Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang.

In 2011 an online poll by 35,000 people held by CNN International chose Rendang as the number one dish of their ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’ list.’  

My guess, most of you have never tried it, or even heard of it.  That being said, I consider myself to lucky to introduce you to one of the greatest, most delicious foods I have ever and will ever try.  West Sumatran (Indonesian) in origin, it is now considered a national dish for not only Indonesia, but Malaysia and Singapore.  The flavor is everything good southeast Asian.  It embodies most of the extraordinary essence we look for in south Asian cooking (Thai is the most logical western choice) and combines it in one dish.  And what a success.

Rendang is no more than a beef stew done Sumatran style.  Simmered in a mix of Indonesian herbs and spices, coconut milk and a little bit of shredded coconut, the stew is quite simple.  But more often that not, simple, done right, can be the best.  

I think recipes that are really out of our comfort zones can be intimidating or unappealing.  Why make something I have never tasted, never heard of, and certainly never cooked?  Good question.  In that case, may this post serve as information.  Put beef rendang on your radar.  Bury it in the back of your mind, so that somewhere, someday, when you do see it on a menu, you may have the delight of trying it.  Then you can come back to this post and give it a try.  You’ll want to, it’s not a dish easily forgotten.  

Beef Rendang

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours
Makes: 6-8 portions

Ingredients:

4 kaffir lime leaves
1 knob galangal (or ginger)
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground tumeric
2 stalkes lemongrass, peeled and trimmed
1 tsp corriander seed
1/8 tsp ground allspice
2 cans coconut milk
1 tbsp palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
4 shallots (or 1 small red onion)
4 thai chiles, stems only removed
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Kosher salt
3 lb boneless short rib or tri-tip cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 bunch scallions, thin sliced on bias
vegetable oil
chicken stock, only if necessary

Method:

In a food processor, process the lime leaves, garlic, shallots, corriander, allspice and chiles until smooth.  You will need to scrap down the bowl a few times.  In a heavy bottom small stock pot, bring a little of the oil until the med-high heat.  Season the beef with salt and fry, in batches, until browned on all sides.  Add the lemongrass with the last batch.  While the meat is draining, toast the pureed aromatics in the pot with a little fresh oil.  When highly fragrant, add the beef and lemongrass back to the pot and stir until completely coated.  Add the shredded coconut and sugar.  Cook until slightly browned again and highly fragrant.  Add the coconut milk, season liberally with salt, bring to a simmer, turn heat to low, and let cook, about 3 1/2 hours.  If you find that the coconut milk is not covering the meat in the very beginning, add a touch of chicken stock.  The meat should almost be covered.   When done, it should be almost dry and the meat should be incredibly tender. The color should be dark.  Check seasoning and add more salt if necessary.  Remove the lemongrass.

Serve with steamed jasmine, or sticky rice.  Garnish with the scallions. I enjoy this with additional sambal, sweet soy, and chili oil.

Enjoy.  

Grilling with Miso Glaze!

Miso-glazed proteins seems to be a fad right now.  Every upscale restaurant in LA has some sort of miso-glazed salmon, black cod, sable fish, and so on.  It is also WONDERFUL on grilled vegetables, such as Japanese eggplant, or grilled tofu.  I am into this fad 100%.  I think it’s delicious and lucky for us, it’s easy to make.

Miso itself is a thick paste, usually derived from the fermentation of soy beans (though many other grains may be used) with salt and an agent known as kojikin, which facilitates the fermentation process.   Due to the specific kojikin used, the salt content, the duration of fermentation process, and the fermentation vessel itself, miso paste can be fairly diverse.  Red miso and yellow miso and the two most common, however many blends to exist.  Typically, miso is mixed with broth (hon-dashi) and is the foundation for miso soup.

With such a deep and intricate flavor, the versatility of miso goes well beyond soups and stocks.  As a glaze (grilling of course), it imparts a lot of that deep flavor directly into your protein, without the need for a lot of extra work.  In other words, it’s easy.  The miso glaze recipe I am going to give you is exactly how I would produce this in a restaurant.  You can be assured that with 4 simple ingredients and a hot grill, you will have a meal to remember.

Miso Glazed tri-tips

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 7 minutes
Yield: 3-4 portions

Ingredients:

2 tbsp cup red miso (can be found any good grocery store or asian market)
2 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine vinegar) or sweet sake can be used
1 tsp light brown sugar sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 bunch scallion, thin sliced on a bias
1 1/2 lb sirloin tri-tip sliced thin against the grain
wooden skewers, soaked in cold water

Method:

Whisk the miso with the mirin or sake, sugar, and soy sauce.  Taste it (as mentioned, not all miso is the same) and add a little more sugar or mirin if necessary (it will be a little salty).  Place the thin strips of beef on the skewers.  Using a brush, lightly coat the beef with half of the glaze.

Heat a wood grill to HIGH heat.  Make sure the grates a cleaned and well oiled.  Grill the beef, quickly, about 2 minutes each side.  Brush the remainder of the glaze on the beef while they are grilling.  They are cut thin, so they will cook fast.  Remember, the miso has high sugar content, so they will char quickly.  Remove from grill, arrange on a warm platter, garnish with scallions and serve right away.  Serving this with the pickled cucumbers from this post http://chefnotebook.blogspot.com/2012/09/lamb-gyros-with-pita-hummus-feta-and.html is a perfect fit.

Enjoy.

Running food: smoothies, the perfect way to start the day!

For me, breakfast is usually around 9:30, after a run, workout, or whatever.  I enjoy the intense exercise on an empty stomach first thing, and then eat to recuperate and recover.  And, of course, at that stage, the body is so vulnerable.  Eat the wrong thing, exercise is semi-erased.  Eat the right thing, workout does what it is supposed to do for the rest of the day, ie keeps you metabolism running high and burning calories.  It is so important to eat the right thing, especially first thing in the morning.  Low carb, high protein, high vitamin/mineral content, etc.  It sounds like the latest diet craze, but after a morning workout, eating the right thing feels so good.  And as a type 1 diabetic, it helps control the blood sugar throughout the day.

It takes discipline, but so does getting up at 5:00 every morning and exercising before work.  If you can do the first, the second happens almost effortlessly.  You will want to eat right.  You will have to eat right.  Your body demands it.  And you will feel so much better about yourself afterwords.  You can guiltlessly indulge in extraordinarily delicious Mexican food later on.

My breakfast go-to is usually a light yogurt, banana and milk, but when I have the time, a smoothie is ALWAYS my breakfast of choice.  Think about the possibilities!!  What can’t you put into a smoothie??  Of course, that includes high sugar high fat items as well, but focusing on the healthy aspect, the smoothie could be the perfect post-workout breakfast food.  I am going to give you my favorite version; may it serve as a platform for your own ideas!  And, on a side note, flavor-wise (flavor and balance is always key!!!), banana/strawberry will ALWAYS be my favorite.  Yogurt, milk, honey, banana and strawberry with a little ice in a blender… you can’t go wrong!  My personal smoothie is like a superfood.  And your body will thank you later on.

My Favorite Smoothie

Prep time: 2 minutes
Makes: 2 smoothies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup skim or soymilk
1/2 cup 0% greek yogurt
2 large leaves kale, ripped into shreds
3 tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 pint washed blueberries
5 strawberries
10 almonds almonds
1 banana
1 tbsp organic honey
any other assorted berry (the darker the better, like acai or blackberry)

Method:

Put everything in a bar blender and puree until as smooth as possible.  If you like it a little sweeter, add more honey.  Serve right away.

Of course, if you have ripe peaches hanging around, add one.  Add 1/2 an avocado.  Add raspberries.  Don’t like kale?  Don’t add it!  The flax seed adds a wonderful nutty flavor and texture, and pound for pound is one of the healthiest foods you can put in your body.  You like it colder, with ice?  Use frozen blueberries instead of fresh!  Again, this is my smoothie, my perfect food.  My hope is that it will inspire you to make your smoothie.  Your perfect food.

Enjoy

Grilled Skirt Steak with Cilantro Rice, Charred Chile/lime Corn and Fresh Salsa

So the old question again:  What’s for dinner?  What’s easy and delicious?  What can you make on a week night (or weekend) that will only take a few minutes and will absolutely blow you away?

My go to: easy Mexican.  You can make it as fast, as easy and as healthy as you like.  Think good ingredients, bold flavors, grilling, and a few secrets…

Start with a theme, not a protein.  Tonight, obviously, we are choosing easy Mexican.  Protein?  Let’s do beef, maybe skirt steak, which is easy to grill and full of natural flavor.  Starch… it’s got to be rice, but how?  Steamed, , pilaf, Mexican yellow?  How about something off the beaten path: cilantro rice, a wonderful addition.  Vegetable? Simple and healthy green beans slathered in sweet garlic.  Absolutely have to have corn.  How about chile/lime corn with cotija cheese?  And to finish, a simple fresh onion/cilantro salsa loaded with jalapeno and lime juice.  So easy, so satisfying, so delicious and SO healthy.

Also keep in mind, the lower in fat and ‘processed’ starch the meal is, the lower the need for additional sodium.  In this dish you will need to use salt, but only in the right places, at the right time in moderation.  You will find that a little goes a long way, and you can easily peg this meal as low sodium.  Which works for me!

Grilled Skirt Steak with Cilantro Rice, Charred Chile/Lime Corn and Fresh Salsa

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

1 bunch washed cilantro, rough chop
2 jalapeno, small dice
1 yellow onion, small dice
juice of 3 limes
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
2 lb trimmed skirt steak
chile/lime dry rub
grated cotija cheese
2 ears corn, cut in half
1 1/2 cup jasmine rice
1 lb green beans, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, minced
vegetable oil

Method:

Begin with the rice.  Wash the rice well, place in a small sauce pot, add 3 cups cold water, bring to a simmer, turn heat to very low, and cover tightly.  Let cook 10 minutes, and turn heat off.  While rice if cooking, soften the beans by submerging them in a little water in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave until al dente.  Drain and refresh under cold water.  Mix the onion, jalapeno, 1/2 the cilantro and lime juice together.  Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill to medium high, clean and oil the grates.  Season with steak with the chile/lime rub, salt and pepper and begin grilling.  Grill the corn dry until slightly charred.  When the steak is mid-rare, remove from heat and let rest.  Begin sauteing the beans in a little vegetable oil with the garlic, salt and pepper.  Rub the cooked corn with a little oil, chile/lime rub and cheese.  Keep warm on a cool part of the grill.

Fluff the rice and keep covered.  Flash the steak by placing it on the hot grill, about 30 seconds a side just to reheat.  Mix the remainder of the cilantro into the rice. Slice the steak AGAINST the grain.

Serve everything right away, family style on a large platter.  Spoon the fresh salsa over the top.  Sprinkle a little more cheese over everything and serve right away.

Enjoy.

My dinner last night! Incredible New England Pork

We had a wonderful dinner last night.

I talk tough, but like everyone else, I also fall into the category of making the same thing over and over, and becoming bored with it.  I guess blogging about my recipes gives me the similar satisfaction as cooking them, and I almost feel like I am creating them all over again.  

Last night, I applied myself.  Nothing fancy, just good food done right.  Flavorful brined pork tenderloin, seared to golden brown perfection, thyme simmered baby yukon potatoes, sauteed melangee of baby bitter greens and a deeply flavored whole grain mustard sauce.  I took the time to make a double chicken stock, took the time to reduce everything properly, and cook everything separately, combined only at the last moment to ensure complete depth and development of flavor.  It was delicious.  And easy, which makes it all that much better.

This is a northeast fall dish through and through, but good any time of year.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Brined and seared pork tenderloin, baby yukon potatoes, wilted baby bitter greens, whole grain mustard sauce

Prep time: 35 min
Active cook time: 45 min
Inactive cook time: 5 hours
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

Brine:

1 yellow onion, sliced
5 dried serrano peppers
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 gallon of water
1/2 bunch thyme

Whole grain sauce:

1 1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup rich chicken stock
1/8 cup maille brand whole grain mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream

Potatoes:

1 lb baby yukon potatoes
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 bunch thyme
1 tsbp unsalted butter

Finishing:

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp siracha hot sauce
vegetable oil
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
3 cups baby bitter greens, washed
2 pork tenderloins, trimmed of all silver skin

Method:

To make the brine:

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pot with half the water.  Bring to a simmer, add the rest of the water.  Cool.

To make the potatoes:

Place all items in a small sauce pot and barely cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer and simmer as low as possible until fork tender.  Strain, discard thyme and let cool to room temp.  Slice potatoes in half on a bias.

To finish:

Place tenderloins in brine and place in fridge for 5 hours.  Remove from brine, and pat dry with paper towels.  Cut the tenderloin into pieces 2 inches in length.  Season with cracked black pepper.  Heat a heavy bottom saute pan to high heat, add a little vegetable oil and sear the tenderloins, all sides, until deep golden brown.  Add the potatoes and let them develop a little color.  Remove everything from pan and drain on towels.

You will now make the pan sauce.  In the same pan, still over high heat, deglaze with the white wine.  Scrap the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Let reduce by 2/3.  Add the chicken stock and whole grain mustard.  Reduce until slightly thick.  Add the heavy cream and reduce slightly.  Add the pork and potatoes back to the pan.  Season with salt, pepper and siracha.   Add the greens.  Cook, over medium heat, until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Check seasoning again.

Spoon a some potatoes and greens in the center of a plate.  Place two tenderloin medallions on top of the potatoes and spoon some sauce on top and around.  Serve right away.

Enjoy.

Tempura Shrimp

Tempura is a Japanese batter, used for frying little odds and ends.  Typically, it’s tempura shrimp, vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc.  A very light batter, tempura frying will always result in a very crispy and light product. Tempura fried items also take sauces very well.  Tempura fried pickles with ponzo, tempura fried prawns with ginger soy.. you get the idea.  Tempura almost always needs a dipping or finishing sauce, because the batter itself is somewhat bland.  It’s crispy, which is excellent, has a little salt, which is necessary, but is inherently ‘incomplete’.  It requires a spicy, salty, citrusy, highly seasoned sauce to create that balance.  In this case, the balance is the anticipated and expected soy based salty flavor we all love.

Anything can be tempura battered and fried.  Of course, the ideal subjects would be Japanese in nature, such as hand-rolls, sweet and sour eel, and the usual vegetables and shellfish.  I love tempura oysters.  I love tempura kampachi.

Dipping sauces can be intimidating.  Balance is critical, and knowing how to balance them can be daunting.  When in doubt, just use low sodium soy sauce mixed with a little sugar, sliced scallions, ginger and 1 thai chile.  That will cover most of your needs.

Tempura Shrimp

Ingredients:

1/2 lb 16/20 shrimp, peeled, deveined, tail on
1 cup flour
1 cup corn starch
1 egg yolk
1 tsp kosher salt
ice cold soda water

Method:

Place all dry batter ingredients (flour, corn starch, etc in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the batter).

Mix the flour, salt, corn starch and egg yolk with soda water until a semi-thick batter is created.  Keep everything as cold as possible.

Heat a small sauce pot of vegetable oil to 350 degrees.  Dredge the shrimp in a little flour, coat it in the tempura batter and fry until cooked through (slightly golden brown).

Serve with favorite dipping sauce.

Enjoy.  

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Stew

Black bean and smoked sausage stew…

This is one of my father’s favorite things to eat.  Odd, huh?  He feels, very deeply so I might add, that this is one of the most delicious and impressive foods anyone could ever make. Ever.

Even stranger; I happen to agree.

This is a riff on the Brazilian classic Sunday food, feijoada.  Feijoada is Brazil’s version of Italian Sunday Gravy (http://chefnotebook.blogspot.com/2012/08/sunday-gravy.html).  It takes hours to make, is passed down from generation, and each town, village, and family makes it a little differently.  They cook all different pieces of pork in black beans for hours, lovingly tasting, adding a dash of this, a pinch of that, until it’s perfect.  They will use bacon, ribs, trotters, pork shoulder, sausage, shanks, and so on.  Waste not, want not.

Of course, my version is only a riff, not the real McCoy.  I love to give it a slight Mexican kick.  For the pork element, I use very good quality smoked Polish kielbasa, and then add lots of spices, onions, heat and of course tender and delicious black beans.  It’s divine.

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Stew

Prep time:  5 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hr
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
1 small yellow onion, med dice
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized smoked Polish kielbasa, excellent quality
1/8 cup tapatio hot sauce
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
vegetable oil
4 organic eggs

Method:

Grill the kielbasa until slightly charred and skin is beginning to split.  Let cool completely and slice into small pieces.  In a medium sized sauce pot, begin sweating the onion and garlic in vegetable oil.  Add the sliced kielbasa and continue to cook until highly fragrant.  Add the beans and 1/2 cup water.  Add half the cilantro, add the herbs and spices and hot sauce.  Bring to a simmer, turn heat to low, and cook, low and slow, for about 45 minutes.  It should be thick.  Check seasoning.  When done, stir in remainder of cilantro.

In a non-stick pan, gently cook the eggs sunny side up.

Spoon the stew into 4 warm bowls.  Place 1 egg on top of each and serve right away.

I love to serve this with steamed Jasmine rice, avocado, a little cheese and more hot sauce (of course).  The egg can be omitted, but I love the depth of flavor it adds as a finishing touch, especially when the yolk breaks and works into the spicy black beans, balancing the spice perfectly.  

Enjoy.

Southeast Asian Lobster Dumplings

Today, we are going back to the tropical, exotic and wonderful flavors of southeast Asia.  The cuisine and ingredients of that region are so unique and so rich in natural flavor, you can’t help but fall in love.  You can’t help but go bamboo.

We love to think about the ancient spice routes that brought those lovely Asian and middle east spices and ingredients to Europe (and consequently the Americas), but we rarely think about those spice routes that transported ingredients throughout Asia.  And oddly enough, it had a lot to do with Europe.  Colonization, cultural diffusion, and so on managed to share culture and food among otherwise very isolated and indigenous cultures.  India mixed with China, Indonesia mixed with Malaysia, Vietnam mixed with Thailand, and so on.  And thus was born a mixture of some of the best food on the planet.

I chose this recipe because it takes some of the best things from each of these areas and brings them together.  Ghee and coconut from India and Burma, shellfish from Thailand and Vietnam, spices and herbs from the rain forests, all brought together in a neat little bundle.  This recipe is a cross of southeast Indian, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Thai and 100% southeast Asian.  It is addictively delicious, balanced, and layered to perfection.

Southeast Asian Lobster Dumplings

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 30 min
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh chopped lobster meat, claws and knuckle
1 tablespoon ghee
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 bunch cilantro, fine chop
1 tbsp yuzu juice (or juice of 1 lime)
1 thai chile, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 shallot, minced
1 small knob ginger, grated
zest of 1 lime
2 scallions, fine chop
1 package wonton wrappers
kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground corriander seed
1 tbsp egg white (reserved)

Method:

In a small sauce pot, cook the ghee and flour together until toasted and light golden in color.  Slowly add the coconut milk while whisking until smooth (this is your binder).  Season with salt and let cool to room temp.  In a mixing bowl,  Add all ingredients except wontons, binder and salt.  Gently fold in the binder, adding a little bit at a time until mixture is well bound.  You may not need to use it all.  Season with salt and corriander.    Let cool in the fridge.

Place 1 wonton on a cutting board, moisten the edges with the egg white and place a little lobster filling in the center.  Fold the wonton over and press to seal.  Keep working until the filling is gone.  You can now either freeze the dumplings, or cook them right away.

To cook, drop them in boiling salted water and wait until they float.  Transfer to a whatever finishing sauce you have prepared.  Or, drop then in a deep fryer and fry until crisp.

I would suggest a coconut/lobster/lemongrass broth full of wonderful southeast Asian things, like pressed tofu, egg fritata, straw mushrooms, and so on.  Or cook them in a little bit of reserved ghee, with scallions and garlic.  If you fry them, serve with a soy based dipping sauce.

Whatever you do, you can’t go wrong.  These are delicious.

Enjoy.

Crab cake (stuffing)

There is no real trick to making wonderful crab cakes.  Well, those of you from Baltimore may claim there is, but there really isn’t.  To make great crab cakes, you need to go back to the basics: good ingredients, proper technique.  In the restaurant world, crab cakes are one of the easier dishes to produce.  Make them well ahead of time, give them a dunk in the deep fryer or a roll across the flattop, have a nice little salad ready with a dipping sauce, and call it a day.  Really, 99% of the time, that’s how it goes.

Of course, crab cakes are produced from a ‘mix’ which is in reality a stuffing.  And there is your ticket to creative and unique food.  If you want to make crab cakes, serve them with simplicity in mind: some sort of little salad and a spicy dipping sauce.  Maybe an Asian slaw.  Maybe chipotle mayo (http://chefnotebook.blogspot.com/2012/08/chipotle-mayo.html).  But if you want to be creative, start thinking about other things that go well with crab, and use the mix as a stuffing.  Mushrooms, artichokes, peppers, little tomatoes, squash blossoms, filet of sole, salmon, and so on go so well with crab.  The flavors work in harmony and all these items take stuffing well.

In my opinion, crab cakes should have just enough ‘binder’ to hold them together.  The bulk of the mix should be crab, accentuated by a few select vegetables, herbs and spices.  Use good quality lump crab meat, not the processed frozen cheap product.  Never use imitation.  Always make sure to gently pick through the meat ahead of time just to make sure there are no shells (it’s a great way to crack a tooth and ruin a meal).

For this one I take a basic crab stuffing and head off to the Greek Islands for the day.

Crab stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomato Couscous

Ingredients:

For the Crab mix:

8oz Maryland blue lump crab meat, picked through
1 large organic egg
1/2 red pepper, seeds and pith removed, small (fine) dice
1/2 rib celery, small (fine) dice
1 shallot, small (fine)dice
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 bunch chives, minced
1/2 bunch parsley, fine chop
1/4 cup prepared mayonnaise
1 tbsp old bay seasoning
2 pieces white bread, crust removed, pulsed in a food processor until crumbs
panko bread crumbs
kosher salt
black pepper

For the Peppers:

1 can roasted piquillo peppers (gourmet market carry this)
1/2 bunch basil
4 oz halloumi cheese

For the couscous:

1 cup Israeli couscous (the large type)
2 cups tomato juice
extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
black pepper
2 sprigs oregano, leaves only, minced

Method:

For the crab mix:

Place everything except the salt and panko in a bowl.  Gently fold the ingredients together as to not shred the crab.  Add a good pinch of salt.  Add panko as needed until the mix holds together like a meatball.  If you want to check the seasoning but don’t want to eat  it raw, make a little test cake and saute it.  Re-season as necessary.

For the peppers:

Gently, without tearing the peppers, stuff as much crab mix inside the pepper as possible.  Line the peppers on a well oiled baking pan.

For the couscous:

Bring the tomato, shallots and garlic to a boil in a small sauce pot.  Add the couscous, turn heat to low, cover tightly and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add a little chicken stock or water if it needs more liquid (it shouldn’t).  Fluff with a fork and let sit for another 10 minutes off the heat.  Mix in the oregano and a little olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reserve, holding warm.

To finish:

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.  Have a hot grill ready.  Place the stuffed peppers in the oven and roast for about 10 minutes until crab mix is cooked through and the exposed ends are slightly browned.  While this is cooking, grill the cheese with a little olive oil until slightly golden brown.  Let cool and cut the cheese into little cubes

Finely chiffonade the basil.

In a shallow platter,  mound the couscous in the very center, leaving the rims clean.  Gently place the stuffed peppers on top of the couscous.  Sprinkle the basil and cheese over the top as a garnish, with a little additional black pepper and maybe a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve right away.

Again, this mix is a basic crab cake mix.  Want to keep it simple, just for the mix into patties, coat with additional panko and pan fry until done.  I love stuffing this into tomatoes, filet of sole, hollowed out zucchini, squash blossoms, artichokes, mushrooms, etc.  You could even stuff a small chicken.  It’s surprisingly delicious, versatile and simple, and is sure to make a great meal.

Enjoy.

My thoughts and a Rib Roast

I always thought that being a chef would be exciting.  You get to travel, meet lots of great people, and immerse yourself into an almost cult-like driven profession where everyone has the same passion.  Your passion.  The passion for food and to create food.  I mean, think about the possibilities!  Bland starchy vegetables with ordinary proteins will now dazzle people.  Why?  Because of your skill!  Your obsessive almost insane drive to make the ordinary extraordinary.  You took the time to learn how to make magic when others could not.

I used to read cookbooks before bed the way other (more normal) people read’ mysteries or cheap thrillers.  I used to write menus with my friends just for fun.  ‘If I gave you this menu, what would you order’?  Cooking was a way of life, and other people like me had dreams of running the best kitchens in the country, with other like-minded insane and obsessive people.

And then you get there…  I rose through the kitchen ranks very quickly and became an executive chef at an early age.  I choose what went on to my menu, I bought the ingredients, I trained my staff, and I cooked my food.  And what a shock it was!

I will back up a second here and explain something very candidly.  Professional cooking is NOT an easy job.  It is downright hard, and part of young cook’s education should entail the real – life reality of the day – to – operation.  Bottom line is we need to make a living.  Cooking- it becomes hospitality, and the fundamental principal of hospitality is taking care of other people.  If you want my perfect chicken dish to not have butter, I better give it to you that way, even though it may break my heart.  If you like filet mignon so well done it could double as a hockey puck, I better give it to you that way.  Why?  Because our customers pay our bills.  Our customers get what they want, or they will go somewhere else, and I might as well shut my doors.

Chefs work long hours under high pressure with people who don’t like them, don’t speak English, aren’t formally educated and will fight you every step of the way.  Do we fire these people and find others?  Yes.  Who replaces them?  Well, you can figure it out.  Chefs have to remain calm is the barrage of the nightly service crush.  Chefs need to lead other people.  They earn respect, and deserve respect.

Being a chef is a tough job and that incredible passion for food, the love to create, the ‘calling’ can easily get lost somewhere.  Get lost can equal burnout syndrome.  Most of us have gone through this, and only a few come back to fight another day.

I stopped being a professional chef by trade, but as I mentioned, I am still VERY connected to the job.  Tonight was an exceptionally busy night in our hotel, and I watched our PM chef leading the guys through a very challenging service.  Yelling, ordering, 500 degree convection ovens next to pots of boiling water next to high BTU burners loaded with saute pans.  Dish washers running behind everyone, servers madly racing back in forth, and in the center, the control point: the expediter (the man who works the ‘pass’, ie the chef of the kitchen, the controller.  Semi-controlled chaos.  My hat goes off to those people who are taking a full military-like assault.  I wanted nothing to do with it.  A non-stop barrage of orders, all different, all ‘special’ and all critical to our existence.

My passion for food has returned 100%.  It was never gone, but simply overshadowed by other challenges. I LOVE to cook.  I love thinking about cooking, ingredients, making the perfect roast, perfect grill… Nothing makes me happier.  Maybe I had to go through hell to realize it… maybe I shouldn’t mix my passions and professions..

Standing Bone-In Rib Roast

Prep time:  5 minutes
Inactive cook time: 24 hours
Cook time: 4 hours
Yield:  5-6 servings

Ingredients:

1 6-8 lb bone-in rib roast
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
10 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 strips bacon
1/2 bunch fresh thyme

Method:

Grind the bacon in a food processor with the thyme.  Rub the entire roast with the olive oil, garlic, bacon/thyme mix and pepper.  Cover tightly and let sit over night.

Heat an oven to 475 degrees.  Liberally salt the roast.  Line a roasting pan with foil and either a roasting rack or wire rack (to keep the roast elevated).  Put the roast in the oven and cook until slightly browned and crispy.  Do not open oven!!  Turn oven down to 200 degrees and cook for about 4 hours.  Check temp.  Internal temp should be between 115-120 (med-rare in the very center).  Let roast rest.  Turn oven back up to 475 and return the roast to the oven to re-heat and re-crisp.

Let roast rest for 5 minutes, and carve.  Serve immediately.

The appropriate sides and sauces for this are limitless.  Be creative.  Remember, this is your chance to dazzle people!

Enjoy.