jeudi 27 février 2014

Trout Caviar “Fish & Chips” – And the Oscar for Best Hors d'Oeuvre Goes to…

Sure, you could serve some high-end Beluga or Ossetra caviar at your Oscars viewing party, but the problem with that plan is you’d have to get rich first. I’m not saying you won’t eventually be rolling in it, but the Academy Awards are Sunday, and we don’t want to rush you.

Instead, you can go with a more affordable option like the gorgeous trout roe seen glistening herein. This was only $25 for a 2-oz jar, and that’s purchased in San Francisco, one of the most expensive places on earth, so I’m hoping you can do even better than that.

It’s so obvious that I didn’t even mention it in the video, but of course this will work with any type of caviar. Having said that, when you consider value, it’s hard to beat these golden beads. Trout roe has a fresh, clean, briny flavor, and an absolutely beautiful texture. The feeling of those little, subtly salty eggs popping on your tongue is one of life’s great food experiences.

As far as portioning goes, if you use as much as I did on the first batch (pictured right), which was about 1 gram per chip, you’ll get between 50-60 hors d'oeuvres. If you want to stretch things a little further, then do smaller 1/2-gram portions, and get 100-120 still amazing tasting bites.

If you’re like me, and haven’t seen any of the movies yet, the only good reason to go to an Oscars party is for the food and drinks; and getting to enjoy something like these caviar “fish & chips” will make sitting through all those acceptance speeches almost worthwhile. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 100-120 bites (using 1/2-gram of roe per chip)
2 oz golden trout roe (or any other caviar or roe)
120 potato crisps or chips (I used original flavor Popchips)
about 1/2 cup sour cream
chives as needed

mardi 25 février 2014

Pancetta-Wrapped Leek Gratin – Simply Amazing

I’m all about simply prepared vegetables, but every once in a while I need to cover them in caramelized pork and cheese, and this stunningly delicious pancetta-wrapped leek gratin was one of those times. I love those times.

This “umami bomb” is so flavorful and satisfying, it almost seems disrespectful to serve it as a side dish. Pair this with a slice of buttered bread, hedge your bets with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and enjoy a truly special lunch.

For extra credit, after you finish your meal, call your best French friend and describe what you had. They will love and hate you for it. So, whether you make this for lunch, or use it to upstage a steak or grilled piece of salmon, I hope you give this great leek gratin a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
3 large leeks
about 4 oz pancetta
2 tsp olive oil
salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup drinkable white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese as needed
chives to garnish

samedi 22 février 2014

How Not to Make Roasted Pork Loin with Grapes and Rosemary Cream Sauce

Well, you can’t win them all. This perfectly fine looking pork roast was the victim of a few easy-to-make mistakes, and hopefully by watching this you’ll avoid such mishaps in the future. In exchange, you’ll have to promise not to make fun of me.

The first, and most obvious error was way too much freshly minced rosemary. I always tell people to be super-careful about adding this resinous herb. I wasn’t paying attention, and just added what I had chopped without thinking, and it was pretty much all over at that point.

Adding cream helped nothing, and only made the herbaceous reduction more caloric and offensive. I probably could have added some lemon, mustard, horseradish, or other heavy-hitting condiment, but by that time nothing was going to unrosemary this train wreck.

On the bright side, the grapes were really good, and even after 30 minutes in the oven, had a juicy, still-firm texture. Their warm sweetness went very well with the meat. So, I hope you watch, critique, and maybe adapt this potentially amazing recipe into something worthwhile. Enjoy!

jeudi 20 février 2014

Next Up: Pork Recipe Fail

Duck Fat Steak Fries – There’s a New Fat in Town

You know a potato side dish is going to be good when 75% of the name refers to fat or meat. These super-crusty, oven-fried potato wedges, or “steak fries” as they call them where I’m from, are done with rendered duck fat, and while I’m a big fan of ones done with olive oil and/or butter, these really are better.

Not only does this fat help create a great texture, but it also adds a layer of richness and meatiness to the potatoes that’s nothing short of magical. Back in the day, you had to work or eat in a restaurant that served duck to enjoy this special treat, but happily, those days are over.

Thanks to evangelizing celebrity chefs and apparently smarter marketing people in the duck industry, this rendered fat is now pretty easy to find. My neighborhood Whole Foods stocks it, and I’ve seen it at many of the higher-end grocery stores.

By the way, if you’re concerned about that next cholesterol test, relax; duck fat is surprisingly healthy, and a quick Google search should explain why without me having to type any more. I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 large russet potatoes
2-3 tablespoons duck fat
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
- 325 F. for 40 minutes
- 450 F. for about 20 minutes or until done

mardi 18 février 2014

Chicken Kiev – A High Degree of Difficulty Always Scores Extra Points

Unlike virtually every other recipe featured here, I’m not going to say this chicken Kiev is “easy to make.” It’s really not. You could follow this exactly as shown, and still have undercooked meat, or leaking butter, or any number of other tragedies. So, why try?

Because, if and when you pull this off, you’ll be enjoying one of the greatest chicken experiences of your life. It’s also one of the greatest garlic experiences of your life, as well as one of the greatest butter experiences of your life.

What makes this so challenging is that you can’t really cut, or poke into the Kiev to check for doneness. That would release the garlic-parsley butter prematurely, and be anticlimactic, to say the least. So, we go blindly by time. There are also variables like breast size, freezer temps/time, and oven crowding to deal with. 

However, if you use 8-oz breasts, and freeze exactly as shown here, then after a 2 to 3 minute deep-frying, these should take about 15-17 minutes to bake. The good news is that you have a few minutes after that before the meat gets noticeably drier, so you can give it a little extra time if it seems like it needs it.

One rule great of thumb is to listen for the butter. These are generally done when the garlic butter inside is hot enough to be forced out through the seams on the bottom, and when that happens you’ll hear a sizzle, and maybe see some butter leaking on to your pan. This is usually time to pull them out, and let them rest five minutes.

If you’re cooking more than four of these, make sure they are well spaced, and give them a few extra minutes. If I do these for a larger group, I always do a few extra, so I can cut into one and double-check. Don’t worry, it will be our secret.

Anyway, if you’re feeling brave, and want to enjoy something named after a place sort of near where they are holding the Winter Olympics, then I hope you give this amazing chicken Kiev recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

For 4 portions chicken Kiev:

For the butter:
2 cloves garlic, finely crushed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley (you can also add tarragon and/or chives)
pinch of salt

4 large (8-oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup flour with 2 tsp salt mixed in
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying, enough for 2-inches in a small pot
*Bake at 400 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until cooked through

samedi 15 février 2014

Happy National Almond Day Eve!

I'm not sure if you've finalized menu plans for tomorrow's big National Almond Day celebration, but just in case you haven't, I hope you'll consider this beautiful almond arugula pesto! 

I know pesto is something that's generally served in the summer, but since arugula is so (too?) easy to find year-round, there's really no need to wait. I hope you give this delicious, and easy condiment a try soon. Enjoy!

Click here to read original post, and to get the ingredient list.

jeudi 13 février 2014

Orange Duck – Orange You Glad I Didn’t Call It Duck a l'Orange?

I don’t think I’ve made Duck “a l'Orange” since culinary school, nor tried to pronounce it, but thanks to a rather enticing photo in a friend’s cookbook, I decided to go full culinary time machine, and I’m so glad I did.

That friend would be award-winning food blogger and author, Hank Shaw. He’s recently published a cookbook called Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, Both Farmed and Wild, which was the inspiration for this gorgeous, and very easy dish. Still looking for a sexy Valentine’s entrée? You could do a lot worse.

This is one of those classic dishes that somehow became a cliché, and people stopped making it for fear of looking un-cool, which is too bad, since it’s really good. This is traditionally done with a whole roasted duck, but by using breasts we get pretty much the same results, in a lot less time.

My version is very close to Hank’s, except I don’t use orange juice. I prefer the flavor of the sauce with just marmalade, zest, and Grand Marnier. Speaking of the Grand Marnier, other than other orange liquors, I’ll be offering no alternatives. That’s what literally gives the sauce its soul.

By the way, if you want to raise your “game” game, I encourage you to check out Hank's cookbook. I think it’s very well done, and gets basically all 5-star reviews on Amazon. So, check that out, check this out, and as always enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
2 duck breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp duck fat or vegetable oil
1 tsp flour
2 tsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp Grand Marnier (orange liquor)
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
pinch of cayenne
1 rounded tbsp orange marmalade (preferably Seville orange marmalade)
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
extra zest for garnish

lundi 10 février 2014

Tiramisu – It Will Pick You Up and Not Let You Down

In addition to being an incredible tasting dessert, Tiramisu also offers the perfect segue when you’re trying to steer the Valentine’s dinner conversation towards spicier subjects. Please feel free to embellish the following history to further enhance the version your sweetheart hears.

Tiramisu was invented in an Italian brothel, where it was a popular snack with customers looking for a little restorative treat after certain strenuous activities. Tiramisu actually means “pick-me-up,” which of course makes it the best culinary double entendre in history.

Besides the great story, it really is the perfect romantic occasion dessert. This heady, mood-elevating concoction is a rich and deeply satisfying, yet remarkably light in texture. I know someone will ask, so yes you can use regular cream cheese, but mascarpone is far superior, and it is Valentine’s Day after all.

As far as the booze goes, I used Marsala, but it also works beautifully with amoretti, rum, brandy, or even Bailey’s. The other key liquid in this is the espresso, and I highly recommend that’s what you use. Regular coffee doesn’t have the same punch. You can use instant, but the last time I checked there was literally a café on every corner of every city.

I did these as two, rather large individual portions, but this could be easily stretched into four cups, or layered in a square baking dish, as is more traditional. Don’t over-think it; no matter what you use, it’s basically three layers of mascarpone mixture around two layers of coffee-dipped ladyfingers. 

They say you can tell how good your Valentine's dessert was, by whether or not you end up also having to cook breakfast. Which reminds me, if you make this, be sure to not use up the last of the eggs. I really hope you give this tiramisu a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large or 4 small portions:
1/2 cup espresso with 2 tbsp Marsala wine for dipping cookies
10 or 12 ladyfinger cookies, broken in half if making cups
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese (6 oz)
2 large egg whites
cocoa for dusting
dark chocolate for shaving

Next Up: A Valentine's Pick-Me-Up

samedi 8 février 2014

That Other Meat Sauce

We did a classic Italian bolognese sauce not too long ago, which reminded me that I’ve actually never posted a basic, Italian-American meat sauce. This sauce goes by many names, including Sunday sauce, since that’s the day it’s traditionally made, but for me growing up, this was just called “sauce.”

This is one of those primal recipes that always follows the same procedure, yet almost never contains exactly the same ingredients. I was raised on a blend of beef, pork, and chicken, but any and all leftover proteins can, and must, be added to the pot.

Meatballs are a great choice; as are things like pigs feet, neck bones, and other similar cuts. The tougher the meat, the better it’s going to be in this sauce. Besides playing meat roulette, I’ll also switch different herbs like basil in and out, as well as include the occasional season vegetable.

You can also vary your results here with different tomato products. I went old-school and hand-crushed whole plums, but you can also use crushed or pureed tomatoes as well. The finer and smoother the tomatoes are processed, the thicker your sauce will be, so keep that in mind. Speaking of tomatoes; yes, it is much better to caramelize the tomato paste with the onions before you add the San Marzanos, but I didn't because Grandma didn't, and also, I forgot. 

As long as you cook the meat long enough, and season thoughtfully, there’s really no way this sauce isn’t going to be great. So, while you may not have grown up in an Italian-American home, with this comforting sauce simmering on the stove every Sunday, your family still can. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 beef shank
2 pounds pork ribs
2 bone-in chicken thighs
1 diced onion
6 cloves garlic
3 (28-oz) cans San Marzano plum tomatoes, crushed or blended smooth
(Note - any canned tomato product will work. Try with pureed or already crushed tomatoes and save a step)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups water, more as needed
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Next Up: Meat Sauce

jeudi 6 février 2014

Cauliflower Pizza Crust – Don’t Let the Name Fool You

The major problem with this cauliflower pizza crust is that there’s already something called pizza. If you’d never heard about pizza before, and someone served this to you, I think you’d really enjoy it. 

Unfortunately, we’ve all had pizza before, and so this will invariably be compared to the awesomeness of the real thing. You know, sort of like what happens to deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza (said the New Yorker).

Regardless, this was very tasty, pleasantly textured, and contains almost no carbs – in case you’re into one of those alternative lifestyles. For the cheese, I decided on goat after seeing this recipe on Detoxinista. All kinds of cheeses are used for this technique, usually mozzarella and something else, but I figured the tart chèvre would best simulate the fermented dough of a classic pizza.

Another important tip is to make sure you use parchment paper. Because of the moisture and cheese, this stuff can stick to foil, but nothing sticks to parchment, which is obviously a key here. You can find it next to the foil and plastic wraps in any large grocery store. 

Texture aside, the flavor of this final product was very pizza-like, and I’ll be doing further experiments to be sure. By the way, if you have a version that’s clearly superior to this one, feel free to share. Otherwise, I hope you give this cauliflower crust pizza a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for one 10-inch pizza crust:
1 head cauliflower (about 3 packed cups ground)
1/2 cup water
- Cook cauliflower with water for 5-6 minutes, let cool, and squeeze out ALL water with a towel. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of dry cauliflower pulp left.
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 ounce finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about a 1-1/2 inch square grated)
2 ounces fresh goat cheese
cayenne to taste
1 large egg

mercredi 5 février 2014

Almond and Parsley “Salsa Verde” – It’s easy being green!

As you watch me make this delicious and versatile condiment, you might be thinking to yourself, wait a minute, that’s a pesto. Well, it basically is. The reason I’m calling it a “salsa verde” and not a pesto, is because whenever you say “pesto” people instantly think of the traditional (and DONE TO DEATH) version with the pinenuts and basil. Now, I have no problem with a nice, properly made pesto. But, I was in the mood for something completely different. By the way, there’s nothing I hate more than Chefs arguing terms and names… “That’s NOT a Confit, it’s a Compote!!” or “That’s not a marinade you idiot, it’s a wet rub!” …Every professional chef or cook reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve heard my rule before; if you make it, you get to name it! For example, my Salmon Mango Bango, ridiculous name, but no one can do a damn thing about it.

So, I’m using the term “Salsa Verde” the way it’s used around Northern California. It’s a very generic term for any fresh green sauce, usually starring some type of herb, but also can be made with spinach, arugula, etc. If you are a regular to this site you’ll see me do many versions of salsa verde, especially when the weather gets a bit warmer. (to combat Christmas shopping stress I want you all to close your eyes and for one minute picture a warm, sunny meadow, lush with fresh herbs) ahhhh, that’s better.

This is a great sauce to experiment with by switching out the nuts, herbs and oils used. Hopefully you saw the Piquillo Pepper video, which this sauce was amazing on. I also had the left-overs on a piece of seared salmon which was sublime.

Cream of Cauliflower with Fried Oysters and Chervil – A warm take on a cold “French Laundry” classic

For those of you that don’t already now, the French Laundry is a small gourmet restaurant located in Yountville, CA, in the Napa Valley. It’s considered by many the finest restaurant in the country and the Chef/owner, Thomas Keller, is consider by many the country’s top Chef.

I’ve had the pleasure of eating there twice, and for a hardcore foodie it’s about as good as it gets. Chef Keller does a 9-course fixed price (think down payment on a small car) tasting menu that shows off the finest local ingredients, as well as his classical, yet creative techniques.

The first course I had there sounded very unusual when I read it on the menu. It was a cauliflower “panna cotta” topped with a fresh raw oyster and caviar. Why I was a bit apprehensive is because a panna cotta is a cold flan-like Italian dessert. My initial fear was soon replaced by epicurean bliss as I enjoyed maybe the single best first course I’ve ever had. A savory, cold, silky smooth cauliflower flan-like custard topped with a glistening freshly shucked oyster, garnished with a large spoon of Ossetra caviar. It was amazing, as were the rest of the courses.

This clip you are about to see it a sort of warm version of those same ingredients (except the caviar, but feel free to add). It’s also partly inspired by a very old fashioned soup, “oyster stew” which is simply oysters poached in milk or cream.

The clip would have been 15 minutes long if I mentioned everything I wanted to. So be sure to post a comment if you need more info, or I wasn’t clear enough on some of the steps.

2 heads of cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 sliced shallot or 1/4 onion
2 clove garlic
2 tbl butter
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chervil 1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
fresh shucked oysters
seasoned flour (flour with salt, pepper, cayenne to taste)
3 whole eggs
plain breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying

Portuguese Kale and Sausage Soup

This is a wonderful and easy soup that will really hit the spot on a chilly fall night. You can use any spicy sausage in this, but the Portuguese Linguisa is traditional. Here I used a Spanish Chorizo, which was very nice.

As I mention in the clip, be careful not to add too much potato. This is mainly a Kale soup flavored with the spicy sausage. The potato is only there to slightly thicken, and give the soup its silky texture.

I stole this recipe from an after-hours diner in San Francisco called Grubstake. It is traditionally enjoyed at 3AM, while gazing at a wild assortment late night characters. Hey, is that a dude? By the way, its hangover preventing goodness is legendary!

Spicy Chicken Thai Soup – Exploring the boundaries between culinary pleasure and pain

I almost called this “Cream of Endorphin-releasing” soup, but it didn’t quite have the same ring to it. Endorphins are those mysterious pain-relieving, pleasure-giving chemicals released by your brain when the body comes under some type of trauma. While intended as a support mechanism when the body is seriously injured, two groups of people have figured out how to intentionally induce the release of these precious substances; athletes and spicy-food aficionados (actually there is a third group that we really can’t discuss here). The “natural high” that you hear athletes talk about is a result of these endorphins. Today’s clip is in honor of the second group.

Most fans of spicy foods know exactly what I’m talking about, that post-meal euphoria that makes it worth every tear and bead of sweat. If you’ve never experienced these feelings, today’s recipe is a great one for you to try. By controlling the amount of red curry paste you add, you can tailor this to your own threshold of pain. I used 2 full teaspoons of this explosive paste. But, you can start slow, and add a bit more each time you make it until you reach that perfect, beautiful, burning bliss.

The only exotic ingredient would be the fresh lemongrass. I’ve found most large grocery stores do carry it, but if not, you can substitute a few tablespoons of lemon zest, or even some lemon verbena.

2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 10)
12 oz white mushrooms
1 red onion
3 tbl fish sauce
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 limes
2 14-oz cans coconut milk
2 tsp red curry paste (you’ve been warned)
4 clove garlic
4 inch piece ginger
3 stalks lemongrass (or lemon zest)
1 tbl vegetable oil

1 quart chicken stock

note: traditionally this soup is served with a side plate of sliced jalapenos, cilantro leaves, and lime wedges

Next Up: Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Fabulous Fashions for Foodies! Buy a shirt and help support our free video recipe clips!

I love doing free video recipe clips, but you don't have to be an economics major to see the fatal flaw in my business model – the clips are free.

So, I came up with this great idea to make a few dollars to support my site, so I can continue to provide these free cooking lessons. I decided to design and market (through CafePress) amusing T-shirts and other fashionable items that would appeal to foodies far and wide.

Now I have another problem... the items I've designed are only funny if you're a cook, chef, or some other type of hardcore foodie. So, basically I've designed a fashion line that only 1% of the entire population even understands. Now, that's some brilliant marketing!!

Anyway, if you are a foodie, and do get these very esoteric references, then click on the photos of the shirts and you'll be whisked away (pun intended) to my various CafePress storefronts.

By the w
ay, if you've never used CafePress before, the quality is quite good and all the designs seen here come in all kinds of colors and styles. Each photo will take you to that particular line.

Thai-style Beef Stew –Snow Flurries and Red Curries

Well, it’s not quite snowing here in San Francisco, but it’s COLD!! It's winter and that means it's stew season. Chucks of meats, slowly simmered in a flavorful broth for hours, enjoyed while gazing out a frosty window. This version of a classic Thai red curry will certainly do the trick.

This is what I always order when I can’t decide what to get at my local Thai restaurant. I love the way the potatoes soak up the spicy broth, and the slight crunch of the roasted peanuts make for a very happy ending.

2 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast (cut in 2 in. cubes)
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1 onion
3 inch piece of ginger
2 tbl tomato paste
3 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp red curry paste
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander

1 bay leaf
salt to taste
1/4 fish sauce
1 pint beef broth
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
3 green onions
1/2 bunch basil and/or cilantro

Note: As you’ll see in the clip, I simmer the beef for about 45 minutes covered, and then add the sugar, potatoes, and peanuts. I cover it again and simmer for about 15 minutes more, then UNCOVER until the potatoes are tender as well as the beef. I like the last 20 minutes, or so, of cooking to be done uncovered so the stew reduces slightly and becomes a bit thicker.
Also, remember to taste and adjust for salt and heat!!

Brodo di Manzo with Tortellini and Greens – Shank you very much!

The soul of this dish is an incredibly rich, and deeply flavored, beef broth or “brodo.” This is accomplished by slowly simmering a beef shank for a long time, a really long time - like 4 hours, so if you’re in a hurry, this dish is not for you. But, if you want to enjoy a bowl of something that will warm you to the bone (or shank) then give this extremely simple soup a try.

As you’ll see in the clip the first part of the dish is making the dark and delicious beef broth, after that we add some tortellini and kale to finish. That’s the point where you can swerve in your own direction by adding different types of pasta or greens. This would be just as savory with Swiss chard, mustard greens, etc. As far as pasta substitutions, if you’re not into the cheese tortellini I added, then virtually any other short pasta or macaroni will work.

When I look at the ingredient list I find it hard to believe how such a short and simple list can produce something this satisfying and wonderful. Those “winter blues” will never know what hit them!

1 beef shank (about 2 inch thick)
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
olive oil
3 tbl tomato paste
1 quart beef broth plus 1 quart water
1 bunch kale
8 oz dried cheese tortellini
salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
parmesan cheese to garnish

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Chocolate and Cinnamon ...Free your mind, and your cuisine will follow

To many, the thought of adding chocolate and cinnamon to a savory dish like braised beef short ribs, would just seem too strange. I remember the first time I had Chicken Mole in San Francisco’s Mission district, it was so rich and delicious, and when I was told the sauce was actually made with dark chocolate and dried chilies, it took a while to process. It forced me to change how I thought about food, and how ingredients are “supposed” to be used. I’m not sure at that young age I would have even ordered it if I had known there was chocolate in it. Now, it’s my absolute favorite Mexican dish.

Legend has it the recipe I’m showing today comes from the Catalonia region of Spain. It’s an amazingly sexy concoction that would be perfect for that special winter dinner. The chocolate and cinnamon scent the succulent short ribs in a way that is very hard to describe. The first time I served this to my wife Michele her exact response was, and I quote, “wow... wow... wow… mmmmm.”

So, please, free your culinary mind and give this a try! All the ingredients are easy to find and the recipe is almost impossible to mess up.

Warning: to make this properly, the dish takes two days to prepare. The first day it’s braised, then left to cool in the sauce and refrigerated overnight. Day 2, you lift all the fat of the top of the sauce, reheat and serve. I served this with another unusual side dish, Celery Root and Potato Puree, which all also demo. Make sure your butcher picks out some nice meaty short ribs for you, some can have a lot of fat on them, so make sure you check them.

3 pounds beef short ribs (about six 4-in. long)
3 oz Bacon (maybe 4 slices)
1 cup dry sherry
1 quart beef broth
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
5 springs of thyme
2 tbl flour
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leavesblack pepper and salt

Classic Sole “Dore”

If you are afraid to cook fish, this is this demo for you! This has to be the easiest “gourmet” method for fish I’ve ever seen. This will work for any thin, flaky white fish fillets, but Sole is the traditional choice.

We topped the fish with is a simple lemon, caper butter sauce. I will also demo this on the site and you would be well-served to learn this classic and versatile sauce.

Crunchy Asian Slaw – low fat, low carb, high flavor!

This slaw is fast to make, and very versatile as a base for almost any grilled meat or fish. Also, this dish is easily customized by adding any number of your favorite Asian ingredients. Try and find the daikon sprouts I used, as they will add a unique and peppery touch. Make sure you watch the Salmon Mango Bango recipe that we used to top this slaw. It is a really nice combo!

The Japanese vegetable slicer I used on the carrots is a great gadget to have around. You’ll see me use it for many things. They are relatively inexpensive and last a very long time. I prefer them over the way-to-expensive French metal versions.

Boneless Pork Loin Chops with Shallots and Apple Cider Reduction

Here’s a delicious, and easy, pork chop dish that only takes about 20 minutes start to finish. By the way, a "chop" usually refers to something that has a bone still attached. The problem with center cut pork chop with the bone is that by the time you cook the meat next to the bone to a safe tempreture, the meat away from the bone is dry. So, I prefer the boneless "chop" for this dish. You have to be careful though, without the bone, this cut is very easy to overcook. So becareful! Medium pork is OK to eat (I'm talking to all you people over 50!).

Pay attention to the money saving tip regarding buying a pork loin roast and cutting your own chops. Butchers are not going to like me telling you this, but that’s OK, what’s the big deal with upsetting large men with sharp knives?

4 Double-Cut Boneless Center Cut Pork Chops
(About 1 1/2 Inch Thick – Cut Your Own!)
8 Shallots Sliced Thin
2 Cups Apple Cider
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt And Pepper
Veg Oil
1 Tbl. Unsalted Butter
A Few Springs Fresh Thyme or Rosemary

View the complete recipe

Piquillo Peppers stuffed with Orange and Cumin Scented Goat Cheese - Welcome to the Wonderful World of “Tapas!”

I LOVE tapas! Here is the Wikipedia definition: Tapas (pronunciation: TAH-pas) are a variety of Spanish appetizers, such as mixed olives, cheeses, or an elaborate creation like battered and fried baby squid. In Spain, tapas are usually given for free to accompany a drink before dinner. In the United States and the United Kingdom, tapas have evolved into an entire cuisine where patrons order many different small Spanish dishes and combine them for a full meal.

Well, this clip you’re about to watch is my favorite all-time tapas plate. The amazing Piquillo pepper stuffed with cumin and orange scented goat cheese. Words really don’t do it justice. By the way, these just aren’t any roasted red peppers. They are the world famous piquillo peppers!

They’re sweet, slightly piquant, and unlike anything you’ve had before. They come from the Ebro River Valley, in Northern Spain. They are slow roasted over charcoal, where they lose almost 60% of their weight in water, which results in their legendary intense flavor. Find these! And eat these! These are very common in any decent gourmet store or of course online.

By the way, I’m going to show you how to make the Almond and Parsley Salsa Verde that I top these with in another post.

Calabrese Lollipops – Antipasto on a stick!

This is an extremely easy and fun appetizer perfect for a cocktail party or wine tasting event. In fact, this item was created for a wine and food pairing at the fabulous Frick Winery in Sonoma, CA. Bill Frick produces some amazingly delicious wine, and it’s always a pleasure to pair food with (and very easy, since everything tastes great with them).

As you can see from the ingredients below, you can do multiple variations this by switching the meats, cheese and greens. It’s also great since your guests fingers will stay perfectly clean do to this item’s brilliant construction!

By the way, the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” reference at the end of the clip is only funny if you’ve seen the show (although, it may not even be funny if you have!).

thin sliced salami or soppresatta
cream cheese or any spreadable cheese
arugula leaves, or spinach, baby romaine, etc.
bread sticks

Food Wishes Cooking Classes – 2 Great Ways to Learn to Cook!

In-Home Cooking Classes and Culinary Guidance with Chef John (In the Flesh)

While I’m still trying to launch a video-based, online cooking academy (see details below), I am also starting to offer in-home, personalized culinary instruction for those of you that live in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you are interested in having me come to your home to teach you to cook personally, just click on this link, send me an email with what you want to learn and I will contact you to set up a class. By the way, if you are not from the Bay Area, but are filthy rich, and can fly me to your location, I am also available.

If you think the recipe clips I post are fun, and enjoy my style of cooking and sense of humor, then I think you will have a great time cooking side-by-side with me. If you haven’t already, check out my personal bio; while teaching at the California Culinary Academy, I enjoyed a reputation as one of the most popular instructors there, and have always considered myself a very effective teacher, no matter what your skill level. You will also get to see how closely I resemble the photo of George Clooney I use for my online persona.

One last note regarding the one-on-one cooking classes; if you are trying to lose weight and get in better shape the most important thing you can do for yourself is learn how to cook fresh, healthy food at home. If you are in one of those programs where they deliver that over-priced, pre-packaged food then we should talk. You can easily make all those same dishes for a fraction of the cost, and the taste and quality will be far superior.

The Other Way: Our Online, Video-based, Culinary Academy

Here is some basic information regarding our online culinary course:

  • We do not have a cost yet, but to give you a frame of reference, it will cost significantly less than a traditional culinary school, which can cost up as much as $50,000 per year! My hope is to keep it under $500 for the entire course.

  • You will learn the exact same competencies taught at these traditional academies. There are basically a few dozen KEY skills, recipes, and techniques to master. Really, that’s all! Most of the time spent in a traditional culinary school is NOT spent on learning these KEY skills.

  • The complete course should take 2 months for you to master. But, all students will have as much time as they need since everyone learns at a different speed.

  • You will learn by following my lessons and lectures online, and then will have “home work” to perfect these skills. Did you know that in the larger culinary schools students actually watch the Chef’s demos on a TV screen since they can’t sit close enough to watch what’s being demonstrated!

  • You will have the option of just learning the skills, or actually submitting your final competencies via video clips for us to evaluate. We will also have written tests for you to take to test you on the same basic information that a traditional culinary school student is expected to know when they graduate. These tests and home work are optional, but would be required to receive a certificate of culinary competency.

  • All students completing this course successfully will receive a certificate of culinary competency.

  • In addition, all students will get free resume and career assistance if they plan on using these newly acquired skills to enter the culinary industry as a cook or chef. Before I taught at the culinary academy, I ran a resume service for food industry workers, and I’m an expert in that field. If you want an entry-level job in food, this course will make that happen.

  • That’s all the basic info we have for now. We are taking our time to ensure a top quality product and have several Chefs, that currently teach at major traditional culinary schools, helping us put this program together.

    If you are interested in being contacted when the course is ready,
    please contact me. If you've already contacted me, it's not necessary to contact me again.

Our Favorite Cookware and Kitchen Products

Our Favorite Knife Sets
These choices are based on my personal experience, online reviews and feedback, and value/price comparisons.

Pots and Pans

A quality set of pots and pans are crucial to making consistently great food. The three choices I've made below cover the basic styles; stainless steel, high-quality non-stick, and the ultimate cookware the "Le Creuset" Dutch oven,which is a ceramic-glazed cast iron design. All three styles have their own strengths and weaknesses, but I use all three styles regularly,as do most Chefs.

more to come...

Lentil Soup with Braised Ham Hock

This was a viewer request from a while ago for an easy lentil soup recipe. The key ingredient for my version is the smoked, and amazingly delicious, “ham hock.” For those of you not familiar with this piece of pork, here’s what Wikipedia, had to say (It’s Friday and I was feeling too lazy to actually explain what a hock was myself).

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “A ham "hock" is the end of a smoked ham where the foot was attached to the hog's leg. It is the portion of the leg that is neither part of the ham proper nor the foot or ankle, but rather the extreme shank end of the leg bone and the associated skin, fat, tendons, and muscle. This piece is generally comprised of too much skin and gristle to be palatable on its own, so it is largely used to be cooked with greens and other vegetables in order to give them additional flavor (generally that of pork fat and smoke), although the meat from particularly meaty hocks may be removed and served.”

If you’re new to soup making, this is a great one to start with since it’s almost impossible to screw up! It’s also very affordable. A little bit of lentils and ham hock goes a long way, and you can feed a very large group for just a few dollars.


2 cups dry lentils
2 cups diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart beef broth
salt to taste
fresh parsley

Wholly Guacamole?

Today’s clip was inspired by a recent lawsuit brought by Brenda Lifsey against Kraft Foods, regarding the company’s guacamole dip.

“It just didn't taste avocadoey," said Brenda Lifsey, who bought the dip to use for a party she was throwing. “I looked at the ingredients and found there was almost no avocado in it.” Apparently the Kraft product has lots of ingredients, but less than 2 percent avocado! As Jay Z might say, “it’s got 99 ingredients, and avocado isn't one!”

Now, I not sure what’s worse, putting out a product called guacamole that has only 2% avocado in it (hey, it was green!) or, suing the company because it didn’t taste “avocadoey?” Can they both be jailed?

Just is case you do buy your guacamole at the supermarket, I thought I would demo a classic version to show how easy it really is. It’s amazing what that extra 98% avocado content does for the flavor of the dish!

The Aztecs invented guacamole, which they called “ahuaca-mulli” which just means “avocado mixture”. The Aztecs truly believed the avocado was an aphrodisiac, which didn’t hurt its popularity with the Spanish explorers.

The original, ancient recipe has only avocado, onion, pepper, tomato, cilantro and salt. Lime juice is a more recent addition. I love the balance between the acid of the lime and the richness of the avocado. The tomatoes in the original served this purpose, but since decent tomatoes are almost impossible to get at the grocery store, I don’t use them and go with the lime. The acid is also important to keep the guacamole that beautiful green color. For some reason people go crazy when they make this dish at home and add WAY to many ingredients. If you’re one of these people, give this minimalist version a try and see what you think.

You’ll see a quick shot of a Molcajete in this clip which is what the Aztecs used to make this dish. While you can simply use a bowl and potato masher as I did, a real Molcajete sure would make a cool gift for the foodie in your family!

2 finely chopped green onions (white parts)
1 finely chopped green jalapeno
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 large ripe avocados
1 lime
1 tbl olive oil
pinch of cayenne

Zen and the Art of Chicken Teriyaki – A Kitchen Koan

When I first got to San Francisco, having come from a very small town in Western New York, it was like arriving on another planet. I was fascinated by the amazing variety of foods and cultures, and began exploring them all. Growing up, my family and I had made the occasional trip to the local Americanized Chinese restaurant which was always an exotic treat, but now I was getting the real stuff; Thai, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, I couldn’t get enough! At the same time I also became interested in the eastern religious philosophies, Buddhism, Zen, etc., which for a former alter boy was quite the experience. This was also when I learned about the Zen “koan.”

For those of you not familiar, a koan is basically a question, riddle, or story that has no obvious answer. It is used by Zen masters to teach or enlighten their students. Most of you have heard the most famous koan, “Two hands clap and there is a sound; but what is the sound of one hand?” What a great idea… teach students by making them even more confused! Well, since I’m doing Teriyaki today I decided to have a little fun at the end of the demo with a koan or two of my own.

A viewer to our site, Connie, had asked for a teriyaki recipe. So I did some research. I had enjoyed teriyaki many times, but always at Japanese restaurants. If I had made it at home, I probably just bought a bottle of teriyaki sauce and brushed it on some chicken. So, today’s clip is the true authentic version (which, of course, there are several sources giving different versions of what the “original” recipe is). I’m very glad I did it, but I’m not sure why. By the way, the term teriyaki comes from of two Japanese words "teri" and "yaki." Teri refers to the shine or luster of the glazed sauce, and yaki means to broil or grill the meat. Prepare to be enlightened… you’ve been warned.

10 Boneless-Skinless Chicken Thighs
1 Cup Sake
1 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Mirin
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

2 tsp finely grated ginger or paste
1/4 Cup Chopped Green Onion

Do you wish your restaurant made more money?

Ok, so that's a pretty obvious question. Of course you do. But, how? If you've read my profile, you know that I taught at the California Culinary Academy for almost five years. Most of that time I taught a class in Kitchen and Purchasing Math. It focused on food cost calculations, portioning math, and many other foodservice related formulas.

The thing I found most surprising was when I would speak to a former student about how their job was going at a particular restaurant, they would often say, "they dont use any of those formulas you taught us, the Chef just guesses at the amounts to order." They would tell me that new dishes were put on the menu without a complete food cost analysis first. They would tell me how there were no controls regarding postioning. Some Chefs, I was told didn't even know how to use an Excel spreadsheet to help with all this basic kitchen math!

Thankfully, any establishements that hired my students at least had one employee that knew how to breakdown these crucial numbers to find more profit.

So, I would say the simplest and fastest way to make more money is to improve your basic kitchen math and purchasing methods. I can help you do this. I have many spreadsheets and calculators already built and ready to punch in your numbers to see if we can improve things.

If you are located in the SF/Bay Area, I can consult in person. If not, this can also be done via the website. For a free consultation,
send me an email and we'll set up a meeting.

Link With Us - Web Directory
Chefs Blogs

Secret Underwater Pomegranate Trick

This is a short, but hopefully useful demo for how to remove all those pomegranate kernels without a big mess. These are great on fall/winter salads, soups, and desserts.