Thursday, 13 February 2020 15:49

Language of Food

Hello my Foodie Friends!

Guess what today is: Yes, it’s Valentines Day and I know the quickest way to someone’s heart is great cooking. There is nothing more impressive than whipping up a romantic meal for your partner. It is food that creates a home, connections, celebrations, and embraces family and friends. In creating meals, we are creating homes and a nurturing environment. The meals do not have to be fancy or gourmet. It isn’t about how special the recipe is. It is about being conscious of an important part of life and honoring that importance. By elevating the importance of food in our family’s lives, you pass that importance on to them. Families connect around the dinner table, all sharing the meal they know is just for them. They also learn the subtle ways you can say “I love you.” through the daily care of mealtime.

One of our favorite dishes is to make is Eggplant Parmigiana. When my wife Paula was at the end of her due dates for our children, she was always encouraged by the Italian women in the family to eat Italian food to induce her labor. We won’t promise you that by eating Eggplant Parmigiana you are guaranteed to go into labor, but according to some of the old Italian wives tales, it may be just the trick to get your baby’s show on the road. Ironically enough, Paula did eat Eggplant prior to each time she went into labor (early or not). Making Eggplant Parmigiana can be a tedious task of slicing and prepping.  Do you have a mandoline hiding in the back of your pantry, just begging to be used? Essentially, you can accomplish much of a mandoline’s work with a steady hand and a sharp knife. However, when slicing up zucchini ribbons, slicing eggplant or shredding brussel sprouts, mandolines cut prep time down significantly and promise consistent, even results. And they’re fun to use; especially when you need to create consistently thick or thin slices for your favorite recipe. At Compliments to the Chef we carry several different brands of mandolines. The OXO Good Grips mandoline is a perfect tool for home chefs. It is a trusty tool through thick and thin (produce). Slice or julienne cucumbers, potatoes and more with a turn of the comfortable dial on the Chef’s Mandoline Slicer.  We also carry mandolines by Zyllis and the Asian style Benriner. Each mandoline includes a food holder that protects hands and the stainless steel blade quickly makes even slices. All blades store safely on board and are removable for easy cleaning. With this easy-to-use mandoline, hands and fingers stay away from sharp blades at all times. Most mandolines come with three or four slicing blades beyond the basic blade. These allow you to slice paper thin, a little thicker (think potato chips), thick julienne (think french fries), and thin julienne. If you’re not sure how your blades will slice, invest in a few potatoes and try each setting out. It’s usually a good idea to have a few extra veggies on hand when you’re learning to use your mandoline as well so you can get the hang of the whole process. 

At Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store, we have items that can assist with making your Valentine’s Dinner. Finish with something sweet and a goodnight kiss. Show your love through the foods you cook. Stop by Compliments to the Chef located at 33 Railroad Place and let us know how we can help you with your culinary needs. Remember my Foodie Friends; “Life Happens in the Kitchen.” Happy Valentines Day!

 Take Care,
John & PaulaREARDON EggplantParm




 

Published in Food
Thursday, 06 February 2020 14:28

A Single Serving

Hello my Foodie Friends!

The focus and awareness of single servings has been on the rise. Factors and benefits such as convenience, freshness, and dietary awareness have a major appeal to everyday consumers. Now more then ever individuals are placing importance on elements such as convenience and dietary awareness. Everyone ranging from busy families on the go to people dealing with the everyday chaos of life can take advantage of the handiness that single-serve products provide! Single-serve cooking can assist with the emphasis being placed on leading healthier lifestyles. Single-serve products provide the health and wellness many are looking for. Portion and calorie control are much easier for on-the-go consumers to calculate, which offers convenience.

The Ramekin is an item we sell at Compliments to the Chef that can help you with your quest for single servings. What, exactly, is a “ramekin?” A ramekin is a small, single-serving sized small mould or dish, traditionally round with a fluted exterior, in which ramekins or other individual portions of food, such as soufflés or mousses, are baked and served; (also) a small container for an individual serving of sauce.

Typically made of ceramics, ramekins are small bowls that are often associated with custard desserts. Yet there are a wide variety of uses for ramekins in your kitchen. They can be used to mix a small amount of ingredients, hold snacks or serve dips and salsas. You can also use ramekins to bake many different foods -- from sweets to main dishes. This is particularly beneficial if you’re watching your weight because eating from these small bowls will help you manage portion size, a key component in controlling caloric intake.

There are so many uses for a ramekin. Here are a few:

You can bake eggs in a ramekin.  Eggs have been put on the bad food list in the past, but the truth is that they are a good protein option for starting your day. The cholesterol in eggs is in the yokes, so if that’s a concern you can always use just egg whites. Use ramekins to bake eggs as an alternative to the typical fried or scrambled eggs. Just crack an egg into a ramekin coated in nonstick cooking spray, pour one tablespoon of low-fat milk over it and season as desired. Try adding shredded low-fat cheese or Canadian bacon. You can also put vegetables like spinach, tomatoes or diced peppers on the bottom of the ramekin before adding the egg. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. The temperature of the egg should reach 160 degrees F, according to safety guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bread pudding is usually a decadent dessert, but you can fit it into your healthy diet. Using your favorite bread pudding recipe and preparing it in ramekins allows you to have a small single serving, keeping calories under control. You can also experiment with swapping some of the ingredients to boost nutritional value. For example, use whole wheat bread and low-fat milk instead of white bread and heavy cream or whole milk. Recipes like the pear bread pudding featured in “The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook” uses these substitutes as well as several spices to make a healthier, flavorful dish.

Mini pot pies and meatloaves: Portion control and attractive food presentation are both advantages you’ll get when preparing main dishes in ramekins. Serving a personal pot pie or meatloaf to your family will likely be a hit, especially for kids. You can still prepare your recipes for these classics as usual and then divide the prepared food among the ramekins before baking. You may need to cut down the amount of your original recipe, however, if you plan to use only a few ramekins. If you’re concerned about grease filling up the ramekins when cooking mini meatloaves, try placing a piece of bread — preferably somewhat stale or toasted — in the bottom of the dish. The bread will absorb a large amount of the grease. It will also help to use leaner ground beef; try to use 90 to 93 percent lean.

Fruit desserts: Ramekins are ideal for many classic desserts, such as custards, mousses and even mini baked cheesecakes. They also work well for baking individual fruit desserts, such as crisps and cobblers. Crisps use a topping primarily made with dried oats while cobblers are flour based. An additional advantage to preparing desserts this way is that you can use a variety of fruits to prepare several different crisps or cobblers at once.

One of our favorite uses for ramekins is for single servings of mac n cheese. Mac n cheese is down home comfort food and it makes you feel all warm and cozy. These little ramekins are ideal for individual servings of mac n cheese. 

Stop by Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place in Saratoga Springs to pick up an array of sizes of ramekins and cool tools to assist you with your culinary needs. Enjoy those ridiculously delicious single serving creations. Remember my Foodie Friends: “Life Happens in the Kitchen.” 

 Take Care,
John & PaulaREARDON MacCheeseRamekins



 

Published in Food
Thursday, 30 January 2020 13:26

You’re Baking Me Crazy

Hello my Foodie Friends!

The winter months often times bring us “snow days” from work and school. Snow day; you know what that means? It’s time to bake some sweet goodies with your friends or family.  There are standard baking essentials that are needed to make your favorite baked treats. 

Cooking and baking are really enjoyable if you can find recipes that are inspiring and delicious. Flipping through a cookbook, you’ll find that most cooking and baking recipes use precise measurements. Portioning ingredients in a dish balances flavors to create the best-tasting recipes. Dry measuring cups, liquid measuring cups, and measuring spoons are three of the fundamental kitchen tools that will help you measure your ingredients. The best measuring cups and spoons make it easy to portion your ingredients and wash up after you’re done cooking or baking. Dry measuring cups are important kitchen tools to have in your drawers. The best measuring cup sets consist of five different measuring cups, ranging from 1/3 cup to 1 cup for measuring dry goods. You’ll find that dry measuring cups are made from many different materials, including plastic and stainless steel. Both of these types of materials can be placed in the dishwasher, which makes it easier to clean up after you’re done cooking or baking. These materials are used in measuring cups because they will not react with food and then can even be placed in the refrigerator or freezer if you need to cool ingredients. If you are baking, make sure that you clean out your measuring cups after each use to ensure that you don’t contaminate any of your ingredients. A well-stocked kitchen has both dry and liquid measuring cups. There is a slight difference in volume between dry and wet ingredients, so it’s important that you have both styles of measuring cups. The best liquid measuring cup sets have three different sizes, ranging from 1 cup to 4 cups of liquid. A lot of liquid measuring cups have spouts on the end, which makes them easy to pour into your recipe. Most liquid measuring cups have handles so you can transport them across the kitchen. This is especially helpful if you are incorporating warm liquid into your recipe. The majority of liquid measuring cups are made from plastic or glass, so they can go right in the dishwasher alongside your dry measuring cups.

Aside from measuring cups, measuring spoons are also a must-have in your kitchen. A standard set of measuring spoons is great if you are baking in the kitchen because you can use the right portion of baking soda and baking powder to get the perfect texture for your best sweet treats. Measuring spoons can measure both liquid and dry ingredients so they're super handy to have in the kitchen.

Stop in to Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place and stock up on baking supplies.  Don’t forget to keep your eye on your little helpers when measuring the Cinnamon-Sugar as three tablespoons could become six! Remember my Foodie Friends that “Life Happens in the Kitchen.” Stay warm and have fun baking. 

 Take Care,
John & PaulaREARDON DonutMuffins


 

Published in Food
Thursday, 23 January 2020 13:22

Back to the Old Grind

Hello my Foodie Friends!

In kitchens throughout the world, there is one piece of technology that has been the same since the Stone Age: the mortar and pestle. The mortar and pestle is one of the most primitive kitchen tools. You place ingredients in a bowl usually made of stone or ceramic and them pound them with a tiny club. 

Why should every good cook—and everyone who loves herbs—own and use at least one mortar and pestle? Several reasons include: from history; the ceremony of using ancient tools and the joy of knowing the rhythm of how they work. For celebration: food feeds both body and soul, and the act of preparing it should be a pleasure, not a chore. And finally, for quality: there is a depth of flavor to spices and fresh herbs prepared this way that you just can’t get from a food processor. Mortars and pestles have been used for crushing and blending seeds, roots, herbs, and other foods. This dates back to prehistory, although information on their origins is hard to find. It’s only logical that early man and woman picked up the nearest rock and used it to crack open the nuts they gathered. Eventually they found similar tools to grind seed or grain into a powder, so that they could mix it with water to form a gruel and grind herbs and roots to flavor it.

Here’s a list of cooking tasks you can accomplish with a mortar and pestle:

• Grind your own peppercorns and spices including cinnamon sticks, coriander, and cloves.
• Remove cardamom seeds from their pods and then crush to use in Indian cooking.
• Grind sea salt to the fine texture of popcorn salt and season your movie night treat.
• Crush whole dry chilies into flakes.
• Crush capers to use in homemade tartar sauce recipes.
• Smash fresh peeled ginger to use in Asian recipes.
• Crush some flax seeds to release their benefits and add to yogurt for a nutritious breakfast or snack.
• Crush lavender to use in baking or potpourri.
• Crush herbs and seeds to make medicinal teas.
• Make fresh, homemade nut butters.
• Turn fresh garlic cloves into a paste and spread on Italian bread with olive oil for some intense garlic bread.
• Crush some fresh basil, garlic and pine nuts together in the larger sized units. Then mix in some olive oil to make super fresh and flavorful pesto.

The mortar and pestle is available in a wide variety of sizes and can be found made of ceramic, glass, porcelain, wood, metal, granite, marble or bamboo. The advantage of a using a mortar and pestle rather than an electric grinder or food processor include easier (as in no) assembly required, less noise and easy cleanup — no small parts or sharp blades to wash.

One of the most classic uses of the mortar and pestle is for pesto.  Combining the flavors of basil, pine nut, Parmesan, garlic, and olive oil can make a wonderful pesto to add to pasta, spread on a sandwich, or eat by the spoonful.  When it comes to making pesto, you can’t go wrong with a pestle and mortar. You could make it in a food processor, but you just won’t get the same flavors as when you’re pounding and crushing all that lovely basil by hand. 

Cooking can be fun! No matter how long you have been cooking, there is always something new to learn. The mortar and pestle may take a little elbow grease, but it is the tool that will not fail you.  Go back to the old grind for a while, stepping away from modern technology and use the mortar and pestle for your incredible culinary creations. Stop at Compliments to the Chef; your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place to get your “cool” Tools for Cooks. Remember; “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”

 Take Care,
John & PaulaREARDON Pesto

 

Published in Food
Thursday, 16 January 2020 13:55

Cutting Edge

Hello my Foodie Friends!

As most of my Foodie Friends know, I am a heavy steel knife type of guy.  I was intrigued however, when a representative from the Kyocera Company stopped in to my store in 2004. I asked him why I would want a “plastic looking knife” over a carbon steel knife? He smiled and said “show me how sharp your steel one is.” I reached for one of my best knives and sliced a paper clean with no trouble with a smooth slice sound. I responded, “Now beat that!” Well, it was close to that song where: “fire blew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow” as he took his knife and sliced the same type of paper. I then exclaimed “no sound, you missed!” Then I watched the paper float away as if a warm summer wind just decided to take it for a ride in my store. I was hooked. 

A sharp knife is a cook’s best friend.  This is evident with the use of a ceramic knife that offers tremendous ease and saves time as we cut up soft fruits, vegetables and boneless meats.  Ceramics are a fun and interesting breed of knife that are deceivingly sharp.  Professionals and home cooks use ceramic knives due to their sharpness, strength, density, and precision making it a great tool to add to your culinary collection.  Kyocera ceramic knives are the perfect compliment to your cutlery at home. As soon as you pick up a Kyocera ceramic knife, you will be intrigued with the benefits of using ceramics. The knife is light in weight yet balances perfectly in your palm. It is excellent for slicing fruits, vegetables, and boneless meats. The blade is ground to razor sharp perfection and holds their edge 10 times longer than other professional cutlery. Ceramic knives will not brown foods or transfer a metallic taste or smell.  Ceramic is impervious to acids, oils, and salts. The blades will never rust. 

Ceramic knives are intended to complement, not replace your cutlery. Use steel for carving, prying, and boning product.  Ceramic knives come in a variety of sizes making them perfect for all types of culinary tasks. Because of the manufacturing process, the blades of a ceramic knife are flat and free from waves. As a result of this technological advantage, the edges need to be ground with a diamond wheel or diamond sharpener.  Traditional knife sharpeners cannot sharpen a ceramic knife. Kyocera has a lifetime program for sharpening their ceramic knives.  You can also purchase one of their sharpeners made specifically for their ceramic knives. 

Caring for your ceramic knife is important to ensure proper care and the prolonged life of the knife:
Please exercise the necessary caution when working, as the blades are very sharp

Ceramic knives are intended for the cutting of food. They are unsuitable for hitting and levering.
Ceramic blades are not shock resistant! Do not allow the knife to fall onto a hard floor or similar surfaces!
To ensure that the blade remains sharp over a long period, we recommend the use of a cutting surface made from wood or plastic.
Never try to cut hard objects such as frozen food, bones, metal, etc!
Never hold the knife in an open fire (high conductance of heat)!
Never clean with a wire brush!
Hand wash with a mild detergent after use.
Store the ceramic knife in a protective sheath.
Cleaning in a dishwasher is not recommended, unless it can be ensured that the knife cannotcome into contact with other objects.
Store out of the reach of children!

Ceramics are a cutting edge technology that can help make your culinary prep easier and fun.  Stop by Compliments to the Chef, Your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place, shop for cool tools for cooks. Looking for something different to give? Ceramic knives can be a very unique and useful gift to give to that foodie that has “everything.”  Remember: “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”

 Take Care,
John & PaulaREARDON SpicyChickenThighs

 

Published in Food
Thursday, 09 January 2020 11:53

Grinding It Out!

Hello my Foodie Friends!

My Mom loved coffee and even way back then she was grinding her beans to how she liked them.  She had a small wooden hand grinder and she would grind them to the correct consistency for her taste.  You are probably wondering which one of the Reardon clan had the job of grinder when Mom thought we were ready. Well, it was the middle child Danny.  He got the job because he could fix anything!  The grinder wasn’t working and Mom called in Dan to fix it.  Even though he was a little boy, Dan could figure out what was wrong with anything that had moving parts and then make it work right.  There was talk, however, that the reason some things were broken was that Dan took them apart to see how they worked but Mom never knew so he was the “Hero.” 

Why Grind Beans at Home?
Grinding fresh whole coffee beans just before brewing will protect the aroma of your coffee and ensures the rich full-bodied taste stands out. Ground coffee interacts with the air around it and within hours loses a great deal of flavor. The longer the ground coffee is exposed to air, the more aroma will be lost from your brewed cup of coffee or espresso. Only grind what you need now. Don’t grind for the whole week! Once the beans are out of airtight packaging, keep them in a dry, dark container with a tight closing lid.

There are three different coffee grinding methods; conical burr grinders, disk burr grinders and blade grinders.

Conical Burr Grinders preserve the most flavor and can grind very fine with the highest consistency. The intricate design of the conical steel burrs allows for a high gear reduction to slow down the grinding speed below 500 rpm. The slower the speed the less heat is imparted to the ground coffee thus preserving the maximum amount of aroma. Due to the wide range of grind settings, conical burr grinders are ideal for all types of coffee equipment such as espresso machines, drip coffee makers, percolators, French press and can even grind extra fine for the preparation of Turkish coffee. 

Burr Grinders rotate at a considerable faster speed of 10,000 to 20,000 rpm and create a bit more warmth in the coffee than conical burr grinders. They are the most economical way of getting a consistent grind in a wide range of applications. They are ideal for drip coffee makers, percolators, French press and well suited for most pump espresso machines. However, they do not grind as fine as conical burr grinders and are not as quiet.

Blade Grinders are suitable for drip coffee makers and percolators. They also perform well for grinding spices and herbs. The blade rotates at very high speeds of 20,000 to 30,000 rpm thus heating up the ground coffee more than burr grinders and also creating a bit of coffee dust. That coffee dust can clog up the fine mesh of the metal baskets used in pump espresso machines. The advantage of blade grinders is they are inexpensive and easy to clean with little maintenance. 

If you love coffee then try grinding your own beans. Stop by Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery Store, located at 33 Railroad Place to check out various options for grinding your coffee beans. Remember my Foodie Friends, “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”

 Take Care,
John & PaulaREARDON SourCreamCoffeeCake

 

Published in Food
Thursday, 02 January 2020 13:49

Healthy Eatings

Hello my Foodie Friends!

As we progress into the month of January, the challenge becomes holding onto and maintaining those New Years Resolutions. For Paula and me it is about making better and healthier food choices. There is more than one way to eat healthfully and everyone has their own eating style. Making healthier choices can reflect your preferences, culture, traditions, and budget. Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. 

Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and boosting your mood. Create an eating style that can improve your health now and in the future by making small changes over time. Consider changes that reflect your personal preferences, culture and traditions. Think of each change as a “win” as you build positive habits and find solutions that reflect your healthy eating style. 

At Compliments to the Chef, we have many cooking vessels and tools that can assist with your quest to eat healthier. One very popular item we have is the vegetable spiralizer. The spiralizer is a unique kitchen gadget that can turn all your favorite vegetables into delicious zoodle recipes you can add to any meal. Probably everyone’s favorite reason for spiralizing is that spiralized vegetables are mostly light in calories, carbs, fat and sugar. By spiralizing, you’re naturally eating more vegetables – without even noticing (especially when they’re covered in a delicious tomato basil sauce!) This small shift in the way you eat helps lead to weight loss, because you’re consuming more vegetables and less processed foods while still remaining satisfied. Vegetables are high in water (such as zucchinis) and help detox your body, ridding it of unwanted toxins and leaving you refreshed and hydrated. Vegetables have an abundance of dietary fiber, which helps keep you fuller longer and help with your everyday digestion. Certain vegetables even help spike the metabolism, such as zucchinis. Most importantly, after eating a bowl of vegetable noodles, you’re left feeling light and energized – ready to have a productive and healthy day, which means you’ll be more motivated to exercise and eat well.

What are the Best Veggies for Spiraling? You can transform all sorts of vegetables into noodles, but the best candidates are those that are firm (not floppy) and long or that can be cut long (if you want long spaghetti that you can easily spiral). One of the best aspects of veggie noodles is their spectacular names. Here are some of the best vegetables for spiraling:

• Zoodles (zucchini noodles)
• Coodles (carrot noodles)
• Swoodles (sweet potato noodles)
• Squoodles (squash noodles)
• Boodles (broccoli stem noodles)
• Poodles (parsnip noodles)
• Toodles (turnip noodles)

We carry several types of spiralizers. However, one of our favorites is the OXO Good Grips Easy Twist Spiralizer. This is a great tool to spiralize foods such as zucchini, squash, carrots, potatoes and more. There are three cutting options: thick and thin julienne and ribbon, and includes easy adjustable rotating blade settings with no loose blades. The Easy Twist Spiralizer has silicone capped feet for stable slicing - no suction base required. It is faster and safer than a knife, with a fun and unique end result. 

Stop by Compliments to the Chef located at 33 Railroad Place, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store to pick up cool tools to help you with healthy eatings. Make healthy eating a family kitchen event. Remember my Foodie Friends; “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”

 Take Care,
John & Paula

REARDON ZoodleSoup

 

Published in Food
Friday, 20 December 2019 11:12

Lucky New Year’s Food

Hello my Foodie Friends!

It’s that time again for us here at Compliments to the Chef to thank all the wonderful acquaintances that have helped us throughout the year.As Clarence said to George Bailey, “No man is a failure who has friends.” We have foodie friends which is even better!So many great people have come through our door with questions and some with suggestions. We believe that we have a great extended family who shares in our joy of cooking and creating our own masterpiece meals. As we welcome in the New Year and begin 2020, memories of some New Year traditions come to mind.Upon meeting my wife Paula, I had the opportunity to be exposed to some of the southern traditions her mother made based on her father’s background growing up in Virginia.The serving of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day has been considered a lucky New Year’s food that dates back almost 1500 years.The tradition arrived in America during the 1930’s in Georgia and spread after the Civil War.In the Southern states, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is considered good luck to bring prosperity to the New Year.The traditional meal includes collards, turnips, or mustard greens, and ham.The swelling of the black-eyed peas symbolizes prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the ham represents positive motion.Below is a great recipe that includes all of the ingredients we hope brings good luck to you for 2020. We have beautiful round cast iron Dutch ovens from Le Creuset, Staub, and Lodge that can help you with this wonderful dish. Stop by Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store at 33 Railroad Place to pick up your cool tools for cooks to help with your culinary preparations. 

Remember my Food Friends: “Life Happens in the Kitchen!” Make magical memories. 

“Although the nights could be dark
The days are almost always bright
I want that your life
C
onstantly be full of the glowing light
Of a Gifted “New Year”
So here is wishing you and your nearest and dearest
A Very Happy New Year 2020.”
 

 Take Care,
John & Paula

BlackEyedPeas

 

Published in Food
Thursday, 19 December 2019 13:04

The Christmas Eve Feast

Hello my Foodie Friends!

Our most relished Christmas treasures come with the decorations, the scents of pine, the sounds of music and jingles, and for many, what happens in the kitchen. As I reflect on the Christmas traditions of mine and Paula’s Italian families, the Christmas Eve Feast cannot be overlooked. Coming together to celebrate the holidays becomes a time of giving.  It is a time to be with your family and show your gratitude and appreciation of what you have.  Cultures all over the world celebrate holiday seasons.

In meeting my wife four decades ago, our first Christmas Eve together was spent at her parents’ home celebrating the Feast of Seven Fishes with all of the fish dishes presented that evening. Paula’s family was more traditional than mine, probably because my Dad was Irish so we had a little of each. I watched with a calm expression as my wife ate and relished the marinated fresh anchovies as part of the antipasto.  Jumbo shrimp, baked clams, and fried calamari were also part of the first course, which, I ate too much of. Next an array of dishes began to come out of the kitchen.  These included: the seafood salad, which is a combination of crab, shrimp, calamari, and lobster with celery, olive, and parsley in citronette, the Baccala salad with salted cod tossed with sweet cherry peppers, capers, and olives in a lemon dressing, and then the octopus salad, also known as Inslata di Polipi.  This is where I stopped and stared at the cut up octopus tentacles sitting in front of me and I loudly proclaimed that, well, “I love Fried Baccala” and politely said I must have some.

The holidays are about getting together and having a good time. Meanwhile back at my house my Mom was cooking an Irish feast for my Dad of Roast turkey and stuffing, clove-studded baked ham, crispy goose fat potatoes, steamed Brussels sprouts, buttery sweet carrots, crispy parsnips, cranberry sauce, bread sauce and gravy. It is about enjoying yourself and the people you are with. Cooking for the people you love is a gift in itself. Enjoy your holiday season. Stop by Compliments to the Chef; your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place to help you with your holiday gifts and culinary needs. We hope that 2020 brings many blessings, laughter, health, and happiness to you and your families. Remember my Foodie Friends; “Life Happens in the Kitchen!” Happy Holidays to all of our Foodie Friends! 

 Take Care,
John & Paula 

 REARDON Baccala

 

Published in Food
Thursday, 12 December 2019 14:41

Christmas Around the World

Hello my Foodie Friends!

This time of year brings many family reunions, friendship gatherings, and special events that include great food and fun times. The holiday season is celebrated in myriad ways around the world.  Every family has their own traditions that are rooted in cultural customs that go back for many generations. However, there is one similarity with these traditions that spans across the globe – food.  Different cultures celebrate their holidays in different ways, but cooking and enjoying special foods and drinks is a tradition that transcends throughout the world and all religions. 

Paella is one of our family’s favorite dishes and is the iconic rice dish of Spain. Cooked with care, but not requiring the fussy attention of a risotto, it’s the perfect way to cap off a happy holiday celebration. The dish has the further advantage of customization and built-in appropriateness for a couple of different special diets -- it naturally has no gluten and no dairy. Vegetarians may forgo the typical use of Spanish sausage and chicken, using a vegetable stock to cook the rice. Those that love seafood can find plenty to love going all seafood with a seafood stock to complement the required rice, saffron, tomatoes and olive oil.

Paella is a perfect party dish because it’s a one-pot meal, and because it feeds a crowd. Paella is a rice dish from Spain that has become very popular and is known around the world. It originated in the fields of a region called Valencia in eastern Spain. Paella is meant to show off the rice itself and to highlight a few special ingredients. These can be vegetables, fish, shellfish or meat including sausage in seafood paella and you may also find chicken in it. Do not forget the saffron -- it is the essential spice of the dish.

Whatever paella you make, it should use short- or medium-grain rice, which should be cooked uncovered in a flavorful stock. Spanish Bomba rice is the best to use. It’s fun to make paella over a grill or on the stove.  However, it is important that you have the right pan for this dish; the Paella Pan!  The Paella pan should be shallow and have sloping sides, which helps the rice cook evenly and develops more intense flavor. As the pans get larger, they grow in diameter rather than depth, which allows for more delicious socarrat. And like all authentic paella pans, they do not have matching lids (since paella is traditionally cooked in an open pan). We sell the traditional carbon steel pans and some stainless steel pans.  Either will work well for you. A good pan has dimples on the bottom to serve several functions.  They trap small amounts of liquid and thus promote even cooking, they make the pan rigid, and they prevent warping. Now what the heck is socarrat?   When you make paella, socarrat is the caramelized bottom layer of rice that sometimes forms on the pan. Many people consider the socarrat the prized part of the paella.  Also, there is speculation that socarrat has aphrodisiac powers, and that it is what fuels the passion of those renowned Spanish lovers. I myself am Irish, French and Italian so the passion is taken care of by the French and Italian parts. But I might like a little Antonio Banderas side of me to crop up from time to time!  How about: tu es muy bonita Paula? If you are not sure what dish to serve for your holiday meal; consider Paella. At Compliments to the Chef; Your neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery Store, located at 33 Railroad Place, we sell Paella pans and other cooking tools to help you with your holiday creations. We are hosting a special event on Saturday, December 14 and December 21. The Bees are Back!! We will have a tasting of honey and other honey products from Jen Dunn from Maypiary Farms from 1 to 3 p.m

During the holiday season, the frantic pace of work and school life slows temporarily and we settle into the celebrations of the season. We toast the successes we’ve had in the preceding months, reflect on the life we’ve lived and rejoice with our loved ones. Create your holiday traditions. It’s beginning to taste a lot like Christmas! Stop by for the holiday supplies you need to eat, drink and be merry with family and friends. Remember my Foodie Friends: “Life Happens in the Kitchen.” Happy Holidays.

 Take Care,
John & Paula 

 REARDON Paella

 

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