Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, October 26, 2011; Strainers

Got Lumps? Don’t Stress, Strain
There are many reasons to stress in the kitchen but with so many options available for straining, lumps in a sauce should not be one of them. I remember for many years there were only a couple of options available for straining, a wire mesh strainer (also referred to as a tea strainer where I was raised) and cheesecloth. Both still have there purpose in the kitchen but today I will discuss other options. As with many things the ease of transport and availability off the internet have mad these options readily available for every cook.

Probably the best strainer and most likely the most expensive you can buy is the chinoise (shin'-wahz) or chinois (shin'-wah), french for chinese. It gets its name because it is shaped like a traditional chinese hat. It is a conical shaped very fine mesh surrounded by a metal cage to keep it from getting damaged. It gives your purees, sauces, custards or soups a very smooth consistency. Thinner items will strain easily through it but thicker items may need to be worked through with a wooden spoon.

Similar to the chinoise but less expensive and less affective is the china cap strainer. Usually made from metal with small holes punched in it. It is used like the chinois but does not achieve the same smoothness.

Wire mesh strainers are widely available in many sizes and even different gauges of mesh. Because of their economical value and ease of storing they are the most common strainer used in a household. Their effectiveness can be increased by lining them with cheesecloth or a coffee filter depending on what result is desired.

If you are making jellies or something that requires you to cook fruit, puree it and strain the juice, there is a device called a jelly strainer bag. It is a cloth bag that attaches to a stand and can be stood over a pot to catch the resulting juice.

The most economical ways to strain are using cheesecloth or a coffee filter. both require something to hold them so you can pour into them. The advantage of cheesecloth is the ability to gather it and press out the contents.

A couple tips for straining: Used frying oil can be strained through a coffee filter in a mesh strainer or colander for using again. The oil will strain slowly, keep the filter filled as the weight of the oil will help it strain faster. Second, when making fruit purees with berries, puree the fruit in a blender then place in a chinois or wire mesh strainer and press through to get a sauce without the seeds.

Look for a recipe here on Friday that will use more than one tool I have discussed this week!

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