Chicken cacciatore is one of those dishes I always heard of, but strangely, never had as a kid. I couldn’t tell you why that is, but it certainly is worth taking the time to make. It is such a simple dish, and in many ways, reminds me of the poulet basquaies I made ages ago. I like these kinds of rustic dishes, they are generally pretty easy, and have loads of flavor. Simple ingredients that don’t get screwed up by trying to make them into something they aren’t.
What you need:
chicken, whole, cut up, or breasts if you prefer.
10 – 12 crimini mushrooms sliced thin
garlic, minced how much do you like?
1 onion sliced thinly
1 bell pepper sliced thinly (about the same size as the onion)
1 can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper
herbes de provence
That is really it. You could add pancetta, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, fresh basil, you know, that kind of thing.
I decided serve it on top of some gluten-free noodles, and I picked up a box of Schar tagliatelle.
This is pretty straightforward stuff. Season the chicken with salt, and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet, and sear the chicken. When it releases from the pan, flip it over, and sear it on the other side. The second side won’t take as long as the first. Remove the chicken and set it on a plate for the time being.
There should be some oil left in the pan. Throw in the mushrooms add a little salt, and saute them until they are tender. Then add the bell pepper, onion and garlic. Again, add a touch of salt, and saute until it is tender. Add some wine, and bring it to a boil. Scrape the brown bits up. I can’t really tell you how much, I wanted enough of the liquid to get some with the noodles. Next add the can of tomatoes and stir them in and bring the whole thing up to a boil. Add the black pepper and herbes de provence. See how much liquid you have, if it looks like enough that you can get the chicken down in it part way. Put the chicken in with whatever liquid is on the plate, put the lid on the skillet, and turn it down to a simmer.
While the chicken is simmering get the water boiling for your pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Keep in mind that the chicken will be fine if it is done a little before the pasta. The pasta on the other hand will turn into a gummy mess while the chicken finishes cooking.
So, when I was a kid we would, from time to time, make a trip to a local Chinese food place. This was before the days of P. F. Chang, and gluten and basically everything. Once I was old enough to drive, it wouldn’t be unheard of for me to go to the same place and get the same thing. OK, there were several places I might go, but I almost always ended up with the same dish until I was in my 20′s. Sweet and Sour Chicken or pork depending on my mood… After that, I might go wild and have General Tso’s Chicken, but the Sweet and Sour was always there as a possibility. This pattern continued in college once I found the appropriate Chinese restaurant in town. My favorite had a fountain in the dining room… and many interesting evenings were spent there with friends.
Now, since going gluten-free my options for Chinese food are a lot more limited. That makes me sad, because I always loved it. Realistically, I know that this kind of thing is something I am easily capable of doing, but I never really tried it until today. Next time I might make a few adjustments, but it was good, and pretty close to what I expected. I’m pretty sure it is not particularly a traditional Chinese dish, but it is how I was exposed to Chinese food, and I would imagine I am not the only one.
I found this recipe in a book called Chinese Cooking The Food and the Lifestyleand, then adjusted it slightly to make it safe and also to use what I had or could buy.
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce (I used San-J gluten-free tamari.)
1 Tablespoon of sake (I know, sake is Japanese. Chinese rice wines are harder to find!)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or sesame oil
Just put the chicken in a bowl and toss with this mixture and allow to sit for 30 minutes or so. The chicken won’t get breaded like we all always had before, but it is fine. You could make a tempura batter with rice flour and deep fry it if you just have to have that element. Trust me though, this is good, and probably healthier! If you do make the tempura you’ll need to drain the chicken and then try to get it as dry as possible. Otherwise the batter won’t stick.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons ketchup
2 Tablespoons soy sauce (Again, San-J GF tamari)
Heat the vinegar and sugar in a small pot until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ketchup and soy sauce, and mix well.
Next we’ll deal with the veggies.
1 small onion cut in large dice 3/4″ across or so
1 or 2 carrots thinly sliced on the bias
1 bell pepper cut the same size as the onion
In a second bowl
3 green onions finely sliced
1 clove garlic minced
So, now we can put the whole thing together! Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or if you have a wok use it! Saute the chicken in the large skillet until it is nearly cooked through, and remove from the pan. Wipe it clean and add a little more oil. Then saute the ginger, scallions and garlic until fragrant. This might take a minute. Add the rest of the veggies and saute them until they start getting tender. Return the chicken to the pan, and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Then add the sauce to the pan. Serve over rice and enjoy your trip down memory lane! I know I wish I had some chopsticks!
With summer and hot weather upon us the grill becomes a favorite way to cook lots of what we eat. Plus, it saves dishes in the kitchen! There is probably not a lot of food that wouldn’t be tasty on the grill. I’ve grilled vegetables, various red meats, fish, poultry, fruit, and even some lettuces. No matter what food you decide to grill there are some basics that will apply.
Depending on your choice of fuel this will be easy or a little more complicated. Depending on what you are going to be cooking, and how you are going to be cooking it you will do different things.
I prefer charcoal, personally, but it is up to you. I know some people have grills with a charcoal section and a gas section. That would be nice for quick grilling sessions on a week night fire up the gas side, and when you have time use the charcoal side. Or if you have people coming over, use both! I have given up lighter fluid, and now use a starter chimney. No more lighter fluid taste! It is easy, and actually pretty fast! You always want to make sure that the coals are ashed over before you start any food. Flames are bad when you are grilling. Flames mean soot, and soot is never good on your food!
When you grill you have several options for getting heat to your food. You can have direct or indirect heat. Obviously, you can use both in one grilling session, and sometimes that is exactly what is called for. Charcoal grills give you more options, but they can also give you more problems. With a gas grill you can use the burner or burners to control how much heat and where it is. When you are dealing with charcoal you have to place the fire where you want it. Obviously if you want a nice even heat over the entire grill you need to make sure you spread the coals under the grill evenly.
How you distribute the heat will depend on what you are grilling. Certain things require even heat across the entire grill. This category would include sausages (brats, hot dogs, salsiccia…), burgers, fish (fillets and steaks), veggies, fruits, chicken breasts. In other words, small similar sized items should go over direct heat. Indirect heat would be best for larger items or smoking. So, if you wanted to grill a whole chicken, or smoke a boston butt for example you want indirect heat. In the case of the chicken you could sear the skin over the hot part and move it to the cooler part of the grill to cook through, or cook the bird through and then sear the skin on the hot side.
When you are smoking you generally want a lower temperature, and to use indirect heat. I do this by piling all of the coals (and soaked wood chips) at one end of the grill, and then putting the smokee at the other end. I am then able to control the temperature by opening the air vent and the chimney. More air flow will give you a higher temperature, but if you close things up too much you starve the fire of oxygen and you end up killing the fire. So you want to find the point where you have enough heat to cook, but you also want to have the fire low so that you can get nice smoke flavor into the food.
2 Let it warm up!
Before you put food on the grill you want it to get good and hot. This will help the food to not stick. I’m not really sure why this is, but in almost every case you want to put the food on a hot surface rather than a cold one. This will also help keep you from having flames, and it will burn off some crap from the grill.
3 Clean the grill!
Make sure there isn’t a whole bunch of burned crap on the grill. A grill brush will do the trick and it is cheap! This will ensure that all of the crap that was left on the grill the last time and burned on there doesn’t end up in your food. If you think about it it makes sense. You don’t want your grilled pineapples to taste like the chipotle marinated pork chops that you had the other night, do you? Clean the grill! (Having said that, chipotle pineapple might be an interesting combo… if you do it right, spicy and sweet almost always works!)
4 Season your food!
This should be a no brainer, but seasoning your food is always a good thing. In grilling, which is a high heat dry method of cooking, if you have a large piece of meat you should consider brining it. This will help you keep your food more moist. You might also want to consider brining things like shrimp which are easy to over cook. Even if all you use is salt and pepper it will make your food taste better when you get through cooking it. I also like to use various marinades and rubs, depending on the meat and the flavor I want.
5 Leave it alone!
Ok, so here is where things get a little more interesting. Whenever you are cooking and add a piece of high protein food to a hot surface it will stick. This is not a problem, just leave it alone! This happens in a non-stick skillet, it happens in a stainless steel skillet, and it happens on the grill. I’ve seen special foil that you can put on your grill to prevent that from happening. I don’t know why you would do that though. A little vegetable oil on the grill before you put the food on it, or a little cooking spray (Make damn sure you don’t get the baking spray that has flour in it, because that would not be gluten-free!) on the food before you place it on the grill will make it not stick. Since you’re leaving it alone you will not tear up the chicken, or steak or burger. What you will end up with is grill marks! (Just like at your favorite restaurant!)
Make sure you have a little oil on the grill, and place your seasoned food on the grill at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the grill grates, and leave it there! After a couple of minutes with your tongs lift the edge of the food very gently, and if it comes up lift it and turn it 90 degrees. If it doesn’t come up easily, let it sit a little longer. Obviously if you are making a burger you should use a spatula, and the angle that you place it is less important. Closing the lid of your grill will help heat the other side of the food, and speed things up a bit. Once you have turned your food and allowed it to sit a little longer you will have nice grill marks on one side of your food.
The second side will go a bit quicker, but with a large piece of meat the grill marks are less important, because it will take longer to finish cooking. If you have a larger piece of meat and you just want the grill marks you can finish it in the oven, and then return it to the grill to essentially remark it. This is fairly common with things like half chickens. You can do them on the grill from start to finish, but it takes a bit of care to not over cook it or burn the skin. It isn’t hard though.
This one is pretty simple! Enjoy the summer, and grilling! There are is almost no limit to what you can grill, and with a little creativity you can really get some great flavors that are much more difficult during the winter, unless you are a serious griller, and then you won’t be hindered by a little snow!
I have been aware of preserved lemons for a while, but to the best of my knowledge I had never encountered them. North African cuisine is not something I have a lot of experience with, but the chef recently added a dish to the menu that uses some of the flavors, and it is naturally gluten-free! A couple of major flavor components in this dish are preserved lemons and smoked paprika, and let me tell you it is quite a combination!
Obviously, smoked paprika you are probably not going to make, but you can make preserved lemons if you want. All you need is salt, lemons, lemon juice and a clean jar to put them in.
First, you want to make sure the lemons are nice and clean. There are washes you can use, but I don’t think they have been shown to be any more effective than water. Take your knife and cut down about 3/4 of the way through from the bud end. Then turn it 90 degrees, and cut it again. Once you have all of the lemons cut that you want to hold each one over the jar and pour salt into it. Set them in the jar, and then pour lemon juice over them. The lemons float, so there isn’t a lot you can do about them bobbing up to the surface. I kind of swish them around once in a while when I think of it. I don’t know if it helps. They need to sit for a couple of weeks. Pop your jar in the fridge, and don’t worry about it for two weeks. You’re done with them. They won’t go bad any time soon! The salt and juice will actually soften the lemons quite a bit. Also, the pith will not be bitter like it is in a fresh lemon.We will be using some of these very soon, and I am excited about it. Between the smoked paprika I picked up the other day and these lemons there is a ton of flavor to be enjoyed! Of course there will be a bit more to it.
After writing my post about making coq au vin a while back, I realized that when I’m in the kitchen I have some advantages. I would like to help you develop a similar set of skills. I wouldn’t be surprised if you are not interested in spending your life in a kitchen. However, there are a lot of skills that you can learn at home that will serve you well, and my goal with this little series of posts is to help you learn some of them.
Your first job in a commercial kitchen is washing dishes. While you do that, you also learn to do some prep. Frequently, it involves chopping a pile of stuff into whatever size and shape the chef would like. There are lots of terms to learn, and techniques to be practiced. During one shift I cut thirty pounds of various vegetables into 3/4″ pieces for roasting. What does that do for you? Practice, practice, practice. There was plenty of time, and there was lots to do. During this time I was told things by the chef and sous chef like, “I need 2 pounds of mirepoix for stew” or “roll cut these carrots”. Essentially, you will spend a lot of time with a peeler and a knife.
This is how people have always learned to work in a kitchen. Each skill builds on the next. Going to culinary school speeds up the process some, but it still won’t give you the hours of practice with each skill that you would have working under a chef.
Once you have the hang of fabricating vegetables, you will be moved onto other tasks. Next you might be given the job of using the vegetables, and some other materials to make basic stocks. Essentially, you will be making the basic components of what is needed for lunch, dinner or a party that is being catered.
When the salad guy stops showing up you might get a promotion from dishwasher to the salad station! This is kind of how kitchens work. Each one is different, but generally the first station you do is salads or pantry. This is sometimes called Garde Manger in the brigade system used in large kitchens. As you move from station to station you learn new skills. One of the first things you will learn on the salad station is how to make salad dressings, and other things like pesto. During service (when food is being served to guests in the dining room) you will make salads, sandwiches, cold appetizers, and some hot appetizers that can be done quickly. Generally, these are very simple things to do, but you will be busy. This gives you the chance to really practice what you have learned and apply it. (Usually at high speed!)
So, the goal of this series of posts is to walk you through the things you would learn as a dishwasher or pantry cook. We’re going to do things like make a vinaigrette, make pesto, use a knife properly, cook eggs, and maybe make some candied nuts. There are probably a few other things as well. Then, I will show you how to use what you just made. These are all tasty, easy, and useful. Hopefully, this will inspire you to try some new things, and eat something great!
If you’re anything like me you have a turkey carcass wrapped in foil that you have no idea what to do with. It probably has a leg, a couple of wings, and a breast that have not been touched. I’m not going to just hack at the turkey until I think it isn’t going to be any good to eat though. Hopefully, you won’t either!
The first thing you want to do is get the meat off of the bones. The legs and wings are pretty easy to deal with. You can remove them just like you would on a chicken, and then pick the meat off the bones. The breast that is still intact on your bird may be a bit more daunting. It is not as hard as you think.
To deal with the breast use your chef’s knife and cut straight down, parallel to the keel bone, and then follow the contour of the rib cage. This will cut off the majority of the the breast. It is not hard, but it can take a bit of practice. Once you have it cut off you can lay it down on a cutting board and slice it for serving.
If you decide to make stock, (and you should) it is really very easy. Take the carcass, skin, bones, and whatever leftover bits of meat are clinging to it, and place them all in a pot. Throw in some garlic, onions, celery, and carrots, some bay leaves and thyme, and cover with cold water. You should not salt your stock. If you decide to reduce it you will end up with a sauce that is too salty. You can always add salt when you want to use it. Put the pot on the stove and bring it up to a simmer. That is all, but you don’t want the stock to boil or it will be cloudy. The simmering water will break down the collagen in the bones and you end up with gelatin. This is a good thing, and your stock will be nice and viscous. (I was always freaked out by the brown jelly on cooked cold turkey as a kid, what did I know? I get it now!)Simmer your stock. After a few hours, strain out the solids and cool it down. When your stock is cool it should have the consistency of jelly. From there you can do lots with it. You can make sauces, soups, you could freeze it to use later. Freezing it can be very helpful since there is a good chance you may not use all of the stick you have before it goes bad. If you freeze it in small portions you can add it to things when you need it.
Hopefully this will inspire you to tackle that turkey in your fridge! Stock is very easy, and we both know you have the raw materials already. Just go ahead and do it! You won’t regret it.
Early in our relationship I took Amy to a restaurant that I really like. It is this tiny place in what is a not very good neighborhood of St Louis. The place is called Fritanga. It is a Nicaraguan restaurant, and they serve some of the most fantastic food I have ever eaten. It is not a fancy place, and you don’t ever want to go if you are in a hurry. On a busy night all of the tables will be full of people eating, drinking and talking, enjoying the food and relaxed atmosphere as well as the company of the others at their table.
Once I went gluten-free I knew that there would be some sacrifices that I would have to make when dining out. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Fritanga is almost entirely gluten-free!!
Amy likes the pollo al achiote, and I like the lomo de cerdo asado. The two dishes are actually pretty similar, either chicken or pork, marinated in achiote or annatto paste. Annatto seeds are ground with various spices such as cumin, and oregano. It is a very tasty combination, but not hot. I was at Global foods the other day and ran across a container of achiote paste. After seeing how easy it was to use the achiote when I made my chili at work I decided I would try my hand at the pollo al achiote from Fritanga.
The first step for this dish is to marinate the chicken. Pork loin could also be used. The lomo de cerdo asado that I frequently eat there is a thick pork loin chop that is marinated in achiote and grilled. To make the marinade combine a tablespoon of canola oil, and a tablespoon of the achiote paste. This stuff goes a long way, and it will impart a fantastic color and very nice flavor to the chicken.
Combine the achiote and your chicken and allow it to sit for several hours in the fridge. You could grill or bake the chicken. In this case I decided to just bake it.
At Fritanga this would be served with gallo pinto or black beans and rice, with a side of a really tasty slaw, and plantains. The Plantains are served one of several ways. They give you a choice of either chips, tostones or maduros. Any of those are fantastic choices. I personally really like tostones! Unfortunately, I didn’t think to pick up any plantains. When you have them what you do with them depends on how ripe they are. You can make chips when they are green, tostones when they are yellow, and maduros when they are pretty well black.
There are some flavor combinations that just work. Carrot and ginger are two flavors that really go well together. In this pureed soup, you’ll get the spicy ginger flavor complimenting the sweetness of the carrots. When you add the amazing orange color of this soup to the flavor, this is sure to be a big hit with everyone!
This is a very easy soup.
1 medium onion diced
1 stalk celery diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2″ long piece of ginger minced
1 pound carrots cubed
1/2 pound potatoes cubed (The carrots and potato should be about the same size so they cook evenly)
water, chicken or veggie stock to cover
2 bay leaves
1 pint heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil. Put in the onions and celery, sweat until tender, and then add a little salt. Add the garlic and ginger and sweat until fragrant. Lastly, add the carrots, potatoes and bay leaves and cover with stock or water. Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Simmer until the carrots and potatoes are tender.
When the vegetables are tender, remove the bay leaves and discard. Now puree the soup. How you do this depends on what you have on hand. If you have a food processor drain all of the liquid, and puree just the solids. If you use a blender you will need some of the liquid to make everything go. The last way would be to run the soup through a food mill, but most people probably don’t have one.
Once you have everything pureed, put it all back in the pot, and return to a boil. Whisk in the cream, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. If you wanted a vegetarian option you could very easily use coconut milk, or soy milk.
While I was researching a post I am working on, I was reminded of something that is helpful for all of us when we bake. Professional bakers use a different format for recipes. It is known as a baker’s percentage, and it gives them a lot of flexibility, and also allows them to be very accurate.
Bakers use percentages to express quantities, and this gives them the ability to scale a recipe pretty much at will to whatever size batch they need. It also allows them to make changes based on a recipe. Each ingredient’s quantity is expressed as a percentage. The flour is stated as 100%. From there everything else is a percentage of the flour. For example, if your recipe calls for flour and water, and the water is 25% when you have one pound of flour you need 4 oz of water. If you have 100 pounds of flour you need 25 pounds of water. Like I said it is easy.
They are not something I use often at work, but it is always good to have an understanding of different recipe formats. I have some baking books that use percentages, or in the case of Alton Brown‘s I’m Just Here for More Food, a somewhat modified version of it. His recipes are set quantities, but he works with weights, and lays things out in a similar way. If you wanted to modify one of his recipes you could figure out the percentages and scale to your heart’s content.
When you bake, accuracy is important in your measurements. The most accurate way to measure most ingredients is by weight. Flour, in particular, can compress quite a bit and a cup of flour can weigh 6 oz or it could weigh nearly a pound. A scale eliminates this variability. Speaking of accuracy, when you weigh things, grams are a lot more accurate than ounces. There are 28 grams in an ounce. That means there are 454 grams in a pound. Even going by .1 ounce or single grams you will be better off in grams.
Depending on the scale you have, you may be able to get nutritional information as well. The scale I have allows you to input a code for an ingredient, and it will give you calorie/fat/carbohydrate information. It is a nice feature, but not strictly needed. Pretty much any scale will allow you to eliminate the weight of the container and weigh each ingredient using the tare feature. When you put the bowl on the scale, it will weigh it and when you press tare, the bowl is eliminated. Now you can weigh the ingredients. If you press tare between each ingredient, you don’t even need to take the weight of everything else into account.
Ok, so this dinner has its genesis in a couple of places. The first was a truly disappointing tamale pie I had from a well known manufacturer of organic foods. I don’t have a big problem with the fact that it was vegan, but it didn’t taste like anything at all. I really liked the idea, but the execution didn’t do anything for me. Then, I had some leftover chicken. I had cut up a chicken to make dinner a couple of nights ago, and we only ate the breasts. This left wings, thighs, and legs to use. Amy doesn’t care for them much, so they needed to be handled in a way that would make it less obvious what we were eating. The truth is this would be a great way to use up leftover beans, and rice as well as chicken. On the other hand since I was cooking the chicken, beans and rice I could season everything exactly the way I wanted it for this dish. I guess what you do will depend on what you have laying around, and what state it is in.
1/2 cup dry black beans soaked over night
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 large onion finely diced
2 chicken leg quarters, cut into leg and thigh
salt and pepper
1/2 cup rice (uncooked)
1/2 large onion finely diced (yes, the other half!)
2 cloves garlic
1 poblano pepper finely diced
1 red bell pepper finely diced
1 can enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso. They have a very strict policy on labeling for gluten containing ingredients)
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free corn bread mix
1 1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup canola oil or melted butter
Obviously you should soak your beans ahead of time to cut down on the cooking time. Combine the first half of the onion and garlic with the black beans and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until tender. Just fish one out and try it. If it is not tender give it a little longer.
While the beans are cooking, preheat the oven to 350F. Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, ground cumin, and paprika, and bake until cooked through. Allow the chicken to cool a bit, and pull the meat off the bone, and chop into small pieces.
Cook your rice. This is a fairly easy step, I just made some plain white rice for this.
In a large skillet sweat the second half of the onions and garlic until tender, add a little salt to draw out moisture, and help move this along. Then add the poblano and bell peppers, and sweat until they are tender. Add the chicken, beans, rice and enchilada sauce, and bring the mix up to a boil, and then simmer for a few minutes. Stir frequently. Pour this mixture into a 13×9 inch pan. Turn the oven up to 375F.
Prepare the cornbread mix according to the directions on the package, and then spread on top of the chicken and bean mixture. Try to spread it as thinly and evenly as possible. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until the cornbread is golden brown on top and the filling of the pie is bubbling, and hot.
I ate mine topped with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese, and a nice gluten-free beer! It was a great dinner, and the kind of thing that is even better the next day!
Now of course if you wanted to make this vegetarian you could just leave out the chicken, there is protein already with the beans, and you could even add some squash and zucchini or whatever other veggies you wanted to. This kind of dish gives you lots of options to make things your own. Hope you enjoy it!
A lot of people say that they can’t cook because they have to use a recipe to make anything. They seem to be under the impression that a real cook can just throw things in a pot, and have it taste good. In truth you should be able to do both. Very often you will see people who for whatever reason are unable to follow a recipe, but can cook very well. Learning to use a recipe can help you learn to just throw things in a pot and end up with something that tastes good. Pay attention to what flavors work together and use that knowledge to help you with your own dishes.
Throwing things in a pot and making it taste great takes practice, and being willing to fail often. Eventually you will learn that some things just don’t work together. Using a recipe on the other hand is pretty easy, because everything you need to know is right there in front of you. All you have to do is follow directions. Of course, as we learned in grade school sometimes following the directions is the hard part.
With a recipe you can make anything. It really doesn’t make a lot of difference if you have ever eaten it before. The first thing to do is to read through the entire recipe. There may be ingredients or techniques that you are not familiar with. Now is the time to find out what you need to know, and not while you have things burning in a pot . While you read through the recipe you can determine that you have everything you need, or decide what to substitute for something that you are missing. Once you have made the recipe a few times you will probably feel pretty comfortable with it, and be able add or subtract things, or use it as a base for making up your own dishes.
Recipes can come in a lot of formats. The format will depend on the source. The recipes that you see most often on the internet, and in cook books generally list ingredients and quantities. This is followed by a description of the methods used to prepare each component, and the how to assemble them.
In some older cookbooks you may find a very different format:
If you pick up a copy of Escoffier you will find the same format. These books assume a certain level of knowledge and understanding. (I won’t tell you that I am always up to the challenge of these recipes. Some of them are very complex, and may require things that are not used frequently any more.) Although Escoffier and Larousse are old they are very interesting reference books. Some of the recipes you will be able to use, for instance coq au vin. Of course you can find recipes that are in the format we all know for coq au vin in lots of cook books.
Interestingly,you can also see recipes in a similar format to those in Escoffier and Larousse on Twitter. Both Eric Ripert, and Rick Bayless have posted recipes on Twitter. Rick Bayless even ran a contest using recipes in a single tweet. There is very little information given, but in many ways that is freeing. When you have a recipe that is that stripped down, you are free to make it whatever you envision the dish as being.
In a restaurant kitchen you may see recipes that are in a similar format to what you are accustomed to seeing, but often they leave out the directions. So you might get something that looks like my recipe for Shrimp and Basil soup.
Shrimp and Basil Soup
4 large onions large dice
½ cup garlic minced
1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tablespoons dry thyme
3 cups fresh basil chiffonade
1 #10 can diced tomatoes
½ bottle white wine
1.5 Gallon vegetable stock
2# frozen peas
2.5# 21-25 shrimp
salt and pepper to taste
That is the extent of the recipe. Since this is used in a restaurant a certain level of knowledge is assumed, just like Escoffier and Larousse. Obviously, this is not really a complicated recipe, but makes a lot of soup! If you have the rest of the information you will have no problem making this soup.
In a large pot sweat the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the onions are clear. Add the thyme and basil. Sweat until fragrant, about one minute. Add the tomatoes, and wine, mix well, and bring to a boil. Add the vegetable stock, and return to a boil. Add the frozen peas, and shrimp. Bring back to a boil, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 to fifteen minutes until the shrimp are cooked through. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
Assuming you had a pot large enough to make this recipe, lets look at it since we now have it in a format you are familiar with. First, look at the ingredients, is there anything that you don’t have? Anything you don’t understand? Now is the time to find out this kind of thing. It is a lot easier to solve problems before you have food in a pot. Do you know what chiffonade means? Do you have white wine? Do you know what 21-25 shrimp are? Do you know what sweating is? Whatever issues you may need to resolve should be done now.
Only after you know exactly what you need and what you need to do should you even start to do anything that remotely resembles cooking. This hopefully will only add a few minutes to the time it takes you to prepare your dish. Although, if you need to run to the store for something it may have added a little time, but nowhere near as long as if you had started, and realized too late that you needed a crucial ingredient, and then need to start over.
Once you know what you need to do start gathering ingredients, and then prepping them. If you have containers large enough to hold a single step’s ingredients put them together, and once you have everything ready to go into the pot, turn on the heat, and cook!
Some people have trouble with terms used in recipes such as “cook until tender,” “al dente,” “season to taste.” With phrases like this pretty much what you will have to do is fish something out, put it in your mouth, and see if it is tender, al dente, or if it is seasoned properly. These are things that may be hard to specify in a recipe, but are very important. They are pretty easy to check once you realize that all you need to do is taste your food. You should be doing that anyway!
Cooking is very easy once you realize that tasting and adjusting things is part of the fun. If you follow a few very easy principals you’ll have no problem. When you are eating you can take your time, and evaluate things that didn’t turn out quite as well as you would have liked, and remember them for later. The next time you make the dish you can make the changes you noticed. It can be helpful to take notes, and leave them with the recipe to refer to next time you make it.
Now, from the title I would imagine that there are at least a couple of you looking at the screen, and thinking “WTF??” This is the kind of thing that I sometimes come up with when I am facing a seemingly random assortment of things on my shelf, and need to come up with a seafood soup for Friday lunch at work. It isn’t really chili, being short on beef, and having lentils, but don’t really know what to call it. It was very tasty (I have been told.), and could have been made gluten-free very easily!
This all started with a container of roasted poblano peppers that were sitting on my shelf next to a container of diced tomatoes. I have no idea how much precedence for a soup like this there is, but I’ve used similar things together before, and had great results.
You’ll want to cut down the size of this recipe… I tend to make large batches of soups. This one was roughly 4 gallons.
I had eight poblanos that had been roasted, but I had to peel them. This is easy to do, but it is easier to do when they are still warm from roasting. If you’ve never roasted a pepper, you’ll be surprised how easy it is. Simply hold your pepper over the flame on your stove, and when it starts to turn black on the side, turn it. Once the skin is blackened and bubbly all over put it into a sealed container of some kind for about 15 to 20 minutes, and the steam will make it easy to just rub most of the blackened skin right off. Then pull off the top of the pepper, and scoop any seeds out. Done.
1 #10 can diced tomatoes, divided in half (At home: 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
8 roasted poblanos (2 peppers)
2 large onions chopped roughly (1 regular sized onion)
1 cup garlic cloves (4-5 cloves)
3 pounds of 26/30* shrimp tail off, deveined and peeled. You could also use smaller shrimp if you want. (1 pound)
1 gallon vegetable stock (1 quart)
4 bay leaves (1 or 2)
ground cumin, corriander, and oregano
salt and pepper
honey (if it is too spicy honey is a great way to balance things out)
Once you have your peppers roasted put them in your food processor with the onions, garlic, and half of the tomatoes, and process until smooth. You’ll have just made a very tasty salsa! .
Place the salsa in a large pot , and bring it up to a boil. You’ll want to be careful doing this, between the peppers and tomatoes there is plenty of sugar to burn. Keep it moving. Once it is up to a boil, add the shrimp. I just sort of sautéed the shrimp until they started to cook a bit. Then I added the beer, the rest of the diced tomatoes, the cumin, coriander, oregano, bay leaves, and the stock. Bring it up to a boil, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. If it is too spicy add a bit of honey to balance it out. Let it simmer for a little while, and serve.
This kind of thing is quite easy to make, and tastes great! Its great if you are abstaining from meat during lent, or are looking for a nice seafood soup that isn’t they typical clam chowder!
* When buying shrimp you’ll often see numbers like 26/30 or 21/25, or U10. These numbers tell you how many shrimp are in a pound. The U10 means that there are less than 10 shrimp per pound!