Ever wonder what it takes to make one bar of chocolate? ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis, our resident chocolate expert, takes us through the entire process — from sourcing and roasting, to refining and conching, to finally molding and tasting — in less than a minute. But don’t be fooled by the video: though it may seem like a piece of (chocolate) cake, careful thought and calculation goes into each stage. According to Chef Michael, “Every step of the chocolate-making process, from fruit to bean to bar, presents an opportunity to influence the flavor and texture of the finished chocolate.”

Sweet tooth piqued? Discover how you can become a pastry pro with ICE’s award-winning career training programs by clicking here

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By James Briscione — Director of Culinary Research

The fried chicken sandwich, by law, may only contain bread, chicken, pickles and sauce. Never mind which law that is — the point is this: if you try to put anything more on my sandwich, we are going to have problems. With just four components to build it out, this sandwich is perfect in its simplicity, so each ingredient that goes into it better be perfect, too. Any missteps or half measures are going to stand out big time and completely throw off your chicken sandwich mojo.

Now don’t worry, you have me to take you through it step by step. First, the sandwich components:

  1. The bun: Only a soft potato roll will do. Period.
  2. The pickles: Dill chips are really the way to go (but if you have another preference I won’t fight you on this one).
  3. The chicken: Fried, of course — but also brined.
  4. The sauce: It’s gotta be special.

Now, let’s get to the meat of the sandwich: fried chicken. Two important things need to happen: first brine, then fry. Brining — the process of soaking your chicken in a solution of salt and sugar — is an essential step that helps the meat retain moisture and stay juicy throughout the cooking process. Proper frying at home is easier than you might think. For starters, you don’t need as much oil as you think you do. If the chicken has been butterflied or properly pounded out, you’ll need the oil to be no more than an inch and a half deep in the pot.

And what about that special sauce? Mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich is great. Umami mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich will change your life. Umami — known as the fifth taste (after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter) — is what we think of when something is savory and gives food a rich and satisfying taste. Umami is found naturally in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, soy sauce and meats. For our chicken sandwich sauce, we build layers of umami with roasted shallots, garlic, shrimp paste (optional) and fish sauce. Trust me: once you have this condiment in your arsenal, you’ll find many more uses for it beyond your chicken sandwich. There’s no law for that.

Pro tips:

  1. The umami mayo can be made in batches and keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
  2. Frying temperature is crucial: 350˚F is your ideal cooking temperature — if things dip below 300˚F, the chicken ends up a bit greasy. The best way to avoid this is to begin with oil hotter than you need it, around 370˚F; that way when the temp drops after adding your chicken, you’ll land right at your ideal cooking temperature.
  3. After cooking, rest the chicken on a rack, not paper towels. The rack will allow oil to drip away and keep the chicken from getting soggy on the bottom.

The Perfect Fried Chicken Sandwich with Umami Mayo
Makes 4 sandwiches

For the Fried Chicken

Brined Chicken

Ingredients:

1 quart water
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast filets

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, combine the water, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk until dissolved.
  • Butterfly each of the chicken breast filets. Add chicken filets to the brine and leave to brine for at least two hours, or let it brine overnight.

Flour Mixture

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preparation:

  • Add the flour, salt, granulated garlic, black pepper and cayenne together in a large bowl, and whisk to combine.

Fried Chicken

Ingredients:

Brined Chicken
Flour Mixture
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil, for frying

Preparation:

  • Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Season each piece lightly with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken breast into the flour mixture and press to coat well on both sides. Remove the floured pieces to a pan and rest briefly before frying.
  • Heat a pot of oil to 370˚F. Add chicken, working in batches of two pieces at a time, and cook until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Remove to a rack to rest and season immediately with salt.

For the Sandwiches

Ingredients:

4 potato rolls
Umami Mayonnaise (recipe below)
16 slices dill pickle or more as desired
Fried chicken

Preparation:

  • Split each roll, spread the bun with umami mayonnaise, add pickle slices and top with fried chicken.

For the Umami Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

1 shallot, cut in half, peeled, root removed
1 head garlic, top trimmed, root intact
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon shrimp paste, with chiles (optional)
Sriracha hot sauce, to taste
2 egg yolks
1 cup vegetable or canola oil

Preparation:

  • Place the shallot, garlic and olive oil in a small pan and cover with foil. Roast in a 350˚F oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and, when cool enough to handle, add the shallot and garlic to a blender, squeezing the roasted garlic cloves from the skin, and reserving the oil from the pan for later.
  • Add the fish sauce, Sriracha, shrimp paste (if using) and egg yolks to the blender and process until smooth. Turn the blender to low and slowly drizzle in the canola oil and reserved olive oil until the mixture has emulsified.
  • Umami mayonnaise can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

To learn how you can study with Chef James, click here.

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When it comes to steak, it does matter which way you slice it. With grilling season in full swing, you’d be wise to learn the simple technique for making every steak more tender and delicious: slicing across the grain.

One of the most common mistakes with steak preparation is not in the cooking — it’s in the cutting. Meat has long muscle fibers, which are naturally chewy and tough: cutting across them makes each piece of meat easier to chew. In a new video from ICE and Wüsthof, ICE Chef James Briscione shows the proper method for cutting steak. Watch and try for yourself next time you fire up the grill (or pan).

Want to learn knife skills and more alongside the pros? Click here for more information on ICE’s Culinary Arts program.

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Summer is the season for seafood. Whether you’re dreaming of sushi like Jiro or picturing the perfect seafood cookout, learning how to properly fillet a fish is essential. But we get why you’ve been putting it off: it’s intimidating. That’s why ICE and Wüsthof teamed up to roll out a new video demonstrating the correct technique for breaking down a whole fish. Watch as Chef Sabrina Sexton, ICE’s Culinary Arts program director, uses a range of Wüsthof blades to fillet a beautiful red snapper. Check out our tips below, outlining the technique, then head to your local fishmonger and make your seafood dreams a reality.

Chef Sabrina’s Guide to Filleting:

  1. Using kitchen shears, snip off the dorsal and pectoral fins (you can see where these fins are located in the video), to prevent them from sticking to your hands (optional).
  2. Using a fish fillet knife, start by making a 45-degree angle cut behind the skull down to the spine.
  3. Next, make a shallow cut along the dorsal fin from head to tail.
  4. Gliding your knife over the bones, trace a shallow cut along the belly from tail to head.
  5. To loosen the fillet, insert your fillet knife and slice towards the tail.
  6. Then, using your chef’s knife, remove the fillet by slicing over the surface of the spine from tail to head. While doing this, you will cut through a few small bones — don’t worry, that’s normal.
  7. Trim away the small row of belly bones. Then use your fingertips to feel for any pin bones and carefully remove them using tweezers. Slice the fillet of fish into portions of your choosing.

Ready to take your culinary skills to the next level? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

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By Caitlin Raux

Give a girl a slice of pizza (plus garlic knots) and you’ll feed her for a night. Teach her to make homemade pizza and she’ll be able to host spontaneous dinner parties and feed all of her pizza-loving friends for a lifetime. Because with just a handful of ingredients — flour, water, salt, yeast and olive oil — you can throw together a pizza using what’s already in your cupboard, adding a few fresh toppings to give it that gourmet touch.

But not so fast: making a crust with just enough chewiness and crispiness, and sturdy enough to act as a vessel for your tasty toppings, can be tricky — but with a few tips and the simple recipe below, you’ll be serving up pro-level pizzas in your own kitchen. In a new video, Chef Jenny McCoy shows us how to make pizza-party worthy pies. Try it for yourself and you’ll discover how easy it is to make authentic, homemade pizza. The only challenge will be choosing whom to invite to your excellent pizza parties.

Before you begin, here are some tips:

  • Use the Windowpane Test: Kneading your dough develops gluten, which gives dough the elasticity needed for stretching and rising. (Like getting up in the morning — you knead to stretch and rise… ba-dum-chh.) To know when your dough is sufficiently kneaded, use the windowpane test. Break off a hunk of dough, roll it into a smooth ball, gently stretch the dough and hold it up to the light. Gluten-full, elastic dough will be transparent in the center — like a “windowpane” — and you should be able to see the light pass through.
  • Start from the middle: Once the dough has risen, it’s time to stretch it. To begin stretching, place your dough ball on a lightly oiled surface, and, using your fingertips, gently prod the dough beginning in the middle and pushing outward. Work your fingers around in circles to slowly stretch the dough in all directions. Continue until your dough is a large, mostly flattened circle, slightly thicker on the edge and not too thin in the middle. If your dough is too thin in the middle, it won’t be able to support the toppings and may burn if you try to bake it anyway.
  • Easy with the sauce: I know what you’re thinking — It’s my pizza and I’ll sauce if I want to! But too much sauce makes for a soggy, weak crust. To ensure your pizza will have a sturdy base, especially if you eat your pizza New York-style (grab, fold, devour), go easy with the sauce.
  • Brush on the olive oil: To get that crispy, crackly crust, use a brush to slather on some olive oil. A flavorful extra virgin olive oil will score you maximum flavor points.

Check out all of our pizza making tips here

Pizza Dough
Yield: Makes 3 individual pizzas
Note: For the best crust, prepare this recipe the day before you plan your pizza party – the dough should rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water (100-110° F)
2 ½ teaspoons (¼ ounce envelope) active dry yeast
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 ¼ cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal, for dusting
Pizza sauce and toppings, as desired

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, olive oil and sugar, and stir to combine. Add the all-purpose flour and bread flour, followed by the salt. With a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, stir the dough until all of the flour has hydrated and it begins to form into a ball.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead the dough, adding more flour as needed. The dough will become sticky, but keep kneading — as the gluten develops, the dough will tighten up and begin to seem drier. Once the dough has been kneaded into a tight ball, about 10 minutes of kneading, transfer to a large bowl coated with olive oil, cover, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator and let sit overnight to chill.
  • Place a pizza stone or upside-down baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and preheat oven to 300° F (or higher if your oven allows). Once the oven reaches 300° F, increase the heat to 550° F (or higher if your oven allows). This gradual increase in temperature will prevent your pizza stone from cracking or your baking sheet from warping.
  • On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into 3 pieces. Gently knead a piece of the dough a few times until it’s smooth. With your hands dusted in flour, gently stretch the dough outwards using your fists, to begin making a circle of dough. Once the dough has stretched to about ¼-inch thick circle, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and stretch any areas of the dough that are thicker. (If you pizza isn’t a perfect circle, don’t fret — that’s what chefs like to call rustic.)
  • Lightly sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal. Slide the circle of dough on the peel and reshape as needed.
  • Add sauce and toppings to the pizza as desired, but take note: less is more with artisanal-style pizza dough. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil onto the edge of the dough to give it a crispier crust. Carefully place the peel in the oven and slide the pizza onto the stone or baking sheet. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and the cheese is bubbly with some browned spots. Depending on the thickness of the dough, the amount of toppings, or how hot your oven is set, the baking time can take anywhere from 8 to 14 minutes.

Ready to learn how to make pizza — and much, much more — like a pro? Click here to learn about ICE’s recreational cooking and baking courses.

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