Category Archives: Cooking

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupThanks to the entertainment industry, the City of Los Angeles creates opportunities arguably better than most cities in the United States. Case in point is the The Lucques Group, headed by chef Suzanne Goin and her business partner Caroline Styne, who has been the sommelier and wine director for the company since its inception.

A scant 20 years ago, there still weren’t many women who owned restaurants. Of course, Josie La Blach had her eponymous Santa Monica eatery. We also can’t forget the Border Grill ladies, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feininger. Nancy Silverton was baking bread and scones at La Brea Bakery, and Joan McNamara, a caterer turned restaurateur, are about a few of the holdovers from the previous century.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Started in 1998, the now legendary Lucques was a success cementing at least the future of the two young women at the helm, Goin, in front of the stove, and Styne, managing the business and front of house and beverage direction.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupFormer Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbilia noted in her 2009 review of their Brentwood Larder, “Styne and Goin are the food world’s equivalent of Lerner and Loewe or Leiber and Stoller. Everything they do just seems to work effortlessly. The two share a certain sensibility and aesthetic. At any of their restaurants, there’s a sense of comfort and sensuality, contemporary rustic cuisine and warm but crisp service, and enticing environment. But most of all, they each have a strong sense of place.”

Ms. Styne, along with Ms. Goin, are native Angelenos, which is as hard to find as needle in a haystack. Both exude the clean living of a California life, but Ms. Styne was the epitome of West Coast style at a recent Hollywood Bowl media event. She appeared nonplussed by the media attention around her and her partner. In LA style, she smiled for the camera in a black and white herringbone frock perfect for the chill air on the stage of the arena. A glass of white swirled in her hand as the lightbulbs burst; she looked elegant and fit.

In her blog, Styne on Wine, she noted, “At my home, I played the role of wine steward and service captain. I would set the table, open the bottles of Bordeaux and pour wine for my guests throughout dinner.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupNow as part owner of one of the most thriving restaurant businesses in Los Angeles, with not one but five restaurants, a James Beard nominee, and catering for the Hollywood Bowl, Styne is a quintessential L.A. person living out their California dream in food and wine!

Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I’m the vegetable and grain cook in our home. My husband does the grilling because I’m the least comfortable with that. I love roasting or sautéing vegetables, making salsas and other yummy sauces to spoon over them.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
We always have Greek yogurt, olives, an array of cheeses, and wine!

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I love sharing a meal with people who love food and like trying new things. I don’t necessarily need to discuss each morsel and aspect of the food to death, but I like to know that I’m with someone who appreciates food and the art of cooking.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I don’t love eating with people who are uber picky or don’t love or appreciate food. It makes me feel uptight and uncomfortable. I’d rather just meet that person for coffee.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupBeer, wine, or cocktail?
There is a time and place for all three, but usually cocktails and wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Suzanne Goin

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
Breville Citrus juicer

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Indian and Mediterranean

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Chicken and seafood…love pork, too

Favorite vegetable?
Romanesco

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Jose Andres….great chef, great attitude, great humanitarian.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese – all kinds, from all milks in all shapes and sizes

Food you dislike the most?
Offal…just not into it

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
I’m big on physical fitness. I really like to keep active and actually enjoy walking, jogging, and just moving my body. I also love fashion in too big a way.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
I think Italy is one of the most fun and satisfying places to enjoy food and wine.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupWhat is your favorite restaurant?
If I’m not at home, I really love eating at my restaurants. I obviously love the food and the drinks. Suzanne and I always try to create restaurants that we ourselves would like to patronize, so I guess we’ve succeeded in that respect

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos…I’m boring that way.

Recipe: Asparagus and Proscuitto

Recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. To drink, Styne recommended in a William Sonoma blog post, “You can never wrong with champagne or rosé. I think both say, “Party!” and can take you from appetizers to dessert.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Ingredients:
• 1¼ pounds asparagus, pencil-thin variety
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
• ½ cup creme fraiche
• 12 thin slices prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele
• ½ lemon, for juicing
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes before you’re ready to cook.

Snap the ends off the asparagus to remove the tough woody portion. Toss the asparagus on a baking sheet with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some pepper.

Stir the mustard and crème fraîche together in a small bowl, and set aside.

When the coals are broken down, red, and glowing, drape the prosciutto over a platter. Grill the asparagus 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly charred and tender.

Arrange the asparagus on the prosciutto and drizzle the mustard crème fraîche over the top.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Sanna-Mari Jäntt

Few people are experts, but then there are folks, like cookbook author and opera professional Fred Plotkin, who are knowledgeable on many topics. A native New Yorker, Plotkin became a student of opera while in college, working with various classical musicians and mentors, such as late mezzo soprano and director of the Lyric Opera House, Ardis Krainik, and well-known Broadway lighting designer Gilbert Helmsley. Always found in the back or front of the house, Plotkin has never graced the stage but has written compelling articles on the singing subject in books and articles. His bestselling and definitive tome Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, leads the pack for appreciation on the vocal art form. His literary essays have been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and Daily Telegraph, to name but a few.

Apart from being a fount of operatic history and knowledge, Plotkin, who has traveled to Italy since the early 1970s, has become a resource for all edible things in Italy. In the nineties, he wrote arguably the greatest book on eating throughout the peninsula, called Italy for the Gourmet Traveler (Kyle Books), making him a famous food person on this side of the Atlantic.

He recalls, “Italy, being the birthplace of opera, was a must (life experience) for me. Of course, eating and learning about the regional food became another obsession.”

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Lana Bortolot

The book is currently in its fifth edition and, rightly, has become a must for all gourmands traveling to the boot country. Although still known as an expert on classical singing, Plotkin has become a foremost authority on Italian cuisine as well, penning another five bestselling and award-winning books including Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera, The Authentic Pasta Book, and La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. After writing about opera for many papers and magazines, Plotkin now finds himself interviewed about on all things epicurean, appearing in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and other leading food publications.

Plotkin can be found discussing his first love — all things opera — on Manhattan’s WQXR. And, in his New York City home, he resides in the kitchen with his mistress – Italian cuisine — making some of the best regional food from the country.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Everything Italian

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Parmigiano-Reggiano; Organic eggs; Sweet butter; Greek yogurt; Austrian apricot preserves; Organic Italian cherry nectar; Whole organic milk; Prepared mustard; Still water; Oranges; Lemons; Limes

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
The actual savoring of the food or drink being consumed.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Trendy, faddish foodiness, with no real awareness of what a food or ingredient means.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Carol Field

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spade for cutting Parmigiano-Reggiano

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian; everything made with fruit.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Fish and seafood!

Favorite vegetable?
Spinach

Chef you most admire?
Michael Romano

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Sardines

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Opera

Whom do you most admire in food?
Organic farmers; Seed-savers; anyone who provides sustenance to those who need it.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A tie: Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Liguria, two of Italy’s finest food regions.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Ristorante San Giorgio in Cervo (Liguria), Italy

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. If I did, it would be of a bunch of cherries

Scrambled Eggs Recipe

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

One of the most difficult things to prepare, and among the most gratifying when done correctly, are scrambled eggs. Doing it right required LOTS of practice. Here is what I do:

Break two large or extra large eggs into a chilled glass bowl, taking care to not get any shell into the eggs. Beat the eggs only until yolks and whites combine. Do not overbeat. Fold in any added ingredient, such as small dollops of scallion cream cheese or a grated cheese, such as cheddar or gruyere. Do not beat the egg mixture if you are adding ingredients. Instead, give the mixture a quick stir.

Melt 1 tbsp. sweet butter in a non-stick pan over the lowest heat possible. This should be a pan you only use for eggs and nothing else. Add the egg mixture, let it set for about 15 seconds. Then, using a non stick (and non metal) spatula, gently move the eggs about, occasionally stopping for a few seconds to let them set. Keep nudging them and sliding them in the pan. No violence…no intense heat, no flipping, no active stirring. Gradually the eggs will come to the degree of doneness you desire and then slide them out of the pan and onto the plate. By cooking slowly, you allow the flavor of the added ingredients to permeate the eggs and also achieve the same temperature as the eggs.
– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe’s Cornbread Recipe

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeWhat do you do when you love BBQ? You learn from the best – and then smoke, cook, and eat well. And, if you’re Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez, you turn that business into a way to give back, teach, and provide great food. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Fernandez, originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, learned how to fire roast meats from Tuscaloosa BBQ legend Moses Day. From there, he founded Moe’s Original Bar B Que out in Vail, Colorado (where he went to culinary school) – and has gone on to grow a business with over 50 franchises in a plethora of states.

Fernandez’s mission is two-fold – to provide a unique and delicious dining experience, and to be a cheerleader for young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities and education.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

The geography of the popularity of southern cuisine, especially BBQ, is interesting to track. When we talked, Fernandez noted, “people love BBQ – it’s unique, and you know what you’re getting into. In Vail, people eat BBQ four times a week; in Maine, once every few weeks…and in the south, everyone is always bbqing!” At Moe’s, people enjoy a meat and 3 – which is an entree, two side dishes, and a beverage. A look at their menu shows me that it would be difficult to choose exactly which, to be honest. But one thing that I always love is cornbread, and so I’m extremely pleased that Fernandez picked that recipe to share with us!

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What most impressed me, when talking with Fernandez, was his commitment to the growth and development of young entrepreneurs. Having been one himself, he knows how important it is to have a mentor. So most of Moe’s franchises are located in college towns, and hire young adults as staff. When these college students graduate, Fernandez helps them get a store. He said that he has a vested interest in these young people, and is always trying to figure out how to help them. When I remarked on this generosity, Fernandez said he’s humbled by his success, lucky as hell, and happy to teach and share what is important. Indeed.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeStop by Moe’s, in one of their 50 and growing locations (come to Michigan, Mike, please!), and know you’re not only getting great food, but supporting a business that is a cheerleader for their employees and creating small businesses that serve communities. Win/win!

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
40 years. My mother taught me to cook when I was young. She is from Sicily, Italy, and we cooked together every Sunday.

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh fish that I catch myself.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Various pickled vegetables, homemade jams, and homemade cured meats

What do you cook at home?
A lot of Latin food

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
One that knows about food and can tell when something tastes different. I love when they want to learn, because I love to teach.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they refuse to try an item I prepared “as it is”

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail

Your favorite cookbook author?
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (Charcuterie)

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Kitchen Aid Mixer

Your favorite ingredient?
Cilantro

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Your least favorite ingredient?
Liquid smoke

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean floor drains.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Latin

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Golden Beets

Chef you most admire?
Frank Stitt and John Currence

Food you like the most to eat?
Fresh fish just caught

Food you dislike the most?
Overcooked Beef

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None – my mom would kill me.

Moe’s Original Bar B Que’s Cornbread Recipe

 

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Ingredients:
6 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup yellow onions, fine dice
1/4 cup jalapenos, filet and fine dice
3 7-ounce packages Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix

Directions:
Beat eggs, add jalapenos and onions.
Add milk and then mix in 3 packages of cornbread mix.
Spray with Pam heavily (if old pan, add parchment paper to release) onto large 4×10 loaf pan. Pour in cornbread mix.
Preheat to 325. Bake 1 hour. When done, it should be firm to press. Do not overcook.
Using rubber spatula, slice into 12 slices at 3 quarters of inch each. It’s easier to cut cold or bread will crumble.
Brush one side with margarine or butter. Place buttered side down on griddle. Fry til crispy.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

My Favorite Dishes of 2016

As 2016 began, it was planned that Nick, me and the kids — Holly, the 11-year-old pitbull and our 7-year-old Frenchie, JJ — were moving to Denver from Phoenix. Our intention after twelve months in the Sonoran Desert was to relocate to the Mile High City for his work. Our last stop was the Rocky Mountains. However, after all that, we have found ourselves back in Southern California, where we had originally started. Not in Los Angeles – coming full circle — but in Newport Beach, behind the Orange Curtain. Still for Nick’s work, but with a fluffier job description.

It’s a good location for us. Far from the histrionics of the world’s entertainment capital. Yet, we discuss missing Camelback Mountain rising out of the valley, the vast blue skies and, of course, the food. Phoenix taught me that good eating can be found anywhere if you are looking for it. It doesn’t have to be in one of the anointed culinary islands such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

While living in Phoenix, I discovered deep blended roots of Mexican and Native American food. Indeed, it’s common for local hunters born of Mexican descent to shoot game such as moose or elk during the holiday season. The braised meat is then turned into Christmas tamales and frozen to eat throughout the year. It’s a practice that goes well beyond the area’s 114 years as a state. Originally, Mexican settlers joined with the natives crafting unique food and then in turn, became Americans when the 48th state entered the Union.

I bring this up because I read a well-known restaurant writer’s suggestions of “best food trends”. In her lengthy piece, she proffered gastronomic extravagances in Copenhagen, Paris, and of course, the Big Apple which is where she is based. I can always choose what is great elsewhere, from Singapore to Argentina, France to Greece. However, I think it’s our duty to describe what is “great” in America. Our culinary prowess is the myriad of cultures creating our nation – borrowing from here and there, making our own indigenous taste profiles such as fried chicken, pot roast or apple pie. Derived from other places, but made here crafting American comfort. We need to recognize that we are great, looking only to our dinner tables.

Unlike the writer, who travels often, I didn’t get on a plane this year except a roundtrip to Vegas and Phoenix. After almost two dozen countries and nearly 250 cities, I’m not big about getting on planes anymore; plus, I love the dining scene in smaller cities such as Phoenix, Portland and even in Orange County, California. They aren’t massive but what’s cooking is robust and lively.

As go into the new year, as a nation, we have dreamed up all types of unique food – Mexican-Korean tacos, Japanese sushi with Brazilian flavors, Thai with Texas BBQ– turning it into one melting pot of goodness. The ingredients simmering on the American stove is where we have always been welcoming, tasting little bits of this and adding some of that. Authentic American flavor is made from our fusion of cultures right here at home and it’s always been great.

Hoja Sante stuffed with Mennonite Cheese, Gran Reserva Barrio Café : Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza (Phoenix, Arizona).

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza should be a nationally recognized chef and it’s a shame she’s not. She is a proud Mexican American born in the United States and is un-WASP-like most Food Network stars such as Giada, Rachel or even Paula Deen.  At her five restaurant mini-empire based in Phoenix, her cooking is Mexican but with European techniques. At Gran Reserva Barrio Café, her new restaurant which opened in spring 2016, Esparza’s creativity is evidenced in the simplicity of a melty hunk Mexican Mennonite cheese, wrapped burrito-like in a large hoya sante leaf and served with two smoky chili pastes. Simple. Traditional and yet still other worldly.

Image result for Hoja Santa Gran Reserva Arizona Latinos

The indigenous plant is not commonly found north of the border, and when it is, it’s usually used in stews and braises. Esparza uses it whole, instead of strips, allowing the anise flavor to compliment the queso’s milky texture. The venomous bite of the peppers is nulled by the dairy and leaving only smokiness. Texturally, the crunch of the leaf, emission of creaminess and a nullified heat is eye-opening. As I sat eating the dish, along with interviewing the Phoenix-based chef for Arizona Latinos, she imparted the history of the Mexican Mennonites and how they are still important to the agriculture of the country.

This gooey delicious dish is modest, and that’s what makes it brilliant.

Chicken Liver Pasta, Sotto:  Chef Steve Samson (Los Angeles, CA)

On a media tasting invite, I went through a selection of items chosen by Chef Steve Samson at his almost six-year-old restaurant Sotto. The cozy space is inviting with blue walls, wooden tables and chairs as is Mr. Samson, who is one of the kinder cooks in the culinary world.

Going through his menu, which is all yummy the standout, became the housemade Rigatoni tossed with Chicken Livers, Parmigiana Reggiano and Porcini. It’s a daring dish for Angelenos to embrace. First, there are the carbohydrates but second the livers aren’t normally found on regular menus much less Italian. Having traveled often to Italy, I didn’t recall pasta and innards used in this way and asked Samson where it was based. It was his unique twist on the typical Bolognese ragu. Instead of throwing away something tasty, he invented this earthy and rustic dish. I’m not fond of chicken livers – and I don’t know many people who are – but this I would eat every day for the rest of my life.

 

Jardineros (Garden) Tacos, Taco Maria: Chef Carlos Salgado (Costa Mesa, CA)

Taco Maria is a high-end eating experience much like the Rick Bayless’ chain Red O or even Phoenix’s independent Barrio Café (see above). White tablecloths, waiters with crumbers and sparkling water served in wine glasses, my type of my place, where a diner feels special. Located inside a mall within a mall, it is an indoor-outdoor space which is a good showcase for the unique tastes presented by Chef Carlos Salgado.

Much has been written about Salgado and for good reason, his fusion of California agricultural and Mexican cooking produce, arguably the country’s best tacos. Ordering a la carte during lunch, there are a five varieties of the national south of the border food: chicken, beef, pork,  fish and vegetarian. Exceptional eats every single one, wrapped with the housemade delectable blue corn tortillas found only at Taco Maria. (B.S. Taqueria gets their masa from here too.) The standout is clearly the vegetarian (jardineros) made with shitake mushroom chorizo, a crispy potato and queso fundido. Separately, each one would make a great filling but together, they create something truly different. The minced fungi spiced with traditional south of the border flavorings texturally give the chorizo a meat-like consistency. However, it’s the flavor which is a standout.

Pasta dishes, Tratto: Chef Chris Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)

Legendary chef Chris Bianco is  renowned for Pizza Bianco. Matter of fact, his pizzas have been called the best in the world by former “Vogue” food writer Jeffrey Steingarten. Therefore, when someone invites you to Tratto, his new restaurant which opened in early summer 2016 in the same mall as his world-renowned pizzeria, you go – but not for his pizzas. At his new space, he has opened his creativity to showcase other goodness derived from Arizona farmers; mostly notably, the wheat growers.

Bianco does everything else but pizzas. Old-fashioned, Italian food but a real display of southwestern growers. I don’t mean peppers, tomatoes and cheese but bold pairings such as beets and gorgonzola roasted in a fig leaf. All ingredients are sourced from the 48th state, crafting Italian food. Don’t question it but eat his handmade pastas which are carefully crafted by Bianco. Get off the carb diet and have a bit of heaven.

Beef Tenderloin with Mole Negro, Talavera at Four Seasons Scottsdale: Chef Mel Mecinas (Phoenix, Arizona)

To reiterate, I’ve listed the dishes I’ve eaten over the course of the year which I remember fondly. Eating them, at the restaurant, the conversations around them and how good they are. Nothing comes as close to Chef Mel Mecinas and his mole negro and beef tenderloin.

Mole is probably one of the world’s most difficult sauces to make. Consisting of more than two dozen ingredients ground and simmered into a liquid, resulting in something edible which is complex, luscious and fortifying. Fish is too delicate for the earthiness but lean cuts of meat provide a great experience to taste the Mexico pottage which is what diners get at Talavera under the capable hands of Chef Mecinas.

Unfortunately, he no longer works at the restaurant where he was the Executive Chef for more than a decade. Greener pastures beckoned. However, one day I hope the world gets to eat his extraordinary mole.

 

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeOne of the great attractions of New Jersey are the small towns with picturesque streets, seemingly family values and charm. It’s no surprise than one of the area’s excellent restaurants, Serenade, in Chatham, New Jersey resides there. Great East Coast restaurants are starting to close as times change and rents become out of reach for independents. Yet under the guiding hand of chef/ owner James Laird and his wife, Nancy Sheridan Laird, their restaurant is celebrating two decades of delicious service.

Over the years, Laird has received accolades from The New York Times, calling him “one of the best classically trained chefs in New Jersey.” The glossy New Jersey Monthly has consistently rated his restaurant among “the best of the best,” and Crain’s NY Business stated, “Serenade is among the Garden State’s most rewarding dining destinations.” High praise for an autonomous cafe on the other side of the river.

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeHowever, it’s not surprising that his eating venture has lasted into a milestone old-age for a restaurant, as Laird has an enviable epicurean pedigree. Graduating from the renowned Culinary Institute of America, he traveled to Europe, gaining skills under a variety of noted chefs and increasing his knowledge of cooking. Upon returning to the States, he worked at three of New York City’s noted fine-dining establishments in the 90s – Lespinasse, The River Café, and Aureole – before becoming the sous chef at the culinary landmark Ryland Inn and eventually owning his own place.

Interestingly, Chef Laird says that rolling with the changing times has kept Serenade in the forefront of diners’ minds. “We used to serve foie gras when we first opened,” he says. “Now, we have a burger on the menu. We have a small (food listing) to keep the diners happy if they don’t want a full on dining experience. We also bought our building and it saves immensely on our overhead. We can create great dishes without passing on the high cost.”

As the dining scene changes around the world with quick service becoming the norm, it’s refreshing to see a chef feel comfortable in his surroundings and in his skin. One of the key reasons Chef Laird says he has a restaurant? “I love to cook.”

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust)

How long have you been cooking?
35 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fish

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, Limes, Coconut Creamer

What do you cook at home?
As little as possible, toast is great!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
A customer who notices all of the details

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Closed-minded customers

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeYour favorite cookbook author?
Joël Robuchon

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Butcher’s Steel

Your favorite ingredient?
Thyme

Your least favorite ingredient?
Rosemary

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Scrubbing the grill

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, Asian, French

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Broccoli

Chef you most admire?
Joël Robuchon

Food you like the most to eat?
Anything my wife cooks

Food you dislike the most?
Very Spicy foods

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No Tats

Recipe: Veal Ragout with Dill and Crispy Mushrooms

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 lbs. veal, cubed
1 quart chicken or veal stock
1 cup white wine
2 medium onions, diced
2 TBS. flour
4 oz. sweet butter
3 TBS. fresh dill, chopped (about one bunch)
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
10 oz button mushrooms, sliced

Directions
1. Dry and season veal with salt and pepper. Brown meat in batches in heavy pan, suitable for the oven.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
3. Sauté onions in same pan in 2 oz. butter until translucent and soft. Add flour. Mix well and cook for two to three minutes.
4. Add white wine. Simmer until slightly thickened. Add stock and bring to a boil. Taste and season lightly with salt and pepper.
5. Add veal and accumulated juices to pot. Bring back to boil. Lower to simmer. Place in oven, uncovered.
6. Heat remaining butter in sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until very brown and crispy. Reserve.
7. Simmer in oven until fork tender. Remove from oven and stir in chopped tomatoes. Season.
8. Immediately prior to serving, stir in dill. Sprinkle mushrooms on top of veal.
9. Serve over buttered noodles or rice.
The End. Go Eat.
Recipe photo flickr cc: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/5032563727

All other photos courtesy and copyright Chef James Laird

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash​ Recipe

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash RecipeFor over 25 years, Annie Mahle has honed her craft with both knife and pen. Annie and her husband, Captain Jon Finger, run the Maine windjammer, the Schooner J. & E. Riggin. Not only is Annie a maritime captain, she also is the captain and chef of her galley, where she has been cooking meals on her cast iron wood stove, Lucy. In the winter, she continues to create new recipes and shares them on her recipe and lifestyle blog, At Home & At Sea. Her third cookbook, Sugar & Salt: A Year At Home and At Sea – Book Two is the second in a series of cookbooks featuring a collection of recipes, crafts, thoughts, and stories from Chef Annie’s adventurous life on the coast of Maine.

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe
Lucy

Chef Mahle notes, “In Sugar & Salt, I share more memories, stories, and recipes that are inspired by my life on the coast of Maine. Whether it’s through my cooking, crafts, or gardening, I’m always creating, and I hope that this book will be a inspiration for the reader.”

 

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
My first cooking memory is of canning tomatoes with my grandma in her kitchen. Several years later, I had a love affair with chocolate chip cookies. I started cooking professionally after I graduated from college and haven’t looked back!

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything from the garden but kohlrabi.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Half and half, kale, leftovers.

What do you cook at home?
All of the comfort food.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I love someone who is willing to try something new. Like oysters. And really savor that first bite.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Boorish or selfish sorts who are unaware of how much airtime and space they take up.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Ball jar.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine. Red. Although I do love creating new cocktails.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Lori Colwin, Laura Brody, Dorie Greenspan. I wish I liked James Beard more.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My santoku. One day I wasn’t thinking and used the tip to pry something open. Rookie move. The tip broke. But then Jon, my husband, ground the tip down to look like a blunt sailor’s knife and I love it.

Your favorite ingredient?
Flour. Or eggs. They can become so many creations.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Kohlrabi. Hate it.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean.

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash RecipeFavorite types of cuisine to cook?
The type you eat with family and friends.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork. Flavor, flavor, flavor.

Favorite vegetable?
A ripe tomato picked just off the vine on a warm summer day.

Chef you most admire?
Is it a cliché if I say Julia Child? Well, it’s true.

Food you like the most to eat?
I’m loving poached eggs, kale, and avocado for breakfast right now.

Food you dislike the most?
Food that is too clever for its own good. The sort that looks like the height of art on the plate, but leaves you still feeling hungry and wishing for a burger.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I’ve never gotten a tattoo, but my crew has poked at me for years to get one. I think a tattoo would bore me after a time. If I did get one, it would be a ring of a knife, fork, and spoon around my wrist or bicep.

Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash with Poached Eggs and Asparagus Recipe

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe

Hash is usually made with leftover meat or fish from a previous meal. Feel free to substitute beef, pollock, or other flavorful fish in place of the pork.
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 1⁄2 cups diced parsnips, peeled; about 2 parsnips
5 cups diced red potatoes; about 11⁄2 pounds or 6 potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion; about 1 medium onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1 pound cooked pork shoulder or other tender pork meat, pulled apart with a fork into bite sized pieces
1 pound asparagus, ends cut or snapped off; about 1 bunch
Poached Eggs
Herbed Salt (recipe below)

Directions:
Place the parsnips and potatoes in a wide saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Remove from water with a basket strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water hot for the asparagus. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and onion. Sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the parsnips, potatoes, salt, and pepper and cook until the potatoes begin to brown. Add the pork and sauté until the pork is warm. Remove from heat and cover.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute or until the asparagus is tender. Timing will vary with the thickness of the stalks. Remove from water with tongs, transfer to a platter and cover. To the same pot of water, add the vinegar (from Poached Egg recipe) and poach the eggs. Plate the hash, asparagus, and poached eggs and sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of Herbed Salt.

Herbed Salt
Makes about 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1⁄2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Store in a glass jar indefinitely.

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Phoenix’s TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo RecipeChef and owner of TEXAZ Grill Steven Freidkin is that rarity in restaurants nowadays. Long before the Food Network and celebrity cooks ruled our dinner tables, Freidkin had always been a good, respectable chef, and learning the trade not in fancy culinary schools, but employed in the eateries were he worked. As a pre-teen, he began his kitchen career working at his family’s kosher deli in Shreveport, Louisiana cutting up corned beef in the front and then hanging with his friends. Reminiscing about his youth, Freidkin said, “We would be hiding behind the pickle barrels.  We were the only store that cured our own pickles.”

His first job away from his parents’ store was as a dishwasher. Then while attending college in the Dallas, he cooked in many kitchens, learning that this could be his way of making a living instead of getting a social work degree. Ultimately, this led him to turn specifically failing restaurants into moneymakers. For a bit of time, he worked for well-known Victoria Station, a popular chain of railroad themed steakhouses that proliferated throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Arriving in Phoenix in 1976 on a proposition to a restaurant called Pointe of View located by Squaw Peak, he’s been in the Valley of the Sun ever since.

Before TEXAZ Grill, there were a couple of other stints in restaurants and a catering company, but in 1985, he, along with a former partner, opened the Phoenician steakhouse landmark. TEXAZ Grill isn’t one of the high-end places where people drop their credit cards to pay for the hefty price-tag on a wine and ribeye. No. Freidkin has established an important Valley of the Sun staple – as important as a saguaro cactus on a dusky evening — among the steak and chops set, leading the southwestern pack in crafting down home eats.

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Regulars come to sit in the eclectically decorated space. Walls filled with hundreds of baseball hats, deer heads, pen and ink drawings found in thrift stores, black and white photos, and beer labels lavishly cover the space. It’s an homage to roadhouses long gone, or it’s an actual roadhouse, depending on your personal age and reference.

Among the ribeye and the New York Strip, listed above the delicious stalwart of fried chicken, is the house specialty – the chicken fried steak. Friedkin recalls, “When we first opened, we had a lot of requests for it. We put it on the menu for a special, and then gradually it stayed.” Two big breaded cubed steaks are dredged in flour, deep-fried, and served with white gravy. “We have served more than 900,000 of these since we opened,” Freidkin comments. Here’s to 900,000 more.

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I started cooking in our family delicatessen in Louisiana when I was 10, so I have been cooking 50 years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My favorite dish to cook is noodles, Cajun and Creole.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I always have pickled okra in my fridge.

What do you cook at home?
I cook everything- Mexican, Asian, Southern, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern…and I fridge raid (clearing out the fridge and making a full meal).

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Friendliness.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Unfriendliness.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of the above. My favorites range from a Shiner Bock, Old Vine Zin, and Tito’s on the rocks with a pickled Okra.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Robb Walsh.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Japanese Cleaver.

Your favorite ingredient?
My favorite ingredient is black pepper.

Your least favorite ingredient?
My least favorite ingredient is CILANTRO!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean up!

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Southern, Italian, Mexican, and Asian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef.

Favorite vegetable?
Eggplant.

Chef you most admire?
The chef I admire most locally is Robert McGrath.

Food you like the most to eat?
Noodles, Creole and Cajun are my favorite foods to eat. My absolute favorite is Texas BBQ.

Food you dislike the most?
Liver.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
N/A.

Recipe: Chicken Fideo

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Serving Size: 5
Prep Time: 0:21

Ingredients:
7 oz vermicelli — fideo
1 oz butter
3 cups cubed chicken thigh meat
1 c julienned onion
2 t minced garlic
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
3 cups water
2 t chicken bouillion paste
1 t oregano
2 t whole cumin
2 oz canned jalapeno peppers – juice

Directions:
Brown fideo in butter until golden.
Add onion and garlic and saute briefly.
Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over moderate heat, until done – about 30 minutes.
Serve topped with sliced green onion and grated cheddar.
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion PieWisconsin Supper Clubs are a Midwest tradition like no other – a celebration of excellent food in a friendly, homey atmosphere. From thick-cut steaks to fish boils (a Great Lakes tradition, especially popular in Door County) and Friday fish fry, the food at supper clubs here is high quality – and there are some standard items that all supper clubs feature. The relish tray (cut vegetables, dip) and club cheese are standard, and come first.

Then you sit and chat, have a cocktail out on the deck or at your window-side table, and the friendly waitress (who always treats you like an old friend) brings your excellent dinner. For that’s what a supper club is about – socializing and eating in a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion PieWisconsin has hundreds of supper clubs – how to choose? Well, Milwaukee author & filmmaker Ron Faiola has come to our rescue with advice for both travel planning and restaurant picking. He’s an author and filmmaker who has produced and directed numerous critically acclaimed documentaries. He is the president and founder of Push Button Gadget Inc., which has been specializing in audio visual and business theater production for nearly 20 years. And, most importantly for us, he is the author of Wisconsin Supper Clubs and Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, both published by Agate Midway.  In these books, he profiles excellent supper clubs throughout the state – and gives us a glimpse into this unique Wisconsin tradition.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Dining Room, Four Seasons Supper Club and Resort, Arbor Vitae

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Cheese burger pizza made from scratch, complete with pickles and ketchup.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Cheese, butter, milk.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Fish boil, Fitzgerald’s Genoa Junction, Genoa City

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Their sense of adventure food-wise.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Birthday party, Kutzee’s Supper Club, Stanley

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Being too food-fussy.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer, cocktail, then wine.

Your favorite cookbook?
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Potato masher.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Steve cuts steaks, Club Chalet, Green Bay

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican breakfast, French omelets.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Mostly chicken (and seafood), but I love to make some great tofu dishes.

Favorite vegetable?
Asparagus.

Chef you most admire?
Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright of the Two Fat Ladies show on BBC.

Food you like the most to eat?
Pizza.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Chef Alison Nave sends food out. The Village Supper Club, Kenosha

Food you dislike the most?
Chicken gizzards.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Train travel.

Who do you most admire in food?
Kyle Cherek, host of Wisconsin Foodie.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
On my back deck when it’s nice out.

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie
Dining Room, Four Seasons Supper Club and Resort, Arbor Vitae

What is your favorite restaurant?
Any local family restaurant.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I don’t, but I know a girl who has the M&M guys on her arm.

Recipe: Onion Pie

i8tonite with Wisconsin Supper Clubs Author & Filmmaker Ron Faiola & Recipe for Onion Pie

Every Thanksgiving my family asks me to make my updated version of this Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.

Ingredients (for 8″ Pyrex pie plate):

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
4 tbs butter
2-3 medium sweet onions cut into rings or strips (not diced)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp (or mild) cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook onions in two tbs butter and a pinch of salt & pepper on medium low heat. Onions should be soft but not caramelized.
Melt 2 tbs butter in bowl and mix with 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs. Press mixture into bottom of buttered pie dish.
Combine beaten eggs, milk and cheese in bowl. When onions are done, layer them on top of the bread crumb crust, then slowly add the egg mixture from bowl. Additional cheese (parmesan, asiago) can be added to the top (optional).

Bake on center rack and check at 25 minutes, inserting a clean knife in center. If it comes out clean, the pie is ready. Most likely it will need another 5 or 10 minutes, checking every 5 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cut into pie wedges or squares.

 

Read more: Behind the Scenes of Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

Author Photo © Art Mellor. All other Photos © Ron Faiola

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe“After college, I thought I was going to go to California, but I got delayed,” says noted Chef Cullen Campbell, chef owner of the nationally known Phoenix-based Crudo, which he opened in 2012 with mixologist Micah Olson. Last year, the duo, along with Campbell’s wife Maureen McGrath, unlocked Okra, a Southern-themed restaurant with touches of Italy, harkening back to growing up in Arkansas. Although born in the 48th state, Campbell spent time on the Arkansas family farm and attended university in Memphis, where he picked up some of the deep Southern touches that craft the excellent flavors of his sophomore effort. Clearly, he wanted to bring some of that country to Arizona.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

Like the Sonoran Desert, the interiors of both places are wide and vast. There aren’t any nooks or cubby holes  for clandestine dinners to hide in. The restaurants are boisterous, raucous affairs, letting the diner know they are in for a delicious meal. Crudo is the higher end of the two, with a collage of shutters as artwork at the entrance, but it’s the casual wood-tones of Okra which come across warmly. Both restaurants, though, are a showcase of Campbell’s kitchen talent. Arizona Republic’s restaurant critic Howard Sefetel said in his 2012 review of Crudo, “What makes Campbell’s fare stand out? Certainly, the ingredients are primo. But what Campbell does with them is often highly original and always skillfully executed.”

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

Since then, the kitchen star has been on the rise, putting Valley of the Sun’s dining and drinking culture on the national culinary map, with noted stories in Sunset Magazine, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times.

What’s next on the horizon for the Arizona cooking wunderkind? “I have a bunch of different concepts I want to try out. Something small and higher end with no more than a dozen tables. Then I have a hot dog concept I want to do with Micah. Cocktails. Beer and wine list all paired for the dogs.”

Whatever Campbell does, we know it will be delicious.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I have been cooking for 20 years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My least favorite food is Shellfish.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I have wine, water, & leftovers.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Squid Ink Risotto

What do you cook at home?
Not much but sometimes, I r&d at my house. I just made some pici, which is like a thick hand rolled spaghetti. I love hand rolling pasta!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The person wanting to try everything.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
The person that is scared to try new things.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine all the way, especially really great white wine.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Burrata

Your favorite cookbook author?
David Joachim. Not only has he written his own books, he has also collaborated on some of my favorite books.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spoons.

Your favorite ingredient?
Olive Oil.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Anything processed.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean. I make a mess haha!

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I go through spurts. Of course Italian & southern. But I have started playing around with Polynesian.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e PepeBeef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Rapini.

Chef you most admire?
I have two: Jean Georges Vongerichten & Marc Vetri. One is very refined & the other is more rustic, but they both work with the best ingredients & don’t overcomplicate dishes.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheeseburger & fries!

Food you dislike the most?
I eat everything!

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e PepeHow many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I only have two at the moment. One of them is an alcohol in Japanese. But I want to get a fork & spoon on me. Also, one that celebrates my restaurants – Crudo & Okra.

Recipe: Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Semolina Gnocchi

Semolina Gnocchi
3 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
11/2tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup parmesan
1 cup semolina

Put milk, butter, & salt into a medium pot (bring to a boil).
Add semolina & whisk vigorously for 4 minutes.
Add 1 egg yolk at a time while stirring.
Then add the parmesan and whisk until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes.
Spread mixture on a sheet tray & let cool for 45 minutes.
When cooled, cut out circles with a ring mold.
Sear the gnocchi in a pan on medium heat until golden brown.

Cacio e Pepe
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated pecorino remano
1tbs roux
2tbs fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Heat heavy cream & both cheeses together until melted.
Add roux to thicken & then add the pepper.

Trotter Ragu
5lbs pig trotters
1 yellow onion chopped
1 head of garlic chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3oz thyme picked & chopped
6 cups da napoli crushed tomatoes
6 cups meat stock
2tbs salt
1tbs fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a roasting pan, brown the trotters in the olive oil.
Add onion, garlic, and thyme & stir until fragrant.
Season with the salt & pepper.
Add crushed tomatoes and meat stock & cover the pan tightly with foil or lid.
Lower the oven to 300 degrees & cook for 3.5 hours.
After pulled from the oven, let the trotters cool down for about an hour.
After cooled, shred the trotters off the bones & mix back into the sauce.

To Plate
Put the ragu in the bottom of the bowl, arrange gnocchi, & top with a generous amount of cacio e pepe

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi & Recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard SeedsThe best way to describe food writer Simran Sethi is to say she is more telegenically inclined and far more accessible as a writer than Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Michael Ruhlman. Of course, it’s a subjective opinion; Pollan is probably the most famous, but Simran Sethi’s book Bread, Wine, Chocolate: A Slow Loss of Foods We Love might push her over the top. Part memoir, travelogue, and science, published last year – and due for a paperback edition in October, she has become the food expert who teaches us how to be food experts along with her.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

Complete with flavor wheels which detail profiles of beer, chocolate, wine, and bread, her book is a discussion about how we only eat about 30 types of foods, which are harvested around the world. This is leading to “mono-crops” and loss of other edibles that we should be eating. Did you know the banana that we eat from our local grocery store, the Cavendish, is only one variety? According to Ms. Sethi and the World Banana Forum, there are more than 1000 varieties of the fruit. And of that number, we consume nearly 48 millions tons.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Simran Sethi interviewing wheat farmer Gyanni Singh outside of Amritsar, India.

Sethi’s is no stranger to journalism or the world of food. Her broadcast career began as senior correspondent for MTV News India in Bombay. At one time, she was the environmental correspondent for NBC News with contributions to The Today Show, CNBC, and MSNBC. She has written and hosted shows for The Sundance Channel, PBS, and Treehugger.com on sustainable environments and ethical markets. Her research knowledge is vast; she is an expert at telling a compelling story.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
The Golden Temple during Karah Prasad preparation, Amritsar, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Farmer grappling with dropping water tables in Punjab, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Halwais preparing Karah Prasad at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Donated wheat for Karah Prasad in the Golden Temple kitchen in Amritsar, India.

 

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

However, she decided to write a book on food, one of her favorite topics. She says, “We celebrate through food. We mourn through food. There is nothing that affects us more than our food. In writing this book, it was incredibly humbling to travel to some of these places and see its origins. I wanted to go deeper and teach the world through the lens of food.”

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Wild coffee flowers held by farmer Tebeje Neguse.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Coffee seedling held by Simran Sethi in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Coffee blossoms from the afromontane rainforest in Kafa, Ethiopia.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Farmer Vicente Norero on his cacao plantation in Balao, Ecuador.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Fermenting and drying cacao, Esmeraldas, Ecuador.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Close-up of harvested cacao, Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since age 14.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My favorite foods are the ones cooked for me.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Whole milk for coffee, seasonal fruit, local eggs.

What do you cook at home?
I assemble. Pasta and greens, bread and cheese, egg on anything.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cider.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Zora O’Neill and Tamara Reynolds wrote a cookbook that played off their Queens, NY supper club called Forking Fantastic!: Put the Party Back in Dinner Party. I have never wanted to cook as much as when I am reading (and re-reading) that book.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
This gigantic pan I got when I appeared on the Martha Stewart Show. It was the audience gift but I begged.

Your favorite ingredient?
Salt

Your least favorite ingredient?
Turmeric

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Cook

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Well-raised pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Mushrooms

Chef you most admire?
Most? Tough. Floyd Cardoz, Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Heather Carlucci.

Food you like the most to eat?
Avocado on home-baked bread with a little Penzey’s Turkish seasoning sprinkled on top.

Food you dislike the most?
Fast food.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None and none.

Recipe: Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds (Sookhi Aloo)

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds (Sookhi Aloo)

3 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 small red chili, thinly sliced (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake sweet potatoes until they are just slightly undercooked, 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into ½-inch pieces. Set aside.

2. Add oil and mustard seeds to a medium skillet over high heat. Fry seeds, periodically shaking pan, until seeds start to pop. Reduce heat to medium.

3. Mix in potatoes, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Cook, stirring infrequently, until a crust forms, 10 minutes more.

4. To serve, garnish with cilantro and chilies, if using.

 

PHOTO: STACEY VAN BERKEL FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 

Simran Sethi profile photos: Cem Ersavci for Dumbo Feather

India, Ethiopia, & Ecuador photos: Simran Sethi

 

 

 

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

Disclosure: Sethi is a PR Client of co-editor Brian Garrido.