This weekend I travelled to Atlanta for an International Association of Culinary Professionals conference—a wonderful day of eating to the point of no return and rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest minds in the industry.
One of the event speakers was food chemist and cooking icon Shirley Corriher, famous for using her background in biochemistry to solve the kitchen’s stickiest problems. Luckily, she can also explain her solutions in plain English to those of us who barely made it through remedial chemistry. No discolored eggs or topless muffins have gone unexplained by the woman who has problem-solved for culinary greats like Julia Child down to those whose knowledge begins and ends with pouring cereal into a bowl.
5 Lessons I Learned from Shirley Corriher:
1. If your roasted vegetables have ever turned from bright green to “yucky army drab” as Corriher calls it, try cooking them for less time—no more than 7 minutes. The longer they cook the more acid comes out of the vegetables themselves, which causes the discoloration.
2. Never dress cooked vegetables with citrus juice or the color will turn drab. Instead, garnish with the fruit’s zest.
3. Sugar helps fruits and vegetables preserve their shape, so season with a pinch of sugar when cooking.
4. Rice or potatoes cooked with acidic ingredients, like sour cream, will not soften because it prevents the starch from swelling.
5. Once you put your chicken on a preheated pan do not touch it for 90 seconds. Corriher calls this waiting period “having a zen moment.” In 90 seconds the proteins have joined together on the surface, browned, and will release on their own.
Read her secrets to low-fat baking here.
The day’s highlights also included a tasting of pies from Atlanta-based That Pie Place. Along with the usual suspects were offerings like Elvis—a combination of banana, vanilla wafers, vanilla custard, peanut butter, and chocolate—and S’mores. Founder Ron Wolf also made mention of a seasonal addition to their menu—a pie filled with turkey, mashed potatoes, and seasoned dressing, plus gravy and cranberry sauce on the side. Sold.