Thursday, February 28, 2008

Black and Blue (burned outside, raw inside)

How Do People Eat This?

One of the greatest mysteries of cooking is the curious black and blue piece of meat. In other words – a piece of meat that is burned on the outside and raw on the inside. How people eat this is beyond me! To avoid this situation, watch your meat carefully while cooking, and turn down the heat. Another tip: take your steak out of the fridge half an hour before you cook it.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What I Cooked Today… Using Herbs de Provence! Marinade for Chicken or Red Meat

What I Cooked Today… Marinade for Chicken or Red Meat


½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ worcestershire
¼ soy sauce
1 tbs herbs de provence
¼ c olive oil
salt and pepper
any type of red meat


Mix all ingredients together in a plastic bag and add your red meat. Let soak for a few hours. This is perfect for grilling. Tip: because there is a lot of balsamic in the mix, and therefore, a lot of extra sugars, your meat will burn more quickly. Make sure you keep an eye on it on the grill.

Happy Cooking! Sorry it is a little late today!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Herbs de Provence

Every meal can be gourmet by adding some simple touches, and sometimes it’s as simple as adding a few special herbs. My go-to herbs are a delicate blend of rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and sometimes lavender. This combination is better known as Herbs de Provence. Herbs de Provence take any plain dish to the next level.

I always keep an array of dried herbs in my pantry. Unlike most of you, I go through my dried herbs and spices relatively quickly, so I don’t have to worry about them spoiling. For those of you that don’t cook regularly, I would advise tossing out your unused herbs after about six months. You want them to taste as fresh as possible when you use them.

Also, while we are on the subject, I would also avoid buying those charming spinning racks of spices and herbs. Though beautiful, those racks make it impossible to tell how long your herbs have been there. I prefer having them lined up, in an easy-to-see row, and labeling the bottom with my date of purchase.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cooking with Mary: How to Prep Chicken

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

What is this Blog About

Greetings! My name is Mary and I love to cook. I am an executive chef with experience in food styling and a tremendous passion for all things edible. I’ve worked on sets like Gilmore Girls and Bad News Bears, helped open a wonderful little restaurant in Hollywood, California, and currently own my own catering company called Hail Mary’s.

I call this blog my Chef Diaries. I experience the culinary world on a daily basis, and want to share these experiences with my friends and colleagues. Why? Good food is heavenly but you don’t have to be a trained chef to enjoy it. I truly believe there’s a gourmet inside each of us.

I’m currently working on a book and hosting You Tube webisodes filled with “Ask Mary” cooking tips. I encourage you to visit as often as you can and engage in a dialogue with me about life in the kitchen. I can’t wait to hear from you. We’re going to learn so much together.

After exploring my blog, please visit my other sites, including my My Space page at:
and the Ask Mary Food Forum at:

Thanks for viewing,

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ask Mary: Chicken Ideas for the Whole Family

What are some ideas for cooking chicken for the whole family that even my kids can enjoy?
Thanks! Carey

A great way to fix chicken so that the whole family can enjoy dinner together is by making little adjustments to the chicken for your children. Make sure that whatever you are cooking for yourselves you just change a little for the kids. The key is to make everything more kid-friendly.

For instance, kids really love to use their hands when eating. I have found that by keeping wooden skewers in my drawer I can put almost anything on them. Chicken, beef, vegetables are all great things to use. If you cut up a breast into chunks or thin strips, you can put them on the skewers and give your kids dipping sauces. You might even try using the same marinade that you are having on your kids’ chicken. Presentation is a huge factor on whether or not your kids will eat it, so make it fun! You’ll be amazed at their positive reactions!

Happy Cooking!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quick Tip... Keeping the Skin from Shrinking!

Quick Tip…

If you are cooking chicken breast with skin on, start with a cold pan so that the skin doesn’t shrink. As the pan gets hotter, it will brown the skin without shrinking.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What I Cooked Today… Chicken and Artichokes

Chicken and Artichokes! Divine!


2 chicken breasts
2 lemons
2 artichokes whole or 1 can
2 tbsp chopped parsley (or dried)
½ cup white wine
½ chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste


Artichokes: Fill a large pot with water. Juice two lemons into the pot and place on high. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Cut the spiny tips of the artichoke off, and cut the stem so that it reveals a fresh green bottom. Turn the fire down to medium and place the artichoke in for 45 minutes to an hour.

When it is done the leaves should come off easily. Place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Once it is cold, peel off the leaves, remove the choke, and chop into nice pieces for later use with the chicken.

Chicken: Clean the chicken of fat, then pound the chicken with a mallet to tenderize the chicken. Add a little salt and pepper to the meat, then in a sauté pan, add oil. Once it is hot add the chicken (presentation side down) and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then add the artichokes. Off the flame, add wine and reduce back on the flame (on low). Next, add chicken stock, lemon juice (from 1 lemon), and parsley. Reduce by half and finish by adding salt and pepper to taste.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Artichokes

My family comes twice a year to visit from Oklahoma, and as they are driving that 27-hour drive, their excitement grows with anticipation for the fresh produce they’ll see along the way. As they drive closer and closer, Mom and I discuss all of the delicious things that are available in California but not in Oklahoma. One particular item that we all salivate for are artichokes. My hat goes off to the person who thought to first eat this strange and seemingly unrewarding vegetable. It is truly delicious treat.

It still amazes me when I come across an adult that has yet to eat an artichoke. Better still is watching someone eat an artichoke that has never done so, and listening to that person describe how to scrape the MEAT off of the leaves. It is a priceless moment.

When buying an artichoke, make sure that it is heavy for its size, and that when you squeeze it, the leaves make a “squeak” sound. If you are noticing that the leaves have brown tips, this could be an indication that the artichokes have had a bit of frostbite, and might not taste as fresh.

Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes are extremely good for you. They contain only 25 calories, are fat free, and are a good source of vitamin C, folate and dietary fiber. Artichokes are a delicious part of any healthful diet, and taste great in just about anything. Enjoy experimenting with them!

Happy Cooking!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents Day

We will be back on track tomorrow!  Have a great day off (to all those with normal jobs)! And those who are chefs, I'm sorry if you are working!

Happy Cooking!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ask Mary: Chicken Stock vs. Broth

What is the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth?
Thanks, Greg

I was teaching a tappas party the other night and this question came up while I was making paella and adding chicken broth. The basic difference between a stock and a broth lies in their properties. While chicken broth is made with chicken meat and parts with a high flesh to bone ratio (whole chickens, assorted parts), stock is made from chicken parts with a low flesh to bone ratio (backs, necks, breastbones). Reduction time for chicken broth takes about three hours. For stock, it takes about six hours.

Chicken stock contains more gelée (a jelly-like substance) than chicken broth, so, when used for deglazing a sauté pan, stock will more easily bind up the pan drippings into a pan sauce as it is reduced. But broth is usually lower in fat content and is excellent for adding tasty moisture to a dish (like paella). Take your pick!

Happy Cooking!

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Quick Tip...

Quick Tip

A great way to keep wine on hand for all cooking is to buy boxed red and white wine. Store it above your stove so the spicket hangs over your stove for easy access.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What I Made Today… Mushroom Risotto

Delicious! A great way to use mushrooms.

½ cup arborio rice
½ cup yellow onion diced
½ cup white wine (and a glass for you while you cook!)
2 cups chicken stock
½ stick butter
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 box mushrooms (any type of mushroom will do)
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan add a little bit of olive oil and sauté the onions. Make sure that they are glossy and soft. It is very important that they are cooked well. If not you will bite into crunchy onion.

Next, heat the chicken stock in another pot. I always forget to do this, but it is really important because it cooks into the rice faster. Add the Arborio rice to the pot with onions. Salt a little bit and toast slightly. Take this off the fire and add the wine. Wait for the wine to evaporate and cook into the rice, then slowly add your chicken stock. Make sure the heat is on medium low and stir with a flat-edged spoon to scrape all of the fond off the bottom. Repeat this cooking process until the rice is soft but not mushy.

A good way to tell if you are finished is by squishing a piece of rice in between your fingers easily. You should see three beads appear on your fingers. At this point you need to sauté your mushrooms in another pan (refer to my webisode from Monday) and add these to the risotto. Also add the cheese and butter. Then call it a day. And drink the rest of the wine that you opened to cook the risotto.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are a beautiful thing. They are a little more exciting than your regular button mushroom and so wonderfully delicious to eat. It’s thrilling to come into mushroom season, especially living in California. Here, just a slight change in temperature signifies the welcome arrival of new produce to the region and, of course, the welcome arrival of shiitake mushrooms.

An edible mushroom native to East Asia, the shiitake mushroom is named (in Japanese) for the shii tree – the tree that provides the dead logs in which shiitake mushrooms are typically cultivated. In English, the mysterious mushroom is sometimes referred to as the Chinese black mushroom or the black forest mushroom. Other Asian translations refer to the shiitake as the “fragrant” or “flower” mushroom, due to the flower-like cracking pattern on its upper surface.

Smoky and rich in taste, shiitake mushrooms are packed with antioxidants. Filled with iron, protein and vitamin C, shiitake mushrooms are perfect as a topping or side dish served with just about anything.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ask Mary: Butter or Margarine?

Dear Mary,
Which is better in cooking? Butter? Or margarine?
Thanks, Jack

I’m so glad that you asked! I recently visited my girlfriend’s house and reached for the butter while cooking, but realized that she had some tasteless margarine for me to use instead. I understand that most of you like spreadable fats, but in cooking, this type of product is your biggest nightmare.

My suggestion? If you can’t live without it, buy a spread for your bread. But always, ALWAYS cook with butter. I like to use a good, non-salted butter like Land O Lakes or Plugra (if you really want to splurge). Always buy non-salted because there is no reason to add extra salt when you don’t need to. Trust me, you’ll taste a world of difference.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Cast Iron Curse

One night, after entertaining for many hours and sending the last guest home, I tackled the dreaded mess in the kitchen. At the party I had served a beautiful on-the-go kind of meal, and used a cast iron skilled to mix together a delicious goat cheese and tomato sauce spread. I didn’t want to leave it sitting there till morning, so I got to work.

Of course, with a few too many glasses of wine in my system, washing dishes was probably not the best idea. Luckily, I made it through all the plates without incident, applauded myself, and went to bed. So, in the morning, I entered my kitchen expecting to find my dishes spotless. But sadly, that was not the case. Instead, I found my once black cast iron dishes now covered in large orange spots.

Panicked, I called my mom and she calmly told me to pour salt on the orange spots and then rub them with a damp cloth. Just like that, the rust was gone (although now it was all over my towel!). Lesson learned! Next time, I’ll dry my dishes thoroughly.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What I Cooked Today… Roasted Garlic in Olive Oil

a. Take a head of regular garlic, and cut off the top.
b. Add a little salt, pepper and olive oil.
c. Seal it off in aluminum foil or a roasting dish with a lid and cook at 325 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. (You can also roast cloves in a cast iron skillet with lots of olive oil. If you do not have a head of garlic, just follow the same directions.)
d. After it is finished grab the bottom of the head of garlic and squeeze out the garlic.
e. Mix with really good olive oil or butter and serve with rustic bread!

Enjoy! Mary

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Elephant Garlic

When I first saw this alarmingly large head of garlic, I was taken aback. Elephant, or “greatheaded” garlic is closed related to the leek, and produces very large bulbs that can weigh up to a pound or more. Each bulb consists of approximately six enlarged cloves. Since these cloves are milder in taste than the cloves found in regular garlic, some people like to eat them raw.

Most people use this oversized, beautiful vegetable just as they would regular garlic. They can be diced and added to any dish to make that dish more flavorful. There is one catch, however. Regular stores do not typically have them in stock. You’ll have better luck finding them at farmer’s markets.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ask Mary: Fond

Dear Mary, 
I've heard of a term in cooking called "fond" and wanted to know what it is. Can you tell me more? 
Thanks, Rose

Fond is so important in cooking. Fond, the French word for base, is created when you are cooking a vegetable or a protein and some of the juices or particles on the item stick to the pan and start to caramelize.

When making fond, if it looks like it is going to burn, you can add a little bit of liquid to it like water, stock or wine and it will prevent the fond from burning and easily go into whatever you are cooking. At the end, to make a sauce, you can add a lot of wine or stock to a hot pan
(just off the fire) and use a flat-ended spoon to scrape it all off – a process called deglazing. Remember, never add wine to a pan still on the flame. You don't want the alcohol to ignite.

Depending on what substance you add, your fond will result in a variety of tastes and flavors. You can even add spices, garlic, mushrooms or mustards to further intensify the resulting sauce. Lastly, don't use a non-stick pan in this endeavor. This is one case where you actually want your food to stick!

Happy Cooking! Mary  

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to: