Tom Boucher of Clifton Park was doing some remodeling work for a friend, who said she’d like to make dinner for him but had nothing in the refrigerator.
His response: “Do you mind if I look?”
In a short time, Boucher whipped up dinner for both of them — from the “nothing” in the fridge.
“I can’t believe you just went in there and did that,” his friend said. The end result? They’re now married, and Boucher does all the cooking.
When Gio Morina, chef and owner of Gio Culinary Studio and Gio Cakes in Voorheesville started teaching cooking classes four years ago, his clientele was mostly women, with “an occasional husband dragged along,” he said. Since then, he has seen a significant increase in men signing up on their own to take classes.
Grandma and Julia Child
Clifton Park resident Rodney Agan has taken several cooking classes over the years, at different venues, but the seed for learning to cook was planted in his teens. He used to go to his grandmother’s house on the weekends, and she spent all day Saturday doing her baking for the entire week. “We did not live at that point near a grocery store or anything,” said Agan, who grew up on a small farm. “Any baked goods that we had, we had to make ourselves.”
What his grandmother taught Agan was that high-quality food could be prepared at home. When he had his first apartment, he enrolled in some cooking classes and watched Julia Child on television.
In fact, a group of his friends would get together to watch Child’s show, which led to gatherings once or twice a week at which they would cook meals for each other from Child’s cookbook.
“We became almost competitive at trying to outcook each other,” Agan said.
Over the years, he took more cooking classes and watched the increasing number of shows coming out on the Food Network. Now he’s known for his cooking in his circle of family and friends, as is Boucher.
Willing to experiment
Boucher loves to put on parties and entertain, but he’s not a recipe guy and has never taken a cooking class. He watched his family, all involved in firefighting, cook for gatherings when he was growing up. When he went out on his own, he began to “play” with his food. “I just wanted to be more creative with it and see how far I could take it,” Boucher said.
Boucher said when he and his wife, Mary, eat out, they try different dishes. Then he tries to replicate the dish at home.
For both Agan and Boucher, cooking goes far beyond mere sustenance. “I enjoy the creativity of it, and I also enjoy taking a recipe and adapting it to my own tastes and own creativity,” said Agan, who also likes to entertain. “It’s always a challenge to come up with a different menu and do different things. I also find cooking to be a very relaxing thing.”
The food industry has taken note of the increasing number of male cooking enthusiasts. Based on a 2009 survey it did, the website Allrecipes launched mantestedrecipes.com, a social site where men can log on to talk about food and cooking methods and find recipes, among other things. Last year, another site, www.foodrepublic.com, began offering content specifically targeted toward men.
Rob Barrett of Eden Prairie, Minn., in an effort to help make cooking really simple for guys, created www.cookingfordads.net. He provides videos for his recipes and has simplified the cooking.
The idea started when he was helping a friend prepare a romantic meal for his wife. “I realized early on that if my friend had to measure out 11⁄8 teaspoons of baking soda, he wasn’t going to do it,” Barrett said. So, all of Barrett’s recipes call for “a spoonful of this and a spoonful of that.” “I work it out so visually, the video is the recipe,” said Barrett who recommends putting the laptop right on the counter to hit play or pause when necessary. “It’s an amazing thing for visual learners,” he said.
Agan and Boucher both get rave reviews for their cooking.
“Coming to my house is like going to a really good restaurant, which I take as a very good compliment,” said Agan. “I do like to put on a show to a point. I go out of my way to make sure that everything is special.”
For Boucher, too, it is about friends. “I really, really enjoy entertaining and having a good time, and food is a really nice way to be able to do that,” he said. “I really love my friends and family to the point where it gives me a lot of gratitude in doing stuff like this. Everybody comes over, and it’s a good time,” he said.
Recipe by Tom Boucher
3 onions, sliced
Olive oil and butter for carmelizing onions
8 slices cinnamon raisin bread, crusts removed, cut into triangles
Butter, room temperature
2 cups crumbled bleu cheese
8 slices Swiss cheese, cut into triangles
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
Sauté the sliced onion in butter and olive oil until carmelized.
Butter one side of the cinnamon raisin bread triangles and broil until just brown.
Flip toasted side down, and top with some crumbles of bleu cheese, cover with some carmelized onions. Stack each with a triangle of Swiss cheese. Add a dollop of mayonnaise and sprinkle paprika on top. Broil until the cheese is melted. Serve warm.
Shrimp and Clam Fra Diavolo with Fettuccine
Recipe from Rodney Agan
1 pound fresh jumbo shrimp, deveined with tails left on
24 little neck clams scrubbed
1 can (32 ounces) tomato puree
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons anchovy paste
1⁄3 cup oil
1⁄2 cup red wine
1⁄2 cup diced onion
1 red pepper diced
4 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
3 to 4 cloves garlic chopped
Red pepper flakes
Fresh basil, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
1 package fresh fettuccine
In large skillet, sauté onion and chopped pepper in olive oil until transparent but not browned. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release their moisture. Add tomato paste and puree, red wine anchovy paste, red pepper flakes and garlic and continue cooking until sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, heat water, add salt and cook fettuccine or any pasta according to package instructions.
When sauce is ready, add the scrubbed clams to the sauce and cover and cook until the clams just begin to open. Add shrimp and cook a few more minutes until they turn red. Be careful not to overcook, as the clams and shrimp will become tough.
Combine the finished sauce with pasta in a large serving bowl. Garnish with a few of the clams and shrimp and add the basil leaves.
Strawberry and Mascarpone Crepes
Recipe from Rodney Agan.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Strawberry liquor
1 pint fresh or thawed frozen strawberries
8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
8 ounces fresh whipped cream
1 tablespoon good vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
Combine flour, eggs, milk, salt, sugar and the Marnier or liquor in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Allow the batter to rest for 1⁄2 to 1 hour before cooking. Heat a crepe pan or an 8- or 9-inch nonstick skillet to low-medium heat.
Melt a small amount of butter in pan. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter into the pan and immediately swirl the pan to evenly cover the bottom of the pan with batter. Batter cooks quickly and only takes a minute or two to brown on bottom. Immediately flip crepe with a spatula and cook side two only a minute or so.
The crepe will not be brown all over but spotted. Remove from pan and stack with wax paper between the crepe layers to keep from sticking together. This will make 12 to 15 crepes; any leftover can be frozen for future use.
For filling, combine strawberries, sugar, Mascarpone cheese, vanilla and half the whipped cream in a large bowl and mix well. Place some filling on center of each crepe and roll up.
Top the crepes with additional filling and a dollop of whipped cream and a whole strawberry and garnish with fresh mint leaf if available. A slight dusting with confectioners’ sugar completes the presentation.
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