Monday, August 2, 2010

Turning Ideas into Reality in the Kitchen

Preparing "Guacamole"
By any stretch of the term, I am not a writer...

However I love food and I love talking food. You better like reading food or you in the wrong spot sucka!

This entry I would like to talk about using your HEAD in the kitchen. This is a sort of meditation on how to transcend the confines of the cookbook and express yourself practically, lovingly, emotionally (romantically?) with food.
(ERICA)"Honey I need to make a vegan cake for Amanda's Bridal Shower."
(PAUL)"That's going to be difficult."
(E)"Well I know I want to do a three teired cake with flowers, I am not going to do fondant, I will use a vegan buttercream recipe...but what should I make the flowers out of?"
(P)"Can't you pipe them with royal icing?"
(E)"No sweety, it has egg whites, it needs to be VEGAN."
(P)"Oh... well how about know a real simple mix of food color, confectioners sugar and almond paste...they might even set up nice and hard, similar to a royal icing."
(E)"That might just work...can you get me almond paste???"
(P)"As you wish."

Hope that wasn't too graphic and didn't make you uncomfortable or maybe a little hot and bothered. Things can get pretty steamy when me and the wifey get on the food topic. We love food, I the savory end, and she, the more sweet and confectionery end. The great thing is that we are both well versed in the others areas of expertise....this however is not about us. It is about cake.
So she makes this cake, which due to VERY hot weather was more than challenging to make. She succesfully pulls this cake off however, also driving 5 hours in a car with it for my brothers Fiancees bridal shower. All thanks to some thought for food. My wife had the courage (and extreme good fortune) to confied in her more than capable, very handsome husband and propose a problem. She had never attempted a cake of such magnitude and with such dietary restrictions.  She (a redhead) was determined to try her best and achieve her goal.  She worked long and hard on this project (while tending to a very hot and angry infant) and the end result was stellar, she even let me help with some of the flowers!  All thanks to some brain power.

Food meditation #1: It is only food.
Something I tell every young aspiring chef working under me.  Many people have the misconceptions that food is too tricky and that they can be easily conquered by their food.  They are scared of messing up.  Why?  The worst that can happen is you have to eat some real shitty tasting food.  Is that it?  So far there is no police force around that arrests you every time you screw up in the kitchen, so suck it up, stop being a baby and star cooking!  Food does what YOU make it do. if you put flour, water, sugar and yeast together they will make some sort of bread.  If you keep them seperate they will not do anything.  UNDERSTOOD?

I do not like avocado.  As a chef I almost feel guilty and "turncoat-esque" for not enjoying the taste of avocado.  HOWEVER sometimes being a professional chef does not necassarily mean what you like, it is what the customer likes.  People tell me my guacamole is fantastic.  I use honey, lime, onion, garlic, cilantro, avocado (naturally) and some tomato.  My one gripe with guacamole is it's appearance.  It literally looks like a green washed pile of dung.  How do I make this better.?  If you look above you'll see it. Honey, lime, onion, garlic, cilantro, avocado, tomato.  DECONSTRUCT the ingredients...change them.  Sliced avaocado, sliced tomato, shaved red onion (all very clean and very fresh flavors)lightly seasoned with sea salt,  honey and lime sour cream, garlic and cilantro oil.  long exhale ahhhhhhh!  Present it well, keep it clean and you will find you have done something grand.  In this case it is an appetizer I  love to make.

Here's one on cooking methods.  Approaching your dish with some thought into how you will cook an item. 

Last fall we had a wine tasting at the country club.  Executive Chef Phil Castro, and myself really pulled out the stops.  One item we put our head together on was a quail.  A semi-boneless, tiny little pidgeon-like quail.  We agreed we were going to make a stuffing of all things Autumn and Decadent.  So instead of normal bread, we substituted it for Brioche (an extremely butter-laden bread from France).  Cranberry, onions, celery. carrots, and of course...foie gras (fattened goose liver).  So now we had these little cholestorol-stuffed pidgeons, with no only a tiny inkling as to how we would want them cooked.  We wanted them to lay flat on their back, we wanted the legs to stick forward and we did not want the breast meat to be compromised in any way.  We tried trussing them.  We were not happy with the end result,  it left lines on the bird and in some spots the twine cut through the skin.  Also the legs were uneven and it just looked like poop.  Then it hit me... MUFFIN PANS!  We have fairly large muffin pans.  We coated them with a bit of non-stick spray, seasoned the birds and used the muffin pans as the molds for our birds.  Came out fantastic. You should always remember to not worry about what has been done in the past as far as conventional cooking methods. Concern yourself with what suits you in your kitchen, what your goals are, and what tools you'll need for this to happen.


Look at food in a different light.  If you think of a type of food you would like to prepare, think about each individual ingredient as their own meal.  Think of how they'll blend with one another.  Think why they were put together in the first place.  Think of how you could make it better.  Remember your basic cooking techniques and temperatures.  If you are going to read a recipe, treat it like a story and read it until you have a good interpretation of the end result before even cooking.  Fresh ingredients always mean better flavor and keep with the cooking techniques of the country while cooking ethnic cuisine. 



Now go and think of someting to make, and I want an email from each an every one of you readers with stories and pictures.  The one I feel is most creative is going to have their dish' picture on the next post.  What a prize.  I am getting tired, my typing has slowed and gets increasingly less legible.  Goodnight and cook well.

1 comment:

  1. i dont know how to say this...