Friday, October 12, 2007

To Be Continued...

This blog will continue at a different web address.
Come and check me out at http://www.chefsgonewild.blogspot.com

See you Soon!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Veal Ricotta Meatballs AKA the Oddball

Akhtar Nawab, the chef at CraftBar in NYC, came up with the Ultimate meatball recipe, the meatball recipe that ends all meatball recipes...period, zip, no argument.

I am fully aware that making such a bold statement might spark an underground revolution, the Meatball purists could arise at sunrise and plot a revolt (ah poetry!)and the Italians from the 'hood might send a Mama's death Squad after me wearing aprons and armed with rolling pins but... I am not afraid to stand bold and proud by my statement: This is the best meatball recipe, Ever!

"How could a man named Nawab create the Ultimate Meatball recipe?" you ask? Well i don't know, but i once knew a man called Benetteto that couldn't cook to save his life so don't judge a book by it's cover (...deeply philosophical!). I have much respect for your mama and i am certain she makes a hell of a meatball but trying this recipe will make you a believer. Afterward, you can always claim you invented it, who cares!...Nawab doesn't.

What makes those meatballs so special is their melt-on-your-tongue texture, no fancy shmancy technique a la Ferran Adria, it's the whooping 50/50 ratio of ground veal for Ricotta that turn those meatballs into little pillows.


I accept to rename the recipe "Veal Ricotta Oddballs" as an act of good will. I hope it will calm down the rebellion... and also because...euhh let's face it, they are kind of odd, 50/50 who are they kidding? But odd is the new black so be a man...euhh or a woman and try it, okay?


Veal Ricotta Oddballs
(serves 6)
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground veal

  • 3 cups fresh ricotta cheese

  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • All-purpose flour for dusting

  • Canola oil for frying

  • 1 can (28 ounces) San Marzano tomatoes, chopped

  • 1 stick of butter

  • 1/4 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
    __________
  1. Preheat the oven to 350'F

  2. In a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, place the veal, ricotta, parmesan, egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper (keep all the ingredients cold before starting)

  3. Mix at medium speed until the mixture comes together, about 30 seconds

  4. Dust your hands with flour and form the mixture into oddballs (1 1/2 in diameter)
  5. Pour 1 inch of oil into a large non-stick skillet over high heat

  6. Sear the oddballs in batches until golden brown on all sides. Tranfer to a tray lined with paper towels
  7. Clean the skillet, add the tomatoes, the butter, basil and garlic

  8. Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the oddballs

  9. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 hour or until the sauce is thick

  10. Adjust seasoning if necessary

  11. Serve over fresh pasta sprinkled with chopped basil and parmesan

  12. Enjoy

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chocolate Truffle at $250 a pop


No kidding! This 2 ounces chocolate truffle cost $250 a pop and was recently named the most expensive item of confectionary in the world by Forbes magazine.

Fritz Knipschildt, a chocolatier based is Norwalk Connecticut is the creator of this extravagant delicacy. The process is simple enough, a 70% Valhrona ganache flavored with vanilla bean and italian truffle oil is shaped by manucured loving hands around a black truffle from Perigord. It is then rolled in more chocolate before getting it's final coating of extra mega supra fine Cocoa powder.

And the result is baaboooom!...or so they say. Sorry but i won't be reviewing that one anytime soon.

For the rest of us, Knipschildt has a whole line of fine chocolates in which he pairs delicate fruit flavors with exotic spices and fragrances. The individual chocolates have names like Charlotte, Helena and Amanda which makes me wonder... does this guy have a thing for naming his creations after ex-girlfriends?... What a show off!

Oprah has reviewed his chocolates in her magazine as being kind of good even if they sound weird and if Oprah thinks so...i'm sold!

I am intrigued by this whole thing, I will buy some of his chocolates in the quest to find out how this Fritz guy is getting so many girls and i promise to keep my findings jealously for myself.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Japan Invents the 26 Hours Work Day

Last time i checked there were only 24 hours in a day but my short term memory has played tricks on me before so you can correct me if i'm wrong...

Oh but wait, we are talking about Japan. Could this be the reason why Japan is getting ahead of us so quickly? Isn't that called cheating?

As we all know, the Japanese are highly efficient, so efficient in fact that 24 hours won't do it anymore but to be brutally honest, 26 hours days for me would mean 2 extra hours sleeping... I knowww... i have no guilt or shame whatsoever.

I still feel bad for those poor chefs in there getting stiffed, i bet there is no 25th and 26th hours on their time sheet. Oh well, as long as the owners keep the Sapporo flowing they won't hear no complains...

If you had 26 hours days what would YOU do with the extra time?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Soft Polenta w/ Sauteed Wild Mushrooms

Nobody was hurt during the writing of this post.

Believe me, being obsessive-compulsive isn't always a bad thing, especially when it comes to make the kind of dish that requires your full obsessive attention, you might want to stop your medication for the day while preparing this dish. I did when i found beautiful wild mushrooms at the market this morning, Alice Waters would have been proud of me!

Like risotto, making polenta isn't for the faint of heart, it takes quick decision making and serious multitasks abilities like being able to reach for your glass of chilled Pouilly-Fuisse with your left hand while stirring the pot with your right hand (Pouilly-Fuisse is not an ingredient in the recipe but if you are the one designated to stand in front of the stove sweating, you might as well do it in style.)

When the ingredients are few, technique is everything, by following this steps you will feel like a Toreador in front of the tamed Bull. The Star is YOU my friend!

Ole and Enjoy!

(Disclaimer: After tasting this, you will want to change your last wish to : be buried in soft polenta topped with wild mushrooms.)

Soft Polenta w/ Sauteed Wild Mushrooms

For the polenta:

  • 3 cups whole milk

  • 1 1/2 cup water

  • 1 cup Polenta

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tablespoon mascarpone
  • 4 tablespoon Parmegiano-Reggiano, grated

  • Salt to taste

For the wild mushrooms:

  • 1 1/2 lbs mixed Wild mushrooms (chanterelle, cremini, oyster etc...), cleaned and sliced

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1/2 bunch of parsley, washed and chopped

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Parmegiano-reggiano shavings

  • White truffle oil (optional)

    __________
  1. In a heavy-bottom pot, place the milk and the water and bring to a boil.

  2. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly add the Polenta while whisking constantly.

  3. Reduce the heat, switch to a wooden spoon and keep stirring.

  4. Stir, Stir, Stir

  5. Stir, Stir, Stir

  6. Don't let the bottom scorch now...

  7. Stir, Stir, Stir

  8. Heat a large sauteed pan over high heat and add the olive oil

  9. Stir, Stir, Stir

  10. Sautee the mushrooms, work in batches if necessary

  11. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper

  12. After stirring for 20 minutes the polenta is ready

  13. Remove from the heat and add the butter, the mascarpone and the parmegiano

  14. Season to taste with salt

  15. Stir, Stir Stir

  16. Reserve the polenta and cover with plastic wrap to keep it soft

  17. Add the garlic to the mushroom and sautee a minute more

  18. Add the butter and the parsley and mix well. Remove from heat

  19. Serve soft polenta in shallow plates topped with sauteed wild mushrooms

  20. Drizzle with hot demi glace reduction if using

  21. Top each plate with some parmegiano-reggiano shavings

  22. Drizzle each plate with some white truffle oil

  23. Serve

  24. Lick the plate

  25. Do the dishes

  26. Write me a thank you note

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How to work a Greenmarket



This is a nice little video of Alice Water from "Chez Panisse" shopping at the 14th street Greenmarket in New York City. In case you've been living on another planet "Chez Panisse" is a legendary restaurant in Berkeley California that's famous for cooking the freshest locally grown ingredients in delicious ways. You might think everyone does that, to which i answer...they were already doing it back when Jello was still considered fine cooking in America, they were pioneers!

This video is a must see if you are an aspiring chef or a serious foodie who likes to wander around Greenmarkets. If you are a Private Chef like me chances are you're already sick and tired to spend your life in markets so i won't mention you.

Alice Water explains how she selects what she want to cook that day in a very interesting way, her process is similar to a walking meditation which is definetly not recommended for everyone... last time i tried i hit a pole.

I have great respect for people who are so passionate about what they do, listening to her talking about fresh produce is poetry. So she might well be from California, but she's cool! okay?!

I wish i could talk to these tomatoes too!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Stomach Rebellion!

Friends, Be kind to your stomachs!
They don't deserve such abuse... the beast has to eat!!



Anyway nice can!... of Tuna, that is!

The $20,000 Peach Pie

I recently came back from a trip to the Hamptons where i have been working for several weeks. This year, for the first time, the peach trees carried lots of homegrown peaches. Since i know how much went into those Peach trees, I am thinking about contacting the Guiness Book of Records for making the most expensive Peach Pie ever created, but i have serious doubts that Big Bossman will let me do so.


Luckily for us mere mortals, i slightly adapted the Peach Pie recipe by omitting a few not so important ingredients like a $20 millions piece of land in the Hamptons on which to grow your own Peaches.

We can re-create it at home spending about $20 bucks with similar or better results and feeling like $20 millions. If you hold a clutch against rich people you can add to the experience while eating your $3 piece of pie and following this few simple steps:


Sit back comfortably on your couch, close your eyes, visualize a multi-millionaire with his properties, gardeners, fancy cars... while noticing the sweetness of the Peaches from the farmers market on your tongue with hints of cardamon and the flaky, buttery crust. Here come the important part: vizualize Mr Big Bucks again and with an arrogant tone bordering on vengeful speak out loud from the bottom of your lungs: " In Your Face!!".


Aaaahhhhhh....How does it feel? Good Right? His homegrown Peach pie probably doesn't have hints of cardamon anyway and that my friends, makes all the difference in the world!

You're done!...now drink something fruity, and relax, feel the breeze, life is good!

Oh i almost forgot the recipe, you can omit the first 6 ingredients and replace them by peaches from the market.

The $20,000 Peach Pie
  • A few acres of land in the Hamptons: $20 millions (optional)
  • 6 Peach trees @ $3,500 a piece: $21,000 (optional)
  • A Private Chef @ $500 a day (optional)
  • 2 Gardeners @ $250 a day (optional)
  • Lots of ingenuity to keep birds from eating the peaches (optional)
  • 3 years before your first batch of peaches (optional)
  • A pie plate @ $7.50 at your local kitchen store (not optional)

For the flaky pastry dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening (no trans-fat), cut into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons cold water

For the peach filling:

  • 8 ripe peaches peeled, pitted and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamon
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

------------

  1. Preheat the oven to 425' F.
  2. Make the dough: Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
  3. Add the butter and the shortening and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
  4. Add the cold water and pulse until the dough comes together. Do not overwork!
  5. Reserve in the refrigerator until use or roll 1/2 of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and line a buttered 9 inches pie pan.
  6. Make the filling: Place the slice peaches, the sugar, the cornstarch, the lime juice, the ground cardamon and the vanilla bean seeds into a large bowl and toss until well combined, let it rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Pour the filling into the bottom crust and dot with butter.
  8. Cover with the remaining dough rolled out to 1/4 inch thickness.
  9. Cut steam vents and brush the top of the pie with an eggwash.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes at 425'f then reduce heat to 350'f and bake until juices bubble through the vents, 30 to 35 minutes more.
  11. Let cool on a rack before serving. Best the day it is baked.
  12. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Steamed Black Cod with Chinese black bean sauce

Fermented black beans are small, black soybeans that have been preserved in salt. Also known as Chinese black beans or salty or salted black beans, they have a strong, salty flavor. Once you try them, they will become a staple in your pantry!

This recipe is based on a basic black bean stir fry which gets its fragrance from a mix of chopped garlic, ginger and green onion and some chopped fermented black beans. The smell of these four stir frying together is just fantastic.

Because of it's rich and firm texture Black Cod also known as Sable fish takes extremely well to steaming. In this case, a mixture of chinese fermented black beans, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and cognac is poured over the fish prior to steaming.

This is one of my secret weapon recipe, so easy to prepare and guaranteed to vow your guests. It's okay, don't mention it... take all the credit for it!
Check the link below if you have trouble locating those precious black beans (they are actually quite inexpensive!).

Steamed Black Cod with Chinese Black Bean Sauce. (serves 4)


Ingredients:
  • 3/4 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

  • 1/4 cup Cognac

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

  • 4 (6 ounces) Black Cod filet

  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat, melted

  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons Fermented black beans, coarsely chopped
  • 4 shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

  • a few drops of Sesame Oil

Instructions:

  1. Combine the cornstarch, water, soy sauce, cognac and sugar in a small bowl. Mix and reserve.

  2. Heat the bacon fat in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and black beans and saute for 30 seconds. Add the sliced mushrooms and scallions and continue saute until translucent, 1 minute more.

  3. Deglaze the pan with the cornstarch mixture, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits. Stir until sauce thickens and remove from the heat.

  4. Set up a steamer large enough to hold a plate with the 4 black cod filet.

  5. Pour the black bean mixture evenly over the fish fillets and place in the steamer.

  6. Steam for 5 minutes until fish is opaque and cooked throughout.

  7. Serve immediately with rice and bok choy.

Enjoy!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

No Reservation

Something's cooking this summer!


Did you notice Hollywood new found interested for food? Now that we've enjoyed some friendly rats in 'Ratatouille' they serving us a delectable Catherine Zeta-Jones in 'No Reservation'. What should we expect next?...Paula Deen cooking a Cherry pie for Indiana Jones?

If you're a Chef and taking a lady on a romantic date this movie might be worth the 10 bucks. Yes, believe it or not: Chefs are romantic!...when they are not throwing pots and pans around. After seeing this, your date is likely to melt like cheddar on a grilled cheese sandwich, and YOU'll be the lucky sliced bread.


The story seem extremely predictable and follows the "he loves me/he loves me not" format, or in this case "i hate him/oh he's okay/can't live without him" format. So don't expect a transcendental experience from it. The best part would have been to be waited by Catherine Zeta-Jones while she was working at Fiamma Osteria in New York preparing for her role...you don't know how much i would have loved to be her sliced bread.

Foodies and amateur chefs might find the food scenes interesting. Recipes and pictures of the dishes shown in the movie can be downloaded at http://noreservationsmovie.warnerbros.com/. You also might want to check out the movie this is based on "Mostly Martha".

If this is not your cup of tea, and prefer to exhibit your soft side in a different manner here's a good compromise:

  1. Buy a pint of Haagen Dazs Lehua honey & sweet cream.
  2. Invite your honey to your home.
  3. Watch some episodes of Hell's Kitchen on DVD.
  4. Don't forget to share the ice cream with your date.

For a relaxing moment with someone special, nothing can beat a good footage of Gordon Ramsay abusing everyone around him.


Hawaiian Lehua & Sweet Cream


It all started at the frozen section of the supermarket. A warm and mysterious orange glow was emanating from the ice cream freezer. I felt irresistibly drawn to it.

I approached slowly and opened the freezer door like a pirate would open a treasure's chest, dazzled by the unusual ice cream pints reading those words:


Haagen Dazs RESERVE


Hawaiian Lehua honey & sweet cream


I closed my eyes and was instantly transported to a land of blue sky, forests and waterfalls. A world of tropical lusciousness where girls wear flower leis, exotic fruits taste like exotic fruits, and cows produce the creamiest of milk. I was there, savoring the purest delicacies by the fire, the sound of tribal drum beats filling the atmosphere...


As the drum beats became taps on my back, i regained consciousness. An eldest lady waiting to grab a pint of ice cream was staring at me like i had just escaped a mental institution...

I purchased the precious pint and ran back home. I wasn't out of the elevator that the lid was popped, leaving behind me a guilty trail of Heavenly goodness on the door knob, the carpet and the wall... i can only tell you it was worth every inches of clean up to do.

I would not trade this pint for anything!...except maybe some Google stocks. Insanely Creamy sweet cream ice cream with a generous swirl of Hawaiian Lehua honey best described as "edible perfume". The Lehua blossoms come from the ohi'a trees in Hawaii which are the first trees to appear on new lava flow and make a... 'hellava ice cream'!


I am committed to create a homemade version that i will share with you on this blog.

In the meantime, if you can put your hands on this baby, don't hesitate...Buy it!


Serving Suggestion: Don't mess with perfection, a slice of plain pound cake will do. For a transcendental experience enjoy with a glass of Tokaji azsu 2000.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Waiterrr! My Cherry is...Sour!!

(To avoid being fired without mercy and savagely hanged on the public place, i will not disclose my employer's real name and will only refer to him as Big Bossman aka $ Bill.)

Big Bossman proudly presented me with the fruit of his harvest:

"I picked them myself!" he said "Aren't they beautiful?"

I was facing a mountain of vibrant red sour cherries piled up on my kitchen counter. Five gallons of freshly picked little cherries from Big Bossman's Country estate, it looked like precious rubies and gems out of a treasure's chest.


"They are... Beautiful!!" i answered trying to sound enthusiast.

"Make something with them!" he said as he walked out of the kitchen.

"...........!" was my reply.

Without wasting a second i entered the terms 'Sour Cherry' in my internal search engine (aka my Brain). Unsurprisingly, the search returned no results. I wish Google could be installed on humans too!

I tasted a cherry hoping inspiration would strike...well it stroke me as...errrr...Sour!

For centuries, the cherry, has been a source of medicine for indigenous peoples. Native Americans prized cherries as pain relievers, especially for sore throat. The Cherokee used an infusion of sour cherry bark to treat laryngitis. The Ojibwa used the crushed root for stomach pain. The forest Potawatomi employed an infusion of the inner bark to alleviate internal pains while the MicMac (any relation to the Big Mac?) used black cherry fruit as a health tonic.

"Should i turn them into cough medicine for next time Big Bossman has a cold?" i thought.

Nahhh!...

I needed counselling, bad!

I quickly picked up the phone and called four chef buddies asking the same question: "What the heck do you do with sour cherries?"

Here are their answers in chronological order:

Buddy #1: "Ummmmm..."
Buddy #2: "errrrr...."
Buddy #3: "Sour Cherry Pie!"
Buddy #4: "euhhh..."

Thank to chef buddy #3 i had a lead!


A fresh sour cherry pie is really good, but since sour cherry season is so short, most americans use canned filling. I have nightmares about canned filling! Please donate your cans or use the sweet glop to patch the walls (i heard it works well on flat tires too!) and wait patiently for July every year to pick up some fresh sour cherries from your local farmer's market. Here's my recipe:

Fresh Sour Cherry Pie (serves 8)

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 8 ounces cold Unsalted Butter

  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening

  • 6 tablespoons ice water

  • 1 egg yolk (for egg wash)

For the filling:

  • 5 cups pitted sour cherries

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch

  • 1 tablespoon water

  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

  • 1/8 teaspoon Almond Extract

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

    Make the pie crust: Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and process for 10 seconds. Stop the machine. Cut the fats into chunks and scatter over the dry ingredients. Pulse in 2-seconds bursts until the fats turn into small lumps. Drizzle the ice water and pulse until the dough begins to form. Do not overwork. Press the dough together, wrap and refrigerate.

    Make the sour cherry filling: Combine all the ingredients except the butter in a large stainless steel bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes.






Assemble and bake the pie: Preheat oven to 425' degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Cut the reserved dough in half. On a floured surface roll out 1/2 the pastry to 1/4-inch thickness. Line the pie plate evenly triming the overhanging dough. Roll out the remaining pastry dough to 1/4-inch thickness and reserve. Pour the pie filling into the bottom crust and dot with the butter. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with some of the juice from the cherries. Cover with the top crust, then eal the edge. Cut a steam vent in the center of the pie. Make an egg wash by mixing the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon cold water. Brush evenly the top crust. Bake 50 to 55 minutes until golden brown and filling is bubbling through the vent. Let cool completely on a rack before serving.



This pie was a big success among Big Bossman's family. The juicy, sweet and tart fruit worked really well against the buttery crust. The pie will keep at room temperature for up to one day.

But I still had one problem to solve:


4 1/2 gallon of freshly picked sour cherries in my fridge...


After looking into a few cookbooks i found a recipe for Sour Cherry Sorbet in The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavernby Claudia Fleming.

Since sour cherries are too tart to eat out of hand, they are traditionnally baked into pies, but this refreshingly icy sorbet is an even more summery celebration of their vibrant fruit flavor. Here's an adaptation of Claudia Fleming's recipe:


Sour Cherry Sorbet (yield: 1 pint)


Simple Syrup (yield 2 1/2 cups):

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Sorbet Base:

  • 3 cups sour cherries, pitted

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 2/3 cup simple syrup (recipe below)

  • 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid (i use the powder inside a Vitamin C capsule)

For the simple syrup:


In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine the sugar and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Let the syrup simmer for 1 minute then turn off the heat and allow to cool. Simple syrup will keep almost indefinitely in a tightly sealed bottle in the refrigerator.


For the Sorbet:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the cherries and sugar. Let them macerate for 30 minutes, then puree the mixture in a food processor or blender. Push the puree through a fine sieve and stir in the simple syrup, 1/3 cup water and the ascorbic acid.

  2. Chill the mixture until it's very cold, about 4 hours. Freeze in an Ice Cream Machine according to the manufacturer's direction.

This is a great recipe to enjoy the fruit's electric vibrancy!


Fine!!...I know what you're going to say:

What the heck am i going to do with the remaining 4 gallons of sour cherries?

Easy...i'm going to 'Food-Sectionit'... yea its a new term for us cooks, The New york Times Food section's gotta have something on sour cherries, it's july, they have a bunch of researcher and food writers getting the big bucks to write about seasonal stuff and...

BINGO!

It's called Sour Cherry Syrup in an article called 'The Cherries of Persia'.

Sour Cherry Syrup (yield:2 quarts)

  • 5 cups sugar

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 3 pounds washed and stemmed sour cherries, unpitted
  1. In a large pan, bring sugar, lime juice, and 3 cups water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Tie cherries up in 2 layers of cheesecloth and gently lower into pan. Cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

  2. Lift cherries in their cheesecloth and hold above pan for a minute to let syrup drain. Set cherries aside and let everything cool.

  3. Pour syrup into clean jars or bottles. Keep in refrigerator until needed. If desired, place cherries in a clean jar and cover with syrup.

Note: Stir 3 or 4 parts cold water with 1 part syrup and add ice to make sour cherry coolers. Syrup can also be diluted with sparkling water to make cherry soda, or used in cocktails. Reserved cherries in syrup may be used in desserts or as cocktail cherries.


Here you have it...enjoy!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Tattoos, Piercings and Chocolate-Chip Cookies


This story is about how i finally increased my Chocolate-Chip Cookie IQ, thanks to a teenage girl's obsession with self-mutilation, and the New York Times magazine. The girl in question being my employer's daughter, her name was changed to preserve her privacy... and my job!

One afternoon, Rebecca visited me in the kitchen all excited, and said:

-"Guess what!!?"

-"Oh Oh, What are you up to?" I asked hesitantly.

-"I got my nose pierced today!" she proudly said, pulling up the tip of her nose for me to see.
(For the cooks out there, looks just like a trussed chicken!)

-"Waou, Does your mom knows?" I asked, worried.

-"Of course not!!...shhhhh...Secret!" she said.

"I'm in such pain!... Can we bake some chocolate-chip cookies pleaaaaase?" (Here's the red flag: translated in private Chef language "Can we bake?" usually means "Can i trash your kitchen while you clean up after me?")

-"Ummm, let me think about it!" i answered.

I knew i needed to brush-up on my Chocolate-Chip cookies skills, she needed something comforting after a gruesome afternoon of self-sacrifice.

-"Ok, I'll make the cookies!" i finally said "but you go back to your room and hide from your parents, deal?"

-"Yea, Awesome!!" she exclaimed in true teenager fashion and left the room.

Chocolate-Chip Cookies have never been my area of expertise. Call me picky (or dumb) but after experimenting with countless recipes, I never found one worth calling my own.

If i trust my Chocolate-Chip Cookies instinct, they should be gooey in the center, golden and crisp on the edges, exhume heavenly Chocolatiness and transcend you to imaginary Cookiedoms where chocolate rivers flow in a land where the Constitution is based on principles taught in the Kama-Sutra.

Well, maybe i exaggerate a little, but you get my point.

More often than not, my batches would end up disappointingly flat, crumbly and dry. But my luck was about to change...

A few days prior to this, The Sunday New York Times published an article by Amanda Hesser with three glorious Chocolate-Chip cookies recipes:


  • Thin-and-Crisp Chocolate-Chip Cookies

  • Flat-and-Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies

  • Thick-and-Gooey Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Why those particular recipes grabbed my attention out of Zillions of recipes available on the subject?

Well let's put it this way... As a rule, any recipe with such large amounts of butter and chocolate
automatically wins a top spot on my To Do list.

I pulled the saved article from my secret file and opted for the most decadent recipe of all:

Thick-and-Gooey Chocolate-Chip Cookies
















1. Preheat the oven to 350' degrees. Line two Baking Sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. In a
Mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at the time, then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and blend until a dough forms. Fold in the chocolate and walnuts. Chill the dough.

3. Roll 1/4-cup lump of dough into balls, then place on the baking sheet and flatten to 1/2-inch-thick disks spaced 2 inches apart. Chill the dough between batches. Bake until the edges turn golden, 14 to 17 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack. Makes 30 cookies.


__________

The results were phenomenal, and extremely addictive!
By far, the best batch i ever made. They had all the qualities cited above, gooey center, crisp and golden edges, melted chocolate goodness inside....a dream!

Rebecca had her cookies still warm and loved them so much that she almost forgot about her infected nose. By next morning, all that was left was a few crumbs on a plate and a sick child at home (surprisingly not from the 2 dozens cookies she ate, but from an unappetizing swelling nose) .

Two weeks later (after being grounded for a week) , Rebecca came home with a tattoo on the back of her neck.

I love Teenagers!... hehehe...So much tenacity!

This time, she wanted to celebrate her new found freedom. I volunteered and made recipe number two:

Flat-and-Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 8 ounces butter, softened

  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate (chunks and shavings)

  • 2 cups chopped toasted walnuts (optional).
  1. Preheat the oven to 325' degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

  2. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and blend until a dough forms. Fold in the chocolate and walnuts. Chill the dough.

  3. Roll 2 1/2-tablespoon lumps of dough into balls, then place on the baking sheet and flatten to 1/2-inch-thick disks spaced 2 inches apart. Chill the dough between batches. Bake until the edges are golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack. Makes 30 to 35 cookies.

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Again it was a huge success. Which recipe is better i honestly don't know. While it is true that Chocolate-chip cookies tend to spark the kind of tense debate usually reserved for topics like religion and politics, i do believe that this three recipes will suit the three schools of chocolate-chip cookiness.

As of this post, i am still waiting for Rebecca's next bout of self-mutilation to try recipe number three. I am sharing it with you, please let me know what you think:

Thin-and-Crisp Chocolate-Chip Cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 14 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate (pea size pieces and shavings)
  • Generous 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional).
  1. Preheat oven to 325' degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter, sugars and corn syrup until fluffy, 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla, then the milk. Add the flour mixture all at once and blend just until a dough forms. Fold in the chocolate and walnuts. Chill the dough.
  3. Roll 2-tablespoon lumps of dough into balls, then place on the baking sheet and flatten to 1/4-inch-thick disks spaced 2 inches apart. Chill the dough between batches. Bake until the edges are dark golden brown, 14 to 17 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack. Makes 24 cookies.

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Thanks to Amanda Hesser of the New York Times I am now considered a Chocolate-chip Cookie Czar! ( Disclaimer: This is the last time i acknowledge publicly i didn't invent those recipes

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A cook's dilemna

So you think it's glamorous to be a private chef?... Think again! I feel like i live in Supermarkets... I get up and shop, after lunch i shop again and on my way home at night, i find Post-it in my pockets with:

"Pick up quart of milk!" written on it.

How unfair life can be!

My circle of friends boils down to a few fellow shoppers waiting online at the cash register.

Maybe i exaggerate a little...

The wonderful thing is, markets can be a great source of inspiration when you like to cook. I love tomatoes this time of the year, beautiful heirlooms juicy and flavorful that do not require fancy preparations, they are perfect in their own irregular way.

There's a recipe i particularly like in Melissa Clark's Cookbook "Chef, Interrupted" the recipe is from Chef Dan Barber, here's an adaptation:

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Sheep's-Milk Ricotta (serves 6)


  • 3 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup cubed seedless watermelon
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese, preferably sheep's-milk
  • 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs such as basil, lemon thyme, marjoram, mint, or chives
Divide the heirloom and cherry tomatoes and the watermelon among 6 plates. Sprinkle with salt
and pepper and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes and watermelon begin to give off some of their liquid.

Dot the tomatoes with spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the herbs. Serve immediately.

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The only thing you could do to improve this recipe would be to follow the advice from a famed Canadian chef named Pascale Carpino, it goes: "If i sing when i cook, the food is going to be happy".

My daily grind is suddenly worth it once i taste the fruit of my labor (pun intended), that's my reward for being a cook...in my kitchen I'm the ruler of the Kingdom, and in a perfect selfish way, I'm always the one who gets the first bite.