Search results for 'foodie crush'

Cooking Lesson

7 Nov

I spent yesterday at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show, which was such fun I can barely put it into words. I got a cookbook signed by Giada, I won a T-shirt (*giggle*), I snagged a super cute Christmas present for my daughter, and I came home with some yummy things in jars and some yummy ideas in my head.

There were about 10 aisles of booths filled with all sorts of foodie things (and some not so much–Gutter Helmet? BathFitter? Really?), and I spotted some definite trends. Salsa and barbecue sauce are both hot–I saw lots of those from all sorts of vendors. The line for soup was the longest in the place, and comfort food in general was very popular. Two vendors were selling high-end knives (no Wusthof, which surprised me, but Guy Fieri’s line looked nice and there was an artisan company whose hammered blades were stunning), a few were selling expensive table linens, and there were two booths of brightly-patterned aprons and lunch totes and chef’s hats and soft cooler bags and all sorts of fun things like that. One large exhibit in the back sold Viking stoves, one truck was handing out Duke’s mayonnaise (I am a recent convert, by the way–that stuff is good), and a large area was hosting beef cooking and eating demonstrations.

There were three demonstration stages open to the masses and one large one that cost extra, which is where Paula Deen and Giada and Guy Fieri spoke. The (free) demos I saw were all about making life easier, both every day and during the holidays, and the speakers had some super cute ideas.

The biggest free stage hosted Michel Richard at noon, and that was what made me buy my ticket, what with my foodie crush and all. I sat down 20 minutes early to be in the front, and he did not disappoint.

His food demo–an orange sponge cake–was wonderful, but the real reason I enjoyed it was that it was FUN. Food and cooking are FUN, you guys, and that totally came through–he laughed and joked and danced and sang and shouted through his recipe, and then bounced off the stage to take questions and laugh some more. I learned quite a bit in the half-hour he talked, including…

  • You don’t have to spend a lot on your kitchenware–he baked his cake in a plain, frill-free metal pan–but a stand mixer makes a huge difference. “Do you have one of these,” he asked the audience as his KitchenAid whirred away. “You should buy one.” It was the only product he endorsed. Have to say, I heartily agree–mine makes all the difference and was worth the investment and counter space.
  • Ingredients matter. He talked about using butter in recipes, and how his mother used margarine and it just wasn’t the same. Eat less if you must, but use quality ingredients when you cook. You’ll be happier for it.
  • Want chocolate cake? Substitute cocoa powder for 20 percent of the flour in a white cake recipe. Simple, eh? (The recipe he demonstrated called for orange juice. He recommended using apple if you go with chocolate there. Cool.)
  • His favorite food to make and eat at home? ROASTED CHICKEN WITH GARLIC. Vindication, my friends. Total, beautiful, absolute vindication.
  • He baked his cake in a pan lined with plastic wrap. I asked why plastic instead of parchment. He said–and I completely agree–that he doesn’t like using parchment paper because it’s hard to get down in the pan properly. Spray the pan with nonstick spray and then line it with plastic, and it magically conforms to the walls of the pan, giving you a beautiful cake at the end. I’d never seen that done before  and am intrigued.
  • Finally, he stopped bouncing around long enough to stand very still and ask us all if we knew what the magic ingredient was to give food a special sparkle. Nobody knew. “Love,” he said, and began bouncing and singing. “Love, love, love loooooooove.”

Gang, this is fun. Food is a creative outlet and eating is a joy and the kitchen is a place for family and friends to gather and enjoy each other. I had a ball yesterday simply because he’s so much fun–he’s not stuffy and snobby like other chefs in his position (he raised both fists in the air and gave a hearty “YEAH” when his introducer mentioned his James Beard award), and he could not be nicer or more encouraging. He sat down and took a few pictures with me and chatted about what I liked to cook, and it felt so accessible, which is the way it should be.

“You can do this,” he said to us. “In your kitchen. It is easy.” And he’s right.

 

A Cookbook Winner and A Giveaway Winner!

2 Sep

Happy Friday, y’all!

My brother and sister-in-law were kind enough to give me a bookstore giftcard for my birthday this year, and with it, I snagged the above cookbook–Sweet Magic, by Michel Richard.

**swoon**

Those of you who’ve been around here for awhile know about my little foodie crush on the owner of Citronelle, Central, and Michel. If you’re new, I can explain it in one sentence.

Michel Richard is a master of flavors and textures, but he also believes that food should be FUN, both in eating and cooking. He encourages playing with food, and all kinds of food, from the finest cuts of meat all the way to Cocoa Puffs. Which is pretty darned awesome, especially for one of the world’s most highly-regarded chefs.

This book is no exception. I finally had a chance to curl up in my favorite chair yesterday afternoon and read it, cover to cover. You’ll want to do the same thing–the book not only contains amazing dessert recipes, but dozens of wonderful stories, along with Richard’s drawings and paintings of his food. I found myself laughing out loud, nodding along, and almost cheering at some points.

Case in point: You know how most of the big-name chefs insist that you melt chocolate in double-boilers? Pain in the rear, yes? Richard has no patience for it and says there’s no reason to pull out so much stuff and wash so many pans when you have a microwave at your disposal.

Alleluia, my friend. Preach it.

You’ll also find out about Richard’s fondness for KFC, donuts, and chocolate chip cookies; hear the story about the dogs he set up when a wedding cake was damaged in transit (one of my favorite food stories), and learn a ton about the tools and techniques you actually need in your kitchen, and those you can toss away in favor of simpler ideas. Along the way, you’ll consider ingredients from homemade puff pastry to Cocoa Pebbles (I’m not kidding–he makes a dessert with them), and hear a whole bunch about having fun playing with your food. As a bonus, there are quite a few gluten-free desserts (including a Buche de Noel) that are made that way not because of the demand for such sweets, but because they just taste better that way.

Sweet Magic is a winner from cover to cover. The recipes are wonderful, the stories are entertaining, the illustrations are whimsical, and the whole experience is fun. I recommend it.

NOW…

We have a winner from our giveaway! Lots of you “liked” the blog on Facebook and I’m so excited about that! I hope you’ll stick around and play with us!

The winner of the $30 Williams-Sonoma giftcard is…MELODEE DONLAN! Yay!! Melodee, shoot me a message through Facebook or leave a note on the wall with your email address, and I’ll get your gift right out to you (and then please let us know what you bought!).

Thanks to everybody who played this time. More giveaways to come. Have a wonderful weekend!!

 

 

Super-Fast Friday: At the Table Soup Assembly

12 Aug

I had lunch with an old friend yesterday. He’s recently moved back to the area after being gone for a long time, and so there was really no choice but to take him to Central Michel Richard.

**swoon**

Yes, my loves, I’ll use any excuse to dine in a Richard restaurant and feed my foodie crush on the master of Happy in the Kitchen. Central is a joy–casual, sophisticated, reasonably priced, and absolutely amazing for the taste buds. In fact, my friend–who is from Chicago–told me the lunch we enjoyed was the best he’s ever had in D.C.

This isn’t an ad for the restaurant, although I highly recommend it if you’re ever in town. I learned a trick at lunch yesterday, see, and I’m sharing it with you.

Michel Richard’s restaurants are all (well, Central and Citronelle are. I haven’t yet tried his new digs in Tysons to know) open-kitchen, with little more than glass separating the dining room from the stoves and grills and marble counters backstage. You’re meant to experience the food from start to finish, not just shovel it down your throat mindlessly. Which means that sometimes, they assemble parts of your meal at the table.

My friend and I both ordered the D.C. Restaurant Week special, which was a soup or salad, entree, and dessert, and we both chose the corn and crab chowder. What I didn’t anticipate was our waiter gently placing a bowl before me that had chunks of crab, corn kernels, and some croutons in the bottom. He paused, and then ladled hot chowder broth overtop of that, as we watched.

Nice show, yes? But y’all, I’m telling you, the difference in the texture between that chowder and one that simmers together was amazing. The corn snapped when you bit into it. The crab was crab, not something resembling crabby mush floating around. And those croutons? They stayed crunchy and crisp.

Such a simple thing, and such a big difference. I left, as always, in awe. And I’m also going to try that trick next time we have a chowder-like soup at home. It’s faster and easier than traditional soup simmering, and it was absolutely delicious.

I got to catch up with my friend, enjoy fabulous food, and learn a little something that makes me happier in the kitchen. Not a bad way to spend a lunchtime. 🙂

Seriously The Best CC Cookies Ever

2 Jul

A neighbor and I were emailing back and forth about chocolate chip cookies a few weeks ago, and I pointed her to what I said was the recipe for the most amazing chocolate chips in the world. As in, ever.

“Did you just hear the gates of hell clang shut for dissing Toll House?” she wrote back.

I laughed, but the thing is this: Toll House cookies never work for me. Ever. They either get dark brown and hard, or they spread out into super-thin Frisbees with chocolate chips poking up, or they’re raw in the middle, or I have to make them as bar cookies, which is cheating and doesn’t really produce chocolate chip cookies at all. Operator error, perhaps, but that recipe is a dud as far as I’m concerned.

Enter my main man, Alton Brown. I have yet to make his “The Chewy” recipe without having half the room ask me for the recipe (I only make them to take to parties–having a batch in the house would be disastrous for my wardrobe), and I’ve never had a cookie left over.

Alton’s a food geek (That’s a compliment. I have a little foodie crush on Alton, truth be told, and get a wee bit giddy when he starts up with his scientist schtick.). And his recipes can be a little bit tedious. I don’t ever weigh ingredients as he insists, and I don’t run to the store for freaky-sounding things I’ve never heard of that pop up in his stuff from time to time. But these cookies? I’m telling you. He’s right about some things:

  1. Making the dough with melted (not soft) butter and then refrigerating it for a few hours before you bake gives you a wonderfully chewy cookie that doesn’t spread to Kingdom Come on the baking sheet. You do, however, need to chill the dough for a few hours. Hide your spoons and lock up the fridge or it’ll never survive to baking–it’s that good.
  2. Using bread flour (which has more protein than other flours) instead of AP flour gives you a delicious little crunch on the outside of the cookie, enveloping that wonderful chewiness inside.
  3. Kosher salt. Kosher salt is key. I’m not a salt user, but you need it here to compliment the chocolate. And the Kosher flakes are nice and big, so you get this little hint of salt with every bite. People who don’t know it’s there won’t taste salt, exactly, but they’ll taste something wonderfully different than other chocolate cookies offer.
  4. See all the brown sugar in this recipe? Toffee, my loves. The molasses comes out in the baking and you get this subtle, wonderful toffee taste.

I, as always, tweaked this one just a tad. I learned way back in high school to double the vanilla in any chocolate chip or similar cookie recipe. Such a difference. I didn’t double it here, but I did take it up to 2 tsp instead of 1 1/2. I also make these cookies smaller than Alton does–a scant tablespoon of dough for each cookie–and only bake them for about 10 minutes. Trust him on the parchment paper, by the way. That brown sugar is seriously sticky when it’s done baking.

Oh. Spring for good chocolate chips, OK? I prefer Ghiradelli, but you go with whatever brand you like that isn’t waxy and processed-tasting out of the bag. If you want them to taste good in the cookies, they have to taste good by themselves.

So. Off you go. Give these a whirl and let me know how those old, tired Toll House cookies stack up. I’ll be here, munching on these…


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