Top Chef­ing

In­sider tips from the best

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Inside tips from six of the best

“You want to bruise the cilantro so it gives off those beau­ti­ful juices and the flavours. Al­ways [bruise your herbs]. That’s why when you eat pho [a Viet­namese rice noo­dle soup], they al­ways give you that basil whole. The idea is when you put the basil in and you break it, it re­leases its juices. You don’t cook with it.” From a con­ver­sa­tion with Vikram Vij about one of his dishes cre­ated for Hop­scotch, Toronto

“Brown the but­ter. Be­gin by sim­ply melt­ing it over medium heat, swirling gen­tly un­til it’s a pool of evenly melted good­ness. Don’t stop though! Keep on cook­ing and swirling gen­tly un­til even­tu­ally the wa­ter within the but­ter heats, steams, foams and evap­o­rates away. Once that mois­ture is gone the but­ter fat left be­hind can then rise even higher in tem­per­a­ture – past the boil­ing point of wa­ter – into the brown­ing, flavour­ing zone. Take it as far as you dare – the deeper the colour, the deeper the flavour – but be ready. The line be­tween de­li­ciously brown and burnt black is brief, and turn­ing off the heat to stop the cook­ing isn’t enough. You have to stop the but­ter in its tracks – that’s what the wa­ter’s for. Turn off the heat, pour the wa­ter in and stand back un­til the hiss­ing dies down.” From Chef Michael Smith’s recipe Brown But­ter Fid­dle­heads

“My dad’s steak is fa­mous. His se­cret? The marinade. It com­bines salti­ness, sweet­ness, tangi­ness and some heat, and it tastes phe­nom­e­nal. I also use it to mar­i­nate the mush­rooms, which act as fan­tas­tic sponges and, when served along­side the steak, re­ally show­case the marinade’s won­der­ful flavours.” —Chef Lynn Crawford

“Roast beets so that the peel slips off more eas­ily. To roast beets, place washed, trimmed, un­peeled beets in a dou­ble-layer foil pack­age with 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil driz­zled over­top. Seal the pack­age and roast at 425 F (220 C) for 45 min­utes to an hour, un­til fork tender. For more flavour, add a few gar­lic cloves, sprigs of fresh rose­mary or thyme to the pack­age. When the beets are cool, their peels will slip off eas­ily.” —From Hon­est to Good­ness: Ev­ery­day Recipes for the Home Cook by Chris­tine Tiz­zard

“Roast­ing the veg­eta­bles be­fore­hand caramelizes them and adds a depth of flavour.” —Voula Hal­l­i­day on her Roast Veg­etable and Orzo Soup from her lat­est cook­book, Eat at Home

“You can use [saf­fron threads] whole, but you get bet­ter colour and aroma if you grind them to a pow­der. Just take a pinch and place it in a small mor­tar or bowl. Add a few grains of salt or sugar and use a pes­tle or the back of a spoon to grind the threads into a fine pow­der.” — Naomi Duguid, cook­book au­thor, food writer. Her lat­est book is Taste of Per­sia: A Cook’s Trav­els Through Ar­me­nia, Azer­bai­jan, Ge­or­gia, Iran and Kur­dis­tan

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