Mar 15

Cooking with Recipes

When you are learning to cook, working with a recipe is a simple skill that you must master. It’s great to know how to cook some basic foods, but at one point or another, you will want to try new things and cook something different. Whether you get a new recipe from a cookbook or the internet, following these steps will help you achieve the outcome- great food – that you desire.

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Feb 15

5 Foods You Should Know How to Cook


Back to Cooking Basics

When it comes to cooking, there are thousands and thousands of cookbooks filled with recipes for things to cook. However, most recipes involve a couple basic foods. Here are five staples of cooking to get any cook started.

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Feb 14

Freeze Meat Prices by Deciding “Weather” to Buy Now and Thaw Later

Wagyu Cattle and Calves on the Range

Wagyu Cattle and Calves on the Range

You may or may not have “herd” yet, that there is a generational drought occuring in many of the agricultural centers of the United States. How it impacts you may depend on local conditions and how much precipitation we get in the next few months.

Here are some of the facts: the nations cattle population is at a 61 year low, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wholesale prices for Choice Grade Beef hit an all time high of $240.05 per hundred weight on Jan 22 nd, 2014 and desperate ranchers are ordering hay sending Hay prices up to about $270 a ton from $200 in just a few months.

As a nation we are still recovering from the 2011 drought and experiencing a new one in California in 2014. If there is insufficient spring grass (due to drought conditions) ranchers may be forced to further cull their herds, leading to a short term increase in the immediate supply but a longer term reduction in supply. The range mathematics and economics of animal husbandry applies equally to Sheep & Cattle.

Even the cold, wet winter may not help very much according to Professor Ron Gill Ph.D., of Texas A&M University who told Smart Kitchen that the Midwest, where the precipitation greatest this winter, is not much of a factor in the national beef supply. Further Professor Gill reminds us, “before any rebuilding can occur additional heifers will have to be kept”…which will “actually shorten beef supplies even further until those cows can produce calves that will in turn have offspring that will contribute to the beef supply.”

 What this means, Professor Gill continued is that “if expansion begins it will be at least two years before we see any additional beef supply.”  If you want to read more about rebuilding the national beef herd, Professor Gill has an article on the subject on the Texas A&M website at Rebuilding the Beef Herd. The link goes to the Texas A&M website.
Beef Chuck Steak Boneless2_organic
Practically, this means that chefs with foresight may want to purchase a bit more frozen Beef today, to hedge against an uptick in prices this summer and fall. If there is a slight downtick in pricing due to the cull, that is an opportunity to purchase an extra Steak or Roast or two, because the long term outlook will be even worse.
As long as the Beef is Frozen properly to Avoid Freezer Burn, and Flash Frozen to avoid the creation of flavor and texture destroying ice crystals, it should last a good 6-8 months in the freezer.
Something similar is going on in California where 80% of the Golden State’s water is used for agricultural purposes and their is another drought in the state which produces nearly half of all U.S. grown fruits, nuts and vegetables and is also our leading dairy and wine producer.  Wet weather, or the lack of it, in the next few months will be a very strong indicator of future produce prices.
If you don’t see the Weather Channel expounding on the precipitation in Northern California, or the elevated levels of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, you may want to make some room in the freezer for some of your favorite produce, or plant a bit of it yourself if you want to avoid paying steeply higher prices later this year.

P Chef

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Aug 13

Science Fiction’s Cultured Beef makes a “RARE” Burger Today!

lab beef

A Burger We won’t be cooking any time soon.

This is one rare burger, one you won’t be seeing at your local fast food chain any time soon. There was only the one made and its already gone for now, Pan Fried in Sunflower Oil and Whole Butter.

So what is it? A very cool/gross/scary/fun science fiction concept to cogitate over because some Dutch Scientists at Maastricht University, lead by Mark Post and backed by Sergey Brin of Google took a few years and made a $332,000 fat-free, Hamburger patty.  “So?” you might say, “what’s in there, gold?”  No gold, only Bread Crumbs, and a binder. The reason for the high price and uber-long prep time is more because of what did not go into making this burger. There was no grass, and no pasture; no corn and no feed lot because what it didn’t have was a Steer, at least in the traditional sense.

This new Lab Burger (not lamb burger) was grown inside a lab from Beef muscle cells that were harvested from a cow and then separated into fat and muscle cells. The muscle cells were then cultured (we predict a “Cultured Beef” designation in the future) and grown in a nutrient solution. Apparently, muscle cells organize themselves and grow in strands with nutrients and an initial anchor point. The “guts” of the thing (pardon the pun) is almost too much to think about. Two lucky people, or unlucky, depending on your point of view, got to try the new burger in London on Monday. One was a food writer and the other was a food scientist.

lab burger cooked

The Cooked Lab Burger – Courtesy of Digital Trends

The results, as you might expect, were  not great. The Lab Burger had the texture and juiciness of meat but none of the intense Beef flavor. I won’t knock it, especially as a first try.

There will probably come a day when there is a need for lab grown beef, as currently 70% of agricultural land is devoted to raising livestock. As we grow ever more crowded, lab burgers may be worth it for the land efficiency alone. Don’t even get me started on supplying the first Five Guys on Mars.

So stay posted, The Maastrict University crew is going back to the drawing board and will attempt to grow some Fat so that they can blend their next $288,000 burger with some flavor. We’d advise them to mimic the Chuck Primal Cut and go 80/20 in two years or so.


P Chef

Smart Kitchen

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May 13

Summer Food Drive 2013 W-E Bobcat Bites, Santa Fe, NM

Bobcat Bite in a Former Trading Post.

Bobcat Bite in a Former Trading Post.

I had heard of Bobcat Bite for a few years but was always put off by the name. After being skunked at Pie Town, I was ready to give it a try. When I arrived there were about 40 people waiting in line on a Friday afternoon.

Everyone Wanted a Burger.

Everyone Wanted a Burger.

It turns out that there are two lists. One, the first list, is kept inside. Make sure to stop a server and get on that list. When you progress far enough on the first list, you are “promoted” to the big board. Getting promoted from the list to the board was an accomplishment, or at least an event. We,  the patiently waiting customers, took to congratulating, and joking about, each new “Board Member.”

Finally a "Board Member."

Finally a “Board Member.”

I could spot the regulars because they knew to bring reading material. The rest of us played “watch the list.” We watched it like hawks, err Bobcats, and pretty soon we all knew who each party was. After a bit, there were very few strangers waiting for a burger. The crowd, looked like a rural group but was actually very sophisticated. Conversation ranged from construction/architecture to art (Santa Fe is an arts colony) to last week’s New York Times Magazine. Needless to say with an hour plus wait, we gelled. By the way, take out orders, for those who are not blogging, seemed to go a bit faster.

Bobcat Bite Menu

Bobcat Bite Menu

While waiting I had a chance to read the back of the old-timey menu and get the story behind the unusual name at Bobcat Bite which is currently owned by John and Bonnie Eckre. The building for Bobcat Bite was originally a trading post (see the original beams in the photo below) on the Old Las Vegas Highway (Las Vegas, NM not the other one), and then a gun shop, of all things. The highway became part of Route 66 and Bobcat Bite was launched as a family run restaurant in 1953 by Rene Clayton, who owned Bobcat Ranch, to service the hungry motorists.

Originally Founded by the Owner of Bobcat Ranch

Originally Founded by the Owner of Bobcat Ranch

Rene Clayton’s daughter Mitzi Panzer was the first operator in 1953. It has been a Mom & Pop place ever since. The Eckres took over in 2001. The unusual “Bobcat” name stuck because, before I-25 was built, Bobcats came down from the hills (no doubt drawn by the smell) and were given treats at the back door. As the menu states, “it was one of the few local dining spots that was friendly to Bobcats at the time.” I love that line because it presumes that many more places are bobcat friendly today.
Bobcat Crossing

Bobcat Crossing

So still waiting. What else can I share? Oh, they don’t take credit cards. There are no reservations either.
Interior and Customers at Bobcat Bite

Interior and Customers at Bobcat Bite

So still waiting. What else can I share? Oh, they don’t take credit cards. There are no reservations either. I already knew I was visiting for the Green Chili Cheeseburger, which was voted best in New Mexico, a time or two. It is hard to think about the Menu with so many tasty looking burgers being hustled, right past you, to their proper tables. It was like Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, but more the Rhyme of the Ancient Hamburger: “Burgers, Burgers everywhere and nary a bite to eat.”
Finally, I was called up along with “Rus Party of 2, a nice couple from San Diego. The tantalizing was ratcheted up a notch as the fans shot the warm kitchen air, carrying the wonderful smell of grilling onions, down along the counter. We ordered Green Chili Cheese Burgers. The neighbors to our left got theirs. More orders walked up our way only to turn left or right and head to other tables. It was a perfect storm of burger teasing. Finally, the server came our way. She must have had our burgers. She did….sort of.
The Rus Party is served.

The Rus Party is served.

She put down 2 lovely burgers on the narrow counter for The Rus Party of 2. The Pavlovian Response was kicking into overdrive now.
Great Presentation of a 10 oz,  Choice Chuck, Green Chili Burger

Great Presentation of a 10 oz, Choice Chuck, Green Chili Burger

It did arrive. 6 of us in the corner all high-fived. The presentation of the 10 ounce Cheeseburger made from choice-grade Chuck, freshly ground each day, was spot-on. They have used the same recipe for decades. The Beef is also natural and  hormone & antibiotic free. It was a grown up burger (not gimmicky or gooey) showcasing the fresh ground beef. It was juicy (ask for napkins early) and flavorful without being too spicy; then the thick-cut bacon kicked in adding extra punch.
The only issues I had were the thickness and the Green Chili. I have a big mouth, but just not that big. I could not get my chomp on and had to bite around the edges, rotating the burger as I ate. It was both messy and not fulfilling. The Green Chili is diced and a bit tame. You don’t get the hot hit of the proto-typical New Mexican green chili, which is something I was seeking.
For me it was a very good burger, and worth the wait. It was maybe even worth a 50 mile drive, but for me it was not the holy grail. Its like horse racing though, everyone has a favorite. Regulars and tourists keep the small kitchen (150 square feet) pumping out 400 to 450 burgers a day at hefty prices. My check was $16.15 for a Green Chili Cheeseburger with Bacon, home fries (resistable) and a tea. A lot of people love it. Apparently, they ran out of burgers (remember fresh ground daily) the week before.
As I was getting ready to leave, I asked the server about some snippets I had over heard in the dining room but did not credit. It turns out that the snippets were accurate. Bobcat Bite is going to close at this location on June 9th, 2013. They are having a disagreement with the landlord. They are looking for a new spot, but don’t have it yet. They may even change the name.
So for the day I was skunked early and anti-skunked at lunch. A few days later and I would have had another miss.

Bobcat Bite Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Dec 12

“Ask A Chef™” #49

We love getting good “Ask a Chef™” questions from our members.  “Are there any added enzymes in Kosher Salt? is a good one.” Below is the question and our response.


Dear Chef:


In the lesson on sanitizing a cutting board, you mention that there is an enzyme in kosher salt that kills bacteria. What enzyme is that? I thought that salt was simply sodium chloride? Is there an additive enzyme in kosher salt?

Thanks much!

Joe W.


Hi Joe,

So, you are right about plain Kosher Salt being simply Sodium Choloride. What we should have said in the exercise is that some brands of Kosher Salt have additives and enzymes that can also help kill bacteria. Very pure brands of Kosher Salt, like Diamond Kosher Salt, won’t have the additives but others out there may.

Depending on the brand, you can find Ferrrocyanide (not extremely toxic as the name might suggest), Yellow Prussiate of Soda, Tricalcium Phosphate, Alumine-Calcium Silicate, Sodium Aluminosillicate and potentially iodine in various measures in various Kosher or Sea Salts.

Most of the additives are anti-caking or anti-clumping agents that work by absorbing moisture, which most bacteria need to live and thrive. Additionally, some Kosher Salt and many Sea Salts can be iodized and as any kid with a scraped knee can tell you, Iodine is also an anti-septic.

The best way to know what is in the Kosher Salt in your pantry is to read the label and if anything is unclear or not specific to then contact the company.

Happy Cooking!

“P Chef”

Smart Kitchen

“The Smartest Way to Learn to Cook™”

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Jun 12

Sticky Visit to Colt & Gray – Denver, Co.


Colt & Gray is a place we have been dying to try since we heard about it on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” in 2009 or 2010. Colt & Gray was called out for it’s Sticky Toffee Pudding. Sticky Toffee Pudding is hard to hate in the first place, but the best one ever sounded like something to drive for.

Despite the rearing horse imagery and the Western sound, Colt & Gray is named for Chef / Owner Nelson Perkins’ sons: Coulter and Grayson. Nelson is a native born high-lander who moved down to the flat-land of NYC to attend the French Culinary Institute, where he graduated with the Grand Diplome de Cuisine.

Urban Sophistication is the Feeling @ Colt & Gray

The training and local ingredients have been put to great use in a sophisticated, super-cool, avante-garde neighborhood bistro. Think of it as a reasonably priced (for what you get) high-end, non-Spanish, tapas bar or as a fine-dining, small-plates place. The love of food and preparation pervades the menu and the spirit of the staff. I was helped by Adam Condit (manager and server) who was a fount of knowledge about the menu and dishes which are a paen to the French Classics but built with local Rocky Mountain ingredients.  The bar, which I admired without partaking, was also intriquing. On another slower trip, I could imagine spending a few hours there in an ad-hoc seminar on mixology. For example, they had an “Old Fashioned Grandma Cocktail (ramazzotti amaro, prunier l’orange, & peychaud’s bitters) that sounded interesting on a day I wasn’t driving another 200 miles after dinner.

A Lot to Recommend at Colt & Gray's Intimate Bar

The dishes I didn’t try, Pecan Crusted Soft Shell Crabs, Truffle Turkey Burger, Salad Perigourdine (gizzards, cured duck breast, foie gras, spring salad, & lemon vinaigrette) and Rockfish a la Nage, sounded almost as interesting as the dishes I did try and describe below.  Nelson’s food philosophy is “to use the best available ingredients and treat them gently,” and we saw it in practice.

This Pig Trotter was Delicate and Flavorful

My first dish is likely one of Teaching Chef’s favorites from the Old Country: a Pig Trotter, which in Nelson’s imagination is a delicate combination of pulled pork (ham hock braised 6 hours) and Panko breading, flash-fried then topped with Frisee lettuce and served on a bed of stone-ground mustard.  Colt & Gray’s pig trotter is very European in its presentation and flavor. It was a 3 bite appetizer and sadly no photos exist of the interior of this one.

Ciccioli (pronounced "chickey-holy" Platter

Colt & Gray makes their own Charcuterie which was a must try. After discussing Sunday’s offerings with Adam (Porchetta di Testa, Lardo, Ciccioli, Bresaola, Lomo, Lambvender and Nduja), I settled on Ciccioli, which is sort of like a pork pate. Sitting on Colt & Gray’s comfortable patio, flanked by pedestrian traffic, as the sun went down, eating Ciccioli, it isn’t much of a leap to channel a few bars of Edith Piaf, Gilbert Becaud or Serge Gainsbourg and transport oneself, mentally, to the Rue de Rivoli.

Grilled Beef Hearts Sliced and Served on Toast with Marrow Butter

I was brought out of my reverie (heavy on the French accent) by Adam offering to take me back to the kitchen to watch the cooking and plating of my entreé: The Colorado Grass-Fed Beef Hearts. Part of the theme of the Summer Food Drive is to expand the palate and try some of the best dishes being made in the country so that they infuse our instruction. Beef Hearts are not on my normal meal plan and I have never cooked them myself, so they were impossible to avoid ordering. It is kind of like telling a kid not to touch the fireworks.  Eventually, there is a boom. Chef Jenna and her team in the kitchen made an admirable dish out of a tough ingredient. It is a testament to their skills that slices of beef heart on toast was a positive, perhaps repeatable, experience. I also learned a new term Mostarda which means an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavored syrup. The beef hearts came with a Rhubarb Mostarda and shaved Artichokes.

The Veggies were not Ignored

Perfect asparagus with Beech Mushrooms, Mint and Brown Butter and Poppy Seeds were my side. The beech mushrooms were so delicate and tender they could almost have been mistaken for seafood.


A Pretty Good Thing That I Ate: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Bourbon Ice Cream

Finally, it was time for the reason for the visit: the Sticky Toffee Pudding with bourbon ice cream and toffee sauce, as recommended in my memory by Alex Guarnaschelli of the Food Network, who my wife, Mrs. P Chef, constantly reminds me sang in Glee Club with her in high school. It turns out that all the mentions of Alex at home had damaged my hard drive and corrupted my data in favor of Alex. Claire Robinson had actually mentioned the Sticky Toffee Pudding as “The Best Thing She Ever Ate.” If my data remains unreliable, I may need to get some Carbonite for the old brain.

The presentation was terrific with the Staub Cocotte (which the unethical believe is a souvenir). I was excited to try the dish and to put to rest years of speculation. I am a fan of Sticky Toffee Pudding, especially of the product made by The English Pudding Company in Los Angeles.  More than a few of our family holidays have been graced with a fabulous mail-order or carry-out pudding. They also sell at Whole Foods the last time I checked the freezer case.

Colt & Gray’s Sticky Toffee Pudding was good. It was near the top of the list of the ones I have ever eaten. Why wasn’t it the GREATEST? Perhaps there was too much build up? Perhaps it could have used a bit more sauce, or some more heft in the pudding itself? Perhaps it suffered in comparison to all the unique, impossibly-perfect items already served? It was really good but I could have walked away from it, if a crisis loomed. The truth is I did not walk away from it (probably should have) and I was so caught up in eating it that I forgot to photograph or video tape the interior of the item, meaning it must have been highly distracting. I found it best if all the ingredients were mixed together into a soft bourbon infused ice cream cake. My only excuse for eating the whole thing, besides its being sinful, was that my organic processor skewed my programming knowing that it would be 20 hours and a big hike until my next meal in Nebraska.

All in all you would be hard-pressed to have such an elegant, enjoyable meal for $42. If I have the chance to go back I will. You should too. You will probably feed your hunger for both nourishment and knowledge.

P Chef

Smart Kitchen

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May 12

Grilling Summer Seafood 2012 is Today!


We have not had a blog post in a few weeks because we have all been working with our noses to the grindstone to put up lesson content and to get ready for our first, BIG, LIVE, Web Event and today is the day!



We had some prep and practice yesterday but are excited for the real thing later this afternoon when we will be on the FoodiesLive webcast at 03.30 PM PST with tips on Grilling Summer Seafood.

The menu is:


Pork Shoulder for Stuffing Homemade Sausage

1. Amuse Bouche: – Grilled Sausages

Seafood Sausage with dill & celery seed and Beef, Chicken & Pork Sausage with Fennel and “Beeten” Mediterranean Yogurt Sauce.

What Would Chicken, Beef, Pork be doing at a Seafood Grill?

2. Appetizer: – Grilled Shrimp & Grilled Oyster

Grilled Shrimp marinated in Salt, Pepper, Light Olive Oil, Orange, and Parsley & Grilled Oyster paired with Grilled Zucchini.

Tigers of the Prawn World

3. Salad: – Grilled Radicchio Salad

Grilled Radicchio Salad with Grilled Green Onions, Grilled Tomato, Grilled Jicama, fresh Avocado and fresh Mescalun Mix. Garnished with Grilled Lemon and dressed with a Grilled Shallot Vinaigrette.


4. Entree: – Dry Rubbed Grilled Duck Breast

Duck Breast Dry Rubbed with a Chili Blueberry Salt then Grilled and served on a bed of Water Cress and dressed with a Honey-Lime & Pink Peppercorn Dressing.

Big Wally - The 3 Pounder

5. Main Course: – Grilled Seafood Platter

Grilled Lobster (2 ways), Grilled Sea Scallops, Grilled Swordfish with a Lobster Compound Butter and accompanied by a cushion of

Pimm’s, Lemon, Rose Cream Risotto and a Grilled Egg Plant & Grilled Sweet Potato Goat Cheese Napoleon.

Where Would Roses, Rose Water and Pimm's # 1 Go?

6. Dessert: – Grilled Fruit Salad

Grilled Pineapple, Grilled Watermelon, Grilled Strawberry marinated in Orange Juice, Triple Sec & Banana Cream Liqueur with a honey yogurt sauce painted on the plate.


The emphasis is on Grilling, so some items are a little over the top in “grillishness” but everything was tasty in practice and as practice makes perfect, they should be even better LIVE!.  It should be a lot of fun. We hope you join us and our gracious hosts FoodiesLive and our sponsor LocalDines today at 03.30 PM PST at http://foodieslive.com/watch-live/ . If you are one of the lucky winners from Local Dines, we will see you there.

P Chef

Smart Kitchen

“The Smartest Way to Learn to Cook™”

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Feb 12

Smart Kitchen’s Guacamole Recipe Was a Touchdown!

That and Some Time is All it Takes

It’s that time of year again, Super Bowl minus 3 days, and Mrs. P Chef is already asking for the Smart Kitchen Guacamole but she wants it Gluten Free this year.

We aims to please and are going to whip it up, in copious quantities, with organic gluten free Chipotles. Who would have known, but a label reader like Mrs. P Chef, but most of the commercial chipotle varieties are packed in an Adobo Sauce made with gluten. We found some gluten free ones at Whole Foods, that still have good flavor and thus was our Sunday of family snacking saved.

Smart Kitchen Guacamole, Served with "Flair"

The Smart Kitchen Guacamole Recipe is up on the recipe section of Smart Kitchen and is a fairly simple  preparation. Take it easy on the Chipotle and Adobo Sauce if you like it more mild.

Kick Off is tomorrow so it might make sense today to make some purchases and Prepare a bit early. After all Preparation, is the second of the 4 Levers Of Cooking,™( $ content).

Have a great time and Go All You Giant Patriots!

P Chef

Smart Kitchen

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Feb 12

Super Citrus Saturday. Orange You Going to Join Us?

Don’t be a sour puss. Don’t feed a rat. Get that pre-game work out climbing your citrus trees and helping others. There are 3 drop off locations in the valley that will accept your citrus on Saturday. The event is put on by St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

If you have any still sitting on the branches, bring your extra citrus fruit to one of these three locations between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, February 4th 2012 to help this valley-wide gleaning effort for a cause.

Christ Church of the Valley
7007 W. Happy Valley Rd. Peoria, AZ 85383

North Phoenix Baptist Church
5757 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85012

Shepherd of the Hills
5524 E. Lafayette Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85018

Thanks nothing is better than local citrus and it is for a good cause.

P Chef

Smart Kitchen

“The Smartest Way to Cook™”

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