Monday, February 12, 2007

Chefs Recipe Catalog

This blog is devoted to cooking, and entertaining from a seasonal, and regional perspective. The recipes, techniques, and preparations we are going to show you each week are favorites that have been passed down through the generations from various parts of America. Among the things we will be discussing are favorite regional recipes, entertaining for large numbers, and reviews of the regions cusines we have sampled in our travels.

This Blog is going to be seasonal in it's choices as we make use of the freshest regional ingredients available. I was born, and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but have also lived in Hawaii, Montana, Nashville, Minneapolis, and now Chicago for the past ten years. My wife has lived in San Francisco, Boston, and now of course Chicago. One thing we have learned as we move around and explore the country is that every region has it's succulent specialties you want to try and master. What I have done is taken those favorites and fused them together on occasion to give them their own special flair.

When I moved to Nashville I found it quite interesting because a modern type of Southern Cuisine was beginning to grow popular in the region. Like the Northwest where I was from, they were starting to focus on fresh local ingredients utilizing new lighter techniques to celebrate the traditional cooking methods of the past. Nashville up till 20 years ago was a culinary disaster. Pretty much it was meat and three, fried chicken, and anything else they could stick in a fryer. Over the past 15 years they have been on the cutting edge of Southern cuisine as young chefs have fused idea's, techniques, and regional ingredients.

Hawaii is all about fish, and the number one fish in Hawaii is the Tuna. Everytime I go back to visit I usualy eat some form of Tuna around once a day. At the Four Seasons on the Big Island we picked up a Tuna Tartar type appetizer that was just amazing.

During my time in Minneapolis I was introduced to the tall food phenomena which is an interesting concept we are going to take some time exploring. It was also the first place I tried the best tasting freshwater fish in the world, the Walleye. Corn is king in the Summer out here, and I know some people that are very particular on how it is picked, prepared, and cooked.

Chicago is the belt buckle of the Midwest, and Prime Steaks are really what the city is best known for. Chicago however is a melting pot where 150 different languages are spoken. That ethnic touch allows you to go almost all around the world when eating in Chicago. One of my favorite places is a Belgian Tavern in Andersonville known as the Hop Leaf. They have the cities largest selection of beer on tap, and in bottle, but the star of the show is the exceptional Moules and Frittes served with Ailoli. One of the benefits of living in a city that size is there is always something new around the corner.

Wisconsin, and Michigan also bring a lot to the table. Due to their proximity we spend recreational time in both states and have found great regional styles from those places.
Wisconsin is of course famous for dairy products, beer, sausage, and farm canned goods. There is definitely a German, and Scandinavian influence going on with more than a little Catholicsm. The tradition in Wisconsin is the Friday Fish Fry which goes on at about every restaurant in the state. Doore County which is Northeast of Green Bay on a penisula that juts out into Lake Michigan is another culinary hot spot we will visit.

Western Michigan is home to a thriving wine, and craft distillery industry. The Eastern shore of Lake Michigan is pretty amazing, and it is a very large area for recreation, and tourism. We are going to take you through that area to share with you some secrets of the region. As you head North it really reminds me of the Puget Sound region. Chanterelles, and Morels grow wild here and are readily gathered and available at Farmers Markets.

The Puget Sound region and the entire West Coast has probably had the most influence on me. Hard to go wrong with the fresh bounty of ingredients available at the Pike Place Market on a Saturday morning. I grew up and was part of the renaissance of Northwest regional cuisine which emerged in the 1970's, and 80's. I remember doing such crazy things as selling locally grown snails (escargot) to local restaurants after buying them vaccum packed from a craft supplier in the Willapa Bay area. It was the first time chef's in the region had ever worked with a fresh snail.

In another life I worked ten years in restaurants, and another five after that exclusively within the restaurant industry as a supplier, and broker of specialty foods. At home we often entertain groups of ten or more and it can be daunting even when you worked in kitchens that long to serve any type of dinner for twenty or more people, which is about the maximum I can handle on my own, and formally seat. We are going to show you how to have everything from large dinner parties, to small intimate dinners. In addition to that we are going to share some favorite restaurants from the past and future as we explore this great gatronomic country of ours.

For example did you realize that the Corn Dog, or Pronto Pup was invented in Springfield, Illinois and they still make the best one there at the same place today? We didn't, but we are going to share some of these gems with you each week. You guessed it, I am a fan of the proverbial greasy spoon and we explore these regularly.

Right now we are deep into the Winter out here in the Midwest so we are going to be putting the emphasis on more hearty fare as the temperatures dip close to zero. Soups, stews, caseroles, and other comfort food tend to come to mind this time of year, so we will focus on that to start.

The first thing we are going to explore is the underated meatloaf which is actually undergoing a bit of a revival in a lot of restaurants today. It takes just as long to make a stunning meatloaf, as a mediocre one, so we are going to be sharing that with you first.

No comments: