November 9, 2011

Cooking with Ming


Emmy-Nominated Chef Ming Tsai shows Clarke how to cook! When Emmy-nominated Chef Ming Tsai offered a cooking event last month at our Milford showroom, the crowd of 60 guests were both enthusiastic and at ease, seeming as if they were all having a  personal conversation with the celebrated chef. Ming was extremely at home in his television studio kitchen at Clarke, where he’s cooked for his PBS for now nine seasons. He entertained the crowd with stories of being on “Iron Chef,” what it was like behind the scenes and said that the task of single-handedly creating the buffet for 100 people on the show might have been the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life.

by Clarke Showroom Manager Sandra Lashway

Chef Ming hosting a cooking class

For two hours, he whipped up selections from his One-Pot Meals cookbook, offering that when he cooks at home (without the luxury of sous chefs and dish washers), he likes to create things simply, and often using only one pot. “That’s real Chinese cooking, you know,” he said. “Less is more and you put together wonderful ingredients and then put the pot right on the table to serve the family.”

During the evening, Ming offered these morsels of culinary wisdom:

  • The secret to great polenta is to shake it a little at a time when putting it in to the pan; don’t dump it into the pan all at once.
  • Be careful when taking your first taste of polenta. It’s so hot; “pizza burn is nothing compared to polenta burn!”
  • Always season from very high up, never sprinkle salt, pepper or any spice from right over the pan or dish…always drop from a few feet above the cooking surface. If you scatter beyond the pan or plate, that’s fine. It will eliminate over-seasoning.
  • Ming’s favorite cooking smell? Garlic and ginger. Second favorite? Onions and butter.
  • He suggested that you have to train your children’s palettes so they like healthy food; his children LOVE vegetables…they learned from a young age and the cooking smells are so great!
  • Always grind your own pepper.
  • Always use Kosher salt, not iodized.
  • When cooking with ginger, make sure the ginger is hard, smooth and has no soft spots.
  • Miso is actually a great form of sodium.
  • When working with scallions, cook the white end and use the green end for garnish.
  • When cooking with wine, use the same wine in the dish that you’ll be drinking with the meal.
  • When cooking tomatoes, you’re best to use canned Roma tomatoes. Most professional chefs actually use canned for cooking.
  • To heat pans, use medium high heat and make sure your pans are good; they should have at least three layers of metal.
  • He uses gas ranges whenever possible, but always induction cooking for his events where gas isn’t available.
  • Never, ever stick your finger in the pot to taste (even if you think your hands are clean)…this introduces bacteria and toxins.
  • When oil flares up in a pan, simply put a lid on it and turn off the heat, then clean the pan and start over.
  • It’s not cheating to buy stock. Use low- or no-sodium stock, so that you can control the amount of salt.
  • There is no word in Chinese for diet. The ideal is to never eat after 10PM and just to move your body!

It was a delightful evening watching Ming in action and we look forward to having him back to The Clarke Culinary Center in 2012 to teach us more great secrets. Don’t forget to watch the new season of his PBS show, Simply Ming…Cooking on the Fly. In the Boston area, it can be seen Saturday afternoons on WGBH.