Event - Cooking with Chef Katie Chin (and Cookbook Giveaway!)

When your mother was a catering chef and restaurateur extraordinaire while you were growing up, you got exposed to plenty of creative culinary talent and the best of the best in the cooking business. Chef Katie Chin had sworn after such a fast-paced childhood lifestyle with her ever-busy mother that she would not be a part of the culinary arts world but the legacy continued after a long journey of trying to deny what she herself had been saturated in. Hence, the Chef title. With various appearances on national television, a stint as a guest judge on Iron Chef America, and several cookbooks out with her signature cooking style, Chef Katie Chin is no stranger to the world of food nor to the demands of being a widely recognized media personality. It seemed natural enough then when we, and several other members of the local food community, attended a fun and educational demo held at the Inspire Artistic Minds (IAM) Culinary Center with the ebullient chef for her to put on a show and still make delicious food. It gave us a great sneak peek into her newest cookbook, Everyday Thai Cooking, and a chance to understand this superstar a little better.

So even if you aren't very interested in watching someone cook, you would be hooked by Chef Katie's infectious personality and her ability to make everything look very simple. We started off the evening learning about her history in the industry. Her mother, the well-known Leeann Chin, was discovered as a great cook after providing many free meals as a way of saying thank you to clients. One restaurant was founded and eventually the whole concept spread into an entire chain of Chinese restaurants in Minnesota where the Chin family grew up. This multimillion dollar business was a part of each of the children's life, and Katie vowed to never work in the food world after growing up in all of the hubbub. Her move to Los Angeles resulted in a marketing promotions career in the entertainment industry for two years but like mother, like daughter, her foray into the culinary world began with just a small commitment to host a party.
"I had to do a party for people so ended up calling my mom. This is the kind of person she was - she flew over and showed up at my door with frozen lemon chicken. She made this whole elaborate meal and let me pretend I made it myself. Oh but she was mad because I only had yogurt and champagne in the fridge when she arrived! So she committed to coming to LA frequently and teaching me how to cook. Eventually my friends said that we should do a book together."
There was an opportunity at the time for a mother-daughter cooking brand to be developed so Chef Katie seized the moment and quit her job. The duo ended up with a PBS show together teaching their audience how to cook Asian dishes without being intimidated. Eventually Katie's twins were born which forced a retirement from this side of business and allowed her to focus on putting together her various cookbooks and develop her YouTube channel. She also runs the blog The Sweet and Sour Chronicles and serves as the Culinary Ambassador for the City of Hope, a position that allowed her to be one of many chefs involved in cooking for the White House at a 2013 event.

Our first demonstrated dish was Chiang Mai Chicken Lettuce Cups, a great light meal or even just starter. We began with heart-healthy canola oil and a mixture of minced garlic, ginger, and Thai chiles. A tip from the chef: you can peel ginger, put it in a food processor, freeze the mix, and snap off the amounts needed as needed! This dish may have traditionally been cooked in a wok but since stove ranges can reach such high temperatures in present day, a skillet is suitable. Ground chicken is then browned with the addition of finely chopped water chestnuts, cilantro, and green onions. The sauce is flavored with ingredients such as smashed lemongrass (cut off ends and bulb, remove outer fibers to avoid chewiness, and smash stalk), simple syrup, lime juice, vinegar, and Thai chiles. We enjoyed this easy-to-make-and-prepare dish in the embrace of beautiful lettuce leaves, and everyone seemed excited by how easy it was to make.

"I am all about fast, fresh Asian food of all kinds. They're all simple with the same concepts. For Thai food, you get the hang of it - it's all sweet, sour, salty, hot."

The second dish for the night was her Pineapple Fried Rice, a dish set apart from other Chinese fried rice dishes by a few small traits. Chef Katie explained that aromatics are sauteed in the beginning which is not typical of traditional Chinese fried rice cooking; there are also a variety of distinct ingredients used. For this particular one, it was chosen because it is another great way to entertain guests in a grand presentation - just serve the rice in the empty pineapple shell! For this one, she advised to use leftover white rice that's been in the fridge overnight to separate grains but for an even better experience, use brown rice or quinoa which are great for protein and absorption. Fresh aromatics via garlic, shallot, and Thai chile are sauteed before the addition of rice and scrambled eggs (if no Thai chile, one can use Serrano pepper). Then a base sauce of fish sauce and soy sauce at a 1:1 ratio (tamari instead of soy sauce for the gluten-free people) is added before vegetables such as peas, fresh mint, fresh cilantro, and fresh pineapple. It did encompass all of the flavor profiles she mentioned (sweet, sour, salty, and hot) which made it just about the perfect way to enjoy rice.

That evening we were joined by Greg Nagel from OC Beer Blog who was pairing the dishes with beer. Our match for this dish was the Monkish Apopathic and chosen based on the ingredients alone. It is a Belgian ale with citrus and ginger spices which would complement the food without overwhelming it. I found it great on its own but also a suitable pairing for the pineapple fried rice.

I loved the story-telling that Chef Katie did throughout the demonstration such as her story on an embarrassing near-mishap on live television. She related how a faulty electronic nearly ruined the entire set because "it's hard to fake frying rice! I can't stand there making sssssh sssssh fake sizzling sounds and not have the meat cook!" We also met her niece, also named Katie Chin, but according to the chef's sister, "not named after you."

She demonstrated then a third dish which were her Panang Curry Meatballs, easily made ahead of time and frozen until ready to use. With a simple base of ground beef, ginger, egg, and salt, this recipe was more focused on the curry portion. If you don't know panang curry, it is milder than red curry and may be a little more difficult to find in the stores. For the meat, Chef Katie browned it for about five minutes while starting the curry via heating up coconut milk (may also use coconut cream). This was then mixed with mashed curry paste after boiling, kaffir lime leaf (freezeable too), brown sugar, water, and fish sauce. The meatballs were then added to the curry and the whole dish brought to a boil. I appreciated her descriptions and tips about the ingredients too such as saving time and sometimes money by purchasing prepped vegetables at a grocery store salad bar. It makes sense for the too-busy-working parent sometimes to get everything ready to go in terms of prepwork. She also emphasized how important kaffir lime leaves are to overall curries.

To pair with this, Greg opted for the Young's Double Chocolate Stout because Thai food made him think of Reese's Peanut Butter cups due to peanut sauce emphasis and coconut; these both go well with chocolates. As a milk stout, there was a lot of residual sugar to help with spiciness. For those however who are obsessed with spicy foods and heat, IPAs or double IPAs are perfect carriers as they open up palates and expose them to the elements.

The finisher was a coconut cake with mango sauce that was contributed in the book by a friend, the pastry chef at Spago. Fluffy and sweet without being overbearing, these slices were just the appropriate way to end a meal. We had a great time watching the chef cook as well as her sous chef, Stacy, who did a tremendous job of getting everything in place at the right time. There is just something so perfect about watching someone be so happy in their own element such as the chef while cooking. Our thanks go out to Chef Katie for her time and to the fantastic team that put the event together (pictured). I'm excited to flip through my copy of her latest book myself.

Chef Katie will be hosting her official cookbook launch party on Thursday, May 8th from 7:30-9:30pm at the IAM Culinary Center located at 541 W. Chapman Ave in Orange. Cocktails and appetizers from the cookbook itself will be served to all those in attendance. Maybe you should enter below to win a cookbook and get it signed when you meet the chef! For more information, contact Nerissa at nerissas(at)ca.rr.com.

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook.

Cookbook Giveaway!
Chef Katie Chin generously is offering five of my readers and fans a chance to win a copy of her cookbook Everyday Thai Cooking. We'll be running this giveaway for a week's time and hope to see all of you entered. If you win, remember to celebrate with friends and cook up a delicious storm!

  • Prize: Five (5) winners will receive a copy of Everyday Thai Cooking

Enter through the Rafflecopter widget for your chance to win! The giveaway will run until 5/1/14 at 11:59pm PST. Winners will be contacted upon selection and have 48 hours to respond before replacement winners are drawn. All U.S. citizens 18 and older are eligible to win. Though there are several entry methods, winners are not eligible to claim more than one prize. Prize fulfillment will be conducted by NRS Public Relations.

a Rafflecopter giveaway