The Quick Six Fix | Stuart O’Keeffe
The Quick Six Fix
By Stuart O’Keeffe
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery By the Book Podcast with me Suzy Chase.
Stuart O'Keeffe: My name is chef Stuart O'Keeffe. And my book is called the Quick Six Fix.
Suzy Chase: One hundred no fuss full flavored recipes with six ingredients, six minutes prep time and six minutes clean up. For us home cooks that sounds like a dream come true. Stuart, tell us about your Quick Six Fix philosophy.
Stuart O'Keeffe: I just wanted to make it easy for the home cook. I feel like keeping the prep and the clean up to a minimum really saves so much time. I feel like they're the two parts of cooking that are, I feel like the worst for people. Nobody likes to prep and chop, and chop and chop. And then clean up afterwards. You're tired after you cook. You want to enjoy the meal and have little or nothing to do afterwards. So I just came up with this concept and I thought, I think I can't really make it any easier for everybody so this is how I came up with the book.
Suzy Chase: All of your recipes are super luxurious. Like things you'd order at a restaurant. And at first glance they look like they would take an hour or so to prepare, but that's the fun part of this cookbook. It's all about simplicity.
Stuart O'Keeffe: It is all about simplicity. You'll see it with the photography in the book, we did do up the recipes in an elegant way but the recipes are so simple. I wanted to give people an idea, "Hey, these are plating suggestions too to amp up your game in the kitchen and your presentation."
Suzy Chase: You learned very early that feed means love. How did your mother influence you in the kitchen?
Stuart O'Keeffe: My mom would always cook every day. She has a clothing store, a woman's clothing store back at home in Ireland. There was four kids in the family, she just would get up six or seven o'clock in the morning, and cook dinner, and leave it in the pot, and then my dad would come down at lunchtime, and I'll come down from school, and for an hour, and my dad would heat up whatever she made. It was like a casserole, or a big stew, or whatever. She always felt like she would love us with her food. It was such a big thing, at dinner at night, she would come down at six o'clock, for dinner, she would make me peel carrots or peel potatoes or get the potatoes boiling before she would get down to finish the meal. She would get a protein or steak or whatever she was making that night. It was always dinner at 6:30 seven o'clock every evening when I grew up. There was no frozen dinner or fast food or anything like that.
Suzy Chase: So did she have a big influence on this cookbook?
Stuart O'Keeffe: Yeah a lot of the recipes, I have her chicken noodle soup in there, her beef stew, I make it in a shorter version. Yeah, I learned from her.
Suzy Chase: So how did you go from Ireland to Napa Valley to LA?
Stuart O'Keeffe: I went to culinary school from 2000 to 2004 in Ireland. I wanted something bigger, I wanted to see more of the world. I always had this fascination with California. A job came up in Napa Valley, through my placement officer, I applied for the job, I got this internship for a year and a half, and that's where it all began. It was incredible to be up and Napa Valley to start my first look at America up there, being in such a food driven city or county. It was great, I ate some of the best food, drank some of the best wine. It was a really nice start after my culinary degree.
Suzy Chase: And then you went to LA.
Stuart O'Keeffe: Then I went to Los Angeles which was always my dream since I was 16. When I met my manager Jason, he was like, "Look you're a professional chef, you should do this and that." I'm like, "I totally I'm really interested in doing that." And that's when the TV started with the Food Network show and the Tupperware endorsement and so forth. It spiraled from there.
Suzy Chase: Let's talk about fish. You have a handy guide to buying fish. I never know how much fish to buy. Give us your quick six tips for fish.
Stuart O'Keeffe: Always make sure it's fresh. Always ask. When I go to Santa Monica seafood I go there a lot, I always ask the fish monger, hey what's in season right now? What's fresh, or what's good to cook? They always give you tips how to prepare it, and so forth, so I follow their guide. I would say whenever you buy fish, a big tip, try to buy it the day you're going to cook it, or if not, definitely the next day. Ask the fish monger, when did the fish come in? How long has it been sitting there? They'll always guide you in the right direction I feel. They always do with me anyway?
Suzy Chase: Talk to us about parchment paper.
Stuart O'Keeffe: It's just nice because you can individually wrap a piece of fish in parchment paper and you just add your aromatics, your citrus if you want to, some seasoning, a dab of butter. And you just bake it in the oven for about 350 degrees for 15, 20 minutes. It just steams the fish with the liquid in there. And it's minimum mess. You literally take the parchment, put it on a plate, you're not gonna even dirty the plate. And people eat out of the parchment. I think it's awesome.
Suzy Chase: And it doesn't stick to the parchment?
Stuart O'Keeffe: No it doesn't stick, because what I would usually do is get whatever vegetables you want, use the vegetables as your base. If you put a little bit of olive oil first on the parchment, then the vegetables, and then the fish, you build it.
Suzy Chase: Got it.
Stuart O'Keeffe: Fish on top and just close it up. Just bake in the oven, you're gonna have put like six pieces on a sheet pad, pop it in the oven, you can have it in your fridge, ready to go, take it out maybe twenty minutes before you're gonna pop it in the oven, you have a great dinner for all your friends.
Suzy Chase: Throughout the cookbook you have recipe key icons. My favorite is the three times icon. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Stuart O'Keeffe: Yeah. I always say read a recipe three times to fully understand it. From the ingredients right through to the directions. Because you won't be surprised by anything. Don't just get the ingredients, go, "Okay step one, do this." Because there might be something else in the third step that you may have to prepare. All recipes are different, every recipe writer writes them differently. We tried when I was writing this with, I would write out the recipes and then Kathy Squires would go over everything just to make sure it made sense. To the person buying the book.
Suzy Chase: St. Patrick's Day is coming up.
Stuart O'Keeffe: Yes it is.
Suzy Chase: Do you have any good corn beef and cabbage tips? My corn beef always comes out dry.
Stuart O'Keeffe: A good tape, I've done this on TV I think a year or two ago on Home and Family. It was a quick corn beef and cabbage recipe. It was go to your butcher your deli, and buy corn beef and get them to thickly slice it for you, and it's already done. And then you're just boiling your potatoes and boiling your cabbage, and you just bring everything together at the end.
Suzy Chase: That's brilliant.
Stuart O'Keeffe: I think it's just a smart idea. Corn beef does, it takes like an hour, an hour and a half to cook from beginning to end. I just think that's an easy way out for people because St. Patrick's Day is one day. Everybody still works on St. Patrick's Day, you're still busy no matter what. And I just thought instead of going through the hassle of putting a big piece of meat in a pot and braising it or boiling it, this is an easy way out. And because everywhere around St. Patrick's Day they're going to have corn beef in stock. They're going to have it at every counter, at every store, so you just get the deli counter guy to cut you thick slices, and it's gorgeous. There's nothing wrong with it at all.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of cabbage, there's an Irish proverb that says there's no use boiling your cabbage twice. What does that mean to you?
Stuart O'Keeffe: It basically means keep it simple. Don't try and reinvent the wheel. Cook it once and you're done. I just thought it was, throughout this book, I keep everything simple in it. Just don't over complicate things. People might say, hey you're a professional chef, these recipes are so easy, why are they that easy, why are they not complicated? I'm like, "It's for you. This book is for you, it's not for me. But I cook a lot of these recipes in this book and I love them, I love simplicity."
Suzy Chase: So last night I made your recipe for Parmesan broccolini on page 174. I love broccolini more than broccoli.
Stuart O'Keeffe: Slightly bitter. Slightly, has a bit more bitterness than regular broccoli but I still love it. The lemon juice really counteracts the bitterness in the broccolini Whatever you're eating at restaurants, I always find, people are always like, "It's a bit more bitter, I don't really like it. I prefer broccoli." So I'm like, "How can I counteract that?" I just kept it simple, you have those ingredients at hand at all times. I always have a bowl of lemons in my apartment. Parmesan cheese, you can always have a block in your fridge. And so the only fresh ingredient is the broccolini. That's all you need to go buy.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web?
Stuart O'Keeffe: You can find me on the web at ChefStuart.com and I'm on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, at ChefStuart_ on Twitter on ChefStuartOKeeffe on Instagram and Facebook.
Suzy Chase: Thanks Chef Stuart for coming on Cookery By the Book Podcast.
Stuart O'Keeffe: Thank you so much.