Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just saying hello...

Lose not faith in me, It's been a busy week, perhaps another lengthy blog in the next few days. Today is my daughters 1st birthday, quite an event....just burgers hot dogs and the likes...I got a crate of corn on the cob for $13 because I bought it while wearing my chef whites! Discount corn tastes so much sweeter. I also made my potato salad and wifey made the cake. I will post pictures of the aformentioned foodstuffs on my next blog. Till then, eat well and be happy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Many people ask me about what knives I own, and what knives they should own.
I suppose it is time I address this for my readers.

The basic knives a home cook would need in my personal and professional opinion are a chefs knife, a serrated bread knife, a meat slicing knife (AKA carving knife) and a quality pair of kitchen shears.

That's it???

Now, how much you want to spend on them and what you prefer is another friggin' story! Follow me.

My wife Erica is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, and I will use her as an example, because she is a tiny little thang with small hands and I am a large fur-tufted beast with hands the size of catchers mitts. Erica is most comfortable with a 6" or 8" chefs knife. Her personal set includes Lamson Sharp knives with a full tang and bolster (meaning the blade runs from the point right through the handle and is one piece with the bolster, a thicker part of the heel)...essentially a classic European knife.

I myself am of the same preference, however I go for Wusthoff Classics, a German brand that are heavier and I stay around the 8" to 10" range for my chefs knife. I was gifted my first Wusthoff knife when I was 16 and I still use it at home, I officially retired it from work use in 2009. They last a long time.

Size Matters. End of story. and that's going for chefs knives as well.

Maneuverability is what you are looking for. If you find it hard to negotiate your way around an onion it might be the size of your knife.

Weight is another factor. Most knives that are full tang and bolstered are on the heavier side. If you like a heavy knife and you want a similar knife to the ones my wife and I use, make sure they are a high carbon stainless steel ( or a derivative of) and that they have 3 rivets in the handle ( makes for a stronger and more balanced knife). Now here's the catch, Lamson Sharps will run you about $65 to $80 for an 8" chefs knife and Wusthoffs will run you about $95 to $120 for an 8" chefs knife. YIKES!
These knives are an investment.

"But Paul, you expect me to buy this and the carving knife, the serrated knife and the shears too?"

I'm not expecting you to do shit! I'm just giving you advice, and don't take that tone with me...I will kick you. Now listen up.

I have a large tool kit at work. In it is an exorbitant amount of kitchen gadgets (another blog all together) and knives. I have my Wusthoffs and I have my knock arounds...
"Well can I hear about the knock arounds?"
You will wait your turn! Let me finish!

My knock around knives are anywhere from $15-$40. They range in companies from Winco, to Dexter Rusell, Mercer, Kuhn Rikon, and Forschner.

Forschners are my favorites and I use them quite often. They are a great knife for a low to middle range price, their nicest line being their rosewood collection, these have a partial full tang with no bolster, and the blade is not as huge and thick as a European monster like the Wusthoff. It stays sharp and lasts forever. I bought my Forschner rosewood 8" chefs knife in the summer of 2004 and it is still in use today. As for your carving knife, your serrated knife and your shears, I would go with either Dexters or Forschners as they are cheaper, and you will use them less. As for size, they are pretty standard and any ol' size would do. Below is a $30 slicing knife from Forschner and a $15 bread knife from Dexter.

"Should I get one of those cheap knife sets from Target and call it a day"

Sure, so long as you have no expectations for yourself in the kitchen.

Knife sets do not have to match, look pretty or come in their own cool storage unit. They need to cut straight, keep a good, sharp blade, and not rust. Build your own knife set, one that you are comfortable with and keep them clean. It would be wise to purchase a good knife sharpening device like this one : it is cheap and they work, try using sparingly as it removes a good amount of metal. Also a honing steel such as this one:

Well there you have it...any questions please post them or send it to my new Yahoo mail account :
Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 19, 2010


Well, I have been wanting to post this for some time now and I suppose with my daughter in bed, and my wife in our bedroom reading in air conditioned bliss, I have the time. Many people asked me about my old profile picture here through private e-mails (apparently more people read this than I had expected). It is a small dessert canape of my own creation I call the Blinacinno, like blini and cappuccino smashed together into one fantastic word.

It is an idea that came about after I had completed my research in molecular gastronomy's "spherification" process. I will delve deeper into this process momentarily. The end result are tiny spheres that resemble caviar. A classic preparation for caviar canapes are on blinis, a small pancake of sorts, with sour cream or creme fraiche and a sprig of dill. I wanted to make this dessert. With the help of two chemicals i was able to do so.


Sodium Alginate: The residual sodium salt of Alginic Acid, which is extracted from brown algae or a form of seaweed if you will. It is used as a thickener and stabilizer in not just food...many screen printers use it as a thickener for their inks. It is considered to be a hydrocolloid. When introduced to calcium salts the gelling properties take place.

Calcium Chloride: The calcium salt I used to achieve this. It is the food grade calcium chloride, not the ice melter grade. Food grade calcium chloride is used to give pickles their snap.

So what is the process???

Basically you take a liquid, low or rid of calcium and add your measured sodium alginate (I measure in grams as most molecular gastro. recipes are). You blend a small portion of the liquid really well with the alginate and then add the rest and blend even more. You let it sit for an hour to release any air bubbles. In a separate container you dissolve some calcium chloride in plain old water. Draw the alginate mixture out with a syringe, I used a 30ml large syringe. Slowly, drop by drop, add the alginate mixture into the calcium mixture. Spherification has occurred! The droplets instantaniously form into little shperes. The longer you leave them in the calcium mixture, the longer they will solidify. The trick is to pull them out before they solidify completely so there is a liquid center. The great thing about this process is that it is thermoirreversible, so hot or cold storage or applications will not affect the end result.

Well my liquid was espresso, lightly sweetened. I used the process and formed coffee caviar. I made a sweet pancake, smaller than a half dollar and topped it with whipped cream, coffee caviar, a dusting of cinnamon and a chocolate cigarette, voila...the blinacinno. The process is very in-depth for such a simple assembly. So there you have it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

FOOOOOOD rant. Over-worked, over-tired...

I love talking about food, especially to those who are not in the know. Food has a huge mystique and ora surrounding it for many people. Some people are just downright scared of it. Not eating it, I meant cooking it. I love breaking those barriers and letting people know that food is just! It does exactly whatever it is you do to it. A perfectly prepared meal is the end result of a bunch of deliberate manipulations of raw product, temperature increases/decreases, cooking methods and technique. People who do not understand why they mess up a dish or can never follow a recipe should not blame the is YOU! Damn you all to hell! Just kidding. People just don't have the knowledge to understand what circumstance they had put the food in order for it to fail. These my friends are the people I love talking food with. They are the ones that need help and are willing to listen.

So I talk to them. I give them advice, suggest cookbooks, knives, products, etc...chef stuff, you know. The young students and the up and comers of the culinary field are the most gracious, as they are excited to listen and know they can achieve their goals if they just try. And seasoned foodies and fellow chefs are always fun to talk food with, because we understand one another. A phone coversation about the past few restaurants we have been to between my friend and fellow Chef, Dave Bryer and myself is the closest thing to phone sex without the heavy breathing I know of...even still the chance of heavy breathing depends on if I am walking or climbing stairs at the time. We talk about every detail, every component, flavor pairings and profiles...I have to stop, I am getting excited.

What is wrong with me??? Why do I love food so much??? Because it is EVERYTHING. Food has always been around. I make a quick paradox between two very familiar and sex. In the beginning of primative time, humans (or sub-species) ate food only for sustainance and, similarly, only had sex for procreation purposes. Survival was the name of the game. Now let's jump into our era. Both are still around, only people dine out, and cook with fire, seasonings, technique and for what??? TO ENJOY it! same thing with sex...they both carry the same purposes as they did in the dawn of bi-pedial time, but now serve also as an outlet for pleasure. And God bless that! If casual sex and food are on the same playing field I am a deviant! I am enclosing a photo of the dish I cooked my wife, Erica for her birthday. It is a portherhouse steak with potato cake, sauteed spinach, tomato riselee, braised cippolini onions and a cote du rhone pan sauce. Topped with a rosemary espuma. If you wish to see how it was made, join my facebook site!