Need Help Cooking Through The Coronavirus Pandemic? Chef Amanda Freitag Has Tips
Coronavirus home cooking is now a part of American life.
Many restaurants across the U.S. are empty. Grocery store shelves are often bare. And in recent days, amateur cooks have posted about their improvised, less-than-delectable quarantine dinners — dishes including hot dogs with strawberry jam, fish fingers and custard and, as one Twitter user confessed, microwaved cheese on a plate, with barbecue sauce.
But in case you're clueless in the kitchen during this era of coronavirus, chef and Food Network star Amanda Freitag has shared some ideas with NPR.
What are some pantry staples?
Freitag recommends starting by keeping "dried things and canned things" in stock in the kitchen: legumes such as lentils and beans, dried or in cans; quinoa; barley; ground cornmeal for polenta or grits; pasta sauces — and lots of different shapes of pasta.
"Don't keep the same shape. We need to mix it up a little bit," she says. "I think they all feel a little different when you cook them."
And the following:
Tired yet of rice and beans?
Try that dish with a twist. Freitag suggests Cuban congri: Start with handfuls of chopped bacon, scallions and onions, as well as some garlic, cumin and olive oil, in a pot.
"Then you put in your beans and your dried rice, and you cook it all together," she says. "It's just a flavor bomb – and it's beautiful. It turns purple-y color."
She suggests pairing it with a protein for dinner — or try it with a fried egg on top for lunch or breakfast.
Aside from spices, what else can give things more flavor?
Freitag suggests trying the briny, salty taste of red or black olives in a jar or a can — or the vinegary punch of capers. There's also bacon, cured meats and pickles.
What if the only thing the meat department has is corned beef?
You might have discovered last week that corned beef is all that's there, so that's what you bought. Thank Saint Patrick's Day grocery ordering. Freitag says if you have corned beef in your fridge or freezer, cook it slow on the stove and on low until it's really tender. (She says to cook a 3-pound corned beef at a simmer, covered with water or a water-beer mixture, for 5 hours or until fork tender.)
Then use in multiple ways: Go ahead and have your delayed Saint Patrick's Day dinner with potatoes and cabbage. Leftovers can be turned into corned beef hash in the morning, be put in a sandwich for lunch and be added to pasta.
For other kinds and cuts of meat you're planning to keep, make sure to portion them into smaller sizes so you don't waste any after thawing.
(See the mustard sauce recipe below for something to top onto leftover corned beef.)
Need ingredient substitutions? Try these.
Looking for some simple, easy-to-prepare recipes? Here are a few.
Freitag suggests these below from her cookbook, The Chef Next Door. See the list of substitutions above, should you need some.
All-Round Mustard Sauce
Makes 2 cups
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup grainy mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Peel and thinly slice the shallots.
Simmer shallots and white wine in a small saucepot until dry.
Add heavy cream and reduce by half.
Use a fine mesh strainer to strain out shallots. Return smooth cream to the pot over low heat.
Add both mustards and whisk until smooth.
Simmer on low for 5 minutes before serving.
Corn And Black Bean Salad
Makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon canola oil
5 ears corn
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup tomatoes
2 tablespoons sliced scallions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Cut kernels from cobs.
Dice the tomatoes.
Trim and slice the scallions.
Chop the cilantro.
Juice the limes.
Heat the canola oil in a large, wide sauté pan. Add the corn kernels and sweat over medium-low heat. Season with salt.
After a few minutes, once the corn is bright yellow, warmed through and tender, transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the sautéed corn and mix well to combine.
Allow the salad to sit for a couple of hours before serving.
Makes 4-6 servings
1 cup jasmine rice
10 cardamom pods, optional (or substitute 2 cinnamon sticks)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk, plus 1/2 cup to finish
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
Add just enough water (approximately 2 cups) to cover the rice in a medium saucepot, and bring to a simmer, cooking until completely tender.
Add cardamom, sugar, salt and 4 cups of milk to the cooked rice. Simmer over low heat, occasionally stirring to prevent the rice from sticking, until all the milk is absorbed, about 40 minutes.
Finish the pudding by adding the remaining 1/2 cup milk, vanilla and cream.
Transfer the pudding to a glass bowl, and chill in the refrigerator before serving.
If you want to make individual servings, transfer the pudding into ceramic ramekins or glass dishes before placing in fridge.
No matter in what container you store the pudding while cooling, make sure you place a piece of plastic wrap flush on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.
Serve with whipped cream or a dusting of cinnamon.
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