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authentic paella recipe

By Chef Todd

Why There's No ONE Authentic Paella Recipe

There is no ONE authentic paella recipe. Every region of Spain has their own interpretation of this dish, which means YOU can have your own version as well.

I’ve been traveling throughout Spain to explore and discover Spanish foods that are new to me. I’m not trying to find recipes, they only teach you how to cook ONE thing.

I’m in search of new ingredients that I can apply the cooking methods that I already use in my own kitchen. The idea is not to change HOW I cook, but search for a new WHAT to cook.

That’s why there is no singular authentic paella recipe. Paella is more of a cooking METHOD that can accept the ingredients YOU desire.

You might want shrimp, clams, and mussels. You’ve then made Paella Mariscos.
Use tomato, onion, garlic and rabbit and you have Paella Valencia.
Go ahead and use ALL ingredients you can think of and create Paella Mixta.

Or, you can invent the combination of ingredients to make your OWN original paella recipe.

Here’s the basic procedure for making the authentic paella recipe for YOUR kitchen:

  • Heat a large flat pan until water evaporates quickly.
  • Add a good quality olive oil and wait until it starts to look streaky.
  • Saute’ your protein products like chicken, shrimp, or sausage.
  • Add RAW short-grain rice like Bomba rice or Arborio rice.
  • Add aromatics like onion, garlic, peppers or tomatoes
  • Deglaze the pan with a flavorful stock, using twice the quantity as rice.
  • Add any delicate proteins like shrimp, clams or mussels to cook in the moisture.
  • Cover and simmer on low heat until the rice absorbs the liquid.

Ole’! You’ve made your OWN chicken or beef or lamb or pork or tofu or vegetable paella!

Even though I watched an experienced paella chef make his paella recipe in today’s video, I still realize that it’s up to ME to follow his method but use the ingredients I want in my own paella dish.

It’s another example of how cooking METHODS, the HOW to cook, always gives you power over the ingredients, the WHAT to cook. This is when cooking is liberating and FUN!

Paella is an obvious choice for studying Spanish food, but there are so many more flavors and ingredients I discovered there.

Join me for my next FREE online webinar workshop, "International Food Finds: Discover Global Inspirations For New And Exciting Meals At Home"

Gilda Restaurant

By Chef Todd

The Best New Food Ideas I Took From Spain

My journey for new food ideas and cooking methods never ends, but it has come to a jaw-dropping stand still today because of what Michel told me.

I’ve been searching for new food ideas because my cooking has become boring, lazy and stale. I know there’s more to the culinary world than my typical American diet of meat, potatoes and vegetable.

I’ve searching Spain for inspiration to bring home to my kitchen. I’m confident in my cooking METHODS, I know HOW to cook and this empowers me to find ingredients I may never have tried before.

With this in mind, the first of many food ideas I discovered in Spain was Tapas.

My cooking strategy changed when I started to think about smaller portions but greater variety as is found on the two-bite tapa throughout the country.

If you missed my last video, you can still view New Cooking Ideas From Spain.

I realize that I’ve cooked with ham before, but it’s always the same bland water-added product you find everywhere. However, once I discovered Spanish Jamon, ALL my cooking changed. My expectation of what a pork product should be changed completely.

Now, I use more flavorful jamon in my cooking like I showed in my video Why I Won't Be Cooking Ham Anymore.

I’ve accepted new food ideas into my repertoire and felt quite satisfied, until I met Michel at The Gilda Restaurant in Barcelona. Michel put an entirely different perspective on ALL I’d learned and spun my head in confusion once again.

Michel puts fried shrimp on basil ice cream with pesto sauce and calls it dessert!

One of his food ideas is to pair lamb chops with a spicy chimichurri sauce and serve it over tandoori mashed potatoes! He’s like a mad scientist of flavors, colors and textures on a plate!

This Spanish trip has re-ignited my desire to cook and explore with new ingredients. I’ve come away with new food ideas, but more importantly a new perspective on cooking from another culture’s point of view.

I’m now feeling like a culinary Columbus, having discovered a new world of unique ingredients, but also a WAY of combining flavors, textures, and colors in food like I’ve never witnessed before.

Hopefully, it will inspire you to use dependable METHODS of cooking but be adventurous with the foods and ingredients you choose. This is where the new food ideas will come from in your home.

You start cooking in an inspired way just like Michel when you join me for my FREE online webinar workshop, "International Food Finds: Discovering Global Inspirations for New and Exciting Meals at Home."

Hold your spot in the FREE webinar by clicking HERE.

cooking ham

By Chef Todd

Why I Won’t Be Cooking Ham Again

I won’t be cooking ham ever again since my trip to Spain. I’ve come here to discover new food ideas and have learned the difference between “ham” and the artisan product they make here.

When there’s ham in my kitchen, it doesn’t mean I’m cracking jokes for the camera during a cooking demonstration. I’ve had plenty of people tell me that I’M the ham in the kitchen.

When I’m cooking ham, it’s usually the water-added, brined and salted, bland pork product that is found everywhere in North America. It all tastes the same, there’s no qualifier between different brands or processes. Here in the US, ham is ham.

Most often when I cook with a pork product, it’s bacon. Americans are crazy about the cured meat and I understand why. It’s crispy, it’s crunchy, it’s fatty and smoky. These are the flavors that land on your tongue and light up your brain.

But, bacon has been stripped of most of its flavor also. Bacon is bacon in the U.S., the only difference between brands is the price, not the quality or the WAY it was made.

That’s why I won’t ever be cooking ham again. I’ll be using Jamon from now on.

Spanish jamon is an artisan product that is produced and sold like wine is in France. Jamon in Spain is so much more than just “ham”. Each pig is treated differently, fed different diets, cured and aged in a specific way to give a distinct flavor and texture to each and every piece.

Jamon is not mass-produced like ham is. Jamon comes with the care and cultivation of a unique product which yields the flavor and texture that is characteristic of something produced for quality, not just quantity of output. Cooking with jamon is a greater art than cooking ham.

My new love of Jamon and all the cooking ideas it’s inspired was born out of my discussion with Mark at The Jamon Experience in Barcelona. Mark is a jamon expert who amazed me with the process, care and results involved in producing this signature Spanish food item.

Mark explains that there are three things that dictate the quality of jamon:

  • The breed of the pig
  • What it eats
  • How it is cured

 

Once you discover the difference between cooking ham and cooking WITH jamon, you’ll never go back to the pig-in-a-can ham again. Jamon is the perfect type of ingredient to add a new outlook on my cooking at home. It’s a better, more flavorful replacement for something I’ve been cooking already, and that’s how I refresh my cooking at home.

When you are confident in HOW to cook, the repeatable and reliable cooking METHODS, then the opportunity to add endless variety to your meals comes with discovering new ingredients to apply those same cooking skills to.

You can join me to stop cooking ham and start cooking with a better product like Jamon, and the other Global Food Finds from my trip when you join me for my FREE online webinar workshop, "International Food Finds: Discovering Global Inspirations for New and Exciting Meals at Home.

Hold your spot in the FREE webinar by clicking HERE.

There are more Cooking Ideas From Spain for you to see in the previous blog post.

cooking ideas in spain

By Chef Todd

New Cooking Ideas From Spain

I’m always searching for new cooking ideas. Sometimes they come from my local farmers market, other times I have to travel great distances to discover something inspiring.

I’ve been bored with my cooking lately, it’s not exciting me anymore. I find myself preparing the same meals again and again. I gravitate toward the same ingredients at the market every Sunday, bringing home a duplicate of last week’s menu of green beans, broccoli, chicken, beef and potatoes.

My cooking has gone the easy route, the path of least thought, the easy and comfortable. I’d even call it cowardly. I used to be brave in the kitchen while trying new cooking ideas, but now I’m lazy and meek.

You might feel the same way in your home kitchen, the flame has gone out.

It’s not that I don’t know HOW to cook. I think I’ve established that fact from the Executive Chef positions I’ve held and the tens of thousands of people that benefit from my cooking instruction every day.

The cooking part isn’t the problem. WHAT to cook has become the problem.

Geez, I can cook chicken 25 ways. You might think that’s exciting, but every one of those 25 chicken dishes are still made with chicken! I need even MORE variety than chicken done two dozen ways.

I need new foods and cooking ideas to combine with the cooking methods that I rely upon every day. I don’t want to change HOW I cook because that’s never let me down. What I need is a new ingredient, a new outlook, a new way of looking at the same old same old in a new light.

So I went to Spain. It might seem like a long way to go just to refresh my cooking, but I know the greatest inspirations I’ve had in my cooking career have come from other cultures, other countries that use ingredients I’ve never heard of, and treat food differently than I have.

What I’m finding in Spain and my tour of Spanish cuisine has changed the way I think about preparing food in my home and has immediately given me dozens of new cooking ideas to bring back with me.

Within minutes of getting off the plane, I had discovered “Tapas”, the two-bite food items that are everywhere in Spain. I love tapas because there are no rules in preparing them. Just about ANY ingredient paired with ANY other ingredient makes a tapa. This thought was liberating!

It’s made me think that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to adding variety to your cooking, and that good things can come in small packages if you know where to look for the new cooking ideas.

You can join me to see some of my other inspirations from Spain and other Global Food Finds when you join me for my FREE online webinar workshop, "International Food Finds: Discovering Global Inspirations for New and Exciting Meals at Home.

Hold your spot in the FREE webinar by clicking HERE.

By Chef Todd

Cooking Tailgate Food Just Got Easier With These Ideas

Cooking tailgate food can be challenging for the best cooks.

- You're cooking in a parking lot from the back of your car or truck.
- You're probably cooking for more people that you usually do.
- The wind is blowing, the air is cold.
- Your grill is tiny because it has to fit in your car.
- You've already got a good beer buzz on.

I've done all these things, both for friends and family as well as catering events. One particular corporate celebration that I was hired for had me grilling for 150 people before a football game. (I did NOT have a good beer buzz that day). It's difficult for the best cooks to create something delicious and appetizing under those tough conditions and a potential football food disaster for less experienced tailgaters.

I do my best to avoid as much actual cooking at the event as possible to limit the hazards and distractions of cooking in a parking lot.

1) Bring a HOT cooler - My caterer's best secret is how to keep food hot during transport. This is crucial to all off-site caterers who prepare food in a central kitchen and then bring it to location. Certainly, I'll have a cold cooler with me to bring the salads and cold cuts, but what if you wanted to bring HOT dishes that need to stay hot until eaten? Whenever I'm responsible for the tailgate food, I bring a cold cooler filled with the food items I want to keep cold, along with beverages that must stay frosty as well.

And there is a way to keep food hot without an open flame

This way, when I serve my famous New York Attitude Filet Mignon Chili, it doesn't need to be made quickly on-site. I can take the hours necessary to develop all the flavors in my chili at home and bring it HOT to the game. That's my second idea...

2) Bring hot food with you - It's a lot of pressure to prepare food on-site considering the hindrances I mentioned above. Plus, not everything has to be grilled! If you are to cook everything in the parking lot, make sure you know the 10 steps for grilling properly. However, a good variety of flavors and textures make for a better tailgate party.

3) Forget the grill altogether - If you’ve been following my videos over the past six years, you know how I feel about outdoor grilling. It’s the great male excuse. If you’re trying to learn to cook, and were to cook a steak on your indoor stove top to a black char, it would be unacceptable. However, if you cook a steak outdoors, on a barbeque grill, and it’s charred black, it’s “nicely blackened”. Burnt is burnt, indoors or out. I don’t know why men think it’s easier to cook outdoors than indoors. I believe the exact opposite.

I’d rather saute any day. Whether at home, indoors, or in the parking lot preparing my football food for the tailgate party, the direct heat of a saute pan is easier to control and gives me greater options than a barbeque grill can.

Bringing a portable camper stove and saute pan for your tailgate foods gives much greater variety in cooking. You can heat a saute pan more evenly, apply fats and compound flavors better than a barbeque grill, and deglaze the pan with liquids to make pan sauces. Your tailgate party saute will have more moisture and flavor than the 2 hour old grilled hot dog.

Ultimately, I'll give you the same advice I always gave mothers-of-the-bride who wanted to cook for their daughter's wedding. I'd ask them, "don't you want to be a guest at the party and not the caterer?" If you're cooking tailgate food this Fall, don't spend the entire time poking hot dogs with a fork and gashing hamburgers to see if they're done. Make it easy on yourself and follow the ideas above for a unique and fun tailgate party that you can enjoy as well as those you've cooked for.

By Chef Todd

Olympics Theme Party Ideas Worth The Gold

If you're planning an Olympics theme party, I've found something from my archives for you.  It's my "Around The World Hors d' Oeuvres Menu".

This was a very popular menu years ago when I was running my own catering company.  It was an Olympic year back then and my clients were constantly asking for a menu that would reflect the excitement of the Olympic games.

Considering that most Olympics theme parties also include watching and cheering for the athletes, I realized that a sit down knife-and-fork menu wouldn't work very well.  People don't sit politely with a napkin under their chin when taking part in the excitement of the international competition.  They stand, they shout, they urge the television to make their favorite competitors go faster or further.  They aren't calm, they may not be polite, but they do need food.

I created an international menu of two-bite hors d' oeuvres that could travel with your guests as they move through the emotional bobsled that comes with watching the battles going on.  Each of these items are chosen to represent a specific country, the appropriate foods you might find there, and then makes them easy to eat.

You can create your own Olympics theme party by choosing some, or all of the items I've listed in this menu.

Have I forgotten your favorite country?  What would you add to the list?  Please leave a comment below and we can make this a truly international menu!

"Hey Chef Todd, I think __________ should be included in your Around The World Menu because....... " (insert your comment below)

By Chef Todd

Navarin Is Lamb Stew

In my culinary college classes, I always give a "word of the day".

Yesterday's word was Navarin, which inspired me to make some.

Although I don't believe in Crock Pots, this is a meal that would actually suit the lazy cooking method because it's a "set it and forget it" type cooking method.  However, real cooks would call this "Braising".

Trim lamb cubes of excess fat and sinew, then coat them in seasoned flour.

Braising is a combination cooking method that starts with the high heat of saute and finishes with gentle poaching.

After the pan is heated to where water droplets evaporate, add 50/50 mixture of butter and olive oil.

Saute the coated lamb cubes in the butter/oil mixture and brown evenly on all sides.

Add chopped garlic to the lamb saute.

Add just enough red wine to coat the bottom of the pan, don't drown it!

Simmer until most of the wine is evaporated.

This is where the cooking method changes from dry to moist cooking.

Add enough beef stock to cover all the ingredients in the pan.

The rest of the ingredients are entirely up to your personal desires.

I'll add bias sliced carrots.

Since this stew will cook for hours, make sure all items are cut into large pieces, about the size of the lamb cubes.

Most people will add potatoes here, I've chosen white kidney beans.

Lastly, my "spice team" is Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.

Add Tomato Paste and enough beef stock to cover all the ingredients.

Cover the pan and simmer VERY GENTLY for 5 hours or more and...

You'll have created Navarin.  It's a great dish for a cold winter night.

Serve over white rice or egg noodles and enjoy!

I’m constantly searching the internet for the latest food trends, safety issues and cool new techniques. Be among the first to know. “Like” Chef Todd Mohr on Facebook.

 

By Chef Todd

Fancy And Simple Cooking-Shrimp Stuffed Flounder

I could have just broiled my flounder filets,
and been done with it,
but that wasn't exciting enough for me.

I need a quick and easy dinner, but also one that doesn't look like I'm lazy in the kitchen either.

I'll start by tossing some small Chef potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme to roast at 375F until soft.

That's easy enough.

Flounder (or any other white fish) is very delicate.  Tap the filets gently so as not to tear them or make holes.

Be sure the side of the fish where the skin used to be is facing upward.  You'll see why in a minute.

Season the flattened filets with Dill and Old Bay Seasoning.

Or, any combination of seasonings that YOU desire.

Place a slice of Swiss cheese on each seasoned flattened filet.

Of course, you can use ANY type of cheese you'd like.

Split cooked shrimp down the middle.

You can buy cooked shrimp, or steam your own and save the resulting liquid for a sauce.

Cover the slice of cheese with the split cooked shrimp.

You must use cooked shrimp because they will not cook inside the flounder when raw.

Fold the "head" and "tail" of the filet into the center.

Roll the stuffed flounder toward you, trying to keep a tight log.

THIS is why you don't want to tear holes in it while flattening the filet with a mallet.

To keep the rolls from flattening during roasting, skewer them together, leaving space in between, and season with salt and pepper

Roast at 375F or 190C - Don't use toothpicks or string, it's messy and potentially hazardous.

The ONLY way to tell when it's done is with a thermometer.

Cook the filet to a final finished internal temperature of 165F or 74C.

Carefully slice the filets on a bias and...

There!  You've just prepared Shrimp Stuffed Flounder with Herb Roasted Potatoes.

Fancy But Simple.

By Chef Todd

The Quickest Steak I Can Make

The quickest steak I can make is a Flank Steak.

This is one of my favorite cuts of beef because it's very lean, tender, flavorful and considerably cheaper than many other cuts.

This steak is from my local farmers market and weighs almost 2 pounds!  (That's a fat cow).

Since I'm only cooking for two, I've cut the steak into two-15 ounce pieces.

It's thinly coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cooked to 135F internal temperature, medium/rare.

I've sliced some farmers-market Shitake mushrooms and sauteed them in butter until they give off moisture.

Then, deglaze the pan with Worchestershire sauce and add a small amount of whole grain mustard.

Normally when I saute with butter, I want to prevent it from browning.

However, for this dish I want the toasty-ness of brown butter so I'll keep cooking until it browns but doesn't smoke.

Previously steamed Brussels Sprouts are added to the pan to re-warm and caramelize slightly.

The sprouts are already cooked, they just need to have some color added to them.

Often, I'll add toasted almonds to this dish but I don't have any today.

This entire dish took less than 20 minutes to prepare, and is a hearty winter dinner.

There were few knife skills needed, I just had to peel Brussels sprouts and slice mushrooms.

I used a basic saute method on both items and simply broiled a salt and pepper steak.

What would you add to this dish?  Does it need potatoes or rice?

Please comment below on how you would improve this simple dish.

By Chef Todd

Fish For Dinner Tonight-Orange Roughy Florentine

Hmmm, what should you make for dinner tonight?

You have limited time and just a few ingredients, so what to do?

Season fish filets with Olive Oil, Oregano, Basil, Salt and White Pepper

Roast in the oven at 350F to an internal temperature of 165F.  Then....

Using a basic saute method, heat two pans on the stove until sprinkled water sizzles.

Add Olive Oil to both pans and heat until the oil shows ripples.

In Pan 1 saute minced garlic until it's brown and toasty.

In Pan 2 saute sliced mushrooms

Deglaze the first pan with Balsamic Vinegar and reduce until it's thickened.

Saute spinach in the second pan until it's totally wilted.

Plate the spinach/mushroom saute' on a warm plate, top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Top the roasted fish filet with Balsamic/Garlic Reduction.

Enjoy!

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