WOBtoberfest Beer & Brats

WOBtoberfest Beer & Brats

On the set of Daytime with host Cyndi Edwards

I just wrapped another great cooking segment for Daytime TV — this time, as a representative of World of Beer’s WOBtoberfest.  World of Beer is one of the coolest bars featuring craft beers (nearly 500 beers available) and to celebrate seasonal beers, October is designated WOBtoberfest.

I created a recipe using bratwurst and German Marzen beer; which I absolutely love to cook with.  Oktoberfest beers are typically light in body, amber in color and have an infusion of dried herbs and spices.  I used Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Whether you’re at the grill or just want to make this on a stove top, I’ve gotta say, beer soaked brats with onions pair incredibly well with good beer.  So grab some brats and get your onions ready — the flavors of Fall are to be celebrated!

World of Beer WOBtoberfest Beer Brats
Recipe by Chris Kohatsu

Ingredients
8 bratwurst links
4 bottles of German Marzen beer
4 large yellow onions, sliced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
Stone ground mustard, for serving

Directions

  1. Using a toothpick or small knife, poke a few holes into each sausage. Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Melt the butter then add the onions, vinegar, brown sugar, thyme and coriander. Coat the onions in the butter, but do not allow them to brown.
  2. Place the sausages in the pot with the onions, and add all of the beer along with the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and allow to simmer at least 30 minutes.  The brats will plump and expand significantly.
  3. Heat a grill or sauté pan. Remove the sausages from the beer, then grill or pan fry. Raise the heat on the onions and boil off the beer.  For faster results, pan fry the onions until dark brown.
  4. Serve sausages and onions together with dollop of mustard.
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Cooking for the Stubborn and Sweet

Cooking for the Stubborn and Sweet

“I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. . . I do not like them Sam I Am!”

Whenever Eric and I talk about food, it feels like our conversation comes straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.  We go back and forth, up and down, over and over about what he will eat and what he won’t.  He has an opinion on everything.  He says he loves seafood, but he hates crab, lobster and other shellfish.  He wants breakfast, but he won’t eat eggs.  He loves the idea of a grilled steak but it can’t be any kind of strip steak.  The list goes on and on.  When we have these conversations, Eric speaks and all I hear is: “I would not, could not, in a box.  I would not, could not, with a fox.  I will not eat them here or there, I will not eat them anywhere!”

Eric aka the Grinch

Before I go further, let me clearly state  that Eric is a great friend for anyone to have.  He’s funny, he’s sweet, he’s awesome to watch sports with and definitely one of my most favorite beer drinking buds.  But he also loves to give me grief.  He’s constantly reminding me that I never cook for him. . . and even though my whole life is focused around food with my friends. . . I have never made him anything.  Not even a frozen pizza!

The truth of the matter is, when I cook for my friends, it’s typically because I’ve spent considerable time thinking about it first.  I create dinner parties centered solely around my friend’s tastebuds and preferences.  For example, I know Korey loves fresh fruit. Which means a breakfast of buttery crepes and fresh berries is the perfect way to start a morning together.  Jen and John love Italian food, so a rustic dinner of pan roasted chicken flavored with fresh sage and handmade pasta was the way to go.  Michael and Tyler love deep, full bodied wines, and therefore, a steak au poivre, cognac pan sauce and richly buttered herb popovers turned into a feast we’ll never forget (and fun with Cory and Erin too!)

With Eric, however, I scratch my head a lot.  I’ve mentioned the idea of grilled lamb chops and he said he liked it.  Then he proceeded to tell me about a time that he didn’t like the lamb he was served.  So that idea was quickly scratched.  I happen to know that after a night out, Eric loves nothing more than a bowl of pasta with melted butter and tons of cheese.  Which makes me  suggest an alfredo dish. In true Eric fashion, he proceeds to tell me about the way his dad makes seafood alfredo — and how much Eric doesn’t care for it.

I can’t help but giggle as I write this. Because Eric is such a good friend, the back and forth between us is pretty funny.  As soon as I think I’ve figured out a menu plan, I become a cheerleader for it, I become Sam I Am.  That, of course, means Eric is the Grinch.  As we all know, at the end of the book, the Grinch learns to love Green Eggs and Ham.  I may not have figured out the winning formula (yet) but when I do, I’ll make a believer out of Eric.  Until then, it’s going to be many more hysterical conversations . . . and lots of hockey games.

Lesson 3: Molotes – My Mexican Comfort Food

Lesson 3: Molotes – My Mexican Comfort Food

Waiting in line at the molote stand

While strolling down the streets of Tlaxcala, I noticed a long line of people hovering around a certain street vendor.  A piece of paper, handwritten in magic marker, identified the goods: “Molotes.”   At first glance, I assumed I was approaching a taco vendor, but upon closer inspection, I realized that molotes were not tacos at all!  They look a lot like empanadas, golden hand pies plump with filling and aromas rich from savory goodness.  The vendor had an assortment of fillings, from tins of seasoned beef, chicken and pork, to bins of various grated cheeses and tubs of different salsas.  I ordered a molote stuffed with mashed potatoes and chipotle salsa.  After it left the deep fryer, it was topped with salsa verde and a squirt of crema.  It was heavenly!

Molotes are fresh tortilla dough stuffed with any kind of filling available.  They are then sealed into a half moon shaped and deep fried, creating a crispy, delicate and flaky crust.  These little hot pockets are then drizzled with salsa and crema, and they are so addictive, it’s common to see folks order one then get back in line to order another.

Molote frying in a pan

When I told Chef Estela about my new found favorite streetfood, she smiled and nodded and didn’t give it another thought.  But I kept going on and on about how much I loved these things. . . that today, she taught me how to make them.  As I should have known, her version was even better than what I had on the street.  I devoured the hot molote as soon as it came out of the pan.  My tastebuds were dancing with delight.  Crisp, flavorful and filled with cheese, Chef Estela told me to enjoy, then informed me that since I now know how to make them — I have no excuse to spend my money on the sidewalk.  Si, senora!

Molotes
Chef Estela Silva, Mexican Home Cooking School

Use plastic or wax paper to prevent sticking

Ingredients

2 cups masa harina
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup warm chile water (or you can use achiote seasoning)
Fillings as desired
Oil for frying

  1. Combine the masa harina, flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Slowly add the water and mix until a dough forms.  The dough should be sticky, not dry.
  3. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Gather a small handful and roll into balls.
  5. With your hands, a tortilla press, or even a rolling pin, flatten the balls into long ovals.
  6. Place the filling in the center of the tortilla, then fold tortilla over, creating a half-moon/semi-circle shape.  Press the ends together to create a seal.
  7. Pan fry in a small amount of oil.  The molote should be crisp and golden on all sides.  Serve with shredded lettuce, salsa verde or a drizzle of crema.
Mexico and Me for February

Mexico and Me for February

“Aren’t you worried about safety?” says my student. “Safety, safety, safety!”

It’s Saturday night and I’m teaching a Mexican cooking class.  I poll my students and ask how many people have visited Mexico?  Almost all hands go up.  I ask if anyone is planning to visit soon.  Instead of hands being raised, I get raised eyebrows, shrugs, and the safety answer.  I then ask if anyone is going on a cruise. Several hands raise.  “Aren’t you worried about diarrhea?” I ask with a smirk.  “Please don’t make me say it three times.”

It’s the start of February and everyone’s tastebuds are turning to chocolate. Valentine’s Day is coming up and so is my birthday.  As I break pieces of chocolate into a pot of mole, my mind starts to wonder — Will I ever return to Mexico?  What kind of chocolate recipes will I write about this month?  Why don’t I have anyone to celebrate Valentine’s with?  How will I celebrate my thirty-fifth birthday?

These questions stay with me through the weekend, and as I ponder answers, I do what so many people do when they daydream — I went to my Pinterest boards.  A few clicks here and a few more there, several phone calls and a couple of emails later…. and I find myself headed to Mexico for a one week, Valentine’s Day/Birthday culinary excursion — I’m super excited!

Oh yes, it’s true.  I’m flying out in a week and I’ll be staying with a chef.  I’ve never felt so spontaneous and yet so sure about my travel plans.  I suppose I could say this is going to be my Eat, Pray, Love moment but there won’t be any Italians, Indian food or daily yoga — at least, I’m not planning for it.

But there is going to be me, stepping out of my comfort zone, on a journey into volcanic lands rich with culture, history and heritage.  And there will be you (I hope) cheering me on my adventures.  I’ll post as much as possible, and of course, take lots of pics.  If I can find time, I might even make a few videos.  Yes, I will certainly take safety pre-cautions and I will be a smart traveler.  But more than anything else, I go as a student, an adventurer and a seeker of delicious dishes.  To Mexico I go — Olé!

Kung Pao Chicken: Equal the Pow and Wow

Kung Pao Chicken: Equal the Pow and Wow

In Washington, D.C. there is an abundance of Chinese restaurants (as well as a historic city dweller rivalry between City Lights of China and the Meiwah) but the restaurants I speak of are as diverse as China’s provinces.

If you want spice, you order from a Szechaun restaurant, if you want royal dishes fit for an emperor, go to a Peking restaurant, and if you’re craving sweet and sour dishes, your best bet is to order from a Cantonese restaurant.  Now I could go on and on about my favorite Chinese restaurants in and around D.C. (as well as the disappearance of Chinatown) but I think I’ll save that for another time.  What I’d rather talk to you about is making Chinese food at home.

Since relocating to Florida, I’ve been saddened by what is often masqueraded as Chinese food.  Disappointed is another a good word to describe my feelings.  My friend Judi Gallagher shares in my grief.  When did a flavorful, spicy, and brilliant cuisine turn into  a high sugar, oily, greasy and overcooked meal stuffed into plastic cartons?  No, my friends, that is not Chinese food, not in the least.

I find Chinese food to be fresh, light and bright.  The flavors of Chineses dishes should sing together as all of the ingredients dance around in a wok.  The great Martin Yan taught Americans that when it comes to Chinese cooking: “Appearance, aroma and taste are non-negotiable.”  He is a big advocate of yin and yang in cooking, that is, flavors and spices must equally balance each other out.  Adding to this is another fantastic chef, Ming Tsai, who taught us that sweetness can be found by using organic honey, and spicy chili peppers can play nicely with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to create a zesty and vibrant finish.

Kung Pao, which hails from the Sichaun province and called Gong Bao, is one of the easiest ways to learn Chinese cuisine.  Once you’ve mastered the sauce, you can use it to dress vegetables, chow mein noodles, and meats or seafood like chicken, pork, shrimp or scallops.  The great thing about Kung Pao sauce is that a little goes a very long way!  You won’t need much to dress your dish, and in this case, less is always better.

Now, a word about spice.  Some people love to go crazy with chili in their Kung Pao.  When I was growing up, I used to call it Kung Pow Pow because of all the chili peppers used!  While it’s your perogative to decide on the level of spice, I have to agree with Chef Yan about yin and yang.

My recipe below is a very mild but very balanced use of spice.  Taste while you cook and adjust the heat and seasonings as you see fit.  I use Huy Fong sambal (red chili paste) at the start and add dried Chinese chili peppers at the end.  Sambal is found in most grocery stores, right next to the Sriracha sauce.  If your grocery store does not have an international section, make a trip to the nearest Asian market as they will definitely carry it.

I’ve also substituted a few ingredients based on my personal taste, preferences and what’s available.  Instead of traditional peanuts, I suggest cashews, and instead of Szechaun peppercorns, I suggest dried chili peppers.  While most traditional recipes use Chinese sherry, I use freshly squeezed limes and palm sugar.  My apologies in advance to the purists.  I’m not Chinese.

Kung Pao Chicken
Feeds 4 people easily

2 lbs. chicken thighs, bones and skin removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups carrots, peeled, small dice
2 cups asparagus, cut small (or 1 cup celery, small dice)
2 cups red bell pepper, small dice (ribs and seeds removed)
1 1/2 tablespoons palm sugar (yes, I know this is Thai) or 2 tablespoons of honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sambal (chili paste)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Zest and juice of one lime
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 tablespoons ginger, minced
1 1/4 cups cashew nuts, rough chop
Canola oil for stir frying
Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional:
Dried Chinese Peppers* (pound slightly with mortar and pestle) I realize these are not in keeping with traditional Szechuan peppercorns (but those are really hard to find!)  Use them if you can find them.
Brown or White Rice (steamed) OR cooked Chinese noodles OR Cold lettuce cups

Getting Started:
Cut and prep all of the ingredients before cooking, including the sauce, and steamed rice, noodles or lettuce cups if desired.  Once you heat up the wok, you’ll move along quickly!

Mix the palm sugar (or honey), soy sauce, sesame oil, sambal, zest and lime juice together with a whisk.  Be sure the sugar is fully dissolved.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, coat the chicken pieces with the cornstarch and stir well to combine.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a wok over high heat with two tablespoons of canola oil.  Working in two batches, stir fry the chicken until cooked through, about 4 to 6 minutes for each batch.  Hold the cooked chicken on a clean dish and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok.  Add the garlic and ginger and give it a quick stir (be careful not to burn) then add all the remaining vegetables.  Stir fry vegetables until they are slightly tender, about 2 minutes.  Add the sauce mixture and simmer for one minute more.

Return the chicken to the wok and combine thoroughly.  If using Chinese peppers, now is the time to add them.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Add the cashews, stir once more, then serve with rice, noodles or crisp lettuce cups.

Mills, Grinders, Pigs and Shakers: My Homage to Salt and Pepper

Mills, Grinders, Pigs and Shakers: My Homage to Salt and Pepper

Every civilized table has a standing invitation to an intriguing couple: Salt and Pepper. 

Sometimes, the duo arrives as shakers, ready to be sprinkled with the flick of the wrist.  Other times, the pair are mis-matched, one being a grinder and the other being a mill.  In any case, those with a discerning eye for culinary detail inevitably zero in on the placement, shape and form of the salt and pepper vessels — to set a table without them is just not right!

Now, I must admit, as the cook, I get peeved when I see the shaker or mill used on food I’ve prepared.  Especially before the first bite is taken (see if you receive future invitations to my house — you won’t!)  But as a host and entertainer, I know that salt and pepper have rightfully earned their place at the table.  After all, how could I serve poached eggs at brunch, a steaming shrimp boil mid-day or even popcorn for movie night without salt and pepper for my guests?  It would be unthinkable.

As I look through my kitchen supplies, I’m intrigued by the number of salt and pepper containers I own.  When I cook, I love having my salt pig handy, a small bowl with its belly full of salt and a mouth wide enough for my fingers to take a pinch.  Salt pigs are a cook’s delight simply because it’s a convenient way to reach for salt.  I keep mine filled with kosher or sea salt as I find these to be less pungent and easier to work with than regular table salt.   

I have several grinders for peppercorns as well.  Many recipes often call for freshly ground pepper because the flavor of the spice is stronger and much more vibrant if it’s just been cracked.  Because I love the mild spice pepper brings to dishes, I keep a variety of peppercorns handy including: red and black tellicherry, green and even white.

This Sunday, I will be part of the HSN Cook’s Event (a 24-hour live show dedicated to all things culinary) featuring the Trudeau Elite Graviti Salt Mill and Pepper Grinder.  These interesting objects use the force of gravity to dispense their contents.  Simply turn them upside down and voila!  Either salt is sprinkled or pepper is grinded — what fun!

In addition to the innovative technology, I happen to love the sleek, contoured design and chrome finish.  I admire the way they stand so tall and proud on my kitchen countertop.  The ceramic grinders allow for storage on a stovetop (condensation won’t rust ceramic gears) and the see-through chamber lets me know whenever they need to be refilled.

Salt and Pepper are indeed, the two spices no kitchen (and certainly no table) should be without.  Whether we admit it or not, most of us own a collection of shakers, mills and grinders, simply to fit our needs and decorating tastes.  If you’re looking for something sleek, modern and incredibly innovative, be sure to tune in.  As for my friends, we now have a new conversation piece on the table!

Braised Lettuce and Peas (Yes, I’m Cooking Lettuce)

Braised Lettuce and Peas (Yes, I’m Cooking Lettuce)

Say the word lettuce and many Americans think of a crisp cold salad, the start of a large buffet or some sort of landing area for other vegetables.  But say lettuce to someone knowledgeable in Chinese or French cuisines and thoughts of casseroles, stir-fry and soups come to mind.

Cooked lettuce is comfort food to many in Asia and Europe but has yet to make much of an impression in the United States.  While we love the taste of braised collard greens, steamed cabbage, creamed spinach and rich pasta mixed with leafy arugula, there’s little appreciation for cooking lettuce.

When I buy lettuce, I opt for a whole fresh head as it’s cheaper than buying the bagged stuff.  Having a variety of ways to enjoy lettuce – from a garden salad, to a wrap around a filling, to a steamed side dish – ensures that nothing will go to waste.

One of my favorite late night snacks is a small pot of peas with wilted lettuce.  Every now and then, I find myself hungry, knowing it’s too late in the evening to cook a full-on meal, yet too early to go to bed.  In those instances, I opt for some sort of vegetable snack and when I need something heartier, I cook the vegetable.

Cooking lettuce is so simple, I have a new variation with every attempt.  Some days I squeeze fresh lemon juice on Boston lettuce, allowing the tender leaves to pick up fresh acidity.  Other times I’ll add a sprinkle of freshly chopped mint, right at the end, to give the lettuce a hearty bite.  I love the taste of Romaine lettuce, with its dark green leaves and thick stems, paired with bright baby peas and a pat of butter.  Below I’ve included such a simple recipe I hope you enjoy it as a side dish or special snack.  Warm and rich, it evokes the joys of soup without the heaviness of a stew.

Braised Lettuce and Peas

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot (thinly sliced)
Half head of Romaine lettuce (chopped into large pieces)
1 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock is also good)
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

In a stockpot or deep saute pan, melt the butter.  Add the shallot and saute for one minute.  Add the lettuce and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the peas and cover for two minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with any variety of heavy cream, freshly chopped mint, grated carrots or squeeze of lemon juice.

Competition Chili Part 2: Green Chile Mac Wins!

Competition Chili Part 2: Green Chile Mac Wins!

From blogger Vino Luci

“Chris, this is awesome!”  As soon as Tim said that a wide smile spread across my face, my eyes filled with excitement and I began to feel giddy.  It was as if he told me that men were now going to date women based on their personality instead of looks (yeah, I was THAT thrilled).  And when I was informed that my crock-pot was empty, I giggled and shrieked with glee. 

True to my chili cookoff strategy, I entered a Green Chile Mac ‘n Cheese dish and won the Most Original category.  My entry celebrated the Southwest, blending a variety of peppers, sweet corn, mild onions and plenty of rich, creamy cheese.

With Mary Beth Rodriguez and Joelle Hunter, two awesome food stylists!

Mary Beth Rodriguez recently blogged about her fascination with macaroni and cheese.  She’s one of my favorite food stylists, because when we work together, we easily combine our energy, creativity and love for food.  In her posting, she talks about making the most of a simple dish and tying in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s phrase: “boom for real.”  MB’s artistry, along with Bon Appetit’s recent profile on Roaring Fork of Arizona, inspired my entry.

Whenever I create a simple dish, I take the opportunity to develop my technique.  In this case, I focused on balancing textures: by using good knife skills and ensuring proper sweating of the vegetables.  Pasta dishes fail simply by having the wrong amount of texture.  So it was important that my vegetables provide the right amount of crunch against the soft creaminess of the cheese and noodles.  Upon first bite, you want a blend of textures to hit your mouth, including the velvety rush of cream, followed by the heat of the chiles. 

If you try to create this dish, make sure your peppers and onions are diced uniformly.  Keep them the same size as your corn kernels.  Also, watch the saute.  I decided to sweat the vegetables over low heat, preventing any browning or caramelization.  The goal is for the vegetables to keep their firmness without losing their taste.

A note on the noodles: I prefer rigate (with ridges).  While a penne rigate can be used, I think the tubes are too large.  I wanted small bites, so I went with a small sea shell noodle.  I realize that in a traditional sense, elbow macaroni is preferred, but I was going after the Most Original category. 

All good things must be shared, including recipes, which I post here.  May this dish bring you all the fun, laughter and friendship that I enjoyed!

Green Chile Mac ‘n Cheese

Ingredients:

2 whole poblano chiles, plus 1 serrano and 1 jalapeno 
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced 
1/2 head of a medium red onion, diced 
2  garlic cloves, diced 
1 cup corn kernels (if frozen, thaw before using) 
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
4 cups small sea shells, cooked in salted water, prepared al dente
1 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese (for less heat, use regular Monterey Jack)
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Char or broil the chiles until blistered and blackened on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Peel, seed and chop chiles.  Reserve a quarter of the chiles and put the remaining in a blender or food processor. Add whipping cream and pulse until smooth.
  2. Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat.
  3. Saute the onion for one minute, then add the peppers.  Add the garlic and corn after another minute. Saute time should be around 4 minutes.
  4. Add the cream and chile mixture and bring to a simmer.
  5. Pour cream mixture over hot noodles and stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Fry Me to the Moon: Fun with the Waring Pro Deep Fryer

Fry Me to the Moon: Fun with the Waring Pro Deep Fryer

Everyone fries food.  EVERYONE.

I have been saying this every day as I stand over my deep fryer.  Frying is one of the world’s oldest and most widely used cooking methods.  It doesn’t matter if you’re enjoying Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring Rolls) or Churros (Mexican Donuts) or Argentina Empanadas or Jamaican Beef Patties — everyone fries their food!

On Tuesday, I will be showing the Waring Pro Deep Fryer on HSN.  This amazing fryer is only available through HSN and it’s a serious piece of machinery!  Prior to going on-air, I practice, practice, practice.  I get to know my product inside and out, come up with new ideas and recipes, then find new ways to inspire my love for cooking.  Lucky for me, I have plenty of friends who enjoy the end results!

I made a huge batch of tempura for my friend Michelle.  Tempura is a light and fluffy batter from Japan used to deep fry vegetables and seafood.  We made tempura shrimp, green beans, broccoli, onions and sweet potatoes.  Michelle whipped up a special mixture of crab rangoon (with freshly grated ginger, green onions, crab meat and cream cheese) and we savored those as well!

On Saturday, Ron came over and I fried up cha gio, delicate and crispy Vietnamese spring rolls.  The filling is extremely savory, made from shrimp (or crab meat) ground pork, mushrooms, carrots and onions.  The finished spring rolls are served wrapped in crisp, cold, lettuce cups stuffed with cucumbers, carrots, radishes and fresh herbs.  I made a special dipping sauce made from lime juice and fish sauce and we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner!

Early this morning (and I do mean EARLY) a friend who shall go un-named was treated to a serving of Scotch Eggs. This “Braveheart Breakfast” is a hard-boiled egg surrounded by a ground breakfast sausage.  To say that it goes great with a mug of beer is an understatement.  There’s nothing like protein after a night out on the town!

Today, I’m making a fantastic Mediterranean inspired falafel salad (fried chickpea patties) on a bed of greens and drizzled with a tangy tahini dressing.  If I feel so inclined, I may actually make my personal favorite: Kluay Kaek (Thai fried bananas).  Kluay Kaek are banana slices dipped in coconut batter then fried.  Is there anything better than that?

When done correctly, fried food should not be greasy or heavy.  In fact, at the right temperature and in the correct amount of time, food submerged in hot oil will repel grease while all the moisture in the food comes out.  This is the simple rule of frying: mind your time and temperature.  Do that and you’ll know exactly why everyone enjoys moist, juicy, crispy and delicious fried food.

If frying is not performed correctly, you get poorly prepared food, the stuff that is really bad for us.  If the oil is too hot, the food can be overcooked or raw in the middle, and if the oil is too cold, the food will be greasy (and you can count on a stomach ache later!)

I think it’s unfortunate that frying gets such a bad wrap — it’s not the cooking method, it’s how we enjoy the food.  If you have something fried, balance it with vegetables and healthy proteins, and naturally, watch your portioning.

Being a foodie means being able to enjoy all methods of cooking… and lucky for me, I am surrounded by people who know exactly how to do that.

Keeping Calm in the Kitchen

Keeping Calm in the Kitchen

I don’t scream.

In fact, I rarely raise my voice.  That’s not to say that I don’t get angry, or that I don’t have a voice that projects (because I can always be heard!) but I’m not someone who goes ape shit at the drop of a hat.  When I get angry or upset, I become focused, concentrated and my words are selective and few.  And I become direct.  Extremely direct.  Quietly.

That’s probably why I was amused when my friend Kim asked me about Gordon Ramsey and his television show.  Yesterday, she and I (and ten of our closest friends) were gathered in her kitchen, cooking and laughing away.  I responded that I liked watching Gordon Ramsey, I value his work and I’m a true admirer of his talents.  Do I like his tantrums or the way he screams at his crew?  Not really, in fact, not at all.

Every culinary student spends time learning about the great Chef Aguste Escoffier.  Among his many culinary achievements, he created the kitchen brigade – an organized, uniform approach to cooking as a team.  Although many things have changed in the restaurant industry, Escoffier’s kitchen brigade is very much alive and well.  There is always a Chef, the head of the kitchen, and there are sous chefs and assistants.

What has changed is management styles.  There are plenty of chefs, like Ramsey, that scream and throw tantrums.  There are also a growing number of celebrated chefs, that lead with a distinct calm, centered in their own direction and positive influence.

During a trip through Austin, I had the chance to meet Executive Chef Robert Rhoades of the fantastic Hudson’s on the Bend.  I remember being captive to his quiet voice, warm personality and sincere hospitality.  I distinctly remember how focused he was while cooking, with deliberate, passionate intensity, and how quiet his kitchen was while everyone observed him at work.  He has such a calm, professional and caring way of working with his brigade that it’s no surprise he experiences very little turnover.  In fact, as I recall, there’s a waiting list to get-in to work for him.  Just watch my video below, and you’ll see what I mean.

I like to think that if I were to emulate a great chef, it would be Chef Rhoades.  Rather than kick people out of the kitchen, scream or have tempers flare, I actually enjoy teaching and demonstrating and am always appreciative of assistance.  I like being calm, centered and above all, welcoming.

There’s something wonderful about a kitchen that is permeated with aromas rising from pots and pans on the stove.  But there’s something even more special than the food being produced:  it’s the laughter of friends, the warmth of hospitality and the love and joy that’s found in sharing a meal with people you care about.

To Kim, Billy, Tom, Pam, Tracy, Jimmy, Christy  and Donna – thank you for such a wonderful day.  Spending hours in the kitchen with you is not work, it’s just good times.