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...