Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ham it Up

With Easter just around the corner, many people are planning their menus for their annual brunch. Because of tradition and the requests (demands) of our families and friends, it can be easy to fall into the same rut every year. It happens at nearly every holiday table; the same dishes making their appearance over, and over, and over. If you're longing for inspiration and ready to put a twist on some of the old standby dishes, look no further. Your Easter table revamp is here!

The Easter table is almost always the background for the ubiquitous and sometimes uninspired ham. Spiral sliced, glazed, and frankly, overdone, the holiday ham is more of an afterthought instead of entree All Star. Consider preparing a fresh ham. Fresh ham is a delicious, sophisticated and original twist on the traditional.

Here is a recipe for a fresh ham which I enjoy making. I hope this brings a smile to the faces of your guests this Sunday. The nice thing about fresh ham is that you can still spice it up to suit your tastes. Simply by changing the herbs and spice combinations, you can serve a holiday staple with new flavor profiles every year.

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

Half of a fresh bone-in ham (6 to 8 pounds), preferably shank end, with skin

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the ham, in a small bowl, combine the thyme and tarragon. Season the ham with salt and pepper. Rub the herb mixture all over the ham and set aside to marinate and come to room temperature, 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the herb-crusted ham in a roasting pan. Bake approximately 25 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 150°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone, 2 to 21/2 hours. Remove from the oven to a rack. Tent the ham loosely with aluminum foil and let stand until the center of the ham registers 155° to 160°F on the instant-read thermometer, 25 to 30 minutes.

Once the ham has rested, transfer to a cutting board, carve, and serve with your favorite dijon or spiced mustard, or even a sweet glaze which has been thinned with a bit of water or vegetable stock.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Taste of Detroit - Tail & All

Detroit's Restaurant Week launched last weekend, featuring the flavors of some very unique eateries unknown to many Metro-Detroiters. I was invited by friends Dave & Gladys for an evening with their very gracious neighbors to enjoy an evening at Atlas Global Bistro on Woodward.

Upon arrival, Atlas was bustling at 8 pm, and we took a seat at the bar, waiting for their other friends, chatting and enjoying the atmosphere. When our table was ready, we sat in a booth looking out onto Woodward Ave. Though the restaurant was quite full, the seating was comfortable.

During Restaurant Week, restaurants feature a pre-fixe menu (a limited menu, featuring your selections from appetizers and salads, entree, and dessert). Each restaurant, though their offerings and menu items were different, offers the menus priced at only $28, which is a tremendous deal!

What I enjoyed most, was the company of my friends and their wonderful neighbors, in such a relaxed setting after a grueling couple of weeks. The other thing I enjoyed was that the city was busting (you know what I mean - in the way that Detroit bustles). Detroit bustles the way my bulldog runs. It's a little awkward, not that fast, but it's on purpose, and it's an accomplishment in itself. Watching Lucy prance around (in 10 second intervals) brings a proud mama smile to my face. In all of her awkwardness, that's still "my girl" and it makes me happy. People laugh when they see Lucy run. Watching her pudgy little body prance around with a tennis ball brings a combination of surprise and laughter. They often remark that they're surprised that something "so large" could be "so agile".

Detroit, with all of its awkwardness, sputters and starts, reminds me of Lucy in a lot of ways. Ridiculed by most, particularly those who have never been there, and feared by many, Detroit has been dismissed, written off as the fat kid with the bad haircut. No style, no taste, no plan, no hope. The exciting thing is that with the dedication of many who live and work in the city, and the growing foodie revival in Southeast Michigan, our awkward (and shrinking city) is realizing something of a makeover.

By no means am I comparing Detroit's growth to other dining scenes like Chicago or New York. In my opinion, we will never be comparable, and, in my opinion, that is just fine with me. Instead, I'm comparing Detroit to what it was, to who it is (very slowly) becoming. The meal I had at Atlas was comparable to a meal I enjoyed in January at Longman & Eagle in Chicago (a very hip eatery). The food was comparable, sophisticated but approachable, but there was something I liked more about Atlas.

Chicago is a very tough restaurant market because it has so much very good competition. In Chicago, rent is incredibly steep, making it even tougher to survive. Because of the demands of doing business in such a tight market, Chicago restaurants can be surprisingly small. With restaurants and chefs popping up all over the city, there's a frenzy to the Chicago market that makes for uncomfortable dining. The wonderful and exciting thing about Detroit is that rent is cheap so restaurants can have a bigger footprint, making the restaurant more approachable and relaxing. Enjoying my meal without feeling cramped made me feel at home.

Detroit is crawling back and emerging with its own flavor and profile. You may have noticed the trend in food often called "tail to nose" cuisine (the celebration of the traditionally unpopular parts of the animal such as organs, ears, glands, etc.). What was once bound for the trash, dismissed by many as "inedible", "unappetizing" and "dirty", is now considered a viable ingredient.

If Chicago is Filet Mignon, Detroit is Cripsy Pig Ear, and when Michael Symon and other talented Detroit chefs prepare it, that is just fine by me.