Hi and welcome to another edition of Chop Talk.
This month’s #FTKT is all about how to tackle more challenging recipes, with great tips that will make you a baking superstar to your family and friends. In Chef’s Spotlight, we have good friend, culinary personality and Iron Chef America Judge, Mario Rizzotti who also brings us a great Italian classic dessert, Panna Cotta. Check out our new Chop Talk Blog Deal, where each blog will have a special promotion and product highlight. This week’s highlight is our new Crimson Series. So without further ado, let’s get right to it.
Food Tricks and Kitchen Tips
Interpreting Savory & Baking Recipes,  l.luzzo

Recipes. Does this word excite you, making your taste buds salivate with anticipation at the promise of a delectable feast created from a list of fresh, quality ingredients? Or does it terrify you? Do you have trouble interpreting complicated recipes? If the former, you are probably one of the few who does not view tackling a new or difficult recipe as a daunting task. It also means you need to look at the fact of why the word recipe excites you. There are the latter however, who would like to take on more challenging recipes but sometimes get overwhelmed, especially if they require the use of more advanced techniques. They stick to easier recipes and miss out on enjoying some great dishes or favorites at home, sure that those more difficult methods and techniques will end in disaster. If this sometimes describes you, know two things; A. You are not alone and B. Practice makes perfect and you can learn.

How can you insure a successful outcome of a special meal your family and friends will all enjoy, instead of a trash can filled with wasted ingredients and an unexpected dinner out on the town? Only learning the proper techniques and the methods to gain them, can you truly guarantee success. so, we’re going to give you some pointers on how to more successfully navigate and decipher a recipe.
Step one is to gather your “mise en place.” This should include your tools (i.e. measuring spoons, pans, etc.) as well as your ingredients and perhaps, most importantly, your understanding of the steps required in order to complete the recipe. By making “mise en place”step one for every recipe you may choose to tackle, you will answer and overcome most of your recipe difficulties before you begin.

Start one recipe at a time and find the terms and Items you need to make that particular dish. What is your best partner in this investigative endeavor? Well, you could go out and invest in a kitchen companion book, probably a worthwhile investment for you serious cooks. For you once a month warriors or novice cooks, Twitter and the myriad of food sites out there, like this one, give great recipes and techniques to help with honing your culinary skills. Sites like mine usually have articles or video links to the more clinical sites that cater to the more advanced chef. Sites like these often define unfamiliar terms and offer you solutions for equipment you may not have, while also offering tools like converters, which allow you to convert measurements from, or to, metric.
Now, that we have our mise en place in place, how closely do we need to follow the recipe? This is an issue that can be argued from both sides. With savory recipes, the interchange and exchange of ingredients is much more forgiving than it is with baking. We view most recipes as a guide more than a stamped in stone method, especially for the more adventurous chef. With savory recipes, proteins can often be substituted for one another, within reason of course. For instance, you wouldn’t replace talapia with lamb, but you could introduce a skinless chicken breast and still achieve the same basic dish and flavor profile. Not so with baking.
When it comes to baking, it is of paramount importance to follow the recipe to the letter. Recently at a demo done by renown pastry chef, he explained why his book has its recipes in grams, rather than ounces, tablespoons or say, a cup. He stated, “With measurements, I can ask all of you to produce a cup of flour. If 5 of us did this, I would bet that each of us would actually come up with a different amount. Grams allows you to make the recipe come out exactly as intended, whether the first time making it, or the 100th.” Now most of us are not going to produce a 100th version of a recipe, especially a dessert, unless we are a professional chef working in a commercial kitchen. But baking is as much a science, as a creative endeavor. You have ingredients that must work in concert with each other, in order to have a desired end result. For instance; any recipe where you forget the required leavening: baking powder or soda, yeast, eggs will not turn out. With other cooking, you often have a bit of wiggle room for errors or missteps and some amazing dishes have been created by someone inadvertently messing up on a recipe.
Do keep in mind that when this happens, it is usually pure luck. If you stray too far from the original recipe, when baking, your end result may be an inedible mess. Does this mean you can never delete a single ingredient? Not at all! If you dislike onions, or can’t eat nuts, it is perfectly okay to omit or replace them, as they are optional items that won’t effect the integrity of the recipe or method. Optional items are often listed as just that,“optional.” But for the intermediate chef, it is not always clear which ingredients would cause a disastrous result if they are excluded, so delete or substitute with caution.
Finally don’t be afraid to seek out advice and pointers from seasoned cooks and chefs. Most people are very flattered when people seek out their advice, ask for a cooking tips or even a recipe. You can produce a great meal in the comfort of your own home, please friends and family with a special treat, all at a fraction of what it costs to eat out. It can be great fun to get the whole family involved and teach your children some valuable skills, along with the importance of following directions. In many cultures, eating good food is a ritual and a way of passing down the family traditions and flavors of your heritage. So dust off those cookbooks and jump in to your own culinary adventure.

Chef’s Spotlight 
photo-10Brand Spokesman and Iron Chef America Judge, Mario Rizzotti
Mario Rizzotti is a judge on Iron Chef America on the Food Network . He is often called to judge Iron Chefs like Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Marc Forgione, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and more.
You’ve seen Mario alongside Art Smith (former Oprah Winfrey chef & launched a restaurant with Lady GaGa); as well as Food Network TV star Ted Allen; TV host/producer David Rocco; Vogue food critic Jeffrey Steingarten; Biggest Loser host and NBC’s Days of our Lives star, Alison Sweeney; Martin Yan and more.
photo-8 (1)Mario lives by one simple motto; a meal is not the consumption of food, but rather a celebration of Dolce Vita. For years now, with his quick wit, natural charm, and deep knowledge of the culinary world, Mario has been leading the rest of us to the “festa a tavola.”

TV audiences know him best as the seasoned yet approachable judge on The Food Network’s popular “Iron Chef America.” His Italian culinary background combined with his familiarity with worldwide cuisines and a gift for expressing just what works and what doesn’t in the most entertaining of ways makes him a standout.

Mario grew up in Rome, Italy, where his Mamma, Nives, taught him not only the fine art of cooking, but also the art of experiencing food. From there, his passion for food and cuisine evolved. At the young age of 19, Mario moved to the United States to learn how Americans use Italian ingredients. After working in the restaurant industry for several years, Mario decided to spend his time educating Americans about Italian ingredients, helping them understand what makes them authentic and how they are used in their homeland. People leave his seminars with both a better understanding of Italian ingredients and a smile on their faces from Mario’s engaging style. Mario’s website, www.mariorizzotti.com is now a go-to destination where food lovers of all backgrounds can experience the culinary knowledge and discoveries Mario loves to share.

home3In 2002, Mario joined Academia Barilla as an Italian Culinary Specialist. In this role, Mario travels throughout the U.S. educating consumers on the differences in olive oils, balsamic vinegars, Italian cheeses and cured meats, and how to distinguish real Italian products from the many fake ones in our markets. Today Mario is with Get Fresh Produce and he is the director of specialty food division, and he sources the products of Europe directly for them, choosing the good quality directly from the mother land. Yes, Mario knows a meal is not a consumption of food but a celebration of Dolce Vita. He also knows how to make all of us from all backgrounds welcome to pull up a chair at the table. He has been called the Marcello Mastroianni of authentic Italian products and the Johnny Appleseed of Italian cuisine in USA. Find Mario on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter.
Recipe
recipes4Panna Cotta
Mario Rizzotti
Time: 35 Minutes
Difficulty: Medium
Course: Desserts & Fruit
Servings: 4
Region: Piedmont (Italy)
 
Ingredients:
Panna Cotta
2 cups whipping cream*
4 oz sugar
4 gelatin sheets
1/2 stick vanilla
Caramel
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
Method
Prep. 25 Minutes~Cooking time – 10 Minutes
Soak the gelatin in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Butterfly the vanilla bean using a sharp pairing knife. Use the blade of your knife to remove the seeds. Place the cream, sugar and vanilla seeds in a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring with a whisk.
After the cream has come to a boil, leave it on the heat for 2 or 3 seconds, then remove from the heat and add the gelatin sheets, drained and squeezed. Stir to allow the gelatin to melt into the cream. Pour the mixture into small panna cotta molds. If you prefer, you can first transfer the mixture into a pitcher to make the process easier. Then, place the molds in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
Just before serving, prepare the caramel:
Pour the sugar and 1 tbsp water in a saucepan and place it over medium heat. Bring to a boil, but do not stir. Once the caramel has browned to the desired color, add the remaining tbsp of water. Let boil for a minute, shaking the saucepan so that the caramel mixes together well and takes on a nice, creamy consistency. Remove the panna cotta from the fridge and demold it by placing the molds in a pot of hot water for a second. Remove the panna cotta from the mold and place on a plate. Garnish the panna cotta with the caramel and serve immediately.
*Chef’s Tip
If you want to make a low-fat panna cotta, try substituting half of the cream with an equal amount of milk, baring in mind that the consistency and flavor of the dessert will be slightly different.

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Til Next Time,
Ergo Chef
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