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EVOO Cooking School

Chili

Well it is 4:30 PM on Wednesday and we have just finished a couple of days of a coastal heat wave. Now I am certainly not complaining, however I have not felt like doing much cooking, even though today was cool enough to get back into it. I guess you wouldnít expect chili on a day like today, but maybe you should.

I have always been fascinated by the use of spices and herbs in cultures where temperatures exceed 100†F daily. Weíve all experienced the layer of perspiration we get after eating something spicy ìhot.î This in a warmer climate helps to actually cool the body. Although, spicy does not have to mean, ìhotî. It should mean bold flavors that make your senses wake up and take notice. You can achieve this in a variety of ways. For instance, I have noticed by leaving salt, acid (lime, lemon or vinegar) or alcohol out of a hot spicy recipe, or lesser amounts of them, will keep these foods from destroying your taste buds with heat, while retaining the spice.

Salt, acid and alcohol are all conduits to heat and the lack of them keeps the heat from lingering in our mouth. Harissa, a Moroccan condiment made of cumin, cayenne and EVOO is a great example. Drizzled on lamb, your mouth explodes in the spice but a moment later (well maybe a few) the heat dissipates. Assuming you donít drink a beer or glass of wine along with it, your mouth feels cleansed and cool again. But then who ever heard of chili without beer–choice and consequences.

In our chili today, we have used enough salt for flavor, but we cooled the burn down with starch, in this case the beans. As with all our food, we try to mix up the flavors and layer them to make the food enjoyable from beginning to end. I recommend finishing for service with EVOO, ground coriander, sharp white cheddar, onions and a few sprigs of cilantro. Enjoy ñ Ciao Bob!

Chili with Meat
3 cups dried red beans, soaked overnight
5# chuck eye roll, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 onion, diced
1 bulb garlic, sliced
3 jalapeÃ’os, cleaned, left halved
1 TBS cayenne
1 TBS chili powder
1 ‡ TBS garlic powder
1 ‡ TBS onion powder
2 tsp dry mustard
1 TBS cumin
1 TBS paprika
2 tsp thyme
1 TBS oregano
3 TBS cornmeal (if needed for thickening)

Method: Cook beans until tender; remove and chill. (Chilling happens quickly by placing foods in metal container like a stainless steel bowl or casserole, spreading into a shallow layer and chill while uncovered until the temperature drops to 41Æ’F. Then of course, consolidate and cover until needed.)
Sear chuck in a small amount of vegetable oil; sear in batches and remove; place vegetables in pan and sautÈ until aromatic and fond* is removed; add seasoning and cook 3 minutes; add tomatoes and bring to a boil; add seared meat and bring back to a simmer; cover and cook approximately 90 minutes or until tender; add beans and cornmeal to thicken if needed; cook an additional 30 minutes to blend flavors; adjust seasonings.

* Fond is the caramelized pieces from the searing meat on the bottom of the pan.


Planked Fish

Running a cooking school on the coast, it is just a natural expectation that we do a fair amount of seafood. And we do. We look for ways to vary the preparation and accompaniments to get many versions of say “salmon,” for example. Well, here are my thoughts on one popular restaurant version of cooking fish, especially, salmon–“planking.”

The catch from the pacific and in the Northwest waters is unique due to the water temperature and currents. In addition, the fat content of many of the native species lends themselves to more aggressive preparations as well as condiments and even varying wine varietals.

Salmon, for example, go through a migratory cycle. Prior to taking the long journey back to their birthplace to spawn, they eat ravenously to build fat. This will enable them to make the long journey. They get much leaner as they get closer to their destination. The fat creates a unique flavor and lends itself much better to a variety of cooking techniques, including cooking on a plank.

ìPlankingî is a traditional Northwest-style of cooking fish, utilizing a variety of aromatic woods, usually cedar, alder or oak. These are untreated pieces of hard woods, cut into any shape that will support the size of the item to be grilled. We recommend soaking the planks for approximately 30 minutes or longer in water so that the wood absorbs it to inhibit burning while on the grill over direct flames. Water soaked wood will smoke rather than catch fire. We generally brush a little cooking oil such as EVOO on the wood before placing the fish on top and season with sea salt, ground coriander and other aromatics. Place the plank with fish directly on the preheated grill and cover. Check after 10 minutes. The fish should be opaque throughout before removing. As I said, because the wood is water soaked before cooking it generates a small amount of smoke that imparts a subtle but rich flavor, that with the fat from the fish, gives a great mouth feel. You can see why this might create a nice foundation for for introducing other flavors and interesting condiments such as salsaís, chutneyís, not to mention full bodied wines.

We have enjoyed other ìplankedî creations using dark meat chicken or turkey, lamb and pork. Always the key to success is working with foods that have a fatty background to support the smoke-flavor.

Now, when outdoor grilling is not available, we have also used the home oven. There are differences in preparation, but for most tastes there’s no difference in final outcome. For the oven, do not soak the wood. Ovens utilize radiant heat that surrounds the planked food and does not expose the wood to direct flames. Brush the wood as above, and in some cases, to improve handling if the fish, sear it on one side in a sautÈ pan on the stove top before planking. Searing tends keep the fish from sticking to the wood. Sear the side of the fish that you intend to place directly on the wood, which is typically the skin side or the side where the skin was removed. Bake at 500†F for approximately 7- 10 minutes, still looking for that opaque quality. Note doneness will depend on thickness of the cut.

A favorite at EVOO is to serve planked fish with a fresh fruit chutney (see recipe) paired with a good syrah, such as Dimmick-Price Reserve Syrah.

In short, “planking” is a great addition to any culinary repertoire. Because you are using untreated hard wood, you can wash, rinse, dry and reuse them many times. Enjoy ñ Ciao Bob!

Pineapple Chutney‡ cup sugar
º cup cider vinegar
1 orange, seeded, chopped
1 orange, zested
1 lime, seeded, diced
‡ red onion, minced
º cup craisins
1 TB candied ginger
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
4 cups diced pineapple (1 each)

Method: combine sugar and vinegar; simmer 5 minutes; add orange, zest, lime, onion, craisins, candied ginger and garlic; simmer for 30 minutes; add ground ginger and pineapple; simmer for an additional 15 minutes; cool for service.


New Class Offerings

The tasting class that I wrote about last week has inspired a new series of classes we are calling PANTRY TASTINGS! We are often asked our opinion of a variety of ingredients such as chocolate, sea salts, olive oils, herbs and spices, artisan cheese, and even heirloom tomatoes. So we thought we could focus on one ingredient per session. You get an educational look, along with a very light repast. First up is Wine and Tapas tasting that we have done before; we have scheduled two on the weekend of FATHER’S DAY, both Sat and Sun at 11-12.

Another freshly inspired class we are adding in July and August takes the place of our former “Supper Club.” We are calling it Extreme Suppers, denoting the best of the best as well the most popular from our small plate’s repertoire. The idea comes from customers who are already picking their favorite small plate courses, keeping the portion about the same but adding a seasonal appetizer/salad and a small dessert. One glass of carefully paired wine comes with the meal, with additional wines available from our shelf. The class is shorter, starts earlier, and costs $45. Watch for these little gems on WED and THU nights, 5:45 to 7:15pm.