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>Shortcuts in the Kitchen

Posted on March 27, 2010 by Glutenfreeda

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Do you find yourself wishing you could find the time to cook delicious, gourmet, gluten-free meals but simply don’t have the time? There are many basic items that can help reduce your prep time and still deliver fantastic results. Often this is more difficult to do on a gluten-free diet since many processed foods contain gluten, however there are still many ingredients that you can either prepare well in advance or simply buy — eliminating several timely steps altogether. Below you will find some of our favorite time-savers and ingredients that we like to keep on hand.

Roasted Red Peppers

If a recipe calls for roasted red pepper, roast 2 or 3 more than what the recipe calls for. It doesn’t take any more effort and they are absolutely wonderful to have around. They are great for pasta’s, salad’s, sauces and even as a topping for fish, poultry or meats. Roasted red peppers add a delightful hint of sweetness with a slight Italian flair.

To roast a pepper, place the pepper(s) on a baking sheet and place directly under a broiler. Broil, turning periodically, until all sides of the pepper are blackened. Transfer the pepper(s) to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let them steam for about 10-15 minutes. Peel off the blackened skins and discard the seeds and stem. Roasted peppers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.

You can also find roasted red peppers in a jar in some well-stocked grocery stores — usually in the Italian foods section. As with anything, please double check to make sure that the brand you are using is gluten-free.

Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic is a wonderful addition to sauces, savory gf breads, dips, and just about anything that you want to impart the essence of garlic. Roasted garlic has a toasty garlic flavor with a touch of sweetness and it lacks the bitterness of fresh garlic. The same holds true with roasted garlic as does roasted peppers – it takes just as much effort to roast 1 garlic head as it does several.

To roast garlic, cut about a quarter inch off the top of the garlic bulb to expose the cloves. Place the bulbs, cut side up on a square sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Fold up the sides of the aluminum foil and seal to form a packet. Place in an oven preheated to 350°F. Let the garlic roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the cloves are very soft. Let cool then squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the skins. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

As with roasted red peppers, you can also find roasted garlic in a jar at some well-stocked grocery stores.

Chopped Garlic

Many people find chopping garlic to be a hassle and time-consuming task. Personally I believe there is no substitute, however, in a pinch you can use chopped garlic in a jar. This is especially helpful if you are planning on using a lot of garlic — perhaps if you are preparing a large meal for a dinner party. Chopped garlic is readily available in most grocery stores.

Gf Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Herbs

Sun-dried tomatoes are awesome in pasta, dips, sauces and even a welcome addition to gluten-free French breads. They add a nice savory-sweet flavor, much richer than fresh or stewed tomatoes. These are a pantry staple for us at Glutenfreeda. A word of caution, make sure you check the ingredients. Some jars of sun-dried tomatoes contain “herbs and spices” that are not clearly defined. These “may” contain gluten — so check with the manufacturer before you use them. If you stick with sun-dried tomatoes you find in the natural foods aisle or that are labeled “organic” you will probably be safer — but still we advise you to check first.

Amy’s Organic Pasta Sauces

For those of you with kids, prepared pasta sauce is a must-have pantry item. Nothing beats a quick dinner of spaghetti! Amy’s has a wide variety of great tasting pasta sauces — all organic and nearly all of them are gluten-free. Check their web-site for a complete listing of what is and isn’t gluten-free (www.amys.com). To add a gourmet touch to these fresh tasting pasta sauces, add your own gf sausage or any combination of fresh herbs. Serve your spaghetti with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for a perfect finish!

Major Grey’s Chutney

Another favorite pantry item of Glutenfreeda’s chefs — Major Grey’s Chutney. This chutney tastes great and gives just the right punch to quick sauces (see our notes on quick sauces below). The taste is slightly sweet but contrasts with a touch of vinegar. Use this in quick sauces or baste onto grilled meats or poultry for an amazingly quick and gourmet feast!

Crème Fraiche

Crème fraiche is incredibly easy to make. Simply take 2 cups of heavy cream and add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Stir to combine and then cover with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature for about 24 hours. The end result is a silky smooth cream that tastes like a very mild version of sour cream. Once it reaches that thickened, smooth cream state, cover and refrigerate. The crème fraiche will keep for about a week. We use this in our quick-bread batter to add moisture and flavor, in sauces, and even as a straight substitution for sour cream. To add an even more gourmet touch, mix the crème fraiche with jalapenos, garlic and season with salt. Cover and let sit for about 30 minutes to an hour. Strain through a fine sieve. Use this infused crème fraiche over omelets, pastas, meats, fish, poultry or even tacos!

Flavored Butters

Flavored butters are easy to make and add intense flavor to grilled, baked, or broiled poultry, beef, or fish. They can also be used as flavorings for elaborate sauces such as beurre blanc or in sauces made by incorporating butter into braising liquids or even quick sauces (see below). To make flavored herb butter, mix about 1 cup of your favorite herb(s) with one quarter pound of unsalted butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Don’t feel as if you are limited to just herb butter. You can also flavor butter with garlic, cheeses (gorgonzola or parmesan, for example), dried mushrooms, lemon juice, hot chili peppers, tomatoes, and the list goes on. Be creative. The nice thing about flavored butters, besides the taste of course, is that they keep almost indefinitely, tightly wrapped in the freezer. So make a few and just label them for future use.

Quick Sauces for Meats

You can prepare terrific, almost instant dinners, that taste very gourmet using a variety of meats and sauces. Here’s how: First memorize the magic word: Sautéeing. Several types of meat can be sautéed in the exact same way producing a golden crust outside while remaining juicy and succulent on the inside. Boneless pork chops, beef tenderloin, fish fillets, chicken breasts, veal cutlets and even turkey cutlets will all perform in the same way. It is important that the piece of meat or cutlet you select be uniform in thickness. For chicken breasts, remove the tenderloin and cook it separately; for pork, try to select medallions that are about 1 to 1-1/4″ thick. You can also buy bone in chops and remove the bone.

Be sure to choose the right size skillet. The pieces of meat should not be crowded, but should also not have too much space between them and the sides of the pan. A 12″ heavy skillet is perfect to cook four chicken breasts or cutlets.

Chicken breasts and cutlets can be dredged in gluten-free flour. It is not necessary, but we’ve found that flouring adds to the fried flavor and protects the meat from getting leathery from high heat.

The Formula:

  • Prepare a sauce made from liquids and flavorings that mixed together equals 1/2 to 2/3 cup.
  • Flour and sauté the meat.
  • Remove the meat from the pan and keep warm.
  • Add the sauce and reduce to half.
  • Add enrichment.
  • Adjust seasonings to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Serve.

To prepare meat, season both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. To prepare the skillet, set over medium-low heat and add a mix of 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter. When ready to sauté, increase heat to medium-high. When pan is hot, add meat.

Cook the meat until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side, turning once. Transfer meat to a plate and cover to keep warm.

To prepare sauce, mix liquids and flavorings together. Total liquid mixture should measure 1/2 to 2/3 cup. Add to hot pan, scraping up browned bits. Reduce liquid to half.

Add enrichment, blend in and pour finished sauce over meat. Serve immediately.

*Almost any sauce can be enhanced by adding the extra step of sautéeing 1 minced garlic clove and or 1 Tablespoon minced shallots into the skillet immediately after the meat has been removed. Sauté for 1 minute, then add sauce and continue as directed.

Balsamic:
Liquid = 1ž4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1ž4 cup gf chicken broth
Flavoring = none
Enrichment = 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Cream Sherry & Prunes:
Liquid = 6 Tablespoons cream sherry, 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
Flavoring = 1ž4 cup chopped prunes
Enrichment = 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Lemon Caper:
Liquid = 6 Tablespoons gf chicken broth, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Flavoring = 2 Tablespoons drained capers
Enrichment = 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Port & Cherry:
Liquid = 1ž2 cup port wine
Flavoring = 2 Tablespoons dried cherries, 2 teaspoons red currant jelly
Enrichment = 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Tomato & Tarragon:

Liquid = 1ž4 cup gf chicken broth, 1ž4 cup dry white wine
Flavoring = 1 teaspoons fresh minced tarragon, 4 canned tomatoes, drained & chopped
Enrichment = 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, 2 Tablespoons cream

Curried Chutney:
Liquid = 6 Tablespoons gf chicken broth, 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Flavoring = 2 Tablespoons chutney, 1ž4 teaspoon curry powder
Enrichment = 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Once you master the formula you will discover you simple it is to prepare an elegant meal in just minutes!

We hope these tips and time-savers not only help you out in the kitchen but give you the flexibility to explore new recipes and flavor combinations without feeling as if you have to spend all day in the kitchen!

Bon Appetit!

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