Cooking with Chef Christian Mailloux
Remember the movie “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium”? That was my life for the past few weeks when my book tour brought me to South Florida where I had 13 gigs in 11 days.
The highlight was my cooking demonstration at the KitchenAid Culinary Center at Robb & Stucky Patio, a chichi furniture store in Palm Beach Gardens offering cooking classes in its fully stocked, state-of-the-art professional kitchen.
The event was sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of the Greater Palm Beaches, and here are the four dishes I taught that evening – Layered Hummus and Eggplant Appetizer, Yemenite Haroset Truffles, Malaysian Latkes and a flourless chocolate cake we call Too Good to Call Passover Cake Bete Noire.
But enough about me!
The Center’s Chef Christian Mailloux, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, generously turned his kitchen over to me for the night, but more importantly, his services as sous-chef!
“I’ve been interested in cooking since I was a child, watching my mom and dad,” Mailloux told me as he chopped my onions in preparation for the class.
Mailloux’s grandparents and great-grandmother were from the Azores, and he grew up with the Portuguese cuisine of his mother’s family and the French of his father’s.
“There was always some sort of French-Portuguese dish floating around,” he recalled, “veal braised in tomato sauce, Portuguese sweet bread, cured olives. My brother and I would run around the house with an olive on every finger.”
And of course always there was bacalhau (salt cod), a staple ingredient in the Portuguese kitchen. “They’ve been preserving fish this way since the 13 and 1400’s when the explorers dried fish and meat for their long voyages,” he explained. “You still find it prevalent in their food today.”
On some nights at the Center Mailloux might do a wine pairing dinner, on others, a five-course holiday repast. “I did a New Orleans wine dinner here last week,” he told me. “We shipped in beignet mix from Café Du Monde, the restaurant famous for its beignets. I mixed coffee with chicory and turned that into ice cream.”
Mailloux’s wife Dawn hails from Louisiana, and the two have been working on her grandma Gigi’s 100-year-old praline recipe. “The hardest part was getting the pecans cooked properly within the sugar,” he said. “We found toasting them prior to putting them in the sugar did it. Sometimes the easiest solution works best.”
This is a couple that loves to cook together. “It’s a great team-building exercise,” he explained. “It strengthens our relationship. We’re cooking a meal we know we’re going to love at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant, and it’s ten times better.”
This popular chef tries to build confidence in all his classes. “I try to take the fear out of food,” he said. “People think, I don’t know if I can do it. I show them that recipes are guidelines; they’re not written in stone. If you like more garlic or a little more spice, add some. By the time they leave they’re going to be so confident.”
Chef Mailloux will soon be moving to Cooks Inc. in Jupiter, Florida. You can bet next time I'm in the area, I'll be paying him a visit in his new, incredible facility.
PONZU SALAD DRESSING
From Chef Christian Mailloux
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
Place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Enjoy with your favorite greens.