Dining • Culinary Shop
EVOO Cooking School

 “BOB-ISMS” are used to underline a practice or guiding principle that Chef Bob uses regularly. For example when searing, a technique used over and over in our kitchen as well as most others, he only seasons one side of the item being seared. This is because he wants the finished item to retain its own flavor, believing that seasoning both sides the steak or fish or other might just taste like the seasoning and not itself. He reminds us of the blackening trend, which typically produces something that may taste good but could be chicken, beef or fish! If you cannot tell if you are eating fish or what kind of fish, it is over-seasoned.

This list is more than a list of cooking tips and how-to-dos. We often call them “Bobisms,” because he uses them often. Here they are elevated to “mantra” status because they are useful in many cooking scenarios and bear repeating. Here goes.

1. “Think of wine as a food not a beverage” when pairing with food. (i.e., make sure the wine you pair has some quality that contributes to the plate. For example, if you pair a fruity tart wine with a sweet scallop it serves to help balance the sweet flavor of the scallop to aid in rounding out the “taste.”

2. “Good alone, better together.” i.e., when adding a food to the plate, it should taste good by itself, and as eaten side by side with other foods on the plate, each is enhanced.

3. “Foods that grow together go together on the plate.”   When deciding what itmes go well together, start by pairing with another ingredient that grow in the same season; this takes the guess work out of deciding what to cook and how to make a pairing that is “safe,” or sure to work.

4. When cooking with wine, cook with what you would drink. If it is passed drinkable it won’t get any better in the pan. Best to discard or turn it into vinegar.

5. “Where there is salt, there is coriander.” In Chef Bob’s world, food flavors are enhance when are seasoned with freshly ground coriander, much the same way salt does.
Interestingly, when using coriander, we tend not to need as much salt. They play off of each other. We often grind equal parts coriander and salt together and use it as salt.

6. “Provide a juxtaposition of tastes for every dish you create.” Try to balance sweet, sour, salty, bitter for each recipe and each plate, and even each menu for best balanced results. A quick example is to sweeten whipping cream  as usual and taste.  Then add a “pinch” of salt and beat; taste again. Salt next to sugar, helps to balance the taste experience. It is a more “round” flavor. In this example, there should never enough salt to taste “salt,” but you will taste the difference. It goes from “flat” to “round.” With experience this becomes more an more noticeable. For example, if salt is omitted from a cookie recipe, the baked cookie is  sweet but flat in flavor. Again, this balancing act does take experience. You will get better and better. Be careful not to think, if a little salt is good, allot is better. That thinking is rarely good when applied to cooking. 

7. “When searing proteins, season well only one side and place seasoned side down in hot pan, searing the seasoning and on side of the protein.  This helps to bring up and enhance the seasonings, and also helps keep the integrity of individual flavors, without loosing (masking) the flavor of the main product itself.

8. “For all delicate quick cooking proteins, as most fin-fish, use the two step cook method. That is, start by searing protein seasoned side down in preheated hot pan; when smells aromatic from seasonings, and or has good color, off-load to a cookie sheet seasoned side up to finish the cooking in the oven. Most portions of fish or chicken take 3-5 minutes for the sear and 4-5 minutes to finish at 400°F in the oven.

9. “When a dish needs more flavor balance, be sure to ask if a wine might be the one thing missing.” For example, if you believe apple or applesauce would enhance a pork dish, try to think of a wine that presents apple characteristics and pair it to the dish.

10.  “Focus on the cooking techniques of a dish, more than its recipe.” We know when a recipe is also a “formula,” such as with bakery items, we must follow without change until we learn what each ingredient’s purpose is. It takes time, experience and perhaps specialized training to substitute ingredients for bake items without a recipe list. But for most dishes we want to make,  it will be the techniques or the “how to cook” directions to focus on so you can substitute ingredients with confidence as the seasons and ingredient availability change.