January 08, 2006

No wok, no problem.

You don't need a hand hammered, imported wok to make a killer stir fry. Don't get me wrong, a good wok is an essential tool for anyone truly exploring Asian cuisine or any advanced foodie. But if you don't have one, you can still make a meal that is really close if you break out your 12 inch or better cast iron skillet and go about the meal in a little different sequence than in a high temp wok.

  • As with any stir fry, have everything cut, sliced and measured before you begin cooking.
  • Heat your seasoned cast iron skillet until you just see the first wisps of smoke.
  • If you are using meat, chicken or seafood cook it first in small batches over very high heat.
  • Remove all items just before they are 'done', carryover cooking will continue for a few minutes.
  • Cook each vegetable separately over high heat and remove each ingredient to a warm plate.
  • When you reach the last item, pour everything back into the pan to reheat and add your sauce
  • Thicken with 1/2 cornstarch and 1/2 water mixed into a slurry.

If you don't have a cast iron skillet, go buy one. Buy the largest you can find, and follow the instructions on seasoning prior to the first use. The cast iron skillet has to be the most under utilized tool in the average American kitchen. Part time chefs, don't know much about average, do we?

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Four Dollar Pizza Stone

Unglazed quarry tiles for Home Depot make a great $4.00. pizza stone, The important thing to keep in mind, is that you should select a tile that is untreated and 100% natural clay. The photo show two layers of nine tiles, but I found that in my oven a single layer works best. The idea is to cook the pizza directly on the stone, and with a little homework you can make a much better pie that you can have delivered and at about 1/4 of the price. The stone will discolor as you use it from spills, but for .37 cents a piece, they are essentially disposable. A decent stone from a gourmet shop will run your $40.00 and from articles I've read do not perform any better. I've also found that laying out the skin on a sheet of parchment makes the transition from the peel to the stone seamless and the end result is a cleaner oven, cleaner stone, and a beautiful crust. Another reason to buy that case of parchment I told you about.

I'm still testing and refining my recipes for a couple of styles of dough and suggestions for unique toppings, but in the meantime visit www.pizzamaking.com and be sure to read some of the forums. I'll post some recipes and results over the next few months, but for now the R and D will slow, the kids are sick of pizza if you can believe that.
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