Monday, March 27, 2006


It is a cold and rainy Spring morning in St Louis. I decided to sharpen my knives. I start by making a nice pot of Jasmine tea, then spread out a tea towel with my stone on it. I lightly lubricate the stone with mineral oil, the tea towel helps absorb excess oil and stabilized the stone as I sharpen the knives.

The trick is to start at the top right top corner and pull the knife accross the entire stone, ending at the bottom left corner, as if you are trying to take a very thin slice off the top of the stone. Use the coarse side first, then the finer side. Ten swipes on each side. Wash off the oil in warm sudsy water and dry. Then a few swipes on the steel, and the knives are ready. I find great joy in properly sharpened knives with an edge. I plan to cook later in the day, and it will be a pleasure to prep with my knives.

Someone from the Yahoo writer's group suggested I blog some behind the scenes and activities of the restaurant. So here are some pictures from Saturday night. It was a pretty typical night we did over 250 covers (customers who sit and dine at the table are called covers).

The evening started off quite busy. We had a line of diners waiting at the front door. We open at 5 PM. At 4:45 I gather the front staff and brief them on the evening specials. This was pretty easy as we were repeating the specials from last weekend-cowboy steaks and salmon with Irish cream sauce-they both sold so well last weekend that I wanted to see if they did as well the second weekend. If I prepare a dish as a special and it gets the kind of response these two are getting, they generally go onto the menu the next time I change it. That way I have a proven dish for the menu with most of the kinks worked out, and costed out so that it not only sells, but that it also generates profit for the restaurant.

Next I go over drink specials and wine suggestions. Sometimes James, the general Manager does this, and offers an incentive such a cash bonus for selling the most of a new beer or wine. This keeps the staff fresh and gives them some incentive to go to the table with more personality than the usual order-taker you get at some places.

Next I cover any problems or glitches that I am aware of. It is now 5 and time to open the doors, I try to leave them with positive words and encouragement. There will always be problems to solve and conflicts, but on the whole I have been working with this staff for over a year and I like everyone-or They wouldn't be there.

The kitchen's day starts much earlier. Sometimes I'm there at 10 Am or 11-depending on how elaborate the specials will be, how much prep will be required to meet the menu, any last minute dessert making, and always bread baking. We make all of our own desserts and breads(with the exception of some sandwich rolls at lunch). There are usually 5 or 6 desserts and two or three breads-white, a sweet bread, and cornbread.

I am blessed with an extremely talented and efficient staff-things usually go very smoothly. I am usually the one that causes any problems by last minute menu or special changes.

Thing moved pretty quickly tonight, and the last orders are going out about 9:45-the kitchen closes at 10. The line cooks clean their stations and are usually finished in 15-20 minutes. The floor mopping and finishing of all clean up is finished by the dish crew-usually two and sometimes three people. Someone comes in on Monday(we are closed) and cleans the equipment and hood, and other areas too hard to clean when the restaurant is opened.

By 10:30 the waiters are checked out, and I go over any problems with the owner that need to be addressed next week. Since it's Saturday, there is a blues band playing in the bar on the third floor-it will be open til 1 AM. It is a sold out room tonight, but one of our good customers, and an influential businesswoman has saved me a place at her table, and I have a glass of wine and listen to one set. At midnight I leave to go home. Pretty satisfied with this week. They don't always go this smoothly, and I will try to blog honestly about some problems sometime.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Stir Fry Broccolini with chinese black beans and chili

2 tablespoons peanut oil (or grapeseed)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup rich vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tamari sauce (or soy)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon asian chili paste
2 tablespoon chinese fermented black beans
2 tablespoons mirin (or sherry)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 pound broccolini
1 medium onion, sliced

Combine stock, corn starch, tamari, sesame oil, chili paste, beans, mirin, and sugar and mix well

Heat wok to almost smoking, add oil, then garlic and ginger-sizzle briefly and add broccolini and onion. Stir cook a couple minutes.

Add the stock mixture and stir cook at high heat for another minute. The sauce should be slightly viscuous-not too thick-and glossy. Serve quickly before the vegetable wilt too much.

Cowboy steaks

I am working on a new cowboy steak for the restaurant menu. I used two different meat companies over the weekend. One was a 22 ounce cowboy steak, and the other was 16 ounces. They were both basically a rib eye steak with the bone still attached. The smaller steak had the lip removed, I think I preferred the larger steak's appearance. I used them as the Saturday night special and sold them out at $35 each-it isn't for the bargain hunter. It was so busy I couldn't get a photograph of the large steak, but I took one of the 16 ounce steaks home and prepared it for Sunday night supper. It didn't have the visual punch that the larger steak had.

I will also be teaching a cooking class at the Kitchen Conservatory using this steak with a pink peppercorn/roquefort sauce. I'll post that recipe later. For Sunday supper I didn't want a sauce. I rubbed the steak with sliced garlic, fresh ground pepper, 1 tablespoon Lea and Perrins worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. I let that sit 1/2 hour then grilled it inside on my Le Cruset grill pan. It was pretty satisfying.

My cousin Susan in Dallas has been complaining that I don't blog enough beef, so here's one for you Sue-Too bad Texas beef is so stringy and tough-you need to come to the Mid-West for great beef-and pork-and corn-and tomatoes-but you already know that.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

St Patric's day at the restaurant

St Patric's day is not one of my favorite holidays, but the restaurant business benefits from it greatly. I slow roasted the corned beef . I had two 28 pound roasts. I roasted them at 250 degrees for 8 hours. They were medium, not overcooked. Then we sliced them a little thicker than most places and served them with the boiled new potatoes and cabbage with the beef braising liquid. Not one of my favorites, but not bad with losts of horseradish, and not tough or chewy at all.

We made a couple recipes for Irish soda bread. Everyone loved it. The doughs aren't much different than making biscuits or scones.

The salmon special with Irish Cream whiskey sauce was the real hit. I took the recipe from Guilded Fork on the net, only I served it with spinach fettucini with jullienned carrots. I sold over forty pounds of it and ran out of salmon.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Here are a couple of things we've been doing for lent. Tuna puttanesca, Bouillabaise, and catfish with crab macaroni and cheese. For quite some time, food has been the redemption factor in my life, so the idea of giving up food as an act of redemption is somewhat foriegn to me, but the whole idea of lent and not eating meat is quite prevalent in our largely Catholic city.