Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Trucs in the Kitchen

Fast-food runs, deli detours and grocery carts loaded with prepared food can drain a food budget faster than a houseful of hungry teenagers. The secret for slashing your family’s food bill is to cook at home. And the way to become confident in the kitchen is to learn a few strategic trucs of the trade.

“Truc” (rhymes with “fluke”) is a French word that means “trick,” not as in a magic trick or an illusion but rather a shortcut, gimmick, secret or way to do something better, cheaper, easier and faster.

PERFECT RICE. Saute 1 cup rice in 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan over medium heat until the kernels are well-coated and begin to turn bright white. Add 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt, or salt to taste. Bring to a boil, and then stir and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes undisturbed. Remove from the heat — do not peek — and wait for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve. It multiplies well. Use equal amounts of rice and water.

PERFECT BOILED POTATOES. Say goodbye to mushy boiled potatoes that fall apart: Fill a pot with 2 parts water and 1 part vinegar. Add a dash of kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Drop in the peeled potatoes, and gently boil until desired doneness.

PERFECT CUPCAKES. To make rich, moist “gourmet” cupcakes, skip the muffin tins and paper liners. Grease and flour heavy, ovenproof porcelain coffee cups. Fill each of them 2/3 full with your favorite cake or muffin batter. Bake in heated oven at 325 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow them to cool for a few minutes, and then invert the cups to pop out the cakes.

PERFECT OMELET PAN. Any skillet can become your perfect omelet pan. The secret is making sure the omelet will not stick. Pour some kosher salt into the skillet, and rub the bottom and sides of the pan vigorously with a kitchen towel. The salt acts like an abrasive to put a fine polish on the skillet. Discard the salt, and proceed.

TENDER, MOIST CHICKEN. When cooking a whole chicken, chicken parts or boneless skinless breasts in liquid (whether braising, boiling or stewing), make sure it never comes to a full boil, not even for a few moments. Once you see that liquid starting to move, turn the heat down so it remains just below the boiling point. This is the secret to cooking moist and tender chicken every time.

FRESH BASIL. To enjoy “fresh” basil all year long, wash it; pat it dry between towels; and then pick off the unbruised leaves from the stems. Pack them in a jar, and cover completely with olive oil. Close the lid tightly, and refrigerate. Use the “fresh” basil as needed throughout the year, as well as the wonderful basil-flavored oil.

QUICK CHILL. Champagne, beer, white wine and cans of soda are best served very cold, around 43 degrees F. That takes at least an hour in the refrigerator. But you can cut that time to 20 minutes or less: Fill an ice bucket half full with ice cubes. Pour in several cups of cold water, and add 4 tablespoons of salt. Plunge the beverage bottle into the ice bucket, adding additional water and ice so the bucket is full. In 10 to 12 minutes the beverage will be cold. Let it sit for 20 minutes to reach the ideal 43 degrees. Cheers!

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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