Friday, March 27, 2009

Food Processor Poll Results

So, you haven’t used that food processor since the day it came out of the box. All the pieces, the cord, the lack of counter space means it gets shoved into a cupboard and as infrequently as it gets used only a few weeks down the road it’s pressed to the back wall with 12 or so more important things in front of it. Sound familiar to me. In the restaurant the food processor is a very useful piece of equipment that helps us blaze through prep, keeps other areas of the kitchen clean, and creates uniform cuts, chops, shreds, or purees. My plan of attack with the food processor, even at work, is to group 2 or more things together that require the equipment so I’m not pulling out and putting away all the pieces multiple times. This would make even more sense at home. I’ve gone ahead and looked at two other ways to make our time in the kitchen more pleasant.

The top-rated Bosch SHX98M09UC dishwasher might not have an easy name to remember, but it is the best option on the market right now according to consumer search website. At a cool $1,500, it truly is a luxury, but boosts to be the quietest, and most energy efficient model available. No more, “clank, clank, clank” of the dishwasher. You’re not going to save money on the energy efficiency since you’ll be buying the more expensive earth friendly soap, but rest assured the environment thanks you.

The first wireless powering system to market is an inductive device. It looks like a mouse pad and can send power through the air, over a distance of up to a few inches. A powered coil inside that pad creates a magnetic field, which induces current to flow through a small secondary coil that's built into any portable device, like a food processor. No cord! Just pull that lug out of the cabinet and set it somewhere on the counter where there is a wireless delivery system installed. This technology is really fascinating, and I’m sure you can find better information about it here.

So with these three ‘small’ adjustments to the kitchen environment our food processor problem has all but solved itself. We have the best dishwasher to clean all those parts, and a wireless power system means no cords, since we group projects together the food processor becomes less of a burden thus living closer to the cabinet door making it even easier to access. Problem…problem solved.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quick Pics

We had a whole hog slaughtered and butchered. A light 210 pound live weight animal who was raised organicly on a pasture. We had the hams smoked along with the hocks. Pictured is a dish made from the chops cut from the back end of the loin, a rib-eye is you will. Topped with a crispy braised belly. A nice creamy polenta is underneath along with a medly of English peas, brussel sprouts and carrots all finished with a chili-almond reduction aka. mole sauce made with the braising liquid.

This simple dish has done astonishingly well. Seared rainbow trout over roast root vegetables with a morel mushroom cream garnsihed with pickled red onions. Dried morells bring alot of flavor to the table, I'm glad to have come across some.

The Race is On

With the rainy forecast, and the last few nights dipping into the 30’s it’s only a matter of time before springtime is in our rear view mirror. I’m finding my yearly desire for spring somewhat controllable this season. I’m racing to find ways to get that last hearty comfort food dish on the menu before the hats and scarves give way to flippy flops and tank tops. I guess there are those few strictly local seasonal items like ramps, or morels, but with the ever expanding global agriculture the list of ‘seasonal’ items has almost disappeared. Increasingly over the past 5 years, seasonal has lost the part of its definition that ascribes it the notion of limited availability. Even taking ramps and morels as an example, they have a growing season that lasts maybe a single month in northeast Ohio, but they will be available through my produce company for at least a month longer. Looking at a broader picture and we see that things like stone fruit, grapes, apples, berries, and tomatoes have become completely season less.

So what is a chef to do with the seasons? Well, the desire to buy local and in turn buy higher quality product drives a lot of what keeps a menu seasonal. I think the idea to present something that is historically connected with a season is obvious. Finally, seasonal is no longer about what’s available, but how we cook that changes. Everyone can appreciate a good braise, or stew after a trek through the snow, but after a day at the beach the same meal just seems inappropriate. This drives the seasons now. And I’m currently trying to squeeze every last day out of the winter season before turning the page.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I’ve never had good experiences with brining, until now. In the past I’ve brined whole chickens, and pork chops in bourbon-molasses brine that either separated, or caused the pork to char far too easily when cooking. I got some very nice local organic pork last week; in fact we bought a whole pig and went through with the butcher how we wanted things. In an effort to keep the pork chop as simple as possible brining came to mind, but with my past experiences I hesitated, then decided to keep going with the ‘as simple as possible’. I found my copy of “Charcuterie” by Polcyn and Ruhlman, and went from there with their basic brine recipe that went something like this:

1 gallon water to 1 cup salt and 1 tablespoon sugar

The aromatics I used consisted of rosemary, thyme, lemon, ginger, peppercorns, cloves, coriander, and cinnamon.

I cut the loin into individual chops, and then brined them for 24 hours. The chops where thick, at least 2 inches. The end product was very succulent, and juicy though out. There was a wholesome, fullness of flavor from the aromatics, but nothing was overly pungent. I instinctively salt and peppered them which was perfect for my taste, but my sidekick chef thought it was a little too much, so we held back the salt from there forward.

I would highly suggest a simple brine if you are cooking pork at home. If you get the normal thin cut chops from the grocery they would take less time to brine, 8-10 hours. Also, you wouldn’t need a full gallon of brine; 2-4 cups would be an easy batch to put together at home. Good luck, I hope your chops turn out as tasty as mine did.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Weekly Specials

This week we tweaked a few sides on our standard menu. We added smashed English peas and truffle-soy vinaigrette to the scallop app, and cauliflower with the chicken. Lastly we introduced a baked meatball dish in place of a braised beef item. I saw Daniel Boulud prepare what he called, “Danish Meatballs” and was inspired to try the combinations myself. The meatballs are all locally raised organic beef with a heavy hand of nutmeg and onion. We set them in a bad of buttermilk whipped potatoes, top everything with caramelized onions that are cooked down to a semi-liquefied state, and finally bake the whole thing topped with gouda cheese. The response has been very good.

As for our chalk board specials;

Appetizer: Creamy parmesan herb polenta with English peas, truffle oil, and aged balsamic

Fish: Seared Rainbow trout, roasted root vegetables, morel mushroom cream.

Entrée: Caramelized Diver Scallops, wild rice, creamed Brussels sprouts with pine nuts.

Entrée 2: Grilled Pork chop cut from local, organic, pasture raised pork with sweet potato fried, Swiss chard, and tomato-fennel confit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

English Peas

I got in my first case of English peas for the season. I know it’s too early to be local, but they are nice, plump, and clean. It is one of my favorite tasks, shucking English peas. It is so very mindless, trivial, monotonous work. Fortunately, there are no knives or heat involved which means you can just stare at the wall and think about absolutely nothing and shuck for hours in this weird culinary meditation.

In the past after the peas are shucked I’ve found myself wanting to puree them, or mold them, or in some way twist them from the perfect green spherical shape they are happy to be in. I’ve learned my lessons. I’m looking to take a more mature approach this year and stick with blanching, butter, and sel gris.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Market Research

I went shopping at a neighborhood grocery store that is unfortunately going out of business in the very near future and they offered what was left on the shelves at a massive %50 price reduction. I understand this has been the situation for the past few days, and I was warned not to expect much left. I was able to find some deals for myself, and the restaurant. Fortunate for me there were some weird pasta shapes, dried morel mushrooms, artisanal sodas, and European butter all instantly made affordable, yet hidden in plain sight to the average shopper. What I found even more interesting than how bare the shelves had been picked is what exactly was left behind. Either it was not at all wanted, or still over priced at %50 off! So, what was left after I skimmed the last of the gourmet items from the shelves?

Those fancy looking jams, jellies, chutney, mustards and marinades that cost no less than $7 a piece…still overpriced!

Chitterlings, pig intestines for those who don’t know, 5 tubs left, the only thing in the freezer.

Pumpkin Pie, a variety of brands, but I guess we buy one pumpkin pie a year, during the third week in November, coat it with ‘whipped topping’ and decide it’s not worth having again until next year.

Dried spices were plentiful. If they aren’t overpriced, then they are over rated, either way, they are still sitting on the shelf.

Fresh vegetables; there was a case of beautiful Belgian endive; a generous amount of kohlrabi, and a few bunches of parsley root.

So what does this say? I guess if you own a grocery store these are the items you should immediately stop ordering and pray that you actually sell the stock before you close too. On the other hand we can get a nice winter meal of spiced and marinated pig intestines over braised endive, a kohlrabi slaw, and a pumpkin pie for dessert! Or not.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Poll results

I can't agree more with how the poll results turned out. The top four I can completely agree on. I am suprised no a single vote for Hosea who is fresh on our minds, but even more so we bored of him only weeks after his triumph. On the same note, last seasons winner Stephanie pulled little attention. I have to say I really enjoyed Marcel and Miguel on the show, and would visit each of their restaurants respectivly soley based on their personality on Top Chef, where the top four of the poll I would, and I'm assuming those who voted would enjoy those restaurants for the chef's vision and passion.

I took the time to link the top four chefs, enjoy.

Richard Blais has Home in Atlanta.

Harold head Perilla in New York.

Fabio has his hands full at Cafe Firenze in California.

Faithfull Judge Tom is busy these day, but is still grounded at Craft in New York.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Weekly Specials

It's been a long time since a "weekly specials" post, and I didn't intend to do one tonight, but we must have sold 50% specials this friday night. I thought such a thing must interest some people so I'll have to post it. Things went so well, and prep is so deplenished that things will be different tomorrow so no photo is available, we will have to use our imagination.

Artic Char served over fennel-oliver mashers with carmalized cippollini onions, brusssel sprouts in a broken lemon-balsamic vinagrette topped with fried leeks

Creamy Seafood pasta; Cavatelli pasta served with shrimp, scallops, smoked salmon, de-shelled mussels, fennel, and vegetables braised in cream with spinach and diced tomato.

I'm pretty sure tomorrow will have Artic Char over cavatelli pasta with cippollini onions, tomatoes, anchovies and chili flakes topped with pickled onion.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Poll Results, the cod story

Cod is well suited for modern man’s consumption. The lean flesh is rich in proteins and has a low fat content. In the old times it was praised because it can easily be preserved as dried or salted. Cod was probably a favorite dish ever since people inhabited northern Europe and learned to fish. Cod remains have been found among other food trash in a stone-age settlement on Gotland Island in the Baltic. The settlement was dated to 3000 years BC.

It’s no wonder then that Atlantic Cod, specifically those cod populations from North American waters have been drastically overfished and it’s estimated we are now consuming the last 10% of this cod population. Some Canadian cod stocks are so low as to be listed as endangered or threatened. Strict measured have been implemented on both sides of the Atlantic to curtail the decline of the cod populations, but some experts speculate it’s too little too late.

Pacific Cod on the other had is a healthy sustainable fishery. Hook-and line, or trap caught Pacific cod from the U.S. Bering Sea and Aleutian Island areas are considered the consumers most responsible choice.

Man cannot live of cod alone I say. While Lake Whitefish might be a favorite snack of those residing in upper Michigan, it’s mostly a regional delicacy, if you will. Mackerel is a very powerfully flavored fish that doesn’t translate well to the current American’s palette. Both of these fish are perfect in certain instances, but lack broad appeal as the poll shows.

Farmed Sturgeon on the other hand is my personal favorite. While it may be difficult to find at the neighborhood grocery store it is almost always available from my purveyors. The blight of Caspian Sturgeon and the near universal ban on Caspian Caviar makes most people cringe when they hear, “sturgeon.” Fortunately fish farms in California have done an exceptional job creating an eco-responsible product.

For those who have not had sturgeon I greatly encourage you to as soon as possible. The flavor is mild yet satisfying. The texture is rather dense similar to swordfish, but less likely to dry out. I’ve likened a thick hunk of sturgeon to a veal chop. One of my favorite dishes all time is seared sturgeon over truffled black lentils, creamy leeks, and caramelized cippollini onions. I had a dish similar to this at Lola way back when it was in Tremont, and enjoyed it so much that I’ve resurrected it a few times as a special.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Top Chef Final, over and out.

I came across this quote about Top Chef and found it so enlightening I just had so share,

“Once you turn a competition into an entertainment, in other words, you have to leave in the possibility that the wrong guy will win sometime. Rewarding people on sheerly the basis of their ability, and making sure that the most deserving come out on top all the time—that's what the rest of life is for.” Time

I watched an exit interview from Fabio of all places on my Sprint phone, but the content was generally that he was not bitter, yet rejoiceful in the fact he was able to compete and do so well in and of it. It was not necessarily all that humble, but that was the point. While we quibble over whose food we thought was best, or who lacked personality, or who kissed who, we all keep on watching which is what makes the show a success. I’ve always thought my cooking would compete with those chefs, but my personality wouldn’t provide much entertainment. Statements like those in Time just reassure me, I’m working on ‘the rest of life’ part not the T.V. show part of life.

So what do I think? I like the choice of Hosea. The producers decided to portray Stefan in such a poor light that it became difficult to root for him. He did do a really good job over the whole of the show, but what does that mean? Carla was difficult for me to like from the beginning. She laid in waiting until the last few episodes than came out all gang busters near the end almost the exact opposite of Stefan. If you ask me Stefan wanted to win every competition, but Carla was happy to move on to the next day. Or at least that is how things came across to me on the TV. So what about Hosea? Fabio and Stefan lead the pack for the most of the season. Hosea had good competition throughout the season just with them and the daily grind off camera. Did Hosea impress me? No, his food did not impress me, but his ability to stick to his guns, work hard and through diversity was impressive. Like I’ve told many people, “being a chef is only a little bit about cooking,” and this is a good example of my statement.

So as a pre screening for my next poll question, which top chef’s restaurant, would you most like to visit? Theoretically, weather they have a restaurant or not, and assuming travel is not an issue.