Monday, December 31, 2012

Episode 7: Chef Alfonso Galan, redwhite+bluezz, Pasadena CA

Chef Alfonso "Fonz" Galan has his heart in his hand
Chef Galan was brought to Kamikaze Kitchen's attention as whiz-kid who can cook anything. Having only been in the United States for 8 years, Galan has risen through the ranks in a short period of time - after graduating at the top of his class at le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts, he has served in the capacity of line cook all the way up to Executive Chef at a variety of establishments including the Peninsula Hotel's Belvedere Restaurant, The Kitchen for Exploring Foods (Pasadena), Bistro 45, Madeleine’s Restaurant Wine and Bistro and Church and State Bistro. He calls Pasadena's redwhite+bluezz home, which is where we caught up to the versatile sous chef for Episode 7 of Kamikaze Kitchen.

The heart of the matter - llama, to be exact
Chef Galan was challenged to make something edible of a llama heart procured through, and we're proud to say that his skills were worthy of his reputation. As the heart is one of the hardest working muscles in the body, Galan's quest was to render it into a dish that maintained the organ's unique flavor yet not requiring lengthy chewing like llamas on the grasses of the Argentine pampas. His dish (a variation on a bourguignon), passed with flying colors. His recipe is printed below should you wish to try to prove the adage that way to a llama's heart is through your stomach:


Llama Heart Bourguignon

  • 2 llama hearts
  • 1/2 # slab of bacon
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cups red wine
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Parsley for garnish
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Chop the celery, onion, and carrots
  2. Cut the llama heart and bacon into 1 inch cubes
  3. Place the meat into a roasting pan and add the mirepoix, aromatics, garlic, tomato paste, red wine and water
  4. Braised for 1 1/2 to 2 hours
  5. Serve with roasted potatoes and a French baguette
Follow Chef Alfonso Galan on Twitter at @fonz090965, and on Facebook at /Alfonso Fonz Galan
Follow redwhite+bluezz on Twitter at @redwhitebluezz, on Facebook at /RedWhiteBluezz and on the web at

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Episode 6: Chef Juan Mondragon, Juan's Restaurante, Baldwin Park CA

Chef Mondragon prepares iguana birria
Chef Juan Mondragon was introduced to us by friend and Mexican culture afficionado Chuy Nomas, who raved about Mondragon's expertise in the pre-Hispanic cuisine of Mexico and extensive knowledge of the health benefits of many of the dishes and ingedients used by the indiginous people. Val's penchant for wearing dragon shirts seemed particularly appropriate for Kamikaze Kitchen's Episode 6, as Chef Mondragon's surname is French for "my dragon", although Mondragon only appeared to breathe fire at the end of his encounter with Kamikaze Kitchen. Mondragon was born in Mexico City and raised on a farm, where he learned to cook at a very young age in his grandmother's kitchen, using locally grown and raised ingredients (including nopales, tunas (cactus pears), cocoa and a variety of seeds such as pumpkin, chia and pine nuts).

Cut pieces of iguana and a shot of iguana blood
Mondragon is famous for his hand-crafted moles made in the style of the state of Guerrero; he uses 17 different types of chiles and utilizes recipes passed down to him by his grandmother. Having studied culinary arts at Gastronomico Chefuri Culinary Institute in Mexico City, Chef Mondragon was discovered by Ryan Seacrest, having served as Seacrest's personal chef for several years, as well as preparing food for celebrities such as Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Iron Chef Chairman Mark Dacascos, Sofia Vergara, and Raul de Molina.

Chef Mondragon shows what he's done with the mystery ingredient
Chef Mondragon recognized our ingredient immediately, having eaten iguana many times growing up; although he decided to use one or more of his grandmother Leonor Arellano's recipies, he had never cooked the reptile before (a fact made obvious by his reaction to the skinned and gutted creature lurking at the bottom of the mystery bag). With only a single iguana in tow from, Mondragon opted to alter two recipies - one with mole, and the other a birria. Mondragon is bursting with pride when he describes the joy of sharing the culinary delights from his childhood, and hopefully you will be able to use the following variation of his grandmother's recipe to make a tradition of your own:

Iguana Birria (Stew)

  • 1 whole, skinned and gutted iguana
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. oregano (dry)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole peppercorns
  • 1 whole onion
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 lbs of chile guajillo
  • salt to taste
  1. To a liter of water, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and the juice of one whole lime
  2. Allow the water and ingredients sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash the iguana thoroughly
  3. Cut the iguana into pieces of desired size
  4. Toast the garlic, cloves, bay leaves, onion and chile guajillo (the chiles can be boiled if preferred)
  5. Blend all ingredients together
  6. Heat very little oil (preferably grapeseed or cold-pressed EVO) in a sauce pan on low heat
  7. Add blended ingredients to the sauce pan
  8. Add the iguana pieces and keep on low heat
  9. Stir all ingredients every 5 minutes; do not allow the sauce to over-thicken
Iguana should be ready in 1 to 1 1/2 hours (check it after an hour)

Follow Chef Juan Mondragon on Twitter at @Chef_Mondragon, and on Facebook at /Juan Mondragon
Follow Juan's Restaurante on Twitter at @juansrestaurant, on Facebook at /Juan's Restaurante and on the web at

Episode 5: Chef Kevin Meehan, Kali Dining

Raw bison testicles
New Yorker Chef Kevin Meehan hit the road right out of culinary school, taking a position in a highly acclaimed restaurant in Belgium where he learned the ropes. On his return to the States, Meehan did time in such prestigious eateries as Mirabelle, L’Orangerie, Bastide, and did a stint as a chef for the illustrious Patina Group. While serving as Executive Chef at Los Angeles' CafĂ© Pinot, Chef Meehan participated on Food Network's “Extreme Chef” where he emerged victorious in a western-themed challenge where one of the tasks was to prepare a dish using rattlesnake.

Meehan regularly visits Asia, where he discovers exotic new ingredients and techniques and utilizes them in a unique and impressive display of culinary skill. Chef Meehan is a hunter and forager, gathering many of the ingredients he uses in his imaginative dishes. His current project is a pop-up dinner experience called Kali Dining, where a small number of guests assemble for dinner in an intimate setting, typically in someone's home. A bit of a renegade, Meehan occasionally finds a way around the recent ban on foie gras in California (offering the delicacy free of charge with his dinners). In addition to Kali Dining, Meehan has recently employed his experience with pop-ups to participate in the resurrection of Los Angeles' legendary Test Kitchen.

Chef Kevin Meehan with Kamikaze Kitchen outside a super-secret Kali Dining location
Chef Meehan is a formidable character with a wry sense of humor, and we knew that he would have no qualms about getting his hands around a pair of bison testicles for Kamikaze Kitchen's Episode 5. We had no idea what to expect, but were ecstatic when Meehan presented us with several dishes, including one that features testicle sashimi in an esthetically pleasing and colorful assembly that was surprisingly delicious. As usual, the testicles were sourced from, however, folks that want to try making these dishes at home will need to improvise, as man of intrigue and mystery Meehan ate the recipe for the dishes with spring greens and light bisque.

 Smoked Testicle Sashimi with Onion Tar

Pan-seared Nut-encrusted Testicles

Follow Chef Kevin Meehan on Facebook at /Kevin Meehan
Follow Kali Dining on Twitter at @kalidining, on Facebook at /Kali Dining and on the web at

Episode 4: Chef Brendan Collins, Waterloo and City, Culver City CA

Chef Brendan Collins removes the meat from the lamb's skull
Our chef of choice for Kamikaze Kitchen Episode 4, British expatriate Chef Brendan Collins is one of the hardest working chefs in the Los Angeles area, and although he means business in the kitchen, he's also the kind of guy you'd want to down a few pints with and have a round or two of darts. Chef Collins designed the menu at Waterloo and City in tribute to simple, workingman's fare, but with an artistic flair and focus on hearty dishes using what traditionally would be called "utility cuts". From the rich, earthy blood cake to the masterpiece King's Platter of charcuterie, Collins' prowess with nose-to-tail gastropub fare is the stuff of legends, and we knew going in that Chef Collins would be able to bat out of the park any pitch we threw at him.

The lamb's head prior to cooking
Collins, a native of Nottingham, England, landed a spot at two-star Michelin restaurant, Le Gravroche, by age 17. Having mastered his craft in the UK, Chef Collins jumped the pond in 2002 to serve as chef de cuisine at Melisse Restaurant in Santa Monica at the request of Chef Josiah Citrin. Under his watch, Melisse received at the Mobile Four Star Rating and was one of the first California restaurants to receive a Michelin two star rating. Collins developed Orange County's Mesa Restaurant, Anisette in Santa Monica, and The Hall at Palihouse before opening Waterloo & City and serving as Executive Chef; he splits his time officiating between Waterloo and City (named after a London Tube station) and Larry's in Venice Beach.

It should have occurred to us that a chef that knows meat inside and out the way Collins does would know exactly what to do with a skinned lamb's head - using a range of techniques (which included an electric Skil saw), Chef Collins used every bit of real estate on the beast's head in a dish that included lamb brain ravioli with pea puree, chunks of savory face meat and braised tongue. The lamb's head was sourced from and a recipe for the dish is forthcoming.

 Pea Brain Ravioli

Follow Chef Brendan Collins on Twitter at @ChefBrendanC, and on Facebook at /Brendan Collins
Follow Waterloo and City on Twitter at @WaterlooandCity, on Facebook at /Waterloo and City and on the web at