At ICE, we make it our mission to help students find their culinary voice — that creative drive within each of us that determines how we express ourselves through food. Whether it’s a career training program, a recreational course in pie crusts or a special event featuring handmade pasta, we’ll give you the tools to hone your culinary creativity. Join us as we ask some of today’s leading food industry pros to share their culinary voice.

For Chef Ashley Merriman, her culinary career began at the dish pit. Before competing on Top Chef and graduating from ICE’s Culinary Arts program, she worked as a dishwasher after school. One afternoon, the restaurant’s chef was making a batch of tuna salad and asked Ashley to season it with white pepper instead of black. Having never experimented with seasoning before, Ashley really tasted the difference — a brief moment in tasting that had “a big influence on” Ashley. Since that day, her goal was to cook professionally. Today, the co-chef of NYC’s acclaimed restaurant Prune couldn’t imagine her life going any other way. Watch the video to hear Ashley dish on her unique culinary voice.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.

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By Robert Ramsey — Chef Instructor, School of Culinary Arts

People often forget that citrus comes into season in the winter. This time of year, the fruit is at its sweetest, juiciest and most alluring. If you can’t find every variety used in this recipe, use any mix of citrus fruit you desire. Here, we top it with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, also a winter crop.

Veg_Valentine_3

Winter Citrus Salad
Servings: Makes about two servings

Ingredients:

1 navel orange
1 blood orange
1 ruby red grapefruit
2 tangerines
½ medium red onion
½ fennel bulb
½ bunch fresh mint
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
4 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons crushed pink peppercorns
Maldon salt for finishing

Veg_Valentine_1

Preparation:

  • Peel all citrus using a paring knife. Make sure all white pith is removed.
  • Cut citrus into various shapes — segments, wedges and slices add visual interest. Toss together in a mixing bowl and reserve at room temperature.
  • Slice red onion and fennel very thinly. I like to use a Japanese mandolin to ensure even cuts. Add the fennel and onion to the citrus mixture. Sprinkle a good pinch of Maldon salt (or any large flake salt) and the pink peppercorns. Toss well and allow salad to sit for 15-20 minutes.
  • While salad is sitting, rough chop or tear the mint, leaves only.
  • Finish the salad by tossing the mint, olive oil, pomegranate seeds and citrus mixture together.
  • Transfer to two plates, finish with a sprinkle of Maldon salt and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

Interested in studying culinary arts with Chef Robert? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

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By James Briscione, Director of Culinary Research

Gifts are the best and worst part about the holiday season. Receiving = the best. Finding that perfect something-they-don’t-already-have gift for the special person on your list = the worst. For the foodie on your shopping list, we’re here to make your gift search a painless victory. Though stores and online catalogs are filled with hundreds of “must-have” kitchen gadgets, only some of them are actually worth it — others not so much. To help you cut through the clutter and find the best of the best, the following is my list of recommended essential kitchen gifts.

For the foodie who has (almost) everything: Sous vide

Sous vide has long been a favorite technique of top chefs across the globe. Sous vide helps chefs prepare Michelin-quality meals night after night. At home, the sous vide method delivers the most perfectly cooked steaks, chicken, veggies, eggs and more, and with much less effort than you’d expect. For years, sophisticated sous vide equipment carried a price tag that made it inaccessible to home cooks, but today they’re less expensive than a stand mixer. There are many options out there for sous vide cooking, but one of my favorites is the Polyscience Immersion Circulator. Polyscience is the first name in modern cuisine equipment. Venture into any top kitchen in the U.S. and you’re likely to find a piece of their equipment occupying prime real estate.

Bonus gift: Should you or your special someone want a little extra info on the art of sous vide cooking, register for Intro to Sous Vide taught by yours truly at ICE!

sous vide steak sandwiches

Sandwiches with Juicy, Sous Vide Steak

The whipping canister: It’s for more than just dessert

You might know the iSi Whipping Canister as a whipped cream maker, but it is oh-so-much more! In the kitchens at ICE, we use whipping canisters to turn silky vegetable purées into delicate mousses in professional plating classes. It can also be used to create rapid infusions like instant pickling or to make your own customized gin (combine vodka in a canister with juniper, rosemary and coriander, and infuse). They can even be used to make a cake in under a minute.

This is the piece of equipment that pro chefs are freaking out about right now.

For the exhibitionist

Another one of my favorite tools from Polyscience is their Smoking Gun. It’s the perfect way to add a subtle, smoky flavor to nearly any food — from meats to vegetables to cheese. Plus, the smoking gun creates smoke with “generating,” heat, so it can be used to smoke delicate items like lettuce, chilled seafood, even chocolate or cocktails. It takes seconds to set up and produce smoke and fits into a space smaller than a shoebox. The smoking gun can also be used to create dramatic presentations — simply place an upside-down bowl over your plate, pipe a little smoke into the bowl and carry it to the table. When you lift the bowl, your food will be revealed from under a puff of smoke — foodie magic!

Because everyone loves a sharp knife

A knife might be the oldest of cooking tools, but one company is taking a modern approach to the craft. After raising over $1 million on Kickstarter, Misen is one of the hottest new knife makers. Their knives are praised for their perfect design, with balance that makes them both easy to use and beautiful to admire. Misen knives are made with high-quality steel, meaning a sharper, harder edge so this blade can be a kitchen workhorse. Not to mention, they’re priced well below any other quality knife on the market.

The splurge: The Control Freak

The Control Freak is the latest and greatest development from the folks at Polyscience. This is the piece of equipment that pro chefs are freaking out about right now. It combines the precision of sous vide temperature control with the convenience of an induction cooktop — truly remarkable. The Control Freak simplifies the process for nearly every complicated kitchen process, from poaching eggs and making hollandaise to tempering chocolate and perfectly searing a steak. It’s the top item on my list this year — I hope Santa takes note!

Want to get into the kitchen with Chef James? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

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By Sarah Entwistle  — Student, Culinary Arts ‘18

Meet Sarah Entwistle, our newest “Life as a Culinary Student” blogger. After graduating from American University with a degree in business, Sarah headed to Salt Lake City to pursue a career in finance. Though she was rising through the ranks as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, after a few years Sarah realized that her passions lay elsewhere — cooking. Sarah returned to the east coast and enrolled in ICE’s Culinary Arts program. In this first blog post, she writes about a unique aspect of Life as a Culinary Student — volunteer opportunities with world-renowned chefs.

Fresh Sea Scallop

Fresh Sea Scallop

The excitement was palpable as five other culinary students and I waited for our assignments in the kitchen. Most of us had already volunteered at an ICE event, but we knew the stakes were higher with Chef Alex Atala, considered by many the best chef in South America. Chef Atala was in New York City to cook for a benefit dinner on behalf of the MAD/Yale collaboration at ICE. The goal of this collaboration is to bring together established and emerging chefs and scholars to improve our modern food systems. As Chef Atala is a huge proponent of sustainable cooking practices, sourcing products from local vendors and taking steps to reduce food waste, this was an organic partnership that celebrated the union of social consciousness and delicious food.

At around 1 p.m., Chef Robert Ramsey walked in and gave us the rundown for the afternoon. Chef Robert was in charge of the appetizers, Chefs Atala and Mattos would prepare the entrées and Chef Michael Laiskonis was creating a dessert. The starters, which we were tasked with preparing, included kohlrabi slaw wrapped in a marinated kohlrabi wrapper topped with crispy long island squid and sesame butter, Connecticut kelp noodles tossed in a pistachio-miso cream and twirled into football-shaped rounds topped with freshly grated horseradish, seared cauliflower marinated in a mole sauce served with a buttermilk, pomegranate and pepita salad, and American buffalo tartare topped with sous vide egg yolks and scarlet frill mustard leaf.

Connecticut Kelp Noodles

Connecticut Kelp Noodles

From the moment the day started, there was no idle time. Chef Robert doled out individual tasks for each of us to start tackling until the other chefs arrived. My first assignment was to use a mandolin to shred the baby kohlrabi into thin pieces. It was my first experience using a mandolin and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about slicing a finger off. Chef Robert told me, “If you cut yourself on the mandolin today, I promise it won’t be the last time.” To avoid cutting myself for the first time, I was hyper-focused on the blade and managed to escape a bloody outcome. I did, however, cut the rubber gloves I was wearing so clearly I came close. We combined the shredded kohlrabi with yogurt, lemon juice and seasoning to transform it into a slaw. While the finished slaw was marinating in the refrigerator, I grated some horseradish fresh off the root. The scent was sharp and intense, and it had a very bold, peppery flavor. The shavings would later be tossed into the kelp noodles, lending a spicy bite to the dish. Meanwhile, my classmates worked on shucking scallops from the shell and clipping hundreds of tiny edible flowers from ICE’s hydroponic garden from the stem. With everyone’s adrenaline levels high, time flew by.

As the clock crept closer to the 6:30 p.m. service, we had to prepare the appetizers for plating. Using marinated kohlrabi slices as a blanket for the slaw, we wrapped the slices tightly into perfectly shaped cylinders that would later be topped with crispy, flash-fried squid. It was a fresh, playful dish that had a satisfying crunch — Chef Atala insisted that we should try each dish before it went out for service. Next, we tackled the kelp noodles. Once the noodles were tossed with the cream sauce, toasted pistachios and shaved horseradish, we molded them into bite-sized football shapes (similar to a tourné). We did this by grabbing a clump of noodles with culinary tweezers and delicately twirling the noodles against the side of the bowl until they were roughly the shape we were looking for. We then laid each piece onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper so that the mold would set prior to service. Right before going out the kitchen door they were topped with the crispy calamari.

Throughout the evening, Chef Atala was a humble and generous leader in the kitchen. When he first walked into the kitchen, he shook each of our hands and introduced himself, setting a warm and inviting tone for the evening. Prior to service, he remained calm and focused and did not engage in much small talk or stray from whatever task he was working on. He brought in fresh, beautiful sea scallops that were still in the shell and took great care in gently shucking each one. As scallops are not typically sold in the shell, he took the time to demonstrate how to shuck them. When we prepared the appetizers, I noticed people coming into the kitchen to introduce themselves to Chef Atala and he was nothing short of polite and gracious. As a student with limited exposure to professional restaurant kitchens, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from working with one of the top chefs in the world. My first experience couldn’t have been more positive and I appreciated all the information that I was able to glean.

I’ve been a Culinary Arts student at ICE for nearly two months now and the opportunity to work in a kitchen led by Chef Alex Atala was one of the best experiences so far. I would implore any fellow ICE students who are looking to get involved in the culinary industry or to push themselves out of their comfort zones to check out the volunteering opportunities that ICE provides — it will be well worth your time.

Learn more about ICE’s Culinary Arts career training program.

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By James Briscione­ ­­– Director of Culinary Research

Sous vide cooking is one of the fastest growing trends in modern cooking, among restaurant chefs and home cooks alike. Despite the fact that sous vide was first used in restaurants around the same time that microwave ovens hit the market for home cooks, it’s still viewed as a very new technology. But one thing that has really changed about sous vide over the past 40 years is the price. Sous vide equipment used to carry a price tag (around $1,000) that put it out of reach for most cooks. Today, the average home cook (or professional for that matter!) could be expertly equipped for sous vide cooking for $200 or less. And once you go vac, you’ll never go back. (See what I did there? Sous vide translates to under vacuum. Vac, vacuum…get it?)

sous vide steak sandwiches

The three main reasons for cooking food sous vide are: precision, consistency and convenience. At its core, sous vide cooking is all about precision temperature control — foods are cooked to the exact temperature of their desired doneness. For example: say you like your steak medium-rare. You could do one of two things: One, throw your steak on a grill that is somewhere around 375˚F and leave it there, watching closely, trying to anticipate the moment when the center of that steak is approaching 128˚F and quickly remove the steak to let it stand while the still-searing-hot surface continues to raise the steak’s internal temperature (aka, carryover cooking). Or, you could heat a container of water to exactly 128˚F, place a steak inside a plastic bag (no need for special equipment, a zip top bag is fine) and cook it for anywhere from 45 minutes to four hours (since the outside temperature is the same as the internal, your steak is never going to overcook). And once you decide your favorite temperature for steak doneness, you can cook it consistently to that exact temperature. Sous vide cooking also eliminates the need to precisely time when things finish cooking. Once cooked through, sous vide foods can be held in the hot water for up to two hours before serving. Or, if properly chilled after cooking and kept refrigerated, foods could be cooked more than two weeks in advance with zero decline in flavor or freshness.

sous vide steak

I have been teaching sous vide cooking to students, professionals and home cooks at ICE for over five years, and my wife and I do a lot of sous vide cooking at home. If sous vide seems like too much effort for a home cook with a full work schedule and a family, let me persuade you to consider otherwise: With a busy schedule and two kids, the convenience and quality cannot be beat. What’s more, the sous vide method is easier than you think.

Additionally, for roughly the same amount of time, I have been part of The Official Jets Cooking School — helping Jets fans (and football fans in general) take their tailgating game to the next level. I’m a lifelong football fan and have always loved a good tailgate. As a chef, I don’t mess around when it comes to the food, which is why I love bringing sous vide to the tailgate. I cook my steak, even bacon — trust me on this — at home a day or two before the game. Then I quickly chill the cooked meat in an ice bath before holding it in the fridge or packing it in the cooler and heading for the stadium.

If you’ve had the pleasure of participating in a proper tailgating experience, you know that sometimes the liquid pursuits at the tailgate can lead to, shall we say, “inattentiveness” at the grill. That’s never the case with sous vide: Because everything is already perfectly cooked, you show up and all you need to worry about is heating things up and learning how to humbly accept all the compliments that will be coming your way. Here, I’m sharing with you my favorite tailgating recipe: Sous Vide Peppercorn Crusted Flank Steak and Bacon Sandwiches — take that, overcooked burgers!

 

sous_vide_steak_sandwich_10-20-16_edited-3

sous_vide_steak_sandwich_10-20-16_edited-5

Sous Vide Peppercorn Crusted Flank Steak
Servings: makes enough for 8 sandwiches

Recipe note: Cooking bacon sous vide may seem unnecessary, but if you’ve ever tried to cook bacon over a live fire, you know what a dangerous prospect this could be. Precooking bacon eliminates some of the fat that causes flare-ups and minimizes the time you need to have the bacon on the grill, which reduces your chances of burning it!

For the brine 

Ingredients:

1 quart water
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground

Preparation:

  • Combine the water, salt, brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic and pepper in a bowl and whisk until dissolved.
  • Transfer the brine to a one-gallon zip top bag; add the steaks, squeeze out any air and seal. Refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours.

 

For the steak

Ingredients:

1 piece flank steak, about 2 pounds, cut into 4 pieces
Black pepper, coarsely ground
12 slices extra thick cut bacon
Horseradish cream (recipe below)
Watercress or arugula, as needed
Rolls, toasted

Preparation:

  • Remove the steaks from the brine and discard the liquid. Pat the steaks dry and coat on both sides with black pepper.
  • Return the steaks to the zip top bag. To seal the bag, submerge the bag with the steaks into a bowl of room temperature water, pushing the steaks below the surface of the water to force any air out of the bag. Continue lowering the bag into water until just the sealing strip remains above water. Press the bag closed and remove the steaks from the water — they should be tightly sealed. If any air remains in the bag, repeat the process.
  • Repeat the above-described process with the bacon, sealing the bacon in a separate bag.
  • Heat a water bath to 57˚C (134.5˚F). Add the steaks to the water and cook for two hours.
  • When the steaks are done, remove from the water and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Leave the steaks submerged in the ice water for 30 minutes, then store refrigerated for up to two weeks or frozen for up to six months.
  • Increase the temperature in the water bath to 66˚C (151˚F) and add the bacon. Leave the bacon to cook overnight (8-12 hours). When the bacon is done, remove from the water and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water to cool quickly. Leave the bacon submerged in the ice water for 30 minutes, then store refrigerated for up to two weeks or frozen for up to six months.
  • To serve, allow the steaks and bacon to reach room temperature (they are safe to sit out for up to three hours since both are fully cooked) or quickly reheat both — still sealed in the bag — in a pan of warm water. Quickly sear the steaks and bacon on a hot grill (about one minute per side for the steaks and just 30 seconds per side for the bacon). Thinly slice the steak against the grain and serve on toasted rolls with the bacon, horseradish cream and watercress.

 

For the horseradish cream
Servings: makes about 1 pint

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
¼ cup prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon Sriracha

Preparation:

  • Combine all ingredients and mix well. Season to taste with salt and add more hot sauce if desired.
  • Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

sous_vide_steak_sandwich_10-20-16_edited-10

Want to get in the kitchen with Chef James? Click here for more information on ICE’s Culinary Arts program. 

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