Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Knives & Bones

Class 2, Knife Skills & Stock Making

I'mmm back. With a crazy travel schedule I missed a couple weeks so I may be hopping back and forth between concepts/classes!  Chef Pascal advised that in kitchen life you only need 4 knives to work your culinary magic. High carbon steel is best and you can find a great knife in a variety of price ranges. 

1) Chef's Knife (8-9 in)
2) Paring Knife
3) Boning Knife
4) Slicer
5) * A Steel for sharpening

Knifes should be sharp enough to cut paper.  If you hold up a piece and slash through it (safely) it should easily cut through.  If it tears or rips the paper it is going to tear and rip your food.  This is an oddly satisfying experiment to try at home.

Cutting Boards:  Wood & the newer types made of Bamboo are great.  Those clear plastic ones with little rubber feet are NOT cutting boards. Note:  If Chef Pascal is over for dinner and sees you using one, he will not say anything but will be shaking his head mentally at you.

Remember to have good posture when you are cutting and look down at the food, not at an angle.  Cut forward, do not chop up and down. 

The rest of the class focused on stock making.  We started with the neccessary basic, chicken stock.  Number one take away, do not use cooked or roasted bones for chicken stock making.  You need raw bones if you want the best flavor.  You don't need expensive bones or parts however, chicken necks, wings and even feet are great.  Trimmings are also fine, but stay away from chicken livers as it will impart a bitter flavor.

Start with a proper stock pot and inside put 1 part bone and trimmings to 1/2 part mire poix (fancy name for chopped onions, carrots, and celery).  Add Bouquet Garni (dried herbs: thyme, bay leaf, parsley and peppercorns), some garlic and cold water. Fill the pot up to where all the ingredients are submerged with about an inch of water.  Now bring to boil as soon as possible, as soon as it gets to boiling, bring the heat down to simmer.  Never put a lid on it so evaporation occurs. Simmer it for 2-3 hours.  Strain it twice. Once through a larger mesh and then through a finer one.  Chill the broth quickly in a tub of ice and then use or freeze in small containers.  That's it.  Nothing too complicated and although it takes time, there is not much babysitting you have to do while it cooks.  You are free to enjoy housewife marathons on TV while playing words with friends as a homemade broth cooks to perfection!

We also covered Veal Stock. Something that none of us will ever try at home.  Not only are the bones extremely expensive, the prep time is considerable as well as the cook time...10-12 Hours.  Whew, Chef Pascal says he will offer it for students to purchase because once we get a taste of what veal stock can do, well we may well never be able to go back.  Veal stock reduces to Demi- Glace (1/2 Glaze) which to chefs and the food world is truly brown gold.  The richness, versatility and depth of flavor of demi glace is what upscale restaurants have that a home cook will never have in their arsenal.  You can purchase ready made demi-glace in some stores, but there are not all natural and are pre-salted, so you can not control the level when adding it to your cooking.  

That's it for this one friends, next up stocks for making soups!  Mmmm soup love.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Taste of Culinary School- 24 Weeks of Gastronomy Glory!

I decided to enroll in a 24 week cooking program that meets once a week to get my true food(edu)cation on.  Time to not just talk the talk right? I found this:

I knew I was in the right place when owner and director of the school, Chef Pascal, in his introductions proclaimed a true dark hate for the poison HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and declared that Cheesecake Factory was what was wrong with our country.  Now if you know me, I was perked up like a show dog at it's first pageant hanging on his every word.  He also went over his life in France, Germany, Spain and Washington DC, how he speaks at least 4 different languages and the training and his experience at some of the most world renowned restaurants in the world.  Never short an opinion or a story, Chef Pascal is as dynamic as they come.  To top it all off he came out of retirement here in Scottsdale to open a non-profit cooking school that works in conjunction to help Native Americans and also offers a professional accredited course at a lower cost than "that school with a french name that I don't remember".  Side note, individual cooking classes are available here often and I highly suggest attending.

The first class went simply over Chef's background and information on sanitation, ingredients and cooking ware.  Highlights include:

During the sanitation section:  Freezing and thawing food.  Remember that if you freeze beef, you will lose much of the moisture.  The beef will cook faster and it will be a bit drier.  Chef Pascal says, "People ask me all the time, Where do you buy fish in AZ?''  He answers, "I don't know". 

Salt: Stay away from that little girl with an umbrella at all costs.  Diamond brand Kosher salt is best, why we ask?  Look at the ingredients: salt.

Oils: 100% refined peanut oil is best, Canola Oil is 2nd best.  Did you know that the name canola oil comes from CAnadian Oil Low Acidity?  That's right, canola oil is a Canadian invention taken from rapeseeds.  No matter how you spin it, rapeseed oil just did not market right.  Canola Oil it is!  Also he says stay away from vegetable oil and pomace olive oil, they are have additives or ingredients that lower the quality and healthfulness of the oil.

Dairy:  What is the difference between Heavy Cream and Heavy Whipping Cream?  Heavy whipping cream has added stabilizers to help aid with whipping and a give it a longer shelf life.  Find heavy cream (the real stuff) at sprouts and whole foods.  Also don't be afraid of whole milk!  Be afraid of sugar, give kids in schools whole milk instead of fat free with artificial colorings and flavorings.  Lastly half and half does not cook well, don't try to use it.  In Europe he says there is no such thing as half and half, if you can't cook with it, why would it exist?

Vinegars:  Use wine based vinegars and absolutely stay away from Distilled vinegar unless you need to do some cleaning.

I walked out of my first class with my new chef's jacket and a little smile.  I can't wait to go back. 

Next class:  Knife skills and intro into Stocks!!  Julienne my carrots?? Yes please.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

5 Minutes with Ming

What a thrill.  In my mail was an invite to a Food & Wine & Buick sponsored event featuring Ming Tsai http://ming.com/aboutming.htm I used to subscribe to Food & Wine so I think that was the key to my ticket in.  I was figuring that they were luring all the foodies in with the chef demos, but really we would be under the control of Buick's Marketing team and endless car talk, so I came with low expectations.

Ben Roche of Moto fame (he is their executive pastry chef) http://www.motorestaurant.com/category/menu  was who presented our first demo.  A  true molecular gastronomist, he delighted us with a creamy walnut and bleu cheese ice cream created in minutes with liquid nitrogen (kid stuff for him I know) and s'mores bombs which were candies with a liquid graham cracker centers and a fuse made of an asian glass noodle.  When burnt the little bit of ash left created the campfire smokiness of a marshmallow.  Creative and extremely passionate he was a pleasure to hear speak.

Although we had a couple other demos to attend (including the Buick test drive) I was ready to see Ming Tsai by the end of the afternoon.  He did not disappoint.  Charming, clever and funny he bounded his way through two recipes including chicken and bell pepper chow mein and sweet and sour mango pork.  During the question and answer section I asked him about competing on the Next Iron Chef and if he could tell us about any behind the scenes info.  He said his publicist warned him against it, 6 weeks off and he didn't want Ming to lose right away. Ming assured him he would not be going home in the first round. He also confided that he really decided to do it to prove to himself that he had not lost his game. 

After the demo he stayed to shake hands and take pictures.  This is it, my 5 minutes:
Me:  Very nice to meet you Ming
Ming:  Great to meet you, thanks for coming
Ming:  What is your nationality?
Me:  Vietnamese
Ming: I knew it, what are the best places around here for Chinese or Vietnamese food, there doesn't seem to be many.  I know there is Elements, but that's more asian fusion
Me:  Well there is a chinese place called Great Wall... I go for..
Ming:  Cuts me off, I already hate that name, what's the best place for Vietnamese?
Me: Well that is my mom's house, but you are welcome over anytime, my mom would love it (when I told my mom this, she almost blushed, ha).  There is also this place called Da Vang.  It's great.  He repeated the name, to me.
Me:  I have to ask you, what is the best place for Dim Sum nationally?
Ming:  Hmm nationally, do you mean for dumplings?
Me:  Yes, dumplings, that's great.
Ming:  Definitely Din Tai Fung in LA.  http://www.dintaifungusa.com/
Although it's a chain it started in Asia (taiwan) and its really fantastic.
Me: I'm there.
Ming:  He then handed me his card with his restaurant Blue Ginger on it (yes he carries his own business cards, on it Owner/Chef Ming Tsai)
Me:  Can I go by and tell them I know the chef??  but he was already walking away...

We all left with signed copies of his last book (so nice).  If you make it to the dumpling place before I do let me know otherwise I will be sure to write about it when I sink my teeth into that first shumai!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Until We Eat Again... New York!

Scroll straight down to PART II to read about the rest of my NY dining adventure!

Sooo sorry for the long delay!! I find that I can not bear to write a sentence unless I am wholly inspired by the culinary bits and pieces that enter my life.  Fortunately a trip to New York revived me!  Here is the long list of all the places I went to starting the Wednesday night I arrived, to Sunday evening.  I must MUST credit my unbelievably dedicated and supportive eating companions, Steph and Charlie, without them I would not have been able to taste, laugh and enjoy NY as much as I did. 

Pomme Frites http://www.pommesfrites.ws/:  Crispy, thick cut Belgian fries made to order with a delicious assortment of over 20 sauces to drown and dunk them in.  We tried the mango chutney mayo, parmesan peppercorn and the curry ketchup especial.  The parma peppercorn turned out to be the group fav.  Next time, I am trying them Poutine style with curds and gravy!  Mmmmm.

Spot http://www.spotdessertbar.com/:  Sadly we got here as they were closing, but happened to score on the 1/2 off cookies.  A monstrous chocolate chip coconut cookie was the prize and although decadent, not the best I have ever had.  The locals come for the seasonal dessert tapas and rightfully so, with choices like Steamed Passion Fruit Souffle with yuzu, citrus and coconut sorbet.

Mud Coffee http://mudnyc.com/spots.html/:  A fantastic cup of their darkly delicious brew was almost outdone by their breakfast sandwich.  Thick slices of chorizo sausage, ripe avocado and arugula with egg were nestled in a warm french bread roll.  What a perfect start to a NYC morning!

Xi'an Famous Foods  http://xianfoods.com/:  Okay so Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and even the annoying old host of Top Chef Masters, Kelly Choi, made it here before me, but it was still review worthy fantastic.  The hand pulled rice noodles are masterful and nothing like I have ever tasted.  The spicy lamb cumin noodles force you to take a moment and review your taste bud history.  Nope, you have never had anything quite like it.  I have to admit though I was especially partial to the other dish I tried, the "Spicy & Tingly Beef Hand-Ripped Noodles in Soup".  Oh yah...the seasoning (lots of five spice) and broth were spot on with meltingly tender chunks of all day braised beef.  The hand ripped noodles also soaked in the broth, but kept their lovingly chewy texture.  I will be back for you spicy & tingly beef soup, mark my words.

BCD Tofu House http://www.bcdtofu.com/:  Hands down one of my favorite meals of this trip.  Sneak into Koreatown at any hour and this place is jumping (the restaurant is open 24 hours).  Although they do have locations outside of NY (the original locations are in Korea) it is still a must stop if you are a Korean food fan.  Sit down and a freshly and perfectly fried whole mackerel is put in front of you.  The meat is succulent and juicy. Our group then gorged on perfectly spicy seafood and kimchee silken tofu soup, a mind altering scallion and shrimp pancake (i miss you! i still think about you!), and a fresh and bright salad with hauntingly tasty triangles of tofu.  For many moments during this dinner we all just sat looking at each other and chewing.  Ohh the dark jealousy I feel for the people that may venture here on a whim...


Eataly http://eatalyny.com/:  I had such high expectations for this mammoth italian food mecca in downtown NY and I can sincerely say all of them were exceeded.  If you come with an empty tummy you can easily spend hours here in the count them, 12 different food stations inside.  Twelve.  I sadly only tackled 3 of the 12, but I still think about that slice of pizza that i did not finish.  Fantastic quality, a MUST go when you are in NY.

Buddakan http://www.buddakannyc.com/:  The hardest part for me about eating in NY is the the wait time.  Either you have to eat at 6pm or 9:45pm which basically means I am starving, ravenous when we sit down at 10 for dinner.  You really can not go wrong with asian fusion.  We partaked in lobster fried rice, multiple sumptuous dumplings and more tofu.  The drinks are strong and the ambient lighting is so low it feels like you are eating in the dark.  Trendy and beautiful, Buddakan does not disappoint.

Wall and Water http://www.hyatt.com/gallery/wall&water/ :  We had brunch twice here at our hotel, the Andaz on Wall Street.  Great boutique hotel with lots of room space, not in the thick of things but very comfortable.  The part of our meal I still remember most is the coffee.  Profoundly robust, rich and full of flavor without a hint of bitterness.  It was fantastic and $6.00 a cup.  Otherwise, many of the egg dishes were rich, but very small portions.  If you are staying at the hotel, it is worth the stop. 

People's Pops at the High Line http://peoplespops.com/peoples_pops.html 
http://www.thehighline.org/:  Okay new yorkers are obsessed with the high line (a public park that is built on an elevated freight rail line over Chelsea). It is nice, but when we finally walked the thing we were left wondering what really all the fuss was about.  I did find a nice stand where I tried my first pineapple jalapeno popscicle which was a bit on the sweet side.  A bit more tartness would have balanced it nicely.  People's pops and the highline, a bit overrated for me.

Gahm Mi Oak http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/gahm-mi-oak/:  Okay, I just don't get it.  I am open to trying everything and our local friend swore that this was one of his favorite restaurants in the city.  We tried modum bossam.  Raw oysters, pork belly and kimchee and pickled cabbage leaves are presented on dishes so you can assemble the wraps yourself.  I started out on the wrong foot by taking a small bite of a chili pepper that quickly turned me into an impromptu man vs food spice challenge.  My mouth cried, my eyes became blurry and I became practically sick from the pain.  We also saw a roach scurry across the floor right after that which had it not been confirmed by my other 2 dining companions I might have considered it as a heat hallucination.  After all this I was willing to be enthusiastic about the unusual combo of ingredients, but nothing came together for me.  At least we didn't waste all the food, our friend decided to bring it to lunch for work the next day.  Trade for pudding cup anyone?

liquiteria http://liquiteria.com/:  The closest I could get to Natalie Portman was coming here twice.  There is a nice article and picture they have hanging up in the small juice stop proclaiming her love for the place.  $11-$13 juice...welcome to New York.  I am a big fan of green juice (much to the horror and disgust of my boyfriend) and my drink of choice was their pressed juice (even better than fresh squeezed so they say) of all greens and apple juice.  It is a great pick me up while all day walking.

Dumpling Man http://www.dumplingman.com/:  If you do not like dumplings I may consider you not human.  In this small narrow shop there are workers making fresh dumplings in front of you.  We tried chicken, pork, veggie and shrimp and although they were all good, it would be nothing I would call my brother about (we food text and send food pics often).  My favorite dumplings are still the steamed egg rolls I get at Great Wall in Phoenix, Az.  Have you gone yet?? You should, they are amazing.

Janes Sticky Buns http://janessweetbuns.com/menu.html:  Janes Buns is a quaint shop selling liqueur infused pastry goodness.  Yum, yum, yum.  I am a huge fan of rum raisin (haagen-dazs makes the best rum raisin ice cream hands down) so I had to try the rum runner sticky bun.  Handmade with aged rum, brown sugar, galliano (sweet herbal liqueur), cinnamon, nutmeg and raisins I hummed while I tore off each fat sugary piece of drenched buttery bread from the bun.  Do you ever do that?  Do the head nod from side to side while humming in between scrumptious bites?  That is always when I know the food has hit my happy place. 

508 http://508nyc.com/:  This is a place that we went to for dinner when we couldn't get into the 2 other places we went to first.  Skipping to the chase, there are way to many great restaurants in NY to go here. Food was normal (ouch). Next please!

Chelsea Market http://chelseamarket.com/:  Where Food Network lives!  In the same building anyway.  This is a must stop for foodies to new york (yes skip high line and come here).  There is a plethora of fantastic high quality produce and almost anything that you might be craving is here.  There is a lovely oil and vineager shop, specialty sweets, breads, cheese and more in a very modern meets vintage building of steel beams and brick walks.  I was already so full when I got here, I just looked longingly in most of the windows.

Gorilla Grilled Cheese, Rickshaw Dumplings & Kimchee Taco Truck http://gorillacheesenyc.com/ http://rickshawdumplings.com/ http://kimchitacotruck.com/
We went to what we thought would be a gathering of food trucks at an antique market over the weekend.  I tried the bbq pulled pork and carmelized onion grilled cheese, some chicken and chive dumplings and several kimchee tacos.  I was dissapointed, nothing earth shattering.  I should have stalked the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck instead.  http://biggayicecream.com/about/

Milk Bar http://media1.milkbarstore.com/menu/nov-ev-menu-back-copy2.jpg:  Everytime I bit into the ice cream I was still surprised.  How does this taste exactly like cereal milk and why do I want so much more of it??  The compost cookie is fantastic (it has potato chips in it) as well as the truffles, but that ice cream is genius!  With several locations I declare it is a must stop.  David Chang is ridiculous and he has taken over the NY food world.

Zebb elee Thai http://zabbelee.com/contents/home.html:  Super authentic thai, I mean I can barely pronouce the name so you know it's not like your neighborhood Thai Palace.  We had some great appetizers including sauteed morning glory (green leafy veg) with fresh chili, a tasty egg and garlic omelette and a crisp papaya salad with preserved crab and pickled fish that Charlie declared tastes just like when he had it in Thailand. 

Ippodu http://www.ippudony.com/ http://www.yelp.com/biz/ippudo-ny-new-york You are at home in your other respective neighborhood (not NY) and decide to yelp the restaurants in your area, see what has some great reviews nearby. What does a good place in Phoenix have, maybe 100, gosh maybe even 300?? When you Yelp Ippodu it has 3,219 reviews.  WHAT?  Okay 1.  Why are people still reviewing this place, I mean what else can be said about a bowl of ramen, or are you not cool if you haven't yelped it?  2.  When you got there, there was an official looking sign on the door from Yelp stating that Ippudo at that point in 2010 had the most reviews nationwide of any restaurant.  This is serious.  So we wait, come back around 9:30pm and get 2 bowls to share.  I am a noodle maniac.  Rice is alright, but noodles and pasta for me is so much more swoon worthy.  Also isn't ramen everyone's guilty pleasure (2 bowls of Nongshim Spicy Kimchi flavor are usually hidden in the back of my pantry)?  Anyway we had the original Tonkotsu ramen and the Shoyu ramen and they were both good.  I'm not sure they were 3,219 reviews good, but it being my last night in the city maybe I was just tired of waiting until 10:00pm to eat dinner.  If you like ramen you will like it. The bowls are medium sized and are $15-$17 with options for add-ins like poached eggs for extra.

And that my friends is it.  I detailed every crumb, thought and morsel in my NY outing.  Until we eat again!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Here Today. Gone Tomorrow.

Okay, so I know that I live in Arizona and I have for the most part lowered my expectations on having an innovative and passionate food culture like San Fran and  NY.  Recently however, a trend of pop up restaurants in the valley have given me a bit of a spring to my step, a little twinkle in my eye, and some hope in my heart.  Common in big cities are the oh so mysterious and under the radar dining experiences like last minute supper clubs in an unknown until right before the event location or the pop up restaurants that are here today and gone tomorrow.  Pop up restaurants are a great opportunity for a local chef to share a focused culinary point of view for a short period of time.  In the case of the one I recently attended, our group concluded that it also was in part to market and promote the new hotel that the pop up restaurant was in.  Every weekend or so a new chef will bring in their new ideas and cook for a set reservation of people Friday and Saturday evening. 

To be willing and excited for these adventures require an open palate and mind as the menus choices are limited and usually very creative.  To hand over your control to your chef of the moment is not something just anyone will do.  Last Saturday I had the opportunity to try the pop up restaurant of the weekend at Cycle (thanks D & B for the invite) http://cyclephoenix.com/ (scroll down a bit to see the "Experience" menu we tasted).  The space is fun, the walls are chalkboards and the staff is inviting.  Starters included fried in duck fat fries and frog log lollies.  Both were fine, but nothing to rave over.  The star entree was the lamb sliders prepared 3 ways, which garnered some oohs and ahhs from the different flavor combinations that included a European and African style burger.  The pig ear salad was a major disappointment with the ears fried so heavily, they were tooth cracking.  The final entree offered was a smoked traditional pizza with mozz, tomato and basil.  That was again perfectly fine, but nothing to daydream over.  Lastly, for dessert we had a pizza cookie and probably the most unique course of the night; a deconstructed sundae.  It included frozen dehydrated fruit pieces, a frozen egg shell of chocolate filled with cream and rich vanilla ice cream with caramel.  It was playful, super creative and we all loved it.

The other recent destination was Welcome Diner in Phoenix where local chef (of Cafe Boa fame) Peyton Curry has set up shop for the next 3 months http://paytoncurry.com/welcome-diner/.  You may have heard of this place or seen it driving by.  It used to be an operating Diner, but they closed and now Chef Curry has the reigns on the place every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night until the beginning of July.  With an ever changing menu and locally farmed ingredients it was one of the more delightful dining experiences I have had in a while. 

In a tiny space (I sort of felt like I was in a food cart) you were an arms length away from the chef and could see all of your dishes being made on a tiny grill top.  For an appetizer we shared the rutabaga, beet and almond milk take on vichyssoise (a traditionally chilled potato and leek soup).  It was pleasantly lightly sweet and was drizzled with a vibrant basil, parsley and lemon oil. We also had a mushroom tart that I was so excited for because of my love for all things mushroom that was quite disappointing.  The mushrooms did not shine through at all and instead the vinegary greens that were in the tart were the most forward flavor.  There was also spicy hummus on the plate that was good alone, but did not help to harmonize the dish in any way.  The fettuccine with braised artichokes and white anchovy and capers was another dish we had.  He used fresh pasta, but the anchovy taste was barely there and the pasta was a bit toothsome.  I do give points for creativity though. 

Butter basted Steak, chimichurri, and bleu cheese on top of braised celery and tomato magic (that is how he describes it on the menu) became the best dish we both had never tried before.  This star of the show was taste volumes over all of the other dishes.    We had it without the bleu cheese as my bf has a serious intense dislike for its assertive flavor.  Without the bleu it was still faaantaaastic.  You put the first piece in your mouth and we both looked at each other with the same look of have you ever had anything like this before?  I talk about food all the time and this dish is somewhat indescribable.  The flavor combination was so unique and yet it made all the sense in the world in your mouth.  Chef Curry uses only organic grass fed beef so the texture, cut and marbling were wonderful and it was extremely juicy.  The steak had this incredible crust on it that I could not believe he created just from a pan.  It turns out he really does sit and baste the steak over and over with butter.  He tilts the pan to the side and with a spoon he pours the melted herbed butter until it forms a succulent crust of greatness on the meat.  All the elements work together perfectly, the fresh chimichurri sauce, braised celery and tomato magic are savory, slightly smoky and sweet.  A bit of a fireworks show on your tongue.  Later when you are out of the butter and meat flavor explosion daze you can't seem to even put your finger on all of the flavor profiles in that dish, but you know that your steak bar has been permanently raised.

This diner is such a find.  I so encourage you to try it before his time there runs out, and if you can, see if that butter steak is still there.  The chef, the small and attentive staff, and customers are just as excited about food as you are.  It was really a lovely time and such a fun food experience right here in the valley.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

PATA what??

NEW DISH ALERT:  Okay so I have pretty much heard it all, I mean I read a culinary dictionary for fun for foodsakes!  Or at least I thought I had until a couple weekends ago when I came across the assertive yet delightful...

Patacon Sandwich dun dun dun.... Have you heard of it before? I had not and I had a great time deconstructing its contents and eating it.  Let me take you down the path of exploring this very creative and downright likable sandwich.  Of Venezuelan descent it is a local favorite for a late night or any time hunger pangs and is offered in numerous roadside stands.  Luckily for me, I only had to drive to Mesa, Az to get my first taste.  Instead of bread, large slices of freshly fried plantain slices are used to hold the luscious and juicy contents.  At My Arepa http://www.myarepa.com/  we tried the patacon, a shredded pork arepa, fried sweet plantains and the short rib beef soup.  By far the patacon was the star. 

We got the "supreme version" which has succulent and moist mildly spicy but oh so flavorful shredded pork, crunchy coleslaw, a pink sauce (mayo with a little ketchup mixed in) and a very happy and healthy portion of thick sliced avocado.  Some shredded chicken and fresh queso finishes the masterpiece.  The plantain slices were perfect width and thickness so the sandwich did not fall apart when you bit into it, but not too thick to where it takes over the sandwich.  When you bite it you taste the lightly sweet plantain flavor and then the richness of the pork.  The coleslaw provides a nice contrast and coolness to the warm meat while the sauce, queso and buttery avocado finish and round out the the little party in your mouth.  You wipe your mouth because the sauce is all over the place or if you are like me wait a couple bites so you don't use 100 napkins. 

Because the plantains do not absorb that well, it can be a bit messy, but it is very much worth it. I mean look at the sandwich! Crazily enough, I did not personally order the patacon when we went so I was sneaking bites (and sideways glances) and harboring my food envy.  What more can I say?? Go find your nearest Venezuelan gem!  I would love to hear about your patacon experiences!

Monday, March 14, 2011

In the Kitchen with Kim

My romance with Roasting vegetables started with the help of one person... Ina Garten.  You may know her better as the Barefoot Contessa, but she truly opened my eyes to the convenience and ease of cooking in your oven.  Little known fact, baking and roasting is doing the exact same thing, the culinary world just assigned different terms to cooking sweet and savory items.  You can go ahead and say you are "roasting a cake" and you would not be incorrect.

An easy way to go is to just pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Chop your preferred vegetable into similar size pieces and then throw them onto a lighlty oiled sheet with salt, pepper and more oil.  Throw it in for 15-20 minutes to start and then taste one.  Add or subtract time to your preferred taste and density of veg.  If you usually do not like a certain vegetable try it roasted, its usually much sweeter with a more tender texture.  It's like me on my best days, brushed, showered and properly dressed!  The best version of myself. 

What is also fantastic is its cooking without any extra attention from you.  Focus on the stove top or just sit in front of the TV while your roasting away.

Once you get the hang of it, go crazy add parmesan cheese, herbs, spices and feel free to finish with more cheese, breadcrumbs, and fresh herbs and lemon juice...

I have roasted and suggest the following:

Brussel Sprouts
Cauliflower (totally different taste, great with melted cheese)
Potatoes (White & Sweet)
Butternut Squash
Tomatoes (this one is especially awesome, the sweetness is incredible)

Super Easy & Fast Dinner Ideas:

Greek Pizza
From Fresh & Easy or Trader Joes Pick up
1 refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough
1 pkg of your favorite hummus (I used Jalepeno)
1 pkg of broccolini (baby broccoli)
1 pkg of baby carrots (use a handful chopped)
1 can of chunk white tuna
Other great add ons: olives, feta

Spread out pizza dough on sheet pan or pizza sheet.  Top with your favorite hummus, chopped broccolini, chopped carrots and tuna.  Bake according to directions then finish it off with some red pepper and fresh lemon juice.

Honey Dijon Roasted Salmon & Parmesan Asparagus
2 salmon filets
bunch of asparagus (woody stems removed)
fresh lemon
grated parmesan (the real stuff not from green can) pre-finely shredded is fine (you can find in any grocery store)
couple tablespoons of dijion mustard
couple squeezes of honey
handful of breadcrumbs or panko

Pre-heat over to 400 degrees.  On a lighlty oiled baking sheet put aspargus on one side and salmon filets on other.  Mix the honey and diijon mustard, then spread on top of salmon filets.  Sprinkle filets with breadcrumbs.  On asparagus toss with a little bit of oil and and parmesan.  Put in oven and roast for 15 minutes or so.  When you take it out sqeeze fresh lemon juice on the salmon and the asparagus.  Top asparagus with a little more fresh parmesan.  Plate and Enjoy!!