The Kids Cook Monday – December 20, 2010

My name is Loren Crannell, and along with my wife Karen, we raise a beautiful 3-year-old daughter. This is my first submission to The Kids Cook Monday, and I am looking forward to sharing my adventures of cooking for and with my daughter, Alessandra. My wife and I both grew up with a mother who cooked at home, and doing her best to give us proper nutrition. When are daughter was born, we wanted to do the same as our parents.

One of my personal passions is cooking, and ever since Alessandra was able to sit in her high chair, she has spent time with me in the kitchen. Playing with fake pots and pans and now she is also directly helping me with dinner. I am happy to say that she has a love for cooking and I couldn’t be happier to have her next to me.

Unfortunately, my daughter was sick this weekend with a fever of 102 degrees so she wasn’t able to assist me in cooking the cassoulet. Never the less, she still has to eat and we prefer a healthy meal even when she doesn’t feel like eating. One of the ways I get her to eat well is to take her shopping with me. I let her touch and smell the fruits and vegetables and using this experience to give her the knowledge of what to pick. Today she eagerly picked out the type of pasta she wanted to eat, plus some frozen organic peas. When the store clerk took her pasta and placed it on the counter while we shopped, she thought they took her pasta away. It was very cute to see her really “own” that pasta. Later that day, she didn’t fight eating, and was actually excited to try out her new pasta. I have never seen this type of unusually large pasta hoops so I was also curious to give it a try. Giving Alessandra this “privilege and responsibility” is always exciting for her, and it creates a fun environment.

Empowering children is fun, and to watch Alessandra to take control of her food choices will hopefully pay dividends in the future. Along with some guidance we are pointing her toward 100% organic fruits and vegetables plus farm fresh meats.

Cooking Summary:

I cook her pasta a little differently, but it turns out very well. This pasta said it required 12 minutes in boiling water, but I let it cook for 10 minutes and drained the water except for a couple of tablespoons. With the heat on medium-high put the pasta back into pot along with the two tablespoons of pasta water and stir in a little parmesan, or Alessandra’s favorite, parmesan-reggiano until the water is gone from the pan. The water will have the starch from the pasta and when it’s mixed with the cheese it will melt evenly among the pasta. Parmesan-reggiano cheese has a natural salty taste so you don’t have to add anything else to it. Plate the pasta along with some vegetables and in 15 minutes the meal is complete.

Since Alessandra is still very young, I don’t let her near the stove top but she still has the opportunity to help. Using a plastic knife, I let her cut up the cheese into very little pieces, while the pasta is cooking. I am happy to say that Alessandra is feeling better and she ate all of her food.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and I look forward to many more stories in the future.

“Project Fishmap” – A Helpful Application Available To Find Sustainable Fish

During an episode on Top Chef Season 6, Rick Moonen was a guest judge and he carried his message of using sustainable fish. I really took this to heart since I used to love Chilean Sea Bass, but I am happy to say that I haven’t eaten or cooked with it for over two years.

As a home cook and consumer of fish I always have a choice of what I buy at the market. With an Iphone application I can easily find sustainable fish sources near me or verify if the fish at my local market is sustainable. The goal of the program is to encourage healthy fishing practices to ensure a stable fish population for future generations. Go to http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_iPhone.aspx

The application has three main purposes:

1) When you are at the market, you can easily look up the fish type and see if the market is carrying sustainable fish. Stick to fish that are within the Best Choice or Good Alternative and please stay away from the Avoid list. As consumers, by avoiding these types of fish, we are utilizing our power as consumers. If they have no buyers, they will not carry it.

2) There is a helpful sushi guide that will tell you if the sushi  you are eating comes from sustainable sources. Granted, most sushi chefs will not tell you where the fish came from but the guide has very good information. Until this application I never knew that Unagi (eel) was on the avoid list.

3) Project Fishmap is the new addition from the recent application upgrade. Using Google maps it will determine your location and give you a list of restaurants and markets nearby with a report of what type of sustainable fish they carry. As more people write reports, we can quickly find sustainable sources.

This is a free and easy to use application from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Organization and I hope that people take a look.

Mangalitsa Pig, Not Just For Iron Chefs

Tomorrow I am going to pick up 20+ lbs of Mangalitsa pig from Suisun Valley Farms, and I am super excited about it. Why? I love pig and this pig is on the top for flavor, texture, and the raising process.  If I am not eating fish or pasta, I prefer pig over cow any day. Cerdo, carnitas, brisket, whatever name you call it, I love it. Now, with a local supplier of fresh pig I can cook some tasty dishes myself, and after tomorrow, I will have enough to last awhile.

This “discovery” came about when my wife emails me and says, “can we make sure that all of our food sources are non-GMO or organic for our upcoming dinner party?” I said sure, no problem but how does one truly know if a meat source is truly non-modified either directly or indirectly through the feed?

Then I see the Next Iron Chef and they mention Mangalitsa pig as being one of the most sought after pig breeds. Being a curious guy, I did some web searching and I find Suisun Valley Farms, run by Shane Peterson. They raise Mangalitsa pigs just an hour away, and there is also Heath Putnam Farms (Woolypigs.com) the only US breeder of Mangalitsa pigs. They distribute throughout the country via mail and directly through distributors.

Why these pigs? Fed a very strict diet, and allowed to age which gives them a natural fattiness. The price per pound is higher than a normal pig, but there are some very key differences. Allowing Mangalitsa pigs to eat organic feed and to age naturally for fattiness is a plus, for example, Shane finishes his pigs by feeding them acorns. The fattiness is also a key difference between the leaner and meatier normal pig. Nothing wrong with lean, but when it comes down to flavor having a nice piece of marbled pork will yield a much tastier result. I compare Kobe beef to Mangalitsa pork. Both are famous for strict diets and having a higher fat content in the meat.

I recently bought a section of pork belly from Shane and the result was amazing. After getting some advice from Michael Volatagio via Twitter I was ready to cook.

First step was to dry cure the 3lb pork belly.

Pat the pork belly dry with a towel

1 part brown sugar and 1 part kosher salt – enough to cover all of the pork belly.

Rub the mixture generously over the entire section of belly

Cover and let it cure for 12 hours.

Before cooking, wash off the salt and pat dry.

Michael Voltaggio advice:

Sous-vide @ 140 degrees for 24 hours.

Dunk in ice bath and refrigerate. Make sure you stop the cooking process immediately.

You now have a fully cooked pork belly.

Since I Don’t Have a Circulator

2 quarts Beef Stock

1 Coarsely Cut Onion

3 Star Anise

1 Tablespoon coriander seeds

1 Teaspoon fennel seeds

Enough water to cover the pork belly

I placed all of my ingredients in my Creuset and placed in the oven on high to get the temperature up, and then lowered the heat to warm once the stock reached the cooking temperature. Using a handheld thermometer I got the stock as close to 140 degrees as possible and place the cover on the pot. Monitoring the process every 30 minutes to cool or warm up the bath to keep it steady. Never-the-less, this process is not as precise as an inversion circulator, but after 14 hours the pork was very tender.

Take care of when you lift it out of the stock and pat dry with a towel. You don’t want the belly to fall apart. Place the pork into a Ziploc back and refrigerate until the pork belly has firmed up. I left it overnight and then the fireworks began.

I cut the pork into 2”inch wide strips and fried the skin in a lightly oiled pan (vegetable oil) until it was very crispy, and then fried the sides for warmth and some color. The Asian flavors of the broth were pleasant, and the richness of the fat and the skin made this very small section of Mangalitsa pig very decadent. The first comment my wife said was that this was the best piece of pork she has ever eaten and that I don’t have to give our guests very much. Since a little goes a long way, we may find them taking a nap at the table if the portions are too big.

If you look at the price of Kobe and the price for Mangalitsa, it’s a clear winner. Mangalitsa is expensive, but approachable to home cooks while Kobe is better left to tasting menus on Michelin starred restaurants. If you are inclined to try Mangalitsa I would encourage you to give it a try.

You can follow Shane on twitter : @SuisunValleyFrm  and get more information on Heath Putnam Farms at www.woolypigs.com

Donato Enoteca – Good First Impression

As a part of my normal day, I manage corporate cash for a large company. I do dream of other means of subsistence but this job does have some perks. For one, I do get a very nice discount on video games, since that large company I work for, is Electronic Arts. Being asked out to lunch for business discussions and sales pitches is the other perk. As a result, I was lucky to have lunch at restaurant that was new to me, and our bankers at Wells Fargo are great people who just want to say hello once a year.

The menu is very traditional Italian, and I mean that in a very good way. I was looking heavily at the roasted duck leg risotto, but when I saw the carbonara I had to ask, “Is this true carbonara?” Our waiter replied, “yes, a true carbonara. It’s made with guanciale, cheese, and egg.”  I love carbonara, and I cook it often at home because nobody makes it in a restaurant. To be honest, when I heard guanciale I was going to order this dish. This piece of pork is so much better than pancetta or bacon.

I had high expectations for this simple little dish, and I was not disappointed. The dish was fairly priced at $10, and the flavor was well-balanced between the cheese and the fried pork. The only negative was that I couldn’t have a glass of wine since I was on the clock.

The appetizers dishes of calamari and the prosciutto were also very rustic and rang Italian. No fried calamari here, just freshly cook squid with a drizzle of olive oil. Simple, but with great flavors. Along with seasonality, that is Italian style cooking.

I plan to go back soon with my wife and daughter for another trip to culinary Italy.

Loren

Donato Enoteca
1041 Middlefield Rd
Redwood City, CA 94063

(650) 701-1000