Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grilling Tips and Drinking Games from the One and Only Tim Love

As you may have read in my Top Ten Highlights from the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, one of the most entertaining parts of the trip was a demo by Tim Love, called High Steaks Grilling.

In addition to some very funny anecdotes, and grilling war stories (including oil shot roulette, video
below), Love mixed in quite a few valuable tips and techniques, which I'd love to share.

Those Fourth of July cookouts are just around the corner, so the timing is right for a little advice from Texas' top chef.
  • Don't use olive oil on steaks before grilling. Love says the oil burns easily and gets bitter. He suggests using peanut oil or other vegetable oil with a high smoke point. Love was wearing a bright orange shirt during the demo, which he joked was a tribute to his friend, and lover of olive oil, Mario Batali.
  • The meat should not be ice cold. Allow your steaks to sit out at room temperature to take the chill off. This allows for even cooking.
  • Love says to always salt the meat before grilling to create a flavorful crust. His rule of thumb for home cooks is to salt the meat twice as much as you think is needed.
  • When cooking for a larger group, Love suggests grilling the steaks ahead of time. Once they're cooked medium-rare, they can be held on trays at room temperature for several hours. When needed, simply reheat on the upper rack of the grill, or in a 400 degrees F. oven until hot.
  • Once the steaks are ready to serve, Love suggests a little bit of acid, like a drizzle of lemon or splash of vinegar, which combines with the melted fat in the grilled meat to create a sort of vinaigrette effect, or as the chef called it, a "meat salad."
  • Carefully check the marbling of steaks in the meat case, since its grade may not necessarily be accurate. Love explained that just because a steak is labeled "Prime," doesn't mean it is. When inspectors grade beef, they only evaluate the rib eye between the 12th and 13th rib. Whatever grade that section gets, every other cut on the steer get.
  • For a change of pace, try skirt steak. Love says, if not over-cooked, it's easily the juiciest and most flavorful cut on the steer.
  • And, of course, it wouldn't be a grilling tips list without the obligatory, "Never cut into a steak unless it has rested." Five to ten minutes seems to be the accepted standard for patience.

Like the Chef in the Clip
Says, "There Ain't No Party Like a Tim Love Party!"

Below you'll see a brief video I shot at the end of the demo. If you don't know the story already, you can read a detailed account here, but long story short, last year Tim Love was ac
cidentally served a shot glass of canola oil.

As he retold the story, without embellishment (this story needs none), he explained that the show would end with a round of oil shot roulette. In the fridge he had five shots of Patron tequila, and one shot of oil. Six volunteers were to be selected, blindfolded, and "randomly" handed the glasses. On the count of three, they would have to drink the shots.

After Love delicately explained the possible side effects of such a contest, he also revealed the "loser" would get a swag bag. Every loves a nice swag bag, and six contestants were soon assembled in front of the buzzing crowd.

Here are the results. You'll have to pardon the shaky camera, as I find it very hard to hold it still while belly laughing. Enjoy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Thomas Keller's Cured Lemons: Part 1 of Who Knows?

There's a lot more to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen than drinking fine wine, eating gourmet food, and attending fabulous parties.

Learning recipes and techniques like this cured lemon from some of the world's best chefs is also a big part of the reason I wear a smile on my face for about a week after my return.

This recipe was shared by Thomas Keller during his "World's Best Preserves" demo, which you may have read about in Part 1 of my top ten highlights recap. This technique is fun, very simple, and you'll be surprised at how many interesting things you can do with these salty slices of sunshine.

This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for a few follow-up recipes with some great ideas for using the preserved lemons. I think I'm going to try it minced in an herb aioli, as well as roasted whole over some quail or other bird. If you want to play along at home, start a batch soon, and be sure to chime in with suggestions for what to do with this stuff. Enjoy!

3 lemons, washed in hot water, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
1/3 to 1/2 cup kosher salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cherry Clafouti - It's the Pits

It's cherry season! To celebrate I bring you a rerun filmed a couple years ago [insert standard lower-quality apology] for clafouti. Other than straight from the hand, this is my favorite way to enjoy cherries. I hope you give it a try! What follows is the original post from 7/28/08...

Clafouti (klah-foo-tee) is one of the
world's great recipes for enjoying fresh cherries. This French favorite is a sort of baked custard, studded with fresh cherries, and scented with vanilla. It's the kind of dish that's impossible to become tired of, by virtue of the cherry's short season. Once a year, cherry clafouti comes into your life, like a friend with benefits, and for a few short weeks gives you great pleasure.

The recipe is
remarkably simple, and the first time you make it you'll stare in wonder as it puffs up from the sides of the baking dish. You'll also stare in wonder when you see me add the cherries without removing the pits. Traditionally, cherry clafouti is made using fruit that hasn’t been pitted. Clafouti aficionados claim (and I believe them) that as the cherries bake, the pits give off a sexy, sensual scent that is missing from the pitted version.

So, that is the decision you are faced with - risk catastrophic dental injuries for a little extra flavor, or pit the cherries and play it safe. To me, it's no decision at all, the pits must be baked in. Besides, as I'm sure those of you that make this will agree, after the cherries are cooked, it only takes a little press with the fork to liberate the pit, and cast it aside. For your average serving of cherry clafouti this means maybe 4-5 pits - a small price to pay for authentic taste. This recipe will also work for things like peaches, plums, and berries in case cherry season has passed you by. Enjoy!

1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 1/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
pinch of salt
12 oz cherries (a couple handfuls)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spaghetti alla Carbonara for Real

I've never been obsessed with recipe authenticity. If you want to call your bagel half spread with sauce and cheese, a pizza, well, more power to you. I will, of course, make fun of you behind your back, but publicly I'll defend you enthusiastically.

I remember posting a ceviche recipe years ago, which had some diced mango mixed in. I received at least a dozen emails from Peruvian readers, not suggesting, but demanding that I change the name.

Their point was simple; true ceviche never features mango. My point was equally straightforward; mine does. So, while I normally don't worry too much about such matters, sometimes I do enjoy demonstrating a recipe in its original form, simply because I find it interesting.

Here I'm doing a spaghetti alla carbonara, as the recipe was made before people started "cheating," and started adding cream. Spaghetti alla carbonara's "creamy" sauce is simply a thin egg and cheese custard, spiked with pork and black pepper. People add cream because they're afraid of scrambling the eggs. But, if you follow the steps in the video, this will not be an issue.

By the way, there are many theories for where the name "carbonara" comes from. The one I officially endorse is that the name was inspired by the specks of black pepper in the sauce, which look like particles of charcoal. It just makes the most sense.

Speaking of authentic, try and find some pancetta or
guanciale, which is cured like pancetta, but made from pork cheek. Those two products are not smoked, which works much better in this delicious pasta. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
6-8 oz dry spaghetti (or any pasta)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 oz pancetta, guanciale, or in a pinch, a mildy smoked bacon
fresh coarsely ground black pepper
2 eggs
about 3/4 cup grated Italian cheese (a half Pecorino Romano and half Parmigiano-Reggiano blend is perfect)

View the complete recipe

2010 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Top Ten Highlights: Parts 6-10

AspenI hope you enjoyed part one of my ten highlights from the 2010 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, which was posted yesterday. If you haven't seen that yet, you can catch-up here. Like I said in that post, choosing these highlights wasn't easy, but it sure was fun.

As I selected photos to match these last five entries, going through four days worth of shots, it was like experiencing things all over again. Except, of course, for that one little detail of not being able to taste any of it!

Tails and Ales

AspenIncluding this special luncheon hosted by Stella Artois was a no-brainer. It featured venerable New Orleans chef, John Besh, who cooked a six-course crawfish menu, which was paired with three Belgium brews by Master Beer Sommelier, Marc Stroobandt. Come on, do the math. How was that not going to be awesome? And awesome it was.

AspenSome of my favorites included an amuse of crawfish boil "en gelee," served in an eggshell, a fried softshell-crawfish take on a Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich, and a stellar crawfish bisque garnished with stuffed crawfish heads. I really could just list the entire menu as a highlight - everything was fantastic.

AspenEach table sported a big bucket of ice, into which were nestled bottles of Stella Artois, Lefe, and Hoegaarden. As Besh talked tail, Stroobrandt circled the room, making pairing suggestions, and doing what he called "beer magic tricks." Things like taking a spoonful of the foamy head to taste the bitter hops, then sipping the beer directly afterward to accentuate the sweetness of the malt. It was just like regular magic, only not useless.

AspenBy the way, did you know that hops are a powerful appetite stimulant? So, at the risk of sounding like Homer Simpson (having the same hair is bad enough), may I suggest a few bottles of beer as an appetizer at your next dinner party? And, if you can swing it, see if you can get John Besh to drop by and cook up some crawfish.

Breakfast with Fabio

AspenI knew former Top Chef favorite Fabio Viviani was charismatic, and easy on the eyes, but could he cook? The answer is an unequivocal, yes. I was invited to an early morning, private demo sponsored by Bertolli, where he prepared a delicious and beautiful plate of food, while explaining the proper use of three different types of olive oil.

AspenHe did a seared beef tenderloin with pan-roasted cherry tomatoes and scallions, served with a feta avocado salad. He used a light olive oil to sear the meat, a regular olive oil to do the tomatoes and onions, and a fruity, extra-virgin olive oil to finish the salad and dress the plate. It was simple, rustic cooking at its best.

As he cooked with that familiar twinkle in his eye, he explained how and why he was using the three distinctly different oils. As a teacher I really appreciated his easy manner and entertaining delivery. While we enjoyed the fruits of his labor, he chatted about some very exciting new projects, which I'm sworn to keep secret for now. Stay tuned for more news on that front soon.

Tasting Tuscany

I forget which of the all-star wine panelists said it, and I'm probably paraphrasing, but it was the wisest thing I've ever heard uttered at a tasting... a wine should taste like somewhere. In this case the somewhere was Tuscany, and the wine was Antinori Tignanello.

AspenIn a tradition started last year, I will reserve one spot in this top ten list for a non-food entry. What better inaugural choice than the reserve wine tasting I attended featuring this great Italian wine? Antinori Tignanello is Tuscany's most famous wine, and led by wine guru Richard Betts, we tasted nine different vintages.

As wonderful as it was to actually drink the wine (I don't do spit buckets), listening to the panel, which included David Lynch and Bobby Stuckey, was just as enjoyable (their tongues are worth more than your house). It was like analogies and adjectives gone wild.

AspenMaking the event even more special, we were joined by Alessia Antinori, who shared insights into her family's four-decade-long history making this "super Tuscan." I was completely captivated listening to her and the panel explain why the different vintages tasted the way they did.

Pictured here in the foreground is the 1964 (notice the beautiful color variation). While everyone agreed it wasn't the "best" wine we tasted, for me it was certainly the most memorable. I sipped and savored it slowly, literally tasting Tuscany as it tasted when I was one year old.

The Classic Quickfire - A Delicious Double Entendre

The Classic Quickfire in Aspen is, of course, named for the short, timed challenges on America's favorite cooking reality show, Top Chef, but it could also refer to the one-liners that were flying all over the stage Fathers Day morning.

AspenThis event's signature characteristic is the colorful give and take between host Sissy Biggers, the contestants, and the judges' table, which included the articulate and charming Gail Simmons, and cantankerous, quick-witted Tom Colicchio. They were joined by Jacques Pepin, and Food & Wine's Dana Cowin. Now that's a judges' table.

This year it is was Top Chef champ, Michael Voltaggio, taking on Top Chef Masters winner, Rick Baylass - a perfect contrast between young brash and old Zen. The theme was "sexy vegetables," and in addition to a metro rack filled with produce, each chef had one mystery ingredient with which to create a dish in just 25 minutes. Bayless drew lobster, while Voltaggio received rack of lamb.

AspenIn case you're scoring at home, Rick Bayless won a narrow victory with a warm lobster and potato salad, topped with roasted tomatillo salsa. Voltaggio made an equally delicious looking platter of seared lamb loin and olive butter, garnished with eggplant crostini topped with tomato seed "caviar."

Voting was done with a show of colored paper held up by the adoring crowd. The method is as fun, as it is unscientific, and really, no one cares. This event is all about having fun and raising money for KitchenAid's "Cook for the Cure" program, which funds breast cancer research.

To that end, a gentleman named Todd bid $10,000 for the pleasure of acting as Rick Baylass' sous chef. As he shaved white asparagus for the always-composed chef, he got his money's worth, trading barbs with Colicchio, much to the amusement of the crowd.

AspenChef Colicchio was in rare form. As Baylass was just about to kill his lobster, Colicchio wondered out loud if it was a father. When Jacques Pepin joked about trying a little liquid nitrogen to liven things up in the bedroom (much to the horror of daughter, Claudine), Tom shot back with, "Jacques, it's not a preservative." How do you say, "Snap!" in French?

Voltaggio was assisted by surprise celebrity sous chef, actress Allison Janney, from the hit show, LOST. She was great, displaying a droll sense of humor, and some pretty decent cooking skills. By the way, while she was on stage cooking, I was technically one of "the others."

It was a thoroughly entertaining morning, and only served to strengthen my belief that this is one of the must-see events at the Classic. They say laughter is the best medicine, and I think there were a lot of hung over people in attendance that would agree.

The Grand Cochon: 10 Chefs, 10 Pigs, 1 Crown

AspenMy Food & Wine Classic weekend ended in a climax of porky goodness at the Grand Cochon. Hosted by Gail Simmons and Brady Lowe from the Taste Network, the "Big Pig" featured ten winners from Cochon555 events previously held around the country. Each chef created an impressive array of dishes using an entire heritage- breed pig.

What was the food like? Think pork-stuffed pork, wrapped in pork, braised in pork, finished with sliced pork, and topped with some sort of sauce made from pork. By the way, I thought the fried pork garnish was a great call. Thank goodness Stella Artois was there, since they've yet to perfect beer made from pork.

AspenIn addition to some incredibly creative concoctions, like this braised heart and trotter "boudin," from The French Laundry's Devin Knell, we were treated to a butchering demo by San Francisco's Ryan Farr from 4505 Meats. I was impressed by how many people gathered around to watch, although in fairness, there was a large bowl of chicharones (crispy fried pork rinds) on the table next to him.

AspenHere you can see Gail Simmons crowning the "King of Porc," David Varley from Bourbon Steak in Washington D.C. For more information on the participants, as well as Cochon555's mission to support the use of heritage- breed pigs, please check out the official website.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed these top ten highlights a fraction as much as I enjoyed collecting and sharing them. Please stay tuned for recipes and tips from Thomas Keller, Tim Love, Jose Andres, just to name a few.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Top Ten Highlights: Parts 1-5

AspenChoosing just ten highlights from Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is no easy task. Unless you've attended this event before, or been lucky enough to cover it, it's hard to fathom the variety of foods, wines, spirits, and culinary personalities you'll experience.

Having said that, here's part one of my top ten most memorable experiences. The final five highlights will be posted tomorrow. Enjoy!

The Voltaggio Brothers and the BLT - Past, Present, Future

Aspen Liquid nitrogen has become as ubiquitous on Top Chef as sleeve tattoos, so it was no surprise that last year's winner, Michael Voltaggio, used it to help create this unusual offering for the Food & Wine Classic's opening reception at the St. Regis.

Paired at the same table with his reserved, but no less talented brother, Bryan, their menu was billed as BLT - Past, Present, Future. Bryan's version was delicious, albeit relatively traditional; crisp pork belly roulade, thin slice of tomato gelee, garlic scape mayo and baby greens, served on a soft bun.
This bite clearly had the longest line waiting to try it, which once again proves my theory that, well, you know, bacon.

Aspen I assume this was the "past, present" part of the program, because as I moved towards his little brother's side of the station, it was clear we'd been transported into the future. Inside the clear shot glass was a tomato "gumdrop" on a stick, topped with bacon "dippin' dots," and micro greens.

This isn't food you eat, it's food you experience, and what an experience it was. Impossibly cold, the smoky spheres stuck to the sticky cube of sweet tomato jell, and together they melted on the palate in perfect harmony.

Jose Andres' Pork Communion

Aspen Imagine a pig roast set-up alongside a gorgeous mountain stream. Picture a who's who of star chefs sipping the finest Spanish wines alongside the biggest names in food publishing, press, and public relations, as thin wisps of sweet, pork-scented smoke float by.

Aspen This was the scene at the annual Wines from Spain barbecue hosted by Jose Andres. As the giddy crowd mingled around platters of chorizo, blood sausage, and savory pig parts from snout to tail (literally), the always jovial Spanish chef performed what can only be described as "pork communion."

Aspen Using the preamble, "this is the pig of God," he would lovingly place a crispy wafer of mustard-dipped pork skin, or juicy slice of medium-rare skirt steak on someone's tongue. Dear God, it was good. Sacrilege you say? More like sacrilicious!

Food & Wine's Best New Chefs Dinner

While I enjoy the parties, celebrities, and limitless libations as much as the next reporter, I'm in Aspen to cover the food, so for me it doesn't get any better than Food & Wine's Best New Chefs

Aspen Ten of the country's best and brightest culinary stars are brought together to show off their skills and cutting edge cuisine in a head-to-head battle royal. I'm sure these chefs always try to put out great tasting food, but knowing that nine of their peers are pulling out all the stops to be named, "Best New Chef," would certainly raise anyone's game.

This year's title went to Jonathon Sawyer, chef at the Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Sawyer (who also won for "best beard") served a fromage blanc raviolini on stewed tomatoes, topped with herbs and crispy crumbs. It was delicious, and perfectly executed.

Aspen Another standout was an impossibly light, yet strangely satisfying scrambled egg mousse with salmon roe and birch syrup, served by John Shields, chef at Town House in Chilhowie, Virginia. I admitted to the chef that this one had me worried when I read it on the menu, but it was stellar. I never get tired of being wrong.

Aspen Street food legend, Roy Choi, mastermind of the famously successful Kogi BBQ trucks in Los Angeles, offered up a "chego" meatball, served with polenta, sesame, cilantro, peppers, glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce. Apparently "chego" is a Korean exclamation meaning something to the effect of, "Holy [expletive deleted], that's unbelievably delicious!" If it doesn't, it should, because it was.

Kudos to all ten of the Best New Chefs for an amazing evening of edible improvisation. If you'd like to see all ten dishes, check out this captioned photo gallery.

The Thomas Keller Preservation Society

Aspen Arguably America's top chef, Thomas Keller is known for creating some of the most beautiful, forward-thinking, innovative food in the country. So I'll admit to being just a little bit disappointed to find out his demo in Aspen was called, World's Best Preserves. When I think preserves, I picture dusty mason jars in the back of a cupboard.

Having said that, if the demo was titled, "Thomas Keller Reads from the Aspen Yellow Pages," I'd have still been the first one in line. In fact, to give you a better idea, I missed an event called "Fat is Phat" to see him. As it turns out, not only wasn't I disappointed, I was completely enthralled.

Aspen Charming, witty, and sternly professorial all at the same time, this "chef's chef" took the audience through three easy-to-make, multi-functional preserves. We learned how to do cured lemons, mushroom conserva, and olive tapenade, all of which were from his critically acclaimed Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.

In addition to learning how to make the preserves, Chef Keller offered lots of ideas on how to use these "life savers," as he calls them. It was a fun, informative lecture, and I'll be posting recipes from it soon, so stay tuned!

Tim Love Love

Aspen If I had to choose just one chef from the impressive collection in Aspen to drive cross-country with, it would be Tim Love. And that's before I saw his epic High Steaks Grilling demo. This is a man who knows how to have a good time, as well as grill a damn fine steak.

Aspen I've been to many educational cooking lessons, and I've been to many entertaining cooking lessons, but very rare is the occasion where both meld into one perfectly pleasurable presentation. This was maybe the single most enjoyable cooking demo I've every attended.

In additional to being hilarious, and laser-fast with the one-liners, Love is a natural born teacher with a ton of great grilling knowledge. He had the large audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he poured his first glass of white wine, which by the way, is what he suggests you drink while you grill.

Aspen Next week I'll be doing an in-depth grilling tips and tricks post with all the information I collected. I think you'll be very surprised at some of Love's somewhat controversial theories and practices. I'll also be posting a short, but priceless video clip of something called "oil shot roulette." In anticipation, you can read this blog post I did at last year's Classic for a little tease.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the final five highlights from the 2010 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Few Favorite Photos from the Food & Wine Classic

I've been sorting through the hundreds of photos I took this weekend at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, as I prepare my "Top 10 Highlights" post for I decided to take a little break to post a few of my favorites. I hope these pictures give you an idea of just how amazing the food really is at this event.

Back From the 2010 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and Ready to Share!

I arrived back in San Francisco late last night after a very memorable five days at the 2010 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. I collected a ton of great content, which I can't wait to share with you all.

In fact, instead of rambling on here, dropping names, and embellishing stories, I think I'll actually get to work writing articles and editing photos!

Stay tuned for these stories and more:
  • My 2010 Food & Wine Classic "Top Ten Highlights" (no idea how I'll narrow this down to only ten…the whole event was one long series of highlights!)
  • Recipes from Thomas Keller's inspiring lecture on the "World's Best Preserves" (Pictured here, on the right, before his demo... he is "the man")
  • Priceless grilling tips (and life lessons) from the one and only, Tim Love. Including a video clip of something he called "Oil Shot Roulette." (He put on maybe the most entertaining demo I've ever seen)
  • All about olive oil with the very engaging Top Chef, Fabio Viviani (I was part of a private demo where the popular Italian chef proved he's much more than a pretty face)
Plus, I'll be posting several video recipes adapted from things I saw, smelled, and of course tasted over the weekend. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 21, 2010

This Pan-Fried Butter Beans Recipe Only Sounds Unhealthy!

I can see where a recipe title with the words "fried" and "butter" appearing one after the other may scare a few people off, but there's no reason to be alarmed. This pan-fried butter beans recipe is delicious, super-easy, and yes, good for you.

These big, creamy legumes are just perfect for pan-frying. The thick skins get all crackly, and crusty, and will soak up whatever you decide to flavor them with. Here they get a very traditional treatment of salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs. A little vinegar at the end to balance things out, and you have a beautiful summer side dish.

I'm posting this while waiting for my flight back from the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, so we'll keep things nice and brief. Actually, now that I think about it, there's really not much more to say. So, I'll just finish with a little end-of-recipe advice.

This version is "dry," which is how I like these butter beans served, but if you want something a little moister, towards the end you can add freshly diced tomato, some broth, or even more oil olive and vinegar. Don't worry, you can't break this recipe…it's beans! Enjoy.

Ingredients for 2-4 servings:
1 can butter beans
3 tablespoons olive oil

garlic cloves as needed
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
couple sprigs of fresh herbs
1 tablespoon white wine or sherry vinegar