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Salsa, Italian Tricks, and More: The Muir Glen Cooking School, Part 3

Muir Glen Cooking School

We're back with more tomato tips from top chefs across the nation. Read on for inspiration on how to use canned tomatoes!

Earlier lessons from the Muir Glen Cooking School:
Introducing The Muir Glen Cooking School: Part 1
The Muir Glen Cooking School: Part 2

Muir Glen Whole Tomatoes

The great thing about high quality canned tomatoes is that they afford the cook peak-season flavor year-round. In addition to acting in a starring role in a wide range of dishes, I like to use canned tomatoes as a convenient flavor booster to all manner of soups, stews, and braised dishes. The high content of glutamic acid in tomatoes provides an underlying umami punch - I even add a touch of tomato to sweet preparations such as strawberry jam to add depth and balance!

-Michael Laiskonis, Creative Director, Institute of Culinary Education, NYC


I like to drain the whole tomatoes, salt and pepper them, add a little fresh chopped thyme and then slow-roast them in the oven at 350 until they get some color around the edges (about 1-2 hours). I also use them right out of the can. I just chop the whole tomatoes myself--it's like tomato concasse. I salt and pepper them and stuff chicken with them. I'll even use them on salad.

-Dave Pasternack, Esca, NYC

Muir Glen


One secret we've picked up from a few trattorie in Rome is to use cocoa powder, sprinkled lightly in a mixture of crushed canned tomatoes, when creating the braising liquid for slow-cooked meats. At Maialino we've applied this technique to "Coda all Vaccinara" - oxtail butcher's style - but it is equally successful with other traditional dishes like Braciole (tomato-braised beef) or Ossobuco (braised Veal shanks). The cocoa powder (roughly 1 teaspoon for every 3 cups) is not necessarily detectable as itself - that is to say, you won't be tasting chocolate in your sauce. But it will render the sauce a bit more robust and add a level of depth/complexity that will impress Grandma (or Nonna).

-Nick Anderer, Maialino, NYC

The first thing most salsa recipes tell you to do is set the tomatoes on a griddle and toast them until blistered and blackened. While great for flavor, it's a pain. Canned fire roasted tomatoes are a real time saver and actually improve the quality most of the year. The sweetness is mellowed and the tomatoes have a deeper flavor from the char.

-Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole, Portland, OR

Just cause it's fresh doesn't mean it's the most flavorful choice especially where tomatoes are concerned. I always use produce when it's at its best. Avoid the fresh tomatoes grown half way across the world when they are out of season locally. You know the grocery is going to stock them no matter what but that doesn't mean you need to settle for bland, mealy fruit. Be flexible with the meal and pick up whole tomatoes in the can. Tons of flavor already built in that is a great addition to something like a braising liquid.

-Bradley Herron, Executive Chef for Michael Schwartz's restaurants including Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, The Cypress Room, and Harry's Pizzeria, Miami

Check back next week for more tips from the Muir Glen Cooking School!

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