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Secrets of a Restaurant Chef – Poor Kitchen Mindset *Giveaway*


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Convenience foods (heat and serve) are typically made with inferior ingredients; contain way too much salt and empty calories. I do not purchase convenience products-ever!  I do not use pre-made sauces, stocks or pre-made products at work and I would never feed that stuff to my family and friends.  I cook with the Cucina Povera (“poor kitchen”) mindset.

In the kosher kitchen we only have so many ingredients to work with, both at home and professionally.  Many ingredients that most chefs take for granted are not part of my daily repertoire due to kosher restrictions.  I have a meat and pareve kitchen and cannot just add cream to a soup or sauce to thicken it.  I have to work a bit harder and find other ways that fit into the kosher laws. I do not believe in using faux foods for substitutions and look to natural ingredients that are already kosher and in season.  In the spirit of Cucina Povera, I embrace my constraints, accept the materials I have to work with and move on.  I always say that if a recipe cannot be made without completely mutilating it, then do not make it.  I have never put soy crème brulees on my menu and never will.  I also do not sell faux crab or mock sour cream. Real sour cream is amazing and who doesn’t love crème brulee? The artificial stuff doesn’t come close and I have too much respect for my ingredients, clients and family to ever serve ersatz food.

Kashrut is all about making choices—not getting around them with cheap imitations.

Another tip I’ve learned over the years, learn to make one great recipe and then riff on it.  Everyone should have their own signature dish. This is the dish that you know inside and out and can do in your sleep.  It can be as simple as meatballs or as complex as homemade sausage.  Once you have that recipe under your belt, you can shake it up.  Add new flavors and ingredients and play with it.  Now you have new versions and more options.

Most of all, have fun in the kitchen and take some chances. Everyone is so afraid to make a mistake in the kitchen.  As long as the food is safe to eat, go ahead and play with it!  No one knows what the dish was supposed to be, except you, so whatever you say it is, it is.

Don’t miss my other Secrets of a Restaurant Chef:

Quality Knives

Stocked Pantry

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About Chef Laura Frankel


I am a chef, restauranteur, cookbook author and mother, you can find out more about me on my blog: ChefLaurasKosher.com




208 Responses to Secrets of a Restaurant Chef – Poor Kitchen Mindset *Giveaway*

  1. avatar says: devoelyas

    I want to learn how professional chefs make the best juicy steaks!

    • avatar says: berta

      I appreciate your professional status! How to make crisp skinned duckling fat”free”. We loved you for establishing original Shallots with gratitude for starting a gourmet place in Chicago!

  2. i am glad you asked! start with the meat. ask your butcher to cut 1 1/2 inch thick rib-eye steaks. you want meat that has NEVER been frozen. freezing ruins the texture.
    once you are ready to cook the steaks, bring the meat to room temperature. preheat your grill or saute pan. generously salt and pepper the meat. place the meat on the grill/pan and leave it for 5 minutes. To get the “cheffy” looking grill marks, rotate the 1/4 on the same side (this is the presentation side facing the diner) and continue grilling for another 3 minutes on the same side. turn the meat over and grill for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from the grill/pan and place on a sheet pan. do not stack the meat! Loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 8-10 minutes. slice or serve!
    start with room temperature meat,
    you only turn the meat once,
    and allow it to rest!

  3. I would like to learn how to offset the saltiness of some kosher meats. I already don’t add additional salt, but sometimes it can be overwhelming.

  4. many cuts of beef are secondary cuts which means they are cut from a larger piece of meat. typically that shields the meat from the kashering/ salting process. Stew meat and
    Rib eye steaks should not be salty until you salt them! They need salt to get flavorful.

    but a roast could be salty to start with. so, i usually go easy on the salt with roasts and larger cuts of beef.

    when i make duck-i never salt it and i go easy on the salt with chickens.

  5. avatar says: mushi

    I would like to know how your fish ALWAYS turns out perfectly?

    • perfectly salting your food is like adding compliments. the salt opens your taste buds and send electrical impulses to your brain telling you that something really good is going on in your mouth. no salt-no messages and NO compliments:-)

    • i love cooking fish. start cooking with room temperature fish, that way the fish is not cold in the center-same for meat. get your pan nice and hot and lightly coated with oil. season the fish and put it “presentation” side down (the pretty side). DON’T TOUCH IT for a few minutes until it has caramelized. you can peek at it by lifting a corner. then flip it. ONLY TURN IT ONCE! for salmon, turn the heat off and let it finish in the pan-called pan roasting. for halibut, put it in an 350 degree oven for an additional 7-10 minutes until it is just cooked through.

  6. avatar says: mushi

    I would also like to know if professional chefs receive their Kosher poultry with sooooo many feathers? I certainly do : (

    • yeah-those feathers! I have a slight advantage in having staff that takes of those things for me :-D

      at home, i just pluck and pull the same as everyone else. the good news is that kosher poultry tastes more “chicken-y, ducky etc…) it is just a better product despite a pain to work with.

    • avatar says: mushi

      I’ve never eaten anything but kosher poultry (or anything else for that matter), and remember as a child the flames at the butcher to singe the feathers, lol! Chai chickens from Canada and the organics from Empire have a lot less feathers, yeah! So what happened to all the giblets and liver that we use to get? Hmmm…wish we still did.
      Thanks for your reply!

    • i wish we could reliably get giblets, necks and all the goodies. most of that get “lost” in the processing and is probably ground into pet food.

  7. avatar says: eddyrobey

    Assuming that you’re not using a knife, do you prefer using a mandoline or food processor for slicing?

  8. avatar says: emamwl

    I would like to know more about how to prepare the food in advance (e.g. for Shabbat) without it losing its oomph.

    • you need to know what can hold up and what cannot. i do not attempt recipes that will not take a little abuse. so, braised dishes are a fave as well as really flavorful dishes with lots of citrus, herbs and glazes. it is the same with making pareve desserts. some recipes are meant to be dairy and some can be both.

      this summer i am in love with my Piquillo Harissa on spatchcocked chicken. i will post the recipe on my blog at http://www.cheflauraskosher.com

      the flavor is bright and complex and the chicken never knew what hit it!

  9. I am new to Judaism but I have always loved to cook (I finished 1 year of my 2 year culinary degree before I moved.)

    What is a tasty Kosher meal that is really quick and kids would love?

    • my kids still love a really tasty schnitzel. i still make it for my adult children. i add my own herbs and lemon zest to the panko breadcrumbs and only fry in extra virgin olive oil. it is tasty and healthy. add some great grain dish like farro pilaf and a cooked kale and you got a healthy homemade meal.

  10. avatar says: miriamg

    I would love to learn how to make those amazing sauces chefs make to accompany their dishes. Sometimes they truly make the dish exceptional!

    • in a former life (before i kept kosher) i was a saucier (sauce chef) and made 25+ sauces a day in the restaurant i worked in! OY VAY.

      i still make all the sauces in my professional kitchen and the trick is in good homemade stock. packaged stuff is not going to cut it. make great stock and you have great sauce. a little patience won’t hurt as well.
      a quick pan sauce for chicken:
      after the chicken is roasted or sauteed, add to the pan chopped shallots and garlic, scrape the pan as you SWEAT them to gather the brown bits (fond). add 1/2 cup white wine and allow it to reduce by 1/2 and then add 1.5 cups homemade chicken stock and some fresh herbs, some dried mushrooms would be tasty here as well.
      reduce until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and then add salt and pepper.

  11. avatar says: al33za

    Awesome tips. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I would like to know how to make very good wonton soup

    • make good chicken stock! make won tons with ground turkey, shiitake mushrooms, ground star anise and scallions (all mushed together in a food processor). add chopped veggies and a dash of toasted sesame oil!

  13. avatar says: DCFive

    I would love to learn some more advanced knife skills. Great article!

  14. Please share your signature dish with us. Thanks for sharing those awesome tips with us.

    • at work, i make duck, fish and really exotic meals. but at home,

      my husband likes my meatloaf! he is a chef for a private family and we both cook all day, so he likes simple food some nights.

      i make homemade ketchup and add tons of caramelized shallots to the meat. i also do not over work the meat. then i smother it with ketchup and slightly under cook it. then i wrap it in foil and let it finish cooking on the counter top. it is perfect everytime.

  15. avatar says: Raheli

    I’d love to learn how to grill steak so that it’s done inside, but not burnt outside, and not dried out :( Love your blog!

    • turn down the fire! cook on medium for a bit longer to get the char crust-but not blackened. also, start with 1 1/2 inch thick steaks. have the butcher cut rib eyes for you from meat that has never been frozen. start with meat at room temperature so the interior is not cold.

  16. avatar says: PuttieMom

    I would love to know how to make food in advance and not have it dry out when it is reheated. I’d also love to know which are the best foods to freeze and the best way to freeze them.

    • the foods that reheat well are those cooked in sauces. a roasted chicken reheated doesn’t stand a chance. but, in a sauce and very gently reheated in a LOW oven-will be delicious.

      anything braised is great for leftovers or do-ahead.

  17. avatar says: edeliz

    Timing!!! How can I get the whole meal served so that we are not waiting for one item, while the rest of the meal gets cold.

    • plan on one or more items to be room temperature. many home cooks pull their hair out trying to do too much with one or 2 ovens. i plan one a chilled side dish or room temperature item. i also use my slow cooker as a warmer. i can park my side dishes in the slow cooker and keep it LOW and then go on about the meal.

  18. I want to learn how to combine flavors so they complement each other.

    • this is the advanced class! i like to look at a flavor profile-Asian, Mediterranean, Spanish, Moroccan etc… or even a time period , 1960′s supper club or French Bistro etc…

      then i think of what flavors come to mind for Asian for instance-sesame, ginger, Anise, garlic and then go from there. once you master that-then you shake it up by adding “partner” flavors like citrus, dried mushrooms, lemon grass and more.

      if you can do that-then the world is at your fingertips. look at geography and see what grows in a region and then cook the meal.
      i do that all the time. I do not need to go to the Philippines to make the food. i look at what grows there and the influences of food and then i go cook the food.

  19. avatar says: susitravl

    Knife skills! I am slow at chopping things up.

    • practice. buy a bag of carrots and start chopping. i do that with new staff members. hand them 20 pounds of carrots-but about mid way through, they are very fast and sick of carrots:-)

  20. Speed tips – I have seven children, and would like to spend less time in the kitchen!

    • make one item and then jazz up the leftovers. make a pile of beets one day and serve it as a salad one night, add it to soup the next and turn it into pasta salad the next.
      do the same thing with chicken, meatballs and a turkey breast. make a bunch and then change it up so it is new flavors and presentation.

  21. We are a salt free family,as best one can be. I want to know how to compensate for the lack of the flavor added with salt.

    • that is tough! you can use lots of herbs, citrus and really good extra virgin olive oil to get flavor. try using some spices as well and see if you learn to enjoy chilies (hot stuff) to add interest and flavor

  22. avatar says: chana s

    ui want to learn how to prepare beautiful food, while short on time or in advance.

    • start with fresh food-not canned or frozen. add lots of herbs and bright flavors like fresh lemon, lime or orange juice. use the best ingredients you can find and let those flavors dominate the recipe. sometimes simple is best.

      i think people try too hard to make something fancy when a perfectly cooked simple item adorned with salt, pepper and olive oil speaks volumes.

  23. avatar says: joyce

    I would like to learn how to slice my homemade grav lox really thin.

    • MMmmm. grav lox! pour a really cold vodka and then put the fish in the freezer for 10 minutes. gather your sharpest SLICER (French slicer knife)and dampen the blade with a wet cloth and hold the knife at a 30 degree angle and gently slice. drink the vodka!

  24. avatar says: janetnels

    How do you prepare such beautiful and wonderful means so quickly. A good meal seems to take me hours and I just don’t have that kind of time.

    • i am really fast because i do it for a living! but, you can get faster if you take one amazing dish you love and learn it inside out. then change it a bit and add variety. keep expanding upon it until you have a repertoire.

    • let me answer again. read a recipe all the way through while sitting on the couch,picture each step in order. now, see what can do done at the same time. i tell my staff that some cooking is passive and some is active. you can do active things while the passive stuff is doing itself.

      most people just start in to a recipe without reading it all the way through. AARGH! do not do this. read it, think about it, then do it.

  25. My relatives had all their recipes memorized and wrote nothing down for future generations. I’d love to find a great recipe for Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls. I can never get it perfect :)
    vac 924 at gmail dot com

  26. i would love to ask popular substitutions for expensive spices in some recipes

    • sorry Wendy! you get out of a recipe what you put in. here is my tip. Only feed the people you really love. your family, good friends and any one who is not on that list, get rid of them!
      i feed those i love, great food. everyone else pays me to feed them and it works out even!

      good spices are the heart and soul of a dish. cheap stuff tastes flat.
      store your spices carefully out of direct light and in sealed bottles. they will keep longer

  27. avatar says: rivkalock

    I am always searching for healthy recipes that don’t have sauces – just pure good spices and veggies. I am a total carnivore so usually cook them up together (especially beef). Any suggestions for quick string beans, zucchini, squash and other yummy veggies I can make quickly and deliciously?

    Would also love a recipe that’s super easy for that amazing chocolate cake with gooey chocolate in the middle served with ice cream. Yum.

  28. avatar says: RenaB

    I’d love to know how to make the perfect roast duck crispy on the outside and perfect on the inside. Do I really need to pierce the skin and boil first? Seems slightly counter-intuitive. Thanks!

    • as i write i am actually covered in duck fat from a wedding we are prepping for this weekend!
      MMMmmmm-duck fat.

      it is not counter intuitive. that method is to render the fat in hot water so that the duck skin crisps up and doesn’t set fire to your kitchen!

      i prefer a more modern method where you poach the legs and thighs in the fat (confit) and then pan roast the breast. that way the skin is crispy and the meat on the breast is medium rare of whatever you like.

      you can serve the whole thing or just serve the breasts as an entree and the confit legs as a salad or separate meal. much more versatile.

      to pan roast the breast-start with a cold pan. place the breast, skin-side down, and gently raise the heat to medium low. basically you are melting the fat off while keeping the meat raw. keep pouring the fat out of the pan, once the skin has browned and is crispy, turn the breast over so the meat is facing the pan and place the pan into a 350 oven for 7 minutes for medium rare.
      if you started the breast in a hot pan, the whole thing would cook and the skin would burn before the fat was rendered off.

      to poach the legs and thighs-cover them in a casserole with cold duck fat and place in a 250 oven for 2-3 hours. save the fat-freeze and use it again and again!

  29. avatar says: imergoot

    I always have problems cooking fish. Could it be that most of the fish has been previously frozen. It often seems watery and bland.

    • i really try hard not to use frozen fish. it is watery and the texture is ruined as fish has no connective tissue. so the water freezes and expands-wrecking the fish.

      if you can find fresh fish-go with that. if not, poach the frozen filets in a spicy tomato sauce with veggies and serve with couscous.

  30. avatar says: aahaft

    I would really like to make a pastrami yaptzig kugel that I have seen in Pomegranate grocery it’s like a deli roll but instead of pastry dough its a thin potatoe kugel. nevermind that I have never made a decent potato kugel eiher

  31. I am trying to let go and do “my own thing”, when I cook. I am trying not to measure every little thing, or follow a recipe exactly. I am also attempting to change a recipe and add my own ingredients. I am learning that from my 14 year old son, who cooks by instinct!

    • i did go to cooking school, but am also an instinctive cook. my mother says i was born with frying pan in my hand. food and i seem to have an agreement. i just get it and understand how to make it taste good.

      enjoy the food your son makes and buy him a decent knife so he learns to cut properly and doesn’t hurt himself. look for a chef’s knife that is full “tang” one piece of metal with a handle riveted to it.
      the knives that cute college kids sell, are not great! buy the scissors from the kid and a knife from a chef’s store where people who cook for a living buy knives. enjoy!

  32. avatar says: mink

    I could really use some hints to improve my knife skills (or lack thereof).

    • get a really good knife, grip it with your index finger and thumb pinching the blade. wrap your other fingers around the handle and rock your arm in an up and down motion (like the old steam engine wheels). Practice!

  33. avatar says: luckyme

    I would like to know about the best cook/bakeware and utensils and how to use them.

  34. avatar says: TamarGold

    thanks for the tips!! (I WANT THE GIVEAWAY TOO)

  35. avatar says: miriamg

    Chef Laura-
    I would love to learn the classic 5 mother sauces, but particularly the espagnole, which to me is the most complex and versatile.

    • espagnole is a great sauce. but most chefs use a red wine reduction these days and sometimes add in tomatoes at the end. Both start with a great veal or very dark chicken stock and the espagnole has the addition of a roux.

      i suggest you get brave and just jump and try it.

      i love Hollandaise and my youngest son Jonah insists on Macaroni and cheese which has me making a bechamel weekly.

      good luck!

  36. avatar says: dlhaley

    I would like to know what is the best way to sharpen a knife?

    • i get my knives sharpened professionally every few months. in between, i use a STEEL to keep the edge nice and sharp. hold your knife in your dominant hand the steel in the other. draw the blade across the steel at a 45 degree angle. repeat on the other side of the blade. do this 5 times on each side and your knife will be sharp. get the knives sharpened by a pro every few months if you cook a lot at home.

  37. avatar says: mell

    I want to know the secret to making the perfect omelet.

    • i make the best omelet. the secret is low and slow.
      i use a non-stick pan that is only for omelets. No one is allowed to touch the pan and i never clean it. i wipe it out with a damp towel. that way it will not be scratched.

      whisk 3-4 eggs, at room temperature, in a bowl.
      heat the pan on low and wipe the sides and bottom with olive oil. add the eggs and stir continuously. as they begin to form curds, break up the curds until they are almost dry-add your filling and fold the omelet into thirds. roll it out of the pan.

  38. avatar says: telcon

    I’d really like to learn how to cook steak

  39. avatar says: elsbels96

    I would love to learn how to use knives properly to cut everything in the same size

    • cutting food the same size is essential for everything to cook at the same rate.

      practice! i hate when i eat at someone’s house and the food is not evenly cooked-makes me nuts!

  40. avatar says: kityblue

    I would like to know how do you get to the point of not having to use a recipe for everything…especially baking. Just practice?

    • take the recipe of your choice. sit down on the couch and read it through like a book. go back and visualize each step. don’t start a recipe until you have read it through. after a while, all recipes follow a basic pattern. you will start to learn the pattern and pretty soon, will not ever need a recipe again.

      i cannot believe i said that as a cookbook author, but it is true!

  41. i want to learn how to make fresh pasta

    • easy peasy! i am the gnocchi queen. i can make it in my sleep!

      for egg pasta-use a (SEMOLINA 00) flour. it has a fine texture and will make the pasta silky and toothy when you eat it.

      do a “well method” for your pasta with a well of flour then push out the center of the well and whisk in eggs, olive oil and salt and pepper. work the flour in and knead until your arms hurt. let it rest and roll it out.

  42. cooking methods for different cuts of meat

    • tough muscular cuts need braising and steaks need a quick cooking method like grilling or pan roasting.

      to braise-just brown the meat (do not skip this step) and then add aromatics, (herbs, garlic, shallots etc…) stock and wine and cover and let cook SLOWLY at 320 in the oven.

      remove the meat and strain out the liquid and reduce the liquid until it is like a glaze

  43. avatar says: dalesusan

    i would like to know what you recommend for side dishes (vegetables) for shabbat dinner. i hate to serve limp, overcooked greyish green vegetables that got overdone on a plata. what do you serve on friday nite? (and yes, i would love to win the give-a-way)

    • i like to use braised greens. Kale, collard greens, Swiss chard and the like. i cook them in wine with garlic, shallots and fresh herbs. they get better the longer they cook.

      our typical shabbat dinner is chicken, short ribs or duck, braised greens and a grain of some sort (farro, barley,quinoa etc…) and tons of sauteed mushrooms with a wine sauce of some sort.

      the greens just get better and are loaded with vitamins. they are a blank slate. i use wine, stock, herbs and sometimes chilies to make them taste great.

    • i also just thought that you could roast broccoli, green beans and most veggies for just a quick trip in the oven and then reheat without too much loss of quality

  44. Would love to learn more about sauces making my food really stand out.

    • most modern chefs use a pan reduction. for that you need good stock, white or red wine, some aromatics (fresh herbs, lemon juice, chopped garlic and shallots). the trick is to gather your FOND (brown bits) by using these aromatics and then reduce it down to a nappe consistency (clings to the back of a spoon).

  45. avatar says: Hana

    I love the Cucina Povera ideology. What a great chef’s manifesto! And no subbing soy for dairy! I would love to know how to make a great lemon curd.

    • lemon curd is one of life’s joys. but, save it for dairy recipes. the butter makes it sublime and since it melts perfectly at body temperature, it carries the lemony goodness around your palate. Delish!

  46. I would love to know what the most tender kosher steak is, I find it difficult to find a good moist piece of steak.

    • the king of the steak is RIB EYE! buy a piece of meat that is fresh and never been frozen. get it cut 1 1/2 inches thick. bring it to room temperature and cook it medium-medium high until browned, turn and repeat.

  47. Condiments, spices, fresh herbs to know what blends together to make more savory dishes that are not bland or either too overpowering. I loved the article had me laughing.

    • fresh herbs go with everything and citrus brightens the flavors of food. i like hard spices (coriander seed, cumin, star anise etc..) for deep dark flavors and chilies for a slight punch of heat.

  48. I would love to be able to make a good “scratch” cake. I’m talking about just a regular layer or sheet cake. I want to make a scratch that is moist, tender, and delicious instead of heavy and dry.

    • i assume you are talking about a pareve cake?
      i will post a recipe on my blog @www.cheflauraskosher.com but, first you must promise that you will never pretend that margarine is butter! margarine does not cook the same as butter. the fat content is different and the fat itself is oil which is heavy. so, once the fat melts in the oven the margarine falls to the bottom of the cake layers and the bottom of the cake is greasy and the top is dry.
      i have said in many interviews that margarine will be the death of the Jewish people. it is not good for you, it doesn’t taste good and it doesn’t bake well.

      ok? so, i will post a recipe for you on my blog in a couple of hours

  49. What’s the best spices to rub onto meats that will be BBQ’d?

    • i am wild about smoked paprika (available online with a hechsher) with mustard powder, garlic powder (not salt), onion powder, small amount of cumin, coriander seed and brown sugar (helps control bitterness of spices).

      i like to a dry rub with a wet mop of vinegar, tomato paste and olive oil. keeps the whole thing juicy

  50. What are the best spices and sprigs to mix with the butter that seafood will be grilled with in a skillet/pan?

    • you can use butter or extra virgin olive oil with parsley, basil, thyme and chives. we use a mix in my kitchen called Fines Herbes of those 4 with tarragon sometimes in the mix. after i sear the fish, i throw in the herbes, some white wine and chopped garlic and shallots. all of this needs to be fresh!

      then add a little more butter or oil and drizzle on the fish-yum! getting hungry just writing this!

  51. avatar says: shayndya

    I would love to learn how to dice vegetables like a pro! I hate using the Progressive dicer – pain to clean – and it mauls tomatoes and mushrooms.

    • get a really good quality knife (see my article on knives) and practice. NEVER use a machine to cut vegetables. you shred cabbage for slaw in a machine-but processing vegetables should be a tactile job. we feed several thousand people a week here when we are really busy and everything is hand cut!

  52. avatar says: Gr8Reader

    I’ve had Oxygen’s jams and they are DELICIOUS!! Would love to try their other products!!!

  53. avatar says: Chaviva

    How do you make Crepes? or Blitzes?

    • sometimes i make them dairy and often i make them pareve with almond milk and canola oil. works really well.

      for Asian recipes like duck pancakes, i use almond milk and sesame oil with chopped scallions folded in. really good

  54. I want to know does it really matter what type of oil I use in a recipe? Often it calls for vegetable or corn or another specific type of oil and its just so much easier to use what is on hand…

    • ummm…yeah it matters. i buy delicious extra virgin olive oil. if everything going into the pan tastes good, including the oil, then the food coming out will be good as well.

      for stir frys i use toasted sesame oil and for vinaigrettes i use toasted walnut oil.

      if we are not using butter for most recipes-then you need to find a tasty and HEALTHY oil.

      read about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.

  55. avatar says: SaucheyR

    I would love to learn some great breakfast tips from a chef – I can cook a fantastic and complicated dinner but the simple breakfast foods taunt me! I would love to spend some time learning how to best fry an egg, how to make fluffy scrambled eggs, and how to make a good pot of coffee! My coffee is terrible!!!!

    • low and slow when cooking eggs. turn the heat down on the pan and you will get custardy shiny eggs. too high of heat and they are rubbery and gross.

      i buy cage free Amish eggs that have a bright orange yolk. they are awesome-but pricey. they actually taste like an egg. if i did not live in a condo-i would have a chicken coop and get my own eggs.

      buy some decent coffee. i like organic seasonal beans. most people do not think of coffee as seasonal-but it is. it has a growing season like everything else.

      get a decent drip pot or do a cold infusion and just heat up the infusion.

  56. My issue is my cakes. For some reason, I can never ever ever (ever!) make a cake of the same consistency twice! Some are too dry, some too moist- all over the place! From the same type of cake! I use the basic cake recipes from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratios, either by whipping or paddling. Any help would be beyond appreciated! Ratios are 9 eggs, 2 C flour, 2 C (or less) sugar 4 stick maragarine, lil vanilla, 3 finge pinch salt

    • Sarah-call me at 312 322-1744

      the ratio is way off. i have never seen a formula so messed up before. no wonder the recipe doesn’t work.

      normally there would be 2-3 eggs. also i want to talk to you about margarine and the way you are putting the recipe together.

      you should NEVER use margarine-did you read the article? but, if you are determined:

      cream a non-hydrogenated shortening with the sugar until fluffy. add the eggs one at a time, beating in between each egg.
      add the flour and a liquid (this recipe is messed up!) and then 2 teaspoons of PURE vanilla extract and a good pinch of sea salt.

      just call me. you can talk to me and my pastry chef

  57. All of the best ways to replace dairy in meat recipes.

  58. I want to know how hard it is to BE a kosher restaurant chef, because I imagine the market is even harder to get into than usual restauranting.

    • it is hard when you are marketing to a small microcosm of the population. the trick is to make food good enough that everyone eats it-even those not keeping kosher or eve Jewish.

      that is where the professional chef comes in. i have to make amazing food whether you keep kosher or not and that means understand ingredients.

      the whole premise of my POOR KITCHEN is just to tell you that allowing an ingredient to be at is its best and using substitutes tastes like you used substitutes.

      i could not make money as a chef or work for Wolfgang Puck if i made margarine cakes and fake whipped topping.

  59. avatar says: JoanyPony

    I like your idea of using natural foods in pareve baking, but we have some allergy issues with nuts and can’t use any of the nut products that you have mentioned. If you are not using margarine, what are you using to bake pareve products?

  60. I love the idea of a signature dish.

  61. avatar says: Roxy

    I want to know how to make good juicy steak in the oven. And is there a way to find a delicious salmon or are they all the same?
    i need more healthy oven recipes..not sweet dishes though.

  62. avatar says: RachelBL

    I want to learn how to make hard cheeses.

    • sorry-but reality is that unless you have a cave to age them cheese in-it will not taste good.

      i recommend supporting the efforts of the cheese companies already in existence and demanding even more from them

  63. I want to learn how to make a rich beef gravy with my home-made beef broth. The broth is delicious but it tastes washed-out when I use it to make a gravy (without pan drippings).

    • you need to gather your fond (brown bits) after browning meats. you also should add a tablespoon of tomato paste with gives a mouth feel as well as amps up the beefiness dues to the chemistry of tomatoes.

      add a good quality red wine and reduce it down to a glaze.

  64. avatar says: AnnaLeaf

    I want to learn to better use my time cooking, how to prep for the actual cooking better. Unless it is a meal I have prepared many time I feel disorganized.

    • read the recipes all the way through and decide which tasks can be done “passively” (without you doing something” like roasts, long simmering items and which need your constant attention. tackle the long cooking items first and then the last minute stuff

  65. avatar says: saralaya

    Your blog sounds fantastic.. I will definitely check it out. I love finding good places to get kosher recipes and kosher cooking tips!

  66. avatar says: gr8chefmb

    I would love to pick up tricks and hints from other chefs.

  67. avatar says: j

    it wasn’t easy getting to the “leave a comment” place but i’m happy to be here :)

  68. Hey Tamar-this is fun! we should do a live Chat sometime. either with phone or satellite or ….

    i think people would really like it!

  69. avatar says: Silky

    I love knowing easy but delicious recipes.

  70. some recipes are easy-but most are not but can seem easy when you know some skills and techniques. then cooking will be fun and you can take some risks and do some cool recipes.

  71. I need to learn better techniques for sauces and gravies.

  72. avatar says: barnloft

    I love to grill eggplant slices drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Then I freeze these gems and enjoy them in the wintertime in my marinara sauce. What herbs do you recommend, and how else would you utilize the grilled and seasoned eggplant slices? Do you peel them? I find the peel is a bit bitter. I also press them 1/2 hour before the grilling to remove bitterness from any of my organically grown larger eggplants. Do you agree with the pressing first?

    • the bitterness comes from the seeds. a female eggplant has more seeds and the male less.
      buy an eggplant with a protuded bottom and there will be less seeds and less bitterness.
      i use fresh oregano, thyme, basil and lemon zest on my eggplant.

  73. Anyone find it odd that a large portion of the article is dedicated to, “I do not purchase convenience products-ever! I do not use pre-made sauces, stocks or pre-made products at work and I would never feed that stuff to my family and friends.”, yet, the prize for today is pre-made sauces?

    • i do not purchase convenience products, ever!
      but many people do.

      i am making my own jam today as i prefer my own to jarred stuff at stores-but that is my preference.

      most chefs prefer homemade as we know exactly what went into the product and where it came from etc… i cannot imagine leaving my food up to a corporation to decide how i eat.

      but, that is my choice. i would like all home cooks to develop skills where they are less reliant on food coming out of jars and schlepped half way around the world. Eat local and homemade is best, but with busy lives, people may have to let go of some things.

  74. That being said, I would love to have more ideas for healthy meals that can be prepped and cooked in 30 minutes or less. Working full time outside of the home and having a baby doesn’t leave much time for the kitchen.

    • i would do one or 2 days of “mass” cooking then flavor it differently each day.

      so, on sunday i would roast a couple chickens and then have curry one night, salad another and bistro style on another.

      i would make tons of beets and use them in salads, soups, gazpacho etc… use the time you do have to make quantity and then customize it each day.

  75. I just want to learn how to cook!

  76. avatar says: Elizabeth

    I wish I could talk to a chef about boiling an egg, it doesn’t matter what I do they are impossible to peel :( . I can cook ANYTHING else so its silly that I can’t figure out how to do it easily!

    • Fresh eggs fill up the entire shell making it hard to peel. slightly older eggs have normal evaporation (shell is porous) and makes it easier to peel. leave your eggs on the counter for a day and they will peel easier.
      more importantly do not over cook had boiled eggs. I hate that green sulfur line. i bring to a coil and boil for 6 minutes then turn off and cool immediately.

  77. avatar says: shalhevet

    I’d like to learn from a professional chef: what’s the best way to cook chicken breast before Shabbat (i.e. thurs. night) so that it stays moist if you’re serving it on Shabbat afternoon? (sat. lunch)

  78. avatar says: miriama59

    I really need to remember what you said about reading the recipe. I have been baking for years and I still make the mistake of diving in without prepping and reading. I read your post about boiling eggs. Leave the egg on the counter for a day? Isn’t that unhealthy? I thought they had to be refrigerated. Surprisingly enough, we have more grief over boiling eggs in our house than anything so all tips would be appreciated. :)

    • the egg issue is hard! as a pro i see bad eggs all the time. an egg that is slightly older or left out overnight will evaporate some of the egg and leave room in the shell for easier peeling.

      start with cold water and bring the eggs to a boil. allow to boil 6 minutes, plunge in cold water and allow to sit in cold water about 15 minutes.
      peel and eat!

  79. avatar says: ladylisa

    I watch all the chef shows like top chef, chopped, 80 plates I like to hear all the advice a chef gives. I would love to know how to make the perfect lava cake or how do you know without cutting into steak when it is well done or rare when grilling it outside?

  80. avatar says: Ma Motts

    secretly nothing- I would rather watch and savor everything- I have learned b watching others there is so much to take in- but I cannot make bread for the life of me- it is not consistent- but thats a baker…

  81. avatar says: jteek2000

    From watching various cooking shows and dining out, one of the biggest differences i’ve seen in home cooking is the sauces used to accent dishes. I would love to learn some of the basics here.

    • the sauce question comes up a lot. see answers i gave to other people asking.

      sauce making is an art and takes a lot of practice. read the answers i have given, make some stock and buy some wine (for the sauce!) and get started.

  82. Chef Laura – I have to say how impressed I am at the thoughtful, concise and info-packed responses you are giving everyone! My question is if you had to choose one all-purpose knife for chopping vegetables, what kind would you recommend? Thanks!

  83. avatar says: robee61

    Great story, I woould love to hear more about your cooking adventures.

    • how much time ya got:) ?

      i have stories that would curl your hair. i have seen it all in decades of restaurant cheffing. i have considered trying to write a novel with the heroine being a chef, of course!

      but, yeah, i got stories. seems as though each day brings new drama.

      one real quick story. in my NY restaurant we had a request for a birthday cake and my pastry chef made the cake.

      that night, the place was packed and we were going a long with dinner service when 2 waiters came rushing in with the cake and horrified looks on their faces.

      they said people were gagging and choking at the cake table.

      my general manager came in to the kitchen. we both tasted the cake and i could not get the bite of cake past my tongue before i was gagging. i knew immediately what it was. my pastry chef had carelessly thrown in too much almond extract into the cake.

      Almond extract is super potent and too much is like a chemical burn. she told me later that she liked the smell and did not measure it, she just put it into the cake!

      so, i go out to the table with my GM and we see people looking ghastly gray! there are napkins all over the table with cake in them and a very pregnant woman sitting looking sick. her husband asks, “do we need to go to the ER?”

      i told them what it is was and they were fine. but the smell of almonds hung in the dining room for hours!

  84. avatar says: nurserae

    I’ve moved to the south, everything seems to be flavored with bacon…can you suggest a substitute?

    • smoked paprika is my go to spice these days. Pimenton is a spanish spice made by smoking peppers over oak until they are dry. then they are ground to a powder. the paprika comes sweet, spicy or medium.

      you can find kosher smoked paprika online. it rocks and gives all the flavor of smoky-goodness with the fat!

  85. avatar says: Aisling

    I know this is very basic – but how do chefs manage to cut all the vegetables into same sized pieces? And what’s the proper way to cut them?

    • lots of people have asked this. you need to decide on a shape and size and then get each item to the same shape and size so they will all cook the same rate.

      i like an oblique cut. it is a rolling bias.
      i take a carrot for example and make a 1/2 inch cut, then roll the carrot 1/4 turn and make a cut, then roll it 1/4 again and cut etc…
      looks faceted and pretty on a plate.

  86. avatar says: Laya

    Id like to learn how to make a pie crust and a seven minute frosting

    • pie crust needs to be made with butter. if not, you can get a very mediocre crust with non-hydrogenated shortening.

      seven minute frosting is really just a cooked meringue and is really easy. it is the same an an Italian Meringue.

  87. avatar says: meredlp

    I’d like to learn 5 basic sauces for various ethnic foods

  88. avatar says: chocgal

    We eat a lot of chicken cutlets and I’m always looking for new sauces and ways to make them. I’d love to try some of the oxygen sauces.

  89. Where can I find an Italian / 00 style flour with a hechsher? I used to use King Arthur Flour brand in my pizza and pastas, but only their all-purpose and whole wheat flours come from supervised lines.

    • look online and ask your rabbinical authority if you need flour with hashgacha. we do not need flour to have hashgacha here. also, many flours are kosher but do not a hechsher on the product-but the plant they are made in is supervised.

  90. I’d like to know how to make good healthy food fast

  91. avatar says: Leez

    I like your idea that “no one knows what the dish is abut besides for the cook himself”. This is completely true! For example, on friday, i put up cholent and in the afternoon of course there were some hungry people who decided to sample some cholent. They all raved and ranted how good it was until one person commented on what that specific taste was. Once they found out what it was, they decided the cholent taste strange. If the cook keeps his ingredients to himself, the secrets are on him!!

  92. avatar says: schoenbc1

    I think the ultimate secret to being a good chef, is to develop the creativity that is tours, alone, and, in order to create those special dishes, use quality ingredients, whether they come fresh from the tree, animal or bush, or from quality manufacturers who create ingredients that will enhance the good work of a talented chef!

  93. avatar says: clc408

    I’d like to learn new ways to cook chicken so it isn’t always the same.

    • try spice rubs and herbs.
      you can also make sauces like curries, bbq and more.

      chicken is a blank slate-you can have a good time with a properly cooked piece of chicken.

      let your inner kitchen deity out and have some fun. we were given taste buds because eating is supposed to be enjoyable. so go with it!

  94. avatar says: tamarw

    I need to know the basics, like cutting, slicing, and dicing. I have a fear of losing a finger when slicing vegetables.

    • a valid concern!

      start with a good knife. see my article on knives. buy bag of carrots and start cutting.

      hold the knife properly. if you try and hold the knife completely by the handle-it will not work well.

      you have to pinch the blade between your thumb and forefinger and then wrap your other fingers around the handle. the knife should be an extension of your hand.

  95. avatar says: tsk11230

    My daughhter and I use the exact saome challah recipe and even the same yeast (I buy it and she “borrows”) but hers rise higher and she gets much more out of the recipe. I use a Magic Mill and she uses a Bosch. Is it the yeast or the machine? Can one raise yeast right in the metal bowl or does it need glass to grow?

    • i use a kitchenaid mixer and make my sponge in the bowl of the mixer, make the dough and then park the dough in the same metal bowl on the counter until i am ready to braid it. you can grow dough in anything-including a plastic baggie.

      maybe you rush your 1st rise? i like to make my dough on thursday night, put it in the refrigerator overnight, pull it out first thing friday and let it rise until noon. then braid it, let it rise again and then bake it.

      you can also make your dough-freeze it before it rises and then take it out and let it rise the first time and then braid it etc…

  96. Wow! Forget the giveaway-this is a prize in its own right! Thanks for wealth of information and yes…I will be stalking your blog!

    Okay, this has been bugging me for ages: What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda? I know the actual difference but how do they differ baking-wise? Why do some recipes call for both? Were they written by confused recipe developers that decided to throw both in just in case? :)
    And in reference to that last comment you made about rising your dough overnight, you can do that??? Doesn’t that make the dough sour? Is there some doughs that you can/can’t do it with?

    Again, thanks!

    • baking soda needs an acid to activate. (remember when you were a kid and made the volcano and made it “erupt” when you added baking soda and vinegar?

      baking powder is DOUBLE acting so it works with heat and acid. both of these are Chemical leaveners which means a chemical reaction is needed to get them to work versus a mechanical leavener like whipping air into something.

      recipes use both as each works a bit differently and each stops at a certain point in the baking process. you want a delicate rise in your cakes and cookies-not a blown out hot mess! recipes are “sometimes” works of art and it is amazing when done properly and a cake levels off perfectly with a moist delicate crumb and amazing flavor.

      not sure why people think it is Ok to just leave stuff out or substitute willy-nilly?
      think about it-a properly made cake makes you happy and looks gorgeous. all ingredients working together in harmony.

      yes, you can refrigerate bread doughs. they develop flavor from the yeast doing its thing.
      it smells a little like beer when you smell the dough-but it will bake into a flavorful bread.
      please don’t use margarine for your challah! use canola oil. when you melt the margarine to create a liquid-you might as well just start with a liquid-right?

      i also use honey instead of sugar or sometimes use brown sugar when i am in a good mood. gives the bread a nice color a sweet-molasses flavor.

      bread is pretty basic and can be played with. i take out some white flour and add wholewheat with honey and canola oil. it is really tasty.

  97. Oh, one last question: I have a bread machine so I like to do my doughs in them and save time/effort. The by-hand recipes though, tend to differ a lot so I usually just balk and make them by hand-can I just dump in the ingredients and be fine or do I really have to proof the yeast, knead it 12 times under a full moon etc?

    • i like to start every bread dough with a sponge. a sponge is a mix of 1 cup flour, 1 cup warm water, salt and yeast. i just mix this with my hands and let it get spongy for an hour or so. then i build the bread. the sponge gets the yeast going and starts the flavor building.

      once your sponge is going-you can use a machine or a mixer. my husband is also a professional chef and he wouldn’t be caught dead using a machine for bread. he thinks he can get better texture by hand-whatever!

      whatever works for you is what you should do. just have fun with it. and don’t use margarine for challah. see previous answer on breads :-)

  98. avatar says: Dianeba53

    Could you please talk more about summer time entrees? suggestions?

    • go simple during the summer. let your fresh vegetables and herbs shine in each dish.

      i like to grill vegetables and then dress them with a basil pesto with dairy or pareve preparations.

      take advantage of the produce-soon enough it will be gone and then we scrounge around for the variety we have now.

      marinate your chicken, turkey and fish in herbs, olive oil and fresh garlic. grill or lightly saute and add in a grain like farro, quinoa or bulgur and enjoy.

      keep the food light but intensely flavored with all the earth has to offer.

  99. I would Love to know how to make a great flaky pie crust so I don’t have to buy my crusts anymore.

    • you need to use butter for a flaky pie crust or….you can use a non hydrogenated shortening.

      get all your ingredients really cold and pulse in a food processor. chill and roll.

      check out Julia child crust recipes. they are simply the best.

  100. avatar says: MizVickik

    I’d like to learn how to slice & chop vegetables properly, the way the pros do.

  101. avatar says: ferriz

    how to chop onions without crying…

    dani marie


    • HA! i love it! not happening. the onions defenses are what you cry-you NEVER get used to it.
      all this sticking onions i freezers and putting matches between your teeth etc.. are bubbe meises.

      so, your best defense is an offense. cut the onion in half from root to flower.
      peel the onion halves. make cuts lengthwise 7/8 of the way all across the onion. then cut hoizontally 2-3 times. now cut your pieces.

      when you keep smashing the onion on your board it releases all the juices and that is why you cry.

      also, do not cut it in the food processor as it squeezes all the juice out and make the onion dry and gross.

  102. avatar says: sjs

    This is probably on your ugh! list but my kids like potato salad, tuna salad, and egg salad. Is there anything to substitute for mayonnaise and to make these dishes less plain? Also, one of my daughters is sensitive to soy but wants Chinese food-is there anything that can substitute for soy sauce?

    • are you kidding? i love potato salad and egg salad. not so much with the tuna salad though!

      i use a spring garlic pesto with my potato salad. See my blog at http://www.cheflauraskosher.com
      or you can try basil and or parsley pesto instead of mayo.

      for tuna salad i do balsamic vinaigrette, golden raisins (sounds weird but it a Sicilian thing and is very good!), peas, sun dried tomatoes and tons of parsley-No Mayo!

      i admit to egg salad with mayo and Dijon style mustard. i like to make Deviled eggs with chopped smoked salmon and a little hot sauce and mayo. really good.

      use all the flavors of Asian food without the soy by using Miso (easily found kosher at most grocery stores), ginger and toasted sesame oil. i do not love soy sauce and most people over use it.

      so, after you stir fry, add a little ginger and garlic with scallions to a pan with sesame oil. add a tablespoon or 2 of miso paste and work with some rice wine vinegar and adjust the seasoning and toss with your veggies, chicken or fish.

  103. avatar says: sjs

    Thanks! Pesto sounds a lot more healthy. I had been looking unsuccessfully on the internet for a soy substitute and this sounds like a tasty substitute.

  104. avatar says: fangirl

    I really need to learn my knife skills. Where and how should I do that?

  105. avatar says: Lexiquin

    I would like to learn how to sharpen my knives and how to flip eggs.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

    • yes and no. buy really good extracts and keep the bottle sealed tightly and in the refrigerator and you will them for a long time.

      buy a cheap extract and over time it will get bitter and muddy flavored.

      go with the good stuff and take care of it

  106. avatar says: chelseaa

    I need to learn some better knife skills! Haha … I see there’s already a knife article, I’ll have to read it. That, and how to slice a mango … I try and try but always mess up and end up mangling it and never having the nice slices I dream of.

  107. I would like to learn where to find gourmet knives and pots and pans at reasonable prices.

    • In NY there are some great kitchen stores in the Bowery where restaurants buy their equipment. You can great stuff for really cheap prices, although they are not as pretty as what you find at Bed Bath and Beyond they function even better.

    • yes, the Bowery is a great place-but sometimes hard to navigate. i like Bridge in midtown. they know their stuff and have the gritty personalities to make the store seem authentic NY. (this from a midwesterner and fromer NY’er!)

  108. I always have trouble cooking fresh green beans – unless I bake them, they come out sqeaky. Any tips?

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