Me & Rachael Ray Talking Bacon!

Chef on the move...

Me & Rachael Ray Talking Bacon!

6 Comments 28 January 2013

Talking about our favorite food... BACON!!!

Talking about our favorite food… BACON!!!

We had a tremendous time… The energy of the Live Audiance… the Lovely and Beautiful Rachael Ray by my side… and plates full of Bacon!!! it was a good day! Met Kevin Bacon back stage… my six degrees of seperation immediatly went to Zero!! Thanks for having me Rachael…

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Marrow of the Matter

Comments Off on Marrow of the Matter 14 January 2013

Roasted-Bone-MarrowWhat? You have never had bone marrow either? Let me splane you something: Marrow is one of the purest forms of natural decadence and pure beef flavor you will find. Once thought to be sinful because of its high-cholesterol content, this source of protein, rich in vitamins and minerals, is actually high in monounsaturated fats, which decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. That is not to say that it is not high in fat, because it is. Fortunately, it is high in good-for-you fat and proteins. Some doctors even consider the good-for-youness of marow to be a brain food. Others even say that, like chicken noodle soup, marrow broth is great for warding of a cold and fighting back the sniffles. Continue Reading

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A Winter Wonderland of Cold Weather Crops

Comments Off on A Winter Wonderland of Cold Weather Crops 14 January 2013

KholrabiWe all know that the Salinas Valley produces lettuce for the world. On any given day, we drive through the valley with glorious fields of radiant lettuces blossoming on either side. April through November that is, but what’s growing out there right now? Well, you can be certain the fruitful soil of the Salad Bowl will be brimming with kohlrabi, escarole, turnips, broccoli rabe, collard greens, early cabbages, Swiss chard, kale and, of course, Brussels sprouts — aka winter crops. Continue Reading

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The ultimate ‘tastes-like-chicken’ dish

Comments Off on The ultimate ‘tastes-like-chicken’ dish 23 February 2012

Todd Fisher Dishing it Out!
Posted: 02/21/2012 06:22:33 PM PST
Updated: 02/22/2012 08:59:57 AM PST

One thing is for certain: chicken in any preparation will always taste like chicken. It will forever be the guide by which people judge another protein.

Chicken is probably (playing it safe, as I did not Google it) the most widely consumed protein in all cultures. It is the first meat we are introduced to as babies. Have you ever heard someone take a bite of chicken and say “oh, that tastes like caribou”? No! Because chicken tastes like chicken!

Rattlesnake, “tastes like chicken”; alligator, “tastes like chicken”; Tofurkey burger, “tastes like chicken”— which I don’t really get. If you don’t wanna eat meat, why do you want your soy-based protein replacement to look and taste like meat?

All in all, chicken has proven itself a standard by which all others are compared. Next time you pick up a whole chicken at the grocery store, give it a little wink and a thank-you for staying true to itself.

I love a really good roasted chicken, stuffed with lemon, garlic and rosemary, salt and peppered, roasted on a bed of onions, till crisp on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside, oh so good!

Good food starts with good ingredients. Your choice of bird is of the utmost importance. I dig what the Pittman family of farmers are doing at Mary’s Free Range Chicken. Pasture raised in the beautiful sunny San Joaquin Valley, Mary’s Free Range Chickens grow naturally on a ranch with plenty of open space. These chickens are raised in a humane manner by allowing them to roam in a stress-free environment that is four times the size of the average commercial ranch. Because of cleaner living quarters, a healthier and happier chicken is produced with a better taste.
Sustainable farm practices and humane treatment of the birds are not just catch phrases that sell birds. It is a core value of this farm. And what I like is they were farming this way a long time before it was cool to be cool to chickens. And speaking of cool, these chicks get a cold stream of air that cools them individually, rather than the more commonly used method of placing the chickens in a communal bath of water. This air-chilled method prevents the absorption of water, greatly reducing the potential of bacterial cross-contamination — and produces a better-tasting chicken. With no water added, the air-chilled method keeps the “real” chicken flavor and juices.

No matter the side, whether you pilaf or mash, green bean or carrot, it is all about the “yard bird” itself. Stuffing the cavity with the aforementioned ingredients flavors the bird from the inside out, as well as creating delicious pan drippings that transmit distinctively the flavors of what it is you’re eating. Tastes like chicken!

Speaking of chicken, I would be in a heap of trouble with a few longtime readers if I didn’t divulge my recipe for the best Chinese chicken salad, an ancient Chinese secret recipe handed down from generation to generation and then given to me by my uncle on his death bed, who had a place just a few miles off the east side of the Great Wall.

OK, I’m not really of Chinese descent. But I do have an uncle and a bitchin’ Chinese chicken salad recipe for you to try.

Confucius says, “When making chicken salad, texture is of utmost importance!” Or maybe that was Bill Lee. Anyway, shredding is the key, shredded chicken, shredded cabbage, shredded lettuce. And crunch, crunch, crunch in that order.

Celebrity chef Todd Fisher is a Herald columnist, chef de cuisine at Stick’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay and a brand consultant. E-mail him at cheftoddsdish@gmail.com.

CT’s Chinese Chicken Salad

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 T. honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 T. Sesame Oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 roasted chicken (about 2½ lbs.), skin and bones removed, meat shredded (about 4 cups)
¼ medium red cabbage (8 oz.), cored and thinly shredded
¼ medium white cabbage (8 oz.), cored and thinly shredded
1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup Mandarin orange segments
8 oz. sugar snap peas (blanched)
1 large head Romaine lettuce, shredded
½ cup cashews
½ cup fried won ton strips
½ cup broken ramen noodles

Steps: Season with a healthy shake of salt and pepper and stuff the cavity with herbs and other aromatics before roasting in a 375 F. oven. Once cooked, remove skin and bones and shred chicken. Set aside to cool.

For the dressing: In a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, honey and oils; season with salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine chicken and the remaining ingredients, toss with ½ cup dressing. Divide among four bowls, drizzle with more of the remaining dressing, and enjoy this crispidy, crunchidy, fun-to-eat flavor explosion!

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Fire up a meal for your inner caveman

Comments Off on Fire up a meal for your inner caveman 03 February 2012

Todd Fisher Dishing it Out!
Posted: 01/25/2012 02:25:06 AM PST
Updated: 01/25/2012 08:49:27 AM PST

I don’t know if it was a bolt of lightning, charbroiling a goat in the middle of a field or a clever caveman who was tired of the same old sashimi platter that put fire to the foods we eat, but I must say bravo!

I mean think about sitting around the old campfire next week, gearing up to watch the annual T-rex bowl, gnawing on some buffalo-style pterodactyl wings that were a little on the, well, freshly killed and raw side. Don’t you think they would be so much better with a touch of flame-broiled culinary mastery applied to the recipe?

Three Uhgs for whoever pulled that one out of their animal skin cap. For centuries, or at least as long as I can remember, food has been cooked. Of course, not all food, but let us not stray from the course we have set out upon. Cooking, we know, began with the understanding of man’s red fire. The open flame licking at and charring your brontosaurus chop was the original secret recipe. There was no other means by which to cook food. The understanding of trapping and containing heat to create an oven did not come along till much later, just like in this column, and we will get to that shortly.

Initially, animal carcasses were simply charred, either laid directly into the fire or affixed to a tree branch that was supported on each end and hung above the flames and turned occasionally to essentially rotisserie cook the beast. The first grill masters used green tree saplings stretched over circles of rocks to create grates or grills that would suspend food over the hot coals and would take a long time to burn, yet allow the foods to cook along the way.
Undoubtedly it was these green saplings that gave way to wrapping foods in plant leaves to defer direct heat and create steam that would cook the meats faster as well as add flavor and moisture to the cooked meat. It was this technique that led to the first oven or pit. Large pits were dug and filled with rocks and a fire was built atop the stones, once the coals burnt down and fell below the rocks, creating a bed of coals and embers, the plant-wrapped meats were laid onto the rocks and covered with earth and more rocks to trap the heat within the pit.

This method is still used to date, reserved by most cultures for special occasions and large gatherings. The advancement of trapped heat eventually lead to what we now know as our ovens. Still, the first ovens were heated by wood and, dating back as far as 29,000 BC, it was used as a roasting and boiling pit and to cook mammoth! Hmmm.

There have been advances with brick and clay construction, as well as the use of natural gas as fuel. But the wood-fired oven is a heritage that has long been passed down from generation to generation. Whether called a forno, horno, hibachi, churrasco, kamado, tandoor or kettle, wood-fired ovens and grills have become widely popular again. It is no mistake that restaurants across the country are highlighting their wood-burning ovens as a signature of their establishments. It is a style of cooking that resonates with the diner in a very rustic and primitive way, yet offers tremendous diversity and unique characteristics.

Artisan style pizzas for example, where the crust is thin and crisp with the random blisters of charred deliciousness generated from the intensity of the hot wood burning just inches away, precisely dressed with slices of potato, sheep’s milk cheese and Merquez sausage accented with a drizzle of Meyer lemon oil. A petite cocotte (classic French individual size roasting pan) bubbling up with fork tender parsnips and caramelized shallots, smothered with a pungent combination of Gruyere cheese, bread crumbs and cracked pepper for a masterful gratin, slowly cooking along side a perfectly crafted, crispy skinned, succulent pheasant roulade, set away from the intense fire to breathe in the heat and smoke of the oven.

Wood fired cooking is unique unto each oven and each chef. It is the chef who creates stimulating and inspired creations, who must perfectly execute the technique, but it is the oven that exquisitely cooks and accentuates the chosen ingredients. I believe there is no greater style of cooking that so wonderfully combines the heritage of food with the present day palate of the experiential diner. Whether you have a wood-burning oven at home or a kettle grill, cooking with wood can make the ordinary, extraordinary.

Need a little advice on how to do it? Got a question or two? Send me an email. Any opportunity to share my passion is a good day! Till next time, Salud!

Celebrity chef Todd Fisher is a Herald columnist, chef de cuisine at Stick’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay and a brand consultant. E-mail him at cheftoddsdish@gmail.com.

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New tricks teach an old dog…

Comments Off on New tricks teach an old dog… 23 January 2012

Todd Fisher Dishing it Out!
Posted: 01/11/2012 02:16:55 AM PST
Updated: 01/11/2012 08:46:44 AM PST

 

 As seen in the Monterey County Herald

I was doing a little gluten-free menu planning and research the other day when I read something that I felt I should have known. I mean, I have been doing what I do for quite some time now, and not that I know it all by any means, but this was kind of a head-scratcher. So I thought I would share some of the senseless food trivia that rattles around upstairs.

It never fails to amaze me when I learn something new about such a very old craft, when you consider that the profession of chef has been around since the early 1700s, and only then was the term “chef” applied to set apart a cooks-maid from a cook-master.

The craft of cooking and creating has been around much longer than that. The very first evidence for the consumption of soup dates back to 6,000 B.C., and that was said to have been made of hippopotamus. Delicious, I’m sure, and I’m thinking they may have had leftovers.

The most popular Campbell’s Soup in Hong Kong is watercress and duck gizzard. Yum, yum, getcha some. Oh yeah, it’s not sold here in the U.S. The oldest recipe on record is one for brewing beer. As we all know, beer is a very important ingredient in good cooking. In fact, the more beer a cook has the better the stew. Seven percent of the entire Irish barley crop goes into to the production of Guinness beer.

Worcestershire sauce, pronounced “What’s-this-here” sauce, the popular English sauce, is made from anchovies that are soaked in vinegar until they have completely melted, bones and

all. The first batch was created by a pair of pharmacist by the names John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, and so was born the Lea & Perrins brand. Bloody Marys, Caesar salads and plenty of other zesty recipes are the better because of it.Honorable No. 1 son, who turns 13 tomorrow (Happy Birthday P-Fish) and is currently reading over my shoulder, wanted me to mention that a human tooth will also dissolve in a can of coke. Yikes!America’s No. 1 sauce, ketchup, was first invented to be a medical tonic because many believed tomatoes to be poisonous in their raw state. Tomatoes are considered a fruit by many because the seeds are actually a nightshade, and in the same family as the eggplant. Two-thirds of the world’s eggplant is grown in New Jersey. The Jersey tomato was once considered the most tomatoey, tomato available on the market, with the classic look of a tomato; the sweet, tart and tang, must be something in the water.You can’t talk about tasty creations and not discuss the brilliant creation of the Popsicle, developed complete by accident by a young boy in San Francisco by the name of Frank Epperson. In 1905, Franky, to all his friends, left a mixture of powdered soda and water out on the porch, which contained a stir stick. That night, temperatures in San Francisco reached a record low. When he woke the next morning, he found the mixture had frozen to the stir stick, creating a fruit flavored ice treat that he named the epsicle. Took him another few years to share the discovery with everyone, which he then called the Popsicle.

When you talk military grub scuttlebutt, you may have heard the saying “Any army travels on its stomach.” But did you know the U.S. army packs Tabasco pepper sauce in every ration kit that it gives to soldiers? This has long been a practice of military forces. In 1898, Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener’s troops brought Tabasco pepper sauce on their invasion of Khartoum in the Sudan. It really does add a kick. Tabasco pepper sauce was named after the Tabasco River in southern Mexico by creator Edmund McIlhenny because he liked the sound of the word. I like his style and sauce.

Coffee beans aren’t really beans at all — they’re fruit pits. Kopi Luwak are coffee beans that come from civet poop. These animals gorge on only the finest ripe berries, and excrete the partially digested beans, which are then harvested for sale. Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for between $120 and $600 per pound! I want to know who the hell figured that out!

By the way, a civet is a large cat-sized mammal also known as a “toddycat.” Smirk — don’t even go there! Studies show that coffee drinkers have sex more frequently than non-coffee drinkers. Cappuccino please!

All this minutiae almost made me forget the new tidbit of food knowledge just downloaded to the CT hard Drive. Did you know that Black Forest ham was once dipped in beef blood? And in fact, some producers still do this to get the deep-red, almost crimson-black exterior. I know!

Here is your food history for the week. Black Forest ham is a very particular variety of ham that is produced in the Black Forest region of Germany. Use to be much like Champagne, in that if it did not come from Champagne it was not Champagne, but sparkling wine. Well, Black Forest-style ham comes from everywhere nowadays. Production of Black Forest ham can take as long as three months. Using the hind leg of the pig, the raw ham is salted and then seasoned with garlic, coriander, pepper, juniper berries and other seasonings. The ham is dry-cured for two weeks. After the initial curing, the salt is scraped off the ham and then the ham dry cured for another two weeks. The ham is then cold smoked for several weeks. The ham is generally smoked by burning fir or other pine brush. It is during the smoking process that the ham acquires its deep-red color and the black coloring of the skin.

Traditionally, this black coloring was acquired by dipping the ham in beef blood, but this is no longer the case — with the exception of premium processors. I, for one, have no problem with this process. If bacon can make everything better, than beef blood can make swine better. But read your labels closely if you are not one for beefy pork. Make sure you know what you’re eating! Till next time … drink more coffee!

 

Celebrity chef Todd Fisher is a Herald columnist, chef de cuisine at Stick’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay and a brand consultant. E-mail him at cheftoddsdish@gmail.com.

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