Aaron Hutcherson & Becky Krystal
THE WASHINGTON POST – Every week, Aaron Hutcherson (AH) and Becky Krystal (BK) answer questions and provide practical cooking advice in a chat with readers. Aaron and Becky write and test recipes for Voraciously, The Washington Post’s team dedicated to helping you cook with confidence. Here are edited excerpts from a recent chat.
Q: How can I get a restaurant-quality sear on a salmon filet? I’ve tried several techniques, but haven’t had much success in getting that nice, crisp sear without overcooking the rest of the salmon flesh.
A: Start by making sure you’re getting your skillet and oil hot enough. You want to cook it skin side down until nice and crisp, and then flip it over and cook it on the other side for only a minute or two (depending on how thick the piece of fish is).
Q: I’ve tried making refrigerator dill pickles twice without success. I use a recipe from the usually reliable thekitchn. There’s nothing really wrong with them they’re just not as tasty as store-bought pickles. The recipe calls for cider vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and dill seed.
A: You could try adding fresh dill in place of or in addition to the dill seed. You could also try adding more spices, such as mustard, coriander or fennel seed for a little boost.
Q: I love Asian carryout noodles, be they lo mein or rice noodles or whatever, and I used to love fried rice, too – but lately, they all taste flavour-deficient, like the cook used one teaspoon of sauce instead of one quarter-cup. I understand the problem is me (because I’ve had the same experience at multiple restaurants) but regardless, is there one ingredient or sauce you recommend adding to up the flavour?
A: It really depends on your palate. If you enjoy spice, then chilli crisp, sriracha or chilli-garlic hot sauce are good options. For a more sweet and savoury option, I like hoisin sauce.
A classic is always a splash of soy sauce or tamari, and you could pair it with some toasted sesame oil for a nice flavour. Anyone else have any recommendations?
A: I was about to suggest some of the same things as Aaron. A little bit of fish sauce could bring some umami depth, and I’m also a big fan of Chinese black vinegar.
Q: I often see recipe instructions to “grate garlic cloves”, which sounds pretty tedious and messy, not to mention dangerous to one’s knuckles. Is a garlic press no longer an approved tool? Is grating or using a press essentially the same thing? If the recipe says “grate”, is pressing an acceptable alternative, or would mincing be a better substitute?
A: I find using a microplane grater easier than mincing when I’m only using one or two cloves in a recipe. I don’t own a garlic press (I’m pretty against single-use kitchen tools), but there are people that swear by them. Generally speaking, all three methods are interchangeable.
Q: I bought some thick-cut beef rashers, but realised it doesn’t crisp up the way I like. Should I cook it for much longer to try to get it crispy, or use it in some other way then just on the side of eggs?
A: Yes, I would try cooking it for longer to help crisp it up.
A: If you start it in a cold pan, that might help, too.
Q: How long is sliced lox good in the refrigerator? Does adding oil extend its life span?
A: After it’s open, aim to use it within a week. I would not add oil to it.
Q: How old is too old to use dried black beans which one may have recently come across (blame a poorly packed, swiftly executed COVID-19-related move)?
A: I would not worry too much. Maybe try soaking them before cooking and/or expect them to take longer.