Monday, August 20, 2012
Ok, I love onions. White, Red, Yellow and especially Vidalias. The flavor they add to anything they're in just makes me happy. In my onion soup at the Cafe at Middlebury Consignment, I use 14lbs of sweet onions per batch! What I don't love, is that they make me cry. I cry like a little bitch!!!!! In culinary school, onions were among the vegetables used to teach us new aspiring chef's knife skills. Chef Bru, who was my hero, was the one to teach us the proper way to handle onions. He was a tall guy from Jersey who sort of reminded me of Dennis Leary. He was funny, talented and he could kick your ass. So, when he was demoing chopping onions and he started to cry, I was shocked. In my novice head, I was convinced that tough guy like Chef Bru was immune to the tear gas produced by onions. It turns out, he was human like the rest of us. All the students were throwing out suggestions on how best to keep yourself from getting brutalized by the attack of the onion gas; light a candle; hold a piece of bread in your mouth; cut the onion on a certain angle.... nope, nope and nope. Chef pointed out that none of those things really work and not everyone is affected by the onions the same way. He said it's one of those things you sort of have to just deal with. Someone mentioned that Paula Deen and her sons would wear goggles when they cut onions. Chef Bru looked up and said we were in a kitchen, not a pool. That was apparently all he was willing to say about that. So, if you have a sure fire cure for keeping your eyes from burning (that doesn't require goggles) I would love to hear it. Until then, I'll continue trying to badass the onions and know that I'm going to look like I was just told I could no longer eat bacon.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Happy Summer! Tis the season for the outdoor bbq. Steaks, Chicken, Pig Roasts and much much more. I was speaking with a customer recently who was telling me about a weekend bbq that upset her. She painstakingly prepared an amazing meal and was shattered when her beef and chicken ended up dry. We went through her evening step by step and the culprit presented itself at the very end. "We got the steak and chicken right of the grill and onto the carving board and sliced it right up". I knew right there the evening was done. "How long did you let the meats rest?" I was met with an incredulous stare - "We wanted to serve it right away". I smiled and said "ah!" When protein like steak cooks, it gets all juicy and starts to bubble out. When you take it off the grill or out of the oven, it continutes to cook. Which means all that yummy juice is still right at the top. If you cut right into it out of the oven, all that juice is going to run out all over your plate and leave your meat dry. (And really, who wants dry meat ;-)) Tent your steak or chicken and let it rest for ten minutes once you take it out of the oven. This allows for the carry over cooking to finish it's job and allow for the juices to settle and keep your meat juicy. Now get out there and grill!!!!!
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
I've never been afraid of change, or, of trying new things. Whether it's been as major as changing my career or as minor as trying a new detergent... I'm pretty willing to give something new and different a shot. Sometimes, well, a lot of the time, it's obvious I should have considered what I was doing a bit longer than I did. However, every now and then, it turns out that my instincts were right and I get a home run. Well, at least a good solid tripple anyway! Today was the first day of cold soups here in the cafe. On my drive from Stratford to Middlebury I had time to ponder what I would make... and, I decided a strawberry soup with goat cheese, buttermilk and basil would be the recipe du jour. In my trusty vitamix went my strawberries, balsamic vinegar, fat free buttermilk and basil. In my head it made complete sense. I got lucky. It came out awesome!!! Taste tests by my team and co-workers who have NO PROBLEM with honest feedback gave me a thumbs up! However, with it being a bit colder today than last week, French Onion soup was the big hit today. Not one strawberry soup sold. I'm not deterred. I stand by my soup :-) So... I figure I'll keep taking chances and just hope they keep working out!
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Everyone has a food item/dish that if they see it on the menu, they MUST order it. I have a select few, but, on top of my list, are truffles. Match restaurant in SONO once had a truffle pasta dish on their special's menu that I am pretty sure caused me to hallucinate. Now, here at Middlebury Consignment we sell truffle products... foodies know what they are without question, but, for those who are less adventurous, I'm usually asked to explain what they are. So, for those of you who don't know what they are, here goes... Truffles, a member of the fungi (mushroom) family, are among the most expensive and prized delicacies on earth. Their being so expensive is a result of their being so scarce and hard to find. They are roundish but lumpy in appearance and intense in flavor. They're intensity and cost are reason that they're used sparingly. In Europe, specially-trained truffle dogs and pigs, both of which have a keen sense of smell, are used to locate mature truffles buried underground. (I failed my attempt at becoming a truffle pig). The fungus responsible for truffles can only survive in certain soil conditions. The fungus attaches itself to a tree root, typically oak, beech, hazel or birch, and produce one truffle per year. Truffles go well with a wide range of foods from eggs, to steak.... asparagus to cauliflower. A simple pappardelle with a truffle cream sauce is one of my favorites. Now, truffles come in lots of different varieties and forms. Here at the store we have truffle butter, truffle oil as well as whole summer truffles. If one wanted complete ownership of me, all they'd need do is present me with a black truffle. It would render me catatonic and it would be quite simple to fit me with a collar and a leash!
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I love food... shocking I know. Monday's are my day off and I found myself making chicken paprikash and watching lots of television... well, movies and television. One show I love which is intersting and gross at the same time is Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern... I see the things he eats and I wonder how he hasn't died of a rare disease! However, it made me think of some of the strange things I've eaten. Moreso, it made me think of the reaction from people when I tell them about some of the things I've eaten. I think I might have had a little more in common with Andrew Zimmern than I thought! While in Zurich, my host took me out to a lovely cafe and ordered for both of us. One word in the Suisse-German stuck out in my mind but I couldn't place it and it was causing my brain to itch. Another glass of wine later and it hit me. "I THINK HE JUST ORDERED ME HORSE!"... so, as delicately and with as much class as I could muster I said "Did you just order me steak from an animal that I could have potentially named, saddled and rode?!?!?!?!" Not one of my finer moments. He assured me it was delicious and that if I didn't like it we'd order something else. My Horse Au Poivre arrives and I looked at it as though it were something from a horror movie. Then I took a bite. My horror movie turned into a love story. Now, I want you to look at yourself in the mirror at the face you're probably making. My dear friend Nanette has a horse farm and cries every time she hears I've eaten horse. I will admit I have a little guilt when I remember how tasty it was. Now, some people's icky is someone else's tasty. So, for me I was a yes on horse and a yes on most everything except maybe for tripe. So, for you my dear reader, what's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
When I first started throwing dinner parties, I spent an awful lot of time being excited about what was on the menu. Something with Foie Gras?! YES! Ooooh, tempura bacon! A night of cheese and tapas???? All of these thoughts plus a bottle of wine could easily provide me with a night of fun. However, what I didn't spend a lot of time on was how long it might take me to actually COOK everything... and plate it. Thank god my friends and family are kind. And patient. It was many a dinner party that didn't sit down until 10pm! The biggest complaint was my guests saying I spent too much time in the kitchen and not enough time with them. Then came school! One of the best things I learned in culinary school was time management. It's not an overnight fix, but, it's a start. Whether at home, teaching class or private cheffing, I make a complete production list telling me which items I can make in advance as well as the order in which I should make them. This helps to keep me from forgetting things. Forgetting to make bacon (me forgetting bacon, I know I know)for my BLT bites was a quick reassurance that I needed my lists. I use multiple timers and alarms. My probe thermometer that goes into the oven the same time my roast does keeps me from burning my main course! I set up multiple alarms on my iphone to keep me on track too. My last piece of advice... if you're easily distracted, limit the amount of things going on in the kitchen while you're cooking. I have a small tv in my kitchen at home and I LOVE to watch movies while I cook. However, I learned I can only put in movies that I can listen to as opposed to watch. It once took me an hour to make mashed potatoes because I was stuck in a Lord of the Rings marathon. I also can't put in peppy music. I end up dancing and singing around my kitchen as though I'm in a bad 80's montage. Catching a reflection of myself dancing with a raw chicken to Annie Lenox's "Walking on Broken Glass" was both hysterical and disturbing. I now listen to classical music when I cook.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Growing up in a Jewish home, my mother wasn't big on the hot pepper or the jalapeno's! Garlic.... rosemary... salt... pepper... they were the constants. So for me, spicy food was always something that meant burns going in and out! When I got to college in upstate New York, I discovered real "Buffalo" wings. These were nothing like the wings I'd seen before or since. When presented with a "suicide" wing, I was immediately aware of how well named these little crispy nuggest were. However, with a bit of blue cheese on them, I found it to be not just tasty, not just hot, not just juicy, but addictive. Every week without fail, we'd order our wings from Sergio's - 2 dozen wings a piece with extra blue cheese, carrots and celery. Originally for me, college was about being on my own and discovering alcohol... now, it was the quest for buffalo wings. After college, it was all about blackened food. Spicy cajun rubs for fish, chicken, steaks and shrimp. You could practically order anything blackened and I think everyone did. Then the big spice craze was wasabi. The one spice I can handle as hot as it comes is wasabi. Horseradish heat cleans my head, literally. And I LOVE it. So, now at the cafe, I've been looking to add new sandwiches and salads to the menu. My memmories of blackened spices came right back and I knew, right away, that a blackened chicken sandwich and a blackened chicken salad were in order. The sandwich gets a nice chive and key lime aioli and the salad gets goat cheese, candied pecans and a strawberry vinaigrette! We're going to have the salad on the menu this Sunday for mother's day. I may have grown up without the hot and spicy, but now, I find that it's definitely something that I can't imagine having ever lived without!