My 7 favorite cooking tips from kitchens around the world

Learning about the culture of a country or region is one of my main goals as a traveler. Food is a major window into culture, so when I travel I often take cooking classes to learn more about the local lifestyle of my destination.

Even when I’m staying at home, I find opportunities to take cooking classes from chefs who offer courses on the cuisine of my hometown. These classes provide opportunities to expand my horizons before I go and plan what I would like to experience while in the country or region.

Here are seven of my favorite cooking tips from kitchens around the world that I use often. If you’re not traveling to these regions but want to enjoy their food, these tips will come in handy.

Some tips mentioned in this article were learned as part of organized trips, while others I picked up on my own.

A view of the chili fillings in La Seine

Photo: Amy Piper

1. Take precautions when handling Chiles

Southwestern, Mexican or Asian cuisine

I mention this tip first because it slipped my mind recently and I suffered the consequences. Chefs use chili peppers in many cuisines around the world, and I remember learning this tip at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, where chili peppers are favored for regional cooking in the southwestern states. Although I enjoyed Roasted Green Chili and Sweet Corn Soup made with Hatch Green Chili Peppers at La Plazuela Restaurant in La Fonda on the Plaza, I ate it almost every day of my trip. This dish prompted me to learn more about cooking with different local chili peppers.

Chili peppers are hot because a compound called capsaicin is found in the membranes that contain the seeds. Capsaicin is odorless and colorless, but it can pack a big punch in your mouth and other sensitive areas like your eyes. So you’ll want to avoid touching your eyes after working with hot peppers. The best way to prevent burns is to wear plastic gloves, being careful not to accidentally touch your eyes or other sensitive areas. Plastic bags can work as a substitute if you don’t have gloves. Even after using gloves, wash your hands with soap to avoid problems.

2. Creating a dark roux takes patience

Cajun and Creole cuisine

Roux is a mixture of fat (oil or butter) and flour, acquiring different shades – from white, blond, brown and dark brown. Each color is suitable for a certain type of dish. For example, you’ll find a light roux in sauces like béchamel. A dark roux is the foundation of good gumbo, but it takes patience.

When I was in a cooking class at the New Orleans Culinary School, one of the dishes we created was gumbo, and the dark roux seemed like forever. It may have only been about 15 to 20 minutes, but standing and stirring constantly to keep it from burning seemed like forever.

At the end, I would ask if it was ready and the instructor would say, “No, go ahead.” Then, finally, it reached the deep, aromatic brown critical for a tasty gumbo.

From experience, in order to have a successful dark roux, you need to reduce the heat and reduce the temperature so it doesn’t burn.

Gumbo in New Orleans

A New Orleans plate of gumbo

Photo: Amy Piper

3. Use the Holy Trinity

Cajun and Creole cuisine

Another tip I learned in New Orleans cooking school was to use the Holy Trinity. Trinity is a classic carrot, onion and celery mirepoix. But in Cajun cooking, they change things up a bit and use green peppers instead of carrots as the vegetables in bambo. This is important because using carrots instead of green peppers will change the flavor of the dish and you won’t have the same taste as the dish you tried in New Orleans. Also, cut the vegetables into equal cubes so that they cook evenly in the same amount of time.

4. Caramelization equals flavor

Steakhouse cuisine

I was doing menu planning for a small dinner party and the topic of steak came up. My teenage daughter advised against it, saying, “Steak is not your best dish.” From then on, I was determined to learn how to cook a great steak. I attended a webinar with three Omaha chefs and learned some techniques to up my game.

First, up to 12 hours before cooking, season the steak with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and salt for best flavor. Then let the meat sit at room temperature for almost two hours before frying.

Then pat the steak dry with a paper towel to avoid excess moisture. Starting with a dry steak helps caramelize the steak. Water makes it steam and turn gray.

Heat the pan. Using oil in a hot cast iron skillet, sear the steak, creating caramelization and a crust on the surface of the steak. Making the crust takes about two and a half minutes per side. This is what creates the crust. Check the cooking times in this table for your preferred level of doneness.

Once the steak has a nice outer crust, let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes. Then finish the steak in a hot oven, about 450 degrees, for about 5 minutes until you reach the desired internal temperature. Finally, leave the steak for about 15 minutes – the bigger the steak, the more time to rest.

Seared steak

Grilled steak on a plate in Omaha

Photo: Amy Piper

5. The steak is more accessible when you stretch it

Steakhouse cuisine

Chef Colin Duggan of Kitchen Table learned how to make steak, often a luxury item, stretch so that one steak can serve four or more people while still looking sumptuous.

First, make one steak in a breakfast burrito for four or more. Next, dice the steak and toss it in diced potatoes, scrambled eggs, a little cheese, and Mexican toppings like sour cream and guacamole.

Make it a group lunch by creating a Philly cheesesteak pizza. Spread the pizza dough with a light pizza sauce and add diced steak, tricolor pepper strips and mozzarella cheese for a delicious pizza. Alternatively, ground meat that is grilled with the same ingredients, add it to a second roll instead of a pizza crust and make a Philly cheese sandwich. Finally, add some fries for a complete meal.

For dinner, put sliced ​​fish on top of a big family salad, add a few hard-boiled eggs for extra protein, and have this for a summer soup and salad dinner.

If you want to try some other types of restaurants while in Omaha, check out this article.

Live lobsters in Nova Scotia

Live lobsters waiting to be cooked with elastic bands in Nova Scotia

Photo: Amy Piper

6. Remove strips before cooking lobster

The seafood cuisine of Nova Scotia

February is peak lobster season on the south coast of Nova Scotia. From Barrington (Canada’s Lobster Capital) to Peggy’s Cove, they celebrate these luxurious crustaceans. I spent a week discovering Nova Scotia during their south coast lobster crawl. When I visited, Kilted’s chef, Alain Bose, was conducting an hour-long cooking demonstration titled “Lobster 101.” I learned a few tips about cooking lobster during this session. One of the most important tips was that you should remove the rubber bands from the lobster claws before placing the lobster in the pot. If you don’t remove them, the gum gives the lobster a rubbery taste.

To do this without the claws pinching your hand, use one hand to cross the lobster claws, use the other hand to remove the elastic bands, then place the lobster head first into the boiling water — cook the lobster for 12 up to 15 minutes.

Boiled macaroni

Boiled pasta made at the local epicurean cooking class in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Photo: Amy Piper

7. Add salt but no oil to the pasta water

Italian cuisine

During a cooking class at The Local Epicurean in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we learned to add salt to water to make it taste like the ocean, but not butter. Adding oil to the water prevents the sauce from sticking to the pasta.

Then, remove the pasta from the pot using a slotted spoon instead of draining, or you’ll lose that much-coveted pasta water down the drain. I’ve done this more than once, leaving me without the starchy addition to my sauce. Instead, saving the salted pasta water adds flavor to the dish and allows you to adjust the consistency of the sauce.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *