Natural Foie Gras

Watch this presentation on natural foie gras by Dan Barber.  Dan just recently made this same presentation in Denver for the IACP conference in April.  Natural foie gras, what a concept.  It kind of takes the wind out of the activists’ sails.

What is worse?  Naturally raised foie gras or industrially raised chicken?


Vinaigrette demo for the 5th graders at Fireside elementary

On Monday the 18th,  I went to my son’s elementary school to do a vinaigrette demo for the 5th graders as part of the “Garden to Table” project.  The vinaigrettes were designed to go with the salad greens that were planted in the garden we dug up and prepared at the school.  The goal: do a demo and quick tasting with a small group of fifth graders and then use the dressings for the greens that were grown by the students the following day and feed the 450 students and staff of the school.

It was an interesting exercise and I was impressed by the amount of food knowledge the students already had and how open they were to eating vegetables.  The most hated vegetable in my quick poll was broccoli.  No surprise as the sulfur elements in broccoli are compounds that take a while for our taste buds to accept.

I co-presented the demonstration with Ashley a sous-chef for the Kitchen.  It turns out he also cooked for several years at Frasca and knew two of my former students.  I finally got to meet Bryce Brown who started the Growe Foundation and is originally from New Zealand.

warming up the group

warming up the group

The students did some of the prep for the two vinaigrettes or MOJOs as Bryce dubbed them.  We made a grapefruit and a strawberry MOJO and then the students were able to taste.

Ashley and Bryce helping the students out

Ashley and Bryce helping the students out

Ashley doing his demo

Ashley doing his demo

I feel strongly about what the Growe Foundation and Ann Cooper are doing to change the direction of the food culture in our public schools.  I look forward to helping out with these organizations in the future.   Early education is the key to changing our industrial food model in the years to come.

Or it could just be an elitist Bolshevik movement to upend our national security and destroy the fabric of our great country as this clip from the Jon Stewart show suggests.

Fox TV segment: Statue or Sauté

This last Wednesday I did another segment on Fox news with John Torres.  I was only told about the segment early on Tuesday morning and I had to rustle up an idea on what to sauté.  Fortunately that Tuesday at our school we featured the perfect heart healthy dish (rarely the case) and I could use the mise en place the following day.

I am getting more used to these segments and this time I was considerably more at ease in my set up.  The staff at the station is getting used to seeing me.  I took a chance in my demo to have John try his hand at cold sautéing some granola I found in their kitchen.  I would then dump out the granola and try to quickly heat up my pan so I could demo the dish.  Not a good call considering my time constraint of 2.5 minutes.

Before I went on the air the anchor blundered the segment by saying John was going to statue the dish.  Lots of laughs that carried all the way into our segment.  The segment went well but I ran out of time as I was sautéing the vegetables and plated the dish off air.  John took the dish away for others to eat and the station director came out personally to tell me how it amazing it tasted.  His healthy cooking segment has been cut to a once a month format.  Hopefully they will give us a little more time in this new format.  Anyway I rewrote a base recipe that we use for this dish at Cook  Street to reflect what I did on air.

Pan Seared Halibut with spring vegetables and arugula pesto

Pan Seared Halibut with spring vegetables and arugula pesto


Yield:  4 Servings

4 Halibut Filets, bloodline removed, about 5 oz. each

12 spears asparagus, blanched

1 pint red pearl onions, blanched and peeled

12 snowpeas, blanched and julienned

2 tomatoes, peeled and cut into petals


¼ c. white wine

salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Core and score the tomatoes and blanch them very briefly (around 30 seconds) in boiling salted water.  Remove them from the water and chill in an ice bath.  Peel the skin, cut into quarters and remove the seeds.  Set aside.
  2. Bend the asparagus until they snap at their weak point.  If they are very large peel them.  Blanch them until tender in the same pot as the tomatoes.  Remove them and chill them in the ice bath.  Set aside.
  3. Blanch the snowpeas in the same water, remove and chill. Slice them into thin julienne strips and set aside.
  4. Cut the stems off the pearl onions and blanch in the boiling water until they are tender.  Chill them in the ice water and peel them.  Set aside.
  5. Prepare the halibut filets patting them dry and seasoning them with EVOO, salt and pepper.
  6. Heat up a Teflon pan with a little EVOO and sear the fish until it has developed a nice brown crust. Then flip it over to finish cooking. Remove the fish and pat with paper towels to remove excess oil.
  7. Put the tomatoes on a sheet pan.  Brush them with EVOO, season and heat in an oven until warm.
  8. In a hot sauté pan, add a little EVOO and add the blanched vegetables.  Sauté and season with salt and pepper.  Add the wine to heat through and flavor. Cook until the alcohol has evaporated.

10.  Place the vegetables in the bottom of a bowl and top with the halibut filet.

11.  Garnish with arugula pesto (recipe following).


2 c. Arugula leaves, stemmed

2 cloves garlic

¼ c. pistachios, toasted

1 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 T parmagiano cheese

salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

  1. Clean the arugula and pick out the stems.  Blanch briefly until the leaves wilt.  Chill in ice water. Pick out the leaves and squeeze dry.
  2. In a food processor add the garlic, toasted pistachios, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Grind to a paste.
  3. Add the arugula leaves and one ice cube.  Continue to grind until a nice light paste.  If it is too thick add more olive oil.
  4. Add salt and pepper and a little lemon juice

Last day in Uruguay. Death on the highway and tannat on the palate

I believe this slideshare presentation of my last day in Montevideo should do the day justice.  Enjoy.

Showtime at the Sheraton: Day 2 in Montevideo

Potato flake soup parmentier

Potato flake soup parmentier

I was up early to get a leg up on the day.  After breakfast I checked in on the seminar. After watching Saul open the session and the American Chargé d’Affaire (person who is the ambassador to Uruguay in the absence of the Ambassador) deliver a very quick speech to the group.  I decided I better start to tackle the prep I needed to get done.

I went down to the kitchen and Roberto set me up with what I needed and my own table to prep.  Of course it was not as easy as that.  The rest of the crew was prepping for the lunch the group was going to eat and I had to work around them.  I also had to rustle up all of my own equipment.  I was amazed at how little equipment they had to produce the food the hotel needs each day.

They have about 8 burners for the hotel banquet area and just a few ovens.  The pastry section has another oven, but overall the cooking  selection was slim.  All I needed was a burner to cook off my potato flakes, make the vichyssoise and the saffron broth.  I prepped my potatoes and sliced them really thin on a japanese mandoline that the Sous Chef Sebastian loaned me.  I blanched the slices of Purple Majesty, Mountain Rose and Cal White potatoes in low temp oil and then it was my hope to put them on silpats and bake them in the oven until they were crisp.  The varieties of potatoes I was working with were new varieties I had never worked with and they had also been stored for awhile.  They just fell apart when I tried to separate them on the silpat.  Then when I put them in their combi oven, they started to brown too quickly.  I tried to get the kitchen staff to help me turn down the heat and fans of the combi, but you could tell no one in the kitchen really knew how to use it.  This explains how clean it was. They loaned me the dullest knife in the house, which reinforced my all time rule of always travelling with my own knives.

The time for my Power Point presentation was quickly approaching so I dropped everything and headed back up to the seminar. They were having a coffee break, then Sarah Mahler would come up to present and I would be next.

Presenting in front of a group of people who speak a different native tongue and whom you have no connection to presents a different challenge. When I lecture in front of my students in Denver, I roughly know what’s in it for them and how to stimulate their interest.   In this environment, I was going out on a limb.

The time to present came up very quickly and before you knew it I was on the podium.  There were simultaneous translators there to translate the Spanish into English for the visiting crew and English to Spanish for the locals.   I opened up with Spanish, but quickly switched over to English.  I saw all the Spanish speaking audience put on their headphones to hear what I was saying.  I was off and running.

Advice to all people that might find themselves in this situation at some point in their lives.  Stick to what you know and say it with conviction.

I think it went over well and I could tell I definitely had some people’s attention by their facial expressions.  The message was simple.  Diversity is opportunity, security, health and creativity.   I finished talking about the 3 top food trends in the US, which are Local, Organic and Health.

I had lunch with the group and I was able to meet a local grocer and the president of the Punte del Este restaurant association.  Punte del Este is the St. Tropez or Miami of  S. America.

I went back to the kitchen after the lunch to finish my mise en place.  This time there was little else going on in the kitchen and I could get more accomplished.  Instead of frying my potato flakes at low temp and then baking them, I just went right to frying them at high temp to save time.  Peter Joyce went to the airport to pick up some other potatoes namely yukon golds which worked like a charm.   I was able to finish my potato leek soup with the help of Sebastian.   At some point Santiago Cerisona a wild haired young man in chefs gear came to the kitchen.  He was the third chef to present on that day.  He was working on a potato terrine wrapped in pancetta. He had most of his prep done ahead.  I had a few more elements to put together for my potato wrapped sea bass.   I scurried around the kitchen trying to find some kind of silver pitcher to pour my potato soup out of, but could find none.   At one point I asked the pastry department if they had a blow torch and they handed me this large propane tank with a blow torch wand.   OK that is different I thought.

We assembled all on the cart and Santiago and I went up the elevator.   Roberto and Sebastian were already set up for their demo.  After the panel discussion was over they turned their attention to the Sheraton chefs.  Roberto and Sebastian put on a nice show and made a potato risotto and different potato cubes filled with ceviches.   Then I came up next and did my demo.  The potato flakes dish was pretty quick and in retrospect I could have made the base for the soup in front of them, but I was affraid I would not have the equipment I needed.   I had two very large burners to sauté on and very little other equipment.  I put together the potato flake soup and then went on to demo the use of the japanese turning slicer.  This definitely caught their attention.  I wrapped the fish in the super thin and long strands of  potato and fried them to  a nice crips gold.  I heated up the saffron broth and the spinach.  I plated the dish and I was done.

Kampachi wrapped in potato with a saffron broth with green olives and spinach

Kampachi wrapped in potato with a saffron broth with green olives and spinach

Santiago came up and did his presentation.  You could tell he was a showman and was working the crowd.  He did his seared potato terrine and then fried a sampling of different potato varieties.  Interestingly enough we all chose the same varieties without consulting each other.

I met with a few people who expressed interest in doing some kind of exchange in the future.  Santiago gave me the contact info for the winery he was the chef at, so I could visit the following day.

Later that evening we had a victory celebration at La perdrix a restaurant right beside the Sheraton.  The event had gone well and it was time to celebrate over more grilled steak and Tannat.  The restaurant felt bad that they had put us in the smoking section so they brought out some sparkling wine and at the end of the meal they brought out some limoncello.  Needless to say I slept very well that night.

Montevideo Uruguay: Day 1

I landed Tuesday morning of Cinco de Mayo in Montevideo. US potato board was nice enough to get me a business class ticket, which made the trip considerably more enjoyable.  Completely reclining seats, an entertainment center that plugs into the main console and comes with all kinds of entertainment options.  Sarah Mahler the head marketing person for the board found me at the gate.  She was considerably younger than I had imagined.  Her flight the previous day from DFW to Miami was delayed and she had to spend the whole day in Miami and was consequently booked on my flight.  Serendipitously, her seat was right next to mine.

We were able to chat about the upcoming conference and each others background.  She is originally from Idaho and no it is not a prerequisite to work for the potato board.  The flight was 9 hours long and after watching the latest  Woody Allen movie about two young ladies (one is the sexy Scarlet Johannsen) who spend a year in Barcelona, I fell mostly asleep.

It was overcast this morning in Montevideo and all the airport employees wore masks to protect from swine flu.  We had to fill a barrage of forms and one was a statement that we were in good health.  Then we caught a cab outside this small airport to our hotel.  The road took us along the coastline and I was immediately struck with how neat and tidy the houses looked and how generally clean and modern the city feels.  You do not get the feeling you are in a third world country.

I check into my room and then decide to do what I always do in a new city,  scout it out by walking.  I do not like to follow a map.  The Sheraton is a tall building connected to a shopping mall and very visible.  I went through the mall and noticed it was like any American mall and walked outside only to stumble across a McDonalds.  I navigated to what appeared as an area with more activity and strolled into an open air market.  The cars people drive are small European cars (peugeots, opels and volkswagens) and the trash is picked up by people driving horse drawn wagons brimming with huge trash filled bags.

I notice there is plenty of produce to work with and have a much better idea of what the typical Uruguayan has access to.  I walk for another couple of miles and find I am a little lost.  I finally see the ocean and venture back in the direction of the hotel.  I stumble across another open air market and then notice the hotel tower.

I go back to my room to sleep off some jet lag.  Three hours later, I am more refreshed and I head down to meet with the hotel Chef Roberto Tourn.  He is very nice and we go over the following day´s demo.  He has all I need and gives me a tour of his kitchen.  The place is not built for tall people, so I will need to watch my head.  It is also very small and under equipped for the type of facility.

View to the coast from my room

View to the coast from my room

View towards downtown. The roof at the bottom of the picture looks into the shopping mall

View towards downtown. The roof at the bottom of the picture looks into the shopping mall

I connect up with Sarah and the rest of the crew brought down to represent the board.  Saul Mercado is from Mexico and the most connected with the interested parties here in Uruguay and Peter Joyce is the potato expert from Madison Wisconsin.  There are some people here from the US embassy in Argentina and a marketer for the USDA in Argentina as well.  There is a potato seed farmer, Steve Whited,  from Maine.  A father (José) and son (Nico) farming and potato seed salesmen team from Uruguay are our hosts.

They take us out to dinner at a Parilla called Balantines like the scotch.  A parilla is a large grill set atop burning wood.  The Uruguayans as well as the Argentines are big fans of this style of cooking.  We are in beef country and not industrial feedlot beef, but pure grassfed beef.  Saul informed me they are raising mostly Hereford and Angus.

They served us grilled provolone for starters.  Then came the beef.  I had bife de chorizo, which is strip loin.  I had beef every single day in Uruguay, and only on one occasion was it really served close to medium rare.  I had this experience in Argentina back in 1988.  They either love to overcook their meat or maybe they are following USDA recommended doneness temperatures.  The beef comes with potatoes done in one of several ways.  Puréed, fried or parisienned which in Uruguay is potato purée rolled into melon ball size,breaded and deep fried.

Traditionally the Uruguayans and by extension the Argentines will visit the salad bar ahead of the main course.   The salad bar has a large selection of dishes.  Anything from beet salad to carrots or eggs.  A good thing because there is little included with your beef dish.

We had Don Pascual tannat and pinot noir wine.  The tannat is the local grape and it orginates from the Madiran region in SW France.  It is a very inky and tannic red varietal.  I enjoyed it and I think they have an interesting wine future ahead of them.

I finished the meal with pancekes de dulce de leche.  These pancakes were more like crêpes and were filled with dulce de leche.

After the meal some of us decided to walk home.  It was a beautiful fall evening for the 2.5 mile walk along the coastline.

Slideshare presentation of the December 180 class

This is all I could get on the blog before I left.  I will post a small presentation of the last class (which I really enjoyed) along with little excerpts of each student when I return.  I’m off to Uruguay tomorrow to talk about spud trends.  The adventure continues and I am sure I will have plenty to share.