Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things to talk about...Crab Cakes with pineapple-cucumber salsa...blackened Mahi...bolognese sauce...steak with creamy sweet potato, truffle and goat cheese puree...chicken picatta!

Ugh...where to start. I wanted to do this blog on a daily basis but it appears I have not written anything in over a week.lol. I have been trying to get things figured out with Le Cordon Bleu and when I will actually be able to start classes.

So since I usually write about the specials I made that particular night or the past couple nights, here are a few in a row and if anyone likes them then they can check them out.

Chicken Picatta

2 Chicken breasts, boneless
2 tbsp shallots finely diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp capers
Juice of 1 lemon and pinch of zest
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp fresh parsley
salt n pepper to taste
1 loose packed cup of fresh arugula (optional)
1/2-3/4 cup flour
3 tbsp of unsalted butter

First I pounded the shit out of the chicken and lightly coated them with the flour and some salt and pepper. After setting them aside, I placed a hot saute pan over my burner and threw in my olive oil, shallots, garlic and diced onion and cooked them for about 3 minutes or until au sec and then deglaze the pan with a little of the white wine. I then add the rest of the olive oil and the chicken. I cook the chicken for approximately 1 minute and then add in my capers, lemon juice and zest, remaining wine and I reduce the liquid by half (or until thickened slightly). I then add in the fresh arugula (for mine) and remove from heat. I then dice the butter up and slowly stir into the sauce to thicken. I poured this over some basmati rice and garnished it with a pinch of fresh parsley and julienne strips of manchego (a delicious sheeps milk cheese) over top. Oh and yeah....you guessed it...served with grilled asparagus!!LOL

Alrighty then...on another night, I pretty much took the easy way out and just blackened a mahi filet. I served it with my morrocan spiced carrots and a cucumber-pineapple salsa across the mahi filet. This dish really needs no special introduction or attention for that matter. Basic, simple, and delicious were the ingredients. We sold a bunch of them.

Now....whats better than fresh salsa???? Fresh salsa...the next day!!! Of course when you give your salsa, dressing, sauce, marinade, or anything along those lines, time to sit and meld together longer, it's gonna be really good!

So I decided to make maryland style crab cakes the other night...SUCCESS!!!

Maryland-Style Crab Cakes

1 lb of fresh lump crab meat
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup mayonaisse
1/2 cup cream cheese diced
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 egg
1 tsp of dried tarragon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp of sea salt
1 tbsp of lobster base (optional)
a pinch or two of old bay seasoning (optional)

I basically mixed all the ingredients except for 2 eggs and the panko bread crumbs. First I mixed into a 4 qt mixing bowl, the mayo, cream cheese, dijon mustard, 1 egg, tarragon, cayenne and lobster base and set aside in cooler for ten minutes. Then I took another 4 qt bowl and mixed my rep peppers, onions, and plain bread crumbs together thoroughly and set aside for 5-10 minutes in fridge. Then I mixed the two bowls together into 1. I then took a 4 oz scoop and scooped out leveled scoops of the mix onto a sheetpan (flat side down) to chill in fridge for around thirty minutes or so. Then I take another sheetpan and press down slightly to even out all the mounds with flat tops and bottoms and then I place each cake into an eggwash and then bread in the panko bread crumbs. After that, I returned them to the fridge until needed for an order. I cooked them in olive oil in a pan and served over arugula with the cucumber-pineapple salsa and remoulade on each side. Sold out half way through dinner!!

Another night I made a Strip Steak with rutabaga (a type of turnip) and potato smash on side. I served a creamy truffle, goat cheese and sweet potato puree over the top of the steak. With braised pearl onions and mushrooms.

Truffle, Goat, Sweet Potato Puree

1 large sweet potato peeled and diced
4 oz of fresh soft goat cheese
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 oz of truffle oil
1 tsp of dried tarragon
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbspoon of brown sugar

I took a 1 lb strip steak and seasoned it only with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. After grilling the steak to temperature I set aside to rest a bit. While this is happening I had one large sweet potato diced, and boiling down in a pot. In another pot I placed about 1/2 cup of heavy cream, goat cheese and truffle oil and reduced the liquid by a third. When the sweet potato is done, I add the cream mixture to the pan and mix thoroughly using an immersion blender until the texture is a silky, velvety cream that melts in your mouth. I also took a 1 lb bag of pearl onions, peeled them, and cooked them in some balsmic vinegar for 20 minutes or so and then tranferred to another sauce pan where I added olive oil and some merlot for deglazing my pan. I then lowered my heat and continued cooking the onions in oil and deglazing with the merlot. I also took a lb or so of brussel sprouts and cooked them "amanda style".LOL I first blanched them in boiling water and then an ice bath. I then cut up a lb of bacon and a whole onion and started cooking it in the pan and threw in the brussel spouts and cooked them down until thoroughly carmelized througout the pan, using some of the balsmic glaze from the other pan as well.

I'm sure there was something else to write about but it's late and it's my moms birthday and Im goona go hang with her now :-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Break time... and...appetizer...Salmon Mousse Amuse Bouche(sort of)

The other night Eric Hassard made the special for the evening and I must say it was fantastic for two reasons. One reason is that I needed a break for a day, but the bigger reason is that he was able to sell about ten of his specials on a very very dead saturday night. He made a scallop pasta sauce with a tomato cream base(similar to vodka sauce) and it was delicious!
Now for me, I spent the duration of dinner doing some very deep cleaning in the kitchen with John(asst GM). The stove looked spectacular when we were done with it. There is even more cleaning planned for the near future going even deeper inside equipment. John, along with myself(and anyone else that cares), completely believe in a pristine kitchen, being clean inside as well as outside. I'm a bit of a hard-ass about cleanliness.lol I truly believe that when you love what you are doing you are more likely to take alot more pride in your work.

So, Sunday came and went. Brunch was okay as far as profits go. I really wished we could have been busier.

I made a salmon mousse and chilled it in the fridge. I took a small 2 inch ring mold and cut out two circles of sourdough(preferably ciabatta). I thoroughly coated them in olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper and sent them through the impinger(an open convection oven with conveyor belt) a couple times to make them nice and crispy. I then took a 1 ounce ice cream scoop and put one (level) scoop of the mouse on top of each sourdough piece. I layered a few julienne strips of fresh mozz across the top and sent them through the impinger one more time. When they came out I placed two slice of grape tomato on top, pinch of dill, a pinch of lemon zest and a small squirt of lemon juice over top, both served over a small bed of fresh arugula. It was tastey. Dont know if it sold, my shift was up.lol

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ugh....It's Crunch-Time baby!!

....whatever. So last night I did a very simple special that was so delicious! I basically just made a gazpacho and mussels over linguine with some garlic herb crostini.

I came to work and started the Gazpacho right away and check to see if we even had mussels in stock to begin with.

For the Gazpacho, I took ten tomatoes, 2 large jalapenos, 1 long "seedless" cucumber, 5 cloves of garlic, 1 bushel of cilantro, 1 tablespoon of ground cumin seed, half of a fennel bulb, the zest and juice of 1 lime, 1/2 cup olive oil or so, and 1 tbsp of sea salt. I removed most of the excess tomato seed and all of tomato cores, the jalapeno seeds and cucumber seeds as well. If you want it a little more spicy you may add a little cayenne. I roughly chopped all these ingredients and added all the the food processor and pureed it all thoroughly.

I then took a hot saute pan and threw in about 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp of garlic minced and 1 tsp shallots minced and cook for 30 seconds or so, until the scent is released from the garlic and shallot mixture. Then I dropped in 12-13 fresh live mussels and splash it just a bit with some white wine. Then I poured 2oz. of fish stock over the mussels and then 6oz. of Gazpacho over that and cooked for 2-3 minutes. I dropped in 8 oz of fresh linguine and tossed thoroughly. I chiffonade(very very thin slicing) some fresh basil for a garnish on top and two pieces of garlic herb crostini. Yummy as hell!!

We had a meeting this morning for the kitchen staff only and it pretty much went as usual covering all the basics, except that my boss(one of them) tells me that it should take no longer than 20-30 minutes to come up with a special....hmmmm, so that would mean I would have to try and guess what me might have in stock. The other day I bought some watermelon from Publix (I was reimbursed for of course) and somebody ate it, or took it home or whatever. It's almost becoming like my own nightmare version of chopped(my favorite cooking show). I get a mystery basket(of sorts) and have between 20-30 minutes to complete the dish. It has to make sense, taste amazing, have a great presentation, and be something that we can easily produce during high volume... I must say, I do love a challenge:-)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Strange night, pretty good special

Well last night was a little slow for a ladies night. I felt kinda weird all night. It wasn't really busy, but we were busy enough for a while to make it seem busy, yes and no. Make sense?lol

About 2:30pm I texted LJ and asked him to please start a fish stock for me. He did and when I got there it was smelling good. I chopped and added the last couple scallops from the line and some other things. The fish stock was made with water, salmon trimmings, scallop, shrimp, onion, pepper(red and green), celery, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme.

I wanted to use a fish stock in my seafood special for a nice deep flavor.

If you want to make a stock of any sort but your not sure how, just collect the bones or carcass of a chicken, beef rib bones, fish bones, pork bones and scraps of each of the those as well. You should always save your carrot, celery, pepper, and onion scraps at home(the ends, the peelings) in a freezer bag in the freezer.

Anyways, your going to want about an 8 quart stock pot(just a big ass cooking pot). If you don't happen to have the veggie scraps on hand then you will need one large onion(yellow or red) roughly chopped, 2-3 entire stalks(with leaves) of celery chopped, 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 green pepper, 1 small carrot roughly chopped. Put all of that into a bowl and set aside.

Pour a 1/4 cup of olive oil into the hot stock pot, then about 2 oz minced garlic, 2-3 oz minced shallot and let cook for 1 minute. Then drop in your bowl of vegetables(or an equal amount in weight of saved veggie scraps) and cook until the olive is gone. De glaze the pan with a little water and just a splash of wine if you prefer. Now dump in your 6 quarts of water into the pot and add any extras you wish to add. In this case I added thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf which worked perfectly to make my stock much more hearty and rich.

Now depending how strong you would like the flavor to be, you may opt to just throw the bones into the water, or you could(ahead of time) broil the bones in the oven for a bit. This is what I do at home. Have to cook those bones before they go into the water. As I said though, it is based on your personal preference. dump in any meat and skin scraps you have along with the bones.

Now you just bring it all to a boil and stir every few minutes for until the liquid has reduced to half in the stock pot. At this point, I would just let it simmer a bit longer, perhaps an extra hour. Then you just strain out all the muck that will be leftover and the juice you see is your stock!

When Amanda and I were living together we would always have like 5 quarts of chicken stock and 5 quarts of beef stock and freezer baggies of veggie scraps and bone scraps at all times. A little production kitchen for two.LOL

Anyways, my fish stock was done. I took one large diver scallop, scored and seasoned it and pan seared it. While that was happening, in a hot saute pan I squirted about 2 tablespoons olive oil, dropped in a teaspoon of garlic and one of shallots as well. I then drop 4 fresh mussels into the pan and small squirt of white wine and let it cook a minute. I then dropped in 1 diced scallop, 2 oz of rock shrimp, 1 oz sliced Davina(roasted) tomatoes, then ladled in 4 oz of fish stock and about 2 oz of cream. While that is cooking I slightly seasoned (salt,pepper,cayenne,cumin) two of our medium to large 16/20 shrimps and oil and grilled them. While the sauce is starting to simmer, I set aside my pan seared scallop, along with the four mussels from the pan. I go back to my pan and start to toss it up. I add sea salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. I then add 8 oz of fresh linguine and toss thoroughly.

I then threw 2 pieces of fresh sliced ciabatta into the oven for a couple minutes. While that is happening I use tongs to pull the pasta out of the pan and into the bowl as well as the shrimp and scallop. There is a couple ounces of sauce left in the bottom of my pan. I set it aside for the moment and place the mussels in around the plate like a compass-like formation. I then placed the pan seared scallop in the middle and a shrimp leaning against each opposite side of the scallop. I used the remaining sauce to drizzle across the mussels and once across the middle(the scallop and shrimps). I take the two pieces of crostini(ciabatta in this case) and spread a tiny smear of fresh garlic herb butter(I made here and there while doing the rest.LOL) across each and place across the bowl from one another facing opposite directions. 

It tasted very good I thought. It sold like 3...maybe 4. I know the servers made it vanish rather quickly so I felt pretty good about it. Apparently some people thought it sounded fantastic but just couldn't see paying the price for it. WHAT? Seriously? It was priced about 8 dollars below what it would easily sell for in other restaurants with similar menu's to ours. What can I say?lol

Some people are way too busy being "experts" to enjoy anything in life. Hopefully the people that did order it, enjoyed it immensely. I don't recall any feedback at all last night so who knows.lol

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Easy special last night...

Wow, I feel like I have so much going on lately. I've skipped some days I know, but some days I just dont feel like writing anything.lol So rather than try and predict what would be available to me to use for a special last night, I decided to take a rather easy way out and just do a special flatbread.

I took 5 granny smith apples and peeled and cored them and threw the scraps into a pan with some water. I boiled it for a few minutes and strained it. I then added 2 quart of water to the strained liquid, 4 oz. of cider glaze and 3 cups of sugar. I reduced this mixture to half making a syrup. I had diced up the apples already (large diced) and then I threw them into the syrup and cooked until completely translucent and my syrup was thick(about 10-15 minutes).

I then thin sliced about a half lb. of pancetta, crisped the slices in the oven and let cool.

I then took a flatbread and placed about 4 oz mozzarella shredded, 2 oz blue cheese crumbles, a small handful of arugula(a peppery, leafy green often found in any spring mix), about 2 oz of crumbled pancetta, scooped the pieces of apple(about 2 oz) across the top and drizzled the syrup(about 1 oz) and topped it all of with about 1 oz of fresh goat cheese and sprinkle of salt n pepper. I called it a Candy Apple Pancetta Flatbread.lol Not bad, we sold like 5 or 6 of them.

Apparently Wednesdays are pretty dead. We got a little pop between 730 and 830pm but it was nothing too serious. Me and Andrew knocked it out. I must say, for a server working extra hours as a cook, I wish it was the other way around because Andrews doing an amazing job in the kitchen.

Anyways, yeah it was kind of an off night so to speak but it was cool. I stay up all night and wake up at like 730-800 in the morning so I better try and take a nap. Dont wanna go to work tired.lol

Monday, November 8, 2010

Slow Night, Good Bite

Haha the title of this entry is kinda silly but kinda true too so....notazoo!!

Saturday night was slow and uneventful. There was a slight little pop here and there but cetainly no where near a descent night(business-wise) In the kitchen I teamed up with Eric Hassard again to put out my special for the evening.

First I made a sweet corn sauce including truffle oil, cremini and cayenne. Then I took already pre-crisped and pulverized pancetta, a little panko, and mixed them together for a light breading. For my vegetable, try and guess what I used.....go ahead guess.....you have a 50/50 chance.....thats right, asparagus!LOL While I was working on these things, eric made his own version of my sauce idea and I was glad he did. It turned out fantastic. Not too mild, not too sweet. He made a coconut curry lime sauce for my scallops.

I used our diver scallops and slightly breaded each side of each of them before setting into a hot pan of olive oil. I would have preferred canola but I work with what I'm givin(actually I bought the coconut milk at publix)lol. So after pan searing these on both sides I throw the pan(containing 3 large scallops- approximately 2 to 2 1/2 ounces a piece) into the oven at 400 degrees for about 2-3 minutes(maybe longer depending on a single persons preference).

I pan seared my asparagus with olive oil and salt n pepper, because if I didn't already say by now, I love it that way and other people do too!

I then took a hot 4 quart sauce pan with about a half cup of olive oil in it and dropped in about 1/2 cup of white small diced onion and caramelized them, then added 1 cup of minced cremini and 4 tbsp of white truffle oil, 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup heavy cream, 2 tsp ginger, salt n pepper, and 2 tsp of ground cayenne pepper. I added 5 cups of fresh corn last to preserve it's crunch a little longer. It came out just as I thought it would and with the cayenne involved it gives you a swift little kick and then goes.

For my coconut, curry, lime sauce I was going to use coconut milk(1 cup), 2 tbsp of ground curry, 1 tbsp of cilantro, 1/2 oz lime juice or so, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup of soy sauce. I believe Eric used garlic, ginger, coconut milk, coriander, lime juice, and curry...and maybe something else I cant remember. All I know is his came out great! It was a very flavorful, yet mild, accompaniment to the dish!

On one of our square plates I placed a heaping 1 once scoop of the corn salad into each corner of the plates leaving one corner open. I then placed two asparagus spears pointing from the base of each of the piles(in each corner) to the empty corner of the plate. I then placed 1 scallop on each of the three piles in the corners and we drizzled the coconut, curry lime sauce across the tops of the scallops. I must say we were very pleased with our outcome. Not only did the plate come out delicious as well as visually appealing, it sold very well for a really dead night with complements from some of the guests on how fantastic it was. Another job well done!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Now for friday night!! What a fantastic night at work!

I have to say, besides the incompetence in our ordering as of late(I'm just not going to go there), there is a silver lining to this cloud of doom lingering over the kitchen for the past few weeks, due to a major attitude overhaul with another particular employee, he is back to his old self again and running really strong again!!

Last night was the first evidence(since chef left us) that the kitchen may actually have a chance to succeed now. We had a great night money wise and team wise! Like a well oiled machine, smoothly going through the motions no matter the amount of orders coming in. A big night for a somewhat younger crew and I couldn't be more proud of my kitchen brothers coming together and really banging out the orders last night. Sometimes it takes someone believing in you and giving you a chance, a little more responsibility to feel appreciated and to just feel as if you have a purpose to fulfill.

For a special I made a type of Tuscan-like stuffed chicken with filler/stuffing for a chicken breast with a goat cream sauce with a little lemon zest and once again...asparagus!ugh. Anyways, I made the best of the situation as always.

I first took ten chicken breasts and pounded them out carefully so that I would be able to roll them somewhat tightly without them tearing apart. LJ helped me out with this so I could tend to the stuffing.

For the stuffing I got a hot saute pan with about 1/4 cup of olive oil in it and dropped in 2 shallots minced, 1 half red onion finely diced, 2 cups cremini sliced, 1/2 cup of diced artichoke hearts, 1 cup of finely diced crispy pancetta, 1 tbsp or so of black pepper(to taste) and cooked all together thoroughly. I then mixed in some goat cheese(about 1/2 cup), mozzarella(about 1 cup) and 1 cup of panko bread crumbs. It came out tasting rich and delicious.

So I took the flattened out chicken breasts and covered them in leaf spinach each, spread a generous amount of stuffing across the top of that and then rolled it up into a spiral and wrapped each individually(tightly) in plastic wrap. I then dropped them into some boiling water for approx. 3 minutes or so, just to kind of blanche them and set aside to cool for later.

For my sauce, I wanted to have something creamy with a little bite to it. The stuffing, due to the use of pancetta, was already salty enough, so I had to keep it mild, so to speak. For the bite, I did not use any heat(as far as peppers, chile's,etc.), I used some fresh lemon zest. I love using fresh lemon, lime, or orange zest in many dishes since it really wakes the palate, making for a more enjoyable dining experience.

I took a quart of heavy cream and reduced it by a quarter. I also took a couple shallots, minced them, added to a hot saute pan with 1/4 cup olive oil and deglazed with 1 cup of chardonnay(white wine), and allowed to reduce by half. I then incorporated some goat cheese(about 1 cup) into this sauce and about 1/2 cup of ricotta, 1/8 cup of black pepper and just a dash of salt. Done.

Once again I used asparagus as my veggie(sorry its that or broccolini, sometimes we get carrots.lol), but this time I just took my asparagus spears and lightly seasoned on a pan with salt, pepper, and olive oil and put into the oven on 450 degrees for a few minutes or until the tips are nice and crispy. My ex, who is a chef herself, used to cook our asparagus at home like this and it just tastes amazing! For a little more flavor you could used to pancetta(Canadian bacon) grease in place of the olive oil and take away the salt, but keep the pepper. Done.

So then I took my chicken(to order) and unwrapped my plastic(the chicken has cooled now). I took a hot pan of olive oil(about 1/4 cup) and placed the stuffed chicken spiral into the hot oil, sprinkled the top with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and threw into the oven at 450 degrees for about 5-6 minutes. I then took the pan out and spooned the seasoned olive oil in the pan over the breast repeatedly for 30 second or so. The skin should slightly bubble-up at first. Done.

With all the components of the dish now completed I placed a serving of rice(or mashed potatoes) in one corner of the plate(10 x 10 square w/ 1" lip) and placed the chicken across it at an angle and placed my crispy asparagus alongside the chicken but at a bias and pointing the other direction. Then I poured a generous amount of the sauce over the top end of the chicken breast and slightly across the middle of the asparagus tips. DONE!

It must have been pretty good because we sold out of them and even had substitute it with another dish for a couple other guests that unfortunately ordered theirs as we had just run out.

What a great night! I find these little moments of perfectness to be quite inspiring and gives me the fuel to stay on task 150 percent! I am looking forward to tonight and putting out another great special and putting a whole lot of smiles on our diners faces!

Ladies night blues....where are the ladies at?lol

So yeah it's been a few days....Other than the situation at work trying take the wind out of my sails, things are going great. Had a last minute special at work on Thursday night, which was only due to me showing up at work and not having some basic essential ingredients available to make my original recipes in mind. Ugh! I can't even get into my frustrations at work right now! It's like someone handcuffed you tightly and kicks you into the deep end of the pool, with a cinder block strapped to your back, while saying "Good luck!" and then walking away.

Anyways, on Thursday night I decided to keep it really simple and do some spicy polenta crusted mahi over some sweet citrus curry cous cous(large cous cous) with a orange ginger beurre blanc drizzle.

I took about 2 quarts of cooked cous cous and added orange and lime zest to it(about 1 tbsp each). I then diced one small red onion, caramelized it and mixed it into my cous cous(grande). I then added about 1/4 cup of sugar, tsp fresh tarragon, 1/4 cup fresh scallions, 2 tablespoons curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. I sauteed 1 cup of cous cous mixture for 20 seconds and finish with some butter(about 1 tbsp).

While the cous cous mixture is sitting off to the side, I combined 1/2 cup polenta with 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp celery salt, 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/8 tsp cayenne, and 1/2 tsp of garlic powder for my breading. I then placed a piece of mahi down into the bread crumb mixture to coat one side. Then I got about 1/4 cup olive oil really hot in a saute pan and dropped the mahi into the oil(breaded side down) and cooked for approximately 2 minutes or so. Then I flipped it over in the pan. The crust should be a tannish-golden brown color. I then placed in the 450 degree oven for about 3 minutes or so to finish cooking it.

As always, we have a very limited number of ingredients and produce to work with, so I grilled some asparagus tips (4" tips) for my vegetable.

For the orange ginger beurre blanc, I took a cup of orange juice(fresh), 1/4 cup of sugar, juice of two fresh limes and reduced in one saute pan, while in another I placed two tbsp olive oil(got hot), then dropped in 2 shallots minced, 1 tbsp of ground ginger, 1 oz. lemon juice, 1 cup of chardonnay(white wine), and reduced til thickened some. When the first pan is reduced to almost a syrup-like consistency as well, combine the two and bring to a boil, take of heat and strain out the liquid and return liquid to the pan. Then, off heat, drop about 1-2 oz. of cubed unsalted butter into the liquid(which should consist of about 1 and 1/2 cups worth) and either use an immersion blender or whisk your ass off in a stainless steel(or glass) mixing bowl to incorporate the butter into the sauce. This will serve to thicken the sauce, as well as to give a sort of smooth or velvet-like texture.

With everything prepared, I placed my cous cous mixture on center of the plate, my grilled asparagus tips across the center pointing to one corner, with the mahi leaning up against it(crust side up), pointing towards the other corner and drizzled the orange ginger beurre blanc across the crust. Actually all came out delicious but it was a dead night so I only sold a couple, and a couple employees ordered one as well. All in all, a good feature to run for the evening, just dead ladies night.....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ahhhh Pittsburgh style, Black and Blue Sirloin Steak.......

So, yesterday I was thinking of a special, and I thought to myself, why not utilize our sirloin steak which is round, about 3-31/2"" across and 1 1/2" thick to make a pittsburgh-style black n blue special.  For the sides, I served some of those delicious morrocan seasoned carrots(finished with tarragon butter) and a panko breaded blue cheese, cream cheese and asparagus cake. Eric Hassard, a chef I work with came up with a delicious red burgundy gastrique to go with it,  as well as helping with the  plate set-up, and slicing my carrots.

To start, I mixed some blue cheese crumbles, grilled asparagus slices(1/8" sliced), and cream cheese together and to make medallions (about 2 inches across, 3/4" thick) and threw them in the freezer for ten minutes. I purposely made them with a 3oz. ice cream scoop becasue I wanted them to be bigger than our similar goat-cheese medallions(1 oz.) on the menu for a specific reason, which I will get to in a moment(if you can't already guess). While the cheese medallions were solidifying(for breading purposes), I grabbed some carrots.

I had Eric slice the carrots to just under 1/8" thick and at a bias while I was finishing-up the cheese. I then mixed a littel cumin-curry lime and garlic with a little allspice with some olive oil. Once again, I did not blanch the carrots off since they were sliced very thin to begin with. I tosed the carrots in the sauce repeatedley until mixed together very well, and then left them sit in the seasonings for the duration of dinner. I took about 4 oz. of these carrots and sauteed them appropriately and finished(off heat) with tarragon butter. DELICIOUS!

Now I had taken my cheese medallions out of the freezer and coated lightly with some all purpose flour. Then into the eggwash(just eggs beaten) and into the panko bread crumbs. Then back into the eggwash, panko again and sit aside til finished with rest. I used a hot, small, 1 quart saute pan with some olive oil in it and set the the medallion into the oil. It should bubble and sizzle right away and takes about 30 seconds to crisp the bottom side. Then, flip it over and place in the oven at around 400 degrees for around 5 minutes, or when the cheese is just visible, starting to slightly ooze out the sides, it is ready. It is basically like a yummy cheese hot pocket, to give you the basic idea of it if you aren't sure.

I took one of our thick cut sirloins and seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and fresh black pepper. Sorry, no fleur de sel here...I wish though! Anyways, with the simply seasoned sirloin in hand I placed on the hottest part of my grill and marked off one side with some nice diamonds, making sure not to cook the steak inside. This took approximately 2 minutes or so. Then I removed from the grill and let sit for a moment. I then seasoned the other side of the steak thoroughly and dropped into a smoking hot pan of olive oil(only on the side opposite from the grill marks!) for approxiamtely 3 minutes and then tossed into the convection oven for about another 3-4 minutes. I removed the steak from the oven and let rest at least 3-5 minutes before slicing. When sliced, in this case, the meat inside should be rare, if not slightly raw(pittsburgh style), and thoroughly seared on the outsides. In this case, I grilled one side for flavor as well as presentation. Even though we sliced it, the grill marks where still visible across the tops of the slices.

While this is happening, Eric was making a burgundy gastrique. A gastrique is a reduction of wine, or can be vinegar, sugar and sometimes carmelized fruit as well. In this case, Eric used red burgundy wine and sugar. Seemingly simple, the key to perfecting this, is realizing the correct flavor, consistency, and texture(not too thin, or too thick), which can only come with practice. A gastrique is a classic french comoponent used primarily to accompany meat and seafood on the side or drizzled over top.

So with the steak resting, gastrique done, cheese madallion done and the carrots sauteed and finished with the tarragon butter, we plated it up. Taking a square plate(about 10" x 10"") we used a ring-mold off to one side of the plate, centered, to dump the carrots(about 4 oz.) into so when removed, they would stay in a formation, which was the base to the fried medallion. The cheese medallion was then placed over the top but just slightly slanted down towrds the center of the plate. After resting the meat, we cut the steak into 1/4" thick slices(slight bias) and fanned them out around the medallion. After resting, the steak, when sliced, is able to reserve all the juices inside. If you cut your steak right away, no matter what cooking method you have used, all the blood and juices will run out and after about 30 seconds to a minute you have your self a nice dry piece of meat(sarcasm), that has been succesfully ruined! A respective drizzle of the gastrique across the meat and serve! When you cut into the bleu cheese medallion(bleu cheese is the main component), you get a nice little river of cheeses with the asparagus that you may dip your steak into or just eat it as is. For a basically dead night (thanks to halloween!lol) we sold 5 or 6 of these specials and the ones who tried it, raved about it! Another jobe well done!

With the help of Hassard(Eric), who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in 2007, we are considering designing a winter menu together, as well as a special "Beer Dinner" menu, but only if time permits with our both of our busy schedules.....basically we're just gonna do it anyways!

So I was gonna write this last night but ummm...yeah...house party after work(thank you Alena!)...beer....more beer....wine...more beer. I felt fantastic getting up at 730 this morning for work after getting to bed around 5...<---more sarcasm.LOL Thank you for taking interest in my blog(if you have). I am so passionate about food, that I literally cannot wait to get to work everyday to make some new delicious special!!

Tuesday, I go back to Le Cordon Bleu to officially enroll and hopefully start November 8th!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Think fish taco....

So, last night our new competitor (more bar than restaurant) opened for sure. They have been trying to open their new location(next door to us) for the past week or two. Needless to say, we were dead last night(no busines) due to their grand opening. I think it was their grand opening because it was packed all night. I'm sure many of our drinking patrons decided to check out the place. Let's hope our booze prices are equal to theirs.lol I know if I were going out, with the sole purpose being to have some drinks...I would go there instead. Of course if I were wanting to drink wine and eat a delicious dinner, I would eat at Harmoni. Obviously our food is a million times better than theirs, so that's what we need to focus on. Running the kitchen tight but smooth, devolope a rythm and flow for high business periods, all while maintaining consistancy in our recipes. I'm sure we'll pull ahead. We have an experienced bar manager to handle that aspect of the business.

Anyways, I was too tired to even look at the computer last night after work. Felt like I ran into some trees on the way home.lol . So one of the assistant managers had an idea for a special, with the talapia we currently have. The flavors were not bad at all, in fact I rather enjoyed them compared to what my expectations predicted. So the tilapia was baked in a chili pepper, sweet, citrus sauce and drizzled with a reduction of that sauce(tweeked a bit.lol). Then we used some grilled asparagus and then....ummm....mashed potatoes.......????? I felt bad and did not want to shit on his recipe(because it was actually pretty good). He even wanted the potatoes lemon and herb infused but the problem was MASHED POTATOES(and a little heavy on the lemon zest)!!! I'm very sorry sir, but mashed potatoes and fish just do not go together. Great flavor, but definitely not a restaurant quality dish. It just looks terrible on the plate with the other components and the textures do not fit. Very simple solution would have been to roast some red potatoes, season and toss in the avoglemono sauce I made last time with the roast potatoes as a side for the Moussaka I made. I am happy that other people would like to get involved and have some input into the kitchen specials. Aside from the potato mishap, the plate was great...and I don't see anyone else stepping up and suggesting anything anyways. Good job Justin!

 I had a pretty descent idea for some tilapia fish tacos and as dinner sluggishly rolled forward I was able to work on other little things. I took some half baked and seasoned (light cajun spices) tilapia and flaked them up. I then took some fresh pineapple salsa I made and added to the tilapia. I made a key lime sauce reduction, and I made a spicy creamy cheese sauce as well.

Pineapple-Mango Salsa
If possible, you should make your salsa the night before, just so all the flavors can really have a chance to meld together. For the salsa I used half a pineapple, cored(obviously) and diced, 1/2 mango diced, half of one large red onion diced, 1 large jalapeno diced(no seeds), 1 red bell pepper diced, half green bell pepper diced, juice of 1 lime and 1/2 tsp of lime zest, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 bushel of fresh cilantro, 2 tsp sea salt and pepper(based on preference).  

You could dry rub your tilapia filets and cover and refrigerate overnight or you take 4 tilapia filets and grill them and dust with cajun spices. Break up the filets in a 2 quart mixing bowl. Set aside.

Key-Lime Sauce
Grab two one quart sauce pans. Put a 4 tbsp of olive oil in one and place over heat, and in the other pan place 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 1 tsp lime zest, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup bottled water(or tap),  and place over heat and reduce by half to two thirds. In the olive oil pan when it is hot, you will place 4 Tbsp of shallots, 1 tbsp of ground ginger and cook till it is thick or au sec and then deglaze with 1 cup of white wine(pinot grigio or chardonnay), and reduce by 2/3. Taste the water and see if there is enough sugar in the other pan. It will be pretty tart if you don't adjust the sugar to your liking. Dont's worry about spice, that is coming in a second.haha. When both pans are succesfully reduced(takes 10 minutes or so), mix the two pans together and then pour through a fine strainer or china cap (chinois) and pour liquid back into pan and bring to a boil unless already pretty thick. Boil until it reaches disired thickness. Now, when you finally pull that off the heat your going to add about 1/8 lb. of  unsalted butter(half stick) diced into 1/2" x 1/2" drop in a few at a time and let melt half way and then start to fold the butter into the sauce until it's all incorporated.

Spicey Cheese Sauce
In another hot 2 quart sauce pan, put 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp shallot minced, another half bushel cilantro(you may use the leftover half with stems-minced up), 2 tsp cayenne pepper and let simmer for 5 mins deglaze with water or very little white wine. Then pour in 1 quart of heavy cream and reduce slowly to half. If you want it to go faster then you must stand there stirring it the whole time, so as not to burn the cream. Otherwise you may reduce the heat to medium and check it periodically while you do something else. When the cream is half reduced, remove from heat and strain out the cream. Place back into the pan and bring back to medium heat. Now your gonna take a half bushel of cilantro(you may use the reamining half with the stems minced extra well), a 1/4 cup of cream cheese, 1/2 cup goat cheese and 1/4 cup puree'd chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and drop them nto the sauce and simmer on low for 30 minutes or so,until disired thickness.

Building a taco
Now take a fresh warm tortilla and pile fresh sliced green leaf lettuce tortilla on top of the center, drop some tilapia flakes(generous amount) over the lettuce, then the pineappple salsa, then drizzle the spicy chipotle cheese sauce down the middle in a zig zg formation. Then drizzle right up the middle with the key lime sauce. For a crunch you may obviously use shells or bake or deep fry your own if you want, or You may cut some very thin strips of another tortilla or perhaps a pita, salt n pepper and olive oil and throw them into an oven at 425 for like 5-7 minutes depending on the efficiancy of your oven at home or wherever you are.

Well I'm gonna attempt to take a nap if possible. My sleep schedule is way the hell outta wack the past few days. Next tuesday I go back to Le Cordon Bleu to get all enrolled and paperwork and all that great stuff! Tonight I have work again and then I work at 8am in the morning...absolutley genius if you ask me. Take the one guy(actually one of two) that needs to be back in the morning before anybody else and make him work the night before. Hugs and kisses on that one.lol

If I have missed anything on the recipe or anyone has any questions about it,or any cooking questions at all for that matter just ask. I don't know everything but I know a good amount.lol

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tonights the night!

Well actually it was not the night tonight. Or I guess I should say last night. Anyways, work was slow and just plain boring. I don't mind it being slow from 4-5pm, or even 6(in some cases) because it gives me time work on my special for the night. I'm scheduled in at 4 in need to have my specail prepped and ready to go by 5:30. Not easy when I have to stop every other minute to cook orders while other people are just kinda off in their own little world. Speaking of which, I featured a porkchop special for tonight. I took one of our 11/2 inch cut pork chops and grilled it medium  and served with a delicious stuffing, next to a smile pile of deliciously seasoned carrot slices.

I sliced the carrots at a bias (about 1/4" thick slices) Without blanching them first(which is to cook them slightly in boiling water and then cool down in a bath of ice water), I mixed some morrocan style spices(cumin, curry, lemon, thyme, coriander), minced garlic,white wine, and finished(of heat) with some tarragon butter. The carrots came out with a nice crisp to them while being coated with a delicious sauce that formed with the combination of the ingredients.

The stuffing included fresh ciabatta and sourdough bread diced evenly(1/2" x 1/2" pieces), tossed in olive oil and baked in the oven, fennel bulb diced, fresh sliced cremini mushrooms, crumbled sausage minced, onion diced and dried cranberries,fresh sage, chicken broth, lime juist and lime zest, fresh thyme. I wanted apple in it as well but we do not ever have any apples in the cooler....don't ask me why? Amazing.

Anyways, I threw into a large saute pan, about 1/2 cup of olive oil(and got it nice and hot!) While that was happening, I was baking my croutons in the oven. I then threw in the hot pan, the diced fennel,  and diced onion and deglazed the pan with white wine. Then I tossed in my sausage, sage, thyme, lime juice and zest, dried cranberries, salt and fresh black pepper and periodically deglazed pan with 1 cup chicken stock and white wine between(about ten minutes).

In a 4 quart mixing bowl I slowly stirred in together the toasted sourdough and caibatta croutons with the other 2 cups of chicken broth. Then I mixed that with the contents of my saute pan. I mixed it well and covered with plastic and aluminum foil and baked in oven for 30 minutes at 375.

While the stuffing was baking, I gathered up some marsala and cabernet(2 cups each), 2 cups of veal stock, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, 3 bay leaves, about a half cup of minced shallots, 1/2 cup of sliced scallion, 1/2 cup of fresh cremini mushrooms, about 1/2 cup fresh diced carrot, 1 tbsp. mixed peppercorns, 1/2 cup of kalamata olives minced, a pinch of kosher salt and a lb. of butter(just in case)lol

I took a large saute pan(4 quart) and got about 1/2 cup of olive oil real hot. I dropped into the pan, the minced shallots and diced carrots until liquid from the shallots and carrots is au sec(almost gone). Then I deglazed the pan with about a cup of the cabernet and a cup of marsala and added in the cremini mushrooms and cooked for 1 minute and added remaining wine. Then I added the scallions, bay leaves, rosemary, peppercorns, kalamata olives and reduced the liquid by half. I then strained out the juice completely and returned it to the pan. Then I brought the liquid to a boil and added in the veal stock and reduced liquid by 1/4. I then removed it from the heat and slowly over the next few minutes I stirred in 1"x1" cubes of unsalted butter (about 1 1/2 stick) until the sauce thickened.

I then took a 2 1/2" diameter by 2" deep ring mold and packed it with the stuffing. I placed this on a square plate in one corner and slid the ring up and off. I then placed the center cut pork chop up against the stuffing mold so that the end of the bone stopped directly over the top center of the mold. I then placed my carrots off to the one side in another corner, drizzling leftover sauce onto them.

As it turns out, my olive/wine sauce was a little too thin, so I returned it to the pan and added some dark roux I had made before jazz fest (originally used for my gumbo) and brought it to the perfect consistancy. I used this sauce to drizzle over the top of the pork chop as well as the stuffing underneath.

Ugh...didn't sell a single one. Now yes, tonight was pretty dead but I have never had a special, (especially a delicious one like this!) not sell a single order before so I was a bit upset. Then again, what ever. Try again tomorrow I suppose.

I got a half-ass plan for an indian spiced polenta crusted mahi for tommorow. Perhaps I will use the talapia for that, with a fresh pineapple jalapeno salsa and a citrus ginger beurre blanc drizzled across the plate. Would I use the grande cous cous or basmati(rice)? Not sure yet. Not even sure if I want to do it that way. I may also, instead, make a spicy gazpacho, similar to chefs a couple months ago, and make fish tacos infusing some mexican flavors into the talapia. If I do this I may try to serve it as deconstructed fish tacos, leaving room for crisp and clean presentation. You know, that high dollar shit!haha Goodnight! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hello...for the first time.

Hello for the first time! This is Barry and I have been considering writing a blog for a while but didn't have something solid to write about on a daily basis...until now. I'm not quite sure what happened, or how it happened, but I quickly became aware of my own life in a short period of time. These last few months have given me a lot of time to reflect on my life thus far.

I work as a line cook at a restaurant in Downtown College Park (part of downtown Orlando). My chef just left for a new oppertunity and the kitchen is in a bit of disarray now. Thats a whole other story for another day. At work I have been putting out specials and they have all sold every night! Ironically, the only special that didn't sell out, was the Moussaka that I made perfectly....only sold 2....kinda funny, considering the restaurant that I work in is a "meditteranean restaurant". If you are not familiar with "Moussaka", as it turns out, it is a traditional greek dish. It is put together very similarly to lasagne with ground lamb and beef, eggplant, allspice and cinammon (makes for a sweet and savory meat sauce), and on top of that gets bechamel sauce with a couple pinches of fresh ground nutmeg dusted across the top and baked in the oven...I served it with baked red potatoes drizzled in a cool lemon cream sauce of garlic, thyme, oregano,and fresh ground black pepper, and some grilled asparagus tips. I have been trying to keep with a certain meditteranean theme every night. Our menu is fantastic. Nothing difficult to prepare really but I feel we should at least feature specials from the medditteranean region if we're not going to have anything on the menu related to our "theme".

I have stepped-up a bit at work to become more of the leader since chef has left and the staff left over is somewhat new or too inexperienced to handle the busy season coming very soon. I'm no stranger to leading and running a kitchen. I was offered Chef's position when he gave his notice, but I also attend college and the schedules will clash for sure. I am so comfortable in the kitchen. Sometimes it is all I can think about. Actually not being able to wait to go back to work to make a new dish (or new sauce that leads to a dish), is a problem for me. I would love nothing more than to take over the kitchen and be just fine with spending 60-70 hours there a week or more. I'm a perfectionist as well, especially when I'm in the kitchen.  

So, in november of 2008 I was laid off from my job like millions of other americans across the country. I figured I would land some sort of job right away as a kitchen manager but that's not how it went at all. Any job opportunity I found had so much competition. A couple months went by and then a couple more months and I was just as discouraged as ever. It took an extreme toll on my relationship as well. It's a real tough battle to fight when you just cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Depression starts to sink in but you fight it back by telling yourself repeatedly that things will get better...and a couple more months roll on by, and a couple more. By this time my relationship had suffered to the point of seperation. We actually had a two bedroom house and she took the extra "guest" room. Things were going terrible for me but then I developed a new coping mechanism by thinking of the families with children starving in the street. Suddenly I didn't feel so bad.

13 months into unemployment and I have a realization. Things aren't going to get better anytime soon. I had applied to literally hundreds if not thousands of positions in this time and was getting nowhere. I decided to go to school! A great choice on my part...only slightly off the mark though. Up until today I was attending college for an accelerated 22 month program to become a registered nurse. That was my second choice but I felt it was a quite feesible one seeing how I could not obtain employment in any restaurant simply because there were no positions available and if there were, I had to compete with anywhere from 25-100 or more other applicants. Seriously!

In nursing school we were required to keep a journal of our progress in our hands-on lab. This blog will serve mainly as a journal for my new and exciting journey. I have been working in kitchens for over 15 years collectively but have never had any formal training. I always wanted to attend the world famous Le Cordon Bleu institute. I never did, only based upon the cost. Well seeing how I was going to school for the wrong reasons, I took a tour of Le Cordon Bleu the other day and I have not completely calmed down yet. I feel like it is the Harvard of cooking institutes. All I have been thinking about is recipes and recipes and writing down recipes. I used to just make things at work and never would write them down so I would have to rely upon my memory to know how to make it again. Not always the easiest thing to do whenyou wanna recreate that amazing plate from a while back and you have no written ingredients. So I will be enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu as soon as Nov 8th I hope. I don't want to wait for January. I will write about things from the past and stuff like that but I will focus on school as well with updates on recipes and whats happening at school. There are many organizations I hope to become a part of. Chef is already writing me a letter of recommendation to help with some internal scholarships and such. I hope this blog is intertaining in some form or other. I love to share my passion for cooking and the kitchen with others. There's only one even better alternative to sharing knowledge and that is actually seeing the expression of complete enjoyment in a friend, family member, or guests face when they taste your creation for the first time!