Tips from the pros on fine cooking at home

Posted on 2/2/2012

Highlights from Beaver Creek's Food and Wine Festival.

 By Melanie Wong

 Last weekend while many at Beaver Creek were tearing up the slopes, many were also wining, dining and learning among the best chefs in the country.

 The Beaver Creek Food & Wine Weekend brought celebrity chefs alongside Beaver Creek’s own culinary masters. According to Beaver Creek Resort Executive Director Tim Baker, the event was a success and brought about 1,100 attendees.

 “It was a great collaboration between Beaver Creek and (first-time sponsor) Food & Wine magazine,” Baker says. “It was an opportunity to celebrate the eating experience and we had great snow. Everyone at Food & Wine was really impressed, so while it’s not official, I’m confident in saying they’ll be back next year.”

 This year, local chefs got some spotlight along with the celebrity guest chefs.

 “The guest chefs also were able to promote what Beaver Creek has to offer,” Baker says. “We have some of the greatest culinary opportunities in Beaver Creek that sometimes go unappreciated.”

Lunch and learn

 One such local-celebrity duo was collaboration between Stephanie Izard, Bravo’s “Top Chef” winner and owner of Chicago’s The Girl and the Goat restaurant, and local Christian Apetz, executive chef of Beaver Creek’s 8100 Mountainside Bar and Grill.

 The two bantered and cooked their way through a “Lunch and Learn” cooking demonstration and three-course meal, sharing their own expertise for cooks to try at home. Dishes included a smoked trout chowder, or “trou-der,” as Apetz calls it. It’s a meatier version of clam chowder, and without the chewiness of the clams. The generous chunks of potato make it a hearty winter dish and isn’t difficult to make.

 “Anytime you put any kind of shellfish and bacon in a cream, it’s pretty hard to mess up,” Izard says.

 Izard’s cookbook has been several years in the making, with its beginnings dating back before her acclaimed restaurant opened its doors.

 “Girl in the Kitchen” is geared toward adapting what happens in professional kitchens to the at-home kitchen. It doesn’t assume you know how to beard a mussel or clean an artichoke.

 “I tested all the dishes in my own kitchen. I invited all my friends over who cooked at home and had them ask me questions as we went through the recipes,” she says.

 Another trend both chefs encouraged at-home cooks to get behind is the move toward locally grown and raised food.

 Apetz and Izard said they shared a love for using local produce and meats.

 “I like supporting local farms,” Izard says. “We went to visit (the farm) that our meats come from. It gives you so much appreciation for how much work goes into getting, say, a tenderloin.”

 Apetz says that while it can be hard to find truly local produce in the winter months, his restaurant gets its produce from surrounding states. In the summer, he frequents the Minturn and Vail farmers markets and fishes in local rivers.

Go-to dishes

 Good food doesn’t have to take a whole night to make either, they said. Apetz’s quick “go-to” dinner is a dish his family has dubbed “chicken-chicken”: chicken sautéed with oil, capers, chili flakes and served over rice or couscous. Izard’s “go-to” ingredients include fish sauce and Dijon mustard. A quick dinner might be batches of pasta and sauce spiced up with ground beef and liberal amounts of Parmesan, she says.

 Not everything the chefs demonstrated was “home-friendly.” Izard’s main dish, the deliciously named “Crispy Pig Face Sandwich” used the bacon-like meat from a pork head. Izard even had her restaurant’s butcher, Norbert Moniz, demonstrate skinning a head on stage.

 Most spectators were fascinated, and really, how could you resist a sandwich that tastes like bacon in patty form?  Check out more of Izard’s more home-friendly recipes at


“Do it at home”
Check out these home-kitchen tips from Top Chef Stephanie Izard and Beaver Creek’s Christian Apetz.
Save your fat. “Save your bacon fat in the fridge and cook with it,” says Izard. “We use it at the restaurant for everything from making stocks to baking bread.”
Cook with wine you would drink. First, says Apetz, you want good taste in your food. Second, you can take some sips while you’re cooking.
Smoke meats/fish at home. Soak woodchips in water in a big pot. Cover the water and chips with a piece of foil and place the meat/fish on top. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, and smoke away.
Freeze soup. Make big batches of soup, chowders and stews in the winter to freeze. For soups with cream, you can defrost and add the cream before serving.


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