Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Turkey Day

Every year I'm stunned by how many magazines, newspapers and radio/tv shows do another redundant turkey story. So in response, this post is about..... turkey. I have read about brined turkey, braised turkey, deep-fried turkey and barbecued turkey. Some people even roast it whole! Should I stuff it? Should I cover it in a foil tent? Should I marinate it? Wash it first? Or just go out or dinner?
All of these questions are raised every year. The answers are always the same. To avoid dry turkey, always do this, or never do that. I've tried turkey prepared so many different ways and I always go back to the same conclusion. Just roast it! Don't overcook it and it won't be dry. I only eat a roasted turkey dinner once a year. I want it to taste like roasted turkey. Not fried turkey, not barbecued turkey, not mango chili curried turkey.
I stuff mine but don't do that if it makes you uncomfortable. Roast it in a 350º oven until it is 150º inside the thickest part of a thigh. Start by figuring on 15 minutes per pound, but check it about an hour before you think it's ready. Don't turn it, don't baste it, just roast it and you'll get crisp skin, moist meat and it will taste like roasted turkey! Let it rest for about 45 minutes after removing it from the oven. It will finish cooking and become more tender.
Don't tell anyone how long you cooked it because they'll tell you it wasn't long enough. Just serve it and listen to them tell you that they've never tasted better turkey.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sourdough Bread, Part 2

This is a follow-up post to one from last Spring. If you ever want a truly humbling experience in the kitchen, try making sourdough bread. Since last March, I have reached some amazing highs and lows with this ongoing experiment.
After getting some great bread in the early going, my sourdough bread became so dense it never seemed fully cooked. I started tinkering with the flour(s) that I was adding to the starter and to the dough. Nothing worked. I re-read some of my notes that I gathered when I first set out to make my own starter. Then I got what I thought was the "wrong" kind of flour delivered one day and I had to use it because I had nothing else. The starter seemed to REALLY like it, it told me so. Then the bread had better texture after a few days of feeding it to the starter. I was on to something. Then all of a sudden, dense bread again. I mean really dense! I hadn't intentionally changed anything. Back to my notes.
I read about some people letting their dough rise for 8-10 hours, or more. What did I have to lose? I made the dough around 1:00 PM and left it to rise in a loosely covered bowl in my kitchen. By 9:00 PM it had tripled in size. Then I rolled it out and shaped it into dinner rolls, covered it well and left it overnight. Bingo! The next day, around 1:00 PM I baked the rolls. They were nothing short of amazing. 24 hours after making the dough, the bread had a great sour flavor, light crumb and chewy crust. This was it. I had finally got what I wanted and it only took me a year! Then, after about 2 weeks the rolls barely rose. The dough gained size, but it went outward instead of up. I deflated too. The next day it was back to normal. Crisis averted. Then, a few days later, flat again. Boy this is fun! I realized that the dough needed to be a little stiffer. The point when I stop adding flour to the mixer is when the dough forms a ball and stops sticking to the sides. Since I make the dough with starter and high-gluten flour it has plenty of protein, as long as I add enough flour. Turns out this is REALLY important. This is where a recipe is useless and you just have to feel your way through it. I follow the same steps everyday, but each day the "right" amount of flour differs just a bit. Humidity is probably the variable. I'll let you know in a few years. Anyway, I now get consistent bread each day that I think I could sell in a bakery.
Last week I took a small amount of leftover starter and started feeding it whole wheat flour daily. Today I'll make a batch of dough with it and follow the same 24 hour cycle. The biggest problem with whole wheat bread is usually the texture so I'm curious to see if this method yields delicious results. Stay tuned.

Pots and Pans

Just a quick link to a piece in the NY Times by Harold McGee about buying pots and pans for your kitchen. Thought it was of interest.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Potatoes are such a versatile food. They are readily available in so many forms, but I'm talking about fresh, unprocessed potatoes. My favorite variety is fingerling potatoes. They come in a number of types and they all are delicious. Fresh dug potatoes from your garden are probably the best, but farmer's markets and some better grocery stores have them. Seek them out and expect to pay more than regular potatoes but they are well worth it.
I like to roast them in olive oil with just salt and pepper. They also make great mashed potatoes, but so do Yukon Gold potatoes which cost quite a bit less. Another great way to eat them is in a fancy potato salad with roasted cod or cold poached salmon. Try them any way you cook potatoes and you'll see what I mean.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Making Risotto

A great restaurant style dish to make at home is risotto. With a little bit of practice you can make it just like a pro. It does require quite a bit of attention so it may not suit every situation.
First of all, what is risotto? It is a northern Italian rice dish made by adding the liquid incrementally rather than all at once. My rice of choice is Carnaroli rice, although Arborio rice makes great risotto too and is easier to find.
The technique here is really important and should be followed for any risotto dish. Start by warming up your liquid of choice, water or stock, with wine or without. Seafood risotto is great made with shrimp stock. Risotto Milanese should be made with chicken stock, although you could substitute water or vegetable stock for a meatless version. Dice an onion and a little garlic and cook them in olive oil or a mixture of olive oil and butter, over a medium heat. You don't want any color on the onions. Stir using a wooden spoon until the onions and garlic are soft. Add the rice and stir well to coat it with oil. Then add about a cup of hot liquid and stir well. Keep adding the hot liquid a cup at a time until the rice is creamy with small al dente bits in the center. The entire process should take about 20 minutes.
Just about any risotto dish gets parmesan cheese and here is a good way to use the rinds reserved from blocks of parmesan reggiano. Toss a piece of the rind into the pan just as you begin to add liquid. It will give a nice depth of flavor and add richness to your risotto. A few sprigs of fresh thyme added in the beginning works really well too.
Risotto can change with the seasons: asparagus in the Spring; roasted tomatoes and sweet corn in the Summer; Butternut squash in the Fall. The Winter is the perfect time for seafood risotto. Try them all and be creative. If it goes with pasta it probably goes with risotto too.
Risotto can be made ahead of time, then reheated with a bit more liquid when you're ready to serve it. The basic technique is the same, just stop a little sooner and spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool in order to stop the cooking. Then return it to a pan with a little bit of liquid and reheat, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Barbecue

If you are lighting the grill this weekend try some natural lump charcoal. It burns much cleaner than charcoal briquettes. Once you start using it I guarantee that you'll never switch back to briquettes.
Briquettes impart a strong flavor from the chemical compounds used in their manufacture. Natural lump charcoal is just what it's name implies, a natural wood product that is 100% carbon. It burns hot and clean and is almost odorless.
I'll be cooking some Griggstown Farm chickens using a rotisserie on my Weber kettle. I like to build a small fire and keep the chickens on the grill for about an hour and a half. I stuff a few sprigs of thyme inside the chickens and season them with just salt and pepper. After taking them off the grill, they rest for about twenty minutes so they will be tender and juicy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A No-Brainer

Here's a great idea for repurposing used wine barrels. Hat tip to Phil Ward of Opici Wine Importers for sending me the link.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My take on Steak

There seems to be quite a bit of confusion when it comes to steak etymology. What is Sirloin? What is a New York Strip Steak? What is a Club Steak? I hear these questions all the time. Sometimes from people who have been cooking professionally for years. Part of the problem comes from regional variations, but mostly it seems to be several persistent misconceptions get repeated so often that they take on a life of their own.
A New York strip steak is NOT sirloin. This steak is cut from the short loin which is next to the sirloin, but not sirloin. The short loin is the lower rib section of the back. It includes the tenderloin which lies inside the ribs and the strip loin which is on top of the ribs. Porterhouse steaks, T-Bones and Delmonico steaks are cut from the short loin. If you remove the tenderloin then you call it a shell steak, and if you remove the bones it is called a strip steak. The short loin offers the best compromise between flavor and tenderness. Muscles that work a lot are generally flavorful but tougher. The muscles that make up the short loin do some work but not too much. Muscles that really work generally require long slow cooking.
To further add to the confusion, rib-eye steaks are also called Delmonico steaks, or club steaks. There is some discrepancy about what a real Delmonico steak is. The name comes from a 19th century dining club called the Delmonico Club. I believe that a real Delmonico steak is a steak cut from the rib end of the short loin, basically a porterhouse steak without the attached piece of filet mignon.
Going from head to tail on the animal, the next section of meat is the sirloin. While not as tender as the short loin, the sirloin is probably the tastiest steak. Bone-in sirloin steaks are cut from the top sirloin and are considered superior to boneless sirloin steaks. They are named after the shape of the bone that is attached to the adjacent muscle. The pin bone sirloin is right next to the short loin. It is the king of sirloin steaks. Sirloin tip steak or steaks labeled "boneless sirloin" come from the bottom sirloin. The bottom sirloin does a bit more work than the top sirloin, so they are a bit tougher, though very tasty.
Next, at the rear of the animal is the round. This is where top round and inside round come from, the steaks most commonly labeled "London Broil". If you plan to marinate your London broil this is the steak to use. It is quite lean and will be tender enough as long as you slice it thin and against the grain. Flank steak and skirt steak though more expensive are both much more flavorful. They still benefit from a marinade to flavor and tenderize the meat.
This chart should help with understanding the different cuts that I have mentioned.
The next time you want to grill steak for a crowd, try a bone-in sirloin, grilled rare to medium-rare on a hot charcoal fire. Let it rest for 5 minutes and slice it against the grain. Spoon some of the juices that have collected on the cutting board over the steak and really enjoy the beef flavor with nothing more than salt and pepper.

Monday, May 5, 2008


A great way to make burritos is to cook them on the grill. Flour tortillas stuffed with the filling of your choice taste great when they get a little charred on the grill. Roll up the tortilla and brush a little oil on it and grill seam-side down first. Turn it a few times to get some nice black parts with an overall golden brown color.
I like to use cous cous instead of rice to make a lighter filling. Combined with refried black beans, goat cheese and some roasted vegetables a delicious meatless meal is fairly easy to put together. Some chicken, shrimp or crabmeat can be added as well.
Serve your burritos with guacamole and pico de gallo or salsa and drink a Corona to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Yesterday was the midpoint of Spring known as the cross quarter. This time of year everyone seems to be gardening. If you have decent soil and plenty of sun you can grow basil.
Here in Lambertville there is quite a bit of alluvial soil that has been deposited by the Delaware river over the millennia. It is light and full of minerals and makes growing many things a snap. I wish my yard got more sun because I really miss growing tomatoes and basil.
If you grow basil or have a friend who grows basil, you'll probably want to make pesto. Nothing maintains the fresh taste and aroma of basil better than pesto. It's really easy to make and will keep in the refrigerator for weeks with a slick of olive oil over the top.
You can make pesto in a blender, food processor or with a mortar and pestle. One thing to be careful about is not to over-process extra virgin olive oil as it can become bitter. Start with clean basil leaves, garlic and toasted pine nuts. Crush it all together into a paste, then add a little extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese and black pepper. Mix to combine and that's it. The quantities are really up to you. It is easy to add a little more cheese, a little more garlic or a little more oil, so just experiment.
Variations include toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts, a mixture of parsley and basil, or vegan pesto without the cheese. Substitute roasted garlic or sun dried tomatoes for some richness if omitting the cheese. Avoid adding acidic things like lemon juice or corrosives like salt. They will cook the pesto and really shorten its life span. You can add salt or lemon to the finished dish as you use the pesto, but never to the pesto itself if you intend to store it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lasagna My Way

I think lasagna is a great dish to make for a dinner party. It can be made ahead of time and it stays warm for a long time so there is some built-in flexibility. It is really easy to make and most people like it.
Start with a simple marinara sauce: Canned plum tomatoes; garlic; olive oil; salt and pepper. You can add a few anchovies if keeping it vegetarian isn't a concern. The filling is a mixture of 3 pounds Ricotta cheese, 4 eggs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1-1/2 Tbsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Just mix it all up in a bowl and set aside. Then shred about a pound of mozzarella and 3/4 pound of provolone.
To assemble the lasagna, use a deep pan and start with sauce on the bottom. Then a layer of lasagna noodles, then ricotta mixture and a sprinkle of the shredded cheeses. There is no need to cook the noodles, if the sauce is wet and loose they will cook perfectly in the oven. Repeat layers until the pan is almost full. Be sure to end with sauce and cheese, not noodles.
Cover the pan with 2 layers of Saran wrap and 1 layer of foil. Bake at 350 for 1-1/2 hours, then let it sit, covered for at least 30-40 minutes or up to 1 hour. If you make it ahead of time, refrigerate before cooking and allow an extra half hour cooking time.
That's it. This is an easy dish. All of the work can be done anywhere from 2 hours to a few days before you want to serve it and it will taste just as good either way.

In defense of Parsley

Parsley seems to be universally accepted as a garnish, but almost ignored as a flavorful herb. I think part of the fault lies with curly parsley which doesn't lend itself to cooking so well. It really must be chopped to be used as an ingredient and its flavor leaves much to be desired.
Flat leaf or Italian parsley however is very flavorful and can be simply picked into small pieces, sliced with scissors or cut into a chiffonade. Any one of these techniques will yield much more flavor than pulverizing the poor parsley to death in a food processor.
Parsley has a clean flavor that complements many different dishes. It brightens up the earthy qualities of roasted vegetables or meats. It softens the sharpness of vinegar or lemon juice and it can of course add visual appeal to a dull looking dish of just about any kind. It is one of those ingredients, like salt and pepper, that doesn't really seem to clash with anything savory.
Parsley is a great herb to grow yourself. It is really low maintenance and growing your own means that you can pick just a few sprigs without having to buy a whole bunch to wilt in the bottom of your produce drawer. While it will grow just fine in a sunny window, the flavor will be much better if grown outside.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Attention Cheese Lovers

I just discovered that my favorite cheese shop has a blog that I think is very informative. Check it out.
And if you are in Philadelphia, don't miss their store in the Italian market. It is a family owned customer friendly place with the best selection of cheese and Italian specialties you'll find in the area.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Campfire Cooking

Tonight I'll be heading for the Catskills to do some tent camping. One of the best parts of a camping trip is cooking on a hardwood campfire. The flavor imparted from real wood can't be beat. It has a purity that even natural lump charcoal, my preferred charcoal of choice, can't match. I think being outdoors in the fresh air of the Catskills definitely gets the appetite going. Hiking, wood cutting and swimming help too. But a thick sirloin steak cooked on a hot hardwood fire is probably the tastiest steak that there is.
In the Summer I like to grill corn right in the husks. One Summer while camping on North Hero Island we grilled local butter and sugar corn on driftwood collected from Lake Champlain. It was THE best corn I've ever had in my life and I live in a state renowned for its sweet corn.
Besides my boys favorite campfire foods, hot dogs on a stick and s'mores, I like to grill chicken parts, fish and chops too. In short, anything that can be grilled seems better grilled on a campfire.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why knife skills matter

 Sometimes when reading a recipe you come across words like chop, dice, mince and slice. If you are making a puree of broccoli soup you might wonder what's the difference how I cut my onions since they're all eventually going into the blender anyway. In short, the answer is that it matters quite a bit.
 Most soups and sauces call for a mirepoix in the beginning, which is essentially a mixture of some aromatic vegetables which build the foundation of flavor for the final product. Paying close attention to detail here really is important because it can have a profound impact on the flavor at the end. Minced onions might taste burned if they are included in a mirepoix with big pieces of carrot and celeriac. Conversely, rough chopped vegetables might give too much of a raw vegetal taste to a sauce.
 Recipes should indicate how to cut the vegetables for the mirepoix, but if they don't a good rule of thumb is that they should be somewhat uniform in size and shape. You might want to cut hard vegetables like carrots and parsnips slightly smaller than softer ones like onions and celery.
 Now the reason why I titled this post "Why knife skills matter" is because how you get the mirepoix cut is probably more important than why you cut it to begin with. The First Commandment of mirepoix cutting is "Thou shall not use a food processor". Even a brand new one with a razor sharp blade will tear and crush the vegetables instead of chopping or dicing them. This is really important because vegetables naturally have a high water content. If they're crushed the water weeps out of them immediately, contributing off-flavors which won't cook out.
 Think about waking up in the morning and having a delicious glass of celery juice. Is this the flavor that comes to mind when you taste Coq au Vin or Ratatouille. These dishes both depend heavily on how the vegetables are cut. No machine can do it properly.
 Hand cut vegetables also make a big difference in things like coleslaw. Machine chopped cabbage is so watery that even a thick dressing will result in soupy coleslaw.
 Try chopping, slicing and dicing by hand the next time you make something that calls for vegetables to be cut and you will see what I mean.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reading Between the Lines

 Humor me for a minute if you will. You are going out for dinner tonight to a new place that opened a few months ago that you have been meaning to try. No one has been there yet so you really don't know what to expect, but you've decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a go. After all, it's only 1 meal in your lifetime, right? What's the worst that could happen? 
 You sit down and are handed a menu. This is it! How do you know if something will taste good? When reading a menu for the first time, you have to try and get a feel for the place. Sometimes it's so easy. Everything sounds great. Things just seem to go together naturally. Your biggest dilemma is that you are expected to narrow down your choices to maybe 1 or 2 appetizers and 1 entree. Great problem to have.
 But wait, what's that? Seared Diver Scallops with a Huckleberry Pilaf and Pomegranate Emulsion.... What? You're in for trouble.... Why? Because unless the restaurant you are eating in happens to be named Jean Georges, the chef probably has no clue what they're doing. So few chefs understand how to pair fruit with savory items. Generally you get a highfalutin pancake topping. 
 The reason some fruits pair well with some rich foods is because of the fruit's natural acidity. But for some reason too many restaurant chefs take the fruit and bring it right to the edge of tasting like sundae topping, or in the worst case, over the edge. I have been disappointed so many times that unless I really know the chef I will steer clear of any dish that sounds like it might be suited for a pie crust and a glass of milk to wash it down.
 I don't know why this trend is so prevalent. Is it fear of rejection? Do people not understand the role that acidity plays in cooking? I really like Steak au Poivre. I really like Peach Cobbler, but please don't pair them with each other! They won't enhance the other one. Keep dessert as a separate course.
 I'll take a good Duck a l'Orange any day. But hold back on the sugar. I want to taste the duck.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Roasting Asparagus

 Over the past few years I have fundamentally changed the way I cook asparagus. I no longer steam or boil it, ever. I roast it in a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil and salt. Try it once or twice and you'll never go back. I like to roast it to the point where some of the tips are black, just before burned. The flavor is incredible because of the smoky taste that the roasting imparts as well as the fact that you aren't boiling away flavor. The roasting really concentrates the flavor and enhances the texture.
 The same results can be obtained on a grill as well. I wouldn't light a fire just to cook asparagus, but if you are grilling anyway, why not? Just toss the asparagus with a little olive oil and salt and lay it on the grill perpendicular to the bars. Leave it on the grill until it gets really dark then flip it once and cook for another minute or two. 
 Regardless of which way you choose, don't blanch it ahead of time. Even thick asparagus works really well with this method. Just cook it a little longer over a slightly lower heat. I like to take it out of the pan or off the fire and cut the lower half of the spears in  1/8 inch slices, then just leave the tips whole. It's all delicious!
 Other vegetables like cauliflower and carrots are truly transformed this way too. Try it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Blue Cheese

 One of my favorite things to cook with or to just eat is blue cheese. The endless variety of blue cheeses means that you can always find the perfect one for any application. They may be sharp, mild, dry or crumbly and mostly they're all delicious.
 First of all as you probably know, most blue cheese isn't really blue! It is usually white or pale yellow with blue/green veins running through it. Blue cheese can be made from cow's milk, goat's milk, sheep's milk or any combination of them. It is injected with micro-organisms like penicillium roqueforti, penicillium glaucum or other mold spores which are related to the antibiotic penicillin. Blue cheese mold spores actually may have mild antibiotic properties which prevent pathogens from developing during the cheese making process. 
 The most well known, and therefore probably the easiest to find, blues are Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton and Danish Blue. Each one of these has distinct properties as well as a distinct heritage.
  Young Gorgonzola is very creamy, known as Gorgonzola Dolce (Sweet). Aged Gorgonzola is firmer and crumbly and is known as Gorgonzola Piccante (Spicy) or Mountain Gorgonzola. It is usually made at higher elevations, thus the name Mountain. Mountain Gorgonzola has a more complex flavor profile because the forage that the cows graze on is more diverse than the sweet meadow grass of the lowlands. Gorgonzola is perfect for melting on burgers or blending into a sauce because of it's creamy texture.
 Roquefort is a French blue made from sheep's milk and is widely believed to have been the first blue cheese ever made. It is spicy and creamy and has green veins running through it. It makes a great table cheese but also can be added to salads for a little "Je ne sais quoi". Roquefort was originally made by grating the mold collected from stale bread right into the cheese before aging. The cheese would then be aged in caves, alongside the bread for the next batch. These days the bacteria are cultured in a more controlled environment to achieve consistency.
 The famous English cheese, Stilton, is very firm and anchors my favorite Autumn lunch with local apples and some good crusty bread. Stilton is mild compared to Roquefort or Gorgonzola, and it can be used in any number of ways.
 Danish Blue is perfect for crumbling into salads. It's crumbly texture and salty tang make it a perfect cheese for salad. 
 An American cheese, Maytag Blue has a similar texture to Danish Blue with a flavor a bit closer to Stilton.
 Spanish blue cheeses like Cabrales and Valdeon are also delicious and worth seeking out. Cashel Blue from Ireland is another notable standout.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cooking Birds

 Probably my favorite thing to cook is a bird. Be it a chicken, duck, squab, wood pigeon, guinea hen or pheasant. There is nothing more satisfying then cooking a bird properly. Part of the fun is that every type of bird is a little different, so the technique varies with each one. Chicken, which we all cook so many different ways, is the perfect bird to roast whole. Duck benefits from using two techniques, one for the leg and one for the breast.
 The lifestyle of the bird is probably the best pointer to how it should be cooked. Pheasant walk around quite a bit, so they develop muscular legs. They are also very lean birds, so the breast can't endure too much high-heat cooking. I have found that pheasant also benefit from using two cooking methods. Braising the leg in sauerkraut and slow-roasting the breast makes a succulent dish. The sauerkraut seems to help keep the leg moist during the cooking, while adding incredible flavor. Slow-roasting the breast insures that it will be tender without drying out. Never bone out a pheasant breast before cooking. It is a sure way to make a dry tasteless meal.
 Scottish wood pigeon on the other hand is the only bird I know of that actually benefits from being cooked off the bone. It has such a strong taste that cooking it off the bone, wrapped in cabbage leaves, makes it moist and delicious.
 The two techniques to cook a duck are confit for the leg, and pan roasting for the breast meat. This results in a tender and tasty dish that offers the best of what each cut has to offer. Slice the breast meat after pan roasting it medium-rare, and serve it with the confit leg. Creamy polenta makes a great side dish with this, as does roasted root vegetable risotto.
 Birds offer a chance to employ many different cooking techniques, including making stock from the bones. A simple reduction of the stock with some wine and aromatics makes a great sauce to complement the meat.
 Try cooking a bird that you haven't cooked before, or cook a familiar bird with a new technique. Post a comment beforehand if you want a pointer, or afterwards to share your experience with other readers. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Would You join a Supper Club?

 I am soliciting feedback for a concept that intrigues me. Several years ago my restaurant expanded a bit, adding 2 dining rooms and converting an existing  one into a bar. One of the new rooms is a small room with 1 large table, and has the feel of a dining room in someone's home. Before it opened for business, we floated the idea of forming a private supper club every Wednesday night for 8 to 10 members. The idea would be you must join the club and pay upfront for a weekly meal. The menu would change week to week, but there would be no choices. A 3-course meal might be something like Tomato Bread Salad, Coq au Vin with Spaetzle, then Chocolate Pot de Creme for dessert. The price would be reasonable, maybe $30 per person. If you can't attend one night you can send a friend in your stead. But there are no cancelations, and no refunds. 
 I think the dynamics could be really interesting. Most weeks the group would be roughly the same, but occasionally there would be some "new blood" thrown in. While I understand that this concept isn't for everyone, I think there might be 10 people out there who would enjoy such a thing. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Eat your (bitter) greens

 Did you ever wonder why some people like broccoli rabe, mustard greens and Swiss chard so much? It's because they are bitter! Why would someone seek out bitter vegetables you may ask. Contrast. Think about roasted garlic, roasted chicken or grilled steak. What do they have in common? They're all sweet. 
 Bitter greens complement the sweetness and I think actually enhance the foods that you serve with them. Diced ham or other cured meat lends an added bonus of saltiness to go with the sweetness. Grilled steak has caramelized bits on the outside that really add sweetness. Roasted garlic of course can taste like candy, as can roasted root vegetables and caramelized onions. Any or all of these things go really well with sauteed greens. 
 Last night at dinner I taught my son Zack a little trick. He was complaining that he didn't like broccoli rabe so he shouldn't have to eat it. He had already eaten his miniscule portion of roasted chicken and was staring at the broccoli rabe, pleading for clemency. I told him if he eats a little more chicken, shredded with the broccoli rabe that it wouldn't taste so bitter. I cut him a piece of chicken and he cleaned his plate. I figure if it works for a 7-year old, it might work for you.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Soups

 Now that Spring is right at our doorstep it's fun to start thinking about what lies ahead. Soft-shell crabs, local strawberries and sweet Vidalia onions will be here before you know it. One great soup for Spring that comes to mind is potato-leek. It can be made any time of year, but I think of leeks and new potatoes as harbingers of Spring.
 I use the same basic technique to make any soup. Start with some hard aromatic vegetables, cleaned and chopped, and some type of fat. You can use butter, oil or a combination of both. Onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips and celery root all work well. You can use a little bacon here too, but it's not necessary. Omit the carrots if you want a pale color or white soup. Sweat the vegetables in the fat until they are tender but not caramelized. Then add the primary ingredients like squash, beans, tomatoes or whatever. In this case it would be the leeks. Now sweat them some more until they are tender and add water, stock or a mixture of both and some peeled potatoes. Simmer the soup until the potatoes are tender. Throw in a handful of sea salt, some fresh black pepper and a few sprigs of thyme. Carefully puree the soup in a blender after letting it cool for a few minutes. Push it though a strainer if you want a refined mouth feel.
 Using potatoes to thicken a pureed soup gives it a thick rich texture. This soup can easily be made vegan using olive oil and water and it is so rich that anyone would really like it. The taste of the leeks really comes through without bacon or chicken stock so give it a try for Spring!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Loch Duart Salmon

 This weekend I am serving something new to me, Loch Daurt Salmon. It's organic Salmon from Scotland and it's great! It was nice to serve Atlantic Salmon again, it had been years. My customers loved it, it sold REALLY well and I felt good selling a product like this. I feel that it's unrealistic to think that we will be able to eat wild fish forever. The oceans will never be able to keep up with the growing population on land. Please seek out and support efforts like Loch Duart.
 I have added some items to my menu in the last year or so, like Jamison Farm lamb which is certified humanely raised and processed. I think products like these represent the future of environmentally responsible and humane farming practices. If one can buy a superior product that has been raised sustainably, why would you buy anything else? 
 Because I'm a chef, I don't want to sacrifice quality for anything. These pioneering suppliers prove that I don't have to. A great product that makes sense for the planet. Bring it on!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sourdough Bread

 About 15 years ago I went to San Francisco for vacation and fell in love. When I came back to New Jersey I wanted to capture that feeling forever. Sourdough bread and I are together again!
 I tried to make it once and I had an active culture started, which went dormant about a week later. I gave up, it seemed too hard. Then late last year I decided I should try it again. Like all research  projects these days I started out on Google. Naturally I found hundreds of entries with different ideas, recipes, horror stories and epiphanies. Which one should I follow? I took the three that sounded the best and made up my own way. Here's the story...
 Sourdough bread is made from wild yeast that are in the air all around us and are also found lying dormant in flour. The idea is to attract the yeast to something and then colonize them. If they find a hospitable environment they will begin to breed and do whatever else it is that yeast do. Whole wheat flour seems to be the best for making the starter. It's relatively high in dormant yeast, has readily accessible sugars that yeast like, and it's fairly low in gluten. Trust me all of these things are good.
 I use filtered tap water since Lambertville city water is fairly high in chlorine which of course is supposed to kill microfauna, like yeast. Sea salt and high-gluten bread flour round out the requirements. A little chopped fresh rosemary is nice too. This is all you need, along with about 2 weeks of forethought.
 Step 1: Mix 1 cup of whole wheat flour with 1 cup of water in a nonreactive bowl. Cover loosely and set aside for a day, preferably in a warm part of your kitchen. The next day, throw away half and add a 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of water. Mix thoroughly, cover and set aside. Repeat this every day for about 10 days.
 Step 2: Then add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water each day, still throwing out about half first. After 4 to 5 days you should be ready to make bread. If the starter doesn't smell like beer it needs more time. You have to make a judgement call here. Is there any sign of yeast? Do you see bubbles or some other evidence of the life in the container? If not you should keep feeding it every day and go over each part of the process in your head and try to think about why it isn't working. After 21 days if it doesn't have a really strong smell of beer then you should abandon hope with that batch.
 Step 3: Take half of the starter and mix it with an equal amount of high-gluten flour. Knead with an upright mixer, or by hand, for about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt and continue kneading for 5 more minutes. Add more high-gluten flour as necessary. You don't want it to stick to the bowl and it should be a soft ball that stays together as one mass. Now add 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped rosemary if desired. Knead for 5 more minutes or so. About 15 minutes total kneading time is usually enough to stretch the gluten in the flour and form the strong bonds that will give the bread its structure. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and place it in a warm spot to rise, until doubled in bulk. This part is tricky to prescribe because it could take from 2 to 6 hours or more.
 Step 4: Once the dough has doubled in size it's ready to be shaped into bread. Remove it from the bowl and place on a lightly floured work surface. Punch it down and knead it for about a minute. Work it into whatever shape you want, a boule, baguettes or rolls. Cover it again and return it to the warm spot where it rose the first time and wait again. This time will go faster than the first rise, but it still might take a few hours.
 Step 5: Once the dough has doubled in size again it is ready to bake. A 400 degree oven is best and you want some humidity. A pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven helps, as does a spray bottle to mist the bread right before it goes in the oven and again about 3 minutes later. Humidity will retard the formation of crust which allows the bread to expand without breaking. It is also what gives the crust a very desirable chewiness. Bake until the bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it. Depending on what shape you chose for your bread this could be anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes. 
 Step 6: Let the bread cool to allow the sour flavor to develop completely, usually 30 to 60 minutes is perfect. Re-heat it and spread some sweet butter on it and you will be rewarded with a special treat for all of your work.
 Remember now to keep your starter alive by feeding it at regular intervals. I use mine every day so it is really mature now. My bread rises in about 2 hours the first time and about 45 minutes the second time. You can keep your starter in the refrigerator once it is about 3 or 4 weeks old. At this point you only need to feed it about once a week. If you refrigerate it you will need to pull out half of it the day before you intend to bake with it. Feed both halves and the next day the one you pulled out should be active and ready.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Take Reservations or Sell Tickets?

 Okay, this is my first venting post. Every restaurant I know of has to struggle with reservation policies and no-shows. People have come to expect that they can make a dinner reservation at their favorite restaurant so they don't have to just show up and wait. I encourage that behavior because as a restaurant owner I like to have a forecast of what to expect on any given night and time. As a customer I enjoy being able to make a reservation so I have a reasonable expectation of being seated close to my arrival time. Seems like it can work to everyone's benefit.
 On special occasions, namely New Year's eve and Valentine's day, we take credit card numbers along with the reservations. People used to ask why, now half of them call with their credit cards in hand because they fully expect to supply the numbers. On those nights, everyone who has provided their credit card information shows up or calls and cancels beforehand.  I have never intended to charge anyone who doesn't show up, but the fact that they have given us their information seems to be all the incentive they need to be courteous enough to call us if their plans change. Problem solved, right?
 What happens when someone calls to make a reservation and they don't have their credit card handy? They may be on a cell phone and aren't comfortable giving out sensitive information that way. Generally they say that they will call back with it and would still like us to make the reservation. We do and we call them again a day or two prior to the day to confirm the reservation, along with everyone else. Sometimes we don't hear back from them and here lies the real dilemma. We could give the table away to someone else, but that flies in the face of how I want to treat my customers. The risk that someone shows up on any night thinking they have a reservation, only to find out that they don't, probably outweighs the risk of losing some revenue. But the consequences go beyond just the financial health of my business. The waitstaff loses out on the tip, and we have to turn away customers who wanted the table and had every intention of honoring their part of the "contract". 
 I could institute a policy that no reservations will be honored without a credit card. I could put the onus on the customer to call us to confirm their reservation. But in a small business like mine, we all share the duties of answering the phone and taking reservations. What if the policies weren't explained clearly? What if the customer honestly forgets to call and shows up on a night when it can be VERY difficult to find a table anywhere else? 
 In a perfect world I could just sell tickets like a theatre company does. If you can't make it, give them to your friends. If they can't make it, at least your dinner was already paid for. How many people would agree to those terms for a dinner in a restaurant? My guess is not very many. Unless it became standard. I'll keep dreaming.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Salt Talk

 Did you ever wonder why restaurant food tastes so good? It's because chefs season EVERYTHING! We use salt and pepper on just about everything we touch. Salt brings out flavors in all foods, sweet and savory. In a typical entree, the protein gets seasoned before it's cooked, the sauce has been seasoned, the vegetables, the starch, all of it.
 This may be one of the small things that is really a huge thing. If you want to improve your cooking, think about how you season your food. If you don't have high blood pressure or any other health concern about sodium, try a little more salt. I'm not talking about salty food, just well seasoned food. Salt the water before cooking pasta, salt the water to boil potatoes, salt your water to cook chick peas for hummus. Salt everything. It really makes a huge difference.
 I use mainly sea salt and kosher salt. Sea salt is great sprinkled directly on food. Kosher salt is good for salting cooking water. Fancy sea salt like Fleur du Sel is wonderful to finish dishes like tomato and mozzarella salads, or grilled flank steak.
 Salt can also serve as a great counterpoint to sweets. I make chocolate cream pie with a salted pie crust. Sea salt with caramel is a great contrast. I use salt in brownies and many cake recipes call for salt. Try sprinkling a few salted peanuts on a chocolate sundae. 
 Salt everything and remember to taste everything. You'll notice a lot of flavor in those fancy foods that take so long to source.


 Yesterday I made a marinara sauce for staff meal at work. I modified my normal method by adding a few chopped anchovies to the pot after cooking the garlic in olive oil. What a difference!
 It didn't make the sauce taste like anchovies, it just added a rich taste like cooking pork bones with tomato gravy does.
 The sauce was nothing more than extra virgin olive oil, garlic, anchovies, hand-crushed canned plum tomatoes, sea salt and red pepper flakes. After cooking the garlic in the oil over medium heat until soft and just starting to brown, I added the chopped anchovies. A few minutes later I added the tomatoes with their juice. Then the salt and pepper, simmered for about 15 minutes and it was ready.
 We had it with grilled hot italian sausage and bucatini with parmesan cheese. It will now be my method for marinara sauce which I generally use for lasagna, eggplant parmesan or spaghetti and meatballs.
 Anchovies are one of those things that most people think should be hidden in foods. The site of anchovy filets on pizza might be too much for some people who enjoy caesar salad or worcestershire sauce. I can't disagree with them, although the site and texture of anchovies doesn't bother me .
 I also recently put anchovies into ratatouille I made to serve with Swordfish. I often make dishes like that vegetarian, but I figured if I'm serving it with fish I'll be safe. The ratatouille was delicious! Like the marinara sauce, it didn't taste like anchovies, it just had a meaty richness that complemented the acidity of the ratatouille beautifully.

Monday, March 3, 2008


 Cooking is all about technique. Recipes should show the reader how a technique or set of techniques work to help achieve the desired result. When I read a recipe I am looking mostly for inspiration. The idea is to try and understand what method the recipe's author is trying to teach. Just like a picture is worth a thousand words a recipe illustrates a real life application of the method. To a serious cook, a cookbook can be a great read, especially if it contains insights into the hows and whys of the recipes.
 What I don't like about recipes is that they sometimes place too much emphasis on obtaining the exact ingredients mentioned. This is where I think most people set themselves up for disappointment. If you have a recipe for sauteed John Dory with shiitakes and red wine sauce you shouldn't hesitate to try it. But when you go to buy the fish, just look for the freshest firm white fleshed fish available. Quality should be your primary criterion for buying food. Don't pass over pristine Black Sea Bass for mediocre Red Snapper, and so on.
 If you HAVE to have Salmon for a particular occasion talk to your fish monger ahead of time and determine if it will be possible. Then when you go to make your purchase, remember that good results with bad food is impossible. Always have a back-up plan. Be flexible and you'll be rewarded with a much better meal.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Roasted Root Vegetbles

 This time of year calls for some hearty flavors to help get through the winter. Roasted root vegetables come to the rescue! Any combination of carrots, parsnips, celeriac, turnips, rutabagas and garlic along with some onions and herbs like thyme or parsley will work. Start by peeling the vegetables and cutting them into pieces roughly the same size. The shape doesn't really matter, as long as they are relatively uniform. I cut mine to resemble french fries. Preheat your oven to 350 and coat the vegetables and aromatics with some type of fat, coarse sea salt and black pepper. If you happen to have access to some rendered duck or goose fat, it works the best, but olive oil or another type of vegetable oil works just fine. Don't use butter, as it will burn too easily.
 You can roast the vegetables in a cast iron skillet, or a roasting pan. Pre-heating the pan isn't really necessary, though you could do it. Make sure you don't burn the vegetables if you use a pre-heated pan. Place the vegetables in your pan of choice, being careful not to crowd them too much. They should be no more than "2-deep" in the pan or else they will steam instead of roast. Depending on how you cut them, they will take from 30 to 60 minutes. You want them to be thoroughly tender and a light caramel color. Err on the side of over-cooked, as you don't really want them al dente. They are now ready to be used for a number of things.
 They go really well in risotto, especially as a side dish with duck, chicken or pork. They also are great in pasta, or with something like braised lamb shanks and white beans. It is amazing how sweet and savory they are at the same time. The parsnips will taste like candy! The garlic and herbs add some brightness to an otherwise very earthy dish. Experiment with this recipe to suit your taste and you will be rewarded with something that is easy to prepare ahead of time and will taste like a dish from a fancy restaurant.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

 I just made a big discovery. I mean BIG! My boys Zackery and Seamus came to work to see me the other day and wanted to make a dessert. We made chocolate chip cookies with peanut butter replacing 3/4 of the butter in the recipe. They were incredible. This should work with any chocolate chip cookie recipe that you use, the "one on the bag" is a great one.
 The cookies didn't have a strong peanut butter flavor, but an incredible texture with a mild peanut butter aroma. They melted in your mouth but still retained that crisp cookie crunch like only a freshly baked cookie has.
 I can't wait to make them again and put them to the ultimate test, eating them along with a glass of bourbon. If you haven't tried that, stop what you're doing right now and try it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chef Test

 I often think about what I would use as a test if I were to hire a chef to run my restaurant's kitchen. There are the normal interview questions, the resume and references, but what about a practical exam?
 You know what it would be? Soup. Make me a soup, anything you want. That's it. Those are the guidelines. Call me when it's done.
 I think soup is the perfect test because nothing requires so many skills to be used in harmony as making soup does. It is a chance to show your knife skills, your ability to season correctly, creativity, and confidence. I would be perfectly comfortable making chicken noodle soup, for example, because a well made one is truly a thing of beauty. I also might make a curried corn, crab and coconut soup, for the same reason. One isn't necessarily better than the other, they're just different. A truly well made soup is something that any cook can be proud of.
 I generally resist the temptation to try and justify my existence by making something that you've never heard of. What could be better on a cold January day than a bowl of split pea soup?  Soup should be seasonally inspired. Gazpacho in late August might trump everything else. Roasted tomato soup in late September could be a close second. The point is there is no right or wrong answer. Just make the best soup you can and let it speak for itself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kitchen Knives

 I think the best knives out there are worth the money with this caveat: you only need one. The knife I use on a daily basis is a 10" Wusthof chef's knife. It's a big knife for most people, so an 8" one is a good option. But skip the boning knife, slicing knife, pairing knife, utility knife, etc. If you use the same knife every day you will become so comfortable with it that you'll find it's perfect for nearly every job.
 A big chef's knife saves a tremendous amount of fatigue when you use a rocking motion for chopping or dicing. Jacques Pepin has a great book covering fundamental techniques that I believe are really important to learn if you want to be a better cook. Buy it with the money you'll save by passing over the knife sets and just buy the only one you'll really need.
 If you really need a serrated knife for slicing bread buy one, but any brand will do. The expensive knives are expensive because of the balance of the knife and the quality of the materials. These things don't matter much to slice an occasional bagel or baguette. Try dicing a few cups of vegetables for soup with a good knife and you will appreciate what I mean.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Vietnam Restaurant

 Last night my family and I had dinner at our favorite restaurant, Vietnam in Philadelphia. My wife Ursula and I have been going there for 10 years and it is amazing how consistently great it is. It looked like a typical Chinatown hole-in-the-wall when we first started going there. It has evolved into a stylishly comfortable space with about 3 times the amount of seats. The prices have inched up just slightly, and the food is still as good as we've had anywhere. 
 If you go to Philly, make sure you visit Vietnam, it's on 11th near Race St. (Don't confuse it with Vietnam Palace across the street.) Order the grilled meatballs, the crisp vegetable spring rolls and sauteed chinese broccoli with garlic. For something a little more adventurous, try the flank steak carpaccio. You will be in heaven!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Just giving their due...

 A certain restaurant critic for the New York Times, with the initials FB, seems to have a disdain for chefs/restauranteurs naming the source of the ingredients on their menus. I have read many reviews of places that don't earn more than 1 or 2 stars where he mentions the fact that the menu DARED to list the provenance of their ingredients as though it is a right reserved for the celebrity chefs. What about simply acknowledging the farmer's hard work and vision that make serving a decent meal possible. Do I need to prove my mettle before I have the gall to recognize the fact that not all lamb is created equal?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chefs don't like to give out recipes

 The other day I was reading Mark Bittman's, aka The Minimalist, wonderful blog. He wrote about kitchen myths that need to be debunked. It made me think about a myth that I've heard for years, along with a hundred explanations of why it is so.
 People say that chefs don't like to give out recipes. I won't say that there aren't ANY chefs who are so insecure that they won't share anything, but I have almost always encountered tremendous generosity and forthrightness with information from other chefs. This goes back to my days as a dishwasher at the Tarragon Tree in Chatham NJ, almost 25 years ago. I was stunned at the detailed instructions that the chefs were willing to divulge, simply because I was curious enough to ask.
 So why does this urban legend persist? Chefs don't cook from recipes! When I give cooking classes, I always start out by saying that I am not going to teach recipes, I'm going to teach technique. When you walk into a restaurant's kitchen, you won't see a bunch of cooks leaning over cookbooks while they measure out 2-1/3 cups of diced onions, and so on. Cooking is about using all 5 senses to learn what goes with what, and in what quantity. I rely on my instincts to decide how much mirepoix will be needed to make a 4 pound batch of black bean soup. If you ask me the ingredients I can tell you, but how many garlic cloves? How much thyme? I don't know exactly, Enough!
 Chefs learn technique through repetition. You might try a recipe and get great results the first time. But I don't think that means that you have mastered it. Make it again, and again, and again. Did it come out the same each time? Probably not. Try to figure out why. If it comes out better each time, you are probably in touch with the nuances of the technique involved. If it is inconsistent, great once, worse the next time, you are still learning the process. When you can turn it out well 3 times in a row, you are starting to get it. That's not a magic number, just a baseline for what to shoot for. Practice, practice, practice.
 If you use good ingredients, your results will always be good. You won't be wasting food, you'll be learning as you go. What good friend or family member won't appreciate an honest home cooked meal? Each time you prepare a meal you will learn something, if you're open to learning. So go ahead, try something new. But don't ask a chef for the recipe and expect it right before your eyes. Why not? Because he/she doesn't know it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Roasted Chicken

 Arguably one of the best meals you can make is REALLY good roasted chicken. What omnivorous person doesn't really enjoy great chicken. Crisp skin, juicy tender meat and great flavor make it the foundation of the perfect homey dinner. Most chefs recognize how difficult it can be to perfect, while many cooks feel anyone can stick a chicken in the oven and bake it.
 Obviously you must start with a good chicken. Use a whole chicken, not chicken parts for this recipe. These are easy to find now in most markets. Don't buy Purdue and you're halfway there. I serve only Griggstown Farm chickens in my restaurant, but there are many good ones available. It does make a difference. Use a cast iron skillet, or at least a heavy pan that is not treated with a non-stick coating. Pre-heat the pan on top of the stove over a medium heat and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, stuff a few thyme sprigs into the cavity of the bird, tie the legs together and clip off the wings or tie them back to keep them out of the way of the skin over the breast meat. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Pour about 1 teaspoon of oil into the pan, wait 20 seconds for the oil to warm up, then place the chicken in the pan on its side. Place the pan in the oven immediately and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn the chicken onto the other side and return to oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven again and turn chicken onto its back, return to oven for 15 minutes. If the chicken is about 3 to 3-1/2 pounds, it should now be finished. If the chicken is 4 or more pounds, repeat side to side roasting for 10 - 15 more minutes total.  Now the most important thing is to let the chicken rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it. This is the key to tender chicken. The rest time is really important.
 Now, why this method works. Cooking chicken on the bone prevents it from shrinking while it cooks. This keeps the meat tender because the muscle fibers can't contract as much because the bones are keeping them from doing so. This is why boneless chicken cutlets are not comfort food! The skin of the chicken gets crisp by roasting on the cast iron skillet which has excellent heat retention. Another heavy pan will work, but don't use a thin metal pan or glass dish. Turning the chicken helps cook the meat evenly too. The natural juices inside run from side to side and help the meat stay juicy. The most important thing here is not to over-cook the bird. Remember that it will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven. Letting it rest for at least 15 minutes help the juices be re-absorbed into the flesh, and allows the muscle fibers to relax, because they will have contracted a bit. Now you have a perfectly roasted chicken to serve with whatever you like. 
 A few variables are: the temperature of the chicken when you start;  the accuracy of your oven's thermostat; and how big and how hot is the skillet when you first put in the chicken. All of these mean that your timing is subject to change a little bit, but PLEASE don't overcook.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Old is new again

Take a minute if you will to consider the cast-iron skillet. Over the years I have cooked things in a variety of vessels and nothing beats a well seasoned cast-iron skillet for everyday use. I have a really good and EXPENSIVE pan for cooking eggs, which has a non-stick coating. I will never give it up. I cook everything I can on my charcoal grill. But when it comes to sauteing, frying, pan roasting, or baking, nothing beats my old cheap cast-iron skillet. I use one every day. No other pan improves with age and use. It's the perfect choice for so many things. I make pancakes, steaks, chickens, fish filets, cornbread, upside-down cakes, potatoes, chili, you name it.

What is it about Bacon?

 I think there are many people out there who will agree that bacon is one ingredient for which there is no substitute. Think about all of the things that feature bacon, then imagine how they would taste without it. Have you ever craved a Lettuce and Tomato sandwich for 2 weeks? How 'bout a Spinach Salad without Bacon. A club sandwich? Is there a better breakfast than Bacon and Eggs? You get the point.
 It's crisp, smoky, sweet, salty and chewy all at the same time. Nothing else on earth can beat it. I have cooked with ham, prosciutto,  pancetta and bacon, I think they all play an important role in cooking. But bacon is king. 

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Best Buffalo Wings

I have been a chef for about 25 years and one thing people always ask me is "What do you like to eat?". It seems that in many people's imagination, a chef's diet probably consists of all gourmet meals all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. All chefs I know crave things like tacos, buffalo wings, pizza and of course burgers. Over the years I think I have perfected the Buffalo wing technique, with all due respect to the city of Buffalo, its residents and of course the presumed birthplace of Buffalo wings, the Anchor Bar. Start with fresh chicken wings, cut into 2 sections. Pre-heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. When the pan is ready (and not before!) liberally coat the wings with sriracha in a stainless steel bowl. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan and arrange the wings in the hot pan so they are not touching each other too much. Leave the wings alone for 3 or 4 minutes, without shaking the pan and let them get almost black. Carefully turn them once and finish in a hot oven for about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and gently stir the wings around the pan to make sure they have cooked evenly. Return pan to oven for a few more minutes if the wings are not tender yet. When the wings are cooked right they feel tender but don't fall apart when you pick them up. Remove the wings from the pan and let rest on a plate or bowl for a few minutes. Serve with blue cheese dressing made from just Hellmann's mayonnaise, good red wine vinegar and crumbled blue cheese.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Welcome to my blog

Hello. I intend to maintain a blog to sound off on all things relating to food. I am a chef and restaurant owner and I need a place to share some thoughts about the day to day life of a chef.