Monday, February 9, 2009

Top Chef Tips

By Pat Tanner

In a recent e-letter from The Frog & The Peach in New Brunswick, executive chef Bruce Lefebvre offered this advice: “Bake cookies at 300 degrees despite what the recipe says, so that the center is cooked but the outside does not get too dark.” That prompted me to query other chefs for rules they flout. Mark Valenza, chef-owner of Za, a small, eclectic BYOB in Pennington, took my request in a slightly different direction, much to my delight, offering these top ten tips:

* SALT ALL FRIED FOOD Remember: like the potato chip, all fried foods are simply grease-and-salt delivery devices. Don’t ever serve me grease without my salt.

* IF YOU’VE NEVER MADE IT BEFORE try it out on the very young or the very old first. They’ll tell you the truth.

* WINE If it’s over ten years old, chances are you own a very expensive bottle of vinegar. Please don’t make your friends and family drink it. Admit its shortcomings and move on to the next bottle.

* VEGETABLES are marvelous, colorful, unique taste treats. Stop overcooking them.

* IF YOU’RE A RACHAEL RAY FAN C’mon, you already know how to eat cheap. Check out some old Julia Child shows and learn how to dine well.

* COOKING CLOTHES Get yourself a chef’s jacket; it will save your good sweater from grease stains and instill culinary confidence. No cute slogans printed on your jacket like “Kiss the Chef,” or “Grill Guy” - that will defeat the purpose.

* WHEN IN DOUBT add bacon.

* BONES Leave them in! Why do so many of us have an aversion to bones? We all know what we are eating, don’t we? Use bones; bones make food taste better.
* IF YOU HAVE VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN FRIENDS Serve them crudités. If they still insult the food you slaved over and like to eat, remember: it’s just that they’re hungry.

* DINING OUT Always dine at chef-owned BYOBs. The food is always better and you can save a lot of coin on wine and alcohol. Okay, so that was a little self-serving.

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