easter

Review: Chef Todd Mohr’s Web Cooking Classes

In my career I’ve reviewed cookbooks, TV shows, countless products and even a movie but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to review a service.  Chef Todd Mohr’s Web Cooking Classes are the key to people who want to improve their cooking prowess without investing time and money in culinary school.  Well, think of this as a virtual cooking school.

One of the first things that Chef Todd teaches is independence from recipes.  Very few chefs use them.  Todd draws a great coloration between cooking and music saying, “Recipes don’t work.  What other art form has a strict set of instructions?  Cooking is an art form.  A recipe will not teach you to cook any more than sheet music will teach you to play the piano.”

According to the web site:

If you are using recipes, Food TV, magazines, cook books, or online cooking videos to learn to cook and get dinner done …and if you’re serious about not only learning how to create amazing meals, but in understanding the simple yet powerful basic cooking methods that will enable you to cook everything – then keep reading!

If you are interested in a proven system for learning what you need to know to cook like the professionals, without the expense or time investment of formal education, and having it laid out for you in a step-by-step approach that cuts through all other cooking information you’ve seen, then you’re in the right place because I’m about to spill the beans on the simple Chef Secrets that will enable you to quickly master the most important skills anyone can possess for home cooking.

Todd is a fellow iFood publisher and asked me to take his service for a spin.  Here’s what I found:

The web site itself is minimalist with few bells and whistles and maybe a touch clunky to navigate.  But that stuff is just window dressing.  The value is in the contents.  I’ve been cooking professionally for nearly 25 years and in just a few minutes I learned things I never knew.

There are all manner of learning tools available including several instructional videos that teach you to “burn your recipes” in order to cook instinctively.  That is how chefs cook, instinctively.  I have literally dozens of two inch thick cookbooks yet I almost never cook from them.  On the few occasions that I do open one it isn’t to use a recipe but rather as a resource.  Alton Brown says he cooks pot roast at this temperature for this long but Julia Child recommends this temperature for this long.  Both recommend using chuck roast but I prefer beef cheeks.  What I look for is a guide rather than a rule.  Rules are for squares.

Mohr’s cooking classes teach everyone how to cook like chefs do.  The material on the web site is not the tired old 4 ounces of this and 2 ounces of that but rather they are tools to help you hone the chef that lives within us all.  To paraphrase Kuan Tzu, “Give a man a recipe and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to cook and he eats for a lifetime.”

It is true that you cannot teach instinct, you either have it or you don’t.  You can be the best trombone teacher in the world (and for the record I am at best top 5) but if the student doesn’t have the instinct to play trombone it just will not work.  Since all humans have to eat to survive we are all born with the instincts.  Further more if you prefer one recipe over another for a particular dish then guess what?  You have good instincts.  All you need to do is use them to your advantage.  That’s where Chef Todd Mohr’s Web Cooking Classes come in.

Currently they are offering a free 15 day trial of their services.  With Easter dinner just around the corner the timing is perfect for you take Chef Todd’s classes for a test drive.  Click HERE to give it a whirl.

Here’s Chef Todd laying down a taste of his cooking philosophy, dig it.

Fall Recipe: Sweet Potato Hash Browns

Here’s a unique recipe for fall that I used to run when I was the chef at Mars Hill Cafe.  This was one of our most popular side dishes:

Sweet Potato Hash Browns
Recipe Type: Side
Author: Stuart Reb Donald
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 2-3
Ingredients
  • 1 large or two small sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 tablespoon canola oil
Instructions
  1. Shred the sweet potato with the shredding attachment of a food processor or use a box grater. Toss the sweet potatoes with corn starch and coat thoroughly.
  2. In a ramekin or small bowl combine the cinnamon and cayenne.
  3. In a large saute pan or griddle heated to 400 degrees add the canola oil. Place four equal sized mounds of hash browns and spread using the side of a spatula in a chopping motion.
  4. Cook until hash browns are golden brown then flip.
  5. Season the cooked side with cinnamon/cayenne mixture and cook just until second side is golden brown.
Notes

Each serving contains 108 calories, 1 gram of fat, 25 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein.

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

Critical Easter Recipes

Well it’s Easter Morning, you’ve forgotten to plan and now you only have a few hours to get ready.  Here’s a quick reference to the recipes you need:

We’ll start with the obvious, eggs.  From the eggsperts (I know.  I want to kick me, too, but I had to do it) at incredibleegg.org:

Hard Boiled Eggs
Eggs
Water

  1. PLACE eggs in saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. ADD cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. HEAT over high heat just to boiling. REMOVE from burner. COVER pan.
  2. LET EGGS STAND in hot water about 15 minutes for large eggs (12 minutes for medium eggs; 18 minutes for extra large).
  3. DRAIN immediately and serve warm. OR, cool completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water, then REFRIGERATE.
Deviled Eggs (My own)
6 Hard Boiled Eggs
1/4 cup mayo
1 tablespoon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
  1. CUT eggs lengthwise in half. REMOVE yolks to small bowl. RESERVE whites.
  2. MASH yolks with fork. ADD mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper; mix well.
  3. SPOON 1 heaping Tbsp. yolk mixture into each egg white half. REFRIGERATE, covered, to blend flavors.

Egg Salad (My own)
6 Hard Boiled Eggs
1/4 cup mayo
1 tablespoon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste

  1. CHOP eggs.
  2. MASH eggs with fork.
  3. ADD mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper; mix well.
  4. REFRIGERATE, covered, to blend flavors.
Glazed Ham (from the folks at Coca-Cola)
1 ham (5-6 lb.)
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ cup Coca-Cola®
1 cup crushed pineapple (optional)
  1. Wash ham thoroughly.
  2. Rub fat side with brown sugar.
  3. Pour Coca-Cola over ham.
  4. Pour crushed pineapple over ham.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees for 3 hours.

Makes 6 servings

This is a great recipe and keeps the ham very moist.
— Submitted to Coke by Carol Johnson of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin

Honey Roasted Lamb w/Sautéed Pears (from Third Coast Cuisine)

4 – 5 pound boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed
1 1/2 cups honey (preferably orange blossom honey)
3 springs of fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 tablespoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons fresh cracked pepperPreheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Rinse and thoroughly dry rosemary and thyme.  Strip the leaves and needles from one sprig of the rosemary and the thyme, discard the stems and set aside. Strip the leaves and needles from the remaining two sprigs of the rosemary.  Place honey in a double boiler with water in bottom. Squeeze rosemary leaves to release flavor and place in honey. Bring water to a boil then bring honey to 185°F and maintain for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Place the remaining rosemary, thyme, and garlic into a blender or food processor and pulse into a coarse paste.  Add the olive oil and blend for 10 to 20 seconds.  Add the salt and pepper and pulse a few more times to blend.  Set leg of lamb in a roasting pan with a rack.  Rub oil-spice marinade all over the leg of lamb coating the outside and the inside.  You may want to truss the leg of lamb with butcher’s twine at this point.  Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes then lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and roast about 10 to 15 minutes more per pound.  After 30 minutes baste the lamb with rosemary infused honey (reserve 2 tablespoons for later) and return to oven until the internal temperature is 130 to 135 degrees F. for medium rare, 140 to 150 for medium.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the sautéed pears.

SAUTEE’D PEARS
4 medium firm ripe pears
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons rosemary infused honey
Balsamic vinegar

Cut each pear into 8 wedges, removing the core and stem. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add honey and pears, stirring gently. Cook until lightly brown, approximately 5 minutes. Remove to serving plate, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and top with roast leg of lamb.  You may also wish to drizzle the lamb with balsamic vinegar as well.

Lemon Pound Cake
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups AP flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Lemon Glaze (below)
Preheat an oven to 300 degrees.  Beat the butter in a large bowl at medium speed with a hand-held mixer; gradually add oil, beating until well blended. Slowly add sugar, beating well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour to the creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until blended after each addition. Stir in lemon extract.
Pour the batter into a 10-inch tube pan that has been greased with butter and lightly floured. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and place it directly on the wire rack. Brush lemon glaze on sides of cake and spoon glaze over top, a little at a time. Let it cool completely before serving.

LEMON GLAZE
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Nanner Puddin’ (there is no such thing as banana pudding)
5 ripe bananas, sliced 1/4 inch thick
60 – 70 vanilla wafer cookies
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 – 3 tablespoons butter (unsalted), sliced
3 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a heavy saucepan on medium-heat combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Slowly stir in the milk making sure to fully dissolve the cornstarch.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time then add the butter.  Continue stirring until mixture starts to thicken and reduce to a simmer while stirring vigorously for 1 full minute.  Remove from heat, blend in the vanilla, and cover the puddin’ with plastic wrap (be sure to place wrap directly on the puddin’).

Line a 1½ – 2 quart backing dish with half of the vanilla wafers.  Spread half the pudding into the dish followed by half the nanners.  Layer the wafers, remaining puddin’, and nanners reserving some of the puddin’ to cover nanners to prevent browning.   Once again press plastic wrap onto the puddin’ and refrigerate 4 – 24 hours.  Just before serving top with Whipped Cream.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Chill a large non-reactive bowl until very cold.  Do the same with your whisk or beaters from electric mixer.  Once bowl and beaters are chilled combine the cream, honey and vanilla and beat until thickened.  Serve immediately.

Iced Tea
4 tablespoons loose black tea
1 cup Turbinado, Demerara or Sugar in the Raw
3 quarts water

In a 2 quart saucepan bring 1 quart water to a boil.  Add tea, cover, and remove from heat.  Allow to steep for five minutes BUT NO LONGER.  Strain the tea through a very fine sieve or coffee filter into a three-quart pitcher.  Add sugar and stir until all sugar is dissolved.  Add the remaining 2 quarts of water and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Be sure to check out my full Easter Brunch Menu HERE.

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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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