NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli is in constant search for inspirations, whether it is at a farmers market, in a cookbook or along the supermarket aisle.
Her culinary journey began when she was a child in New York City, helping her mother — a cookbook editor — to prepare eclectic meals.
In her pursuit to become a top chef, she moved to France where she studied at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy and worked at the Michelin three-starred Guy Savoy.
Since her return to New York, Guarnaschelli became the executive chef at Butter and has just completed the first season of her television show, “The Cooking Loft.”
Guarnaschelli, 39, spoke to Reuters about her culinary inspirations and why she looks into shopping carts.
Q: Who inspired you to become a chef?
A: “I became a chef largely because my mother was always cooking from the books of James Beard, Julia Childs and Craig Claiborne. My mother’s cooking and techniques were really French from books with America ingredients. She made a lot of the staples that you would often buy in a store.”
Q: What inspires you now?
A; “A common thread in my professional cooking is green markets. I used to go the market with a list. Now I go to the market and see what they have. That’s a completely different reversal in my process for making new dishes. I’m also really a big fan of the cookbook. I think it’s a dying art. I look through old cookbooks and get ideas. By reading a lot of old books and seeing a lot ideas and techniques, they give me different perspectives.”
Q: Do you get ideas from what other people shop for?
A: “I love to see what other people buy. I don’t want to give the wrong idea. I’m not a supermarket stalker. Just to walk through the rows of canned vegetables, I will say to myself, ‘I forgot about that.’
Q: What is your signature dish?
A: “It’s steak tartare with parmesan and bone marrow gratin. There is also a tomato-and-watermelon salad with a sprinkle of strawberries.”
Q; What do you cook for yourself?
A: “I’m huge sandwich person. I toast the bread very carefully. I use salty butter. I’m a really big ham person.”
Stovetop pork chops with cabbage and apples
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds
2 small heads Savoy cabbage, cored, leaves cleaned of ribs
and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper, plus more for
2 knobs fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 teaspoon dry ginger
1 small can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 poblano pepper, washed, cored and seeded, cut into thin
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
5 pork loin chops (bone-on), about 1 1/2 inches thick
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 green apples, washed, cored, halved and cut into 1/2-inch
1 to 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1. In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the cumin, caraway and coriander seeds toasting them slightly for 30 seconds. Do not let them turn dark brown.
2. Immediately add the cabbage. Toss to coat with the butter and spices. Season with salt, white pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste, for seasoning.
3. Add the fresh ginger, dry ginger, tomatoes, and poblano pepper and stir to blend. Taste for seasoning and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. Lower the heat and add the cilantro. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove from the heat and keep warm while cooking the pork chops. The cabbage tastes even better the next day when all of the flavors have had time to meld together.
4. Heat a skillet large enough to hold the pork chops in a single layer. Season each chop on both sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with paprika. Pour oil in the skillet. When the oil begins to smoke lightly, remove the pan from the heat and gently arrange the pork chops in a single layer.
5. Immediately return the skillet to the heat and brown on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a pair of tongs or a spatula to turn the chops on their second side. Brown about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Turn the chops back to the first side and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Season them again, lightly with salt and pepper.
6. Heat the cabbage, stir in the apple slices and add the red wine vinegar. Arrange cabbage on the bottom of a serving platter. Remove the pork chops and place them on top of the cabbage.
Reporting by Richard Leong; editing by Patricia Reaney