The Cake Boss Cooks!

Here’s what I learned about Buddy Valastro aka the Cake Boss and star of TLC’s Cake Boss and Kitchen Boss, after meeting him and watching him cook a fantastic meal for the five grand winners of the KitchenAid Make the Cut Sweepstakes by hhgregg at the Senior PGA several summers ago in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The first is that he’s warm and witty, the second he can whip up a multi-course dinner in an amazing short period of time, and the third is he doesn’t measure.

Chopping up a big pile of pancetta (a type of Italian bacon and no, we didn’t learn how much), he adds it to a big pot (“I like to cook family style”) along with finely chopped shallots and minced garlic.

“If you don’t have shallots, you can use onions,” he says. “It ain’t gonna kill you.”

Next come the tomatoes that the Valastros can each fall – some hundred bushels and a large pile of basil – an ingredient he describes as the most important.

“When you cut it,” he says. “It releases all the flavors.”

And next – well, let’s just say it was lucky there wasn’t a heart specialist in the group.

“You’re going to go crazy when you see how much salt I put in this,” he says, scooping up what looks like a huge handful of salt from a bowl and throwing it into his pasta sauce. “But believe me you need it.”

Watching Valastro, we all wonder how much salt he used.

“I don’t measure,” he says after someone asks. “I ain’t going to lie to you.”

Indeed, when Buddy cooks, several of his crew watch him, trying to estimate the amounts he uses to translate them into recipes for his food shows and cookbooks.

“Anytime I cook with tomatoes, I always put in a little sugar,” he says. “Maybe because I’m a baker, maybe because I’m a sweet guy.”

He also likes to keep a piece of bread nearby to dip in the sauce to taste for seasoning.

While he’s talking, he brings us up to speed on Cake Boss, the reality show based upon Carlo’s Bakery, his fourth generation bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. There are now more Carlo’s Bakery locations as well as Carlo’s Bake Shop Vending Machines including one in Las Vegas.

“It’s pretty wild,” he says. “I do a life sized Betty White cake.”

Next, he adds cream to the pasta sauce so the red turns pink.

“Sometimes I do what my dad used to do which is whip the cream before adding it,” says Valastro. “This is old school Italian.”

After throwing in a “smidge” more basil and telling us we can add as much cream as we want, we get to eat the sauce after he ladles it over bowtie shaped pasta.  Served with a round of polenta, a caprese salad – freshly made mozzarella layered with tomatoes and basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil, Buddy starts on the cannoli – rolled pastry shells stuffed with a thick rich cream made of ricotta cheese, cream, sugar and a touch of cinnamon oil.

“Don’t be cheap with the cannoli cream,” he says, using a pastry bag to extrude a large amount into the rolls. “The trick to making the rolls is lard. But it’s hard. You have to fry them and wind them around a stick. I did a demo of it once at DisneyWorld and I was like stressing. This is one of the recipes in my book that I say good luck. Better to buy some good shells somewhere.”

Buddy Valasco with big smile.

When Buddy finally is finished cooking a meal that seems like it should have taken days – the elapsed time is about an hour — he has produced a warm tomato basil soup, garlic cheese bread, veal picante, the pasta dish, the caprese salad, polenta as well as cannoli for dessert.

“I want to bring back a time,” he says in closing, “I want to let the basil talk, the garlic talk, I want to cook from the heart.  That’s what it’s all about.”

Caprese Salad

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cut 1/4″ slices across the equator
  • 1 pound best quality fresh mozzarella cheese, cut 1/4″ slices
  • Fresh whole leaves of basil, approximately 15-20 leaves of assorted sizes
  • Best quality flavorful extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Coarse salt
  • Coarse grindings black pepper

 On a serving platter, lay down the slices of tomato and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes until tomatoes exude some juices. Lay mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, season with sprinklings of salt and grindings of pepper.

Drizzle olive oil to taste over all. Oil will mingle with the tomato juices to create a flavorful sauce.

Scatter fresh basil leaves decoratively over all.

Pasta with Pink Sauce

  • ½ pound pancetta
  • 2 – 4 shallots
  • 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 to 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup or more fresh basil
  • ¼ to ½ cup grated Romano cheese
  • ½ to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt, pepper and sugar, to taste
  • 1 pound farfalle or bowtie pasta

Finely slice up the shallots and garlic. Cut the pancetta into chunks. Sauté the shallots over medium heat.

After a couple of minutes add in the garlic and the pancetta. Cook for a few minutes and then add tomatoes.

Add a dash of sugar, salt, pepper and bring it to a roaring boil for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

Next add the heavy cream. You can cook your pasta at any time but you only want to cook it al dente because it’ll continue to cook in the pan with the sauce.

Cook for another couple of minutes. Then drain the farfalle and dump it right into the pink sauce.

Cook it at high heat for another minute so that it absorbs the sauce. 

Finish with fresh basil and some grated Romano cheese.

Justin Chapple Interactive Cooking Demonstration at KitchenAide Sr. PGA

“I’ve always been a people person,” Justin Chapple tells me almost immediately after he calls for the scheduled interview.

Within minutes, I totally believe him. It’s like we’ve been best friends forever.

“I love to hear from people,” he says, adding that he almost always answers people who contact him via his many social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram. “I tell people if they pre-order my new book through my website, justinchapple.com, I’ll send them a note and an autographed bookplate. I spend most mornings writing notes.”

Yes, he does. Even though Chapple has the high prestige job of Culinary Director at Food & Wine magazine, was nominated for a James Beard Award for “Mad Genius,” the weekly morning show he hosts, does the magazine’s video series “Mad Genius Tips” and is the author of two cookbooks, Mad Genius Tips (Broadmoor House 2016) and the soon to be released Just Cook It! 145 Built-To-Be-Easy Recipes That Are Totally Delicious (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018; $30), he’s all about you.

“It means a lot to me to have people’s support,” says Chapple, who regularly appears on NBC’s “Today.” “And if they have a question about one of my recipes or cooking, I always try to answer it.”

He’s also all about recipes, cooking tips and making it simple. As part of his job as culinary director, he not only has developed and tested thousands of recipes but also converts esoteric recipes from famous chefs—the kind most of us would look at and shake our heads in despair—and makes them accessible for our own kitchens. Watch a few episodes from his “Mad Genius LIVE and “Mad Genius Tips” shows and you’re first thought is, I can use that followed by where does he get all those ideas.

“Sometimes they pop up in my head and I’ll say ‘omigoodness’,” says Chapple who really doesn’t sound like someone who trained at the prestigious French Culinary Institute. “Other times it’s what people ask of me—they want to know how to do something like peel a mango and I’m happy they asked and come up with ideas.”

Though his classical French cooking background is important, he says he learned much of his kitchen know-how from his grandmother.

“She had to make do with whatever she had and she always made the food taste wonderful,” he says.

Describing Just Cook It as low-concept, he says it’s about everyday simple easy recipes. For example, when you have a hankering for lasagna but there’s not enough time to pull it all together, he suggests Ravioli Lasagna with Arugula. It’s good, fast approximation for busy weeknights. Just buy some cheese ravioli, parboil it, drain, place in a casserole and then add fresh mozzarella. Open a jar of good marinara sauce, sauté it with ground beef or fresh veggies or just add it plain to the ravioli. There you have it.

Like gnocchi or other types of dumplings but don’t want to mess with rolling each one out and shaping them by hand?  Never fear, there’s a secret to that as well. Using a food processor, he mixes the ingredients for his Ricotta Gnudi (gnocchi are dumplings made with potatoes and gnudi are made with ricotta cheese), but the next step is much more unusual. Taking an ice cream scoop, he spoons small balls of the dough directly from the food processor and dumps them into hot water.

“Simmer them until they pillowy and just firm,” he says. “I then sauté them until they’re browned and coated with the butter mixture.”

He sprinkles the cook gnuda with pistachio-almond dukka, an Arabic dish (you often also see a bowl of it at Indian restaurants near where you pay your bill). It’s a mixture of spices, seeds and nuts including cumin, coriander, sesame and caraway seeds, pistachios and almonds and cayenne and black peppers.

Dukka is another example of the recipes in his new cookbook. There are a plethora of global offerings such as Thai Skillet Corn, Shumai Stew with Shiitake & Mustard Greens, Rice & Pork Congee with Chiles, Crispy Garlic & Ginger, several types of curry and Catalan-Style Mussels with Green Olives & Fried Almonds. In other words, you can create international meals effortlessly and without fuss.

As for the cooking demonstration at the KitchenAid Fairway Club during the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, Chapple says he’s very excited as he’s heard southwest Michigan is beautiful.

“I’m going to demonstrate a few different very simple and fun recipes including a golden tomato gazpacho,” he says.

Though his background in French cooking would seem to call for rich creams and butter, Chapple says he ‘d rather add flavors with such ingredients as good quality olive oil that creates a “silky taste.”

“Another one of the secrets I like to share is using smoked almonds,” he says. “They’re so delicious and so easy and they impart a lot of flavor.”

Chapple talks about his “secrets” and I ask, jokingly, how they can be secrets since he tells them to everyone.

“That’s the fun of secrets,” he says. “Telling them to people.”

Ifyougo:

What: Interactive Cooking Demonstration with Justin Chapple

When: Noon CST/ 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, May 26

Where: KitchenAid Fairway Club near the main entrance, Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor, Michigan

FYI: For more information about the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, or to buy tickets, visit pga.com/events/seniorpgachampionship/2018 or call 269-487-3200.

 

Follow Justin on Twitter and Instagram at: @justinchapple and Facebook at facebook.com/justin.a.chapple.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Chefs’ Demos at KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor

            Every two years I look forward to the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, not because I love golf that much, but because there’s always an exciting line-up of celebrity chefs as well as some great Southwest Michigan chefs showing how to create some of their favorite recipes. So I was excited when my friend Deb O’Connor, director of global partnerships for KitchenAid, sent me the line-up for this year’s event, which is being held at the KitchenAid Fairway Club near the main entrance over Memorial Day weekend, May 24-28.Credit David Cicconi (1)

            The first live cooking demonstration is at 1 p.m. Thursday and features TV personality Adam Richman, who is  the author of Straight Up Tasty, and also hosts the Cooking Channel’s “Secret Eats with Adam Richman.” Richman has the tough job of having had to travel to over 40 countries in search of the world’s best fine dining and then writing about it.

            Be sure to stay around once Richman is done because at 2:30 that same day, Cheyenne Galbraith, the  executive chef at the Bistro on the Boulevard, will be doing another culinary exhibition.AR Headshot (photo credit Travel Channel) (1)

            Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s Emmy-Award Winning daytime series “The Chew” and Bravo “Top Chef,” will be returning (she was here two years ago and was great fun) on Friday, May 25 at 1 p.m. followed at 2:30 p.m. by Mike Kenat of Salt of the Earth in Fennville.

            Then on Saturday, May 26, James Beard Award nominee Justin Chapple who is the Culinary Director at Food & Wine magazine, author of two cookbooks and host of “Mad Genius LIVE”—Food & Wine’s weekly TV show featuring genius ideas in food, travel, entertaining and more will be at the KitchenAid Fairway Club at 1 p.m. Tim Foley, owner of the Bread+Bar and Bit of Swiss Bakery is up at 2:30 p.m. followed at 4:00 p.m. by Abra Berens of Granor Farm. 

            According to Deb, KitchenAid Chef Chris Covelli will round out the cooking demonstration schedule.

            “We have created an experience where fans can learn, ask questions and be inspired to challenge themselves in the kitchen,” she says. “We hope that they leave this Championship with a renewed passion and energy to experiment in their own kitchens with KitchenAid.”

            Here are a few of Justin Chapple’s recipes including one for Philly Cheesesteak Queso from his show “Mad Genius Live.” 

Philly Cheesesteak Queso

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 small red bell pepper—stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

1 small green bell pepper—stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

 1 small sweet onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced Kosher salt Pepper

One 12-ounce rib-eye steak, frozen for 30 minutes and very thinly sliced

1 cup half-and-half

1 pound white American cheese, coarsely shredded (4 cups)

1/2 pound provolone cheese, coarsely shredded (2 cups)

2 hoagie rolls, sliced crosswise and lightly toasted          

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Add the bell peppers and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned in spots, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pepper mixture to a small bowl. 

Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil in it. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Add the steak and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the steak to a small bowl. 

Wipe out the skillet, add the half-and-half bring just to a simmer over moderate heat. Whisk in both cheeses in small handfuls until completely melted and the queso is very smooth, about 5 minutes. Top the queso with the steak and pepper mixture. Keep warm over very low heat and serve immediately with the toasted hoagie roll slices.

Black and White Cupcakes

Cupcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons. unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

2 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Frosting:

2 stick unsalted butter

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoon milk

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then beat in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Scoop the batter into the lined muffin cups.

Bake the cupcakes in the center of the oven for about 17 minutes, until springy and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cool slightly in the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, Make the Frosting In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the milk and beat at low speed just until combined, then beat at medium speed until smooth. Scrape half of the vanilla frosting into a medium bowl. Add the cocoa powder and the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk to the frosting in the large bowl and beat at low speed until fully incorporated.

 Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface with the long side facing you. Using a small spatula, spread the vanilla frosting in a 3-inch-wide strip down the center of the plastic wrap. Spread the chocolate frosting in a 3-inch-wide strip alongside the vanilla. Using the plastic, fold the chocolate frosting over the vanilla, twisting one end of the plastic to seal. Pull the twisted end of the plastic through a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and cut off the protruding plastic at the tip. Refrigerate the frosting until barely firm, about 15 minutes. Pipe onto the cupcakes and serve. 

Jane Simon Ammeson can be contacted via email at janeammeson@gmail.com