The 4 Hour Chef Project

Beginning in January 2013, for 8 weeks I cooked every recipe in the 4 Hour Chef Domestic Section. I learned a lot about basic cooking and have continued to cook regularly ever since.


 

Lesson 1 – Osso “Buko”

I just finished the first dish of the 4 Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss, Osso “Buko,” aka Braised Lamb Shanks. The total time to make it took under ten minutes (4 main ingredients [lamb shanks, whole canned tomatoes, carrots, white wine) & 4 ingredients you’ll have on hand at all times [Salt + Pepper, garlic powder, & Extra Virgin Olive Oil]).

Pop it in the oven for 2 hours and bam you have an amazing meal. Considering my past cooking endeavors resulted in tasteless food, I can say this dish fucking rocks. There is hope. And cleanup took a whole 5 minutes. I thoroughly approve.
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Lesson 1 Variation – Jude’s Chuck Roast

I am hooked on braising. Simple. Fast. Delicious. For this recipe, I took a 3 1/2 pound chuck roast, put it in a dutch oven with beef stock and french onion dip mix [whole foods had no french onion soup which the recipe calls for] then popped it in the oven at 350F for 2 hours and 45min. The meat was super juicy and falling apart. I enjoyed this more than the Osso Bukko and it was about half the cost.

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Lesson 2 – Scrambled Eggs

Another simple delicious meal, scrambled eggs. With some added spices, take your breakfast game to a whole new level. No more shitty buffet style dry eggs. I prefer the Middle Eastern Scrambled Eggs over the Northeast Africa Scrambled Eggs.

Things learned:

-When cooking eggs, take your eggs out and run them under warm water for about 20 sec. Then let them get to room temperature.

-Grapeseed Oil is a great alternative to Butter or EVOO because of its neutral taste.

-Cook Eggs on low heat, and stir frequently. Helps prevent sticking.

MIDDLE EASTERN SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 whole, 2 yolk], S+P, Parsley, Lemon)

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NORTHEAST AFRICA SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 Whole, 2 White], S+P, Cumin, Mint, Garlic Powder)

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NORTHERN INDIA SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 Whole, 2 Yolk], S+P, Cumin, Ginger, Garlic Powder)

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MEXICAN SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 Whole, 2 Yolk], S+P, Lime, Chili Powder)

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GREEK SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 Whole, 2 Yolk], EVOO, S+P, Oregano, Lemon)

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SOUTHERN ITALY SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 Whole, 2 White], EVOO, S+P, Garlic, Parsley)

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CHINESE SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 Whole, 2 Yolk], S+P, Ginger, Tamari, Scallions)
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THAILAND SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 Whole, 2 White], S+P, Ginger, Scallion, Cilantro, Lime)

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NEPAL SCRAMBLED EGGS: (4 Eggs [2 Whole, 2 Yolk], S+P, Ginger, Chile, Lime)

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Lesson 3 – Coconut Cauliflower Curry Mash

Basically put cauliflower, cashews, coconut milk, salt, and curry powder all together in a dutch oven, boil then simmer for 20min, mash all that together and wham, a great alternative to traditional mashed potatoes. Will have to get the coconut milk ratio to amount of cauliflower a wee bit more accurate next time, but overall the recipe turned out great.

Lessons Learned:

-If you know what spices go together, you can make all different mashes with different vegetables (think vegan alternatives)

-A kitchen scale really helps with measuring

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Lesson 4 – Union Square Zucchini

Peel some Zucchini, throw it into a skillet with Oil, Chili Flakes, Ghee, Lemon, and stir with a “Garlic Fork,” and wham we got Union Square Zucchini. Added salt at the end and it made the dish even better. Will have to try adding a bit of garlic powder next time for an extra garlicy taste.

Lessons Learned

-A Swiss Peeler highly speeds up peeling vegetables

-Use a clove of Garlic at the end of the fork to stir the contents in a skillet to infuse a garlic taste into the dish

 

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Lesson 5 – Harissa Crab Cakes

Doubled up the recipe for this one, thus having a pound of crab meat. Thought I would have leftovers. I was wrong. I ate all 8 delicious crabs cakes. An expensive, but delicious meal. Will have to use more Harissa next time in the mix. Be very generous with the lime on top, makes it so much better.

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Lesson 6 – Bittman Chinese Chicken with Bok Choy

First Braising, now steaming…Oh the cooking methods I was ignorant of. Steamed chicken for 15 minutes using a cake rack and a dutch oven and it turned out super tender and moist. Topped it off with the Soy Ginger Sauce, a pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon and blam another tasty meal.

Unfortunately, I had to use powdered ginger [a sin like a girl dying her hair red thinking she is a vixon] because Whole Foods was out of real ginger. Get on your Ginger game you Whole Foods Fucks. Never mind it’s winter in Chicago. The show must go on.

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Lesson 7 – Arugula, Avocado, and Roma Salad

What?

You’re learning how to cook by making a salad?

You silly bitch you.

No more just buying a bag of spinach, throwing in a bunch of vegetables, dousing some oil & vinegar concoction in a bowl, mix all the shit together and produce a semi-decent salad.

No sir. The Salad game just got elevated.

This recipe for Salad sounds just like it is. Arugula, Avocado, and Roma tomatoes. Yes it’s simple, but learning how to perfect simple first is a must. Here’s a few tipis I learned while making it.

1. Dry your greens. If you don’t have a salad spinner, first rinse your salad greens in a bowl then place it in a clean towel. Bunch up the towel so you can swing it in the air. [I recommend going outside for this or accepting a misty shower]. Swing it in the air about 10 times so the water goes away. Done.

Why do this? If you put dressing on wet greens, the dressing is not going to stick well to the salad and dilute the dressing into some bland water mixture. You’re better than that.

2. Dash on some Salt + Pepper, then put the vinegar on first [using sherry vinegar, not balsamic], then EVOO. This way the vinegar can stick to the leaves first.

3. Mix in tomatoes after #2. Tomatoes got juice. If you mix them in step #2, you’re going to produce a watery dressing. You’re better than that.

All in all, I am happy to report on the first attempt, the salad turned out great and the balance of sherry vinegar and EVOO worked out splendidly. Onward ho.

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 Lesson 7 Bonus – Eggocado

This was the bonus lesson for the week, an avocado with egg in it w/ some salt and chili pepper.

Admittedly this did nothing for me. I let the eggocado go for 18 minutes as recommended, but the egg was still runny. Perhaps I could try it next time and let it go longer. It did not taste bad, nor did it taste good.

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Lesson 8 – Sexy Time Steak

Justin Timberlake Sexy Back Playing. Check.

Smooth Operator by Sade Queued up. Done.

And the big reveal…would this $19.99 per pound grass fed rib eye taste good?

Oh yea! BUT…

It was a bit cold. Why?

This lesson focused on dry brining–aging the steak. Last night I generously coated the steak in salt and let it chill in the fridge. After a rinse, followed by a pat dry, you’re supposed to let it sit in the freezer uncovered for 30-45min to remove any excess water. I put it in there for 30min, and it was too long. Despite using the electronic thermometer set for 135F, it was still a bit cold after serving immediately.

However, the steak still tasted amazing. It was tender with a bit of chewiness [which I assume could have been remedied with more salt the night before], but overall a delicious steak that tasted unlike any steak I had + another arugula, avocado, and roma tomato salad with some sliced pecans that turned out good again. Boo yah.

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Lesson 9 – Dinner Party

No pictures. Boo. I know. My fault.

I had the family over to test my mad cooking skills. The menu consisted of “Osso” Buko and the Arugula, Avocado, and Roma Salad.

Everyone enjoyed the food (or perhaps they were just being nice).

The Osso was a bit under salted, but still tasted good. The Salad was on point. My youtube playlist kept the evening lively.

Cleanup took less than 10 minutes, and we ended the night with some Gelato.

All in all, a successful dinner party.

Lesson 10 – Gazpacho and Roasted Garlic

Note to self when buying new kitchen appliances: make sure the plastic guard is still not on the immersion blender blades. Because if not, get prepared to splash tomato juice all over the kitchen and think “what the fuck man, this hand blender sucks.”

After removing the guard, well its all smooth sailing.

Admittedly, while the Gazpacho was tasty, it did not do wonders overall. Tomato soup never seemed appealing to me in the first place.

As for the  roasted garlic, it also did not taste as well as I thought it would. Perhaps I just got wack garlic.

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Lesson 11 – Immersion Sauces

Sauce is Boss!

The two sauces I made were Cashew Pesto and Salsa Verde.

The Cashew Pesto, as the “Cashew” in the title would indicate has a nutty taste to it, is filling, and tastes amazing. I put it in a salad which I would not recommend, but combine this sauce with some Roma tomatoes…Holy Shit. Will have to make some bruchetta with this sauce. Bonus points for learning how to roll basil like a cigar and chop it.

The Salsa Verde was put over chicken that quite frankly was a bit overcooked and could use some flavor. With this sauce, the chicken tasted fantastic. I could do shots of this sauce. The main ingredients here being parsley & shallots.

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Lesson 12 – Rock N Cod

This recipe is supposed to be “Rock n Eel”, but Whole Foods had no Eel, therefore I used Cod instead as recommended. I used the Fisherman’s Wharf seasoning mix, and the Cod tasted fantastic.

My cod had to go about 7-8 minutes in the broiler instead of 5, and I would recommend leaving the Broccoli Rice Concoction on the skillet for a few extra minutes if you want it to be crispier. As a whole, this was probably my second favorite meal I’ve made so far next to Jude’s Chuck Roast.

Now if I can just work on my plating skills…

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Lesson 13 – Sous-Vide Chicken Breast

This was by far my least favorite recipe thus far. This recipe takes a long time and requires frequent checking on. I was watching videos in between, so no biggie.

Sous-Vide, from what I understand, involves submerging chicken breast in a a 3/4 sealed zip lock bag in 145F water so a seal is formed around the chicken and cooks it. Submerge. Seal. Cook.

The chicken was seasoned with salt, pepper, and tarragon…which from the beginning I anticipated the chicken being tasteless.

And big surprise…it was. I’ve also learned I am not a fan of Tarragon.

The chicken breast came out a bit overcooked, still tender, but the taste was super bland–the most frustrating aspect about this recipe. You are involved for about 2 hours and produce a bland meal. I concocted a chipotle mustard sauce to put on it making the eating experience more enjoyable. Other than the chicken, the recipe called for steamed kale and baked sweet potato which both turned out fine.

Well at least I know Sous-Vide now. Sigh.

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Lesson 14 – Seared Scallops

The 4 Hour Chef should be called the decadent chef. 20 bones a pound for scallops. Whoa. Plus prosciutto at 20 bones a pound. Ouch.

The meal was accompanied by Belgian Endive, Red Cabbage (which is supposed to be radicchio, but like a noob, I bought cabbage instead), and doused with lemon on top. Despite the Cabbage substitution, the meal was amazing.

It’s hard to go wrong with scallops wrapped in prosciutto. Just expensive (over $20)

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Lesson 15 – Chicken Higado Pate

When you see Anchovies and Chicken Liver as two key ingredients in a recipe, you think, “oh fuck, this is going to suck.”

The “skill” of this recipe was to overcome phobia. Fail.

I have a tub of Chicken Pate in my fridge and while it does not taste like ass, it does not taste like a treat either. Acquired taste?

And…

Between active time making the recipe and cleanup (a lot of mess), the total time spent took an hour. For a spread. Fail. Fail. Fail.

Time to doctor this recipe up and perform wizardry.

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Lesson 16 – Meatloaf

MAH THE MEATLOAF!

My transformation into a 1950s housewife is well on its way now that I made Meat Loaf.

This meatloaf involves scallions, 2 eggs, onion, garlic, spices, rolling it up with spinach and goat cheese and topping it off with some tomato paste & rosemary.

All in all, it was OK. And it’s not like I’m using hoodrat ingredients. I’m using grass fed beef, organic spinach, onion, scallions, legit spices, and legit cheese. Bad dish or shitty cook?

Admittedly I never cared for meatloaf in general, but my general feeling is, good food is good food. Maybe this dish needs more sauce? A Mexican meatloaf instead? Maybe I’ll just leave this dish to grandmas.

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