The Tao of Richard Blais: Part II

Schnitzel and pork ribs and ice cream…oh my!

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The Tao of Richard Blais: Part I

Richard Blais is a truly nice guy and an amazing chef. He also plays one on TV.

And although part of me wishes his last name was “Blaze” and he secretly fought crime with a combination of modern gastronomical techniques and hair product, that’s just not him. The guy is a beast in the kitchen, but one of the most cordial, approachable of the new rank of “food celebrities.”

How do I know this? I actually got a chance to meet the winner of Top Chef All-Stars last week at the National Pork Board’s pop-up Pork Inspiration Cafe.

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Hiatus Anniversary

Well, it’s been a year. I can’t believe it.

No excuses this time — honestly, I’m finding it more and more difficult to actually sit down and write. Sure, I’ve had plenty of food-related experiences. A year’s worth. But I just can’t sit in front of another screen for hours, sharing those experiences with the world.

Especially because everybody and their mother is food blogging nowadays. Is it lazy of me to stop, or noble? Since I’m contributing less noise to an already cacophonous (SAT word!) digital world, I’ll say noble.

Anyway, I may show up now and again to put something up. But for now, you can count this as me signing off. It’s been fun…and filling.

Adios!

Measuring Up

A few months ago, the good people at Pyrex were kind enough to send me some of their new measuring products. Being the sort that likes to measure things, I figured I’d give them a try.

First up: the measuring spoons. Well, they’re measuring spoons. They come in all the right sizes, they measure correctly and I’ve used them successfully.

But here’s the difference: magnets! I never lose these things because of the small magnets in each spoon that allow them to find each other. Genius, I tell you!

It kind of makes me wish all of my cooking tools had magnets. Since I live in a tiny NYC apartment, it would save all sorts of room. I’d just have one big amoeba of cooking implements, like a rubber band ball. Although, come to think of it, it would be hard to get anything that wasn’t on the outside. So maybe not.

Anyway, on to the measuring cup/bowl. As anything Pyrex, this thing is made of sturdy glass. And it’s got a nice rubber lining at the bottom which helps it stay in place as I throw ingredients in. I like that I can tell from the top how much I’ve put in, and it’s so wide I can mix stuff in it. Sweet!

So if you plan on measuring stuff, do yourself a favor and pick up one or both of these. If you don’t plan on measuring stuff, get the spoons anyway. Because, well…magnets are just fun.

Breakfast in Bed (Except Not in Bed and Not Breakfast)

But that was the name of the class we attended at ICE: The Institute of Culinary Education way back in October.

Actually, the full name was “Couples: Gourmet Breakfast in Bed” and we had been meaning to go for almost two years. It was a Christmas gift, you see, and a good one at that. My wife gave it to me for Christmas 2007, back when we were in Philadelphia. Two location changes later and we were running out of time, so here we were.

James Briscione

Our instructors were the husband-and-wife team of James Briscione (a professional chef who some may recognize from his appearances on Chopped) and  Brooke Parkhurst (an author). Overall, the class was loose, fun and informative.

Our group consisted of the instructors and five other couples, whose experience ran the gamut from novice to fairly good. We split into three groups to tackle the six dishes on the menu.

The wife and I (and our partners) were responsible for two of the more basic dishes: blueberry pancakes and breakfast burritos. After James taught us some knife skills (including a killer move for chopping sweet peppers), we were basically left alone to go at it. Some interesting things I learned along the way:

  • Breakfast burritos are a favorite meal of many chefs. James was not the first who’s told me that it’s his go-to comfort food.
  • You don’t have to cover rice to cook it. You can make it “pasta style” by adding the rice to salted water and draining the results.
  • If you want the blueberries to stay in the middle of a pancake, do not mix them into the batter. Instead, add a handful into each pancake right before you flip it.

In addition to the above two dishes, each person was given the chance to make a perfect lump crabmeat omelet. If you do it right (like James), it takes only a few minutes to cook. He taught us the French folding technique, which makes these omelets look more like crepes than what you see in a typical diner. Mine turned out pretty well, although it was slightly overcooked on the bottom. (Though compared to some of my fellow classmates’ attempts, my omelet was a masterpiece.)

After assembling the burritos and making a ton of pancakes, we were ready to assemble all of the dishes for a breakfast feast. Of course, it was a Friday night, which is kind of weird time to have a breakfast feast.

Here’s a final rundown of the dishes. See if you can identify them all in the images.

1. Sherry Shrimp and Grits

2. Blueberry Pancakes

3. Buttermilk Raspberry Muffins

4. Baked Apples with Creme Fraiche

5. Savory Sweet Potato Tart with Garlic Custard

6. Lump Crabmeat Omelet

7. Breakfast Burritos

For the most part, everything turned out nicely. Some of the muffins were a bit undercooked, but the tart was amazing! Not only was the experience worth the time and money, but we got to take home the recipes. Writing this may be the inspiration I need to finally whip up some burritos.

To the kitchen, mi amigos!

Let’s Get Polish

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Kielbasa and pierogi — them’s real Polish eats. Or at least the only thing I know about Polish food.

Before I met my wife, I never got pierogi (it’s plural…really). OK, I understood them, I just never purchased them. I think it’s because I saw them as a lesser version of the holiest of Italian foods, ravioli. Potato? Who needs it when you can get some nice ricotta cheese in the middle?

It didn’t help that we didn’t know how to prepare these potato-filled dumplings. I mean, we knew to boil them, but then what do you put on them? We usually used leftover tomato sauce, but it was overpowering. So I turned to the Internet…and wonder of wonders, it suggested a classic Italian preparation: fry them up with some butter and olive oil, after FullyCookedLeanTurkeyKielbasa-main_Fullsoftening some onion and garlic in the pan.

Fine by me.

After adding some salt and pepper, these things were done. So it was time to add some Polish protein: the oft-maligned kielbasa sausage. In our case, it was Lean Turkey Kielbasa, courtesy of Jennie-O. Well, actually it was courtesy of the company because they didn’t send it to me free. (But if you’re reading this, Jennie-O, you still have time!)

Anyway, I cut it up into big chunks and threw them into the pan for some heat (it comes fully cooked already). Now that I’m looking at pictures of how it’s prepared elsewhere, I’m thinking I left the chunks a little too big. Maybe they’re supposed to be cut into coin-like shapes, as pictured on the package. Eh, what do packaging pictures know?

IMG_2944After a thorough mixing of the pierogi and kielbasa pieces, we only had to wait for the string beans to finish steaming and we were ready to eat.

I think it turned out pretty good for a quick, mid-week meal. The only problem? The kielbasa was salty as all get-out. I mean, lip-curling, water-clamoring saltiness. Hey Jennie-O, you don’t need to make up for the fact that it’s turkey with more salt than the ocean. It’d still be good with half the sodium.

This is the part where I end with a funny but inappropriate Polish joke. Fortunately for you, I don’t know any. Feel free to leave some good ones in the comments…

The Upper West Side: OK, It’s Not All Bad

big nick inside

Even though I’m thinking of moving all my restaurant reviews to Yelp, I figure I at least owe you this post. And by “you” I mean both my readers (are you still here?) and my neighborhood.

Ready? Let’s do this.

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