Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Purchasing Seafood

Consumer interest in sustainable seafood is lackluster and overshadowed by food safety, according to the results of a consumer survey discussed at the Seafood Business Summit: Consumer Insights on Sustainable Seafood at the International Boston Seafood Show.

The online survey, which polled more than 1,000 consumers, was conducted by the Perishables Group of West Dundee, Ill., in conjunction with Diversified Business Communications of Portland, Maine, which publishes SeaFood Business magazine and SeafoodSource.com.

Survey respondents were asked to rank various factors influencing their purchasing decisions, and “environmental friendliness” ranked No. 6. Food safety ranked 1, followed by type of fish 2 and price at 3.

“With this presentation it’s pretty clear that consumers lack understanding of, or are confused about, sustainable seafood,” added Matthew Owens, director of operations for FishWise, a Santa Cruz, Calif., organization that works with retailers to develop and implement sustainable seafood purchasing policies.

“Based on that, some critics might say that this stuff is a waste of time. But that’s pretty shortsighted for several reasons,” he said. “First, the topic is vital to the future [seafood] supply. Second, the younger generation is the most aware, and they’re going to dominate the marketplace in the future. Third, knowledgeable consumers eat more seafood. And, fourth, we’re at this critical stage between the early adopters and [sustainable seafood] becoming fairly mainstream, and at that stage the first movers have the advantage and other companies are going to get left behind. Sustainable seafood is here to stay, and it’s pretty important that we start to understand what’s resonating with consumers.”

For an easy to use guide to purchasing resposable seafood also explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list of everything seafood and sustainable.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Incredible Edible Egg

What great poll results! Scrambled, fried, and poached all come in neck in neck at the finish line. I love eggs. I love them on their own as a standalone protein, but I also admire their coagulation abilities in making things like custards, puddings, mousses, ice cream, sauces and the such. Eggs seem such an oversight in the professional kitchen. It’s like, “go grab 30 eggs and let’s get going here.” Sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses…or the egg shells.

I suppose the poll really hits home about those eggs we cook at 8 am, in a fog, and hungery. I would have guessed the omelette to garner more votes. I guess they are more of a restaurant item than an everyday thing to make at home. Scrambled eggs are great, but take an extra bowl, and in the home kitchen one more thing to clean is one more reason to not go that direction. Fried eggs are versatile, from soft to hard to sunny side up….ect. The only thing about those two cooking methods is I really hate caramelized/brown eggs. It’s an absolute tragedy in my opinion to cook an egg until it browns.

I’ve really come on to poached eggs lately. No fat, butter, or oil is a healthy decision. Cleaning a poaching pan is easiest of them all. Lastly you can still get that great runny yolk. Three minutes is all it takes! On top of that you don’t have to stop with poached eggs in acidulated water. ElSalvadorian spicy chicken soup with eggs dropped in to poach were a weekly hangover cure for a few years. Eggs poached in a saucy black bean puree topped with Tabasco are equally impressive.

No matter how you enjoy your eggs do your best to support local, humane, organic, sustainable or otherwise responsible egg farmers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Good Fun

Check this out.

My favorite is 23, Croutons. I mean come on. I don't even want to try not breaking my tooth on a 2 month old crouton. Good fun all around though. All the N/A items are a gas.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Meatless Not so Meaningless

I’ve never given much thought into going meatless. I mean of course I’ve had only pancakes and French toast for breakfast before, but that isn’t really what we’re talking about here. Most of my eating decisions start with, “do I want beef, pork, chicken, fish or shrimp,” and especially when dining out I really don’t mind whatever starch or vegetable they come with. It’s just how I and many others think. This isn’t necessarily a conscious thought process it’s just how we are. We are mid-westerners and beef and potatoes is dinner. That’s it; we don’t even have to put any thought into it. Such an easy decision!

I was watching one of the morning news programs during a spell of insomnia, and through my personal morning fog I saw an interview with Tom Colicchio of all people advocating meatless meals. He claimed to be currently eating at least one meatless meal a week. A bold claim for a man known coast to coast for high end steak house restaurants. This got me thinking. How many people out there are interested in meatless eating? Vegetarians have made that decision, but for those of us who keep meat as an option how viable is going meatless occasionally. Why go meatless? I guess there are health reasons, and veggies are ‘green’ plus, why not? Currently only 20% go meatless intentionally while a majority of almost 60% don’t give it much of a thought.

I feel personally challenged to go meatless once a week. I want to turn a new leaf. Try something new, a challenge to myself. I want to take one day a week and intentionally eat no meat. Why? I’m not sure. It’s as if in that haze of insomnia chef Colicchi double dog dared me to do it. We will see how it goes. I’ll keep you updated.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tom Yum Soup

Tom Yum is one of my personal favorite soups. I put a batch together yesterday at work and did a little research on it as well....

Aside from being one of the most popular soups in Thailand, Tom Yum Soup has many health benefits, due to its potent combination of herbs and spices. In fact, this Thai soup is currently under scientific study, as it appears to have immune-boosting power as a natural remedy for cold and flu viruses.

There are a ton of recipes online as you could imagine so let me share with you my version which has a few more ingredients than others. Working out of a restaurant pantry is very accommodating. On the other hand if you have not been to an Asian market in a while maybe this is the inspiration that you need?

Mike's Tom Yum Soup

Part One Veg

one small onion, equal parts carrot and celery

two stalks lemon grass, equal parts ginger

six cloves of garlic

half cup mushroom stems

one heaping teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


three quarts chicken stock, stir in one teaspoon corn starch

one cup coconut milk

zest of one lime

one quarter cup brown sugar

one quarter cup tomato paste or 6 ripe roma tomato. If using ripe tomato then put into Part Two Veg.

Part Two Veg

one cup shitake mushrooms

one cup thinly sliced chicken meat

tablespoon cilantro

mixture of equal parts lime juice, soy sauce and fish sauce, about one tablespoon each

The glaring omission is Kaffir Lime Leaf. It is a constant in most other Tom Yum soup recipes, and I've followed such recipes. In my opinion it's optional at best. I'm guessing the lime leafs fresh off the tree in Thailand are very different from the graying frozen nasty bits I find at the Asian grocery.

To get started cooking take all the produce from Part One Veg and rough chop it then sauté in oil until fragrant. Add the Liquids making sure to stir cornstarch into cold liquid. Simmer this for about an hour then strain. This is your basic broth. When you want to complete the process add the first three items from Part Two Veg and bring to a boil. Add the lime mixture last, off the heat and adjust seasoning.

Notice that there is no call for salt, we leave that for the soy and fish sauce at the end. Also, there is the trinity of flavors, hot, sweet, and sour from the chili flakes, brown sugar, and lime. This is what Tom Yum is known for.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Heat now airing on FLN

I’ve stumbled upon a new kitchen show that some of you might not have found yet. The show is from a chef out of Toronto who owns multiple units with multiple concepts and employs multiple chefs to do the elbow work. Mark McEwan is the celebrity chef on hand and his antics are great! The food that comes out of his kitchens looks great. It’s speaks volumes to pricey over-garnished dishes that leave you hungry yet star struck. Chef McEwan does a great job of motivation, and I’ll give him credit for organization, but his Egyptian cotton chef coat isn’t going to lose a crease, let alone get dirty. The show is compelling though. I’ve been sucked in and want to see what happens at the catered wedding, or the Winterlicious week, or the steak cook off. There are enough interesting shots of the kitchens and plated food to keep any foodie interested. In a good way Chef McEwan and 'The Heat' lacks the ‘annoying’ factor that chases me away from most kitchen shows.

You can find the show on The Fine Living Network at 11 am, or online here.

I hope you find the show as enjoyable as I have.


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Early March Pictures

I kicked off March with an offering of boneless lamb loin paired with braised Tuscan kale, sauteed apples, chedder cheese, and crispy potato in a blueberry-balsamic demi-glace

More recently I dished up this beef tenderloin drenched in Frescobaldi extra-virgin olive oil over braised white beans and Tuscan kale in a spicy tomato-fennel sauce topped with crspy cappicolla.

I don't have anything against vegans or veg-heads, but I do find this picture humorous.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Movie Night

I didn’t expect such a landslide of a vote for a favorite foodie movie. Looking at the options I am seeing a foodie movie and a romance that happens to have a chocolate shop involved. Big Night is a great movie. I really enjoy it. I’ve watched it more than a few times as I get sucked in after only a few minutes. But there is a story there about life struggles, about hope, success, family and the funny bits about Italian American cuisine, angry chefs, and general kitchen behavior. I can’t think of another movie before or since that has centered around a kitchen/restaurant that shed light on some of the real emotional struggles we go through. Big Night is in my opinion and yours a top notch foodie movie and one I can’t wait to see again.

Wait, there is one movie that comes to mind that centers on a kitchen, has real emotional themes, and is at least sometimes honest…. ‘Waiting’ I don’t consider this a foodie movie. It is a shock and awe comedy at best. It’s a mis-mash of dinner’s most extravagant fears and put them in a semi-realistic setting. The personality types, the corporate environment, and the personal interaction among the staff are humorous. Those of us in the business can usually pick at least one character and admit we worked with someone just like that. By no means am I implying that Waiting is a good representation of any professional kitchen that I’ve ever worked, but it does take every aspect of what does exist and push it to the max. In this way Waiting is a funny restaurant movie.