Alex Raij is chef and owner along with her husband Eder Montero of several popular New York restaurants: Txikito, El Quinto Pino and El Comedor in Manhattan and La Vara in Brooklyn. Alex has received accolades from numerous publications including The New York Times, Bon Appetit and New York Magazine. She was voted Eater.com’s 2012 Chef of the Year and Bon Appetit named her among six ground breaking chefs in the feature, “Women Chef’s: The Next Generation” as well as multiple James Beard nominations.
Why did you choose BlueStar and what is your favorite feature of the range?
I chose BlueStar because as a professional cook you are exposed to many pieces of equipment with special uses, but we know that the best things really last and are versatile. My BlueStar range is beautiful but it also gives me the high heat I need and can also be turned down to a low and gentle heat as well. It’s precise and responsive. It’s also gorgeous but not at all delicate. My BlueStar is a workhorse and I look forward to the many years and meals to come. I chose the product based on some research and seeing it in action so I was delighted, but not at all surprised that the company behind the product had so much integrity and pride in the brand.
What is your favorite ingredient and why?
I like ingredients in tandem with one another but if I had to choose just one it would probably be salt cod because it’s so flexible and ingenious. You take something fresh, preserve it in salt so it lasts forever and then bring it back to life to use in a multitude of raw, cooked cold and hot preparations. As a cook it’s very inspiring. I would say olive oil as well but code and olive oil together is like inviting two of the most interesting people to dinner together.
What is the most unusual item in your cooking tool box?
I guess people would be surprised that our can openers at the restaurant and at home are Japanese metal ones with no moving parts. I love a great design and am very loyal to these finds. This can opener never breaks and is great for opening anchovies and Spanish peppers and tuna tins we use day in and day out to enhance our cooking.
Any seasonal favorites from the new book you are looking forward to cooking at home for your family for special occasions?
I can’t wait to riff on the “arroz con chirlas (txirlas)” a typical Basque rice dish from the book with garlic and lots of parsley. In the spring I sub local ramp greens for the garlic and you get all those spring green colors and flavors that just get you excited about cooking. When it comes to the table it’s simple and stunning. That dish followed by a roast leg of lamb or salt baked fish and tomato salad is a feast made in heaven.
What is your favorite recipe?
One of favorite recipes to make at home is the Lomo en Adobo in our book. It’s a paprika and garlic cured pork loin that can feed an army or just one. You cure a whole boneless pork loin ahead and then roast it and slice it or you can cut into boneless pork chops and pan roast it. Or you can slice it thin and serve seared as you would Canadian bacon with two fried eggs. It’s a recipe that keeps on giving and can take the grand tour of your BlueStar from burners to oven to griddle depending on your mood or need.
Which dishes are you looking forward to recreating on your new BlueStar range at home and which of the range’s features are most like those that you have in your restaurants?
The pork loin for sure but the whole egg chapter is a morning ritual with us at home. People always ask me high heat or low with tortilla espanola a Spanish omelet that takes practice. My answer is always both, the BlueStar is so precise. It needs you to be engaged with your food but it is incredibly responsive to what you might need from it.