Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bread Pudding...keeping it simple

I found these ratios to make a great bread pudding. The key to a perfect output is multi-fold. First soak the bread for an hour, trust the recipe because the mixture looks crazy loose at first but after an hour is perfect. Second, cook in as pan, covered, and in a waterbath. In my opinion the lack of a crust is a good thing. Lastly, consider pressing the bread pudding as it cools. This can be done easily by setting a similarly sized pan on top of the one with the bread pudding in it, resting this in the fridge with a few jars on top.

Bread Pudding

1# bread, preferably a rich egg bread, brioche, challah, or egg buns

1 quart Heavy Cream, this is not a diet dish

2 whole eggs

6 yolks

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 -2 cups sweetener, white sugar is a good start, but brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup would all be good used in combination

Dice the bread into inch square sized pieces. Mix everything else together before adding the bread, toss, rest for an hour. Pre-heat oven to 350. Bring a pot of water to boil and turn off. After an hour turn the bread mixture into a pan. Note 1. Cover this pan with plastic wrap, then foil. Place this pan in a larger pan and cover this pan with foil leaving a corner open. Place this contraption in the over and poor the warm water that was boiled into the big pan that holds the pan with the breading mixture....this is a waterbath and allows the mixture to cook evenly. Cook roughly an hour for a two inch high pan. The mixture will firm up and puff a bit, then fall once out of the heat. Press for a few hours, unmold, cut, reheat to serve.

Note 1. To make unmolding easy use pan spray to coat the inside of the pan, then coat the inside of the pan with plastic wrap leaving a good amount over the edges since the only bad thing that could happen is an edge of the plastic wrap falls in the pudding. When you cover the top of this pan secure it to the inner lining. The pan spray makes the plastic wrap stick to the pan while allowing you to push it around also.

New Restaurant Poll Results

I’ve been involved in the opening of only one restaurant so far in my time, and it is a daunting, nerve racking experience that can churn anyone into a meatball of spent emotion. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be fun to do it again….like a rollercoaster or a haunted house. That is from the restaurant point of view though and that is not what our poll question was about.

This poll is the first one, although the total votes are low, to be 100% consistent. Wait a month to make reservations at a newly opened restaurant is the consensus. Not an altogether unrealistic attitude. A few questions pop into my head like, who is dining at these new places the first month? What happens after 6 weeks that doesn’t happen after 3 that is so desirable? A month in a restaurant is a long time, experience wise, financially, functionally, emotionally. Personally, outside of opening night I’m willing to go to any new restaurant and support them anytime.

This whole new restaurant thing got me thinking about a few places that where once new that I’ve yet to go to; Crop is defiantly on the top of this list, L’abatrose, Roast, and go back to the Greenhouse. That is my list.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Last week-end of January 2010

Here we have all the staples of a modern kitchen....laptop, ipod, iphone, android phone, ipod docking station....hand blender, heating lamp, squeeze bottles, sharp knives....

Stuffed Quail; maple-duck sausage stuffing, root vegetable 'risotto', romanesco sauce, crispy leeks. In a unique celebrity sighting at Nemo, Anderson Varejao of the Cavs, enjoyed this dish going out the next day helping the Cavs to victory with 10 rebounds and 6 points in 27 minutes of play.

Elk Stew: Braised boneless Elk osso-bucco, Killbuck Valley mushrooms, root vegetables and white beans in a rich Elk broth topped with fresh herbs. This dish came out great! The osso-bucco cooked very uneven to start the process resulting in change of pace. The rather small cuts of Elk took over 6 hours to braise. Even then I felt like a few of them needed more time. For this reason I ditched the bones, diced up the meat, and concentrated on the broth which successfully brought everything together. The gamey Elk flavor plays a star roll here. It just doesn't make sense to bring in a unique product like Elk and cover up it's true flavors drowning it in bbq sauce or spices.

A taste for egg salad

I spared these few farm fresh eggs from being cooked. That big brown one is the biggest egg I've ever seen in my life. It was busting out of the container.

Making hard boiled eggs is so simple at first glance, but finding a way to do it perfectly is a bit tricky. I've seen it done a lot of different ways, and this is what I've settled on; Start the eggs in cool water, bring to a hard boil for one minute. Turn the heat off and cover, let stand for 11 minutes. After 11 minutes bring back to a boil and immediatly shock in ice water once a boil is achieved. The result is a fully cooked yet moist egg that lacks that dredded blue yolk, and is easy to peel.

Oh, just perfect! Simple is best. I bought an egg slicer just for this task. Eggs, mayo, relish, salt and pepper is all I need to make a good egg salad sandwich.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mid January Pics

One of this weeks specials: Root vegetable and beef brisket cassoulette topped with grilled pork tenderloin, duck sausage and applewood smoked bacon.

A second weekly special: Grilled filet of beef, whipped root vegetables, sautee spinach with Neuske bacon, carmalized apples and pecans in a maple demi-glace

Seasoned salmon waiting for a smoking hot pan.

Spicy stuffed peppers waiting to go in the oven.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pork Poll part two

Pork Shoulder was to my surprise the second place vote getter in the ‘favorite cut of pork’ poll. As some of you might know I’m a huge fan of pork shoulder. A quick search of this blogs reveals 6 other posts that include pork shoulder. Most recently I had the guts to suggest replacing the Thanksgiving turkey with pork shoulder! I could go on about pork shoulder the same way Forest Gump went on about shrimp.

Pork shoulder as the name suggests is the upper shoulder portion of the pig from the front leg. Sometimes called a picnic ham because it’s smaller than the traditional hams cut from the back of the pig. This cut might also be called pork butt or Boston butt. It’s ironic that this cut is from the front of the animal, but that really has nothing to do with the name. Around the time of the Revolutionary War Boston was a major butchering city. The way the pork shoulder was cut in Boston became the standard, and was shipped and or cured in barrels called ‘butts’ hence the name.

Pork butts are in my opinion the most versatile cut or pork available. The shoulder can be roasted or braised whole with the bone in or the bone removed and replaced with a stuffing. The meat to fat ratio is perfect for making sausage. The meat can be cubed for stew, city chicken or kebabs. Steaks can be cut from the shoulder but need to be rather thin. The steak cut takes well to being pounded out and breaded. Maybe the most popular preparation is Southern BBQ where the meat is cooked slow and low till it shreds under its own weight, is slathered with a tangy sauce and served with white bread.

When purchasing pork shoulder there is usually a decant price difference between bone in vs. bone out. If you are roasting the whole thing or are cutting the pork into small pieces get the less expensive bone in product. In fact a roasted pork bone makes a good doggy treat. If you want a uniformly round stuff-able roast then get the boneless or if you don’t want to mess with cutting out the bone, the price difference isn’t staggering. In any case try to purchase as large a whole piece as you want to use. I tend to shy away from buying pre-cut, cubed, or strips of meat. The chance for contamination increases with handling and smaller pieces of meat age faster.

This is my favorite preparation of pork shoulder. I’ve had this on a few different menus so I’ve had time to perfect it….

Braised Pork Shoulder

1 pork shoulder, 5 pounds, cut into uniform 3 inch dice

Spice blend consisting of equal parts coriander, cinnamon, mustard powder, ¼ part clove, sugar and salt.

2 large onions and 10 garlic cloves rough chopped
2 quarts chicken stock.

Pre-heat the oven at 500 degrees. Mix the spice blend. For 5 pounds of meat start with ¼ cup or coriander ect… coat the meat with the spice mixture and arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan, or sheet tray (this may or may not be what you finish the braise in.) Cook the meat about 10 minutes at 500 degrees, this sets the spices into the meat and toasts them allowing them to be more fragrant and penetrate the meat. I’ve done this with only tossing the meat with the spice, but it all just washes off in the braise unless you roast it first. Combine the roasted meat, vegetables, and chicken stock in a vessel suitable for braising, cover the meat with water if needed. Reduce the heat to 300, and expect to cook for at least 1 ½ hours.

I like to cut the pork up because I have better control over having a uniformly cooked end product in a realistic amount of cooking time. I’ve also learned that if you cook the meat until it shreds in the braise it is in fact overcooked and will be dry. The trick is to take it out of the oven as soon as one of the larger pieces starts to break apart. I don’t bother with celery or carrots because I don’t think they lend anything with the strong flavor of the spice mix headlining the show. Lastly, recover the braise liquid, degrease it, keep the onions and garlic in it and reduce. A strong whisk or a stick blender makes good work of the vegetables by then and you have the perfect sauce.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pork Poll part one

As expected the ‘favorite cut of pork’ poll went heavy on the bacon/belly lovers. I really should have broken those two up. Bacon is belly, but a slice of bacon, as in ‘bacon and eggs’ is so distant from a hunk of roasted belly. Unfortunately cooking pork belly, or turning it into bacon is something done quite rarely in the home kitchen. Really the most difficult part is finding a reasonably sized piece of raw belly.
You can skip the chain grocery store since I’ve never seen pork belly there. A good start is the West Side Market. There are multiple vendors there selling raw belly and unsliced bacon. Try to purchase a piece that is of a consistent thickness with a good amount of meat. Generally the thicker end has too little fat and tends to be tough while the thinner end has almost no meat, and we don’t want that extreme either. I’ve made this recipe quite a few times now, and every time I do I pledge to do it again only sooner.

Roasted Bacon

3 lb section of center cut pork belly, skin and bones removed

1 cup each sugar and salt
1 tblsp crushed red pepper
¼ pound fresh thyme

Mix everything together and put in a zip lock bag. Keep refrigerated and flip the bag over every day for 5-6 days. The meat will lose some moisture and firm up.

At this point rinse of the pork of excess curing mix and dry it off. Roast in a 250 degree oven, preferably on a rack for at least an hour or until an internal temperature of 160 is reached.

This recipe produces a rather sweet end product but a little heat and herb flavor keeps the sweetness from being overpowering. This roasted belly is quite versatile, it can by sliced thin and fried like bacon or diced up and crisped yielding a crispy outside and soft interior. Since it is fully cooked it can be enjoyed chilled as well. Be aware that since there is no nitrites the pork will be brown instead of red like the bacon at the grocery store this does not mean the meat is bad.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Another Week-end Closes in

This week-end specials rouned out quite nicely....

Meat: Grilled Filet of Beef, roast garlic mashers, brocollini sauteed in porcini butter, Killbuck Valley mushrooms, and espresso-balsamic steak sauce.

App: Grilled maple-duck sausage...served with braised beluga lentils and sweet&sour raddichio...changing over to a frizee salad in truffle dressing.

Fish: Sautee of shrimp and scallops with Romesco sauce, 'dirty' rice, and sauteed spinach with bannana pepper and kalimata olives.


On your next trip to the grocery....

Nutritionist and author Jonny Bowden has created several lists of healthful foods people should be eating but aren’t. But some of his favorites, like purslane, guava and goji berries, aren’t always available at regular grocery stores. Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times asked Dr. Bowden, author of “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,” to update his list with some favorite foods that are easy to find but don’t always find their way into our shopping carts. Here’s his advice.

Beets: Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.

How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.

Cabbage: Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.

How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.

Swiss chard: A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.

How to eat it: Chop and saute in olive oil.

Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.

How to eat it: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.

Pomegranate juice: Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.

How to eat: Just drink it.

Dried plums: Okay, so they are really prunes, but they are packed with antioxidants.

How to eat: Wrapped in prosciutto and baked.

Pumpkin seeds: The most nutritious part of the pumpkin and packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.

How to eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.

Sardines: Dr. Bowden calls them “health food in a can.” They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.

How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread.

Turmeric: The “superstar of spices,” it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

How to eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or in any vegetable dish.

Frozen blueberries: Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don’t spoil; associated with better memory in animal studies.

How to eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.

Canned pumpkin: A low-calorie vegetable that is high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A; fills you up on very few calories.

How to eat: Mix with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.

What a great list. The original article can be found here. The best ideas that anyone can walk away with is that frozen, dried, and canned products can still be healthy for you. The suggested vegetables ironicly are also ones with an extended shelf life unlike those designer mixed greens that seem to last about 24 hours out of the store. Blueberries and yogurt is sounding pretty tastey to me right now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cleveland Food Inspections Go Live!

Today the Cleveland Department of Public Health has made available online the inpsection reports of the food serving and selling establishments that they have been to. I like to put the good spin on it, and hope that when I search for my local grocery, pizza shop, deli...ect, they come up clean. Unfortunatly it's just a matter of time till someone goes thru them all and starts spurting out a bad way. I'm sure you're interested, and you can start your search here

Friday, January 08, 2010

Weekly Ideas

This was my contibutions to the weekly specials at Nemo Grille. I really like the flavor combination of braised lentils and truffled leeks, which we have done here and paired with citrus poached scallops and fried leeks.

I had an interesting idea while making mini-cheesecakes for a catering event....upside-down cheescake! Why not put the crust on the top? I had enough product left over to give it a try, and sure enough it worked out fairly well. I formed the crust into and up the sides of dome molds, dropped in a spoonful of blueberry preserves, and poured the cheesecake mix over it.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the final plate, but I did pair it with a blueberry pesto and balsamic syrup. Yes the pesto had basil and pine nuts in it. Something I've done in the past that worked well with goat cheese, and sure enough worked well here also.

10 worst dining trends of the last decade

I found this article rather interesting. I think I've touched on every one of the ten in one way or another the past 10 years. Funny stuff to look back on.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Cookbook Gift

I was lucky enough to receive Michael Symon’s new cookbook “Live to Cook” as a Christmas gift (thanks mom and dad). I was uneven about the book before looking through it. I thought to myself, “I’ve been to old Lola, new Lola, and Lolita why do I need the book.” My insight on this was deftly wrong. The book is great. I love it. The recipes seem familiar because I’ve had the dish, yet refreshing to find that one ingredient or technique I didn’t expect. The recipes are also sized to fit the home kitchen, which is a tricky proposition, but one I trust have been tested and true for this book.

The short stories and descriptions of life that dot the book are also interesting. From wrestling at St. Ed’s, our shared alma mater, to opening the doors of Lola with no cash, all seem like real stories that anyone can relate to, making the book as a whole even that more interesting.

I’ve been motivated, and that is saying a lot. The descriptions in and of themselves of pickling has conjured up a drive in me to be more complete with my prep. I used to prepare a nice sachet of herbs and spices for a pickle, the usual….coriander, cinnamon, peppercorns, clove, allspice, and some thyme or rosemary. Slowing I regressed to nothing more than vinegar, sugar, and water, but no longer. That little sachet is what makes the difference. Upon reading this cookbook cover to cover I’m re-dedicated to being much more interested in the dishes I prepare; from prep to plating, ordering and receiving, organizing and executing. Thank you Michaels for the great book!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Pork and Sourkraut Poll Results

It looks like not only me, but plenty of pork was eaten the past few days. But 'why' I asked myself. I found the following facts with the help of

The custom of eating pork on New Year's is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Roast suckling pig is served for New Year's in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria—Austrians are also known to decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan. Different pork dishes such as pig's feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

In addition to the aforementioned lucky foods, there are also a few to avoid. Lobster, for instance, is a bad idea because they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.

2009 Review

It’s the 2009 wrap up! I can’t really put a good twist on things at this time so I figured I would throw a twist on the whole year in review thing and make a list of lists. Lets’ see how this works……

Best Happy Hour of 09

Salmon Dave’s half price apps
Momocho, half price taquitos
Taco Tuesday at The Riverwood, $1 tacos!
Pearl of the Orient’s half price apps on Tuesday.

Best Meal of 09

The one and only Foie I had the past 12 months at Three Birds. I need to eat more foie!

Favorite Drink of 09

Ezra Brooks 90 proof Bourbon
Arnold Palmer with a lemon

Most frequented Blog of 09

Line Cook


Sports by Brooks

Most Frequent listened to song on ITunes in 09

The Grey Album
Gunsmoke by The Coup
It’s a Metaphor dialogue on The Last Time I Committed Suicide soundtrack

Number of Employers the past 12 months

3, including the Government.

Most Interesting things happening on the culinary front for me in 09

Going from completely engulfed in the ‘local’ movement to completely ambivalent to it.

Creating, opening, and successfully operating 2 new dinner operations in the past 2 years only to end up back at square one.

Becoming, and staying unemployed for almost 5 months.

Best things in 09

My family and their health
My GF and her companionship and love
My job at Nemo Grille

Best Dishes I created in 09

Rabbit Ragout, roasted whole local organic rabbit braised in a rich tomato broth served over Ohio City Pasta’s Herb Parpadelle topped with a chive marscapone

Head Cheese, classic fromage de tete, served with pickled vegetables and toast points

Beer Cheese Soup, Great Lakes Porter and white chedder go great together.

Caesar Salad satay, Italian white anchovies wrapped around romain....who would have thought?

Single item I’ve eaten most in 09

Ground beef

Best New Places I’ve been in 09

Black Bird Bakery

Bar Symon

Greenhouse Tavern

Best Blast from the Past in 09

Combo’s snack
Linden Tavern


Most Ambitious NY resolutions

Re-juvinate career
Loss about 200 lb
Take a vacation