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Cooking Techniques - La tecnica della cucina
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Caramelising Sugar: Sugar is caramelized when it is melted into a clear golden to dark brown syrup, reaching a temperature from 320 to 350 degrees F. To start, add some water to dry sugar in a pot, stirring, until it reaches the consistency of wet sand. The acid from added lemon juice will help prevent recrystallization.Instead of using lemon juice, you could add acidity with vinegar, cream of tartar or corn syrup. Always start with a very clean pan and utensils. Any dirt or debris can cause crystals to form around it. Heat the pan over a medium flame. As the sugar melts, you can wash down the sides of a pan with a wet brush, which also prevents crystallization by removing any dried drops of syrup that might start crystals. As the caramel heats, it colors in amber shades from light to deep brown.

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Pasta: It takes 4 ounces of dry pasta per person. A 1 pound package of pasta should yield 4 servings. Use plenty of water (at least 4 quarts per pound) so that it doesn’t stick together. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the water. This avoids the pasta to stick together when it cooks. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of pasta. This will bring out the flavor of the pasta. When the water returns to a boil, add the pasta. Stir the pasta often to prevent sticking. One pound of spaghetti takes aproximately. 8 to 10 minutes to cook but check it frequently until it’s "al dente" (firm to the bite). As soon as the pasta is done, drain it in a colander. Combine the sauce and pasta in a bowl, mix well, and then serve.

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Sauté: Sautéing is cooking food quickly in the right amount of oil and/or butter over high heat. You can use a skillet or saute pan, but make sure it is big enough to comfortably contain what you are cooking. To preheat you need high heat when sautéing to cook ingredients quickly, otherwise the internal moisture tends to push to the surface and your ingredients won’t brown.

Sauté with butter or oil? Butter will give your food the best taste and a wonderful golden crust but burns more easily. Olive oil produces a nice crust and will not burn as quickly, but also doesn’t leave as rich a flavor or color as butter alone. So, the Reluctant Gourmet uses a combination of the two. What you cook and the amount you’re cooking will determine how butter and oil you use.

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