Aspen Food & Wine: The Whole 9 Yards

I returned yesterday from the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, and it was more fun the second time around than I could have anticipated.  I think it is safe to say that I am hooked.  Two and half days of attending seminars taught by some of the most entertaining and knowledgeable chefs and sommeliers in the food industry, all set against the stunning backdrop of Ajax Mountain in Aspen, Colorado.  Re-entry to normal life as personal “chef”, chauffeur, maid and caretaker of three small kids is no easy task.  What?  I don’t get to start tasting wines at 11 am with a celebrity chef?  It totally spoils you…
I was a bit hesitant to sign up for Marcus Samuelsson’s
class after watching him tear apart competitors as a judge on Food Network’s Chopped.  Far from my initial perception of him,
Marcus was entertaining, witty, humorous, and charming.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that he started off the class
passing around Ethiopian honey wine.
I waited an hour in line for this seat, and it was totally worth it
Marcus was born in a village near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and at the age of two lost his mother to tuberculosis.  He
and his sister were subsequently adopted by a Swedish couple and raised in
Göteborg, Sweden.  He came to the States at the age of 21 as an apprentice at the Restaurant Aquavit in New York City, and has made
a name for himself as a James Beard award-winning chef and author.  I picked up a signed copy of his memoir, Yes Chef, and am looking forward to diving into his life story this summer.
Next on my summer reading list, but first have to get through The Goldfinch
The class was called the Whole Nine Yards, and was all about chicken.  He stated that typically 35 to 40% of the bird is wasted in food prep. 
He encouraged the audience to think about getting that down to 20%. 
Reminds me of the many lessons I learned in culinary school about cutting down on waste in a kitchen (and therefore cost).  One of the best ways to do this is to freeze chicken scraps and carcasses to make your own stock.  OK, now I need to figure out how to get rid of the 40 pounds of venison and elk meat in my freezer to make room for these carcasses (Hubby likes to hunt).  But I digress…
He started by making Deviled Eggs.  It is all about creating the perfect texture and in getting the right mix
of creaminess and crunchiness.  In his recipe, he used fried chicken skin atop the eggs to create the crunch.  He also feels that some heat adds a
little dimension to the dish, so he added Aleppo pepper, a spice popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.
He’s totally styling in plaid pants and a Red Rooster shirt
Next, he prepared Fried Yard Bird, one of the signature dishes from
his Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster.  He recommends brining chicken thighs and drumsticks in a water to salt ratio of 8 to 1 for a couple of hours.  Then, marinate in buttermilk and coconut milk overnight.  He also adds a Chicken Shake spice mixture to the marinade (see below for recipe).  The best way to cook fried chicken is in a cast iron
skillet (ironically a common theme throughout the weekend).  He likes to fry at 2
different temperatures: first at 275 – 300 degrees fahrenheit, then towards the end of cooking, he turns the oil up to 360 for maximum crispiness.  Again, he reminded us, it’s all about
creating textures.  Finish off with more Chicken Shake when it comes out of the fryer, and, to celebrate summer, serve with a Corn-Tomato-Lima Bean Succotash.
At the end of the 45 minute class, he presented his dishes to the audience.  It is apparently a mandate handed down from the big wigs at Food & Wine Magazine that letting the audience taste the food is a no-no.  Whether he did this or not, my lips are sealed…
Stay tuned in the days to come for more deliciousness.  ‘xo M 
Marcus Samuelsson’s Chicken Shake (makes 4 cups)
1/8 cup garlic powder
1/2 cup celery salt
1/2 cup ground cumin
1 cup berere **
1 cup smoked spicy paprika
1/8 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup ground white pepper
** Ethiopian spice mixture usually containing chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, fenugreek, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and allspice.  Can be found at Amazon.com.
All photos by Marci Symington for texaztaste.blogspot.com

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