opinion

Potato Soup With Smoked Pork Shanks, Fried Shallots And BBQ’d Corn

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Am  I the only one who wishes dishes like this would widely be available in restaurants??
I am getting so very tired of seeing the same, mostly mediocre food on most restaurant menus. Of course there are a few exceptions, but these are mostly very high-end and not within reach of most of us on a regular basis. Then there are the ethnic restaurants, but most of them serve the same, “Westernized or Americanized fare. Same steaks, same salads, same sandwiches, same pasta dishes, same stews, etc, etc, etc.
I long for “the good old times” of food service, when restaurants had personality and the menu was a mirror of the chef’s ideas, passion, culinary abilities and standards, as well as the seasons and regions offerings and the owners personal and professional pride.
Going to a new restaurant used to be about discovering new dishes, new ingredients, new pairings, new preparations, new presentations. Most of all, it was about food – how it looked, smelled, tasted. People used to eat not one monster-sized dish, but a menu consisting of dishes of different textures, colors, fragrance, taste and presentation, harmoniously presented in logical order and appreciated for the effort that went into it to be as perfect a meal as possible. Most of all, one was able to identify the food that was presented, by its looks, aroma and taste. Customers appreciated any food that was prepared to a high standard, no matter how expensive and rare or how simple and ordinary the raw ingredients were. What counted was the mastery with which raw ingredients were transformed into food that could be enjoyed for its own sake.
My point, you ask?
A few days ago I was invited to one of the most famous, most expensive, most “in” restaurants in Miami, situated in one of the very  fancy and famous hotels down by the beach.
The surroundings were breathtakingly beautiful, the service excellent, the menu sounded exciting and alluring.
There were eight of us, mostly hospitality professionals and the host of our party who has traveled the world and is a food-fanatic. We ordered twelve appetizers,three different soups, twelve main courses, a variety of desserts and cheeses, all to be tasted and shared between us. Most folks had wine, a couple had beers and I had water. We had apéritif’s (OJ for me) and coffee.
The bill was $2330.00, plus tip.
While this seems reasonable for the location, the amount of food and the good wine, the quality of the food would have warranted a total bill of maybe $800.00 😦
While some of the dishes were complete misses, most of what we ate was decent and some of it was actually good, NONE of it was very good, let alone outstanding. Halfway through the meal we started talking longingly about really good food  we had in other restaurants, cities and countries (none of it in Miami).
I have read numerous reviews about this place, some good, some bad, some so so. But my own experience at this place has once more convinced me that the main reason we have so many mediocre restaurants around here is because most of the clientele at such “modern, popular dining establishments” are not handicapped by good taste, experience or common sense but rather solely interested to see and to be seen by like-minded folks for which the quality of the food is secondary. Therefore so many “Chefs” who are less than qualified to be at the helm of a great restaurant are heading a bunch of restaurants who exist only because of huge sums of money spend on PR instead of being spend on talent in the service and the kitchen.
Well folks, I had to vent a bit here……….
So, back down to earth and to the dish at hand, which I and most of my fellow diners in our group would have gladly exchanged for the offerings we received at said restaurant 🙂
And there you have it.
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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P.S.
Please note that I am aware that there are many excellent restaurants to be found in this country (very few in Miami)
However, it usually takes a good amount of luck, insider knowledge and/or money to find and enjoy them.
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Potato Soup With Smoked Pork Shanks, Fried Shallots And BBQ'd Corn

Potato Soup With Smoked Pork Shanks, Fried Shallots And BBQ’d Corn

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Potato Soup With Smoked Pork Shanks, Fried Shallots And BBQ'd Corn

Potato Soup With Smoked Pork Shanks, Fried Shallots And BBQ’d Corn

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Potato Soup With Smoked Pork Shanks, Fried Shallots And BBQ'd Corn

Potato Soup With Smoked Pork Shanks, Fried Shallots And BBQ’d Corn

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Preparation :
To read instructions, hover over pictures
To enlarge pictures and read instructions, click on pictures
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Pasta With Sun-dried Tomato/Cashew-Pesto And Ricotta

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Question : Who love’s a bright-green, traditional, heavenly aromatic basil pesto?
Answer :    Just about everybody does, that’s who. (Including myself)
However, for my very own personal taste, I prefer to pair traditional pesto with light and airy gnocchi, while I love to marry a rustic pasta like penne rigate, rigatoni, farfalle or bucatini with a more complex pesto such as this Sun-dried Tomato/Cashew-Pesto.
I hope that the Italian purist’s out there will forgive me and maybe even agree with my opinion that a non-traditional pesto such as this Sun-dried Tomato/Cashew-Pesto can elevate a simple pasta to even greater culinary bliss than a one-note basil/pine pesto nut will ever be able to do. In my humble opinion, anyway……. 🙂

Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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Click here for more Pasta  on  ChefsOpinion
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Click here for more Pesto on  ChefsOpinion
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Pasta With Sundried Tomato/Cashew Pesto And Ricotta

Pasta With Sun-dried Tomato/Cashew Pesto And Ricotta

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Pasta With Sundried Tomato/Cashew Pesto And Ricotta

Pasta With Sun-dried Tomato/Cashew Pesto And Ricotta

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Pasta With Sundried Tomato/Cashew Pesto And Ricotta

Pasta With Sun-dried Tomato/Cashew Pesto And Ricotta

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Preparation :
To read instructions, hover over pictures
To enlarge pictures and read instructions, click on pictures
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Lamb Stew “Wiedenfelsen”

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Image - Property of Panoramio

Image: Property of Panoramio

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Click here for a short Video of Hotel Wiedenfelsen
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It  seems about time that I dedicate a dish and name it for the place which started it all for me, the wonderful, elegant and classy “Hotel Wiedenfelsen” in the  Black Forrest  in  Germany.
Before and during the time I was lucky to be am apprentice in this gem of a hotel, the tourist industry in Germany was dominated by hotels like this.
Medium in size, family-owned hotels and restaurants which were the pride of families which, in many cases, had operated these hotels and restaurants for generations. Sadly, because of changing demands, the industry took a sharp turn during the 70’s and many of these wonderful places became obsolete in a fast changing landscape of mostly chain-operated hotels. Only the strongest and the luckiest survived, while the rest gave way to cookie-cutter operations without charm and soul, or they just ceased to exist (including Hotel Wiedenfelsen). It has since seen various attempts to re-invent itself under different ownership, but has never managed to come even near it’s former glory).
Things were of course very different during the hotels heydays, the time during which I had the fortune to be accepted for a three-year apprenticeship under the tight and competent leadership of the Executive Chef (and son in law of the then-owners) Karl Mueller. Karl was a generous and warm person, taking care of us apprentices as if we were family. He was also extremely professional, strict and a severe applier of high culinary standards.
Although ours was a relatively small hotel (about 70 rooms, two restaurants and one banquet space), the standards with which our hotel operated were very high and impeccable indeed.
It was mostly because of these high standards of the whole family who owned and operated “Hotel Wiedenfelsen” that I have become the person I am and the chef I was for nearly five decades. Admittedly, it took an iron hand,  a (seemingly at the time) short leash and not a few “fresh ones” to shape me (and a bunch of other apprentices) into the professional I became, but, looking back today, I am grateful to the Mehr family and the Mueller family to have never given up on me and guided me into the right professional and personal direction.
All of this (and more) went through my head yesterday while I was cooking this dish which was the first lamb dish Chef Mueller taught me so many years ago………..
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Thanks Karl, Uschi, Herr und Frau Mehr. God Bless ! 🙂
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Lamb Stew

Lamb Stew “Wiedenfelsen”

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Lamb Stew

Lamb Stew “Wiedenfelsen”

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Preparation :
To read instructions, hover over pictures
To enlarge pictures and read instructions, click on pictures
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Tortilla Española (Tortilla De Patatas) (Spanish Omelette)

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While a Spanish tortilla is steeped in tradition and has it’s long-standing recipes (usually just thinly sliced potatoes and eggs,) I like to make my own, more elaborate versions by adding “stuff”, such as ham, bacon, vegetables, mushrooms, shrimp, or any other ingredient I find suitable to a dish I love but would find boring after a while had it only the two original ingredients. I justify calling these versions “Tortilla Española” because of the fact that while I was traveling in Spain, I encountered many such versions with different ingredients, all the same called “Tortilla Española”. As for browning the potatoes in the version containing diced potatoes instead of thinly sliced potatoes, this just seems to result in a different texture (better, in my opinion) than if using potatoes without a crispy crust.
I hope the Tortilla Española Purist’s out there will forgive me and everybody else will experiment until they find their own favorite version of this great dish 🙂
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Bon Appetit !   Life is Good !
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Tortilla Española (Tortilla De Patatas) (Spanish Omelette)

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Tortilla Española  (Tortilla De Patatas)  (Spanish Omelette)

Tortilla Espagnola

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Tortilla Espagnola

Tortilla Espagnola

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Preparation :
To read instructions, hover over pictures
To enlarge pictures and read instructions, click on pictures
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Mondongo

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Even  if you never had mondongo (tripes, kutteln) before, this variation should help you overcome your resentment easily because it is eye-appealing, tastes mild and best of all, it smells great, which you can’t say of some recipes utilizing tripe. The secret here is to blanch the tripe 3 times in salted, vinegared water, so that the typical smell of tripe has disappeared and you have an odorless piece of offal which should please you with its great taste and unique texture 🙂
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Bon Appetit !   Life is Good !
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Link to more Mondongo Recipes
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All about Tripe
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Mondongo

Mondongo

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Mondongo

Mondongo

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Preparation :
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EASY DOES IT # 22 – Quiche Lorraine

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This  dish will make you the hero at the next pot luck party, office party or any other gathering where the usual (tired) contribution is chicken salad, spinach dip or potato salad (nothing wrong with those – but………..)
A properly prepared Quiche is elegant, beautiful and delicious, done with a minimum of effort, cooking skills, time and $.
It will be a guaranteed success for any occasion, because it’s easy to make, has no boundaries for your creativity and can be served cold (room temperature), warm or hot. So at a fancy or basic cocktail party, in the office, at the beach or when you bring a snack to my house – go ahead, make my day 🙂
As for creativity, step up a basic Quiche lorraine (bacon, Swiss cheese and onions) by adding / replacing the standard ingredients with the following goodies:
Roasted, small diced vegetables or potatoes, seafood (no cheese in this one please), pickled onions and feta cheese, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed ham, small diced corned beef, lots of  fresh herbs, etc, etc.
The constant in any Quiche should be a great pie crust and a mixture of 3/4 whisked whole eggs / 1/4 half & half, seasoned with salt, pepper and a small amount of nutmeg, everything else is up to your fancy and willingness to experiment 🙂
As for myself, I love a warm Quiche with lots of bacon, onions and cheese when sitting in front of the TV and watching a great movie, always pairing the Quiche with a salad of simple greens and usually washing it all  down with a torrent of iced peach tea.

Blind-bake the pie crust until golden.
Add dry ingredients, add egg mixture, bake until a toothpick inserted in the filling comes out clean. DONE !

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Bon Appetit !   Life is Good !
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Click here for more “Easy Does It”
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Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

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Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

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Preparation :
To read instructions, hover over pictures
To enlarge pictures and read instructions, click on pictures
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Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Sugar Peas

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Risotto  is such a delicious, easy preparation of rice that I am amazed it does not show up more frequently in homes and restaurants. Maybe because it has a stigma of being difficult to prepare and labor intensive, which is far from being the truth. While it does take time to prep and simmer for ca 25 minutes while stirring constantly, it might be called tedious but hardly  labor intensive. It also has the advantage of being the perfect dish for a dinner party if done by the “restaurant method” – cooking the risotto about 2/3’s and then cooling off, later finishing the cooking process for just a few more minutes right before service time. (That’s how you get your risotto served on time in restaurants, otherwise too much time would pass from the time you order to the time you get served). Just remember to have the texture of your risotto slightly more liquid when you remove it from the stove top then you actually prefer the risotto when eating it, since the rice will continue to cook and absorb liquid between the time you stop cooking and the time you’ll have your first spoonful.
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Bon Appetit !   Life is Good !
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Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Peas

Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Peas

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Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Peas

Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Peas

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Bella say's :  Let's dig in...

Bella say’s : Let’s dig in…

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Preparation :
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season cod with kosher salt and white pepper, steam covered very slowly in butter and white wine, when cooked about halfway, set aside on a warm plate  to slowly cook through

season cod with kosher salt and white pepper, steam covered very slowly in butter and white wine, when cooked about halfway, set aside on a warm plate to slowly cook through

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simmer cleaned red beets in salted water until cooked, reserve cooking liquid,peel and dice beets

simmer cleaned red beets in salted water until cooked, reserve cooking liquid,peel and dice beets

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return beet stock to a simmer, season with garlic paste and cayenne pepper

set diced beets aside, return beet stock to a simmer, season with garlic paste and cayenne pepper

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saute onions and garlic paste in butter

saute onions and garlic paste in butter

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add arborio rice and saute another minute

add arborio rice and saute another minute

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add beet stock to the rice, enough to just cover, stir constantly, keep adding beet stock as it is being absorbed by the rice, constantly stirring

add beet stock to the rice, enough to just cover, stir constantly, keep adding beet stock as it is being absorbed by the rice, constantly stirring

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almost........

almost……..

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when rice is almost al dente, add the diced beets and heavy cream, simmer until rice is al dente

when rice is almost al dente, add the diced beets and heavy cream, simmer while stirring  until rice is al dente

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add blanched green peas to the poaching liquid of the fish, let heat through for another minute

add blanched green peas to the poaching liquid of the fish, cover again, let heat through for another minute

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add parmigiano-reggiano, check / adjust seasoning

add parmigiano-reggiano to the risotto, check / adjust seasoning

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plate risotto

plate risotto

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top risotto with steamed cod

top risotto with steamed cod

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top cod with green peas

top cod with green peas

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Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Peas

Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Peas

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Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Peas

Steamed Cod Filet With Red Beet Risotto And Peas

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Chicken Liver Congee

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Usually,  I have  congee  for breakfast, but today I just wanted a big bowl of this culinary marvel for lunch.
It is one of the most satisfying dishes out there, as long as it is properly seasoned and has the ingredients you long for at the moment. As far as congee goes – anything goes 🙂
Even the texture has no right or wrong. As long as you like it – that’s the right texture. I like mine fairly thick, tasty, spicy and with lot’s of  “stuff” in it. I happened to have fresh chicken livers today, but you can use any protein you like, shrimps, scallops, chicken or whatever is handy. Maybe just vegetables? With egg or without? Many condiments or none?

Today I cooked my rice in a rich chicken stock, flavored with lots of grated ginger, garlic paste, kosher salt and ground chili pepper and a splash of fermented bean sauce. Once the porridge had the desired texture, I added medium-fried chicken livers,  Chinese black mushrooms,  cooked ham, corn, black beans, sesame oil, finely sliced chilies and scallions.

Bon Appetit !   Life is Good !


Click here for more  Congee  recipes


Chicken Liver Congee

Chicken Liver Congee

Chicken Liver Congee

Chicken Liver Congee


Preparation:

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season with granulated garlic, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, five spice powder, add cornstarch, mix well

season with granulated garlic, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, five spice powder, add cornstarch, mix well

fry in peanut oil until medium, remove to absorbent paper

fry livers in peanut oil until medium, remove to absorbent paper

almost :-) ......

almost  ………

to porridge add livers, beans, corn, mushroom, chilies, scallions and sesame seed oil, check/adjust seasoning

to the porridge add livers, beans, corn, mushroom, chilies, scallions and sesame seed oil, check/adjust seasoning

Chicken Liver Congee

Chicken Liver Congee

Chicken Liver Congee

Chicken Liver Congee

Chicken Liver Congee

Chicken Liver Congee


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Chili Beef, Pennoni Lisci & Peppers

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Great  lunch today with a minimum of time and work. I used whole chili‘s because I find the taste better and more intense than chili flakes. Saute them until they change color and have infused the oil with their pungent heat. Remove the chili’s at this point or leave them in the dish for presentation ( I also like to chew on them a bit)

Bon Appetit !   Life is Good !
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Chili Beef, Pennoni Lisci & Peppers

Chili Beef, Pennoni Lisci & Peppers

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