Welcome to this week’s edition of Burning Down The Kitchen. For those unfamiliar, this is a weekly series where I make a recipe from a fellow blogger that I’ve bookmarked. I also do a fun interview with the blogger whose recipe I am whipping up. I keep that recipe a secret even from the blogger I’m featuring just to add a little more fun to the experience. This series stems from another series I do called Lunatic Loves These Links. I’ve been bookmarking and saving recipes for some time, yet I was finding myself not making many fellow blogger’s recipes. So this is my way of trying some of them out and introducing my readers to some of my foodie friends. It’s a ton of fun each week. I would have to say this has become one of my fave things to do. I hope you enjoy it as well.
BURNING DOWN THE KITCHEN WITH DENNIS FROM A CULINARY JOURNEY WITH CHEF DENNIS:
I’ll start this by saying I made an effort to make the blog more man friendly for the day. So just for Dennis I ditched the pink and went with red. You’re welcome Dennis!
This week we’re getting to know Dennis from A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis. Dennis is a chef who currently works at Mount Saint Joseph Academy. I love reading about his adventures teaching students the world of food. Like many other foodies, I met Dennis through a site called Foodbuzz. It’s a place where we can submit recipes and develop a foodie community with people obsessed with cooking as much as we are. Dennis was voted Most Valuable Foodie by the Foodbuzz community last year. Dennis also does a series called Ask Chef Dennis which is an inspiration and must read for other food bloggers. He talks about everything from photo sites, social media options, photography, ethics and anything else that directly impacts the foodie world. I’ve learned so much from him through this series. Dennis is a culinary wizard. He offers a wide range of recipes on his site. He has everything from Lasagna, to Artisan Bread, to Squash Blossom Muffins, to Feta Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, to Semi- Sweet Chocolate Pate, to Bourbon Pecan Pie, to Pomegranate Mousse Cake, to Pan Dulce, to Strawberry Gelato, and my personal fave the Caramel Apple Torte he made for my birthday. Dennis has become one of my dearest blogging friends. He is gracious and kind, he is always there when you need advice and often just to chuckle about life in general. If you have not met this genuine man and amazing chef you are missing out. I invite you all to take some time out of your day to get to know him a little better. You will not be disappointed.
Rapidfire Q & A with Chef Dennis:
1. How did you get started blogging?
It started so I could have a place where my culinary students could get the recipes easily and interact with me when they tried making the dishes.
2. Where does your love of cooking come from?
My love for cooking comes mostly from my love for eating!
3. When you do it for a living does it change how you feel about it, and do you still love it like you did back when you started?
As time moves on, sometimes you forget why you started cooking and how excited you were, when I started teaching it made me remember why I became a chef, my students reminded me through their enthusiasm and looks of wonder just how much I loved cooking.
4. What is your favourite memory from your restaurant days?
Taking over the main cooking duties my first labor day at the first restaurant I worked at. I had started as prep, and watched the chef constantly so I knew the recipes inside and out, I would cook when ever he wasn’t around. On our busiest day of the year he was stung by 20 some bees and couldn’t work the weekend, I took over his duties and didn’t miss a beat 427 dinners later we were done.
5. What is your signature dish?
I love cooking with seafood, blending ingredients….I was always known for a dish that Mama Jeanette inspired, including lobster, sweet sausage, chicken, shrimp and clams. It was legendary.
6. You know I am a super picky eater so I’m coming for dinner tonight, what would you make for me?
Before you came I would get an idea of what you enjoyed eating and build a menu around those items.
7. How do you balance career, marriage, life and blogging? Any time management tips for the rest of us?
Don’t sleep anymore than 5 hours a night.
8. You take wonderful photographs, any tips to share with fellow bloggers?
It’s not always the camera but how you use it. Use natural light when ever possible, always use a tripod and a cable release, and always color correct your images. What makes me sad is seeing really good pictures that have not been color corrected, they look so bad, when all you need is to do is correct the color and white balance for the light you are using. Never ever use a built-in flash or a flash attached to the camera.
9. For the home cook what would you say the most essential tool would be for the kitchen?
The stove and then a good stand mixer.
10. If someone were just starting to cook what types of meals would you suggest they start with?
Pasta dishes because they would be the most satisfying and are pretty easy to learn.
11. Do you have any kitchen disaster stories to share with us?
OMG, there are too many….the only thing you can do is recover and start again. When you least expect it, things go wrong and it happens to the best of us, the sign of a true professional is not to lose their cool and figure a way to out of the problem, so no one ever knows but you.
12. How did you feel when Foodbuzz named you most valuable foodie?
I was just blown away, I never really thought it would happen.
13. Sweet or savoury?
14. Fruits or veggies?
15. Butter, margarine or shortening for baking?
I was once told that margarine was one molecule short of being plastic, you will never find it my home or in my food. Depending upon what you are making shortening does have it’s place, but I almost always use butter.
16. Coke or Pepsi?
Coke, pepsi is yukky.
17. Chocolate, Biscoff, Peanut Butter or Nutella?
Peanut butter and chocolate, I don’t like Nutella or Biscoff…..sorry.
18. Is there any food you absolutely hate and will not eat?
19. Do you wear the chef’s coat at home?
Yes I do, but my wife says I’m not allowed to tell you when!
20. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is blogging still in the picture?
Hopefully retired and living in Florida, summering in Paris….sigh I plan on blogging as long as people still read what I have to say, and probable awhile after that!
I made a recipe from Dennis’s site that I bookmarked eons ago and has been on my mind ever since. I adore brownies and when I saw his Ooey Gooey Brownie Pecans Bars I knew I’d find a reason to make them one day. This recipe is from Alice Medrich the Queen of Chocolate. It reminds me of the Katherine Hepburn brownies. So moist and fudge like. I had some mishaps while making it. While I used the right size of pan other things went awry. Yet they turned out fabulous anyway. I have had that happen with the Katherine Hepburn brownies as well. Something about gooey brownie recipes must make them really forgiving. I popped the butter in the microwave to melt, to mine and mini-me’s horror there were flames in the microwave. Initially I thought our microwave was busted since that’s the kind of week it’s been. It wasn’t busted, I had just forgotten a tiny little piece of foil on the butter. It was so small yet packed quite a flame. Then I poured the pecan topping over the brownies only to turn around and see the bowl of flour still on the counter. Yup, this is what happens when I bake with everyone home firing questions at me at the speed of light. I blame the hooligans for the queries and the puppy for her incessant barking. Sure, that’s it. I remixed a small batch and poured it over. So the top of mine was a little off. But hell, it’s brownies so who cares. It still tastes like heaven so I can live with it.
- For the Brownie Layer:
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 6 1/2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chopped
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla salt
- 2 large eggs cold
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- For the pecan topping:
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 tablespoons butter melted
- 3/4 cup packed vanilla brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups pecans chopped roughly
- 1 to 2 packages of rolo candy
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper. (it helps to wet it)
For the brownie layer:
Place chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat to melt until smooth.
Add vanilla sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla salt and stir with a wooden spoon.
Add the eggs and mix well.
Add the flour and beat until smooth and glossy.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and set aside.
For the pecan topping:
Combine the flour and baking soda in a bowl. Mix well with a fork. Set aside.
Combine the butter, vanilla brown sugar and vanilla salt in another bowl and mix well.
Add egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix well.
Add the flour mixture, then the pecans and mix well again.
Drop by spoonfuls on top of the brownie layer. It will spread out as it cooks.
Toss some rolos over top if you are adding them.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until top is browned and cracked.
Remove and allow to cool. Pull the parchment up and set the brownies on a wire rack.
Cut into squares.
You can use plain sugar, plain brown sugar and plain salt in lieu of the vanilla stuff. They are not in the original recipe but I like the flavour so I add them to most of my baking.
I only tweaked this a bit. I subbed in my vanilla sugar for regular sugar, my vanilla brown sugar for regular brown sugar, and my vanilla salt for regular salt. I also tossed some rolos over top since this really was screaming for me to turn it into Turtle Bars. I held back from going too crazy but I think I’ll be making this again after I pick up the right supplies to turn them into the ultimate Turtle Brownie recipe.
I would like to thank Dennis for allowing me the pleasure of doing this interview with him. I know he’s a busy dude so it means so much to me that he made time to do this. It was fun getting to know the man behind the chef’s coat. I “innocently” cannot imagine where his wife is having him wear it. *falls down laughing*
Please take some time to head over to A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis and poke around a bit. You can also find Dennis on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest. He can be found on Google+ as well, and is part of the Chef Hangout there. You can take online classes with Dennis. Make sure you ask him about that. It’s a wonderful way to learn to make some of his fabulous dishes.
Toodles and smoochies! xx