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Doubling up on kitchen wisdom

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Sixteen chef Frank Brunacci and pastry chef Sarah Kosikowski on the 16th-floor terrace of the Trump International Hotel, the site of their new garden.


Our twice-monthly chef-written column usually features one chef. This week, it's a "conversation" between two - Frank Brunacci and Sarah Kosikowski, chef and pastry chef at Sixteen in the Trump Hotel, 401 N. Wabash.

Brunacci: The last time I ever saw a pastry cook have a sharp knife in their hand was when they took it out of a brand-new box. All they do is cut chocolate on marble, and God forbid they have to dice apples for a new dessert. Instead of clean cuts, the ingredient gets squashed before it gets cut!

Without a knife, a chef can't even start his day. If it is sharp, then the work gets done earlier, better, cleaner.

Bottom line: A blacksmith wouldn't put his hands in the coal, and a chef should have only sharp tools in the kit.

Kosikowski: Okay, that hurt about the pastry cook knife theory; though true to a point, the knife isn't the pastry cook's most important tool. We need items like the immersion blender to acquire the results we desire - smooth, silky, creamy. These qualities are very important, as they make a world of difference on the palate.

What other words of wisdom do you have, Chef-

Brunacci: I always get asked about how to perfectly boil an egg. If you want your eggs to be perfectly hard-boiled, remember 10 minutes in boiling water - and time it. Then shock them in ice water for 5 minutes - and time it.

Kosikowski: And then you make deviled eggs! I make a mean deviled egg, too. The secret is a little celery salt and creme fraiche.

Brunacci: And always add extra salt to cold served items because the fridge makes food bland. You need to oversalt a little.

Kosikowski: I think salt is a product that is underutilized in the pastry category. You add salt to enhance and pronounce the already existing flavor, so why not apply the same concept to pastry-

I tend to use unsalted butter in recipes, but I add a dash of salt to most everything - from ice cream to cake batter - for a well-rounded flavor profile.

But you really can't do without sugar, which is one of my favorite ingredients, of course. And not just any sugar - I'm a huge fan of subbing out dark brown sugar in recipes for muscovado, which is basically brown sugar's darker, unrefined cousin. It has a rich molasses flavor and adds a more complex flavor than traditional brown sugar.

Brunacci: Sarah, what's one of your favorite food memories-

My 90-year old grandfather had a wonderful life. We come from a big Italian family, and we raised and killed almost every animal we ate at the dinner table. The memories are all fond, but the wild pig sausage made from all of the offal cuts was by far the greatest taste sensation I have ever had.

Kosikowski: I have too many food memories to recount just one. I was raised in Michigan and was surrounded by a family that loved food and cooking.

When I was growing up, my parents had a huge garden, which slowly dwindled when they realized corn stalks in your backyard were a lot of work. My mother was always baking pies with fresh apples that we picked, or making jam with berries from a nearby farm.

What do you think the next generation will be talking about as they get older-

Brunacci: I think America is on the verge of immersion circulator craziness. As it becomes more affordable, every cook and food lover will have one in their home. It has to be the most foolproof way of cooking to the correct temperature.

Kosikowski: This is also very true for pastry. The sous vide technique ensures even and precise cooking - especially with fruit.

Items like rhubarb or pears are perfect examples, as traditional poaching usually leaves them half cooked and the other half still raw. By using a circulator, you are able to cook the item it its own juice, ensuring maximum flavor absorption and thorough cooking.

Frank Brunacci and Sarah Kosikowski are the chef and pastry chef, respectively, at Sixteen, 401 N. Wabash.

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