From the backyard … to Asia
ASPEN The action was fast and furious Saturday at the Food & Wine Classic as critically acclaimed chefs such as Masaharu Morimoto and Steven Raichlen put on a show.A shorter slate of seminars and tastings is scheduled for Sunday, the final day of the event.
Fans of the Food Network’s popular “Iron Chef” show – nearly 200 people – came out in force Saturday morning to watch the quick-to-smile Morimoto.”I’ll make four dishes in 45 minutes,” Morimoto said with a faint shake of his head at the challenge of concocting fried salmon noodles, salmon vongole, daikon fettuccine and sugared salmon.He did not disappoint.Without ceremony, Morimoto pulled a 25-pound whole salmon from under the counter.And where many chefs engage the audience with banter and constant question-and-answer, Morimoto – as do the aggressive chefs on “Iron Chef” – let his movements do the talking, puncturing his silence with only the occasional, under-his-breath remark: sometimes unintelligible, other times bringing down the house.In silence, two fawning assistants standing ready to spring at every command, Morimoto filleted the fish, lopping off fist-sized steaks, all to the oohs and ahs of a stunned audience.”No, no, no,” he said with a humble bow when spinning handmade noodles elicited applause. “This is very common.”And when he looked up from casually carving daikon (a Japanese radish) into a thin ribbon – a dangerous maneuver requiring years of practice – Morimoto raised his eyebrows and said with a grin, “Experience.”
He barked out “Bam!” when he spiked the last pinch of seasoning on a finished dish and earned hoots from the crowd.”I have my traditional skill I learned in Japan,” Morimoto said, but his style draws influence from many of today’s great chefs. And with his four in New York, Philadelphia, Japan and India, he said he is always picking up new spices and new ideas.Morimoto jokingly likened his Japanese-influenced cooking to making Italian food with soy sauce.His book “The New Art of Japanese Cooking” is scheduled for publication in September.
Raichlen is the king of barbecue and the author of more than 20 books on the subject, including “Barbecue Bible” and his upcoming “Barbecue Planet.”Saturday he took a festival crowd on a world tour of the 500,000-year-old art of grilling and barbecuing – and threw in a little marital advice for flavor.”Grilling is a culinary art that is as ancient and robust as humankind itself,” said the liberal-arts-student-turned-cook.And starting with grilled naan bread – throwing the dough in traditional Indian style so it “felt the warmth and soul of human hands” – Raichlen put on a high-speed display, touching on a number of techniques and fielding questions from start to finish while cooking traditional Oaxacan corn on the cob “naked” (no husk), a salmon steak encrusted with a miso glaze cooked on a cedar plank, and a savory rack of beef ribs.His mantra for working the grill: “Keep it hot, keep it clean [that’s the marital advice], and keep it lubricated.”The most important tools: large, spring-loaded tongs (his have a light for night grilling) and a large brush to keep the grill tidy.
He taught grill management, explaining that grilling, unlike stovetop cooking, where you control the heat, is a “sideways art” where the cook moves morsels horizontally from fixed high-heat, middle-heat and no-heat areas.And while Raichlen stressed that there is a difference between “burning and grilling,” he said barbecue is essentially a performance art and offered a number of grilling tricks and flourishes.”If something burns, you just scrape that part off and say ‘That’s how they do it in Tuscany,” Raichlen said. And he showed how a single guy can attract women by slipping marinade through the grill slats to create Vesuvian bursts of flame, noting, “Flare-ups make you feel good, tough and sexy.”Sunday is the final day of the Food & Wine Classic. Morimoto will be in the cooking tent again at 10:30 a.m. – the same time as a Classic Cook-off, a lively chefs competition, in the St. Regis Ballroom.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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