The Dining Dish blog is Dara Bunjon's take on anything food, both national and in her hometown of Baltimore. Warning: this food blog can be harmful to your waistline.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rue Tatin Comes to Paris

Did you not love the book On Rue Tatin by Susan Hermann Loomis? You didn’t read it, well shame on you! On Rue Tatin is to France what Under the Tuscan Sun was to Italy.

A young culinary student at La Varenne École de Cuisine was Susan Hermann Loomis’s first step into a lifelong immersion in French cuisine and culture, culminating in her permanent residency in 1994. On Rue Tatin chronicles her journey to an ancient little street in Louviers, one of Normandy’s most picturesque towns.

Chef Loomis is an author of six cookbooks including Farmhouse Cookbook, French Farmhouse Cookbook as well as Cooking on Rue Tatin. Susan owns and operates On Rue Tatin, a cooking school out of her home in Louviers.

If Louviers is inconvenient to your travels to France, do not fret, Susan is also teaching classes in Paris

On Rue Tatin's Paris Classes at Patricia Wells' Left Bank Cooking Studio

One-Day Classes in Paris

Pining to cook in Paris but you have only a few days? Well, pine no more, for by popular demand, Susan Herrmann Loomis will be teaching one-day classes in Paris. Morning classes will begin with an outdoor market tour, where students will shop for fruits and vegetables, meat, bread, cheese, fish and poultry. Then students will take the ingredients into Patricia Wells's stunning cooking studio on rue Jacob in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Près. There, Susan will lead students through the preparation of a simple lunch which will include wines and cheeses from small quality producers throughout France.

For those who prefer an afternoon class, followed by dinner, Susan will meet students at Patricia's cooking studio on rue Jacob, and lead them through a series of tastings and a demonstration, followed by instructive preparation of a more complex, multi-course dinner. There will be wines and cheeses from small quality producers, and plenty of candlelight.

One Day Course Dates
February 1, 28, 29, 2008
March 13, 14, 2008
May 8, 9, 16, 29, 30, 2008
June 19, 20, 2008
July 17, 18, 2008
September 25, 26, 2008
October 30, 31, 2008
November 20, 21, 27, 28, 2008
December 11, 12, 2008

Week Long Classes in

Ms Hermann Loomis will offer two five-day classes in Patricia Wells's Left Bank Paris studio in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Près. She will conduct the hands-on classes in Patricia's airy studio and will focus on specialty oils, chocolate, cheese and wine, with special emphasis on organic ingredients. Each day will begin at 10 am with a demonstration, followed by a class and multi-course lunch. The class is limited to 7 guests.

Week Long Course Dates
May 12-16
October 13-17
November 10-14

For further details on all of Susan’s classes go to

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mentoring A High School Culinary Team

In the ancient days when I went to high school, there were few if any technical schools. In Baltimore, I think the only technical school was Mervo and I don't believe there was a culinary program. Regular high school home economics was always about creamed chipped beef --bleck! Even if there was a program at that time, I'm not sure culinary would have been a path I would have taken.

It is a new day and a new dawn with the ProStart culinary programs in the high schools. The students work in professional kitchens with professional equipment. I learned more about the program as a member of the board for the Maryland Hospitality and Education Foundation, more so when we used the Eastern Technical's culinary students to help test the recipes for my compilation cookbook, YUM! Tasty Recipes from Culinary Greats.

The Maryland State ProStart Competition takes place the beginning of March and I have sponsored The Carver Center Team and I am mentoring these young hopefuls. I'm not a parent nor a teacher, so this new territory for me.

At our first team gathering I brought in a cupboard full of my unusual ingredients and cookbooks. We tasted not just one of a product but multiples like vinegars side-by-side and the same with soy sauces. The students were eager and not shy to expand their culinary knowledge.

I have to keep in mind this is their competition not mine and allow them the room to make the final decisions - I just offer suggestions and that is hard. There is much more to this than just the dishes they have to make in the one hour - there is cost management, knife skills, health etc.

I reached out to a specialty importer for donations and they were there in a minute. I love Henckels knives which is unusual because I used to sell Wusthof. I was given a Henckels knife and just loved the weight and hand feel and it seems to stay sharper longer. Let me talk about Henckels' Santoku knife---it is a cook's dream. I've never been accused of being shy so I also contacted Henckels to help and they have.

I will try to write an ode to Henckels sometime in the future.

The team is doing it's second run through this afternoon after school. I'm excited to see what they have accomplished in the past week. I will keep you posted.

Here is some video that I took:

Friday, January 11, 2008

I'm Foie Gras

It's true, I am a walking foie gras. I've been diagnosed with fatty liver disease. Thanks to PETA and their work, I am banned from Chicago and all that the city offers. No matter how good the Southwest Airlines deals might be to Chicago, I am foie gras non gratis in the Windy City.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Recently Discovered Unpublished Article by Chef Barbara Tropp

by Dara Fromm Bunjon

I’m not sure when I first heard of Chef Barbara Tropp. It was so long ago, and many meals have passed since then. Barbara was the chef/owner of China Moon Restaurant in San Francisco and a leading authority on Chinese food. Her interest in Chinese culture started in high school and led to doctoral studies at Princeton. Her passion took her to Taiwan for two years where her two host families guided her on a Chinese culinary path.

Her first cookbook, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking Techniques and Recipes, came out in 1982. James Beard said, “Barbara Tropp’s volume on Chinese cooking is a unique achievement. Her intelligent and thorough explanations are detailed and truly great. The choice of recipes is exciting. This is a magnum opus for any cooking addict.” More praise appears on the book cover from Maida Heatter and Craig Claiborne.

Entertaining with China Moon

Her China Moon Cookbook is amazing, detailed and always on the money. Her recipes were complex and one made a commitment to make her recipes. I have two distinct memories of entertaining with Chef Tropp’s recipes. The first is the China Moon Infusion Chicken Broth, starting with chicken stock and then making the same recipe with the stock instead of water, and the final step, cooking the stock a third time with whole bulbs of garlic and lemongrass. The average consumer would know that it tasted good but I served this to a food scientist who immediately recognized the depth and layering of flavors.

In the mid ‘90s, I had invited Chef Gino Troia and his wife for dinner, but knew what I served could not be Italian. I decided on what I knew would be wonderful: Clear-Steamed Salmon with Ginger-Black Bean Vinaigrette from the China Moon Cookbook.

She Empowered Many

Chef Tropp broke ground not only in combining California and Chinese cuisines, but also as a leader for women chefs and restaurateurs. It was Barbara along with others like Joyce Goldstein and Lydia Bastianich who spearheaded a now-thriving organization which promotes and lends guidance to women in the restaurant industry: Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR). Little did I know when cooking her recipes that I would benefit from her efforts and be part of the organization she helped create.

A Great Loss

Sadly, in late 2001, Barbara died of ovarian cancer at age 53. Her husband, Bart Rhoades, continues to support WCR and comes to their annual conference every year to present the Barbara Tropp Award. Recently, Bart announced he had just discovered an unfinished, unpublished article of Barbara’s and agreed to mail it to me. I hope you enjoy this new found glimpse of the late, great Chef Tropp. I leave it in the unedited state it was sent to me. I hope you relish this rare opportunity to share once more in Barbara’s passion.

By Barbara Tropp Bon Appetit - Chicken

It is difficult not to like chicken! Or at least I would think so – I, who grew up with a chicken farm down the road (across the way from the corn fields that supplied the vegetable course for our chicken dinners), and who came of culinary age in Taiwan, where the chicken is enchantingly and naturally sweet, and so prized a creature that old men (such as the one I lived with) did verbal battle in the morning marketplaces over the merits of this plump bird or that svelte one. No indeed, chicken on my tongue and to my way of thinking is one of the great foods!

Especially in the warm summer months, chicken is a regular on my Chinese-inclined table. I make an extra effort to plan dinners simply, so that I have time to shop for the freshest possible bird. Shopping as I do in a Chinatown poultry market, I know the chicken is fresh-killed that morning and at its natural best, but if I am traveling and hungry for chicken I look for the same signs of freshness in the everyday supermarket birds – a smooth, glossy skin stretched over a plump breast, a discernable moistness, and no sign of excess juices afloat in the bag or storage tray. And then I plan my meal to show off my prize. A stir-fry of “Spicy Tangerine Chicken” served with a crisp green salad, slices of hot garlic bread and a glass of cool wine, or skewers of “Grilled Chinese Chicken Wings” bedded on seasoned rice and washed down with fresh lemonade is my own personal summer style. I avoid Chinese banquets like the plague, and turn to a simple East-West menu with the same happy pleasure that I would greet a shady tree.

Thinking in terms of cooking pleasure, if you are new to cooking a whole chicken and are intimidated by recipes such as “Chinese Curried Chicken”, “Steamed Chicken with Sweet Sausage and Scallion Oil” and “Orange and Tea Smoked Chicken” that call for you to chop up an entire bird, take heart! It is actually a very easy business. The main trick is to have in hand a sturdy, thick-bladed cleaver that will not knick when it hits the bone, and, if you wish an additional friendly tool, a poultry shear. Then, it’s a matter only of method. I first remove the wings and legs by cutting neatly around the joint, bending the wing or leg back to snap the bone free of the socket, and making the extra cut or two needed to free the joint. If the legs are big, I chop them Chinese-style into thirds across the bone (some good-spirited, hearty whacks do the job), and split the wings in two by cutting through the central joint. Next, I cut the body of the chicken into two by cutting first through the breast bone and then along one side of the backbone. The last step is to cut along the rib cage to divide each half in half again, and then to chop each fourth across the bone into rectangular pieces that make a good-sized morsel then claimed by a fork or chopstick. This act of chopping takes more time to describe than to execute, so don’t hesitate to give it a try.

Similarly, if you are new to cooking Chinese-style and fear that your precious summer hours will be wasted slaving over a chopping block and hot wok, put your fears aside. Recipes such as “Steamed Chicken Dumplings”, “Sourdough Chicken Toasts’ and “Rice Crumb Chicken” – pretty appetizers, the trio – are simple enough for even a novice cook. “Stir-Fried Hoisin Chicken with Hazelnuts”, while involving a marinating step and the classic attention to chopping vegetables and aromatics, may be prepared a full day in advance, leaving the final 3-minute cooking to the leisurely moments just before dinner. And “Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup with Toasted Almonds” and “Cold and Crunch Chicken Salad with Two Sauces” are do-ahead dishes as well, with the additional appeal of the familiar.

Here, then are some lively alternatives to the usual summer chicken. Approach them with confidence and enjoy them with a cold beer and a refreshing salad. It’s summertime and the Chinese Cookin’ is easy.

Rice Crumb Chicken

Soft slices of chicken breast are coated with seasoned rice and steamed, making this a very simple appetizer or light main course.

4-6 hors d’oeuvre servings or 2 entrée servings

½ pound boned and skinned fresh chicken breast
½ teaspoon finely minced garlic
½ teaspoon Chinese chili sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons finely minced scallion, white and light greet parts only
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon Chinese or Japanese sesame oil
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon raw white rice
½ teaspoon “Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt”
additional pepper-salt for dipping - or – “Hakka Garlic Sauce”

Lightly pound fillets and breast pieces with the broad side of a cleaver until 3/8-inch thick, then cut crosswise into pieces about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. In a small bowl, toss the chicken, garlic, chili sauce, scallion, wine, soy sauce and sesame oil, stirring well with your hand to coat and separate the slices. Seal airtight and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

In a dry skillet, toast the rice and pepper-salt over moderate heat stirring until the grains turn golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the hot mixture to a food processor fitted with the steel knife and grind to a nubbly consistency about half the size of a peppercorn. Combine the rice mixture with the chicken, tossing to distribute the crumbs.

Arrange the slices in a single layer on a heatproof plate at least 1-inch smaller in diameter than your steamer. (Do not worry if the crumbs do not entirely cover the chicken.) Steam over medium-high heat 15-20 minutes until rice is tender.

Serve with an accompanying dip dish of “Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt” or “Hakka Garlic Sauce”, or a simple mixture of 1 part soy sauce and 1 part unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar with a dash of sesame oil or hot chili oil.

Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt

A wonderful, all-around seasoning. Store in an airtight jar.

Makes ½ cup.

¼ cup Szechwan peppercorns
½ cup old-fashioned kosher salt

Toast peppercorns and salt in a dry skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until salt turns off-white. Peppercorns will smoke; lower heat if needed to prevent scorching. Remove hot mixture to work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife and process for a full minute to obtain a coarse powder. Alternatively, pound in a mortar with a pestle. Sieve to remove peppercorn husks.

Hakka Garlic Sauce

A zippy sweet garlic sauce perfect with chicken.

Makes ¼ cup.

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine the garlic, vinegar and sugar in a small dish, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside 15 minutes to allow flavors to develop, and stir before serving.

© Bunjon


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