Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cooking with Beer

Beer, it's not just for drinking
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Beer, it's not just for drinking. Well, it's mostly for drinking, but that's only half of what beer does well. Much like beer's snobbier cousin - wine - there are hundreds of ways to pair and combine beer with food. And for most of us, it can be a new, and much more accessible hobby.

Before I continue, I would like to clarify that I do not consider myself a "wine connoisseur" or "sommelier". I do not own a wine cellar. But as a personal chef, I have the good fortune of cooking for clients that, not only have their own wine cellars, but have a very good taste in wine - and they like to share! This is how I have been able to experience the difference between run-of-the-mill wine, and the good stuff!

There is a mile of a difference between cheap wine and good wine. In fact, I almost gave up on drinking it before I figured out that the good stuff starts at around $50 a bottle. I really didn't see what the big deal was until I tasted some of these more refined vintages. Which leads me to believe that cheap wine should classify as something else entirely - they should call it grapety-booze, and the good stuff should retain the name, Wine. There is nothing wrong with grapety-booze, just as there is nothing wrong with grape Kool-Aid and vodka - if that's what tickles your fancy. 

What does this have to do with beer? It's simply more affordable to get to know good beer, than it is to know good wines. And fortunately, there is little compromise - good beer is just as good as good wine.

If you thought pairing food and wine was fun, wait till you start playing with beer! Below are some of my favorite beer pairings.

Beer and Fruit are a match made in heaven. There are many craft breweries that infuse the taste of citrus fruit and berries into their brew. You can also make your own combinations. One of my best creations to date has been a frosty mug of Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale (Canadian beer) with mandarin orange segments. I also love wheat beer with frozen blackberries or frozen blueberries in the glass. And have you ever drank ice-cold Jamaican Red Stripe out of a hollowed out pineapple with your toes in the sand?  You really should.  From Tsing Tao with rambutan fruit, to Negra Modelo (dark Mexican beer) with chocolate covered coffee beans, I encourage you to try your own fruit and beer mixtures.

Beer makes good dishes even better. When I make Spanish seafood paellas over coals (the traditional way) I like to cut the seafood stock in half and use a light beer, like Carib or Corona, to add an extra depth of flavor. Likewise, you can add a richer flavor to a tomato meat sauce or Cuban picadillo with the addition of beer. I almost always start my cheese fondues with garlic and beer to give them a really rich malt flavor that goes great with ementhal and other melting cheeses. And if you're a fan of steamed mussels, garlic, onion and beer make the best steaming base for this dish!

Beer and Fine Dining? Absolutely! There is nothing shabby about beer escorting you on an evening out for fine dining. I took up this habit during my travels to Argentina years ago. It is not scoffed at in Buenos Aires to order a nice Quilmes or Stella Artois to accompany a fine meal. And if it's good enough for the Argentinians (which, in my opinion, have the best food on the planet) it's certainly good enough for Americans. The next time you're enjoying a perfectly cooked sea bass fillet with a saffron veloute sauce, you may be pleasantly surprised how well it will pair with a pale lager.

Future episodes of my cooking show, Food Chain TV, will undoubtedly feature some food and beer pairings. Do you have beer pairings of your own? If so, you can always email me at I am always happy to try out new ideas from foodies like you!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Dessert | Banana Chocolate Ganache with Coconut Gelato

 This is a really decadent recipe that won't take you all day to make. In fact, if you have all your ingredients ready to go, it will take only minutes to prepare. You may have seen me prepare this recipe on the Daytime Show on Valentine's Day in just under 3 minutes!

Chocolate ganache is a rich and creamy chocolate sauce made by combining milk chocolate with heavy cream. Different ratios of cream to chocolate will give you different thicknesses of ganache, from the stuff you find in bon-bons to the creamy ganache you find drizzled on cakes.

For this recipe, I wanted to combine the fun of making Bananas Foster with the richness of chocolate.

I like Talenti brand coconut gelato, found in my local supermarket.

- 1 cup of milk chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp of coconut rum
- Coconut gelato
- Whipped cream
- Strawberry (for garnish)


1.  Pre-heat a non-stick skillet on the stove. Pour in the whipping cream. Wait until it just starts to simmer.

2. Add the chocolate chips and remove skillet from heat. Stir until they are completely dissolved and mixed in with the cream. Add the coconut rum and bananas.

3. Put the skillet back on the heat and stir all continuously for 10-15 seconds. Be careful not to burn the chocolate. NOTE: When chocolate burns, it will get grainy.

4. Pour chocolate ganache over coconut gelato and garnish with whipped cream and a strawberry.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Easy romantic valentines day recipes

Easy, Romantic Valentine's Day Recipes
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day to appreciate your significant other over a glass of wine and, hopefully, a great meal. If you plan on staying in and preparing a romantic dinner together, I have a menu below that you may enjoy eating, as much as you enjoy making (If not, give me a call, and I’ll help ;)

When I look at planning a Valentine’s day menu, I use the following criteria:
- Must be delicious, obviously
- Must be light, but satisfying
- Must be pleasing to both the male, and female palate
- Must be easy and fun to make
- Must not leave you falling asleep by dessert (the Thanksgiving Dinner Phenomenon)

Appetizer: Tomato, Lime and Shrimp Bruschetta

This is sort of a hybrid recipe between South American Ceviche and Italian Bruschetta. The tomato and shrimp mixture is fresh and light, and so are the crispy, garlicky bread croutons. It’s also relatively easy to make.

If you don’t eat shrimp, you can easily substitute it in this recipe with diced smoked salmon, or even sauteed, diced zucchini and portobello mushrooms if you want to keep it vegetarian.

- Crusty French bread
- 1 dozen cooked, peeled, deveined, shrimp (large)
- 2 ripe field tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves
- Fresh basil
- Fresh parsley or cilantro (whichever you prefer)
- 3 limes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper


1. Turn the oven on to 400 bake. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil (remember to put the non-shiny side up).

2. Cut the crusty bread into diagonal slices, place face-up on the cookie sheet. Drizzle them generously with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper. Put them in the oven and cook them until they are crispy and toasted. Light brown is ok, dark brown is over-cooked, black is “start again”. Remove from oven.

3. Peel and cut a garlic clove in half. Rub the garlic clove over the top of each crispy bread slice to impart the flavor of garlic onto the bread. This is best done when the bread comes out of the oven and is still hot.

4. For the bruschetta mixture, combine the following in a bowl: Diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup of fresh chopped parsley/cilantro (remember to wash well first), 2 minced garlic cloves, chopped up shrimp, salt and pepper to taste, and lime juice to taste. Most people don’t put enough salt into this recipe, so don’t be scared! Mix well and put mixture over the bread croutons.

5. Chop up some fresh basil and sprinkle over top of bruschetta. Enjoy!

Main Course: Chicken and Steak Caprese on Wilted Spinach and Roasted Zucchini

This main course is satisfying, flavorful, and high in protein. I’ve left out the usual pasta or potatoes to lighten it up. This way, your dessert won’t act like a bowl of sleeping pills and you’ll be able to make it through dinner feeling comfortable.

I prefer steak, and my wife likes chicken. So I make this recipe with both. This meal can be made in the oven or on the BBQ grill.

- 1 thin cut rib eye steak
- 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
- 1 can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (from Italy)
- 2 green zucchinis
- 1 salad container of baby spinach
- 4 cloves of garlic
- Fresh, slices of mozzarella cheese
- Fresh basil
- Fresh or dry oregano
- Salt and pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil


1. Turn BBQ on and pre-heat on high. OR preheat oven to 400 roast. If using oven line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil.

2. Slice the mozzarella. Separate the juice from the canned tomatoes. Peel and mince the garlic.

3. Cut the zucchini into long strips, rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven on the cookie sheet until light brown, or grill them on the BBQ until they are soft and have grill marks. Set aside.

4. Sautee half the garlic with some olive oil in a skillet quickly without burning the garlic. Only like 1 or 2 minutes. Add the spinach and mix with the olive oil and garlic until it wilts. As soon as it wilts, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

5. The chicken should be butterflied or pounded out thin. If you don’t know how to do this, you can buy it as “chicken cutlets” at the supermarket. The steak should be thin (no more than an inch thick).

6. Pleace the chicken and steak on the cookie sheet OR on the grill. Top with salt and pepper, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, a couple of fresh basil leaves, a little fresh chopped or dry oregano, and a couple of slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Close the oven door, or the BBQ lid and cook until the cheese is all melted and the chicken is cooked through (takes 15-20 minutes in my oven or BBQ).

I like to pre-heat the BBQ on high, and then right before I put my food on the grill, I’ll turn off the heating element underneath the grill I put the food on. This prevents the food from burning, and it prevents flare-ups. I then close the BBQ lid and it acts as an oven.

7. Serve the meat on a mound of wilted spinach with roasted zucchini on the side. Enjoy!

Dessert:  Warm Berries and Coconut Gelato

This is one of the easiest and lightest desserts I can think of. I buy Talenti brand coconut gelato at Publix - it’s really good! The warm berries make an excellent contrast with the gelato as they melt on your tongue. And it takes 5 minutes to put together.

- Fresh strawberries
- Fresh blueberries
- Fresh raspberries
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar (or more to taste)
- Talenti coconut gelato (ice cream)
- Mint leaf for garnish


1. Wash and cut up strawberries into quarters. Combine them with blueberries and raspberries. Put them in a non-stick skillet at med-high and add the sugar. Cook them for a few minutes until they are warm and soft, and the sugar melts.

2. Scoop some coconut gelato into a bowl. Top with warm or hot berry mixture. Top with a sprig of mint and enjoy!