Sunday, March 28, 2010



(Short Ribs with Chipotle/Roasted Garlic BBQ, Roasted Garlic Potato Puree and Summer Vegetable Cheddar Casserole)

Being a child of the sixties, a point in history that was well known for the housewives in America feeding their families casseroles of some sort or another, especially when you come from a family as large as mine (9 siblings), I have had my fair share of casseroles.

Not a big fan of casseroles since those days at home, but I find myself often making them in the real kitchen; who doesn’t love a potato dauphinoise or au gratin??

Here are a couple of the recipes that I really enjoy, stay tuned there is a lot more to come…

The first one is from Sonia Martinez. Sonia is an accomplished cooking instructor, food writer, consultant etc…she so rocks…this recipe I got from her quite a while ago for a Shrimp Casserole,

“Casserola de Camarones Enchilados”

2 cups shrimp, cooked and peeled
2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
1 onion, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked white rice

Saute the onion, garlic and green pepper in the butter. Add the shrimp, salt and pepper. Stir in the canned tomatoes. Add the cooked rice. Place in casserole dish and bake at 375oF for 30 minutes

Pretty straightforward isn't it? Not only is this dish quick and simple it has a very neutral and great flavor so it gives you a lot of room to play and add things to this dish…mushrooms, chipotles, roasted vegetables, different types of rice, utilizing herbs and spices, blah, blah, blah…is a great dish….Thanks Sonia....

So staying along the seafood thought process…

I don’t know where I stole this recipe from, maybe it was Chef Roy but I’ve had it forever, and have made it a bunch but I know that I didn't invent this one.  I always substitute the first couple steps with using fresh seafood instead, this really is an awesome dish and makes for a good special when you are trying to move product.

Seafood au gratin
"Fruits de mer au gratin"

1 pound frozen cod filets, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound pre-cooked mixed frozen seafood
2 tablespoons butter
1 leek, cleaned and sliced in rounds
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
 pinch of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons very fine dry bread crumbs

Bring a large pot of water to simmer and add the cubed cod. Simmer just until done (this should only take two or three minutes). Add the frozen seafood and simmer just until thawed (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and drain immediately.

Melt the two tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven or sturdy pot on medium heat. Add the leeks and the mushrooms and cook stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are soft (about 8 minutes). Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of flour and cook, stirring for one minute to thoroughly coat the vegetables with flour.

Pour on the white wine and stir well to combine. Then mix in the milk and cream. Heat until thick and just below the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and add the parsley, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the seafood mixture.

Pour the mix into a 9X13 inch buttered baking dish. Mix together the parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs and sprinkle this evenly on top of the casserole.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F. Serve your seafood casserole piping hot with rice.

Another very neutral dish that gives you room to play...the possibilities are endless...

Well, standby I have more coming including my process and a story about Chicken Etouffee, and of course the inevitable potato...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oldest Casserole Recipe I found...

I am finding this very interesting due to the fact that I am mixing my love for history along with my love for food...

This is the oldest casserole-type recipe that I have found from the book Apicus (not to be confused with the gourmands Apicus, the book is assumed not to be written by any of the three gourmands named Apicus, but may be a treatise of a combination of the works that they have done in the name of gluttony)

PATINA DE PISCICULIS (Soufflee of Small Fishes)

(Apic. 4, 2, 30)

500g      boiled fillet of small fishes or whole sardelles
150g      dried raisins (sultanas)
1/2 tsp   freshly ground pepper
1 tblsp   Liebstoeckl
1 tblsp   oregano
2         small diced onions
200ml     oil
50ml      Liquamen, or 1/2 tsp salt
some cornstarch

Mix raisins, pepper, Liebstoeckl, oregano, onion, wine, Liquamen and oil
together and put in a casserole. Cook until done. Then put small boiled
fish fillets or boiled small whole fishes into it. Thicken with a bit of
cornstarch and serve.

It took a little bit of doing to decipher some of these ingredients but this is what I came up with and I may not be right, but this is as close as I could come...

---Liebstoeckl:  In Latin it's called 'levisticum officinale'.  The closest I could figure was Lovage in being that Lovage's stalks are eaten much like celery and the roots/seeds/flowers are used today mainly in confectionery.

-- Liquamen: a salty fish sauce. closely resembling Nahm Plah (Thai Fish Sauce)

Casserole-The Pot Itself

Casseroles-The Pot

As many that have grown to know me or follow the inevitable CheffyBabbles knows that I have a deep passion for both Asian and Spanish foods. When Andrea started asking questions about casseroles it brought me to asking questions about casseroles in a deeper sense because after all, I am an information junkie when it comes to food and the Asian and  European cultures are two of the oldest cultures known to man.

My first thought was about the origination of casseroles, cazuelas, terra cotta and a million other ancient cooking vessels that have withstood the test of time. Last night when I wrote the ‘Casserole History’ article I really got around to thinking more about the vessel instead of the food itself. When you think about the origination of pottery, whether it was the Asians, the Sumerians or any of the other tribes in Mesopotamian civilization, it really triggers a lot of thought into what our ancestors were actually using to cook with…

So a googling I went…Knowing that the Sumerians and Assyrians principally were the forefathers of much of the worlds history I found this article that I thought was very cool, which stated that covered clay cooking vessels were documented in 1700 BCE…a very cool and thought provoking article.

Mesopotamian Menus

Other google searches brought up a bunch of other stuff and I read all afternoon about ancient cooking techniques, vessels, periods etc., the brain is in definite overload and can perhaps be a reason for a separate CheffyBabble. I think I have made my point and hopefully piqued someones curiousity…

So anyway, back to my point about casseroles and vessels. The invention of a fire-safe earthenware pot is perhaps several millennia old and logically it is hard to fathom that the ‘casserole’, as a dish,  is a culinary invention that recently came to pass within the past couple centuries.

Some further reading that I found pretty interesting

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Casseroles-A little history

This series of posts came from a request from Andrea and Matthew...I believe that Andrea's statement was that she couldn't stomach the idea of the casserole recipes that she was finding that directed her to open up a can of tuna fish and a quart of here is the beginning of the CheffyBabbles....

 (pictured here...Chicken, Spinach and Artichoke Casseroles for 1000 pp)

Cassaroles as we know them today came into light early in the 1900’s, meaning a dish that could be cooked in one pot, generally in earthenware over or in an open hearth. The word casserole, as a noun, comes from the French, meaning ‘saucepan’

In the 16th century (stories vary if this was during Aztecan rule or after) the Aztecans had a dish called “Budin Azteca” which translates into “Pudding of the Aztecs” but is actually one of the first references that I have found that resembles a casserole-type dish. I have served Budin Azteca in several restaurants that I have managed, including on the menu when I was a guest at the International Gourmet Festival in Puerto Vallarta in 2004. I love this dish…The Spanish were very particular about their casserole type dishes, including Spain, Mexico, and most definitely Cuba.

In this series I will share a recipe for a Shrimp Cassarole that was sent to me by my good friend, a cooking instructor/food writer and fellow culinarian Sonia Martinez that I have made on several occasions that is very simple and  just spectacular.

Antonin Careme, the grandfather of modern cookery (1784-1833) has documented several types of casserole dishes, all of which contained rice. Careme’s casserole was cooked rice that was then shaped into small ovals or rounds, topped with a clarified butter and baked. Once the crust was formed on these mounds of rice, the centers were scooped out and filled with a savory filling and generally served with duchess potatoes as a side course.

In 1903, Chef Adolphe Meyer had included several casserole dishes in his book “The Post-Graduate Cookery Book” which basically was a Chicken Stew with potatoes and aromatic vegetables, much like today’s Beef Stew. (New York : Caterer Pub. Co., ©1903.)

According to LaRousse’s Gastrominique from the early 1960’s it states that cassaroles in France were generally rice dishes that were accompanied by some sort of protein and cooked in a ‘cassarole dish’ consisting of two or more ingredients. Although it does not describe this vessel I am assuming that they are referring to a lidded casserole dish much like the one that we use today or perhaps in some sort of dutch oven that could withstand the heat of hot coals.

Today’s version, which can include practically any meat, fowl, seafood, vegetable, root, grain, pasta or whatever probably came into play during World War II when women were the American workforce to simplify matters in the home.

Stay tuned, still a lot more CheffyBabbles to come about Cassaroles...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stump the Chef Cooking Class-Story and Plates

Last November myself along with NV Salon hosted an event for the American Cancer Society and donated the money in my Jamie's name for Cancer Research.

NV Salon had donated a good amount of time marketing the event for me which was a choice of Sushi Roll along with an Asian Noodle Salad. Everyone that donated money for the event had their name put in a hat to win a "Stump the Chef" cooking class.

One of the women that was instrumental in making the event a success, Stacy Dirr was the winner of the class and I was pretty excited. Not only do I feel that Stacy and her husband Robert are stellar individuals, I was extra excited because she had put in so much time and effort into making the event a success. So anyway, we had the class yesterday (March 21st)

The Menu/Class

Based on Stacy's request, the class had an Asian theme, so we prepared:

Sesame Scented Star Anise Dinner Rolls
Hoisin Mayonnaise from scratch
Smoked Chicken
Asian style Basmati Rice
Asian Cole Slaw (we used the Hoisin Mayonnaise as a base for the dressing)
Redneck Un-Sushi Rolls (smoked chicken, cole slaw and assorted vegetables)
Hoisin and Sesame stir fried vegetables with Smoked Chicken
Snow Peas sauteed in Sesame Oil and Sea Salt

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cutting Techniques

Cutting Methods

Cutting is a generic term for all of the different methods of using your knife to prepare you meats and vegetables. One of the most important things to remember about cutting is to ensure that all of your cuts are uniform in size so that your foods will cook evenly.

Chopping- to chop means to cut into irregular sizes, not really concerning ourselves with the uniformity of the final product. Good for stocks and sauces, when you want a bite in your final product like stews, foods that are going to be broken down or processed in a food processor or some other means of breaking down your chopped product.

Slicing refers to cutting a product thinly whether it is roast beef, ham, an onion or an apple.

Dicing- to dice means to cut the food in cubes that are all the same size, whether it is a meat or a vegetable

Julienne and Chiffonade- In the traditional sense, julienne and chiffonade mean to slice thinly in long (matchstick) cuts. The difference between the two is that if you hear the term chiffonade it is referring to herbs and spices, whereas julienne refers to everything else.

Parallel Cutting is an efficient method for dicing things like carrots and onions. The idea of parallel cutting is to ensure the uniformity of your food product whether meat or vegetable, by holding your knife parallel to the cutting board and making an incision across then slicing downwards.

Vertical Cutting means to cut the product down its length, such as you would with celery and green onions and then inverting them and cutting down to make a nice dice or mince.

Mincing is basically the same as dicing but is done much finer than a dice. Mincing generally refers to onions, garlic and ginger.

Crushing is a technique that is used best with foods like ginger and garlic. Simply take the side of your knife and lay it on the product and press down evenly on the blade to crush it. This is an easy way to begin the mincing process and is the best way to peel garlic.

Roll and Oblique Cuts- these cuts are nice for presentation. The best way to do it is make a 45 degree angle cut to your product give it a quarter turn and continue the process of the cut and the turn. Roll cuts are basically all the same whereas oblique cuts are all different, you are still turning your product but the degree and the angles of your cuts are different giving each piece a distinct shape.

Shredding and Grating are also methods of cutting and they are easily done in a food processor or on a box-type grater.

Moist Heat Cooking Part One


Basting simply means applying some form of liquid to the food that you are cooking, whether it is Chef Scott’s Cumin-Chipotle Marinade or brushing BBQ sauce on your burger at one of your backyard barbeques.

The term “basting” generally applies to adding liquid to a protein; this liquid can be fat, marinade, pan juices or some other kind of sauce/liquid. The possibilities are endless; it all depends on the creativity of the cook. Basting can be done whether you are baking, broiling, roasting, barbequing, smoking or any other form of dry heat cooking.

If you have ever brushed a piece of fish with butter or added BBQ to your ribs or burgers then you have basted!!! ChungaChungaBam Baby!!!!


Blanching means to par boil or par steam a food (usually vegetables). The idea is to partially cook the food and then quickly cool the product so that it enables you to use it at a latter time.

Blanching aids in the preservation of flavor, color and texture of the foods blanched, hinders the ripening enzymes that can destroy the foods, and is the best way to preserve foods before freezing. Blanching also is the best way to preserve the vitamins and other essential nutrients of the raw food.

The most important thing to remember in blanching is that you are par cooking the product, not cooking it. If you take the product and immediately submerge it in ice water you will stop the cooking process by bringing it down to less than 40 degrees as quickly as possible, which halts the cooking process.


Boiling means just that, bringing water or some other form of liquid to a boil and cooking your product until it is finished.

I personally do not recommend boiling vegetables because you lose a lot of the nutrients that Mother Earth had given us in the raw form, I prefer to steam any vegetable I can. But there are things in our little culinary world that must be boiled or at least par boiled, like grains and pasta.

As far as pasta or some any other grain or grain based product that you may have to boil is concerned, I recommend quick cooling, such as the ice bath method I explained in the blanching section, running under cold water or by laying your product evenly on a pan or some other piece of equipment that you can refrigerate in order to halt the cooking process as quickly as possible until it is ready to use.


Par Boiling is basically the same as blanching, but has a wider spectrum. What I mean is that par boiling not only means vegetables, but also grains and pastas among others. The premise is the same though, you are par cooking your product, par boiling generally means that you are cooking your product longer. I prefer to par boil or par steam root vegetables like parsnips, rutabaga, celery root, carrots and potatoes to make them easier to use when it comes time to apply the product to my recipes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Knife Pictures

 Here are some photographic expressions of the knives that I was talking about in the last article

Chef's Knives in a variety of shapes and sizes. The last three knives are called Santoku knives which in Japanese means "three virtues". I use my Santoku Chef's Knives perhaps more than I use any other knife for a couple reasons...One is the way that they feel in my hands and just as important is the scalloped sides of the knife which allows air between the blade and the product which permits the easy release of vegetables when cutting thin slices and when cutting starchy vegetables like potatoes and rutabaga.


The Simitar Knife- named after a Japanese sword of similiar shape, the simitar is great for cutting larger peices of meat based on the shape of the knife, especially with the pointed edge so that you can weave between any bones that you may encounter.

Boning Knives

The offset or Z-Knife, pictured here are two different kinds, the top one I use on cleaning fruits and general knife use when I am not concerned with tearing the product and the bottom on I use specifically for cleaning fruits like cantalope, honeydew, watermelon etc. Both of these knives work equally well as a bread knife.

A bread knife

Slicing knife-good for slicing cooked meats like roast beef etc.

Paring Knives

Knife Selection- Part One of There Is No One Way To Cook

(pic-teaching basic knife skills in a cooking class in Knoxville)

Knife Selection and Cutting Techniques

In today’s world, there are so many choices to consider when purchasing a knife; I am going to attempt to simplify the process some, and I cannot stress the importance of choosing the right knife for the right job, but here are some pointers when trying to decipher what is what...

There are generally two main types of knives, although with the aid of alloys in today’s market there are a thousand variations of each. The two main types of knives are carbon steel and stainless steel. The carbon steel is lighter, easier to sharpen and in some cases can rust if not properly cared for. The stainless steel knives are a denser knife that is not as easy to sharpen. Personally and professionally I use both types, I have some that I seldom use and others that I use all of the time.

If you are going to purchase a set of knives, the most commonly used blades are the stainless steel and here is a list of knives that are important if you are going to purchase a set.

Paring Knife- excellent for a variety of purposes from peeling potatoes to doing intricate fruit and vegetable garnishes.

Chef’s Knife- a large broad bladed knife that simplifies the rocking motion of slicing, dicing, and general cutting techniques.

Boning Knife- slightly larger than a paring knife with a very flexible blade that enables the operator to weave in and out of bones with the flexibility of the blade.

Slicer- A long, thin bladed knife that makes the slicing and carving of meats and the peeling of large fruits easier.

Offset knife (also called the Z knife) -The offset knife is called the Z knife because it is shaped like a Z with a high end handle that slopes down to the thin serrated blade. This is by far my favorite knife in my professional kitchen, it allows me the mobility to rock my knife back and forth, has a serrated edge so that it is efficient in slicing and cutting as well, and is perhaps one of the most versatile knives in the kitchen. The downfall to this is that because it is serrated it can tear a product instead of cutting it, like all the other knives, each one has a purpose and it is up to you to decide which knife is appropriate for which task.

Meat Cleaver- A heavy, thick bladed knife that is used frequently in the Eastern/Asian styles of food preparation, they are good for everything from slicing and dicing vegetables to cutting through bones.

Although there are a huge variety of knives to choose from, personally I feel that these are the most important. One point I would like to make though is that the more expensive a knife is does not necessarily reflect on its quality. Each knife is different. I have knives that are worth several hundred dollars, but I am just as happy with the $25.00 knife I bought at “Cook’s Corner”. Find one that suits you, feels good in your hands and most importantly, will suit your needs. I also recommend buying a sharpening stone and sharpening steel so that you can continue to care for your new purchase.

There is no one way to cook- Preface

“…There is no one way to cook.  For every level of work there should be a consciousness of doing that work well and constantly striving for the next level of quality and enjoyment of the process.

All people are different and have different goals.  But if there was a common goal among us, let it be that we focus on the enjoyment of the process.”

Chef Scott Monteverde ( in response to a Chef Mike “CheffyBabble”)

I have gotten in this conversation more times than I can remember. Whether I was talking to Knoxville Harry about the simplicity of food and the importance of technique or if I am talking to Chef Scott about the depth and the layering of flavor or Suzy/Sammy Home-Maker about some recipe or method they would love to try …my answer is all the same…

Basics, Basics, Basics!!!!

In order for culinary art to become a craft one must perfect the basics.

“There is no one way to cook…”

The basics of cooking never change, never have, never will. In this set of articles I am going to include some of the basic principles in order to become a good cook, once these principals are understood and we can become efficient in their methods then ( and only then) will we become better cooks and culinarians.

I am briefly going to touch base on what I feel like are the most important techniques, to attain more knowledge on any of these techniques please visit your local library, hang out in your favorite bookstore, or (thanks to today’s technology) simply conduct a web search, the amount of information available from any of these sources on any of these subjects is endless.

ChungaChungaBam Baby!!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Me and Facebook

Due to the simplicity of things, I am putting up most of my stuff on Facebook

Your Craving Is My Command on Facebook

I will continue to put articles and pics on the blog, but FB is pretty simple and don't have to go through all of the formatting that I have to do on the blog...

Thanks for your interest, we still have a ton of great stuff coming up, including a continuing contribution that I had started writing entitled "There is no one way to cook..." is going to be a fun and informative set of articles...

Peace, Hugs and Cookies,