Kitchen Q&A

The cooked and the raw — can they be together?


The Charlotte Observer

Q. I am a professionally trained chef. I saw a newspaper recipe for a chicken roulade with raw chicken rolled around deli meats and cooked. I was taught that this is a public health hazard. One should never cook raw and cooked animal proteins together!

That rule seemed a little extreme to me. What about the classic dish Chicken Cordon Bleu, in which a slice of ham is placed between two chicken cutlets before cooking? So I asked Benjamin Chapman, the food safety expert for N.C. State University and the N.C. Cooperative Extension.

The chef isn’t correct, he said. It isn’t dangerous to place cooked and raw meat together as long as you then cook the raw meat correctly.

A cook might fear overcooking the cooked meat and could undercook the raw meat, he said. But as long as you use a thermometer to ensure the raw chicken reaches the correct temperature — in this case, 165 degrees — there is no reason you can’t combine the two.

Certainly, you have to handle the raw meat correctly, making sure to use clean tools and cooking surfaces and keeping the assembled dish cold until you cook it. But the raw meat won’t contaminate the cooked meat as long as both are then cooked.Q. I’ve heard that you can make wine vinegar from leftover wine. Do you just let the wine sit?

Making wine vinegar is as easy as letting wine ferment — and as difficult as letting wine ferment.

Pouring leftover wine in a jar may eventually get you vinegar, but it may take a very long time, and it may turn into a sour mess.

To make the wine into good vinegar, you have to add a bacterial culture. You can try to get what’s called a Mother of Vinegar — a cloudy clump of cells that develops in vinegar — or you can get a live culture, called acetobacter, from a store that sells wine-making supplies. You also can go to a store and look for unpasteurized vinegar that has particles in it. That’s acetobacter.

Next, save up enough wine to start a good batch. Combine 1 part vinegar culture to 3 parts wine to 1 part distilled water in a clean glass container (a crock with a spigot is handy). Cover the top with cloth or a loose lid to let air in while keeping bugs out. Then let it sit in a quiet spot for a month or two.

It should develop a mother, a big, floating cloud. When the mother drops to the bottom, that’s a sign the vinegar is ready. Pour off the vinegar and bottle it. Save the mother to start the next batch. Clean the crock well, gather more wine and start another batch, returning the mother to the crock.

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