Friday, April 27, 2007


I ordered Halibut for a party on the third floor this weekend-it is on the catering menu. Halibut can be a kind of boring fish, it is so white and mild and low fat, on the other hand it, like chicken and veal, can absorb intriguing flavors. The catering menu lists it with an Asian glaze flavored with Hoisin. I also ordered a few extra pounds to use for weekend specials. At $12 per pound wholesale, I will have to sell it at around $24 to cover the expense plus sauce, plus sides, plus etc. etc.-the costing out of a menu item always involves so much more than just the cost of the fish.

I couldn't resist taking a couple pieces home for my own dinner-I was planning on leaving earlier than usual as the sous chef and a competent line were working. But as the old saying goes "the best laid plans of mice and men-often go awry"-the restaurant got slammed and I left at 9-closing time, and my usual exit time-poor chef. I took some fish home anyway. For myself I wanted something simple-after tasting sauces, glazes, and dry rubs all day-I crave simplicity. I dusted the fillets with flour, salt and pepper only, sauteed them with some vegetables and topped it with some lemon butter. It was marvelous, but I will probably gussy it up for the restaurant-people seem to demand that sort of thing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Green Goddess for Secretary's Day

I love taking retro dishes and updating them or reinventing them for my needs. Green Godess was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the 1920's. It was named for a play titled "The Green Goddess" for the actor, Richard Arliss, who starred in the play and later the movie (according to "Food Lover's Companion"). He was nominated for an oscar in 1930 for the movie. Wickipedia lists the creator as the chef at the Palace, but in honor of the playwright William Archer rather than the actor. I couldn't find the chef's name who created the dressing. New Orleanian chef Warren LeRuth is credited for creating the Seven Seas bottled version.

The story of the Green Goddess is that three englishmen are stranded in an Indian kingdom and held hostage by the raja, whose brother is in turn held by the English. It must have been quite the popular story in the day, as it was made into a film in 1923 and again-as a talkie- in 1930.

The salad dressing was as ubiquitous in its day as "Ranch " is today. MFK Fisher wrote about it in her book "With Bold Knife and Fork". I based my recipe roughly on her description.

2 cups mayonaise
a couple sprigs of fresh tarragon
a couple sprigs of fresh parsley
2 scallions-green parts included
several chives
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup minced shallot
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup fruity olive oil

puree in the blender or food processor

It is especially good with avocado and chilled asparagus, but for a lunch I turned it into an entree salad with grilled chicken-very pretty and delicious as well. The dressing requires a sturdy green such as Romaine or Escarole-Spring Mix or baby greens wouldn't support such a heavy dressing.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Newspaper Food Sections

I visit a web site named Newspaper Food Sections and Columns Online , which lists practically all the nations newspaper food sections and the day they are published. By clicking on a link you can read whichever food section you might want to. If you want to read about what they are writing about in Miami or SanFrancisco, all you have to do is click. Since I have family living Dallas, I usually read what The Dallas Morning News has to say. This week I took one of their recipes and turned it into one of my week-end specials.

Under their section titled Risingstar Chef, I took Robbie Lewis's (sous chef at Salum) recipe for pork loin with panzanella.

I roasted the whole pork loin and glazed it with Balsamic vinegar, to rare. I then cut and grilled slices to order. I layed the slices across the panzanella and splashed it with some additional Balsamic.

For the panznaella, which I admit should not be made until local ripe tomatoes are available, I used our homemade bread, Roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts, sweet peppers, and red onion with a vinaigrette of oregano, basil and white wine vinegar. I would have liked to use Balsamic vinaigrette with the panzanella, but I think it turns the salad too brown. It was a beautiful dish that I plan to repeat when the local tomatoes start arriving.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blue Plate Special

Growing up this was one of my favorite diner-style lunches. An open faced sandwich with a scoop of mashed potatoes-all covered with gravy. I upgraded it slightly by using a nice slice of grilled rib-eye and a slice of our house-made bread, but I was careful to use an ice cream scoop to get the perfectly round mound of potatoes. The turkey version is also excellent-I think we just called them open-faced beef or open-faced turkey.

Eating Out of Season

Is anything considered out of season anymore? Asparagus, strawberries, and lamb are available all seasons-asparagus is on the restaurant menu year round, and I can't imagine the howls and complaints I would get if I felt I needed to remove it. I will soon be buying it locally produced, but otherwise who really cares?

With our weather unseasonably cold and dreary-the local peach and apple crops are probalby lost-I decided to roast a turkey. Some guests were coming for Sunday lunch, and it seemed a good thing to make. I stuffed it, of course, and added some roasted beets, brussels sprouts with baby red onions, and gravy.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter 07

Here are a few photos from Easter. I took a limited number of pictures because as service begins, it simply gets too busy to be photographing everything and managing the kitchen at the same time. Our hams were locally grown in Monroe county and cured at Schubert's in Milstadt IL. I bought five whole hams, each feeding fifty, and there were not any leftovers. We fed 220 guests and then the staff. We also roasted prime rib.

The restaurant's owner, Suzie Gallagher, had the restaurant beautifully decorated with eggs, Victorian Easter cut-outs, Easter grass, and baskets galore. It was so cold it didn't really seem like Easter, still everyone wore their pastel colors and the ladies exposed their shoulders in bright little sun dresses-they must have been freezing.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Platinum Chef Team Challenge

Last week I was asked to be one of the judges for a cooking competition among nine different high school districts. Nine cooking stations were set up on the floor of the Red Bud gymnasium floor. Contestants were responsible for their own cooking appliances-camp stoves, microwaves, foreman grills, hot plates, etc.

The students were to create an appetizer, an entree, vegetable or salad, starch, and parfait. Basics were provided on a "help yourself table" -things like butter, olive oil, milk. Bags of ingredients (secret until that morning at 9 AM) included chicken breasts, asparagus, mushrooms, rice, strawberries, spinach, were given to each team.

The cooking curriculum at these schools has become much more trade oriented and much less Home Ec. There were many males involved, although the best teams were female dominated. Many of the students are considering careers in the culinary arts.

The best teams started with a small meeting in which the team WROTE down a menu and a plan to prepare that menu. The less organized teams sort of dove in-and the lack of a written plan definitely showed. Team leaders emerged and these individuals were easy to identify. Six individuals were recognised for leadership skills and were awarded George Foreman Grills.

I had one employee and one former employee (who left me on good terms) on the team from Waterloo, and I was probably careful to be more critical of them. Tim Kutterer, who still works for the restaurant was one of the outstanding individuals chosen. He was recognised by all the judges-I didn't even have to push him. He really is an outstanding young man and a terrific worker-so responsible. He plans on working in construction when he graduates this Spring-but keeping his kitchen options open to get him through the seasonal slow periods in construction. Unfortunately there are the same seasonal slow periods in the restaurant business as well.

I wonder if someday the kitchen competitions will be as popular as the football and basketball competitions. Some teams were provided with more professional uniforms than others, and unfortunately presentation is always important. All athletic teams get uniforms, I think the schools need to suit up their kitchen teams as well. In the whole scope of things, more kids could end up making a living in kitchens than on athletic fields.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Food Redemption on Sunday Morning

"There's a new thing called concentrate for that sort of thing"-Dan said when he walked into the kitchen and saw me juicing oranges for breakfast.

My response was "I find redemption for my sins in the rituals of preparing food"-and while that may sound glib and cheeky, it is the truth. Some may make a big show of going to church and praying, some-Catholics I guess-go to a priest and confess, some meditate, some sing, but I juice, slice and dice my way to a state of Grace. I don't mean to proselytise, but it is my way of finding God and the meaning of life, and I highly reccomend it to everyone.

A wonderful Sunday morning accompaniment to the orange juice is the Monte Cristo sandwich. I make my version of this sandwich by layering slices of ham, turkey, swiss cheese, and raspberry jam between slices of sandwich bread. I then batter the sandwich in pancake batter and deep fry it until golden. After it is cooked and drained, I dust it with powdered sugar and serve it with maple syrup. While the ingredients may sound gross-swiss cheese with raspberry jam-they are delightful. A little Heaven on Earth to continue my Sunday sermon.