Q&A: Dicing tomatoes

TomatoesSimplySmartDinnerPlans subscriber, Judy H., asks – “I’m trying to get away from using canned tomatoes, and use fresh instead. This may be a dumb question, but…what’s the best way to dice tomatoes?”

Judy, while I’m a big believer that there ARE dumb questions (and plenty of them), this is not one of them. :)

Everyone has to start learning their kitchen skills somewhere, so thank you for coming to us!

First of all, kudos on switching from canned to fresh tomatoes! You’re going to get so much more flavor, and a fraction of the sodium, by going fresh. As you’ll see in the video (below), it’s really not that much more work to dice a fresh tomato than it is to open a can, either!

Two quick tips before we get started…a very sharp knife, and a fresh firm tomato makes all the difference in ease of cutting. Once a tomato begins to over-ripen, the skins get tougher, and the insides get soft, making it much more difficult to cut, even with a properly sharp knife.

Here’s the video…please feel free to post any questions you have, below!

-Chef Perry


Dicing, blanching, and peeling tomatoes

tomatoes-638x638Heyya hauties!

It’s summer, and that means tomato season!

Now’s the time to hit your Farmer’s Markets and get your ‘maters at the peak of juicy, delicious ripeness.

Next week’s meal plans have tomatoes in several recipes, and a couple of them require some special preparation. So, I popped into the hautemealz.com test kitchen, and whipped up a couple of quick and simple “how to” videos to show you how easy it really is to dice, blanch, and peel tomatoes.

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow our YouTube channel, so you don’t miss a single video…we have some great ones coming up!


-Chef Perry

How to Dice a Tomato

A very simple, safe method of dicing a tomato for the home cook.

Peeling a Tomato

Simple instructions of blanching and peeling tomatoes


How to make a classic Sauce Bearnaise

Susan, a subscriber to SimplySmartDinnerPlans’ free meal plans, messaged us, asking…

Hi! So here’s a challenge for you…if I could have only ONE recipe ever, it would be for the Bearnaise sauce that accompanied my first filet mignon!
I was 16 years old and on my first prom date at the Compass Room in Phx. I have never forgotten how absolutely delish that sauce was! The only other Bearnaise I had that was even close was at Buddy’s Grill down here in Tucson, and they don’t even offer it any more. I’ve tried making a couple recipes, but they aren’t the same! Care to enlighten me?

Thank you for the question, Susan…I love a challenge!

Béarnaise sauce (or Sauce béarnaise) is considered to be a ‘child’ of the mother Hollandaise sauce, one of the five sauces in the French haute cuisine mother sauce repertoire. The difference is only in their flavoring: Béarnaise uses shallot, peppercorn, and tarragon, while Hollandaise uses lemon juice or white wine. Its name is related to the province of Béarn, France.

The sauce was likely first served at the 1836 opening of Le Pavillon Henri IV, a restaurant at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, not far from Paris. Evidence for this is reinforced by the fact that the restaurant was named for Henry IV of France, a gourmet himself, who was born in the province of Béarn.

In appearance it is light yellow and opaque, smooth and creamy, and is a traditional sauce for steak. (Thank you Wikipedia!)

How to make Bearnaise Sauce

Okay, so I couldn’t find their recipe anywhere, though I did find some reviews that mentioned it being a “classic French Bearnaise”

This is Julia’s recipe for Sauce Bearnaise, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Some tips I’ve learned from watching her shows might lend a hint as to why the version you had was so much better than what you’re used to. This is a sauce that will change completely, based on the quality and handling of ingredients.

Use the freshest possible local eggs (farm fresh), and let them be room temp before using them. Fresh herbs, not dried. Fresh ground pepper. Use a good white wine…doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.

¼ cup tarragon vinegar
¼ cup dry white wine
2 Tbs. minced shallot
2 Tbs. minced fresh tarragon
1/8 tsp pepper
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks, room temp
4 Tbs. cold butter
½ to 2/3 cup melted butter
2 Tbs. fresh minced parsley


UPDATE: If you’re having trouble finding tarragon vinegar, here’s a great blog post on how to make your own (super easy). If you’d rather buy it, I’ve added my favorite brand to the hautemealz.com store on Amazon, as well.  – Chef Perry

Saute the shallots, herbs, and seasonings with 1 Tbs of butter over moderate heat. Add vinegar and wine, and bring to a boil until the liquid has reduced to 2 tablespoons. Let it cool.

Add the egg yolks to the vinegar mixture with 2-3 Tbs of warm water, and beat until thick (it should start sticking to the whisk), moving the pan on and off a medium high burner. Beat in the another tablespoon of cold butter, until completely incorporated into the sauce, then repeat with remaining butter. Correct seasoning, and add parsley.

And…here’s how the great lady herself does it…

Bon Appetit!

-Chef Perry


Smoking your own salmon

We were going to just post a video clip of how to hot-smoke salmon at home (see below), and then decided, Oh, what the heck…so, here’s the whole recipe from this week’s hautemealz.com “haute & light” menu!


-The hautemealz.com Team

Rosemary-Tomato Scrambled Eggs; Smoked Salmon Hash

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How to flatten chicken breasts (video)

To make scallopini, or any number of “stuffed” chicken recipes, like Chicken Cordon Bleu, or Chicken Kiev, boneless-skinless chicken breasts need to be flattened to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Not only does this increase the surface area of the chicken, so you have room for the goodies inside, but the uniform thickness allows even cooking for the whole breast, without having the tip-end dry out, while the thicker end is still cooking.

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How to peel and clean shrimp and prawns

Cleaning, or “deveining” shrimp means taking off the shrimp shell and removing the vein that runs along the back.

This video shows you how to peel and devein shrimp quickly and easily, with just a kitchen paring knife.

You can often find raw shrimp that have already been deviened and/or peeled. This is fine, as long as the shrimp is still raw. Pre-cooked shrimp that have been frozen, or sitting in a grocery store cooler, are sad, flavorless, rubbery things that are unworthy of your kitchen.


– Chef Perry



Basic Knife Techniques (Video)

Hey, not everyone was raised working in professional kitchens, we know that…and no one is born automatically knowing how to use a kitchen knife, either.

Like everything else, it has to be learned!

We took a look around and, for a quick read on several basic cutting techniques (and some tips on sharpening your knives, as well) this video was one of the best we found.

BTW…knife skills, like religion and sports, are passionate and deeply held beliefs for some folks, and can become matters of endless debate. We don’t like endless debate, it takes away from cooking time. So – if you do it differently than this…and it works for you…congrats, keep doing it your way! If you don’t have a “way” and want some basic info…watch this video.

If you would like some suggestions on good knives, let us know!


How to Chop with a Kitchen Knife While Keeping Your Fingers Intact from Kaley Perkins on Vimeo.