Chef's Blade - Eggnog

Seriously - 3 more days before Christmas! Pass me two glasses of eggnog and let's have some fun. Holiday cooking, shopping, family gatherings are friggin stressful. If you need some help with putting together a meal plan check out my article on Chef's Blade.

Happy Holidays!

One more eggnog please...

Snow Angels

No typo – really there is snow, a lot of it, in the high country. Reports show over 10 inches worth has landed a couple of hours north of me. When I’m close to that much snow I want to do one of two things – make snow angels or stay in where it’s warm and make comfort food.

What would you do? Being in the desert for over three years has done me in. My body can’t take the cold anymore. I know… I know…I’m a baby.

Oh!! was staying in worth it. I halved and oven roasted an acorn squash at 375 until the flesh was fork tender, approximately an hour or so. I carefully scooped out the inside of the squash and used the outer portion of it to make little bowls to put a herb and squash creamy risotto in.

If you want my risotto recipe let me know – I’ll email it to you. For me risotto is one of the most satisfying dishes; especially when you’re not cut out for making snow angels.

Deal of the day - Treadmill

How do you write a blog entry that is under 1000 words? Easy - post a link to another site and give thanks to friends and family.

Thank you for being excited for me while I pursue my dreams. Without my friends and family it would be much harder. Thank you again for your support and wishes.

My first article that I wrote for Chef's Blade.

Old Fashion Doughnut

There’s a lot to be said about the simple pleasures that I get from eating an old fashion doughnut or is it donut. The smell, taste, and the thought of the deep fried sweet dough puts a smile on my face every time.

The old fashion yeast raised doughnuts are on top of my childhood food memories. I can remember waking up and staggering in to the kitchen on Saturday morning to find my mom setting up for our afternoon snack.

I would help by measuring and mixing the dry ingredients in, at the time what I thought to be the biggest mixing bowl on the block. It’s too bad that I couldn’t get my hands on my mom’s recipe.

The closest recipe I found to what I recall having as a child comes from America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Baking issue 2007.

To make about 16 -2 ½ inch doughnuts and 1 ¼ inch holes you’ll first need to mix together in a medium size bowl the dry ingredients: 15 oz of all purpose flour; 1 envelope of instant yeast; 6 tablespoons of sugar; ½ teaspoon of salt.

In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, place 2/3 cups of room temperature whole milk and 2 large lightly beaten eggs. Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed until dough forms.

One piece at a time, add 6 tablespoons of diced butter, and mix on low until a soft dough forms. This will take approximately 3 – 4 minutes. Add the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 2 – 2 ½ hours at room temperature.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to ½ inch thickness. Cut the dough into rings and place rings and the holes on a floured baking sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise a second time for 30 – 45 minutes at room temperature.

When the doughnuts have risen, bring the frying oil to 375 degrees. ATK recommends 40 oz vegetable shortening. In batches add the holes and rings and fry until golden brown. Remove from heat and slightly cool before rolling them in a bowl sugar.

This recipe reminds me of what I had as a child. I hope that you enjoy these doughnuts as much as I do. Enjoy.

Do you know....

I came across this quiz on Chow and thought it was worth sharing. It's pretty fun. I didn't do all that good on the ice cream or paint test. How did you do?

"Ice Cream or Paint?

From the same wry impulse that brought you Cheese or Font?, there’s Ben & Jerry’s Flavor or Pottery Barn Paint Color, a quiz from the prankish pucks who write for Mental Floss magazine."

Icing on the cake - Ben & Jerry's ice cream or Pottery Barn's paint color? Take the test and find out.

The Hunger Challenge

When I saw Chow’s tweet “Can you eat on $4 a day?” I thought that they had lost their mind. Seriously who could eat off of $4 a day? Any idea? According to The Hunger Challenge website $4 a day is the amount a Californian on food stamps has to live on.

The first thing I did when I got up this morning was create a menu for days of the 2009 Hunger Challenge – September 20-26. I am used to eating 5 small well-balanced meals a day on a budget at least double what is giving to people on food stamps.

I’m saddened that there are more than 35 million people in our country that live on a food stamp budget. I think that everybody should have the right and the means to eat a well balanced diet. In my first day of the challenge I can tell you that there is NO WAY that anyone can have a balanced diet on $4 a day.

I will post my results as often as I can. If you’re up for the challenge go here….Offical Website

Potato Gnocchi

Gnocchi Gnocchi – it’s taken me more than a week to write about these pillow like dumplings. There’s a lot of history behind the making and origin of gnocchi. I’ll save you from reading about the history and get right into the good part.

How to make them - fresh hand made gnocchi speaks for it self. They are light, fluffy, comforting, and takes well to a variety of sauces. So there’s not much more to say other than I hope you make them for yourself.

The secret behind a perfectly textured gnocchi is to not over work the dough. I can’t tell you how long or how hard to knead the dough. What you’re looking for is the dough to be just dry enough not to stick to your hands.

To serve two main entrees boil a large russet potato until its fork tender; about 20 -25 minutes. Let the potato rest, out of the water, until its cool enough to peel. Pass the potato, through a ricer or a grater, on a sheet pan. Refrigerate for an hour to dry.

After an hour bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Whisk together one whole egg and a pinch of salt and set aside. Mound the potatoes on a lightly-floured surface and form a well in the center. Pour the egg in the center, a couple of pinches of salt, and dust with a ¼ cup of all purpose flour.

With a fork incorporate the flour, eggs, and potatoes until a ball is formed. Dust with another ¼ c of flour until the dough is just dry enough not to stick to your hands. A total of ½ c to ¾ c of flour plus a little more for dusting will be needed.

Cut the dough into 4-6 equal parts and let rest, covered, for 30 minutes. After the dough has rested, roll the portions of dough lightly with your hands in a back and forth motion on a floured surface into a ½” thick rope. Cut each rope into ½” pieces, you can roll the pieces down the back of your fork to make groves. Use flour as needed – be careful not to let the pieces stick together.

Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water a little at a time. Remove the gnocchi after they rise to the top of the water. Completely drain gnocchi before adding the sauce of your choice. The gnocchi will have a light and springy texture that will speak for themselves.

France and "in the now"

I’ve been back from France now for about a week. I don’t know where to begin writing about my experience. I’m sure I could write a short story about it. As a non French speaking American taking a dessert class at one of the most famous cooking in Paris, which by the way was taught completely in French, and trekking, well far away from the beaten path just to buy a pastry and baguette from one of the only female bakers who’s bolungerie is home of the last wood burning ovens in Paris, was just a few things that I could write about.

The French’s lifestyle compared to American's is night and day different. People have told me that the French only work 35 hours, have twice as much “holiday” as Americans do, and care less about everything else in life except great food, art, history, and love. This may be true but the one thing that really stood out was how focused and attentive they were to “the now.”

Their two hour elaborate lunches were NEVER interrupted by cell phones, there were no hurried meals, and there was no way that you would witness a server rushing people through a service so that they could seat another table. The French seem to have something that I want in life, besides their ability to make the best bread and pastries, and that’s to be completely and utterly in “the now.”

France taught me a couple of things that I’ve all ready put into practice; the confidence in my ability to make a Frenchman proud of my macarons; a much more developed palate; stories that I will be able to tell for many years; and most importantly and appreciation and respect for being “in the now.”

Merci beaucoup France!

Yes...Potatoes cooked in Duck fat

Duck fat is a common pantry staple in France and is considered by most culinarians as liquid gold. Unfortunately, for most of us in the states it’s not as readily available like the other cooking fats are.

When I’m looking to add a deeper and more complex flavor to a dish I use duck fat. It’s a great replacement for butter and oil; it contains healthier fats and it’s higher in linoleic acid. It doesn’t take much to make a dish extra special.

Recently I came across Gourmet’s recipe for Pommes De Terre Sarladaise (potatoes cooked in duck fat.) The original recipe serves 4-6 side dishes and calls for 1.5 lb rinsed, peeled, and cut 1/4” thick slices of Yukon gold (waxy) potatoes, 3 Tbsp duck fat, ½ cup parsley, and 2 garlic cloves. I tweaked a few things by adding a couple of pinches of red pepper flakes and about 1 Tbsp of minced rosemary.

Before you prepare your potatoes, herbs, and spices heat the duck fat in a large skillet over medium to high heat. After the fat has completely melted add your potatoes, a couple of pinches of salt, and cook on medium to low heat, turning occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes, or until lightly golden and tender. After the potatoes are cooked thoroughly gently stir in your chopped herbs and spices. Serve immediately with mayonnaise.

Originally when I made the dish I thought the 5 hour braised short ribs would be the star. They were good, really good, but the crispy potatoes cooked in duck fat stole the show.

*Whole Foods carries rendered duck fat.

Molten Chocolate Cake

You might find this sinfully delicious cake under a number of aliases: Chocolate Molten; Lava Cake; Molten chocolate cake; and Chocolate Lava Cake. This luscious and rich dessert was invented in the 90’s by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. According to world renowned chef/restaurateur (Jean-George was just named restaurant of the year by the James Beard Foundation) he invented the dessert by accident when he under baked a cake.

The cake is surprisingly easy to make and is really versatile. I’ve made it a number of ways using different kinds of fruit; with different kinds of chocolate, sea salt, mint, orange zest; with and without liqueur; with fresh whipped chantilly cream; and ice cream.

Most recently I made one with mint chocolate, fresh strawberries, topped with fresh mint (from my herb garden) and a chantilly cream. The recipe is as followed: Yields around 2-6oz soufflé ramekins, 2 mixing bowls and 1 small sauce pan. In a bain-marie melt 4oz of butter with 4 oz dark chocolate. In a separate mixing bowl mix 2 whole eggs, 2 yolks, 2oz of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Temper egg mixture with the chocolate and fold in 2 teaspoons of flour. Pour batter in butter and cocoa dusted ramekins and chill batter for 1-2 hours. Bake at 400 F until done- edges should be firm and center should be jiggly.

Rest for a few minutes and turn on to a plate, serve with cream, and garnish.

Parlez - vous Anglais

Recently someone asked me why I spend my leisure time in the kitchen and thinking about food. Then another, “what are you hoping to get out of going to culinary school and workshops?” What does it matter I thought.

Everything about food fulfills me; the planning; prepping; the creative expression of plating; incorporating seasonal flavors into dishes; stimulating all of my senses; there’s a beginning and an end to every dish; the ability and confidence to cook something instinctually instead of following a recipe—thank you Chef Pascal; and sitting down to enjoy supper with friends and family.

Like I mentioned in some of my earlier blog entries, and most of you already know-I’ve had a lot of different hobbies and passions in my life. Without blinking an eye I’ll sign up for workshops, go to school, take private lessons- you name it and I will do it if I’m interested in learning about the subject. Eccentric and aimless to some but to me it’s all about learning new things, living life, and having fun.

I went to culinary school for the first time after high school; I’ve bowled professionally and in college; managed bowling centers; learned from the best bowling coaches in the world; drilled bowling balls for national championship bowlers; I’ve had my name published in international and national bowling magazines; I’ve taken sailing and flight lessons; I’ve taken Jiu Jitsu and boxing lessons from people who are internationally known; and over the past couple of years I’ve revisited my passion for the culinary arts.

The 24 week program, Classic Cooking Academy, is, unfortunately, coming to an end. Having learned so much about the fond of French cooking and techniques I’ve decided to continue my education. I’ve reserved a spot in a 2.5 jours desserts des restaurants à l'assiette (plated desserts) workshop at the Ritz Escoffier Cooking School in Paris. No, I don’t speak French, I have a hard enough time speaking English, but to experience the French culture and to learn in the great kitchen of the Ritz is worth the challenges.

Maybe one day I’ll write a book, or own a specialty cafe, but no matter what, while I have a chance, I’m going to travel; write; learn; and cook really good food, as much as I can.

Parlez- vous Anglais? Going to France in July—YAY!!!

Saturday Everyday

Saturday’s class can’t get here fast enough. I always look forward to what chef has in store for us. The last few weeks we’ve done a lot of meat fabrication: duck; chicken; beef-NY strip, flank, and cuts from the tenderloin; and we boned a veal leg. From those cuts we learned how to prepare a number of classical dishes such as: walnut and berry stuffed roasted duck leg; duck a L’orange; chicken breast with a creamy mushroom sauce; steak au poive; saltimbocca alla Romana, and several others.

With a chicken breast thawed and only 45 minutes for lunch I decided to make the sautéed chicken breast with a creamy mushroom sauce. This is a simple, quick and delicious dish.

As you can tell by my picture there isn’t much contrast in color. I would have preferred more color contrast but what the dish lacks in aesthetics it makes up for it in flavor and simplicity.

To make enough for 2 people take 1 well seasoned chicken breast and cut it into bite size pieces. Sauté the diced pieces, in just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, until they are nicely browned. Once the chicken is browned set it aside in colander. You’ll use the juices in the sauce.

In the same pan add 1 tablespoon of butter and sweat 2 or so tablespoons of finely chopped shallots, a couple of sprigs of thyme and tarragon. Deglaze with white wine and reduce down until it’s almost dry. Add ½ cup or so of cream and reduce until it has slightly thickened.

In another pan, heat on medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and a couple of sliced mushrooms for 2-3 minutes. Strain cream mixture into the mushrooms, add chicken and juices, and toss until chicken is warmed through. Toss chopped parsley, season to taste and serve immediately.

One Bite at a Time

Since my last blog entry, seems like months ago, a lot has happened. I’ve had a few milestones and a few adventures that I thought was worth sharing. Chef Dionot (who by the way trained Top Chef finalist Carla Hall,) taught me how to make a delicious bouillabaisse, a variety of bouchées, ratatouille, several classic potato dishes, pastry cream, and how to shuck an oyster. I’ve discovered several eateries around the valley: Hawaiian (I do not doubt you, MZ;) Vietnamese; Organic; and a French bakery. I drank mead and ate a Scottish egg at the Renaissance fair. I’ve completed another post-bac education class; I’ve hosted a couple of dinner parties; I’ve finished reading ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’ by David Sedaris – hilarious (Thank you UJ & AB;) I shot a .30-06 rifle and bought a fishing/hunting license (J, K, & C- what an experience.) I’ve learned the principles of sustainable living – Ethicurian - and I have joined the Slow Food Nation USA. And finally, I’ve been inspired by the book that I’m currently reading, ‘Yes Man’ by Danny Wallace, to say “yes” more.

I’m not sure why I’m writing about all of this. I just woke up from a great night’s sleep and my first thought was how grateful I am for the life I live and for the people that I share life with. I’m going to leave you with the words from a new friend of mine; “May there always be water at the end of your journey.”

Wholly guacamole

A couple of entries ago,Happy New Year, I mentioned that I was going to review as many of Phoenix Magazine’s top 50 restaurant’s signature dishes and recreate, to the best of my ability, the dish.

I planned on writing about a burger but my inability to take a good picture kept me from posting it. So, instead you get Barrio Café’s $10 guacamole. Yes, your eyes are focused. You do see $10, ten dollars, Hamilton. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the price either.

Their signature dish was easy to duplicate and my picture is as good as gets. For around $3, without the pomegranate seeds, and no more than 10 minutes of your time you can have a delicious snack, appetizer, or side dish that is healthy and quick to make.

Off to the side have a medium size mixing bowl. Add to the bowl, in order: ½ tomato, deseeded and diced; ¼ red onion, finely chopped; 1 fresh Serrano, deseeded and finely chopped; 1 pitted, peeled and chopped avocado; juice of ½ of a lime; 2-3 pinches of salt; a pinch or two of pomegranate seeds (not necessary but that’s how Barrio’s serves it;) and, a handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped. Fold gently and serve with lime on the side. Really simple to make and the fresh ingredients and flavors makes it a healthy dish for any time of the day.

Full review: Barrio Café

Vegas Baby

I'm shocked by how many good places there are to eat in Vegas. One of my favorite places is a walk-up bakery in The Venetian. Bouchon Bakery is owned by one of the most recognized American chefs working today, Thomas Keller. His staff of bakers has experience ranging from Michelin two-stars to a Certified Master Baker. To simply put it, they are on a whole other level than the majority of chefs and bakers that most of us have experienced in our culinary adventures.

Needing a mid morning snack, I was satisfied and greeted by a great display of French-influenced baked goods at Bouchon Bakery: breads; viennoiserie; pastries; tarts; macarons – and a handful of servers happily ready to pull something out of the display case.

Erin and I were lucky - when you're in Vegas any form of luck is a win - to beat the mid-morning rush. Shortly after ordering the barista commented on how perfectly dry the cappuccino was. She handed me my drink and a precisely baked pain au chocolate, that had a golden brown and flaky exterior that was filled with warm, rich chocolate.

Just for the sake of being on vacation, I finished my morning snack with a few bites of Erin’s soft and chewy, buttercream filled, lemon macaron. After a few ooooohs and ahhhhhs of enjoyment, a dozen or so people came charging in to experience the expertly crafted and enticing display of Bouchon’s baked goods.

Classic French Crème Brûlée

Chef Pascal of Classic Cooking Academy teaches with great passion and energy. In this last Saturday’s class he taught us about sweet custards. Paying close attention to the chef’s explanations and demonstrations on how to make crème caramel; crème brûlée; and sabayon – I was shocked at how simple these classic desserts are to make.

You can make a classic French crème brûlée (English translation is burned cream) for 3-4 people this way: Preheat an oven to 295° F. Over medium-low heat, bring to a boil, 1 cup of heavy cream. In a mixing bowl, whisk 1.25 oz (2.5 Tablespoons) of sugar with 2 yolks until they are fully incorporated. Temper and whisk the egg mixture with the hot cream, slowly and gently because you don’t want to cook your eggs nor create a foamy mixture. Swirl a pinch of salt and vanilla to taste into the tempered mixture. Strain mixture into ramekins and bake in a warm water bath until done. Baking time will vary depending on the size of your ramekin. To test if it’s done baking, gently nudge the ramekin, what you’re looking for is a slightly jiggly center.

Chill your crème brûlée for at least 3-5 hours. Once chilled, top them with an even layer of sugar, then burn the sugar with a torch (or carefully under a broiler) until it caramelizes.

Once you hear the caramel crack; feel and taste the sweet crunch of the caramel; feel the silky texture of the chilled custard; and taste the ever so comforting flavor of vanilla – you might want dessert for supper.

Happy New Year

I hope that everyone’s New Year is off to a great start. Can you believe we are in
09’? I can’t, and I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since my last entry. A day doesn’t go by without me cooking something fun and delicious in the kitchen. I just haven’t gotten any good pictures to show for it.

I currently started a project to review, Phoenix Magazine’s top 50 restaurants and their signature dishes, on After each review I will interpret the dish, with pictures and recipes, and share them with you.

My first review was for a burger that was voted one of the best in the valley. The Delux burger from the restaurant Delux is dressed with organic rocket, caramelized onions, applewood-smoked bacon and blue and gruyere cheeses. Sounds delicious, right? Well I didn’t think so. You can check out my reviews on

I am excited for what it’s in store for me in 09’and I hope the best for everyone. Keep the feedback coming. I appreciate all of your responses and comments. Have a great year.