Ask Chef Rachael - February 2012
Q. Some recipes call for minced garlic in terms of cloves instead of as a dry measurement. How do I know if I am using the right amount?
A. With the variation in sizes of today's cloves, this is an increasing "problem." In general, recipes that specify a clove count probably assume a medium-sized clove, which should equate to roughly 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Bear in mind, though, that it's probably not necessary to read such a recipe too strictly. If the author wrote the recipe measure as a clove, it probably isn’t going to make a huge difference in the outcome. As with basics like salt and pepper, the desirable amount of garlic flavor in many recipes is largely a matter of taste.
Q. I'd like to make whipped cream for a dessert ahead of time, but I'm worried it will deflate. Is there any way to make it last longer?
A. What you don't want to do is whip it extra stiff. It won’t help. If you are using it as a topping for a dessert, I suggest whipping it right before use, because it really doesn't take that long. Pour your cream into your mixing bowl and place it and your beaters in the fridge until you're ready to go. If you need to incorporate it into a dish or are taking a finished dessert to an event, you can add 1/2 teaspoon plain, unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1 tablespoon water to your cream as it whips.
Q. When I am measuring yogurt should I use a measuring cup made for measuring dry or liquid ingredients?
A. It won't make a huge difference, but I find it easier to use dry measuring cups for yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, etc.
Q. I have recipes that call for me to cook pork tenderloin to 140° and some that specify pork is only safe when cooked to 145°. Which is right?
A. Probably both. Especially with larger cuts of meat, like tenderloin, internal temperature will rise 5-10° when it's removed from the heat, so you'll end up with a final, safe temperature of 145° when you remove it from your oven at 140˚. Keep in mind that temperatures typically rise less with smaller, thinner cuts like chops. As a reminder, ground pork should be cooked to 160°.
Q. I like soups in the winter but I get bored with them really quickly. Any ideas for perking them up?
A. Head to the salad bar! No, not for salad, but for toppings that add dimension to your favorite soups. You can add texture, color, flavor and even temperature contrasts with things like French fried onions, sunflower seeds, bacon bits, diced onions or peppers, shredded cheese, sliced radishes, edamame, beans, hot peppers, artisan croutons and more. You can also wilt fresh greens (spinach works really well for this) directly into a piping hot bowl. I like to finish puréed vegetable, cream and bean soups with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and add hot sauce to just about everything.