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Ask Kirstin: Avoiding Burnt Garlic


Send your questions about ingredients, recipes and cooking techniques to me at Here are a few of our “Ask Kirstin” submissions this week:

I like sautéing chicken pieces at high heat in a wok, getting a nice crust, but then the garlic burns! How do I avoid burnt garlic while still adding it to my wok chicken? — Travis S.

So true! Those little bits of garlic do love to burn. My solution is if I want the oil I am stir-frying the chicken with to have the flavor of garlic (and ginger) I will gently sauté the garlic first, then remove it, stir fry the chicken in the garlic infused oil, and re-add the garlic at the end. Or I will stir fry the chicken first, then add the garlic at the end for a minute or so. If the garlic is in the marinade, make sure either to grate it fine, or leave it large enough to remove before cooking, then add it again at the end.


What is “Asian fish sauce”? — Olwen T.

Oh how I love fish sauce! Fish sauce is a Southeast Asian condiment that is irreplaceable in many Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian recipes. It is the flavor that adds balance and depth to the brightness in these dishes. At first whiff, this condiment might be a little off-putting, but like anchovy paste and parmesan cheese it is magical for its strong taste of umami, that much-talked-about, elusive fifth flavor insufficiently described as savoriness or earthiness. I happily incorporate it into non-Asian cooking as a great replacement for anchovy in dishes such as salad dressings and tomato sauces.

It is found in the Asian section of your super market, or even better, from your Asian market. Look for a good quality brand, you want the color to be light amber and clear, not dark and cloudy, in a glass bottle, and choose the one with the lowest sodium content. Three Crabs is a well respected brand. It does not need to be refrigerated.


Recipes with mushrooms often call for “dry brushing them clean.” Why can’t I just wash them? — Kevin G.

You can wash them! That is just one of those old wives tales that has stuck with us (and kept the mushroom brush people in business). Remember they are not hurt by rain either. The important thing is that after giving them a good rinse, be sure to dry them very well before sautéing them.


When baking, can you double a recipe? Or do I need to make individual batches? — Lindsay G.

Bread and cookies are easily doubled. Usually you can double ingredients in a cake recipe, just take care not to over-beat the batter (more ingredients take longer to combine) and remember to also use double the amount of pans, don’t try to pour all the batter into a taller pan as the weight of the batter and longer baking time could leave you with a “more batter, yet flatter” cake.


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3 Responses

  1. Ann-lone Thwaites says:

    This week I made your grandmother’s frikadeller from “The Family Dinner” page 184.  My guests loved them and I was surprised at how easy they were and stress free because I could prepare them a little ahead and then pop them into the oven for the final 20 minutes.

    • Kirstin says:

      Dearest Ann Lone! I am so glad the Frikadeller were loved… and I hope there were a few left -over to slice and put warm on rye bread with a slice of cucumber or a dollop of jam… because as my grand mother would have said, that is heaven in a mouthful xoxo K

      • Ann-lone Thwaites says:

        Well, having had success with them once I then had nine Aboriginal children in North West Australia help me cook some more frikadeller. We cooked for 70 children and five year-old Dennis, who stood on a box to reach the stove, got first price for being number one helper. We served the frikadeller on a piece of bread with a dollop of jam and a slice of cucumber. And yes, it was heaven in a mouthful.

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