Ready, Set, Cook!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 6, 1999

DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / October 6, 1999

If you click to the Food Network (Channel 44 on Time-Warner Cable) tomorrow afternoon, you might see a familiar face.

John Malik, formerly of LaPlace, will appear as a guest chef on the show “Ready, Set, Cook!” at 5 p.m. and at that time slot on Oct. 18 and 27. Hisgoal, he says, is to have his own show on the Food Network.

Malik, 37, became fascinated with food growing up in his mother’s kitchen in LaPlace, preparing the bounty from frequent hunting and fishing trips.

But it was during his junior year at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, where he was majoring in English, when his career plans did an abrupt about-face. It was in the early 1980s when Cajun chef PaulPrudhomme was the rising star in the world of food, taking Cajun cuisine into the national spotlight.

At that time Malik planned to go into law after graduation, following in the footsteps of his father, retired judge Thomas Malik.

Instead, Malik’s winding career path has taken him to Greenville, S.C.,where he has served for the past four years as chef at the Augusta Grill, specializing in high Southern cuisine.

“I’m going to stick with Southern cuisine,” he says. “It’s the food I grewup with – a tradition and culture handed down from generation to generation. But we fall away from our heritage. I’m intent on preservingit.”Malik cooks dishes like shrimp and grits, country ham gravy and herb stuffed roasted chicken, using organic chickens and fresh local seafood.

When he has a few extra minutes, he says, he leaves the kitchen for the dining room to mingle with customers to get feedback about his creations.

His unique style has developed over the years. His first years in arestaurant were spent in burger joints and po-boy shops when Malik was a student in Hammond.

With English degree in hand, he enrolled at Delgado Community College’s culinary school, graduating in 1988.

During his cooking school days he did a stint at Christian’s Restaurant in New Orleans under the tutelage of Chef Roland, who reminded him many times, he says, that he knew nothing about food.

“You see,” Malik says, “I thought I knew all about food because I had worked in a bar and a po-boy shop. He (Chef Roland) taught me a lot.”It was during those days, too, that he met and married his wife Amy, who graduated from Delgado’s cooking school at the same time Malik did.

Together the two headed off to the Carolinas where they shared the duties of executive chef and sous-chef at Guild’s Inn, a restaurant they owned in Mount Pleasant, S.C.Two years ago the couple had a baby, so Amy is on hiatus to care for their son.

Meanwhile, John, besides being chief breadwinner, is making a name for himself on the national cooking circuit.

Malik won the 1997 Wisconsin Cheese Menu Innovation Recipe Contest with a pork loin stuffed with chanterelle mushrooms, green apples and Wisconsin cheddar. He also prepared cheddar cheese biscuits and sweetpotatoes whipped with goat cheese.

He was one of two dozen chefs, chosen out of hundreds of applicants to participate in the prestigious School for American Chefs, a two-week graduate study at the Beringer Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley.

Last month he demonstrated his restaurant and cooking skills at Draeger’s in San Mateo, Calif., which is billed as the world’s fanciest grocery store.He returns next month to New York to tape appearances as a guest chef on the Food Network’s “Cooking Live.”As for returning to southeast Louisiana, the graduate of St. Joan of Arcand St. Charles Borromeo says he’s not ready to give up the connectionshe’s made in the Carolinas.

But he did agree to part with the following seafood recipes:

Crab Dumpling For each dumpling, mix 1/2-oz. of clean Blue Crab meat with 1/4 tsp. sourcream. Season with salt and pepper.

Pasta Dough 1 hand cranked pasta machine 1 pastry brush 2 cups all purpose flour Scissors 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt2 grinds of fresh black or white pepper 2 whole eggs 2-3 oz. extra virgin olive oil

Place the flour on a large flat surface and make a well in the center.

Crack eggs into the well and add salt, pepper and olive oil. Using a fork,whisk the eggs and slowly add flour until the egg mixture is incorporated into the flour. Knead in any remaining flour until you have a ball of dough. A touch of water may be needed to achieve the desired texture. Placedough in a bowl, cover with film and set in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Separate 1/4 of the pasta dough. Using hand-cranked pasta machine, rollout pasta sheets of desired thickness. Using a pastry cutter, portion out2-inch diameter pasta circles. In the center of this, place 1/2-oz. crabmixture, brush plain water on the edges of pasta, fold over and crimp together with fork.

Place the dumplings into a large pot of boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes.

Serve on top of one tbsp. of corn relish and garnish with fresh chives.The remaining pasta dough can be cut into small portions, wrapped in film and frozen for later use.

The crab filling can also be flavored with yogurt, curry, cayenne or fresh herbs.

Spicy Shrimp Butter 4 21/25 count white shrimp, peeled and deveined 2 shallots, peeled and diced 1 garlic clove, chopped 1 oz. clarified butter1 oz. champagne vinegar1 sprig fresh dill, chopped salt and pepper Tabasco sauce 4 oz. whole butter

Saute shrimp and shallots in clarified butter for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Then add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add vinegar, saltand pepper to taste and cook for one more minute. Puree this in foodprocessor and allow to cool. Add dill and Tabasco, then blend all with thewhole butter.

This can be used to garnish a soup or grilled fish.

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