Sunday, August 29, 2010

When the wall comes down...

Inevitably it will, with some luck anyways. The thing that really boggled my mind was that I could still see food, dishes, tastes, but through a hazy cover like old timey, hand drawn looking window pane. It was there, kinda complete but blurry in all the right spots.

I had painted a picture of an Indian dish in my mind's eye. Nothing in particular but the flavor profiles, a swatch of color for me to work from. After sushi came the ride home and the therapy of music I had been neglecting. I had been seeing a carrot/ginger/curry puree for days. Add green lentils. Add a tuscan technique I had been messing around with for roasting cauliflower. I almost had a dish. Lastly was Naan. It was all I really wanted out of it all. I love Naan. Never made it. Never got close enough to a tandori oven to even think about it. But I had to have it.

So I did what has worked since I got familiar with baking. I read 3 or 4 recipes, checked the variation, and made one up. The honest beauty of trying something for the 1st time is the 2nd time. You initially try with your gut, your base of experience, then work out the rest with repetition and logic. Some times it works, sometimes not. Great thing about Naan, I had about 10 tries to shape and fry it right. The second go is like having the best teacher imaginable giving you some pointers no strings attached. If you cannot learn the most from your own errors... why keep going?

Naan....a flatbread of sorts with clarified butter and yogurt/I used sour cream incorporated into the dough that on this occasion had minced garlic folded into the dough after the 1st proof then is pan fried......amazing. Truly. It got me out of a hole. It built a giant wrecking ball to smash through the mental wall I had inadvertently created. I have since built a second special around it, an app. of grilled lamb meatballs w/ a greek olive tomato ragu and reggie parm, and working on more. Lamb meatballs.......saw some dude on the "best thing I ever ate" blab about them and a light went on made of Naan. It's rustic, I mean a bowl of meatballs and flatbread but damn if it's not tasty...simplicity warms the heart and resonates in the soul of things past but never soon forgot.

My quest, scratch that, my challenge I put before you the reader is to try something new but old in the next week. Something you have tasted, read about, dreamed about that is centuries old but never by your own two hands. Make something to sooth the soul and connect back in time. It's how I got my groove back or what have you.

I am a lucky man. I have been places that forever changed me. I am blessed to shutter at the word "rustic" with fond nostalgia. I relish in the smell of a cheese or cured meat that reconnects with damp earth cellars lined with wine or my personal favorite, the basement of a castle.

I take all of these thoughts and try to bridge the gap of why mental walls still come up. Honestly, after all is said and done, all the stresses of the job,etc......I think I forget what is simple, what got me here, what tastes and flavors helped cement me into my shoes. Take comfort in the old, the tried and true, and create.

Till next time my peoples.....

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mystery Meat

Who can guess what this is....?

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brick Walls....

I don't find it happening that often but walls do sometimes appear out of thin air. Today I couldn't produce anything. So....veal stock, clean hood screens, and the largely neglected dishpit floor drains. It's glamorous to be the boss, the "chef" sometimes, of a small privately owned operation! But it was all I could force out. It made sense. Monday I went to a food show with all of my staff, had a great time, and kept the weekend going one more day. Tuesday, I was exhausted inside and out so I worked a half day hoping to recover my mind and body but to no avail. Wednesday came in welcomed, bright eyed. I neglected my normal musical solitude in favor of talk radio on the 1/2 hour drive to the restaurant. As soon as the monotony of waking the kitchen equipment up for lunch service ended, I had no idea where to begin. Vegetarian special, papillote special, flatbread special, hints at weekend utter void swept over me. The produce guy sent a case of scallions instead of 4 bunches, one of my guys used 4 pieces of leek instead of 4 bunches in a recipe, and I looked at this mass of oniony beauty and saw nothing. So I tried to force it out. Clean and grill the lot....make a broth for a vegetarian dish. Everything seemed flat.
The normal elation at walking around the kitchen eyes searching, to find one specific flavor or color, to lay the foundation of a dish, wouldn't work.
So I did what had been neglected. What felt right. I started cleaning. Deep, deep cleaning. Pulling strips of grease out of hood screens the professsional's power washers never got out. 3 years of grime coming clean. Sounds gross, I know. It's amazing what looks super clean on the surface.
The best part of this whole story is that today did not seem metaphorical until about 5 minutes ago. I had a block. A huge one. You may have had one or two before too. I saw one a few weeks ago on Top Chef w/ the italian looking dude. Don't remember the name....smug guy, hot shot who had a bad day in the kitchen and fell apart making the lamest excuse for a spun up, disguised beef wellington ever. I know where he was. I felt it today. Regardless of other's criticisms, sometimes you actually prevent your own being from tapping into yourself and the flow of your soul that is creativity. Sometimes you just got too much grease or dirt in the works. Stuff you didn't even know was there. Hopefully a deep clean will get things back on track.
I started mine by putting down my knife, teaching someone how to make veal demi, and going for sushi with my wife.
Sushi, for me anyways, from a trusted source, is one of the few opportunities without the help of libations, when I can simply eat, shut up, and enjoy. Other than the sheer experience of scouting for the best and freshest possible, it is not a form of cuisine I would claim to have in my repertoire. Which makes it great. It is a recharge to simply indulge when you have no bias and eat willingly...even though you will spend a fortune and be hungry and hour later. Even if you eat the clever love boat for two....Brennan.
I don't have any ending for this folks. I had a block. I actually worked it out by writing I think, I hope, I am shooting real hard for. People are hungry. Sushi is good. Never eat it in Mexico though....I'm still working back to full strength after 3 plus years.....nighty night and until next time.....

Another Big Catch From CherryPoint...

Its taken a little while to get accustomed to the way farmers just show up in your kitchen and say "Hey here is this Suckling Pig, 6 boxes of tomatoes, giant bags of sweet onions, have fun....." That didn't happen a whole lot in Jville. Its fun though, not complaining. Well it kind of works the same way with fish.

Almost on a weekly basis, one or two of the chefs here at Kiawah will go out to Cherrypoint and just pick out fish right off of the boat. It worked out great today when one of our chefs called me in the early afternoon, right after I had sent back some Halibut because it was from the Atlantic. I says "Hello"....he says "What would you like, wreckfish or barrelfish?" I chose wreckfish, one of my new favorite things to eat. The dish sold well:

Pan-seared Wreckfish, Hand-Rolled Crab Agnolotti, Prosecco Tempura Asparagus and Warm Dijon Cream.....really enjoyed snacking on the Prosecco Tempura Asparagus...........

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wylie on IIF....

Incredibly interesting I thought, even though Ideas in Food had this on their blog I loved watching it so much I just had to put a post on ours. Wylie definitely is a thinking chef, and one I have a lot of respect for. Mike has eaten at WD 50 so maybe he might have a little better insight on the "method behind the madness."

I do know why an interview like this exists, I run into it every time something in the form of a powder goes into my I cheating? Is this a way to do it easier regardless of the end result? Does the ingredient lose its integrity the moment a hydrocolloid meets it? Well...In my opinion no...I have seen chefs that abuse and over use these ingredients. Its not the ingredients fault, should the beauty of being able to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen be overshadowed or neglected by some old school chump who doesn't want to keep learning. Who knows, I especially enjoyed what he had to say about foams, it describes a lot about the vibe in chef world these days.......anyways, enjoy and I would love feedback on this one....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do you promise to cook the pig, the whole pig, and nothing but the pig.......

I do...... So, I'm finally getting around to finishing this post about the suckling pig from Blackbird and Thackeray Farms. As you can see from the stamp, this little guy was homegrown right down the road on Wadmalaw Island, SC.

The first thing I did was break it down into the primal cuts, sorry the graphic nature of the pigs head, but hey its apart of what we do and apart of being on top of the food chain.
After braising the pig for 4 hours at 275, I let it rest uncovered for about an hour and a half(sorry I got busy and forgot to take pics). Chicken stock, Madeira, and regular aromatics went into the braise.

After cooling down enough to handle, I then proceeded to pull the skin from the pieces and lay it flat in a 200 pan. You have to really take your time when you start to pick the meat and make sure you find all the cartilage and bone pieces. The last thing you would want is a paying customer to bite into one. I mixed the meat together, added more seasoning and probably about two cups or so of braising liquid to the mixture. Next it presses over night, here is a pic of the pressing apparatus....

A little blow torch heat on the back of the pan and running a pairing knife down the side helped me get the meat out clean.

Cut portions....

We have baby hot peppers growing in the garden and I knew I wanted to incorporate them somehow. So, I just picked a variety and charred them in a skillet quickly and made a compound butter to mount the braising jus....

The final dish:
Seared Suckling Pig, Truffle Goat Cheese Sheet, Garden Pepper Jus, Crispy Celery Root, Basil Powder....
It sold great and everyone had great comments about it, hopefully we can duplicate this and maybe use it for the fall menu.....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Suckling Pig 1.0

Still in the kitchen, I'll finish this post is delicious though..

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Suckling Pig

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blackbird and Thackeray Farms Suckling Pig

Check back soon to see what we did with our friend here...

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Monday, August 9, 2010

What i think i know

So here's a couple things I know. I have the attention span of a very small, very dull barnyard animal. Lazy too. I just can't seem to put pen to electric, flat screen pseudo-paper cause it seems like way too much work. Turning off said brain and rotting on Big Brother or old episodes of Heroes is so much easier. That one thing I know.
The restaurant/food industry as a whole boggles my mind sometimes, for good or ill. The diversity it presents to us all who either find our way or get sucked into it's grips is staggering. Just a few short years ago I found myself surrounded by brothers/sisters in arms all in the same boat. Where we were, what we were doing was good. It made sense. But the winds of change blew through hard, swept us off and on to lots of different places. Our roads were all quite different which is part of the good of the business. It has tons of avenues and corridors of all shapes and sizes and accommodates all those willing with a variety of results. I like the roads that have been placed before my willing feet. I am proud of where they have led. I have kept mental maps of those close to me in the business and the roads that were laid out before them and I am proud and honored to know them all and where they are today. That I know too.
The ills of this profession I know of also. I know that it can be an unforgiving machine. It takes the "I love what I do," taps that artery and attempts to bleed you dry. At times anyway. I think any profession can do that I guess. But the mere act of creation, the art of it, the sense of it around you, is addictive, very much tied to ones soul, and can be easily exploited. Long hours, picking up extra shifts, picking up the slack of those who just do it for a paycheck, coming in early cause you want to know whose hands set things up in the right fashion, staying late to make sure that things get cleaned, put up, and simply treated with the respect they should be treated with so you can come back the next morning and be at peace....all of that, every which one and thing creates clouds. It can mute the outside world. The faces and voices which hold us to the earth outside those spaces seem to blur. That's not fair or right or just. Of course it's not all the time occasions but "hey, it feels like I haven't seen you in a week," to the one you share a bed with happens and it's tough and true. That I know.
I have had the pleasure to have lots of dining out experiences as of late. Good, bad, ugly. I paid $18 for a med rare Kobe burger w/ Foie that came out well-ass hockey puck at a seemingly very respectable restaurant. I had decent food but horribly slow service at another local place. I mean 2o plus minutes for 1st course cold apps. But I love knowing my town and all it has. I also love the girl I get to share all these food experiences with. That I know most definitely.
It would be nice to start taking pictures of dishes, discuss what's current, and jot down 5 sentences every few days, oh, and stop writing about what I'm going to write about and then never do it. Those things I know and will work on...eventually. I gotta get back to work.....kidding. Till next time.