How To: Everything You Need to Know About Cooking with Plantains

The produce section is full of fruits, both familiar and quite strange. Depending on the season, you may see giant, bright-green bananas on display next to the normal bananas that you know and love. No, those aren't super-unripened bananas—they're plantains, and they are definitely a different fruit altogether. However, once you get to know them a little better, you'll find that they're much more fun to cook with.

Ingredients 101: The Essential Homemade Chicken Stock

The first written account of "stock" as a culinary staple goes back to 1653, when La Varenne's Cookery described boiling mushroom stems and table scraps with other ingredients (such as herbs and basic vegetables) in water to use for sauces. But really, the concept of stock has probably been around for as long as people have been using water to boil food.

Ingredients 101: How to Salt Your Food Like the Pros

In order to make your food taste good, your favorite restaurant is most likely using way more salt than you think they are (among other pro secrets). Which is why when you ask just about any professional cook what the biggest problem with most home-cooked meals are, they almost always answer that they're "undersalted" or "underseasoned." (In cooking lingo, to "season" food means to salt it.)

Ingredients 101: Selecting, Cleaning, & Storing Fresh Mushrooms

Eating vegetarian isn't just for vegetarians. There are plenty of reasons, health and economics-wise, to consider forgoing the meat for a meal or three. Rather than get deep into the world of fake meat (although there's many a tasty alternative to be found there, to be sure), you should consider getting to know your humble-seeming fungal friend: the mushroom. Thanks to their hearty flavor, cooks tend to treat mushrooms like meat, albeit one with its own unique characteristics. Mushrooms are e...

Ingredients 101: How & Why You Should Clarify Butter

Unless you're vegan or lactose intolerant, butter is an indispensible ingredient. However, butter is no one-trick pony. It can take many forms that make it even more versatile and useful in the kitchen. Clarified butter has many advantages over regular butter—but there are certain cases where you shouldn't use it. More on that later.

Ingredients 101: Toasting Nuts Is a Necessary Evil & Here's Why

People tend to skip toasting nuts in recipes or before adding them to salads because it seems time-consuming and the margin for error is high. However, skipping this step is a big mistake. Why? Because when you skip toasting your nuts (go ahead, you can laugh, we're all doing it), you sacrifice flavor and texture. And not just a little flavor, but a lot. Alton Brown recommends wok-frying peanuts before making your own nut butter for this very reason.

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