Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brown Butter Potato, Local Barrelfish, and The Dynamic of Working for a Resort...

This is our resident grinder Willie, an essential aspect to our daily kitchen life. He does all the jobs no one else wants to do, and despite how gung ho a dedicated chef might be......there are always jobs they don't want to do, and if they say otherwise, they are either a robot or lying.

Anyways, Willie helped me out with this picture by holding up this Barrelfish we got from the fishermen at Cherrypoint. We are starting to develop a relationship with them and its worked out so far giving the success of the Wreckfish a week ago.
The fish was relatively easy to break down, no unique surprises or differences. I took a note from Brennan and decided to give it a quick cure with lavender, salt, sugar, and some fresh herbs. BRILLIANT TECHNIQUE for cooks to add flavor and a new texture to fish.

The fish was settled, now what do I put with it? Well, I've been obsessing with brown butter lately...this stems from reading IIF's blogs about brown butter puree. I wanted the flavor, I just need a more substantial medium.......POTATOES......!

Silky and delicious, they worked perfectly....start with making your brown butter and seperating the milk solids with a coffee filter. For those who have never made brown butter, this is the process where you take whole butter and cook it to a point where it takes on a rich, caramel flavor(in its most simple terms). I proceeded to blend the potatoe puree with the milk solids as if I were mounting with whole butter, the result is beautiful. As soon as I find some milk solids I am going to make this puree without the potatoes.
Lastly, on a "we as cooks note" I'll just say that I personally think every cook should work a couple years in a resort or major hotel at some point in their career. The range of experience you get is priceless. Brennan, Mike and myself were all branded in the fires of a saute station that carried 70% of a menu in a busy seafood restaraunt. The glory station. But that restaurant was just one of many we toured through at the resort. Every place you work has an effect on what kind of cook you become, you become the sum of your parts... It will dictate what holds value, and what you hold as an important trait for you as a line cook, and eventually as a chef. I can tell you with complete certainty that fast line cooks have the most success......but the next level is the fast line cooks that can do it with consistency.......quality.....and for lack of a better word....perfection..........
The only constant in our world, is constant hard work..........
(i sound tired dont I?)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ahhhh Simple

So little is I find. On any given day, the hugely important or significant down to the mundane, never really seem to be easy. I suppose it's all about perspective but tell me life does not have a way of getting utterly complicated.
It is this very fact that day by day, layer by layer, life in all it's complications seems to cement my approach to food. I like simple, comforting but at the same time interesting and a degree of history or soul. It has taken me a very long time to find my voice and see a clear perspective. I was cluttered for a long time. Trying to assimilate too many cultures, styles, bad or unhealthy
influences, choke down an ego, etc. Then one day...clarity. Today is a good example. I woke up and knew exactly what I wanted to cook. When I found myself @ the produce at Publix, all the voices which say "go this way or that, why not try this with this," were at peace in silent harmony. My waking brain said "make pasta and use whatever is in the freezer, the rest will work itself out......but since you're out getting a sub at Publix, find something cool. Some kinda green or hey, spaghetti squash!"
I love cooking for my wife. I love cooking in my own kitchen. Frozen chicken thighs, a slab of pate, a chicken carcass, and some maple cured pancetta turned into chicken farce ravioli w/ spaghetti squash and a jalapeno parmigiano reggiano broth then liguine w/ chickeny pancetta ragu.

@ the restaurant, the wrong size case of fresh mozzarella turned my head back to Rome and to the present....a hot week in Florida. Simple, fresh, regal mozzarella, roasted cherry tomato, prosciutto, red onion, and basil. This one flash frozen for my 2am enjoyment. Simple.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I had never tasted Wreckfish until I moved to is delicious. Apparently Chucktown plays host to one of the few places Wreckfish concentrate for spawning. They can be caught all throughout the Atlantic but are only harvested off the coast here in an area called the "Charleston Bump," 80-130 miles offshore.

The flavor is relative to Grouper and I have read that its texture is comparable to Swordfish but I get a slight flakiness that reminds me of sea bass. We decided to give this guy a pan sear and let the fish speak for itself......

Keeping with our rustic Italian cuisine, a ragu of spiny lobster and golden tomato seemed fitting, tossed with fresh pasta and herbs. The foam is made of lobster stock and truffle oil, solid flavors for a solid fish.....

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Took a break from the kitchen today to check out this guys causing a stir behind the clubhouse. It was about 10ft. and was acting very aggressive. Its hard to see but the front bumper of that security truck was ripped of by our friend here after the security guard tried to convince it to move.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Nugg........

So so so......where does the time go really. I have to start by saying this. One of my all-time favorite songs is Strangehold by the one and only conservative insanity that is Ted Nugent. God I love that song. In fact, let us be blessed by technology. If time permits, pop up itunes and put the Nug on right now.......i'll you plenty of time...Fine then, be that way, looser. Just trying to make your online reading experience a little 3D Avatar-y- Mood music if you will.
One long Natty Ice night, perhaps 8 years back I called every radio station in Buffalo @ 3am to hear it. I'm talking rock, pop, r&b, classical, no avail. Anyways, it fits the particular construct of this business from time to time. It seeps the love, life, and soul out of ya but done so well, so cool, and rocks so very hard. Mother's Day and staffing issues...that is all I have to say about that Jenn-a-y.

I hate salmon. Kinda. I love it smoked, cured, and raw but cooked, a terrible level of sucking. I don't really eat much fish. Really. I was the pickiest kid ever, turned a new leaf in later years gobbling up anything, then turned back. Mind you, I will cook anything and love it. In fact I love cooking things I don't eat. I'm weird. I love the raw forms, the manipulation, I have tried just about all of it thus making the challenge, if I was to be hungry for this or that, what would make it fun, tasty, different? I've been waving my middle digit on both hands at those who asked for salmon for 3 years. What a stubborn fool I am, for real. "Give them what they want," playing over and over in my mind during a week of mother's day prep.

Why can't a big piece of cooked salmon be like the parts or preparations I do honestly like and sometimes crave? Big cure.....they would kill the delicateness if it was cooked just a parchment! With some aromatics.
Salmon en Papillote w/ fennel, scallion blini, and a thyme and caper creme fraiche.
What else is going on? Trying to roll out a new menu soon. One to really be happy with. Buttermilk bleu gnocchi, roasted yellow peppers, zucchini, art hearts, diablo tom. sauce for the vegetarians. Oh, loving playing w/ flatbread pizzas for new rib, grilled portobella, red onion, roasted peppers, buttermilk bleu, horseradish creme. Been messing with sauce bases for flatbreads like creme fraiche. Gorgeous and regal atop a crisp crust. Best seller is still my version of a Gyro on a flatbread: marinated roasted lamb shoulder, red onion, tomato, goat cheese base finished w/ Tzatziki. Thinking about duck legs and a 12 hour bath. Enough for now......


Chadzilla's latest post on saving the bayous kind of struck a nerve with me. You can check out what he wrote and also take a look at the CNN John Besh interview he linked or just click on it here.

For chefs who don't read chadzilla(you should be), I wanted to just post something on here to reiterate the importance of supporting local fisheries. Here in Charleston we are removed from crisis in the Gulf enough to the point where, if you have been living under a rock, you might not even know what's going on. It up to us as individuals and responsible culinarians to do our part in protecting these ecosystems, so lay down the cheap china shrimp and opt for something a little closer to home.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spiney Lobsters

Spiney Lobster Frito, Loaded Potato Agnolotti, Local Golden Tomato and Green Bean, Sweet Chive foam

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sea bass specials

Chilean Sea Bass over lump crab, grape tomatoes and calamata olives,
truffle agnolotti, tomato broth
Lightly smoked Sea bass, bacon and spinach risotto, over medium fried farm egg, pablano broth

Horseradish crusted Sea bass, Grit souffle, Prosciutto wrapped spaghetti squash

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Surf and Turf

Prime Strip, Duck fat potatoes and melted shitakis. Vanilla butter poached lobster with pine nut and orange relish.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Smoked Mahi, Squash puree, Pink peppercorn meuniere

The mahi was cold smoked by ignited wood chips and immediately putting out the flames by suffocating it in an enclosed space with the fish a safe distance from the heat and then put straight into the walkin. Make sure to do it when the service staff is around to see it so they think your about to burn the kitchen down.
Meuniere is French for "miller's wife." Traditionally meaning a fish lightly dusted with flour, sauteed and then dressed with lemon juice and parsley.

Lightly cured for about 45 minutes. Equal parts salt and granulated sugar, basil, pink peppercorns. Quick curing fish is not only good for forming a pellicle for smoking but it also adds flavor and increases shelf life without changing the integrity of the meat.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Octopus....Round 1

There are things that I cook well. Whether it comes from repetition, luck, natural talent(ya right!) I feel confident that I can do certain things correctly. Octopus is not one of them. It is a very unfamiliar ingredient for me so I have been digging and digging for methods, tips, opinions(which there are a lot of) to help me in my quest for sound octo cookery. This guy was HUGE, its sitting on the largest cutting board in our kitchen. I knew immediately that that we be an important aspect for how I was going to prepare it. After removing the ink sac, beak, and other innards, I scrubbed it down with coarse sea salt to help flavor and tenderize.
After patting it dry I heated a pot and threw it in for a quick sear which, in retrospect, may not have been necessary or even effective based on the large amount of liquid that is released when heat is introduced. The good thing however is that it pretty much generates its own braising liquid. I removed it from the pot, added aromatics, wine and some crushed tomatoes along with the octoliquid. I let it go in the oven for about two hours based on the size.

What better to pair with octo than fresh squid ink pasta. This ingredient has always been very interesting to me. I can remember watching Batali on Iron Chef bust out meatballs with squid ink fett and thinking "wow, crazy black pasta whats that going taste like." I filled the pasta with a caper and artichoke filling.

Sadly the business came through and I didn't get a snap shot of the final dish. No worries though I will be revisiting this one soon.