My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Friday, October 29, 2010

You're Never Too Old . . .

You're never too old to learn new tricks. I'd like to think that Julia Child kept learning new cookery ideas into her nineties.

There always seems to be tricks-of-the-trade when it comes to prepping food items. I love watching cooking shows and reading endless cookbooks. When I learn a new shortcuts, all the better.

When I was a restaurant manager in my late twenties, a little woman with Down syndrome showed me a really cool method that I have never seen or heard of from any chef, book, or TV program. To this day, no one has ever demonstrated this. . .

She had been a prep cook for years at the same restaurant. One day, I was helping her by prepping a whole case of grapes, picking them off the stems. She brushed me aside, took an entire bunch of grapes between her hands and rubbed them back and forth, quickly and firmly, between her hands. The grapes fell off the stem and into a bowl almost by magic.

Try it! In just a few seconds, you'll have a bowl of grapes and the "grape bones" left behind. To this day, I've never known of any TV cook or chef know of that technique. They're too busy telling us to wipe every mushroom off with a damp towel - - - like any of them have actually ever done that to a whole case of mushrooms - - - bah!

We love pomegranates nowadays but those delicious, pulpy kernels are a pain to get out. Solution: Simply cut the pomegranate in half across its hemisphere, hold the cut side down over a bowl and whack the skin side with something heavy. (I prefer the side of a large cleaver.)  Really give its backside a good spanking all over. The kernels will magically tumble into the bowl -- every one of them -- and not a bit of the bitter pith.  (Thank you, Nigella Lawson, for that tip.)

Here's something I learned just recently. Grape tomatoes. I really enjoy them because they taste just about as close to home-grown tomatoes as you're gonna get. However, one can spent an inordinate amount of time cutting each of the little boogers in half.

Here's the solution:

Thanks to Chuck Hughes of Chuck's Day Off for that one. It's brilliant.

I would love to think that some young kitchen assistant showed him how to do that.

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