Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cooking Demo at Local Chocolate Shop...

Was asked to offer up a cooking demo this afternoon. We decided to start a monthly series to offer a simple cooking demonstration for the locals in the neighborhood. To start off the series, I demonstrated how to make a simple and inexpensive appetizer for the budget-minded host or hostess. Everyone had a great time! Check out the pics and the recipe.

Here is the recipe:

Goat Cheese Filled Parmesan Cups with House-Made Bacon


• 6 ounces fresh goat cheese
• 5 tablespoons heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon parsley
• Pinch of lemon zest
• Salt and pepper to taste


• 12 tablespoons Shredded Parmesan Cheese


Your favorite Thick Sliced Bacon cut into ½” cubes and slowly cooked in a skillet until golden brown and crisp. Place bacon pieces on a paper towel and set aside. (For my recipe, I used my house-made bacon. There is a “How-To” HERE.

PREPARATION: For the filling, put goat cheese in a stand mixer and whip until creamy; add cream, zest, parsley, salt and pepper and whip until smooth; set aside.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. For the Parmesan crisps, using a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, place 2 tablespoons Parmesan on the pan and spread with your finger to create a circle about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Repeat until all Parmesan is used.

Bake in a 350-degree oven until a light golden color is achieved, about 6 to 10 minutes. Be sure not to overcook. Have an empty paper egg carton ready. Then remove the pan from the oven and, using a spatula, remove the crisps one at a time. Mold them into the egg carton, creating free-form bowls. Set aside to cool and harden.

Fill the crisp with the filling using a piping bag or a small spoon.

Garnish with bacon pieces.

Makes 6-8.

Here are some pics:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The sad stinky sourdough experiment...

Kneading the dough (so far so good), smells like bread with a nice smooth dough.

Let it rise the first time for 8 hours, like the recipe said)

Cut into three loaves, placed in loaf pans and allowed to rise a second time for another 8 hours!

The result was a baby-vomit smelling un-inflated loaf of bulding material and tossed into the trash.

So, if you're following along with my buddy's blog about his battle with sour dough starters, then you may appreciate this post. In response to his unfortunate inability to recreate one of the best breads, I thought I'd give it a shot and bring some light into this dark abyss of "crumbliness" .

Discussing this with my mother-in-law, she shared a really old family recipe with me that used instant potato flakes, water, sugar and a little yeast (ok you sour dough purist, simmer down). Not sure what happened, but seemed everything was going well. The starter was doing what the recipe said it would, I fed it like I was supposed to and the end result was a dense brick of a bolder that smelled and tasted like baby vomit (seriously). Three loaves, in the trash, sad to say.

I think I'll try this again and pay more attention to what I do to see if there was something I missed. Will keep you posted.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My pork belly, the "cure" for my cravings/ Part 2

Wow, what a fun-filled experience this has been! 4 days after curing some of my pork belly for bacon, I've certainly learned a lot. I've also found a new appreciation for properly (and poorly) home-made bacon.

In part 1 of this series, we set up two different cures for bacon and started our pancetta. The pancetta still has a few days left to cure before I move ahead with it, but I'll keep you informed.

Now, with part 2, I smoked the bacon two different ways. A long cold smoke (3-4 hours at 100 - 125F) and a shorter hot smoke (just under an hour at 375F). Both ways are meant to impart a great smokey flavor. Upon doing a little research, the kind of wood that has been used by others was usually fruit woods or hickory. Some of the hard core producers were using blends of as few as two types of woods all the way up to 6 or more! Not sure why they'd do that, but that's what I read.

One fellow blogger made a point to mention that mesquite is too strong a flavor for bacon. But, being as that mesquite chunks were the only wood I had on hand and wasn't about to make the trip to find, let along buy, different types of wood, I decided to give it a shot.

So, after soaking my mesquite wood chunks in water for two days, I got busy getting my smokers ready.

I like to smoke food, it's one of the greatest ways to turn something blah into something yummy, but could never wrap my head around the notion of running out and buying a "real" smoker. Yea, I know what your thinking, I WOULD go out and buy the biggest and the best if money was not an option, but since I'm not Richy Rich, building my own was a cheap alternative and it does the trick!

Here are my smoker set-ups. The hot smoker is a ghetto rendition of Alton Browns Terra-Cotta Flower Pot Smoker. I think I paid 30 bucks for everything. You'll notice it's flipped over. I do that for better smoke distribution and, it gives me the ability to smoke things thicker than ribs and chicken wings.

For the cold smoker, I just used my propane grill. After removing a grate from the grill, I started some charcoal in a couple pans, got the wood smoldering, then dumped the wood and coals onto a smaller grate from an old grill, piling them in the farthest corner from the bellies.

So, we have smoke, now the bellies. First thing I had to do it rinse off the cure and then dry them on racks in front of a box fan for about 2 hours (to form the "pellicle", a sort of skin that helps in smoke absorption, apparently). Alternatively, I could have done this over night in the fridge. The fan-trick worked like a charm.

From the wet-brine cured belly, I cut it in half and did one with the hot smoker. The other piece I did cold, along with the honey mustard dry-cured piece. It was suggested that I cure for three days, but on day three it was very windy with a huge chance for rain. I didn't want to chance it as this is too important :) It ended up being a four day cure instead.

I hot smoked at 375F for just under an hour. First I started a pile of charcoal and then, once we had white ash, I threw some chunks on top. It's a good idea to put a pan of water in with the wood to prevent drying out the meat and, it kinda acts as a catch pan to catch the dripping pork fat (messy stuff and the neighbors dogs love it!). Placed the rack on top and covered it for a few minutes until I started seeing billows of smoke.

I cold smoked between 100F and 125F as I had to add and remove wood chunks to get the proper temperature. I stuck a thermometer into the side of the grill to keep an eye on the inside temp without having to open it all the time. I ran out of wood at the 3.5 hour mark but I felt that may have been enough. I had no choice, really.

Once the hot smoked bacon (sounds like a black porn movie!) was done, the internal temp was 150F in the thickest part. This is what a few others have written is the temp it should be upon completion. I placed it on a plate and put into the fridge for about an hour. Then I threw it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up for easier slicing.

The internal temp of the cold smoked bacon was just under 125F. Not sure if this was what it was supposed to be, but made sense as it was in that temperature being smoked for all that time. I also placed it on a plate and put it into the fridge for about an hour. Then, as with the hot smoked, I threw it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up for easier slicing.

Now, for the moment that's been motivating me since this project started, EATING!!!

Let me give you the taste profiles for each of the three. It was amazing the difference in flavors between the three. Like night and day man.

First, let's start with the hot smoked piece; pepper crusted, brown sugar and cider vinegar wet cured for four days, turned daily. It was perfectly smoked. I mean, seriously, there was the PERFECT amount of smokiness and the mesquite wasn't over powering at all. It had the perfect balance of flavors. Sweet acidity and salty perfection. It had a little winy-ness that added a nice after taste. After frying a few pieces until golden and lightly crisp, it had an awesome chewiness with crisp edges that only well raised pigs fat could achieve. This was, by far, my favorite of the three.

The cold smoked version of that same cure wasn't quite as good. Tasty, yes, but not mind blowing like the hot smoked version. It lacked in enough smoke flavor. Yes, the smoke was there, but a lot lighter than the hot smoked version. The pepper came out better in this version. I could actually taste a nice peppery-ness that I couldn't really taste in the other one. It also had the perfect amount of salt. This would have to be my second favorite.

Lastly, the cold smoked honey mustard dry cured bacon. Well, this was my least favorite, sorry to say. I mean, you'd think it would ROCK! Its honey and mustard man! But, it was WAAYYYYYYY (that enough y's?) too salty and a little bitter. If I were to do that again, I would cut the salt amount in half, it was that bad. It browned way too fast in the pan, most likely because of the honey, and aside from the bitter mustard, had very little flavor. I think backing off on the salt and letting it cure for a week instead of 4 days to impart more honey and mustard flavor, would help.

I just had to put my favorite bacon into a sandwich. Just so happened that I had made a fresh loaf of white bread the night before (how convenient!). I fried a few pieces up, fried an egg in the rendered fat (yes, yes I did!!!), seared a couple slices of tomato, piled on the shredded cheddar, slathered a sweet thai chili mayo on the toasted bread with some butter and, JACKPOT MONEY SHOT!!! :) Yes, it was "da-lish".

Check back in a few days when I give you the run-down on my pancetta. I have high hopes for that :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chef Bradley Beverage Series - Roasting Your Own Coffee

Yeah, I'm a little bit picky about my coffee. I think most chefs are! We have these trained taste buds that don't satisfy easily! So, a few months ago I began buying green beans and roasting my own coffee. There's tons of great info out there to learn how to do your own. I use my gas grill and a basket, but there are many other ways you can home roast. This way works for me and seems to be pretty cost effective. Here's a demo for you to learn the simple art of home roasting.

Here are a few links to some great informative coffee roasting links as well as places to buy your own green beans and stuff.

Coffee Forums

Sweet Marias

Home Roasters


Coffee Geek

Green Coffee Coop

Charlotte JWU New Equipment Demo

This past Monday was the monthly local American Culinary Federation (ACF) meeting. After going over the monthly business, we were given a demo by a few of the chefs/ students on campus. Here is what the memo said:

Hands on demo using Contemporary Hot and Cold food preparation equipment such as A Thermal Emersion Circulator, Paco Jet Ice Cream Maker and Sub Zero Anti-Griddle with student Fellow and Junior Hot Food Team member Ben Shelton

It was pretty sweet to see one of my favorite pieces of equipment in use, the Paco Jet! And, yeah, the anti-griddle is pretty bad ass too :) I'm growing to like the Emersion Circulator a bit more, but still think its an over priced poacher, lol.

Some pics:

And a grainy video of the Paco Jet I took with my phone :) What a bad ass machine that thing is!

Check out this link for more info:

Here are links to the other equipment if you'd like to learn more:

Thermal Immersion Circulator


Monday, February 09, 2009

Local Choclatiers that are worth mentioning...

So, Valentines Day is fast approaching as you may already know and most of us love chocolate, I'm sure. For those of you that don't, well, that's just un-American :P. And, I feel bad for those with allergies to the stuff, shameful.

Anywho, there are three friends of mine that are currently creating some of the areas best goodies using the supposed aphrodisiac that are really worth a mention.

My buddy Andy's dad over at The Secret Chocolatier. They are at the Yorkmont Farmers Market most weekends.

The vivacious and talented Erika over at Sula's Chocolates is producing some out standing products, very unique!

And, let's not forget the amazing duo, Jean Luc and Ann Marie at their store in Concord blowing peoples minds over at Chocolatier Barrucand. They do a little of everything sweet over there. From truffles to wedding cakes, you can't beat them! I'll be doing a cooking demo over there very soon, stay tuned!

I wish them luck this holiday season as I'm sure they're very busy!!! But, contact them anyway for some yummy amazement. :) Tell them Chef Bradley sent you!!!

Chef Bradley Dessert Cooking Series - Food Processor Apple Pie

Here's the first of my dessert series. A simple apple pie with a scratch made crust you can make with your food processor. This is so easy and pretty quick! Total prep time was about 20 minutes, total time invested was about 2 hours.

Get this recipe at

Key points:

  1. Use granny smith apples.
  2. Use unsalted butter.
  3. Make sure that all your ingredients are very chilled, especially your butter and water.
  4. Let the pie cool/ rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My pork belly, the "cure" for my cravings/ Part 1

So, I scored this awesome 11 pound pork belly from Grateful Growers Farms in Denver, NC yesterday morning at the local farmers market. I've wanted to make my own bacon for years but could never find a good source in this area. At least anything that was worthy of turning into bacon!

So, with this one, I decided to try two types of curing methods for bacon and a slab of pancetta. I also kept a couple chunks to turn into my dinner, yum.

First of all, let's start with the two curing methods for the bacon. I decided to go with a honey mustard dry cure and a brown sugar and cider vinegar brine wet cure and see what I like better.

Secondly, I wanted to make my own pancetta. There were a few ways that I found on the internet but decided to go with the flat version (called Pancetta Stresa). Most are rolled and use 5 pounds of belly, mine will only use about 2.5 pounds. Either way calls for hanging at room temp for about 2 weeks so that should be interesting.

Big-un, eh? :)

Look at that marbling!

Wet cure rubbed with cracked peppercorns then held in a brine. I got the idea for this one here: and then replaced the molasses with brown sugar.

I had to weigh it down with a plastic container to keep it submerged. This will brine for 3 days.

Dry rub cure using this recipe:

For this, I used an artisan's honey from Italy to kick it up a little bit! Also will cure for 3 days.

For the pancetta, you'll need DQ curing salt and this recipe. Their tutorial is key.

The curing mix. See recipe for ingredients list.



Weighted. Will cure for 7 days and then hung at room temp for 2 weeks!

Man, my lower fridge is full of soon-to-be-cured meats! :) If my doctor could only see me now, lol.

After these bad boys do their things, Ill be smoking the bacon and hanging the pancetta stresa. Stay tuned!

My buddy over at "Blog of a Chef" just discovered the best home made bread in the land. I think Ill do a house-made mayo demo for you all and then we can make a BLT!!! Now, if I could only find some local tomatoes this time of year :)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Chef Bradley Video Cooking Series - Pizza Episode 1 - Food Processor Pizza Crust

This is the first of my Pizza Series. I made a simple pizza crust using my food precessor, let it rise on the counter for 45 minutes and then made a yummy pepperoni pizza with it. Check it out:

A few key points:

  1. Use unbleached flour.
  2. Be sure warm water does not exceed 110F or you will kill the yeast!
  3. Proofing the pizza overnight in the fridge will result in a better result.
  4. Cook pizza on a pizza stone in a 500F oven.

Makes ¾ pound dough (enough for two 9” crusts or one 14” crust)
*Note, I used instant yeast and put all the ingredients together, FYI, and all was well. Thats the great thing about instant yeast :)


1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup warm water (105 to 115°F.)
1 2/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoons table salt
¾ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil


In a 2-cup liquid measure, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Insert metal blade in work bowl and add flour and salt. Add cold water to yeast mixture.
With machine running, pour liquid through small feed tube as fast as flour absorbs it. Process until dough cleans sides of work bowl and forms a ball. Then process for 30 seconds to knead dough. Dough may be slightly sticky. Coat dough evenly with olive oil; transfer to a plastic food storage bag and seal the top. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down. Roll into desired crust sizes and place on baking pans lightly sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray. Follow with a pizza recipe.