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Examiner
  • Kathryn Rem: How to make a crispy pizza crust, and other words of wisdom

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  • When I make pizza from scratch, I used to top it with uncooked onions, green peppers and mushrooms. But no more.
    It wasn’t until I read “Tips Cooks Love” by Rick Rodgers (Sur La Table, 2009) that I realized why the crust never crisped up. The uncooked veggie toppings were releasing liquid when they cooked. Now I give the toppings a quick saute in olive oil before tossing on the pie. The result? Pizza with crispy crust.
    “Tips Cook Love” has opened my eyes to many processes that happen in the kitchen. Here are a few more:
    - There’s no need to add oil to the skillet when pan-frying steaks or chops. Trim a piece of fat from the perimeter of the meat. As the skillet is heating, grasp the fat with tongs and rub it over the inside of the skillet, creating a thin coating of fat. It will be just enough to keep the meat from sticking.
    - To prevent cakes baked in Bundt or other decorative pans from sticking, butter the inside of the pan and then sprinkle it with fine dried bread crumbs instead of flour. Because the bread crumbs have a different consistency than the batter, they form an effective barrier that keeps the batter from adhering.
    - If you don’t have a cherry pitter, force a sturdy plastic straw through a cherry, working from the bottom to the stem end, to remove the pit. If you do this in a large plastic bag, you’ll guard against squirting and the bag will collect both the pits and stems.
    - Dried herbs are added during cooking because their aromatic oils have been concentrated during dehydration. Add fresh herbs near the end of cooking so their flavor doesn’t dissipate.
    - Marinating food before grilling greatly reduces the amount of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), the harmful toxins caused by charring over high temperatures. Even a quick dip of 1 minute can make a big difference. Use a thin marinade that will surround and coat the meat. Thick, sweet commercial sauces will increase the levels of HCAs because they encourage carbonization.
    - Finally, keep mushrooms fresher longer by removing them from the airless confines of their plastic container. Transfer them to a paper bag and refrigerate. The increased air circulation will keep them fresh for up to a week.
    The mushrooms will be perfect for topping a pizza. Just make sure to saute them first.
    Kathryn Rem is food editor at The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill. Contact her at kathryn.rem@sj-r.com.
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