Cook of the Week: Hoffman Estates dad works family dinners, wine pairings from recipe repertoire
Neighbors use the term "gourmet" to describe Ted Dziedzic. The Hoffman Estates dad thinks that's too stuffy.
"I'm a foodie," admits Ted, "but I hesitate to use the word gourmet. My wife and I like to go out to restaurants in Chicago, or entertain, but it's not always fine dining. We just enjoy a variety of good, well-made food."
Ted's transformation into a foodie may have begun in college. As a computer science major at Northwestern University in Evanston he was intrigued by culinary program at the nearby Kendall College, and sometimes took dates to the school's restaurant 'lab.' He decided to take a few cooking classes for fun. But it may have been the wine course he took that really plunged him over the edge.
"It struck a chord with me, and then I started traveling to the West Coast for my job, and there was Napa Valley. My wife and I began to learn all about different types of wine and the next thing you know, we're building a wine cellar in the basement. It's true what they say -- whatever size you think is right -- you need to double!" he laughs.
The love of wine tastings led to wine dinners and eventually Ted realized he wanted to be able to create his own meals to go with the fantastic wines they were finding. Ted and his wife took several cooking classes together.
"They are great for learning the basics -- the most important things -- like how to make sauces and stocks. They helped me understand the flavoring of food, where the best flavors are and how they complement the food you make." The Dziedzics were very observant during their classes, asked questions and noticed what tools were used, and what sorts of appliances the chefs preferred. They used the information to remodel and stock their kitchen.
"Knowing we were going to cook, we've invested in good knives and we take care of them. And good pans. You don't want to use cheap pans that will burn something you've spent a lot of time on."
Not surprisingly the couple enjoys entertaining.
"It's great to get everybody together in a relaxing environment. Everybody can congregate in the kitchen, watch what's going on. It's nice to linger over a meal with a good wine.
For Ted, planning the meal is half the fun. When planning a meal with the purpose of pairing wines with it, which comes first? Food or wine?
"Food first," says Ted. "It depends on the time of year, what's available. Is it morel mushroom season? The dead of winter?
"Once I decide on a menu, then I go and match the wines. Marrying the types of wines comes easy," he adds. "(Wines) become like your children and you don't want to give them up! You wonder, are these good enough friends to open this bottle for?"
Ted enjoys cooking a variety of foods and experiments with techniques.
"Like any guy I like to get out there and use the grill, but during the winter I love to do hearty soups or braised meat.
What I love about it is that it doesn't have to take a good cut of meat. You just have to watch it to keep it from drying out -- you can't rush it. The marinade gives it a good flavor and it comes out so tender."
Today Ted shares a recipe for braised veal shanks, which, not surprisingly, includes wine in the marinade and a robust Italian vegetable soup, perfect for a winter day.
Ted's wife is Italian, so the familiar family recipes are a regular feature in their home. Ted's ancestry is Polish, so pirogues and stuffed cabbage also make frequent appearances.
"We enjoy all types of food and we've exposed our kids to all types. They were trained from early on that if they didn't eat what was served, they would go hungry; so they are pretty good with everything."
One type of food Ted doesn't like: the processed kind that comes in a box.
"The bottom line is we try to use good, fresh ingredients. We try to stay away from these quick things. With kids, you don't want to go down that path!"
Spoken like a caring parent -- and a foodie!