In this post I’m looking to set up the groundwork for (yet another) series of articles. With this series I want to focus on what makes a certain cooking style unique. I’ll be focusing mainly on nationalities and ethnicities in this series, as each one has it’s own tricks and techniques. On this maiden voyage of new topic, however, I want to compare and contrast three popular, yet different cooking styles that share a common undercurrent. Those would be Italian, Mexican, and Japanese.
Have I lost you? Yes, they absolutely share a common thread, and that would be utilizing the best ingredients available with the least amount of tampering. Let me elaborate…If you have a perfect tomato, or tomatillo, or tuna, the last thing you wanna do is over complicate the dish you wish to use it in! Let that perfect ingredient shine on it’s own! The biggest mistake I’ve seen in my near 20 years as a chef is making a dish so complex that the “soul” of the star ingredient is restrained, over shadowed, muted, or nearly obliterated by too much medeling on the cooks part. Let me give you examples using the items I’ve already mentioned. Perfect tomato = caprese, imperfect tomato = into the sauce pot. Perfect tomatillo = salsa verde, imperfect = soup anyone? Perfect tuna = sashimi, imperfect = casserole (or some other atrocity upon which I dare not speculate…). Simplicity, more often than not, will yield the best results when dealing with something at the height of it’s season. Which is another thing these food cultures have in common, a highly developed sense of seasonality, when an ingredient is at it’s absolute peak. Every meal revolves around this concept, especially in Japan. Mexico not as much since their climate is tropical and sub-tropical they can grow pretty much whatever, whenever. Ever wonder how we get melons and berries in the winter and spring? Look at the label, their most likely from Mexico.
Every festival in Japan (and there are a ton of them throughout the year) is accented by the food selections, which are almost universally seasonal in nature. The traditional home meals follow this as well. Though, with the younger generation in Japan becoming more and more Westernized this is on the decline somewhat. Add modern shipping and flash-frozen items to the equation and for a modern nation nothing ever has to be “off the menu”. The traditional foods served at these festivals remains seasonal and local, however, and Japan is still very big on tradition.Italy, as well, has a strong sense of seasonality and locality. Most Italian dishes can be traced directly to a region, or even a city. A good example of this is a favorite pasta sauce, Bolognese, originating in Bologna. Southern Italy where it’s warmer gave us the tomato based sauces, while northern Italy where the majority of dairy farms are gave us the cream based sauces. Fish dishes from the coast, cheeses from the mountainous north ect…
A growing number of the top restaurants in the U.S. have adopted this mantra of seasonally changing menus and buying everything locally to ensure as little time spent in a warehouse or in transit as possible. Some chefs even go out themselves and meet with the farmers and ranchers to develop a personal relationship with them to ensure the best possible quality.
No where is the concept of simplicity more apparent than Japanese sashimi. Top quality fish sliced thin and served raw. But then there’s also Italian carpaccio, seasoned and briefly seared beef (most often tenderloin) sliced paper thin and served cold and very rare. Or consider the South American delicacy ceviche. Raw fish and/or shellfish marinated in citrus juice and various other herbs and peppers, at the chefs discretion, served cold, usually with corn chips or just a fork! Or the Mexican favorite pico de gallo. A variety of raw vegetables, usually containing tomatoes, onions and always chilis of some sort, tossed in cilantro and lime juice or cider vinegar.
Point being, these three completely disparate cultures came upon the same conclusions (for the most part) regarding food. Under any circumstances, do NOT fuck with perfection! Instead, find a simple way to showcase it. Let it be the star of the “performance”. You’ll eat much better for it…
One of the easiest and quickest ways of preparing dinner is to pan sear your meat or fish and make a sauce “a la minute” (fancy French cooking term for “at the minute”), but it seems to me this process is little understood and vastly underutilized by home cooks. This post will be dedicated to de-mystifying the procedure. It really is very simple, as long as you stick to the principles, and most pro cooks value this method of sauce making above all others.
Searing involves a pan over high heat coated with just enough oil in the bottom of the pan to cover the whole surface. As soon as whisps of smoke start to rise from the pan you’re ready to go. Vegetable oil, canola, soy, peanut, and light olive oil work best for this. Don’t use Extra Virgin, it has a lower “smoke point” and therefore will burn at the high temperature needed to pull this off. Next thing to think about is drying the meat. You’ll get a better sear if the surface of the meat is as dry as possible. The best way to accomplish this is to wrap it thoroughly in paper towel and press it lightly with your hands on all sides. Seasoning, of course, is of high importance too. Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper are seen on every pro cooks work station for this very reason. Shellfish and poultry need very little, while heartier meats like beef require twice as much, keep that in mind. Also keep in mind it’s better to under-season than over-season, you can always add more at the table, you cannot take it away.The biggest rule is DO NOT overcrowd the pan. I know it’s tempting, the more you fit in the pan the quicker you’ll be done, right? Resist this urge, anything you put in the pan will drop the temperature of the surface. If it drops too far you’ll start to cook too deeply into the meat before the proper brown crust forms (which is the whole point to this). At this point the meat will let go of too much of it’s juices, and with a pan that’s not hot enough for it to evaporate on contact your meat ends up swimming in it’s own fat and juices and you’ll end up boiling it rather than searing, which with most meats will give you an end result more akin to shoe leather than edible goodness.
When searing fish or poultry the general rule to go by is skin side first (if you didn’t skin the fish, that is) because this is the fattiest side. This also applies to whole beef loins and such for roasting purposes. In the pictures I’ve included I’m searing chicken thighs in a non-stick pan. Non-stick is not needed, and in fact, you’ll get a better feel for the process without once you’ve done it a few times.When using a pan that’s not non-stick DO NOT move things around until it’s ready to be turned! You’ll know this by gently nudging the meat with your tongs. If it comes free and moves it’s ready to turn over, if it remains stuck to the surface of the pan, leave it be! Otherwise you’ll just end up mutilating it. And ALWAYS flip the meats away from you, meaning the side closest to you over and away. If you turn the meats toward you and your tongs slip off (we are talking about high heat and oil here) there will be splash damage. I could post pictures of burn scars that I acquired learning this the hard way, but I’ll spare you. Once you’ve achieved a nice uniform browning of all sides, if the piece of meat you are searing is too big to thoroughly cook in the pan without burning put it on a baking sheet and finish it in the oven. Meanwhile, you’ve got this hot pan full of browned meat bits and juices, you can’t let that go to waste! Color = flavor! Turn the heat down a bit and add your sauce base ingredients. Onions, peppers, shallots, whatever it is you wish the final result to be. Saute briefly and add your garlic. Cook that until the smell of garlic smacks you in the face, a minute or less, now it’s time to deglaze. Pour in whatever beer, wine, or liquor the recipe demands. Here we’re preparing a Paella so beer was the beverage of choice due to the multitude of shellfish involved (see my last post about beer). Crank the heat back up and reduce, or boil out the water content, until the pan is nearly dry.
Here is where we decide which direction to take the sauce in. Gravy like? Add a stock that coresponds with the dish and thicken as required. Butter sauce? Add a little stock, a small quantity of some form of acid (like vinegar or lemon juice or both, Tabasco usually works nicely too), reduce as before, and slowly whip in small cubes of cold butter. In most cases fresh herbs go in very last, right before you turn off the heat. Thirty seconds is sufficient to infuse the flavor of the herbs into the sauce. I’ll get into the difference in the culinary uses between fresh and dry herbs in a later post.
So, let’s review:
Rule 1: Pat the meats dry before searing.
Rule 2: Proper seasoning with kosher salt and whatever dry spice is called for. Fresh ground black pepper is most common.
Rule 3: High heat and just enough oil to coat the pan, and make sure the pan is screaming hot before you put anything in it.
Rule 4: The most important rule. DO NOT overcrowd the pan! Leave at least an inch between items.
Rule 5: Always turn the items away from you.
Rule 6: Use that brown goodness left in the pan to start building your sauce.
This may seem intimidating, but it’s really not, and it’s ease and quickness make it worth learning to do properly. About my insistance on Kosher salt as opposed to any other kind, it has a very clean flavor. Iodized table salt has a more metallic taste. While sea salt is quite acceptable for most applications and I’ll jump for that if Kosher isn’t at hand, there are still mineral traces in sea salt that may prove undesireable. The basic variety of sea salt is perfectly fine, it’s when you get into the red and black varieties that this is more of an issue. Those are better left to salads or finished products rather than seasoning prior to cooking because the mineral qualities get lost in the cooking process, and that’s the biggest reason to use them.
If you have any further questions I’ll be more than happy to answer them. Just ask in the comments. Until next time, eat, drink, LIVE!
When it comes to cooking or food/beverage pairing, wine is most often the elixir of choice. Be it in sauces, braisings, or imbibed with the meal, this is nearly universal. There is even an entire profession dedicated to it, most likely due to the huge impact French technique has had on cooking as a whole. As a chef and home-brewer I believe that beer is every bit as qualified for the task. Granted, it’s more difficult get the dark berry notes out of beer that you can out of wine without additives, but it is possible, just add it!
The myriad of hop choices can give you an astonishing array of floral notes. The even greater choices in roasted barley will get you whatever earthy, dusty, or even tobacco hints you might be looking for. Even the choice of what yeast strain to use can influence the citrus, sweetness, dryness, or fruity characteristics you desire. Even still, the monopoly remains. When sitting down to a fine meal in a fancy restaurant it’s usually expected to see a good wine list. As well it should be. I’m not trying to marginalize or denigrate the merrits of a good wine list. Not nearly. I’m trying to promote beer to be seen on level ground with wine in respect to pairing with food and in the cooking process. They both have their place, but sometimes (in my eyes at least) wine just doesn’t cut it…
Case in point, oysters. One of my absolute favorite foods period! Kumamoto and/or Malpeque oysters WILL be served to me on my death bed, and if not, I’ll be sure to mercilessly torment from the grave whoever it is that fucks up that request! Just as importantly, they better be served with Guinness!!!! I can’t think of a single wine that that pairs with oysters, or most shellfish for that matter, as well as beer does. Maybe that’s just a personal preference. I’m willing to concede to that, but I think there are more than a few oyster fans out there that would agree with me. On the same note, I can’t imagine short ribs braised in anything other than copious amounts of red wine and veal stock. But you can still pair the finished dish with a good stout, porter, or barley wine. As I said, they both have their place.
I mentioned earlier the probable cause of this imbalance, the French influence on cooking technique as a whole. If you are a serious beer nut you know the reason why the French opt for wine over beer….. French beer sucks! The French don’t even drink French beer, they drink mostly German beer! Masters of cooking and wine making, they should leave the beer brewing to the Germans, English, Irish, Scottish, and Belgians. The true masters of that particular art, though some of the American micro-breweries are on their heels. Another possible root to this is the cost. Beer is cheaper than wine, at least any wine I’d wanna drink, and how good can it be if it’s $5 a glass at most restaurants that are charging $10 and up for a glass of good wine? There is something to be said for the snootiness of people with money to burn, trust me…. I’ve been feeding them for over 15 years… But to this I say, “Pull your heads out of your collective asses and open your damn mind!”
Give me just about any dish and I can tell you a good beer to use in it’s preparation or to pair with the final dish. If I can’t think of a specific beer, I should be able to come up with a style choice to explore to find the best match. I already mentioned short ribs and shellfish, here is a short list of other meat preparations and their respective beer pairings to the best of my abilities:
Sushi – a dry, hoppy Pilsner such as Sam Adams Noble Pils
Grilled – Pale Ale such as Bass
Roasted – Nut Brown Ale such as Sam Smith or Pete’s
Grilled – IPA or ESB such as Fullers
Stewed – Brown Ale such as Newcastle or Stout such as Guinness or Murphy’s
Duck – Belgian Lambic or other fruit beer such as Pete’s Wicked Strawberry Blonde
Grilled – Helles or Grolsh style
Roasted – Porter such as Sam Smiths Taddy Porter or see Duck
Red Game (venison, elk, bear ect.) – Barley Wine such as Shipyard or see Beef
Pale Game (boar, quail, pheasant ect.) – Heffe-Weizen such as Paulaner or Bock such as Spaten
These are, of course, gloriously oversimplified. To get a true “match” all the elements of the dish need to be considered when weighing your beverage choices. I hope this has opened your eyes a little to the possibilities (assuming I’m not preaching to the chior) that beer present as a viable alternative to wine for the next time you sit down to great meal.
This post is meant to be the lead off to the much neglected “Beer Snob” category of this site. I/we will endeavor to keep the beer section alive, especially now that we have a dedicated wine writer.
I could go on for pages! I will, however, end it here to leave room for future reviews, discussions, tips, and rantings. So until then, eat, drink, live!
Good evening tongue followers. Brent’s tongue is dragging my face, eyes, skull and the rest of the baggage, without warning, over to France. I didn’t want to get into France this early in the game but my stupid tongue could not resist telling the folks about this wine. Any time I feel there is a must-buy wine I am going to jump on it before it disappears.
My ultimate goal with this blog is to build the readers palette from the ground up if they so choose. If a person tries each wine I review or even a different wine but same varietal they should get a good frame of reference as to what their individual tastes are. Also with a good palette frame of reference, the more complex wines will make a lot more sense. If you were to give a new wine drinker a glass of a good Chateauneuf du Pape there is no way they will enjoy it the way it should be enjoyed.
I better get this moving along my tongue is getting anxious.
The wine in question is a 2005 Graves pronounced Grahv. Chateau Cabannieux 2005 Graves is a bordeaux from the left bank of the bordeaux region. I am not going to spend a lot of time on the bordeaux classifications, I’ll leave that for another time. Chateau Cabannieux is a classified Graves and this one is a 2005 so for the price this makes it a must-have. Just a tip for those who don’t know, buy any 2005 bordeaux- everyone loves advise that rhymes? The 2005 bordeaux have been considered to be one of the best vintages in 100 years. I bought Chateau Cabannieux 2005 at Plum Market in Bloomfield Hills for 16.99. Any 2005 bordeaux at that price must be bought especially a classified Graves. I can’t imagine this wine being around for too long so buy it up. It’s truly exciting.
This wine is polar opposite from the last review I did. As far as young palettes are concerned; I would recommend buying the wine and holding on to it for a while. The Graves region of bordeaux is a very gravelly terrain which is where the name graves comes from. This feature really comes through in this wine. The earthiness is the main essence of this Graves. If you’re going to drink this I would open it and let it breathe for at least an hour. Structurally speaking this wine is very tight and needs time to open up and blossom, but the wait is sooooo worth it. Once the earthiness hits the palette it starts to unfold into a nice spice and dark berry notes. The tannin structure is fantastic and throughout the tasting hints of tobacco come to the forefront. In five to ten years this wine will be unbelievable. Beware! this wine is not for the lighter bodied, fruity wine drinkers. You will not enjoy this, but if you are feeling adventurous and open to a wine that will make you think; you won’t be dissappointed. My tongue gives this a stellar 9 out of 11.
My tongue will try to continue building on what I started with my first blog. I’m aiming at starting with the riper juicier wines that are more one-dimensional then moving into the more complex earthier wines. The Chateau Cabannieux is more of a detour that will make a whole lot more sense in the future. And if you’re an experienced wine drinker with a palette for the more nuanced wines jump right into this one and leave some for me… son’s o’ bitches.
As you may have figured out by now, The Rogue Estate is a collective of friends who are passionate about a wide variety of topics. We come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and careers, all sharing the common goal of bringing better food to your table.
A dedicated Bio page is forthcoming, so for now I’ll describe the Estate Founders in brief: Jack is our resident fine dining & Sushi expert, a 4 star chef for many years. Brent is a wine and cigar 0fficianto, having spent as much time in wine cellars as any licensed sommelier. Sara, the cupcake goddess and expert on fine chocolates. Pat, our redneck outdoorsman and hard working sous-chef. Myself, I carry a passion for the spices of the world and I do a pretty righteous BBQ.
Amongst the many things that I feel really sets The Rogue Estate apart from the massive crop of food blogs on the tubes right now is that we are all friends and coworkers in real life. We get together weekly to share recipes, cook, dine, explore unusual beverages, teach each other new skills, plan events, edit articles and brainstorm. Our weekly get-together sets up a great rhythm and really helps to reinforce the ideal that we write only from personal experience – every review, every guide, every recipe – lived and tried by one or more of us.
You’ll always get the real deal at The Rogue Estate, and never any regurgitated referral content just to fill space and inflate page view stats. As we all continue to seek out the authentic cuisines and genuine experiences in this amazing world we live in, we’ll continue to share them on these pages and we hope you’ll continue to enjoy them and share your own experiences in the comments.
Building on those thoughts, at one of our January meetings, Jack marched into Pat’s kitchen with his arms full of groceries and his head full of steam. Tonight’s dinner, he declared, is PASTA PUTTANESCA!
The story behind this dish varies from telling to telling, but the common theme is that it was originally from the Italian whore houses. If customers didn’t come in for the women, they were sure to come in for the food. Another variation tells that the ingredients in this bold sauce were as easy to get one’s hands on as the women themselves. Whatever the truth of it’s origins, one thing I can tell you about Pasta Puttanesca is that it is an astoundingly powerful, pungent and delicious meal.
Jack led us on the first preparation during this particular chef’s night and I recreated his methods in my kitchen with minor alterations a few days later. In both instances, the results were rich, bold, complex and mind bogglingly delicious. Don’t let the ingredients list intimidate you: every element of this dish works together and the final product is more than the sum of it’s parts.
Pasta Puttanesca – The Software:
- 6 Tbls Olive Oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 bottle of medium bodied red wine
- 3 lbs of tomatoes, diced
- 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 oz. Anchovies, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbls Aleppo pepper flakes
- 2 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 cup capers
- 1 cup ripe Kalamata olives, sliced
- 2 Red Bell Peppers, diced
- 1 lb chicken breast, coarsely cubed
- 12 large Basil leaves, chiffonade
- 1lb cooked seafood medley (chopped mix of whatever creatures you prefer, we went with mix of octopus, clam, squid and scallops.)
- 1 lb dried penne or farfalle pasta
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (freshly squeezed or skip it – the bottled stuff does no justice.)
- 1/2 lb Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese (throw that pre-grated sawdust in the green tube away.)
Pasta Puttanesca – The Process:
If you have room, prep your vegetables and protein (poultry last, of course) and set aside for use as needed.
Grab a large fry pan and heat 3 tbls of olive oil, toss in the onion for a sweat.
In a large sauce pan, simmer the entire bottle of wine down to 1/3 it’s original volume.
When the onion is near transparency, toss in the garlic and the anchovies and simmer for 5 minutes, tossing occasionally. Transfer the onion, garlic and anchovies to the wine reduction. Add the tomatoes and bell peppers to the reduction, reserving 1/3 of each. Bring to a boil and then reduce back to a simmer, adding the Black pepper and Aleppo pepper. Simmer this mixture, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, add 2 more Tbls of olive oil to the fry pan, bring up the heat to medium and brown the chicken to your preference. When it’s done to your liking, stir it into the main sauce main with the wine/tomato etc. mixture. Add the Kalamata olives, Seafood Medley, reserved tomato and reserved bell pepper, stirring to combine. Simmer for 5 more minutes then remove from heat, cover and let rest until it’s time to serve.
Fire up a large pot of water to a boil and pour in your pasta, cooking til done – al dente is king around The Rogue Estate. Drain and shock with cold water to stop the cooking process then drain again and toss with 1 Tbls of olive oil. Portion into serving bowls.
Stir the lemon juice and Basil into the sauce and ladle onto the pasta portions, garnish with any smaller left over whole Basil leaves and a generous portion of the shaved Parmesan, serve immediately.
As with all our recipes, if you prepare a dish with our instructions we’d love to know about it. Love it or hate it, tell us all about it in the comments.