Five Cooking Tips From Hell's Kitchen Season Seven Winner Chef Holli Ugalde

elebrity chef, host of the upcoming travel and foodie show Fire and Spice, or winner of Fox's Hell's Kitchen season seven, Holli Ugalde is plenty of sugar and spice and everything nice. After all, that's what little girls -- and former pastry chefs -- are made of, right?

Ugalde truly has a passion for creating unique desserts -- especially the Italian pudding-like one known as panna cotta. We've got the recipe for you right here, straight from Ugalde's own interactive cooking series class that kicked off at the B Ocean Hotel in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday. 

But Ugalde didn't just give participants a sampling of some of her favorite recipes. She also gave away a few tricks of the trade to use in the kitchen as well.

Read on to find out more...

The creative force behind the resort's B'Stro on the Beach restaurant menu, Ugalde's class featured a demonstration of her very own panna cotta recipe. The result: a trio of unique, flavorful custards paired with her personal favorite, kumquat mojitos. But first, her top five tips:


Believe it or not, all stainless steel pans can be nonstick, says Ugalde. The secret is to heat the pan over a very high heat or flame before using it. 

"If you start cooking when the pan is already hot, you'll get a perfect sauté, perfect caramelization, and perfect sear -- every time."


How long have those spices been sitting in your cupboard? Rather than worry if they're still good, bring them back to life, says Ugalde. Everyday spices like cinnamon, basil, oregano -- even pepper -- can have the potency or fresh-ground flavor if you toast them properly, says Ugalde.

"Throw your spices in a frying pan on low heat until they become aromatic. It makes for a much stronger flavor in whatever you're cooking."


Taste. Taste. And then taste some more. Especially if you're working with a dish or recipe you're not familiar with or are working with an ingredient you haven't tried cooking before, says Ugalde.

"If you taste your ingredients -- things like fruit, vegetables, spices -- before you add it into whatever you're cooking, your dish will come out better because you'll be able to check for quality and ripeness."


Panna cotta and mojitos are perfect examples of recipes that have a standard base that can be modified to create many new, different flavor combinations, says Ugalde. 

"Once you have the base, you can flavor it with just about anything you want. Your favorite ingredients -- you name it. Just do it."

BONUS TIP: Although Ugalde didn't use meat in this recipe, one of her favorite tips for beginner cooks: pat-dry meats and fish before cooking them.

"Before you sear or cook any type of meat, you always want to make sure it's completely dry. Water, or moisture of any kind, will not allow for a good, clean sear or caramelization to occur."

Holli Ugalde's Panna Cotta Base and Kumquat Mojito Recipe

Serves 10
Suggested Hardware:
Drink shaker
Cutting board
Mojito glasses

1/2 lb. whole, ripe kumquats
1 cup of mint leaves
10-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 3/4 cup white rum
1 quart of club soda
Lime for garnish

1. In a large pitcher combine halved kumquats and mint leaves.
2. Using a large wooden spoon, vigorously muddle.
3. Pour in juice concentrate, rum and club soda and squeeze lime wedges.
4. Fill pitcher with ice and serve.

Yields app. 2 1/2 cups
Suggested Hardware:
Large sauce pot

1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 cup of reduced fat milk
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
2 1/2-oz. of Mascarpone cheese

1. Bring all ingredients to a simmer in a sauce pot over medium to low heat.
2. Whisk while heating until smooth.
3. Flavor as desired.

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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna