Thursday, December 29, 2011

sausage & mushrooms & a giveaway

Last week I entered a giveaway on Sauce Magazine's blog. They were giving away Ferran Adria's cookbook, The Family Meal. Adria is know for his ultra-fancy molecular gastronomy cooking... recipes very few home cooks could make at home. This book, however, is aimed at the home cooks. Simple recipes that anyone can make, complete with step-by-step photos!

It's a great book. So great, that I actually bought myself a copy online before the results of the giveaway were announced (I won!)... so I have 2 copies! Whoops. I figured it was the perfect excuse to hold Iron Stef's first-ever giveaway! See details on how to enter after the recipe.

The recipe I chose from the book for this post is one of the simplest. Sausage and Mushrooms. The key to many of the recipe is the quality of the ingredients... this one called for a sausage called "Butifarra" or any other good-quality coarse-ground pork sausage. I had some potato bratwurst from Swiss Meats, a wonderful meat processor about an hour from St. Louis. It's probably nothing like Butifarra, but it is good quality, and the dish turned out fantastic. I also discovered the joy of squeezing sausage from it's casing. Is it weird that I enjoyed that so much?

When I first read that you cook the mushrooms in a separate pan from the sausage before combining them, my lazy voice piped up..."you'll have to wash 2 skillets. is that really necessary?" But then realized that questioning Ferran Adria was really really stupid. I'm glad I followed directions. The mushrooms got nice and browned, as did the sausage, and I bet that cooking them together, the shrooms would have let off too much liquid and there would have been less caramelization. And even though you use 2 pans, this dish is SUPER simple, with richly flavored delicious results.

Sausage with Mushrooms

1 lb. good-quality pork sausages
4 Tablespoons olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme (orig. recipe calls for fresh, 1 sprig)
1 lb. white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1/2 cup dry sherry
handful of fresh parsley, chopped fine

Squeeze the sausages from their casings, pinching into walnut-size balls. Heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a skillet, and fry the sausage balls until golden brown on all sides. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme to the sausage, and fry for 5 minutes. Pour the Sherry into the pan and scrape up all the browned pits from the bottom of the pan. turn heat to low.

In a separate pan, fry the mushrooms in the other 2 Tablespoons of olive oil for about 5 minutes until they are nice and browned. Add the mushrooms to the sausage, turn the heat to medium and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Now... about this giveaway. I am giving away 1 copy of The Family Meal by Ferran Adria. To enter: leave a comment on this post about your favorite 2 or 3 ingredient recipe. For an additional entry, "Like" Iron Stef of Facebook, and leave another comment here saying you've done so (if you already "like" me, leave a comment telling me that). Entries must be made by Noon CST on Tuesday, January 3. I will draw a random winner on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. Good luck!!

EDIT: GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED! I used a random number generator:

The Winner of the Cookbook is comment number 21... Congratulations to Troy!! I'll be getting in touch with you. Thanks to the rest of you for commenting... some great ideas for simple meals here! Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

cashew chicken meatballs

I've had meatballs on the brain lately. Made some good old-school spaghetti and meatballs a couple of weeks ago. Tonight I decided I wanted to go a bit crazy and come up with a new meatball. As is my tendency, I went for Asian flavors. I found some Chinese and Korean meatball recipes on-line, took some ideas from those, and came up with these bad boys, which give a nod to American Chinese take-out. Cashew Chicken Meatballs! Yum.

Cashew Chicken Meatballs

-1 Tablespoon oil
-1 shallot, finely chopped
-1 bunch of green onions, sliced thin, white parts separated from green tops
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 Tablespoon fish sauce
-3 Tablespoons soy sauce (divided)
-1 pound ground chicken
-1/2 cup salted cashews, chopped
-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
-1 egg
-small handful cilantro, chopped
-1/8 teaspoon each: white pepper, ground ginger, coriander, cayenne pepper, black pepper
-small bowl of sugar

In a small pan, saute the shallot, garlic, white parts of green onions in oil. Add fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce. Cook until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown. remove from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Combine the cooked shallot mixture with the rest of the ingredients, except the sugar. Mix well with hands. Roll meat mixture into small, 1-1 1/2 inch balls. Gently roll each ball in sugar to lightly coat, and place on a foil-lined, greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once, until browned and cooked through. Serve on rice with shredded cabbage, garnished with cilantro, sliced green onions and chopped cashews. If desired, make a dipping sauce with 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar, 3 Tablespoons each of rice vinegar and soy sauce, and some Sriracha sauce.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gnocchi with shrimp, ham & creamy mustard sauce

Last week's English Hot Pot left me with some leftovers. Like the loaf of pumpernickel bread and a big hunk of ham. I made some simple croutons with the bread so it wouldn't go to waste (chop bread into bite-size squares, toss with olive oil, garlic powder, dried thyme, salt, pepper, and bake in a 325ºF oven until crispy). Now, how to utilize pumpernickel croutons and ham? Somehow, this happened. I really can't even explain it. But it worked really well.

I made the gnocchi from scratch (really not that hard... I used this great recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes) but if you want to use pre-made this would make for a simple and quick weeknight dinner. Or you can make the gnocchi ahead of time and freeze it, because it is a simple potato gnocchi and will freeze well.

Gnocchi, Shrimp and Ham with Creamy Mustard Sauce

2 pounds baking potatoes (russet)
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon Olive oil
1 1/2 cup ham cubes
2 Tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, peeled
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grainy mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
arugula to serve
pumpernickel croutons to serve

Pearce the potatoes with a fork and bake in a 350ºF oven for about an hour until tender. Let cool. Cut in half and let cool more. Scoop out the potatoes from their skins, and run through a ricer or food mill. Add the egg yolks, flour and salt and mix with hands until a soft dough forms. On a floured surface, gently roll pieces of the dough with your fingertips to form 1/2-inch tubes. Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces and flatten slightly with your thumb. Once all the gnocchi is formed, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in a small batch of gnocchi at a time, removing with a slotted spoon as soon as they float to the top and set aside on a platter. Repeat until all gnocchi is cooked.

In a large skillet, cook the ham cubes in the olive oil until they are just browned. set aside. add the butter and cook the shallots and garlic until they are soft. Add the wine, scraping all the wonderful browned bits off the bottom of the ban. Bring to a boil and let simmer a minute or 2. Add the cream and mustard and stir. Let simmer lightly for 30 seconds or so, taste for seasoning, the add the ham cubes, shrimp and cooked gnocchi to the pan and toss gently to combine everything. cook until everything is heated through. Serve on a bed of arugula and top with pumpernickel croutons.

Similar posts from the archives:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

english hot pot

I've had this Jamie Oliver recipe in the back of my mind for months. Well, flurries started falling this week, so I figured it was the perfect time for this warm, hearty meal. This is really a meal for a Sunday... it's simple and easy but not fast. Be prepared for your house to smell like ham... I think ham stock is my new favorite thing. I want to cook everything in it.

Jamie Didn't have garlic in his recipe, but you know me. I decided to use this opportunity to try out this cool garlic peeling trick. You just put a whole head of garlic (or 2 or 3!) in a metal bowl, then put another metal bowl, the same size on top to make a big ball. Holding both bowls together you shake shake shake the garlic for like 20 seconds, and when you're done, all the garlic cloves have escaped from their peels! It's amazing! And fun! LOUD NOISES!!

English Hot Pot

- 2 ham smoked ham hocks and a small boneless ham (about 4-5 lbs. total)
- 3 bay leaves
- a few peppercorns
-6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
-2 small fennel, bulbs quartered, some fronds reserved
-6 shallots or 1 large red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
-1 head of garlic, peeled
-6 celery talks, cut into large chunks
-1.5 lbs. fingerling potatoes, washed, large one cut in half or thirds
-2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
-6 cups chopped fresh kale
-salt and pepper
-olive oil and spicy yellow mustard to serve

Put the ham, peppercorns and bay leaves into a stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. reduce the heat and let barely simmer for at least 1 and a half hours.

Add the carrots, fennel, shallots, garlic, celery, potatoes and turnips to the pot, season and bring back to the boil. Simmer for about 45 minutes until cooked.

Remove the ham and vegetables from the pot using a long pair of tongs or a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the kale to the stock and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes until tender.

Check the seasoning of the boiling stock, then remove the kale and add it to the rest of the vegetables. Pull the meat apart using two forks. Place vegetables and ham in a bowl, and ladle a good amount of the broth over them. Sprinkle with fennel fronds and olive oil. Serve with mustard and pumpernickel bread.

While I waited for the Ham Stock to cook, I made this sparkly cocktail that has some of the flavors of the season. Yum! Fill a glass with ice, add 1 oz. Pernod (anise-flavored liqueur) 1 oz. gin, ginger ale, a squeeze of lemon and a slice of ginger. It's like an Italian Christmas cookie in a glass!

Similar posts from the archives:
Duck Stew with Turnips & Apples
Bavarian-Style stew
Fennel Bacon Pizza
Sausage Fennel Bread Pudding
Cannelini Beans with Fennel and Bacon
Crock Pot Chicken and Eggs
Apple Cider Chicken Stew
Cock-A-Leekie Pie

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Cheat" turducken

A couple of years ago, I made a Turducken. No no no, you don't understand... I MADE it... 3 stuffings from scratch, 3 birds, deboned... it was a feat that took 3 days and cost a bunch of money. It was worth it... I fed a good lot of friends, and felt like I climbed a culinary mountain. I am asked if I will ever do it again. I might, but not for years.

A little while after the epic Turducken, Feast, a local food magazine here in St. Louis, posted local chef Cassie Vire's version of a Turducken. Much simpler than an actual Turducken, she used the turkey breast, duck breast and some chicken sausage and made a roulade. Ummm... brilliant. It's been in the back of my mind since I saw it, so when I had the opportunity to cook Thanksgiving for my friends this year, I knew this "Cheat" would be the main course.

I hesitate to post Thanksgiving so soon after Thanksgiving... you are all done with that, right? But this was so yummy and relatively easy to make, I wouldn't hesitate to make it for dinner parties all fall and winter long! It's not as heavy as a traditional Turducken, in that it uses the leaner meats and no stuffing. Plus, it's so fun, and neat to see come together. It'll impress your guests, for sure.

I adjusted the recipe and steps a bit, as reflected below. Not much, though. I had trouble with my turkey breast. I unwrapped it and it was bundled in a net. I think it was meant to be cooked in that net. When I took the net off I found that the meat was in several mangled pieces... not ideal for rolling. In Cassie's recipe, you roll the duck and chicken up in the turkey breast, then wrap it all in bacon. Since my turkey was useless for holding together, I put the mat of bacon down first, and used that to keep everything together. It didn't turn out as pretty or tight as hers, but still, neato! She also browned hers in a skillet first. I was not secure in the construction of mine, so I skipped this step, figuring the less I moved it, the better. It cooked fine this way... maybe not as crunchy as hers.

Cassie Vire's Cheat Turducken

1 boneless, skinless turkey breast, brined, patted dry
2 boneless, skinless wild duck breasts, soaked in milk overnight, patted dry
2 Tbsp ground sage
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 chicken-apple sausages
12-16 slices bacon
butcher's twine

Preheat oven to 325°F. Place turkey breast on a large cutting board and cover with a large piece of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, gently pound the turkey to an even ¼-inch thickness. Do the same with the duck breasts.

Lay out the bacon on a sheet of plastic wrap or foil, slightly overlapping, so that you have "mat" of bacon as wide as the flattened breasts. Place the flattened turkey breast on top of the bacon, centered. Place the flattened duck breasts on top of the turkey, and the chicken sausages on top of the duck. Carefully, using the plastic wrap or foil and the bacon, roll everything up into a roulade. Once rolled, carefully tie up with Butchers twine to secure.

Bake on a roasting rack in a casserole dish or roasting pan for about 90 minutes, until the internal temp reaches 165º when tested with a meat thermometer. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Related posts from the Archives and Elsewhere:

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Ham and Sage Butter (also served this at Friendsgiving)
Parsnip Gratin (and this!)
Listen to Stewed STL's interview with Cassie Vires
Food Blog Mafia's Christmas
Skank Ham featuring Jive Turkey (and another)

Monday, November 21, 2011

osso buco dinner party!

My good buddy Kelly got a new stove. To celebrate and christen the new appliance, she had some friends over for a dinner party. I love going over to Kelly's to help cook fun stuff (see: Paella, pretzels, pork buns, for example). We chose Osso Buco for this party.

Kelly did most of the research and shopping... mostly I just came over and chopped a bunch of stuff up. So why am I posting about it? Because I was able to get Mario Batali to help!! Okay, I asked him for tips on twitter and he answered... which, honestly, he does for hundreds of lucky tweeters a day. But still... when Mario Batali.... one of my favorite famous chefs ever... @'d me on twitter?! What a thrill!!

The funny part of this story is that, when you look up Mario's recipe for Osso Buco, both online and in his cookbook, it calls for cooking it in the oven... against his own advice? What gives, Batali?! We couldn't ignore his twitter advice, so we went with the stove top method.

I brought my wind-up Mario toy to "help" in the kitchen. He was a flipping inspiration:

  • Osso Buco with Gremolata
  • -1/2 cup flour
  • - 4 pieces veal shank with bone
  • - salt & pepper
  • - 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • - 3 tablespoons butter
  • - 1 onion, chopped
  • - 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • - 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • - 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • - 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • - 1 cup dry white wine
  • - 2 chicken stock
  • - 16 oz bottle of good tomato sauce


  • - Zest of 1 lemon, plus some of the juice
  • - Zest of 1 orange, plus some of the juice
  • - 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • - handful of Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • - salt & pepper

Season flour with salt and pepper. Dredge the veal shanks in the mixture and shake off excess. Heat oil and butter in a dutch oven. Brown the veal shanks on all sides, being careful to keep the marrow in the bones. Remove and set aside.

Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and parsley to the pan and cook until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to high, add the wine, scraping the bottom to deglaze. Return the shanks to the pan, add the stock and tomato sauce. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender, basting a few times during cooking. Remove the lid and simmer for 10 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.

For gremolata, combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Spoon over Osso Buco to serve. Serve with Polenta, made creamy with heavy cream and shredded romano or parmesan cheese.

This was both Kelly and my first time cooking Osso Buco. It's a classic dish... which always makes me nervous. But it was so simple to make! It allowed us plenty of time to enjoy our awesome friends. It turned out to be quite a party.... laughing 'til we cried, too much delicious wine (thanks, Kyle!!), good conversation, and of course, good, soul-satisfying food.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

autumn superfoods curried quinoa

I've gained some weight lately. It wouldn't bother me, but it seems a beer belly drains a lot of of my energy. So, I'm back on the workout wagon. I don't do dieting (don't deny me the delicious foods I want, dagnabbit!), but I have been keeping an eye on portion size, and how nutritious my meals are. Since my main goal is to have more energy, I am always on the lookout for "Super Foods" (dooo dooo do dooooo *triumphant trumpet*).

Super Foods are those with lots of good stuff packed into them... vitamins, nutrients, fiber and junk. Greens, whole grains, beans, orange stuff, salmon, nuts (giggle), blueberries, garlic (yay!).... the lists around the Internet vary, but you can get a good idea. I went and got a bunch of these super foods, ones appropriate to the season... kale, butternut squash, chick peas, quinoa... and put 'em all together in one giant batch of food so that I can eat for lunches for the rest of the week.

Since I was making so much, it had to be good, and something I wouldn't get sick of eating for a few days. I've been craving Indian food big time since the weather has started getting colder, so I used curry powder to give this dish lots of comforting, bold flavor.

Seriously, this recipe is tasty and filling, but makes ALOT. It's easy to cut in half, though.

Autumn Superfoods Curried Quinoa

-2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cut into 1-inch cubes
-2 15 oz. cans chick peas, rinsed & drained
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-3 shallots, chopped fine
-3 Tablespoon spicy curry powder, divided
-2 teaspoons cumin
-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1/2 teaspoon coriander
-2 Tablespoons olive oil
-salt & pepper
-2 bunches kale, washed and chopped
-3 or 4 cups chicken stock
-2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed
-1/2 cup raw pepitas, toasted (plus more for garnish)
-shredded carrot for serving
-Greek yogurt for serving

Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a large glass casserole dish, toss the squash, chick peas, garlic and shallot with 2 tablespoons of the curry powder, the rest of the spices, salt & pepper and the olive oil. Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring twice during roasting.

Meanwhile, cook the kale in the chicken stock with a bit of salt for flavor. Bring kale and stock to a simmer, stirring and pushing down the kale so that it wilts evenly. Once it has all wilted, let it cook for about 10 minutes at a simmer. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Cook the quinoa according to directions of the package, using the kale cooking liquid and added water, with 1 Tablespoon of curry powder.

Once everything is cooked, fold it all together, including the pepitas, in a big bowl or pot until well combined. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and some shredded carrots.

Super food posts from the archives!
Sesame Chickpea Tofu Stirfry
Curried Chickpea Salad
Sesame Edamame Salad
Cashew Curry
Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Beans
Miso Salmon with Daikon Slaw
Salad with Salmon and Potatoes
Radish Garbanzo Salad
Edamame Burgers with Wasabi Slaw
Salmon with Cilantro Gremolata

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

apple cider chicken stew

I think it might finally be upon us. After a mild fall, the leaves are almost all changed now, and the air is getting colder. Time for roasting chickens and drinking cider and making soups and stews. This is a combo of all 3 of those things! I roasted a chicken over the weekend, and made some stock from it's bones. I also had some apple cider in the fridge that needed to be used. Chicken, chicken stock, cider. Sounds like a soup or stew to me. I went with stew... it's heartier and feels more like a meal to me. This was a tasty way to warm up and settle into November.

Apple Cider Chicken Stew

-4 strips bacon
-1 large yellow onion, chopped
-8 small carrots, chopped (about 2 cups)
-4 stalks celery, chopped (leaves finely minced)
-3 cloves garlic, grated
-1 thumb-sized piece ginger, grated
-3 Yukon Gold postatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-ish pieces
-2 red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-ish pieces
-1/2 teaspoon white pepper
-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/2 teaspoon coriander
-dash of fresh-grated nutmeg
-2 cups apple cider
-about 6 cups chicken stock
-2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
-1 Tablespoon Butter
-2 Tablespoons flour
-1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
-juice from 1 lemon
-toasted walnuts for garnish

In a dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside on paper towels. Cook the onions in the bacon grease until soft and the edges start to caramelize. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, ginger and spices. Cook until the vegetables just start to soften.

Add the potatoes and season with a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the potatoes start to soften and everything starts to brown. Add the apple cider, stirring, making sure to scrape the browned goodness from the bottom of the pan. Cook at a simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, turn heat down to a simmer, add the chicken, and simmer for at least 45 minutes, until potatoes are soft and the flavor is rich. Add salt to taste.

Make a roux in a separate pan by cooking the flour and butter together, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn, until it is a nice light brown color. Add to stew and stir until well-combined. Bring to a boil for a minute, then simmer for another 5 or so until the stew is thickened.

Turn off heat and add parsley and lemon juice just before serving. Garnish with crumbled bacon and toasted walnuts.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

st. paul sandwiches

I follow up a post about how to take better food photos with... this weird blob? Yup. I gotta keep you on your toes, readers... this joint is a roller coaster! So what's the weird blob pictured above? It's my attempt at a homemade St. Paul Sandwich. For those of you not from St. Louis, let me explain. A St. Paul sandwich is an egg foo young patty, but instead of putting mysterious brown gravy on it, you put it on some wonder bread with mayo, tomatoes and pickles.

While the exact origins of The St. Paul sandwich are sketchy, it is definitely a St. Louis, MO thing. Should we be proud of this? Eh. We'll take the blame. Add it to the list of other questionable foods we are known for: provel "cheese", toasted ravioli, pork steaks with Maull's (the inventor is from my Hometown!), gooey butter cake. I say "questionable," but all these items have a special place in the hearts of all STL natives, including me. Be a cynic if you want, but this kind of food culture is great for a city! It unites people and gives them something uniquely their own.

In college, I worked a couple summers at a Chinese buffet/take out place. I got the job because I would walk to this place at least once a week for my pork fried rice and crab rangoon... I was a regular. Working there opened my eyes to the realities of Asian cuisine... namely the fact that American Chinese take out has very little to do with authentic Chinese food. In fact the people I worked for were Vietnamese, and they ate completely different food from what they cooked for the business. They ate MUCH better food. I loved it!

The St. Paul Sandwich? Not authentic Asian cuisine. I was never a fan... mainly because of the mayo and because, well, it's just such a monstrosity. A grossly overcooked omelet, soggy white bread, sad tomatoes and lettuce. I actually remember a lot of people ordering their St. Pauls with Egg Foo Young gravy ON THEM. Too bad that was before This is Why You're Fat existed.

So when my friend tweeted that he had his first St. Paul sandwich, and loved it, and was encouraging others to try it, I proposed that I make them all home made ones. I feel better about my friends at least eating something home made, even if it is the mutant St. Paul.

It's been years since I've seen one made, but I remembered it being pretty simple... scrambled egg, meat, beansprouts and onions all go together in a hot wok with oil and are fried until they are brown discs which can either be smothered in gravy or put on bread (or both, apparently). When I did some recipe research, I basically came across the same description. It really is that simple! Too simple to even write a recipe for.

Here's how you make a St. Paul Sandwich:

-Thinly slice raw chicken breast or pork. marinate it briefly in soy sauce, rice vinegar and sriracha while you prep other components.

-Cook your meat of choice and set it aside.

-In same pan quickly stir-fry garlic, chopped onions, shredded carrots with some soy sauce and oil. Add lots of bean sprouts and cook until everything is just soft. Set aside.

-Scramble some eggs... figure a bit less than 2 per sandwich.

-Fill a ladle halfway up with meat and vegetables, then fill the rest with scrambled egg.

-Ladle into a hot skillet and let fry until browned, then flip and cook the other side. I used a small skillet so it made a nice 5-inch circle. If you don't have one you will have to use your spatula to keep the egg patty nice and compact.

-Put cooked patty on white bread and top with tomato slices, pickles, mayo and lettuce.

Friday, October 28, 2011

food photography class

A Couple of weekends ago my good friends Kelly and Woody (damnit, Corey... people call him Corey now...) taught a Food Photography class at Kitchen Conservatory. Photos are super important in food blogging, and you can never have too much knowledge, so I thought this was a great idea! I was surprised that only 3 of us who took the class were bloggers! The rest of the pupils just loved food and photos. In any case, I sure love to be surrounded by people just as nerdy as me when it comes to these two subjects.

It was an informative, fun, and tasty class. I'll try to spread the learning with this post... but hopefully they will do this class again, and you will go, because there was so much good info. I don't think I can do it justice with a blog post and a sketchy memory. My friend and fellow food blogger Stacey was also at the class. See her recap here.

The first dish we made and photographed was a winter panzanella. See Kelly's recipe here, and Stacey's take on it here. We took it outside for this one. Natural light is really the best for food photography, which is why my summer photos are always better than my winter ones. But you do have to be aware of some factors... too bright of sun can cast harsh shadows and/or make the photo too bright, so an overcast day is ideal. If it is too bright out, take it to a slightly shaded area, or use a white board or something reflective to bounce light to help balance the shadows out.

Some basic food photography tips:

• Shoot in Aperture Priority setting (usually indicated by an "A" on your little settings dial.) The camera will tell you what the ideal aperture is for the light you have, and the shutter speed will adjust accordingly.

• Whenever possible, use a tripod. This will allow you to use a slower shutter speed, so you get sharper images without any blur from your shaky hands.

• A light box is simple to assemble, and can make a huge difference in your photos. All you need is a box (or some white foam core), tracing paper, tape and white poster board. This tutorial is similar to the set-up Corey had in class.

The next recipe was a sangria. Yay, booze! We learned the key to photographing transparent containers is to have the light source BEHIND what you are photographing. This helps avoid reflections and gives you a good view of what is in the container.

Lighting was one of the main subjects of the class, because it is KEY no pun intended originally, but now that I'm reading it again... Ha! pun!) when it comes to photography. Some lighting tips:

• If you are in a room with two different kinds of lights (i.e. a florescent overhead and a yellow bulb lamp), turn one of the lights off. Having more than 1 kind of light will confuse your camera's white balance reading and you will end up with blueish or yellowish photos.

• Softer light is usually better. Use tracing paper between your light source and your subject as a cheap and easy way to soften light.

• A simple white board or a pan covered in foil make good reflectors. Place one opposite of your light source, with your subject in between, to bounce light. This will help fill in shadows and get the whole subject more evenly lit.

Next up was soup. Soup is one of the hardest things to photograph... it's just hard to make it look "pretty." In this case, Kelly picked a pretty soup... curried pumpkin. The garnishes of caramelized onions, red chile flakes and cilantro helped make the dish even prettier. This was the one dish that I photographed using the homemade light box.

As you can see, playing with the direction of the lighting source can make a pretty big difference. Corey had a basic utility light that could be moved around the light box to create different looks. I like both of these photos a lot, and they look very different!

And, dessert. Bittersweet chocolate tart with a pretzel crust!! OMG, so good. You must make this. See Kelly's recipe here. We did some more playing around with light angle and camera angle for this course. I loved the look of the scratched up cookie sheet!

Like I said, informative, fun and yummy. Thanks Kelly and Corey! I feel like a better blogger already, and I know my photos will continue to improve using the knowledge I gained from the class. What are your favorite food photo tips? What are your favorite food blogs with great photos?

Related Posts:

A farewell to my trusty old camera
Corey Woodruff shoots the Mafia (from Corey's blog)
Smitten for Salume Beddu (Food Blog Mafia post)
Where the cookies roam (Food Blog Mafia post)
Bloody Mary Panzenella
Curried Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup
Pumpkin Creme Soup (Every Little Thing Blog post)