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Top 10 Secrets Of Great Chefs: Pasta To Freshness

Updated on December 29, 2009

Pass The Pasta

I once visited a friend who was going to make me her special spaghetti: Boiled for 45 minutes, drained, then tomato juice poured on top. That's not food, it's glue! Either cook pasta in the proper Italian way, or head out to Pizza Hut and convince yourself that you're actually ingesting something fit for human consumption: Huge amount of rolling boiling water, way more than you think you need. Lots of salt, way more than you think you need. Toss all the pasta in and then stir for at least 10 seconds. Keep that fire at maximum! Keep tasting it. Overcooking pasta should be a felony. Yank it off when it's al dente. How do you know? Bite through a piece and if the very middle of the pasta still has a slightly resistant, lighter color, and almost borderline crunchy consistency, that's it. Yeah, no kiddin'. Never rinse your pasta. Just shake it out in a colander for no more than 30 seconds and serve fast!

Soft, Sexy Grits

Grits have gotten a bad rap because too many people have had "truck-stop style grits," cooked with water and a little salt. It's like eating soaked styrofoam. I remember the first time I tried grits at a 76 Truck Stop somewhere off some Interstate. I thought that they had left the sugar out of the worst rice pudding known to humanity. Grits don't have to be gag-inducing! Why not try them with garlic, chicken broth, Tabasco, salt, pepper, half-and-half and butter? A few simple ingredients tossed in and you've got a masterpiece.

Use Quality Ingredients

Most great chefs don't do anything too special to their food other than to make sure that it's local, it's fresh, and it's good. I have news for you. The tomatoes you get at your local supermarket in mid winter were picked when they were bright green and hard as rocks on the other side of the planet. No wonder they taste like red tennis balls. Try this experiment if you don't believe me. Go get a supermarket tomato in late summer, then head out to a field of tomatoes and pick a ripe one from the plant. Taste both. If you think that they are even the same species, you need to get your taste buds rewired. The bottom line is: No matter what the ingredient is, if you can't get it super fresh and local, don't bother serving it. Nurture the relationships with your local food producers at the local farmers market and try to eat only what has been produced within a couple of hours drive from your house. If it's been frozen, don't eat it. If it's been in a fridge for more than 24 hours from live or picked, don't eat it. Never use a dried spice, but opt for the freshly grown ones: you won't believe the flavor difference. Let your food ingredients shine and you're well on your way to getting your own Food Network show!

Warning to the wise: Be prepared for many requests for second helpings!
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