Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Curiosity of Cooking Classes

I am constantly amazed by the number of people who want to learn how to make pasta...often to the exclusion of anything else.
Take this week's classes as an example:  Wednesday was Vietnamese Street Food which I cleverly titled "What the Pho?" and Thursday was Ravioli.  To me, the opportunity to make a dish as thoroughly fascinating as pho and the banh mi sandwich would win hands down over ravioli.  Boy!  Was I wrong!
My poor little East meets West fusion class would have been canceled had it not been for two stalwarts and, frankly, I should have canceled it anyway (didn't have the four required) but I couldn't bring myself to deny these gals the wonders and utter simplicity yet flavor explosion of these two dishes.  Plus, I really wanted to prove that I could make an acceptable pho (I already knew I owned banh mi land).  So we had a great class and explored the ingredients and methods of Vietnamese cooking with all of its French influences.  We even snapped a quick pic of the pho yummy-ness.  Not up to Melanie Dunea quality but passable.
Now on to my quandary...what is this fascination with pasta?  The ravioli class on Thursday was packed...I even had a woman in there who just found out she had to cut out gluten...yet she was still in class!
Don't get me wrong (I know I say that a lot but I don't want to be misunderstood, of course), I love pasta!  But please, please, please...I don't want to be reduced to becoming the Pasta Teacher of Tulsa...sounds very grand, doesn't it?
I IS fun to make pasta and it IS easy but come on, people, let's branch out!  I have soup, puff pastry, pie, roasted chicken, appetizers, and grilling, grilling, grilling classes but nothing fills up like pasta.  We've made simple pasta, all kinds of ravioli and gnocchi.  We've made sauces and fillings until they're coming out of our ears but it's never enough!
Yes...I will continue to teach you how to make pasta but couldn't you throw in a little excitement here and there? 
I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Very Piggie Dinner - Chef's Notes

Now that the heat has left us for this year and the eating season is upon us, it seemed time to bring the Chef's Table back.  Late summer and fall have traditionally been the seasons for putting up food for the winter...canning, butchering, smoking, know, a la Little House on the Prairie.  It seemed fitting that a dinner honoring that exercise in survival would be the best way to revive our monthly dinners.  To that end, Pork 'N Greens Farm has graciously partnered with Urban Kitchen to create October's (S)Wine Dinner:  A Tribute to Pork featuring the premium pastured pork of our favorite local farmer, Stephen Green.  When he's not tending to his precious piggies, you can find Stephen at most of the Farmer's Markets with a booth full of bacon (a crowd favorite), handmade sausages, pork chops and shanks and much more.
I am particularly excited about this event because it affords me the opportunity to make something besides pasta.  Don't get me wrong...I love pasta and I love to teach people how to make pasta but there comes a time to branch out and that is what my chef's table allows me to do. will find the menu with my comments listed below (it may go through a few more permutations but the players will remain the same...pork, pork and more pork!).

We will open with an amuse that harkens back to the '50's.  I love retro food especially when I can update it.  For those of you who keep up with Food Network, that is my Culinary POV (Point of View).  I take retro/country-ish food and drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.  So, for your gustatory pleasure, we begin our evening with Devils on Horseback.  Little bite-size morsels wrapped in some exceedingly delicious bacon.  Over the years, the devils have been everything from chicken livers to prunes but I'm not going to ruin the surprise by telling you what I'm stuffing in there...just think yummy, dark, dried fruit.
We open the sit-down portion of our dinner with a little surf and turf...Braised Pork Belly and Pan Seared Diver Scallop.  Pork and seafood just happen to be in love with one another so who am I to stand in their way.  The creaminess of the belly braised in mustard plays off the sweet, buttery brininess of the scallop to perfection.  They'll be bedded down on wilted Swiss chard to offset the richness.
Next and this is a fun one, Sweet and Spicy Asian Meatballs with a Stir Fry of Morning Glory Greens.  Morning glory is a very common Asian ingredient.  Also known as water spinach, it is indigenous to Thailand where it grows like crazy.  The meatball portion of our program...well, suffice it to say that I love meatballs and, having just served 700 of them at Tulsa Garden Center's Wine and Roses benefit, let me say...I know from whence I speak.
We'll have a little palate cleanser of a salad at this juncture to get you ready for the really pork-y portion of our show.
Deconstructed Chile Relleno.  Yes, all the parts of a chile relleno, none of the breading or frying.  Chile braised pork shoulder will be pulled and then served over a bed of fire roasted poblano rajas (poblanos are the traditional chile relleno vessel and not the more commonly seen Anaheim) finished with Mexican crema and queso fresco.  The dish is topped with a housemade got it...pork rind.  A little homage to David Chang and it's awesome!
The entree, last but certainly not least, is a Pan Roasted Tuscan Pork Chop with White Bean Agrodolce.  You know I can't do a dinner without at least a little Italian!  Nice thick pork loin chop luxuriating on a bed of cannellini beans that have been treated to a sweet and savory brothy bath with bacon, sweet onions, Peppadews and tomatoes.
We, of course, can't finish this without a bacon will not only open but close our evening.  Bacon Baklava with Housemade Maple Ice Cream.  Just like having bacon and waffles except without the waffles...
The dinner is Wednesday, October 19 at Urban Kitchen on Cherry Street (imagine that).  Starting at 6:30, you will be in pig heaven!  Click here to go to Urban Kitchen

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What in the World Is...? Food Cetera from January 2011

From the Urban Kitchen website (
What in the world is celeriac?
Celeriac is a really ugly, knobby brown vegetable that is also known as celery root or celery knob...and it is delicious!!
It is NOT the root of our common celery but is a special celery cultivated solely for its root.
Celeriac (moving forward I will refer to it as celery root) tastes like a milder version of celery although some say it tastes like a cross between celery and parsley but I don't get the parsley flavor, at least not yet. It can be used in a variety of preparations from mashed (like potatoes) to roasted to raw. The cooked flavor is buttery and rich with a hint of celery flavor. Raw, it is a bit stronger but very nice shredded into salads or cole slaws.
When preparing to use celery root, cut off the top and bottom so that you have a solid foundation, then start cutting the outer skin off from top to bottom as you might a pineapple until you've worked all the way around it. It still looks really ugly at this point but, trust me, you are ready for a treat. After you have diced, shredded or otherwise "dismembered" the root, place it in a lemon water bath (or acidulated water) so that it won't turn brown...kind of like potatoes.
Celery root is available October through April and can range in size from apple to cantaloupe. I find that the larger ones (although impressive) tend to have a pithy spot in the center. It doesn't seem to affect the taste or texture so it probably doesn't really matter...just thought I would let you know.
So...start experimenting! It is a great alternative to mashed potatoes and is delicious added to roasted meats. It can be boiled, braised, sauteed or baked...or try it raw in your next cole slaw or salad...just use your imagination!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What in the World Is....? Food Cetera from December 2010

From the Urban Kitchen website (
December 2010
What in the world is...porchetta?
You know you've seen the word...was it on a menu? in a cookbook? in a magazine article? Well, I can assure you it was NOT on a menu in Tulsa but if you travel to more exotic lands to eat then you may have seen it on a menu because porchetta (pronounced pohr-KAYT-tah, because it is Italian) is an absolutely delicious dish of slow-roasted boneless suckling pig and is another one of the new darlings of the restaurant world.
Before roasting, the meat is seasoned with a mixture of flavorings including fennel, garlic, pepper, rosemary and salt; sometimes it is stuffed with onions, garlic and herbs. During roasting, the meat is basted with olive oil and/or wine.
Now, for a more entertaining description of the beast, we turn to Tom the Butcher, also known as Tom Mylan, formerly of the butcher shop and food store, Marlow and Daughters in Brooklyn, New York. Tom blogs about all things meat and, frankly, is hilarious. If you are easily offended, do not go to his blog because he is a frequent f-bomb dropper but really only when it's appropriate. This is directly from his blog...bad grammar and all...
"So what is a porchetta? It's is a whole pig that has had all of it's bones removed except for it's head, making a sort of floppy pig suit. The pig cape is then brined in salted water for two to three days along with the boneless loin (or loins) of another pig.
Once the pork has brined the pig is laid out on it's back, the loin is put onto one side of the pig's belly along with fennel tops, rosemary, thyme and garlic and then rolled up like a big porky joint. Once the pig is rolled and tied it is then strapped to a spit where it can be slowly rolled over a heat source like cherry or apple wood logs or for 6-10 hours, rested and then sliced, crossways to reveal the layers of porky goodness with the fennel and extra pork loin at the center."
He then goes into great detail about how to bone the little pig on your dining room table. To read the rest, go to
This is where I say...if you have the opportunity, you need to try porchetta!