Friday, September 4, 2009

Better Grilling, Better Food

Here are some tips for getting that grilling session off to a great start.

1. Make sure you have enough fuel.
Gas grills: Empty propane tanks can be quite embarassing. If your grill doesn't have a built in scale to indicate when you need propane, try one of these gauges.

Charcoal grills: Check that bag; it's probably not as full as you last remember. If you are planning on grill for a long time (> 1 hour), use charcoal that does not have lighter fluid already on it (ie Matchlight). Adding this to hot coals will catch fire quickly and possibly send someone to the hospital.

2. Preheat the grill and clean cooking grates.

Gas grills: Heating on high for ~ 20 minutes will burn food off of grates making them easier to clean with a brass brush.

Charcoal grills: Once coals are ashed over, place cooking grate and lid on and wait about 10 minutes before brushing grates.

3. Cook at the right temperature using the right method.

Grilling Methods
Direct Heat For foods cooking for less than 30 minutes. Steaks, burgers, vegetables
Gas grill: Using a four burner grill as an example, all four burners would be on for direct heat.
Charcoal grill: Coals arranged in one layer filling grill.

Indirect heat For foods cooking longer than 30 minutes. Typically larger meats.
Gas grill: Only the first and fourth burners would be lit.
Charcoal grill: Coals on each side of grill leaving space in middle for drip pan.

Seafood Direct high heat
Burgers & Steaks Direct medium heat
Boneless Chicken breast Direct medium heat
Bone-in Chicken Indirect medium heat
Ribs Indirect low heat
Vegetable Direct medium to high heat

4. Right tool for the right job

Brass cleaning brush
Long handled spatula
Large set of tongs
Silicone basting brush
Oven mits with long sleeves

I hope these tips help you out. Now get out there and grill!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

By Popular Request: A Grilling Guide

A good friend and blogger extraordinaire has been asking be for a grilling guide. Well, here it is straight from ... Food Network! What?! I don't have a staff to write these things. Besides, if it ain't broke... Without further ado, Food Network's Ultimate Grilling Guide.

Tasteful, Not Labor-full Day

Ready for the three day weekend? I am thinking of just having a lazy day on the couch. Alright, enough with the crazy talk. Does anyone really believe I would miss the "last" grilling day of summer? Who knows maybe some friends will stop by. If you are having trouble deciding what to fix, here are some sites with recipes that are sure to please.

Burgers You can't go wrong with a burger. Sutter Home Winery has been running the Build A Better Burger competition since 1990. They have you covered whether you prefer beef, fish, veggies or the exotic in your burger.

Try out the 2009 finalist recipes before this year's winner is crowned.

Or the grand prize winners from previous years

Hot Dogs They seem to follow burgers everywhere.

Chicago Dog

Emeril's Hot Dog Bar

Venezuelan Hot Dogs

Grilled Dogs with Homemade Relish

Beer Simmered Hot Dog Bites

Cole Slaw

Pecans and Spicy Dressing


Blue Cheese



Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinaded Shrimp a personal favorite
Steamed shrimp from your local seafood market tossed with Old Bay seasoning

Hop over to Food Network and check out their ideas for the day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chocolate Love

Who ever wrote the book of love must have smeared the pages with chocolate. Being a self confessed chocoholic, I know the satisfaction of a simple fudge brownie and the extravagant delight of a dark chocolate mousse.
Here is a recipe to satiate your desire to eat that cake batter on purpose. I have adjusted the recipe to use six ceramic teacups instead of ramekins. WARNING: Contents may be addictive. Consume at your own pleasure.

Chocolate Sinkholes

Serves 6 to 8

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 large eggs
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. You can do this in the microwave just by heating 30 - 45 seconds then stirring and repeating until completely melted.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Sift the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside. Beat the eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl until frothy. Stir in the chocolate mixture until incorporated. Then slowly stir in the sugar-flour mixture just until everything is combined.

Divide the batter among six 7-ounce ceramic teacups or ramekins. Arrange the custard cups in a baking dish or roasting pan and fill the dish with enough cool tap water to come one-third of the way up the sides of the cups. (This water bath assures that the bottom portions of the cakes remain in a batter state.)

Bake for 34 to 38 minutes, until the tops are firm. Serve warm. I prefer them topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.
Desserts That Have Killed Better Men Than Me
by Jeremy Jackson

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Grilled Pineapple Upside-down Cake

I love to grill and I love baking cakes. So I had to try the grilled pineapple upside down cake in the new book Weber's Way to Grill. I had the chance to make the cake for a party this past Sunday and received several compliments. My only problem with the current recipe is the amount of batter is not enough to fill the pan. I've since remade the cake with double the batter amounts and found it works a lot better than printed. Feel free to try it either way.

New Batter Amounts

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, at room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar

Get the full recipe with two others here: Weber fruit recipes

Thursday, July 23, 2009

School's Now in Session

Chef Tell is about to embark on a new school. Well, I will be taking a few classes at least. I will be studying at University of Richmond's Culinary Arts Center and working towards their CAP certificate. My first required course is Tools of the Trade.

This evening, July 23rd, you will find me at 9722 Gayton Rd. in the Gayton Crossing Shopping Center. Hopefully, I will be able to pass along some of what I learn.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chicken Salad PicNic

Looking for an inexpensive date this summer but don't want to look cheap. Try my elegant yet simple chicken salad recipe paired with some fresh fruit and your date will be impressed beyond belief.

  • 13oz can Chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 stalk celery, halved lengthwise & chopped
  • 1 cup apple (Granny Smith or Jonagold), finely diced
  • 1/4 cup almond slices (honey roasted if available)
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip or mayo
  • 2T honey mustard dressing
  • 1T honey
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

When opening the can of chicken, pour it into a mesh strainer and rinse with cold water befre placing in bowl to shred. Use a fork to break the chunks of chicken into shreds.

Wash the celery stalk and chop a little bit off both ends. Cut the stalk in half down the middle then slice as fine as possible. If you can't get the slices very fine, don't worry; this only proves you made it yourself.

Peel, core and chop the apple. I will tell that each time I try this I seem to find a different way of getting the size dice I want. I start by slicing the cored apple to look like doughnut slices. Stack the slices then cut thin strips in one direction then again at 90 degrees.

Add almond slices. Mix and season with salt and pepper.

I like Miracle Whip but feel free to use mayo. Add the honey mustard honey and mix well. Season again with salt and pepper until the taste is to your liking. Want to class this up even more? Cut 2- 4 T fresh herbs (parsley, basil, tarragon) and add to salad.

Serve the chicken salad on your favorite bread. Normally, I go with toasted white bread but I was feeling adventurous and tried two new types: sourdough and a sweet italian roll. I did not like the sourdough because it over powered the salad, but the italian roll was perfect having a sweetness that was a nice compliment. Some other outstanding bread choices for chicken salad include croissants and brioche (loaf if you can get it).
Wrap the sandwiches in aluminum foil and take to your picnic.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

To Brine or Not to Brine....

Trouble with food that comes out dry and not flavorful as you would like. Try a brine.

A brine is simply a salt water solution but any liquid can be used as the base. Brines work by osmosis bringing seasonings and added moisture into the brined meat. I will often use a milk-based brine for fried chicken.

Basic Brine
4 cups water (or liquid combination of your choice)
1/4 cup kosher or sea salt
1 T freshly ground black pepper

Going beyond the basic, you can be as creative as you like. Chopped garlic is makes it's way in to the majority of my brines; 2-4 cloves is a good starting amount. Other favorites are whole peppercorn varieties and dried oregano and basil. Apple juice in the place of water is good for pork or chicken; I'll share a new recipe for a apple juice brine very soon.

Try a brine for your next meal dish; I think you will be very pleased with the results. Even if you overcook your food (use a meat thermometer to avoid this), it will still have the flavor of everything you put in the brine.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spicy Sunday

Need a pick me up but don't have the money for a day at the spa. Head over to Penzeys Spices; they have just thing to rejuvenate your inner gourmet after a stressful week. If you are lucky enough to have one of their retail stores near you, you will find the most relaxing shopping environment. Even though Penzeys is a chain, they have not lost that small town store feel. I noticed on by visit today, the clerk was stamping Penzeys Spices in green and purple on to brown paper bags by hand. Penzeys sets itself apart from other stores by providing apothecary jars filled with their spice selections allowing you to smell exactly what you are buying. They also have extensive gift set collection which are perfect for anyone from the occaissonal cook to the culinarily obsessed. If you are in the Richmond, VA area, you will find Penzeys in Carytown just past the McDonalds. Why are you still in your seat? I think it's high time for a spice run.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How was your Broad Appetit?

Did you make it? Did you survive? Or were you like me?

This being my first time, I found that all my thoughts on how to handle the event were instantly thrown out the window.

First sample was a Beef Croquet from 1N Belmont; it was tasty but the inner texture was some what lacking. It should be noted that I have never had a croquet of any kind so the texture issue may be normal for such an item.

Seafire Grill had some tasty shrimp. Wish I had went back for more after sampling from a friend's plate.

Acacia Midtown's Sugar Toads (fried puffer fish) was probably the most exotic item of the day.

The folks at The Black Sheep brought a Weber charcoal grill with them; that scores points with me right off. Plus, the grilled lamb was delicious.

Bistro 27's shrimp skewers were perfectly grilled.

Cafe Rustica had a crab cake served on a croissant that was absolutely divine.

Weezie's conch salad was a nice surprise with a bit of spice.

There was so much food; it was impossible to get to it all. I was upset that I did not get to try Savor's Asian style mini pork barbecue sandwiches. What were your favorite restaurants? What Richmond restaurants do you wish had been at Broad Appetit?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Broad Appétit & You

If you are on your way to Broad Appétit today, here are a few tips to get you through the frenzy.

  • Travel in groups -- Find friends to go with you and alternate paying for samples.
  • Survey first -- Park at one end of the event and walk to the other end making note of the places you want to try.
  • Breathe -- It's not as if you won't be doing this but 50 restaurants is a lot to handle in one day. So pace yourself.
  • Enjoy -- This event only happens once a year. So take in what you can and get ready for next year.

I'll let you know my thoughts on the event and the restaurants I will have to give a return trip.

Also check out the Richmond Men's Chorus concert, We Are Family Music from the '70s, at 4PM at the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center, 2880 Mountain Rd, Glen Allen, VA.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Shhh...Let Me Tell You a Secret

I'm going to tell you the secret to most of my successful meals. Many of my friends marvel at the results but feel intimated by the task of cooking. Truthfully, I am no different especially when cooking something totally new to me. How do I manage to come up with exceptional food? It's almost cliche but the secret to good food is love. How do you love something you've never done before? For me, the answer is music. Cooking being an artistic endeavor means that anything that stimulates the right side of your brain will aid in your attempt to craft a delicious meal. What kind of music works? Well, for me, any music I can dance to will result in good food. Though lately, my favorite thing to play while cooking is Coldplay especially anything off their recent live album. After attend a concert, I have fallen in love with their song Fix You. While the lyrics talk about light igniting your bones, I think for food it will ignite you soul.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Molecular Gastronomy on Broad St.

Besides the food at Broad Appetit, I am most interested in the molecular gastronomy demo. It was meant to describe the scientific discipline involving the study of physical and chemical processes that occur in cooking and the mechanisms behind the transformation of ingredients in cooking and the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena.

The term molecular gastronomy has since been adopted to describe a new style of cooking in which some chefs explore new possibilities in the kitchen by embracing science, research, technological advances in equipment and various natural gums and hydrocolloids produced by the commercial food processing industry. Though used to describe the food and cooking of a number of famous chefs, many of them do not accept the term as a description of their style of cooking. Nueva Cocina, Culinary Constructivism, Avant-Garde Cuisine, and Techno-Emotional Cuisine are among the other names used to represent the style of cuisine. The term molecular gastronomy continues to be used as no singular name has ever been applied in consensus.

I have seen the techniques demonstrated on shows like Iron Chef America. Being a chemist by profession, I am familiar with using immersion circulators, vacuums, and liquid nitrogen in a laboratory setting, but would not have a clue how to use them in cooking. Anybody know where can I pick up my liquid nitrogen griddle? If there is a chance for audience participation, you will find me up front going, "Ooh me, me, me!"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Weekend of Art & Food

No matter where you go this weekend, there will most definitely be some good eats to enjoy. Here are the selections that have intrigued me in the Richmond, VA area.

First Fridays Artwalk
Enjoy wine, beer and snacks at various galleries. Plus, cooking is an art in itself.


Ashland Strawberry Faire
If you enjoy strawberries, then this is just the weekend trip for you.

Sunday I am most excited about this day.

Broad Appétit

Sample food from more than 50 of the greatest restaurants in town on a 3 block section of Broad St just outside downtown Richmond. Check out's list of some of the participating restaurants and their food.

Where will your search for food take you this weekend? I know I plan on getting my fill.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grilled Asparagus with Lemon & Garlic

If you like asparagus, you'll love this grilled version with lemon and garlic. If you don't, try it and prepare to have your taste buds blown away.

  • 2 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat grill to medium direct heat.

To trim the asparagus, bend one until it snaps. Use the snapped end as a guide to cut the ends off the rest with a chef's knife.

Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil two times as large enough to hold the asparagus; you are going to make a packet to put on the grill. For thin foil, double up the layers.

Place the aspargus on the foil. Season liberally with kosher salt (or sea salt if you prefer) and black pepper. Top with garlic and parsley then drizzle with the oil.

Toss with your hands. It's really fun! Top with lemon slices and close foil packet.

Place on grill for about 15 - 20 minutes. Remove and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ahhh Summer or Close Enough

Smell that air. With the passing of Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer has arrived. Everyone is in a rush to ready their grills, be they propane or charcoal. The superiority of charcoal or propane is an argument that will outlast even the US-Soviet Cold War. Personally, I believe there are merits to both grilling methods. I like the flavor of charcoal for red meat: steaks, burgers, lamb. Propane grills have the advantage of more fuel for longer continuous grilling sessions. Your more advanced propane grills will come outfitted with infrared rotisserie burner (one day I must tell you about the Thanksgiving turkey I tried on the rotisserie), smoker burners, and side burners for sauces. I like propane for vegetables, fish and chicken

Let me introduce you to my grills

First my baby, oddly it's actually the oldest, is an 18.5in Weber One-Touch Silver charcoal kettle. I use a chimney starter for getting the coals ready. Safety tip: keep some water handy when emptying the coals from the starter. Hot coals on the deck are no joke. A fire extinguisher is even better.

The youngest grill in the family is a Weber 4 -burner Summit propane grill outfitted to the gills with smoker, rotisserie, and side burners. It's a little envious of the newer models out there so this is the only picture it'd let me take.
Where ever your grilling takes you this summer, have fun and save a burger for me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Who is Chef Tell?

One summer when I was a little kid, my aunt was making grilled cheese for my siblings and I. Instructing her on how to make sandwiches earned me the nickname that would follow me from elementary school to college and beyond. Now a bit of warning. Since "Chef" is a family given name, things written in this blog are only my opinion and are based on personal experience and no sort of formal training. To show I'm only human, I will tell you not everything I make turns out exactly like I intend. One time in college, I decided to combine canned french onion soup and boneless chicken breasts. The result: AWFUL! I mean I barely made it past the first plate, and there was no way I would be having a second. Thankfully, I have had very few god awful meals come out of the kitchen. Well, I think that's enough about me.

Welcome to the Kitchen...