Web Cooking Classes with Chef Todd MohrWeb Cooking Classes with Chef Todd Mohr

By Chef Todd

Members Only Post:Making a Summer Pie in Winter with Canned Fruit

Oh well, another of my chef secrets revealed today, but only to my friends and members of WebCookingClasses.com.

I’m glad to share another members-only blog post where I show you the method for making an attractive pie during the winter. Certainly, a fresh fruit pie is best and easiest to make during the hottest months, but what if you’re craving Peach Pie TODAY?

Our “cooked fruit pie” is a method you can employ with any ingredients you desire. Try it and leave a comment with the new pie you’ve invented using this method:

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By Chef Todd

A Chef’s Potluck Party Tips to Make Them Jealous.

A potluck party can be a food nightmare. As a professional Chef and caterer, few things offend my culinary senses more than the holiday potluck party. With hot items going cold, badly portioned and picked-through platters, nacho dip next to brownies, and unidentifiable entrees all sharing the same table, it’s no wonder that this random buffet will impugn all the work you’ve put into your dish.

To be a stand out in this noise of nourishment, this cafeteria of chaos, you need a plan. The best potluck party has home chefs that keep the following in mind:

1) Keep It Warm - If you’re donating a hot dish, you must find a way to keep it hot. Whether a chafing dish or crock pot, assure the safety and appeal of the food by keeping it warm. If you can’t assure that your hot dish will stay hot, prepare something that is appropriate either way.

2) Transportation – Don’t prepare anything with loose sauces or that is delicately assembled. During the ride to the potluck party, sauces will shift, garnishes will fall, fried items will get soggy. Prepare items that won’t degrade during transportation.

3) Disposables - You’re never going to see that serving bowl or tongs again, understand that. Why add the stress of stalking your bowl at the end of the party? Get attractive disposables at your local party store and you won’t have to call the next day to retrieve your items.

4) Signage - You can lead the expectations of your diners by telling them what they’re eating. Create small “tent” signage for your dish and people can avoid allergy issues, or gobble it up because they are attracted to your description.

5) Presentation, Presentation, Presentation - As I said, this random buffet will have cold salmon next to cookies, string beans next to cake, so how you present your potluck party dish can have great impact. A simple doily under your cake, or colorful napkin beneath the platter will present your dish in the best light.

6) Refresh, Replenish - Potluck buffets get picked-through very quickly, making your dish look unattractive. Be prepared to stir, re-portion, or replenish your item with fresh reserves. Rather than on large casserole, consider multiple smaller ones that you can replace.

7) Be Original - Yawn! Someone WILL bring a nacho dip. Someone WILL bring salsa and a string bean casserole. Someone WILL bring wings. Create something conversation worthy at your potluck dinner and you’re the star!

8) Don’t Over-Produce! - EVERYONE is going to bring an entire party’s amount of food. Everyone won’t eat an entire party’s amount of food. Your portions should be half of a traditional entrée portion because of the wide variety of food also on the buffet.

A holiday potluck party can be great fun. For me, it can be a culinary nightmare. Please help me awake from this bad dream by following some of the ideas above to keep your buffet contribution hot, attractive, identifiable, fresh, original, and in the appropriate quantity.

What’s your go-to meal for a potluck party? Leave me a comment below:

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By Chef Todd

Members Only Post: Chicken Wellingtons

My mission over the past few years is to reveal the deep chef secrets that professionals use to easily create meals using any ingredients. This idea has become the basis of all my instruction on the internet.

Sometimes, I feel like the one magician that gives away all the secrets. That’s the type of guy that all the magicians hate. I don’t want all other chefs to hate me, so it’s time I gave away one of my own chef secrets.

Mini Chicken Wellingtons have been the number one selling appetizer in my catering company for years. While they ARE excellent, I sometimes chuckle because they are so incredibly easy to make, but look like they are very expensive.

I’m glad to share one of my closest-guarded secrets today, but I’ll only share it with my closest friends and members of WebCookingClasses in this members-only post.

Follow this procedure to create a mini-wellington of your choice. Would it include shrimp? Beef? Tofu? Leave me a comment below with your ideas:

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By Chef Todd

Salmon Gravlax Roses Make an Attractive Holiday Appetizer

Gravlax Roses can make a simple and attractive holiday appetizer from dry-cured salmon. Whether you cure the salmon yourself, or just purchase it, my simple procedure can be the focus of a fancy appetizer selection that only you know was quite simple.

To me, the definition of cooking is coagulating proteins in a food product. Most often, this is accomplished by applying heat. You’ve seen the coagulation of proteins in any hamburger on your barbeque grill. The raw hamburger is twice the size of the cooked hamburger. Coagulation is the stiffening and shrinking of proteins.

To make salmon gravlax, a 50/50 mixture of coarse kosher salt and sugar is applied in a very thick layer to a raw piece of salmon. Fresh dill is place on top of that, adding more salt/sugar mixture, then a second piece of salmon and more salt/sugar. This creates a salmon and dill “sandwich”.

Wrap the salmon tightly in plastic wrap, and place it on a rack suspended above the bottom of a casserole pan. Place a heavy weight, like a gallon of juice on top of the salmon and keep it refrigerated for three days.

After three days in the cooler, you’ll notice that the salmon is considerably smaller, flatter, and that there’s a considerable amount of liquid on the bottom of the pan. This is the same reaction as if we had baked the salmon in the oven. Proteins have coagulated and moisture has been lost. The salmon gravlax is not raw, it’s been cooked by the strictest definition.

Once your dry-cured salmon is unwrapped and rinsed of excess salt and sugar, it can be very thinly sliced on the bias. This creates long, thin slices of salmon. If you wrap each of these slices around your finger, continuing one after the other, you’ll create a design that looks just like a rose.

If you’d like to make it extra fancy, a small spoon of caviar atop the gravlax roses makes it an especially elegant holiday appetizer. Place it on crostini or a artisan cracker, and your guests will think you hired a chef for the evening.

An elegant appetizer? On a bagel with cream cheese? Leave your comment with your favorite salmon gravlax dish below:

 

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By Chef Todd

The Turkey Gravy Thickener that Grandma Ignored

My Grandmother used cornstarch to make turkey gravy. My Mother inherited this procedure of dissolving cornstarch in water to thicken the drippings. Well, this generational laziness stops here!

If your family is like mine, your elders will be sliding the roasting pan from the oven in a few weeks. The bird is brown and fragrant with simmering and sputtering fats in the bottom of the pan. Just before she’ll carve turkey, Grandma will turn your holiday meal into Chinese food.

A cornstarch slurry thickener for your turkey gravy gives it a glassy slick mouth feel like Kung Po Beef. Butter has much better flavor, melts in your mouth, and gives a better texture when thickening sauces.

A simple butter/flour roux is the best way to make homemade gravy, and making your roux in advance will save you time, allow you the flexibility to make more gravy quickly, and improve the overall flavor of the sauce you’ll put on your mashed potatoes.

Don’t tell me that butter is more fattening. I already know that. But, we’re already eating cookies, pies, cakes, potatoes, turkey, stuffing, salad, rolls, and on and on. What’s the harm of a little more butter to make a great sauce?

Roux is simple to make by simply melting any quantity of butter in a sauce pan. Add an equal amount of flour, or just enough to make a paste-like consistency and start to cook out the proteins.

Proteins in the flour is what will give a pasty or floury taste to your sauce, so this combination of butter and flour must be cooked until it goes from yellow to white and gives off a nutty aroma.

You can continue cooking this blonde roux until it becomes brown if you prefer a darker turkey gravy, but keep in mind that a brown roux has half the thickening power of a blond roux. You’ll have to prepare twice as much brown roux to thicken the same amount of liquid.

Whether blonde or brown, store your roux in a ceramic ramekin, or allow it to cool and scrape from the pan into a plastic container. This is now your instant thickener for any type of liquid, whether poultry broth or milk for your cheese sauce.

The secret behind a great turkey gravy is roux instead of cornstarch. Butter and flour give better flavor and texture to all sauces. Perhaps even Grandma and Mom will catch on this year.

Blonde turkey gravy or brown turkey gravy? Which one in your home? Leave a comment below:
 

Turn Holiday Cooking Stress into Holiday Cooking Success this year.

 

By Chef Todd

Cook Green Beans in Advance and Keep Their Vitamins Intact

When you cook green beans this holiday season, will you open a can of condensed soup and let the beans bake for hours? Most people do. Baking vegetables over a long period of time reduces their nutrient value.

Plus, if you are trying to have a stress-free holiday cooking experience, you’re probably preparing the casserole a day in advance. That large casserole dish takes up a lot of room in your refrigerator. And, since it’s flat, there are usually items piled on top of it, further ruining its appeal.

There’s a better way to retain the nutrients when you cook green beans, save refrigerator space, and make it much easier on yourself come the big holiday meal.

Steaming is the best method to “par-cook” vegetables before preparing them in other ways. ManPans Cookware was kind enough to furnish a free set of pans for me to play with, and I especially like the steamer insert for their wok.

The steamer insert allows me to cook green beans until they’re slightly soft, but not completely done. I’ll “shock” the beans by submerging them in ice water, stopping the cooking immediately. These vegetables are now partially cooked, but retain more nutrition than baking them in a fatty sauce.

Since we’ve cooked such nice beans, it seems a shame to cover them with canned soup. I can call upon some basic cooking methods and create a roux to thicken simmering milk. The cold roux is added to the hot milk in small increments until the liquid thickens to the consistency I’d like.

Then, I can add cheddar cheese for Broccoli in Cheese Sauce, or add diced mushrooms and create my own quick white sauce with mushrooms that didn’t come from a can.

Combining my partially cooked green beans with the mushroom white sauce in a plastic zipper bag allows me to simply warm it up in boiling water when the holiday meal comes.

The best way to cook string beans, save refrigerator space, and give yourself time to actually enjoy your holiday meal this year is to consider steaming and shocking vegetables first.

Do you have a favorite holiday casserole dish? Leave a comment below:

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By Chef Todd

Christmas Dinner Ideas With Easy Fancy Appetizers

Christmas dinner ideas come easy. Turkey, Ham, or Beef with potatoes and vegetables. However, how you START your meal can be a more perplexing problem. There are infinite choices of holiday appetizers to choose from. How do you find the right recipe?

You don’t FIND the right recipe, you create one. And you can create any holiday appetizer you’d like once you discover the secrets behind Pate’ a Choux. This is a basic puff pastry dough, often called éclair paste, but it makes an attractive shell for any filling you choose, creating an appealing holiday appetizer.

Appetizers, or “hors d’ Oeuvres” are small bites of food to stimulate the eye and palate. “Hors d’ Oeuvres” in French means “outside the meal”. These appetizers were originally prepared by the wait staff in early banquets, using the leftovers and scraps from the meal to be served. While the chefs were working, the waiters were offering tastes “outside the meal”.

Pate a Choux dough begins by bringing milk to a full rolling boil on the stove. Just before it reaches the top of your sauce pot, add flour and stir until the dough forms a tight, smooth ball.

Egg proteins will give the dough its structure, but adding eggs to a very hot dough will only give you dough with scrambled eggs in it. So, the dough must be cooled to below the 165F (74c) temperature at which egg proteins coagulate.

The best way to cool the dough is to add it to a mixer with a paddle attachment and simply cool by stirring. Once your thermometer reads about 100F, start adding the egg yolks in a slow stream to allow the emulsification process of fats and water to occur.

The cooled dough is added to a pastry bag and piped onto a baking sheet in marble-sized balls or finger-sized lengths for éclairs. You can start to think of all your other Christmas dinner ideas while the puff pastries bake in a very hot 425F oven until they’re brown and fully leavened.

When you tear one of your freshly baked puffs open, you’ll find they’re totally hollow. This gives a perfect hiding place for crab dip, chicken salad, or even jams and jellies.

Your Christmas dinner ideas should always begin with the appetizers, as they set the tone for the meal to come. Serving little bites “outside the meal” helps stimulate the eye and palate for the great feast about to come.

After watching this video, what would you stuff into pate a choux dough? Leave your comment below:

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By Chef Todd

Members Only Post: Cocotte Potatoes

There are just too many ways to make potatoes to not explore a few of them. I’m trying to motivate you this year to abandon the basic mashed potatoes and try something new.

Cocotte Potatoes are one of the most unique ways to leave traditional potato dishes behind.

Using a melon-baller scoop, dig out marble-shaped portions from peeled potatoes. After you par-cook them by simmering, they can be sautéed with pearl onions for an awesome visual appeal this holiday season.

This method is being shared with friends and members of WebCookingClasses ONLY. It’s another of my chef secrets from the professional kitchen that you can bring into your home this holiday season.

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By Chef Todd

Stuck for Christmas Dinner Ideas? Try Potatoes Anna.

Christmas dinner ideas are harder to come by than any other holiday menu. Most people have deep traditions when it comes to their Thanksgiving table, but Christmas presents a great opportunity to try new things, new ideas for the coming new year.

Let’s start with starch. Potatoes are high in calories, high in carbohydrates, high in starch and sugars. For nutritional value, you’re better off with complex grains, but who wants quinoa next to their holiday ham? No one. If we want to change something, let’s change the potato.

Holiday eating is about fulfillment of the soul, not the food pyramid, and potatoes are great comfort food to many families. But, instead of the same-old mashed potatoes, how about a new Christmas dinner idea this year, Potatoes Anna?

Potatoes Anna gives you the best of both worlds that cooked potatoes have to offer. Starting with a basic sauté procedure, sliced rinsed and dried potatoes are layered over hot clarified butter. After a bit of salt and pepper, and more butter, another layer of sliced potatoes are added. Continue in this fashion until the pan is filled with a daisy-wheel of layered potatoes.

After browning the Potatoes Anna in the sauté pan, cover it with a lid or foil and finish the dish in the oven. This combination of direct source conductive heat along with the indirect convective heat of the oven will give us a new side dish that’s brown and crunchy on the bottom while still soft like mashed potatoes in the middle.

You’ll see why this is such a great potato side dish when you invert the sauté pan onto a plate and witness the beautiful plate appeal of browned potatoes atop layers of soft, steaming slices of fragrant goodness.

Try something new this year and get away from basic mashed potatoes. The New Year is coming; it’s time for new traditions, new journeys, exploration and education. Your search won’t end with this one Christmas dinner idea, but hopefully it’s the start.

Do you have Christmas dinner traditions you’d like to break? Please tell us with a comment below:

 

Turn Holiday Cooking Stress into Holiday Cooking Success this year.

 

By Chef Todd

Thanksgiving Potatoes that Beat Boring Boiled or Mundane Mashed

Thanksgiving potatoes are boring. If you’re serving the same mashed potatoes year-after-year, you know what I’m talking about. Do you have relatives that insist on the same old menu each holiday? Will Aunt Francis refuse to attend if you don’t serve the family mashed potato recipe?

Face it, tradition always gets in the way of innovation. I want to share some ideas, inspirations, and methods from the professional kitchen that will become the start of a new holiday tradition this year.

As a child, my family tradition was the “twice baked” potato. This thanksgiving potato standard in my home was baked, mashed with butter, and returned to the skins to bake again. The thing I like about this type of potato dish is that it’s already mashed and flavored before the table.

I hate “potato surprise”. That’s when you cut an X in your baked potato; squeeze the sides, and surprise, the potato squishes out. Now, you have to wrestle with the butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, cheese, and other condiments to get them mashed on your plate. It’s a horrible mess!

My favorite “new” potato dish is actually hundreds of years old. Duchesse Potatoes are simply mashed potatoes stiffened with egg yolks and molded into forms with a pastry bag.

Start a new thanksgiving potato tradition by peeling, dicing, and simmering potatoes in liquid until they are very soft and crush easily under a fork. Drain the liquid and spread the potatoes on a baking sheet to be further dried in a 250F (121C) oven. Fully drying the potatoes is important to have them hold their shape when baked.

Duchesse Potatoes are special because they hold their shape. Egg yolks give them structure that makes this happen. I use 2 egg yolks per pound of cooked potatoes along with some salt and pepper.

The most important part of this procedure is that the potatoes must be fully cooled to below 165F (74C), the temperature at which the egg proteins will coagulate, making scrambled eggs. The cooled potatoes are pureed in a food processor, slowly adding the egg yolks to combine.

They should be sticky and look more like dough than mashed potatoes. If your Duchesse Potatoes are too wet, they won’t hold their shape on baking. Using a pastry bag, I pipe out spirals of potatoes on top of themselves that resemble small Christmas Trees. If I were to add green chives and red pimentos, I’d have a festive holiday plate-appeal.

The real advantage to Duchesse Potatoes as your new tradition is that you’ve created specific portions of thanksgiving potatoes instead of letting your guests shovel from a large, undefined bowl of mashed potatoes. This saves time, food, and money.

Duchesse Potatoes can be a new thanksgiving potato tradition in your household. They’re cooler than creamed, more magical than mashed, and beat baked any day of the year. You’ll just have to give Aunt Francis a big apology for the new inspirations on the table. The times-are-a-changin’, Aunt Francis.

What’s your family thanksgiving potato tradition? Leave a comment below:

 

Turn Holiday Cooking Stress into Holiday Cooking Success this year.

 

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