10-Day Smart Tips Countdown: Love Your Time in the Kitchen
Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 10:43AM
Allison Adato in Tom Colicchio, smart tip

A little something different on the 10-day countdown, for the holiday. One point that several chefs made in talking about eating well was the importance of cooking for yourself, rather than relying too much on take-out or processed convenience foods. You can control the ingredients, the methods, and you are unlikely to hide duck fat or loads of butter from yourself. The good news is that most restaurant chefs don't cook at home the way they do at work. Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, chef-owner of Colicchio & Sons and the Craft restaurants, eats very simply at home, and will sometimes (as we all do, I think) toss pasta and vegetables in the same pot, just to save a washing-up step. Even those of us who cook rarely under normal circumstances will go all-out on a holiday, and Colicchio is no different. Here, in an excerpt from Smart Chefs Stay Slim, he describes a once-a-year family feast. The notion isn't to imitate this major undertaking, but to be reminded of the pleasure cooking can be.


For Christmas Eve, Colicchio has his family over, a dozen or so guests, and prepares a traditional Italian feast of thirteen fishes.“My grandmother used to do it, and I took it over. It’s not thirteen dishes, just thirteen fish. I do fritto misto, little whitebait and Nantucket bay scallops; sole with lemon, fennel, parsley, capers, red onion sliced really thin; then a crudo of tuna with a true vinaigrette and lardo; grilled sardines with a sweet-sour onion-and-raisin relish; a raw hamachi with a preserved lemon vinaigrette; salt cod, steamed and baked, with olive oil, parsley, garlic; a beet salad with anchovies and artichokes and celery, hot cherry peppers, olive oil, parsley, garlic; then we do cacciucco [an Italian fish stew; he uses squid, clams, tomatoes], roast cod with preserved lemon and olives, and pasta.”Off-duty chef Colicchio. (photo via the kitchn)

Phew. If you’re planning to cook that much, you had better have a good time doing it, and Colicchio does. “I do it all myself. Well, I cheat a little: I have the fish filleted at the restaurant.”  (Note: This is not cheating; you do not have to fillet your own fish.) “I wake up in the morning, get a pot of coffee going, put music on. I start cooking at ten in the morning and don’t stop until the guests walk in. I don’t rush. I enjoy it.”
This is welcome advice: Enjoy wonderful food, including the process of putting it together, especially for loved ones.

From Smart Chefs Stay Slim: Lessons in Eating and Living from America's Best Chefs by Allison Adato. copyright 2012, Penguin/NAL.

Article originally appeared on smartchefs (http://www.smart-chefs.com/).
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