A new way to make a dish is always on Richard Blais’s mind. He has a wildly creative approach—whether it’s adding coffee to his butter, which he serves with pancakes; incorporating the flavors of pastrami into mustard; making cannelloni out of squid; microwaving apple sauce for his pork chops; or cooking lamb shanks in root beer. In his debut cookbook, with equal degrees of enthusiasm and humor, he shares 125 delicious recipes that are full of surprise and flavor. Plus there are 25 variations to add more adventure to your cooking—such as making cheese foam for your burger or mashed sous vide peas to serve alongside your entrée. Dive into an exploration of your kitchen for both creativity and enjoyment. Now try this at home!
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Do you want to make your food taste so much better without having to enroll in cooking school? The best advice I can give you is to be assertive. One way to distinguish your food from someone else’s—whether it’s to impress your family, for friends at a dinner party, or to best a fellow contestant on a television cooking show (insert laugh)—is with bold-flavored herbs, spices, and condiments.
The hallmark of my food is aggressive seasoning. “More fresh herbs! More acidity!” is a call my sous-chefs constantly hear from me, because those are my key tools for making up the flavor in my dishes. I concentrate on harnessing strong-flavored ingredients—so bring on the fresh lemon juice, tear up the parsley leaves, splash on the Worcestershire sauce. The most important thing in my pantry at home is my spice rack, which is loaded with spices, mixes, and blends. (Buy bulk spices; they’re cheaper and they stay fresher longer, whether it’s something commonplace like oregano or something exotic like ras el hanout.) The most important thing in my fridge? My condiments, including different kinds of mayonnaise, ketchup, chutney, and vinaigrette.
There isn’t a condiment I don’t like (in other words, I don’t question it when somebody puts ketchup on their scrambled eggs or mayo on their fries). And my favorite, bar none, is tartar sauce. Early in my career, when I was training with French chefs, I would have blanched at the thought of a sauce that didn’t rely on expertly minced, precisely blended ingredients; but as I’ve matured, I’ve come to embrace the pleasure of chunky sauces laden with hand-ripped herbs, chopped hard-boiled egg, and bits of cornichon—my mouth waters writing about it. Ketchup is another favorite, especially a version I make with precious San Marzano tomatoes, which come from a village near Pompeii at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.
When my family and I sit down for dinner, there is always a collection of condiment jars set out on the table. Both of my daughters enjoy a good drizzle of red wine reduction or a chunky salsa verde on their veggies . . . or mac ’n’ cheese.
So here are some must-have recipes that will help you appreciate and adopt my almost obsessive desire to season (herbs, spices) and complement (condiments) my food.
The Three Great Mustards
Makes about 1-1⁄2 cups
For some reason, I used to be embarrassed that I liked honey mustard. In retrospect, it’s probably because it’s such a simple, sweet condiment that lots of children love. So, I thought, what is the anti-child’s ingredient? Beer. I make a sweet honey mustard that any chicken finger would love and then ratchet it up by adding beer extract. It rounds out the sweetness and gives it a bit of a hoppy edge. (Beer extract is available at home-brew equipment suppliers and good spice shops; you can also find it online at SpiceBarn.com.)
1 cup Aioli (page 24) or good-quality store-bought mayonnaise
1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon beer extract
Pinch of cayenne pepper
In a small bowl, whisk the aioli, Dijon, agave, cinnamon, beer extract, and cayenne together until well combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Serve with: Vidalia Onion Rings.
Makes about 1 cup
You eat a pastrami sandwich slathered with mustard, so why not add pastrami spices to the mustard and use it to flavor another dish, such as grilled salmon? Sometimes cooking is about connecting the dots: Ask yourself, for example, what else is good with mustard? A turkey sandwich is one answer, and wouldn’t that taste even better with the pastrami spices? That’s all it takes to make new and interesting dishes.
1-1⁄2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1-1⁄2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1-1⁄2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup Beer Mustard
1. Put the coriander and mustard seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, swirling the pan, until fragrant. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, add the peppercorns, and grind until fine. Transfer to a small bowl.
2. Add the paprika and mustard and stir until well combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Serve with: Corned Beef on Rye.
Makes about 1-1⁄2 cups
If honey mustard is for kids, violet mustard is for old ladies. I say this only because a restaurant critic once wrote that one of my flowery mustards smelled like the inside of a grandmother’s purse. I loved my grandmother’s purse . . . with its cool, snappy clasp.
2 tablespoons candied violets
1⁄4 cup honey
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup Dijon mustard
1⁄4 cup whole-grain mustard
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Mince the violets on a cutting board until very fine, or mash until pulverized using a mortar and pestle.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the honey, vinegar, and Dijon and whole-grain mustards until combined. Add the violets, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Serve with: A cheese plate or, for a floral note, Corned Beef on Rye.
What People are Saying About This
“The most innovative chef on Top Chef, Richard Blais brings us creative, thought-provoking recipes for the home cook. Let him make you look like a rock star.”
“Luckily for the rest of us, Richard didn’t heed his mom, nor does he plan to cease playing with his food any time soon. And now, in Try This at Home, he has managed to cleanly and clearly break down his process so that you can have a good time trying out some of his methods in your own kitchen. This is a cookbook from a serious chef who knows how to make fun of himself and lighten up the whole process. Cooking need not be an overly complicated, overwrought process with eighteen ingredients and fourteen pans. Though you can try using a good iSi siphon and a smoking gun (not that kind of smoking gun). And occasionally some nitrous oxide. Oh, and good ingredients, of course. Plus a spirit of fun. You have the cookbook. Now, as your mother would say, “go play!”
—from the foreword by TOM COLICCHIO
“Of all the contestants on Top Chef, Richard Blais was easily the most fascinating to watch. His food pays solid respect to the past while looking fearlessly to the future. Try This at Home takes Richard’s years of thinking, experimenting, trying and failing, and trying and succeeding, and brings it all home in thrilling and decidedly useful ways. This is the fast, accessible route to looking like a genius at your next dinner.”
“I've known Richard for a long time now and his cooking has always been a huge inspiration. Try This at Home totally captures his creativity, his talent, and his awesome sense of humor.”
“I’ve been rooting for Richard Blais since his first season on Top Chef and always wondered, How’d he do that? Now I finally have the answers . . . and I will definitely try these recipes at home!”
“Richard has created a book that I wish I had written—a book that will inspire not only professionals to look at food technique and flavor in a different way, but that any casual cook can work out of each and every day. For a guy who’s not even Jewish to teach me about better brisket was a welcome miracle, and the potato chip omelet shouldn’t be dismissed as gimmickry. We make it every week now in our house! Richard’s genuine passion as a chef, innovator, and artist comes shining through, but his influence as a father and husband makes this book truly special. Try This at Home is a must for anyone who enjoys cooking.”