11/6/13

Q&A: Dicing tomatoes

TomatoesSimplySmartDinnerPlans subscriber, Judy H., asks – “I’m trying to get away from using canned tomatoes, and use fresh instead. This may be a dumb question, but…what’s the best way to dice tomatoes?”

Judy, while I’m a big believer that there ARE dumb questions (and plenty of them), this is not one of them. :)

Everyone has to start learning their kitchen skills somewhere, so thank you for coming to us!

First of all, kudos on switching from canned to fresh tomatoes! You’re going to get so much more flavor, and a fraction of the sodium, by going fresh. As you’ll see in the video (below), it’s really not that much more work to dice a fresh tomato than it is to open a can, either!

Two quick tips before we get started…a very sharp knife, and a fresh firm tomato makes all the difference in ease of cutting. Once a tomato begins to over-ripen, the skins get tougher, and the insides get soft, making it much more difficult to cut, even with a properly sharp knife.

Here’s the video…please feel free to post any questions you have, below!

-Chef Perry

02/21/13

Secret #10: Mise en Place

Wow, can we really be half way through? That’s right, it’s day 10 of our 20-Day/20-Part series of blog posts titled “Tips, Tricks, and Secrets of Professional Chefs”. Last post, we talked about Giving Citrus a Roll.

Today let’s take a look at technique that we’ve talked about here before, and one that we incorporate into almost every hautemealz.com menu: Mise en Place.

Professional chefs use a system referred to as “mise en place” (meez n plaas) – or everything in place – to get their ingredients and tools organized and ready ahead of cooking time.

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02/18/13

Secret #8: 5 Tips for Perfect Pasta

Okay, it’s Day 8 of our 20-Day/20-Part series of meal planning blog posts titled “Tips, Tricks, and Secrets of Professional Chefs”. Last post, we talked about how  Brown is Beautiful!

Today, we’re gonna get our Italiano on, and look at Secret #8: Perfect Pasta!

Cacio e Pepe con Pollo (recipe link below)

Cacio e Pepe con Pollo (recipe link below)

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01/13/13

Spanish Tapas & Wines Class: In Good Taste

Did you know that Spanish tapas started over 300 years ago, when inn-keepers along Spanish coach lines would sell sherry to thirsty travelers, while fresh horses were being hitched to the coach?

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When patrons began complaining about the number of flies that were getting into their tipple, the inn-keepers began topping the cups with a slice of bread to keep the pests out. To their delight, they discovered that the travelers bought more wine  when a snack was included, and the simple, local, and unpretentious tradition of tapas (small plates) was born.

Now, tapas is enjoyed on a daily basis throughout Spain, usually around four in the afternoon, and is often a mini “food crawl” to several favorite spots to hold folks over until the traditional dinner at around eleven at night.

In Good Taste Cooking SchoolI enjoyed a fantastic night out, last night, with a focus (as you might have guessed) on all things Spain at a local class: Spanish Tapas and Wines from Spain. 

This 3-hour In Good Taste Cooking School class explored numerous regions of Spain featuring different Spanish wines and small dishes.  It was a demonstration class where the Chef Erika Reagor of Thrive Pacific NW (a local Portland food truck) both entertained and educated ten of us foodies, as we sat back, tasted and enjoyed.

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

Chef Erika Reagor of Thive Pacific NWChef Erika is also a certified Nutrition Educator, Health Counselor and Nutrition Consultant. She teaches cooking classes based on whole food preparations and alternative ingredients.  She has been an in-home chef for the past 6 years, providing the benefits of fresh, whole, and affordable meals for numerous clients.

13 (800x598)This was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken, and the most fun.

The braised ribs in adobo  were absolutely amazing (and I know ribs), and the Spanish octopus was, hands down, one of the best foods I’ve ever put in my mouth.

26 (707x800)If you’re interested in Spanish cuisine, tapas, enhancing you cooking skills, of just sharing some amazing food with some friendly foodies, I strongly recommend taking a class at In Good Taste.

Thanks Chef Erika and In Good Taste for showing us a great time!

-Chef Perry

The Menu:

Open-faced Crab Empanadas

Open-faced Crab Empanadas
Crab simmered in a rich tomato sauce and topped on a savory pastry.
Wine Pairing: Segura Viudas Brut Rererva

Spanish Octopus, Confit Potato, & Smoked Paprika with Romesco Sauce

Spanish Octopus, Confit Potato, with Romesco Sauce
(Pulpo con Patatas)
Tender octopus served with smokey potatoes
Wine Pairing: Tapena Verdejo

Serrano Ham Croquettes with Roasted Pepper Coulis

Serrano Ham Croquettes with Roasted Pepper Coulis
(Croquetas de Jamon)
Fried little balls of ham and cheese.  Yummy!

Tapas-Style Meatballs over Braised Greens

Tapas-Style Meatballs over Braised Greens
(Albondigas en Salsa)
Wine Pairing: 2010 Ergo Tempranillo – This was my favorite wine of the evening, delicious and not at all tannic.

Grilled Lamb Skewers with Salsa Verde

Grilled Lamb Skewers with Salsa Verde
Marinated and Grilled Lamb with a Spanish-style sauce of 10 different herbs and spices.

Braised Pork in Adobo Sauce

Braised Pork in Adobo Sauce
Both pork shoulder and ribs are slow cooked in sherry and spices to create a most tender and flavorful dish.
Wine Pairing: 2009 Las Rocas Granacha

Creme Catalana with Winter Fruit Compote

Creme Catalana with Winter Fruit Compote
A baked custard with spices and orange zest.
Pairing: Dry Sherry

11/8/12

What is “Mise en place?”

Professional chefs use a system referred to as “mise en place” (meez n plaas) – or everything in place – getting their ingredients and tools organized and ready ahead of cooking time.

This means setting up your kitchen so that everything is within reach. The area where you do most of your prepping should have easy access to knives and measuring cups so that you’re not digging around for the stuff you need.

This means having wooden spoons near your stove, where you’ll use them, instead of across the kitchen in a drawer; cutting board next to sink and disposal, knives near cutting board.

Also, prep your food, open any cans, pre-measure dry ingredients into small bowls (a bio-degradable paper cup, kept in with the sugar, flour, salt, rice, etc…works great and saves on clean-up too!)

With a proper mise en place, you should never have to stray for than a step or two from your cooking “station.”

Trust me, this is a HUGE time saver!

So…how do you organize your mise en place?

Chef Perry