Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ina Cooks Restaurant Food At Home AND A Sensational Kitchen Trick

Restaurant Rules

I’m so happy I saved this show from a few weeks ago. I learned something SO useful, but not until almost the end of the episode...

Ina says she’s going to show us restaurant cooking at home AND home cooking in restaurants.

We see skillet brownies in the intro. That sounds so awesome, but I hope that ramekins will do instead, because I really don’t think many people are going to go out and buy 6 to 8 tiny cast iron frying pans…as cute as they are. Ina is also promising us a visit to Rao’s with Frank Pellegrino to learn about two of their dishes. Great, because unless your name is Regis, it’s impossible to get in.

Ina says when she’s cooking at home, she stays away from restaurant style meals, because they’re too complicated. But after a visit to LA’s Spago, Ina was so impressed by the prosciutto roasted bass that she came up with a simpler recipe to make it at home.

Ina starts by roasting lots of vegetables in 1/2 inch pieces – parsnips, carrots, Yukon Gold potatoes and butternut squash. (Sometimes when I can’t bear to peel those stubborn butternuts, I just use yams instead…) Let me guess – olive oil, salt and pepper at 425°F for 25 minutes. She says olive oil, pepper and A TABLESPOON OF SALT  (I wouldn’t use that much) and 400°F for THIRTY minutes. I was close.

Ina asked her seafood shop to make “little” squares of sea bass, 6 to 8 ounces each. Ina looks like she has enough for 8 people – Oh! Just the right amount for dinner with Jeffrey. She brushes each piece with a generous amount of olive oil.

Ina peppers the fish A LOT. She wraps each piece of fish in a single piece of prosciutto, almost like it’s wearing a wide belt. She says to use really good prosciutto and make sure it’s thinly sliced. She places each wrapped piece on a rack on top of a baking pan.

I tried this recipe and MY fish was thinner and more rectangular than hers, so I wrapped the prosciutto on a slight angle, so it would cover more of the fish. Don’t tell Ina I didn’t bother with the rack.

Prosciutto-wrapped fish served over roasted vegetables 
Ina tells us she likes to end every book tour with a stop in LA so she can take her assistant to Spago. (I’m not sure she needs the excuse of a book tour to go to Spago, but I like it when Ina’s being humble.)

The fish goes into the same oven as the vegetables - 400°F for 15 minutes. BTW, there are “only” 6 pieces of fish. Ina stirs in some chopped garlic 10 minutes before the vegetables are done. (I often add whole unpeeled cloves of garlic to roasting vegetables at the beginning of the cooking time, then I squeeze them through a garlic press and mix them into the finished dish.)

Just as I was thinking that this was reasonably healthy (if you count a skinny piece of prosciutto as being healthy, plus the added olive oil and salt on the vegetables), Ina tells us she’s making a flavored butter to go on top. She melts a stick of butter with 6 sprigs of rosemary and cooks it for a few minutes, before adding fresh lemon juice. I’ve flavored olive oil plenty of times with rosemary and I might go that way instead of the butter.

Ina serves the fish on top of the roasted vegetables and spoons over some of the flavored butter. Barbara, her assistant and lunch guest, arrives and Ina hands her a fork. They both taste a bite…just to be sure it’s okay before they chow down.

Finally, we’re on to the brownies! At The Standard Grill in New York, Ina had warm brownies in a skillet and she was entranced by them. She’s making her own version. She mixes flour, baking powder and salt. (Nah!) She melts a stick of butter with 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips and some unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler. She cools that. (Why not use the microwave?) In a separate bowl, she stirs together eggs with vanilla, cocoa, sugar and instant coffee, which she loves to use to bring out the flavor of the chocolate. She adds the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and allows the mixture to cool.

Lastly, Ina folds in the flour and adds some extra chocolate chips. She makes sure the batter is cool, so the chips don’t melt. (I NEVER thought of that.) Ina adds a bit of flour to the chips so they don’t sink to the bottom of the batter. (Have your chips ever done that? Mine haven’t.)

Ina spoons the mixture into five 3½ inch skillets. (They ARE cute. I really don’t need any more kitchen paraphernalia, but these are really sweet looking.) She likes them because you can eat them hot right out of the oven and you don’t have to wait for them to cool. They bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.

Next Ina gets tips for home cooks from her restaurant chef friends:
• Kevin Penner, executive chef of Cittanuova, says to put plastic wrap on your kitchen scale before you weigh meat or fish to avoid cross contaminationAvoiding cross contamination is my favorite pastime, but is that really a useful tip? Do most people even USE scales at homes? And my scale has a removable pan that I can wash.
• Oliver Quignon, Executive Chef of Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen and Bar, shares his recipe for an iceberg salad. First, he adds dressing to the plate, which acts as a glue and then he places a flat, ROUND piece of iceberg lettuce on top. The shape is interesting. It’s as if he cut a cross section of the lettuce from the North Pole to the South Pole straight down the middle and then turned it on its side, so it’s a flat (thickish) slice and not a wedge.

Then Chef Quignon seasons the lettuce, adds vinegar and oil and lots of blue cheese and then he says to garnish it with whatever you want – nuts, bacon, shallots, tomatoes and tarragon to name a few things. It looks sensational. Who says there are no new recipes?
• Wild-haired Julia Turshen, a private chef, offers up the greatest tip of the decade: For getting the most juice out of a lemon, roll the lemon on the cutting board. Cut it in half. Place it in between the arms of cooking tongs as near the bottom as you can. Then press the tongs together and it will squeeze out lots of juice, because of all the leverage.
OMG! This really works…it really works AND it works REALLY well!


The previous most excellent lemon (and lime) squeezing tip I’d learned was when Oprah showed Gayle how to squeeze limes BETWEEN HER TEETH for a pitcher of margaritas. She was making them for the whole campground on a camping trip. It was amazing, if only a little unsanitary. What Ina’s friend taught us was SO much better and would pass any kitchen hygiene test.
• Joe Realmuto (we’ve seen him before on Ina), Executive Chef of Townline BBQ, says he FRIES dried herbs in olive oil with the garlic to release their flavor before using them in a tomato sauce. Very interesting! I rub them in my palms, but I’ve never fried them. Actually when I have fried FRESH sage leaves for a garnish, I’ve loved it and I mentioned cooking fresh rosemary in olive oil, which is quite good too.
Ina thanks them all for them tips and she practically sprints to get the brownies out of the oven. Oh wait, I’m just projecting what I would do. She’s actually quite calm. She puts one on a plate and places a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. She takes a taste. It’s all melted and molten in the center. Yumbolicious!

Ina goes to Rao’s next and tells us it’s over one hundred years old! (Sounds like Tom Moore’s Tavern.) She says it’s impossible to get a reservation, partly because they have only one seating and it’s closed on the weekends.

Frank Pellegrino is in the kitchen with Ina. Chef Dino Gato is in the background, ready to lend Frank a hand. Frank says he’s been doing a lemon chicken for 70 years. He splits a 2 to 2 1/2 pound chicken and puts it under the broiler, skin side down. When it starts to char, he turns it over. Frank says to blacken the chicken. Ina says it’s great for entertaining. 

Frank mixes up a sauce of 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 cup of fresh juice, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, a pinch of oregano and some red wine vinegar. He cuts up the chicken into 7 pieces. (The recipe says to cut each half into 6 small pieces.) The cut pieces go onto a baking pan and Frank spoons some of the sauce over. It goes back in the oven for 2 minutes on each side.

It’s really funny that Chef Dino keeps coming up behind Frank and assisting him with everything. The Chef puts the chicken back under the broiler and then takes it out. He gives Ina a taste. She loves that it’s so lemony.

Lastly, Frank (and Dino right behind him) do a peas with prosciutto dish - his biggest selling vegetable dish, he says. He heats 1/4 cup of olive oil with 1 clove of mashed garlic.  He adds 1/4 cup of diced white onion and cooks that for 2 minutes. He says to tilt the pan for faster cooking. The garlic goes out now and 1/4 cup of prosciutto goes in for 2 minutes. He adds 2 cups of fresh blanched peas  and cooks them for a minute or two. He adds salt and pepper and 1 cup of chicken stock, which Frank says helps to sweeten the peas. It cooks for a couple more minutes to marry the flavors. Ina takes a taste. She loves it.

They sit at the bar and Dino brings them out some food. Dino says he’s been there for 17 years. Ina asks how long it would take to get a reservation at Rao’s. Frank says a year. Ina says he HAS told her 35 years. He says it’s because the same people keep their tables and never want to give them up. I guess when you’ve been eating lemon chicken and fresh peas and prosciutto for decades, it’s pretty hard to give them up. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,

I saw the lime squeezing tip on one of Ming Tsai's shows a few years ago. He was cooking with Jasper White, and Jasper said one of his line cooks showed him how to use the tongs that way -- Jasper said it was nice that even after 30 years cooking in restaurants there was still stuff to learn.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I definitely want to try that with the limes and lemons. great idea.

So we never found out if you needed those little pans to make the brownies,

I have had the chips falling to the bottom issue (fruit too). I have tried to prevent it with the four, but I'm trying to remember if it really works,

Sue said...

I wish I had learned this earlier! It’s such a great idea.

I’m with Jasper! I love learning new stuff.

You’ll be happy with how much juice you can get with the tongs.

I haven’t made the “skillet” brownies yet, but I think ramekins would be fine. Actually, I just checked the reviews and most people used ramekins, so that’s what I would do.

I’ve seen sinking fruit before, but happily my chocolate chips have always floated happily throughout whatever I’ve made.

Emily said...

The fish looks amazing!

I love the lime idea with the tongs. Will I remember that the next time I need to juice a lime? Who's to say.

Sue said...

You'll remember to use tongs after you do it once, because it will change your life.