What did we see and what can we learn from this weeks' episode? In the Quickfire, we see a lot of these talented chefs hoping for a number in the middle of the giant dice. They know that if you get too many ingredients in one dish, the dish becomes muddled and confused (similar to my elk dish in the mountains of Aspen). We want to stay focused on our cooking and not overwhelm ourselves, or our guests, with too many ingredients. It's not how many ingredients you use, but how you use them that makes the difference in your dishes. As Americans, we are always focused on the protein when we make a dish. But in order to be healthier, we need to focus on balancing our diet with fresh vegetables and the right amount of carbs, so that we feel energized and healthy after a meal. My idea of a great meal is when you feel comfortable enough to take off your clothes and go skinny-dipping when you are done. Do you really want to feel stuffed, full, and lethargic when you are done eating, or do you want to feel like you can get down to some good, hot lovemaking? The key to this is less protein — not only is it better for you, but better on the wallet, as the “center of the plate” is always the most expensive. Save your belly and cook more veggies! They are easier to digest, and if cooked properly, they have as much, or more, flavor than you could imagine. So, how do we add this flavor I speak of? First, we start off with fresh ingredients, preferably locally grown “Farm to Table” — the closer it's grown to home the better it tastes, and then we add heat! Char-grilled and natural caramelization! Every vegetable, fruit, and piece of meat has a natural sugar that we need to bring out and enhance. “Release the Flavor!” So turn up the heat and create great taste. When you are grilling you want the dark rich char marks, when you are sautéing, don’t keep shaking the sauté pan, but let it set and caramelize to a rich, golden brown. This is the sugar cooking and creating this great flavor. When roasting, turn the oven up. I mean 500 degrees for a few minutes to start the cooking process quickly and then turn the oven down to finish.
A little bit of olive oil rather then a bunch of butter is always the best way to bring out great flavors without adding a bunch of calories.
Now lets Get Fresh with food and booze! I love to drink and I love to eat, but can we combine them and still feel like we are taking care of ourselves? Of course. The key is moderation, and if you are like most the chefs I know, that’s harder than it sounds. Let's see, we work long hours in very intense environments with extreme elements of high heat and long periods of time on our feet. Like most chefs, cooks, servers, and bartenders I know, the next stop is the local bar where our fellow “industry” friends work and we can probably get a great discount on an post-shift cocktail, cold beer, or shot. Now it's taken me a lifetime to figure this one out, but I’ve learned that if you eat a small meal before you go out on the town, it will help your system digest the alcohol that you are consuming, most likely you will not feel as thirsty. Do we drink because we are thirsty, or because we want to relax? Probably a little bit of one and a lot of the other, but fool yourself and drink a large glass of water between alcoholic beverages and this to will help you digest and dilute the alcohol. Of course, not drinking would be the healthiest, but let's be serious, food and booze go together like food and booze, and I can’t have one without the other! Avoid too many sweet “headache” cocktails, enjoy some food and drink and plenty of water, and tell yourself you will try and get some exercise from time to time. We are not a perfect lot but we can all learn and do a few more things to help out the body that we are using on this cosmic journey of life. At least have the goal of taking care of yourself in order to continue your exploration of great food and drink for as long as you can. Travel on my friends and live life to the fullest … In moderation!