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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Your meat pounder is more versatile than you think -- here are 9 ways to use it.
There are the cooking techniques that calm us down: kneading dough, stirring risotto, caramelizing onions. They're soothing like a massage at the end of a long day, best enjoyed with a glass of wine in hand. Maybe some Etta James on the stereo. They are zen; they are kitchen yoga.
And then you have the kitchen equivalents of a kickboxing class: the hacking, chopping, and smashing that serves as a much healthier channel for your pent-up aggression than, say, screaming at the people you live with about china in the dishwasher or piles in the sink. The next time your inner hulk starts to bubble up, grab your meat pounder.
Once you're done pounding a chicken breast into piccata-appropriate thinness, don't put the tool away -- use it to beat a few other ingredients into submission and save yourself precious time in the kitchen. Time you could use to, say, do some yoga. Or tai chi. Or at least drink a glass of wine before the chaos resumes.
Here are 9 crafty ways to use your meat pounder:
Pounding and tenderizing meat. Okay, this was a gimme. Be sure to cover both sides of your meat (or poultry) with a generous measure of plastic wrap, and strike evenly so that you get a uniform thickness. Then make some piccata or schnitzel.
Smash garlic. A meat pounder will cut down on your time spent peeling and mashing and mincing cloves -- plus your hands won't suffer from that post-garlic stickiness or smell. Make your first strike with the skin on, then easily slip it off. If your recipe calls for smashed garlic cloves, you're done; if you need a fine mince or a paste, add a sprinkle of salt and smash away, using a bit of a sideways motion to work the garlic and salt into submission.
Pitting olives. Because some people think that doing this by hand is cathartic, but for most of us it is simply a pain in the butt. Crowd a few olives together, give them a good bang!, then swiftly pull out their pits.
Breaking down ginger. Mincing fibrous ginger can be a pain; once you've peeled it and given it a rough chop, you can finish the job with some smashing. Just like with the garlic you attacked a few minutes ago, a sprinkle of salt will speed up the process.
Crushing spices and peppercorns. If your spice grinder or your pepper grinder is out of commission -- or, er, nonexistent -- you can still get the job done with a plastic bag and a blunt object. Just beware that your bag will likely tear in the process, so you'll have to store your grinds elsewhere. Spicy!
More: You could also go rogue and put your peppercorns in this frosting.
Crushing ice. This is the ultimate it's been a long day and I need to pulverize something and then have a drink move: Wrap up some ice in a clean tea towel, whack away at it, and then make yourself a smash.
Smashing potatoes. If you've never tried Amanda's Squashed Potatoes, you should. And you'll need a meat pounder to do it. Boil, then squash, then fry; you'll be left with flat, crispy rounds of herbed potato goodness.
Pounding lemongrass. Hammering into a stalk of lemongrass will help release its oils and flavor. If you're using it as an aromatic -- and not, say, chopping or grating it -- pound it out and then tie it into a knot, then use it to infuse flavor into a Thai-inspired broth.
Crush, pound, or "chop" nuts. Here's the fastest way to turn your nuts into smaller pieces. Crowd them together on a clean surface or cutting board, and gently pound them -- if you get all willy-nilly with things, you'll have walnut shrapnel flying everywhere. Be sure to use these nutty bits at your next ice cream sundae party.
Tell us: How do you use you meat pounder?
Photos by James Ransom