Designing a professional-grade kitchen
Alon’s Bakery, www.alons.com
Alon Balshan brings the same passion for cooking and baking at his namesake restaurant, Alon’s Bakery, to his own home kitchen. A self-proclaimed handyman, Balshan loves building and renovating, so when the idea to build an authentic brick oven in his backyard came to mind, he jumped at the opportunity. He says the brick oven is extremely versatile, able to cook or bake a variety of dishes, from pizza to lamb to fish. But aside from the showpiece out back, Balshan says his home kitchen is less fancy, more functional. “I like to work with durable, efficient appliances,” he says, adding that his taste in décor is light and airy. His kitchen features maple cabinetry and light-cream granite countertops. Like a crisp white dinner plate, this keeps the focus on the food.
Alon Balshan’s Roasted Salmon (Skin On)
1 side of salmon
1 ½ cups sautéed onions
4 cloves garlic
5 sprigs thyme
1 red bell pepper
½ head of fresh fennel
½ cup white wine
2 Thai chilis, thinly sliced, seeds discarded (optional)
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Use a very hot oven (500 degrees), making sure to let it heat up for 45 minutes. Sauté onions, garlic, red pepper, chili and fennel with half the olive oil, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add white wine, reduce for 3 minutes, then add lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper to taste—It should taste acidic, but well seasoned. You should end up with a “soup.” Place salmon, skin-side down, on a pan. Pour the “soup” over the salmon, and place in oven. Cook 15 minutes. You can poke the salmon to check doneness or stick a thermometer in the center. When it reads 140 degrees, it is done.
Bantam & Biddy, www.bantamandbiddy.com
Fancy features can add up quickly in a professional-grade kitchen, but splurging wisely can help keep costs down without completely ruining the makeover magic. For Atlanta chef Lance Gummere, who manages the new Ansley Park restaurant Bantam & Biddy and has worked in the kitchens of Mumbo Jumbo, MidCity Cuisine and The Shed at Glenwood, it’s all about food and flame. “We love to cook pork shoulder,” he says of cooking for his family at home. “Our go-to meal is always pork.” So while Gummere has a powerful vent hood, Wolf range and commercial food processor in his kitchen, builder-grade cabinetry suits him just fine. “I think that every kitchen needs a fireplace,” he says. “I think that is a design flaw in most kitchens; there needs to be one. Also, a communal table. If you notice, most visits are in the kitchen. A communal table for feeding and a fireplace to cook in.”
Lance Gummere’s Hot Crusty Biscuits
4 cups all-purpose flour
5 t. baking powder
1 ½ t. salt
10 T. butter
1 ½ cups milk
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Drop in cold butter. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until you have pea-sized pieces of flour and butter. Add milk all at once and knead by hand just until flour starts to pull from side of bowl. Cut into uniform pieces. Place on non-greased pan. Bake for 12 minutes or until tops are nicely browned. Serve immediately. Yields 12 2 in.–by–2 in. biscuits.
Cooking in Pajamas, www.cookinginpajamas.com
While cooking may be a lost art in some households, that’s not the case for Gwenn Weiss. Weiss hosts cooking classes, produces instructional videos and cooking demonstrations for Dacor and whips up meals for her own family, all in her home kitchen, which she describes as comfortable and casual. Outfitted with Dacor appliances and an expandable kitchen island that comfortably sits 12 to 14 people, Weiss knows success starts with the right tools. “I picked out my wall oven because I wanted a true convection feature,” she says. While a normal convection oven heats on top and bottom, hers adds a third heating element in the back of the oven. “I can bake four trays of cookies on true convection and not have to rotate the pans,” she says. When she’s not filming or teaching, the self-taught chef enjoys exploring French, Greek and Italian cuisine; healthy and vegetarian cooking; candy making; make-ahead meals and allergy-free cooking.
Gwenn Weiss’s Roasted Chicken with Crispy Croutons
1 stale (or fresh) loaf of country bread (preferably ciabatta or sourdough), sliced at least ½-inch thick
3-4 T. olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
1 garlic head, sliced in half horizontally, so the inside of the cloves are exposed
1 lime, cut into quarters
1 bunch fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 425. Lay bread slices in a heavy-duty roasting pan in one layer. Drizzle the bread liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the cavity of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the garlic, lemon and thyme. Brush the outside of the chicken with 2 T. olive oil and sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper. Place it breast-side up on the bread. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Roast the chicken for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 180 degrees at the thigh. Let rest 10 minutes before carving. Serve the chicken with the bread from the pan.
Left to right:
Alon Balshan, www.alons.com;
Gwenn Weiss, www.cookinginpajamas.com