Chef Robert Ash

Chef Robert Ash

As Executive Chef of the historic Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Robert Ash has become synonymous with downtown dining. Overseeing The Pfister’s array of historic restaurants and lounges including CafĂ© at The Pfister, Blu and The Rouge, Ash has more than a decade of culinary experience that also includes Executive Chef positions at InterContinental Milwaukee hotel and acclaimed restaurant Kil@wat.

Whether you want to learn how to perfect a particular cooking technique, learn how to use a certain ingredient or have a dish related question, Chef Robert Ash has the answers for you.

Fresh or frozen vegetables, is one better than the other?

The fresh versus frozen debate is a common one, however experts say one isn't necessarily better than the other. Now that it's spring, you will have an easier time finding fresh produce in season, but if you prefer to buy frozen that's fine, and here's the reason why. When companies freeze their fruits and vegetables, they use a special "flash-freeze" process that immediately locks in the nutrients. You'll want to eat your frozen produce within a few months because over time some of the nutrients will be lost. The most important thing is eating the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, so how you go about it is a matter of taste.

I recently enjoyed a delicious Wild Mushroom soup that was served during a Pfister wedding reception. Could you please share the recipe with me?

I'm so glad you enjoyed it and I've enclosed the recipe. I don't like to adjust it to home cooking sizes as it alters the soup, but you can scale it back to your liking. The recipe won't make a huge amount, but you'll have enough to freeze for later. Enjoy!

    Wild Mushroom Soup
  • 2.5 lbs button mushrooms chopped
  • 8 oz onions small diced
  • 4 oz celery small diced
  • 8 oz shiitake mushrooms sliced thin
  • 4 oz oyster mushrooms sliced thin
  • 1 gal chicken stock
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 0.25 oz thyme picked and chopped
  • 0.5 oz parsley chopped fine
  • 3 oz roux
  • 0.5 tsp nutmeg
  • 0.5 tsp cumin
  • 0.5 oz unsalted butter
  • tt salt and white pepper
    Directions
  • Sweat the onions, celery, button mushrooms and thyme in the melted butter.
  • Add the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Puree and add the cream
  • Thicken with roux and season to taste.
  • Finish by adding the parsley, nutmeg, cumin, shiitake and oyster mushrooms.
  • Bag and chill.

The Pfister's yogurt is a breakfast favorite of mine. Could you tell me how I can create that same recipe at home?

Thank you for your question. I've enclosed the recipe which we also enhance by adding a little vanilla. I hope you enjoy it!

    Pfister House made Yogurt Recipe
  • 4 cups of fresh, organic 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup of powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup organic yogurt (this will be your starter)
    Directions
  • Slowly heat the milk on the stove over low-medium heat.
  • At this point you can choose to add powdered milk. Powdered milk creates thicker yogurt that takes less time to ferment. It's optional if you are using whole milk or two percent. Some skim and one percent milk include added milk proteins which make the product taste less watery and will behave the same way as if you added powdered milk.
  • For your first batch we are going to go with two-percent milk plus 1/3 cup of powdered milk.
  • The most tedious thing about making yogurt is watching the milk get hot. You need it to hit 170 degrees, but not have it boil. So you want to pay attention to the pot and have a thermometer at hand. Once you've hit the target temperature, remove from heat and then wait for the milk to cool. Unless you put the pot in the refrigerator it will take some time to cool to 108-112 degrees.
  • If you are using existing yogurt as a starter, have it handy in a cup. When the milk is cooled to the proper temperature, mix a small amount it in with the yogurt. This will break up the yogurt and makes blending it with the rest of the milk easier. Once you add the starter, the milk can be placed in the pre-heated yogurt maker for four to eight hours. Refrigerate before serving. Makes one quart.

How do you eat a pomegranate?

They look unusual, but they're very easy to eat. Here are some simple ways to slice up and enjoy the fruit.

  • You can peel the rind off, like you would an apple, and then eat it. Cut the fruit in slices, and use a spoon to scoop the pieces out.
  • You can take all of the red seeds out, place them in a bowl, and enjoy them. The seeds can also be used to garnish salads, side and main dishes. The white seeds inside of the red ones can also be consumed.To loosen the seeds, you want to take the palm of your hand and roll the fruit on a solid surface for a few minutes. Cut the pomegranate in half. Pick up one half and with a large wooden kitchen spoon, tap the back of the fruit so the seeds slide right out. You can catch them in your hand or collect them in a bowl. Watch what you're wearing, the fruit is juicy and can splash you. Have an apron on or towel handy to clean up up any extra juice.
  • The only part of a pomegranate that can't be eaten is the red skin covering the outside, and the thin white layer of skin beneath the fruit. Otherwise there is plenty there that you'll learn to love.

What is blanching?

Blanching is a cooking term that means to quickly cook the outside of usually a fruit or vegetable. You plunge the food into boiling water for a brief time of usually 3-4 minutes. You then quickly remove the produce and place into into ice water to immediately stop the cooking process. You can then either freeze the item or start cooking it. Blanching food softens it by either partly or fully cooking. Blanching can also be done to remove a strong taste like in onions.

When nuts like pistachios or almonds are blanched, the skin of the nut is softened, making it easier to remove.

What is the best way to marinate a steak, chicken and what type of marinade works best?

I think for steak an acidic marinade works the best. I suggest, placing olive oil, a little garlic, and a splash of cranberry in a large mixing bowl. Place the steak in the bowl and make sure you're covering the meat with the marinade. You want to set the steak in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before you start cooking. You could leave it to set overnight, but really a window from 30 minutes to 2 hours will give you sufficient flavoring.

For chicken, again olive oil, garlic, and splash of lime juice in a large mixing bowl. Cover the meat with the marinade and let it set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. After that time, you can start cooking.

The marinade you select really depends on your taste. One isn't going to be necessarily better than another.

How can I make a thin, crispy pizza dough? Is there a secret?

The secret to a thin crust is in the baking process. You first want to make sure you're cooking your dough inside an oven that's hot. Restaurants cook their pizza crust sometimes as high as 750 to 800 degrees. Set your oven at broil.

The real trick I rely on, is something unusual, I bake my pizzas on a slate tile. You can find the tiles at home improvement stores and they are usually inexpensive. After your pizza is prepared, you place it on the slate and then into your hot oven. Let it cook for about 10-15 minutes, then it should be ready. A sign that your pizza crust is complete, the edges will be slightly brown.

Ask Ash

E-mail your culinary questions to chef@thepfisterhotel.com.
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