Warning: John Favreau’s new film, Chef should be viewed on a full tummy only! Food porn has finally burst onto the big screen, and there is absolutely nothing in the theater concessions that will come close to satisfying the cravings you’ll have once you watch the passion and precision in which his character Carl Casper creates one delicacy after another. My compliments and unmitigated respect to the crew  for filming some of the most provocative food porn ever. Trust me, it is much harder than it looks to capture food through a lens that literally makes you salivate. I could almost smell and taste every bite.

Of course the film was right up my alley – it’s was all about food, career reinvention, and finding a connection with his child. Then throw in Scarlett Johansson (who always reminds me of my daughter, Tatjana) some latino flavor with infectious tunes that make you want to salsa in your seat, Cubano sandwiches, and scenes from my old stomping grounds of New Orleans, and you know I was lapping up every minute!

It was also quite thought provoking when a food blogger (Oliver Platt) succeeds in knocking the acclaimed Chef  off his pedestal. Not that my humble blog wields that kind of power, but that is precisely why I write with the philosophy that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it all.” Even the best chefs can have an off day, and in this case it wasn’t even bad food – just lack of inventiveness due to the insistence of his boss (Dustin Hoffman). Casper is forced to stick to the same old menu he’d been putting out for 10 years.

My restaurant review philosophy "if you can't say something nice..."

My restaurant review philosophy “if you can’t say something nice…”

Our social-media mad world has now given the general public the power to tarnish a restaurants reputation in one fail swoop of the poison pen. Sure, some reviews can be useful, but what about the unreasonable disgruntled patron who disses a restaurant unjustly? His/her comments are equally damaging, and there’s precious little recourse a chef or restaurant has. Once it’s out there in the cyber world, it’s there for perpetuity. Suddenly we have all become judge and jury in a less than democratic process. We don’t even have to take responsibility for our convictions, since we can hide behind fictitious cyber profiles.

Chef succeeds in illustrating the all-consuming energy it takes to be a great chef. The passion and time it takes to continually create new menus and recipes, the love and care that goes into preparing that food, and the toll those long hours can take on a chef’s personal life. I do hope people will think twice before writing their next scathing review.

Jewels on camera

Jewels on camera

Of course food porn is quite common on the small screen too, even at the hands of America’s home cooks on MasterChef. One of the highlights of my career to date was getting to be a guest judge on an episode of season 5 – you’ll have to stay tuned to see me, but do watch the premiere this Monday, May 26, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX. Here’s one of my favorite recipes you can munch on and judge for yourself while you watch…

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Venetian Scallops

Sweet, tender, perfectly seared scallops atop al dente spaghetti or fettuccine, with a small pinch of saffron to brighten the rich tomato sauce. If you have vegetarians in the household, serve them first, stirring some rinsed and drained white beans into their serving(s), then top everyone else’s with the cooked scallops.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper optional
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pinch saffron optional
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce (canned)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil torn
  • 2 teaspoons fresh Italian parsley chopped, divided
  • 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine cooked according to package instructions
  • salt and pepper to taste

Scallops

  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 pounds scallops pat dry

Directions

For the sauce

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots, and cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  2. Increase heat to medium, and add wine, stirring up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and cooking until reduced by half, about 4-5 minutes. Add chicken broth and saffron, cook an additional 4-5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, zest, basil, 1 teaspoon of parsley, and season to taste. Reduce to medium-low and simmer another 4-5 minutes. Toss in the cooked spaghetti or linguine, reduce heat to low until ready to serve.

Scallops

  1. Mix the flour and granulated garlic on a plate.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Dredge the scallops, one at a time, shaking off any excess flour, and sear 3-4 minutes on the first side, seasoning the other with salt and pepper, then carefully turn the scallops over and brown on the other side until just opaque, another 2-3 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

Serve hot scallops over the spaghetti of linguine, garnished with remaining teaspoon parsley.

Heat To Eat

Vent lid fo container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, stirring midway to distribute heat evenly; or heat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently but gently, to distribute heat evenly.

Variations

This would be delicious with shrimp, crab, or lobster too.

Notes

Especially if the scallops have been previously frozen, it is important to blot them to soak up any excess liquid before dredging and cooking to avoid the liquids being released during cooking (instead of searing, everything becomes a soggy mess if you don't).

If you’d like to master being the chef in your own kitchen – check out the video on how the Personal Chef Approach works above. The PCA will save you time and money while eating healthier home cooked meals in the comfort of your own home. My favorite part? Knowing I can help bring families back around the dinner table again.

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  • May 24, 2014
    6:16 am

    I cannot wait to see ‘Chef’ Jewels. Thanks for the tip about eating first before seeing the movie. Although somehow I don’t think it will work for me. I love food all too much!