I felt like a real hot shot heading into Downtown Seattle Wednesday night. I was on my way to a live cooking demonstration by none other than Seattle’s own Tom Douglas. Thanks to traffic and my own poor planning I had to sneak in just after he got started. Fortunately I didn’t miss much. I found a chair in that loud and ungraceful way a person trying to be quiet and unobtrusive mangages to do anything. Then started paying attention just in time to hear him launch headlong into a story about his grandmother’s schnecken. His grandmother, he told us endearingly, was 4′ 10″ in both directions. He went on to paint the audience a picture of himself as a young boy first experiencing the supple texture of raw bread dough. The story relied heavily on innuendo and elaborate eyebrow wiggling. The audience gasped and giggled as he wrapped us around his little finger.
The recipes for the evening came from the brand new Dahlia Bakery Cookbook (one of Chef Douglas’s 13 restaurants) and The Macy’s Culinary Council’s Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook (he has been an active Council member for many years). First on the menu was Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Broccoli Rabe and Fontina. While his hands were busy cooking he was a stream of tips and product promotions.
Tom’s Tips part 1:
- Use a fatty cheese to balance the spice of the broccoli rabe.
- Allclad stainless in and out pans are his hands down favorite cookware for both the restaurant and home.
- Grilled cheese is a good way to use up the languishing bits of hard cheese in your deli drawer – just blend them with a good melting cheese
- Stick a pot on top of your sandwich while it is grilling to speed up the cooking and get good grill marks (this he demonstrated).
My honest review of the sandwich – it was not my new favorite. I liked the caramelized onions but the spicy broccoli rabe and sharp fontina flavors seems a bit in conflict with each other. I decided later that I would have liked the sandwich a lot more if it had a bit of mild and creamy goat cheese to mellow the aggressive flavors. I was also put off by his use of 4 – 6 tablespoons of butter to make 4 sandwiches. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt but when we were presented with our own quarter of a sandwich it was indeed extremely greasy. Sorry Chef but I would take all the ingredients and use them separately.
The strange sandwich was quickly forgotten when he started to talk turkey. He pulled a gorgeous deep golden bird from the demonstration kitchen’s oven and we all leaned in closer. While we drooled he set the perfectly cooked bird on a tray and began simmering the pan of drippings to make his gravy. The turkey had been stuffed not with bread but roasted coffee beans – it doesn’t get much more Seattle than that! He did treat us to an array of stuffing tips while he casually sprinkled things into the gravy pan and steadily whisked away any possibility of lumps.
Tom’s Tips part 2:
- When choosing a knife make sure to get your hands on the options and if possible test them on a cutting board. Different sized hands need different sized knives.
- For stuffing – use a fresh hearty bread, tear it with your hands, toast it in a 300 degree oven to dry it right before making the stuffing. Do not use stale bread in your stuffing. “That turkey gave it’s life for you, don’t insult it with stale bread.”
- Cook two smaller (15lb) turkeys instead of a single large (30lb) bird.
- Always brine your turkey.
- From the audience – for lumpless gravy thicken with finely textured rice flour.
When we were finally served our tablespoon sized taste of the turkey it was worth the wait. The meat was soft and luscious. The coffee infused drippings resulted in a deep caramel colored gravy so thick and rich it hugged the morsel of turkey all the way to my eager mouth. If it sounds like I wanted more you are correct. I couldn’t taste the coffee in the turkey or the gravy but the depth of flavor was certainly enhanced. I am pretty sure the demo bird was stuffed only with coffee but my ears perked up when he made a passing reference to adding star anise and orange peel – doesn’t that sound killer with any poultry!
The turkey set the bar very high for the dessert course but his Pear Tarts with Dreamy Caramel Sauce delivered. For this recipe Chef Douglas was assisted by Stacy, a chef from the Dahlia Bakery. Chef Stacy jumped in and talked the audience through most of the preparatory steps. Both chefs encouraged the audience to try their hand at the cookbook’s “Worth the Effort” Puff Pastry recipe but I think I will stick to the alternate “How to Bake Pear Tarts with Store-bought Puff Pastry.” It really was a beautiful recipe and none of the steps were particularly complex but there were an awful lot of them. As much as I enjoyed my little sample square it only had a tiny nugget of pear. I have been thinking of trying my hand at poaching pears for awhile. I think I will snag that portion of the recipe and leave the remaining calories in the cookbook.
Tom’s Tips part 3:
- When making pizza spend a little more money purchase quality cheese. Don’t cheese the pizza until after it comes out of the oven, this will prevent the oil from separating and making the top of the pizza all greasy.
- Buying Washington (or local) wines is a great way to support local agriculture and commercial industry both small and large. Through out the demo he was enjoying an inexpensive but highly regarded Columbia Crest wine.
- Replace the sodium in recipes with the heat of chilis or other spices.
- Stacy’s favorite pear for cooking – Bartlett. It’s thin skin makes them easier to peel and can even be left on for some recipes like pear butter.
- Use a melon baller to quickly remove the core from apples and pears.
At the end of the demonstration he generously took time to sign books and pose for pictures before rushing off to a Top Chef Seattle premiere party at his own Palace Ballroom. I learned a ton in the hour or so that he shared his recipes with us and hope you have learned something too. Sitting in the brightly lit kitchen wares section surrounded by every item on my ultimate Christmas wish list I felt the first sparks of holiday spirit ignite. Thank you Tom Douglas and Macy’s Culinary Council this coming season is going to be full of family, friends, and fabulous (lightened) food.
P.S. In-between drooling and sampling I made a new friend. Rachel and her family just moved to the area from Phoenix. Check out her fun family ideas blog and send her some warm messages to help her as she adjusts to the climate change.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere provided me with compensation for this post about Macy’s Culinary Council. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.