Tuesday, December 02, 2014

roasting, toasting & ranting with Ruhlman

When I went to find the link to my post about the first time I met Micheal Ruhlman, I was amazed to find the entry was 7 years old. So much can change in 7 years...2007 feels like ancient history... I was just starting to connect with other food-obsessed people in the area. The St. Louis Food scene was on the edge of becoming the force it is today.

BFFs (Photo credit: Sauce Magazine)

This most recent evening's dinner was to promote Ruhlman's lates cookbook, How to Roast. I was there for Egg, a book I can't believe I only just got, considering it's the year of the Egg here on Iron Stef.

I am glad I waited because I now have a signed copy! And wonderful memories of dining with and talking to Micheal Ruhlman. How many people can say they've had dinner (and drinks... too many drinks) with one of their favorite authors? I was on food nerd cloud nine for days (BTW, you can still have a wicked hangover when you're on Cloud 9).

did I mention the drinking?

The dinner, sponsored by Sauce Magazine, was planned and prepared by Chef Rex Hale at The Restaurant at The Cheshire and his team. The menu based on recipes and teqniques from How To Roast... roasted seafood, brussels sprouts, root vegetables, beef... even dessert was roasted - roasted pineapple. It was an abundant and wonderful meal, with wine pairings to boot.
All the glasses and all the flatware. Serious.

Roasted cod with root vegetables.
Roasted Brussel sprouts with pork belly.
Roasted strip loin with potatoes.

Before each course, the Chef would tell us about the dishes and wines, and Ruhlman would stand up and preach the importance cooking and of real food. The man is passionate, you guys. He is keyed up about food, and insistent that people learn more about it and, most importantly, cook at home, from scratch (queue "Turn Down For What?"). This night was not ALL about gluttony, I swear.

Marketing has taught us that cooking is hard and inconvenient, and that artificial foods are healthier for us... these beliefs are simply not true! Wholesome meals can be cooked very quickly and with minimum ingredients, if you just plan a bit and learn some basic techniques. To quote Ruhlman:"Before you start to cook in the kitchen, think!" Cooking is not hard and not scary if you just go at it with some common sense and practice. As far as the "health" foods in boxes on the grocery store shelf with their promise of Low-Fat," they are not good for us, and often contain more sugar and more chemicals to make up for the flavor lost when fat is absent. Again Ruhlman provides a battle-cry: "Fat is not bad. Stupid is bad." (That one got some cheers from me and my fellow diners.)

So here I am, spreading the gospel of good cooking and good sense. The gospel of Ruhlman. I'd suggest he start a religion, but that would limit the audience... everyone needs to hear these messages. Food should be simple and nourishing, case in point, the following 2 "recipes" I made in one day from both Egg and How To Roast:

In the introduction to Egg, Ruhlman talks about how Alton Brown told him "Yeah, I've always like to say that the egg is the Rosetta stone of the kitchen." Ruhlman elaborates on this spot-on metaphor: 
"Like the Rosetta stone, the egg, far more ancient, unlocks the secret language of the kitchen. Learn the language of the egg–understand completely this amazing and beautiful oblong orb–and you can enter new realms of cooking, rocketing you to stellar heights of culinary achievement.
The greatest of all our foods, the egg combines beauty, elegance, and simplicity, a miracle of natural design and, as food, bounty. Containing all of the nutrients required to create life, eggs give our bodies a powerful combination of proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, antioxidents, minerals, and vitamins, a package unmatched by any other single food."

One of the recipes in the book is for warm, hard-cooked, creamy-yolk eggs to be served with ham and cheese and bread. 2 eggs, simply and quickly cooked in water in the shells, with some bites of cheese and bread make a satisfying and enjoyable breakfast or lunch that is nourishing and requires minimal effort. Anyone can do this. It was lunchtime when I was reading through the book, and decided to make this for my lunch... 10 minutes later I had lunch and only one pot to (barely) wash. 

For dinner that same day I made roasted cauliflower from How to Roast. Also a low-effort, high-result, simple and healthful dinner. Both books (as with all of Ruhlman's cookbooks) are great for giving you the basic knowledge and skills to help you feel increasingly comfortable in the kitchen. Good for both beginners and people who already love to cook.

-Get in the Kitchen and cook... but think first. It's that simple.
-Eat REAL FOOD. Everything in moderation (except, apparently, alcohol when you're drinking with chefs, authors and magazine editors)
-Be passionate about life.
-Go to author dinners, even if you can't find friends to go with or if it's a bit over your normal dinner budget. It will likely be worth it. 

Similar posts from the archives:
An Evening with Trevor Corson
Meeting Gale Gand
Learning from Rick Bayless

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