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Chef Tony as Guest on BronxFoodBlog – Guide to Buying Fresh Fish


Hey Food Fans,

Today, someone did the legwork and logged the miles for us, as bronxfoodblog did a really nice piece about Tony, picking his thoughts over a topic dear to his heart… and stomach – how to choose the freshest fish possible. Check out their great and informative blog post. Tony’s Fish Buying Tips

The food scene is exploding all over NYC and the Bronx is no exception. Check out bronxfoodblog and leave comments on the great work they are doing. And if you happen to be on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, stop by Randazzo’s Seafood and tell them Chef Tony sent you!



Under Pressure

So, if you’ve been watching my YouTube channel, you probably saw that I recently added a new tool to the kitchen – a pressure cooker. It was given to us by Tristar products and we agreed to try it out and do a review. I never really used a pressure cooker before but I was curious to see what we could come up with. I don’t remember exactly where the idea came up to try to tenderize an octopus came from (I think a viewer may have suggested it some time ago), but it made sense to try it, so indeed I did- with some impressive results. The added pressure really does seem to help tenderize the octopus flesh, and by keeping the liquid trapped inside, very little moisture escapes from the actual octopus, keeping it nice and plump. I can’t complain about the results at all… very flavorful, tender, great aroma, and the skin just falls right off, so peeling is a snap.

I typically go for a three pound octopus when shopping and that’s what I used in the video, and as you’ll see there, after some tinkering, I came up choosing the “fish” preset, and adjusting the time to just a bit over 20 minutes in the PPC XL as an ideal time for that size.

Now, I had intended to do some experiments with different size octopi to give some guidelines for timing, but it has turned out to be a bit complicated. As I said, a three pound octopus is what I normally get here just north of New York City, but that is not so much by choice. I can find good quality specimen here, but my size choices are limited. You see, the smaller Mediterranean octopus is the one that is more sought after back in Italy and it’s these larger 3 pound ones that are exported out to the market here in the US. It’s not worth it for the sellers to send the smaller octopus to the market here where there is less demand. You can find smaller size octopi here, but those are the saline solution injected ones from Philippines I warned about in my videos… avoid those if you can. I do have a source in the Bronx on Arthur Avenue, Randazzo’s Seafood – you can watch our video with them here:  who caters to the Italian community here in the New York area, and when I make my way down there – unfortunately not as often lately, I will see if I can grab a few of the smaller ones that he manages to have imported here, and then we will give a try. I’m also going to make an educated guess before trying these other sized specimens that the changes in timing will not be much. Since we are dealing with pressure cooking, it’s the amount of pressure that is probably more crucial, as I noticed that all the presets do not suggest any time changes based on the amount. Hopefully we will find out soon enough… and if any of you out there are adventurous enough to try, let us know what you happen to come up with. I think it’s time for some readers to get involved. I want to hear voices from out there. I’ll update this post as more info comes this way.

Keep checking in with the channel and the blog as my experiments with pressure cooking continue. Now of course, you know me… I’m a die hard traditionalist. For affection of my profession and my native southern Italian culture, my first choice is always to cook with authentic methods and means… even if it takes twice as long. But on the other side of the same coin, I know as a chef, you’ve got to deliver quickly sometimes. That’s where I’ve really found this device to be surprisingly useful. I’ve so far had great results (and great time saving) with a variety of dishes; meat stews, pasta fagioli, ossobuco, and more. I even have to admit it’s been a bit of a marriage saver. If you are the one who cooks for your family, I don’t have to tell you about that kind of stress that builds up when dinner was supposed to be ready 30 minutes ago but you’re still chopping ingredients. More on that in future posts.

If you’re interested in purchasing a PPC XL pressure cooker, you can save 10% by using this promo code: POWER16 and purchasing via this link 

In full disclosure to my fans, the above link is an endorsement for which we receive monetary compensation per purchase. It’s not much, but it is a small way to support the show, and I can vouch that if a product has my endorsement, it’s because we have tried it and I have found it to be a quality product that I can put my name behind. So if you do happen to be considering the purchase of a PPC XL, purchasing through our page would be a great way to show us some love.

I have some other ideas brewing already with this little pressure cooking adventure, and I’d like to hear from any fans out there who have experience with this. A YouTube commenter even asserted that pressure cooking is coming back big time – is this so? Talk to me. Let me know what your opinion is and what you like to cook using this device.

– Chef Tony Scarpati

The Ghosts of Videos Past – Our Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Halloween Special

Hi Everyone,

Jeffrey Chuang here – Producer/Editor of Ask Chef Tony. Yes, I know… it’s been a while since the last post. Guilty as charged… of slacking. It was a challenging summer for both Tony and myself. This blog is important to us and we hope not to lose you as we stumble a bit finding a more consistent posting schedule. I know you are here to hear more from Tony than from me, but Tony will be back on the blogging horse soon to share his insights with you.

We managed to shoot a few new episodes for YouTube, and I’m still editing most of those. Another is about to go up in a day or two so check our channel for that one.

But right now at least we can go down memory lane… this week IS Halloween week and so I thought I would simply repost one of my favorite of our previous episodes – our Halloween Special (Toasted Pumpkin Seeds) from a couple years back… I don’t know why this one never got the large number of hits that I thought it would. We really had a LOT of fun shooting this one, pulling out our best special effects for this one, using a green screen and planning it out so that we could have the final effect of Tony’s talking head on a plate. The hardest part of shooting was reshooting just the head part, and to get Tony’s head to stay very still and have him run the dialogue without waving his hands about as he spoke (which could cause his head to shift around, ruining the effect). Many people would say it’s impossible to get an Italian to talk without exaggerated hand motions, but I managed… so I’m still very proud of this video – plus I thought this was Tony’s best acting performance… do you agree? Let us know. I hope you find this one entertaining, and useful for your leftover pumpkin/squash seeds. I myself loved this recipe so much, I do this every time I get my hands on any squash seeds. Enjoy- and Happy Hallo-weeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!

Jeffrey, Producer/Editor Ask Chef Tony

*update: Ah yes… and as promised, new episode is also up…

It’s PIZZA TIME! One Million Views and Ten Thousand Subscribers

Well, our YouTube channel recently hit 1,000,000 views, and we passed 10,000 subscribers. THANK YOU VIEWERS! We love you back! To celebrate we pulled out a special episode for everyone… Making Homemade Pizza. Actually, we have wanted to do a pizza episode for quite a while, but it just wasn’t happening.  We had a lot of technical issues such as lost audio, and gaps in our footage, etc, and we ended up filming it several times, and it was shelved for a while before we were finally said “Eff it, let’s make this happen!” and we were able to stitch it all together. So here it is.

Here is a recap for those who are here for the blogged version:

Things you’ll need:

  • A decent oven (one that is well sealed and can reach a true 450 degrees)
  • Pizza screens
  • Pizza peel (the big spatulas you see the pizzeria guys using to move the pizza around) Choose one with a short handle.
  • Spatula for cutting dough and scraping – makes life easier for you
  • Pizza cutter
  • Bowl and Brush


  • Pizza dough ( here I suggest we keep it simple and you can buy a good quality pre-made dough at a good bakery or supermarket, or just buy raw dough at your favorite pizzeria. You can make your own dough from scratch, but that deserves its own episode and set of instructions, so stay tuned for that one)
  • Crushed tomato ( not flavored or spiced “tomato sauce”… let’s keep it just tomato so that we can control what flavors we want in there.
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Toppings: here, it all depends on what you want to put on your pizza. In fact, you don’t even have to put cheese, or tomato sauce, if you prefer not (although you would usually have at least one or the other). For instance, you could make a “Marinara” (seafood) pizza, in which you would leave out cheese ( unless you really want cheese and seafood together – I wouldn’t ) or you could make a “white pizza” which leaves out the tomato, for a different taste… all good. Of course, one of the world favorites is the basic “Margherita” pizza which simply has tomato, cheese, and basil. Now besides the usual mushroom, sausage, peppers, and onion, that you will commonly find here at the pizzerias through most of the United States, there is really no reason to restrict yourself to that: I often say you can think of pizza very similarly to pasta dishes: the combinations can be endless. Have some fun. Invent your own. I have a few toppings that you might try either by themselves or in different combinations: leeks, radicchio, prosciutto, arugula,  eggplant (see eggplant prep video here), red onion, broccoli rabe, pine nuts, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, exotic cheeses (like gorgonzola). Try one without sauce, a smear of caciocavallo cheese, mustard greens, and truffle oil. Or if going for some seafood, let’s leave out the cheese and try things like shrimp, calamari, mussels out of the shell, or octopus. As you can tell, the list can go on. Just remember that for most of the toppings, it requires a little bit of prep cooking. Most toppings won’t cook thoroughly in the quick time that the pizza is in the oven, so cook your toppings ahead of the pizza making time, and have them out when your pies are ready for your experimenting.
pizza topping variety

Experiment with your toppings!

Get your dough out about a couple hours before you are planning to have your pizzas in the oven. We need to give it about an hour or two to rise – if your kitchen is warm it will rise faster,  if cooler it will take a little longer, but an hour to two hours is probably the norm. Portion your dough with the spatula and start making your dough balls. This part takes a bit of experience to know how big to make your dough balls, but I would say about a tennis ball sized ball will be good for the small 12 inch pizza screens, and something closer to softball size is good for the larger 16 inch pie. The easiest way to make a nice ball is to take the rough edges of the cut dough and sort of wrap them around toward each other till they meet, in an outward and around motion away from you. Try, you’ll get the hang of it. Arrange your dough balls on a baking sheet that you brushed lightly with olive oil to keep them from sticking. Now cut an X at the top of each dough ball, and cover your whole tray of balls with a clean towel moistened with warm water. Now just let it sit. When they rise to about double their original size, it’s pizza making time!

dough balls

Make dough balls, cut an X in the top, and cover with moist towel.

Now… rolling out our pie. On a clean surface, toss a little dry flour (to keep the dough from sticking) and get to work. On TV you will see the pizza guy tossing and flipping the pie to stretch it out. You can try that if you want… takes practice. But it’s totally unnecessary. All the matters is that you get your dough stretched out nice and even and round enough to fit on your screen, but honestly, it doesn’t even have to be round. You can make it any shape, really. More important is to try to keep it even. Be patient and just try to evenly push it out from the center, gradually pushing and stretching. Try to avoid overworking it though. If it gets thin and you get a tear, just overlap the edges of the tear to fix and keep working the rest of it, evening it out as much as possible; avoid the temptation to roll it back into a ball and start over. Don’t judge yourself. Your first two or three pizzas may not look so pretty and even, but will probably taste just great, and it will get much easier with practice.

pie stretching

Stretch it out evenly.

Tony tossing pizza dough

Just for show!

Once you get it stretched out enough, lay it on your screen and start laying on your precooked toppings. Try to keep it simple. If you flood it with crushed tomato for example, your pizza will get soggy. Stay light and get a feel for it. You can get bolder with your experiments as your confidence grows. I always like to start with a basic margherita pizza. The kids love it, and it’s a classic. Always a winner. Margherita is just the basic mozzarella on crushed tomato, and then basil leaves added when it comes out of the oven. Simple, fantastic.

putting pizza in oven

Oven at 450 degrees.

Your oven should be at 450 degrees. Using your pizza peel, slip in your pizza. Start checking after maybe three minutes to see how it’s going. Every oven will cook differently and you need to see how your own oven behaves. When it starts to get a little crispy and I see some evidence of browning on the crust, what I like to do is remove it so that I can brush a layer of olive oil onto the crust. That will help it crisp up with some flavor. Delicious. Then just pop it back in and let that brown for just another minute or two.

brushing olive oil on crust

A touch of olive oil on the crust to make it special!

Your pizza is done when the edges and the underside are browned (take a peek under the pizza screen to check the underside) After you’ve made a couple of these, you’ll know how often to check your oven for doneness.

checking pizza


So that’s pretty much it. I guarantee, your family and you are going to have fun with this one. Let us know how your pizza comes out. Let us know what great new pizza recipe toppings you come up with, and keep watching.


Chef Tony Scarpati

My Liver Transplant Checkup: 7 Months Down the Road

dinner in Cleveland

Dinner with friends of the Cleveland Transplant House.

Just got back from a nice trip to Cleveland Ohio. It was a blast to see all my friends that are currently fighting. For the ones of you that don’t know I recently received a liver transplant, and go back periodically for check ups with my magicians, or doctors (Thank You). On this trip it was especially great because it was like being back in my home away from home  – lets remember that it was where my second chance at life began only a handful of months ago. I also got to meet a special guy in person – my now “mentor” for life Mr. Brian Vitale, also a liver recipient but with a heart so big that it could never be transplanted or replaced. We got to hang around in between doctor visits and were able to sneak in some leisure time like visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

Brian Vitale and Miriam Bland

Two big hearted people. Brian Vitale and Miriam Bland.

I am now back home with much relief but also few tears in my heart. I already miss you all at the Transplant House of Cleveland. I want all of you here at my house one day so we can all celebrate the gift of new life we all have/are experiencing. I also want to take this moment to thank all of my friends and fans of AskChefTony, my cooking show, and remind you to register to become an organ donor (its easy at the DMV). I will drive you there personally and if you have a chance, dig in YOUR big heart and find a way to help the thousands of people on list waiting for all sorts of organ transplants. My cause will help the Transplant House of Cleveland to accomodate the patients and families around the world that come to Cleveland with tears and hope for a second chance. Anything will help big and small. I will be building an alternative page for the cause and there will be contributions from the great fans I know I have. I will be putting up free dinners, cooking lessons, etc. in exchange for donations. In the mean time, you can start contacting me to get the list going while I build the page. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and liver. America is a great place so lets show it!

– Chef Antonino Scarpati

Tony and Ashley

My friend Ashley. She and others are still waiting for their chance.

My friend Ashley pictured above has been waiting many months (11 and counting) for her chance, and finances are exhausted. If you’d like to help, visit her site

You can also meet her in the video we shot a few months back when Tony had just gotten the green light to return home from Cleveland.

Making a Mascarpone Cheese Substitute for your “Almost Perfect” Tiramisu. – by Bret M. Territo

[Producer Jeffrey Chuang here. Today I’m pleased to introduce a guest post by our viewer and friend Bret M. Territo. In the channel comments, he had some wonderful input on tiramisu, so we’ve invited him to let us in on some of his ideas. Outside of culinary interests, Bret has earned a Master’s Degree in Veterinary Medicine at LSU and has worked as a sheriff’s deputy, firefighter, bomb disposal technician, an EMT, and most recently as a bodyguard for a judge.]

“Where I’m from you have drive north to get to what most people call ‘South Louisiana'” says Bret. Born in a small town on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Bret learned to cook at an early age. “South Louisiana is all about food” he says. “It’s a means of survival, a pastime, a hobby, a religion…it’s a language and if you want to communicate you have to be able to cook.”


My name is Bret M. Territo and I’ve been invited by Chef Tony and his staff to address a common difficulty that many face when attempting to make tiramisu at home. I prepare tiramisu at least once per week, and my hobby is experimenting with different variations of this wonderful creation. Chef Tony once commented to me that tiramisu is “high art” and “incomparable” when done correctly. This is so very true in that one needs the proper ingredients if one wishes to achieve culinary perfection. But on occasion one or more ingredients will be unavailable or of poor quality and substitutions will have to be made-hence the “almost perfect” in the title. Please understand that while substitutions will result in a slightly different end product, it will still be wonderful! Great, but different.

Let’s begin by looking at some tiramisu ingredients that on occasion may be difficult to find. Your first option for any ingredient is to ask your grocery store to order the product for you. If they can’t or won’t, try another one. I suspect that you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Of course this may not be an option in some less developed parts of the world and for those locations I will suggest other options.

One ingredient which may be difficult to find is savoiardi. In the US (and elsewhere) savoiardi is known as “Lady Fingers.” These delicious cookies (biscuits) are similar to a baguette in that they have a firm crunchy outside and a softer chewy interior-perfect for tiramisu! As with everything else, including a spouse, savoiardi can be ordered over the Internet. But you don’t know what you’ll receive and you could end up with a mess of flaky debris. So I recommend against ordering Lady Fingers (or a spouse) through the World Wide Web. Your best option is to make your own. Recipes abound and all ingredients are readily available. Someone even manufactures (or used to) a specific Lady Fingers baking pan. A last option is to simply use an alternate cookie/biscuit. I have found that products made with puff pastry work well. I’ve used Sfogliatine on several occasions with very good results. I’ve seen genoise and various types of sponge cakes used with varying degrees of success. Using cake is really getting away from the whole tiramisu “idea” but if it’s all you have…

People do ask if they can substitute standard coffee for espresso and I tend to discourage the practice. Espresso is really easy to make at home with an inexpensive stovetop espresso maker or you can do what I do: use instant espresso. I personally can not tell the difference between brewed espresso tiramisu or instant espresso tiramisu. The one problem that I personally have experienced is that instant espresso is surprisingly difficult to find in my area!

Selection of alcohol is another common subject area for questions. The following is a list of alcohol types I have personally used: dry Marsala, sweet Marsala, Moscato, ruby port (bad idea), tawney port, white port (the good stuff, not the swill sold at the corner stop-and-rob), brut Champagne, sec Champagne, brut sparkling wine, Proseco, cognac, brandy, dark rum, kirschwasser, Maraschino liqueur, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Zabaglione liqueur, Godiva chocolate liqueur, Godiva white chocolate liqueur, calvados, coffee liqueur, amaretto, Disaronno, Nocello, Navan (very good but they quit importing it into my home state!), Pernod, and Sambuca. I’ve heard of someone using bourbon but don’t know if it works. I want to try Pastis.

[Producer’s note: Or if for whatever reason, you want to leave any alcohol out, then by all means.]

Now, I saved the biggest problem for last-Mascarpone cheese. This used to be rare but is now in virtually every supermarket I frequent. Nonetheless many aspiring pastry chefs have to make due with something else. I used to recommend not substituting and prepare something else but realized that the end result will be good even though it’s “imperfect tiramisu.” In much of the world your grocer can order this for you. You can also order this on the Internet but with exorbitant shipping costs.

Another little explored option: make it yourself. I fully intend to begin making my own ricotta and Mascarpone before the end of this year. It’s simple to make as cheese goes-no special equipment is needed and there is no strict temperature control or long aging times in the process. It can be “set” with a simple acid byproduct of winemaking or you can go for a higher quality product and purchase starter cultures. Mascarpone is an incredibly versatile cheese and can be served with fruit, spread on bakery products, and used to make sauces. So it is worthwhile to make it even in relatively rural, undeveloped areas.

When all other options are exhausted, you’re going to have to mix a substitute. Before I continue with the recipe I want to suggest that you do everything possible short of a felony to get some real Mascarpone cheese. You really should know what it’s supposed to taste like before you start trying to “fine-tune” a replacement.

Once you know what Mascarpone looks, feels, smells, and tastes like you’re ready to counterfeit a batch. To replace 500 grams Mascarpone (this is for one “standard” tiramisu recipe using 5-6 egg yolks) you’ll need 450 grams (1 lb.) cream cheese. In the US it will probably be one brand regardless of where you live. I’ve even seen it in a store in the Canadian sub-arctic.

[Producer’s note: Bret suggests using ‘whipped’ cream cheese to get the smoothest texture possible. Regular cream cheese will work too, but it’s much harder to get the lumps out. In the demo photos you see here, I used half whipped, half regular. I like the density of the regular, so I split the difference.]

As with Mascarpone you want it at room temperature to work with…it’s impossible to work with brick-hard cheese regardless of type. You don’t want dairy products at room temperature any longer than necessary nor do you want to repeatedly warm-chill-warm-chill cycle. Leave everything in its original packaging while you’re warming it to room temp. Also, have everything else ready before you start this step: Have your yolks/sugar/alcohol mixture cooked to ribbon stage and cooled to room temperature. Prepare your espresso/sugar/vanilla/alcohol solution and have the first layer of Savoiardi wetted and in the bottom of the pan. Have the cream or egg whites and sugar whipped and in the refrigerator.


You will also need 125 ml. (1/2 cup) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream of about 36% milk fat. You will need about 80 grams (a tiny bit more than 1/3 cup…closer to 5 tablespoons) of sour cream TO START. Make sure you stir the sour cream thoroughly before you remove it from its original container for weighing/measuring. Sour cream that’s been sitting in a cold case will often separate over time and you might notice a thin layer of liquid on the surface of the sour cream when you open it after it’s been warmed. Again, stir to recombine before using it. Last you might require some very fine sea salt.

Using a stainless bowl and spatula thoroughly combine the cream and sour cream.


mixing sour cream and heavy cream


Start incorporating the cream cheese a little at a time…NOT all at once. Thoroughly incorporate one piece before adding more or you’ll end up with a lumpy mess. Once you’ve finished force the mixture through a medium mesh strainer. Regardless of how careful you were there will probably be a few lumps of unincorporated cheese especially if it’s too cold.


forcing mixture through strainer to remove large lumps


When you are done taste your handiwork. Even though all the cream cheese will be pretty much the same the sour cream will probably be a product of a local dairy. The “tartness” will vary and you might find it necessary to add a little more sour cream to the mix. You may also need to add a little salt but it’s unlikely.


finished “faux” mascarpone, ready to use


Now that you have a suitable “faux” mascarpone, you can go ahead with the rest of the tiramisu recipe. The video instructions as per Chef Tony can be found right here. and the blog recap of the recipe is right here. Happy Eating!

Bret M. Territo

Sent from my iPhone

Happy Easter to Everybody!

April 5, 2015


The beautiful smell of spring in the air, mixing with the intense aroma of three hard days of crafting and creating in the kitchen; pleasurably torturing our eyes, noses, mouths and ears. Knowing we cannot savor anything in front of us until every last guest has arrived… and don’t forget, church first!
Enjoy your Easter everyone!

Chef Tony Scarpati



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