Thursday, November 25, 2010

What to do with leftover turkey

What to do with leftover turkey
By: Chef Cristian Feher

As I sit here reeling from the debauchery that was Thanksgiving dinner, I am wondering if "tryptophan" (the chemical that is supposedly in turkey which causes that sleepy feeling) even exists. I doubt any scientist can provide a vial of tryptophan, much less even sketch its chemical make up. Ok, I am off topic already. Must focus - must be all that tryptophan...

This is a quick and to the point article on things to do with leftover turkey. The recipes are written as a quick overview. Some traditional, some new. But it should get you through the next week. So grab that turkey carcass and some surgical gloves. Let's get started.

De-meating the bird: You can do this with or without gloves. Make sure your hands are very clean, as this is crucial to making the turkey last for the rest of the week. Dirty hands will deposit bacteria on the turkey meat and have it spoil several days before you can use it all. So I like to use latex or nitrile gloves. Simply get a big freezer bag and pick as much meat as you can off the carcass. Put the meat in the bag and refrigerate. At the very least, your bag-o-turkey will be an excellent tv-watching snack. If you have stuffing in the bird, try to get as much as you can out of it, and set aside. The stuffing in the carcass is always the tastiest.

Turkey Sandwiches: There is nothing revolutionary about these, they are just really good. I actually look forward to the turkey sandwiches more than the actual dinner itself. Get some crusty french bread, heat it in the oven so it's warm, cut the bread in half lengthwise, and layer ingredients in between the bread slices in this order from bottom to top: mayonnaise, basil pesto, stuffing, turkey gravy, turkey, smoked provolone, slice of tomato.

Turkey and Stuffing Risotto: When in doubt, make risotto. I always keep arborio rice around. It's a really good way to get rid of leftovers. Sautee some sliced pancetta or bacon, add some diced onions, diced asparagus (or leftover veggies from dinner) and turkey meat. Use chicken stock (and leftover turkey drippings) and simmer all the ingredients together with arborio rice for 25 minutes until a creamy, flavorful risotto is achieved. The trick is to add stock slowly and stir often throughout the 25 minutes until the arborio rice is soft and creamy.

Turkey Burrito: This is the quick version of this recipe. Perfect for a midnight snack. Shred some turkey meat in a bowl with a fork, add a bit of tomato salsa, chopped olives and a few capers. Wrap in a flour tortilla along with mashed potato and stuffing inside the tortilla. Once the burrito is rolled, top with turkey gravy and shredded cheese. Bake in toaster oven or microwave. Serve with a tablespoon or two or cold sour cream on top.

Turkey Pasta Carbonara: This recipe is awesome - i just had to mention that. Sautee the following in a deep skillet: Sliced bacon, julienned onions, mushrooms, minced garlic, turkey meat, and chopped parsley. At the same time, put some water to boil in a separate pot and cook some pasta in it. Drain pasta and set aside when done. Back in the skillet, once the onions become translucent and the bacon is cooked, add 2 to 3 cups of chicken or beef stock (and turkey drippings if any), bring the liquid to a simmer. Add pasta and simmer with the liquid for 5 minutes. Separate 3 egg yolks from the egg whites. Take the skillet off the stove and add the egg yolks to the pasta. Stir them in very quickly and until the liquid thickens into a velvety sauce. If it's too watery, add another egg yolk. Serve right away with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

I hope that you had a really nice Thanksgiving this year, and since you asked; I'm thankful for for turkey and I'm thankful for you.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How to make perfect holiday turkey

Chef Cristian's Guerrilla Turkey Guide
By: Chef Cristian Feher

It's the night before Thanksgiving and procrastination has finally given way to panic. The invitations have been sent out, decorative cobs of corn have been hung, the extra computer chair from your office is now part of your dining room set, and the liquor cabinet has been overstocked. But like some things, this is something alcohol can't disguise - in 24 hours your family will be the jury and your mother-in-law will be the judge. There better be a succulent, juicy, perfectly roasted bird on that table, or you're facing a 12 month sentence of ridicule and "What you should've done was...". Below is a brief, to-the-point, guide of your options.

Deep-Fried Turkey:
Difficulty: Medium
Safety Factor: Probably best to do this in the emergency room parking lot so they can get you in right away.

There is nothing mysterious or difficult about this method of cooking your turkey. You go down to your local hardware store, buy a turkey fryer, fill it with a few gallons of peanut oil, bring it up to temperature and deep fry that sucker! The method is crude, but the result (if done right) will yield a perfectly scrumptious, moist bird with crispy skin. Recommended for those with a backyard and plenty of space to run if things go wrong. Not recommended for condo dwellers, drunks, or people who have kids running around.

Turkey Cooked in a Bag:
Difficulty: Easy
Safety Factor: If you can handle microwave popcorn, you should be qualified to do this.

Most people are unaware that this method of cooking is available to them. Thanks to the good people at 3M, you can now cook your turkey in a space age plastic bag. Yes, you heard me right, a plastic bag. The future is now! You can purchase a roasting bag at your local grocery store. Stick the turkey in the bag with some flavoring agents such as wine, garlic, salt and a whole lemon, seal it and stick the turkey in the oven (follow instructions on the roasting bag packaging). The bag is temperature resistant and will not melt or burn. The turkey cooks in its own juices and the skin crisps up nicely. The result is a very juicy, tender, flavorful turkey with crispy skin that your guests will gobble down with pleasure. It even forgives overcooking by sealing in the turkey's natural juices. Recommended for most people, and especially for novice turkey cookers! The only drawback to this method is that you probably won't get that picture-perfect, Martha Stewart catalogue turkey. But it will look good enough to eat.

Traditional Roast Turkey
Difficulty: Hard
Safety Factor: If you have a critical mother-in-law, and tender feelings, this probably isn't for you.

This is the old school way of roasting a turkey. You marinade it just right the night before, dress it just right the day of, surgically implant butter cubes under the skin (turkeyplasty) and roast it in your oven just right, with a carefully followed schedule of basting and praying. If you can pull this one off, my hat goes off to you. This is recommended for the seasoned cook or professional chef who make it their yearly ritual to perfect the art of turkey roasting. When done right, this yields a perfectly crispy roasted turkey with meat that is not moist - but not dry. It's just right.

Strictly Breasts:
Difficulty: Easy
Safety Factor: If you don't mind people talking about how lazy you are behind your back, then you're good to go with this one!

If you lack the time and initiative to roast a whole bird, or are just plain lazy, this method of cooking turkey will be right for you. And if you need a justification, just keep mentioning how "healthy" turkey breasts are. However, this will backfire when you're caught drowning the remains of your turkey in thick, rich, gravy. For this method, you take some boneless turkey breasts and put them in a Ziploc freezer bag accompanied by some beer, lemon juice, salt and spices. Marinade overnight. Roast in oven on a cookie sheet @375 for 30-45 minutes. This will yield moist and tender turkey breasts which you can slice and arrange on a platter. But hopefully you only invited your yoga buddies and no one will ask for dark meat.

A note on stuffing:
No matter how you choose to cook your turkey this holiday season, you will undoubtedly accompany it with stuffing. It is always best to make the stuffing separately and serve it on the side, or at the very least, stuff your turkey after it's fully cooked. Stuffing your turkey before cooking can be hazardous if (food poisoning from bacteria), and it takes the turkey longer to cook. You can also overcook the turkey and end up with a bird that rejected half the stuffing like a bad heart transplant not a pretty sight). I stuff the turkey's cavity with lemons, onion and garlic. These flavoring agents radiate their aroma throughout the turkey while it's cooking, and give the meat a little more flavor. It's a much better use of the turkey's cavity than stuffing.

Emergency Procedures:
You can't always fix a turkey, especially if you've over-cooked it and it's drier than bag of sand. But here is a brief mention of some common problems that can be fixed. If the turkey is done, but the skin still lacks that brown crisp, use a heat gun to brown the turkey skin after it comes out of the oven (you can buy it at the hardware store - it's used to strip paint off things). If your turkey is under cooked, cut it into pieces, stick the pieces on a baking sheet, pour some of the turkey liquid over the meat and roast it in the oven at 420 for a few minutes until it's done. Since you cut it into smaller pieces and slices, it will cook faster, and the liquid you put on it will keep it from drying out too much. If you are getting burnt spots on the skin before the turkey is done, you should cover the turkey with a sheet of non stick aluminum foil to retard the burning. To avoid the fourth most common problem, ALWAYS MAKE EXTRA!

It is my sincere hope that this guide will give you some sort of a game plan for turkey this holiday season. And remember that a good turkey will last an hour, but the story of the chef will last the rest of the year! Please send me your turkey tips and stories

Monday, September 20, 2010

A little food for thought

A Little Food for Thought
By: Cristian Feher

It's the year 2010 and there are almost as many different types of foods as there are people. But the really interesting part is looking back at where some of these foods have come from, and where some of them are going. I give a few examples that have caught my attention below.

Many people take modern refrigeration for granted and do not realize that it's not until recently that this technological advance has been shaping the way foods are stored, prepared and consumed. Many of the foods that have been around in the world were developed in cultures where no refrigeration was available. Take curry, for example. The flavorful spice mixture we know today as curry was used by several cultures for hundreds of years as a method of keeping meats from spoiling. Picture a hot day in India where the temperatures rise way above 95 degrees on a regular day. A fish was cleaned, cut up and cooked in a clay pot with a heavy dose of curry, spicy peppers (capsicum), herbs, vegetables and water. If covered with a cloth, this dish might have lasted up to three days in ambient temperature without becoming spoiled (bacteria would have found it difficult to grow inside the spicy curry mixture). In colder climates, Vikings might have kept a freshly killed elk buried in ice and snow while consuming over a period of time. Severed slices of flesh would have been roasted over a fire and enjoyed with dried berries and leaves. A series of sharpened wooden sticks jutting out from around the elk would have kept bears and wolves from stealing it during the night. Today, there are many backyard Vikings that still enjoy this ritual on Sundays! In the South Pacific fish were wrapped in leaves, clay and sometimes raw sea salt crystals. These packages would be buried underground with hot coals and rocks, and dug up to eat up to two days later. Many tourists enjoy this method of cooking while on vacation in the South Pacific today, and it's a popular attraction on the food networks. The Aztecs would steam rudimentary corn dough wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves for preservation, and you can still enjoy them at your local Mexican restaurant today. You can also fast forward to the perfection of this particular method of cooking and visit Venezuela during the Christmas season for an amazing "hallaca" (a savory saffron and raisin meat stew encased in corn dough with annatto, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed to perfection). However, the most common method of ensuring fresh food, which is still seen today in many cultures, is the ritual of going to the market for food on a daily basis. Whether in France, Trinidad and Tobago, or Argentina, this is a ritual that I try to take part in whenever I travel. Food prepared freshly in a culture with a high turnover of meat, fish and vegetables has always yielded the best results in my opinion.

You wouldn't think of it at first glance, but war and conquering has done a lot to change the food scapes of many cultures. This is evident in Japan and especially the Philippines where hot dogs and Spam (an American canned meat product) have become national staples. Filipinos consume more spam per capita than Americans do! And if you ever get a chance, try some Filipino hot dog stew. It will make you wonder why you've wasted so many years plopping it on a bun. The Spaniards can be traced by the chickens (and diseases) they left behind as they conquered, and if you've ever had the pleasure of sampling French-Vietnamese cuisine, you know what I mean. Every cloud has a silver lining, and this is probably the silver lining of war - the seed of culinary creativity that it leaves behind.

I can only imagine what the future holds for combinations of new foods. I'm sure that preservative-laden meat patties, processed cheese and apple pie are leaving their mark in the Middle East as we speak. And you may visit Afghanistan or Iraq fifty years from now and wonder how they ever got along without them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is Propylene Glycol making you fat?

Is Propylene Glycol making you fat?
By: Cristian Fehe

Most of you are probably wondering, "What the heck is propylene glycol?". Propylene glycol may sound fancy and scientific, but it's really just a clear, odorless liquid made from petroleum. It's used as a stabilizer (to keep things held together, and keep them from evaporating), and to keep foods moist. It's used in many of the foods that we eat, and the FDA deems it safe for human consumption. Sounds harmless enough, right? But I stumbled upon a little something that you may not know about propylene glycol.

I promise this is the only other scientific word I will use - Ketosis. Ketosis is simply nerd-talk for when your body burns fat. So if you're overweight, and you start to lose fat, it's called ketosis. I'm sure most of us can agree that ketosis is a good thing - especially in America, where we have the most overweight population on the planet!

So what do ketosis and propylene glycol have to do with being fat? Good question! There is an industry where fat is money. It's the cattle industry. Simply put, the cattle ranchers don't want cows to get skinny. When an overweight American goes into ketosis, we congratulate them and tell them how good they're looking! But when a cow starts to lose fat, the veterinarian is called immediately. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual "Ketosis is a common disease of adult cattle." And according to this manual, one of the treatments for this condition is Propylene Glycol. The cow is injected twice per day with propylene glycol until it gets fat again. This stops the cow from losing fat and keeps them nice and plump. The cow can then be sold, butchered, and a beautiful, fatty, rib eye steak can be enjoyed.

I am definitely not against a big fatty steak with proper marbling (the fatty beads throughout the steak). But I do wonder if propylene glycol is having the same effect on humans, and making it harder for a person to go into ketosis and lose fat. North Americans probably eat more propylene glycol than any other people on the planet, and we happen to be very fat. Coincidence? I am not saying that propylene glycol makes people fat - I can't, the FDA wouldn't let me say that. But it certainly poses an interesting question. By the way, here's another little tidbit; the Merck Veterinary Manual also states, "Overdosing propylene glycol leads to CNS depression [central nervous system failure]." But again, they're talking about cows here, and it's very unlikely that a human being would eat that much propylene glycol in one sitting. However, I wasn't able to find out how much propylene glycol it would take to kill a cow or give it brain damage. I also was not able to find if propylene glycol taken over time can have a damaging effect.

Here are some common foods that contain propylene glycol: certain mustards, food coloring, artificial flavors, certain chips, certain soy sauce, fried onions, certain strawberry and chocolate syrups, certain icing, canned coconut milk, certain salad dressings, certain ice creams, maple flavored bacon, certain juices, certain sodas, certain cake mixes, certain chicken bullion, fast food burgers and dipping sauces, certain yogurts and the list keeps going. After only 10 minutes of research I was able to find over 1200 food items that contain propylene glycol. And not all of them listed it as an ingredient. For example, a food's ingredient list may include "artificial butter flavor". The butter flavor is made with propylene glycol, but since it came into the factory pre-made and was added as an ingredient in the process of another food, that manufacturer is not obligated to list sub-ingredients.

So we come again to the big question; is propylene glycol making you fat? I can't answer that. All I can do is present you with very interesting information and let you think for yourself.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Foods that keep you cool

Foods that Keep you Cool By: Chef Cristian Feher
With Florida's 100 degree weather, faulty air conditioning, and the growing threat of global warming, it doesn't look like it's getting cooler any time soon. So I thought this would be an appropriate article. Before I give you a list of the foods that will keep your body cool this summer, I have prepared a short and nerdy presentation of how your body's cooling system works. Think of your body as a car engine, but instead of burning gas, it burns food. When it runs it gets hot and when it's hot outside it gets even hotter. And just like your car's engine, it's liquid cooled - it uses fluid to trap the heat and throw it out. But please... not in the pool.

Your body builds up a lot of heat when it has to digest heavy fuel. I'm sure you remember the last time you had a greasy burger and fries on a hot day. You probably felt sluggish, short of breath and very uncomfortable - you overheated your engine. The simplest thing you could have done would have been to eat a leaner, cooler, easier to digest fuel - like a salad or fruit. Salads and fruit are a great hot weather food in that they take very little effort for your body to digest. Less effort makes less heat. And because a salad is cool to begin with, it doesn't raise your body's temperature as much as a hot meal will.

The first way that your body gets rid of heat is through sweating. The blood absorbs the extra heat in your system and channels it out through the sweat ducts. As the sweat evaporates off your skin, the heat goes with it. So you actually want to eat foods that will make you sweat. Notice that cultures which live in hot climates usually cook with a lot of spicy foods. They know that sweating keeps you cool and if you've ever eaten a spicy goat curry on the beaches of Trinidad and Tobago, or Jerk Chicken in Jamaica, you know what I mean. "Get me a towel!". Aside from their great taste, hot peppers are your best sweat inducing foods and you should acquire a taste for them if you want to keep cool in hot weather. Hot peppers contain a substance called capsicum which cause your body sweat. These include all types of hot peppers, and anything with cayenne. If you can't handle spicy foods, don't worry. I have other suggestions below.

The second method your body uses to get rid of heat is through urination. That's why we are able to write our names in the snow so legibly. A diuretic is a substance which makes your body get rid of fluids through urination. If you don't like to sweat, I suggest eating diuretic foods, which mostly come in the forms of liquids. Apple cider vinegar, caffeine and cranberry juice are all diuretics, and they will help keep you cool. Coconut water is also a diuretic, which would be tragically ironic if you were ever stranded on a deserted island and needed coconut water to survive! The only issue with diuretics is that you risk becoming dehydrated. So make sure to keep drinking.

The speed and thickness of your blood is also a factor. Thinner blood will circulate more easily through the body with less effort. This will have a cooling effect. Foods that are natural blood thinners are cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon and vinegars.

By following these guidelines you should be able to keep cooler this summer, and if you're lucky, maybe even lose a little weight!

Here is a recipe for the ultimate cool down meal:

Cucumber, Hearts of Palm, Tomato, and Avocado Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette and a tall glass of Cranberry Coconut Juice

Salad Ingredients:
- 1 Avocado
- 1 Heart of Palm
- 1 hand full of Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 Field Cucumber
- (optional) 5 cold cooked Tiger Shrimp
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Cayenne Hot Sauce
- Sea Salt and Pepper

Put avocado slices, sliced heart of palm, cherry tomato and cucumber slices into a bowl. Put 1/3 cup of olive oil, and a small splash of apple cider vinegar (to taste) over the salad. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

For the drink, mix 1 part coconut water and 2 parts cranberry juice. Add to a glass with crushed ice.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

...I Ate What?

... I ate what?
By: Chef Cristian Feher

After watching The Land Before Time for the hundreth time, my seven year old asked me today, "Do you cook Dinosaur meat for your customers?" And while I normally would have smiled and pinched her cheeks, this question made me think for a minute. And surprisingly, the answer was "Yes!". Many of our foods have very interesting origins, and some are derived from sources you would never expect. This thought entertained me for the rest of the day and I began to do a little research - sort of tracking down a long lost family tree - on the quirky foods that we eat. Some of you may find this disturbing, but I hope that most of you will find this as interesting as I did.

Dinosaurs - A long time ago, the Earth was filled with dinosaurs. They roamed what are now our oceans, swam what are now our deserts and flew in our skies. Then a large explosion wiped them out. Fast forward a few years later (a few million to be exact). The planet's continents shifted and buried much of the dinosaur leftovers in underground pockets where they fermented for a long time and turned into a thick, flammable, black viscous carbon liquid. Then a Texan shot a hole into the ground, and "Yeehaw!" petroleum was discovered. It was taken to a factory where it was turned into a thousand different things. And many of these you actually eat. Take propylene glycol. It's a clear, colorless liquid with a semi-sweet taste. We use it as an agent to keep foods moist (like in dog food, some frozen fries, and fast food burger buns) it's also used as the main liquid which holds artificial food flavors and dyes. So any food made with artificial flavor or smell, has propylene glycol in it. It's also used as antifreeze for your car, in pharmaceuticals, and interestingly enough, it's used to stop cattle from losing weight (I will write another article on this specific topic) From petroleum we also get vitamin capsules, food preservatives, and glycerin (used in shampoo, drugs, toothpaste, and the production of citric acid in juices). And that's the short answer of how we eat dinosaurs on a daily basis.

Bacteria Poop - Most people would be appalled at the though of eating bacteria poop. You probably think of horrible things happening, like food poisoning and digestive problems. But the truth is that you eat quite a bit of bacteria poop and it's actually harmless. Take xantham gum for example. This substance is the bi-product (poop) of bacteria that like to eat corn. In goes the corn, out comes a thick, slimy substance which is then dried, turned into powder and then added to salad dressings, sauces, sodas, ice cream and many more foods. It's used to thicken foods, or keep a mixture of food uniform. I actually use this to thicken sauces for customers that demand a low carb, or gluten-free menu. It works much like corn starch, but without the calories.

Bee Saliva - You probably guessed this one. Yes it's honey. And here is why you might find it less appealing. The worker bee flies out, sucks the nectar out of flowers and flies back to the hive. He then regurgitates a mixture of flower nectar, digestive juices and saliva out into the honey combs. But it's not over yet, because the worker bee will swallow and regurgitate the honey a few more times just to make sure it's partially digested - or, in bee-terms "it's just right!".

Pig Skin and Cow Hooves - You probably guessed that I'm talking about hot dogs. But you you didn't think I'd make it that easy, did you? I'm actually talking about gelatin. Gelatin is made from the collagen that is boiled out of the animal's bones, skin and connective tissues. It's then refined, the meaty flavor is taken out, and it's turned into a crystalline powder. We then take some dinosaur-based flavoring and food colors, and make it into our favorite jiggly treat - Jello!

Ground Up Bugs - Although the average person eats a few pounds of insects every year, through produce, processed cereals and even while you sleep, I am referring to something in particular - Carmine based food coloring. Carmine or Natural Red #4 is actually made from crushed cochineal beetles. This is found in juices, ice cream, and candy. If it's red, pink or purple, chances are that it has crushed up bugs in it!

Hopefully I haven't spoiled your appetite. I find that it's always better to know, and just remember what grandma used to tell you, "What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger." Or in the case of my grandfather, "It's all protein in the end!" Thanks grandpa.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Opposing Flavors: A Chef's Tool for Taste

Opposing Flavors: A chef's tool for taste.
By: Chef Cristian Feher

There is a big difference between a good meal and fantastic meal. Yes, one most likely has a better visual presentation, but most people would agree that the most important factor is taste. A question I get very often from my customers is, “how do you get it to taste like that?”. Fortunately I am not one of those chefs that keeps a tool box full of secrets. And as can be seen from my first grade report card, I like to share with others.

I could use words like “balance”, “symmetry” and “contrast”. But I like the word “dichotomy” best. The word dichotomy is defined as: a separation into two divisions that contradict each other. Or more simply put; two things that are opposites to each other.
Without getting too philosophical here, life is made up of opposites. The sun and the moon. Black and white. Good and evil. Hot and cold. Man and woman. Our universe is made up of opposites and It wouldn't exist without them. Well, neither would good food!

One of the tools that I use in preparing meals that pay the bills, is the concept of a dichotomy – both from a visual standpoint, and a taste standpoint. If you've ever taken an art class, you know that the picture you're painting looks best when it balances. There has to be empty space to compliment the full space. You have to dampen bright colors with dark colors, and so it is with the arrangement of food on a plate. When you're preparing a dish, you're essentially painting a 3 dimensional picture. But the factor that keeps customers coming back is always the taste, and good taste is all about a properly balancing and opposing your flavors.

Picture a meal that is just salty. No other taste, just salt. How about a food that is just nothing but sweet? Not very enjoyable in my opinion. There is no dichotomy there. What a good chef will do is balance two flavors just right. When I make desserts I always balance the sugar with a bit of salt. You can't really tell the salt is there, but you just know that it's very satisfying to your taste buds! You'd be pleasantly surprised by how many recipes would be improved by opposing two flavors instead of focusing on one. Next time you make tomato sauce, for example, add half as much sugar as you add salt and you might notice a great improvement. Whether you combine salty with sweet, or sweet with sour, or spicy with sweetness, it really is an improvement over using just one flavor. So take your six main flavors: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, spicy and umami (spicy is technically a sensation and not a flavor, but we'll just add it in there) and begin to experiment with pairings to take your cooking to a deeper level. The fast food restaurants have done it for years to keep you coming back. How much sugar do you think it takes to balance an umami (the flavor of MSG which is similar to salty) meat patty?

The concept does not stop with flavors. The dichotomy also lends itself to temperature and to texture. A perfect example of these two would be a crispy, hot slice of apple pie topped with a cold, soft and smooth scoop of french vanilla iced cream. The crispy texture of the apple pie is opposed by the soft, velvety texture of the iced cream, and the temperatures of hot and cold are also opposed. By the way, most iced cream you buy at the store contains a certain amount of salt to counter the sugar.

I hope that this will help you to understand what makes your favorite foods so enjoyable, and I would be happy to know that this has made your cooking just a little bit better! I'm always like to receive emails from you. You can always email me at

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Food and Wine Pairing for the 21st Century

Food and Wine Pairing for the 21st Century

By:Chef Cristian Feher

As a chef I have been indoctrinated into the old tradition of pairing wine with food. But as of late I have come to the realization that in order for anything to advance, it must change. And so it has been with food. We have taken the old, and with constant change, have managed to keep people interested in the art by creating new exciting dishes and combinations. So why not leave the dogma of food and wine behind and move towards an evolution of pairing?

I have always been a firm believer that the right wine to pair with a certain food is the one you enjoy! And so I have taken this further to include all drinks - beers, juices, and even sodas! I see food and wine pairing as arranged marriages; traditional, but outdated in today's modern world. There are new ways to fall in love. Now, don't get me wrong - I am not against wine. I just find that there is a level above wine that belongs with fine food. And It is a new adventure that I look forward to developing with my own menus.

Below are five pairings which I invite you to try. And if I have the pleasure of cooking for you, will be showcased at our next dinner party.

Sushi and Club Soda with Lime, sea Salt and Ice. Although you wouldn't necessarily pair sushi with wine, I am very excited about this simple combination. The whole attraction of eating sushi is the raw and natural flavour of this cuisine. Sushi is all about simplicity and basic flavors. And so the simplicity of this drink is a perfect match. Fill a tall glass with plenty of crushed ice, squeeze half a lime on the ice, add a small pinch of salt and fill the rest with club soda. Not only is club soda a palate cleanser which will work as a buffer between the different sushi varieties, but the sour and salty flavours pair very well.

Steak and Pineapple Merlot w/ Papaya. As I mentioned above, I am not against pairing food with wine. I am about taking it further. It is very traditional to enjoy a nice rib eye steak with a rich glass or Merlot. But it's even better to add pineapple juice and small-diced papaya. If you like sangria, this will be right up your alley! Just mix 2 parts red wine to 1 part pineapple juice and add ice cubes with a couple of spoonfuls of papaya diced small. This drink has a hidden purpose; you see, papaya and pineapple contain enzymes that break down protein. So eating a large steak dinner with this drink will greatly aid in digestion, and the flavour combination is sure to please!

Spanish Seafood Paella w/ Wheat and Clementine Ale. This recipe brings fond memories of skiing in Quebec a few years ago. We stayed in a beautiful wooden chalet near Mount Tremblant where we came up with this combination. The Paella was thoroughly enjoyed with pale wheat ale to which was added pieces of chilled clementine. This is a great holiday drink as the Moroccan clementine are available during December and most of winter.

Oysters on the Half Shell with Apple Cider and Hot Sauce. I was lucky enough to get two dozen Tatamagouche oysters that were flown in from Nova Scotia last week. I experimented with several different pairings and came up with a simple, yet out of the ordinary one. I found that the oysters tasted best with a little shot of organic apple cider and a drop of crystal hot sauce (which is a cayenne based sauce). The combination provided the traditional acidity and hot spice with the addition of a surprisingly workable sweetness! Organic apple cider was also enjoyed at the end of the meal mixed with a little sparkling champagne which worked well to cleanse the taste of the oysters.

Chicken Coconut Curry with Riesling. I saved this last one to demonstrate how you can pair wine with foods you wouldn't normally think would go with wine. Traditionally, Indian food is not paired with wine. However, this fragrant and savoury dish is a pleasure to have with a chilled glass of fruity Riesling.

I hope that this article has sparked your inquisitive side and I look forward to hearing what interesting combinations you have come up with. I'm constantly working to find new pairings which can augment the pleasure of a meal. You can always write to me at

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How do I know if sushi Tuna is fresh?

Red Tuna or Chocolate Tuna? How do I Know if it's Fresh?
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Sushi is one of my favorite foods. I love the colors, tastes and varieties. I eat it raw, cooked, dipped, sliced, with Wasabi, and even seared with black Sesame seeds! Tuna, whether it's minced and mixed with Srirachia sauce or freshly sliced on its own (as in Tuna Sashimi) is the quintessential ingredient most sought after by Sushi lovers. But how fresh is your Tuna? And, would you be able to tell just by looking at it?

Most people judge a book by its cover, and they judge Tuna just the same. When asked how they judge freshness, people will tell you (in the case of Ahi or Yellowfin Tuna) that a rich red or pink color is most desirable. But having fished for Tuna myself, I have noticed that a Tuna steak will turn brown, or “chocolate” within about an hour of cutting it. So I researched further into commercial Tuna and found out something interesting.

The Tuna industry has been keeping a little secret from us. That rich, red tuna steak you see in the market may not be what you think it is – and it may not even be fresh! It seems that the Ahi Tuna industry have turned to Chemistry to sell their products. Those beautiful, red Tuna steaks that you see at the fish store or at your local Sushi restaurant are artificially colored. The fish has been pumped with carbon monoxide to turn it and keep it red! This is similar to the practice used by the Tomato industry to turn green Tomatoes Red by pumping them with Ethylene gas. The carbon monoxide turns the normally chocolate-colored Tuna a more palatable red. You can do this experiment on your own by putting a chocolate piece of Tuna by your car's tailpipe and watching the difference in color. WARNING: Do not attempt to eat the fish if you have exposed it to your car's exhaust fumes. Your car's exhaust fumes have several other pollutants that you really do not want to eat! This is just an experiment to show you that carbon monoxide will change the color of the fish.

The practice of lacing Tuna with carbon monoxide is not legal in North America according to the FDA and its Canadian counter part. However, as most Ahi Tuna comes from the Pacific, Asian processing facilities ship the fish already treated. There are no laws in Asia which prohibit the use of carbon monoxide to treat fish.

Is it safe? I was not able to find any information on the effects of eating treated Tuna. But It's only common sense to assume that natural is better.

As for freshness, I left a piece of treated tuna outside at room temperature for 24 hours and, although it was obviously spoiled, the color remained the same! A nice deep red, turning a little pink after a while. If this piece was behind glass at the fish market, I certainly would have purchased it. It never turned chocolate. So if you can't tell the quality of Tuna by its appearance, how can you tell? Fortunately, your nose is your best weapon. You should judge Tuna by its smell, texture and taste. It should have a pleasant fishy smell, and firm flesh. And most importantly, it should taste good! And the fact that it's chocolate-colored is just a reaction that any lean protein should have when coming into contact with oxygen and then oxidizing.

There really is nothing wrong with a chocolate colored piece of natural Yellowfin Tuna – that is its actual, natural color. The only reason most places won't sell it, is because the consumer has been so used to the carbon monoxide treated tuna that they would not buy the natural stuff. So fish markets are forced to continue importing and selling the treated Tuna. I am not against a nice, red piece of fish, but when something is being sold to me I demand honesty and truth, and this is the reason I wrote this article. I have been enjoying chocolate, organic South Pacific Ahi Tuna for my Japanese dishes as of late, and I will continue to use this product and inform my clients about its origin and character. I simply prefer a more natural food over a processed food. So the next time you are shopping for Tuna, make sure to ignore the color and go for quality instead! It should come down to which piece of tuna smells, tastes and has the best texture.

Don't forget to visit my Facebook page by clicking the following link:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making Low Carb Substitutions

Making Low Carb Substitutions
By: Chef Cristian Feher

While there are many people around the world who's biggest problem is not having enough to eat, sadly, we have the opposite problem. North Americans run into the issue of being over-fed! Our food supply is bountiful, cheap, and we have too much of it. Even the poorest of our clan can get 1000 calories for less than $3. And it shows. We're fat!

I won't go into a big dissertation on how we gain weight. All I will say is that every time you eat refined carbs your body sends massive amounts of insulin into your blood stream and turns all but some of the sugar into fat. Add to this, late night eating, lack or exercise and some high fructose corn syrup to wash it down with, and you're well on your way to winning first prize at the Virginia Fair! OK, I'm lecturing again..

The good news is that you can do something about it. It just comes down to willingness and some work on your part. But you can do it. And I'll give you some tips below on how you can cut down on those pesky carbs so that hopefully you can get to feeling energetic and looking thin again!

Now, before I go and give you a list of substitutions, there are some magic rules to follow. Well, they're not actually magic at all, more like common sense (if you want to lose weight). 1. Your body needs water to move fat around. So if you want to move fat out, you gotta drink lots of water. Try 1.5 litres per day and work your way up to 2 Liters. 2. You don't need fuel when your car is parked. And you don't need to eat when you're not really using your body. So don't eat at night. Stop eating four hours before going to bed. Yes, you might be really craving a snack but you're going to have to suck it up tubby! 3. (And this one I've learned many times from experience and from my client's experiences) Diet alone fails most often. You're going to have to dust off those gym shorts from the bottom of the closet. Do at least 30 minutes of light exercise every day. Lucky for you, walking does wonders for weight loss. And it's also relaxing and lifts your spirits. Make time to go for a walk every day. Following these simple rules will enable you to get results.

Now for the low carb substitutions:

Gotta have your gravy? Sauces really liven up a boring meal. And although most thickeners are high in carbs, there is one thickener that works wonders and has a 0 net carb count. Xantham gum. Yes, it sounds like something Batman shoots at bad guys, but it's actually a common thickener used in everything from salad dressing to hydraulic coolant in factories. But don't let that scare you. It's made from friendly bacteria who like to eat corn. It's available in most health food stores and online. You can thicken up gravies, make ketchup and even cream sauces! It's similar in consistency to corn starch and you can thicken just about any liquid with it.

TIP: Xantham gum tends to clump up when in contact with liquids, so it's best to use a hand blender (or regular blender) to mix it into liquids smoothly. And better yet, it does not require heat to thicken. It will thicken a cold glass of water just as well.

But what about bread? It seems like we are surrounded by a never ending supply of bread. It's everywhere!Sandwich shops, fast food chains, the grocery store and in our kitchen. All kinds of breads, buns, rolls, crackers, wraps. So how do you go around that? Well, next time you make a burger or sandwich, try using two large portobello mushroom caps instead of a bun. Heat them in the oven or microwave until they begin to soften. You can do the same thing with two thick-cut slices of eggplant. What about wraps? Certain health food stores sell low carb tortilla wraps that yield only about 5 grams of carbs per serving. You can also wrap your cold cuts and cheese in fresh, green lettuce leaves for a fresh, leafy wrap. Try a BLT wrapped in L! And if you just had to grab a burger because "you were in a hurry", then just eat the insides and toss the bun in the trash. No excuses.

What do I drink? Don't drink anything that has sugar or high fructose corn syrup in it. It's as bad a putting a couple of sandwiches in the blender and drinking that. Sugary drinks will make you fat faster than anything else because the sugars go right into your blood stream very quickly. This includes beer, fruit juice, sodas, energy drinks and anything else that has sugar in it. So you should be drinking water, club soda (my favourite) or at the very least, diet soda. But try to drink lots of water.

Is there any happiness left? Yes there is! You don't have to give up carbs completely. In fact, carbs are good for you so long as you use them as fuel. Just don't have too many and don't eat the wrong types. Eat carbs that are high in fiber and will take your body longer to break them down. Sweet potato, steel cut oats and pearled barley should become your new best friends. Instead of pasta you will eat Tofu Shirataki noodles or Dreamfields pasta once in a while (Use Google to find out more about these options). They now sell low carb ice cream which you can have on Sundays before going for a long walk. The best time to eat carbs is at breakfast. That way you can assure that you burn them during the day. You don't need carbs for lunch or for dinner. Unless you are an athlete or a runner or a person that does very heavy physical work during the day. In which case, you are reading an article which does not apply to you.

So now that you know how to do it, here comes the hard part - you actually have to do it. The only hard part about being healthy and fit again is having the self discipline to do it. And to help you with it I will leave you with these words of wisdom. "Don't think about it. Just do it."