I am still simply amazed and in a haze after spending a whirlwind of a day yesterday with Chef Jose Garces. It is hard to put into words what a fabulous day I had!
I remember seeing the Verizon Wireless contest, “Dia Des Sus Suenos” or Day of Your Dreams and thinking to myself that this would be be an AWESOME contest to win. Spending a day with acclaimed Chef Jose Garces star of “Iron Chef America” on the Food Network, an accomplished entrepreneur, and James Beard winner? Cooking side by side and learning from one of the best chefs in the world? Yes, yes, and more yes! So I crossed my fingers, entered the sweepstakes, and hoped for the best. I remember getting the call and jumping around the house miming to my husband and sons that I had won while still on the phone. I was excited to also be able to share the day with my husband who would accompany me on my day with Chef Jose Garces!
The weeks leading up to the day with Chef Jose Garces was a bit nerve-wracking. I definitely wanted to make a good impression on him as I admire Jose’s work acumen and his passion for food and making his customers happy. I also wanted to show him that I DO possess some skills in the kitchen. My mother and grandmother taught me in the ins and outs of making great family meals and though neither are professionally trained, they “burn” in the kitchen!
Upon meeting him, I was immediately put at ease. Chef Jose Garces is down-to-earth and friendly but still has quite a powerful presence about him. We spoke about family, about cooking, and simply didn’t run out of things to talk about through out the day! While at the Verizon store in Philadelphia, Chef Jose Garces signed copies of his book, “The Latin Road Home”, and his fans were excited to meet him. He was so gracious and friendly to each and every person–truly awesome!
After a morning at the Verizon Wireless store on 11th and Market Street and being presented with a new 4G LTE tablet and my huge check for $1000.00, we proceeded to one of his fifteen (yes, 15!) restaurants. JG Domestic is his farm to table establishment in the Cira Center. It is rustic and comfortable yet elegant and aesthetically beautiful.
Chef Jose Garces gave me a private tour of his restaurant, his personal office (equipped with shuffleboard table and extensive library of cookbooks), and then we got down to business!
We made two dishes from his new cookbook, The Latin Road Home, Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche and chicken and rice soup with achiote. The kitchen at JG Domestic is first-rate so it was so cool to cook side by side with Chef Jose Garces. The shrimp ceviche is poached fresh shrimp marinated in a sauce made with tomato, citrus juices, chiles, and cilantro. We served it with crunchy spicy platanos on the side. This ceviche was delicious! Both are healthy and fun dishes to make for my family (TheGetFitDiva approves!). Here is the recipe for the Aguado de Gallina (Chicken & Rice Soup with Achiote) Chef Jose Garces and I prepared:
Aguado de Gallina
Chicken & Rice Soup with Achiote
3 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (preferably legs and thighs)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped
2 Tbs minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 Tbs whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 Tbs achiote paste
1 tsp Spanish smoked hot paprika
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 qts Chicken Stock
2 fresh bay leaves
3 large plum tomatoe, diced
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 lb russet potatoes, peeled and diced small (4 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
1 lb fresh English peas, shelled and blanched (1 cup)
1 Tbs minced fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbs minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
Ají Costeño (recipe follows), for serving
Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet or
Dutch oven over high heat and sear the chicken in batches until skin is crispy and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, achiote paste, paprika, and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock and bay leaves, and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the tomatoes and cook about 5 minutes.
Add the rice, potatoes, and carrot and return to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone and the rice is fully cooked, about 40 minutes. Stir in the peas, oregano, parsley, and cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with ají.
I would like to sincerely thank Verizon Wireless for this experience. Everyone I interacted with was extremely nice and accommodating. I felt like a star…that it was truly a day just for me! Chef Jose Garces is a remarkable man and I am so glad I was able to have a glimpse of his everyday from his press day, to his personal office, and to his domain–the KITCHEN! Thank you Chef Jose Garces!