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Ask a Chef!


#1

This is the first forum I think I have ever wanted to actively participate in. I am passionate about my board game hobby, enjoying classics like Catan, or newer(ish) games such as Terraforming Mars, Pandemic, Power Grid, Tokaido… etc…

I am also a professional chef and have been cooking in Canada as a career for seven years now. I own and operate a restaurant in rural Ontario with my Wife and Mother-in-Law.

I saw this corner of the forum and thought I could offer any knowledge I have accrued to fellow boardgamers who have questions about cooking! Ask away if anyone is interested :slight_smile:


#2

I don’t have any questions right now, but I approve of this post!


#3

Oooh, how nice. I used to work as a cooking instructor, but I will most definitely refer to you in the future. :grinning:


#4

I’ve got one - Bacon is the bane of my life! I love it, but I really enjoy it crispy. To get it to crisp up, I have to turn the heat right up, it doesn’t seem to go crispy at lower temperatures. I fry it. The problem is, at high temperatures, the oil spits, and not to get into it too much, I struggle to clean up the results - it’s a disability thing. Is there a way to crisp up bacon without high temperature frying? I’ve tried frying in butter, grilling, even microwaving in a special container. Nothing works, at least while retaining the taste.

Oh, and I have a second one, perhaps related - air fryers, are they any good, what do you have to take into consideration vs a deep fat fryer?

Thanks so much!


#5

That’s wicked! Truthfully I really enjoy teaching, and if I lived in a different place I would want to pursue teaching cooking as a profession. Nice to have a colleague on here.


#6

Have you tried baking your bacon? In my previous life as a short-order cook, sheet pans full of bacon strips were by far the best way to go. (Kenji at Serious Eats took a look, if you want more detail.) At the volume we went through for breakfast, it made sense space-wise, but the cooking was also even and reliable. Bacon takes a lot longer to burn in the oven. You can even do most of the cooking there, then finish it in the pan if it doesn’t get the level of crispy you like.

Also: foil-lined pans mean there’s very little to no cleanup. BIG bonus.

At home, since I’m only making a few strips for my daughter and myself, I usually cook bacon in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. It takes a while to get crispy, but it does get there. The spattering isn’t zero, and it takes regular flipping, but I can make coffee, toast, and eggs for three without much effort. This works well for American-style (pork belly) bacon - “streaky bacon” in the UK, if I recall right?

Been a long time, but I remember regular British bacon as being meatier, with less fat to assist in frying. (A loin cut, maybe?) If that’s your bacon preference, maybe the oven really is the way to go.

@thechunkmunk Where’s your restaurant? The family might be headed up Ontario way next summer, and I’m willing to drive a little out of the way for decent food.


#7

Hey @SleepyWill!

Bacon can be the devils tool for frustrating us. The problem with cooking it at a high temperature is that the meat will burn before the fat has rendered (melted). It is actually much better to cook bacon for a longer time at a lower temperature (3 out of 10) if you want to have a crispy product. This allows the fat to render while the meat cooks without burning. I was in the middle of my response when @brian posted his, but I was also going to recommend baking. I find the bacon tends to stick to the tinfoil, but by all means give it a shot and see what works best for you. At my restaurant we stopped baking our bacon because the strips will stick to each other if they are touching in the pan when you put them in the oven.

Should you go the stove-top route there is a screen you can purchase (see Bacon Screen) that you would just set on top of the pan and it should cut down (but not eliminate 100%) the amount of spattering. Both methods can yield crispy bacon, and in my estimation the oven route may be the best way to eliminate spatter. 350F-400F (175C-200C) is where you want the oven at. In terms of timing, that will depend on the thickness of the product you are cooking. Just check in every 5 minutes or so until you get down how long it takes!

My restaurant is called The Spatula Diner, and is located in Flesherton, ON. It’s roughly a two hour drive North of Toronto. We’d be happy to host you @brian, as well as anyone else on this forum :slight_smile:


#8

Oops, forgot part 2!

I haven’t worked with an air fryer, and therefore I unfortunately can’t provide a proper answer to the question. I can say that the fat deep-fryers that are designed for home use I don’t particularly like. Usually you are only pulling it out to make one meal, and then you have a large volume of fat that has only been used once or twice that you have to store. Also, very few oven hoods in residential kitchens vent outside. Their main purpose is to collect fat and food particles from pans that are on the oven range. They have a more serious version of the splatter screen I mentioned in my first reply built into the hood that should be cleaned regularly. The downside of this with home frying is that a.) the heat created by the vat of frying oil remains inside, but much worse than that the smell of used oil also remains.

So with all of that being said, an air fryer could offer solutions to some of the issues outlined? Sorry I don’t have more to offer for this!


#9

I might end up at your place sometime too. My partner is from Collingwood, so we’re there semi regularly. Flesherton’s not too far.


#10

Garlic bread. It’s the future. Tell me how to make it chef style please.


#11

I’m giving it a go - I’m using streaky - american style. I find british style does get a bit dry, and if I have a bacon sandwich, I’ll do 2 streaky and 2 regular. One of the reasons I like to fry is because the oil takes on a lot of the flavour, and theres nothing better than eggs fried in bacon oil

I’ll let you know how it goes!


#13

Start with good bread. Avoid nearly everything that is coming from a grocery store if you can and instead find a bakery nearby that bakes bread daily. I personally have an affinity for sourdough breads. Sourdough is naturally leavened (it uses the natural yeast in unbleached flour as well as yeast that is in the air to cause the loaf to rise), which takes a longer time and the byproduct produced by the yeast eating sugar and expelling gas creates a lingering sour taste. So, that’s where to start.

Next, allow some butter (I use salted butter, most chefs use unsalted, up to you but if you go unsalted you will need to season the butter) to come completely to room temperature by pulling it out of the fridge the night before. Use a knife or a food processor to mince (cut as small as possible) a couple cloves of garlic and add it to the warmed butter. If you end up mincing more garlic than you like simple put it in a vessel with a flavourless oil (canola or grapeseed if you are feeling rich) and mix together, it will keep (if stored in a cool place) for a very long time. Add some fresh cracked pepper, dried oregano, or better yet a few tablespoons of fresh thyme into the garlic butter. Spread that deliciousness on a couple nice slices of that sourdough.

To review, at this point you have:

  • Nice thick slices of sourdough
  • Soft butter with minced garlic, cracked pepper, dried oregano or fresh thyme that has been spread on said slices

Next set your oven to the mysterious Broil setting* and move one of the oven racks to the second-from-top slot. Place your sourdough deliciousness in all its glory onto a baking sheet and slide into the oven for a few minutes. If you want cheese pop them out of the oven once the bread is just starting to brown, grate some decent cheese (for this I would recommend Beemster, but it is up to you really. I’d say stick with something that is sharp while not being too rich) and evenly spread it on the top of the bread. Return to the oven until the cheese is nicely melted. Cut as desired and enjoy!

*There is nothing mysterious about broil, it simply provides a lot of heat from the top of the oven instead of all around. This is the secret to get grilled cheese with melted cheese that doesn’t have burnt bread. Can also be used to crisp a fruit crisp, gratin a casserole, or for reheating pizza :slight_smile: Was that sufficiently long enough for you??

That would be awesome! Flesherton’s about a half hour drive from Collingwood. Depending where you are coming from when you are headed to Collingwood you may drive right by us!

Good news! You will still get all that lovely bacon grease. When you are taking the sheets of bacon in and out of the oven please be careful as that grease will be sitting in the baking sheet. If you have a cast iron this would help as it has higher sides, or even if you have a pan that doesn’t have any plastic on it that would work too.

Let us know!


#14

now i really want some garlic bread. will have to try this out :drooling_face:


#15

I tried the lower temperature fry, mixed results - the centre stripe of fat remained soft, and did not crisp up at all and I had to stop because the outside edges were beginning to burn. Also there was less caramalisation on the actual surface of the bacon than I enjoy. I should point out that I was using bacon that had been cured in molasses, which may explain the burning so early, and next time I buy some, I’ll get something without extra sugar on it, to give it another go.

Bacon at the start:

Bacon at the end:

Bacon in final deployment:

But the end result was a clean cooker, and worksurfaces and clothes, so all in all, I am very happy, and a huge thankyou!


#16

I’m glad the end result was close to what you were looking for, and dinner looks good! I’m interested to see how you make out with baking the bacon.


#17

For a DIY ‘supermarket style’ garlic bread, I make garlic butter in a very similar way to that described by @thechunkmunk , but form it into a cylinder (wrapped in cling film or equivalent). Grab a par baked baguette, slice on the diagonal eight times to get nine sections (extremely important that slices number nine). Slice off discs of garlic butter and push into the cuts. Bake the baguette as per pack instructions. Excess butter can be frozen/ stuck back in the fridge for next time. Probably nowhere as good as the recipe described above.


#18

What you have described is called a compound butter! Super easy to make, essentially you just add anything to butter and that is a compound butter. If you put down a sheet of cling wrap, then transfer the butter onto the middle of it, you can fold the plastic wrap over and pull the butter back which will help to mould it into a cylindrical shape. Then just wrap that up and keep in the fridge. This garlic compound butter is great for garlic bread, but would also be quite tasty on top of a steak or a piece of salmon.

Some other compound butters I have used is cranberry cinnamon, or curry and paprika.

Here are some Compound Butters from a random blog.


#19

I’ve got one for you - when I lived in the UK I used to make the occasional focaccia. I’d eat it warm with a little pesto and some olives. And it was glorious.

I’ve been living in the US for about 10 years and I’d like to keep doing that… but my wife has a really severe case of Coeliac’s disease, and the smallest trace of gluten will cause her body’s immune system to declare war on ALL OF THE THINGS.

Is there a way I can make decent gluten free flour suitable for focaccia without spending a colossal amount of money on xanthan gum and blood of unicorn and so on?


#20

Waves from Guelph


#21

You might do well to pick up a copy of Aki Kamozawa abd Alex Talbot’s Gluten Free Flour Power. They’re the folks behind the Ideas In Food blog, and I’ve had great success with their recipes. They provide several different gluten-free flour blends in the book, depending on your needs, and while they’re never as cheap as all-purpose flour, they’re definitely less expensive than the pre-made mixes.

I’m addicted to their hoisin sauce and steamed buns, and their marzipan stollen is quickly becoming a winter holiday standard.