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Getting Creative: Flavorful Techniques

Ingredients are not the only thing that add flavor to a dish, the cooking technique you choose can add layers of flavor to your food. Master the five kitchen techniques below and you'll be well on your way to great meals ahead.

AK Home Cooking SolutionsDeglazing

Why: Deglazing is the first step to a great pan sauce. It is nothing more than a technique to get all the dark bits of great flavor off the bottom of the saut� pan after browning meats, and bring that flavor to your dish.

How: Brown meat in a frying pan, remove it, then pour a liquid (usually wine but other liquids work well, like beer, Swanson chicken or beef stock, fruit juice or vinegar) into the hot pan. As it sizzles away, scrape the pan to loosen the bits of flavor that were stuck to the pan after browning.

Pan Sauces

Why: After deglazing, you are just minutes away from a terrific pan sauce that will reflect the flavors of the meat, seafood or vegetables you have cooked in the pan.

How: After browning your main ingredient in the pan, remove it and keep warm, returning the pan to the burner. Deglaze, scrape the pan, then add additional stock or broth and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. At this point, you can swirl in a few tablespoons of cold butter, cream or sour cream to thicken, and add chopped fresh herbs, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, or roasted garlic for flavor. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Pan Roasting

Why: Without a doubt, this is one of the easiest, most forgiving ways to cook all kinds of meat, from steaks and chicken breasts to fish fillets.

How: Heat an ovenproof saut� pan over high. Drizzle in a few tablespoons of oil, place the seasoned meat or fish in the pan, and brown well on both sides.  Try not to move things around much continual contact with the surface of the pan is what will give you the best browning. Once the first side is brown, flip the meat over and transfer the whole pan to a preheated 400 F. oven and cook until desired doneness. Remove the meat from the pan and keep warm while you make a quick pan sauce.

Saut�ing

Why: This quick cooking technique is nothing more than frying in a small amount of oil. It lightly browns food and gives you plenty of control over the cooking process. You can saut� meats, seafood and vegetables.

How: Heat a saut� or frying pan over medium-high until the surface is hot. To test, sprinkle droplets of water in the pan, they should "dance" and evaporate almost immediately. Add a few tablespoons of oil, followed by the meat, seafood or vegetables, taking care not to overcrowd the pan and cause steaming. Cook quickly, stirring or tossing frequently until done. Remove saut�ed meat or vegetables from the pan and keep warm while you make a quick pan sauce.

Braising

Why: Braising is a moist-heat cooking method where meat and, often, vegetables are browned in a pan first, then slowly simmered, either in the oven or on the stove, in a small amount of liquid until tender. It's a great way to cook tough, less expensive cuts of meat, resulting in a comforting, flavorful dinner with its own rich sauce.

How: Season the meat (beef chuck roast or pork shoulder are great for braising) with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high, add a few tablespoons of oil and the meat and brown on all sides. Deglaze the pan with wine or stock, then add more wine or stock to cover the meat halfway up the sides. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, then transfer the pot to a preheated 350 F. oven. Braise until meat is completely tender, depending on the cut and its size, this may take up to three hours. Remove the meat, strain the liquid, if desired, then return to pan and bring to a simmer to reduce slightly. Finish sauce as described in pan sauce, if you would like.

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