Since opening Equinox in 1999 to universal acclaim, Todd Gray has emerged as one of the surest culinary talents in the nation's capital, as well as a tireless champion of sustainable farming and fishing practices, and a passionate promoter of local, mid-Atlantic foods. Gray practices what he preaches every day, and Equinox is widely acclaimed as an oasis of sophisticated yet unpretentious seasonal cuisine.
With an artist's vision of the beauty in both his raw ingredients and his finished plates, classical training in culinary techniques gained in DC's top French and Italian kitchens, and a down-home Virginia boy's appreciation for food that just plain tastes good, Todd Gray is the culinary mastermind of Equinox, infusing the atmosphere with his passion for the bounty of the Mid-Atlantic. Todd continues to work with local farmers developing food of all varieties, form lettuce to beef, taking personal stock in the animals and produce being raised.
Gray's cooking has earned him five nominations for the prestigious Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic award from the James Beard Foundation. He also is a four-time nominee for Chef of the Year from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Equinox has consistently been rated one of the city's top restaurants by many local publications, and has appeared on numerous "best of" lists in national epicurean magazines. Equinox has achieved Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence six years in a row, and is consistantly recognized with the Award of Excellence from the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa). Todd has also just received a nomination for Chef of the year through the RAMW for 2008
How to Blanch and Shock Pasta
Chef Todd Gray demonstrates how to blanch the pasta.
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How to Blanch and Shock Pasta
Ingredients2 cups semolina flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 cups of warm water
Rainbow swiss chard
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1. Add the flour to a mixer, turn it on low and add the salt and warm water. When the dough starts to pull away from the side increase the speed to a number 4 on the mixer.
2. Put the dough on a floured work surface and being kneading it. Wrap the dough and place it in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight.
3. Cut the dough into pieces and roll the pieces into even cylindrical shapes. Cut the cylinders into small quarter inch rounds and push the dough into ear-shaped pieces to form the orecchiette pasta.
4. Put salt into boiling water and drop a wire basket filled with pasta into the water. Have a bowl of ice water next to the boiling pasta. When it is cooked for 4 minutes, plunge it into the ice water and shock it for 30 seconds. Toss the pasta in a bowl with olive oil.
5. Cut the asparagus into 1 inch lengths. Salt the boiling water and place the asparagus into a wire basket in the water. After 60 seconds, remove the basket and plunge it in the ice water.
6. Place a pan on medium heat and add olive oil and butter. Add shallots and minced garlic and saute for a minute. Add the Swiss chard, asparagus and diced carrots.
7. Add the orecchiette pasta to the pan with pepper, mustard and heavy cream. Mix the pasta, vegetables and sauce together. Let it simmer for about a minute.
Todd Gray: I am Todd Gray with Equinox Restaurant and today we are preparing orecchiette pasta with spring vegetables. This clip we are going to be talking about salting and what is the importance of using salt and blanching of the pasta. We will take our lid off being very careful that the steam doesnt rise up, burn you. So you want to be very careful when taking off the lid, let that steam pass before we stick our face too close to the pan.
Salting, always cook pasta in salted water, the salt adds flavor to the pasta and the water ultimately should taste just like seawater. Put a little bit of - couple of tablespoons of salt into our water and as that comes back to a boil, we are going to be blanching our orecchiette pasta that we previously rolled. With a wire basket put our pasta into the basket and drop it into the boiling salted water.
We have a bowl of ice water next to our boiling pasta. It is going to act as a bath for shocking. It is full of ice and water. Whats that is going to do is arrest the cooking so our pasta does not overcook. We will show later on in the segment about blanching vegetables that same is true with the pasta. Once it is cooked to al dente, to the tooth where it is not too firm, it is too cooked. We will then plunge it into the ice bath and just shock it in to arrest the cooking time.
This pasta is going to need about 4 minutes in the water. You want to be sure that -- few seconds we will give it a little shake so that our pasta is not sticking together. The orecchiette which is ultimately a short pasta needs a little bit longer to cook than say a thin fresh noodle. Often we are cooking thin noodle such as fettuccine or pappardelle for a minute, minute and a half. Again, this is going to take about 4 minutes. When you are boiling gnocchi, if you are blanching gnocchi, the same technique, but the gnocchi typically because of the potato and the egg rise to the top once they are cooked. We dont get the same with the semolina pasta dough because we are just working with flour, the semolina flour and salt and water.
After about four minutes we remove our pasta being careful of the boiling water not to burn ourselves and in to the ice bath it goes. This shouldnt take more than about 30 seconds to cool down. They are already feeling a bit chilled. We remove our pasta from the ice water. Toss it with a touch of olive oil in a bowl to prevent any sticking.
In our next clip we are going to show you how to blanch and shock asparagus tips.