Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Top Chef Revelation

I recently watched the final episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts and found it quite pleasing. I achieved to get my food competition fix sure, but I was in awe. I don’t think I could really get into a whole season of just desserts, but what it did was give me a whole different perspective on why Top Chef has such a broad appeal. Quite simply put; I couldn’t do what those pastry chefs do! I’ve tried my hand at simple cakes, cookies, sugars, truffles, and bread, but not even on the same planet as what the pastry chefs of Top Chef produced. It is absolutely mind bending to me that in a little over ten hours three chefs can put together 5 different pastry disciplines. I will critique and say that I am somewhat underwhelmed by the sugar sculpture/show piece aspect of Just Desserts. I think what the chefs create is just amazing to look at, but in my opinion it is more art than culinary. I am totally and whole heartedly impressed with the Entremet the final three chefs made; pleasing to the eye and the tongue.

Well, my revelation does not stop with the impressive work of the pastry chefs on Just Desserts. My lasting revelation is that the Top Chef Institution projects something that most people feel they are not capable of reproducing. I have not looked at Top Chef that way in the past. With the first episode of Top Chef: Texas set to premier next Wednesday on Bravo I want to give it a try with this new perspective. I’m sure to get frustrated by silly quick-fire challenges or overproduced personal conflicts between contestants, but I’m willing to forgo those road bumps in order to enjoy the cooking through a more open mind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Enough with the polls and the lists

It recently occurred to me that sometime in the recent past mainstream media outlets have turned over the decision on what is newsworthy/presentable to any knucklehead capable of social networking. Surely providing content centered on things people are interested in is an important part of providing news and entertainment to the masses, but turning what seems like over 50% of the process over results in many shortcomings. There are a lot of cases where viewer provided content makes up an increasingly larger portion of what we consider modern news and entertainment. For example, shows including local Fox morning news, the Jimmy Fallon show, and Sportsnation include large segements devoted completely to viewer provided content via social media including Twitter and Facebook. Polls, lists, and questions that generate viewer’s comments are not of much interest to me in most traditional media outlets like television and newspaper. They have a place, and we know where to find them, that would be where they are generated. News is not the results of a poll, jokes told by Mr. Fallon should not be the brainstorm of his Tweeter following, and proposing a question and reporting it’s responses off a Facebook page is not journalism.

Where this seems to hit home for me right now is The Plain Dealer's recent reporting on the local restaurant happening. Spending three weeks polling people as to their favorite pizza shop seems like a waste. Printing a list of the areas 100 best bars is not news. I understand that any establishment that can get their name in print might get excited, but this does not provide any meaningful information to us as readers. I cannot remember the last time I looked to the PD for any meaningful local restaurant information or news. Cleveland Foodie is leaps and bounds ahead of the PD in quality, consistent, trustworthy local restaurant news.

What would make for quality content? It would be great to read short bites about local restaurant menu changes, wine/beer dinners, and or promotions. Connecting home cooks to restaurant quality product would also be a nice read specifically when it concerns two local establishments. Honest reviews of smaller community bases restaurants with a lower price point would be great. In a lot of cases it’s difficult to weed through these types of establishments, but there is a huge difference in quality between a scratch kitchen and a thaw and heat kitchen. Lastly take a look into the little guys. There seems to be less than 10 local chefs/restaurateurs/culinary establishments that are constantly in the paper, and they deserve it in most cases, on the other hand I think someone is just lazy and not willing to look any further. There are hard working dedicated food service workers on every corner, everywhere you look, behind everywhere you look and most likely beyond that as well. Many people are working very hard long honest days to connect with a customer base and it seems like a golden opportunity for everyone if the PD was to drop the pizza poll and put a little effort into their local restaurant coverage.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crispy Italian sausage with spaghetti squash, sweet potatoe and carrots

With a pleasant chill in the air these fall flavors just begged to make it onto my dinner table.

One pound bulk Italian sausage
One two pound spaghetti squash
Three carrots cut into inch lengths
Three sweet potatoes, medium diced
One small onion sliced
Two garlic cloves sliced

For the apple-mustard sauce…

Half sweet onion small diced
One tablespoon honey mustard
One small local apple peeled and diced
Three quarters cup chicken stock or apple cider
Two tablespoons chilled whole butter

While I’ve been cooking at home much more these days I’ve become even more interested in being extremely efficient and clean. I think this procedure emphasizes this.

Wash the squash of any dirt. Slice into one inch think disks. Do not cut length wise because the strands that resemble ‘spaghetti’ run in a circular pattern and would all be cut in half if you cut the squash length wise. Scrape the seeds from the squash donuts and discard. In a large skillet place the squash donuts and a cup of water, cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling add the carrots, salt and cook for ten minutes adding water if necessary so it never totally evaporates. Remove the vegetables to a plate and cover allowing to cool. Wipe out the same pan and crisp the Italian sausage in a small amount of oil. I like to pinch small free form meatballs into the pan. Cook on med-high heat. While that cooks use a spoon to scrape the squash pulp away from the skin. On a paper plate microwave the sweet potatoes for 90 seconds covered with a paper towel. Remove the sausage from the skillet; add a small pad of butter, the onion and garlic and let cook on med-high for about 3 minutes. Add the squash, carrots and sweet potatoes and let caramelize on one side. Flip, add sausage and reduce heat as low as possible just to keep warm, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

For the sauce caramelize the onion in a generous amount of butter, add the apple and cook another few minutes. Combine the mustard and stock allowing the mixture to reduce by half. Off heat add two tablespoons of butter and season.

There has been nothing on this blog!

It has been some time since I’ve posted anything on this blog, and even longer since I posted something of interest. Some might even say there has been nothing on this site. Maybe? In nontechnical usage ‘nothing’ denotes the state of nonexistence of anything or, the property of having nothing. Surely there has been a lack of posts, but nothing? One prominent existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre equates a second king of being, etre-pour-soi or consciousness as being nothing since consciousness itself cannot be an object of consciousness and can possess no essence. Seems to make sense right! The modern concept of consciousness, attributed to John Locke, describes consciousness as the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind. I can assure you that a lot has passed through my mind since my last post, and since these ideas have stayed in my mind only and make up my consciousness then in light of Sartre there in fact has been nothing posted on this blog in some time. That is my long, but not too long way of letting it be known, I’m back on track to making more frequent posts!