Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From the SCCC Kitchen: Radishes get star treatment in vegetable dish

Radishes, those are those little red gems many of us slice thin and toss into a salad, but what else can we do with them? Many things actually, all we have to do is look outside of our normal American culinary repertoire. In my current recipe featured in the Schenectady Gazette this week, I look to France for inspiration where cooking radishes is nothing out of the ordinary. Take a look at the article by Jeff Wilkin, along with a short video on my sauteed radishes with peas and arugula.

American Culinary Federation Election Results

The numbers are in, they have been tallied and the American Culinary Federation has announced the results of our new board members for the coming term. The torch will be passed at the ACF National Convention next month in Orlando, FL. You can read more about the American Culinary Federation and the election results here.

President: Michael Ty, CEC, AAC

Treasurer: James Taylor, CEC, AAC, MBA

Secretary: David Ivey-Soto, CEC, CCA, MBA

Vice President Central Region: David Russell, CEC, AAC

Vice President Northeast Region: William Tillinghast, CEC, AAC, MBA

Vice President Southeast Region:Jeff Bacon, CEC, CCA, AAC

Vice President Western Region: William Franklin, CMC, AAC

Chair, American Academy of Chefs: Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, AAC

Immediate Past President: John Kinsella, CMC, CCE, WGMC, AAC

Also elected to serve as vice chair, American Academy of Chefs, is Stafford DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From the SCCC Kitchen: Mediterranean hamburgers and oven fries are delightful pairing

My summer series of recipes began this past week in the Schenectady Gazette with the articles written by the venerable Jeff Wilkin. The first recipe of the summer season pays tribute to the summer grill with my Mediterranean burger. Think ratatouille flavors and ingredients put into a hamburger along with some tasty, yet healthy oven baked Mediterranean spiced fries.

Check out the recipe and the video of me talking about the dish here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Foundations

A message from my friend George from grad school, I had to share:

How’s it going? Commonwealth Ave has not been the same since you left. The shadow of your fedora creeps no more against the greasy, weathered bricks of dark, recessed dorms. The smoke of duck fat lingers in the alleys and open windows, yet you are not there. Screams pierce the night scolding the modern world for its insolence toward a culinary past secure in its techniques, foundations, and resourcefulness. Is it you or the ghost of you?—like Hamlet’s father you haunt the devoted to avenge the wrongs of the non-believers. “ Foundations,” we whispered in the ears of those who would listen. Damn the tubes, the circulators, the foam, the oxide—these are the false prophets, we warned. But they would not listen. The magic flashed and they succumbed to it. So we wait…and we wait still. The cycle is near completion. Until then, my comrade, hold fast to the promise of the egg. Stay loyal to our five mothers who have served and will serve again. I wipe my brow with the cloth of our masters and repudiate those who mock our simplicity. In the end it, it will be the clock moving backwards which will propel us forward. In the words of our brothers, I say again, foundations, foundations, foundations….

Friday, June 12, 2009

What have I been reading?

I'm often asked what books I am currently reading. I tend to read about one food writing book a week along with a number of magazines, papers, texts and culinary books, depending on what i am working on and what my mind have gravitated towards.

For the inquisitive mind though, this past week I picked up ten books from Barnes and Nobles (Buy four get one free promotion), purchased a couple items on and also picked up a couple from the Open Door Bookstore on Jay Street in Schenectady.

At Barnes and Nobles I picked :
Culinaria Russia by H.F. Ullmann
Culinaria Hungary by H.F. Ullmann
The Complete Joel Robuchon by Joel Robuchon
Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It by Karl Weber
The End of Food by Paul Roberts
Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For-From Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City by David Lebovitz
Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen
New Orleans Cuisine: Fourteen Signature Dishes and Their Histories by Susan Tucker and S. Frederick Starr
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

From the Open Door BookStore:
Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker
Home Sausage Making : How-To Techniques for Making and Enjoying 100 Sausages at Home by Susan Mahnke Peery and Charles G. Reavis

Good Morning, Kimchi!: Forty Different Kinds of Traditional & Fusion Kimchi Recipes by Sook-ja Yoon
NOVA: Mystery of the Senses - Taste DVD Series: Nova

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tiki Drinks and Tommy Bahama Shirts

Did you know that Tiki drinks are all the rage again? I had no idea, but so says Jason Wilson of the Washington Post. It's a good thing I like wearing my Tommy Bahama shirts while drinking a Zombie or Mai Tai on my back deck. They may have gone out of fashion with everyone else awhile ago, but I have always loved Trader Vic's style drinks.

I remember back when I was a kid, there was a local Chinese restaurant (which sadly went the way of the Chinese buffet many years later) used to have all these fun cocktails in the funky glasses (no I was never allowed to have one back then) Yes, I even own the proper glasses for these drinks, Scorpion Bowl anyone? In many of the Chinese dim Sum houses in NYC and Boston you can still get these funky drinks. While I'm home, I mix my own. If you are looking for some recipes, take a look here on the Trader Vic's website.

Sourcing Good Seafood

I was up at Spoon and Whisk in Clifton Park again last night teaching a class on outdoor charcoal grilling. One of the dishes I prepared was a grilled Alaskan Salmon over a spinach salad which had grill sauteed fennel, roasted peppers and a raspberry vinaigrette. Invariably whenever I offer a seafood dish I am asked where to find decent seafood in landlocked upstate New York. I often joke, "drive to NYC or Boston". I am only really half joking, because it is hard to find decent seafood up here, but if you are discerning and know what you are looking for you can occasionally find some decent products locally.

Where do I buy my fish? The Asian Market on Colvin ave. in Albany, NY. They generally have a really great array of fresh WHOLE seafood, which is important to me, I can see the eyes, gills, etc. to check for freshness which i will get into after my list here. They will clip the fins and what not off to leave you a whole fish, or they will fillet the fish as you desire. You want fresh you say? If you like catfish, you do not get fresher as they pull it right out of the tank and dispatch it for you. They pretty much always have a great array including red snapper, yellow tail, cat fish, cod, eel, clams, oysters, mullet, herring, flounder, sole, shrimp, carp, tuna, mackerel, striped bass, salmon all depending on the season. They also have some fun stuff occasionally like geoduck clam, razor clams, soft shell crabs, turtles (live even), giant snails, baby snails, I'm even shocked once in awhile when I go in. I love this place, but come with an open mind, don't mind any language barrier there might be, they will get you want you need.

Lee's Market on Central ave. is another Asian market in Albany. On the days where I can't find what i want over at the Colvin Market, or if I just don't feel like going into the larger shop I will go here. Plus the people are super friendly here. Their selection is quite good as well and everything is super fresh.

Cousins Market in Albany is a wholesaler which supplies many of the local restaurants. They carry mostly the normal stuff you would expect to find in a normal fish mongers, salmon, trout, cod, shrimp, clams, oysters and seasonal items as well. I have neither a negative or a positive overall feeling for their products.

As for our local supermarkets in the area, i have a love hate relationship with some of them. If I am picking up seafood form a grocery store, I will generally go to Price Chopper. They store their fish properly on fresh ice with a proper barrier once the fish is in fillets. Now someone is going to read this and tell me they have an issue with their local store. That is where the local management would have to be addressed, the company as a whole has high standards but sometimes some of the staff might not follow the rules, but that happens anywhere. The important thing here is to know how to select your fish in case your local shop does not go through its seafood fast enough. As for the other grocery shops, i just really don't bother. Hannaford in Latham Farms is pretty good, otherwise I think with the options I listed above, they fulfill my quality needs.

Now there are times I want some specialty items, let's say I am planning a crawfish boil for instance. I usually buy about 40-50 lbs of live crawfish and i think the only way to buy them is to have them shipped directly from Louisiana. I have held about a half dozen boils over the last few years and I always get mine from Louisiana Crawfish Co. They are consistent, less than a 5% loss of product (some are going to show up dead, it is just a fact of ummmm life. They also sell alligator meat, crawfish tail meat, crabs, turtle meat, gulf shrimp (fresh shrimp not that the frozen stuff we've all eaten for so many years). Are you looking for a King Cake for your next Mardi Gras? They sell those as well.

All Fresh Seafood is another great mail order company. You will certainly pay for your products ordering them online, it is expensive to mail ice and pack it properly and it is sent either same day or next day mail. All Fresh Seafood carries a number of different products, filets, whole fish, shellfish, etc. Rather than just shopping online, it is good to call them to see what they have fresh from the waters.

Here is a list of what to look for in quality fish:
Eyes: The eyes should be bright, shiny and moist, they should not be sunken in at all, they should have a nice roundness to them.
Gills: If the gills are present, they should have some redness to them signifying the presence of of blood and not being subjected to too much air.
Scales: The scales should be firm and should not flake off easily.
Fins: The fins should spring back easily, and should have firm webbing.
Flesh: On whole fish the flesh should be firm and should not impress when a finger is pushed on it. On fillets, the flesh should spring back readily after a finger is pushed into the flesh.
Smell: For years I've heard people say fish should have no smell, that is patent nonsense, fish always has a smell. The smell should be of fresh saltiness, maybe a sweet aroma. Certain fish like salmon are fatty, so they have a slightly stronger smell and as such go bad faster as well so it is important to smell your fish before buying it. When in doubt, don't buy it.

Here is a good website to check for sustainable seafood, many species are at risk of being lost from poor fishing tactics and over fishing.

Here is a chart on the recommended cooking temperatures for fish and other animal proteins.

Here is a chart from New York Seafood Council on nutrition facts for different seafood.

Here is a chart on the seasonal availability of seafood in New York.

Here is a good chart on "cooking times" for a variety of seafood.

Monday, June 8, 2009

She can cook his sorry ass under the table and she knows it

I've always appreciated female cooks and chefs, Anthony Bourdain says it best in this montage I found earlier today.

The Afghan Grill

Did you know there was an Afghan restaurant in Latham, NY? Neither did I until I drove past the Peter Harris Plaza a half dozen times recently for travels to Troy. Luckily I decided to turn my head to the left on one of the trips back and I noticed the sign that read Afghan Grill: Authentic Afghan Cuisine and (the word Pizza had been scratched out). The word pizza being scratched out did not scream "come eat here now!!!" to me, so I ignored the little place after a few more trips back and forth to Troy.

I was visiting my mother this past Sunday and we went down to the Schenectady Farmers Market (you must go here, amazing produce and other goodies, I'll talk more about that another time) and we decided we wanted lunch. I don't recall my mother being an adventurous eater when I was younger, but she will try just about anything, she's had Indian cuisine with me, been to WD-50, Bar Boulud and other places, so I thought maybe we should try the Afghan Grill.

The exterior of this place does not do it justice, beautiful decor, great tapestries, well adorned tables (even if they are glass covered), a little sitting area for what looks like someone plays some traditional music once in awhile and an exposed ceiling which is popular these days and looks good if done properly.

The menu has a great selection, we had the Kado Borani, butternut squash sauteed and topped with a tangy red yogurt sauce, along with Boolani which were crisp pastry turnovers stuffed with vegetables like green onion.

We both opted for different kabobs, I went for the trio which had lamb, chicken, and kofta (ground meat, in this case beef, seasoned and shaped on the kabob) over a well flavored rice. My mom opted for the lamb kabob. Truly tasty, well seasoned, the meats were moist and not dry like many places outside of the area I have been to.

We opted for no dessert, we had enough to eat. I did take home some Kaboli Palow which is the Afghan version of Lamb curry, I couldn't resist. I had green tea, mom had iced tea (they don't serve alcohol btw), when all was said and done the bill was $50.00, which was two apps, three entrees, and two drinks, wow a bargain and for such great food. I will be back again, and again, and again.

The Afghan Grill
952 Troy Schenectady Road (in the Peter Harris Plaza)
Latham, New York 12110
518-783-9200 - Phone

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Love Monte Cristo Sandwiches

A Monte Cristo with a fig confiture and Foie Gras, oh man. My apologies, it is in French. Is it a Monte Cristo? I don't know, but I'm still going to make it. I think even in French, if you pay close enough attention to what he is doing you can make it. Perhaps I will try to write a recipe in the next day for anyone who wants to try to make it. Although, hrm, figs aren't exactly in season yet, I can always try some high quality dry figs to make the confiture.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Korean Restaurants

I absolutly love Korean food. I cook Korean food quite often, but I also like to try Korean food at any number of Korean restaurants when I get a chance. Years ago the only place to get good Korean food, or Korean food at all, you had to go to a major city like NYC, Boston, San Francisco or otherwise.

I'm happy to say that the Capital District of New York now boasts four Korean restaurants. All four of these restaurants are Korean/Japanese restaurants, and from all of the owners I have been told that this is because Korean food is still a little difficult for many Westerners, which I can see with the strong flavors, spice and fermented tastes in the various banchan dishes. It isn't a far stretch to find both of these cuisines togehter due to their shared cultural history, both good and bad. One of my professors in the past told me though, that war and political discourse always leads to good food, an interesting philospohy I must say, but that is a topic for another day.

At anyrate, I thought I would share the four locations here, I have eatten at all four and they all have some dishes they do very well. If you are squeamish about trying Korean food, start off with something simple like kimchi pancake, the Korean BBQ dishes are generally easy to approach due to their slight sweetness, but be careful if you are not fond of spicy as most Korean BBQ is spicy. If all else fails, ask the waiter/waitress they usually love introducing people to Korean foods.

Ta-Ke Korean Food Specialty

Arirang (Owned by the same folks who own Kim's Market)

Ginza Japanese & Korean Cuisine
Kabuki Restaurant

Friday, June 5, 2009

BBQ Restaurants Capital District NY

I spent a little time and compiled a list of BBQ restaurants I found in the Capital District Area of New York and the outlying areas. I give no personal promises of what quality each location gives as I haven't dined at most of the locations. I have heard good things about Capital Q Smokehouse in Albany, Brunswick BBQ in Brunswick, JR's BBQ in Burnt Hills.

I personally don't go out for BBQ much as I make it often at home. I generally wait for my trips down south to get my BBQ at a restaurant, but having lived in the area again for about a year, I might consider trying some of these locations in the near future. That is after to 15 lbs of various BBQ is out of my refrigerator from the class I taught at Spoon and Whisk this past Wednesday.

Capital Q Smokehouse

Ballston Spa
J-Bob's Tennessee BBQ

Burnt Hills
JR's Barbeque

Brunswick BBQ and Brew

Clifton Park
Giffy's Bar-B-Q

Smokey Bones Bbq & Grill
Shane's Rib Shack

East Greenbush
Lodge BBQ Lounge & Catering

Chico's BBQ

New Lebanon
Shaker Mountain Barbeque

Saratoga Springs
PJ's Saratoga Style Bar-B-Q

Dr. T's Barebone Bbq (has odd hours, so make sure you check it out first, one of the few places I have been to on this list and I like it quite a bit, call before you travel out that far to verify the seasonal hours of operation)

American BBQ

I recently taught a class on American Regional BBQ at Spoon and Whisk in Clifton Park, NY. A resounding success, the class partook in a number of regional BBQ specialties. They got a taste of Memphis-Style BBQ which use a dry rub with no sauce, while the Kansas City style BBQ pork shoulder has a dry-rub, a wet mop marinade and is served with a sweet tomato based sauce, sweetened with cane sugar. In lieu of the basic Texas brisket which uses only salt and pepper for flavoring, I opted to offer the Kansas City version which uses a mustard/beer/vinegar marinade which is then coated with a dry rub. Going down south to Carolina, we had a basic South Carolina BBQ shoulder, seasoned heavily with salt and pepper, smoked, and then served with a sweet mustard/vinegar based BBQ sauce, and we also had a basic North Carolina dip sauce which is simply tomato puree, vinegar, water, and a touch of salt and pepper.

The highlight to me was the BBQ Prime-Rib, which was a 6 rib roast rubbed with a flavorful dry-rub, marinated over night and then smoked slowly up to medium-rare. I served this along with a delicious horseradish dipping sauce made from the drippings from the roast, mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, and seasoned with salt and pepper. For sides we had some cornbread smoked in a high temp smoker and for dessert we had a strawberry/blueberry crisp from the same high-temp smoker.

Those of you looking to learn a bit more about BBQ can check out the following links:

Kansas City BBQ Society
Illinois BBQ Society
New England BBQ Society
Great Lakes BBQ Association
International Barbeque Cookers Association
American BBQ Society

BBQ Equipment and Recipes:
Weber Grill Creations
BBQr's Delight (smoke pellets)
Yoder Smokers
Kingfish Smokers
Barbecue University (Great TV show)
Barbecue'n On the Internet

Local and Semi-Local Upcoming Competitions:
July 3-5 2009 I Love Barbecue Festival Lake Placid, NY
Contact: Dmitry Feld, PO Box 1122, Lake Placid, NY 12946.
Phone: 518-523-2071. Fax: 518-523-4106.

July 10-12 2009 New Jersey State Barbecue Championship North Wildwood, NJ
Contact: Eric Shenkus, 201 New Jersey Ave, North Wildwood, NJ 08260.
Phone: 609-523-6565.

July 10-11 2009 Ohio Veteran Barbecue Cook-Off Kettering, OH
Contact: Jim Ferguson, 2908 Valley View Drive, Fairborn, OH 45324.
Phone: 937-416-7924.

July 18-19 2009 Troy Pig Out Troy, NY
Contact: Elizabeth Young, 274 River Street, Troy, NY 12180.
Phone: 518-727-9786.

July 24-25 2009 Monmouth County Fair 2nd Annual BBQ State Championship - Blues & BBQ 1500 Kozloski Road, Freehold, NJ
Contact: Helen Fiore, 805 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ 07738.
Phone: 732-842-4000, ext. 4225. Fax: 732-842-4162.

July 25-26 2009 The Harpoon Championships of New England BBQ Windsor, VT
Contact: Fitz Granger, 306 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210.
Phone: 617-574-9551, x 525. Fax: 617-482-9361.

Upcoming Classes I will be teaching: at Spoon and Whisk in Clifton Park, NY
1675 Route 9
Clifton Park, NY 12065
Phone: (518) 371-4450

Outdoor Charcoal Grilling • Wed, June 10th, 7 PM

Tonight Chef Tanner will teach you how to use your charcoal grill, as well as the proper cooking techniques of direct and indirect grilling.
Menu: Grilled Corn and Goat Cheese Pizza, Grilled Salmon with Roasted Peppers and Spinach, and Italian Panzanella Salad on the grill.

Exotic BBQ and Grilling • Wed, June 17th, 7 PM

Most cultures have their own type of BBQ or grilling. This class is about different styles of BBQ and grilling found in other cuisines.
Menu: Jamaican Jerk grilling, traditional Korean BBQ, Moroccan Kefta Kabobs, and Japanese Yakitori.

Knife Skills • Wed, August 26th, 7 PM

To cook really well, you need to know how to use knives properly. We’ll cover all the basics of use, care, and sharpening. Demonstration, plus hands-on practice session. Includes a brief discussion about mandolines.

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