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Chef Jess Everson at Park City Culinary Institute

Is it because I love the science behind it? Is it because I love to eat it? Or maybe it’s the terroir’s effect on cheese. Terroir is the French term for earth or soil and in regards to cheese, it’s referencing the environment around the milk-producing animal – the grazing grass, the soil composition, and even the humidity in the air – that will affect the final cheese results.  Or because there are nearly 1000 different kinds of cheese (with undeniably countless variations of each of those cheeses)? OR… maybe it’s all those reasons. I will be sharing all about cheese regularly on Park City Culinary Insitute’s blog.

To the untrained palate, a cheese can be just a cheese. But let’s take a step back before we just throw that chunk of cheese in our mouths. When I begin a cheese tasting my mind is always brought back to the 2007 Disney classic Ratatouille when Remy is teaching his brother Emile how to taste cheese and Emile just tosses the whole chunk of cheese in his mouth compared to when Remy tastes it and the ensemble of flavors he is experiencing and the love affair with food that he has, but I digress. What I am trying to say is don’t be an “Emile”. Now, onto the cheese.

First, let’s talk about what makes up our taste palate because to understand tasting the cheese we first need to understand what taste is. The five primary flavors detected by our taste buds are salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami, which is a savory or meaty flavor. They are self-explanatory by themselves but talking about them all in harmony is a tad more difficult. A good cheese, like a well-composed dish, should have a balance of flavors. Imbalance and over-salting are the most common defects in less than ideal cheeses.  

Some if not most of these flavors will develop naturally within a cheese.  Salt will be added to cheese to enhance most of the natural flavors in the cheese. Sweet and sour are flavors in the cheese that most of the time begin to develop before the ripening stage even begins. The lactose within the milk is, after all, sugar and the lactic acid created in the beginning stages of the cheese-making process will help develop that sour flavor. Some cheeses will have a slight natural bitterness to them but like spicy hot, bitterness should be a part of the symphony, not the conductor. Umami is a bit of a tricky subject sometimes. Umami can be defined as mouthfeel; it has a separate chemical effect similar to salt that enables it to have the ability to either enhance or suppress other flavors.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the primary flavors, we can talk about tasting the cheese. Here are some simple steps to follow when trying to assess a cheese.

First, it would be to look at it, after all, we eat with our eyes before anything else. Looking at the cheese will give you a lot of great hints as to what is to come. You should be looking at the colors and textures as well as the rind and if possible, the interior of the cheese. For example, on Muffato, a natural blue vein cheese will be wrapped in herbs that naturally grow around the region it is produced so you will know you might pick up some herbaceous notes when tasting. Or may see an imprint of a basket in a brown rind and can probably expect a manchego.Cheese

Next would be to feel the cheese. The springiness, the resistance, the natural break or crumble to the cheese. This will help give you a clue as to if the cheese is in good condition or if it has been poorly stored.

We are getting closer; now we smell the cheese. This part can be fun yet deceiving sometimes. Cheese may have a real stinky rind yet be mellow and buttery on the palate. Or it could smell rather mild and end up being a stronger cheese. You should also make sure your hands are clean and free of any strong odors such as perfume or lotion.

Now we finally taste. Before you indulge, be sure to have a clean palate, then take a swig of water or eat a small piece of white bread or baguette. Take your time when you put the cheese in your mouth. A small bite at first ensures the cheese touches every part of your mouth as taste buds in different parts of your mouth register different flavors. Note all the flavors and try to determine if the cheese has a balanced flavor, think about the texture and mouthfeel. A good cheese’s flavor won’t diminish as soon as you swallow it, it should linger and leave a pleasant lasting impression.

I hope this crash course helps next time you are at a cocktail party and can educate a couple of people on how to properly taste and assess cheese. Happy eating!

– Chef Jess

Chef Jess Everson teaches the Professional Certificate in the Culinary Arts and the Cuisine Certificate at the Park City Culinary Institute. Chef Jess enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge of food with other people.

 

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Cooking chickpeas can be an exploration in crisping in the oven to Dutch oven roasting to hummus.
Crispy chickpeas

Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are a versatile ingredient every chef should be comfortable cooking. We aren’t talking about the canned stuff; we are diving into the dried today. Yes, there is a bit more work in dealing with dried chickpeas but trust me it’s worth it.

Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different soaking methods when it comes to dried legumes. My favorite is a long soak. Rinse the chickpeas in cold water. I usually do two rinses just to make sure they are free of any impurities. Then I place them into a container that has enough room. I do a 3 to 1 ratio of water to chickpea. The chickpeas need to rehydrate so make sure you have a big enough container and lots of water. The chickpeas will at least double in size and absorb most of the water. Store in the refrigerator for 24 hours. When you’re ready to use drain all the water off and let dry.

There are a lot of different applications for chickpeas. The most common is probably spreads like hummus. Chickpeas become very creamy when added to a food processor with another liquid. So you’ll see chickpea purees a lot too. Another fun technique you don’t see as often for cooking chickpeas is crisping them. It’s a great way to add texture to dishes. Whether it be a salad or a nice snack for the road with the right recipe chickpeas can pack a punch.

Cooking chickpeas in a Dutch oven is another one of my favorites. You can build a base of flavors on the stove and then finish them in the oven. When you have heat coming from 360 degrees a bit more flavor can be infused into whatever you’re cooking. A bit of garlic, shallot, and spices will flavor your chickpeas and get them ready for whatever you want to add them to.

Here are two recipes for chickpeas: crispy chickpeas and hummus.

Crispy Chickpeas

2 cups chickpeas, presoaked

1 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Dry the chickpeas as much as possible. In a bowl, mix the chickpeas, oil, and spices. Pour the chickpeas out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes. Make sure to open the oven and give the sheet pan a shake every 15-20 minutes so they are uniformly crispy. The chickpeas will firm up a bit more once they are cooled so don’t over crisp them.

Hummus

 

Serves 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

3 garlic cloves

2 cups soaked chickpeas, drained

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon liquid from the chickpeas (if needed)

1 tablespoon hot sauce (your fav)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor add all the ingredients and puree until desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chef Evan FrancoisChef Evan Francois

While his passion still remains in French cuisine, Chef Evan Francois loves cooking all types of cuisine — from the spice of India to the tang of the Greek seaside.

 

 

 

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If you think that the only way to be successful at ribs is to be a level 72 pitmaster, think again.  Delicious oven-baked ribs can be achieved by anyone. It will require a little planning and patience to achieve this perfection.  The good news about this oven ribs is almost all of the work is done sitting back and waiting. So if your idea of cooking includes a good movie and a beer then you are in luck.

The first thing we do in preparing the ribs is to remove the membrane.  Removing the membrane will keep our ribs from being tough, to get those fall off the bone ribs this is a key part of that success.  To remove it, use a knife to gently slide under the membrane then using your fingers to pull the membrane away from the bones. If slippery or difficult to remove, use a kitchen towel to take hold of it and pull. 

pull off rib membrane

By the way, you might actually find that the butcher or shop you bought your ribs from has already removed the membrane. Less work for you! If you prefer your ribs to have a little bite/chewiness then you might prefer the membrane left on. It’s all up to you!

The next step is covering your ribs in salt and pepper and whatever spices you like. You don’t want to put any sauce on at this time as we will save that for the end.  After applying your favorite spices cover the ribs in aluminum foil. Remember low and slow is the key to rib success so set your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 3-4 hours until tender.  If you like wet ribs finish them off by slathering sauce on them and broiling until sauce begins to caramelize. Ribs in the oven are just that easy.   

 

Kansas City Rub

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup paprika

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon/15 mL salt

1 tablespoon/15 mL chili powder

1 tablespoon/15 mL garlic powder

1 tablespoon/15 mL onion powder

1 teaspoon/5 mL cayenne

 

Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup finely diced onion

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (suggestion Sriracha)

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Salt and ground pepper, to taste

 

After 20 years in the United States Army and retiring as a Sergeant First Class, Sterling West pursued his second career and graduated from the Park City Culinary Institute with a Cuisine Certificate. He now leads operations at the school.

 

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This is great for leftovers or if you’re just not into the traditional thing.

Serves 6

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 2 hours

Pickling Recipe:

1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white or baker’s sugar
1/2 package matchstick carrots
1/4 cup white (daikon) radish, julienned 
1/4 cup thinly sliced sweet onion

Place vinegar, water, and sugar into a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for about a minute or so and remove from heat and add the veggies. Place uncovered in the fridge until cooled. 

Corned Beef Recipe:

1 pound corned beef, cooked and sliced thin
1 cup cabbage, thinly sliced
Rice paper wraps

Dip each rice paper in a bowl of hot tub temperature water until softened, about 20 seconds. Lay the rice paper on a cutting board. Place a small amount of cabbage on the rice paper, making sure to put it on the closest third of the paper from where you are standing, just like rolling sushi.  Place the shaved beef and pickled veggies on top of that.  Fold the ends over the filling then fold both sides over to enclose the filling just like a burrito. Fold over and pull back on the wrap to get all of the air out.  Slice on a bias and serve.

Chef Evan Francois-Chef Evan Francois

While his passion still remains in French cuisine, Chef Evan Francois loves cooking all types of cuisine — from the spice of India to the tang of the Greek seaside to different takes on an American tradition like corned beef.

 

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You can’t talk about corned beef without talking about brining. Brining is a huge opportunity to add an intense amount of flavor and influence the texture to get your desired texture for corned beef. You can do all sorts of things with your brine from sweet to spicy to extra savory. I will talk about my personal recipe for corned beef and why I like to add what I do.

brining corned beefFirst off a little science behind brine. When brining, essentially what you are doing is causing the protein strands in the meat to unwind. And as they unwind they end up getting tangled with other strands allowing it to hold water. So in theory, if you flavor the water that you allowing that meet to hold then that flavor will be throughout the meat as compared to just seasoning the outside of the meat.

So in my recipe, I like to balance all sorts of flavors creating a much more approachable and rounded flavor. First I add the traditional ingredients for corned beef such as bay leaves, mustard seeds, black peppercorns and potassium nitrate, which is a chemical used to achieve the desired texture and color of the beef you want. Without the potassium nitrate, your beef will turn grayish brown. But that is where my recipe starts to stray directly away from tradition.

I add a good amount of brown sugar and honey. I add a little more sugar than usual because it enables me to get a good sear on the meat if I so desire. The sugar will also help round out the spices I add as well, dumbing down the spicy elements of the brine.

I personally love the addition of baking spices to my corned beef. You don’t really end up tasting them individually but it helps bulk up the savory aspect and compliments the sweetness of the meat. So in order to achieve that I will add cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, star anise, and allspice berries. All of these spices play off each other so well especially when I add a little bit of espresso powder to my brine as well. This will really add a robust element to your corned beef and set it apart from boring old corned beef most people are used to.

For my spice element, I rely heavily on the use of red chili flake. I don’t want my corned beef to be considered spicy so I use something that is rather mild on the Scoville scale to just get a hint of heat to round out the flavor.

Finally, I add in just a hint of fresh ginger slices, only about 3 or 4 ¼“ slices. Then I will add my juniper berries, and a small handful of fresh herbs, mostly thyme but just a sprig or two of rosemary. The herbs will really bring an earthy element to the corned beef.

I throw all of this into a pot with some water and a good amount of salt. Bring it up to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar I added. Then I will cool it with some ice and then brine my brisket for about 8-10 days allowing that brine to really penetrate the meat and inject as much flavor as we can. Then once its time to cook it, wash off the brine and simmer for about 2.5-3 hours. You can have a cup or two of cabbage ready for this but I promise you will just want to keep eating the beef and forget about the cabbage.

Chef Jess Everson

– Chef Jess Everson

Chef Jess teaches the Cuisine Certificate Course at the Park City Culinary Institute and has a special place in his heart for brining technique, brined shitake mushrooms, and brined corn beef.

 

 

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