The Institute of Culinary Education, 50 W. 23rd St., offers classes for professionals and amateurs alike in cooking techniques. Avila, who once owned the restaurant Moho in New York, now teaches the culinary arts specializing in Latin cuisine. Avila tells the Resident about learning to slaughter a hog and why it’s not OK to dress down for dinner.—Sascha Brodsky
Any tips for entertaining at home?
Plan ahead. Make sure you’ve made time for yourself. As a host of a party you should be available to entertain and be entertained. Hire an assistant. Replenishing food, accidental spills, and after-party clean up can bog you down.
What do you cook for yourself at home?
Braises. Beef, pork, lamb or chicken as long as it’s braised.
Which ingredients should everyone have in the kitchen?
Excellent meat stocks, salt and local vegetables.
When going out, how much do you tip?
30 percent or more for good service. I’ve tipped a lot higher when the service is excellent.
Any tips for getting a good dinner reservation?
Have a drink and an appetizer at the bar as a walk-in. Get to know the bartender, introduce yourself to the chef, owner or manager and make a reservation in person.
What makes a good meal?
It starts at the door with a warm welcome by the host. A knowledgeable server makes you feel at ease. The appetizers, entrees and dessert must compliment each other not outdo each other. And of course the wine. The list should be well rounded and fairly priced.
What is the best meal you’ve ever had? The worst?
The best: Al Gallopappa Ristorante in Castellina in Chianti, Tuscany. The worst was at the airport on my way to Italy.
Do you have any memorable stories from the kitchen?
The most memorable is arriving in Mexico one summer. I was immediately invited to slaughter a hog. I was shown how to draw the blood for sausage. I skinned and fabricated the hog and was then put in charge of cooking portions of it. I was 14.
What is the most common misconception about eating out?
That it’s OK to not dress “appropriately” for dinner. It’s quite frustrating to see people in jeans, t-shirts and unkept hair at some fine dining places.
Avila’s Double-cut Pork Chops Braised in Sofrito: Dominican Chuleta Adobada
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Migrants from the Dominican Republic that have settled in New York have adapted to braising pork chops in a sofrito sauce. Although pork chops are normally pan-fried in Dominican homes. This recipe is a double cut pork chop that is pan-fried and then braised with pre-made or store-bought sofrito.
1/4 cup canola oil
2 double cut pork chops
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 quart Goya sofrito (blended with 1/4 cup raisins)
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup large diced calabasitas
1 cup medium diced yautia
Salt and pepper
Heat oil in a rondeaux pot over medium heat. Add pork chop (1 at a time if necessary) and allow to caramelize on 1 side, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn and repeat on other side. Remove and reserve and repeat with the second pork chop. With both pork chops inside rondeaux, slowly add sofrito. Allow the sofrito to cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes. Add vegetables and cook for another 15 minutes or until fork tender. Add more chicken stock if the sauce gets to thick.