Learning from the Masters

Lexus’ Culinary Masters—all prime-time gods of cuisine—share some favorite cooking tips for Lexus owners.

When Lexus recruited chefs for its new Lexus Culinary Masters team last spring, it didn’t mess around: The team of celeb chefs cooking their way across Lexus events this year hail from the big leagues. Their cooking wisdom is golden, and when we recently asked them to share a personal culinary tip for cuisine-appreciating Lexus owners, this is what they gladly offered:

CULINARY MASTER: MICHAEL CHIARELLO

Culinary cred: Chef-owner of Napa’s award-winning Bottega, a Forbes top-ten restaurant; competitor on Top Chef Masters; host of the Food Network’s Easy Entertaining and the Fine Living Channel’s NapaStyle; author of too many great cookbooks to mention here.

Cuisine tip: “One of the biggest mistakes people make with proteins is cooking them cold. So with all your meats, fish, and poultry, you should bring them to room temperature first. Season them with the best coarse salt you can afford and let it rest. (It can take two to 20 minutes to get to room temperature depending on the size.)

“This way, you will have a perfect medium rare, end to end, rather than a gray, over-cooked outside and an under-cooked inside. Contrary to popular belief, juices on the cutting board are not a good thing. Resting the meat before cutting it allows the juices to stay inside, and not leak out onto your board. For larger slices of meat, such as a roast, season the slices with salt and pepper on the serving plate as well.”

CULINARY MASTER: CHRISTOPHER KOSTOW

Culinary cred: Became a Michelin-star chef before the age of 30 (as chef at Napa’s The Restaurant at Meadowood); now a Michelin three-star chef; competitor on Iron Chef America; umpteen awards and recognitions in the best new/rising star/top young chefs category.

Cuisine tip: “Take the time and money to procure the best tools for your kitchen. For example, the best sea salt, fresh farmer’s market produce, or vegetables from your own garden; a good quality mixer; oil from artisan producers; and, moreover, a good, heavy pot and a sharp knife. It just makes the whole experience of cooking more enjoyable and your end result will inevitably be much better.”

CULINARY MASTER: DEAN FEARING

Culinary cred: Considered the “father of southwestern cuisine”; host of the Food Network’s Entertaining at Home with Dean Fearing, former executive chef at Dallas’ The Mansion at Turtle Creek; current chef-owner of Fearing’s Restaurant (rated a “best in hotel dining” by Zagat).

Cuisine tip: “One of the most important aspects in cooking for me is seasoning, mainly salt and pepper. All proteins need to be seasoned before any method of cooking (grilling, braising, roasting, etc.). All sautéed items need to be seasoned in the pan. Soups, sauces, and braising items should be seasoned throughout the cooking process. For me, seasoning this way provides the best flavor in foods.”

CULINARY MASTER: MICHAEL SYMON

Culinary cred: We all know Symon as a Food Network fixture, from competing on Iron Chef America to hosting Food Feuds, as well as hosting Cook Like an Iron Chef on the Cooking Channel. His own restaurants dominate the Cleveland area and include the famed Lola Bistro, Lolita, and Bar Symon.

Cuisine tip: “Make fritters! In Greece, fritters are called keftedes, and they vary from island to island and with the season. Keftedes can be made with tomatoes, chickpeas, or even with ground meat. Zucchini is also a great vegetable for keftedes. I grate the entire thing, seeds and all, salt it, wring it out, and then make the fritters. These keftedes can be served as an hors d’oeurve or a starter course, and they don’t even need a sauce; just sprinkle sea salt and crumble feta on top. See below for a personal recipe.”

ZUCCHINI FRITTERS WITH FETA AND DILL
Ingredients:
2 medium zucchini
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus whole dill for garnish
1 large scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the bias
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, coarsely chopped or crumbled
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Canola oil, for pan-frying
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Coarse sea salt, for garnish

1. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a grater onto a clean kitchen towel. Sprinkle with the kosher salt and let rest while you gather and prep the remaining ingredients.

2. Wrap the zucchini in the towel and wring as much liquid out of it as possible, discarding the liquid. In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, mint, dill, scallion, garlic, pepper, feta, and all but 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest. Stir in the egg and flour and mix until well combined.

3. Add the canola oil to a large shallow pan; you want about 1/4 inch or enough so when all the fritters are in the pan, the oil comes halfway up their sides. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Form fritters by hand or using a 1/4 cup measure, and fry them in the hot oil in batches. Cook until the fritters are golden brown on each side, four to six minutes. Drain in paper towels.

4. Transfer the fritters to plates and garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of dill, the reserved lemon zest, and some course sea salt. Serves four (makes about eight fritters).