In the Kitchen with Claire Robinson

By Fabiana Santana

Claire Robinson of the Food NetworkClaire Robinson, whose daytime cooking series, 5 Ingredient Fix on the Food Network, doesn’t believe in fuss. Instead her culinary point of view focuses on simple, fresh ingredients that are just as simply prepared. In her show, she proves delicious dishes only need five ingredients or less making cooking easier, faster and just plain fun. Claire shows viewers how to enhance the natural flavors of carefully-selected, fresh ingredients to illustrate her belief that each ingredient should truly stand out in a recipe, a philosophy that is pretty straightforward and also promotes healthy eating. And who couldn’t use more of that?

Claire, who inherited her love of food from her French-speaking grandmother, graduated from The University of Memphis in 1999 with a B.A. in Communications. But it wasn’t long before she realized that she would never love any career as much as she loved cooking. So she made cooking her career. She moved to New York and enrolled at the French Culinary Institute.  She graduated in November 2005 and  then spent time as a private chef as well as a culinary producer on various television series including Food Network’s Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello and PBS’ Everyday Baking for Everyday Food. And now, she has achieved the ultimate with her own Food Network Show.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

How did you come up with the concept for 5 Ingredient Fix? Did you always construct 5 ingredient recipes?

It’s the way I like to cook so collaborating with Food Network on the idea came naturally. The idea is to showcase minimal, high quality ingredients and enhance their flavor. With the best, in season, high quality ingredients that are great as they are, it’s about enhancing their flavor and matching them up. I like dishes that are easy to shop for, easy to prepare and end with an easy cleanup, so that is what the show is about.

Are the dishes you showcase single serve or family style?

Each episode is different so some times it is for couples and other times for four. What is great about the show is that viewers can tailor recipes to serve 1 or 12. Just buy more of the ingredients!

What are the five most versatile ingredients that every woman should have on hand either in her pantry or fridge?

Garlic – there are just so many different ways to use it. Make it into a butter, chip, use it as a flavor enhancer.  Balsamic vinegar. And it doesn’t have to be the really expensive version. It can be used to dress salads, as a marinade and when reduced, it turns into a thick, sweet syrup that can be used as a sauce that tastes just as good as the expensive vinegars. Number three is fat. Fat is flavor, but it has to be thoughtfully considered when choosing ingredients. I tend to use olive oil as my fat most often. Number four, a veggie. I suggest choosing vegetables that are fresh and in season, but frozen peas are a great alternative. You can sauté them up with garlic and some noodles and have a quick, easy and delicious meal. And number five is butter.  Butter can really be changed a lot. You can clarify it for sauces or even brown it. Recently I browned butter, then strained the brown bits and added them to fresh ricotta cheese. It was delicious!

What about grocery shopping….what are some tips you can provide for women who are shopping on a smaller scale, perhaps for one?

I suggest shopping on your way home. If you have your pantry all set with your five must have ingredients, then you are really only picking up a few things. Your meal will always be fresh, too. Using simple techniques when cooking makes shopping that much easier because you can shop just as simply.

When is a frozen/canned/packaged ingredient okay?

Fresh is always my preference, but there are some exceptions. Beans for instance, are the only canned item I would ever recommend. Canned beans are a huge time saver. And as for frozen foods, the two I suggest are frozen puff pastry and frozen peas.  Frozen peas are picked and shucked at the peak of seasonality. Oh, canned pumpkin! I find canned pumpkin more consistent that roasting or cooking fresh pumpkin, so that is another canned ingredient that is okay.

What is your favorite eat alone meal to make for yourself?

Seared duck breast with citrus pressed cherry sauce. It sounds difficult but it is so easy and is salty, sweet and tangy all in one bite – the flavors satisfy. It’s a real “wow” dish so it is a perfect dinner party meal also. The ingredients are easy to find and it is done in 10 minutes.  It’s so good you will probably skip dessert!

In episode one Claire gets cozy and whips up a classic comfort food dinner of Sunday Roast Beef and Gravy served with two delicious side dishes: Thyme for Yorkshire Pudding and Baby Carrots with Sweet Ginger Butter and a yummy shortbread for dessert.

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