All posts by Susan Volland

Valentine’s Day Seared & Sauced Lobster Tails

By | Obsessions | No Comments

Searing and Saucing Lobster Tails Lobster is a Valentine’s day favorite. They’re red, pricy enough to save for special occasions, and relatively easy to cook. Frozen, thawed lobster tails need a little more finesse and flavor boosting than fresh-off-the-boat crustaceans. Searing lobster tails adds a savory nuttiness and exuded juices are captured in the pan and incorporated in the sauce rather than boiled away in a pot of water. Here are some tips and recipe ideas for searing and saucing frozen lobster tails to make sure you get your money’s worth. THAW – If you are purchasing lobster tails from your fishmonger, check that the visible meat is plump and not discolored or dry looking. The aroma should be of the sea, not a dingy aquarium. There should be no standing water under any seafood. If you purchase frozen lobster tails, remove them from the plastic and thaw in the…

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How Brown is “Browned”?

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A common mistake when searing foods is not browning them enough. “Golden” is an acceptable shade for delicate foods like sole fillets, but sturdier ingredients should be much darker. The browning process adds an important flavor layer both to the food and the accompaning pan sauce. If the color samples I’ve included here seem alarming, remember that they will lighten as the soluble elements on the surface melt into the sauce. Chicken that is seared to the color of light toast can end up looking almost boiled on the serving plate, especially when simmered in a lightly colored, buttery pan sauce. Sear that chicken to a proper brown and the entire dish will be more visually inviting, aromatic, and flavorful.

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My Favorite Skillets

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I’m biased, but it seems like a copy of Searing Inspiration and a new skillet could be the perfect gift for cooks in your life. If you have questions about cookware, here is a list of skillets I own and use for seared and sauced dishes.  (Links are included for convenience, not as retail endorsements or recommendations.) A few key points: Avoid non-stick pans. Don’t expect a great skillet to be maintenance free. If you are forced to choose, go with “proven and reliable” over “new and improved”. Inexpensive ≠ Bad. Expensive ≠ Good. 12” All-Clad Stainless Steel (around $175) It’s large, light, and responsive without feeling skittish. The design is gorgeous, with a pan handle that is both comfortable and a good angle for me. The interior has plenty of usable real estate so I don’t worry much about over crowding. Perhaps more than with any other pan, I’m keenly…

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A Summer of Simplicity

By | Cooking Outdoors, Dishes, Ingredients, Local, Obsessions, People, Sauces, Seasonal, Traditions | No Comments

Last year was complicated. For the first time in my life, words actually escaped me. I spent a lot of time holed-up indoors, anxiously awaiting emergency phone calls. I stayed productive, searing mountains of meat and poultry and draping them in various sauces. I finished my newest book, Pan Sauces (Scheduled to be released by W.W. Norton in August 2018) and I regularly chastised myself for not updating my website. Then I let it go. That was the right decision. This summer my circumstances have changed. I feel bright and hopeful, and my sauces have been similarly fresh and simple: vinaigrettes, dressings, and coulis.  Perhaps it is nostalgia for family now gone, but I have been magnetically drawn to the seasonal foods of my childhood. My iron kettles have been filled and emptied of clams. Dozens of oysters have been grilled and slathered with spicy garlic butter. For the first time in…

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Going Underground – Finishing up my new book on Pan Sauces

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The deadline for my new book is just around the corner. EEK! So, I will be taking a break from posting and writing for a bit. I’ve been pretty negligent about posting a weekly sauce for a while now, but that’s because I have been cooking like a maniac. It’s tough to write about a single, weekly sauce when you have made and tweaked 20 variations over the past few days. Writing a cookbook is a pretty great gig. It can be very fun. I get to peruse cookbooks, read lots of food websites and magazines, check out restaurant menus, and explore sources for new ingredients. For about a third of the process it is a very physical and social job; shopping, cooking, cleaning, serving friends and family, watching how testers handle ingredients and tools and sharing tips for success. But then things take a dramatic turn – the party ends….

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Rediscovering Lemons (Chicken Picatta Recipe)

By | Dishes, Ingredients, Obsessions, Sauces, Seasonal | No Comments

The Pacific Northwest is not citrus country. I’m going to use that as my excuse for gradually forgetting about lemons. The lemons at my local supermarket tend to be lousy: underripe and rock hard or dry, leathery, and tired. At nearly $2 a pop, they are rarely a temptation…until now. Earlier this month, I went to LA for a conference and skipped classes on Sunday morning to explore the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. It was citrus heaven. I fondled tiny tangerines, compared the heft of orange varieties, and practically snorted the grapefruit. The aromas, samples, and prices were outstanding. I devoured what I could on site, and managed some remarkable restraint by limiting my purchases to only what I could carry in my purse. The idea that citrus, pomegranates, and avocados can actually grow in backyards instills in me a wonder that I suppose visitors to this region feel about our pears…

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A bend in the weekly sauce road

By | Obsessions | No Comments

Okay, so I’ve done it again. Rather than sit calmly at home and research recipes, or type, or shop, chop, and sizzle ingredients, I have chosen to wade neck deep into the raging waters of a new, temporary job. I’m back at a culinary school, standing in as chef/instructor for a few months while the regular chef is elsewhere. And once again, I feel like I may drown. Some professional friends who knew of the opening sent me a text. I made a call. I made my minimal qualifications and formal teaching experience perfectly clear and yet the job was still offered to me. I started two days after speaking to the dean. Apparently, when your editor renames your book “Mastering” something and you get public accolades from unexpected sources, your resume takes on a certain opalescence. I’m not writing this to downplay my knowledge or diverse culinary experiences. What they may…

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