A good cook always strives to produce the tastiest dish they can. In my repertoire, my tastiest meals have always been braises, long slow cooked meat dishes that take tough ingredients and transform them into fall off the bone tender amazing tasting meals. Think of a pot roast or chicken cacciatore. The broth of slow simmered meats and vegetables is so full of flavor that I began to think that I could use it as a base for a fantastic soup. This method is ideal for making use of any excess braising liquid reminding me how a good restaurant works. When I use this technique I focus on flavor. For example we will make chicken cacciatore using whole skin-on chicken thighs with San Marzano tomatoes and add fennel to boost the anise flavor along with fresh basil. We will brown the chicken to produce a flavorful fond, add aromatic vegetables and deglaze with a sharp acidic white wine for extra flavor. To boost the savory element we could pull out our bag of tricks, some tomato paste, maybe some fish sauce and some parmesan rind if we have it. I usually make this soup the next day allowing me to remove the fat which ha solidified on the top. Who needs that extra fat? And now for the final secret, add a little sweet vinegar to finish. It will add a bright finishing kick. I like to use a white balsamic but you can use your own favorite.
6 - 8 bone-in chicken thighs
2 large onions diced
4 stalks celery diced
4 medium carrots diced
1 small fennel bulb diced
4 cloves garlic
1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
fresh chopped basil
1 cup white wine
3-4 cups chicken stock
parmesan rind (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
splash of white balsamic vinegar
1. In a preheated large heavy bottomed skillet add some olive oil and brown the chicken. while the chicken is browning chop the vegetables. After the chicken has browed, remove the chicken and add one half of the vegetables and garlic with the tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes then deglaze the pan with the wine loosening any residue from the bottom of the pan.
2. Add the herbs and the chicken stock to almost cover the chicken. Add a splash of fish sauce and the parmesan rind and braise on a simmer until the chicken is tender (about 3 hours).
3. Remove the fat from the surface. If you let cool overnight in the refrigerator, the fat will solidify and be easily removed. Debone and de-skin the chicken and chop into pieces. Using a blender puree the soup and thin with more chicken stock to your desired consistency.
4. Add the remainder of the vegetables and the chopped chicken. Simmer to cook vegetables and season to taste. Add a splash of vinegar to add a needed brightness and serve immediately.
My first experience of Machaca con Huevos was less than satisfying, a small amount of tasteless dry grey steak encased with dull rubbery overcooked eggs; the product of a good dish in the hands of a poor cook. When I experience just such a fiasco, I start diagnosing what when wrong and how I could improve it. Starting with the beef, I wanted to concentrate on texture and flavor. Traditionally machaca is made from reconstituted dried beef, and I am not excited with dried meat products. Although drying can concentrate and intensify flavor, I hate to lose the braised texture of the meat. What really sparked my interest is the shredded form of the meat, which led me to think about pulled pork and braised beef short ribs: both which could be infused with Mexican flavors. Then as chance would have it, I pulled out a corned beef brisket that I was going to slow cook. I gently cooked and shredded the corned beef; then crisped it in the oven before adding onions and peppers then served over crispy shredded hash browns with . Topped with your favorite eggs and topped with a little pepper hot sauce resulted in salty, savoury beef; crispy potatoes with spicy eggs with a noticable Irish twist just in time for Saint Patrick's day. This dish shows we can use multiple translation techniques; substitution using corned beef (plus I used some pickled red peppers instead of roasted), using Saint Patrick's day as an inspiration, and slow cooking the brisket and shredding it changing methods. The pulled pork and braised beef versions are waiting for another day when I have suitable leftovers.
1 pound corned beef
1 poblano pepper
1 large russet potato shredded
1 red bell pepper (optional)
2 Roma tomatoes
1 small sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
½ cup beef stock
6 Large Eggs
½ cup shredded cheese (optional)
dash favorite hot sauce (optional)
1 Tbsp. canola oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Garnish with cilantro, lime, tomato and some tortillas.
Shred the corned beef with fork or hands and reserve. Roast at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes or broil until browned and crispy).
Shred the potatoes and fry in oil until brown and crispy. Keep warm.
Skin, seed and dice the tomato. Roast, skin and dice the peppers. Dice the onion and finely chop garlic. Heat a skillet on medium heat; add butter and a little oil and sauté garlic and the onion for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, add peppers and continue to sauté until soft (about 5 min). Add the tomato, most of the corned beef, beef stock and reduce until most of the liquid is gone. Reserve and keep warm.
Cook your eggs and plate some potatoes first then some beef mixture then a little of the reserved potato and corned beef. Garnish with cilantro, avocado slices, a small wedge of lime and grilled tortillas.
I am always looking for great ways to save some calories without sacrificing taste. Changing the form of a BLT enables me to cut down on the bread and increase the lettuce with a dramatic decrease of calories and I know there are a lot of people out there that want to lose some weight. I'd wish I could say that I was sitting in a restaurant eating a lettuce wrap when inspiration struck but to be honest I was just looking for a low-calorie option for breakfast. When I thought about a breakfast salad everything fell into place; the tomatoes and lettuce the stars and give the bacon and bread a supporting role. All I have to do is wrap everything in the lettuce leaf and I have the same elements in a different yet familiar form, reinforcing the premise that inspiration is based on exposure to multiple ideas and just bringing it all together in an unique way.
4 pounds fresh firm tomatoes
1 head iceberg or butter lettuce
10 pieces thick sliced bacon
3-4 slices of thin sliced dense bread
10 fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional: Sliced avocado
Silpat silicone baking sheet or parchment paper
Preheat oven to 350° F. Dice the bread into small cubes, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and spread out in a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Bake until brown and crispy and reserve.
Bring a stock pot of water to boil and prepare an ice-bath. Core out the stem end of the tomatoes with a paring knife and cut a small X in the opposite end. Blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds to loosen the skins then transfer to the ice-bath to cool down. Remove the skins, de-seed and dice into ¼ inch pieces. Reserve.
Heat a sauté pan on medium heat. Cut the bacon into ⅓ inch pieces and sauté until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel to dry. Reserve.
Roll up the basil leaves length-wise and finely cut into fine ribbons (chiffonade). Core the lettuce and cut lengthwise in half, remove the outer leaves and discard. Separate the lettuce into individual leaves and reserve. In a bowl mix the tomatoes, bacon and basil. Taste and season with salt and pepper. To serve add the tomato mixture on top of the lettuce leaf, sprinkle with croutons and roll. If you like you can slice some avocado and add to the wrap.
Serves 4 to 6.
I have a couple of announcements; first, I'm going to concentrate on a breakfast and brunch theme to better explain translation and second; I'm working on a book showcasing these concepts within the framework of breakfast. More on that later. Continuing on the Translation subset of substitution, I was reading Fuchsia Dunlop's new cookbook, "Every Grain of Rice - Simple Chinese Home Cooking" with the idea of adapting a Chinese home-style dish for breakfast. I found a recipe for stir-fried eggs with tomato and thought this would be the perfect recipe to show that substitution could be used to enhance a dish. The recipe is basic, perfect for the novice home cook; season and stir-fry the eggs first, then the tomatoes and then combine them together thickening with potato starch if needed. I wanted to add additional flavor to the dish, so I added fresh basil which always goes with tomatoes (Thai basil would even be better) and some five spice powder to enhance the anise notes and to reinforce the Asian theme. I know that I'm not actually making a true substitution, but adding something. The point is to use translation as an avenue to explore exciting new creations to become a more creative chef.
4 - 5 large eggs
4 - 5 firm Campari tomatoes (or another simular small vine ripened tomato)
4 - 6 basil leaves rolled and cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
1 pinch five spice powder
1 pinch sugar
2 - 4 Tbsp. cooking oil
slurry of potato starch and water (optional for thickening)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat a wok and add half the oil. Beat the eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt and scramble the eggs until just barely done. Remove and reserve. Roll the basil leaves into a cigar shape and with a very sharp knife finely slice into thin ribbons. Slice the tomatoes in half then each half into three wedges. Clean and dry the wok, then heat it on high and add the rest of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tomatoes, season with the sugar, salt and pepper to taste and stir-fry until they are hot and fragrant. Add the basil, five spice powder and the eggs back to the wok and stir-fry until mixed together. If the mixture is runny add the potato starch slurry and mix until thickened. Serve immediately to feed two.
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How does a good chef think? What is the creative process a
chef uses to come up with new and exciting dishes? What do I need to know to enable that creative process? These are the questions I want to explore in this series of articles. As a chef and an avid cookbook collector I am drawn towards
ideas and techniques of cooking rather than just a collection of recipes. I believe to grow as a chef, I need to continually learn and hone new techniques along with perfecting each technique I use every day. Whenever I go to a restaurant, whether fine dining, neighborhood pub, avant garde, or even fast food, I continually ask myself how can I do this better, what works and more important, what doesn’t? Feel free to send me comments, ask questions. Together, we can explore and make creative cuisine.
Spending almost thirty years in the computing field, I was able to travel experiencing a wide variety of tremendous cuisine. First I became a foodie, and when the opportunity arose, I was able to attend culinary school following my passion. I work as a part-time private chef and volunteer time at the community café in North Bend Oregon providing affordable meals in a restaurant setting to my community.