This year I was fortunate enough to take a quick jaunt to the sunny shores of South Beach to check out the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival. First of all, this was held ON the beach – and when I say ON the beach, it was right there on the gorgeous white sands with a backdrop of the gorgeous blue ocean. The weather was beautiful, to say the least and it was so cool to drive into the city of Miami with banners of various Food Network personalities including Sunny Anderson, Ingrid Hoffman, the Neelys and Anne Burrell in addition to the standard Food Network crew like Bobby, Emeril, Tyler, Rachael and the Iron Chefs.
Typically, I head to South Beach for Winter Music Conference and various music events. This was my first time heading down to something that was part of my culinary passion and I didn’t know what I would encounter. I was excited for the demos and I was determined to get you all some fabulous recipes and pics. FoodBuzz shared my excitement as I was selected to be part of this month’s 24, 24, 24 so I decided to take some of what I learned at SOBE and share it with you.
First of all, the one thing I heard echoed time and time again – cook from the heart. If you don’t like a particular ingredient – don’t use it. Recipes are suggestions and guidelines – but you can improvise where you see fit. Also, Iron Chef Michael Symonhad some great tips – namely – DO NOT GET SUCKERED BY GADGETS. Now I’m a gadget ho, that’s not up for debate. When he said to toss the garlic press and the citrus squeezer – I winced. According to him, a fork and a good chef’s knife is a staple in any good cook’s kitchen, I hated to admit it but he was correct. I was cursing out Williams Sonoma under by breath for suckering me into that citrus reamer and the garlic mincer/slicer toy. If I took a poll of all my culinary “gadgets” :::sigh:::I probably could get a swanky pair of Loubous. However, I do like using the “gadgets” but I am determined to try to old school it more.
Secondly, Iron Chef Cat Cora said during her demo that you can cook from the hip – namely if you have time to only do a little grilled shrimp or toss together a quick salad, then do it. But when you do it, do it well the first time. Also, cooking is often trial and error. Sunny Anderson said that sometimes her best recipes are just whipped up in her kitchen – that woman is not afraid to get her culinary mojo on. Finally, Rocco DiSpirito tossed it out there that not everyone can make a mean chicken stock and, sometimes, that chicken stock ”in a box” is really good. Top Chef Hung who was just observing the demo concurred with Rocco’s opinion.
Another theme that went through the event - great ingredients = great end product. Iron Chef Symon said that when you cook, try to get the best ingredients that you can. He said there is a reason why there is a $.40 lb chicken v. the $1.20 lb chicken. He knows not everyone can afford the $1.20 lb chicken but if you can, use it. You will have a better end product. He also talked about his favorite must haves in a dish: fat, acid, chilies and salt. Salt brings out the flavor in everything so don’t be afraid to use it. Again, it’s about trial and error. Taste your dish as you go along – you’ll catch when the seasoning is just right.
During the demos, they had mirrors above the cooking stations and I thought it was cool to see how everything was laid out. I took some pics of that for you all to see how sometimes it is just better to prep beforehand and have everything laid out. They also had some book signings and various tastings so I’ll have to break that down in future posts.
So, for my FoodBuzz 24, 24, 24 dinner I decided to focus on some dishes created by three of my favorite Food Network chefs (and SOBE demo presenters): Sunny Anderson, Ingrid Hoffman and Cat Cora and share them with my friends here in Orlando who didn’t get to make the trip.
First up, Iron Chef Cat Cora’s Strawberry Arugula Salad from her cookbook, “Cooking From The Hip”. I noticed that the recipe had some ingredients I did not have (i.e. White Balsamic Vinegar for one) but I decided to “cook from the hip” and improvise with a basic balasmic vinegar dressing and a dash of lemon and some blue cheese. Delish.
I rarely host a soiree without a shrimp appetizer. My Bampa always started off with shrimp cocktail and since I’ve been entertaining more, I followed suit. This time, I decided to give Sunny Anderson’s No Fuss Peel n’ Eat Shrimp a try. She did it at her demo. I think my Bampa would agree that the standard shrimp cocktail MUST be replaced with this. I have to confess that while I’m an Old Bay Seasoning novice, I am officially a convert. So much flavor was in the shrimp and the recipe couldn’t have been simpler. Roast some deveined peel on shrimp with 1 tbsp. of Old Bay and 1 1/2 tbsp. of vegetable oil at 350 for 10-12 minutes and that’s it. You will be the rock star of the kitchen, trust.
Sadly, while I did miss Ingrid’s demo, I had a minute to chat with her during her book signing. What you see on the tv screen is reflective of her personality. She’s a trip – very warm and personable. I decided to go for the shock value and try her “Pollo Pendejo” aka Foolproof Chicken or Idiot Chicken. I’ll post the recipe this week and this dish is being added to repertoire. It’s boneless skinless chicken breast marinated in some worcestershire sauce and adobo and then cooked with some mushrooms, onions, garlic and beer. Per her suggestion in the recipe, I served it over buttered noodles. Soooo flippin’ good.
All in all, it was a great success and I feel that going to SOBE blessed me with so much culinary inspiration. I got to meet some amazing people such as Sunny, Ingrid, Jacob from FNAddict, Rocco and others which was a bonus to everything I got to see. I even picked up some goodies for y’all which I’ll share over the month of March. Next year’s event will be more than a day trip, that’s for sure.
Here are some pics so you can enjoy the trip with me.
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