A home cook’s knowledge encompasses everything he or she has learned from books, the Internet, T.V. shows, and home experiments. Our food writer here shares nine tips she’s gleaned from the pros over a decade of interviewing them. 

February 14, 2017

Iconic editor Diana Vreeland, whose sartorial opinions were as pronounced as her bright red lipstick, once penned a column for Harper’s Bazaar called “Why Don’t You?” Her fashion tips, which she’d gleaned from her walkabouts, were as odd and chic as she was, ranging from “Why don’t you... put all your dogs in bright yellow collars and leads like all the dogs in Paris?” to “...rinse your blond child's hair in dead Champagne to keep it gold, as they do in France?”

Though I’ll never be as fabulous as the late Ms. Vreeland, nor do I own a single dog I can put in a yellow outfit, I have gleaned a number of smart tips from chefs, bartenders, and other pros around America over the years. Here are nine favorites, each of which I swear by in my own kitchen. 

Why don’t you… 

… dash angostura bitters onto an egg white cocktail to counter the egg’s barnyardiness, and add a lovely fragrance? (Phil Ward, bartender, The Long Island Bar and co-owner of Mayahuel)

… hurl that box of pre-ground black pepper straight into the trash in favor of freshly cracked pepper? (Nigel Slater, Appetite)

… seek out a bottle of really good Sherry vinegar and start using a tiny bit of it to finish dishes?  (Francis Lam, New York Times Magazine columnist and new host of The Splendid Table)

… get scallops very, very dry before searing them, the trick to golden-brown caramelization? (Chef Daniel Karg, Neptune Oyster)

Watch: How to Make Steak and Scallops with Champagne-Butter Sauce

 

… save fat from cooked bacon and pork belly to use for more delicious roasted vegetables, and strain out dark bits to avoid lard “turning” in the fridge? (chef Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery)

… order a daiquiri your first time at a “cocktail bar” to make sure they’ve got chops? (“If they can’t balance rum, lime, and sugar, I’ll order a beer next!”) —Joaquín Simó, co-founder, Pouring Ribbons

… remember that the hottest parts of a chili pepper are near its stem and in its membranes and seeds, so you make a salsa just hot enough? —Janie Lamson, farmer, Cross Country Nurseries

… roast a week’s worth of vegetables on Sunday, preserving their goodness, and then eat them all week? (Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace)

… make an entire pie the day before a party, then freeze it? When you bake it the next day, the freezer will have helped the butter in the crust puff up. (Kelly Fields, chef-owner, Willa Jean)

Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Martha Stewart Living, Travel & Leisure, New York Magazine, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen

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