Sunday, October 26, 2014

Twice Baked Potato Pizza With Bacon and Scallions....Absolute Sin!!

I love pizza! Yes that savory Italian pie that has captured America's heart is also dear to mine. My love for it is all wrapped up in my own personal food history with it.


I have early memories of my Mom and Dad making pizza on weekends at home for us when we were to cash strapped as a young naval family to go out to pizza parlors.

I have later memories of eating at a specific pizza place we would go to when I was in 6th or 7th grade in Vienna, Virginia in the Washington DC area before we would go to the movies as  a family.

I also have memories of gathering around the tables of the local Pizza Hut restaurant with pitchers of soda pop and communally shared pies after youth group meetings in High school every Sunday night.

I have memories of dirt cheap and in retrospect awful pizza in college, as well as my memory of my first "real" pizza in Italy when I traveled there for the first time as a very young man.

And recently I have enjoyed living in NYC, where good old fashioned New York Pizza mixes freely with artisan pie establishments. Pizza is easy, good, cheap and yummy. And unless you are on a diet or have some dietary issues it's like my Italian friend says, "Who doesn't like Pizza?"

Now things have come full circle for me as I  love making pizza and home these days. Mostly because it's so easy and you can try all sorts of things So obviously I love the fact that nowadays for the home you can easily buy either pizza dough or really good prepared par baked crusts and flatbread doughs. These make creating a great home pizza that much easier because you can focus on the toppings and not worry so much about the crust. And lets face it it's the toppings that are the best part of any pizza.

I have a great old time recipe for home dough on the blog if you want one but I am using these pre-baked crusts from the store lately and I love them. This recipe came about as a result of having my Italian friend Angelo Musco the now actually famous modern artist over for dinner. He and I are always trying to do things that are special each time we host each other and other friends for dinner. So this pizza recipe was my way of doing something a little bit special. It also took the onnis off of me for having to produce anything remotely traditionally Italian. This is because he has such strong opinions about the food of his homeland I am remiss to try and rise to that standard. But twist it, turn it out a little bit differently and that's OK. I don't get the eye!

This recipe came into my mind because we had had twice baked potatoes at an event for work that week and it got me to thinking about the baked potato pizzas I had read about in the media as happening at certain restaurants around the country. But I wanted to do it a step beyond what I had seen in the media. No mashed potatoes for my pizza, no this would be the twice baked miracle variety I love so much.

So a twice baked potato can be simple or elevated. I love them, they are my favorite way of making baked potatoes. So I figured why not just put that on a pizza with some smokey bacon and fresh scallions and call it a day. But to elevate the filling I took a cue from my favorite mashed potato, the colcannon irish mash. Potatoes colcannon are mashed potatoes filled with the usual suspects, butter, cream but with the addition traditionally of sauteed cabbage and onions. I decided to make my filling with butter, cream, creamed leeks and cheese. Rich and satisfying.

TO make the pizza it could not be easier. You simply slather the top of your dough with the potato mixture and bale it till bubbly and slightly browned. Then top it with the smoky bacon bits and chopped scallions. Easy as pie. pizza pie that is. So here is the recipe, enjoy you all.

Twice Baked Potato Pizza

You will need:

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes or Golden or German Butter potatoes
2 leeks white and light green parts only
1/2 cup soft goats cheese
1/4 stick butter
whole milk about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup white sharp cheddar cheese
3 strips applewood smoked bacon cut up into strips and cooked off
3-4 scallions chopped both white and green parts
Taleggio Cheese 1/2 cup cut into small pieces
Rosemary leaves abour 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped
truffle oil to taste


To make potatoes: (Will make about 2 small to medium pizzas)
Peel and chop and boil then while hot mash with the other ingredients, first the butter then milk then goat cheese and cheddar then fold in leeks. Then cool mixture to RT.

To make the leeks:
Chop leeks into "coins" and saute in butter till soft and silken

To make the pizza

I purchase a predone flat bread or pizza crust for this. It is the easiest way to make this at home. Trader Joe's has a good one but you can buy any brand and use it.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and oil a pizza pan

Spread potato mixture over the crust generously but don't go crazy! Then dot the top with the taleggio, bacon and white parts of the scallions and rosemary.

Bake for 14 to 18 minutes till slightly browned.

Remove from the oven sprinkle the top with the scallion pieces and top with the truffle oil lightly.

Serve immediately

Enjoy this, as a friend who tried it said " it's like eating absolute sin". And it is!  Enjoy Ya'll!





Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tomato Risotto, Or How Good Friends can teach you the Best Recipes for Food and for Life

Once upon a time in the great big city of New York..........

Now there are times and people in everyone's lives that if they stop and think about them, or perhaps were asked to describe them, would be allocated to the category of life changing. Or perhaps just called life forming or life expanding or life affirming times. In any event these times, connected sometimes with people places and things, are the times which help us to see our progress through life. They are points of departure or points of demarcation.

We are often either enchanted by them or horrified by them. They are in short life's turning points. I like anyone have had many such times in my life. Like most of us I have had experiences which have catapulted me into the most amazing highs and have had those that have equally sent me into the lowest of lows. But whatever the experience, it makes one who one is.

As a person who defines much of his life by the times and places and people who have brought things into my life, I stand committed to the idea of making markers out of many different things to help me remember and celebrate them when good. Or be reminded of how blessed I am to be where I am now when thinking about a challenging time of life. These markers can be scraps of paper saved in memory books or entries in journals. I keep a collage of things on my refrigerator door. There is everything from coasters and postcards to magnets and business cards. And I keep a special collection of recipes in a special drawer to remember the people, times or places that are significant for me.

These recipes written on post it notes from my Mama's desk or taken out of a magazine are personal. Printed on sheets of paper or copied out of books they all state the same thing in their singular way, "I remember you".  For these recipes are not just about the foods they instruct about. They also instruct me to be mindful of the plethora of memories connecting me my life and my times. And connect me with the memory of some food or some meal and the people I shared it with. That food memory or recipe marks for me the time and place where life became somehow important.

Risotto is one of those Iconic recipes for me. Tomato risotto that is. And it's memory celebrates not only a dear friend who recently left New York but a time of life I will call perhaps the most exciting time of my life so far.

You see I never came to New York to work in the food business. No. I came to New York to work in the Show Business! Musical Theater to be exact. And the year that I first moved to the city and the next two or three year following I would note for myself as the most exciting time of my life. You see I was a young hopeful believing the dream I dreamed in time gone by about a life in the theater and how marvelous it would be. I had talent and I had rhythm and who could have asked for anything more. And at that time of life I was blessed to have performed a lot. It was the time of life I was introduced to Seaside Music theatre which I have spoken of and during my stay there I met Cristin Hubbard. Now Cristin later became my roommate and we went through a lot together. Show Business trials and travails. Dating and relationship disasters and lots of theatrical living on every level. We stayed friends even after we were no longer roommates and I later helped with her wedding reception decorating and managing the caterer. She recently completed a stint in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and has moved o the west coast with her husband to raise their darling children in a different environment that NYC.

Cristin was a midwestern girl. She had a great family and a great upbringing. She and I shared a lot of values even being from different parts of the country. She was a great friend. And one of the things that she actually taught me to cook was risotto. A tomato risotto to be precise. It was a dish she had grown up with making with her Mom. The recipe came from some cookbook I suppose. But the recipe came from the heartland and the heart. And the experience of hosting my first dinner party in our first New York apartment was fun and is a lovely memory And the meal served was this very same dish, Tomato risotto.

Now when I moved out Cristin wrote out this recipe on a recipe card. You know the ones with the Kitschy pictures of wheat bales and roosters and wooden spoons on them. I still have the card to this day and although I can make this recipe from memory and have over the years added my own elements I keep the card. Not for the recipe. But as a reminder of a special time and a dear friend who made a mark forever on my life. Just as an example of how people can touch out lives and maybe be unaware of the long lasting impact I leave you with this story.

Once when I was going through a really hard period I received a card in the mail from Cristin. Now she and I were no longer roommates at the time but I opened the card and inside was the following statement. Sorry you are going through such a hard time hope you feel better about things soon, and the inscription on the card read "When you are going through Hell, Keep Going!, Winston Churchill". To this day I have that card on my fridge. And whenever I am going through something tough I always come back to Mr. Churchill's words and I keep on trying. Thanks to a friend who continued to reach out to me in friendship even after we were no longer as close and time had passed. Those words keep me remembering her.

And so I give you my version of Cristin's risotto. It's really one of the best things I make for a dinner party. And although it has been changed a little, the spirit of the recipe just like the friendship is still intact. So try it and enjoy Ya'll

Cristin's Tomato Risotto ( modified by Forrest of course!)

To Make you will need:

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion finely diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
3 plum tomatoes seeded and small diced
1 cup dry vermouth wine ( I think vermouth and tomatoes are a wonderful combo)
4 to 6 cups warm chicken broth ( can use veggie )
4 oz Bousin cheese ( herbed goat cheese)
1 1/2  cups grated Satvechio Cheese ( Wisconsin) 1/2 cup reserved for garnish
1 1/2 cups grated Asiago Cheese ( italy)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
Big Fat finishing olive oil on hand
Maldon Sea salt flakes

Method:

Cook onion in oil in a large pan till translucent then add garlic
Cook till garlic blooms
Add rice and cook for about 3 to  4mins. or till the rice is beginning to toast slightly in the oil and is well covered add salt and pepper
Add dried thyme and tomatoes cook another minute
Add 1 cup dry vermouth wine cook till absorbed
Slowly add stock about a cup at a time stirring until the risotto is thick and the liquid is completely absorbed then add more broth until all broth is used up or the risotto is just al dente ( slightly chewy) You may not need all the broth. At this point add the parsley
Add butter stirring vigorously. remove from the heat and add all cheeses and stir.
When creamy add a touch of finishing oil and divide among 4 to 6 bowls depending.
Garnish with Maldon salt and the remaining cheese
Serve right away!

Enjoy Ya'll!





Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scallops Picatta with a Potato Cake a Northeastern Twist on an Italian Classic

Provincetown is the embodiment of the North Eastern shore town. It's quaint. Streets lined with flowers and white picket fences are everywhere. Wood shingles cover the houses with a blanket of texture while trees and grass seem to embrace them as if they grew out of the ground instead of being built. The water is everywhere and the color of the sky if a blue that I have never seen anywhere else before. Artists have come here for over 100 years for that light and after experiencing it myself I can see why. After arriving in Ptown, as it's affectionately known, I find myself relaxing and slowing down. Quiet morning walks are to be had as well as the bustling crowds on Commercial Street of tourists and their families making it a diverse place to visit. This mix of people from all over and from all sorts of backgrounds make it a melting pot and it is in a word fabulous.

The nice thing about Ptown is that there are lots of things to do compared to many other beach communities. Art galleries, unique shops and a diverse mix of food options are all there making a day trip both fun and interesting.

Now food is everywhere in Provincetown.  It's amazing. There is every level of every dinning experience possible from Lobster Roll shacks to full on sit down dinner establishments. In short you won't go hungry.

Now the other thing I love to do while in Provincetown is to cook up some dinners at home. So every Summer I put together at least 2 nights of meals. This Summer I am cooking up a seaside meal which will be both gourmet and delicious. Combining my love of scallops and my love of the Picatta preparation from the Italian cooking school. Picatta is normally used for white meats like veal or chicken. The meat pounded thin sometimes dredged in flour then cooked lightly with a caper and white wine butter sauce. It is delicious. But this year I thought I would change it up by substituting fresh sea scallops for the veal. And I thought while I am at it I would substitute a potato cake for the pasta that normally comes with the dish. It will be on the menu next week at the Ptown house and I will report back as to how it was received. Till then enjoy the recipe Ya'll. See you in a week.

Forrest's Scallop Picatta with Gratin Potato Cake

For the Scallops

You need 3 to 4 sea scallops per person depending of the size

This makes 4 servings

12 large sea scallops
2 Tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning or favorite seafood rub.
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine
1/4 cup stock can be chicken or seafood
Zest of one lemon
2 to 3 Tablespoons Capers
1 Tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsely
1 Tablespoon Basil leaved chiffonade
dash of red chili flakes per your taste
pinch of sea salt
pinch of pepper
Maldon Salt for finishing
1/2 stick unsalted butter

Method:

Pat Scallops dry and then rub with the seafood seasoning

In a med hot pan heat olive oil then sear the scallops on both sides work in batches to not over crowd the pan you want the scallops to sear not steam and do not over cook. A rule of thumb is the scallops should pull away from the pan easily when done.
Remove from the pan and reserve on a plate.
To the same pan add the wine, the stock, lemon zest, capers, red pepper and a half of the herbs. Add Salt and pepper. Cook till the liquid had reduced by about a third. Add the butter and whisk to incorporate.
Return scallops to pan and heat through
Serve over the potato cake, garnish the scallops with the extra herbs and the Maldon salt and accompany with some sauted spinach.
Enjoy Ya'll!

Gratin Potato Cakes ( takes some work but oh so worth it)

4 to 6 white fleshed potatoes
1 small white onion very finely diced
1 clove garlic
1/2 stick butter melted
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup swiss cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
butter for lining tins


Using a Madoline slice potatoes very thinly and place in a bowl of salted water before using drain and pour onto a dish towel to dry.
Add butter to skillet and cook diced onions will translucent add garlic and cook a few minutes till it blooms.
Take off the heat.
Butter a large muffin tin or individual foil muffin cups
Place one layer of potato in each cup season with salt and pepper add small layer very super thin of the butter onion sauce, then add a very little bit of cheese
Layer the remaining potatoes with the sauce and cheese into each cup like lasagna.
Divide evenly between the cups and press down to secure
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Bake the potato cakes for about 35 to 45 mins of until tops are browned well and bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool about 10 to 15 mins this allows the cakes to set up.
To serve place the cakes turn out onto a plate
Serve with the scallops and spinach.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Kale Salad with a Bacon Vinaigrette or Healthy Meets Happy

So as I have stated Kale is a small obsession of mine these days. Well not just mine but the whole country, especially chefs. Last Summer I spent several weeks coming up with two new Kale salads. Now I still love those but I was in the mood for something a little different yesterday. I wanted something meaty and something substantial. So I got to thinking about how much I loved the old 1980's spinach salad. You know the one with bacon bits, chopped boiled eggs and mushrooms served with a warm bacon vinaigrette dressing. It was iconic in the 1980's and nothing says love on a salad like bacon.

I mean my first remembrance of this sort of spinach salad was eating it on the Ocean Liner that my family took when we returned to the mainland on from Hawaii. I remember three things from the dining room of that ship. Perfect scrambled eggs in the mornings for breakfast, hearts of lettuce salad with blue cheese dressing and crispy bacon and tomatoes and the warm spinach salad of which we speak. Of course I remember all the fun things we got to do on the trip but from a food perspective those were my memories.

Later when I worked at the Magic Pan I came across another version of this salad. I chronicled this in an entry on this blog which you can see here: http://cookforrestcook.blogspot.com/2012/10/magic-pan-spinach-salad-1980s-superstar.html

This was of course the eighties. A time of glamor and cultural explosion. This decade defined forever the American obsession with opulence and elegance in it's modern forms in all areas of American life, fashion, homes, lifestyle and food. In the food arena superstar chefs were born and new and exciting tastes, ingredients and food fusions came into the limelight. Wolfgang Puck draped salmon on pizza and Le Cirque served pasta with spring veggies creating a revolution, one that continues yet today.

So that brings us up to today and to my new Kale Salad. So I will warn you this is not your Mother's Kale salad, not that many mothers made Kale salads for us. It's a hearty dish. Kale and green cabbage and finely chopped mint leaves combine to make a sensational  greens base for red onion, fresh mushrooms chopped hard boiled eggs and bacon bits. This all topped off with a warm tarragon bacon vinagrette. In a word it's a meal!

So when you want a salad as a meal or a hearty side dish give this one a try. Enjoy ya'll!


Kale Salad with Warm Tarragon Bacon Vinaigrette

For the Salad

1 small bunch Kale leaves stripped off the stems and chopped into ribbons
2 cups very finely shredded green cabbage leaves
1/4 cup finely chiffonade of mint leaves
1/2 red onion finely diced
1/2 pound fresh white mushrooms sliced
2 hard boiled eggs finely chopped
3 pieces of bacon cooked and chopped into bits

For the warm Bacon Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Tarragon vinegar
3 Tablespoons melted bacon fat
1/4 teaspoon sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except bacon fat and whip till smooth and emulsified
Heat Bacon fat in a skillet
Add the mixture and whisk to combine
Heat through and pour over the salad and toss well
Serve immediately! Enjoy!















Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Burger Journal, Cheeseburger Sliders with Caramelized Onion Jam and Mustard Bernaise Sauce


Ok it summer it's finally warm enough to get outside and get grilling. And what says summer grilling more than a delicious burger. Well that being said these burgers I am going to tell you about today actually came about because I needed to make a goodbye dinner for a friend of mine who was leaving the city. The weather had warmed up enough that I thought we are golden to be back up on the roof of the building and celebrate with the first al fresco dining experience of the Summer. But no Mother Nature did not see fit to give us a nice day and the rain drove the party inside. So while this is a burger recipe it it I suppose not limited to the grill.

Sliders are one of those things that are associated with all kinds of things. Diners, drive in's, old school Hamburger joints and within the last 10 years bar food. A slider is technically a mini hamburger or cheeseburger. They are usually adorned with some special toppings and served in multiple batches. One rarely eats one slider. More like 3 or more.

My first real contact with sliders came while living in the South. There is a chain of burger joint drive throughs called Crystal Burger. They are the southern version of the White Castle burger also a main stay of slider lore. While White Castle burgers are steam cooked on a grill with onions and served with ketchup. Crystal burgers are cooked with the onions and served with dill pickle chips and mustard. It's the southern flavor take on the slider. I prefer the Crystal take to White Castle but whatever.

Well there have been so many famous people making burgers that I can't even pretend that what I will bring to the table has not done somewhere in some fashion by someone else. But like when I posted my famous "Forrest Burgers" recipe found on this blog, you can bet that this and every burger recipe I ever give you will be decadent and delicious.

This one is no exception. I love a burger that has substance and is saucy and juicy. I also like a burger that is composed. That meaning the chef prepares the burger with toppings to create a flavor profile much like any other dish a chef prepares. You don't choose how you get it you just get it that way end of story. So I dressed this burger up with toppings and my "secret sauce".

It starts with a buttered and grilled till toasty brioche mini bun. The patty is cooked medium rare and blanketed with melted cheddar cheese. Then the toasted bun is garnished with a dallop of mayo, and squirt each of Catsup and of BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, and then smothered in a Bernaise that has mustard and tarragon in it.

 It's so juicy and delicious it's a crazy. And they are little guys. You can't eat too many. Or you can't eat enough!

So if you want to try your hand at something new and gourmet for a dinner party. Ramp up your burger game with these little babies. They are sure to make you very popular with your guests or family. Enjoy Ya'll!


Forrest's Mini Burger Sliders with Caramelized Onion Jam and Mustard Bernaise Sauce

For the Burgers

1 pound 80/20 ground chuck formed in 8 small patties
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
4 slices American or Cheddar cheese cut into 4 pieces each.

Mix meat and spices together well
Form 8 well shaped patties
Season with the S&P

Heat grill or grill pan till medium hot.
Place burgers on the grill pan and cook for about 2 to 3 mins a side for medium rare
After to have flipped the burger the first time place 2 pieces of cheese on it. When its just melting it's done remove and place on the bun.

The Buns

Buy Mini Brioche buns ( Trader Joe's, Whole foods) or mini potato rolls
Using room temperature butter lightly butter the buns
Grill the buns in a pan until they are nice and toasty the reserve
When ready to build lightly spread mayo on the bottom bun and place a smal squirt of each Catsup and BBQ sauce on the Bun. The place some of the onion Jam on the bottom bun.

Onion Jam

Cut up 1/2 of a large red onion into thin ribbons
In a pan heat equal parts oil and butter add onions cook slowly over medium high heat till soft then add 1 tablespoon each balsamic vinagar and honey
Stir into onions add some salt and stir in then reduce heat to low and slowly cook will caramelized and delicious.

Mustard Bernaise

In a bowl soften 2 Tablespoons Dried Tarragon with 3 tablespoons of hot water let sit 5 mins.
In a blender add 4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar ( if you have it if not red wine vinegar. Add 1 tablespoons chopped shallot and 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard add the tarragon and water and pulse till blended
Melt 3/4 of a stick of butter
With blender running slowly pour the butter into the blender
When thick and combined place in a metal bowl and if not using right away keep warm over simmering water.

To complete the sliders place the patty on the bottom bun and drape the burger in the sauce. Place top bun on and present right away to eat. Yum Yum Yum!




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Original California Cuisine, Sunset Magazine Remembers When.


BEFORE Alice Waters picked her first Little Gem lettuce and Wolfgang Puck draped smoked salmon across a pizza, California cuisine meant something else. 

This is the first statement in a article from the NY Times article chronicling the influence Sunset Magazine has had on informing people about what California Cuisine is all about. The article goes on to examine the original California Cuisine based largely in grilled meats, salads and avocados from the article. It's really amazing how this magazine kept up with the lifestyle and cooking trends of the largely little known but very coveted West coast lifestyle. Through the 50's and 60's the mystic of the West was something that Eastern readers could only glimpse through it's pages. And largely it helped to inform those who had moved into this state in alarming numbers during this time on how that state's culture was devleoping. Even in a sense what it meant to be a modern Californian.

There is mention of "Patio Style" Cooking being the central theme in this early 50's and 60's home food movement in California. However there are also mentions of some old-school California dishes grilled BBQ turkey, cioppino, barbecued oysters, Crab Louis and fish tacos included amongst the descriptions of Tri-tip Sirloin Santa Maria Style, patio salads with citrus and Date Milkshakes. 

The point made was in the article that unlike in the East there was an ease and casual nature to dining and entertaining in California in the 1960's. No fussy white table clothes were on the menu and no ornate china and silver set ups. Also the point was that anyone could be a Californian by embracing this new open thinking, outdoor casual way of lifestyle and cooking which was showcased non better than by Sunset Magazine. It's readership included amongst others, my Parents, who loved the style and ease which Sunset put at the forefront of their articles. Especially since we lived in warm climates where outdoor dining was a way of life and not just a special occasion. These ideas flourished in our home.

Sunset was one of the first magazine's I remember being in our house growing up. It remained the one my folks held onto. They had every volume from 1965 on in bookshelves in out house. As of late my Mother tried to give them to the local library, but sadly they were not interested and they ended up in the recycling. Before we threw them out I flipped through some of the older ones just to see what was up and made an interesting conclusion. Nothing was so radically different from the magazines I read today. Sure the stories and the articles were specific to the time but the themes and the overall ideas were the same we see in todays lifestyle magazines everywhere. 

As far as cooking is concerned I give you a recipe for your summer BBQ. that if you try will give you a little bit of the taste of the old Californian style. Make sure you use the powdered garlic and parsley cause it just won't taste right otherwise. Give it a try it's an old staple in my house growing up even through we never called it by it's proper name. Enjoy Ya'll.

Santa-Maria Style Grilled Tri-tip
Based on the original Sunset Magazine recipe served 8


2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 beef tri-tip (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), preferably with some fat on one side. ( you can find this cut at Trader Joe's a California based chain or else you will have to get your butcher to cut it for you)
1. In small bowl, mix garlic powder, salt, pepper and parsley; rub well into meat. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.
2. Meanwhile, soak 2 cups red oak chips in water for at least 20 minutes (optional). Prepare a medium-size fire on one side of a charcoal or gas grill. Add chips to fire, if using. Set tri-tip over fire, fat side up (with a gas grill, close lid), and brown well, 3 to 5 minutes; turn over and brown other side.
3. Move meat over area of the grill without fire, cover, and turn every 10 minutes or so, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 125 to 130 degrees, 25 to 35 minutes.
4. Place meat on cutting board to rest at least 15 minutes. Slice across the grain.
Note: Red oak chips are available online from susieqbrand.com.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

California Dreaming: Why Alice Waters is so famous for what someone else does!

You take your first step into Chez Panisse in Berkeley California and you realize that nothing you thought about this Mecca to Farm to Table prepared you for the meal you will have there. While incredible and delicious it is the mere simplicity of the food and indeed the quality of the ingredients that makes Chez Panisse an iconic dining experience.

As I traveled through California this last trip I was again struck by the amazing quality and variety of produce available to Californians. It makes the New Yorker head reel to look at the variety and quality which even with our many green markets we never see because of the climate! My friend's in San Diego got a package from their local CO.OP. which made my poor shopping baskets at the supermarkets in New York pale in comparison.

The meal at Chez Panisse was simple enough. The starter a salad of warmed blanched asparagus, roasted morel mushrooms, prosciutto, baby rocket ( Arugula) and a brilliantly lemony dressing. The Main a "Stew" of roasted lamb loin and fresh peas and carrots with a risotto cake. And dessert fresh Strawberries and an ice cream profitole. Delicious, fresh and simple simple simple. But what made it so good were the ingredients. That's the magic os Chez Panisse. Simple preparation of deliciously fresh fresh fresh food. No spice profile, no ridiculous preparations, no smoke and mirrors, just amazing ingredients.

So for a moment during and after the meal I sat and pondered how Alice Waters has become an icon in the food world. I have read her books. No super fancy tricks there, just straight forward preparations. Elegant for sure. High end definitely. But simply letting food speak for itself while enhancing it's natural qualities with spices and preparations seemed genius to me somehow. I somehow wondered how this was so different and how we as a country had gotten away from this knowledge as we slid into a abyss of Applebee's and TGI Friday's food preparations soaked in salt and oil and lacking any finesse. Not to say those places are all bad. But I will say kinda bad. They certainly represent a commercial food engine using frozen foods and commissary driven preparations to deliver standards and a consistent product. But is it good, well if I am honest in a word, no. Is it all bad, no but it's rarely good or good for you.

So Alice Waters is really famous for what some farmer does. I mean she didn't grow the food. The meat, dairy products and produce that enter her kitchens are the fruit of someone else's labor. But what she and her chefs do is prepare them in such a way that no one can miss the impact their quality has. And she is famous for championing this trend. That's her real fame. Reminding us that good food is better in every way for us. Just like out forefathers knew, but never thought about because it was always there.

So I have some new inspiration for my own cooking at home. Not that I will pretend that I don't enjoy convenience foods and that I will never eat at Red Lobster again ( cause I will ) but at least in more ways and at more times I want to be aware of cooking things that speak for themselves and find simpler preparations.

I have no recipe today just these thoughts. As we progress towards the summer and grilling season I will endeavor to find some fresh recipes lighter and built around natural flavors. See you then.