2150 Hwy 35 Sea Girt, NJ 08750

PESCADO VERACRUZANO

Pescado Veracruzano

This dish originates from the highly Spanish influenced costal state of Veracruz. Essential is whole fish (classically red snapper or huachinango but any whole fish could work) smothered in a sauce/dry stew. Serve with rice, boiled or roasted potatoes and a nice salad for a great summer time meal for two.  Hands down one of my all time favorite seafood and or Mexican dishes.  This sauce goes great with scallops and shrimp!

Fish

1 Red Snapper approx. 1.5 lb, scaled and cleaned with head on
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lime
salt and pepper

Method:
Preheat oven to broil. Place oven rack 4 inches below heat source. Brush fish with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Place on a greased baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes, until the fish is opaque but still firm. Do not overcook. Remove from heat and squeeze lime juice over fish. Alternatively you could grill the fish skin side down.

VERACRUZANO SAUCE

 

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, diced and seeded
1 can stewed crushed tomatoes, approx. 12 oz
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
15 pitted green olives, cut in half
2 tablespoons large capers, drained
2 to 3 pickled jalapeños (depending on desired level of heat), drained, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt to taste

Method:

In a heavy nonreactive pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes.Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients and cook for about 10 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Keep the sauce warm while you prepare the fish.Place fish on a serving platter and cover with the sauce. Garnish with choed parsley or cilantro and plenty of lime wedges

 

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An Italian Inspired Evening with Chef James Avery

Visiting the Kids at Montessori

“Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.”

From Wikipedia

Some Of my earliest childhood memories were inside of a Montessori school. I suppose it makes sense since my mother has owned and operated one since before I was born, but mostly because of the teaching techniques, philosophy, and experiences the Montessori method embraces and gives its students. Unlike many traditional schools, Montessori children are taught to be independent, to use their imaginations, solve problems by thinking outside the box, and to respect those around them.

The beauty of a Montessori education is that you are taught based on ability. In other words if a child is good at math he/she may learn at a higher level (I use level for lack of a better word), and the opposite is true. The student who may excel in math may struggle with English. Ultimately, the end result is confidence. I attribute any success I have had up to this point in my life from knowing very well what I am good at and what I am not, and having the confidence to admit where I can improve. That, and I almost ignorantly, think big (another characteristic I probably picked up at Montessori).

The Montessori mentality has taught me a lot about working and running kitchens. Great chefs, at least the ones I aspire to be like, are the ones that empower their staff. They develop team members that can solve problems on their own without needing constant assistance. They create an environment where everyone contributes to the success of the team by giving the staff the freedom within the limits of the hierarchy, and a voice to share their strengths. These chefs and restauranteurs learn from everyone around and continue to learn and look at things through multiple lenses. Great chefs teach cooks how to taste, feel, smell and use their senses and surroundings in cooking as opposed to just following a set recipe. All things I would compare to a Montessori education.

Montessori can teach us all about life both personal and professional. Thats why when my mom asks me to come back to visit or to teach a class I’m happy to do so. Also working with kids, as difficult as it can be, is extremely refreshing. My favorite part of the bread class was the excitement on the little girl’s face when the bread was placed on the table. Her expression and reaction I would compare to arriving at Disney for the first time. Its nice to see that humble cooking can have such an impact on someone. Funny that even when I return to my Montessori roots I can still learn even something….even if it is only a reminder to be more “child like” in the kitchen!

Good Cooking!

James

Before You Go To Bed Bath & Beyond and Spend Your Money!

So I recently read an article in the New York Times praising the commercial sheet pan for its humble and rugged features. I had to laugh because it’s true. If you visit the home of a professional cook/chef you will see their kitchen riddled with items you would only find in a commercial kitchen. Now, over the years I have collected quite a few kitchen wares from here and there. I spoon from this restaurant and sizzle pan from that one. I am by no means advocating stealing, but hey I was young, dumb, and making 8 dollars an hour. My kitchen is literally filled with professional grade equipment (including some that I bought with my hard earned money) like my Vita-Prep blender, Robot Coupe food processor, Poly Science Circulator and my Waring immersion blender, and the list goes on.

I love my kitchen toys and “souvenirs”, and hate cooking without them. Much crappier more expensive versions are available at home stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, William Sonoma, and Sur la Table. Not that I’m picking on those guys, but there is a reason why restaurants use the professional grade stuff. Plain and simple the commercial stuff is designed for daily abuse. I know some people love how “cute” Suzy homemaker kitchen gizmos and gadgets are. Obviously professional grade equipment doesn’t come in a variety of colors with silicon daisies attached to it, but who gives a shit. Again function before form here people. So I have compiled a list of items you should absolutely go by at you local restaurant supply store. Before going to the previously mentioned.

1.) ½ Sheet Trays. Under $20. Throw away those thin cookie sheets You can bake, cool, roast, and store food with these. I also use them as seasoning trays when I am grilling in the back yard.

2.) Sizzle trays. Under $15. I like these for warming and cooking individual servings in the oven. They take up less dishwasher space. These too can be used as seasoning trays.

3.) Baine Maries. Under $15. Various sizes. Awesome just because. I keep 2 next to my stove to hold my spoons and hand tools. They also make a good wine bucket in a pinch.

4.) Cooling/Roasting racks. Under $25. These fit on top of sheet trays and have a wide variety of applications from glazing pastries and cakes, roasting meets, and/or a place to rest steaks once removed from the grill.

5.) Tongs/Whisks/Fish and Meat Spatulas. Under $10. Trust me commercial ones are just better.

For more expensive “toys” check out —
www.jbprince.com
www.korin.com

Good Cooking,

James

Become a Domestic God

We have all heard of the term “Domestic Goddesses” (and rightfully so). These amazing women study Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, and Giada De Laurentis like it’s a religion. Their homes are organized, decorated, smell nice, and there always seems to be a something in the oven. They can sew, facilitate bake sales, and make it to every soccer game there is. Keep all the children (and Husband) on a routine. While daddy is off at work and the kids are at school or doing a laundry list of other extra curricular activities, these super moms do arts and crafts, and go ape shit posting there ideas and recipes on Pintrist. Did I mention they also find time to squeeze yoga and grocery shopping into the schedule? Yes Domestic Goddesses are impressive beings.

However, not all women share the same desire to stay home and run the household, or be given the sole responsibility (nor should they). In may cases women are out making far more money than their spouses or partners could ever make. Also, because of the economic climate of today, households need 2 incomes leaving the primary caregiving to be divvied up. Sometimes wives have to enter the work force because their husbands have become disabled or laid off.

In recent years we have seen the number of stay at home dads and/or shared caregiving triple in the US, Canada, and the UK. Some men, but not all, seem to struggle with this because, quite frankly, they weren’t giving the tools to do so when growing up. Little boys aren’t taught how to run a household, bake, or do all the things mom did. In addition to the lack of home skills, most men are uncomfortable with the perception of being less “manly” in the role of primary care giver. It goes without saying that in our world numerous social stigmas exist, but that shouldn’t keep us from the imminent evolution of the family household.

Luckily because of my job I got the cooking, organizing and cleaning down. I just struggle with the ponytails, (a skill I have vowed to master in 2014) and hope I never have to go bra shopping. The important thing is that I help my wife and don’t leave all the domestic duties up to her. That’s what a modern family does or should do (in my opinion). Share the responsibilities and ignore the 1950’s preconceived notion of what it means to be a family, man, father, woman, or whatever for that matter.

This doesn’t just go for guys with families. In a recent poll done by a very popular men’s magazine, which asked women what they found sexy in a man, listed the ability to cook as one of the top attributes. Divorce, same sex marriage, and loss of a spouse can all be reasons why men would need to become more domestic.

So guys, put down the hammer and remote and get your ass and into the kitchen. It’s time you branch out and do a little more than mow the lawn, hang shit and dick around in the garage (which you still should do). By becoming more domesticated your family will think you’re just as manly, and your spouse/partner will more than likely find it sexy. Your children will grow up in a house seeing their parents working as a team and their father being nurturing.

I can’t fix a fucking thing to save my life (other than the basic bike chains, cabinet doors, etc), but I can cook my ass off, and I can always call someone to fix the kitchen sink. Trust me when I tell you I have no insecurities about my “manliness”. Its time you become a “Domestic God” and debunk the gender role stereotypes.

My “Perfect Omelet” With Smoked Salmon, Mustard, Dill, Crème Fraiche

IMG_3801I would like to preface this recipe with my definition of “perfect” since that is a totally subjective term. For me, an omelet is the summation of slowly cooked eggs just set and rolled over a warm filling. The texture of the eggs should be almost custardy and wet. Too often people down play the importance of the egg in an omelet, and see it as a means to hold a bunch of “filling” ingredients together. My perfect omelet is also rolled not simply folded over. I don’t have a very good reason for this except for the fact that it’s how it should be done. Fat plays a huge role in the end result. I use a high fat content butter and olive oil. Fat lubricates the proteins as they coagulate and makes a tenderer product. There is no need to add and water or milk to the eggs because that only prolongs the cooking process, and results in rubbery eggs. I also feel the importance of the type of egg used to make an omelet is absolutely crucial. I use organic free-range eggs. When a chicken is aloud to eat a more” natural diet” of bugs, seeds, and whatever else happy chickens eat the quality of the fat in the yolk is greater. Industrial farmed eggs have the nutritional content of saw dust.

A few tips on how to cook the perfect omelet:

• Heat your pan slowly over a VERY LOW flame for more time to avoid hot spots in the pan. This will keep you omelet from getting brown spots.
• Crack and whisk eggs and then allow to rest for at least 10 mins, while you do remaining prep.
• Use very cold butter
• Make sure filling is not too cold. Room temp is best.
• Continuously stir eggs for 45 seconds once placed in pan. This is what will give the “custardy” texture” by making very small curds.

Ingredients:

Omelet:

3 eggs
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbls butter, diced and very cold
1 tbls Crème Fraiche
salt and pepper

Filling:

4 oz Smoked salmon, flaked
1 tsp Capers
1 tsp Red onion minced
1 tbls Whole Grain Mustard
1 tsp Fresh dill, minced

Make the filling:

While pan is getting hot, butter is getting cold and eggs are coming to room temp go ahead and place all ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix with a fork. Don’t over mix it should look somewhat flaky still not tuna salad.

Cook the eggs:

If you haven’t already, crack eggs into a bowl, and add a small pinch of salt and pepper and beat with a fork or whisk vigorously. Add oil to the pan and move around to coat the bottom and heat for 30 seconds. Then add your eggs and butter (the eggs should sizzle). Using a rubber spatula make small circular motions all around the pan. After 45 seconds or so you will see the eggs begin to thicken as butter melts and look cooked around the edges. Let cook for another 30 seconds then spoon mixture minus 2 tablespoons down the middle of the omelet in a line from left to right. Run spatula around the sides of the pan to release. Turn pan off. Now fold the omelet like a letter by lifting handle up and working the half closest to you over the filling. Then tilt the handle down and fold the other half over the first. Slide omelet closer to handle, lift handle and flip the omelet by lifting handle and using spatula (this will take practice so don’t get discouraged. Slide onto a warmed plate garnish with crème fraiche, dill, and reserved filling.

Good Cooking!

James

5 Reasons to Cook With Your Children

As a father of three, I understand how difficult it can be to try to put dinner together in a timely and organized manner. While one child is asking “how long” or “can I help with the chopping”, another may be crying at your feet (literally), and one is playing with the knives in the drawer and chemicals under the sink. This is a no exaggeration account of my experience most of the time attempting to get dinner ready. It can be more stressful than a Saturday Night’s service on the grill. Its enough to make me want every night to be “pizza night”. In my professional life I work in the brightest, shiniest, and best equipped kitchens with other professionals (and the occasional shit heads). At home I don’t have the same space or resources. One kid doesn’t like rice, one can’t have gluten, and one won’t eat anything. My doctor gives me all these dietary guidelines for my children as well as a list of “allergies”. All these things lead to frustration, and are never what we expect when we see those beautiful “Family Cookbooks”, you know the ones with pictures of the mom and dad making killer pastries, the children shelling beans like classically trained line cooks, and everyone is laughing. However, I realize that my kids are only gathering into the kitchen because, like all kids, they are curious and want to get involved. So I make it a point, when given the time, to get the whole gang in the mix. Worse case if its a disaster I can always order a pizza. So here are 5 reasons why you should be cooking with your kids:

1.) Cooking and preparing their own food will make them less picky. If they make it there is a greater chance they will WANT to try it

2.) Cooking gives them confidence. There are a million things to be learned in a kitchen. With each new lesson learned a victory is had.

3.) Cooking will give them independence. Cooking is a essential skill everyone needs in life (at least in my opinion) so start teaching them when there are young. By the time they are teenagers they know that food doesn’t just magically appear on the table!

4.) Cooking is a multi-sensoral learning experience. Working through recipes gives kids a real world application of math and science. They can get the right brain involved by tweaking and creating recipes.

5.) Cooking brings you together. BY far the most important reason you should be cooking with your kids is because its 45 more minutes you will never have back that you could have created a life long memory with.

Remember you don’t have to cook every meal together (that would be madness). I know how important alone time with a bottle of wine in the kitchen is. But listen, try it once a month then once a week. You’ll be glad you did. Maybe one day you can scream from the “couch how long for dinner?!?!?”

Good Cooking,

James

Super Bowl Sunday Re-imagined “Bar Food”

It’s a bittersweet day. Its time to close a chapter in our lives know as the 2013 NFL season. And with it goes our excuse to disappear into a bar, a friend’s house, or a stadium parking lot on a perfectly beautiful Sunday morning, afternoon, or night (and sometimes when lucky, but not often, all three), drink, and eat whatever we want. So on our final Sunday of football induced debotury, lets go out in style with these re-imagined bites that won’t require you and your guests to put down your beverage or for you to purchase an industrial size box of wet naps. Easy to make, easy to eat, easy to clean!

Good Cooking!

James
Chorizo Chili Empanadas
Approx. 30 small empanadas or 15 large

3 lbs Mexican Chorizo, casings removed
5 tbls Chile powder (ancho preferred)
1 tbls Cumin, ground
3 ea Cloves Garlic, minced
1 ea Spanish Onion, small dice
28 oz Canned tomatoes
7 oz Chioptle Chiles in adobo
1 tsp Salt
6 oz Tomato Paste
30 ea Empanada skins
2 ea eggs, whisked
1 tbls Olive oil

Make the Chile:
Place a dutch oven or large pot over a medium flame with oil, add chorizo and cook until fat has rendered and meat is browned. Push meat to one side of the add garlic and onions, garlic, and spices. Cook until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Add remaining ingredients and cook for 20 mins. Pour chili into casserole dish and allow to cool in the refrigerator.

Make empanadas:
Lay empanada skins out on a clean counter or table top. Have your egg wash ready and a small pastry brush. Brush the empanada skins lightly with egg was and place 1 ½ tbls of chili (3 tbls if making large empanadas) on one half of skin from about ½ inch from the edge. Fold the other half over the filling. Do this with all the empanada skins. Crimp edges closed using the back of a fork. Brush the empanadas with remaining egg wash (you may need more), and place on a greased baking sheet lined with foil. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 20 mins until golden brown.

Buffalo Yakitori with Bleu Cheese Fondue

For Yakitori:
6 lbs chicken skinless chicken thighs cut large into chucks
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup mirin
1 cup rice vinegar
salt to taste
3 cups store bought buffalo sauce
30 ea bamboo skewers, soaked in water in refrigerator overnight

Make the Yakitori:
Marinate the chicken overnight in a nonreactive dish with the soy sauce, mirin, and rice vinegar overnight. The next day remove chicken from dish, discard marinade, and lay chicken on paper towel lined plate or tray. Skewer 3-4 oz. of chicken on each skewer and season with salt (this can be done a day in advance). Heat up a grill and brush or spray with oil. Cook chicken for 4-5 minutes rotating every minute or so until lightly charred. Remove chicken from grill and generously brush with buffalo sauce. Return chicken to grill and cook on all sides for a total of I minute (this part is very important because it bakes the sauce to the chicken).

For Blue Cheese Fondue:
2 cups bleu cheese crumbles, plus a little more for garnish
1 cup cream cheese, room temp
1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonaise
½ cup chives, minced
3 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp celery salt

Make Fondue:
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a rubber spatula. Divide mix into a few small heat proof bowls and set aside (can be done several days in advance) . Preheat oven to 350 for 20 mins, and then set to broil. Place fondue under broiler for 3-4 mins until brown and bubbly. Garnish with additional bleu cheese crumbles and some minced chives.