episode 35 :: viva la revolution

episode_35

I have been to the top of mountain of Southern California restaurants and it is none other than The Bazaar by Jose Andres. In this episode, I describe what is, without question, one of the most exciting meals of my life (thanks to Peter and Jo at My Last Bite). It’s traditional Spanish Tapas meets modern day molecular cooking. Complete with a report from FOX 11 News, I will do my best to bring my experience at The Bazaar to you.

The President and First Lady are already working toward making fresh food a priority for our country – a broad step in the right direction, and the beginning of a new food revolution. Finally, my addiction to duck and goose liver leads me to pit James Bond against Anthony Bourdain in the ultimate Fois Gras battle.

Listen to Episode 35 right now.

In this episode:
• Anthony Bourdain sheds his angst and writes a poetic letter to his new BFF – Rachael Ray
• A blow-by-blow of our recent trip to Jose Andres’ “The Bazaar”
• President Obama elects a new head of the FDA
• First Lady Michelle Obama breaks ground on the new White House vegetable garden
• Signs of a new food revolution upsets Sir Michael Ruhlman
• James Bond and Tony Bourdain in the ultimate fois gras smackdown

Music in this episode by Saliva. Download the song in the iTunes store.

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Just Another Caprese Salad

caprese

I don’t know about you, but Spring can’t come too soon. Next to Fall, it’s my favorite season of the year – if for no other reason than the fact that things in our garden start to grow. Basil and tomatoes, in particular, are two things I look forward to the most. The reason? They’re 2/3 the way to a Caprese salad, and nothing says “Spring” like Caprese salad does.

On the eve of our first trip to Jose Andres’ “The Bazaar” with Peter & Jo (who have visited the restaurant 127 times I think – yeah, that sounds about right) one technique I saw him use on cherry tomatoes caught my eye. I’ve been mulling over Jo’s many Bazaar posts on her web site, looking at pictures, and thinking about what to expect.

Jose does a modern take on Caprese that I found fascinating. I can only guess from the pictures, but it appears he lightly boils cherry tomatoes in salt water until the skins loosen, then he skins them carefully and serves them with mozzarella balls (spherification, it appears) and either basil oil or pesto.

I love the idea of serving whole skinless cherry tomatoes. So I gave it a shot today. And while I was at it, I played with my molecular cooking equipment a little. I know I’ve done Caprese to death here, having just dedicated half a show to it in November – but I love it and I can still smell this photo shoot as if it happened yesterday.

I boiled several fresh cherry tomatoes that we purchased at our local farmer’s market this morning in salted water for 4 minutes. Once finished, I threw them into an ice bath. Then, using the skill of a surgeon, I skinned them with a paring knife. This was a lot of work, but they came out great. I left the stems on for contrast.

I made a basil oil by mixing fresh basil with olive oil and sea salt and letting that steep for a couple of hours. Pesto can be too much sometimes. I just wanted the clean taste of olive oil and basil. This worked perfectly.

For the “mozzarella,” I decided to do something completely different. I mixed 2 parts ricotta cheese with 1 part heavy cream and whipped it until smooth. I added salt to that and allowed it to sit in the fridge for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, I mixed 24 ounces of water with 1 teaspoon of sodium alginate and used my hand blender to mix. I placed a bowl of clean cold water next to that as a rinse bath.

Then I started making my ricotta spherification. I filled a teaspoon measure with the ricotta mixture and carefully dipped it into the alginate bath until it formed a sphere. It did form a sphere, just not a very heavy one. This was fine. If I wanted rigid cheese, I’d have just used the fresh mozz I had sitting in my fridge. I wanted something that would hold together on the plate, but soft enough to explode in your mouth when you ate it.

After rinsing, I continued making riccota spheres until I had about 4 of them. I placed them on the serving plate. They held together very well, no bursting – even when I placed the skinless cherry tomatoes on top of them.

I drizzled the basil oil over the top, garnished with baby basil leaves and ate it. it was fresh and delicious, and the pseudo-mozzarella was perfect. Katrina even commented that it tasted like “almost mozzarella.” I think that’s pretty much what ricotta cheese is anyway.

Now I can relax, but tomorrow cannot come too soon. A new episode is in the works, and you can bet I’ll be talking about our experience at The Bazaar.

episode 34 :: bacon does not grow on trees

episode 34

Today, we’re discussing life (and death) on the farm, and the truth about what must happen to those cute little farm animals in order for us to eat them. Some of you may find it difficult, but it’s necessary and a reminder of how important it is to stay in touch with farm-to-table eating.

We start with a great “bedtime” foodie story from Bon Appetit Magazine, read to you by your dearest Uncle Phillie (complete with bedtime soundtrack music, so grab your bankie).

Later, we finish with an audio recap of an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s show “The F Word” where he takes two pigs that he’s been raising in his back yard all season for slaughter.

How’s that for incongruity?

Listen to episode 34 here.

In this episode:
• “The Road To River Cottage” by Hugh Garvey (courtesy of Bon Appetit)
“The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009” is the end to Farmers Markets
• Food Magazines – which do you read?
• Kobe Beef in the US? Nope! Wagyu, and why it’s next best thing.
• Gordon Ramsey’s “The F Word” – possibly the best food show on television.

Music in this episode by Seether and Tipper. Download these songs in the iTunes store for 99 cents each.

Guess who got “Photo of The Day”?

Jo and her piggie cutting board

Why Jo, of course! Our food blogger to the North received a very high honor today from none other than Serious Eats for her image of the salt baked pork she made earlier this week.

I am so proud of her. Recognition like this is a thrill for any food blogger, and it’s well deserved in Jo’s case.

Read more about Jo’s rendition of Jose Andres’ salt baked pork loin roast here. It’s delcious, trust me.

Hats off to Jo at My Last bite!

Chicken Liver Pâté

Chicken Pate

Sometimes I wonder if my infatuation with eating animal guts and “less desirable cuts of meat” came from my deep yearning to gross out my friends when I was a kid. Ask any gut-eater and they’ll tell you that it was literally a sport when he/she was a child. I don’t know what it is about us. We’re wired that way, I guess. To this day, Katrina gets squeamish watching me slide raw oysters into my mouth.

If you listen to the show, you know the story of how my mother would collect snails in our garden, to be cleaned and cooked as an appetizer. We may have been poor, but that didn’t keep us from eating escargot. When I would see the reaction she’d receive from my sisters when they were brought into the house, it was more fuel for the fire for me to want to eat those slimy little slugs.

But then I wonder if it’s just the simple fact that I like it. These things seem safely approachable to me. They’re readily available, and when prepared correctly, taste more “gourmet” than most foods we consume on a regular basis. Trotters, feet, tongue, cheek, livers, kidneys, heart, gizzards, whatever you want to serve me – cook it right, add the right herbs and a little butter, and I’ll eat it. Not only that, I’ll fawn all over it (and you too, if you’re not careful).

There’s nothing that rings true to the heart of this more than pâté, especially chicken pâté. When prepared correctly, these cooked and whipped livers are rich, bold, creamy, meaty, and delicious. And if you want to know what I think of when I think of solid gourmet cooking, this hits the mark for me. It’s inexpensive to put together, dead easy to prepare, and can be made days in advance for use at your next party, or picnic.

Ingredients:
1 pound chicken livers
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 cup onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
8 twists of freshly cracked black pepper
2 shots of brandy

Preparation is a snap, and your kitchen is about to smell like a little slice of French heaven.

Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over low heat, add the onion and garlic, stirring often until soft, say about 5 minutes. Add all of the herbs, salt, pepper, chicken livers and cook until livers are cooked outside but still pink when cut open, about 8 minutes or so.

Here’s the fun part. Crank the heat on high. Add the two shots of Brandy and cook for one more full minute, then remove from heat. Allow this to cool for 10 minutes.

Smell that? That’s heaven.

When it’s cool, pour the entire thing into a food processor and puree until smooth, then transfer pâté to a small bowl or ramekin. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill for 2 hours. Serve with crackers or crusty bread. If you’re making this in advance, cover and chill in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.