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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Michael Schwartz with his first cookbook hopes to inspire "small victories" for home cooks by giving them practical advice and straight-forward recipes.
The 46-year-old's "Michael's Genuine Food," which launched on Tuesday, features many of his whimsical twists on salads, leg of lamb and other comfort food served at his Miami restaurant, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink that opened in 2007.
The Philadelphia native recently spoke to Reuters about building confidence in the kitchen, embracing fresh ingredients and memories of prepared TV dinners:
Q: What do you want readers to take away from your book?
A: "We wanted a simple, approach but not dumb down from what we do on a day-to-day basis at the restaurant. I know about having small victories in the kitchen. Success is in achieving good results in following the recipes. That builds confidence, and that's important for the home cook. I also want them to embrace shopping as a part of cooking."
Q: What keeps people from using the fresh, local products you and other chefs espouse?
A: "There are the financial constraints because quality ingredients almost always cost more. Then there's people's busy schedules. What the economic downturn has shown us is that people are getting back to basics and cooking at home more rather than going out. The other point of view in the book is to help people build their pantries and to prepare staples that you can use for several different dishes."
Q: Does this shift play into your type of cooking?
A: "Yes our general approach is that we buy quality ingredients or source great products and prepare them simply. We try not to throw at people a lot of fancy terms and words and obscure ingredients around on the menu. It's not what we do anyway because it makes people less comfortable."
Q: How much of Michael's menu harks back to your childhood?
A: "Food while growing up was not that important in our family. I grew up in the convenience era, while my mom is an awesome cook now and I started in the restaurant business when I was 16. So from 16 back, there were some food memories, but certainly not those that dictated and formed my food personality as it is right now."
Q: But you do have a few of them?
A: "One of them is cutting white bread for the Thanksgiving (turkey) stuffing. I also remember TV dinners vividly - Salisbury steaks with that awful gravy and the peach cobbler."
Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Pickled Onions
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large fennel bulb, top removed, halved, cored, and thinly
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 boneless pork shoulder (about 5 pounds), trimmed of
Pickled onions (see below)
1. Put a large skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is hot, add the fennel and onion. Cook and stir for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
2. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, combine the fennel seeds, coriander, red pepper flakes, chili powder, and cinnamon. Mash or buzz until you have a spice powder. Put the spice powder in a small bowl and mix in the salt and pepper.
3. Put the pork, fat side up, in a roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, make small slits all over the surface of the meat. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork, inside and out, being sure to get in the incisions. Lift up the top flap and spoon the fennel and onion mixture inside the pork.
4. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour in just enough water to film the bottom of the roasting pan. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Slow-roast the pork for 2 hours. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and roast for another hour, until the meat is falling apart. Carefully transfer the pork to a serving platter, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve the pork with some pickled onions on top.
2 small red onions, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds and separated into individual rings
2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1. Combine the vinegar, 1 cup of water, the sugar, bay leaves and mustard seeds in a medium nonreactive pot. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
2. Put the onions in a heat-proof nonreactive container, pour the hot liquid on top and toss to coat evenly; the onions should be completely submerged in the liquid. Cover and cool to room temperature. Chill before serving. They can keep for months stored covered in the refrigerator. Be sure to keep them completely submerged in the liquid.