To properly celebrate the world’s best king salmon and spring, I decided to make a time honored classic from the world’s great cooking duo of all time, the Troisgros brothers. Over fifty years ago, they created escalopes of salmon in a sorrel sauce that revolutionized French cuisine and ushered in a new era of cooking. There is no better dish to honor Columbia River spring run king salmon than this classic….
Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of cooking for one of my favorite actors of all time, Kurt Russell, at the incredible Nirvana Food and Wine Festival hosted by Chef Beau MacMillan at the luxurious Sanctuary Resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Big Trouble in Little Paradise Valley
I was super busy at work one day last February when my longtime friend Chef Beau Macmillan rang me up. I answered knowing he was calling to tell me about the upcoming Nirvana Food and Wine Festival, an off the hook, annual foodie event he created the year before.
If you’ve ever seen Beau Mac on TV you know his normal state of being is one of high energy mixed with joyous enthusiasm; kind of like I just slammed four espressos, I love life, and now let’s get to it. This time he was even more ebullient than ever, his excitement was hardly containable. ‘Brotha, you won’t believe who is coming down to Nirvana this year.’ Before I could even respond, Beau blurted out Kurt Russell’s name, ‘Kurt’s coming to Paradise Valley’….
This dish is the result of an unexpected collaboration between two chefs who never met, David Everitt-Matthias and my sous chef Keith Schneider. The flavors and scents spoke of Provence; freshly salted cod, wisps of the citrus, chickpeas and roasted red peppers. Each dish a reflection of a single moment, an edible photograph capturing a mere twinkling of time, locked forever.
I bought Chef Everitt-Matthias’s book ‘Essence’ years before, and had fawned and drooled over the lush photography and original inspiring recipes within. I couldn’t afford a trip to England to eat at his restaurant, so I started reproducing some of the dishes in my own restaurant. I cooked a verbatim copy of one of my favorites, home-salted cod with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and anchovy dressing, for so long, I began thinking it was my own creation.
Keith Schneider was my last Sous Chef in the professional world who looked remarkably like a young Michael Douglas. He learned to make the best liquid center croquettes on the planet after spending five years sweating in Iron Chef Jose Garces’ kitchens. The first dish he ever cooked for me was a croqueta served with a saffron aioli, I loved it so much I immediately put it on the menu, eventually adding it to the cured cod set.
Gui Gedda had become a mythical character in my unrelenting search for pure, unadulterated Provence cooking. I heard his name mentioned in several publications, always spoken with absolute reverence, but could never really find out a lot of details about him. Chefs referred to him as both the Pope and the Marcel Pagnol of Provencal cuisine. Finding Gui Gedda’s book ‘Cooking School Provence’ was a major find; it felt a bit like finding the holy grail.
A quieter, more contemplative life, one punctuated only by the scraping of chairs after a leisurely lunch and the wind rustling through the lavender fields… Sara Clemence
We have a lot of fun changes coming to our blog in the next few weeks, and we sincerely hope all of you will join us at the table for great conversations, recipes and more. Some of the more astute may have already noticed that our name has evolved from ‘Eat Till You Bleed’ to ‘Pistou and Pastis’. Pistou and Pastis perfectly captures our life at the moment, and reflects the impossible to fight gravitational pull of all things southern France for us. As I grow older, my desire to slow life down, enjoy the simpler moments and sip pastis in the golden sunshine, nibbling on tapenades with good friends is what truly sparks me.
‘“My guiding motto for 50 years has been simpleness, the French peasant cuisine is at the basis of the culinary art. By this I mean, it is composed of honest elements that la grande cuisine only embellishes. For example, when I prepare an elaborate dish, say one that takes several days, all the ingredients are basically simple, and the cooking is simple. There are no tricks, no attempt to disguise the true taste by overuse of wines or condiments. What it requires is patience. One must avoid the temptation to hurry, to use substitutes.” – Alexandre Dumaine
During my life time, there have been many chefs I have idolized. I studied their lives trying to comprehend what made them tick, much like a student of music might study a great composer. I read the great chefs’ cookbooks cover to cover like a novel; I devoured any and all articles I could find written about them; I ate in their restaurants if I could afford it; I even cooked their dishes and featured them on my menus; anything, just anything to try to glean one small piece of their culinary perspective and philosophy and incorporate it into my style….
General Tso’s chicken did not preexist in Hunanese cuisine,but originally the flavors of the dish were typically Hunanese — heavy, sour, hot and salty.
– Chef Peng Chang-kuei
Lisa and I just finished watching the fascinating documentary “In Search of General Tso’s Chicken”. I found it so interesting not so much for the study into the origins of one of America’s most iconic ‘Chinese’ dishes, but because it confirmed my long held belief of why American Chinese food is so damned sweet. Chinese immigrants realized we Americans have a cultural sweet tooth and add copious quantities of sugar to our food to make it loved. The issue and reasonings are far more in depth and complex, but will also shed a lot of light on the story of Chinese immigration in America. The persecution Chinese immigrants were subjected to relates a recurring storyline in America that has happened with many different ethnic group. In some ways, it could be the story of Muslims today.
The side effect of watching was I went on an all out Chinese food marathon shortly after. One dish I ‘created’ was a take on General Tso’s chicken. Perhaps Chef Peng Chang-kuei, the man credited with creating General Tso’s Chicken, would be rolling in his grave if he knew of my spin on his classic Hunanese dish. I couldn’t help it, all the ingredients were just sitting around at my house waiting to be part of something epic.
Happy and successful cooking doesn’t rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life. – Georges Blanc
I used to worship quite a few famous chefs when I first began my cooking career. I believed by studying and role modeling the chefs I idolized, I could glean bits of information and techniques to add to my growing repertoire. Georges Blanc was a perfectionist chef who really spoke to my sensibilities. One bite conveyed the story of his family’s long culinary heritage, the products of his region, a strong sense of seasonality and an essence of simple purity. Virtues I strived to incorporate into the foundation of my personal cooking style….
A recipe is rather like a piece of music. Although the notes may be read and reproduced faithfully the result can still be crude, mechanical or just uninteresting. Roger Verge
Notes from My Fictitious Mazet
Recently I bought a home in Vancouver, Washington and found myself with the unenviable task of having to move yet again. Hopefully for the last time but who really knows. If I did my calculations correctly, at best I shall be carted off to the nursing home drooling uncontrollably in a snug pair of Depends by the time the last house payment is paid. At worst, I will be found by bill collectors thoroughly mummified with a glass of pastis in one hand and a tartine of tapenade in the other….
I recently returned from the 11th annual Alsace Festival in Northern California and wanted to share my speech about food and wine pairing I gave before a sold out crowd at the technical conference. The following is a slightly revised version.
Good Morning, I’m here to speak about Food and Wine, or more specifically, how food impacts wine and vice versa. Matching food and wine is about marriages and contrasts. We will explore taste to see how food and wine work together from a chef perspective. I am going to begin with a brief history of myself, followed by general food and wine pairing tips, then figuring out what taste is from a chef’s perspective and finally tasting some wines together….
We are donating 15% of all sales of our books and gift sets to Feeding America from now till Christmas! Join in and help needy American families and children get a meal and receive a beautiful cookbook in the process! http://eattillyoubleed.com/product-category/books/
I tell a student that the most important class you can take is technique. A great chef is first a great technician. ‘If you are a jeweler, or a surgeon or a cook, you have to know the trade in your hand. You have to learn the process. You learn it through endless repetition until it belongs to you.Jacques Pepin
Many years ago, in fact decades ago, I was a young culinary student at the New England Culinary Institute. In between classes us young guys and gals liked to pretend we knew more than we did. Over beers, we would boast about how many pans we could control at once in the saute station or how many crepes we could flip. None of of us knew shit. The ignorance of youth. Sometimes it takes real experience to learn how little you actually know. All of us consulted Jacques Pepin’s book “La Technique” as if it were the bible. I still cherish my original copy that has been splattered with chicken fat and lobster juices over the course of it’s 30 year life. It was the bible for us.
Since getting backed on my kickstarter cookbook project I have been in full panic mode. I have so much work to do to finish the book in time to get it to Torrey Douglass, our phenomenal book designer, to get it to our publisher, to get it to those of you who graciously bought copies and backed my project. A rather shameless plug for my book is right here:bit.ly/KickstartSunshine. You are encouraged to still back my kickstarter campaign as we have set a stretch goal to cover a possible book tour. Many thanks….
“A barn raising, also historically called a “raising bee” or “rearing” in the U.K., describes a collective action of a community, in which a barn for one of the members is built or rebuilt collectively by members of the community.” – Wikipedia
No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing. – Julia Child
My mother came from an upper middle class family that lived in the south of France. The extent of her food education before meeting my father was learned by eating in restaurants like Oustau de Baumaniere in Provence, Pieds de Cochon in Paris or having her father’s cook Mémé make dinner nightly.
When my mother came to America and first married my father she didn’t know how to cook. Ironically, she learned by reading Julia Child’s seminal book ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. Through Julia, she was reunited with her mother culture and proudly fed us a different meal every single night (my father’s requirement).
My first moments in the kitchen, hanging on my mother’s cliched apron strings, were spent pretending to be a more French version of Julia. I grow up adoring Julia and watching her TV shows. Today, I still love her and reference her books on a daily basis. …
When the weather starts to heat up, my taste buds board a plane and venture to the South of France. Grab a pastis and join me for a taste of Summer. Coastal Provence is an area long renowned for its golden sunlight and soul satisfying fare. A cuisine largely rooted in seafood and vegetables with flavorful condiments like rouille and tapenado that enhance everything they touch. The dish tapenade is derived from tapeno, the Provencal word for capers. Charles Meynier, chef of the bygone Marseille restaurant La Maison Dorée, invented tapenade in 1880. …
“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.” – Joel Salatin
For the past year we have lived more “locally” and ‘in the season’ than ever before. It wasn’t an act of intentional culinarian defiance or even a misguided political statement. It was just the continued evolution of what we have done for the better part of the last decade. Without intending to, our families diet has been hyper seasonal, consuming a wider range of vegetables more intensely. I used to ponder at length why vegetables just tasted so much better in France than here. Eat at almost any restaurant or stop at any town market, buy something and you’ll see and taste what I mean. Zucchini tastes like the perfect zucchini and carrots like the perfect carrot. How could one country do that consistently across the board. Than it hit me like an errant lightning strike on a bright sunny day. Food grown and eaten in due season simply tastes better….
The sheep farmer showed up at work with a lamb head wrapped in plastic and questioned whether there was a call among the Chef community for it. It brought me back to my short stage in Joel Robuchon’s Paris kitchen in 1996. I remember a dish I was drawn to like a moth to a flame. Chef Robuchon slow braised a pig’s head and served the meat stacked artistically on a plate with baby vegetables in a mustard and tarragon sauce. Every part was utilized: the cheeks, the tongue, the ears and the brain. It encapsulated Chef Robuchon’s approach to Michelin three star cooking. Use simple, humble ingredients and elevate their stature on the plate with seemingly simple presentations. Cuisine Actuelle is what he termed his approach….
Everyone who works in the restaurant business knows some of the best, most creative meals take place in the kitchen far away from the limelight and paying customers. I have bore witness to some crazy, inventive shit only a slightly stoned cook could ever dream of. I also have seen epic fails where it required all my diplomatic skills to prevent the premature death of the guy who made it. The fact is, kitchen folk love to eat decadent delicious food. Maybe it’s the trade off for all the long hours we spend working together in grueling heat, producing amazing food for you to dine on. Fat adrenaline junkies. One of the most memorable was Keith’s short rib pizza. He ladled liberal quantities of horseradish bechamel onto a base of our chewy fermented rye pizza crust and topped it with a splattering of spoon tender beef short ribs and molasses-bacon jam. It was dusted with aged Manchego cheese and freshly microplaned raw horseradish. The first time he made it, we ate our entire mise en place of short ribs and had to quickly prep more for the next day. Seriously, my nipples get hard at the mere thought of it. …
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys (chefs)
Don’t let ’em pick guitars (knives) or drive (cook on) them old trucks (ranges)
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys (chefs)
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love
~ Ed and Patsy Bruce
I always feared Beau would follow my flour dusted footsteps into the kitchen. It’s not any kind of life anyone should wish upon their offspring, especially ones they love. That might sound a dire proclamation coming from a guy who spent over half his lifetime sweating in hot kitchens pretending to be a Chef. Cooking professionally is a hard knocks life riddled with unimaginable strife I would not wish upon anyone….