Lamb Ragu with Ricotta Cheese and Mint 

A simple slow cooked ragu is simple and tasty. Once you get it going you just let it simmer away for a few hours. This recipe is for a lamb ragu, however the method will work for any ragu you would want to make. Rabbit ragu is also fantastic.
It’s simple in the method as well as the food and equipment you’ll need. What you’ll need:

Olive Oil 

Onion 

Carrot

Celery 

Fennel

Salt/Pepper

Oregano 

Thyme 

Rosemary 

Mint

Red wine 

Diced or ground lamb 

Tomato paste 

Canned tomatoes 

Pasta 

Ricotta cheese 
First of all you’ll make you’re mirepoix. Dice your onions, celery, fennel and carrot. In a large pan sweat your vegetables in olive oil and season. 

Now you’ll chop and add your herbs. I tend to go moderate on the herbs. This can make the difference between an okay and a really good ragu. Depending on the protein you’ll be using in the ragu adjust what herbs you’ll use. For this recipe I use oregano, thyme and rosemary. Lamb is a gamey protein so you’ll want herbs that can stand up to that. I love basil, but it doesn’t add much adding it now. It’s too light and delicate for this recipe to come through enough in the final flavor of the ragu.

Add your tomato paste at this point. Stir it around and let it fry out. Let most of the moisture cook out. This will create a fond on the bottom of your pan. The stuff thats kind off cooked onto the bottom. Now you’ll want to deglaze this with your red wine. I just use a simple table wine. 
Add your canned tomatoes and water. Now is when you let it simmer for hours. Cook until your diced lamb is falling apart. If you used a minced lamb this would take less time, however the texture of the chunky lamb is nicer. Gently simmer don’t let it boil. Adjust your seasoming at this point.
For this recipe and ragus in general, use a bigger pasta. I prefer a short pasta like a penne or papradelle. Fresh pasta is perfect for this kind of recipe. Cook it al dente in seasoned water. 
In a separate smaller pan add as much ragu as you want and your pasta and stir. Let it sit for a minute. It will be extremely hot so it’ll stay warm for a minute. This helps the pasta and ragu come together as one the most they can. 

Ricotta cheese does this a lot of good. The creamy soft cheese with the rich tomato sauce is a match made in heaven. Finish with a little chopped mint and you’re ready to serve. 

Scallops a culinary gem of the sea

Scallops are beautiful in flavor, texture and appearance. Sweet with a mild ocean flavor they’re a real treat. You can take a scallop dish so many different ways. I prefer them seared myself, however you can also poach, or eat them raw. 
Luckily, most scallops you’ll find in the store, or at the fish market will come cleaned and ready to cook. Watch out for milky looking scallops that usually means they haven’t been kept well. 

Sometimes they’ll come in their shell and you’ll have to clean them. Cleaning a scallop is easy. Simply take a small knife and insert it into the shell and gently scrape it from the shell. Open the shell and remove your scallop. Now all you have to do is remove the skirt from the scallop. Just run your thumb around the main peice if the scallop and gently pull the skirt off. You’ll be left with a beautiful,  clean scallop ready to cook.

Like i said before I like to sear my scallops. They get a nice crust and a beautiful medium rare. The middle of the scallop should be pink when you’re done searing it. Over cooking a scallop will make it go rubbery and lose its flavor. I use a very hot sautee pan with some butter. I also coat the foot, the flat end of the scallop, in seasoned flour. This does a few things, it makes the scallops crust nicer and more distinct, as well as creating more of a fond. That’s the brown bits at the bottom of the pan when you sear it. I also make sure to sear my scallops in butter. 

Place your scallops in the pan, making sure not to crowd the pan. Once you put them in don’t touch them until they’re ready to flip. Flip them after about 30 seconds once they have a nice golden brown crust. Wait about another 30 seconds and remove your scallops. 

Now I add some white wine to my pan and deglaze. I add aromatics like thyme and parsley. Thyme and scallops are a match made in culinary heaven. When the white wine is almost gone mount with butter off of the heat and stir vigorously. Pour this over your scallops and serve. Finish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. That’s my favorite way to have scallops. 

Tips and ideas for shrimp 

Shrimp are a fan favorite, ask my fiance. Packed with flavor and numerous ways to enjoy them cooked or raw. Every part of the shrimp can be used. I really dislike food waste.
Shrimp go very well with pasta dishes. I reccomend shelling your shrimp and making a stock out of the shells and heads, you can make the stock into a sauce, cook your pasta in it for a unique flavor or poach your prawns in it. If non of that suites your fancy than you can make shrimp oil. Take some neutral oil, such as canola oil and simmer your shells in it. Smash the shells with a potato masher and drain the oil from the shells. You can also make a compound butter out of shrimp stock simmered way down. 
Shrimp also go well with things like tacos and fajitas. Be gentle with your shrimp when sauteeing them for things like fajitas. They don’t take long to cook at all. Shrimp can go rubbery quick. If you cook them too long they also begin to lose some of their flavor. When making shrimp fajitas I season them gently with salt and cumin and add them once my onions and bell peppers are about halfway their. Also you can sautee your veggies in shrimp butter or oil if you made it. 
Try them on their own. Sautee them in a compound butter. Maybe add a little white wine and lemon juice. Finish with some herbs. All this in mind try to buy good shrimp that really helps. The shell bring good is important.

Always cook with a plan

Recently at school we have taken a mock version of a certified sous chef certification of the American Culinary Federation. On occasion I would go to class without much of a plan on what I would be making the next day. With a certification like this they want everything planned and a lot of technique shown. A menu, timeline, prep list, equipment list and a scrap utilization list are almost all required to pass. It can work, but if something goes wrong there’s little time to come up with a plan B.
I’ve been spending a lot of time working on organization and planning and it’s helped tremendously. You run into less problems and when problems do arise you’ve saved so much time by managing your time you can come up with a viable back up plan. The time spent making a prep list and time line beat the stress of having to come up with things and execute them accurately on the spot.
Time really is money in the restaurant industry, so writing tasks that need to get done can also help you find areas you’re spending too much time. Or it can help the order of prep make more sense so you’re not constantly walking around the kitchen looking for something. Gathering all the equipment and product you need and keeping them at the station minimizes walking time and saves labor cost. The time it takes a well organized cook to do 10 items is much quicker than an equally skilled less organized one.
Going to cook is a lot less stressful when you have a prep list and a time line. Most of the usual worries and stresses of cooking are eliminated. The more organized you cook the better cook you can become, in part because attention to detail becomes of the upmost importance. You start to do things more quickly and efficiently.

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Michelin Stars in the United States

A Michelin star is, in most chefs opinion, the highest award in the culinary arts you can achieve. One star is a great achievement, two stars means people will come from all over the world to eat at your restaurants and three stars makes a restaurant elite. Three stars are very rare. Restaurants are graded every year, so you have to keep up the quality every year.

The United States only has nine restaurants with three stars. Surprisingly Japan has 32 three Michelin stared restaurants. France is close behind with 26. Chefs in the United States would do a lot for even one star. I think that chefs don’t try for Michelin stars for the most part. They think it’s an unreachable goal.

It’s really sad to me. Even if it is not plausible work for it. There’s nothing wrong with producing that quality of food even if the restaurant itself can’t obtain a star. Michelin star restaurants aren’t just graded on the food. The restaurant and service greatly matter too. Some Michelin star inspectors will drop a napkin in the bathroom and if its still there at the end of the meal you won’t get your star. Some will put a piece of gum under the table and go back the next day, if its still there the restaurant won’t get its star.

Almost every chef in France want’s the restaurant they own or work for to earn a Michelin star. They work extremely hard to achieve even one star. It does seem like chefs here are trying harder to earn their stars. America should be on the culinary map. We boast some of the best chefs in the world. mich