About Me

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I have recently developed this huge passion for cooking, even though I've been cooking since i was 15 and have been a chef for the last 10 years. I think I am addicted to it. Or am I addicted to eating my cooking? Either way, I want to share my experiences with whom ever is interested. That is why I started this blog. Currently I am self employed as a private/personal chef and a stay at home dad. I am very thankful to have ended my restaurant career not so long ago! It's a hard life, especially when your trying to raise a family! I live in Naples, Florida where I met my beautiful wife while working at a yacht club about 3 years ago. We now have a little 6 month old daughter and life as we know it has changed forever ( for the better)! There is something going on in the food world that is very exciting! People are starting to open their eyes a little. We're going back in time, back to the farm, back to the dinner table. Something that has to be done in my opinion. I spent a lot of time at the dinner table as a child and thought is was very beneficial in how I ended up. The thing I like best about being a chef is that I will never learn it all. Ever!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cooking Classes

Well, I've been doing this cooking class for 3 of the last 4 months which was started by the wonderful Lauren McKyton. She started a cooking club for mom's and hosts them at her house. She and I decide on a theme/cuisine and get advice for recipes from some of the members of the club. It only costs 10 dollars, I buy the groceries and do a demonstration of about 3 or 4 recipes.

The first one I did was an Asian theme. I did 3 appetizers, one was crab rangoons (with fresh jumbo lump crab meat, none of that fake crap!), we made some chicken potstickers from scratch and we tried to replicate the lettuce wraps from P.F. Changs.

The recipe for the crab rangoons:

Yield: 44 - 48 Crab Rangoon

8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces fresh crab meat or canned crab meat, drained and flaked
1/2 teaspoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1 - 1 1/2 green onions, finely sliced
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon red onion, chopped

1 package wonton wrappers
1 small bowl filled with water for wetting wontons
Oil for deep-frying

Combine the crab and the cream cheese. Mix in the remaining filling ingredients one at a time.
On a flat surface, lay out a wonton wrapper in front of you so that it forms a diamond shape. Wet the edges of the wonton.
Add a heaping teaspoon of filling to the middle, and spread it out toward the left and right points of the diamond so that it forms a log or rectangular shape (otherwise the wrapper may break in the middle during deep-frying).
Fold over the edges of the wrapper so that it forms a triangle shape. Seal the edges, adding more water if needed.
Cover the completed Crab Rangoon with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out while preparing the rest.
Heat wok and add oil for deep-frying. When oil is ready (the temperature should be between 360 - 375 degrees), carefully slide in the Crab Rangoon, taking care not to overcrowd the wok. Deep-fry until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning once. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cool and serve.

(To make ahead: The filling can be prepared up to a day ahead of time and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, or the wontons can be filled and refrigerated up to one day ahead of time before cooking. The wontons can also be prepared up to the deep-frying stage and frozen for up to 3 months. Cook the frozen wonton according to the instructions above, adding a few minutes to the cooking time).

I wouldn't change anything about this recipe. I've never had crab rangoons with fresh crab, they were Amazing! But you have to eat them right out of the fryer.

As for the potstickers we made, they were pretty labor intensive! Especially making the dough, then rolling it out and cutting into circles. It was a good thing we had about 10 ladies helping out. Well worth it in the end! Here is the recipe, we used chicken instead of pork:

Pork and Ginger Pot Stickers with Spicy Soy Dipping Sauce
Yields: 20-25 pot stickers
Napa Cabbage, finely chopped                       4 cups
Salt                                                                  1 T
Ground Pork (not too lean)                             ½ pound
Fresh Ginger, finely chopped                          1 ½ T
Garlic, finely chopped                                     1 ½ T
Soy sauce                                                        2 T
Sesame Oil, toasted                                        3 T
Egg, lightly beaten                                          1
Water                                                              2 C
AP Flour                                                           4 C
Salt                                                                  ½ tsp
Dipping Sauce:
Soy sauce                                                        1/3 C
Rice Wine Vinegar                                          1/3 C
Scallions, green parts, sliced                          1/3 C
Sesame Oil, toasted                                        1 T
Sambal Oelek                                                  1 T

  1.  To make the filling, combine the cabbage and 1 ½ teaspoons of the salt in a large bowl and toss together; set aside for 30 minutes.  Transfer the cabbage to a clean dish towel or cheesecloth, gather the ends of the cloth together, and twist to squeeze as much water as possible from the cabbage (this will make the filling more cohesive.)  In a second large bowl, combine the cabbage with the pork, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, and egg and mix.
  2. To make the dough, bring the water to a boil.  In a large stainless-steel bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Slowly add the boiling water in ¼-cup increments, mixing with chop sticks until a ball is formed and the dough is no longer too hot to handle.  All the water may not be needed.  Knead the dough on a floured work surface until it becomes smooth and elastic, 15 to 20 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball, return it to the bowl, and cover it with a damp cloth.  Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour.
  3. To form the wrappers, add more flour to the work surface.  Divide the dough in half.  Shape one portion into a log and roll it back and forth under your palms to make a thin sausage shape measuring about 1 inch in diameter.  Cut into ½-inch pieces.  One by one, stand each piece on end, flatten the piece with your palm, and roll out to form a circular wrapper about 3 inches in diameter and 1/16 of an inch thick.  Repeat with the remaining dough.
  4. To fill the pot stickers, place about ½ tablespoon of the filling in the center of each wrapper.  Avoid getting filling on the edges of the wrapper, which would prevent proper sealing.  Fold each wrapper in half to form a half-moon shape.  Seal the top center of each dumpling by pressing between the fingers and, starting at the center, make 3 pleats, working toward the bottom right.  Repeat, working toward the bottom left corner.  Press the dumplings down gently on the work surface to flatten the bottoms.
  5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat.  Add the oil and swirl to coat.  When the oil shimmers, add the pot stickers, flattened bottoms down, in rows of five, and cook in batches without disturbing until brown, about 6 minutes.  Add about ½ cup of water and immediately cover to avoid splattering.  Lift the cover and make sure about 1/8 inch of water remains in the pan; if not, add a bit more. Steam until the pot stickers are puffy yet firm and the water has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.  If the pot stickers seem done but water remains in the pan, drain it and return the pan to the stove top.
  6. Continue to cook over high heat to allow the pot stickers to recrisp on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer the pot stickers to a platter and serve with the dipping sauce.
  7. To make the dipping sauce, combine all the ingredients and blend well

Like I said, it was a lot of labor but well worth it in the end!  Browned and crisped on the bottoms, steamed, and recrisped, gives them a great textural mix.

As for the lettuce wraps, I found this recipe online and I thought they were amazing.  I would like to compare them side by side.  These might be better?

Wanna-be PF Chang’s Lettuce Wraps Recipe
Pouring sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons gluten free tamari (or regular soy sauce if you’re not concerned about gluten)
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon hot water
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Chicken Stir-fry
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed to 1/2″
1 – 8oz can sliced water chestnuts, minced to the size of corn kernals
1/2 cup mushrooms, minced to the size of corn kernals
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
6 large leaves of iceberg lettuce or nappa cabbage
Stir-fry sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

Begin by making the pouring sauce. In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in 1/2 cup warm water, then add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil. Mix well and throw in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.
Combine 1 teaspoons hot water with dijon mustard and garlic and set this aside in small bowl.
Combine oils and add to wok or large frying pan. Heat oil over high heat until it glistens, about one minute. Add chicken and saute until cooked through, then remove from the pan and cool. Keep oil in the pan, keeping it hot over a low flame.
Prep the stir fry sauce by mixing soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar in a small bowl.
Take pan that you cooked the chicken in (with the still warming oil, riiiight?) and turn it up to medium-high heat. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, wait one minute, and then add chicken, garlic, onions, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and the stir-fry sauce you prepared earlier. Stir-fry everything until the mushrooms have cooked, about four minutes, and remove to a serving dish.
Add mustard/garlic mixture to the pouring sauce, 1/2 a teaspoon at time to taste.
Serve stir-fry with iceberg lettuce or nappa cabbage leaf wraps and top with pouring sauce.
You can do the same thing with ground beef, if you like – here’s the red meat version:


  1. Alright ChefDon.... Can you make homemade tater tots?

  2. Well Diane Paleno, I've never tried. But now that you ask, I will be experimenting. Stay tuned!