Ask Chef Rachael - May 2013

Q. Do you prefer a gas or electric stovetop?
A. I'm asked this question a lot, and to be honest I think it matters much more what kind of cookware you use with it. The best range used with poor-quality cookware – pots and pans that don't distribute heat well or evenly – isn't as good as a basic model combined with great cookware. When I bought my range, my kids were just babies; I was concerned about the safety of an open flame on a gas stove, so I bought a top-of-the-line electric. Even though my kids are now old enough to cook for themselves, and I could easily replace it, I'm perfectly happy with my purchase nearly 10 years later.

Q. What makes a Vidalia onion different from any other yellow onion?
A. A Vidalia onion is a specific type of sweet onion grown in a production area defined by Georgia and U.S. laws. It is an unusually sweet variety of onion due to the low amount of sulfur in the soil in which the onions are grown. The onions were first grown in the early 1930s near Vidalia, Georgia. Georgia had some cold weather about a month ago and it may have impacted the crop, which is anticipated sometime this month. You can ask a member of the produce team in your local Kowalski's Market when they are expected to arrive.

Q. I want to buy a new set of mixing bowls. Which is better – glass, metal or plastic?
A. I think it may be largely a matter of personal preference but I would consider a few key attributes when making your decision. If you want to be able to use them in the microwave, you obviously can't use stainless steel or melamine bowls. Glass is a better option, but look for lightweight ones (ceramic bowls are too heavy for my liking, too). Personally, I won't buy anything that can't be put in the dishwasher, either. My favorite bowls are a nesting plastic set with a rubber ring on the bottom of each to prevent slipping. They also feature pour spouts on each size. Mixing bowls with lids aren't common, but they have a certain appeal, too.

Q. What is the difference between Russian dressing and Thousand Island dressing?
A. For many people, they are so close that the difference is negligible. Thousand Island usually has more texture, due to the addition of finely chopped onion, garlic, peppers or pickles and, in many cases, hard-cooked egg to what would otherwise pass for Russian dressing. Russian dressing was originally made with mayo, chili sauce, pimentos and chives. Modern recipes for both feature mayonnaise and ketchup as a base.

Q. When is it okay to use "cooking sherry" in a recipe that calls for "dry sherry"?
A. Cooking sherry is very inexpensive wine with added salt and possibly preservatives. If you don't have a good quality sherry, I would substitute a good quality dry white wine before I’d use cooking sherry.

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