Culinary Questions Answered

Thank you for all the excellent food questions and emails over the past few weeks. It is always fun to trouble shoot with you. OK, my two favorite questions.

#1 “Is My Chicken Safe to Eat?”

I received a call during dinner time from a distraught cook. He was roasting chicken and pulled it out of the oven when the bird’s internal temperature rose to 160. Upon cutting the chicken open, the meat inside looked transparent and bloody. After exploring the issue from many different angles, we both realized that his meat thermometer wasn’t calibrated to begin with! Such an easy mistake to make.

There are several ways to make sure your thermometer is calibrated (providing you didn’t spring for a digital read thermometer). Place the probe in ice water for a reading of 32 degrees F, or boiling water for 212 degrees F. Neither of these is extremely practical, however, and I usually simply gauge the temperature of the room and adjust from there.

When using a thermometer, make sure the meat covers the dimple of the probe. This is usually about a third of the way up and is the best way to get an accurate read.

#2 Spring onions, shallots, green onions, leeks, shallots!!
At a recent event, a food savvy gentleman from Louisiana confessed to me his complete confusion with onion varietals. I promised that I would post an entry on the differences, and while I am a few weeks late in doing so, hope this will ease the confusion.

Spring Onion = Green Onion= Salad Onion = Scallion

Shallots form in cloves similar to a garlic head, but taste more like a mild onion. They are often used in fine dining or French cuisine.

Sweet Onions are less pungent in flavor and come in several varieties (Walla Walla and Vidalia are two). More water and less sulfur make these onions taste sweeter. Pictured on the left are sweet onions with their stalks.

Leeks are one of my favorite onions varieties. They are milder than a yellow or white onion, and are delicious roasted or caramelized.

When eating a leek, only consume the white and very light green portions of the stalk. After chopping, rinse the leek pieces in a bowl of cold water to wash off the dirt. Baby leeks (not pictured) are called ramps and are often pickled.