Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Description of Dishes

I am a firm believer that food should utilize all of our senses in order to create a great dining experience. For this reason, I've decided that when I describe food, whether a dish I've made, or a dish I've had, I should breakdown the description into each of the sensory components. Sight, unless I have something important to say about the plating, I will leave to the pictures I post. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. After sight, I will discuss the senses in one of the following orders:










The choice of order will be based on the dish -- some dishes you smell before you touch, some you touch first. My goal will be to fully capture the sensory experience of eating the dish.

To start, here will be my descriptions of the two appetizers I made yesterday.

Avocado and Crab "Ravioli"

Smell: As you bring the food to your mouth, you catch the scent of the crab meat, the ever so slight pungent scent of seafood. The scent of the avocado wafts into your nostrils, a mellow scent after the crab.

Touch: The first touch of this dish is as the food touches your lips. The avocado is creamy and slightly firm, with the crab filling soft and silky. The avocado melts slightly as it enters your mouth, virtually coating your tounge with its flavor.

Taste: The flavor of the fresh avocado mingles on your tounge, providing a sweet base as you taste the saltiness of the crab. The acidity in the lemon juice helps to balance the sweetness of the avocado. The small addition of hot sauce provides a slight surprise and some heat.

Sound: This dish is quiet, as the avocado melts in your mouth and the crab is also soft.

Parmesan Crisp with Chicken and Wine Pate

Touch: This food starts with your fingers. As you pick up the cup you feel a crunchy texture reminiscent of a sweet item like a waffle cone. When you bite into the crisp, you get that familiar crunching feeling with a smooth texture from the pate.

Smell: As you inhale the scent of this item, you catch the strength of the red wine along with the all-so-familiar scent of the parmesan.

Taste: Here's where the excution of the dish fell a little short. The crisp is very salty -- that's the nature of pure parmesan cheese. As a result, I decided not to put salt in the pate -- I figured that the combination of the two items would provide a good balance of salt. Well, it didn't work out quite that well. The flavor of the pate -- which was good on its own -- it overwhelmed by the flavor of the crisp. Here I'm going to go back to the drawing board -- I need a bolder flavor to combine with the crisp.

Sound: When you bite into the crisp you get that satisfying crunching sound like you would from a chip, which continues as your chew each bite.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Tasting Lunch

Today I did a mini "tasting" lunch. I made two dishes -- an avocado and crab "ravioli" (inspired by Clement at A La Cuisine), and a parmesan crisp filled with a chicken and red wine pate.

Avocado and Crab (Ravioli)

This is a very simply, very flavorful dish. To make the filling, I used the following:

4 oz lump crab meat
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp mayo
1 tsp black pepper

I then sliced the avocado using a mandolin. I found it was easier to leave the skin on the avocado as it is sliced, and then simply remove it from the cut pieces. You can use thinner slices then I did (and next time I may do that).

Parmesan Crisp with Chicken and Wine Pate

For this dish, I used the Parmesan Crisp recipe from Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook. The recipe is simple -- take grated parmesan (from a fresh, moist piece), form rounds, and bake at 325 degrees. Here's where I had a problem with Keller's recipe. According to Keller, when the crisps are ready, if you want to make little cups out of them, you should let them cool for 30 seconds and then press into an egg carton. I tried this with the first batch and within 15 seconds, the crisps were to stiff to mold. So what I ended up having to do was this: as the crisps finish cooking, I removed them one at a time from the oven and immediately pressed them into rounds.

The pate was simple:

Cook 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast in
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves of garlic (peeled only -- don't chop)

Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup red wine

Throw it all into a food processor and add 2 tsp black pepper

While the pate is fairly dry, because the crisps are porous I rested the pate in a cheesecloth until I was ready to serve. For serving, I placed one flat crisp on the plate, placed a crisp cup on top, filled with the pate. I then reduced some red wine (in the same pan I cooked the chicken in) and spooned that onto the plate.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Italian Burgers

I went to a friend's house for a bbq yesterday. The weather was beautiful, the beer was plentiful, and well, any excuse to grill is a good one. For the bbq, I made italian burgers, a particular favorite of mine. Basically, this burger is like a meatball flattened out.

Italian Burgers:

2 pounds of ground beef
2 eggs
1/3 c bread crumbs
1/3 c parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 c parsley, finely chopped
1/8 c oregano, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Mix everything together, just like you're making meatballs. Form into burger patties. Makes about 5.

Roast 3 red bell peppers under the broiler. Roast until skin is black and blistered. Place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers rest and steam for about 10 minutes. Run the peppers under cold water and rub the blackened skin off.

Dressing for the burgers:

1/3 c mayo
1/3 c calamata olives, pitted
1 roasted red pepper

Place all in the blender and blend until thoroughly mixed.

When grilling the burgers, melt fresh mozzarella over them.

Serve on ciabatta bread with the olive spread and a piece of fresh roasted red pepper. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Introduction

For those of you who read the "About Me" page, this post will be a little redundant, but the point is to tell you a little about me.

I'm a mid-twenties New York lawyer with no desire to practice law. I'm a foodie, amateur chef, faux gourmet, avid reader, and connoisseur of all things culinary. I'll try any food at least once -- what's life without the fun?

I'm a classically trained chef from an exclusive school -- MIMK, otherwise known as "My Italian Mother's Kitchen". The rest of my culinary "expertise" has come from eating, reading, cooking and watching TV.

While I've read blogs for a number of years, and actually had a blog during law school, for some reason I didn't think about the fact that there would be a plethora of food blogs out there. Over the last few months I found a number of food blogs that I really like, which are represented on my side bar.

As I said, I'm an avid reader, and have started reading food books more and more. I'll have links to the various food books on my bookshelf on the side as well.

I love to entertain and create gourmet meals for others, including my girlfriend. As a note, my girlfriend has some professional food experience -- she use to do catering -- and we're considering going into the catering business together.

To provide some more information, here's a blog MEME from A La Cuisine:

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?

Well, the first memory of cooking on my own was making meatloaf from my Mickey Mouse cookbook. Yes, I was not techinally alone. My mom was hovering behind me, looming as a safety manager, ensuring that our home (and intestinal lining) was intact after I prepared and served my "feast".

Who had the most influence on your cooking?

Well, there's a three-way tie here. First, my mom. She's the one who forced me into the kitchen and started to teach me the basics. Second, my grandfather. Growing up, we always had Sunday dinners at my grandparents'. My grandfather did just about all the cooking, and frankly he was the male culinary role-model I think I needed as a kid. Third, I would say is me. Yes it's ego-centric. But it's true. My cooking has been influenced mainly by (1) my desire to cook; (2) the creative part of my brain; and (3) my palate. My sense of taste and texture has influenced what I do in a kitchen more than anything else. After all, if it isn't appealling to me, why would I make it?

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?

No. There's no specific dish that makes my palms sweat. The only thing that gets my heart beating, gets me sweating? That moment when I put a dish in front of somebody, right before they bite into it. Those few seconds before you can see what someone thinks of your dish are always the hardest.

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?

Most valuable utensil: My kitchen knives. Yes, this is kind of a cheap answer, but it's true. While my knives aren't the best, my chef's knife is 8 inches of decent weight, decently balanced metal that is used constantly and goes with me everywhere I'm going to cook (the caveat is my mom's house, since she has the same knife set I do). Other than kitchen knives? My squeeze bottles. I got these at Bed, Bath and Beyond for like $2 each. They are perfect for storing, transporting and dispensing sauces I make onto the foods I make. They're great -- very useful and used quite often.

As far as a letdown? I can't really think of one -- all my gadgets have been pretty good.

Any questions? Feel free to ask and I'll let you know.