbs you have no idea what to do with (or both!), get those as dry as you can and with about a third of it’s amount in salt, chop them all up together. There must be a lot more flavoring than salt. It will sound weird and it might kind of damp at first, but just keep chopping until everything is the size that you want. Transfer the salt mixture to a sheet or pan. I would suggest putting a layer or parchment paper on top, but it’s not necessary. Leave the salt in a dry place, either on your countertop or even the oven with the light turned on, and let it dry out for at least 6 hours, best overnight. After it’s all dried out, you’ll have your own flavored salt that can really be used as a substitute for salt in anything.
I recently made one with rosemary, and lemon zest. I’ll marinate meat with it, roast vegetables with it, or add it to popcorn or salads. I even substituted it for regular salt when I made sugar cookies. The possibilities are endless for both what you can flavor the salt with and what you can add the salt on.
Some suggestions for flavoring:
1. Thai chiles (seeded), Thai basil, and ginger – Southeast Asian salt
2. Thyme, rosemary, tarragon – Provencal salt
3. Cilantro, cumin, and garlic or shallots
There are so many combinations of cool ingredients, try some out and let me know how they go!
I think it’s safe to say that everybody loves fried rice. It’s one of the most popular items on Chinese menus from both Chinese and non-Chinese people alike. It’s versatile, hearty, and can be so delicious…if made the right way.
Oftentimes friends of mine will tell me that they really love Chinese fried rice but can’t seem to recreate their restaurant favorite in their own kitchen. While I wouldn’t dare self-proclaim myself as the supreme king of fried rice, I do think my credentials of having eaten and cooked the dish almost all of my life make me a somewhat expert on the matter. With that being said, I want to offer up some tips on how to make some great fried rice and hopefully debunk some rumors that you might have otherwise heard.
1. Never used freshly cooked rice. I understand why this might be difficult for some people to stick to because usually you cook what you want, when you want. People don’t usually associate making fried rice as an elaborate event that you need to prepare for days ahead. But, if you don’t have any rice that’s been cooked already on hand, cook your plain rice and save making the fried rice for the next day. Freshly cooked rice is warm and soft. Stir frying it with eggs and vegetables and soy sauce will make it even more soft and oftentimes really mushy. No one likes a mushy fried rice. The best fried rice is made with refrigerated rice that had been cooked a day or two ahead of time. If you’re looking for that restaurant quality, separate grains and great textured fried rice, take your freshly cooked rice and spread it out on a pan. Let that pan air dry and when the rice has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for the next day. The rice will be perfect and ready to soak up all of the flavors of the other components to make a perfect fried rice.
Tip: if you are really craving fried rice but don’t have any rice on hand, try getting some precooked rice or “quick rice” bags from the grocery store. They’re inexpensive and really convenient. Don’t preheat the rice, just add it in like you would normally and mix it well so that any clumps will break apart. When it comes to brown rice (which I don’t even know how to cook in a rice cooker), this shortcut is perfect.
2. Cook your eggs first, and separately. So technically you don’t have to cook your eggs first, but it’s just easier on you so you don’t have to wash your pan between cooking the rice and the egg. Cooking your eggs separately is extremely key. People often say that they don’t like that the egg in their fried rice gets dry or overcooked. To ensure fluffy and tasty eggs in your fried rice, cook and scramble your eggs in the wok or pan first. Let the egg get slightly golden or at least solidify, and then set them aside in a separate bowl. You can sauté your meat and then your vegetables in the same pan. Then add soy sauce and whatever other seasonings you’d like and then the rice. The last step should be to add your egg and mix. Not only will the eggs retain their moisture from not being overcooked, they’ll also retain their golden yellow color, which will add color and presentation points, if you are planning on making this for guests.
Tip: People are oftentimes confused about the egg to rice ratio. I personally like bigger chunks of egg and a hearty ratio with the rice so I usually follow 1-2 eggs per 1 cup of cooked rice. If the eggs are larger, it’ll be 1:1. I’ve found that this ratio works really well for most fried rice lovers.
3. The basic steps to making fried rice are: scramble eggs, cook meat, then vegetables, then rice. All of you recipe followers should already have this down but in case you don’t, remember this. Getting the steps mixed up could result in some disastrous end products. If you are using raw meat, make sure your meat is mostly cooked through before adding your vegetables and definitely before adding in your rice.
4. Be careful of over salting your fried rice. It surprises me how common this problem is for people. I think people get mixed up with the soy sauce, what I consider to be the only ingredient that should add salt to the dish. As a rule of thumb for those who don’t use soy sauce often, don’t add salt to your fried rice. I think people tend to over salt because they add salt to their eggs and then add some salt to their meat and or vegetables. The salt content in everything ends up compounding and things just get way too salty. If you’re not following a recipe, be aware of over salting. Add a bit of the total dishes’ soy sauce when sautéing the meat and or vegetables and then the rest after adding in the rice. It’s hard to correct and over salted fried rice, so be careful.
And there you have it folks. Some of my basic tips for making some bomb fried rice. Hope you enjoy and let me know your thoughts on Twitter or email me!
Basic Marinara Sauce (feeds 4-6 people comfortably)
I came up with this recipe one day when I was really craving some pasta and didn’t have enough fresh tomatoes to make sauce. In the past, whenever I made marinara sauce, I stuck with either all fresh tomatoes or all canned. I never mixed. Who knew.
Extra virgin olive oil
5 regular sized tomatoes
a 32-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut tomatoes into cubes. The smaller, the faster they will cook and the less chunky your sauce will be..i.e. if you like chunky marinara sauce, cut tomatoes into half inch cubes. Mince the garlic and dice the onion the same size as the tomatoes. Consistency is key.
2. In a pot over medium heat, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and add the minced garlic. Once you can smell the garlic, add the diced onion. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent.If they start to brown, turn the heat down.
3. Once the onions are soft, add in the fresh tomatoes. At this point, its okay to turn the heat up a little more. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt. This will not only help the tomatoes break down faster, it will also provide flavor. Once the tomatoes are cooked and broken down, after around 5 or 6 minutes, add in the can of crushed tomatoes.
4. Mix the sauce well and add in the dried herbs. Stir well and cover the pot and turn the heat up to high. Once the sauce has boiled, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the sauce cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta and enjoy!
PS: This sauce is really nice because it’s a complete canvas for you to add whatever you have or want. Bolognese? Add ground meat right after the garlic and onions start to sweat a little. Have some bell peppers/any vegetable in your fridge? Dice them up and saute them after the onions! Remember to keep them cut similar sizes so they’ll cook evenly. If you like your veggies crispy, add it after the tomatoes instead. Vodka sauce? Add a shot of vodka before adding the tomatoes and make sure the alcohol has cooked off a little. Then add the tomatoes and let them cook down. Add a little bit of heavy cream after the sauce has come to a boil and turn down the heat to let it simmer. The possibilities are endless.
Have fun and tell me your thoughts!