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If your New Year’s resolutions include “learn how to cook” then invest in Jamie Oliver’s book,
“Cook with Jamie: My guide to Making You a Better Cook.”

One of the few chefs who have a real desire to mentor other people (his Fifteen program teaches underpriveleged children important restaurant skills) Jamie has a friendly, conversational approach that steers clear from the snobby, condescending tone sometimes adapted by other greats like Gordon Ramsey.

For starters — literally — Jamie’s first chapter discusses the different dressings and ingredients you can use for salads, with little-known tidbits on mayonnaise and delicious recipes, like the perfect Fifteen Salad.

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Some people say that TV chefs are like greasy pizza: all flashy marketing and bad food.

Their criticism bemoans the end of good cooking, when quieter though slightly snobbier culinary masters prefered to speak through their dishes.

Of course, there are chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay who are excellent chefs and earned the right to dispense cooking advice to others. But what do you say about Rachael Ray or Paula Deen, who have no formal training and restaurant experience? Or the tendency of today’s TV shows to emphasize performance rather than kitchen knowhow? (Classic example: Iron Chef.) Comments welcome!

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Some people think Heston Blumenthal is a genius. Others think he’s insane. His “cutting edge” cooking techniques include, among others, feeding geese pine needles for 3 months, and then taking the idea of “slow cooking” to an entirely new level by preparing the dish for 5 days.

For some it’s a “new way of cooking” and others take the more pragmatic approach and say that it’s self indulgent. Nobody would ever be able to apply his techniques, and (they add) it’s more about performance, than flavor.

What do you think?

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Oprah refused to allow celebrity chef, Paula Deen, to guest on her show.

Paula Deen had hoped to advertise her product, Smithfield Foods Hams. But Oprah may have heard of her employees’ allegations that she abuses her staff. (They are trying to form a union.)

It’s a blow to Paula, since much of her core market — the women who shop for the food — are quite receptive to Oprah’s opinions.

Neither Oprah nor Paula have made any official statements about the incident.

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Askmen.com has made its list of the 6 most influential celebrity chefs. They’ve shaped public opinion, and even changed the culinary community.

1. Jamie Oliver
2. Anthony Bourdain
3. Mario Batali
4. Bobby Flay
5. Gordon Ramsay
6. Paul Bocuse

Read the reason for their selection — and post here why you agree or disagree with their list. Who would you have included?

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Nigella Lawson’s new book , Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast. is a handy collection of shortcuts and and simple recipes for the busy (yet discerning) cook.

These recipes are especially helpful during the holiday season. The food writer, host and chef certainly knows how to whip up a quick meal, but she reminds people that there’s more to life than the kitchen. Parties are about “good company and good conversation” she says, and stres shouldn’t get in the way. “You could have the best meal you’ve ever, ever eaten in your life but in that atmosphere, it’s not going to taste so good.”

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James Beard is considered the first ever celebrity chef. Test your knowledge of him (abd whether you can consider yourself a hardcore celebrity chef fan) with this quiz

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Celebrity chef Paula Deen shares this Southern-inspired holiday dish on the Food Network.

Pork Crown Roast with Stuffing

Ingredients

16-rib crown roast of pork
House Seasoning, to taste, recipe follows
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoon butter, melted
2/3 cup uncooked instant rice
1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped dried prunes
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
Canned apricot halves, drained

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sprinkle roast on all sides with House Seasoning; place, bone ends up, in a shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer, making sure it does not touch fat or bone. Saute onion in butter until tender but not browned. Add rice, House Seasoning, to taste, and poultry seasoning and water to onion; stir to moisten rice. Bring rice mixture to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover tightly and let stand 10 minutes. Stir dried prunes and dried apricots into the rice mixture. Fill center of roast with rice mixture. Place a folded strip of aluminum foil over exposed ends of ribs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes per pound to until thermometer registers 170 degrees. Garnish with apricot halves, if desired.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

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Celebrity TV chef John Burton Race came home from a stint in a reality show to find that his ex-wife had put his restaurant for sale. We thought it was a case of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Then it turned out to be garden-variety bankruptcy. Race owns half a million pounds and the bank had called in a refinancing company.

Race has received a lot of offers for the restaurant, including one from a celebrity chef. He’s also planning to put up another restaurant.

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Italian chefs always have a signature pasta dish, and this is one of Roberto Donna’s favorites. It’s delicious, gourmet enough to serve guests, but fuss-free for days when you’re too tired from holiday shopping to cook.

One of the most popular chefs in the Washington DC area, Donna actually hails from Italy, and aims to teach what “real” Italian food is (as opposed to the watered-down stuff they sell at steakhouses).

Serve this dish with a Pinet Noir, he suggests, and a bowl of light chicken broth.

Ingredients
1/2 loaf Italian bread, crust removed and sliced (preferably day old bread)
1 onion, very thinly sliced
6 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled, quartered, seeds removed, and thinly sliced
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, quartered
1 bunch basil, shredded
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Soak the bread in cold water for 15 minutes. Then, in a separate container, soak the onion in water as well (place on paper towels when done).

Mix celery, cucumber, tomatoes, basil and onion. Throw in the the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the bread and toss well to combine.