A friend of mine asked me if I liked sesame cookies and of course I said yes, because I adore sesame cookies. There are several different kinds out there and they all tend to be crisp and crunchy and full of that rich nutty goodness that is a sesame seed. As a kid I had to be coaxed into trying those brown sesame candies that are basically honey and sesame seeds bound together into one delicious bite. It took a while for the flavor to grow on me but once it did I was hooked. As I got older and began cooking I discovered the deep flavor of roasted sesame oil and how a few drops could make a huge difference in the flavor of a finished dish. As with many ingredients, I go through phases, using them often and then losing them to new passions and relegating the sesame seeds to the back of the shelf.
The very next day she brought me these cookies. They are Lebanese sesame cookies, with her own special twist, only slightly sweet, spicy, thin, crispy, and totally delicious. The spices were a surprise for me, reminding me vaguely of ras al hanout, and adding a haunting depth to the flavor to the cookies. She's promised me the recipe, though I'm still waiting, and in the meantime I've added making my own version of these cookies to my list of things to do. Seed cakes and cookies were very popular in Victorian times though have mostly fallen out of favor. I'm thinking it's time for a renaissance.
October 4, 2008
We finally made the leap to make brown butter sugar. We combine toasted milk solids with sugar and salt and then pulverized them in the blender. The resulting mixture has the consistency of powdered sugar with the toasty, nutty flavor of brown butter. We used it for the first time to coat doughnuts. That recipe can be found in our book Maximum Flavor.
Brown Butter Sugar
500 grams sugar
150 grams toasted milk solids
2 grams salt
Put the sugar, toasted milk solids, and salt in a blender and puree to a fine powder. Use immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature until you are ready to use it.
The cheese in this picture is straight out of the fridge. I had plans to take another picture once it was tempered but it was decimated before I could get to my camera. That's the sign of a good cheese. It was the Oma, from Von Trapp Farmstead, aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farms. It came in our cheese club shipment this month and we were so happy to see it. It's one of those cheeses that we love. It has a washed rind, and is softly chewy and melting on the palate, slightly pungent and stinky, with a creamy texture, and the flavor of sweet butter and warm spring days in a meadow. It's a perfect mouthful and what could be better than that?
June 6, 2005
June 4, 2005
Steve Stallard is a good friend of ours. We've bonded over our love of good food made possible by enhancing impeccable ingredients. Just yesterday he gifted us with these two bottles of his newest creations.
His latest offering begins with the incredible Yamamoto Soy Sauce. Then he applies innovation, experience and a deft hand of creativity. Steve has created BLiS barrel aged GMO free soy sauces. The sauce is first aged for one year in Japan (by Yamamoto). Then Steve got his hand on it aged some of the sauce another year, here in the States, in twenty year old maple syrup cured bourbon barrels. Pause for a second and wrap your brain around that. The second version, he smoked. It tastes smoke kissed and gently warmed.
He has crafted two distinguished soy sauces, one maple barrel aged and one smoked. They are both simply remarkable. You have no idea what you're missing. Heck, we had no idea what we were missing and we have smoked and barrel aged soy sauce before. Steve just does it way better. These soy sauces have an incredible richness and depth of flavor. When you taste a few drops, you can roll it around on your tongue, they are smooth and mellow, seasoned and full of mellow umami flavors. These are finishing soy sauces, if there is such a thing, meant to be added at the end of cooking so that their full flavors can shine through and complement the main ingredients.
May 15, 2005
Even when the cupboards are (mostly) bare we can still pull off something delicious. It's all in the pantry. Plan ahead and you will never go hungry.
March 13, 2009
There's nothing better than a chilly, fresh oyster on the half shell, preferably shucked by someone who knows what they're doing. The ones pictured above were Pemaquids shucked at Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, ME, where they know how to treat an oyster. In spite the array of condiments on offer, I chose to eat mine au naturel because a good oyster needs no accompaniment. They are chilly and briny, soft and sweet, they taste of the ocean, and they wake up all of my senses in ways I just can't explain. It's the kind of food that makes the world disappear for just a few seconds as you savor the flavors and textures on your tongue. We used to live and work out near Pemaquid Point so these oysters were a staple back in the day. Our oyster guy, Jeff, would deliver them to the back door of the restaurant and we always felt lucky to a have an easy supply of such goodness on hand. The ones I had last week were just as delicious as the ones I remember. It takes a long time to get comfortable in a new place. It's nice knowing there's somewhere (relatively) nearby where I can go to satisfy that particular craving.
January 8, 2005
Anyone who knows us knows that we love cheese. Most nights Alex would be perfectly content to eat cheese and salumi for dinner but, thankfully, we do have other people at the table to consider, so there is a usually a vegetable or two and some bread alongside the cheese and charcuterie. One of the great things about our new location is that I can order cheese from Jasper Hill Farm and, because we live in New England, it ships for free. Last fall when they sent out an email saying they were starting a cheese club and I could get a discount if I signed up immediately, it was a no-brainer. I signed up. It was just in time for some holiday entertaining.
It's a bitter cold day and I was feeling a little droopy. Then the doorbell rang and it was UPS with my cheese delivery. Such a cool surprise (though most people are probably more organized about receiving perishables), it made my day. Every package comes with three cheeses and some literature describing them. You never know exactly what will arrive but I always know it will be something good. It's the little things that make each special. Today my favorite thing is cheese.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. We've never met anyone from Jasper Hill and we will not receive anything if you order from them or sign up for the club. We just love their cheese.
January 7, 2009
January 7, 2007
In our youth we indulged in a few wine clubs. Though our budgets are tighter now, this means that when the occasion calls for it, we can pull out something pretty special. Good friends visiting our new home for the first time definitely calls for a great bottle of wine.
Instant ramen was probably one of the first things that I cooked for myself. As a kid, most of the things I learned to cook were for other people, making scrambled eggs for Mom or helping Aunt Marie cook dinner. Ramen noodles were something that I enjoyed and could cook for myself at an early age, even when I was home alone. I learned how to make them from my mom. We would buy them at the corner store. Then she would make them for lunch, always cracking an egg or two in the pot and slicing up a scallion to sprinkle over the top. It was one of the few things that she cooked and I quickly adapted it for my own.
Over the years I refined my technique. Choosing a favorite brand (which has recently disappeared much to my dismay) and figuring out the best way to cook them. I always add greens, baby kale or arugula or chopped romaine if that's all I have in the fridge. I add the vegetables when the noodles are about halfway cooked and then I add the seasoning, usually 2/3 of the seasoning packet(s). Finally I add an egg to the pot. The greens keep the egg from sinking to the bottom so the pot is easier to clean. I pull some noodles over the egg, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Then I let it sit for a minute or two. Finally I transfer the noodles to a bowl, being sure to be gentle so the not yet fully cooked yolk doeasn't break. It's important that the egg be completely covered with broth so it finishes cooking in the bowl. A sprinkle of finely sliced scallions is always a nice tough if you have them.
The first few bites are all about the noodles. If I've done a good job, they are light and springy, with a slightly sweet, wheaty flavor and a nice chew that is balanced by the sweet, silky texture of the greens. About halfway through I scoop out the egg with a spoon and cut it open. A perfectly cooked egg will have firm whites and a liquid, slightly viscous yolk. There's a little bit of magic in the way it washes across the noodles and doesn't quite emulsify into the salty broth. You can get a few bites out of each egg, savoring the way the flavors merge and separate in your mouth. When you get back to the noodles they have changed, softening and expanding in the soup. No longer springy, they are softer, though still pliant with a gentle chew. This works nicely because you're no longer ravenously hungry and the tender texture of the noodles is comforting against your tongue. It's a perfect lunch, easy, delicious, loaded with msg, and one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
The season has officially begun.
Get off your couch and into the kitchen!
Take your favorite pie crust recipe and add 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, a 1/2 teaspoon of finely ground fresh black pepper, and some chopped chives, if you have them.
Par bake the pie crust for 30 minutes at 350°F.
While the crust is in the oven slice heirloom tomatoes into bite-sized pieces so you have about 5 cups. Use a blend of sweet and tart fruit. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and put them in a colander set over a bowl to drain.
Grate 8 ounces of gruyere cheese. Thinly slice 4-5 large basil leaves.
Remove the crust from the oven, it should be just set and light golden brown.
Whisk 3 eggs with a 1/4 cup of mayo and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.
Spread half the tomatoes as evenly as you can in the bottom of the pie crust. Save the juices in the bowl under the colander.
Scatter 1/3 of the grated cheese over the tomatoes. Scatter the sliced basil over the cheese.
Spread the rest of the tomatoes evenly over the cheese layer.
Pour the egg mixture over the tomatoes.
Cover with the remaining cheese.
Bake at 325°F for 40-45 minutes, until the pie is cooked through and just set.
Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes.
Mix the tomato juices with some good olive oil and a little soy sauce and dress a salad (we like arugula) to serve alongside the tomato pie. Shave a little parm over the salad.
Slice the pie and serve with the salad alongside.
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that New Hampshire Community Seafood has a weekly seafood share with a pick-up in Concord, NH and promptly signed up to see what they would bring. Truly fresh seafood is hard to come by when you don't live on the coast and so having a weekly delivery of freshly caught fish seemed like a no-brainer. We've hesitated over farm CSA's tempted but unwilling to pull the trigger because in PA they mostly required us to drive somewhere out of the way once a week to pick up our stuff but Concord is 10-15 minutes from home and we go there on a regular basis for shopping and banking and whatnot, so picking up mid-day once a week seemed do-able. And to be fair, they make it easy. It's only an 8-week commitment, you can choose the amount of seafood that works for you (we got 2 pounds a week), and you get 2 free passes, so that if you know in advance you won't be able to get your delivery you can cancel it and get a refund for that week. They also send out a weekly newsletter telling you all about the fish you will be receiving so you can plan ahead for dinner. Win-win.
This week was Acadian Redfish, small skin-on fillets that had been scaled and cleaned for us. They warned that might be a few stray scales and pin bones, and there were, but they were easy to find and cut off with scissors or a small, sharp knife. Half the battle in cooking is knowing what to watch out for. These are not the famous blackened redfish of the South, down in the Gulf they fish for red drum. These small tender fillets reminded me a little bit of red mullet. Back in the day we used to frequent a Mexican joint in Damariscotta, ME that made fish tacos with fried redfish fillets so we were looking forward to playing with these. In fact tacos were the main recommendation for cooking these fish.
When we got the redfish back to our kitchen we gave it a 10 minutes soak in a 5% salt brine. This technique is in both of our books and we routinely use it with any fish we bring home. It rinses away any surface proteins and debris, slightly denatures the surface layer of the fish, and reduces the coagulation of albumen when you cook the fish. In layman's terms that means that the fish stays fresh a bit longer in the refrigerator and cooks up cleanly without a lot of white gunk on the surface of the meat. It also adds a bit of seasoning but we don't leave the fish in there long enough for it to become salty. After brining, we patted the fillets dry, and checked them for stray scales and bones. We left the cleaned fish on a towel on a sheet pan, covered them with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge until dinnertime.
We dredged the filets in potato starch and shallow fried them in rice bran oil. They curled lightly in the hot oil and came out lightly golden and crisp. The redfish fillets were juicy and rich, flaking easily as we bit through the crisp coating. They were like perfect little fish fingers and begged to be eaten out of hand right off the rack. Truth be told, a few disappeared before they ever made it to the table.
Alex wanted tacos and I wanted to focus on the fish so we prepared a meal that could go either way. There was a saute of green beans and swiss chard stems in a garlicky vinaigrette, guacamole, sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes, hot sauce and warm tortillas. Alex and Amaya happily built and devoured tacos while Bill and I ate fish and vegetables. And well, I made a mini-taco at the end. I just couldn't resist.
What do you think of when someone says "chocolate cake"? I tend to think of something like the picture above, layers of moist cake and rich frosting, chocolate on chocolate. (This beauty if from our upcoming gluten free cookbook, so sadly you'll have to wait for the recipe.) It's luscious and totally indulgent. I'm not really one for afternoon sweets because I hate the idea of ruining my dinner, but sometimes you just need some cake. Especially towards the end of the week, everyone is tired and ready for the weekend, but some afternoons you know there's still a significant amount of work to be done. So instead of pushing through when my brain is sluggish and I'm not at my best, I take a break. I set a timer so I know it's only a finite amount of time and then I take a quick nap or settle at the table with a slice of cake. It means I'll have to work a little bit later but in the end the work I do will be much better. A little indulgence goes a long way towards re-charging my mental batteries and this cake is so worth it.
June 13, 2008
I posted this picture of a "dumpling" on Twitter last weekend and it generated quite a response. Many people felt that the word dumpling implied something small and I'll admit I was surprised when they set a plates of these in front of me. Of course looking back at the menu later I realized that they were actually, "pot stickers," shrimp and leek pot stickers to be exact. Of course those much smaller dumplings you can see in the back of the picture are the pork pot stickers so you can understand how there could be some confusion.
Dumplings can be steamed, boiled or fried. Pot stickers are known as such specifically because of their cooking method. They are seared and then steamed in the saute pan so that they cook through. The steam evaporates and the bottoms are crisped again at the very end of the cooking. When properly made they have a tendency to stick the the pan, hence the name "pot sticker." In Chinese restaurants that differentiate between pot stickers and dumplings on the menu, anyone ordering a dumpling will likely receive them in a steamer basket.
In this case the size proved to be somewhat detrimental to the experience. The dumplings were stuffed full of a tasty mixture of tiny shrimp, Chinese leeks, and glass noodles. The downside was that they were very difficult to eat and to dip in the accompanying sauce. Perhaps if we had someone experienced in eating them at the table we could have figured out the trick but as it was we struggled. We enjoyed them but probably would not order them again. Size matters in cooking. Some dishes, like fried chicken, are deliberately designed to be messy and interactive and some things are better in one or two bites.
We've written about Epoisses de Bourgogne before. It's one of our favorite cheeses and every so often we just have to indulge ourselves. Today's specimen looked perfect, soft, creamy, and slightly elastic. It clung to the knife and our fingers and appeared to be everything you could want in a cheese.
Sadly as we sniffed and chewed we were hit by the insidious flavor and scent of ammonia. It slowly deepened as the cheese tempered and warmed up. Now many cheese mongers will try and tell you this isn't a flaw but is there anyone out there who actually enjoys that flavor? We ended up feeding our cheese to the bin. Life's to short to eat bad Epoisses. That said, cheese is a living thing, still fermenting, constantly ripening, and we know the risks when we buy it. One bad cheese may be a disappointment but it definitely won't stop us from buying it again. Finding that one great cheese is totally worth the gamble.
Alex will be teaching classes at EL Ideas in Chicago this Sunday January 19 and Monday January 20, 2014. The cost for each 2 1/2 hour class is $125 per person and if you sign up for multiple classes, each additional class is only $100. The collaborative dinner with chef Phillip Foss on Monday evening will be $185 per person.
The class schedule is as follows:
Sunday, January 19th
10:00-12:30pm: Gluten Free Baking
2:00-4:30pm: Sous Vide Cooking
Monday, January 20th
2:00-4:30pm: Liquid Nitrogen
Monday, January 20th
Collaborative dinner at EL Ideas
2419 W. 14th Street, Chicago, 60608
7:30pm- 10:30 pm
Space is limited, so email your request for any or all of the itinerary to email@example.com or call the reservations line at 312.226.8144
January 15, 2005
A delicate cheesecake is baked on top of a blueberry pie filling. It is topped with a crumbly sugary streusel. The buttery pie crust keeps everything together. Four key variables, endless opportunities.
I have a new favorite app for my phone. It's KitCam. I'm always looking for ways to improve the pictures I can take with my iphone and my biggest gripe has always been lack of white balance. In my search for adjustable white balance I also stumbled across an app that can increase and decrease the level of exposure, which is a beautiful thing. The photograph below was taken in dim lighting at a restaurant and you'd never know it. It can be a little slow to load and the white balance settings aren't perfect but the pros far outweigh the cons and I can honestly say that KitCam is one of the best apps on my phone. So if you like to take pictures with your ipad or phone definitely go check it out. Totally worth the $2 investment.
We've decided to try an experiment. A casual dinner, centered around pasta, at least 4 courses, $50 per person, BYOB (we'll provide the glassware and the H2O). It's not a catered event, it's a communal one. We love to make pasta and our pasta machine makes much too much for us to eat on our own. So why not open up the table? There are 10 seats and some nights we may occupy a few of them ourselves. Payment will be required in advance, via PayPal, to secure your seat. Doors open at 6pm, dinner is at 7pm, there will be nibbles and prep as we get ready for supper. You are welcome to roll up your sleeves or sit back and relax as the mood strikes you. Attendees to the first night will get 24-hour advance notice for the next shindig before we open it up to the public at large. Your seat will be yours for as long as you continue to reserve it. These meals will be about good food and good company. First dinner this Friday, April 13, as it happens. Reservations will be taken on a first come, first serve basis and the house is in Levittown, PA reachable via Septa's West Trenton line from Philly. Email us through Ideas in Food and we'll let you know if there's a seat at the table.
This friday we are cooking dinner with the team at elements in Princeton, NJ. In order to "plan" the meal we met several weeks ago to go over dishes and ideas. We started with a blank piece of paper and filled in the voids quickly. What came out of that meeting was a reflection on dishes we were working on and dishes we felt would work well for the dinner. Fast forward to today. It was now crunch time to get in ingredients and really refine what we would cook. Scott pulled out the sheet of paper with the menu script and we started talking about the dishes. In the time which had passed we had cooked, eaten, refined and put those original dishes to rest. I looked at him and said, "that was last week." Everyone at the table rolled there eyes and pushed through my ADD. So we begin again, with some evolutions from our notes, plenty of inspiration from the ingredients and excitement with the refinement and necessary focus on the dinner, October 14, 2011. See you there to eat these 7ish courses.
(subjet to change)
abalone, oyster, scallop
Radish Parts and Pieces
black garlic, weakfish, sour honey
Shaved Bonito Puttanesca
broccoli rabe salsa verde, macadamia nuts
consomme, yogurt, cobia
Lobster mushroom Curry
red pepper-crustacean broth, pandan leaf, bamboo rice
Big wagon Wheel
cuttlefish, onion juice, aged pecorino
glass of wine, dry aged jus, crispy carrots
Leg of Pork
smoked oyster vinaigrette, paw paw, charred allium
Sunchoke & Asian Pear
glazed, roasted, ice cream
There are afternoons when I simply crave chocolate covered pretzels. This is not a recipe post. I buy my pretzels, thank you very much, because on the days when I crave chocolate covered pretzels I am definitely not in the right state of mind to deal with tempering chocolate. I don't even care if the pretzels I buy are no longer perfectly tempered because it was 90+ degrees in the car on the ride home and they melted a little and stuck together. What matters is that the pretzels are fresh, salted and thickly coated in quality milk chocolate.
It's important to find a moment alone to enjoy them. My husband and daughter are the lights of my life but I am one of those people who appreciates a little bit of solitude, and not just when I'm working. I find that a little time to myself recharges the batteries. It's hard to come by these days and I've adjusted to embracing those moments wherever I can find them, usually when the two of them are playing in the backyard. Hearing them enjoy themselves frees me to do the same. Although there is a laundry list of work projects, emails and other miscellanea that require my attention I ignore them. It's not easy, as my conscience nags quietly in the background. but I persevere. Arranging a couple of pretzels on a pretty plate and taking them off to a quiet spot to enjoy, I consciously force myself to relax.
Why do I love chocolate covered pretzels? That first bite explains everything. Teeth sinking through the creamy chocolate and encountering the sudden salty crunch of pretzel. It shatters against my teeth, crunchy and crumbly before melting into a velvet wash of chocolate bliss. Because of the shape of the pretzels and the random scattering of salt, every bite is different. It lets you focus on the experience and enjoy each different, fleeting sensation. And before you know it the pretzel is gone. I rarely get to finish two, there are interruptions, I get full or distracted. But that first pretzel is delicious. It's a few moments stolen in time that are all about me. A small luxury that is easily attainable when I really need it to be.
When we were in Cambridge, Tony prepared half a pig's head for us as the incredible conclusion of our dinner at Craigie on Main. We had seen these heads prepared during the day and strongly hinted that it would be nice to taste one if we were to sit down for dinner. Tony obliged us and the concept of the pig's head has been a daily topic of conversation since our time in his kitchen. Tony shared his Peking Pig's Head story, (damn him for grabbing that brilliant idea, and Cambridge locals should stay tuned for his evolutions at Craigie.) His juxtaposition inspired a rush of ideas and when we returned home we started cooking.
Joe at Elements was able to source a medium sized head for us. We cut it in half and brined it in our onion soup brine for a few days. After that we cooked it sous vide for 18 hours at 83°C and then cooled it down. Once is was cold we roasted it at 425°F for an hour and half. Tony uses slightly smaller heads so his numbers may be slightly different from ours. Our head was deliciously crispy and crackling with meltingly tender meat that we foraged happily from the nooks and crannies of the skull. We served it Greek-style with a spicy tzatziki sauce, sliced tomatoes, Greek style chopped kimchi, and warm pita bread. Next time it could be Ssam style a la David Chang, taco style with corn tortillas, pico de gallo and guacamole, or in the style of VIetnamese egg rolls with sweet fish sauce, cold noodles and lettuce wraps. We are only limited by our imaginations.
Craigie on Main
Ideas in Food
Celebrity Chefs Tour Dinner
Thursday, July 29, 2010
house-made sobrasada, creamy eggplant purèe
rillettes of house-smoked bluefish, paddlefish caviar
truffled potato fritter, cubanelle pepper crème
mozzarella noodles, tomato, basil, smoked capers
Sashimi of Dayboat Sea Scallop
“Bulles” Touraine Brut Jean-François Merieau
Fifteen-Herb Cured Striped Bass
lardo, zucchini, red turnips
2008 Grüner Veltliner Kremser Freiheit Nigl
Miso and Sake-Lees Marinated Line-Caught Swordfish
summer lobster succotash
2008 Jasnières “Prémices” Domaine de Bellivière
foie gras, nectarines, chanterelles
2009 Bandol Rosé Domaine de Terrebrune
Slow-Roasted Elysian Fields Lamb Neck
cucumber-cherry-poblano salsa, torpedo onion, sheep’s milk ricotta dumpling
2006 Barbaresco “Torre” Produttori del Barbaresco
Spice-Crusted Skirt Steak
hon shimeji mushrooms, pea tendrils, snail-farro ravioli
2007 Vin de Pays de Gard “Cuvée Counoise” Domaine Monpertuis
Leonora Goat’s Milk Cheese (León, Spain)
fennel, Maine blueberries, pine nuts
Local Corn Tart
blackberries, lemon-verbena ice cream
2008 Muscat Mas Amiel
*not enough time to get pictures of all the dishes, if anyone else has some we would be happy to share them.
We are cooking two dinners this week in our workshop space. They will feature summers bounty using a few of our favorite ideas to shape the dishes. Each dinner has 10 seats because that's the size of our table. The dinners are going to be this Thursday July 15, and Friday July 16. The dinners begin at 7 PM. To book a reservation please email us through the website, requesting which day is desired and the number of seats requested. If you have any allergies or food aversions please put these let us know at the time of reservation so we may make arrangements. We will then send you a link to the reservation page where you will be able to book your prepaid reservation. As our space is small dinner reservations are non-refundable.
The menu will be be finalized each day, some variations may exist based on what we find, want to cook and are inspired by. The cost per person is $125. The menu will be at least 7 courses. This is a BYOB event. Guests bring what they want to drink and share amongst each other. This way great wines and great people get to experience more.
a few guarantees for the night:
Malloredus Pasta, Shrimp Sausage
Raw and Cooked Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh Creamed Corn, Black Truffle Butter
Hope to meet you there...
*Reservations for these dinners are now closed.
Our upcoming James Beard dinner at Craigie on Main is sold out, but we are holding a few workshops there early in the week. Each class has 40 seats. Reservations can be made via Craigie on Main and a credit card number is required to secure a spot. Here's what we're offering, hope to see you there...
Ideas in Food at Craigie on Main Cooking Classes
An Introduction to Hydrocolloids
Monday, July 26, 2010 9:00am-12:00pm
$100 per person
For culinary purposes hydrocolloids are important because at very small concentrations they act as thickeners and stabilizers, which can positively affect the textures, flavors and presentation of food. We use them to enhance great ingredients and create better dishes. In order to make them work for you, a little understanding goes a long way to creating great food in your own kitchens. This class will explore the use and understanding of xanthan gum, agar, locust bean gum and carrageenan for thickening liquids, making consommés and creating custard-like textures that taste great and look beautiful.
Monday, July 26, 2010 1:00pm-4:00pm
$100 per person
Liquid nitrogen is fast becoming a staple in restaurant kitchens. This class will discuss the functionality of using it as a tool in your kitchen, covering safety issues and demonstrating the following techniques to get you started:
Olive Membrillo Crumbs
Finely Ground Spice Blends
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 9:00am-12:00pm
$100 per person
Activa is a proprietary brand of transglutaminase, an enzyme which allows for the cross linking of proteins. We will be discussing and demonstrating the use of Activa RM, Activa Y-G, Activa TI and Activa GS and how they can improve texture and flavor while increasing efficiency in a restaurant setting. Each one has different properties and understanding how they work will help you use them to your best advantage, whether you use them as a binder in low fat or other non-traditional charcuterie, to make noodles or pasta sheets out of cheese, shrimp or tofu, or simply for beautiful, twine-free meat and fish fabrication.
I had a great time working with Chris and his team in the kitchen at noca the other evening. We were able to put out some fun dishes which worked really well with the cocktails of Jim Romdall of Vessel in Seattle. Jim and I have been teaching a class together marrying cocktails with modern cooking techniques applied to desserts and so it was fun to change things up and do it on the savory front. These are the dishes, and yes there is one dessert a take on my summertime breakfast, cornflakes and berries.
Chef’s Bar Bites
with Ideas in Food
Thursday July 1, 2010
Hot Spring Egg
Crispy Potato Gnocchi, noca Guanciale
Confit Chicken Wings
Indian Spiced Watermelon, Pickled Rind, BBQ Sauce
Clams Casino Agnolotti
Arugula, Lemon, Vermouth
Miso Marinated Rib Eye Cap
Dr. Pepper Carrots, Charred Scallions
Cornflakes and Berries
Cocktails by Jim Romdall $12
Kiss Me Kate
Bourbon, Ramazzotti Amaro, Cinnamon, Flamed Orange Garnish
Cucumber Lime Swizzle
Martin Millers Gin , Lillet Blanc, St. Germain, Lime, Cucumber, Soda
Partida Blanco Tequila, Lime, Grapefruit, Rosemary, Soda
Rye 1 Whiskey, Bitters, Absinthe
Corpse Reviver #2
Martin Millers Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, Lemon, Absinthe
We are really excited to be cooking with our friend Tony Maws again. On July 29, 2010 we will be cooking a collaborative dinner at his restaurant Craigie on Main, in Cambridge Massachusetts. We will also be arriving to Cambridge that Sunday July 25 to begin preparing for the dinner and teaching four workshops (to be detailed later) which will be held at Craigie on Main on Monday the 26th and Tuesday the 27th during the day.
Here's the info from COM's press release:
Save The Date!
Craigie On Main’s Chef Tony Maws—Together with Ideas in Food’s Chefs Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot—To Host
Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner Benefiting the James Beard Foundation
The Celebrity Chef Tour benefiting the James Beard Foundation is coming to Cambridge on Thursday, July 29, 2010, for a night of culinary celebration. Two-time James Beard Nominee for Best Chef Northeast (2009, 2010) Tony Maws of Craigie On Main will cook an eight-course meal with IdeasInFood.com husband-and-wife dynamos Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot.
Chef Maws’ signature “refined rusticity” will be paired with the modern culinary prowess of Chefs Kamozawa and Talbot in a fun and spectacular dining event. The full menu is currently being developed, but you can be sure of courses by the Craigie On Main team and the Ideas In Food team individually, as well as special courses concocted by Tony, Alex and Aki together. The night’s dinner will be paired with a variety of libations from Maws’ hand-selected wines to Craigie’s infamous cocktails and local brews.
A portion of the evening’s proceeds will go to the James Beard Foundation educational programs, which include continuing education classes, guided tastings, readings, conferences, children's programs, scholarship opportunities for aspiring culinary students, and volunteer opportunities for current culinary students. To date the celebrity chef tour has raised of 850k for the James Beard Foundation.
Craigie On Main is located at 853 Main St., in Cambridge, MA. The Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 29, 2010. Tickets are $150 per person, (inclusive of wine pairings, tax, and gratuity) and can be reserved by calling Jeff Black at 720.201.1853 or by visiting http://www.celebritycheftour.com.
We were given two beautiful halibut collars by our local fish guy. Our marinade is a hybrid blending yogurt with miso with siracha with honey. The collars are grilled on the skin side and then served with leaves of chervil and a puree of basil. The flavors flirt with seasons and styles not really present: summer and India. That is alright. The meat is dense, rich, smooth and unctuous. The herbs are bright, aromatic, refreshing, clean and inviting. The dish requires involvement. This is hands on eating, a great way to spend an evening.
We are extremely excited to be cooking a guest chef dinner on November 2, at Blackfish Restaurant with Chip Roman and his team. The dinner will be roughly seven courses long. The price is $85 per person. To further challenge our norm, Aki and I have already designed the menu and are excited to bring these dishes to welcoming palates. That is not to say a change or two may not happen. We hope to see you there.
Smoked Pumpkin Ice Cream
wild char roe, cranberry, brittle walnuts
Potato Chip Soup
black fish tempura, tartar sauce
Bacon and Bay Scallop Risotto
gala apples, cheddar, jalapeno
Grouper en Brodo
sausage and chestnut tortellini, buttermilk biscuit broth
Veal Cheek Bourguignon
onion soup mashed potatoes
Powdered Brie de Meaux
white chocolate sheets, bourbon cherries, pistachio gremolata
Dinner will be served at 7:00 pm. The meal will be held in our workshop space in Levittown, PA. Guests are welcome to arrive a bit early to check out the space and the preparations. There are twelve seats available. The cost of the dinner is $150 per person, BYOB. Any dietary issues must be noted at the time of your reservation. Email us via the blog or the website if you would like to reserve space.
It is with great pleasure that we can announce the third dinner in our series of collaborations with Shola. It, being the third, brings even more substance because it will be held in our workshop space. What this means is that Aki will not just be consulting or sending along components from our kitchen, she will bring a hands on approach to the menu, the food and the execution of the dishes. It is only appropriate that the third dinner has all three of us.
Friday October 2nd
Saturday October 3rd
The location will be our workshop in Levittown, PA.
30 minutes from Downtown Philadelphia.
Cost is $150 per person. BYOB
Dinner begins promptly at 7:30. Guests are welcome to arrive earlier.
Email your requested interest in reserving a seat(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nothing beats eating in the kitchen. The folks at Elements know this and have made the kitchen table available for the Mangalista dinner for ten lucky diners. Since the entire restaurant is communal seating for this event, this table will allow a group to wallow in all good things pig while watching the action behind the scenes. You never know what will happen when the fat hits the fire.
Which is good to know because we are cooking an incredible dinner with the team at restaurant Elements, in Princeton, NJ on August 10, 2009. The dinner will feature both cured and fresh Mangalista pig. The dinner will also blend communal dining and family style dishes with a tasting menu and an exploration of be all that it can be can be pig. The Mangalista is renowned for its fat. We will certainly play to its strength while looking at what is possible beyond the rich decadence which is its main attraction. A number of cured preparations are already in development, interpret that as aging, a necessary step for maximum flavor.
Some ideas in the works at our end: blood sausage and corn soup, sweet and sour pork consomme en gelee with lardo and raw fish, pork and clams (duh!), sausage and peppers (again duh!), pasta...of course, powdered lardo, bacon oh bacon, prosciutto ice cream with Sardinian chestnut honey and a fig financier, pig ear confit with gremolata, green eggs and ham, cracklings in the style of Cracker Jacks (a la Aki), and who knows what Scott and Joe are bringing to the table...it will be a night to remember, for us and the pigs.
The dates have been selected. With them being etched in stone the process begins again. We are now in the creative planning stages for the second installment of creativity in the kitchen with Shola, on July 10 and 11. The details are eloquently described here. As the ingredients continue to flourish in the farms and gardens around us, the ideas are being tested and tweaked.
Think of it as an opportunity, the Kindai dinner at Elements Restaurant is almost full. Because of this they have opened up the communal table, fourteen seats, on the second floor of the restaurant. It's a chance to try some amazing seafood and meet some new, like-minded people at the same time. Communal tables are interesting in that their atmosphere is characterized by the patrons dining there. If everyone is lively and open to conversation it can become an inpromptu dinner party. The dinner opens with a casual cocktail hour with passed hors d'oevres and then everyone dines at the same time. This is conducive to the fostering of relationships at the table and the opportunity to chat with your neighbor about the food and anything else that comes to mind. If you're the adventurous sort this type of dining could make for an evening to remember. Of course we'll all do our best to make sure that the dining experience will be something to remember all by itself, and if you're willing to try something new you may end up with some new friends as well.
On November first we are doing a collaborative dinner with Mike and Daniel from A Razor, a Shiny Knife. What we know: the venue is in Brooklyn, there are some hands on learning opportunities (no not dish washing), we are cooking, food will be served, wine is included, the cost is $200 per person all in. For more information about the specifics please email Michael: email@example.com to get the in depth specifics if you are interested in attending and please put Ideas in Food in the subject line.
See you there.
For an eight year old I was tiny. Walking in the front door of the Palm, at the time a venerable New York institution, I was immediately struck by the tight space and the casual atmosphere. The dusty wooden floor, dim lighting and cacophonous conversations immediately transported me to another world. I leaned into my aunt’s coat for protection as servers brusquely marched by with platters of food and trays of beverages while my uncle negotiated for a table. We followed the host down a narrow aisle to a table set for three in the downstairs seating area. I settled into my chair, taking in the various strange cartoons on the walls and the myriad display of glamorous and important looking patrons seated at the other tables.
I had waited a long time to go to the Palm. It was a family favorite, the restaurant that the adults went to with out of town guests and to celebrate special occasions. Growing up I was regaled with tales of raucous evenings spent over enormous lobsters and thick steaks. It was promised to me that one day, when I was old enough, I’d be allowed to experience it for myself. It was decided that I would go there for my eighth birthday. This was the beginning of a tradition that lasted well into my teenage years. In those days the Palm was still an icon of the New York restaurant scene. It was known for its clubby atmosphere, caricatured walls, and the generous coating of sawdust on the floors. The noise levels were tremendous and the waiters were older, crusty, career men, with no time for chit-chat and no patience for pretension. The owners had recently opened a second location, the Palm Too, across the street to handle the overflow. Unlike the original, the Palm Too took reservations. This was supposed to make it easier for people to get in. In spite of their reservation policy, or perhaps because of it, it was clearly preferable to eat in the original location.
At the table, martinis were the order of the day, preferably dry and straight up, made with vodka and olives. In those days bottled water meant Perrier, wine lists were mostly French, and Heineken was considered a fancy beer, That particular evening a Shirley Temple was my libation of choice. It’s layered effect and cherry garnish always made me feel elegant and grown up in ways that plain Coca Cola never could. I felt stylish and sophisticated as I slowly sipped my drink, absently listening to my Aunt and Uncle discussing their dinner choices as I contemplated the room.
I already knew that there were no menus at the Palm. This made it easy to pick out the tourists, as they were only ones to ask for them. Those who belonged were aware of this quirk and casually discussed their selections with the waiters. In my case there was no need for discussion. I couldn’t wait to order my very first lobster, a specialty of the house. The Palm was known for extra large lobsters ranging in size from three pounds to six or seven pounds each. At that time it was much easier to get large lobsters than it is now. Some people would argue that the big ones are tougher and less delicious than the smaller specimens. Those people would be wrong. Properly cooked, large lobsters are delectable and much less work for far more meat than the little ones. They are dramatic in presentation and in my opinion, much more fun to eat. As my Aunt and Uncle discussed our choices with the waiter, the man looked skeptical at my choice. The smallest lobster that evening was three pounds and he felt strongly that it would be far too much for such a small child. I bounced slightly in my seat in an agony of apprehension. Was I going to miss out on my lobster? It was with a sigh of relief that I heard my Aunt gently but firmly disagree with him and insist that I be given the smallest lobster they had. The waiter huffed a bit at her tenacity and then grumpily withdrew.
It wasn’t long before my shrimp cocktail arrived. The fat, chilled shrimp with their tangy, spicy sauce were a special treat. I loved squeezing on the lemon and delicately dipping each bite in just the right amount of cocktail sauce. I tasted my Uncle’s tomato salad, which seemed more beautiful than flavorful. My Aunt offered me a taste of her salad with blue cheese dressing. There were cool, crisp leaves of lettuce, creamy, salty dressing, and sharp onions. I was instantly converted. Blue cheese dressing was my new favorite flavor.
There is a certain amount of pomp and circumstance that goes along with eating lobster. After the first course was cleared the waiter arrived with crackers, shellfish forks, lemon halves tied in yellow, porous wrapping with a little green bow, and small wooden bowls to catch the empty shells. He presented my aunt and me with white bibs emblazoned with large red lobsters, solemnly tying them on behind our necks. After he left we arranged our equipment and my Uncle explained how to use the crackers and forks.
Next the cottage fries and onion rings were brought to the table on a large platter. The onions were crisp and light, with a deep golden brown coating. They seemed to melt in my mouth leaving behind a sweet onion flavor. The cottage fries were a revelation. They looked like super thick potato chips and somehow managed to be crunchy, chewy and tender all at once. Each salty bite had me reaching for another. My Uncle warned me not to eat too many. My lobster was coming and it was going to be a big one.
Fortunately our entrees soon appeared. To my eyes the lobsters were utterly beautiful, enormous, bright red crustaceans. The edges of the shells were slightly singed from the broiler, with snowy white interiors, huge dangerous looking claws, small side legs, long tails which were split down the middle with three little flaps fanned out at their ends, and various nooks and crannies to play with. My eyes were like saucers as I admired the exotic looking creature. Then I picked up my tools and dove right in.
I began with the claws. The cartilage in the smaller piece and at the tip near the pincers was soft, silky and very salty. I quickly moved to the plump portion that makes up the majority of the claw. The meat was finely textured and juicy, shredding easily beneath my fingers. It tasted of the essence of the ocean, sweet and briny with a little chew to it. I was encouraged to dip the white flesh into the small bowl of melted butter that had arrived with the platter. I tried it once and then scoffed at its needless embellishment. I firmly placed the ramekin of butter to the side and got back to business. It was serious work tearing the beast apart and nudging out each succulent bite. The tail had a completely different texture from the claws. It was meatier and less salty. Once removed from the shell it required a fork and knife to cut it into manageable pieces. For quite some time I was focused on the challenge of taking apart my lobster. Watching the meat pull gently free of its hiding place was indescribable. Every bite tasted sweeter for the effort that had gone into extracting it. The table was an oasis of quiet as we all enjoyed our dinners. The only part of the beast that I didn’t appreciate was the innards. My Aunt easily ignored hers and I followed suit, leaving them untouched in the shell. I ate as much of the succulent lobster meat as I could, savoring every bite. Once I was done, my uncle happily consumed what was left, having cannily ordered a steak for his own entree.
After clearing away the carnage, the waiter offered us dessert. At that age I was famous for always keeping a separate compartment in my stomach for sweets. That night was no exception and I carefully pondered my choices. I finally settled upon the fresh strawberries with whipped cream, since I knew that I could count on my Aunt to order the chocolate cake and to give me a taste. When my berries arrived they were garnished with real whipped cream. It was like eating clouds. Every delicately sweetened bite was impossibly thick and still light against my tongue. It was nothing like the stuff from an aerosol can that garnished my hot chocolate at home. It being winter, the strawberries were a bit tough and flavorless. I still happily scarfed them down as a vehicle for the whipped cream. The memory of the chocolate cake escapes me, happily eclipsed by the sweet cream.
The story of my first lobster has grown into legend, told and retold at the various family tables, usually at summer gatherings where we indulge in the delectable crustaceans. Personally I still prefer to eat my lobster unadorned, in order to focus on it's inherent sweet flavor, redolent of sharp, salty ocean breezes. These days I know that lobster is at its best when shared with people who love it as much as I do. As we excavate the shells and crack the claws, the camaraderie of the experience always evokes images of days gone by and tales of lobsters consumed.
You may recall that we cooked a private dinner for New Years eve. An in depth recount and pictorial of the evening can be found at Opinionated About Dining. Cooking dinners like these is truly a pleasure. Getting honest feedback on the evening is even more important for it allows us tweak, adjust and fine tune to specific wants, needs and desires. It allows us to be able to come closer to our vision of bespoke dining. Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve, though along the way great discoveries and improvements may be made.
For those who are wondering how the food actually tastes, John wrote up last weekend's experience from a diner's perspective over on eGullet. He's a very honest and engaging writer and we appreciate both the feedback and the perspective. Now that we are better acquainted with his palate, the next dinner, whenever it may be, will be even better. Part of the fun is building relationships with your diners. Knowing who you're cooking for makes everything that much better.
to join us for a small dinner party on Friday, September 21. As a thank you to the readers of our blog we'd like to invite three of you to bring a guest to dinner at our home in Queens that evening. Unfortunately this limits us to people who will actually be in the New York area and be able to attend on that date. We'll be serving a five course menu of our latest creations and we'd love the opportunity to meet some of you in person. In order to be eligible for this dinner, please send us an email with the subject line "dinner party" or leave a comment below with a link to or description of your favorite under the radar food website, restaurant or cookbook. The contest will close at midnight EST on Thursday, September 13, 2007. Three people will be chosen randomly from the entrants received and will be invited to join us for an evening of food, wine and ideas in food.
The winners will be contacted on Friday, September 14, 2007.
This contest is now closed. Our invitees are Sokie Lee, Arun Gupta, and Christopher Scott. Thank you so much to everyone that entered the drawing! The response was wonderful and we really appreciate all of the warm notes that we received. Thanks to your generosity we discovered many new websites and hidden gems from your responses. We'll you know how the party turns out & we'll definitely do this again one day.
Here is a link to Chuck's new website chuckeats.com . Chuck managed to make the trek out to Keyah Grande twice during our last months there. He has also traveled to a few other restaurants and shared his opinion on his new website. Anyway, if you want to see our last long menu cooked or see the food of a number of other chefs, check it out.
There are a lot of restaurants in New York that treat all wine purchases in the same manner. Whether you buy it by the bottle or by the glass, you are presented with the bottle, offered a taste and then poured a glass. It's a wonderful thing to know that you are being served what you asked for and to be able to check the quality of your libation before making a commitment. I am rarely presented a bottle that is less than half-full. It's something that struck me as we struggled with the wine service in Colorado. The reason for our struggle is that it's illegal to marry bottles of liquor in that state. What that means is that you cannot pour from one open bottle into another open bottle regardless of whether or not the contents are the same. So either you present a miserly looking bottle and run the risk of occasionally running out of wine before the glass is full, or you must find a use for all of that perfectly good wine that is left in the bottles that are not full enough to take to the tables. Apparently this is not in the case in New York. In a very high end restaurant in the city, bottles were married in the service station in plain view of the diners, if they chose to look. Oddly the same funnel was used for all bottles with no pretense of rinsing it between different wines. Now this may seem like a small omission, how much contamination would actually occur? But if you consider the fact that they go to the trouble of presenting each bottle of wine, how much more difficult would it be to rinse the funnel between wines or even have separate funnels for each varietal? It's always interesting to see where people draw their lines in the sand and what constitutes an acceptable practice in any given restaurant.