Cooking and Recipe Ideas: 5 Ways to Get Inspired

 

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Not spending a lot of time in the kitchen? Don’t beat yourself up there buddy; it happens to the best of us. The antidote to that epicurean ennui? Re-inspire yourself with novel techniques and tools, a chatty community of fellow food enthusiasts, or a new look at old classics. Here, we’ve got a bunch of ideas that involve all those things. Let’s get cooking.

Treat yo’self to a new tool

Sous vide can help you create the tenderest meats and vegetables, sure, but did you know it’s also an awesome way to make no-fail Crème Brûlée? You can get started with sous vide using nothing more than a pot and a thermometer, but investing in an immersion circulator is the fastest way to master this convenient, highly predictable method. The good news is, they’re pretty cheap now. And once you’ve got yours, you can embark on an epic journey into the surprisingly wide world of this remarkable cooking technique.

Creme-Brulee

Remember a forgotten tool

You know that pressure cooker gathering dust in your pantry? Bust that out, clean it off, and start exploring amazing recipes and techniques like our Kung Pao Carnitas. And if you’ve got an immersion blender in need of work, put it to use making Green Pea Mash to go with Sous Vide Salmon—a complete dish that’s delicious, healthy, and ridiculously easy to prepare.

KungPao

Play with powders

Go modern with these five powders—all integral to creating novel textures and flavors in the kitchen. A good start: our Mayo No.4.

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Make some friends

Getting to know an online community of enthusiastic cooks is a great way to stay inspired. The ChefSteps forum, for instance, is full of recipe ideas—like the Breakfast Pizza pictured below, from Erin Z—beautiful images, and hard-to-find advice for ambitious food folk who want to take their skills to the next level.

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Rethink a classic

Maybe you’ve made many soufflés, maybe you’ve never attempted that airy, always-impressive dessert. Either way, follow in the footsteps of all the happy cooks who’ve found success with our foolproof Molten Chocolate Soufflé recipe.

Not into sugar? Then learn the art of restaurant-level meatwiches with our house specialty, the Au Jus Burger.

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Feeling fired up? Join ChefSteps today for hundreds of recipes, techniques, tips, and tricks. 

 

You’ve Got New Year’s Resolutions. We Can Help.

Jess Voelker Preparing Staff Meal

Feeling a little doughy and broke? You’re not alone. After a long, indulgent holiday, a lot of us are inspired to tighten up a bit in the New Year—exercise more, drink and spend less, step away from those leftover Christmas cookies. But don’t close down the kitchen just yet. Preparing your own food is one of the best ways to ensure you stick to a healthy eating plan, the sort of plan that you can maintain all year until next holiday season, when—don’t worry—you can resume the nog chugging and snickerdoodle snarfing once more. Whatever your food goals are, we want to inspire you to keep cooking (and learning!) in 2015. Check out our suggestions for delicious ideas on how to do just that.

Resolution 1: Follow the Paleo Diet

Devotees of this massively popular eating plan eschew dairy products, grains, legumes, processed oils, and refined sugar. The premise is that these foods weren’t readily available during the Paleolithic era, when the human body evolved nutritional needs in line with the foods they could access. By following a diet closer to what our prehistoric ancestors ate, Paleo people eat in a manner befitting the way their bodies developed, or so the logic goes. Whether or not you swallow all that is your business, but sticking to this protein-and-vegetable focused regime is one way to cut down on those empty calories that come from (glorious) carbs and (delectable) sweets. How to do it: Investing in a sous vide water bath or circulator can prove crucial in sticking to a protein-centric diet, as it allows you to cook delicious meats with little fuss. To test the method without having to invest in any equipment, consult our Sous Vide 101 class, which includes recipes for amazing salmon, pork chops, and steak, along with instructions on how to create a water bath with a pot on the stove and a digital thermometer.

Coffee Butter Steak with Spinach

Resolution 2: Eat more vegetables

We all know we need them. With vital nutrients that help keep away chronic diseases, vegetables are a crucial part of any healthy diet. Focusing on eating more plant foods—rather than trying to stay away from stuff you love (we’re looking at you, Paleo)—can be a great recipe for success. The key to sticking with it is to make those vegetables taste delicious, and that’s where we come in. How to do it: Easy to make and surprisingly satisfying, our Microwaved Radicchio Salad is anchored by warm, slightly wilted chicory leaves; an awesome source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. We dress them with rich buttermilk, verdant chive oil, funky blue cheese, and toasted hazelnuts. Speaking of the microwave, you can also use it to quickly cook up some mixed vegetables, then top those healthy fellas with some Bagna Càuda Foam.

Microwaved Radicchio  Salad

And at the risk of sounding repetitive, we should also point out the benefits of preparing veggies sous vide. You can achieve optimal chickpea texture (firmer for salads, softer for hummus) and maintain the vibrant crunch of kale. Carrots keep their color and signature sweetness, and tart red cabbage can be converted into a super-smooth purée that makes a great accompaniment to our pastrami.

Sous Vide Kale

Resolution 3: Eat breakfast everyday

Good one. Skipping breakfast is an easy way to wind up ravenous by the time that 11 AM meeting rolls around. Also, a morning meal sets a civilized tone for the day. How to do it: Learning to make awesome soft-poached eggs should inspire you to keep up the breakfast habit. Use our egg calculator to determine, then create, your perfect egg. And if you’re resolved to up your coffee game in 2015, be sure to consult our extensive Espresso class.

Egg White Hollandaise

Resolution 4: Spend less on food (but still eat well)

Look, we know how it is. Just like you, we’re constantly enticed by new restaurants, craft cocktail bars, and specialty shops stocked with the best ingredients. Trouble is, that stuff gets expensive. Is there a way to maintain your delicious-food lifestyle while spending a little less? Indeed. The trick is to find little ways to cut back so you can splurge on truly epic meals, tools, and culinary classes. How to do it: Pretty little microgreens are a super-impressive garnish for dinner-party dishes, and growing your own means you can afford to work them into weekday-morning smoothies or a salad to bring to work for lunch. Allow us to show you how—for free.

Microgreens

When you’re short on time, it’s tempting to order takeout for dinner—which adds up fast, and frankly often sucks. This is why we love having a pressure cooker handy. Flavor-packed braises and stews come out great in a fraction of the time they would take with other methods, and taste far better than most things that arrive at your door in a clamshell. Plus, you can use the cheapest cuts to create these comfort foods, as nothing transforms the tough stuff into succulent, velvety deliciousness as fast as a pressure cooker.

Chocolate and Mustard Stew

Ready to get cooking? Join ChefSteps today for one-of-a-kind recipes, tested techniques, and access to our lively forum.

Midnight Snack Video: Cooking Sous Vide – Beyond the Basics


We’re thrilled to introduce our newest class, Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics. 
You’ll master crackle-topped Créme Brûlée, and impossibly rich Chicken Liver Paté, plus learn how to transform cheap meat cuts into flavor-packed steaks. Take your sous vide skills to the next level and take full advantage of this transformative cooking technique. We’re offering a 45% discount on enrollment to the class for the weekend—just $9 through 11:59 PM PST on Monday, December 1, 2014.

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Share the Midnight Snack Video with your friends. Join our culinary community for recipes and techniques, lively discussion, and the latest news from ChefSteps.

5 Common Misconceptions About Sous Vide Cooking

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In the past few years, sous vide cooking—already ubiquitous in fine-dining restaurants—has gained a foothold in home kitchens as well. That’s thanks to newly affordable equipment and cameos on TV shows like The Simpsons and Adventure Time, along with the publication of groundbreaking books such as Modernist Cuisine and Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure.

But despite the technique’s rocketing popularity, it’s still plagued by many-a-misconception. Below, we debunk five common myths surrounding sous vide. Still have questions? Please share them in the comments.

1. “Sous vide” means “under vacuum,” and that means I need to pony up for an expensive, space-hogging chamber-style vacuum sealer if I want to try it.

Yes, “sous vide” is French for “under vacuum.” And yes, it’s a very confusing name. Because in fact, you don’t need a pricey vacuum sealer—or even an inexpensive countertop one—to successfully cook food at a low temperature in a water bath. To get started with sous vide, regular-old ziplock-style bags will do just fine. In fact, in some applications they are preferable to vacuum-sealed bags. Use the simple water displacement method (instructions in sidebar here) to remove the air from the bags, then get cooking.

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2. Okay, but I still need to buy pricey sous vide equipment.

It’s true that cooks who regularly cook sous vide often opt to invest in an immersion circulator or SousVide Supreme bath. In the last few years, however, a number of affordable models have emerged for home use. (Popular Science has published a helpful roundup of those). And if you’re just looking to test the method out, you can improvise a sous vide setup with nothing more than a pot, a stove, a digital thermometer, and some plastic bags. Allow us to show you how.

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3. I don’t need a circulator to get started, got it—that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not safe to cook food in plastic bags.

According to the latest research, the safest plastics for use with food are high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene. Virtually all sous vide bags are made from these plastics (the inner layer of nearly all sous vide bags is polyethylene). And most name-brand food storage bags and plastic wraps such as Ziploc and Saran Wrap are also made from safe plastics like polyethylene.

Now, other plastics that may be in your kitchen, such as inexpensive, bulk plastic wraps (still commonly made from polyvinyl chloride or polyvinylidene chloride), can contain harmful plasticizers that have been shown to leach into fatty foods such as cheese and meat. Legitimate concerns exist about food exposed to these plastics at higher temperatures—when you microwave food wrapped in plastic, for instance. Spend a little extra on one of the brand-name options, and you will be good to go.

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4. But why do I need a whole new cooking technique just to get tender steak, fish, and chicken?

People unfamiliar with sous vide often think it’s only useful for preparing proteins. While all three of those foods taste great cooked sous vide, there are so many more delicious options. Our gallery of sous vide recipes should provide you with plenty of further inspiration.

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5. Alright, ChefSteps. I’m convinced this could be a good way to go when I have plenty of time on my hands, but for day-to-day use, my trusty old oven is way more efficient.

We often reach for the circulator when it’s time to give tough cuts the slow-and-low treatment, but we also prepare sous vide mashed potatoes in 45 minutes flat, and fish, steak, and chicken usually cook in under an hour. And remember, instead of staring hopelessly into your oven window, hoping that chicken breast hasn’t turned to stringy shoe leather, you can allow food to cook largely unattended, safe in the knowledge that results will be predictable every time—and freeing you to focus on other things. Like, say, what you’re going to whip up next.

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Join the ChefSteps community to get free access to the best resources for sous-vide cooking on the web, share recipes and tips with other enthusiastic cooks, and get the first word on new recipes and techniques.

10 Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Cook Sous Vide

Flourless Carrot Cake ChefSteps

Thinking about investing in sous vide equipment for your kitchen? Here at ChefSteps, we’re unabashed fans—we love the way sous vide requires little micromanagement, and predictably cooks all sorts of food. Sous vide recipes you find online tend to focus on steak and fish—two excellent options—but when it comes to cooking in a water bath, proteins are just the beginning. Read on for 10 of our favorite unexpected uses for sous vide. Got faves of your own? Go ahead and share them in the comments

1. Custards

Yup, you can prepare crème brûlée and other custardy desserts sous vide. We use it to create the carrot custard for our Flourless Carrot Cake—a sous vide recipe that’s gluten-free and about as modernist as they come.

Get the recipe: Flourless Carrot Cake

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2. Purées

We like making purées well in advance—cooking them in a circulator is often the simplest way to do so. When it comes time to reheat them, it’s much easier to warm them in a sous vide bath than on the stovetop, where uneven heating sometimes means the purée near the heat is getting scorched while the portion near the surface is barely warm.

Get the recipe: Celery Root Purée

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3. Burgers

Think we’re crazy for publishing a sous vide burger recipe? Don’t knock it ’til you’ve served a bunch of perfect patties to a large group, no grill-manning required.

Get the recipe: Beef Burger Patties

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4. Flavored oils 

Got a recipe that calls for a flavored oil, but don’t want to pony up the cash for something you’ll probably only use once or twice? Make it at home instead. We cook flavored oil for three hours in a sous vide bath—yes, that’s far longer than most stovetop infusions call for, but the precise low temperature results in a flavorful oil that will keep for months.

Get the recipe: Thyme Oil

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5. Cheese curds

Super-geeky, yet also super-great: using a SousVide Supreme to make your own squeaky cheese curds. You’ll need some funny ingredients, but how cool is it to be crafting curds like a pro in your own kitchen? And teachers, this would make an awesome classroom activity.

Get the recipe: Squeaky Cheese Curds

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6. French fries

For these crispy-soft fries, we use a triple-cooking process made famous by British chef Heston Blumenthal. Once you recreate them at home, you’ll see why the method has set a new standard by which the world’s greatest French fries are judged.

Get the recipe: Thin-Cut French Fries

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7. Mashed potatoes

Think cooking sous vide means waiting a long time for your food? Well, er, often it does. But here’s an exception—you can make these rich, creamy mashed potatoes (or pomme purée, as chefs and French people call them) in 45 minutes flat.

Get the recipe: Pomme Purée

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8. Oysters

Weird but true: You can use sous vide to help you shuck oysters! Blanching oysters in a water bath at 140 °F / 60 °C for just a few minutes makes them easy to open. Time it right, and the oyster won’t cook but will wind up with a gorgeous plump appearance and an appealing firm texture that heightens their freshness. And because this technique makes it easy to pop the oyster open, you’re less likely to end up with shell debris floating in the salty brine surrounding the oyster.

Get the technique: Firming oysters

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9. Stock

Using sous vide equipment to make stocks gives us the ultimate temperature control—for the richest, flavor-forward broth, we like to cook ours for a full day when time allows.

Get the recipe: Beef Stock

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10. Eggnog

Yup, not even this most traditional of holiday libations is safe from our relentless need to sous vide everything. But seriously, that time of year has enough stresses—instead of slaving over your egg-and-booze beverage, drop it in the bath and occupy yourself with the million other tasks at hand.

Get the recipe: Eggnog

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Join the ChefSteps community to get access to more than 100 sous vide recipes, talk sous vide with other enthusiasts on our lively forum, and get the first word on exciting new recipes, videos, and techniques. 

Seasonal Inspiration:
Eight Things to Do with Salmon

Salmon Bites ChefSteps

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re just a wee bit obsessed with salmon—particularly at this time of year. When you buy it fresh at a trusty fish counter, there’s no end to what you can do with a gorgeous hunk of sockeye or chinook. In the warm months, grilled salmon makes for a lovely light dinner. But if you’re burnt out on the cedar plank, we’ve got ideas to inspire you all year long.

Unsure about how to select the best fish? Consult our video for tips on seafood shopping, then move on to our handy salmon butchering tutorial. After that, it’s time to get cooking. Oh, and should questions arise, please pose them in the comments. We’re always here to help—and, (you may have already noticed), we do love talking about salmon.

1. Pass it around

Cancel the caterer. Your guests will be über-impressed to learn you made these elegant Salmon Bites all by your lonesome. Brined, cooked at a low temperature, then chilled overnight, the fish takes on a dense, rich texture. Augment with watercress purée, pickled onion, and Horseradish Cream and serve as an amuse-bouche before brunch or a passed snack at your next garden party.

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2. Roll on

Master our technique for Fish Roulade, and you’ll use it time and time again when you need a fancy, yet foolproof, seafood preparation. Our favorite way to serve salmon roulade? Quickly seared and dressed in Piccata Sauce.

3. Discover the cure

Loving curing meats? You must see how expediently this Quick-Cured Salmon method turns raw fish into something toothsome and full of flavor.

4. Chop it up

Topped with fresh chervil and a few orbs of ikura roe, our handsome Salmon Tartare classes up an outdoor dinner and showcases the awesome fresh fish available this time of year.

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5. Perfect your plating

Looking to bone up on your plating skills? Use our lemon oil–enhanced Salmon Crudo recipe to help you master the basics of composing the sort of sexy dish you find in fine-dining restaurants.

6. Have a smoke

To make Salmon Pastrami, brine your fish in our signature brine, give it a good rub, then smoke it to bring out that savory-sweet flavor. Mmmm…salmon candy.

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7. Wait it out

Our PNW Salmon requires some planning—you’ll need to make the Salmon Katsuobushi months in advance—but it is So. Very. Worth it.

8. Explore modern cooking techniques

The dish that launched ChefSteps, our Salmon 104 °F is a great way to begin exploring modernist techniques and walks you through the steps of creating one of our all-time prettiest plates.

final_dish_salmon 104Click here to check out other salmon recipes, or upload your own by clicking “Add Recipe.”

 

ChefSteps Forum | Cook Something Liquid from Something Solid

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Grant Crilly’s Culinary Challenge 8 on the ChefSteps forum last week instructed participants to create a savory or sweet liquid dish (soups, shooters, cocktails, desserts, etc.) from one that is normally solid. Forum members were encouraged to use sous vide infusions, blenders, strainers, centrifuges, or any other clarification techniques that they could think of. We had some great posts describing the process behind developing some of the dishes, which is one of our favorite aspects of sharing information on our forum.

Grant, Chris and Ryan each picked their favorite dishes to feature on our Pinterest board.

Grant Crilly: My favorite entry this week was Johan Edstrom’s Asparagus Soup. I loved the agar filtration technique and the subtle marketing message that he included in the photo. Nice!

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Chris Young: I chose new forum member Maria’s Har Gao/Xiao Long Baos. I am passionate about XLB and hope that Maria will continue experimenting with additional versions of the dish. I also want to give an honorable mention to Tim Sutherland for his great backstory on the Curdled Chunky Warm Fish Head Milkshake.

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Ryan Matthew Smith: I picked Brian Douglas’ Scotch Eggs as my favorite this week. The vibrant color of the Sriracha really pops against the egg yolk.

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We are retooling the Culinary Challenge within the next few days and will make an announcement with the new format and schedule on the forum as soon as possible.

As always, we’re thrilled to have new members joining the forum and participating in the challenges. Please share with your interested friends, as we extend our culinary community.

Cheers,
Grant, Chris, Ryan, and the rest of the ChefSteps team

ChefSteps Forum | Cooking with Coffee

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Grant Crilly issued Culinary Challenge 7 last week on the ChefSteps forum. The objective was to prepare a dish—savory or sweet—utilizing sous vide techniques and coffee.

Grant, Chris and Ryan each picked their favorite dish to feature on our Pinterest board.

Grant Crilly: My favorite entry this week was Brian Douglas’ Sous Vide Coffee Panna Cotta. It was a great use of 4 simple components.I also appreciated that he originally tackled a blown sugar technique. Way to go, Brian!

 

Chris Young: New forum members Tim Sutherland and Andrew E both did really great work this week. I voted for Tim’s Coffee and Cigarette because of the extensive sharing he did of his entire development process. We’d love to see more of this kind of open source collaboration. Nicely done, Tim!

 

Ryan Matthew Smith: My pick this week is Andrew E’s Coffee Butter Poached Sous Vide Scallop Salad. Excellent arrangement on the plate and a great perspective on the the shot, plus it looks delicious!

We’re thrilled to have new members joining the forum and participating in the challenge—looking forward to seeing new creations and processes as are your fellow forum members!

I have posted Grant Crilly’s Culinary Challenge 8 on the ChefSteps forum. This week’s challenge is to make a savory or sweet liquid dish (soups, shooters, cocktails, desserts, etc.) that is normally solid. Use sous vide infusions, blenders, strainers, centrifuges (we are using ours for sure) or any other clarification techniques that you can think of. Consider using essential oils to create clear and interesting drinks and soups. You can have multiple layers based on densities, solids as garnishes and whatever else you can dream of.

Take the challenge in your own kitchen, then share your results via the ChefSteps forum. Describe the dish you have chosen and techniques used to make it. Describe where your idea or inspiration came from and what your plan of attack was, and finally, post your pictures.

The top 3 picks (sometimes we have a tie) will have the photos of their dishes posted on the ChefSteps Pinterest board. Please have your entry posted by Sunday. Good luck!

Cheers,
Grant, Chris, Ryan, and the rest of the ChefSteps team

ChefSteps Forum | Almost Like Grandma Used to Make

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We asked Johan Edstrom, one of our most prolific forum members, to issue last week’s Culinary Challenge 6 on the ChefSteps forum. The objective was to cook something that your grandmother would have cooked and give it an update. Use new tools and techniques, juxtapose something old with something new, or simply plate your grandmother’s cooking in a contemporary way.

Johan, Chris and Grant each picked their favorite dish to feature on our Pinterest board.

Johan Edstrom: My favorite entry this week was Chris Koller’s Succotash. I liked the plate, the colors, and I wanted to eat it right away.

 

Chris Young: I chose Joshua Sharp’s modernist take on Salisbury Steak. It was a great nostalgic food idea, and it looks well executed.

Grant Crilly: My fave was Brian Douglas’ Better than Nintendo Cake. I cracked up at the story of the “Better than Nintendo Cake” name and it’s something that I haven’t seen before.

If you’re new to the forum and you haven’t participated in one of the culinary challenges, please join in this week. We’re eager to see your creations and so are your fellow forum members!

Grant has posted Culinary Challenge 7 on the ChefSteps forum. This week’s challenge is Something Coffee. Prepare a dish — savory or sweet — utilizing sous vide techniques and coffee. For example, consider using coffee for an infusion, broth, rub, smoking media, or a textural component. Your idea can be coffee anything!

Take the challenge in your own kitchen, then share your results via the ChefSteps forum. Describe the dish you have chosen and techniques used to make it. Describe where your idea or inspiration came from and what your plan of attack was, and finally, post your pictures.

The top 3 picks (sometimes we have a tie) will have the photos of their dishes posted on the ChefSteps Pinterest board. Please have your entry posted by Sunday. We’re looking forward to being heavily caffeinated (as usual) while we enjoy your entries.

Cheers,
Grant, Chris, Ryan, and the rest of the ChefSteps team.

ChefSteps Forum | Around the World in 8 Days

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Chris Young issued last week’s Culinary Challenge 5 on the ChefSteps forum. The objective was to embrace the spirit of being a novice by trying to cook another culture’s cuisine using both traditional and modernist techniques.

Our forum members took up the challenge to push their skills and posted some compelling dishes. Chris, Grant and Ryan each picked their favorite dish to feature on our Pinterest board.

Chris Young: My favorite entry this week is Chris Koller’s Spanakopita with Homemade Sous Vide Tzatziki. I wouldn’t have thought of doing a Greek entry and now that I’ve seen it, I think it’s brilliant. Looks absolutely delicious; contemporary and nostalgic at the same time. Well done, Chris!

Grant Crilly: I also chose Chris Koller’s Spanakopita. That sh*t looks bomb! Super beautiful filo, as a chef I like the way he pulled from existing tried and true recipes so he could focus on his newer technique alone. Smart. It rarely works out to try ten new things at once. it’s very difficult to learn that way. One focused step at a time is the way to go!

 

Ryan Matthew Smith: I chose Brian Douglas’ Groudnut Porridge with Plum and Kashata this week. I like his composition and clean presentation, plus it looks delicious.

We were all really impressed with the dishes that were submitted. Honorable mentions go out to Nor’Eastern for taking on the challenge of spherification with Soy Caviar and to Jim for making us drool with his Sous Vide Octopus Salad.

Chris Young has posted Culinary Challenge 6 on the ChefSteps forum. This week’s challenge was offered up by Johan Edstrom, one of our most active forum members. The objective is to cook something that your grandmother would have cooked, but give it an update. Take advantage of new tools and techniques, juxtapose something old with something new, or simply plate your grandmother’s cooking in a contemporary way. Johan will be choosing one of the top three posts this week along with the usual suspects at ChefSteps.

Take the challenge in your own kitchen, then share your results via the ChefSteps forum. Describe the dish you have chosen and techniques used to make it. Describe where your idea or inspiration came from and what your plan of attack was, and finally, post your pictures.

The top 3 picks (sometimes we have a tie) will get their photos posted on ChefSteps’ Pinterest board. Please have your entry posted by Sunday. We’re looking forward to seeing some updated blasts from the past!

Cheers,
Grant, Chris, Ryan, and the rest of the ChefSteps team.