Saturday, May 15. 2010
Thursday, March 11. 2010
Sunday, February 7. 2010
Finding time to cook at home as of late has almost been next to impossible, but I am trying to make time for it.
On Tuesday I was talking to one of my fish purveyors and he mentioned he had some Spanish Mackerel. The first thing I said was " I wish that I could sell it, nobody will buy it." Even though I love Mackerel people seem to have a preconceived notion about it being fishy and oily. I then gave explicit instructions to send one fish and one fish only with a note attached to it DO NOT TOUCH. You see, this fish was for me and Melissa and I didn't want an overeager line cook getting his hands on it. I had a plan and an idea of what I wanted to cook at home. That dish would be simple and flavorful, yet light and heavy all in the same breath.
I love to cook but another important part of my job as a chef is to pass on knowledge. I feel that it is important for everyone to remember that most everything we consume as protein has a face. So while I went about taking care of the rest of the meal Melissa learned how to break down a fish with a little guidance.
She is a natural, barely leaving any meat on the bones. What meat was left we scraped off with a spoon for or audience of kitties eagerly awaiting for the "leavins".
While Melissa was honing her skills as a poissonier, I was starting the ragout/stew/one-pot meal. I have a tendency to use every pot and pan that we own when I cook. (I am seriously considering a second dishwasher.) What better to start with but some house-made bacon from Motor, onions, garlic, and some cabbage that was floating around in the fridge?
After a few minutes of rendering the bacon and sweating the vegetables some French green lentils entered the pot, followed by a bunch of water and what ever herb stem I had lying around. Cover and simmer. Drink Ten Cane rum and Mexi-coke. Repeat. Check lentils. As soon as the lentils became tender I placed the mackerel on top of the ragout and covered again. I wanted the fish to be as light as possible so steaming the fish seemed like the best course of action.
Another cocktail down and the fish was cooked to perfection. The only thing missing was the fat--oh fat, how I love thee! Instead of butter I decided to drown the ragout with really good olive oil. If there is one thing that every kitchen should have it is a good E.V.O.O--the difference between grocery store and gourmet is staggering.
Instead of wine we split a Blond beer whose maker is escaping me know. Simple and awesome, with very little clean up. I loved this dish.
Continue reading "Holy Mackerel"
Thursday, January 28. 2010
Wednesday, January 13. 2010
PAD THAI BOILED PEANUTS,
STAINED GLASS CILANTRO
COCONUT-INFUSED ANSON MILLS RICE GRITS,
WILD SHRIMP, LEMONGRASS & KAFIR LIME BROTH
SIMPLE SALAD OF LOCAL GREENS,
PICKLED ONION & QUAIL EGG
THAI-BRAISED CAWCAW CREEK BACON,
SPICED MISO CONSOMMÉ, POACHED FROG LEGS,
FOIE GRAS STUFFED SHIITAKI MUSHROOM
TOURNEDOS OF BEEF TENDERLOIN
TOPPED WITH (HA-MOK)
RED CURRY POACHED BLACK COD & LOBSTER
FINISHED WITH A PONZU-ENHANCED DEMIGLACE
GINGER & COCONUT PANNA COTTA,
THAI COFFEE CRÈME ANGLAISE, PEANUT LACE
Wednesday, December 30. 2009
Wednesday, November 25. 2009
Sunday, November 1. 2009
Tuesday, October 27. 2009
On Monday night we had the annual Motor pumpkin carving fiesta. While it is always a good time, I dread seeing so many sharp objects in so many inexperienced hands. But thankfully, no injuries occurred, save for a few nasty hangovers. I think they look pretty cool lit up on the patio. We'll try to keep them up through Sunday night.
Those flighty servers left a bunch of pumpkin innards! At least now I have a bunch of roasted salted pumpkin seeds to use as garnish for salads and for bar snacks (those won't last long, I imagine). With the smaller sugar pumpkins I get in I'll be making pumpkin gnocchi, spiced pumpkin vodka, and, of course, pumpkin pie.
I love pumpkin pie and I will say that I have a damn good recipe. And yes, I will be generous and share it with you. It's warming and good with its hint of ginger and winter spice. It's just sweet enough.
Pumpkin Pie filling
4 cups cooked pumpkin
3 cups cream
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground clove
4 eggs, beaten
Mix all together well and pour into raw 3-2-1 shells. Bake at 375 until set.
3-2-1 dough is my favorite dough for all occasions. It is easy to remember the 3 represents 3 pounds of all-purpose flour. The 2 represents the pounds of butter and the 1 represents pounds of ice cold water. This recipe makes about 8 pies crusts, but given the round numbers it is easy to shrink or expand to your needs. FYI a pound of water is equivalent to 2 cups
Using a standing household mixer such as a Kitchen Aid, I usually split the the recipe in half so as not to make a giant cloud of flour. Place the flour in the mixer followed by a pinch of salt. Finely cube the cold butter and add to the mixer and turn on low, using the paddle attachment. Wait until the mixture resembles cornmeal and then add the ice-cold water just until a dough forms. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead by hand until it forms a cohesive ball. It is important to work fast to prevent the butter from warming up. This could result in a tough greasy dough.
Oh yeah if you take the filling recipe and remove the eggs and cream you have a great starting point for the pumpkin spiced vodka.
Saturday, September 26. 2009
What happened to the kitchens? Melissa and I recently went through our own home search. We have been to new and older houses, some nice and some . . . . ehhhh. In our price range it seems that builders neglect this important detail. One house, pretty decent otherwise, had a kitchen suitable only for microwaving a frozen lasagna and plugging in a Mr. Ice Tea Man:
Melissa: "If we can't comfortably cook a three-course dinner for four to six people, it's not an option."
Real Estate Agent: "Ummm. Ok. Is that something you guys do often?"
Off we went. On to the next nice house with not-nice kitchen overflowing with electrical sockets but lacking room on the counter for pie dough and no possibility for safely maneuvering a heavy stock pot filled with hot stew.
In my experience the kitchen is an important place of gathering. The most enjoyable times in my week are when Melissa and I cook at the house. The background sounds of the restaurant and the repartee of cursing line cooks are replaced by light music, the sound of a knife chopping, and the sizzle of a saute pan. With a nice glass of wine alongside my cutting board we buzz around each other having warm conversation. It is way better than heating up frozen chicken pot pie and watching the Food Network from the couch.
From Shandon, Rosewood, Earlewood, and points beyond we traveled and turned our snooty elitist kitchen noses up to the sky. I think our journey has finally come to an end. We stumbled upon Keenan Terrace, a small neighborhood close to Earlewood, which holds many 1940s bungalows that have remarkably good-sized kitchens and loads of charm. Plus, we'll have five mature pecan trees to harvest, for pecan pie year-round.
I can't wait to cook our first meal in the house--I think it will be some sort of homey goodness that will reflect the charm of the house and my mood at the time. I can assure you that the first drink in the house will be a bottle of bubbles to calm my shaking hands after closing. Pictures of our first meal as homeowners forthcoming.
It probably will be duck, that first meal. There's something about duck that always satisfies.
Continue reading "Home kitchens"
Monday, September 14. 2009
After my last blog I decided to try mushroom foraging myself. I used to go out years ago in Charleston, usually to no avail. So why not another adventure? Growing up in once-rural New Jersey I have had more than my share of poison ivy, poison oak, bee stings, ticks, and mosquito bites. None of these compare to what ya'll have down here.
I hopped on my motorcycle for a ride last Wednesday. After heading down Bluff Road I decided I would head to +++++++ Park in search of edible mushrooms. To my surprise the foraging was fruitful and I came across chanterelles, wood ears and a few coral varieties of mushrooms. The sun was high in the trees as I walked on twigs and pine needles looking for small clearings of oak where my prize would most likely be found. Life was good and I headed back to Columbia at dusk.
The next morning I woke to slightly itchy legs, feeling as if they had been feasted on by a few mosquitos overnight. As the day wore on I came to the realization that they might not be mosquitos. Chiggers! Though I have never had chigger bites before, I based this on the stories that I have heard over the years.
The next few days were not fun. I wanted to jump out of my skin and the thought of cutting off my legs crossed my mind. Basically, it entailed listening to wives' tales about chiggers and remedies for the itching. I also feared overdosing from the plethora of ointments, creams, nail polish, vitamins, and pills that were on my legs and flowing through my veins. Also, every time my wife looked at my legs she started gagging. Through sickness and health and straight to the couch for me.
After a day or so my forager walked in and I asked him the question, "what do I have to do?". His sage advice was "not to get bit by chiggers in the first place." I asked how long they would take to go away and he said, "one to two weeks." Well, shit.
If you do decide to go foraging, bring a mushroom book so you don't kill yourself eating something dangerous. And watch out for chiggers!
Continue reading "Foraging Dangers"
Tuesday, August 11. 2009
On Friday I was greeted by a new face in the restaurant. This stranger held one small brown paper bag brimming to the top with tiny golden mushrooms. As a smile of recognition and the word chanterelles crossed my lips, the man nodded. Like most things extraordinary in this world you just have to ask how much, pay the price and not even think about haggling. To haggle with this forager might dissuade a return visit and I WANTED MORE. After the transaction had taken place I made a very simple statement "I will buy everything that you bring me." I don't think he believed me, but on Sunday he and a foraging buddy returned to Motor and took me up on the offer.
As Sunday brunch was winding down I was told that I had a visitor. I peeked my head around the corner and I saw the familiar brown paper bags sitting on the bar brimming with goodies. After some quick pleasantries we got down to business. "How much?" I asked and in reply he said, "$ XXX and a Fat Tire." Deal! I quickly grabbed the beer and some cash and completed our transaction. With a hand shake and a nod he was gone. He brought two small bags of chanterelles and one bag of oyster mushrooms.
Greg (sous chef), Josh (kitchen manager at Public House, helps out with brunch), and I stood around sniffing the mushrooms and talking about what was going to happen with them. The menu for Sunday night was already in the works and Motor Supply is closed all day on Monday. We collectively came to the conclusion that the mushrooms would not be in prime shape on Tuesday and that it would be a sin to waste them. Josh, Greg, and I paid Motor back for the mushrooms and the Fat Tire and made plans to cook mushroom-centric dinners for our wives and girlfriends, three of the luckiest women in the city.
Cooking something of such beauty is easy, you just have to follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. I started with butter. A lot of it. To the 1/2 pound of melting butter I added 12 fresh sage leaves and 1/4 pound of the chanterelle mushrooms along with a couple of oyster mushrooms that were thrown into the batch. I filled a large pot with water for my pasta. The mushrooms slowly browned over medium heat while the water got to work boiling.
When the water came to a boil I dropped in the pasta and set to seasoning the shrooms with some sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. I also used some nice champagne vinegar to help cut the richness of the butter. When the pasta was done I strained it and quickly poured it over the mushrooms so that some of the pasta water would help emulsify the sauce a bit. With a motion of my arm the pasta was tossed in the air a few time and ready for the plate.
And that was only half the mushrooms that came back to our house.
On Monday the KISS principle went back into effect again. Today I would change course slightly and switch pasta for eggs. I medium diced a small potato, half a head of cauliflower, a small yellow onion and placed them in a saute pan with the remaining 1/4 pound of chanterelles and 10 sage leaves with two sticks of unsalted butter (Yes, I LOVE butter). I then placed the pan on the glowing element of my crappy electric stove so that the sizzling would commence. (Oh, for the not-to-far-off day when my wife and I buy a house and trick out the kitchen the way we want to!)
While everything was cooking in the pan I beat six eggs in a mixing bowl with several large spoonfuls of full-fat Greek yogurt. (To cook with yogurt it must be full-fat or it will start to curdle and nobody wants that.) When everything in the pan had browned I poured the egg mixture over the top and placed the pan in a 350 degree preheated oven to finish baking. When the eggs start to slightly rise and just brown you are done. The concoction can now be called a frittata.
As a side note: we enjoyed a delicious bottle of Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc with the pasta and a nice Cru beaujolais with the frittata. I chose these wines because they both have nice acid backbones to help cut the richness of these two dishes. Both dishes were accompanied by salads prepared by my wife, comprised of a baby mache blend, sliced local tomotoes and peaches, dressed with a simple vinaigrette. The frittata didn't really need a sauce, since it was so rich already and had the creaminess from the Greek yogurt. We set out two bottles of Palmetto Pepper Potions (www.pepperpotions.com) for optional heat and went to mushroom town.
Keep your eye out for fresh local mushrooms at Motor. Prime foraging season is right around the corner!
Continue reading "Local Foragers"
Tuesday, July 21. 2009
My egg-man Keith walked into Motor with a great surprise for the kitchen staff--one of his beautiful lambs. Other than eggs and chickens I have a standing order. When he has a lamb ready here is how it works: no phone calls or emails, just a lamb.
I consider the kitchen at Motor to be an incubator for culinary talent. Having a whole carcass is a great teaching tool for my staff and helps me keep my meat-cutting skills in shape. Having whole animals brought to the restaurant is rare in this country, but in the rest of the world it is commonplace. Most four-legged animals are built the same way, so showing where the tenderloin is or where a NY strip would come from on a cow is invaluable. It also hammers in respect for the ingredient.
Some fun dishes I do require a whole lamb. One dish I learned long ago is a fillet-stuffed lamb saddle, which I get to do only a few times a year. We will also serve leg of lamb. The neck and forelegs we will be smoked for a ragout. The bones will be roasted and turned into stock and then from stock to a glace. The organs will go to my sous chef's dog. Every part will be used because to not would be a shame.
I have made a photo journal in the extended body for those who would like to see the transformation of a raw product into dinner. Now be mindful that this is a whole carcass with the head on.
Continue reading "Local Lamb"
Thursday, July 16. 2009
A vodka tasting a few months ago had profound repercussions at Motor. To be fair, I will call the vodka in question "Brand X" and the liquor rep "Liquor Rep."
Liquor Rep walked into Motor lauding praise upon Brand X's line of infused vodkas. I reluctantly decided to taste/spit the vodka. Sampling wine and beer is one thing, but tasting liquor is a more complicated affair. Without care, a liquor tasting can destroy an otherwise productive afternoon. Liquor Rep produced six shiny bottles of Brand X and poured them neat into cocktail glasses. (Sounds kind of rough, but if you want to taste imperfections, drink liquor or wine lukewarm to get maximum flavor. If you're trying to cover up flaws, you serve them ice cold.)
After the tasting was over I thanked Liquor Rep for taking time to let me taste his line. (Seriously, who wants to schlep six sticky bottles of liquor around in 90 degree weather?) What I was really thinking about was how to scrape the taste of artificial flavoring and corn syrup off my tongue.
The next day I ordered a case of vodka and a steep learning curve ensued. A few months later, we have concocted twelve (and counting) flavors, from local strawberry to bacon. Fresh ingredients pay big dividends in the final product, whether you're dealing with food or vodka. (House infused bacon vodka + house-made Bloody Mary mix + 1 spear pickled okra = very good time)
The next time you are thinking about buying a bottle of flavored vodka, consider making it yourself. The process could not be simpler and you will save money. I promise you will feel very cool. Here's how you do it:
1 Large glass jar (I've seen some at World Market for less than $10)
Bottle Smirnoff (you can use others but this is one of the best for the money) $14
1 pint chopped fresh fruit (Pineapple, raspberry, ect.)
1 cup sugar (optional)
Strain through cheesecloth and drink.
PS: Let me know if you try any weird flavors and they turn out tasty.
Continue reading "Our Infusions"
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