It’s easier to name something food-related Geoffrey Zakarian hasn’t done than to list out his accomplishments. The star of multiple Food Network shows, Zakarian is also chef/partner at The Lambs Club and culinary director of the iconic Plaza Hotel, both in New York City, and head of food and beverage at the Water Club at Borgata in Atlantic City.
He's also a cookbook author; his newest is “My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients.”
We caught up with Zakarian at Borgata during the annual Savor Borgata food fest, where he did a cooking demo and took some time to chat over cocktails. He offered five small but essential tips:
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1. If you can only have two gadgets in the kitchen, make them a blender and a pot with a strainer. “With those, I can do anything,” Zakarian says.
2. “The biggest mistake you can make is not properly seasoning,” Zakarian says, referring to the chefs he judges on "Chopped" on the Food Network. “If you overcook a steak that’s property seasoned, it still tastes like a steak,” he explains. “If you don’t use salt and pepper, it has no taste."
3. Conversely, under-season a sauce. “When you taste a tiny spoonful, it should taste under-seasoned — because if you season it perfectly for a small spoon, when you eat 8 ounces, it will be too salty,” he says.
4. Never rinse your pasta when you've finished cooking it. Leave the starch on so the sauce will bind to it.
5. The exact time it takes for a perfect hard-boiled egg is 12 minutes. Five for soft-boiled. That is final!
Advice on crafting cocktails for a party:
“I like classics with a twist. If you come to my house for a party, there will be one or two cocktails I’ll make and I’ll curate the wine — maybe five things to drink. No open bar. You’re not at a bar.”
See him on TV:
Tuesdays, 10 p.m.
This is Zakarian’s ninth season as a judge on the cooking competition.
• "The Kitchen"
Saturdays, 11 a.m.
He is co-host of this foodie talk show.
• "Iron Chef America"
Sundays, 10 p.m.
After winning "The Next Iron Chef: Super Chef" in 2011, Zakarian joined Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and other culinary superstars as an official Iron Chef. He swears they don’t know the secret ingredients ahead of time: “We think on the fly.”
Make Supercharged Chicken Wings from “My Perfect Pantry”:
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled
½ cup of Zakarian’s Foolproof BBQ Sauce (also in the book) or store-bought sauce
½ cup piquillo peppers, drained well
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Canola oil, for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ½ pounds chicken wings, separated at the joints and patted dry
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter and 4 ounces of the blue cheese to make a smooth, soft butter. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside at room temperature (you want this to remain creamy but not melted).
2. In a blender, puree the barbecue sauce, piquilllos, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon paprika. Pour into a bowl large enough the hold the wings once fried.
3. In a deep pot, heat 3 inches of oil to 365 degrees. In a shallow dish, combine the flour with the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin and paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Then season the wings with salt and pepper. Dredge them lightly in the flour and fry, in batches, until golden brown and crispy, about 13 minutes. Drain briefly on paper towels, but add, while still very hot, to the barbecue mixture. Toss to coat all the wings in the sauce and transfer to a serving platter.
4. Dollop a little of the blue cheese butter on top to let melt. Serve the rest in a bowl on the side, and garnish with the remaining crumbled blue cheese.