Chez Panisse

Review: Jonathan Waxman’s “Italian, My Way”

When foodies talk about chefs they speak in hushed tones about the likes of Mario Batali, Emeril Legasse and Todd English.  When those chefs get together they speak in hushed tones about chefs like Daniel Boulud, Jacques Pépin and Jonathan Waxman.

Johnathon WaxmanChef Jonathan Waxman is one of the all time great American chefs hailing from the “Provence of the US,” Northern California.  But Waxman’s early days were spent chasing the rock and roll dream (been there) relying on his trusty trombone to lead him to fame and fortune (done that).  Eventually he gave up his dreams of rock stardom in lieu of becoming a chef (got the T-shirt).

When many think of Waxman they think of the French trained chef that helped define California Cuisine as the executive chef of Alice Water’s famed Chez Panisse in Berkley.  But it wasn’t until 1979 that people began to realize his brilliance.  That was when he left Water’s tutelage to open Michael’s Restaurant in Santa Monica.

Soon the accolades came flooding in and it didn’t take long for Waxman to move to the bright lights of New York.  It is there that he opened Jams Restaurant on East 79th Street and it has since been followed by Bud’s, Hulot’s, Jams of London and Table 29.

Through the years Waxman has played mentor to dozens, perhaps hundreds of young chefs including Iron Chef Bobby Flay.  Flay worked the line at both Bud and Jams and it was Waxman who first introduced the young chef to Southwestern Cuisine.  Flay says of his mentor, “Jonathan Waxman was the first person to teach me what good food was.”

So it came as some surprise to me that Jonathan Waxman, master of California Cuisine and a pioneer of Southwestern had just published a cookbook of Italian recipes entitled Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life into Italian Classics (available at amazon).

So I got a review copy from the publisher and decided to take it for a spin around the block.  First thing you see on the cover are the words, “Forward by Tom Colicchio.”  Man, if Colicchio is writing your foreword it is a testament to the regard other chefs of caliber hold you in.

If you are one of those people that simply cannot stand a cookbook that is not overflowing with brilliant and colorful food porn then this is not the book for you.  If you love innovative recipes from someone who is truly one of the great cooks of our generation then saunter on over to amazon and order a copy.

Not that there are no pictures.  There are a few, mostly in black and white and crafted in an artistic, almost nostalgic format, like looking through an old photo album with your 90 year old Sicilian grandmother.

But the heart and soul of every cookbook are the recipes and Waxman has put together 150 where he re-imagines classic Italian cuisine.  Nothing drastic, mind you, the chef simply applies the spirit of Italy to the ingredients found stateside.  Take for instance this little gem:

: Hanger Steak with Salsa Piccante
  • 1 24-ounce hanger steak
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Hatch or red Fresno chilies
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamico
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Trim steak and season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Bring it to room temperature.
  3. To make the salsa: Put the garlic, onion, chilies and olive oil into a cast-iron skillet. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, deglaze with the balsamico and then puree everything in a food processor fitted with a metal blade until chunky.
  4. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Sear the hanger until dark mahogany in color and crispy on all sides – this takes vigilance, but only about 8 minutes total. Hanger should be rare to medium-rare. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes, then slice.
  5. Serve with salsa.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4-6

Meal type: supper

Culinary tradition: Italian

 

ICA: Symon v. Cosentino – Battle Offal

Originally posted October 26, 2008.

Chris Cosentino is no stranger to Kitchen Stadium.  Chris Cosentino is no stranger to Michael Symon as Symon beat Cosentino among others to become The Next Iron Chef.  So, with a gaggle of experience on his side Chris Cosentino returns to Kitchen Stadium tonight to square off against Symon one more time.  So here’s a little about Chris Cosentino from his web site, offalgood.com:

Growing up in Rhode Island, Chris Cosentino spent his time clamming, commercial fishing, and cranking the pasta machine in his great-grandmother’s kitchen. He was raised on a cuisine particular to parts of New England where Atlantic seafood, Yankee fare and classic Italian cooking fuse into one colorful gastronomy. Creating good food was a family tradition, as Cosentino’s maternal ancestors, the Eastons, were the founders of Newport’s beloved Easton’s Sausage Company.  Today, as executive chef of San Francisco’s Incanto, where he cooks in an earthy rustic Italian style, Cosentino is proving that a penchant for meats may just be hereditary. Cured, raw or roasted; traditional cut or offal, meat is his muse. Incanto’s lauded charcuterie selection, all cured in-house, ranges from mortadella to fragrant fennel salame to a sweetbread terrine and an intense salt-cured pork liver. Cosentino also has an abiding passion for offal, and is currently at work on a definitive cookbook on the subject. At Incanto, he features offal on his daily changing menu as well as in an annual Head to Tail dinner, and in a Quarto Quinto, or fifth quarter tasting menu.

Yet this meat-loving chef does not ignore produce. California is a giant garden, he says, and indeed, he can be spotted at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza farmers market every Saturday morning, rain or shine. His curiosity does not stop at the farm, and Cosentino is an avid researcher of cooking techniques, equipment, and culinary lore through the ages, which he is eager to share with his customers. Everyday I have the opportunity to educate people, just as each day is ultimately an education for me, he says.

Cosentino’s formal education took place at Johnson and Wales. Upon graduation, he worked at Mark Miller’s Red Sage in Washington, DC. “This was the best first kitchen job I could have had”, he recalls, because I learned from Mark that food is deeply rooted in history and is not just something that a chef merely creates out of thin air. He credits Miller with sparking his love of reading and research through the access he gave him to his prodigious cookbook library.

After Red Sage, Cosentino worked at Kinkead’s before moving to San Francisco to work under Traci des Jardins (who also competed on The Next Iron Chef) at Rubicon. He was then tapped by Drew Nieporent to open The Coach House on Martha’s Vineyard. Cosentino returned to California to work briefly at (Alice Water’sChez Panisse, as well as the three-star Belon as sous chef, and as a chef/consultant at Michael Mina’s Aqua group, opening Nob Hill in Las Vegas.

One weekend while working at a gala event in Napa Valley, Cosentino found himself cooking alongside Jean-Louis Palladin. The meeting formed into a friendship that lasted until Palladin’s death, and deeply influenced Cosentino’s outlook on cooking. Jean-Louis taught me never to cook for reviews, but for my diners and myself, he says. An avid hunter, Palladin also taught him to be realistic and respectful about the path an animal takes from farm or forest to plate, sparking his interest in offal cooking.

At Incanto, Cosentino makes his Executive Chef debut. He took over the helm of the one year-old restaurant in 2003, immediately garnering a three-star review from SF Chronicle’s Michael Bauer, the first of many critical accolades.

In addition to spending time with his wife and young son, Cosentino’s other passion is endurance cycling. In between restaurant jobs, he was a professional cyclist, putting his single speed mountain bike through its paces in 24-hour ultra endurance mountain bike races through some of the most punishing terrain in North America. Today he takes his bike around Northern California’s mountainous terrain, always on the lookout for wild edibles.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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