Dishing On Dialysis: Food Network Star Creates Kidney-Friendly Recipes Inspired By Louisville

Food Network Celebrity Chef Aaron McCargo Jr.

Food Network Celebrity Chef Aaron McCargo Jr.

Food Network celebrity chef Aaron McCargo Jr. is best known for concocting dishes with big, bold flavor. Yet, unfortunately, not everyone can delight in his delectable fare when following a restricted diet, whether by choice or on doctor’s orders.

Those on kidney dialysis, especially, must monitor their food intake, controlling the amount of potassium, phosphorus, sodium and liquid ingested. In light of National Kidney Month, McCargo, in partnership with dialysis provider Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), will tour Chicago, Kansas City, Birmingham and Louisville throughout March to reveal flavorful recipes he crafted for people suffering from kidney disease. McCargo catered each recipe to the cuisine found in each of the four cities.

McCargo will stop in Louisville on Wednesday, March 27, to unveil recipes he devised specifically for dialysis patients living in the Derby City. While in town, McCargo will also visit local dialysis clinics in downtown Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind., to impart cooking advice on those following a strict diet.

The Voice-Tribune caught up with McCargo to learn more about his current U.S. tour and the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing the enjoyment of big, bold taste.

Have you personally been impacted by kidney disease or the need to follow a strict diet?

I have a family member on dialysis and that really just gave me more of the gung-ho (attitude of) wanting to go out there and create delicious recipes, because I got a chance to see firsthand how complicated it is to follow the diet and how much it takes to really be creative, to make something tasty, as well as stay within the dietary restrictions.

What were the challenges in creating a dish for dialysis patients living in each of the cities you’re touring? 

I find as a chef that if you bring in the herbs and spices, it eliminates the desire to have salt, and if you offer (patients) another side as opposed to the vegetables that they can’t have, and give them the vegetables they can have, they tend not to miss (the food they’re forbidden). … It just took time for me to sit back and think about, if I were in any of these regions, what would I want?

What inspiration did you draw upon when creating a recipe specifically for Louisville? 

My research was mainly about what is Louisville known for as far as food-wise and what would be the one or two things I would like to have if I were in Louisville. … These recipes are not only full of flavor but they’re really simple. And it’s using their regional foods that they can buy affordably and not have to stress about following a complicated recipe.

You’re a fan of buffalo wings and beer, yet you seem to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What’s the key to cooking healthy without sacrificing taste?

The spices, fresh herbs, using the zest of citrus fruits and also changing up your oils and your vinegars to add a little splash of that into any of your dishes really makes a difference in your food. And, since you mention buffalo wings, they are an item that the patients on dialysis can have, and, because I love them so much, I did go out on a limb and create a recipe for some tasty chipotle buffalo wings for them as well.

What do you hope to get out of the tour?

I really put a lot of thought in this relationship to really help the patients have a better lifestyle on dialysis. And it wasn’t just telling them about what they can’t have, but all about the things they can have and how to accomplish those things through adding big, bold flavor to their dishes. … It’s about having no gadgets in the kitchen to make these recipes and making sure they were full of flavor, they were affordable and that I kept the regions in mind, because with dialysis, there’s just not one nationality, you have a whole mixture of people on dialysis. And everyone’s looking for a childhood treat that they wish they can have, but because of the restrictions it’s kind of complicated for them to reinvent that dish. But that’s what I’m here for.

The greatest thing about these recipes that we’re creating for Fresenius Medical Care is the fact that it’s a recipe for everyone to enjoy from the wings to the pasta carbonara. These are all dishes that we’ve all heard of at one time or another that we would like to have, and they’re family-friendly, and I think everyone will love them.

On March 27, McCargo will speak at Fresenius Medical Care Southern Indiana from 11 a.m. to noon, and Fresenius Medical Care Masonic Homes, located in the Sam Swope Care Center, from 1 to 2 p.m. McCargo will also conduct a live cooking demonstration from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Olmsted on the Masonic Homes of Kentucky Louisville Campus.

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Five Spices to Use Instead of Salt, According To Chef McCargo and FMCNA

Chili powder* – Tastes great in chili or taco meat flavoring. Also try adding it to rubs.

Smoked paprika  –  Adds a deep brown color to bread crumb casserole toppings, barbecue rubs or to seasoning blends for sautéing or searing any proteins. Also adds a great smoky flavor
to marinades.

Lemon zest – Adds a lively taste to bread crumbs, breaded chicken tenders and fish sticks or to renal-friendly vegetables like eggplant or string beans. Also great in dressings and marinades or mixed with dry spices and used as a rub for broiled or
baked seafood.

Dried oregano – Enhances the flavor of scampi sauces and combines well with lemon zest. Gives steamed vegetables or tossed salads a fresh, earthy taste and aroma. Or, add it to fajita seasonings, along with chili powder, cumin, cayenne and
lemon zest.

Italian seasoning* – A blend of thyme, oregano and basil is great for finishing off sauces such as stroganoff or gravies. Works well on baked, grilled or sautéed proteins with lemon zest and a little oil. Or, add it to lemon zest, juice and olive oil to make dressings or marinade.

*Most brands are salt-free, but check the label to be sure you’re using a salt-free product.