Chatting with celebrity chef Cat Cora

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Administrator: Hello! Welcome to the chat with chef Cat Cora. Please send us your questions.

ken: What's the trick to make a crispy biscotti instead of a softer, stale biscotti with no snap to it?

Cat Cora: Well Ken, I think the best way to insure crisp biscotti is make them your self :) That way you know what the shelf life has been or how long they have been hanging around. If you dont have time for that, then before your purchase from your local coffee shop or bakery, just ask when they were made.

seantgla: Do you find it difficult to mix Southern ingredients in modern dishes?

Cat Cora: Also, if you happen to get one that isn't crispy, pop it in the oven for a few minutes and crisp it up! Bon Appetit!

Administrator: Are there any really complicated Greek traditional dishes? Like in French cooking?

Cat Cora: Seangla, hi! I find that it is pretty easy. I will tell you why, because many of the ingredients used in Southern cuisine have really been made popular in mainstream cuisines. Black-eyed peas are now being used in fancy black-eyed pea cakes, like a crab cake. Watermelon is now being put into cosmopolitans and gazpacho.

ken: Hello Cat, back to my biscotti problem, my wife and I make them ourselves; when they come out of the oven, they are crisp and snappy for a few hours then go soft. Are we missing an ingredient?

Cat Cora: Administrator, braised lamb w favas are a more classic style dish w French technique, Cinnamon Stewed Chicken again uses a more classic preparation and then Milk Pie is a custard with phyllo dough that is baked, so yes they can be complex.

Cat Cora: Ken, check your recipe. Maybe you want to find a recipe that uses more dry ingredient (flour) than wet. It may be that there is just too much wet that softens the biscuit as it sits.

Administrator: Tell us why your new book is called "Cooking from the Hip?"

Cat Cora: Administrator, Cooking From The Hip is a title of an article I wrote for 4 years for the Contra Costa Times in the Bay Area. It is really off the cuff cooking similar to what I do on Iron Chef.

seantgla: What's your favorite summer dish?

Cat Cora: It is all about taking ordinary ingredients and making them spectacular

Cat Cora: Seangla, wow that is like asking which is my favorite child :) No really, I love grilling in the summer so anything that I can grill it gets thrown on.

Eric: I understand you're from Jackson, Miss. Have you ever eaten at a place called Kiefer's?

Cat Cora: Seangla, so I love grilling stone fruit, artichokes, kabobs, just about anything!

ken: How much time pressure do the chefs feel during the Iron Chef competitions? Is it difficult to complete the courses in sixty minutes?

Cat Cora: Eric, I LOVE Keifers! Those guys are good friends of mine and they have yummy food!

Administrator: Do you go to Greece very often? I love the food -- it is so fresh

Cat Cora: Ken, hi, oh yeah, tons of pressure and all the Iron Chefs say it is the hardest but the best thing we do. It is totally crazy and I love it!

Cat Cora: Ken, sometimes we get down to the second on finishing dishes and it is a mad dash, so yes, sometimes it is down to the wire

Administrator: So have you ever thought you might not get the dish done in time?

Cat Cora: Administrator, hi, yes, I go at least once a year to visit our family on the island of Skopelos. It is in the Northern Aegean and absolutely stunning~

Administrator: And does everyone on Skopelos know you now?

Cat Cora: Administrator, oh yes, there are times when we don't think we will make it and so far it has not happened.

Cat Cora: Administrator, alot of the people know us because of my family. They have been on the island for a long time, so lots of cousins

marlane: Hi Cat How wonderful to find you online! I admire you. What has been your greatest iron chef challenge and why?

ken: Cat, what food ingredient/fruit/vegetable, etc. have you not yet cooked with that you would like to cook with?

Cat Cora: marlane, thank you so much! Hmmm let me see, I think it was the White House chef and it was dungeness crab, lots of cracking going on :)

Cat Cora: Ken, I would love to have something really out there like sea urchin, blow fish, nettles, really push me to the limit

Administrator: Do you like to make dishes with octopus? If so, what is your favorite?

marlane: Howdoes one make the Iron CHef team, besides having the skill set?

Cat Cora: Administrator, yes, I love octopus and grilled octopus salad with lots of great veggies

Cat Cora: Marlane, Iron Chefs are invited and there are only 4 of us that stay on regularly. So to challenge us you have to go Food Network and send in a tape

Administrator: Who are your favorite chefs? The ones who've influenced you the most profoundly?

Cat Cora: Administrator, definitely Julia Child who I was lucky enough to have met a few times and spend time with. I have alot of good friend chefs who are with Food Network and have great restaurants. We stay in touch, network and see each other at events.

marlane: Heh, I can barely boil water, but you guys truly inspire me to do better. Moreover, your recipe for a greek chicken dish (published in a south bay newspaper) got a MIL approval. :)

Cat Cora: Marlane, wow, very cool! Yes, that is my favorite childhood dish. My mom made it for birthdays, Sunday suppers and any special occasion.

Eric: What kind of meal can I make easily with ingredients bought from a convenience store? Do you have a favorite 7-11-type ingredient?

Administrator: What are the qualities of Julia Child's cooking that inspire you? I loved her cooking show!

Cat Cora: Eric, well I don't usually shop at the 7-11 but I can tell convenience stores have gotten better. You can get cheeses there, can goods and others. Just stay away from the Spam :)

Administrator: What are your sons' favorite dishes that you make?

Cat Cora: Administrator, Julia had a very simple, yet elegant style. She was no nosense and loved to have a good time cooking. She was also real, she cooked for the everyday person at home and I loved that. Chefs are realizing that those folks are the true audience. Julia always knew that.

Administrator: What recipes from your new book are you most proud of? or which are really fun to make if i'm getting started...

Cat Cora: Administrator, my oldest loves chicken, salmon, and he will eat veggies which for now is a blessing. He is a good eater because we are good eaters. Kids model their parents so if we say yuck, he will as well.

Cat Cora: Administrator, well, I have this great Skirt Steak with a Mushroom Salsa that is awesome and easy. Watermelon Gazpacho, yum! I even show people the easy route to making sushi at home without raw fish but with other delicious ingredients.

Administrator: Like what are the other ingredients you use for sushi?

Eric: What kind of vegetable-based dishes have you found that your kids will eat and like?

Cat Cora: Administrator, I call it American Sushi. I do one sushi roll for my son with roasted red peppers, kalamata olives and feta cheese. I do a roll with curried chicken and pear and blue cheese, things like that.

Eric: Do you have a favorite "Hellasian" dish?

Cat Cora: Eric, I make this veggie pancake that is savory. I grind up lots of veggies and put them in a pancake batter like a crepe. My son loves it, he is eating pancakes for dinner and I have peace of mind :)

Cat Cora: Eric, that is funny, my first Iron Chef battle and I made this new word up to describe combining Asian and Greek (Hellenic). I loved this Asian phyllo stuffed roll I did with lots of ginger, lemongrass and other great Asian ingredients.

marlane: Cat, have you a favorite restaurant or cuisine, other then your own favorites that you make at home?

Cat Cora: Marlane, I love almost every cuisine, I cannot really think of one I don't. Right now I am into Northern African and Morrocan.

Administrator: Do you have a favorite blue cheese dish?

Cat Cora: Administrator, I love a great blue cheese salad with lots on there, I love potatoes and blue cheese together and of course a great on steak.

Cat Cora: Administrator, the best blue is Point Reyes Blue Cheese in my opinion.

Administrator: What will you be demonstrating at the festival today?

Administrator: And are you making any other appearances in LA this weekend?

Cat Cora: Administrator, today I am cooking that great skirt steak with mushroom salsa, watermelon gazpacho and chocolate budino or molten cake

Cat Cora: Administrator, this will be it for the weekend, its all about your festival!

frangelica: mushroom salsa...sounds great, gonna share the recipe??

Eric: Do you have any advice for an aspiring chef? Where would you begin?

Cat Cora: Frangelica, hi, my new book Cooking From The Hip has it, it is a great recipe and book!

frangelica: you helped put Layfayette on the dining out map, any plans of returning to your roots?

marlane: Cat, how sressful are the time limits on IC? Is it difficult to operate with the eyes of the camera on you?

Cat Cora: Eric, I would say for aspiriing chefs is first work in a good restaurant for at least a year to see how you like it.

Cat Cora: Frangelica, not at this time. We just moved to Santa Barbara, so not at this time.

Cat Cora: Marlane, it is stressful but I love the pressure!

Administrator: Well, we're going to wrap this up now. Thank you so much for joining us!

Administrator: Best to you, Cat.

Cat Cora: Thank you so much!

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