Hometown boy turned superstar, Michael Symon is one of the hottest food personalities in America. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, he is counted among the nation’s greatest chefs, having joined the ranks of Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, and Masaharu Morimoto as one of America’s Iron Chefs. At his core, though, he’s a midwestern guy with family roots in old-world traditions. In Michael Symon’s Live to Cook, Michael tells the amazing story of his whirlwind rise to fame by sharing the food and incredible recipes that have marked his route.
Michael is known for his easy, fresh food. He means it when he says that if a dish requires more than two pans to finish, he’s not going to make it. Cooking what he calls “heritage” food–based on the recipes beloved by his Greek—Italian—Eastern European—American parents and the community in Cleveland–Michael draws on the flavors of traditional recipes to create sophisticated dishes, such as his Beef Cheek Pierogies with Wild Mushrooms and Horseradish, which came out of the pierogies that his grandpa made. Michael translates the influences of the diverse working-class neighborhood in which he grew up into dishes with Mediterranean ingredients, such as those in Olive Oil Poached Halibut with Fennel, Rosemary, and Garlic; Italian-style handmade pastas, like Linguini with Heirloom Tomato, Capers, Anchovies, and Chilies; and re-imagined Cleveland favorites, such as Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary.
Part of Michael’s irresistible allure on the Food Network comes from how much fun he has in the kitchen. To help readers gain confidence and have a good time, Michael Symon’s Live to Cook has advice for cooking like a pro, starting with basic instructions for how to correctly use techniques such as braising, poaching, and pickling. There’s also information on how caramelizing vegetables and toasting spices can give dishes a greater depth of flavor–instead of a heavy, time-consuming stock-based sauce–and why the perfect finishing touch to most meat or fish dishes can be a savory hot vinaigrette instead.
With fantastic four-color photography throughout and tons of helpful “Symon Says” tips, Michael Symon’s Live to Cook is bound to get anyone fired up about getting into the kitchen and cooking up something downright delicious.
Roasted Dates with Pancetta, Almonds, and Chile
These are incredibly simple—sliced almonds and red pepper flakes are added to sautéing pancetta and then spooned over roasted dates—but so addictive. The beauty of this preparation is the intensity and concentration of all the flavors: the sweetness of the dates, but also the savory saltiness of the pancetta, nuttiness of the almonds, and spicy heat of the chile. It's the perfect balance of the taste elements I love. Your mouth will just pop with these flavors.
At Players restaurant, my first restaurant after culinary school, chef-owner Mark Shary used to stuff a date with an almond, wrap it in bacon, and roast it. These morsels were served on toothpicks. This is my interpretation, turning a little snack or hors d'oeuvre into a bona fide starter. Leftover dates can be puréed and used as a spread on croutons or served as a condiment with a cheese course.
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups pitted dates
3 ounces pancetta, finely diced 1/2 cup
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the dates on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until heated through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the dates in there while you cook the pancetta.
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it is three-quarters crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the almonds and continue cooking until they brown, a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the red pepper flakes and stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, stirring continuously until the butter is melted. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley.
Add the dates to the pan and swirl and toss them in the sauce. Divide the cooked dates among four to six plates and spoon the sauce over them.
Excerpted from Michael Symon's Live to Cook by Michael Symon with Michael Ruhlman, Foreword by Bobby Flay. Copyright © 2009 by Michael Symon with Michael Ruhlman, Foreword by Bobby Flay. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Michael Symon
MICHAEL SYMON is an Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America and a James Beard Award Winner. He is the chef and co-owner of the acclaimed restaurants Lola and Lolita, located in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as Roast, in Detroit, Michigan.
About Michael Ruhlman
MICHAEL RUHLMAN is the author of twelve nonfiction books, including The Soul of a Chef, and has coauthored many cookbooks, such as The French Laundry Cookbook with Thomas Keller.
About Bobby Flay
BOBBY FLAY is the chef-owner of three Mesa Grill restaurants (New York City, Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, and the Bahamas), Bar Americain, Bobby Flay Steak, and Bobby’s Burger Palace. He is the host of numerous popular cooking shows on Food Network, from the Emmy-nominated Boy Meets Grill to the Iron Chef America series, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and Grill It! with Bobby Flay. A New York Times bestselling cookbook author, he is also the food correspondent for The Early Show on CBS.