April Newsletter

Finally spring is here,….well sorta-depending on where you live! This newsletter contains important knife information, my most memorable meal, plus a recipe that always reminds me of spring.

Enjoy!


A Sharp Knife is a Safe Knife
This old adage is very true. A sharp knife will easily and reliably cut thru whatever you are slicing. Whereas a dull knife is unpredictable and more accident prone. Plus with a sharp knife, if you do cut yourself at least it will be a nice clean cut (think the opposite of a serrated knife cut) and it will heal easily and quickly.

3 Easy steps to keep your knives sharp

1. Get them professionally sharpened once a year. Many grocery stores will sharpen 1-2 knives for free, you may just need to leave them overnight. Many culinary store will also sharpen them for about $1.00 an inch.

2. Use a honing steel. Get into the habit of using this tool before you use the knife or before you put it away. A honing steel doesn’t sharpen, it just maintains the edge of your knife. (Make sure you do step 1 before doing step 2)

3. Have a storage solution for your knives. It can be a knife block, a drawer organizer, or even just a knife sleeve to protect the blade. Do not just throw them in a drawer!

 


Tagliatelle with a Prosciutto and Orange Cream Sauce

 I’ve made this recipe for the past 3 Easters and the flavors remind me of Spring. This recipe is very fast, but maybe not the most “healthy”. I like to add a clove or two of minced garlic, a pinch of crushed red chili flakes and a sprinkle of thyme. I usually serve this pasta with roasted or grilled asparagus.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Tagliatelle-with-Prosciutto-and-Orange-365161

 


Memorable Meal

When people first find out that I am a chef they always ask what my favorite dish is. Which for most chefs I know is an impossible question to answer; my favorite dish changes with the seasons and with my mood. So I prefer to answer, what is your most memorable meal. I’ve had so many memorable meals, my first dinner with my future husband, an amazing pizza in Cannes, mind blowing mezes in Istanbul…but my first memorable meal was from a family camping trip in MT. It was my mom, her best friend and all 6 kids piled in a van for a road trip. On the second night it rained and the kids tent leaked, the sleeping bags and clothes were soaked. My mom and I went to the laundromat to dry everything out. When we got back, a memorable dinner was waiting. It was just spaghetti with marinara sauce cooked over a fire, and a glass of grape juice but it was probably the best I’ve ever had. It was probably a combination of having someone else cook, the smokiness imparted by the fire, the great company, and the beautiful scenery. I can still taste it.

I would love to hear about your most memorable meal. Please share your story.

Holiday Entertaining Tips

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1. Pick a theme:

I find it easiest to pick a theme: Italian, Mexican, Indian, American,…..That way you are more focused when choosing recipes, all the food tastes good together ( you won’t have chips and salsa mixing into your sushi), often recipes from the same general area use similar ingredients (saves you time and money by not having a long grocery list and using 10 ingredients that you only need 1 Tablespoon of)

 

2. Room temperature is your friend:

When serving only appetizers try to have the majority of them able to be served at room temp, that way you aren’t running around the entire party trying to keep hot food hot and cold food cold, and your guests won’t have to be worried about food poisoning! Really a win win for all. Sample appetizer menu: Mini buttermilk biscuits with honey butter, Black eyed pea dip with carrots and cucumbers, Spicy kale chips, Watermelon kebobs, BBQ mini meatballs and lemon shortbread cookies.

 

3. For a sit-down Dinner, stews and braises are your friends:

If you are serving a sit down meal, make a braised or stewed entree. These dishes usually are very forgiving time wise and don’t need any last minute cooking on your part so you can enjoy your guests instead of all your time in the kitchen.  Sample menu: Butter lettuce and snap pea salad with orange mustard vinaigrette and sliced almonds, Coq au Vin served with crusty bread, and pots de creme)

 

4. Dress up your food:

Make the food look as pretty as possible, we eat with our eyes first. Generous sprigs of Italian parsley or cilantro tucked here and there on a platter looks beautiful, plus it’s cheap!

 

5. Arrange your buffet thoughtfully:

When arranging a buffet have plates at one end and napkins and silverware at the other, that way your guests won’t have to hold onto forks and spoons while they try to dish up a plate. Arrange platters at varying heights not only to create a more visually interesting buffet but it can also create more space of platters. Use cake stands, upside down bowls, a stack of books to balance a plate on etc.

 

6. Guests are happy that they didn’t have to cook:

Last of all remember its only food so relax! The majority of your guests will be so happy that they didn’t have to cook that they will be very lax on judging your culinary skills.

Lasagna Cheat

I love the way a bechamel* sauce tastes in lasagna, so creamy and rich, just makes the whole dish that much more decadent! But sometimes I get lazy and don’t feel like making it, or I just don’t have the time. Yesterday was a lazy day and I thought I’d just skip the bechamel, until I saw the buy one get one free pasta sauces and decided to try alfredo sauce as the white sauce replacement. So I did a layer of noodles topped with roasted eggplant and the alfredo sauce,another layer of noodles topped with ricotta-spinach-basil mix, and noodles, tomato sauce and cheese to finish it off. All I can say is yum!

*Bechamel sauce is milk thickened with a roux (flour and butter) Alfredo sauce is reduced heavy cream and cheese. Both amazingly delicious!

Chicken Fat, Mmmmm Mmmmm

A great way to add extra flavor and complexities to soups,vegetables, potatoes, baked goods etc is to use a little chicken fat. Instead of throwing away the fat skimmed off the top of chicken stock or the fat that accumulates in the roasting pan save it in an air tight container in the fridge.

And as an added bonus chicken fat is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which is helpful in the prevention of inflammatory diseases.

 

Homemade Chicken Broth/Butchering a Chicken

Few things smell as good as chicken broth simmering away on the stove. And few things are so easy! Throw a few carcasses in a pot, add cold water to cover, a pinch of salt and simmer until the bones are soft (about 4 hours). You could add a bay leaf, herbs and a few vegetables if you want; but it’s not essential.

I get the bones from either leftover roasted chicken or from butchering a whole bird. After eating the roasted chicken, I place the leftovers in a plastic bag and put in the freezer until I’m ready to make stock. I do the same with carrot, onion and celery ends too. I like to use a combination of raw and roasted bones for stock. The raw bones will give the stock more body and texture, but the roasted bones will give a deeper flavor.

Breaking down, or butchering a chicken isn’t that hard with practice and a sharp knife. I’m sure there are plenty of sites and cookbooks that have detailed descriptions with pictures of  butchering a chicken. But here, I’ll just briefly describe how I break down a chicken.

1. Run your knife down a honing steel a few times.

2.Take one of the breasts off by cutting alongside the keel bone (the breast bone) and then down the ribs bones. Repeat on the other side.

3.This step is going to sound a little gruesome-sorry.Grab both of the thighs with your hands and bend them back until the hip joint comes out of its socket. Wash your hands and then use your knife to cut between the joints.

Usually buying whole chickens is cheaper than buying the pieces, plus you get the useful bones. After making the stock, I strain and cool it. Then I pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, I pop them out into a bag and store them in the freezer. Each cube is about 2 Tablespoons, easy for measuring or for thawing if you are using a lot.

Homemade stock will make any soup, sauce or stew taste amazingly better than using store bought. The taste and texture is much richer and deeper; plus you can control the sodium level.

Space Saver

We all know how important it is to wash fruit and vegetables before you eat it. In most cases I can use the container the fruit comes in to wash and drain the fruit, but that doesn’t work for everything. So I was so happy when I found a mini collapsible colander, check it out here.

Small Kitchen Tip

When you are baking in a small kitchen it’s usually means that you have very little counter space for arranging all of the ingredients-bag of flour, bag of white sugar and brown sugar etc. Something that I have found helpful is to measure everything out before you start. I know that this sounds like a lot of extra work, but it really does save time. This way you can focus more on the methods of the recipe then on the amounts of the ingredients.

If you can, put all of the dry ingredients in one bowl; if the recipe says to add them separately you can always stack the bowls to save space. When you have everything measured out ahead of time, you don’t need to worry about trying to measure out flour while balancing a bowl on your knee, or the floor.