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Perfect Pizza Preparation

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Pizza Margarita

Pizza is universally loved, whether a deep-dish Chicago-style, Sicilian style or a thin crust Neapolitan. A pizza offer an infinite array of tastes, not only because of the dough but it offers a canvas for a wide range of sauces and toppings. While take-out is great, making a really great pizza at home is even better but challenging.

Our goal, to make the best homemade version ever and it all starts with the crust.

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Pairing Wine with Cheese

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There is perhaps no more perfect pairing than that of wine and cheese. Their subtle flavors and textures are a natural complement to one another, and with endless varieties of each, matchmaking opportunities abound.

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Spring into Summer with Rosé Wines

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Different Shades of Rose Wine

Italian Rosé

Prosecco producers call their rosé sparkling wines Spumante (technically, Prosecco can only be made from white grapes). The best are lively 
and fruity. It is fragrant with summer fruit aromas, fresh and lively on the palate, dry, crisp and easy to drink.

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The Best Method to Store Cheese

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Cheese Storage BagsStoring cheese presents a conundrum: As it sits, it releases moisture. If this moisture evaporates, the cheese dries out. If the moisture is trapped, it encourages mold. Cheese, properly stored, keeps longer, and that means less waste and expense. The goal is to keep air out without suffocating the wedge in plastic.

Specialty cheese paper avoids this problem with a two-ply construction that lets cheese breathe without drying out. However, it is not readily available at most local markets.

The best home method to store cheese is to use waxed or parchment paper which is loosely wrapped with aluminum foil. Both papers wick moisture away, while the foil cover traps just enough water to keep the cheese from drying out. Wrapped this way, even super-perishable goat cheese keeps for about a week, and brie and cheddar were can last potentially for more than a month. Cheese paper extends the life of these cheeses by only maybe a few days more.

But if you want to splurge on the best…

The Best Way to Whip Egg Whites

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Whippeing Egg WhitesEgg whites should be whipped immediately before needed, as their delicate structure necessitates their immediate use—particularly if beaten in a mixer. There are also two ways to futher help stabilize the egg whites: a copper bowl and cream of tartar.

To a lesser extent, sugar also helps to stabilize egg whites because it delays water evaporation by attracting moisture, giving the eggs protein structure more time to set up. The whites can then be beaten longer without harmful consequences.

Egg whites are finicky and demand optimal conditions for whipping. A mere speck of yolk, oil, butter, or other fat captured in the whites will markedly reduce the maximum volume the foam can attain, as fats obstruct the formation of the whipped eggs to the desired consistency and volume. It is essential to keep egg whites and all equipment that will come in contact with them—bowl, whip, spoons, and spatulas—fat-free. If fat is to blame when a batch of egg whites refuses to whip up, the damage done is irreversible. There’s nothing to do but clean everything up and start over.

Separating the eggs is the next important step. Eggs separate most easily and cleanly when refrigerator-cold because the yolk is firmer and so less likely to break. It is best to take the chill off the whites before whipping.

Your choice of mixing bowl will also affect your success with whipped whites. Bowls made from plastic, a petroleum product with a porous surface, retain an oily film even when washed carefully and should not be used for whipping egg whites. The foam will never reach its optimal volume, no matter how long it is beaten. Glass and ceramic should be avoided as well, as their slippery surfaces make it harder for whites to billow up. Aluminum, which tends to gray whites, should also be avoided. The two best choices are stainless steel and, for those who have it, copper.

Saving Leftover Wine

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Left Over Wine

Wine recycles beautifully into many different pleasures. Learn how that leftover holiday wine can bring you joy well into the new year!

Wine can still go on, even after the party’s over.

Even though the clock starts ticking when you pull the cork. most wines will last at least a day or two. But eventually, almost everyone will have a few glasses of unused wine. And if you’ve just hosted a holiday party, you probably have more than just a few glasses to deal with. You might even have, when combined, a few bottles.

It’s tempting to simply pour it down the drain, but don’t. Wine recycles beautifully into many different pleasures. That leftover wine can go on bringing you holiday joy well into the new year.

Make Mulled Wine SyrupThis recipe comes from Serious Eats. Use the syrup to top pancakes, ice cream, pound cake or fruit.

Add it meals to boost flavor. If you plan ahead, you can prepare a menu that will make use of any leftover vino. If that’s not an option, keep the corked bottle by the stove or in the fridge and use it for impromptu cooking. Add a little to jarred pasta sauce to round out the flavor. Add it to beef stew or soup, or splash a little in gravy.

Cook with it. While wine that has been opened for a while might no longer be drinkable, it is still useful for braising meat or vegetables. You can also use to make a great fondue.

Freeze it! I like to pour leftover wine into an ice cube tray and slip it into the freezer. Once frozen, pop the cubes out and store in an airtight container in the coldest part of your freezer. Use the cubes when cooking or use them to keep wine spritzers or punch cold. Just drop the cubes into any appropriate cold beverage and it will stay fresh without being diluted by watery ice cubes.

Leftover white wine can remove red wine stains. While this seems to work best for a fresh spill, if you have a stain and some leftover Chardonney, why not give it a try? Apply the white wine sparingly to the red stain and blot with a clean, damp cloth. Repeat as necessary to completely remove the stain.

Make Sangria. Both white and red can be use to make various types of sangria, a fruity mixture of wine and other spirits like brandy. Try Spanish Red Wine Sangria or Super Fruity Sangrai

Add it to vinaigrettes and salad dressings in place of traditional vinegar. From Eveningedge.com 

Make Vinegar. You can make vinegar almost by accident if you leave a bottle of wine on the counter long enough, but in case you want to elevate it to an art form, visit thevinegarman.com and try out a few recipes.

Or you could just light a fire and curl up with a big glass and someone cuddly. Yea, I think I’ll do that.

Want to know how to reuse the leftover wine bottle corks? Check out Cork Dork for some neat ideas.

Secrets to a Perfect Pie Crust

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Secrets to a Perfect Pie Crust

Many bakers believe making their own pie crust as too challenging and difficult to make. Follow these secrets and you’ll have a perfect pie crust every time.

Secret #1: Use a glass pie dish. That way you can clearly see when the pie is browned properly on the bottom.

Secret #2: Pie crust get most of its flavor from the fat you use. Use a combination of butter and shortening.

Secret #3: All ingredients should be very cold. That goes for fats, dry ingredients, and liquids. The reason pie crust is flaky is that as you work the fat into the flour, the flour coats the fat, then the fat melts leaving a little air pocket, hopefully in layers upon layers.

Secret #4: The amount of liquid used will vary each time you make a crust. This is because weather varies, particularly humidity.

Secret #5: Use half vodka and half water for the liquid. Using vodka will reduce the amount of gluten produced, thereby making a flakier crust.

Secret #6: If at any time the dough becomes too sticky or soft, transfer it to the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm it up.

Secret #7: For a golden brown crust, whisk an egg with a little water or milk and brush it over the top crust before you put it in the oven. Then sprinkle the crust with sugar if its for a desert.

Great American Blue Cheeses

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Great American Blue Cheese

Classic blue cheeses like Gorgonzola from Italy and Roquefort from France are both excellent for melting on croutons for onion soup but these days there are many excellent blue cheeses produced in the United States too.

Point Reyes Blue Cheese

From California, this is a raw cow’s milk cheese aged at least six months. If you like a very sharp blue cheese this is the one to get. While it is very creamy, some find the sharp taste slightly bitter.

Hook’s Blue Paradise Cheese

This is a pasteurized cow’s mile double-cream blue chees3e from Wisconsin. It is smooth, creamy and mild with a pleasant sweetness. A similar cheese is Little Boy Blue made from sheep’s mild, which is equally creamy and mild with hints of hay and caramel. Some find it slightly salty.

Great Hill Blue Cheese

From Massachusetts, this is a raw cow’s milk cheese that some tasters describe as the quintessential blue cheese. It has earthy, mushroomy undertones and hits of Cheddar.

Oregon Blue Cheese

This cheese is from Roque Creamery in Oregon and is modeled after Roquefort. It is funky and sharp while Rogue’s Oregon-zola, as the name implies, is modeled after Gorgonzola, and is gentle and bright with a crumbly texture.

Maytag Blue Cheese

Maytag is a blue cheese produced on the Maytag Dairy Farms outside of Newton, Iowa, the former home of the Maytag Corporation. It uses a process for making blue cheese from homogenized cow’s milk instead of the traditional sheep’s milk. Maytag Blue has a dense, crumbly texture. As it melts in your mouth it imparts a spicy flavor with a final bite.

Berkshire Blue Cheese

A raw milk artisan cheese made from Jersey cow’s milk in small batches, Berkshire Blue is made in Massachusetts. This artisan cheese is made completely by hand, and by only one person. It is hand-stirred, hand-ladled and manually turned, resulting in an exceptionally creamy, smooth blue, mild yet very full-flavored. It isn’t too pungent or salty. It is known for having low levels of both acid and salt in the cheese.

Wine Pairings
While most red wines don’t pair well with strong, salty blues—and there are sweeter, semisoft blues to explore—Port and zinfandel are two to try, as well as, sparkling wine, Chardonnay, dessert wines, barleywine-style ale, Belgian ale, Trappist beer and stout. As a dessert, Sauternes are a classic pairing, the salty cheese balancing the sweet wine.

Facts and Fictions of Marinades

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Marinades

FICTION: Marinades Penetrate Meat Deeply

FACT: Most Penetration is Superficial

Contrary to popular belief, marinades do most of their work on the surface of meat or just below. Some ingredients in a marinade do penetrate the meat—but only by a few millimeters (and oil-soluble herbs and spices in the mix merely add flavor to the exterior). To get better penetration, poke holes in the meat using a fork.

FICTION: Acids Tenderize Meat

FACT: Acids Turn Meat Mushy

Tenderizing meat you have to break down muscle fiber and collagen, the connective tissue that makes meat tough, thus increasing the meat’s ability to retain moisture. While acidic ingredients like citrus juice, vinegar, yogurt, buttermilk, and wine do weaken collagen, their impact is confined to the meat’s surface. If left too long, acids turn the outermost layer of meat mushy, not tender. To minimize mushiness, use acidic components sparingly and only for short marinating times.

FICTION: The Longer the Soak, the Better

FACT: A Long Soak is Pointless—Even Detrimental

Because marinades don’t penetrate deeply, a lengthy soak is pointless. Furthermore, too long a soak in an acidic marinade can weaken the protein bonds near the surface so that they turn mushy—or worse, can no longer hold moisture and dry out.

FICTION: Marinades Add Flavor to Any Meat

FACT: Marinades Are Best for Thin Cuts

With their influence limited mostly to the surface of the meat, we reserve marinades for relatively thin cuts like chicken breasts, pork chops, steaks, cutlets and meat cut into chunks or slices for kebabs and stir fries. A large roast or turkey breast is never a good bet; a spice paste that will adhere to the meat is a better option.

FICTION: Enzymes Tenderize Meat

FACT: Enzymes Make Meat Mushy

The enzyme in many plants—such as papain in papaya and bromelain in pineapple, to name two—can break down collagen in meat. But as with acids, their impact is limited to the meat’s surface, where we find they likewise turn the meat mushy, not tender.

FICTION: Bottled Dressing Is a Great Time-Saver

FACT: Bottled Dressing Makes Mediocre Marinade

Due to high levels of acidity, salad dressings don’t add complex flavor and only make meat mushy. Plus, they are laden with sweeteners, stabilizers, and gums, which add a gelatinous consistency and unnatural flavor. Homemade is best.

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