Best of The Forum: Banana Bread and a Most Violent Steak

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Welcome to Best of the Forum (BotF), a series in which we highlight fascinating bits from the ongoing conversations happening among our awesome community of cooks. Let’s get to it.

Bloody brilliant

Is it just us, or does the photo above both make you want to up your cooking game and remind you of the opening theme from Dexter? This is the work of community member Lennard Yeong, whose culinary skills and plating prowess just keep getting more impressive by the day. Want to design and plate your own killer dishes? Check out this comprehensive guide from our on-staff food artist Nicholas Gavin.

Speaking of sexy plates

Forum member Rob has been killing it in the plating department as well. Forget Triscuits and cheddar cheese. When this guy gets a mid-morning hankering for a snack, he combines smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese, shallots, toast and pink Himalayan salt for a dish that would fit right in at a fancy restaurant. We like your style, Rob.

Go bananas

There’s banana bread, and then there’s the fruit-forward wonder developed by Nick Gavin. (He’s coming up a lot today, isn’t he?) It’s one of our all-time favorites, so it makes us very happy to see forum member Ethan give it the royal treatment—topping it with toasted brown butter oats, whipped mascarpone, blueberries, AND EVEN MORE BANANAS. Ready to make your own version of our Banana Bread? Be sure to stop by the forum and post a pic. We can’t wait to see what you do with the stuff.

Join ChefSteps today for amazing recipes, tons of techniques, and access to our lively forum of enthusiastic cooks.

ChefSteps Family Meal: “Vietnamese Subway” Edition

We like to eat. And even more than we like to eat, we like to cook. And even more than we like to cook, we like to cook together. That’s why we drop our TPS reports every Friday afternoon and gather in the kitchen for family meal. At restaurants, “family meal” is a venerated tradition where staffers gather together before service and eat a hearty meal, usually prepared by the kitchen staff and served buffet-style to the rest of the employees. At ChefSteps, we turn that tradition on its side: one or more of our chefs pairs up with a non-kitchen employee (a writer, perhaps, or a videographer, or a software developer) to make something amazing for the rest of us. Why do we do it? Because we believe that cooking and eating together makes us better at our jobs, and better at life. And we’re holding tight to that belief. (I mean really, can you blame us?)

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Last week, development chef Nick Gavin paired up with software developer (and home cook extraordinaire) Huy Nguyen to serve choose-your-own-adventure Vietnamese spring rolls (aka “Vietnamese Subway”). Huy’s been making spring rolls since birth, so he knows a thing or two about how to do it right. Read on for his tips on how to roll your own.

Quick Dip

Start with a rice-paper wrapper dipped quickly in warm water. It’s tempting to soak it for a few minutes, but trust us—just a quick dip will do. After you dip, lay it flat on your plate.

Lettuce First

Add green lettuce first, for structure and color, then vermicelli noodles, green onions, basil, mint, cucumbers, and whatever other fresh ingredients you want.

Level Up

Next, poach raw beef or bacon in one of two simmering mixtures: one made of beer, vinegar, and fish sauce; and one made of butter, lemongrass, and onions. (Dipping the beef in beer and vinegar is a Vietnamese tradition called bò nhúng dấm, by the way, and it literally means “beef dipped in vinegar” in Vietnamese.) If you’re feeling ambitious, as we were on this occasion, set up a binchotan (a Japanese charcoal-grill) and add charred shrimp and squid to your spring rolls. (We used octopus instead of squid because it looked nice and fresh.) If you’re not feeling ambitious, make sous vide chicken or pork belly and use that instead.

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Roll On

Once your wrappers are filled with delicious treasures, roll those babies up tight. They key is to work quickly and confidently: pull the edge closest to you over the top of your fillings, then fold in the sides, and roll tightly until you have a nice little burrito. And hey, if you end up with a spring-roll massacre, just grab a fork. It’ll still be yummy. Make a simple dipping sauce out of lemon juice, fish sauce, sugar, and water for dipping, and voilà! You, sir or madam, are the Vietnamese spring roll master.

What should we prepare next Friday? Add your suggestions in the comments below!

Best of the Forum: Honoring Boulud, Nailing Nopal, and an Exciting Announcement

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Welcome to Best of the Forum (BotF), a series in which we highlight fascinating bits from the ongoing conversations happening among our awesome community of cooks. Let’s get to it.

Daniel Boulud and You

Designing a dish from scratch is super-satisfying and empowering, but sometimes the inspiration fairy disappears on an all-inclusive trip to Cabo (You know—strawberry daiquiris, a Jennifer Weiner novel, perhaps some light flirtation with that one beardy bartender from the poolside tiki hut.), leaving you SOL for dinner ideas.

Woah, woah, woah there, buddy. No need to fire up a frozen pizza just yet. Instead, turn to a favorite chef for inspiration. That’s what always-on-point community member Lennard did to create the whimsical homage to Chef Boulud you see above.

Nopal? No problem.

ChefSteps member Marc took to the forum this week to ask for advice on working with fresh nopal—aka prickly pear cactus. “Duh,” says the inspiration fairy, freshly tanned and noticeably tipsy from the complementary cocktails aboard her return flight (middle seat, US Weekly, a Caesar salad topped with jiggly chicken strips bearing faux grill marks) . “Put that cactus in your cocktail!” She has a point—prickly pear margaritas are rarely a bad idea, to be sure. But nopal can also be tossed in a salad with shrimp, mixed into salsa, grilled whole, and so much more.

Whatever you do with those spikey paddles, take advantage of forum friend Joyce’s easy prep method, beautifully photographed here.

Get embed with us!

Exciting announcement from our dev team: You can now embed ChefSteps recipes directly to your blog or website, and they’ll look all pretty too. Go! Play! Inspire yourself! Judging by the look of things, that fairy’s going to need a few days to recover.

You love to cook, they love to cook—y’all should really get together and talk about it. Join ChefSteps today to get in on the conversation. 

Best of the Forum: Dumplings, Kid Food, and One Rich Dish

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Hmmm. What to do with all that leftover duck liver?

Duck liver—everyone’s got some lying around in the fridge, right? Okay no. But if you’ve always wanted to cook with the stuff, take inspiration from community member Manfred, who rolled some up into great-looking dumplings for the gorgeous soup you see above.

Oh, and speaking of liver…

Apparently forum friend Rob ain’t afraid to combine some rich flavors. Check out this decadent-yet-easy dinner: English Muffin, Chicken Liver Pâté, and a perfect sous vide egg. Bonus: This would also make the sickest breakfast in bed ever.

You’ll eat it and you’ll like it.

Brendan Lee shared a thought-provoking article on kids’ menus, and the dangers of raising a generation who dine only on chicken fingers, mac-and-cheese, and hot dogs. This fires up several of his forum-mates, who weigh in on the prickly subject of picky eaters.

Our forum’s the best, man. Join ChefSteps today to get in on the conversation. 

Best of the Forum: Cool Carrots, Coffee Talk, and One Badass Dinner Party

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Welcome to Best of the Forum (BotF), a series in which we highlight fascinating bits from the ongoing conversation happening among our awesome community of cooks. Let’s get to it.

Crazy-Cool Carrots

Remember how your mom told you not to play with your food? Jeremy White doesn’t. He did some epic carrot games this week. Want help with those modernist techniques? Ask him all about them.

“The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. Discuss.”

It was an exciting week here at ChefSteps—we launched our comprehensive and super-fun Coffee class, complete with Dark Matter, a slick new recipe named by community member Jon Low. Care to weigh in on your favorite ways to level up the stuff in your cup? Gear up your best Linda Richman accent for some coffee talk.

Seven Courses and a Show

While we were chowing down on barbecue and watching our beloved Seahawks suffer a crushing defeat, community member Sebastian was serving this ambitious coursed feast. The party paused the meal to watch the halftime concert, but from the looks of things, Katy Perry’s got nothing on this fellow.

Sign up at ChefSteps today to get chatting with our lively community of cooks.

The ChefSteps Coffee Class Has Landed

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Is there such a thing as perfect coffee? Hard to say, but one thing’s certain: with a little education and experimentation, you can refine your home brew to make your version of a perfect cup—with just the right sweetness, acidity, strength, and mouthfeel. And once you’ve discovered it, you can use that perfected method every dang day.

To create our comprehensive new Coffee class, ChefSteps partnered up with world-renowned experts James Hoffmann and Ben Kaminsky to teach java fans everything they need to brew a beverage that will far surpass the stuff at the local café.

So, what’s inside?

* A foolproof method for mastering extraction—the groundbreaking concept behind the world’s best coffees.
* Guides to buying roasted beans, coffee equipment, and essential books for your home library.
* Step-by-step techniques for French Press, Chemex, and Aeropress brewers, plus an amazing technique for Quick Cold Brew coffee.
* 2 pre-brewing tricks for achieving the smoothest brews.
* 4 super-cool coffee recipes—including a novel technique for making coffee “chocolate.”
* A video lecture series from our experts.
* A whole new outlook on your morning brew.

This class is all about dialing in your daily brew—choosing your favorite roasted beans, picking the perfect brew techniques, and refining your recipe—until that morning ritual isn’t just about caffeine intake, it’s a full-on culinary experience. This is the drink that coaxes you awake each and every morning. Don’t you want to get it just right?

Join ChefSteps today for the first word on new classes, recipes, and amazing culinary techniques. 

Coffee Class Contest: Keep Naming That Recipe

UPDATE: The contest is over—congrats to Jon Low, whose amazing name Dark Matter won us over completely. He’ll get a free class and unending glory. But do watch this video to hear some of the many brilliant ideas our community came up with. You guys are seriously brilliant.

Recently, the ChefSteps kitchen concocted a chocolate-like substance made out of coffee—part of our upcoming Coffee class—and oh man, is it tasty.

But when it came time to naming this caffeinated treat, we turned to you.

The contest entries have come pouring in. And there are some serious standouts, we must say. We were so impressed, we stopped shooting another forthcoming class (stay tuned for word on that one) to share a random sample of the thousands of submissions we’ve received so far. Think you’ve got something better than Soylent Brown, Beanoise, or Black Tar Heroin? Submit your idea before midnight on February 4. The winner gets the class—full of cool techniques, unique recipes, and fun brew science—for FREE.

Join ChefSteps today to get the first word on contests, new classes and recipes, and much more.

Coffee Class Contest: Name That Recipe

What’s that stuff in the video?

It’s our new recipe for “chocolate” that’s made with coffee beans instead of cacao beans. It’s chocolate, without the chocolate. It looks like chocolate, it acts like chocolate, but it ain’t chocolate. At least, not technically.

Pure chocolate is made by combining ground cacao beans, cocoa butter, and liquid soy lecithin to form a smooth, creamy liquid. That liquid is then made into your favorite sweet treats—cast into individual chocolates; drizzled over granola bars; combined with milk powder to make milk chocolate—you get the idea. With this recipe, we simply replace the cacao beans with roasted coffee beans, and then follow the exact same procedure. The result is a robustly flavored, velvety coffee paste that behaves just like chocolate. What to do with it, you ask? Pretty much anything you’d do with regular chocolate.

With this luscious new recipe—part of our coming-soon Coffee class—we managed to use one of our favorite things (coffee) to pay homage to one of our other favorite things (chocolate), with delicious results. But giving it a good name proved trickier.

So it’s up to you, clever ChefSteps community. What should we call this caffeine-packed confection?

How do I suggest a name?

Submit your proposed recipe name by midnight on Wednesday, Feb 4 by including it in the comments below. Share as many monikers as you like, but be sure to include your email address when you submit, because the winner (chosen by the ChefSteps staff) gets the new Coffee class FOR FREE.

What do I win?

Yours for the taking: awesome advice from two of the world’s foremost coffee nerds—delivered via fun, fascinating videos along with step-by-step tips and techniques—along with four recipes, including the unnamed delicacy above. Learn to make the most of French Press, Chemex, and Aeropress brewers, dive into easy-to-understand coffee science, and connect with other java lovers along the way. This class is comprehensive, interactive, and totally results-based—you’ll have a great time learning to up your coffee game, and wind up with perfect home brew.

The winner will be announced—and thoroughly celebrated—within the class, scheduled for release in early February.

So get those creative juices percolating, coffee lovers. We can’t wait to see you win the name game.

The ChefSteps Coffee Class Is Here!

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Coffee drinkers, consider this your wake-up call. We’ve just released a brand-new coffee class brimming with techniques and tricks to help you perfect the all-important drink that coaxes you to life on the daily. Created in partnership with java Jedi James Hoffmann (Square Mile Roasters, World Barista Champion) and Ben Kaminsky (co-founder of Barismo, US Cup Tasting Champion), the class will offer step-by-step instructions for leveling up what’s in your cup. From a novel No-Press French Press technique to in-depth instructions on mastering extraction—the secret to any perfect brew—you’ll learn everything you need to know to make coffee that rivals the stuff at the world’s best cafes.

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This being ChefSteps, we’re also including fun techniques for cooking with coffee—from an easy rub for flavoring steaks and chicken to an amazing modernist confection to wow and delight your dinner guests. Kaminsky demos his Liar’s Latte, a delicious, dairy-free twist on the frothy favorite, while Hoffmann explains how to hold a proper coffee tasting, and offers a guide to the best gadgets on the market. Learn how to buy the best beans, optimize your grounds for extraction excellence, and ensure your Chemex game is on point. Supported by four sexy instructional videos, a behind-the-scenes lecture series, and plenty of pretty photos, this class promises to propel you headlong into the fascinating world of first-rate specialty coffee—we believe you’ll emerge fully energized to go forth and achieve your own perfect cup.

Sign up now, home-brew enthusiasts. Crazy-good coffee is within reach.

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Enter your email below to get the first word on our Coffee class release, or visit the forum to start talking coffee.



Best of the Forum: Sausage-Making, Chicken Wings, and the Organic Food Fight

Prolific forum member Cheryl—spent the week making sausages, as well as these lovely Valentine's candies.

Prolific forum member Cheryl spent the week making sausages, as well as these lovely Valentine’s candies.

Watching the sausage getting made, and liking it.

Debunking a popular expression, Cheryl takes us inside her process for making homemade sausage. Dig that foot-long on a bun, meat lovers.

Whatever the question, the right answer is “wings.”

We are unabashed fried chicken lovers at ChefSteps, so if you’re going to put a picture of really pretty wings on the forum, we’re going to pay attention. Check out these Buffalo-style beauties from James—then quell the inevitable craving with our recipe for crispy-tender wings. Ugh, so hungry now.

Uh-oh, someone mentioned the “O” word.

Ever notice how the word “organic” tends to bring out the fight among foodies? Our community kept it civil this week when a Question of the Day focused on the issue. Care to weigh in? The forum would love to have you.

Join ChefSteps today for access to hundreds of recipes, techniques, and comprehensive classes.