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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Good and Bad of Food on TV

Well the food network and other food broadcasting television shows have definetely spread food culture across America in god and bad ways. Will start with the good.....
Top Chef is great. The viewers get to see some very high skilled professionals cook great food. Season 6 of Top Chef was insanely good and entertaining. The Voltaggio's along with Jenifer Carrol, Kevin Gillespie, and Eli were all extremely talnted chefs. Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations is great. Also, Iron chef America and The Next Iron Chef are great shows where chefs very talented chefs compete against each other.

The Bad...
Semi Home Made. This could probably the worst. She uses canned fruits and vegetables, as well as pre chopped vegdetables. Just cut it your self!!!!
Hell's Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay is an amazing chef, but the show stars cooks that are as talented as my baby sister. The contestants cant cook and it shows American public a bad image of chefs. Not all kitchens are hectic like that, they shouldn't. For example, in Thomas Keller or Eric Ripert's restaurant there is absolutely no yelling and their is a high level of respect for everyone. Recently Eric Ripert had some comments about Hell's Kitchen on his Twitter saying he hated the show.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dish Idea

I was just thinking and came to the assumtion that Scallops would pare great with crispy chicken skin. Imagine having a seared scallop that is light, luscious, salty, and sweat paired with extremely savory, crispy, and smoky chicken skin. A sauce might consist of a sea urchin beurre blanc which would add a nice "sea" flavor and a luscious texture. I personaly think that dish would be extremely delcious. Whenever I get the oppurtunity to make it I will say how the flavors work together.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Top Chef Season 8

With all of the rumors going around about the next season of Top Chef being Top Chef Allstars here are the people I believe should be on the show, they are the most talented in my opinion. here are the rumors

Michael Voltaggio
Bryan Voltaggio
Kevin Gillespie
Jennifer Carrol
Richard Blais
Harold Dieterle
Kevin Sbraga
Angelo Sosa
Ed Cotton
Mike Isabella
Stephanie Izard
Kelly Liken
Tiffany Derrt
Kenny Gilbert
Eli Kirshtien
Marcel Vigneron
Sam Talbot

Who do you think should be on the show?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bocuse D'or USA

A while back I went to the Bocuse D'or USA in Hyde PArk NY at the CIA. I almost didnt go because I had to much homework, but I was SSOOOO happy I went. I was so excited to go and meet all of these amazing chefs. When I got their I was in bliss I could not beieve I was within of twenty feet from Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, an so on. All of the platters were incredibly beautiful and looked very tasty (I wish I could have been a judge). When there was a break in the competition the judges and competitors went into a VIP room. I was able to sneak into that Vip Room and have a conversation with Tim Hollingsworth, Gavin Kaysen, and Hung from Top Chef. I asked Gavin how the chefs of Top Chef Season 6 did with their own mini Bocuse D'or and he said that they did a great job, I still could not believe I was talking to these group of chefs. I got my picture taken with Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Grant Achatz, and Jerome Bocuse. I asked Thomas Keller for advice on how a young culinarian should strive for success, and he said that I should never give up. Thomas himself never gave up, he failed at Rakel, but then triumphed at the French Laundry later in his life. I left the Bocuse D'or with Knives At Dawn, a book about the Bocuse D'or, signed by every chef on the council plus the winner James Kent of Eleven Madison Park. James Kent said that I was his first person to give an autograph to. Maybe he will remember me when he wins the whole thing in Lyon!! All and all this was an amazing experience and I wish I can go to Lyon in January for the internation competition.

My Best ShortRibs

My grandparents were coming over so they always like when I cook for them. So I was cooking for my grandparents and family, so it was 8 people. I knew I wanted to make short Ribs. I was inspired from Angelo Sosa's winning dish on Top Chef on the episode before the finally. His dish was Ginger LAquered Short Ribs. For the Short Ribs (bone in) I dusted them with flour, salt, and pepper, and seared them in a dutch oven in batches. Next I cooked down onions, shallots, garlic, and carrot in the beef fat. Then I added soy sauce, woustechire sauce, homemade beef stock, siracha, fresh orange and lemon juice, ginger, and corriander. I put the seared short ribs back in a and put the lid on the Dutch Oven. 275 Degrees for 3 hours. When they were done I deboned then and strained the braising liquid. Then I chilled the braising liquid and skimmed the fat off. I added the clarified braising liquid to a pan and reduced it. Then I glazed the short ribs with the glaze. Finally I added fresh cilantro and dill that elevated the dish to a whole new level. I plated the dish with shaved radishes, eggplant puree, and roasted bone marrow. It was extremely delicious. Everyone loved it.

How To Make The Perfect French Fry

How to Make the Perfect French Fries
                                    When choosing the type of potato to make the perfect French fries there were certain factors that had to be looked at. First, the percent of dry matter (starch) and the percent of water that was in the potato. Also, the sugar content played a role into the decision of what type of potato to use. The average percentage of starch to water in a potato is 17 % starch to 78 % water. The other 5 % of the potato is irrelevant to making French fries. Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck discovered that to make the perfect French fry the percent of starch would be 22.5% of the potato. If the potato had more than 22.5 % starch it had a tough, leathery exterior when fried and if the potato had less than 22.5 % starch the potato tasted bland and did not crisp up well. The potatoes that were consistently closest to this percentage were the Maris Piper and the Arron Victory potato. Some other potatoes that are good for French fries are Russet potatoes, Idaho potatoes, King Edward potatoes, and Sante potatoes. If there is too much sugar content in the potato it prevents the fries from crisping. The extra sugar makes the potatoes brown before they crisp so if you wanted to have crisp potatoes you would have to “burn” them if the potato had high sugar contents. The sugar content in the potato increases after the potato has been harvested or if the potato is kept in a chill place like a refrigerator. To make sure that your potato does not have a high sugar content either get potatoes that have just been harvested and that have not been sitting in a factory garage for months or you can get potatoes that were frozen the day they were harvested (I do not know if they have these). Potatoes are typically harvested in September, so that would be the prime time to use the very fresh potatoes.
                                    When choosing the fat in which you want to fry you potatoes there are a few things to consider. What is the smoke rate of the fat? Does the fat impart any pleasant or unpleasant flavors? Do you want the potato to not get any flavor from the fat at all? A high smoke rate for frying is key because if the smoke rate of the fat is below 400 degrees the fat will break down and cause the fries to taste burnt and fishy. Some oils that have high smoke rates are canola (486 degrees), peanut (448 degrees), safflower (509 degrees), and beef tallow (420 degrees), and horse tallow (475 degrees). Horse tallow is used by Alain Passard, owner of L’Arpege, to make his French fries. In America I believe a lot of people would consider using horse tallow unethical. Beef Tallow gives a great flavor to fries that can only be matched by horse tallow. Also let’s say you had extra duck fat around you can use that to make fries, but duck fat would impart a good flavor, but that might not be wanted in the end result of the French fries. Oils like canola, safflower, and peanut do not give of much flavor because they usually have Vitamin E. Vitamin E prohibits the transfer of flavors between the oils and the potatoes being fried. There is no best fat for frying, but if you want your fries to have an extraordinary flavor that most fries don’t have use beef tallow. McDonalds was using beef tallow in America up to 1983 for their fries, but McDonalds stopped using it because people did not like how the fries were so unhealthy. If you want fries with neutral flavor use canola oil, safflower oil, our peanut oil. Just make sure whatever fat you are using that it is very clean.
                                    I think everyone agrees that perfect fries are crisp on the outside and fluffy and tender on the inside. To achieve this there are numerous steps that need to be made. When cutting the potato for French fries the knife you are using or whatever you are using to cut your potatoes has to be extremely sharp. If the knife is not extremely sharp when it cuts through the potato it creates a rigid cut (whenever you have a sharp knife and you cut something the surface that you cut should be very smooth). When this rigid cut goes into the fat that you are frying in it will cause oil to get stuck in the crevices on the surface resulting in greasy fries. All of your fries have to be uniform in size so there is equal browning throughout. If you cut your fries too thin the whole fry will be crispy but there will be no fluffy interior. If you cut your potatoes too thick the crust will be cooked before the inside of the fry gets cooked. Once fries are cut to ¼ inch slices put them in salted cold water for at least an hour. There are many reasons to do this. One reason is that the salted water prevents the potatoes from oxidizing. Secondly, if there is too much water content in your potato the water will leach out of the potato to form equilibrium with the salted water (osmosis). Thirdly, putting the potatoes in the salted water will remove the excess starch that is on the surface of the potatoes. If the excess starch is not removed from the potato when the potato is frying the steam will get trapped inside of the potato which will make the potato have an unpleasant gummy texture. Also, if the steam gets trapped inside of the potato it cannot “block” the oil from coming into the potato. If the oil is not stopped from reaching the inside of the potato, the potato will be very greasy. Then blanch the fries in salted water for 14 minutes and 30 seconds until they are slightly overcooked. Fries need to be cooked twice in a big vat of oil and in small batches of potatoes so the fat does not lower drastically in temperature and so the fries do not stick together. The potatoes must be extremely dry before put into fryer. Some ways to dry the potatoes completely are using a dissactor, a cyrovac, or a salad spinner (the most practical way). There is an initial par cook in the fat at a temperature of 275 degrees to develop the crust of the potato and then there is a second fry at 375 degrees that crisps the outside of the potato. You must initially par cook the potatoes in the fat because the starch in the potato has time to dissolve and glue to the outer cell walls to make them thicker and has a more robust flavor. Also, potato cells have granules of starch, which swell when the cellular water is heated, which forms a “puree” inside of the potato that gives the fries there fluffy texture. After the first period of frying the potatoes should be cooked through but not crispy. If the fat for the pre cook is too hot the potatoes will not get cooked all the way through on the inside and if the fat is too cold the fries will turn out to be too greasy. Once all of the fries have been precooked again in small batches, crisp the fries up in the same fat that was used to precook them, but instead at a much higher temperature. Make sure not to puncture the fries because that will make the inside of the fry collapse, like a soufflé, and the fry would not be as fluffy. The second the fries come out of the fryer drain them and then season them with good sea salt and any other flavorings you wish to impart in the fries. You season right after the fries come out of the fryer because the remaining fat that is still on the fries will make the seasonings stick to the fries. Serve the fries to the diners as quickly as possible. Maybe serve with some sort of vinegar sauce because vinegar (malt vinegar) pairs great with fries.

A Random Day of Cooking

Sunday, June 13, 2010

After a long week I craved to eat something very delicious and simple. I knew I wanted chicken and drumsticks are by far the best tasting part of the bird when cooked properly (crispy, salty skin with a very tender and juicy flesh). I also knew I wanted caramelized onions, which are to me the best way to eat onions or any other vegetable, except maybe for really buttery mashed potatoes. Also, my family and I are garlic fanatics, so I decided to slice up 4 heads, about 40 cloves, of garlic to make crispy garlic chips with (I know that seems like an immense amount of garlic, but it is just so good).  Finally, I had to cook some chicken breasts, caramelize more onions and garlic, cook more asparagus, and make brown rice for my dad all without salt (Because of his health he cannot eat salt. It hurts me to cook with no salt, there is no flavor).
I started off by breaking apart 4 heads of garlic into about 40 cloves of garlic. Then I crushed them all and peeled the cloves. I cut of the tips of the garlic and cut out the germ (The green sprout that is in the middle of the garlic and sometimes "sprouts" through the clove. It is very bitter). I sliced all 40 cloves very thinly. I took a big cast iron pan and heated some olive oil over low heat and added about 80% of the  sliced garlic, a good amount of course sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. I cooked it over low heat for about 15 minutes just to cook the inside of the  garlic. Then I cranked up the heat and crisped up the garlic (This is the same technique to make great French Fries). I removed the crisped garlic with a slotted spoon and put them on a plate line with a paper towel to catch the excess oil. Once removed I seasoned again with salt and pepper.
Next, I sliced four onions very thin. In the same oil that I cooked the garlic in I added the onions along with sea salt, pepper, and thyme. I caramelized the onions over a low-moderate flame for about an hour until they reached a deep, rich golden brown color. When caramelizing onion I always have to add more salt through out the cooking process because once the onions start to release their sugars it dilutes the flavor of the salt.
Then, I cut of 2 inches of the bottom end of the asparagus. I took the asparagus and peeled them and them seasoned them with salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, and thyme. I sauteed the asparagus over high heat in the same oil I cooked the onions and garlic in until the asparagus were just cooked through on the inside and the outside was crisp.
Now I had to cook the drumsticks. I would usually grill them, but it was pouring outside so that was out of the question. I had some bacon infused chicken stock that I had made the day before, so I decided to partially poach the chicken in the stock. The stock was made by roasting the carcass of a chicken with mirepoix, tomato paste, fresh herbs, and bacon. After everything was roasted I poured about 3 quart of water into a pot and added the roasted items. I let it simmer very gently for about 6 hours skimming constantly. Then I strained the stock and quickly chilled it. In the morning when I went to look at the stock in the fridge I was happy because the stock gelatinized, which means that the stock had great body. After I partially poached the drumsticks I patted them dry and seasoned them with salt, pepper, and thyme. I brushed some chicken fat on the drumsticks and crisped the skin under the broiler. Then I let the chicken rest for about ten minutes before serving so that the juices got redistributed (Most people make huge mistakes when cooking proteins. All proteins must rest or all of the moisture will be lost when sliced. This makes perfect sense because when molecules are heated they move faster then when they are cooled. So when you cut a piece of meat that came right out the pan the molecules are moving like crazy so they just gush out of the meat all over the plate). In just two and a half hours me and my family sat down to a great meal. But then I had to clean my mess, which sucked.

Uproot Review

The Savior of Somerset
Uproot brings forth the best food Somerset County has ever been able to call theirs

            About a year ago when I was really starting to get into food I was always complaining of how there were zero good restaurants in my neighborhood (Warren, NJ). I had to travel a very long way to reach an establishment that served great food. Then, last November when Uproot opened, it all changed. When I heard that there was going to be a fine dining restaurant opening in my town I was very excited. Some people in the community thought the restaurant was weird because they were serving bone marrow, foie gras, and quail. At first, the people that had no idea about good food (which there were lots) thought the restaurant was not going to be good at all and thought the restaurant was going to fail and close down. These people pissed me off because they had absolutely no idea of what they were talking about. It was like my little sister, Ally who is eight years old, telling William Shakespeare that his poetry was awful. However once these people ate at Uproot their minds quickly changed.
            I was eager to both dine at Uproot and work there. I wanted to get experience working in a restaurant environment that served very high quality food. I sent them an email expressing my passion for food and how I would like to be an intern there. After an interview with the executive chef Anthony Bucco I was allowed to work there once a week for four hours. My first day working there was March 1st. I arrived extremely nervous and excited, and expected to be just watching, but I was completely wrong. I was making tuiles for one of the desserts. The tuile batter would go into a mold, and then to the oven until they turned golden brown and then I would remove the tuiles and mold them on a rolling pin very swiftly (If I was too slow the tuiles would harden before I would have been able to shape them). Next I was peeling salt baked beets. Then after working on prep work I got to watch service in action while chatting with some of the cooks and the sous chef Mark Farro. They were very impressed when I knew why gelatin was being added to a huckleberry soda (the gelatin was being used as a clarifying element). I was finally in my element, with people that shared the same passion I did. So far I have accumulated about ninety hours of working at Uproot. Now, a typical day for me at Uproot would consist of me peeling asparagus, shucking favas and peas, cutting mirepoix, brunoise carrots, and peeling grapes. The chefs at Uproot are more trained than me (They have worked with Daniel Boulud, Daniel Humm, Terrance Brennan, and Drew Nieporent) so I do feel out of my league, but that is how you learn.
            I arrived with my mom at Uproot at 6:45, seconds before it started pouring. We were greeted with a smile. The wait staff made us both feel very welcomed and relaxed from the start of our arrival. We were asked what we would like to drink and I got water, while my mom got a chardonnay. My mom said at first that her wine was not great, but she said it grew on her and she ended up loving it. After our drinks were served, the executive chef, Anthony Bucco, came out into the dining room to greet us. He asked if my mom had any dietary restrictions, which she didn't (Anthony Bucco knew of my allergies because I had been working with him for 3 months). My mom and I were asked if we would like bread and of course we said yes. The bread was the perfect temperature, just warm. Not too hot so the butter would melt, but still warm. The bread was crisp on the outside and doughy and soft on the inside.The bread is brought to Uproot par baked from an artisanal bake shop in the area. The butter is whipped up with honey and salt, which gives the bread a nice sweet, salt, and nutty contrast.
            Now it was time to choose our dinner choices. For first courses my mom decided on pan roasted day-boat scallop with an English Pea puree, melted leeks, and pea tendrils. She decided on this first course over a crudo of salmon served with Beets, Lime Crème Fraiche, and micro herbs because she wanted me to be able to try her course (I am allergic to all flat fish, but no shellfish). I decided on Agnolotti with English peas, fava beans, wax beans, confit tomatoes and fresh ricotta because I wanted to taste spring for the last time this year (I am going away to camp where the food is nothing close to good). For entrees, my mom decided on aMaine lobster carbonara with Angel hair, Pancetta, and an Americano Sauce and I decided on a roasted Lamb Loin with Crispy Lamb Shoulder, sautéed spinach, and red cabbage.
            Then, amuses arrived for the table. There were two Pitted olives topped with tuna, a play on a tuna nicoise. The staff at Uproot was well aware I was allergic to tuna, so them sending out two servings of tuna kind of confused me. Either they made a mistake or just gave two servings to my mom and none to me, which makes no sense to me. My mom said that she was surprised she liked the amuse because she typically does not like olives. Next, the first courses arrived. My agnolotti was beautiful to look at. There were many contrasting colors on the plate. My first bite contained favas, peas, and an agnolotti. When I started to taste my first bite I was surprised because it was pretty bland. I knew the kitchen staff was better than this; they always seasoned their food perfectly. My next bite contained some of the confit tomato and now I realized why the other components of the dish were not salted heavily. The confit tomato added the salty component to the dish, and it bursted with tons of flavor. Since there were only three chunks of confit tomatoes that were fairly big you had to cut the confit tomatoes into smaller pieces so you got a piece of them in each bite. Next, I tried some of my mom's scallop dish. The dish was very beautiful to look out. There were four seared scallops on top of a pea puree that was garnished with some pea tendrils. The white, golden brown, and green colors all looked great together. The scallops themselves were cooked perfectly. They were golden brown on the outside and very tender on the inside. The scallops tasted like the essence of the sea, they were salty, sweet, and buttery. The pea puree was rich, creamy, and delicious. My mom was obsessed with the fleur de sel that was sprinkled on the scallops. That was her first time ever tasting that variety of salt. After my mom finished her first glass of wine she was asked if she wanted a second glass of the same wine. She said yes, but a few minutes later our waiter came with a different chardonnay. He apologized that they ran out of the last wine. This chardonnay he said was more expensive and better, but he would only charge for the first wine. That was a very nice thing the staff at Uproot did. My mom said she absolutely loved the second chardonnay.
            Next our entrees arrived. My lamb was not as aesthetic as the other dishes of the evening, but it still looked great. My lamb loin was cooked perfectly, a nice crust was developed on the exterior and the interior was cooked to a tender medium rare. The cabbage was a purple reddish color and it contained a lot of flavor and added some nice texture to the dish. The lamb shoulder was wrapped in feuilles de brick. The lamb shoulder was very flavorful and the crisp dough added a great crunch. Then I got to try my mom's lobster. This dish is in the top two dishes of my life (The other dish was an amuse at Del posto that was chicken broth with parmesan and egg). The lobster is shelled then put in a bag with lots of butter and seasonings. Next the lobster is put in the cyrovac and all the air is taken out. When an order for the lobster is called in the kitchen the bag is placed in a water bath that is temperature controlled by an immersion circulator. The lobster is cooked at a low temperature very slowly in tons of butter so the lobster is extremely tender and very buttery, which is a great thing. You receive a claw and a tail with the dish. The lobster itself is by far the best lobster I have ever had in my life. Now the buttery lobster is paired with a buttery angel hair pasta that again was by far the best pasta I have ever had in my life. The pasta was rich with parmesan cheese and spiked with lemon juice to add some nice acidity. The crispy pancetta added a nice textural contrast to the perfect dish.
            Now it was time for desert. My mom and I were going to split one desert. This decision was very challenging. All of the deserts were very playful and exciting. The deserts ranged from a Banana Tempura with Rum Gelee, Chocolate Ganache, and Banana Ice Cream, or a tasting of strawberry, which consisted of a gelee, shortcake, soda, and vanilla cream, and a few others. I ultimately decided on the strawberry because there were nuts in the banana tempura and in the majority of the other deserts. When we received the tasting of strawberry we also received a tasting of house-made sorbets and ice creams. There were pineapple sorbet, blackberry sorbet, banana ice cream, and mint ice cream with chocolate crisps. Both sorbets were extremely refreshing, light, and tasted exactly like the fruit they were derived from. The banana ice was very smooth and rich. The mint ice cream was rich and refreshing at the same time and had a nice textural contrast with the chocolate crisps. The tasting of strawberry was extremely appealing to the eye. First, the shortcake was very tender and slightly crisp. The gelee added moistness to the dish. The strawberry soda tasted like the pure essence of strawberry. It was one of the best drinks I have ever tasted, but I did not detect any "bubbles" that would classify it as a soda.  I know that the drink was carbonated, but maybe it was not carbonated enough. There were also compressed strawberries on the plate that tasted like very intense strawberries. The whipped cream was delicious and there was a basil garnish in top of the whipped cream. The basil added a nice herbaceous and peppery flavor to the desert.
            Overall the service was nearly perfect and friendly. The atmosphere was very comfortable. The music that was being played was at the perfect sound level so that it would not disturb your conversation. Also, my chair was very comfortable to sit in. The lights were dimmed, but there were candle lights that equated out to the perfect amount of light.
            After dinner I took my mom back to the kitchen to show her around. We chatted with Chef Anthony Bucco for awhile about the restaurant, NY Times was in the day before; also Uproot was nominated for best restaurant in NJ in NJ Monthly magazine. Additionally, they are going to cook in the James Beard House soon (Maybe I could go with them to the James Beard House, which would be awesome). Then I brought up the Summit Food and Wine Festival and Chef Anthony Bucco said I could assist him in the food preparations for the event (I am extremely excited for that. I might get to meet some really cool people).
            Uproot is just as good as the top restaurants in New York. I personally can say that the lobster at Uproot is better than the lobster I had at Del Posto. The shellfish preparations at Uproot are better than any other place I have been to (Del Posto, Jean Georges, Eleven Madison Park, and Bouley). Go to Uproot now before it gets discovered and reservations become extremely hard to obtain.