The Chef in Stead
Chef Martin's Tips
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Tip 1

You don't need a $700 set of knives to cook gourmet meals, just one good knife.

Always keep it sharp, and please don't throw it in any kitchen drawers. Once you have a sharp knife, learn to use it, stay away from electrical cutting gismos and instead practice by hand every time you can. It is realistic to take a few months to a couple years to learn knife skills, so be patient! At school, apprentice cooks learn within a few months by practicing on 100LB of carrots per week. You can spend $4 or $5 to buy a big bag of carrots and send the kids to school with carrot sticks, carrot juliennes, diced carrots and the ultimate carrot brunoise (the smallest knife cut possible).

My favorite knife is from Italy, a Sanelli that cost me a $85, and it should last me 8-10 years, even if I use it everyday!

Remember "The knife does not make the Chef"

Tip 2

Planning is the difference between a good cook and a great cook.

Whether in a restaurant cooking for 200 customers or having 6 people over for dinner at my house, I use the simple technique of visualizing every step of the meal. It really makes me see the details of the meal all the way down to how long does it take to cook a single poached egg, for example. I have also found that it limits the possible screw-ups before they happen, allowing me to be extra-prepared for success!

Don't get caught without a plan!

Tip 3

Cutting boards!

Good cutting boards are an essential part to any good kitchen.

One: the built in cutting boards that cannot be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher once in while are no good, just use them as decorative pieces.

Two: all cutting surfaces should be soft enough for your knives to sink in a little. White fiberglass is great, wood is still good to use, and the plastic thin ones that bend, are also ok.

Three: any serious cook should have a minimum of 2-4 cutting boards, preferably in different areas of your kitchen. Colors are great, so you can have red for meat, green for vegetables and blue or white for fish and seafood.

Four: bleach your board once in a week with a solution of water and bleach 50/50. A white colored board is easier to keep clean as you can see stain happening with time.

Five: cross contamination is very common in households, and often the cause of a short visit to the emergency hospital in the middle of the night. I will spare you the detailed side effects, but let's just say it's ugly and will motivate you to wash your board the next time around.
To avoid these type of issues, if you start by working raw poultry, beef, pork, fish or seafood on your board. Make sure that you clean it extremely well with a bleach solution before using it again for your vegetables or anything else. (See this link for more info) (

Tip 4

Read cookbooks or food magazines.

To really improve your skills, you need to be able to read a recipe and start feeling what it would taste like when it's done. Once you have reached this level, you are half way there! Most good cooks have an understanding of textures, colors, and mechanics of foods. Reading will make the actual cooking process much easier. The Food Network is also great, but keep notes.

Don't get me wrong, you still need to cook to get better!

Tip 5

I have adopted an easy way to increase my success when I cook at home or at work. I never try anything new on my guests!

It usually takes at least two times for a professional chef to really have a good control of a recipe. So, it's easy, at home, I try every recipes on my wife once or twice before, just to be able to master the spices, cooking time and presentation. This helps me improve my skills and my guests ultimately enjoy the benefits. As for my wife, "for better or worst, till death do us apart" the man in white said!

Tip 6

Put in good ingredients and good meals will come out!

I am a firm believer that if you buy according to the market, you will be more creative. Let yourself be motivated by freshness. I usually create meals based on what is fresh at the market, and usually end up with tasty meals.

With fish and seafood for example, I make a point to talk to my fishmonger every time I can, so they let me know when I walk in their store about new arrivals and what should be tasted this week.

Vegetables are the perfect example - go to the produce section and choose on the spot what you should buy. You can see the colour, you can touch it, you can smell it and yes, you can see the prices.

Tip 7

Avoid overcooking or undercooking!

Invest $10 to buy an instant-read food thermometer and learn to use it!

It's easy to use and it will make it much harder to overcook meat or under cook fish. You will be able to look inside food to see if it's cook. One of the best tool you will ever buy. These thermometers are now part of every chef's toolbox!

See this link to find out which thermometer is best for which use or find out how to use your new thermometer.

Tip 8

Cook vegetables in the right order!

It is very easy to overcook vegetables. Learn to time yourself - yes, with a watch if needed! It is simple; if you know how long it takes to cook one vegetable to perfection, you can plan your meal better.

Example: when steaming multiple vegetables for one meal, start with the hard ones like carrots first, then a few minutes later add your green beans, then a few minutes later add your broccoli. The result should be all crunchy vegetables.

Tip 9

Most food doesn't last forever!

Fridge, freezer, cupboard and cold room - all need to be emptied on a regular basis. Any food that you will not eat right away, and that may be stored for any period of time should be dated before storage.
Let's try something right now - stop reading and go to your freezer, look way at the back, and pull out that package that looks like one big ball of ice...go... OK, now what did you find? When was it put in there? How much longer are you planning to keep it in there?

To improve the outcome of a meal, you need to improve the quality of the ingredients. Stop buying food that will be stored more than a month. If you garden and freeze lots of fresh vegetables, you need to eat those the following harvest; you definitely need to be done. Also, did you know that most spices, canned goods, baking supplies and bottled sauces are not good forever? The best of restaurants in the world have a very limited or non-existent inventory of cans and spices.

Tip 10

Unwanted Creatures - every chef's nightmare!

If you ever notice that you have many small looking flies in your kitchen, you probably have something contaminated. Small flies (Fruit Fly) often live in your fruit baskets or plants. They will not multiply in the cold fridge, just at room temperature. Search the infected area, clean well, and look in surrounding area also!

Another bug that is really annoying, is a tiny little creature that feed mostly on sweets or wheat products. Please remember this: there is no such thing as a bug that is single, most are still living with their parents, sisters, brothers, uncle search and kill! Throw everything away, and then in another two days, go back to the same area to make sure that none of the relatives moved in somewhere else.

The last one, you've guessed it, is the field mouse looking for warm and dry shelter for the winter. They move in mostly in the fall, but you should start noticing major damage around January...You can trap them in a Green Peace kind of way, and if you cannot do it, call for help.

There are many other bugs that may infiltrate your kitchen cupboards, just be vigilant!

Good luck!

Tip 11

Let's talk about Eggs?

If I was going to choose one ingredient that should always be in everyone's fridge, eggs would be it. Eggs are easy to prepare, fast to cook, versatile, a good source of protein and extremely cheap, at a little over 21 cents each. If all else fails, just make an omelet and you can feed a family of four for less than $4 - including mushrooms and any cheese leftovers!

Take 3 raw eggs, add one cup of milk and enough flour to get the perfect consistency, and you get pancakes. Take 3 raw eggs, add 1 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla and an old loaf of bread sliced up, and you get French toast. Fry an egg, place it between two slices of bread with mayonnaise and you get an egg sandwich...

Fried, poached, scrambled, basted, over easy, sunny side up, hard boiled, soft boiled, omelets, quiches, frittatas and more... Eggs are a prime ingredient in most pastries, cakes, pies, mousses and entremets.

Beet 8 eggs at high speed with a mixer until fluffy (6-7 minutes), add 250 g sugar slowly, then stop your mixer and very gently add 250 g flour with a spatula, and you get an easy sponge cake! So, if you don't feel like making an omelet, just bake a cake and your family will still love you.

Don't run out of eggs and you will always have a "Plan E"!

Tip 12

This summer Vinaigrette yourself!

When in doubt, make vinaigrette. It's easy, it's versatile and it's tasty.

Take any vegetables, add vinaigrette and voila!
Take any fish or seafood, add vinaigrette and voila again!
Take leftover roasted meat and yes, voila, again!

When you wonder what to make with a piece of fish, just mix together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 to 2 fresh squeeze lemons, one green onion chopped up, a pinch of any fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon or basil, salt and pepper and your done! It's simple, and it's good!

Why not cold Pork Roast with Asian style vinaigrette? 1/2cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, one green onion chopped up, 2 tbsp of sesame seeds and cracked black pepper. Add natural soy sauce to taste at the end. A touch of Wasabi is also nice.

Try this one - cold Roast Beef with Dijon vinaigrette: 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, minimum 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, one crushed clove of garlic, half of a medium size sliced red onion, salt and cracked black pepper.

Experiment and go vinaigrette!

Tip 13

Simple, simple, and simple...

If you want to improve your skills behind the range, you need to start simple. Four to five ingredients maximum allowed per creation! You can use any spices or herbs you want, but no more than one at a time. Cooking techniques can vary, but the best thing is to use a one pan until you understand its function, then you can master the next one.

Until you can master this concept, keep at it - it will teach you to control your seasonings, cooking methods and let you taste ingredients in a pure way!

Keep it simple for a while, then go wild!

Tip 14

Quality Pots and Pans - a must or a myth?

Quality pans are a must. A few different sizes of high quality thick pans will really help you create gourmet meals.

When talking about pots, I am 50/50. Two different sizes of high quality pots are essential for soups, stews, sauces or anything else that may stick to the bottom. The rest of your pots can be lower quality/price as long as you use them for the right things.

A cheaper pot will be thin and will not retain the heat very well, so expect your creations to stick to the bottom. On the other hand, when you are boiling vegetables, steaming a live crab or blanching tomatoes to remove their skins, a thin pot will do just fine!

One could say, if I buy all quality pots and pans I should be fine, but when you are looking at one small good quality saute pan, you will soon find out that it will cost you around $100-$250. So one good large saute pan should do just fine.

So if your budget is tight, just do some smart buying. Stay away from sets that you will never use - there is nothing wrong with that!

Tip 15

Freezing quality vegetables for the winter... why not?

Being a chef makes you look at prices all the time. The winter is by far every chef's nightmare - quality is down and prices are up! Making menus in the winter is no easy task, but if they can do smart buying in the summer, most chefs will freeze, dry and/or can if possible.

For example, when I freeze red peppers from my garden or from the local market in the summer, I know what I am freezing: fresh, possibly organic peppers with amazing taste, great color, and awesome quality. When winter comes upon us, I can take them out and throw them in a Red Chicken Curry casserole and everyone will wonder why they taste so wonderful!

On the other hand, the price of carrots doesn't change that much, so choose your battles, and freeze for good quality, lots of flavour, and value.

Tomatoes, beans, asparagus and red peppers are just a few examples of what is in my freezer. There are also canned peaches and pears, and plum chutney.

Try it this season - smart buying combined with smart cooking!

Tip 16

Sauce versus gravy?

I can still hear my chef screaming at me when I was an apprentice, saying "Sauces are made by chefs, gravy is made by moms!" and every time my answer was, "That's why I love gravy." It's OK - I was not there to be his best pal anyway!

All kidding aside, here are the differences between the two of them: usually, gravy will be made from meat drippings, thickened up with flour, or in some houses with cornstarch.

Sauce is often made from the reduction of certain ingredients; it thickens up naturally. The French chefs love their whipping cream, and many classic sauces have dairy in them. We love them and hate them at the same time, as today we think more before we eat those rich foods!

In the last 10 years or so, chefs around the world have started using other ingredients beside cream. These days, it is not rare to find in restaurants a piece of fish served with some type of vinaigrette or vegetable puree foamed up. Light and tasty!

I still enjoy cream reductions, and Beurre Blanc is still one of my favorites, but not every day anymore! And I still love gravy, too.

Tip 17

Electric or not electric, that is the question...

Call it a stove, a range or a piano (this is the name for a grill top in a professional kitchen) - it does not matter, I still say gas rules!

I get asked all the time, what is the difference between gas and electric? Usually I just want to answer, what is the difference between a Porsche 911 and Ford Escort ? They both have 4 wheels, don't they?

It is simple: with an electric stove you cannot control your cooking as well as with gas.

Gas will give you power instantly, just like the Porsche. Gas will spit out major heat and at the same time, when you need to reduce the heat for certain recipes, it will do that right away!

There are only two issues with gas units: you need gas to make it work, and you need the money to buy it!

One thing is for sure, once you have worked on a gas stove, you will never want to go back to electric, because you will soon find out why gas rules!

Tip 18

Electric gismos!

Robot coupe/food processor, blender, rice cooker or ice cream machine... we can always use extra help in the kitchen!

I know that just about everything can be done by hand, but if you've got it, use it!

Ice cream machines can produce amazing result in 25 minutes... by hand, good luck!

Rice cookers - well, just use it once and you will be sold. They work well, they're easy to clean and they take almost no space at all. If the entire Asian population of the world uses them, there must be a reason!

Robot coupes can be a pain to clean, but they are great for chopping massive quantities of food in no time at all. I use mine for grated cheese on pizza night, and for small things like radish dips in the summer.

Blenders for soups, margaritas or for smooth sauces... it becomes pretty hard to do without them.

As long as you are using your gadgets, they will help to save you time and do more than just collect dust on the kitchen counter.

Tip 19

Keeping records!

One of the best gifts you can give your children is to make a scrapbook of all the recipes they used to eat as kids...

It is very nice to cook Mom's recipes once she is no longer with us - it helps keeping her memories alive for you and for the grandchildren.

Collect everything, especially if the recipe comes from the back of a can; all of it is priceless.

Recipes can be found on the Internet very easily, but they will never have the impact of tasty memories with family!

Make it a craft project for the kids, and it will keep them busy. When they move out, pull it out of the cedar chest as a "finally you are getting out of my house" gift.

Tip 20

Potato world!

I love potatoes: served cold or hot, they are good when done right, and hard to mess up!

Roasted garlic mashed potatoes, unbelievably good! Mashed, roasted, fried, crushed, baked or boiled, all good!

Use the right potato for the right dish. Russet rules the mash world, but they are also great baked in foiled paper.

Red and/or purple potatoes are perfect for roasted in the oven.

Baby Yukon Gold boiled and cut open with butter inside, wow!

Blue potatoes make really nice gratin with Swiss cheese on top.

Mashed sweet potato with nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper is still a favorite in America.

The best thing is to try them all - you will soon find out your favorite, and then you can experiment with different flavours. Wasabi, Dijon mustard, horseradish, sun dried tomato or any cheese you can come up with!

Tip 21

The Perfect Roast Beef!

Food doesn't need to be well done to taste good. Invest $10 to buy an instant-read food thermometer and learn to use it!

Cook roast beef at a higher temperature (minimum 400F) and take it out when the internal temperature reaches 128F taken from two different angles. The ends of the roast will always cook faster than the middle. Let it rest for 15 minutes covered with foil paper, then slice away into a perfect medium rare roast.

Another trick: when you make a roast beef in your oven, sear your roast in a pan before going in the oven, it will seal the flavors inside.

If you want to use the BBQ, good for you, just use the same method. Keep your BBQ at 450F and turn your roast often. Once the roast has been seared all around, it's OK to turn off the heat from under your roast and let the heat from the other side of the BBQ smoke and cook the roast until you reach the right internal temperature.

If you were going to spend a few dollars on a meal, roast beef is a good place to start. Buy a prime rib roast with the bone still attached, and I promise you won't regret it!

Tip 22

Pasta, Pasta and Pasta!

For as long as I can remember on my birthday, every year I eat a huge plate of spaghetti, and I love it!

Keep a good selection of pasta in your cupboards, and you can always "go pasta" when all else fails... Your local Italian market will have many different kinds of pasta - try them all!

Many leftovers can be turned into a pasta dish the next day. Cold or hot, you can add just about anything to pasta and voila, a gourmet meal.

Learn to keep your pasta "Al Dente" which is an Italian expression meaning not overcooked, cooked just right. Another trick is when cooking pasta, don't put oil in the water if you want your sauces to stick to your pasta.

Over the years, I have found that less is more when it comes down to pasta dishes. If you limit your creations to 5 or 6 ingredients or garnishes, it will allow you to be able to taste all of them. One of my favorites is basil, roasted pine nuts, fresh garlic, anchovies, and tomato sauce topped up with fresh Parmagiano.

Tip 23

The Perfect Steak!

Major heat for extra searing, that's the secret! Juicy inside and crispy outside is how you want the final product.

Whether you use your BBQ grill or your stovetop, you will need the maximum heat available, and the hotter the better.

Put a touch of oil, salt and pepper on your meat right before you cook it, especially on the grill!

Even your best BBQ can use more power when it comes to steaks. You can improve your searing by turning an old metal tray upside down on top of the grill for 10 minutes at maximum heat. Just take the tray off at the last minute, brush your grill and drop your steak on it.

When it comes to the stovetop, you need to have a thick high quality pan, very thick (cast iron works well). Turn your burner to high, place your pan on top and wait until it is really hot. Add a touch of vegetable oil and drop your steak in the pan and make sure that your overhead fan is operating. Any kind of good healthy oil will burn eventually, so as soon as you put your steak in the pan it will start smoking.

The meat you buy will have a big impact on the possible results you can reach! Since the caveman cooked the first piece of beef, Tenderloin, T-Bone, Rib Eye and New York are still the best steaks to buy!

Tip 24

Caesar rule!

Caesar salad is one of America's favourites. Whenever I need to have a crowd-pleasing menu, I make sure that Caesar salad is part of the party.

There are many different recipes for this salad, but this one is the easiest and tastiest I have found over the last 20 years.

2 egg yolks
1/2 cup of top quality vegetable oil
2 tbsp of top quality Dijon mustard
Fresh garlic to taste
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice or to taste
1/4cup of capers
6 whole anchovies
1/4 cup Parmegiano Regianno
Cracked black pepper
Freshly made croutons

Serves 2-4 people

Make the dressing:
Mince and mash the garlic in a bowl, then whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, egg yolk and mustard. Add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the dressing until it is emulsified. Add the anchovies, capers, parmegiano and a few drops of the brine from the capers.

In a large bowl toss the clean romaine with the croutons and the dressing until the salad is combined well. Sprinkle each salad bowl with more capers, anchovies and a few Parmesan curls if desired. Serve right away...

Tip 25

Convection oven, worth it or not?

I say if you are going to invest into a good quality stove, pay attention to your oven below.

Often the salesperson will feed you lots of you-know-what about how great the fan moves the air inside the oven so it bakes evenly. Yes, it is a nice feature, but 8 out of 10 times, you won't get even baking and you still will have to turn your tray around for an evenly-baked pizza, just to give you an example.

The extra few dollars are worth it because the fan will help to cook food quicker, and will makes your cakes fluffier. Roasted potatoes in a convection oven come out really nice, but they also turn out really nice in a regular oven too.

So, if budget is not a problem, go for it, but if you are choosing between a convection oven feature or a good functional sink, go for the sink - you will use it more often.

Tip 26

Pass the Salt and Pepper!

There are many choices when you talk about salt & pepper; sea salt, kosher salt, many flavored salts like onion salt, garlic salt and of course regular iodized table salt. There are many kinds of pepper too: black pepper, white pepper, pink peppercorn, green peppercorn, Szechwan pepper, lemon pepper, and plenty more kinds of flavored peppers.

Because it is not so good for our health, I try to stay away from table salt, so instead I use sea salt in everything. The next time you eat corn on the cob or fresh tomatoes from your garden, add dry lavender inside your sea salt grinder and enjoy this very fragrant summer taste. If I have only one piece of advice to give to all the amateur cooks out there, it would be to make sure to salt all your dishes enough that all flavors come together. The lack of salt will undermine your efforts to create tasty meals.

I really like cracked black pepper on everything, but if I had to pick my favorite flavour, it would be green peppercorn. Green peppercorn sauce on a grilled steak is the best. If you like variety, mix different kinds of peppercorn in your grinder. You can even add allspice berries for an exotic flavour.

Tip 27

Playing with nuts!

Nuts are a great source of natural protein, and they can make a dish become alive with very little effort. (Although some are not necessarily great for diets!)

Nuts makes great snacks at the office, but please remember that nuts are not good forever. The best way to find out if you are dealing with fresh nuts is to smell them first. If they smell oily or sour they are perfect for the garbage. By the way, roasting nuts won't make them good; if they are bad, they will stay bad...

If you want to attain best results, roast any nuts before using them for baking or to eat as just like that!

Pecans in a salad with blue cheese dressing make for a great match.

Walnuts are rich in omega3 fatty acids, benevolent fats that combat heart disease. They are one of the few plants in which these fats occur.

Crushed up roasted almonds dropped in a sugar and water caramel mixture will make a great nut brittle - a sweet snack for the kids.

Although not a nut per se, pine nuts make a great stuffing inside a salmon with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes.

Tip 28

Roasted Chicken!

Anyone who really likes roasted chicken considers it an art!

Five easy steps:

Shop for a fresh grain-fed chicken.

Completely dry it with paper towel.

Rub it all over with butter or olive oil.

Spice it up with your favorite spice rub.

Cook it in the middle of your oven or BBQ at 275F, until the internal temperature taken in two different places reaches 180F. This process can take up to 2 to 3 hours!

Depending on the mood, here some of my favorite spices for roasted chicken spice rub: Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, rosemary, Cajun mix, chili pepper, garlic powder and oregano.

Tip 29

Shopping backwards!

Take it from a Chef, it's not easy to create meals day in day out for your loved ones. When I am un-inspired, I have developed a few tricks that help me find my mojo!

First, when you get to your usual grocery store, don't go the same way you usually go, and I guarantee you that you will find new ingredients, I usually start backwards...

Second, change grocery store, just go to a new one preferably a specialty market, you will find new things that you have never seen before.

Third, when you watch the food network, take note for your next trip to the grocery store.

Forth, ask each family member to tell you about a favorite ingredient, this should sparks ideas in your cooking mind.

These tricks have never failed me, every time I use one of these, we end up eating something new and amazing.

Tip 30

Use mushrooms, fresh or dried!

If I am looking to make a successful dinner, a well-prepared mushroom dish will always do it for me...

Sautee white mushrooms have to be done in a super-hot pan. Use olive oil to start so it does not burn too quickly, and finish with a touch of butter for added punch.

Grilled Portabella mushrooms can easily replace a beef burger patty in a bun. Just marinate some clean portabella in balsamic vinegar for 1 hour, then grill.

Dried morel mushrooms are awesome in a cream sauce or a red wine sauce, served with salmon or beef tenderloin.

Dried porcini mushrooms in a risotto are "the bomb".

Oh, by the way, wild mushrooms like warm and wet weather, so if you are experienced at knowing what to look for, start looking - they are coming soon...

Tip 31

Chicken Stock 101

So, you want to cook like a chef, well you have to learn to cook with stocks!

The one thing that really makes a meal better is chicken stock instead of water. Yes, of course you could use fake chicken powder, liquid or paste, but the result will taste fake too.

Take the time to make a great chicken stock. You could buy 2 or 3 chicken legs and for less than $5 there you have it.

To your chicken, add equal amounts of diced celery and onions then add half of carrots. Add water, around 4 cups per chicken leg. Don't go put some funky spices in there - just thyme, bay leafs, parsley and a touch of white pepper.

Cook 1 to 2 hours, then strain the whole thing and cool down right away. You can freeze it in small amounts in ice cube trays or in Ziploc bags.

Tip 32

Bechamel Sauce

Once a cook enters culinary school, the first thing that they learn is to use their knives. Once a cook has mastered his or her blades, then they will learn to make their first sauce.

Bechamel is a milk-based sauce that can be used with chicken, pork, fish, and it is also great with pasta. Since it can be used so many different ways, it makes a great base for a new cook to start from.

You should try to make it and see how simple it is, and yet with amazing results. Cook some chopped onions and you have to use a fair bit of butter. Once they are cooked, add 1/4 cup of flour and stir until combined. While stirring, slowly add 2 cups of warm milk. Seasoned with a touch of cloves, nutmeg, one bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, but make sure you watch it so it does not burn at the bottom.

A bechamel with Swiss cheese is called a Mornay sauce. You can also choose your favorite cheese and I won't tell anyone.

The next time you make a baked macaroni dish, top it up with a small amount of Mornay sauce and you will be pleased with the results.

Voila, you have made bechamel!

Tip 33

Taking the doors off

Every where I have lived for the last 20 years or so, I have made sure that my kitchen was as close as possible to a professional layout.

The number one thing that I cannot stand is too many doors and drawers in a kitchen. Why hide everything? There is no shame in having an old mixer, or an old toaster. I say if you are going to use it everyday, put it out...

I use 13 steel bowls, a knife (yes, only one), pans, spatula, spoons and yes, olive oil, salt and cracked pepper everyday. Why would I want to hide these items? I want all my most useful tools to be right there when I need them. If I need to remove one kitchen cupboard door, well so be it. I am not ashamed of my equipment, old or not.

Most of the times too, I have mucky hands and to start opening doors and drawers makes me have to wash everywhere after I am done cooking.

My goal is to produce good meals in good time.

Tip 34

Ganache 101

If you don't know what ganache is by now, you have been missing one of life's greatest treats, believed to have been invented in 1850.

The basic recipe is equal parts chocolate and cream:
Bring to a boil 500ml of whipped cream (33% minimum) and poor over 500 g of chopped Belgian Callebaut Chocolate

White, milk or dark chocolate, the better the chocolate you use, the better the result you get.

A general guideline for making ganache:
To make a coating: 1 part cream to 3 parts chocolate.
To make a truffle filling: 1 part cream to 2 parts chocolate.
To make a light filling: 1 part cream to 1 part chocolate.

Cook your favorite cheesecake and pour some coating ganache all over the top. Let it set, then add some roasted sliced almonds on top.

So, now that you are in the know, make good use of this recipe and you will always have successful desserts.

Tip 35

Basic Pie Crust know-how!

Are you ready? Here it is: cold butter, ice water and use a dough cutter so you don't warm up the dough too much.

The more you work pie pastry with your hands, the tougher it is going to be. Don't massage the dough for too long, but instead mix it in a olding motion as much as you can, ultimately creating layers of flaky pastry.

250 g flour
150 g butter
a touch of salt
a touch of sugar
1 egg
Just enough water to make it stick together, around 40 ml.

Cut the butter and flour together with your dough cutter until the dough looks all crumbled. Add egg, salt, sugar and half of the cold water. Keep cutting until it starts sticking together. Using one hand, start folding into a ball of dough without working it too much. If you need more water, just add a bit more.

Let it rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Roll and bake to your desire...

Tip 36

Baking tricks!

We have all cried over burnt baked scones, pastries, cakes, breads etc...

To increase your chances, the number one thing to do is to place a baking tray upside down on the last rack at the bottom of your oven. This will create an air pocket and help distribute the heat more evenly in the oven.

In general, using a silicone baking mat is a good idea, but not a full proof method to protect your baked goods... A convection oven will help in some cases, but is not full proof again...

Turning your baked goods mid way through the baking time can reduce burnt corners!

When you bake fragile pastries, middle of the oven is best and you can also double tray to reduce the impact of direct heat under your pastries.

When you bake a cakes, middle of the oven is good, and have your cake pans on a baking tray.

When you bake pies, bottom of the oven is best to make sure that your bottom crust will be well done and not raw. Half way into your baking time, it's OK to place a foil paper around the edge of your crust to avoid burning it.

Tip 37

Keeping inventory

In most professional kitchens, the production flow is often created by good inventory control.

Keeping an inventory of staple items is necessary to be able to cook good meals. I strongly suggest that you keep a "To Buy" list by your cupboard and use it.

Once you take a can of coconut milk out of the cupboard, you need to write it down ASAP so it can be replaced for the next time you get inspired for a curry dish. Spices, oils, vinegars, tomato sauces, baking powder, flours, sugars etc... all the items that you use on a regular basis, and the ones you use not so often too should be on your list.

If you divided your pantry space into theme areas, it would also help you keep your stocks up to par. Something like a baking shelf, an Asian shelf, an Italian shelf etc...

Anyway, people ask me all the time how can I be so fast to cook dinner - a well organized kitchen is a must!

Tip 38

Soup yourselves!

This is the time of the year where you get to try all kinds of soups.

Chicken soup is best cooked the day before so all the vegetables will release their flavours and nutrients. Please take the time and make a real chicken stock ahead of time.

When it comes down to cauliflower, broccoli and spinach don't cook these too much. After a few hours, these soups start tasting a bit old.

Cream of mushroom is still my favorite soup and I use 2/3 homo milk, 1/3 cream (33%). To give it a boost, use a touch of wild mushrooms like Chanterelles, Porcinis, Morels or Lobster mushrooms.

Squash cream soups have gained popularity in the last few years. Butternut squash or even pumpkin works well with cinnamon, thyme, and/or rosemary. You can finish those with a touch of whipped cream too.

If you use noodles or rice, don't overcook them, as they will keep cooking even if they are off the stove.

Always make lots of soup and send your kids to school with your gourmet homemade creations.

Tip 39

Beurre Blanc

This is by far the best white sauce for any kind of fish: shallots, white wine, cream and butter - very simple but really good.

Slightly sauté some chopped shallots, add two cups of good wine, let the wine reduce to half volume at low heat. Add two cups of whipping cream and let reduce to half again. Reduce the heat and, whisk in one and half cups of butter at room temperature. Season with enough salt and pepper and serve warm.

You can add all kinds of fresh herbs at the end if you wish. Tarragon, basil, and parsley are some of my favorites.

It may take you a few tries to master this recipe, but trust me, it is worth the effort.

Tip 40

Cutting boards, get one!

If you don't have a cutting board, it's time for you to invest $20 to $40 and buy one.

If you have one but it is warped or stained, buy another one.

If you have one that is made out of glass, stop using it today. Glass boards are purely decorative, not made to be cut on...

Plastic or wood works...

Size does matter! It has to be large enough to hold your food; if you can only put one onion on your board, it's too small. Colour boards are a smart thing in a kitchen: one for fish, one for vegetables, one for chicken and one for meat. This is the best way to avoid cross-contamination.

Washing your board properly is EXTREMELY important.

This is the number one place in your kitchen where bacteria grows. Your board should be sanitized after each use. To wash it, use a solution of water and bleac (2/3 water, 1/3 bleach).

Run your dish sponges, cutting boards, and brushes in your dishwasher once a week to kill all germs...

Tip 41

Cheesecake basics...

Since cheesecake is a touch heavy with eggs, cream, and cheese, most people won't eat it during the summer, which must mean that winter is the perfect time for cheesecake!

Just so you know, it's pretty hard to mess up a cheesecake, because no matter the recipe, once it's cooked, it will settle into something edible. It may not be the best texture, but it should be good.

This is what I have learned over the years:
1- Mix sugar and cheese together, electric or by hand.
2- Mix in eggs one at a time with a spoon, not a whip.
3- Mix in the cream at the end with a spoon, not a whip.
4- Mix in the desired flavor.
5- Bake at low temperature on the middle rack.
6- Bake with a pan of water at the bottom of your oven to create steam and prevent darkening on top. Sometimes the recipe calls for the pan to be sitting in the water, which is fine. The goal is the same, it is simply to create moisture inside your oven.

These are my favourite flavours, in no particular order:

Oreo, pumpkin, chocolate swirl, dark chocolate decadence, lemon, strawberry, white chocolate raspberry, peanut butter chocolate chips, Amaretto almond, pecan, espresso, rum coconut, peanut butter banana, maple caramel, pineapple Pina-Colada.

If you need a recipe, just send me a quick email when you are ready to bake.

"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." (Julia Child, 1912-2004)
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