Monthly Archives: January 2012

Bocuse d’Or American Team Competition

Today, I had the unique experience of attending the second day of the competition at the Culinary Institute of America for the American team which will head to Lyon, France in 2013 to take part in the global cooking contest known as the Bocuse d’Or, named after renowned French chef Paul Bocuse who is known for promoting la nouvelle cuisineKitchenAid supplied tickets to several fellow food writers and me to watch this event.  We all piled on a very early train to head up to Hyde Park, not really sure what to expect.  What was fascinating to me, as it turns out, is the process by which the whole thing unfolded.

The four teams cooked in one of each of these purpose-built kitchen setups (above).  The competition would select one Chef and one Commis (or assistant) to go to Lyon next year to compete as one of the 24 teams for the bronze, silver, or gold medals of the Bocuse. They each had to prepare one dish featuring River & Glen “hookers” cod and one with D’Artagnan air-chilled chicken.

Here’s another view of the cooking stations, complete with the other chefs attending or judging the competition watching the proceedings.  There were a total of 60 points that were at stake for a team.  Forty points were for taste; twenty points were available for presentation; and, in the event, of a tie, points would be awarded for methodology, which is why the chef judges were also watching the way the competing chefs were working on their dishes.  Later on, I also found out that one of the other areas that was considered was the cleanliness of the stations at the end of all the cooking.

You can see Chef Daniel Boulud dropping by to watch Chef Jeffrey Lizotte, who works at ON20 in Hartford, Connecticut, after cooking in the kitchens of David Bouley and Eric Ripert.  I noticed that his bio said that he had been at the now-closed Danube, which was a favorite restaurant of my parents and I, so I might have actually eaten his cooking on one of my trips there.

I kind of had a soft spot for the team of Chef Richard Rosendale and Corey Siegel, for no other reason than the fact that they are sort of from around my neck of the woods and I’ve always been a bit fascinated by The Greenbrier, maybe I’ll even get to stay there one day.  Look at this floor’s eye view of all these chefs crowding around the cooking station.  Can you see the time on the clock?  The chefs had 5 1/2 hours to cook and this was about an hour or so away from the buzzer.

Here’s Team 1, part of the way through, focusing on how to get all the preparation done.  Chef Danny Cerqueda and his Commis, James Haibach, hail from the Carolina Country Club in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Another tidbit I picked up while I was at the event is that the Commis must be no more than 23 years old on the date of the final competition in France.

Like any good competition, this battle had its fans.  This is a photo of the audience early on in the morning.  Chef Jeff Lizotte’s team had t-shirts made with their names on them to support efforts and that of his Commis, Kevin Curley.  I had to say, though, that I think that Chef Richard Rosendale had some of the most enthusiastic cheering crowd, and I hope that the photo of them my fellow attendee Ken of Hungry Rabbit comes out clearly so that you can see just how passionate everyone was about their chosen chef.

When the judging started to get underway, the chefs were called to the table.  Some of this group would evaluate the fish dishes and some the meat dishes.

The judges also had time to study the recipes that the competing chefs had prepared.

They compared some notes and talked to each other.  What were they discussing?

The servers stood behind each of the judges, ready to serve the finished plates.

You know how your food-obsessed friends always photograph their food before eating it (and they do the same to yours, too). Well, it was no different with the chefs at the event today. For some great photos of all of the dishes from the judging table itself, check out the photos that Chef Gavin Kaysen, a former Bocuse competitor and team coach, Tweeted around. I haven’t mentioned Chef Bill Bradley, an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Massachusetts, as I got stuck on the opposite side of the auditorium from his station, but you can see his work in Chef Kaysen’s pictures.

All of the day’s events were also broadcast on huge screen so that the audience could follow along with every detail of the work the chefs were doing.  This is the fish dish from Team 3, Richard Rosendale and Corey Siegel.

Chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller sample one of the dishes.

Between the dishes coming out, even the chefs seemed to be anticipating what the next plating would look like and taste.  You can see Chef Grant Achatz on the left in the photo.

Head coach Jérôme Bocuse, a chef, son of the award’s founder, member of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, and a head coach for the teams, waiting to see which dish is next.

A viewing of the chicken dish put together by Danny Cerqueda.  Here is the view from where Gavin Kaysen sat.  You can see that it wasn’t easy to get a photo of it with all the competing cameras vying for the best shot.  The dishes were then plated for the chefs to taste and judge.

From the screen, here is what Richard Rosendale’s chicken dish looked like.  How about whipping this up for your next dinner party?  It was quite impressive, as the chefs prepared not only the meat portion but also had to create the vegetables and the sides in the allotted time as well.  Seeing the work (alas, not tasting it, however) that the teams did today and knowing that this is the spirit and heart that they bring to their food every day, was really inspiring.

At this point, I had to leave the competition to head back to the city, prior to the winners being revealed.  Richard Rosendale, the chef from The Greenbrier, whose chicken dish was the one pictured above, was announced as the American candidate to go to Lyon in 2013 to represent the United States in this international event.  Here’s an article from The Wall Street Journal that profiles the prep work by the Malaysian team for the event held in 2011.  Good luck to Chef Rosendale and his team on their way to France next year!

Acknowledgements

I can’t sign off before acknowledging KitchenAid, who supplied the the ticket for me to be able to attend this event.  I accepted this offer as I thought it would be a different way to experience the hard work and dedication that food professionals bring to their craft, and I’ve grown up with and use their products in my own kitchen.

As a bonus, a few of the other writers and I also got to take a peek at couple of the new KitchenAid appliances as well.  The 13-cup food processor pictured above is even more beautiful in person.  As Emily of Nominvorous said, “You really listed to what people said they wanted.”  There’s more choice in slicing options and speeds, the funnel sizes are different depending upon what you are feeding into the large bowl, there’s a rubber seal to keep all those liquids safe inside the bowl, and the handle is sturdily attached to the side, making it easy to grab to remove the contents of the processor.  I kind of fell in love with this, which is why I’m raving about it so much here.

Another piece of equipment that we got to look at that would make me clear off my counter to make room is the 7-quart Stand Mixer.  Again, it has some new features and speeds as well as design improvements.  This photo is of the commercial standard version that they have, although they do have one designed more for the home chef as well.  Just think of all the great things you could make with this at your side.

Buon appetito!

Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

This dish brings back memories of my folks coming to visit me when I lived in Bologna, Italy.  Far away from home, it was a real treat to be able to show off my language skills and the city to them.  Of course, the other benefit was that we got to eat out at places that were normally beyond my grad school student budget.  One of those was the venerable Ristorante Diana, which has been around since the 1920s and has served just about everyone.  Yes, at this point it is quite touristy, and although it does a good job with la cucina bolognese, it isn’t really the first place I’d send people looking for the classic cuisine of the city.

Go down Via Independenza to get there

At the same time, however, I did have a dish there that night that I immediately tried to re-create in my own kitchen a few weeks later: Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes.  It would have been useful if I had written down exactly what I had done more than ten years ago when I first cracked it, but, of course, I didn’t.  Two countries, four cities, and I’m not sure how many moves later, and I decided that I needed to try this one again.  I’m not sure if I got it quite the way that I had had it in Italy, but I think this is a close approximation.  It is a meat and potatoes dish with an Italian flare, and it came together quickly on a week night.  During these dreary winter days, it also had me dreaming of the inviting tangerine and papaya hues of Bologna, which is never a bad thing.

Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

This is one of those dishes where several pots and pans are going on all at the same time.  That is one of the reasons it works well as a week night supper, as it comes together very quickly.  Read the recipe through all the way to get the hang of the sequence of these steps and to see how several things are timed to cook together.

Serving Size: 2 portions

Prep Time: 30-ish minutes

Ingredients:

1 medium Potato per person, peeled and cut into chunks (I used a variety called Nicola that was nice and buttery.)

1/2 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Butter

Salt

Pepper

2 Chicken breast halves

4 slices Pancetta, cut into medium-sized pieces

1/4 tsp. Olive Oil

1/2 c. Tomato Purée (I used Pomi strained tomatoes.)

2 tsp. Tomato Paste

Pepper

1/4 c. Green Peas

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 c. Whole Milk

1 pinch Nutmeg

More Salt

More Pepper

Assembly:

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put potatoes into pot.  Fill with water until it just covers the potatoes and stick it on a back burner to cook away over medium heat.

In shallow oven-proof pan, melt butter and olive oil together.  You can pick one or the other of these if you like, but this is really one of my favorite combinations of fat in which to cook chicken.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of the chicken breast halves and place them in the pan when the butter has melted into the olive oil.  Cook on each side until lightly brown and then place the pan into the oven to continue cooking thoroughly.

Chicken cooking away on the stove

While the chicken is browning in the pan on top of the stove, put the pancetta into a saucepan with about 1/4 tsp. of olive oil and cook over medium to low heat until it is brown and crisp.  Set aside on a paper towel to drain.  Pour the tomato purée and tomato sauce in the saucepan and stir it to combine the leftover fat and bits from the pancetta.  Season with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  Add the peas and stir to mix everything together.  Stir in the pancetta.  Let this simmer over low heat while the rest of the dish comes together.

Tomato sauce with the peas, pancetta to be added

Test the potatoes.  By this point, if you insert a knife or fork into the potato chunks, they will break apart.  At that stage, turn of the stove, drain the potatoes in the pot, and toss in the butter, milk, some salt (1/4 tsp. or so), and some pepper (1/8 tsp. or so).  Mash up the potatoes with a fork or potato masher and mix everything together.  Taste.  Add nutmeg and potentially some more salt and more pepper.

Mashed potatoes

Put the potatoes on each of two plates.  Remove the pan with the chicken from the oven and test the chicken to make sure that it is cooked all the way through.  Place the chicken on eat of the two plates.  Pour some of the tomato-pancetta sauce over the chicken.  Serve.

O.K., so this time I might have gotten a little carried away with the sauce

Buon appetito!

Smorgasbrewery!

Slogging through the slushy, grey remnants of Saturday’s snowstorm to Williamsburg, the Brooklyn one, not the Virginia one, I made my way over to the Brooklyn Brewery for Smorgasbrewery on Sunday.  This weekly event that runs through March features several of the amazing food vendors who had made their summer home at Smorgasburg on the Brooklyn waterfront last year.  In the frigid temperatures, I really wished that I was heading to the market on a sunny summer day.

Solber Pupusas

Once inside, however, the yeasty, slightly acrid tinge of fermentation from the brewery tanks hit my nostrils as I headed over to the tables to see who was there this week; the vendor rotation changes each time.  My first stop was to check out the selection at 2011 Vendy award winner Solber Pupusas, which always seems to have the longest line at Smorgasburg.  I picked up one of the chicken and cheese variety and one of the bean and cheese.  My favorite of the two had to be the chicken and cheese as that filling seemed to stay moist while inside the corn masa patty.  These came with a spoonful of tomato sauce, a dollop of sour cream, and a pile of pickled onions to give a tangy, crunchy accompaniment to the soft, warm cakes.

Bite Size Kitchen

With a slather of slightly spiced, pungent hoisin sauce, the oniony crunch of scallions, a fresh slice of cucumber, and a fluffy bun playing host to perfectly-tender, juicy, braised pork belly, this succulent sandwich was the perfect small-bite meal to have with a glass of Brooklyn Brewery beer.  In fact, I liked it so much that I went back for seconds.  I really hope that this makes an appearance at next summer’s market.

Bon Chovie

So far, I haven’t been brave enough to try these.  Next time, I’ll bring along one of my foodie wing people so we can split an order.  I’ll probably need their coaxing to eat these raved-about anchovies, which were another hit of the market season.

Handmade Pretzels

The hardest table to walk by today was that with all the great-looking goodies made by the baker at Commerce Restaurant in Greenwich Village.  Not only were there these gorgeous, soft pretzels (which I mentioned to them would be perfect with some mustard on the side), but there were these beautiful salami and cheese rolls, too.  These looked like they’d be the ideal thing to have on a cold winter’s day alongside a cup of something, say, maybe a glass of the IPA.

Salami and Cheese Rolls

It was when I spotted the basket of freshly-baked cookies, however, that I was completely sunk.  I mean, look at them.  How could anyone resist finishing up a meal with one of these beauties?  Well, I couldn’t, so I selected a Maple-Bacon one.

Cookies!

You know what?  The smoky-sweet buttery flavor ended up pairing really, really well with the smooth, dark caramel notes of the Brooklyn Brown Ale that I’d selected to drink.  The flavors of the cookie and the mellow but slightly bold taste of the beer came together in surprising harmony.  I mentioned to the folks at the Commerce table that I thought a beer and cookie pairing might be an idea for next time.  Hey, if beer and ice cream work together, why not try out that combination as well.  It could be the hit of next year’s outdoor food markets!

Brooklyn Brewery Brown Ale

 Buon appetito!

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup from Paula Wolfert

I’ve been enchanted by Paula Wolfert’s book The Food of Morocco since it came out last year.  I raved about all the great dishes that everyone made from it for the event hosted by the Culinary Historians of New York featuring Ms. Wolfert, but I hadn’t yet tried my hand at any of them.  Food and Wine also did a feature on some of the recipes, which I’d set aside to make later.  One in particular caught my eye, the Spiced Butternut Squash Soup, which seemed like a perfect thing to make on this snowy Saturday.

I used a kabocha squash

In anticipation of the arriving storm, I’d stocked up on the ingredients.  I even managed to track down a goats cheese cheddar from Patches of Star farm at the Union Square Greenmarket.  It might not have been exactly the same as the one called for in the recipe, but it imparted a tangy, creamy flavor that when combined with a dollop of crème fraîche and a smidgen of harissa livened up the squash and blended well with the La Kama spice mixture which was cooked with the vegetables.

La Kama spice blend (Wolfert suggests using the leftover with roasted vegetables)

As with many winter vegetable soup recipes, this came together relatively quickly after the labor of dismantling and de-gutting the squash.  I should have taken a photo of the whole messy process, but my hands were too sticky and I wasn’t quite sure how attractive it would have been to see a picture of all the seeds and fibrous mass that came out of the kabocha splayed all over my countertops.  It’s kitchen carnage at its best.

Mixing everything together

When finished, the soup has a vibrant orange color, made even richer in texture by flecks of the spices.  Sometimes I find that these single vegetable dishes can be dull and bland; however, that is not the case here.  The heat from the harrisa, the sour pucker of the cream, and the earthiness of the aged goats cheese cut through the strong notes of the squash to create a harmonious spoonful of warm, soul-filling flavor.  The aroma is enticing without being heavy, leaving one to dream about warmer, more exotic shores far away from our current winter wonderland.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Buon appetito!

International Day of Italian Cuisines (IDIC) 2012 at the International Culinary Center

Italian cuisine is world-renowned and well-loved, but, due to global travels, many of its dishes have morphed considerably since their origins.  Ending up in far-flung places, regional specialties have been adapted to fit the ingredients that immigrants were able to find in their new home countries.  Although the names might be the same, the food on the plates could look very different than what would be consumed in Italy itself, something that the International Day of Italian Cuisines (IDIC) sponsored by ItChefs-GVCI seeks to highlight each year, by featuring one classic recipe and in bringing together Italian chefs who work around the globe to promote it.  This year’s featured dish is Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese.

Event Organizers

I’ve never made this, having been a bit intimidated by the recipe, but the demonstration at the International Culinary Institute on Thursday showed me that maybe I’ve just been too hesitant to try it.  Chef Matteo Scibilia, a specialist in the cuisine of Lombardy, from which this dish hails, led the cooking lesson, explaining that, like with many classics, the ingredients and techniques have been “officially” agreed upon by the local council.  (The same has been done in Bologna, for example, as to what makes an authentic Ragù Bolognese.)

Dorothy Cann Hamilton of ICC introducing Chef Matteo Scibilia (with Rosario Scarpato of GVCI)

One of the most important steps to making this recipe is to have the right ingredients.  A tip I picked up from the chef is that he cooks the bone marrow separately from the veal itself.  Another is that there are various and tweaks that still make it authentic, just like any other regional dish.  Although the instructions for the classic dish call for using butter to cook everything, that is considered a bit heavy in today’s times, so some people do use a butter/olive oil mix, which is also one of my favorite cooking combinations.  There are also slight variations within the province of Lombardy, from which this comes.

Even the Mise en Place has a sense of style

Chef Scibilia dusts the veal in flour before browning it in the fat, another slight change from what others do as well and one with which Rosario Scarpato, who was translating the discussion for the audience, disagreed.  For him, this gives the meat the brown crust he likes and helps to seal it.  Once the meat is seared, the soffrito, the base of the sauce is put into the pan, with its combination of finely minced carrots, celery, and onions.  I noticed that the recipe linked above calls for a larger dice on the vegetables, but as you can see from the photo below, they were cut into pretty small pieces in the dish made at the demo.  I also didn’t really pick up that there was any proscuitto in the sauce.

Bone marrow cooking separately

Despite these different points of view, some key elements in making the dish are the same.  One is that the liquid in the pan needs to be at the level of the meat when it is cooking in the oven.  Wine is added to give the dish some acid and balance, and tomatoes, which were probably brought into the recipe after the discovery of the Americas, are really there more for color rather than for flavor.  The gremolata is a reflection of several aspects of Italian cuisine.  One, is that Milan was an important trading city, so these would have come from another part of the country.  Another is that the bright, citrus-herbal freshness of the garnish is probably something that was included later on in the development of the dish.  With the movement from the heavy spices of the Middle Ages, this rich meal was then balanced by the lightness of the gremolata.

Chef Matteo Scibilia with Rosario Scarpato translating the demo

After watching all the steps in preparing this dish, with the amazing aromas wafting our way from the demonstration table, we were rewarded with our very own plate of Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese.  The tender meat just melted in my mouth, the fat and stock having kept it moist through the several-hour cooking process and rendering it completely succulent and nom-worthy.  The tangy lemon and grassy parsley garnish cut through the richness to add an extra, lighter dimension to the dish and kept it from being too overwhelmingly heavy.  Underneath the veal was a pile of velvety smooth potato purée with a dash of Grana Padano cheese, another deviation as this is typically seen with Risotto alla Milanese, as a complement to the meat.

Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese

Having seen this prepared before me, I think that this is a dish I might try to tackle sometime soon.  I think the weather, especially after this past weekend, is getting cold enough to warrant running the oven for a couple of hours of cooking.  My plan is to find a recipe for Ossobuco alla Milanese and then to try to put as little American spin on it as possible so that I can keep in the spirit of the IDIC 2012.  As Ms. Hamilton said in her opening remarks, this day is about celebrating “authentic recipes with Italian ingredients.”

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Colangelo & Partners for inviting me to take place in this event on behalf of their client Consorzio Tutela Grana Padano.

Many restaurants around the world, including quite a few in the United States, will be taking part in the International Day of Italian Cuisine 2012 on January 17, 2012.  Here is a list of participating locations.

The ItChefs-GVCI has a recipe for Ossobuco alla Milanese, but it doesn’t seem to me to be quite the one that Chef Scibilia made at the demo.  There is also a list of suggested wines to go with the dish on the website as well.

Quinoa with Broccoli

Are you doing a New Year’s de-tox diet?  It seems like more than a few of the folks I follow on Twitter and some others I’ve spoken to besides have decided to undertake this cleansing ritual to jump start their bodies in 2012.  I’m on the fence about this.  While each year I do abstain from eating something during Lent, and I have from time to time tried to cut back on certain foods in my diet (sweets, meat, alcohol, etc.), I’ve never done the fasting or juicing thing.  I’m not even sure how my body would react to it, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t be all that happy.

I came up with this dish for Quinoa with Broccoli as I think instead that one of the best ways to help out your body is to alternate between heavier and lighter meals and to try to balance out less healthy dishes with ones that are filled with the good things that keep your body going.  I eat out quite a bit at food festivals, markets, and events, so I don’t always accomplish that aim.  This year, I’m really going to try hard to make healthier dishes when I’m not running around trying out all the terrific artisan products or hanging out at amazing cook-offs.

Start off with these ingredients

One of my other goals for this year is to cook up all those random ingredients that are in my pantry.  Quinoa is one of those things that is really good for you, along with broccoli, and I need to be better about incorporating it into my diet to counter balance all those rich, creamy, gooey things that I love to eat.  This recipe is partly an adaptation of a method that I’ve used for years in cooking up broccoli or broccolini.  The addition of the quinoa adds some protein and extra fiber making this a great, quick lunchtime (or late evening) meal or a side dish.

Quinoa with Broccoli

Prep Time: 20 minutes or less

Serving Size: 1 person for 1-dish meal, 2 people as a side dish

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Quinoa

1 tsp. Olive Oil

1 clove Garlic, minced

1 large or 2 small Anchovy fillets in oil

1 c. Broccoli florets and stems, cut into 1/4-inch chunks

1 pinch Salt

2-3 grinds of Black Pepper

1 tsp. Lemon juice

1 pinch to 1/4 tsp. Red Pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. Pine Nuts

Parmesan Cheese

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (top quality drizzling oil)

Assembly:

Measure out quinoa and cook according to package directions.  In the meantime, prepare the broccoli, as the two components will end up being done at about the same time.

Quinoa cooking

Heat a small skillet over a low flame or burner.  Add olive oil.  Put in the minced garlic and let it cook for about 10 seconds before adding in the anchovies to release the flavor of the garlic.  With the back of a wooden spoon, mash up the anchovies into the oil and garlic so that there are no large pieces of fish.  The anchovies will add a depth of flavor to the dish without imparting a fishiness to it.

Adding anchovies

Add the broccoli and stir to mix in the garlic and anchovies.  Pour 1 tablespoon of water into the pan and cover it with a lid.  After 3 minutes, check to see if broccoli is cooked through by poking a floret with a knife.  If the knife passes through it easily, take off the cover and add salt and pepper to the broccoli.  Pour the lemon juice over the broccoli, add the red pepper flakes and pine nuts to the pan, and toss to mix together.

Broccoli cooking away

By this time, the quinoa should also be cooked.  Drain the quinoa of any extra water and add it to the pan with the broccoli.  Stir to combine everything.

Combining quinoa and broccoli

Transfer quinoa and broccoli to a shallow bowl or a plate.  Sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese over the top and sparingly drizzle a little high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil onto as well.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!