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Cook makes his kitchen his lab

Hagerstown man uses global influences to create his cuisine

Hagerstown man uses global influences to create his cuisine

March 19, 2006|By KRISTIN WILSON

In his career as a hotel manager, Doug Anstine of Hagerstown discovered a general knowledge of food is a big plus.

Anstine has traveled the country for work, tasting a variety of foods along the way - from goat tacos in Mexico to crawfish in Memphis to smoked jalapeos in California.

When it comes to cooking in his own kitchen, Anstine incorporates and experiments with some of the fresh and unusual ingredients he's come across.

"Traveling around has definitely widened my horizons," he says.

Anstine enjoys having dinner parties and cooking for friends and family. From time to time, he'll have a barbecue with neighbors or partake in a potluck.

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One of his culinary experiments was homemade pasta rolled into spirals and colored red with paprika and yellow with lemon pepper. He's also made "flower salad" using daylily blossoms.

Last summer, Anstine, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Hagerstown, made an oven-dried tomato soup that was especially memorable to Sharon Smith, the sales director at the Holiday Inn.

"He wanted to use up the rest of his tomatoes, so he invented this soup," she says. "He does this kind of thing all the time."

Smith says Anstine regularly shares his food experiments with employees. His homemade milkshakes are an especially big hit.

"Anytime you can get an invitation to eat at Doug's house, do it," Smith says with a laugh. "He's not afraid to experiment. You'll eat whatever he makes, because he makes it so good."

Anstine's Orange-Saffron Shrimp and Fish Stew is another unconventional recipe he's developed.

"I wanted something orangey," he says of how he created the stew. He made the recipe during the winter months when he was craving fresh flavors and citrus.

The fish stew is a splash of bold red, green and orange colors and has a flavor that balances sweet and slightly spicy notes.

A touch of saffron helps to give the soup its unique flavor and color, Anstine says. Saffron, an expensive spice associated with Arab, Indian and Moroccan cuisines, is sometimes found in a supermarket's organic section.

Anstine recently answered questions about his cooking while making the stew.

Q: You mentioned having some training in cooking. Did you go to a culinary program?

A: No I went to UCLA and studied economics. I worked in restaurants, bartending and waiting and all, and I went to work for Marriott. In food and beverage, the only thing I had not done at that point in food training was, specifically, cooking. So they said to go in the kitchen and follow the chefs around and you'll learn a little bit. At least you'll know how food is being prepared, so once you go forward with this as far as restaurant management, if somebody asks you what's in the whatever sauce, you'll know.

Q: Do you follow recipes closely? You said that you created this recipe (for Orange-Saffron Shrimp and Fish Stew).

A: Yeah, from just bits and pieces of this flavor and that flavor, and what looks good. I'll read recipes out of magazines or on TV or whatever and then do a little interpretation - manipulate it and modify it. Whatever smells good and tastes good, if it seems like a good combination.

Q: Has it been a lot of trial and error for you as you've developed your cooking?

A: I'm not going to say that I haven't had creative mistakes, but, on the other hand, lots of times you kind of know what flavors work well together. Granted, you can take somebody else's recipe and cook it and then modify it to your own needs. Or there's something you've eaten in a restaurant and you'll go looking for the recipe and find it, and life is good.

Q: Is there a type of food that you really enjoy, or are you really across the board with your tastes?

A: I'm pretty varied. I like pastas, and comfort food is wonderful, too - like a nice stew. Braising something in the oven all day is good, and barbecue, as I said. I eat sushi, I eat Chinese. I probably would stay away from some entrails.

Q: Do you have any advice for your average home cooks, trying to get adventurous ... or just experimenting?

A: Be open to new flavors, and try whatever is out there that looks interesting. Read. Read a cookbook, and watch some of these cooking shows. Some of them are very funny. "Two Fat Ladies" used to just crack me up. Where else are you going to see two fat ladies on a motorcycle with a sidecar, riding around England, eating bacon and things? They were funny as can be. As a kid, I remember watching Graham Kerr (on) "The Galloping Gourmet" and that kind of thing.

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