Alyse Whitney is a freelance food, entertainment, and fashion writer for Food52, Domino, The Cut, Glamour, The Strategist, The Spruce Eats, and more. Previously, she was the senior food editor at Rachael Ray Every Day and an associate editor at Bon Appétit. You can catch Alyse cooking Food52's Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken From Charles Phan on the @madein Instagram tonight (3/26) at 6pm CST. Here are three cooking techniques straight from her kitchen that go along with that recipe but are applicable to a number of other recipes!
3 Cooking Techniques from Alyse Whitney
1. Traditionally, fish sauce caramel is made from burning palm sugar and then adding fish sauce until it bubbles and thickens into a rich caramel. Chef Charles Pham (of The Slanted Door in San Francisco) simplified the technique—one of Food52's Genius Recipes, adapted by creative director Kristen Miglore—by combining dark brown sugar, fish sauce, rice vinegar, and water all at once for a Vietnamese braise (kho). You only need a small amount of the fish sauce caramel to cook the chicken and aromatics (ginger, shallots, and garlic), and then you can save extra in the fridge for other meats or vegetables. I love Three Crabs or Red Boat fish sauce.
2. Having extra pops of flavor from larger pieces of ginger is important to add brightness and zing to this black pepper chicken dish as well as many others. Julienning a 1"-piece of ginger is easy with a sharp Made In Chef Knife: just slice into long pieces and cut crosswise into matchsticks. If you have a mandoline, you can carefully slice the ginger into batons and then cut into matchsticks from there.
3. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it to break up your peppercorns into irregular pieces so you get a surprising pop of flavor when you bite into one. If you don't, crush them with a rolling pin or carefully with a wine bottle rather than using a pepper grinder.