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 party after work(thank you Alena!) 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 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 . 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 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

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

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!