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  • A Classic Julia Child Chocolate Cake Baked In Convection

    Nothing is more disappointing than baking a recipe you have long perfected in your new oven only to achieve abysmal results. In fact, the majority of issues I have helped people troubleshoot over the years have been related to baking issues. Should I Choose Convection or Traditional Bake? Having a variety of oven modes to choose from is a great feature of modern ovens; however, since recipes don't reference the tools we cook with, then choosing the best oven mode to use can be confusing. Many years ago a client reached out for help because she was having trouble achieving good results with this wonderful sponge cake recipe made popular by Julia Child. The client used the Convection mode to bake the cake but because she had not reduced the temperature by 25 degrees the results were uneven. Overbaked on the edge and not quite done in the center. In order to help her get the results she was used to we baked the recipe twice. Once in Convection, reducing the recipe temperature by 25 degrees, and once in the Traditional Bake mode with no temperature adjustment. Both cakes turned out really well however there was a noticeable difference in the crumb. The cake baked in the Traditional Bake mode had a slightly drier crumb while the cake baked in Convection was more on the moist side. Since both turned out well it really comes down to personal preference as to which mode will give the best results. Other Factors to Consider When Baking in Convection Ovens have changed dramatically in the past twenty years, not only has the oven cavity become much larger, the electric heating element is no longer exposed it is now concealed so it stands to reason newer ovens will cook differently from older ovens. Even gas ovens have better temperature regulation and improved door seals which helps avoid uneven baking. So if you are baking a recipe you have had for a long time and are you are unhappy with the results you may need to make some tweaks. The cooking time may need to be adjusted or the item baked on a different rack position. You could also consider using convection for part of the baking and finishing the item in the bake mode, just remember to adjust the temperature accordingly. Baking The Queen of Sheba Chocolate Almond Cake in Convection This is one of those recipes where the choreography is really important. It is essential to have all the ingredients assembled and everything organized before you start because there are quite a few steps involved and having certain ingredients at the right temperature is important as is working quickly with a light hand. First, the butter and sugar are creamed and combined with the egg yolks then the chocolate is gently melted and combined with the warm coffee, egg yolk mixture, almond extract, and ground almonds. Meanwhile, the egg whites are whipped to stiff shiny peaks, which will take about 8 minutes before being combined with the chocolate mixture and cake flour. The recipe calls for an 8” cake pan and unfortunately I only had a 9” pan so it was a little on the thin side, but the texture and flavor were wonderful. This is a recipe definitely worth perfecting. In my next post, I will be focusing on ways to cook fish in the Steam oven…..there are so many options. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection For Fast Family Meal

    Microwave ovens initially became popular because of their ability to cook foods in less time than traditional ovens; however, there are many benefits to cooking in a Convection oven that far outweigh microwave speed and deliver a delicious meal. What are the Benefits of Cooking in Convection? When you select a Convection mode heated air is circulated around the oven, cooking food from the edge to the center. Because the heat is evenly circulated around the oven multiple trays of food can be cooked at one time without having to change the position of the trays during the cooking. Another benefit is that foods cooked in Convection have better moisture retention, so there is a noticeable difference in the flavor and texture from foods cooked in the more drying heat of the traditional Bake or Roast mode. Another unexpected benefit is no transfer of flavor between the different foods being cooked, making it easy to cook multiple dishes at one time. What is the Benefit of Cooking a Complete Meal in the Oven? The answer is easy, one of the greatest benefits is time. When you place several dishes in the oven the food is being cooked in a contained environment so you can set the timer and safely leave the kitchen and enjoy 20 - 30 minutes of free time while the meal cooks. Foods cooked on the cooktop require more careful attention and monitoring which may keep you tied to the kitchen. I think that is what makes cooking at the end of a busy day so stressful and, there are more saucepans to clean. If the oven gets dirty just close the door however, if the cooktop gets dirty, it can be a not-so-appealing eyesore. How to Cook a Complete Meal in Convection To cook a complete meal in Convection you just have to think through the cooking time for each dish. For example, this is the cooking plan for this meal of Mexican Meatloaf with Classic Red Rice and Baked Fish. Meatloaf, 10 minutes to prep, 45 - 50 minutes to bake, and 10 minutes to rest before serving. Rice, 10 minutes to prep and 25 minutes to bake in the oven. Fish, 2 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to bake in the oven. When cooking this meal you would begin by placing the meatloaf in the oven, then add the rice after 25 minutes, then add in the fish for the final 10 minutes. Which Convection Mode Should I Choose? Well, this is probably the biggest challenge you will face, because every oven is different but here are some guidelines. If your oven has a Convection Mode then that would be a good choice for this particular meal. The heat would only be coming from the rear Convection element and circulating around the oven so each dish will cook evenly no matter where placed. I would still place the meatloaf and fish above the pan with the rice to avoid any condensation dripping onto those foods. If your oven has a Convection Bake mode, that will also work but in that mode, the Top and Bottom heating elements will be cycling on and the Convection fan will be circulating the heat. When cooking in this mode I would suggest placing the meatloaf in the upper part of the oven for some top browning and cooking the fish on the same rack. I would cook the rice in a covered pan on rack position 2, counting up from the bottom of the oven. I hope you will learn to see your Convection oven in a new light and appreciate the tools it offers you to cook simple delicious meals more easily. For more inspiration on how to cook a complete meal, check out these recipes for Slow Roasted Tri Tip with Tomatillo Salsa and Roasted Potatoes with Peppers and Chipotle Braised Short Ribs with Stuffed Acorn Squash and Caramel Sauce Apple Bread Pudding. Each of these meals includes recipes with a touch of spice, perfect to perk up our taste buds during these dreary winter months. Julia Child made Reine de Saba, a light chocolate almond cake famous and in my next post I will review baking this delicious treat in Convection. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Cook Custard in the Steam Oven

    Steam ovens have become a popular appliance in recent years, however, cooking with steam has long been used in many aspects of cooking. The water-bath for example is a brilliant method of using gently simmering water to temper heat as a method to cook delicate foods such as custard. Custard is a fairly indulgent dessert of cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla that when combined and gently cooked forms a smooth silky texture. It can be made with a caramel sauce that pours over the custard when it is unmolded or served with a brittle sugar topping. A custard can also be prepared with a savory filling for a delicious appetizer. Cooking Custard in the Steam Oven vs a Water Bath When custards are baked in a water bath, the ramekins with the custard are placed in a baking dish, then water is carefully poured into the baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. The dish is then covered with foil and baked for approximately 40 minutes. This process is definitely made easier if you have an oven with racks that extend fully, otherwise it can be a tricky endeavor especially when it comes time to remove the dish filled with hot water and the cooked custards. The process is definitely easier in a Steam oven. The ramekins can be placed on a rimmed baking sheet or in the large perforated pan that comes with the oven then you simply slide the tray into the oven, no water needs to be added to the pan. Once the custards are cooked just slide the pan out of the oven and set it aside to cool the custards before placing them in the refrigerator to chill. Best Cooking Mode and Temperature for Cooking Custard in the Steam Oven To cook custard in the Steam oven select the Combination Convection Steam mode and set the temperature to 220F (104C) and slide the tray with the ramekins onto the middle rack in the oven and set the timer for 40 minutes. Check the custard and if it isn’t firm to the touch, continue cooking for another 5 - 10 minutes if needed. Finishing Custard in the Oven Making custard is not difficult, but it does take time and you need to pay careful attention to the initial cooking when heating the cream and incorporating the eggs to avoid scrambling them. Once cooked the custards need to chill for at least 6 hours, so advance planning is key. Serving Creme Caramel or Flan is easy, you simply unmold the custard onto a dish; however, if you are making Creme Brulée then you will need to sprinkle a layer of sugar over each ramekin and place them under the Broiler for about 5 minutes to caramelize the sugar. The sugar can also be caramelized with a small culinary blowtorch and this method does provide the most even results. I followed a simple recipe from NY Times Cooking and the results were delicious but there are many wonderful ways to enhance this simple dessert by adding fruit or chocolate or using a savory filling, so there are plenty of options for experimentation. Since custard needs to chill for at least 6 hours custard needs to be made in advance but if your refrigerator has a Quick Chill option you could select that function and speed up the process. I can’t give you a specific time frame because every refrigerator is different but it’s worth a try if you are in a hurry. If you have wondered how to cook multiple foods at one time in your Steam oven, be sure to check out my next post in which I will outline how to prepare a complete meal in the Steam oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Braise Brisket in Convection

    Brisket is a large flavorful cut of beef perfect for feeding a crowd and one of the best ways to prepare brisket is by braising. Cuts of meat like brisket require long slow cooking to get to that melt-in-your mouth tender perfection. Preparing Brisket for Braising As with most braises the process begins with searing the meat on the cooktop then combining the vegetables, aromatics and liquid that will gently simmer the meat creating a delicious sauce. Then the pan with the tight fitting lid goes into the oven for slow cooking. Using Convection vs Traditional Bake When tender cuts of meat are cooked in Convection they retain moisture resulting in better flavor and texture. However, Convection doesn’t have the same benefit with tougher cuts of meat because in order for them to tenderize they still require slow cooking at low temperatures simmered in liquid. Even though brisket is braised in a covered pan using a Convection mode for the cooking does have some benefits. In Convection the heated air circulates around the oven ensuring even consistent heating Multiple pans can be cooked at one time without having to change the position of the pans. Can Brisket Be Braised in the Steam Oven? When meats are braised in a covered pan with liquid the tight fitting lid creates steam in the pan. Brisket can be braised in an uncovered pan in the Steam oven; however, to avoid the formation of a crust the meat needs to be completely covered by liquid. If the meat isn’t completely covered it will need to be turned during the cooking which is not an easy feat with a large heavy cut like brisket. Reheating and Serving the  Brisket When the brisket has finished cooking remove it from the pan and set it aside to cool. Strain the vegetables and aromatics from cooking liquid and return the liquid to the pan. Slice the brisket and place in the pan. The brisket can now be gently heated or cooled and refrigerated. Potatoes for mashed potatoes can be steamed in the Steam oven and fresh vegetables to serve with the brisket can also be quickly steamed prior to serving. If you are looking for a light luscious dessert then check out my next post How to Make Crème Brûlée in the Steam Oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How To Make a Spinach Soufflé in Convection

    Eggs are a remarkable food, there are so many different ways they can be prepared to create a delicious meal from a simple poached egg on toast to a spectacular soufflé. Soufflés have long been thought of as difficult to make but in fact, they are fairly simple to prepare, as with most cooking planning is key. Baking a Soufflé - Traditional Bake vs Convection The recipe for soufflé was developed long before we had fan-driven Convection ovens, and soufflés were considered difficult to make. Part of the reason was the fact many older ovens didn’t perform well. Ovens that didn't seal well created hot spots which resulted in uneven cooking and ovens with exposed heating elements required more careful monitoring when baking delicate items such as a soufflé. Convection ovens were originally developed for the baking industry allowing bakers to bake on multiple racks at one time without having to change the positions of the trays and bake larger quantities of different items at one time. While many baked goods benefit from Convection baking, some foods benefit from the dry stable heat of the traditional Bake mode which uses the Top + Bottom heating elements. However, this mode limits us to single-rack baking. For many years I preferred to bake my soufflés in the traditional Bake mode, reasoning that the dry stable heat gave a better result. Even so, after much experimentation, I find that they bake just as well in the Convection mode as long as I reduce the recipe temperature by 25 degrees. The Important Tips for a Successful Soufflé The key to making a great soufflé begins long before it goes into the oven. Here are the important things to know: Make sure the eggs are at room temperature. Take the time to separate the eggs carefully so that not one speck of egg yolk is mixed in with the egg whites. Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites to stabilize them when whipped. Fold the egg whites with the base mixture rather than stirring the ingredients. One of the best aspects of preparing a soufflé is that the base can be made in advance and the egg whites whipped just prior to baking so there is very little last-minute work involved. In fact, the prepared soufflé can even be left in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes prior to baking. For this recipe I first sautéed the spinach and shallots then set them aside to cool. Then I prepared the bechamél sauce and when it was ready I added the egg yolks and cheese and when they were well incorporated I folded in the cooked spinach. Finally, the eggs are whipped and the base is folded into the whipped eggs. The recipe I use for soufflé uses only 4 eggs and 5 egg whites and the soufflé rises just slightly above the rim of a 1 ½ quart dish so there is no need to tie a collar around the dish. Soufflé recipes that use a greater quantity of egg whites will rise much higher so be sure to arrange the oven racks before you heat the oven allowing plenty of room for the soufflé to rise. Soufflés can be savory or sweet and when you find a recipe you want to try feel confident that you can cook it to perfection using the Convection or Convection Bake mode by reducing the recipe temperature by 25 degrees. Depending on the size of your oven the cooking time may be increased slightly but the results will be perfect. Braising is perhaps the easiest way to create a delicious meal when you have plenty of time, in my next post I will review how to braise brisket in the Steam oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Cook Fish Pie in the Steam Oven

    Fish Pie is not a very enticing name for a recipe. Still, this wonderful casserole of poached fish and shellfish in a béchamel sauce, topped with cheese topped mashed potatoes is really just a seafood version of Shepherd’s pie and it’s delicious. You can keep it simple with just fish or splash out and make it with some crab, lobster tail, scallops, or shrimp. What is the Benefit of Cooking the Fish Pie in the Steam Oven Well, Fish Pie is a simple name but truthfully there are quite a few steps involved in preparing this dish. Actually preparing the various components of the dish in the Steam oven really cuts down on the preparation time. Another advantage is that once the food is in the oven you can set the timer and focus on preparing the béchamel sauce without having to monitor the cooking in four pans at one time. This recipe calls for potatoes to be boiled and mashed, eggs to be hard-cooked and fish and shellfish to be poached so if made on the cooktop that’s 3 saucepans. Then you need to make a béchamel sauce so we are up to 4 saucepans. So instead of cooking the various components in saucepans, it’s much easier to set the Steam oven to Steam mode and steam them in dishwasher safe containers. All you have to do is plan out the timing. How to Steam Potatoes, Hard-Boiled Eggs, and Poach Fish in the Steam Oven All three components can be cooked in the Steam mode at 212F the important thing is to plan out the timing so nothing gets overcooked. When steaming potatoes in the Steam oven for mashed potatoes, cut the potatoes into small chunks and place them in a solid container with a little water and salt. Allow 20 - 25 minutes for them to cook until soft enough to mash. Eggs can be steamed to hard-boiled directly on the oven rack or in a perforated pan, allow 20 minutes, and plunge the eggs into cold water before peeling. In this recipe, the fish is poached in milk with a bay leaf and a small onion. Allow approximately 6 minutes to poach the chunks of fish and shrimp. All three dishes can go into the oven at the same time but set the timer for 6 minutes and remove the fish when the timer has elapsed. Reset the timer for 15 minutes and continue cooking the eggs and potatoes. Making the Béchamel Sauce and Assembling the Fish Pie Once the seafood comes out of the oven you can begin making the béchamel sauce. Remove the onion and bay leaf from the milk and transfer the seafood to a prepared casserole dish, melt the butter and stir in the flour to make the roux for the sauce. When the roux is cooked, carefully add the hot milk stirring all the time to prevent any lumps from forming, check the seasoning, and set the sauce aside to keep warm. When the timer has elapsed, remove the eggs from the oven and place them in a bowl with cold water. Remove the potatoes and if they are soft enough mash them to your preferred consistency with some butter and ½ & ½ and of course salt and freshly cracked pepper. Peel the eggs and cut them into slices or quarters and scatter them over the poached seafood, then pour the béchamel sauce over the seafood. Top with the mashed potatoes, spread them gently to form a nice topping, and sprinkle with some grated cheddar cheese. Now the pie just has to go back into the oven for 15-20 minutes to warm through, however, if you refrigerate the pie before serving allow at least 30 minutes for it to heat through using the combination Convection Steam mode. Cooking styles have changed over the years and modern ovens feature cooking modes to better suit our changed cooking style, however, it can be challenging to know which modes work best with older recipes. Stay tuned for my next post, Cooking a Souffle in Convection. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Steamed Black Bean Sauce Pork Ribs

    A meal that includes a variety of Dim Sum is my idea of culinary heaven, some foods like those delectable little dumplings take time and dexterity to prepare but these delicious quick-cooking spareribs are easy to prepare and cook in the Steam oven. Best of all you can create your own Dim Sum feast and steam some dumplings at the same time. Steaming in the Steam Oven vs Steaming Over Boiling Water Combi-steam ovens are amazing appliances that feature a variety of cooking modes tailored to different types of cooking and one of the many great features of a Steam oven is the convenience of use. Stacking steamer baskets for steaming over a wok is an ingenious invention and can be easily replicated in a Steam oven. The perforated pans can be used for steaming vegetables, dumplings, tamales, eggs, and foods in ramekins or bowls while the solid pans can be used for steaming fish, shellfish, grains, bone-in chicken, and these delicious little pork spareribs. Once the food is in the oven, set the oven timer and let the oven cook the food to perfection. Also, the stainless steel cooking inserts are easy to rinse or wash in the dishwasher as needed. How To Prepare Pork Spareribs in the Steam Oven The first step to success with this recipe is to get the right type of ribs. St Louis-style pork ribs work best for this recipe but you will need to ask the butcher to cut the ribs crosswise into small sections and then cut the ribs between the bones to make small chunks. The next step is to soak the ribs in a bowl of water mixed with some cornstarch to tenderize the pork. This is an important step because this cut of pork is normally cooked at a low temperature for a longer period of time and in this recipe, the cooking time is only 20 minutes. Before the ribs go into the oven they are mixed with a sauce that includes a variety of flavorful condiments as well as some garlic, ginger, and fresh chili, and 20 - 25 minutes later you will be enjoying these tender tasty morsels. In my next Blog Post, I will show you how to adapt and simplify the preparation of Fish Pie, a seafood version of Shepherd's Pie, for cooking in the Steam oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Steam Whole Fish in the Steam Oven

    Steaming is an excellent method for cooking a whole fish and the consistent temperature maintained in a Steam oven makes it the best tool for achieving perfect results. Steam ovens for the home kitchen came onto the market twenty-two years ago, allowing us to steam multiple foods in the oven at one time but also to bake and roast with steam, cook in the sous vide style, as well as defrost, proof, and reheat food. However, the inspiration for steam cooking goes back 2,000 years when wok cooking originated in China. This ingenious invention allows you to cook foods in a variety of methods such as stir-fry, deep frying, braising, smoking, and with the addition of steamer baskets to steam multiple dishes at one time. It took us a while to catch up, but a built-in or tabletop Steam oven allows us to cook more easily with Steam while enjoying the same benefits of better flavor, texture, and nutrient value. Steaming Over Boiling Water vs Steaming in the Steam Oven When steaming over a wok or any saucepan of boiling water some kind of insert that suspends the food over the boiling water is required and this can be a limitation when steaming larger items such as a whole fish. The flavor is also something to take into account, fish can be steamed with different aromatics depending on the flavor profile you want so steaming in a solid pan with a little liquid and those aromatics is ideal. The Steam oven offers an ideal environment for several reasons, the trays easily accommodate several small or one large fish, and, let’s face it dealing with cooking over boiling water can be challenging in terms of safety. Also, Steam ovens are equipped with a timer so you don’t have to keep monitoring the fish for doneness. The timing seems to be the major difference when steaming in the Steam oven, whole fish can take up to 20 minutes to cook in the steam oven versus 10-12 minutes when cooked over simmering water. However, the gentle steam environment beautifully enhances the texture and flavor of the fish. In this recipe, the fish was steamed with ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and lemon but for a final flourish, chef Paul heated some sesame oil until sizzling and poured it over the fish before serving. Steamed fish is delicious but be sure to check out our next Blog post which will feature Pork Ribs steamed with a Black Bean sauce, it’s fabulous. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Poach Eggs in the Steam Oven

    Twenty-two years when I first began cooking with a Steam oven there were very few guidelines so every time I cooked in the oven it was an experiment. It was easy to adapt to steaming food in the oven, instead of steaming vegetables, grains, fish, shellfish, and even hard-cooking eggs we just began to cook everything in the Steam mode instead of in a saucepan on the cooktop. In no time it was our appliance of choice for much of our cooking. Paying Attention to the Science of Cooking In those early days, the question everyone asked when purchasing a Steam oven was, “is there is recipe book?” While there were guidelines in the User Manuals, it was more the fact that cooking in the Steam oven was an unfamiliar process and it took a little practice to get used to using the oven. The more I experimented with cooking in the oven, I began to understand that if you paid attention to the science that was involved with each method of cooking it would guide you to choosing the best combination of Heat + Steam. Steaming is easy, you bring water to a boil and place the food in the water or over the water in a perforated pan, and the steam gently cooks the food through. If you think about the method for poaching eggs they are either cracked directly into boiling water or into a metal pan placed over simmering water. The cooking science is exactly the same in the Steam oven except you place the eggs in a ramekin, that has previously coated with oil, and cook them in the Steam mode. What are the Benefits of Poaching Eggs in the Steam Oven? There are so many benefits to poaching eggs in the steam oven. Let’s start with clean-up, there are no saucepans involved, and the ramekin used to poach your egg can go directly into the dishwasher. Also, when you cook in the Steam oven there is no risk of boil-overs, so no cooktop to clean. One of my favorite features when cooking with the Steam oven is using the timer. The timer can be set to alert you that the cooking time has elapsed or you can program it to turn the oven off when the time has elapsed. My next favorite feature is convenience. Imagine you are planning a brunch menu; you can place some cooked vegetables in each ramekin and add in some cheese, then add the eggs just before serving. In approximately 5 minutes each guest will be able to enjoy a freshly cooked delicious poached egg or several. Another amazing feature is that poached eggs that don’t get eaten the first time around actually reheat beautifully in the Steam oven. And remember you can cook multiple dishes at one time so you can also cook a bowl of oatmeal in the oven at the same time as poaching an egg. The Steam oven is an ideal environment for cooking all egg dishes, we have recipes to guide you with cooking, sweet and savory custard and flan, cheesecake, as well as dishes normally cooked in a water bath such as bread pudding. If you are planning a feast to celebrate the Lunar New Year then my next Blog Post will take you through the steps of steaming whole fish in the Steam oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Baking in Convection Carrot Apple Snack Muffins

    Keeping a stock of healthy snacks in the freezer is a great way to ensure you have something good to eat when hunger strikes or to add to the lunch box of a hungry child or adult. These muffins have a lot of ingredients, but once you have everything prepared they come together quickly and because they are made with oil they stay fresh longer and freeze well. What is the Best Mode for Baking Muffins? Convection or Traditional Bake Because foods cooked in Convection have more moisture retention, I use Convection for most of my cooking; however, when it comes to baking there are times when traditional Bake actually results in a drier crumb. It all depends on how liquid the batter is. For example, I find I get better results baking Blueberry muffins in Traditional Bake because those blueberries just burst open and give off so much juice during baking, and if I bake them in Convection the muffins have a tendency to fall apart. This recipe includes shredded carrots and apples. The carrots don’t give off much moisture but some apples, especially Granny Smith’s can give off more juice than some other varieties. Overall once all the ingredients are added, it’s a fairly stiff batter that does well baked in either Convection or Traditional Bake. Recipes for Baked Items are Usually Written for Traditional Bake As a rule of thumb when I bake a recipe for the first time I bake it in the Traditional Bake mode because I know that is the mode the recipe writer used. Once I get a sense of the results, I can decide if I feel it would work better in Convection. It's also very important to pay attention to timing. Because I know my 24” oven is a fast oven, when I bake a new recipe I always set the timer in advance of the stated recipe time to ensure I don’t overcook the item. So you see it’s not just the recipe, you need to learn how your oven cooks and which mode is best suited to the food you are cooking to achieve success. Traditional Bake vs Convection, Which is Best for Baking When you use the Traditional Bake mode the heat is directed at the food from the bottom and top heating elements that is why recipes direct you to place the food in the center of the oven. This direct heat has a drying effect on food and can create a nice dry crumb. If your oven has a Convection Bake mode the Top and Bottom heating elements will be engaged and the fan will circulate the heated air around the oven. In this mode you can bake on two racks at the same time with even results without having to change the position of the pans but it’s important to reduce the recipe temperature by 25 degrees. If you oven has a True Convection mode the heated air circulates around the oven cooking the food from the edge to the center but there is no direct heat involved. This mode is idea for baking multiple racks of cookies but may result in a more moist crumb with some baked goods. Always reduce recipes temperatures by 25 degrees when baking in this mode. Baking is a Great Way to Get Children Cooking I began baking these muffins to make sure I always had something healthy on hand to feed my young grandsons, and they loved helping prepare them as much as eating them. When baking it’s best to assemble all the ingredients and equipment before you begin so nothing gets left out or added twice by mistake. Weighing and measuring ingredients and following the logic of the preparation is a great way for children to develop good organizational skills and learn to think through the process from start to finish. Remember the great thing about making your own baked items is that you can pronounce every ingredient used and you can substitute items such as sugar with alternatives that suit your dietary needs. In my next post, I will demonstrate how to poach eggs in the Steam oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How To Make Cioppino In A Steam Oven

    Cioppino a delicious tomato-based seafood broth with poached fish and shellfish may sound easy to prepare but there are some important steps to achieve good results. The first step is to create a flavorful seafood stock, the next step is to cook the soup base then finally add the fish and shellfish of your choice to cook through prior to serving. You will need about 6 cups of shells from shrimp, lobster and crab to prepare a flavorful seafood stock. I collect and freeze the shells until I have enough to make a stock and make it in advance as it takes about an hour. Another option is to a make fish stock with a few pounds of fish bones or purchase prepared fish stock. Whichever option you choose a good stock is the first step to a great Cioppino. What Is the Benefit of Using a Steam Oven to Make Cioppino? Once you have prepared the stock the next step is to cook the soup base and finally the fish and shellfish are added to the soup prior to serving. The soup base consists of a combination of sauteed onion, shallots, fennel, garlic, tomato paste while wine and of course the delicious seafood stock. Since all the flavor really comes from the soup base the fish and shellfish only need light cooking and this is where the Steam oven comes in. If you are preparing enough Cioppino for 4 - 6 people you need a good-sized pan that can accommodate all the fish and shellfish and ideally keep everything from being smashed together without overcooking delicate fish or shrimp. Steaming or poaching shrimp, scallops, and chunks of fish in the Steam oven then adding them to the soup base with the residual cooking liquid adds more flavor to the soup and results in perfectly cooked seafood. Another advantage is that the soup base can be prepared in advance and will only require heating and adding the cooked seafood prior to serving. That makes it an ideal dish for a dinner party as there is so little last minute cooking needed. Cioppino with Crab Claws Mussels or Clams If using crab claws, mussels or clams, in the shell they can be added directly to the soup base or steamed in the steam oven and added to the soup. I like to add crab claws, mussels and clams directly to the soup to add another layer of flavor to the soup but they can also be cooked in the steam oven in the Steam mode. Preparing the Seafood Without a Steam Oven If you don’t have a Steam oven, you can still cook chunks of fish, scallops and shrimp in the oven. Use either the Convection Roast mode at 400F degrees for 5 minutes or the Convection Broil mode at 450F for 2 - 3 minutes. The early Italian settlers in San Francisco not only created this wonderful tradition of Cioppino from their fishing boats on the waterfront, they paired it with the delicious sourdough bread they brought to the Bay Area, two amazing culinary treats that endure to this day. So don’t forget to make some sourdough garlic bread to serve with your Cioppino. Being housebound due to bad weather is hard on everyone but one way to keep everyone happy is to keep delicious treats emerging from the kitchen. In my next post I will review baking muffins in Convection vs Regular Bake and include a great recipe for healthy snack muffins. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Cook Beef Tenderloin in Convection

    During the holiday season, we find ourselves cooking more” special occasion” meals and because those are foods that we may not cook on a regular basis, getting them just right can cause some anxiety. Cooking premium cuts of beef such as a beef tenderloin can be especially nerve-wracking but following the method outlined in this post will I promise, ensure success. Why is Beef Tenderloin Difficult to Cook in the Oven? Well, the thing to keep in mind is that beef tenderloin is a very lean cut and if you use your oven in the traditional Bake or Roast mode then you will be cooking that lean cut of meat in drying heat. For that reason some recipes suggest wrapping the tenderloin in bacon to keep it from drying out during cooking. When we use the traditional Bake and Roast modes in our oven the heat is directed at the food from the bottom and top heating elements. When we use a Convection mode heated air is circulated around the oven cooking the food from the edge to the center. This heated moving air is key to retaining moisture in food especially lean tender cuts of meat. What is the Best Method for Cooking Beef Tenderloin in the Oven? If you like beef tenderloin that is uniformly pink yet nicely browned, fork-tender, and full of flavor then follow these easy steps for cooking the tenderloin at a low temperature with a high heat finish. Seasoning is important. Because the beef will be cooked at a low temperature for approximately 50 minutes it will absorb a lot of flavor from fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary and some slivered garlic. If you don’t have fresh herbs handy then some mixed Italian seasoning is a good option. Cook the meat on a shallow-rimmed baking pan. It isn’t necessary to place a rack under the meat because during the low heat phase of cooking the pan won’t get so hot that it will leech moisture from the meat. Allow the roast to come to room temperature prior to cooking. This is an important step because this ensures the meat will cook evenly. Use a low temperature for the first phase of the cooking. I cook beef tenderloin at 200F (100C) and program the oven meat probe to reach an internal temperature of 125F (52C). A 3lb roast will take approximately 45 - 50 minutes to reach 125F. At this temperature the heated air gently penetrates the meat without causing moisture loss. Take the roast out of the oven and set it aside to rest for 20 - 30 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 375 - 400F (190-205C) and cook for 10 minutes to brown the exterior. When you remove the roast from the oven the internal temperature should read 135F (57C) The meat will be very pink when you slice it but if it has reached 135 degrees it is perfectly cooked. Now the meat can be carved into individual portions for serving. Which Convection Mode Should I Use? If your oven features a mode called Convection or True Convection that is the best mode to use for the low-temperature phase of the cooking. Otherwise, I recommend using the Convection Bake mode for more gentle heat. For the final high-heat phase use either Convection Roast or Convection Bake to ensure even browning. How Can I Cook Side Dishes at the Same Time? The best menu for a special occasion meal is one that allows the host time to spend with guests and of course in my way of thinking, cooking as many of the components of the meal in Convection is the solution. Once the tenderloin comes out of the oven and is resting, you can increase the oven temperature and cook the side dishes at that time. Of course, if you have several ovens then you have more options but I always like to show what can be done with one oven using a Convection mode, it's all in the planning. If you follow this cooking plan then everything will be ready to serve at one time I hope you will find this outline for cooking a beef tenderloin roast helpful and remember we have recipes for cooking all kinds of special occasion foods to help you achieve success with all your holiday cooking. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Butternut Squash Stuffed with Mushrooms, Kale and Red Quinoa

    The vibrant color and mild flavor of butternut squash combine well to create a colorful, flavorful side dish that pairs well with roast meats or poultry. This stuffed butternut squash recipe is ideal for entertaining because it can be prepared in advance and reheated then cut into slices for elegant individual servings. How To Cook Butternut Squash Butternut squash is one of the most popular of the hard winter squash probably because the more regular shape makes it one of the easiest squash to work with. Butternut squash can be peeled and cut into thin slices for a gratin, or cubed and roasted for soup. I have often roasted butternut squash cubes with other root vegetables and served them as a roasted vegetable salad and of course, you can add roasted cubed squash to grain bowls or combine the cubes with a black bean or white bean dish. There are many delicious options. How To Cut Butternut Squash Even though the skin of winter squash is considered hard, it is actually quite thin and not that difficult to cut into, but it is something you want to tackle carefully. The problem with cutting into squash is the irregular shape that can cause the squash to move around while being cut. The safest way to deal with that is of course cutting off a piece of the squash to create a flat surface so it doesn’t roll around when you try to cut it. When chopping vegetables it’s important that the cutting board remains stationary. If you lay the cutting board on a damp kitchen towel or a paper towel then it will remain in place and not slide around. Before cutting into the squash make sure your knives are nice and sharp, you may also find it helpful to hold the squash with a small kitchen towel in one hand. Holding the squash securely with one hand, cut off about a ½” slice from the base of the squash to remove the stem area. Now the squash will sit solidly on its end on the cutting board and you should be able to easily cut it in half. Center the knife over the squash and push down with both hands for a nice even cut. Preparing the Stuffing Once the squash has been cut in half and the seeds removed, then you will need to cut cubes of the flesh out of each half to create enough space for the stuffing. I chose a sauté of onions, garlic, mushrooms, and kale that I combined with the cubed butternut squash and some cooked red quinoa. The stuffing is very easy to customize to your taste. Baking the Squash Once you have stuffed the squash, it can be baked immediately or you can cover it and bake it the next day. Or you can bake it, cool it then refrigerate it and reheat it when needed. When I made the video for this recipe I actually didn’t cover it and it was fine, the filling got a little crispy on top and the butternut squash got a nice bit of caramelization. However, in retrospect, for best results, I would cook it covered for about 20 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes or until tender. If you are baking the squash in the Steam oven, use the Combination Convection Steam mode and you won’t have to cover it. Same when reheating it in the Steam oven, it will not need to be covered. One of the reasons I like the presentation of this dish is that we eat with our eyes first and sometimes when you set out a dish on a buffet by the time a few people have taken a scoop it doesn’t look as appealing. These individual servings make for a much more decorative platter that can easily be embellished with a seasonal garnish. Stuffed squash doesn’t have to be served as a side dish for a special meal, it can be enjoyed throughout the winter months and served alongside a salad or soup. A popular treat for special celebrations is lobster tail and in my next post, I will review how to cook lobster tail in Convection and Convection Steam. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Roast Duck in Convection

    As a fan of roast duck, it was definitely one of the first dishes I was anxious to learn how to cook in Convection and in the Convection Steam oven. Like many people, I had avoided cooking duck at home because the recipes usually began with instructions to cook the duck at a high temperature for 20 minutes to render the fat. If the duck was placed directly on a roasting pan the result was fat exploding all over the oven, the process was definitely not user-friendly. What are the Benefits of Roasting Duck in Convection? Even though duck has a good layer of fat the duck meat itself is not marbled with fat so it benefits from long slow cooking to tenderize the meat without drying it out. During the cooking process, the fat renders providing you with a very healthy and delicious cooking fat that can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for about six months. Potatoes and root vegetables roasted in duck fat are outstanding but the fat can also be used for general cooking. How to Prepare Duck for Roasting To prepare a duck for roasting, remove it from the wrapping, place it on a rack in a shallow pan that will fit into the refrigerator, and blot it dry with paper towels. Give the duck a good rub inside and out with about a tablespoon of Kosher salt and a dry spice rub if you are using one and place it uncovered or covered loosely with a sheet of wax paper in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the duck at least an hour before roasting to come to room temperature. Roasting a Whole Duck Cooking the duck on a rack is important because so much fat will render during the cooking process and you will want to capture the rendered fat easily. Pricking the skin (not the meat) all over with the point of a sharp knife will help release the fat. Because so much heat escapes the oven each time the door is opened, it’s generally best to leave meats roasting undisturbed. However, with duck, you will need to drain the fat off part way through the cooking process before you increase the oven temperature for the final cooking phase. Ideally, place the duck on a rack that is easy to remove from the roasting pan so you can easily pour off the fat. Be sure to have another pan handy to rest the duck on while doing this and an 8 - 10oz, stainless, glass, or ceramic container to pour the fat into. Temperature and Timing for Roasting a Whole Duck Plan approximately 2 hours for roasting a 4 - 5lb duck. If your oven is equipped with a meat probe insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast, taking care not to touch any bone, and program the probe to an internal temperature of 155F. For the first hour and a half cook the duck at a low temperature of 325F, then remove the duck and pour off the rendered fat. Now increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and return the duck to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time. The duck will need approximately another half an hour of cooking time and should rest for 15 minutes before carving. Now that you have increased the oven temperature you can toss some potatoes in the rendered duck fat and slide that tray into the oven under the duck. How to Carve a Whole Duck Duck isn’t carved in the traditional sense, there just isn’t enough meat on the bone. The easiest way to serve the duck is to cut it into four pieces with poultry shears. I apologize I don’t show that step in the video, but this D'Artagnan (website) is an excellent resource for buying ducks, as well as providing cooking and carving tips. This recipe provides instructions for roasting a duck in either a Convection or Convection Steam oven and if you are looking for an easy way to enjoy duck without having to do any carving, try this recipe for crispy braised duck legs. There are so many delicious duck recipes I hope you will include some in your cooking during the winter months. Continuing the theme of special occasion foods, my next post will cover cooking lobster tail in Convection and Steam ovens. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Cook a Pork Rib Roast in Convection

    The meat that we see in the butcher cases during the year definitely reflects the type of foods we cook during each season. While you may see plenty of bone-in pork loin chops and boneless pork loin roasts throughout the year, the more impressive cuts such as pork rib roast usually only make an appearance for the Christmas and New Year celebrations. What is the Benefit of Cooking a Pork Roast on the Bone? The easy answer is of course flavor. When pork loin chops are removed from the rib to be sold individually most of the marbling is trimmed and it takes careful attention to cook the chops and keep them succulent, although using Convection does help. Even though pork has a good amount of marbling keeping the temperature low for most of the cooking is key and those bones really make all the difference in keeping the meat tender and juicy. As Louis Prima famously sang, “ closer to the bone, sweeter is the meat.” How Easy is it to Carve a Pork Rib Roast? It's definitely important to think about the carving when you buy the rib roast because you may need help from the butcher to prepare it for easy carving. My butcher kindly removed the meat from the bone and tied it back into place on the bone. That was helpful because I was able to insert some fresh thyme sprigs between the meat and the bone and easily remove the meat for carving. If you prefer to serve the chops on the bone, then make sure the butcher removes the chine bone so you can easily slice between the ribs. Another option is to ask the butcher to “french” the chops and remove the meat and fat from the bone. That certainly makes for an elegant presentation but you do lose some delectable bits of meat and fat. What is the Best Target Internal Temperature to Aim For When Cooking a Pork Rib Roast? I programmed my oven meat probe to reach an internal temperature of 140F and I wouldn’t go higher than that. Remember that gorgeous roast has to rest for 15 to 20 minutes when it comes out of the oven before you can carve it and the internal temperature will continue to rise. Do I Need to Cook the Roast on a Rack? When you cook a bone-in rib roast, the ribs form a natural rack so placing the roast on a rack isn’t necessary; however, it is important to use a shallow roasting pan in order that the circulating heated air can penetrate into the meat. If you only have a deeper roasting pan then definitely place the roast on the rack. A bone-in rib roast makes an impressive centerpiece for a festive meal, just remember the easy steps to success. Remove the meat from the refrigerator a couple of hours before cooking, keep the oven temperature low for most of the cooking and give the roast a nice high-heat finish to achieve a crisp glossy crust. Finally, remember to factor in the resting and carving time. Another popular meal during the festive season is lobster and in my next post, I will give you tips for cooking lobster tails in the Combi-Steam and Convection ovens. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

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