Saturday, July 31, 2010


Mayonnaise doesnt need to bought in the store where it is to expensive and contains too many ingredients. in fact i bet you have everything you need to make it in your kitchen right now, not only that but i bet you have everything you need to make its bigger, fancier brother -aioli. mayo is one of the most simple emulsions to make (it doesnt require heat) and both aioli and remoulade sauce (fancy tarter) are a snap once you can make mayo. between them you can sauce almost anything from veggies, to fish, to salads, to burgers. not to mention that if you can get some practice at this and get to understand what things should look like and what you are trying to make happen, then your only one very, very small step from making the greatest most versatile sauce of all time- hollandaise. As in the norm ingredients first, then hardware, then method.

egg yolks- i could ramble on forever about eggs, but basically you are looking for yolk only for their lecithin. (if you remember i bought some of that in a powder form sometime ago) 1 yolk will hold 8 oz of fat.....always and forever. i think that it is pointless to make 1 cup of mayo, not to mention almost impossible to whip one egg yolk. i never go at it without less than two. room temperature is ideal but not necessary. at home i will use a raw egg yolk, at work a pasteurized yolk product. it is important to remember that some individuals are much more prone to suffering the food bourne illnesses associated with raw eggs (and undercooked proteins in general) small children, seniors, people with compromised immune deficiencies, and pregnant women can all have issues with these sort of things. i dont much worry about things like this at home, but at work i have no option but to take them very seriously. if raw egg yolks bother you (do you eat cookie dough?) then look for pasteurized yolks at you local megamart. they will have a measurement ratio on the back of the box.

oil- ideally you use a very mild fat to do this. i use a very light olive oil (nothing with any fruitiness like Extra virgin) or a canola or vegetable oil. once you get the hang of it, you can experiment to suit your tastes but i have had mayo that was fabricated from a first press olive oil and the olive flavor gets in the way of what i was wanting to taste. like i said the two eggs you are going to use will hold 16 oz of fat (i said it was good not healthy) i like to stick with about 12 oz of fat for two yolks for a perfect marriage. i put mine in a squeeze bottle, or anything else where you can add it drop by drop. if the mayo is going to break it will happen in the first few drops of the oil. whisk hard and strong while the first third of the oil is being added. after that it shouldnt break if you add in a steady drip while whisking.

lemon juice- fresh squeezed, juice from one lemon for two yolks works for me.

water- room temp, and only a bit. if at any point your mayo begins to look like it is thicker than it should be add some water a teaspoon at a time. this will help it to loosen up. have it ready cause once you start the process you shouldnt stop till your done.

mustard powder- not absolutely necessary and i use it in a very scant amount. i dont want the taste of the mustard to come out, i just want the help from it to form the emulsion.

salt- i wasnt going to leave that out. enough said

the bowl- my favorite culinary instructor asked me one if i was making "greynnaise". i was using a stainless steel bowl and was overworking it. the agitation and the acids involved had a pretty bad reaction with the soft white mayo turning it to a dull grey color. sidebar- we had to do this multiple times in culinary school even had to make it break and then fix it all in a certain amount of time. to prove that we had done it correctly we had to lift the bowl upside down above our heads, for one girl in my class it wasnt until she had mayo all over her head and shoulders that she hadnt fixed it correctly. she probably isnt cooking anymore. to stay away from greynnaise i like a nice plastic bowl with a flat bottom, with plenty of space to whisk.

the whisk- this could be done flawlessly in a blender but we wouldnt learn anything, so i encourage you to make it with a whisk at least once. watch things happen and you will really learn something.

if it breaks- if the mayo takes on a gritty appearance, or wont thicken, rinse your whisk really well, get another bowl and add the broken mayo a few drops at a time while whisking vigorously. it should come back together and allow you to continue. if you still cant get it to come together call me.

separate the eggs and place the yolks in the bowl. add the lemon juice, mustard, and a pinch of salt. work vigorously with the whisk until it is well combined. while continuing to whisk slowly add the first few drops of oil. once they are well incorporated continue adding in very slow fashion all while continuing to whisk. if the mayo gets to thick add some water, but add it in very small amounts. drops at a time. continue adding oil until the 12 oz is all incorporated. refrigerate immediately. covered well it should last a few weeks easily.

now what- this would be great on sandwiches, pasta or potato salads etc. to make it an aioli add some flavor to it. anything at all. my all time favorite is this exact recipe with lime instead of lemon and finished it with a chipotle and some adobe, rubbed on some grilled corn. roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, citrus zest, etc and you have a world class aioli. add dill, relish, capers, and parsley and you have the perfect tarter style sauce for any fried fish dish.

this is a cool way to send a dinner party over the top, or just to impress a loved one. i would love some feedback on how it works for you or what you are using it for. now get out there and work those forearm muscles. a very good chef i know has asked seasoned chefs applying for work to make things like aioli for him in interviews before. as far as i am concerned you cannot be a good professional cook until you can make the most basic of things, like mayonnaise, amazing.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Emulsion- a mixture of two or more liquids, one of which is a fat or oil, the other of which is water based, so that tiny globules of one are suspended in the other. this may involve the use of stabilizers, such as egg or mustard. Emulsions may be temporary, permanent, or semi permanent. TPC 8th edition

i have wanted to post about a few emulsions in the kitchen that i make at home and work for some time but felt i couldnt until i talked about what they are and why they are important. emulsions are everywhere. vinaigrette, Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise, mayonnaise, butter, and sauces. the method is simple- bring together two things that normally wouldnt come together (eg- oil and water) with the help from some ingredients that will help along the process like mustard seeds, mustard powders, or egg yolks.

bringing together an emulsion can happen by hand with a whisk, in a blender, food processor, immersion blender, or even in a stand mixer. for a vinaigrette for example you would measure your acid, and any flavorings and then slowly add your oil while whisking. if you have ever seen a dressing on a store shelf that is separated it isnt emulsified (though it may have been at one point). by doing this you can suspend the fat throughout the mixture. without the aid of eggs or mustard though it wont last long. butter is another emulsion, as it contains 14-18% water out of the box. this is why if it melts on the counter it is useless in a cookie dough. or why you cant simply add melted butter to a biscuit or crumble dough (you end up with cookies in the last instance).

i will talk more about all the things that emulsions make and how you can give them all a shot in the coming months. thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


i am not sure when we started getting away from real popcorn and heading towards microwaved. homemade will take you less than 10 minutes, is dirt cheap, and can be as healthy (or as buttered) as desired. on top of all of that it tastes much better. its smells and sounds remind me of jiffy pop on camp outs, or on family vacations in the camper when i was really young. by toasting the kernels before they pop you have added a depth of flavor (often why you toast different nuts and whole spices, and even some rice dishes before you use them) A cup of unpopped kernels will pop to be a great snack for three or four people and you are able to control the amount of flavorings added. a few years ago we actually had a hard time finding an air-popper to give to a friend as a gift, and i have actually not been able to find just popping corn kernels at more than a few grocery stores. pathetic. even if you air-pop (the second best way) you should give it a shot. while air-popping is healthy, and delicious it doesnt give you the toasted depth that you get from the stove top.

start with a heavy bottomed pan that has a lid. add a tablespoon or so of oil to the pan, then add the kernels, and a pinch of salt. turn the heat to medium-ish, cover the pan, and shake the pot back and forth over the burner. the oil will help to disperse the heat and help the kernels to lubricate themselves as they slide around the bottom of the warming pan. in a few minutes the aromas will change and the popcorn will smell toasted. keep shaking and continue even when it begins to pop. once you think the corn is about 80% done i usually shut off the heat, to prevent burning and allow the remaining heat to finish the job. this is easy stuff, stuff you dont have an excuse not to be doing. adjust the seasoning if desired and it is perfect just like that. add melted butter, or any sort of spices if you desire. i like really heavy cracked black pepper, or hot sauce and some lime, or some sort of spicy chili powder. no preservatives, better for you, tastes better, and a fun way to get the whole family involved.


Tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family. they are usually a green color but can be purple or even more yellow. they are wrapped in a husk that needs to be removed and discarded. tomatillos are the basis for many mexican and latin sauces but most importantly- salsa verde. they grow very well under all sorts of conditions so dont be surprised if they end up at your local farmers market in the coming weeks. when shopping for them, open the husk as it can be deceiving in size and quality of the fruit. the husk will discolor far before the fruit will, and it sometimes seems to hide a tomatillo that should be twice the size that it is. when you get them home peel them and wash them really well. the husk can hide very sticky residue that needs to be removed. blemishes and bits of dirt need to be rubbed under cold water, and they will come off fairly easily. they also keep very well (2-3 weeks in the fridge) and whilst i have never tried to freeze them i have heard it can be done with success.

i like to make salsa verde. it is a perfect pairing for any sort of pork. great on a grilled chop, or a braised shoulder. perfect over a taco as well. due to my audience at home i usually keep the spice to a minimum but if you want you can load in the jalapenos. i will wash the produce well and then start it in pot with plenty of water. some people will roast them, but i am not a fan of the more aggressive flavor that roasting imparts on them. fool around with it. i will also chop up a few onions, a jalapeno if desired, and a few cloves of garlic then add them to the water. turn the heat on medium and let them come up slowly (remember we try not to boil anything but pasta) after a while the tomatillos will turn a duller shade of green, and begin to swell. drain the liquid but reserve it, then puree the mixture in a blender. i will add a bunch of cilantro, the juice from a lime, and some salt. as far as spices it is really up to you, i like mine pretty heavy on cumin (one of my favorite spices) and maybe even some coriander or mexican oregano. i usually store it in a canning jar in the fridge where it will last for at least a month. by saving the liquid it can be added back to mix if you unhappy with the consistency. if you are happy with it discard it.

this time of year tomatillos are local, available at almost any grocery store, and relatively inexpensive (less than $2/# for sure). the will add a cool "value" to friends or family having dinner, and it can be made well in advance. find the mixture of onions, spice, and spices that works best for you and yours.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Prime Rib

the term "prime" in rib does not refer to its grade....ever. if i had a prime graded prime rib i would have no choice but to sell it as prime prime rib or a double prime rib. it is one of the 8 cuts of a steer that we call "primal cuts", or whole cuts in their most whole forms, cuts that are processed further to get the cuts of steak and ground beef that you find in the grocery store. i cook a rather fair amount of these. on a busy wedding laded Saturday i will cook up to 10 of these, which for the price we pay for them equates into a cartful of pressure. i rub them with a blend i have worked on for a few years at least 24 hrs in advance, temper them for at least an hour, cook at a relatively low heat setting for a few hours. i pull them on the rare side as they will carry over due to their size, or continue cooking, for at least a half hour after they have been removed from the heat. also i often will have to hold them hot for up to a few hours, so the rarer the better usually is what we have to be looking for. people find great value in prime rib, making it a very popular option for weddings, Christmas, and Easter. classically it is always served with horseradish, and au jus, i also try to serve it with a homemade tea roll as well. in all honesty i dont really like prime rib. i think the cut is much more apt to a quicker cooking style, and while there is no doubting its goodness, the steak you cut from a prime rib is much better than a standing roast.

If you cut a prime rib into steaks you have what is called a "rib-eye" steak. one of the most popular steak cuts in restaurants all over the country. it is one of my favorites cuts of beef. i think it takes and "age" better than any other cut (a process at some point we will learn more about-i could write a essay about it) and is highly desired for its fat content. this is where it gets a bit sticky. the prime rib has an eye of fat in it, and eye that gets bigger working up the animal. i have seen them mostly in the quarter size range, but up to half dollar sized on a big steak cut from a "prime" graded animal. some people like myself love it, some dont. if you are one of the people that doesn't then stay away from the cut in general. we used to have a absolutely gorgeous 16 oz prime graded rib-eye on the menu. i took a ton of heat on it as people would order it and then send it back as it was "too fatty". comment cards began saying things like "buy better meat" or "steak was too chewy" and i would fly into a frenzy attempting to defend our menu and purchasing to anyone in the kitchen that was willing to listen, or in all honestly even around me at the time. bottom line is this isnt a cut of meat for the faint of heart, so buyer beware (if you dont think it is right for you there are a plethora of other options with little to no fat- stick with tenderloins, or sirloins) at the same time please dont ruin it for everyone else. i was at my local buy n large store the other day and almost had a heart attack when i approached the meat section to see prime graded rib eyes that actually had the "eye" cut out of them. honestly i thought about it and couldnt even figure out how i would cook it (it wouldve fallen apart on the grill). i am 100% positive that the removal was due to the feedback from customers much like we had at the restaurant. an absolute disrespect to the animal that lost its life for the steak and the people who raised, cared for, harvested, transported, and butchered this animal.

my all time favorite steak pairing is avocado, and my favorite steak to do that with is a rib-eye. you see by taking the fattiest cut of beef money can buy, and then using the fattiest piece of produce money can buy, you basically can send a guest or customer into fat overload. when fat hits your tongue it coats it, leaving the taste of what you just had to linger on your palate for longer (think of a really good cheese, or salami and how you can still taste it 30 minutes later) by grilling a nice rib-eye then coating it in a puree of avocado, my hope (it works) is that i can send a guest to the parking lot still smacking their lips together while all that charred, fatty, meaty goodness just hangs out. its the meal that keeps on giving.

(the pictured prime ribs look darker than they are. roasted to a perfect 105 degrees, one of them is at least 4 pounds lighter than the other, causing a whole other problem for roasting)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beans (2)

dried beans are a staple in my home. they are one of my favorite foods for versatility, and comfort. they also take some time to cook which makes them right up my alley. i wont speculate on how many pots of beans i have cooked but i have a bit of an obsession. there are only a few things you can buy at the grocery store outside of the produce department that have only one ingredient, when i buy a bag of adzuki beans i get just that. no more. they are flexible in their presentation as well. pureed, drained and dressed for a bean salad, etc. they are also very important for health reasons. i read once that 70% of the world eats beans once a day. in places where proteins are to expensive or just dont really exist in a safe and healthy form, rice and beans together becomes a complete protein. it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body can not create on its own. a pairing called protein complementation, in America its most popular form is in the PB and J sandwich. as if they needed more argument they are vastly available, dirt cheap (even what are more expensive beans and fancy lentils that i use at home and work for some things are really inexpensive) very sustainable, and have an almost infinite shelf life. they can be cooked to taste fantastic with water, and some salt as well. get to the store and buy some. start them in the morning or early afternoon and let them go all day, by dinner time they will be perfect. you cant mess them up, and if you think they arent as attractive as you would like then puree them and load in some fat.

i dont soak them. again i have cooked hundreds of pots of them. i have soaked them for hours and days and everything in between, i have cooked them really slowly, really fast, in every heating device i own, in every liquid you can fathom, in every pot/pan imaginable. it has never made a difference whether i soak them or not. from a chemistry standpoint i understand why it should work. the skin should soften allowing the bean to soak liquid up in a more relaxed manner. feel free to fool around with it, cause i would like to be proven wrong but dont think that it is rule by any means. never let the fact that you havent soaked them keep you from cooking them. you will need to wash them well. i go for a sheet pan and sort them first as they can contain bits of debris, rocks, even nails. no one wants to eat that. then place them in a strainer and rinse really well. this will remove surface dirt which if skipped will make the cooking liquid taste and look "muddy". i usually will cover them with plenty of water and place on high heat, then once they begin to boil i will turn them way down and let them go. i hate al dente beans, which is rough cause they look nicer before the skin starts to rip and burst (a sure sign they are almost done). the whole reason i love beans is the creaminess and mouthfeel you get from well cooked beans. different beans will take different amounts of time, i can cook pintos and blacks in a shade over two hours if i am relatively high on the heat. in a pinch it can be done in about 15 minutes in a pressure cooker at 12-15#'s of pressure as well. when you buy a can of beans from the store they arent cooked all the way. they are nice in a pinch but for obvious reasons i dont like to rely on them for more than emergencies. heat them and usually you will need to salt them a tad to make them right.

i know this is a bunch to absorb if you have never fooled with beans much, but i have faith in all of you. i also am fully aware that beans can be hated on for the side effects they can have on your digestive system. to prevent it i like a herb called epazote that is popular in Mexican quisine, but i will go for a product like bean-o if i dont feel like it pairs well with the bean i am using. as far as additions like a mentioned all you need is water and salt, but broths, and stocks will add flavor, as will onions, garlic, shallots, herbs, spices, bacon, ham hocks, ham bones and shanks, etc. i will almost always saute the aromatics to develop a bit more flavor before adding.

Oddly enough i have one warning (a question from a reader that actually encouraged this posting) DO NOT ADD SALT. never salt beans until they are almost done cooking. that means no store bought broths, no boullion cubes, no salt on the aromatics, etc. the sodium somehow effects the way that beans will absorb the liquid and will make them take absolutely forever to cook. wait to salt until you are sure they are done cooking, then salt (they lack any aggressive natural flavor so they will take quite a bit of it) allow the salt to dissolve and penetrate the beans a bit and serve. good luck.

Monday, July 12, 2010


i have two yellow pear tomatoes ready to be picked in the garden, my radishes came out and i planted some pumpkins. it may be to late to get any sort of serious harvest from them but they should grow quickly so my thought was it is good for the boys to see. i planted two small hills of what should be 4-5 pound carving pumpkins and two small hills of what the package said could grow to be 200# pumpkins. they just sprouted in the last day. pole peas are growing like weeds and are more tangled then i would like them to be, but my beans arent in the best of shape. squash is going well but i am getting some browning on the leaves. all of my herbs are going very well.

in your local produce update we are towards the end of strawberries, but are getting really good local cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and even a few raspberries now. asparagus locally is done with, but beans of all different sorts are in full force now. sugar and snap peas are available as are summer squash and zucchini. we still anxiously await peaches but are seeing the beginning of nectarines. most of the growers i interact with had a very hard spring so the thought is that they will be late up to a month with most things. the market in Cannon Beach is on tuesdays and is in full swing from 2-6 pm. i am also seeing an increase in roadside stands as well.

the few day of high heat last week were pretty rough. kitchens tend to be hot, and air conditioning is non-existent. people are on edge, patience is limited, and when its hot- restaurants (on the coast at least) are busy. really busy. the heat and sun change eating habits as well. people eat later in summer than they do in the winter, and even later when the sun is out. not unusual for us to get killed for lunch at like 330 or 4pm, then have the restaurant sit relatively empty until almost 7pm. we are at the time of year that i walk into the kitchen and start sweating and dont stop until i get in the car when i am done with my day. it is near impossible for me to get ahead, so i have to prioritize just to stay afloat. i have a few new cooks we are working with, and one or two in particular that i am always working on what we call "sense of urgency". surprisingly few cooks understand it. when you get in trouble like that in a kitchen you are "in the weeds". it can happen when your behind on prep, when tickets come quicker than you can cook them, when the phone rings constantly, or when your a man down. the good news is when you can pull off a service in the weeds, you walk away at the end of the day with a feeling of accomplishment and it creates a stronger bond between the staff. we have to rely on each other more than ever this time of year, and i always get a few surprises on who will pick up the slack, and who will break. either way, i love the rush, and the push. i love being in the weeds cause the thrills that are involved, but thats definitely not always apparent to me till my day is over.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness crab is the jewel of the west coast, named after a small town in Washington, harvested from southern California all the way to the Aleutian islands in Alaska it is the a huge staple of the local economy. the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch list (a list worth downloading and printing) calls it a great choice for sustainability as well. i work with a lot of this product. whole crabs, half crabs, crab cakes, crab stuffed chicken, crab sauteed on salmon, or halibut, crab cocktails, etc. the restaurant i work is the largest consumer of crab on the Oregon or Washington coasts. this time of year i am buying around 200#s a week of just picked crab meat. we buy it in 5# cans. because we buy so much of it we are able to negotiate pricing from different potential purveyors, even with those allowances it is spendy. i have to remind cooks how much it costs every day, as we get pretty saturated with it. locally crab season usually starts in mid December and ends in march sometime, alot of the season depends on how quick the industry is catching quotas that have been set up to keep it sustainable. seasons vary up and down the coast, and again they vary quite a bit. this monster came via Canada.

Dungeness crabs will molt a few times during the duration of their lives, losing their shell and burying themselves in the sand for a week or so until their new one grows in. for recreation, locally, they can be caught year round which is a great way to get around the price, i think the shellfish permit is less than $20. like lobster you wont see them in raw form, unless alive. they are capable of poisoning themselves if they sense danger so to prevent it they are usually cooked right when they are received by the cannery. if you find yourself in the position to cook lives ones-plenty of salted boiling water and about 10 minutes will do, or a good steam for 12-15 minutes will do the trick. they are amazing on their own, or with a steak, or other seafood. i love crab legs with hollandaise. they have a sweet, buttery, briny taste to them.i find them to be better than lobster, red king crab, snow crab (opelio) blue crab, soft shell, etc. a fantastic local product, that supports our local economy, and is harvested in a very sustainable manner. what more could you ask for.

add on- its really important to keep in mind when working with products like proteins but especially with some types of seafoods that men and women put their life on the line to get them to our table. fishing, crabbing, and working in canneries is some of the hardest most dangerous work that one can do. is essence the pursuit of the crab that ends up on your plate has costed not only the life of crab, but also the life of thousands of people. i am not only talking the shows on TV either. last year a local (columbia river) crabber was killed, he was younger than i, and a stepson of one of my purveyors. the least i can do as a chef, and a human is treat it with the upmost respect, and appreciate the sacrifices that have been made for our consumption.

Pastry Dough

I will be honest with you, i have never made a pie before. i didnt grow up making them with my grandmother, i dont have any sort of urge to make them on a regular basis, and to be honest most of the ones i have had didnt blow my mind. if i am in the mood for sweets i will usually make a cobbler of some sort, or just ice cream and macerated (sugared) fruit. two years ago this wouldnt of bothered me, more and more though i have to be aware of the experiences i am lacking in the kitchen. pie definitely falls into that category. the kicker here is i can make a pie crust. the ratio (3prt flour, 2prt fat, 1prt water) is the easiest to remember in the kitchen, and i know the method. so enough excuses, lets get to it. with a tad of proding from my wonderful wife i made a chicken pot pie the other night. while that may not qualify as a sweet pie, the crust is essentially identical and i was a bit safer with the savory approach. regardless it turned out excellent and was a big crowd pleaser. i dont have a Cuisinart type food processor, and i dont want one. i hate all the parts, and cleaning all the parts. i have a small processor that attaches to my immersion blender that is just perfect for pureeing sauces. i did this in my kitchen-aid, but it can be done by hand as well. flour (12 oz) went in to the work bowl with the paddle attachment, the fat (butter 8 oz) was very cold and cut into small chunks was blended in slowly until it stated to just get a course meally texture, the ice water (i actually used less than the 4oz the ratio suggests) goes in slowly just until it comes together. remove the dough from the bowl and wrap tightly in plastic then refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to keep the dough cool. roll out as desired. some recipes will call for the addition of sugar in the crust as well and i dont agree. if you are making a sweet pie the filling should be where the sweetness is. leave the crust and the ratio be. i perforated (poked holes in it to allow steam to escape) the bottom layer of the dough, then filled it with my pot pie mixture, then just covered it with the rolled out remaining crust. nothing fancy. about an hour later i had a perfectly flaky golden brown crust. i am at the drawing board with this, and have committed to become a pie master by fall. tarts, fruit pies, savory pies, quiche, etc are all in my near future. i will work with the ratio as well to see if i can get to the point to do some cool lattice work on the top. once in a while you will see a recipe that calls for blind baking, which is a process of partially pre-cooking the dough. you have to use a weight of some sort to keep the dough from buckling in the cooking process. beans used only for that use are a cheap, and easy solution. as summer continues and fall approaches get thinking about pie. its the quintessential American dessert.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Lets face it-sugar is a staple in the kitchen. like onions, potatoes, flour, and eggs, it is something that every good cook needs at home. figured i could explain a bit about it and the different kinds involved. i havent always been a sugar expert, but about a year ago my pastry chef decided the sugar we were using wasnt good enough. honestly i had never thought much about it, i ordered sugar and it showed up in 50# bags. we used it, i bought more, etc. we started looking at different types, and brands rather aggressively. most of your large restaurant purveyors have companies that package products for them under their own label, just like generic brands in your local grocery store. when you start paying attention to things like sugar it doesnt take long to understand. we were seeing brown sugar that was almost greenish in color, white sugar that was not fine enough, or fine enough but, for lack of a better word "grainy". we settled on C and H, and i will never buy white, brown, or powdered in another brand in my life. it is of course a bit more expensive than your run of the mill brands but its worth it. furthermore if you hear the word sugar from my mouth, or any good chef's for that matter we are talking about cane sugar, not beet sugar, forever and always. beet sugar is just not a quality product, and has an almost dirty taste. now in my kitchen i usually lean towards brown (light) sugar for most tasks. some that you would normally use other sugars for but i am huge fan of the depth that it brings to the table. it tends to give off a slightly caramelly flavor to baked sweets, and its increased moisture doesnt hurt. in the small amount of sweet work that i do at home i havent ever come across a recipe that i cant substitute white for brown.

Brown sugar was originally a by-product of making white sugar. now in an attempt to simplify things brown sugar starts off as white sugar and is then made brown with the addition of molasses (another one of my favorites-more on this liquid amazingness at some point) if your ever in a pinch, or just want to give it a shot you can make brown sugar at home by adding 1-2 tsp of molasses to 1 cup of white sugar and then process in your food processor. the terms dark and light just have to do with the amount of molasses cut back into the sugar. dark can be a bit aggressive for me for some things so rather than buying both i stick to light in my kitchen. if you want to experience the caramelly flavor that i spoke of earlier, use brown sugar next time you whip cream at home. let a pinch of salt and some sugar dissolve in some cream for an hour or so, then whip just like you normally would. you will end up with a much more real looking color, and catch people off quard with the delicious flavor profile.

Powdered sugar is just white sugar that has been mixed with cornstarch to prevent caking. again in a food processor mix 80-90 percent sugar with the remaining as cornstarch, and you got it at home. powdered sugar is also cool because it dissolves easier than white or brown. usually you need heat and/or agitation to dissolve sugar, and you dont need that to dissolve powdered.

Professionally i see different labels of sugars that you may run in to in the grocery store. bakers special sugar is more fine than regular white sugar and not a bad bet as it seems to be easier to work with on the sweet side of the kitchen. be hesitant of the EZ pour packaging though as it is easy to pour, but much more expensive. fondant and icing sugars are for serious cake people and the rest of us should let them keep it. caster sugar will dissolve in liquid at room temp and is very fine. demmerara sugar is one step away from being white sugar in the refining process. its excellent in oatmeal, coffee, and tea. evaporated cane sugar is very similar to demmerara and i use it to sub for white sugar as well. i love it cause i can buy it organic in the bulk foods section of a few different stores i frequent, for like 70 cents a pound. i also like it because the lack of refining saves some of natural nutrients so it is a tad healthier for you. maple sugar i read takes almost 40 gallons of pure maple sap to make a pound of. i think it just happens when they take the syrup making a tad further than desired, but its fantastic and expensive. there are plenty more and all are available online if your local shopping choices are as pathetic as mine are.

on top of all of that there are some really cool ways to sweeten things that are becoming more trendy. i use agave nectar often to sweeten soda make and other sweets. its different because it actually is sweeter than sugar. molasses is great for some things as well, i do however stay away from light, dark, and high fructose corn syrup. in the end i just dont like the "refined" flavor of white sugar. even though brown is made from white. i just think there are some better options available. options that are better for you, better tasting, more versatile, and have the depth of flavor to bring your dish to another level.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I am actually working with some true Wagyu (but not from KOBE) beef today at home and thought i would attempt to clear up the fog on it. American beef is graded in 7 different ways but the only important grades are-select, choice, prime. you wont see the others as they have been canned, dehydrated, made into dog food, etc. prime is the best grade of American graded (FDA) beef that money can buy (in all honestly jury still out on this as i like most choice steaks more than i like prime ones). on a sidenote these grades has been changed 3 times since the current laws were created (1950's), and they were changed by huge slaughterhouses basically without any argument from consumers. that wont happen again if i can prevent it. in turn what we see as prime grade steak now wouldve been graded as select only 50 yrs ago, so an inferior product could be sold at a more expensive price. regardless a good American graded Prime steak will get my juices flowing. i have seen, eaten, cooked, transported, and roasted some of the nicest our country has to offer. i am both lucky and thankful that i get to see things like that, a gorgeous steak will brighten an entire kitchen brigade.

Kobe beef is a term that has been bastardized in the last 10 years. true kobe beef comes from kobe Japan. it is 100% wagyu (the type of steer). rumor has it they are fed beer and sake and massaged daily, yielding and amazingly fatty product. It is graded A1-A5, A5 being the nicest grade. when i have worked with this product especially grades A3-5 it is a amazingly fatty product. sometimes more fat than meat, the temperature of your bare hands while trimming, cutting, or prepping will melt the fat and cover your board, knife, and hands in beef lard. Due to trade restrictions, and the fact that Kobe wants to keep this beef in Japan we dont see it very often. It is the original, the most expensive (i have seen around $80/oz on restaurant menus), and best.

Somewhere down the line some American ranchers got a hold of a Wagyu bull and began cross-breeding it with American Angus steers. Now this is bologna. I see the term KOBE on menus referring to burgers, hot dogs, sirloin steaks, etc. its not Wagyu, it is just a term used to cash out on a trend. this beef wasnt fed beer, it wasnt massaged, it may be good but it is just good American beef. I dont like it, i think it is a trap to confuse you. if it is affordable, then its not Kobe beef. it shouldnt be labeled as such. its a rip-off.

To further confuse things some Australian got hold of some Wagyu steers and actually are not cross breeding with other types of cattle. true Wagyu, raised in a similar manner, just not from Kobe. They can do this as land isnt as valuable as it is in Japan, and they can have more cattle in bigger operations. this meat is rather affordable and if you dont mind the fact that it has come all the way from Australia then it can be just as good, and isnt mis-labeled.

This is what i was working with today. true Wagyu (from Australia) brisket. it got 5 hours of hard smoke and mop (a new technique i am working on). i will refrigerate until sunday when it can take a few hours in the oven and be carved Texas BBQ style for the 4th of July. to further confuse the whole system a lot of time i will ask servers, chefs, salesmen, and they wont have any idea what the beef really is. i want to know, cause i want to know and often i cant be told. i was told by the Corporate chef of a big food distributor that he was cooking a Kobe beef burger, he wasnt he was cooking an 80% american burger and 20 percent wagyu. while a fantastic burger, i knew he was full of it. bottom line is i need to know my stuff about this, so i can question pricing, explain to customers, and cook appropriately. as consumers you deserve to know as well.


i have a quasi obsession with pizza. making it perfectly at home has been a struggle of mine for at least 4 yrs. i work hard on perfecting dough, figuring out toppings, sauces etc. in turn every time i make a pizza at home i am essentially putting 4 yrs of research and development on trial. i would love to post all of my opinions, and experiences, but it would take pages and bore you all to death. what i will tell you is that everyone should be making their own pizza at home. it is a great way to clean out the fridge of leftovers, as almost everything will go on a good pizza. you will need a stone of some sort, but with some searching you can find unglazed tiles at your local hardware store that will work just fine, i have cooked them on sheet pans in the oven that are upside down as well. it needs to be hot, i will usually let my stone pre-heat in the oven, stretch the dough, and take the stone from the oven then quickly sauce and top it, then back in the oven it goes. i like 550 degrees cause it is as hot as my oven will go, but hotter would be better. just about any bread dough will work, but you will have to work on the perfect balance of crispy and chewy as desired. as for toppings keep them simple and few. overloading toppings will just make everything soggy, especially when you go overboard with cheese, and clutter the dough and sauce (which are the real reason for showing up). to prevent this i usually slice the cheese rather than grate it, and just go with a piece in the middle, and a few around the sides. as for sauce i like to roast some tomatoes, garlic, and onions, then puree them with some fresh basil. again very simple but effective. oddly enough i have never attempted to grill a pizza, but it is in the future for me. last night i did a provolone, mozz, and parm for the boys. BBQ shredded chicken, potato, and caramelized onion, and the last was tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella, and gorgonzola. they were all fantastic, and the crunchiest i have ever made. someday i would die to have a real wood fire in the yard for pizzas and such, or an oven in my house that would get hotter than 550 degrees. for now this is the best i can do, the cool thing about making your own pizza is that it is never bad. just could always be better. my family loves it, and the smells and warmth involved are very comforting. it can be a relatively quick meal, or a long drawn out fancy process, either way give it a shot.