Wednesday, September 14, 2016

We are people, too!

I was talking with a super cool, hip dietitian from Wisconsin the other day about what she makes at home for dinner and then she said "I would be afraid to cook for a chef." 

We like to be fed, too! 

Now, I'm only speaking for myself but it's nice for someone to cook for me once in awhile. I'm sure a mechanic would love for someone to change their oil on their car from time to time so they can sit back and relax. Even though I love to cook and it's a great passion of mine, it's nice to not to do it when I get home. 

Many people are afraid of cooking for professional chefs because they are afraid of judgement. They are afraid the chef will judge their food and not like it. And that is probably true. BUT we do not judge because we want to put you down or make you feel like shit. We judge because that's what we are taught to do. We're taught to serve the best product we can serve. And how do we better ourselves? Constructive criticism. Don't get me wrong, if you invite me over for dinner I'm not going to tell you your chicken is dry (because it probably is). There's a difference between food that is offered to me and food that I am paying for. If I'm paying for a meal I do have a higher standard for that meal (depending on the restaurant) but the standard is obviously not as high when I eat over a friend's house. 

For the foodies. Please do me a favor. I know you like food and you like to cook and all that jazz. But if you're going to invite a chef over for dinner please understand what will happen if you ask "So how's the food?" I will give you my most honest opinion and that may or may not hurt your feelings. So if you're sensitive, keep your mouth shut. I have definitely ruined some dinners because of that question but I do not feel bad because it was an honest answer to their question. 

A lot of people always ask me why I have to be so mean. If you know me, I'm all about tough love. I want you to succeed but I'm not going to sugar coat anything. If you make a dish and it tastes like shit I'm going to tell you, not just because it tastes like shit but because it's a reflection of me. If I tell you it tastes good and you make it for someone else and you tell that person, "Chris said it tastes great!" I'm going to look like an asshole. I do not want that to happen. My brother in-law always gets on me because I used to tell my sister her cooking was either shit or OK. But luckily for him she's gotten much better.

I will only voice my opinion on bad food if you ask me but I will ALWAYS tell you if I think the food is good. And if I say the word "delicious" then I am absolutely happy with the meal. I think people should ask for opinions more often. Don't settle for mediocre. Always try to better yourself. Food is a huge representation of you and your drive to be better. So if you ever need some opinions, CALL ME! I'm always hungry!

-bien manger

Monday, August 29, 2016

Da Pan! Da Pan! Da Pan is on FIRE! So keep your eye on it!

I see too often the flame under a pan on a medium, sometimes a medium high heat. As an amateur cook I wasn't too sure why people did this as I was always taught to cook with a very hot pan. As I got older I would ask everybody "How come you don't put the flame on high?" and I always got the same answer, "I don't want the food to burn."
If you want to develop flavor, thicken sauces, sear, roast, or just cook well the flame plays a very big role the success of your dish. You won't be able to brown your meats and potatoes with a medium flame, you can't activate your roux with a medium flame, you can't lock juices in your steak with a medium flame. I get not everybody is a professional cook but you don't need to be! All you need to do is give your food the attention it deserves. Last week I witnessed someone get a pan hot, add their onions and garlic, and then walked away and started having a conversation with someone else. Naturally, when she returned, the onions and garlic were burnt. She looked at me with frustration and said, "Why'd you make me do that?!" Earlier I was explaining to her what a hot pan can do for a dish. She used to cook everything with a low flame and now I see why.
Cooking is like raising a child. You need to watch it and protect it so it doesn't get hurt. You wouldn't put a baby in a room and expect it to grow up to be an adult by itself would you? You need to nurture it, love it and want it to be great!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Go big or go home!

You know what really irks me? Putting a product on your menu just because it's a "rare" or an "exotic" item. That's all fine and dandy but if you're going to serve it, don't cheat the customer by serving a shitty product. 
If you saw a 12oz Kobe Beef Sirloin on the menu and it was only $20 you should be concerned. But this post is not about Kobe Beef, it's not even about how much it was. It's about being true to the ingredients and having some respect for yourself as a chef. 
The other night my girlfriend and I went out to dinner to a place that was known for their game proteins. Kangaroo, alligator, venison, etc. Now, one thing I did expect was the proteins were going to be dry. Most gamey proteins are very lean in general so moisture was not the name of the game. For appetizers she ordered Foire Gras over Heirloom Tomatoes and some type of dressing and I ordered the Grilled Octopus with melon wrapped in some type of cured meat. The only thing I liked about the two dishes was the melon, cantaloupe to be exact. The Foie Gras was seared nicely but the texture was very mushy, almost like an undercooked custard. Foie Gras is given 3 grades - A, B or C. A is the best, it's the fullest, most firm and has no blemishes. And I'm sure you can guess they get worse. I'm guessing they served us a C grade foie because it was so soft. It was served over half a less than 1/4" sliced heirloom tomato. Did I mention it was the bottom of the tomato? Now, you may be thinking "What's wrong with the bottom of the tomato?" Nothing, but if you're trying to offer a fine dining experience w white table cloth and servers with crumbers, you do not serve the bottom or top of tomatoes. Those are for stock.  The dressing tasted like balsamic and oil. 
Now, for the Octopus. I learned through my years of cooking when you cook invertebrates, you either cook it for 90 seconds or 90 minutes. Squid and octopus can become rubber very quickly as I'm sure you've all experienced here and there when ordering calamari. Well, this octopus was definitely grilled and wasn't tough, but wasn't tender. It was grainy, as if it was frozen, defrosted, frozen, defrosted, frozen and defrosted again. Everytime you defrost something it loses moisture and I've had octopus hat was frozen before. What I ate the other night was something else. I attached a picture below to show what I'm talking about. 

This post is not even about me being a pompous fuck who has to have perfect food all the time. It's actually for the people who want to venture into "nicer" foods. If someone wanted to try foie gras for the first time, I would want them to eat the best foie gras there is so they can make their own assessment about the product. It's kind of like someone who wants to try venison for the first time and gets served a well done piece of venison tenderloin from a deer who eats grass from the highway. They're going to think all venison is dry as shit and tastes like shit. 
Cooks, take some pride in your work. We work long hours, we endure constant pain and we get paid shitty. Show everybody why you became a cook and why all this pain is worth it. For me, it's when someone closes their eyes and sighs after taking the first bite of my food.  That's better than a paycheck.

-bien manger 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Learn How to Follow Directions!

Most of you know how I feel about recipes. I believe cooking is an art through which people may express themselves, so how can you do that by doing the same thing someone else is doing? How often have you followed recipes that asked for an ingredient you've never used before? How many bottles and bags of spices and sauces are hanging in the pantry that you've used once or twice, tops? Recipes are a good foundation if you don't know what you're doing, but don't stress yourself if you don't have that one teaspoon of cardamom. How often have you followed a recipe and it calls for a certain ingredient that you've never used before?...pretty often. And after about 5 different recipes your pantry is full of bottles and bags of sauces and spices you've only used about once or twice in the past 9 months.

That being said, I'm not saying you should never follow recipes, but you should always be open to trying different things.

And with THAT being said, most of you know how I feel about baking. The two things I despise most in the cooking world are 1. measuring and 2. following a recipe to the T(easpoon). #seewhatididthere

The Pastry Arts are a science. Although there is a lot of creativity aesthetically, there is very little you can do with changing a recipe to make it your own (unless you are a pastry chef with 20 years of experience, which you are not). The temperature of the eggs, the softness of butter, clumps in the flour, overbeating, soft peaks, hard peaks, speed of adding sugar...what does this all mean? Science. Mess one of these things up in the recipe and you're failure rate will start to rise even before you put it in the oven.

So where am I going with this? Not really sure, I lost my train of thought for a second.

...Ok. Now I remember. If you're going to follow recipes, at least follow recipes that give you weight measurements. You want to look for recipes that call for grams, ounces, and pounds. These are THE MOST ACCURATE units of measure for cooking/baking. Think about it this way: Space is a pastry chef's worst enemy. How much does air weigh? Nothing. How many air pockets can you have in a cup of flour? Don't know. So does a cup of flour with air pockets weigh the same as 8 ounces? (1 cup = 8oz) NO! Because there is not the same amount of flour! Also, if you're making a pie and it calls for 3 cups of apples. Are you actually going to mash all those apples into the cup until there's no space? Or are you going to slice them up and put it in a cup with a few apples sitting past the 1 cup line? Any change in the recipe could result to disaster. Ever wonder why your cookies were flat or too hard? Probably because you used a tablespoon of baking soda that wasn't leveled. Who knows? Next time you buy a recipe book or look one up online make sure the units of measure are in grams, ounces or pounds. Screw the teaspoons, tablespoons and cups, they're not your friends.

So how am I going to weigh everything out? With a scale duh! Some of you might think it's a little over the top to buy a scale JUST to weigh out some food. I think it's a little over the top to buy a quart of apple cider vinegar because the recipe called for 2 tablespoons. And plus you can buy a little pocket scale for $20.

To all my pastry friends hope I didn't sound like an asshole but... already know I am :)

Bien Manger

- Cwis

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

And This Little Piggy...

If you know me, then you know my love for pork. It's like the other red meat but cheaper. You can braise it, stew it, roast it, eat it medium rare. The list goes on and on. All the cuts of pork are very similar to that of beef. There's tenderloin, sirloin, shoulder, etc...but there's one thing that a pig has that a cow doesn't--pork belly! "What's so special about that? It's just fat", you say? That's where bacon comes from, duh!

My tattoo 

Bacon is made when a cut of pork is cured for a period of time. The curing process draws moisture out the meat by dry packing it with salt or letting it sit in a brine. In earlier years curing was the only form of preserving food.  The most traditional form of bacon we know today is smoked or half smoked. This is when the bacon is smoked for a short period of time so that you would have to finish it by cooking it. Other forms of bacon like fully smoked bacon (bacon bits) or boiled bacon, do not require cooking. Never heard of boiled bacon? Yeah, there's a reason...yuck!

Here are some tips for cooking bacon.

  • Place your bacon in the (cold)pan before putting it on the heat. This will 1) allow you to utilize all of the pan and 2) prevent you from burning yourself. What this does is allows the bacon come up to temperature with the pan as it heats up so you don't get burnt bacon. 
  • Keep the fire at a medium to medium high heat. Theres no reason to go full blast with the flame. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. 
  • As the fat renders off the bacon, try to remove some of the fat by tilting the pan using a spoon to scoop it out into a bowl. You don't want your bacon to BOIL in its own fat. 
  • When the bacon is cooked to your liking, place it on a paper towel on a plate. This will suck up any excess fat leaving your bacon crispy (if that's how you like it).
bien manger


Get A Grip!...or Spatula.

If you've ever poked your head into a professional kitchen nowadays, what's the one utensil you see most cooks use? It'll most likely be their tongs. Tongs for a cook is like an extension of their hands that has no feeling. They can grab food out of the fryer, they can stir with it, they grab hot pots, pans, or plates,  they can even use it as a hammer! (Not recommended) Even though tongs are super versatile, there's no place for them in fine dining. With their thin edges and non pressure sensitive metal, tongs can actually damage your food more than you think.

The other day I was watching a cook sear scallops and it broke my heart. The cook used his tongs and squeezed the shit out of the sides and proceeded to flip them. I walked over to look at the scallops and of course I was right. A huge gash on the side of the scallop laughed at me as I examined its now oval-shaped body because this careless cook had no respect for himself. Someone else told me to go easy on the guy. Why would I go easy on him when I just paid over $16/lb for these delectable ocean treats? (Scallops are my favorite seafood).

How are you supposed to flip scallops? Easy, with a spatula! A fish spatula, preferably. The less the food is touched with the utensil the better. Just slip it under and flip and that's it. I remember another incident where I saw one of my cooks extracting poached eggs out of the water, with tongs. I asked, "Why are you using tongs?" He replies, "What am I supposed to use?" I handed him a slotted spoon. 
There's a reason there are so many utensils for cooking. Each one has its purpose even if it is only for one thing. If you use the right tools, the end product will always turn out great. Unless you suck at cooking.

Last note: I think the most common mistake people make is using metal utensils in non-stick pots/pans. Metal will scratch the shit out of your non-stick pans. PLEASE use a rubber spatula if you're going to make contact with the cookware. If you don't have one then a wooden spoon will suffice (I still don't recommend it, but it is softer than metal).

bien manger


Monday, June 10, 2013

Green means GO, Ice means STOP

When was the last time you ate a green vegetable that was mushy? When was the last time you ate a brown vegetable that was supposed to be green? When was the last time you even cooked a green vegetable?

I will admit that not everybody is on the same page when it comes to texture. Some people like their pasta soft and some people like it al dente. Some people like their steak well done and some people like their steak rare. I will also admit admit that those people who like their pasta soft and steak well done SHOULD EAT AT MCDONALD'S FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.

That being said...

I'm so amused at how everybody comes and tells me about the dinner they cooked last night. I guess because I'm a chef people think that I love to hear about their "gourmet" dinner they made last night with couscous and dried fruit (cool bro).  I was talking to a coworker the other day and she was telling about her dinner she had cooked for her and her family. "Everything turned out well except for the green beans. They were brown and mushy." At that moment I knew exactly what she did wrong but first, I had to assess the situation. "How long did you boil the green beans for?" I asked. "The recipe said two to three minutes." she explained. Without knowing what the recipe said I asked, "Did you put the green beans in the ice water after the two to three minutes?" She said, "...oh"

When cooking green vegetables such as Asparagus, Green Beans, Broccoli, Spinach, etc. remember these two words; Blanch and Shock. 

Blanching is when you submerge the vegetable in boiling water for a short period of time before it is fully cooked. You are not BOILING it. When you boil something you are cooking it all the way through like boiling potatoes. 

Shocking is when you take the vegetable out of the water and submerge it in ice water immediately. Green vegetables are very fibrous and dense so even when you take it out of the boiling water it is still cooking in the inside. So throwing it in ice water will stop the cooking process. This will also keep the vegetables color and crunchiness. 

(What green vegetables should look like when you shock

So I discovered that what my coworker did wrong was that she put the green beans in the boiling water and then turned it off after 2 minutes and did laundry...LEAVING THE VEGETABLES IN THE HOT WATER. And then when she got back she then put them in the ice water.

(When I went to googled "overcooked green beans" this image came up and it's an actual dish that some made and was proud of. This is HORRIFIC.)

Here's a little tip for blanching and shocking. Recipes will tell you to salt the water. How much salt do you use? It all depends. You're not going to use a teaspoon for 3 gallons of water or 2 cups of salt for 1 quart of water. Put enough salt in little by little to make it taste like OCEAN WATER. Yes, that's right. Ocean water. Trust me on this. And also put just a pinch of salt in your ice water. When you take the vegetables out to shock them, you're throwing them in plain ice water where it's going to wash all the flavor off. So just a pinch, nothing crazy but enough to help retain flavor. Remember, salt doesn't make food taste salty, instead, it brings out flavor.

Blanching and shocking isn't JUST for vegetables. Have you ever boiled an egg and when you crack it open the outside of the yolk is green? If you've read my past blog on how to boil a perfect egg, it means it OVERCOOKED. So same thing applies here. Boil the egg and throw it into ice water ASAP.

Hope you enjoyed this one. Only took me 2 hours to write it! Until next time.

bien manger