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How to eat more Lobster



Lobster is huge this spring. We are into everything about lobster. We are looking at recipes, cracking equipment, napkins, and plates. So to indulge our near fanatical love for lobster, we decided to delve deep into everything lobster. 

Here is everything you need to do for a lobster-full season:

The Equipment

There is nothing worse than cracking a lobster with a rock and scattering the shell all over the kitchen. It is disrespectful. You want to have a pick to pry tasty meat from the lobster legs. Curved seafood scissors will help you to remove the meat in one piece because of its curved blades. 

Here is where you can find the best equipment for your lobster dinner. 

The Tableware

Lobsters are not exactly simple dining fare. Lobster meat is a treat. When you are having a lobster dinner, you are allowed to go all out and invest in a lobster platter, special dinner plates, and even these lovely appetizer plates. This is a set of simple yet refined tableware that is just right for lobster.

The Lobster Dinner Preparation and Dining

Once you have your lobster pot, your well-chosen lobster, some melted butter, and lemon, it is time to get to cooking and eating. 

It takes some courage to do this. You have to choose a nice and meaty one. You could give the lobster a few minutes in the freezer before putting it to a boil. But don’t get to 10 minutes because after that the meat will be frozen. Or you could use a sharp knife to stupefy it before cooking. Boiling a lobster is not that hard once you get used to it. 

Learn the proper way to boil it, halve it, carve it, crack it, serve it, and eat it. With some tips and practice, you will be able to properly fold its claws down and remove the whole tail at once. 

The Cooking Instructions

If you are nervous about preparing your first lobster, you don’t have to be. We have a range of fool-proof recipes to choose from. Everything is covered – the rolls, salad, chowder, sliders, paella, and risotto. You can go for the recipe that seems best and which features the ingredients you prefer.Lobster does not have to be boiled. Grilled lobster is oh so yummy. You can start planning your ideal lobster dinner with your favorite wine. 


Can you Replace Whole Vanilla Beans with Vanilla Bean Powder? Our Taste Test




There is a surprisingly wide range of vanilla extracts, vanilla powders, vanilla beans, and vanilla pastes available on the market. You may have wondered whether you are better off using vanilla bean powder to substitute vanilla beans. We have tested them so that you don’t have to. 

Vanilla Bean Powder

Vanilla bean powder is made from whole vanilla beans which have been ground up. This makes it cheaper than buying whole vanilla beans. Vanilla bean powder is also much easier to use than whole vanilla beans. 

If you need to substitute one for the other in a recipe, use half a teaspoon of vanilla powder to replace two inches of vanilla bean. Whatever you are baking will come out with the same beautiful specks you would get from vanilla beans. 

Vanilla bean powder is not the same as vanilla powder. The vanilla powder works best when you do not want the vanilla to affect the color of the food. You might want your vanilla cake to come out white, sans specks. We learned this information after looking up everything.

We also learned that vanilla bean powder is like vanilla beans because its quality worsens the longer it is stored. This deterioration in quality affects both vanilla beans and vanilla bean powder. We learned that vanilla bean paste is a better substitute for whole vanilla beans than vanilla bean powder. 

We ended up investing in vanilla bean powder we found on Amazon. It cost $10 an ounce which is expensive but not as expensive as vanilla beans. Two vanilla beans cost nearly $20. It can take up to 8 vanilla beans to make an ounce of vanilla beans. 

The vanilla bean powder we ordered from Amazon smelled lovely. We went ahead and used one and a half teaspoons of vanilla bean paste to make blackberry bread. The recipe called for vanilla extract but I used the vanilla powder as a substitute. The results were not what I expected. 

The vanilla flavor was present but subdued. We were hoping to be wowed by the vanilla flavor. We were also hoping to see vanilla bean specks on the bread. There weren’t any specks. The bread took on a grey tint instead. Vanilla bean powder does not achieve beautiful specks or a strong vanilla flavor. Vanilla bean paste does that for me. 

But I might use vanilla powder if I was in a bind with no way to get some vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Besides baking, the vanilla powder might be nice for smoothies, oatmeal, or even coffee. 

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Is this British Condiment the Missing Ingredient in your Life?




I grew up eating cucumber sandwiches, beans on toast, crumpets, and other typically English foods. But for some reason, I was an adult before I had the pleasure of eating my first sandwich pickle. 

It was made with butter spread uniformly on each slice and a not-too-thick cut of Gloucester and finished with a large drop of Branston Pickle. It was a precise, yet simple process that yielded a perfectly delicious sandwich. 

I fell in love with the combination of sweet, savory, acidic, and sticky flavors contrasted by the fat from the cheese. Even though I sometimes added tomato slices to what became my go-to meal when I wanted a nice lunch sans cooking. 

Once I got introduced to the Sandwich Pickle, every trip to the UK became an opportunity to stock up on Branston Pickle. 

Branston Pickle is a decidedly British condiment. It is the equivalent of Marmite or HP Sauce. Branston Pickle has maintained the same recipe since 1922 and faces little competition. The brand sells more than 17 million bottles each year.

A typical British ‘ploughman’s lunch’ comprises bread, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, and pickle. Branston pickle is present in most British kitchens.

What gives Branston Pickle its unmistakable character is the mishmash of sugar, applesauce, spices, date paste, and barley malt vinegar which gives it the quality of aged umami. The other ingredients are cauliflower, carrots, onion, and rutabaga.

It is these vegetables that make up the lumpy bits inside the pickle. These lumps may or may not settle dead center on your sandwich. 

If you do not like the lumps, there is always the smooth version of Branston Pickle. The small-chunk version of Branston Pickle spreads more evenly while still giving you something to chew. 

You can choose any of the three versions of Branston Pickle, depending on how you intend to use it. Branston Pickle has many uses beyond sandwiches.

I find the condiment just as delicious on Triscuits and sharp cheddar cheese as it is on a melted cheese toast.

I have spread Branston Pickle on dosa and used it on deviled eggs. The smooth version works better for this.

Branston has been making chutneys for a few years now. Their caramelized onion chutney is quite good – you want to partner it with a bold Stilton. But none of them beats the Branston Sandwich Pickle to me.

Seven years ago, I moved to the US. For the first time, I did not know where to buy my favorite British condiment. When I made a cheese sandwich, I used sweet lime chutney or date relish. But I still missed my beloved Branston Pickle.

One day I accidentally found a little bit of Britain tucked away in Brooklyn, New York. I walked into a lovely store called Two for the Pot at the edge of Brooklyn Heights. I was browsing a range of loose-leaf teas, coffees, jams, spices, and biscuits when I saw more than a few jars of Branston Pickle. I bought a few bags of Walker’s crisps, a pack of Hobnobs, and more than a few jars of Branston Pickle. 

Thankfully, it is now easy to buy Branston Pickle online. Only the no-chunk version seems harder to find on the internet. But it is still comforting to know that I am a few Subway stops away from a local supply of Branston Pickle. 

I may not eat it out of the jar or mix it into pasta-like some people do, but Branston Pickle is my go-to condiment for a cheese and pickle sandwich. 

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Why Chinese Cooking Wine makes everything Better




Everything you need to know about Chinese cooking wine.

I have always enjoyed using alcohol in my cooking. It has a way of bringing out the loveliest aromas and flavors.  Plus there is something so satisfying about pouring wine from a bottle. 

Some cooking wines are also nice to drink. And there is nothing wrong with a little fun in the kitchen.

French and Japanese cuisines are well known for their generous use of wine. Japanese sake and mirin are a central part of Japanese cooking. But it is not just the Japanese and the French who have a rich tradition of cooking with wine. 

Some of the most underrated cooking wines are Chinese. If you have never added Chinese cooking wines to your pantry, you have no idea what you are missing. After reading this you will be ordering some Chinese wine to enrich your cooking. 

An Introduction to Chinese Cooking Wine

The Chinese use rice, wheat, barley, or a mixture of sticky rice and millet to make wine. They ferment the grain using yeasts and molds as starters. 

Mijiu wine is light and clear. It looks and tastes close to Japanese sake. Xiang Xue jiu is a dark and sweet wine called fragrant snow wine. 

Chinese cooking wine is usually the liaojiu which is amber colored and nicknamed yellow wine. If you are looking at liaojiu from Shaoxing city, it is probably good. 

Shaoxing has carved huadiao wine, called carved flower. Huadiao tastes rich and a little nutty. It is good for braising or cooking stir-fries. You will not mind sipping it as you cook. 

The best cooking wine is labeled huadiao and it tastes best when it is unsalted. The unsalted wine is hard to find because most of the Shaoxing wine is added salt and spice to avoid the extra import fees and taxes that drinkable wines attract. 

Salted cooking wines won’t taste as good as unsalted ones. 

Why Chinese Cooking Wine is good for you

It feels wrong to waste good wine on a stew or braise. If it is the salty type, you probably won’t feel so bad about cooking with it instead of sipping it. 

But there are good reasons why you would want to cook with wine instead of drinking it. For one, all the good flavors of the wine will go into the food. 

Think about the sweetness, the astringency, the sourness, the opulent and nuanced aroma, and the notes of umami. Think of all that goodness in your food. The alcohol gives your dish a slightly sharp flavor.

Besides all that yummy flavor, alcohol is a good solvent that brings out all the aromatic elements inside the food. Some of the aromatic compounds won’t dissolve in oil or water, but they will dissolve in alcohol.

Food expert and author Harold McGee opines that a little alcohol makes a dish smells better because it lets out some aromatic compounds in the food and makes the final meal smell a lot better. 

Chinese cooking wine is also really good for making food less funky, gamy, or fishy. This makes it a favorite for lamb dishes, marinades, fermented foods, and overpowering fish. 

How to Shop for Chinese Cooking Wine

The best places to find Chinese cooking wine are Chinese markets and groceries where East Asian communities and South East Asian communities shop for their food. You are more likely to find the unsalted varieties here. 

Salted Chinese cooking wine is easy to find on the internet. If you can find unsalted Shaoxing wine branded huadiao, you are in luck. 

Pick the ones packaged in a ceramic jug and not glass bottles. 

What are the Best Substitutes for Chinese Cooking Wine?

Maybe you just can’t find any or you unintentionally drank it all. You can still work with alternatives. One of the drinks that can give you almost the same effect as Chinese cooking wine is dry sherry. You can also try white wine or Japanese sake which will still make your food better. This works best when the wine is not the main ingredient in the meal 

If you don’t use alcohol at all, you want to try something like a stock that is rich in umami which will enhance all the flavors in your meal. 

How to Use Chinese Cooking Wine

You only need to flip through a Chinese cookbook to see how ubiquitous cooking wine is in Chinese cuisine. 

Consider splashing the wine into your wok when you are preparing a stir-fry. The wine will help to control the temperature. You can also use the wine to marinate the pork or fish and give it a better flavor. Add the Chinese cooking wine to soup stock to make it last longer. 

If you find a nice bottler of Chinese cooking wine, you want to use it in any of the wine-rich Chinese dishes. Foods that require wine baths and that are served cold. Here are some of the best things you can use with the wine – hoping you don’t drink it all.

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