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Like all good chefs, Eric Gower has a style very much his own. A technique he describes as “breakaway cooking,” Gower’s focus is on “weeknight home cooking that uses a lot of global ingredients and good produce in freewheeling and untraditional ways.” His “breakaway” style of cooking may be unfussy and quick but it includes influences from multiple cultures – including Japan, India and Southeast Asia – without requiring one to stick too specifically to any one tradition.
Among the international ingredients he uses is a lengthy list of teas that flavor his recipes, both sweet and savory, adding vibrancy and depth to many a dish. Tea has been a valued ingredient in Gower’s recipes for some time. The chef spent 16 years living in Japan, sampling some of the finest teas and studying the time-honored tea ceremonies of the culture.
A Kitchen Full of Teas
The list of teas that have the potential to enhance everything from vegetarian dishes to roasted meats to sweet desserts is a rather lengthy one in Gower’s kitchen. There’s the smoked green tea Hojicha which Gower calls a “fabulous cooking ingredient”; rooibos, which he noted offers a “very interesting” flavor; and other herbals, which he said make a very nice poached fish. He also plays with his beloved matcha as an ingredient, the perfect version of which he went on a personal quest to find, noting that while “it goes a bit better with sweetness” he has indeed been experimenting with savory recipes.
The fact that matcha is so steeped in Japanese culture doesn’t by any means limit the tea to being an ingredient for Asian dishes. Gower also likes to use it to make “gorgeous dark green noodles and gnocchi,” sweet crèmes for desserts and more.
The chef shares his experimentation in cooking with tea via in-person classes and online tutorials. You can learn directly from Gower via small group workshops in the San Francisco Bay area and full-day, one-on-one intensive classes in his own home kitchen in Marin County, California. And, if Northern California is too far for you to travel for your culinary education, you can instead dive into a series of short videos Gower has developed to illustrate his techniques. The videos are available on his website, www.breakawaycook.com.
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