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Before summer slips away, make a culinary to-do list. Local farmers markets are bursting with the season’s best and freshest produce and other farm goods. Pick up juicy berries and peaches, nutrient-packed leafy greens, and the sweetest corn on the cob. Make time to eat outdoors, whether it’s a picnic in the park, a barbecue on the patio, or feasting with friends on the deck of your favorite restaurant. Food always tastes better in the fresh air. Cooking outdoors or in your kitchen is both an art and a simple pleasure. Need to improve your skills? Here, local chefs offer tips to give you more confidence when using the grill, cooking seafood, and enhancing your dishes, so you can savor the end of summer one delicious bite at a time.
Q: What are some kitchen hacks I can do at home?
A: Here are some easy-to-follow ideas:
- Want to make banana bread but your bananas aren’t ripe? Place the bananas, in their peels, on a lined pan in the oven as it preheats. When the skin blackens, the bananas are ready.
- A simple way to pit cherries is to place the cherry on an empty bottle. Pop the pit out with a straw or chopstick, so it lands directly in the bottle.
- Peeling garlic the easy way starts by piling the garlic up and smashing it with a bowl. Then place the garlic in a container with a lid, and shake. The cloves will separate from the skin.
- Want to remove those bits of eggshells that accidentally break into your bowl? Wet your fingers and touch the eggshells. The pieces will stick to your fingertips and come right out.
- How can you tell if an egg has gone bad? Drop the egg into a pan of water. If it floats, it’s edible. If it sinks, throw it out.
- An easier way to grate soft cheeses is by freezing them for 30 minutes before grating.
- Use a spoon instead of a peeler to peel ginger. This makes it easier to get around all the curves.
- To make crunchy taco shells from soft tortillas, drape the tortillas over your oven rack in the shape of a crunchy shell until crispy.
Q: I’m trying to conquer my fear of cooking seafood. Can you give me some tips?
A: The most important thing to keep in mind is that all fish aren’t created equal, so you really need to understand the type of fish you’re working with. Fattier fishes and leaner fishes respond differently to different techniques. For example, if you sear scallops really hard on both sides, they’ll quickly overcook and get tough. But if you sear them on one side, flip them once, and drop a knob of butter in the pan and turn off the heat, they’ll braise in the butter, reaching a nice medium doneness, and you’ll end up with delicious caramelization while keeping the scallops tender and juicy.
Halibut’s another story. When overcooked it goes from rich and buttery to a mealy mess, and when it’s undercooked it turns chewy. So get your pan really hot to make sure the fish doesn’t stick, then gently place the halibut in the pan, turn the heat down to medium, and let it sear. After about a minute, put the pan in a 325° oven for 8-12 minutes. Use a cake tester to check for doneness; when it slides through with no resistance, the halibut is perfectly cooked. If you’re looking for a fish that’s almost foolproof, try salmon. It’s extremely versatile and holds up to broiling, grilling, and even baking. Well-done salmon can be dry, though, so don’t be afraid of trying medium-cooked salmon at least once. Buy the best salmon you can afford, season it lightly, and cook it simply in order to appreciate the flavor.
Q: I always feel intimidated when it comes to cooking on a grill. What are some tips and tricks for successful grilling?
A: First, start with a clean grill. When you’re done cooking and the grill is still hot, give it a good scrub down with a wire brush, so it’s ready for your next barbecue. Second, the grill should be nice and hot — not just coming up to temperature when you throw the food on. Start the grill at 400 degrees. Once the food is on the grill, you can take the temperature up or down as needed. Third, oil the grates on your grill. Fold a clean washcloth in half, roll it up like a cylinder, and tie it with kitchen twine. Use tongs to dip the towel in a bowl of olive oil, and rub the wet towel across the grates. Once the grill is clean, hot, and oiled, you’re ready to cook! Proteins will release from the metal grates without sticking when it’s time to flip. If you nudge the protein with your spatula or tongs and it’s really stuck, give it more time. Start meats in the middle of the grill, in direct heat. Once it’s been flipped, move it to the side to avoid charring. Grill baskets are perfect for roasting potatoes and cubed veggies that might otherwise fall through the grates. Grill corn by steaming it in the husk — it cooks perfectly!
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Q: How can I create new menu items?
A: Try to stay a season ahead when planning a new menu. Don’t be afraid to take a classic dish and twist it. That could mean deconstructing the dish and presenting it differently on the plate, or adding something new and trendy to a traditional dish. With each new dish, write a detailed recipe, so you’ll experience the same quality dish every time you make it.
The ability to create innovative dishes also depends on using artisanal, specialty vegetables and herbs to make unique dishes that have that nice, clean, organic taste.
Q: Every time I try to elevate a dish, I’m disappointed with the result. What could I be doing wrong?
A: Less is more, especially if you’re cooking protein. For example, add spices, stocks, or other ingredients to the dish to accentuate the flavors of the protein, as opposed to overpowering or masking those flavors. The dish should have a nice balance to it so you can taste the protein and the other flavors.
If you’re using a grill, season the protein often, as it will lose some of the seasoning in the process. Grilling fresh filets with the skin on will keep the fish and the seasoning intact. Be careful when making pizza. If you add too many toppings, the pizza can be difficult to cook.
Another example is lasagna. You don’t want to overdo the layers of sauce, pasta, and cheese, because the consistency becomes too thick and you can’t taste all of those great flavors. Overdoing it with even one or two ingredients can take away the best of what you’re actually cooking.
Q: I love to cook and I’m good at it, but I don’t know which sauces go with what foods or how to make them. What do you recommend?
A: Sauces are a great compliment to a great meal, and they show the skill of the person who creates them. As a general rule, stronger sauces go with stronger foods, and vice versa. Sauces can take days to make or minutes to make.
More traditional sauces take time. The Grand, or Mother, sauces (five of them) are the root of all things classic. You can Google them and their many derivatives. Simple sauces (contemporary sauces) can be as easy as vegetable or fruit purees, vinaigrettes, or dressings. Both types of sauces go well with meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. An emulsion of lemon, herbs, olive oil, and salt and pepper is a fantastic addition to any food.
Q: What’s the concept of Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit restaurant?
A: Delaware North was looking for a restaurant concept that reflected Detroit’s musical history and celebrated its hard-working and diverse community. They partnered with Kid Rock, one of Detroit’s best-known artists, to open Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit restaurant in 2017. Kid Rock has been a longtime supporter of the city of Detroit and his Made in Detroit brand was a perfect fit. He participated in the design of the full-service, 250-seat restaurant, which includes some of his personal memorabilia and a stage for performing live music. It was important to him that the restaurant would become a talent incubator — a place where some of Detroit’s best musicians could play.
Made in Detroit’s menu is an eclectic mix of American comfort foods, classic Detroit dishes, and some of Kid Rock’s own Southern-influenced favorites. The bar menu has more than 20 draft beers featuring local breweries and innovative craft cocktails infused with fresh ingredients.