Food

A Pro Chef Shares Recipes And Explains How To Become A Better Cook

| by Lauren Briggs
Chef Brian Massie in the kitchenChef Brian Massie in the kitchen

The cool thing about cooking is that anyone can do it. No matter who you are – whether you are a world-class professional chef or you don't even know how to boil water – you can always learn more, you can always improve, and you can always learn to make delicious food.

The folks here at Cooking Panda are constantly looking for new kitchen skills to add to our arsenal, so we decided to reach out to renowned Las Vegas Chef Brian Massie to get a glimpse inside the masterful brain behind the amazing food at Hearthstone, Salute Trattoria Italiana and Libre at Red Rock, Clique Lounge at the Cosmopolitan, The Still at the Mirage, Bottiglia Enoteca and Borracha at Green Valley Ranch Resort.

The mastermind who brought tableside pasta to Salute Trattoria Italiana and Bottiglia Enoteca is famous not only for cooking up a marvelous-tasting meal, but also for including some jaw-dropping visuals to accompany it. That's why he brought the Italian technique of cooking pasta in front of guests to Sin City.

"Vegas is about a show, it's an experience and people love to watch a chef cook," Massie told Cooking Panda.

But even if you aren't a world-renowned Vegas chef, you can still take a leaf out of his book and make sure you always spend a few minutes plating your food so that it looks appetizing and artfully hand-crafted.

"Remember, you eat with your eyes first so I always make the presentation count," Massie explained.

Beyond that, the New York native said, it is massively important to use quality ingredients, and the absolute best way to do that is always to get everything fresh.

"Cooking seasonal you don't need to create flavors, they should already be there," he said, explaining that he always tries to "balance all the taste sensations."

Massie is constantly changing up his style and ingredients to fit the season. Since it's summer, his favorite foods to cook with are stone fruits like apricots, peaches, cherries, nectarines and plums.

"There are a few key points that I keep in mind no matter what and that is: seasonal, balance, and excitement -- and most importantly, remember who you're cooking for."

Massie loves his wood burning oven for the major flavor boost it adds to all his meals and is quick to point out that good food doesn't need to be crazy elaborate, nor do beginner chefs need to go out and buy the fanciest equipment they can get their hands on.

"Technology is already there and has a lot of benefits in the kitchen," he said. "I look at some of it as how calculators affected kids with math -- lots of kids never learned the foundation of math. You need to keep the basics and you will be fine and you can grow from there."

And always remember that practice makes perfect. Massie's number one piece of advice for those looking to improve their cooking game is to soak up and use as much info as possible.

"Read as much as you can -- look at cookbooks, try out the recipes and eat!" he said. "[You] should also work where you are inspired and you can be creative."

Here's how to make a couple of Massie's seafood and tableside pasta masterpieces in your own kitchen:

1. Wood Roasted Clams from Hearthstone Kitchen and Cellar

Ingredients:

8 oz.     Washed Manila clams

8 oz.     Clam stock

8          Fresh garlic slices

2 tbs.    Minced shallots

1 pinch  Chili flake

3 tbs.    White wine

¼ cup    Fregola

2 oz.      Fennel sausage

1 tbs.     Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 oz.      Diced roma tomato sec

1 pinch   Fresh chopped parsley

½ oz.     Lemon vinaigrette

1 pinch   Salt and pepper

To Make:

In a hot cast iron pan add oil, sliced garlic and chile and lightly toast the garlic, add the shallots as the garlic browns. Add the clams to the hot pan, toss. Add the white wine, reduce slightly and add the clam stock.

In a bowl mix the fregula, sausage, tomatoes; toss in vinaigrette and add to the clams. Return the pan to the wood burning oven, remove to toss occasionally until all the clams have opened. Garnish with chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper, serve with toasted bread.

2. Shrimp Puttanesca with Capers, Olives and Roasted Eggplant

Ingredients:

1 lb.            Linguine, blanched*

20 each      Marinated 21/25 shrimp, peeled and deveined*

1 cup          Chopped roasted eggplant*

3 Tbsp.       Capers

3 Tbsp.       Chopped casteltravano olives

½ cup         Chopped hydrated sun dried tomatoes*

1½ cup       Tomato shrimp stock*

2 Tbsp.       White wine

2 Tbsp.       Extra virgin olive oil

1 each        Thinly sliced garlic clove

3 Tbsp.       Unsalted butter

5 each        Torn basil leaves

2 Tbsp.       Chopped Italian parsley

¼ cup          Micro plane/grated parmesan cheese

1 pinch       Salt & pepper

*directions below

To Make:

Saute the marinated shrimp in the EVOO and then remove from the pan when cooked half way. Using the residual EVOO in the pan, add the garlic slices and saute until golden brown.

Deglaze with the white wine and reduce until dry. Add the tomato shrimp stock and then add remaining ingredients and the sauteed shrimp, then toss to combine. Cook until the shrimp are cooked and the stock has reduced with the pasta.

*Marinated 21/25 Shrimp

20 each  Peeled and deveined shrimp

1 each    Minced garlic

3 Tbsp.   Minced shallots

2 Tbsp.   EVOO

¼ cup     White wine

2 cups    Lemon zest

1 pinch   Chili flake

1 pinch   Dry oregano

1 pinch   Chopped parsley

1 pinch   Salt & pepper

Saute garlic in EVOO until golden brown and then add the shallots and sweat, season with salt and pepper. Deglaze with white wine and reduce until dry. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Remove from the pan and chill in a bowl in the refrigerator. Once chilled then add the peeled and deveined shrimp to the bowl and toss to combine. Let marinate for 24 hrs.

*Blanched Linguine

1 lb.       Linguine

3 Tbsp.  Kosher salt

3 Tbsp.  EVOO

Bring a 6 qt. pot of water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Cook linguine for six minutes, should still be under-done. Strain from pot and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Pour the EVOO over the blanched pasta -- a toss to coat the pasta so it doesn’t stick together. Let cool at room temperature.

*Roasted Eggplant

3 each  Quartered whole eggplants

¼ cup    EVOO

3 each   Crushed garlic cloves

1 each   Fresh thyme

1 each   Fresh rosemary

¼ cup     Sliced shallots

1 pinch  Salt & pepper

Season the cut sides of the eggplant with salt and pepper liberally and let sit skin side down. In a large saute pan, place the EVOO and saute the seasoned cut eggplant pieces cut side down on both sides until deep golden brown.

Remove from the pan and roast on sheet tray with a rack in a 350 degree oven until soft and tender. Chill the roasted eggplant in the refrigerator until cold. Remove the eggplant from the skin by gently scraping with a spoon. Rough chop the cleaned eggplant and reserve until ready to use.

*Hydrated Sun Dried Tomatoes

1 cup       Sun dried tomatoes

¼ cup      EVOO

1 each     Sliced garlic

3 Tbsp.    Basil leaves

2 Tbsp.    Fresh bay leaves

½ cup      White wine

1 pinch    Salt & pepper

Starting with a cold pan add the EVOO and the sliced garlic and put over medium heat and cook until golden brown. Remove from heat and add the white wine and remaining ingredients. Place ingredients in a container and cover with plastic. Place in refrigerator overnight until tomatoes are soft and hydrated.

*Tomato Shrimp Stock

4 cups     Shrimp shells

¼ cup      Crushed garlic

2 cups     Chopped onions

1 cup      Chopped celery

1 cup      Chopped fennel

¼ cup     Tomato paste

¼ cup     EVOO

2 cups    Diced canned tomatoes

¼ cup     White wine

1 gallon  Clam juice

1 each    Fresh thyme bunch

1 each     Fresh bay leaf

1 pinch    Salt & pepper

Place EVOO in a pot and over medium heat add the shrimp shells and cook until shells are red and toasted. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the remaining vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and cook until caramelized.

Deglaze with the white wine and reduce until dry. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour and then remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the tomato shrimp stock until ready to use. There will be leftover stock to use for another time.

It can be easily kept frozen.

Featured Photo Credit: Bottiglia / Recipes courtesy of Chef Brian Massie and Clique Hospitality

Tags: Cooking Tips, How To Be A Better Cook, Seasonal Cooking, Chef Interview, Brian Massie