savortaste

Pascha

Every year my family gets together and we celebrate Orthodox Easter. I am an Orthodox Christian, and sometimes the dates are a little bit off, considering our Easter is about a month off from the Catholic celebrations. So this Sunday is Pascha (Easter in Latin) and my family is getting together to roast a whole lamb and a whole suckling pig.

Every year we try to have lamb and most of the time we try to get a whole fresh one and pick it up the Saturday before Pascha. When you have lamb this fresh and so young, it is easily one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten and my mouth is watering just thinking about it right now, especially after forty days of fasting meat and dairy (which is another blog post all together). We have this roasting box called the La Caja China that can roast whole pig, lamb, or pieces of animal. The La Caja China roasts your lamb to perfect doneness while keeping the skin crispy in the box. The charcoal goes onto the top of the box while the lamb or pig is inside.

La Caja China

Pascha is a time to enjoy food, family, and friends, and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. I hope this Pascha celebration is as good as years before.

 

Great Web Show

If any of you guys are looking for a new food and wine show, check out tastbudsshow.com They have just released their pilot episode.

Check it out!

Milk

Milk is one of the most nutritious items in your fridge, but what you are buying might not be the best for you. Since the invention of pasteurization, the milk industry has transformed, and some of it not for the better. Ultra-Pasteurization has some definite health benefits, but it destroys some of the good enzymes and organisms that help your body! The type of cow has a big effect on the flavor of milk too. Most milk producers use holsteins, the black and white cow, which have more output of milk, but flavor is lost with high production. Seasonal changes in the flavor and color of milk are lost since the cows are fed a diet of corn the whole year. Small family owned farms are now taking a stand against big ag, producer better, healthier, and tastier milk.

Small batch family owned creameries in Northern California are growing rapidly. Strauss Family Creamery and St. Benoit both put standards in their business for better milk. Both creameries are certified organic, while Strauss is also Non-GMO Project Verified. Strauss does not ultra pasteurize, and homogenizes slightly so that cream rises to the top naturally, while St. Benoit leaves the natural structure of the milk alone by not homogenizing AT ALL, homogenization artificially destroys the structure of the fats in the milk, and pasteurizing at the lowest legal temperature which leaves a tastier milk, and no cooked taste. You can see and taste the change in these dairy farmers throughout the year, and especially in St. Benoit milk. Year round, both creameries feed their cows grass. In the wintertime, the milk is more yellow considering the more green grass and alfalfa they eat, resulting in a higher fat content.

Yogurt is very healthy for your digestive health. Trillions of probiotics live in your intestines that help you digest your food. Yogurt is a great way to receive these probiotics. Strauss makes many flavors, and contains four of the 6 active cultures: A. ACIDOPHILUS, L. BULGARICUS, S. THERMOPHILUS AND BIFIDOBACTERIUM LACTIS.  St. Benoit yogurt contains only two probiotics, L. BULGARICUS AND BIFIDOBACTERIUM LACTIS. Yogurt goes great with some fresh berries and/or granola. Get out there and try some of these great dairies!

Sous Vide

Well yesterday I bought my very own Sous Vide. After a few weeks of research and saving up my money I went to Williams Sonoma and bought the Polyscience Sous Vide Creative Series. I also bought the Caso VC 200 Vacuum Sealer. Which is great, because you can create your own size bags. In total $718 worth of wonderful Sous Vide cooking is ahead of me. Tonight i’m not sure what I am going to cook with it, but I am thinking about some chicken breast or maybe some salmon. Wish me luck for my first time cooking with Sous Vide!

New Ideas in the Kitchen

Sous Vide is a very mysterious item for the home cook. Everyone has heard of a mixer, rolling pin, a fry pan, but Sous Vide… Sous Vide has been on my radar for the past couple years, but I have never really understood it until recently, and I feel that I HAVE TO GET ONE!

What is a Sous Vide may you ask? It is an immersion circulator. The device keeps temperature at or within one degree of fluctuation. Here’s an example of how you would use sous vide: You have a piece of filet mignon and lets say it is prime. That could be a lot of money, and you want to make sure you cook it at a perfect medium rare. THe conventional way of cooking would be to sear it on the stovetop then throw it in the oven to finish it off. When it is done cooking the meat is medium rare in the center, but where the meat has touched the hot pan, it is brown and overcooked and you have lost a lot of the nice fat that flavors the meat. The Sous Vide method is more economical, and 100% of the filet will be exactly medium rare or your chosen temperature. First you season the meat, then throw it in a vacuum bag, and seal it. Put your Sous vide immersion circulator in a plastic tub or other item that will hold enough water to submerge your vacuum sealed bag. Set the temperature to 134 F for perfect medium rare and cook for one hour. Once the meat is done, you can sear it for color at the end quickly, or the best idea is getting a torch and browning the outsides. Rest assured your steak will be medium rare throughout and have the same delicious taste as it would have from the rill or stove.

Sous Vide has many options, fish, seafood, meats, especially meats for braising, and vegetables. Downsides are the fact that green vegetables come out brown which is not too pleasing to the eye, but it still can be done  if used correctly to cover up the color. Price is also a factor. Polyscience sells their base model for $500 and if bought through Williams Sonoma you get a free plastic tub to go with it.

Cookbooks are coming out, and almost every restaurant interested in serving top of the line food already has many Sous vide machines because of their endless applications.

sous-vide-comparison

 

San Francisco

SF’s food scene has been constantly been evolving and now might be in the running for city with the best food, beating out New York City in my opinion. Leading the pack in molecular gastronomy is Coi being the 58th best restaurant in the world. Chef Daniel Patterson has earned two Michelin stars and four stars from the SF Chronicle. His vegetable tasting menus have been all the rage, and he has been compared to Noma’s Rene Redzepi for their share in the love of foraging. 

New restaurants are taking the scene including State Bird Provisions. Their wait-list for a reservation is up to two months! Last month Zagat placed them in their 10 hottest restaurants in the world and have earned the Bon Apetit award for best new restaurant of 2012. All Chef proprietors Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski are all about are the state bird, the quail, and providing or supplying something. Every day they try to serve inventive, creative, and thoughtful dishes that make you want to come back for more. 

There is close contention between AQ and State Bird Provisions for best new restaurant. AQ’s Matt Semmelhack and Mark Liberman have come to came recently for their extremely creative and off the edge dishes that really make people think, but they love. The 2012 Eater awards gave them Restaurant of the Year and Stone Cold Stunner. 

These are must try restaurants, that will be sure to stun the food lover!

Levain

As Christmas is coming, I would like to post a few recipes for delicious savory and sweet recipes, and the first one is a tested and trusty recipe for a delicious Batard, Baguette, or epi.  I made this bread for Thanksgiving this year, and it was a big hit.

I received an early Christmas present from my parents about a week before Thanksgiving, the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook by Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel. A great cookbook all in itself, and I expect it of winning a James Beard award this year. THe cookbook has many recipes on bread, and it definitely goes into great detail on the crust. I have never heard of this before, but it wants you o make a steam generator, with rock and a chain, and put it on the bottom of your stove. Once you are ready to put the bread in the oven, hurry up and throw the bread in on a hot stone (pizza stone) and throw water onto the stones on the bottom and close the door. (FYI the oven should have been preheated for about 3 hours, or so to let it go through its cycles and heat up the rocks and stone). The steam allows the bread to have the crunchy and dark crust you would expect from a baguette from ACME bread company. This may sound like a lot of work for just a piece of bread, but once you have toiled over some flour and yeast and a little bit of water, and see what it has become, it is truly an enjoyable endeavor. 

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(Recipe for the dough will be made available when I get home)

T-Day

As Thanksgiving comes up on us, I can’t help thinking of all of the bad food I will be experiencing. The traditional cliques of Thanksgiving, the dry turkey, baby food casseroles that taste nearly inedible. I wonder why, at least in my family, Thanksgiving has gone so awry.

My Aunt does Thanksgiving at her house every year, and it is relatively fun, but for the past two years the food has gone downhill. She asked  my Dad and I to cook something this year, like always, and I want to change things up a little bit. Yesterday I was looking at some recipes on Bon Apetit, and I have to give them credit for trying to put a spin on some classic turkey day recipes, but they just weren’t working for me. Sadly, I am still in search of the Thanksgiving dish that speaks to me.

I hope all of you have a very wonderful Thanksgiving, and that all of your food is wonderful! :)

Cheers!

My Winter Garden Fun

On Tuesday I  ordered the seeds for my over-winter garden. Having and obtaining a garden is one of the best things for a chef. Your restaurant can have the freshest, most in season items, and it is the same for home cooks.

This year in my garden is a first for a few things. For one, I am growing everything from seeds. I used to grow some of my vegetables from seedlings but not this year. I am a little nervous on how long I will have to wait for my fruit to come on the plants.

I am trying completely new lettuces this year. I have eaten this is restaurants before, but have never grown it. I am also growing Deer Tongue, and Merlot lettuces, which will make a very unique mix of greens as well as wonderful salads all by themselves. Baron Mache and Arugula are other additions to my salad bowl this year.

Endive is another great saladish type of vegetable. That should make a unique spot in my garden.

Boef Bourguignon

A while ago, I was watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Techniques Special, and he was cooking Boef Bourguignon, and many other things. The Bourguignon stood out, and I decided to make it. Boef Bourguignon is a classic French dish that is very easy to make, and very very delicious. This is essentially a stew, but packed full of flavor. 

Here is the recipe:

2, 9-lb. paleron of beef, or chicken steak or same amount of shoulder or neck, cut into 1-1/2- inch pieces (Chuck is good, preferable if it has a little bit more fat on it)

1 garlic clove

1 bouquet garni (I used sage, thyme, bay leaf and don’t go skimpy)

1/4 cup of olive oil

4 onions, thinly sliced 

1 tbs. all-purpose flour

1 cup red Burgundy (MORE and don’t be afraid, the alcohol cooks off. Put at least 2 cups)

6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and pepper

A little chopped flat parsley

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Equipment

Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot

Wooden spoon

Large spoon or ladle

Stage 1

Season the meat with salt and pepper.

In the Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the meat in batches — not all at once! — and sear on all sides until it is well- browned (not gray). You dump too much meat in the pot at the same time and you’ll overcrowd it; cool the thing down and you won’t get good color.

Sear the meat a little at a time, removing it and setting it aside as it finishes. When all the meat is a nice, dark brown color and has been set aside, add the onions to the pot. Lower the heat to medium-high until the onions are soft and golden brown (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle the flour over them. Continue to cook about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally then, add the red wine. Naturally, you want to scrape up all that really good fond from the bottom of the pot with your wooden spoon. Bring the wine to a boil.

Stage 2

Return the meat to the pot and add the carrots, garlic and bouquet garni. Add just enough water (and 2 big spoons of demi glace, if you have it) so that the liquid covers the meat by one-third — meaning you want a ratio of 3 parts liquid to 2 parts meat. This is a stew, so you want plenty of liquid, even after it cooks down and reduces. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and let it cook for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender (break-apart-with-a-fork tender). 

You should pay attention to the dish, meaning check it every 15 to 20 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the meat is not sticking or, God forbid, scorching. You should also skim off any foam or scum or oil collecting on the surface, using a large spoon or ladle. When done, remove and discard the bouquet garni, add the chopped parsley to the pot and serve Make sure the liquid has turned to a gravy before serving, and if needed add salt, but don’t add salt just to add salt, taste it first!

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