Monday, May 24, 2010

TV's Top Chefs Star in Online University

By MICHELLE LOCKE (AP) – You've watched them whip up delectable dishes, and a soupcon of drama, in the Top Chef kitchen. Now, stars of the hit Bravo TV series are ready to school their fans: Pack your knives and go... online.

Top Chef, formally launching this week, is designed to give users the experience of culinary school at their own pace, with 12 courses covering about 60 hours of content.

"It's so unique because it's truly a comprehensive program and it's really the first of its kind," says Nikki Cascone, Season 4 contestant and one of the instructors.

The site was created by Jeff Goldenberg, founder of Post Oaks Productions, a leading provider of live and virtual consumer training. He approached Bravo with the concept after getting hooked on the show. Given the green light, he hired trained chef Anthony Hoy Fong and Top Chef judge and culinary expert Gail Simmons to write the curriculum.

Both Simmons and Fong are culinary school graduates and they wanted to develop a program that felt was professional but also would resonate with home cooks.

While graduates won't come out professional chefs, "if you take this program to the end you will have, I believe, a really strong knowledge of the kitchen," says Simmons.

Read the rest of the story here

Friday, May 21, 2010

Underground Restaurants Come Out of Hiding

Sunday Dinner, a supper-club, sorta-private-sorta-public dinner party held many times a month (and sometimes even on Sundays) by Kendall College graduates Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp, like many so-called underground restaurants, began with an air of the illicit.

Cikowski was doing an internship at a tiny restaurant in the Rhone Valley in France when she received a newspaper clip about the underground dining scene in Europe — about one-night-only unlicensed supper clubs, sometimes run by professional chefs, sometimes hopeful amateurs, operating like speakeasies. She made a mental note to test the idea in Chicago.

Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Not Intolerant to Special Diets

Many restaurants are adding gluten-free options to menus

By Julie Balise, Globe Correspondent | May 15, 2010

About two years ago, Carla Pallotta’s best friend discovered that he had celiac disease.

The diagnosis, which meant that he would no longer be able to eat foods containing gluten, presented an opportunity for Pallotta, a chef and co-owner of the North End’s Nebo Restaurant, to stretch her culinary skills.

“He was so disappointed, and I said, ‘You know something, I’m going to make something gluten-free for you,’ ’’ said Pallotta, who used trial and error to adjust her own recipes for chicken Milanese, eggplant timballo, and a fried seafood platter for her friend, before deciding to roll out a gluten-free menu at her restaurant.

Last July, Nebo unveiled a new gluten-free menu complete with six pastas, chicken, seafood, and more than 20 varieties of pizza, joining the slew of restaurants across the country that are adapting their menus with gluten-free options, including big chains such as Uno Chicago Grill and PF Chang’s China Bistro.

These eateries cater not only to the 1 percent of the nation’s population who suffer from celiac disease — an inherited autoimmune disease that requires a lifelong diet free of gluten from wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt — but also those who have other gluten sensitivities and people who want to go gluten-free for other reasons.

“Restaurateurs are very much in touch with their guests,’’ said Peter Christie, president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. “As more and more people are becoming aware that they have gluten intolerance, restaurants are responding with gluten-free items in order to accommodate their guests.’’

Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

(Makes 8 quarts)

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups canola oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 yellow bell peppers, diced
2 medium yellow onions, diced
8 ribs celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 750 ml bottle of red wine
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
5 quarts chicken stock, heated
2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced
1 whole 4-pound chicken, roasted and deboned, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound okra, sliced

1. First you make a roux. Heat the butter and oil in a 12-quart stockpot until the butter melts. Whisk in the flour and cook until foaming. Cook, stirring often, until dark mahogany, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Add the peppers, onion, and celery. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and red wine and stir until blended. Whisk in the chicken stock (make sure it’s hot), and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. Stir in Creole Seasoning, black pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder, thyme, chopped garlic, bay leaves, and kosher salt. Cook, skimming fat as necessary, an additional 45 minutes.

3. Add the Andouille sausage and chicken and cook for approximately 30 minutes.

4. Add okra and cook for approximately 20 minutes

5. Taste, and adjust for seasoning.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Coffee Crusted Roast Beef Tenderloin

Another recipe from Class 58's graduation.
(Serves 12)

1 4-lb. beef tenderloin roast
¼ cup finely ground coffee
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp Black Pepper
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp rubbed sage
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Trim and tie tenderloin. Combine dry ingredients. Rub half over entire surface of the roast, covering generously. Let meat rest 15 minutes and then rub with remaining mixture. Place meat in roasting pan and roast on center shelf until the internal temperature reaches 135º F (for medium rare). Remove roast from oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into ¼-inch slices and serve immediately.

Piña Colada Cheesecake

By request, here's the recipe for the dessert we served at the lunch celebrating Class 58's graduation:

(Makes 1 - 10” Cheesecake)

For the crust:

1½ cups vanilla wafer crumbs
¼ cup coconut flakes, toasted
¼ cup tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp granulated sugar

For the filling:

24 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup cream of coconut (make sure it’s CREAM OF COCONUT, not coconut milk)
1 Tbsp rum extract
1 Tbsp coconut extract

For the glaze:

1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp pineapple juice
1 cup crushed pineapple
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350º F.
Stir together crust ingredients and press into bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a lightly greased 10-inch Springform pan. Bake the crust at 350º F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Lower the oven temperature to 325º F.
Beat the cream cheese and ½ cup sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pineapple, cream of coconut, rum extract, and coconut extract, beating until blended. Pour mixture into crust. Bake cheesecake at 325° for 1 hour or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack.
Stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon pineapple juice until smooth. Combine cornstarch mixture, crushed pineapple, ¼ cup sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring constantly, five minutes or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and cool completely. Spread the glaze evenly over the top of the cheesecake and chill for at least six hours before serving.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I'll Have a BLT - No Bacon, Lettuce or Tomato

SAN FRANCISCO - It's the first rule of thumb when it comes to the hospitality industry - the customer is always right.

But what happens when that customer wanders into a high-end restaurant expecting a fabulous meal, without meat, fish, wheat, nuts or dairy?

It's happened to chef Joshua Skenes at Saison in San Francisco, despite his fixed menu.

It's happened at La Mar Cebicheria, the Peruvian restaurant specializing in ceviche.

It's even happened to Charlie Hallowell at Pizzaiolo in Oakland.

"When people come to Pizzaiolo and say, 'I don't eat wheat or cheese,' I'm like, 'Why did you come to a pizzeria?' " Hallowell says.

It's a question chefs are asking more and more as diners become increasingly picky about what they want - or don't want - on their plates.

No gluten. No salt. No dairy. No wheat.

No peanuts. No seeds. No fat.

Whether it's someone following a vegan or macrobiotic diet, someone allergic to wheat or nuts, or someone who simply doesn't like mushrooms or eggs, there's a new wave of special requests being made that go far beyond leaving the salad dressing on the side.

"It's like a puzzle," says Andrew Generalao, La Mar's general manager. "You have to try to find the right fit, and sometimes we pull it off with great things. A lot of times, it's just not that exciting."

Like most in the restaurant industry, Generalao wants to wow his customers. But trying to make ceviche without cilantro or jalapenos is like ordering macaroni and cheese without the cheese. Though the dish still might be perfectly good, its essence has been stripped away.

Still, Generalao added three vegan items to his seafood-heavy menu shortly after opening, and says he's happy to accommodate the special requests he gets.

But in an era where cafegoers order split-shot soy mocha lattes with sugar-free vanilla, light foam, no whip - and extra hot, please - restaurantgoers are tailoring even fixed menus to their taste buds.

Skenes offers one nine-course meal at Saison, and though he asks that the menu stay the menu, he still gets several special requests per week.

"We don't rule over the kitchen with an iron fist and say, 'No soup for you,' " Skenes says. "But we do it on a case-by-case basis.

"The other day, we had someone who didn't eat shellfish, didn't eat fish, didn't eat dairy, didn't eat lamb. And on the menu, we had shellfish, we had fish, we had lamb. And they also didn't eat gluten or wheat.

"So that was pretty much impossible. We just couldn't do it."

Skenes says it's mostly a matter of staffing and resources - it's too much of a strain on the small kitchen to constantly handle special requests.

Read the rest of the story here.

Chefs Rally to Help Nashville After Flood

(CNN) --Nashville chefs have cooked up plans to keep rescue workers fed and farmers in business and to whet the appetites of tourists to return once floodwaters subside.

"I grew up with the philosophy in my family that when you have a tough time in whatever area of life, a good hot meal makes a lot of things better," said chef Tandy Wilson of City House restaurant.

Though his restaurant was stocked and operational and had planned a "flood menu," his difficulty in getting to the building spurred Tandy to shut down his business and rally his staff to volunteer.

"We got in contact with the Red Cross to see who we could feed. David Lipscomb University had a big shelter in their basketball gymnasium, and we took over homemade bread and pasta with a pork ragu -- it was real good," said the fifth-generation Nashvillian.

But as soul-satisfying as that meal was, Tandy and his fellow chefs knew that with other restaurants having lost inventory and equipment and with the Nashville Farmers' Market under water, there was much more to be done.

Read more about what needs to be done and who's getting it done here.