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April 30, 2020
Photo by @a_well_traveled_life

How to Cook at Home Like San Francisco's Best Chefs

Being cooped up inside has all of us discovering and rediscovering new skills or passions, especially in the kitchen. While we have all mastered the art of instant ramen, we thought it would be a good idea to consult the professional chefs in San Francisco to spice up our days in the kitchen. Take their advice and you can bring a little bit of San Francisco to the dinner table every night.

Chef Michael Whiteman, Bluestem Brasserie

What is your philosophy on cooking during this unusual time?

I look to use as much of every vegetable/piece of protein as possible. Sometimes that means using a part of the vegetable in a different recipe or using it in an unconventional manner. Now is not the time to be wasting food.

When I'm cooking a meal, I also look to make something that I can turn into a different meal with minimal work so that we're not eating the same thing for days on end. For example, I might take all of the left-over cooked vegetables from a few days of meals and turn them into fried rice.

Is there a recipe that you find especially comforting these days?

When cooking at home, I generally don't cook from recipes. I just go with what I have in the fridge/pantry. Like a lot of people, I have been baking a lot of bread and really trying to improve on that while I have the time. I have been doing variations of the country bread recipe from Tartine

Any tips on getting items that have become hard to find?

Ask your friends what they are short on and buy in bulk. A lot of stores that used to only be open to industry people have recently opened their doors to the general public. Buy a sack of flour/sugar and split it amongst friends. You will go through it faster than you think, and if stored correctly, it should last.

Can you share a recipe that can be made with ingredients that most people already have on hand?

Roast chicken with vegetable medley

Ingredients

  • 150 g kosher salt
  • 115 g granulated sugar
  • 4 qts water
  • 1 whole chicken
  • Vegetables (mushrooms, asparagus, squash)
  • Cloves of garlic
  • Butter and lemon juice

Preparation

  1. Combine salt, sugar, and 1 qt water in a small saucepan and heat to fully dissolve salt and sugar.
  2. Pour hot mixture into remaining 3 qts cold water and stir to combine. Put this brine in the fridge without a top to cool more while you work on the next step.
  3. Truss your chicken. (Here's a helpful video.)
  4. Once your brine is completely cool, add your chicken to it. Cover and let sit overnight.
  5. The next morning, bring 4 qts of unsalted water to a boil.
  6. When at a rolling boil, add the chicken and cook for 60 seconds.
  7. Remove from water, drain the water from the cavity of the bird, and place it on a plate or small sheet tray breast side up. Allow the chicken to cool in the fridge until dinner time.
  8. Heat the oven to 500F and rub the skin of the chicken with a small amount of olive oil.
  9. Cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160F and allow to chicken to rest for 10 minutes, bringing the final temperature up to 165F before carving.
  10. Clean and cut the mushrooms into quarters (depending on size). Trim the ends from the asparagus and cut into 1" pieces. Cut squash into bite-size pieces.
  11. Add a little bit of oil and chopped garlic to an appropriate sized sauté pan. Remember to not overcrowd!
  12. When the garlic is fragrant, add the vegetables, a little bit of the juices from the cooked chicken, a little bit of lemon juice, and a knob of butter.
  13. Cover with a lid to steam the vegetables and reduce the liquid to a sauce consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chef Joanne Weir

What is your philosophy on cooking during this unusual time?

I am loving cooking at home and am being much more creative. I’ve gotten out of my rut of returning to the same dishes. It’s been fun to have the time to try some new things and enjoy cooking outside of the box.

Is there a recipe that you find especially comforting these days?

Spaghetti and meatballs and ricotta.

Any tips on getting items that have become hard to find?

Go when the store is opening or go to the store a few minutes before closing to get hard to find items.

Can you share a recipe that can be made with ingredients that most people already have on hand?

Eggs in Purgatory Amatriciana (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces bacon, cut into ¾-inch pieces (can substitute pancetta or guanciale)
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ½ cups canned Italian Mutti Polpa tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Toasted bread or focaccia

Preparation

  1. Preheat an oven to 400F.

  2. Warm the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very lightly golden (about 3 minutes).

  3. Add the onions and crushed red pepper and cook until the onions are soft (7 minutes).

  4. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.

  5. Add the white wine and reduce heat by half.

  6. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly (10 minutes).

  7. Check the thickness by pulling a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. If it stays separated, it’s done. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  8. Transfer sauce to an ovenproof baking dish. Make 4 indentations in the sauce. Break the eggs, one by one into a small bowl, and with the spoon, add one egg into each indentation.

  9. Place on the top shelf of the oven and cook until the white of the eggs are firm but the yolks are still runny (about 7 to 10 minutes) or until desired. Season the eggs with salt and pepper.

  10. Sprinkle the top with Parmigiano Reggiano and serve immediately with toasted bread or focaccia.

Chef Mat Schuster, Canela Bistro & Wine Bar

What is your philosophy on cooking during this unusual time?

Most of my cooking is still done at work since Canela is open for to-go orders, as well as for meal kits and ingredient boxes. Comfort foods are the favorites, like hamburgers, casseroles, pasta, and rice dishes.

Is there a recipe that you find especially comforting these days?

A favorite comfort food of mine would be the paella that we make at the restaurant. It's a favorite with customers, too.

Any tips on getting items that have become hard to find?

Since I'm lucky to have been in this business in San Francisco for a while, I have made a lot of relationships. If I don’t know where to find something, I ask my network. I have not had a problem yet finding what I need—except for hand sanitizer!

Can you share a recipe that can be made with ingredients that most people already have on hand?

Soups are great! You can use product that you have on hand, you can make a big batch, and it freezes well. It is more of a technique than a recipe. Start by searing “drier" meats and veggies in a little bit of olive oil or butter before adding anything moist like tomatoes, wine or broth. Once you have some color on your first ingredients, you can start to add in the moist ones. Moisture keeps food from browning.

Taste for salt and acid. If you don't have any fresh lemons, use a splash of vinegar. Add delicate leaves, such as spinach, or seafood, such as shrimp, at the end of the process. If you have grains, beans, or pasta, cook them separately in salted water for better results. If you cook grains, beans or pasta in your soup broth, it can make it thick and gummy.

Two additional soup-making tips:

  1. Add a little bit of heat from chiles or spice, even if you don't typically use them. It's an under-appreciated way to add flavor.
  2. Always start with less. You can always add more, but you can’t take away.

Chef Mark Dommen, One Market

What is your philosophy on cooking during this unusual time?

My philosophy on cooking hasn’t changed. I still want to find the best quality ingredients and make the best tasting food I can. I think it’s even more important now to support local producers.

Is there a recipe that you find especially comforting these days?

I’m cooking at home every night, so I’m taking this opportunity to make different things for my family. My kids generally don’t eat much variety, so I’m trying to expand what they eat. The one item we’ve made twice are pork pot stickers. We even made the wrapper from scratch.

Any tips on getting items that have become hard to find?

There are several restaurants that have set up little markets and are offering things like flour, sugar and yeast. Restaurants are still able to receive deliveries, so they may have bulk items to sell.

Can you share a recipe that can be made with ingredients that most people already have on hand?

Pork Pot Stickers (makes 36)

Ingredients

  • 16 oz ground pork
  • 1 ½ teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 small head Napa cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • Garlic chives
  • Grapeseed oil to cook
  • Cilantro to garnish
  • 36 wonton wrappers

Dipping Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shredded ginger

Preparation

  1. Combine the pork, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and marinate for 15 minutes.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Separate the leaves of the Napa cabbage and add the cabbage to the boiling water to blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water.
  3. Dice the cabbage and squeeze out as much of the water as you can. Mix thoroughly with the pork. Stir in the cornstarch, garlic chives, and sesame oil and mix well to combine. (If you like the dumplings spicy you can also add a teaspoon of chili flakes to the mixture.) I like to take a little sample of the pork filling and cook it in a pan to taste for seasoning before making all the dumplings. Adjust accordingly.
  4. Fill a small dish with cold water and set aside. Fill the dumplings with a teaspoon of the filling and moisten the edges of the dumpling wrapper with the water. Fold the wrapper over and, using your thumb and forefinger, start to pleat the dumpling until the filling is sealed inside. A dumpling should have 10-14 pleats.
  5. In a nonstick pan, heat a tablespoon of grapeseed oil over medium heat, add the potstickers and ½ cup water and cover the pan. Cook covered until the water has been absorbed and the bottoms of the potstickers are golden brown (approximately 20 minutes.) Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to cook the potstickers in several batches. Remove the potstickers from the pan and place them on a serving plate and garnish with cilantro. Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

Chef Hugo Escobar, Jasper's Corner & Tap

What is your philosophy on cooking during this unusual time?

My philosophy at home is cooking light and healthy. For example: soups, salads, dried seeds, seafood, poultry, and eating small portions a day.

Is there a recipe that you find especially comforting these days?

A good recipe is a sour batard bread French toast with apple butter Sauceda berries, candy walnuts, and a side dish of any style of eggs. That recipe reminds me of Sunday mornings when all family or friends got together in a good restaurant and had a very nice conversation. That’s something that I’m sure everyone is missing at the moment.

Any tips on getting items that have become hard to find?

There are different types of flour that we are able to use, for example, almond flour and garbanzo flour. The options for sugar replacement can be honey or maple syrup. Replacements for yeast can be baking soda or baking powder.

Chef Danel de Betelu, Maison Danel & Baker Street Bistro

What is your philosophy on cooking during this unusual time?

I always have to be doing something, so cooking and baking keep me busy and at the same time allow me to take care of my family. It's a win-win for everyone.

Is there a recipe that you find especially comforting these days?

One of my favorite thing to make at home is Legumes Farcis. You can farci—or stuff—all kinds of vegetables. The most popular is tomato, but you can also use eggplant, potato, zucchini, bell peppers, even potatoes! Get creative! For the stuffing, I mix ground pork and ground beef together with 2 eggs, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Any tips on getting items that have become hard to find?

Try your local delis that may stock some of these items. Ask around and see where your friends or neighbors have had luck. If all else fails, befriend your favorite local baker!

Anything else you would like to add?

We are all eager for restaurants to open again. In the meantime, if you are lucky to be sheltering with your family, take the opportunity to cook, bake, and eat together. Who knows? Maybe you will create a new family tradition that carries on beyond the quarantine.

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