Another night cooking with just the stuff that’s in the fridge. This reminds me of being a kid, but is a bit more sophisticated than frozen broccoli and melted Velveeta. (not that there’s anything wrong with Velveeta)

Roasted Broccoli

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

4 c broccoli florets

2 Tbsp canola oil

Salt- To Taste

Toss broccoli tops in canola oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay out on sheet pan in single layer. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until broccoli starts to brown.

Cheese Sauce

1 c bacon- diced

2 Tbsp garlic- minced

2 Tbsp flour

1 c cheddar cheese- shredded

1/4 c sour cream

1 Tbsp smoked paprika

2 c milk

Salt- to taste

In a large sauce pan, render bacon over low heat. (I used between 3 and 4 on my electric piece of shit range top). Cook bacon until firm, but not crispy. Apx. 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon.  Increase heat to medium-high, add garlic and saute until golden brown, add flour, and whisk constantly. Cook roux apx. 6 minutes, add milk and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add shredded cheese, whisk until melted through. Add sour cream, paprika, and salt.

In a large bowl, toss roasted broccoli, bacon, and cheese sauce until well coated.

Cooking down some bacon

Cooking down some bacon

If you think you want to be a chef, or if you wonder what the hell our lives are really like, or if you want to know who and what inspire me, here’s some recommended reading-

Note, these are not cookbooks, per se. You won’t find (m)any recipes, but they are invaluable for learning what this life really is, and what it takes to be good at it.

“Kitchen Confidential” – Anthony Bourdain

Its a great look into what a line cook’s life is like, and my own path has been similar. Minus the heroin problem, of course.

“Letters to a Young Chef” – Daniel Boulud

Very thoughtful.

“Devil in the Kitchen” – Marco Pierre White

The first “rock star” chef, and the only guy to give back his Michelin stars. He was/is a complete maniac.

“Life on the Line” – Grant Achatz

Probably the best chef in the U.S. Dude got tongue cancer, and beat it.

“On the Line” – Eric Ripert

Okay, this one is mostly a cook book. However, it gives a great insight into the creative process at Le Bernardin.

I don’t really plan meals at home. I buy ingredients, and with a (relatively) good grasp on what’s in my fridge/pantry, I cook. Last night was braised pork with roasted brussell sprouts and a poached egg.

There are a few ways I’d change this dish in the future, but here’s how it came about.

Pork Rub (a.k.a. the spices in my cabinet)

1 Tbsp Ground Mustard

1 Tbsp Dried Thyme

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Salt

Rub pork all over with spice blend. Let set for about an hour.

Braise

1 C Chopped Carrots

2 C Diced Onions

4 Bay Leaves

1 Tbsp Tomato Paste

2 Tbsp Canola Oil

1 C Chicken Stock/Broth

1 Tbsp Minced Garlic

Heat oil in oven-safe pan. Sear pork on all sides, remove pork. Lower heat and add onions, carrots, and garlic, sweat until tender. Add tomato paste, bay leaves, and chicken stock, raise heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add pork, and place uncovered in 300 degree oven for 2.5 hours, turning pork occasionally.

Note: You can use any type of pork, I used tenderloin because that’s what I had. Not really my first choice, as it’s already a lean cut of meat. If you use something bigger/fattier, adjust the cooking time.

Braised pork tenderloin.

Braised pork tenderloin.

When the pork is tender enough to be shredded with a fork, it’s done. Shred the pork and leave in braising liquid.

Brussell Sprouts

1# Brussell Sprouts

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Black Pepper

Clean brussell sprouts, and cut in half. Toss in oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in 400 degree oven apx. 12 minutes until they start to brown.

Brussel sprouts in the oven

Brussel sprouts in the oven

All of this can/should be done ahead of your meal time. The braise itself is better the next day than the same day, but I couldn’t wait.

For Service

Brussell Sprouts

1 Tbsp Canola Oil

2 Tbsp Butter

1 tsp Minced Garlic

1 tsp Salt

Heat oil in saute pan, add brussell sprouts, and garlic. Cook until warmed through, add butter and salt to finish.

Pork

2 Tbsp Butter

1 Tbsp Canola Oil

Strain braising liquid from pork and veggies. In a small sauce pot, bring liquid to a simmer, reducing by half. Swirl in cold butter to finish.

Heat shredded pork and veggies in canola oil until warmed through.

Poached Egg

2 c Water

1 Egg

Bring water to simmer, add egg. Cook until whites are set but yolk is still runny.

Normally I’d add a shit ton of vinegar to my poaching liquid, but I didn’t have any in house.

Reheating/preparing for dinner.

Reheating/preparing for dinner.

When everything is ready/hot/cooked plate like so-

Brussell sprouts on bottom

Shredded pork/carrots on top of brussell sprouts

Poached egg on top of pork

Sauce on top of the whole thing

Finished product.

Finished product.

Enjoy

20130116_211116

“Braised pork belly, pumpkin, mustard greens, cauliflower puree, chili oil”

A variation of this dish has been on our menu (save for a week, maybe) since day one. This has to be my favorite preparation so far. It’s incredibly well balanced-

We braise our pork belly in water at 300 degrees for 3 hours. For service, oil a hot saute pan and place fat side down to achieve a nice crust and color. Then into a 400 degree oven until heated through. Originally we left the skin on, and were able to achieve a much nicer color and a greater variance of texture compared to the fattiness of the belly. However, we found the skin became incredibly tough when cooked in this manner. Now we remove the skin and make chicharones or pork rinds.

“Fried pig ears tossed in pepper jelly, bourbon-pecan sausage, pickled green beans and grapes, grain mustard, riettes”

 

I fell asleep in the middle of a post last night; I’ll try to get to it this afternoon. Until then, here’s another recipe to tide y’all over. To me, this is a perfect spring/summer dressing.

Roasted Peach Vinaigrette


Peaches, ripe- 10 (cut in half, pits removed)

Kosher or Sea Salt – TT

Black Pepper – 1 Tbsp

Cumin – 1 Tbsp

Olive Oil – 1/4 c

Honey – 1/2 c

Combine all ingredients, and toss peaches until well coated. Place cut side down on baking sheet. Heat oven to 350. Cook peaches apx. 15 minutes, until tender and slightly shriveled.

Garlic, fresh – 3 cloves

Orange Juice, fresh – 1/4 c

Cider Vinegar – 1/2 c

Olive Oil – 1/2 c

Roasted Peaches – 20 halves

Kosher or Sea Salt – TT

Combine all ingredients, except oil, in food processor. Pulse until smooth. Slowly add oil.

Enjoy.

- C.

Right before I left Nashville, I won this soup competition for Our Kids charity. (http://ourkidscenter.com/news/2012-soup-sunday-huge-success/) Which was pretty fucking cool. 47 other local restaurants competed, and it is such an awesome, awesome cause. As someone who has dealt with those issues before, I was happiest about being able to support them in any capacity. That being said, I was psyched about winning. To beat out so many other talented chefs, many of whom I really admire, is awesome. To do so based on the decision of judges you really respect and look up to is even cooler.

Anyway, here is the recipe as it stood. There are a few notes on potential changes and ideas at the bottom. Keep in mind this was made in a commercial restaurant, so adjust accordingly at home.

Roasted Corn and Chipotle Bisque-

Corn, whole ears – 20 large, cleaned but not husked.

Olive Oil – 1/2 c

Kosher or Sea Salt – 2 Tbsp

Black Pepper, coarse grind – 2 Tbsp

Peel the husks of the corn down, but do not remove. Clean silk, replace husk, lather ears up in oil, salt and pepper. Heat grill to medium heat (in a perfect world, it’d be a wood burning grill, but gas/charcoal works too). Cook corn, turning often, until husks are blackened but not burnt.

Alternately, you can heat oven to 300 and roast ears for apx 20 mins. I like the smoky/grill flavor a real grill adds, but an oven works too.

Peel ears, cut corn off cobs. Reserve corn cobs.

Roasted Corn, kernels – 1 c

 Celery, diced – 2 c

Carrots, diced – 2 c

White Onion, diced – 4 c

Fresh, Raw Garlic, minced – 1/2 c

Roasted Garlic, Whole – 8 ea

Chipotle Peppers, in adobo – 2 cans

Potatoes, Idaho, peeled and diced – 8 large

Paprika, Smoked – 3 Tbsp

Kosher or Sea Salt – TT

White Pepper – TT

Oil, Canola – 1/2 c

Shrimp Base (Minors) – 1#

Tomato Paste – 1 small can

Boil potatoes until cooked through. Drain, reserving 1/4 c of cooking liquid

In a separate soup pot, heat oil. Cook mirepoix apx. 6 mins over medium-high heat. Add all remaining ingredients, including potato cooking liquid, and bring to a simmer. Then add:

Heavy Cream – 2 qts

Stir in cream, remove from heat. With an emulsion mixer, puree all ingredients. Return to stove. Add:


Milk, whole – 4 ga

Corn cobs from above – 20 ea

Bay Leaf, dried – 4 ea

Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low. 

Pass through increasingly smaller strainers until consistency is smooth. (for the contest, I strained it 8 times through 3 different strainers)

Return to heat, adding:


Crab Meat, claw – 3#

Crab Meat, lump – 3#

Roasted Corn, kernels – All remaining

Return to simmer. Remove from heat. Serve immediately

or

Cool. Skim well before re-heating for service.

 Garnish – 


Mangoes, diced – 10 medium

Lime, zest – 1/4 c

Lime, juice – 1 whole

Chives, minced – 1/2 c

Kosher or Sea Salt – TT

Optional – Toasted pepitas or pumpkin seeds. (for a composed dish, I would have included these in the garnish, however at the competition we served in 2oz portion cups and the seeds, even one, would have over-powered the soup)

This soup should be spicy, smoky, and slightly sweet. The acidity of the garnish should cut through some of the milk/cream and allow the flavor of the crab and corn through. Although most people (myself included) always default to using lemon with seafood, I thought lime was more appropriate with the other flavors, namely the mango and chipotle. 

Things I thought about doing or will do next time-

  • Using a little sherry or even dark rum for even more depth.
  • Introducing a “creamy” element to the garnish…think sour cream or, more likely, creme fraiche. I thought about making mango creme fraiche, and long strands of chive in a fine dining setting.
  • I would have used leeks as an additional component of my mirepoix, but the produce company was out (?!?!?!)
  • Instead of a roux or slurry, I chose to sacrifice thickening power but add flavor by using the potatoes starch to thicken slightly during reduction. However, if being held hot over a long period (ours was in a chafing dish for 4 hours), it will start to separate slightly.
  • I would probably toast the seeds with some cumin/paprika/corriander/salt and drizzle lightly with molasses.
  • If you can swing it (we couldn’t) I’d use some real shellfish stock or demi instead of base. Maybe cook some shrimp shells with the mirepoix and puree the whole fucking thing? Let them steep with the corn cobs after adding the rest of the milk? Fuck, I dunno.
  • Feel free to church it up and use lobster instead of crab. I won’t be mad. Just envious.

Disclaimer- I post these recipes for people to try/critique/get inspired by. Please feel free to recreate and use, but give credit where it’s due. When your family, friends, and customers are raving about this or that, just be sure to tell them the guy on the blog inspired you. :-)

I’ll tell the story about the event itself (which was awesome, except for the hangover) and the night before (which led to the previous mentioned issue) in a forthcoming post.

Enjoy.

- C.

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