Cooking with Stephanie Izard

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Last night, the Culinary Institute of America at the Astor Center presented a cooking class with Stephanie Izard, the most recent winner of Top Chef. Izard demonstrated two dishes that she cooked on the show: Duck a la orange with braised duck spring rolls and bok choy, and roasted lamb with maitake mushrooms, blackberry gastrique and braised pistachios.

I'm not sure the class functioned so well in terms of actually learning how to make the recipes Stephanie demoed, but by no fault of hers. Some of the necessary prep hadn't been laid out (no hot oil in which to fry), and most of the audience questions were about Top Chef rather than her technique. Stephanie seemed just as genuine, competent and down to earth as she did on the show--she might be the most naturally likable person ever to appear on reality television.

Highlights:

Those braised pistachios that Ted Allen went crazy for on the show were, in reality, totally delicious. And simple: pistachios, chicken stock and salt, simmered for 40 minutes, the end.

After filming the first episode's elimination challenge, and getting freaked out because Anthony Bourdain had walked in, Stephanie had a "little panic attack" and the show's medics had to attend to her.

On Lisa: "She's great. They had to make someone the villain." Lisa is listed in Stephanie's phone as "Leeza," for the way Daniel Boulud pronounced the name.

To braise in a short amount of time (like if you're on Top Chef...or if your friends are coming over for dinner soon) cut the meat into smaller pieces, and braise on the stovetop (rather than in the oven), using slightly higher heat than you otherwise would.

You can save braising liquid (including all the aromatics and seasonings) and use it over and over. Stephanie said that she's worked in kitchens in which the same braising liquid is used for "months and months." Just bring it to a boil every few days for food safety.

On the Dale-Lisa mutual tantrum/Jen-kicking-chair scene: "We were in that room for up to six hours at a time, and there's this big cooler of wine and beer. Jen got upset because Zoe was leaving the show...Dale decides to start screaming at Lisa even though we won...I think that's what they [the producers] want. They were like 'sweet.'"

Stephanie will be opening a "fun, funky gastro-pub" (obvs) in Chicago next spring. She and her partners are currently scouting locations. She's also working on a cookbook.

On a night out with Mario Batali: "He likes to throw back a couple cocktails...I wouldn't recommend drinking three big glasses of Fernet."

Having left her restaurant, Scylla, Stephanie worked as a personal chef for a family in the Hamptons this summer. (Unsurprisingly, she decided personal cheffing was not for her.)

Restaurant recommendations in Chicago: Avec and L20.

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Lamb with blackberry gastrique, maitake mushrooms and braised pistachios


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