Tricks & Treats: A Hallow’s Eve smorgasbord for the amateur cook. | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Eat & Drink » Wine

Tricks & Treats: A Hallow’s Eve smorgasbord for the amateur cook.

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In honor of Halloween, I thought of doing a column about scary foods. You know: recipes for brain-cell salad, tarantula cookies, eyeball cupcakes, bat sandwiches and the like. But there are plenty of places to find creepy cuisine and frightening foods for Halloween splattered all over the Internet and in the dailies. So, I’ve decided instead to devote this column to a few of my favorite kitchen tricks and treats. Trust me, there’s nothing at all scary about these tips.

Trick: How to seed a pomegranate. I’ve been there, too: Trying to pry pomegranate seeds loose and ruining my wardrobe with impossible-to-clean pomegranate juice. If you’ve any use for pomegranates, this nifty trick might just change your life. You can seed a pomegranate in a minute or two (really!) by first slicing the fruit in half horizontally. Next, take one half of the pomegranate and place it in your palm, cut side facing down, over a bowl. Now, just tap the bottom (which is now facing up) of the pomegranate with a spatula or large flat spoon. With no muss and little fuss, the seeds will spring loose from their moorings and fall into the bowl.
Treat: Pomegranate stew with chicken (khoresh fesenjan)—look up the recipe at AllRecipes.com.

Trick: Make Brussels sprouts edible. First, select small sprouts at the store. Next, quarter the Brussels sprouts lengthwise prior to blanching. Blanch the quartered sprouts with a squeeze of lemon to eliminate the sulfuric odor. Sauté the pre-blanched sprouts in olive oil or butter—bacon grease is great—along with minced shallots, garlic and bread crumbs. Now here’s the real trick: Before serving, toss the Brussels sprouts with fresh orange zest. Even the kids will eat their sprouts! Treat: Prefer your sprouts roasted? There’s a terrific, simple roasted Brussels sprouts recipe from the Barefoot Contessa at FoodNetwork.com. Better yet, check out the Sundance Tree Room’s glazed duck breast with pecan risotto, Brussels sprouts and huckleberry glaze.

Trick: Taste, taste and taste again. After following chef/owner Greg Neville (Pine/Lugäno) around the kitchen for a day, I picked up a simple, maybe even obvious, but essential cooking tip. Small spoons are never further than an arm’s reach for Neville. He tastes his food continually. So now, I keep a stash of small plastic spoons handy while I’m cooking. Your dinner guests should never be the first to taste the food. Treat: You’ll want more than a spoonful of Lugäno’s rustic spaghetti with Napa cabbage, pancetta, cauliflower, ricotta salata, chili flakes and extra-virgin olive oil.

Trick: Put your truffles on rice. A good way to store truffles—which I believe I learned long ago from Tony Caputo—is to keep them at room temperature buried in a glass bowl or jar of Arborio rice. Then, on that sad day when the truffles are gone, the rice will still be truffle-flavored, making for a great risotto. Treat: Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli is the place in Salt Lake City to purchase fresh truffles. Or, try The Paris’ wood-oven Florentina pizza, with black truffle, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, egg and extra-virgin olive oil.

Trick: Bring on the brine. Each year, I get dozens of requests for my Thanksgiving turkey recipe. The single most important step has nothing to do with cooking the turkey, but rather pre-cooking the turkey. Nowadays I brine everything from turkeys and pork chops to shrimp prior to cooking. In scientific terms, brining meat, poultry or seafood before cooking hydrates the muscle cells of the food. In practical terms, this means the moistest shrimp, turkey or chops you’ll ever eat. There’s a great discussion of brining and a brine recipe at CookingForEngineers.com. Treat: Get your lips around the wood-oven-roasted and cured double center-cut pork chop at Tuscany restaurant.

Trick: After-dinner deglazing. Most cooks know how to deglaze a pan with wine or broth to make a sauce or gravy. But the same technique works great for cleaning crusty pans long after dinner’s been eaten. Just get the dry and dirty pan really hot on the stove, then deglaze by adding water and scraping the crusty bits from the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon. Careful: There’s a lot of steam, but it’s much more efficient than a chisel. Treat: Chef/restaurant owner Ken Rose knows a thing or two about deglazing. At his Epic Casual Dining restaurant, try the sautéed pork medallions with sherry-sage demi-glace.

Trick: It’s not just for java. Since I don’t drink coffee, I shouldn’t have much use for the many coffee grinders I’ve gotten as gifts over the years. However, I frequently put them to use for grinding pepper and spices. I grind everything from whole black peppercorns and cumin seeds to coriander and cardamom in my coffee mill. It’s easy to clean too: Just throw a couple of scraps of white bread into the thing and pulverize them. Wipe out the grinder with a paper towel and you’re ready to move on. Treat: French guys know how to make steak au Poivre, which is reason enough to head up to Park City for the grilled Prime filet mignon au poivre at Jean Louis Restaurant.

Trick: Pass the pignolis. I think it was at Michelangelo Italian Ristorante years ago that I came to know the value of pine nuts. There’s almost no dish that a scattering of toasted pine nuts on top can’t improve. I toast my nuts lightly in a dry pan and then store them in a Zip-Loc bag for adding to soups, salads, pizza and especially light pasta dishes like spaghetti aio e oio. The pine nut may be this cook’s greatest secret weapon. Treat: A meatloaf like no other is the Purple Sage’s veal meatloaf with roasted poblanos and studded with toasted pine nuts.

Food Matters
You think skiing the extreme steeps at Snowbird is scary? Well, just prior to opening for the 2007-08 winter ski season, the folks at Snowbird’s Aerie Restaurant are hosting the Scary Aerie dinner, on Saturday, Oct. 27, 6-9 p.m. A four-course meal featuring choices of dishes like a spooky salad, python chili, diablo shrimp, alligator paella, wild-boar spare ribs, barracuda filet and flaming devil’s cake will set you back $39 per ghoul. Enjoy live entertainment in the Aerie Lounge from 8-11 p.m. For more information and reservations, phone 933-2160.

• No trick: Monday night is pizza treat night. Café Trio Cottonwood is now offering all-you-can-eat thin-crust pizza and fresh salad on Monday nights, charging only for $12.95 for adults and $6.95 for kids under 10. Some of Trio’s popular pizzas include roasted wild mushroom, crispy BLT and its saffron-calamari pizza. Café Trio Cottonwood is located at 6405 S. 3000 East, and its phone is 944-8746.

Snowbasin Resort is hosting Masquerade on the Mountain in the Needles Lodge on Saturday, Oct. 27, 5–10 p.m. Give your Halloween gear a test run prior to the big night with a bewitching hour (cash bar) 5-6:30 p.m., followed by a dinner buffet, dancing with live music by Voodoo Box and a costume contest. Reservations are required and the price is $55 per person. Costumes are optional but encouraged. Phone 620-1021 for reservations.

• One of the crack sales folks here at City Weekly recently asked if I knew where to buy a black-and-white cookie locally. Except for on Seinfeld, she hasn’t seen a good black-and-white cookie since she left New York City and neither have I. Please e-mail us with any hot B&W cookie tips!

Quote of the week: Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don’t eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. But I go marching on. —George Bernard Shaw

Send Food Matters information to teds@xmission.com. Hear Ted over the airwaves on Sound Bites, Thursdays on KSL NewsRadio 1160 AM and 102.7 FM.

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