Hatch Writes!

In an ongoing series for the New York Observer I have been writing about some of my favorite dishes…the first installment here.

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Let’s Fry Some Oysters Together

Fried oysters are delicious and extremely easy to prepare.  Deep frying does not require a deep-fryer.  It can be done quite effectively in a heavy bottomed pot.  The trick is maintaining an even temperature.  If your oil gets too hot the oysters burn- too cold and they will become greasy.  By using a clip-on candy thermometer and adjusting the flame it’s possible to keep your oil temperature constant.

Many fish markets sell pre-shucked oysters and many of the varieties are excellent.  Find out when they were shucked and keep them on ice.  Often the pre-shucked oysters are quite large making them excellent for frying.  Small oysters, such as a Kumomoto, though delicious raw, are too delicate and expensive for this recipe.

Fried Oysters

1 pint (6-10) shucked oysters
2 cups all-purpose flour
Cayenne
Salt
Pepper
Lemon (sliced into wedges)
Frying oil such as vegetable or canola

Heat oil, 2-3 inches deep, in a heavy bottomed pot until it registers 375 on your candy thermometer.  In the meantime combine the flour, a generous few dashes of cayenne, a healthy amount of salt, and some black pepper in a bowl.  Remove the oysters from their container and drain off some of the liquid.  When the oil is ready, coat the oysters in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess and drop them in the oil.  If the temperature drops too much raise the heat on stove, keeping the oil around 375.  The oysters are done when they are a nice golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Remove them to a paper towel for a few seconds and serve immediately with fresh squeezed lemon.

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No Stove? No Problem.

Some tricky conditions were at play last weekend as we prepared 4 courses for 20 people at Pasanella & Sons without a stove or an oven.  Sous Chef “Snake Eyes” Soffes and I were joined by fellow French Culinary Institute alum Oron Franco and rookie-cookie Guy Mellitz. With the help of two Chinese induction burners and Pasanella’s remarkably accommodating staff I am pleased to report we served a wonderful meal…

Raw Shucked Oysters (Willapa, WA)
Deep Fried Oysters (Willapa, WA)
Chopped Summer Salad with Poached Crab
Mushroom Soup with Crisp Pancheta, Creme
Fraiche, and Chives
Linguini with Sea Urchin, Parmeggiano Reggiano, and Parsley

The Willapa oysters were outstanding.  The gentleman who took my phone order was so helpful and proud of his product, I can’t imagine ordering oysters from anyone else.  Fried oyster recipe here.

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Culinary Asassins Spotted

Hatch (right) poses with Sous Chef Jake "Snake Eyes" Soffes (left)

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Our Upper East Side Five-Course Success

We recently cooked a private birthday dinner for a distinguished group of fifteen on the Upper East.  With help from Sous Chefs Jacob Soffes and Jesse Fisher we presented five courses.  Though we provided some delicious wine, we were trumped when a Magnum of Chateau Lafite was delivered that afternoon as a gift from the Kissingers.  For dessert we served a beautiful chocolate cake from Almondine.  The menu…

Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve Cow’s Milk Cheese with Glazed Almonds
Roasted Golden Beets with Burrata Cheese and Watercress
Littleneck Clam Chowder with Bacon and Red Potatoes
Beef Tenderloin with Creamed Spinach and Yorkshire Pudding
Homemade Mint Chip Ice Cream
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Ten Not-So-Secret Cooking Tips

1. Salt

Most chefs use way more salt than you think.  Try using a little more than you’re used to, especially in sauces and soups, and you will notice the difference.  Don’t use a salt shaker.  Fill a coffee cup with salt and keep it by your stove for easy use.

2. Butter

Nutritionally butter has always gotten a bad rap.  This is bullshit. Butter is more or less just as bad/good for you as all the fats we cook with and it tastes so much better.  Clarified butter is made by melting butter and discarding the white froth.  The golden stuff left over can cook at a far higher temperature without burning.

3. Sharp Knives

If you learn to sharpen and maintain the sharpness of your favorite chef’s knife (and maybe one paring knife) you will save time, have more fun chopping, avoid tears while chopping onions, and  reduce the risk of accidentally cutting yourself.

4. Towels

Buy a 24-pack of chefs towels thick enough to protect your hands from really hot cookware and keep one or two of them on you while you cook.  Using your towel to wipe down your cutting board and counter top between steps is a calming exercise that reduces clutter and just feels good.  The  dish towel “look” also implies you aren’t fucking around and that you have some seriously important shit to do.

5. One Good Pot

Invest in one really nice dutch oven, or heavy bottomed pot.  The Le Cruset “French Oven” is excellent but its like $260.  Mario Batali by Target makes one that is virtually identical for around $100.  They are essential for so many great recipes.  Don’t use too much soap when you wash them, if any.  They’re supposed to develop a little bit of “character”.

6. Stock

So many recipes call for stock but making stock at home is a pain in the ass.  Many markets sell excellent frozen stocks but I really like Kitchen Basics.  Also, salt-free stocks can give you more control when it comes to seasoning your dishes.

7. Radio/Prep

Do all your chopping before you start cooking (if potatoes are in-play keep them submerged in cold water after peeling).  Thorough prep eliminates the panic factor that can ruin all the fun of a cooking project.  Turn off the T.V. when you cook.  Listen to the radio instead.

8. The Butcher

Make friends with your butcher.  Call him by name and ask him lots of questions.  I’ve never met a mean butcher in my life.  Ask him where the meat you’re buying comes from even if you don’t care.

9. Cheese

Familiarize yourself with a few cheeses you like and serve them on a cutting board with some crackers and bread.  Everybody loves cheese and it cheers up hungry after-work types when your dinner is taking longer than expected.  It is a simple but never taken-for granted gesture.

10. Screw Dessert

Women and some men love dessert.  Unless you are into pastries and cakes, its best to focus on the rest of the meal.  Heres a trick: buy some vanilla ice cream.  Heat up a little heavy cream in a pot.  Add some chunks of nice chocolate, stirring until melted.  Using a bread knife, slice the ice cream carton into 1/2 inch disks, remove the cardboard and serve on plates with the hot melted chocolate.  A mint leaf on top makes it even prettier.

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Let’s Make Some Beef Stew Together

Go to the butcher for boneless chuck roast.  If your butcher is nice he’ll cube it for you (1.5 inch).  Chuck is the perfect cut for this stew and relatively cheap. Avoid shrink-wrap pre-cut stew beef if you can. Use shitty wine, but not too shitty.  Buy something you would drink on an airplane.

You need about 4-5 hours to make this stew but most of the work is done in the first hour.  Like most braised dishes, it just gets better after a night in the fridge, reheated over low heat.

HATCH STEW

SERVES 6

3-4 lbs. beef (chuck roast, cut into 1.5 inch cubes)
2-3 lbs. red potatoes (diced into bite-size cubes)
2 carrots (peeled and cut into bite size pieces)
3 large yellow onions (peeled and cut into a medium dice)
1 small bag frozen peas (or fresh if you’re lucky)
1 head garlic (cut in half)
2 quarts stock (beef, veal or chicken)
vegetable oil
1/4 pound thick bacon (preferably slab or center cut, cut into 1/8 inch lardons)
1 bottle drinkable red wine
2 spigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
white vinegar
sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt
flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
your favorite hot sauce

You will need a dutch oven or large, heavy bottomed pot.  Heat up a chunk of butter until starting to bubble.  Add the bacon and cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until crispy.  Remove and save the bacon but keep the reserved fat.

Dry off the cubes of beef and season them well with salt and pepper.  Heat up a few squirts of vegetable oil (if there isn’t enough rendered bacon fat) until hot.  In small batches (the smaller the better if you have the time) brown the cubes of beef on all sides until they are a beautiful medium brown, adding a little more oil between rounds if necessary.  Take your time with this, it’s worth it.  Remove the beef and keep it in a bowl to collect juices.

Add the onions to the residual oil in the pan and cook, stirring until soft.  Add a couple pinches of flour to coat the onions and mix until the flour starts to develop some color, (1 minute or so).  Turn up the heat and add half a bottle of the wine, the thyme, the halved garlic head and a bay leaf.  Cook on high until the wine has reduced by at least 2/3 and has a syrupy consistency.

Add the beef, beef juices, and the bacon to the pot.  Add the potatoes and carrots and just enough stock to cover the stew.  Cook at 350 for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.  When the beef is so tender that a fork can easily break it apart remove the stew from the oven.  Uncover the pot and simmer over low-heat for a while to reduce the liquids and deepen the flavor. Add a handful of the frozen peas and take time to season the stew, keeping in mind that the more you reduce the stock (unless your stock is salt-free) the saltier the stew will become.  Also, if the stew gets sweeter than you like, add a few spoonfulls of white vinegar.  It adds a perfect balance.

Serve in a bowl with the fresh parsley, a dollop of sour cream and some hot sauce (if you want).  Also I like to toast baguette slices topped with a sharp cheddar and serve on the side.

Any questions or comments are welcomed.  Enjoy.

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