Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stepping Back

The family and I went on a camping trip to the beach. We roughed it in tents (we even forgot the pillows), and we had a great time. Sometimes it is really refreshing to step back and look at things from a different angle. Going backwards often helps us to move forward. And that is what I am doing with my career.
Many of you may already know that I am leaving Azure Grille. I have two main reasons for stepping back. First and foremost is some family time. I have been working hard for a long time and I have a patient wife and two amazing little boys who I would like to spend more time with. Second is the opportunity to continue to learn and grow as a chef. I will be working for the leading chef in the area and I will post on my new job soon. I have had a great tenure at Azure Grille and Ed and Deborah Roach have been extremely nice and great to work for. I will definetly miss Azure but I will visit often.
My hope is that stepping back will help me see new things and lead me in a new direction. I am a little unsure of where I will go with this bog as I will not be creating the menus for my new job, but I do plan to continue to write.

Nothing beats a chef camping trip. Coleman stove, hot dogs, and All-clad pan. Of course PBR. It is the blue ribbon.

Monday, July 13, 2009


A lot of people wax poetic about salt. Every cook book will tell this salt or that salt is what you should use. Most of them are right. Don't cook with iodized (table) salt, it's terrible stuff. Ask you favorite restaurant what their chef uses. If they say iodized salt... Leave! Iodized salt does nothing but add sodium to your food. It has a harsh and bitter taste and does little for the fine ingredients you are buying.
We use Morton's kosher salt because that is what we know. We know the feel and are able to salt correctly and consistently with it. Kosher salt is a good standard, I've found, because it heightens the taste of food and brings out the flavors. It is really interesting to taste you food change as you adjust the seasoning with salt. We add it slowly and keep tasting until we think the flavors are heightened to the correct level.
I am not knocking other kosher salts. We just know the feel of Morton's. One of our purveyors sent us Diamond Crystal one time. Diamond Crystal is lighter in feel and worked just fine in all of our food. But we had to adjust our seasoning more because of the weight difference. It made us inconsistent. So we switched back.
There are lots of different types of salts on the market especially when you start looking at sea salts. I love sea salt but from a price standpoint it makes it hard to solely cook with sea salt. We finish with it just like you would expensive olive oil. You wouldn't want to take you $30 bottle of high end olive oil and saute onions in it.
But the main reason for this post on salt is not to tell you what you should use. But more over how. We all to often over look the real power of salt. Yes it makes our food taste good, but salt is also, an antibacterial agent. It is also good for seasoning saute pans so omelets won't stick. Well, we recently discovered a new use for our salt. Or I should say a modified use for our salt. It crosses the lines between curing and sanitizing.
One of our line cooks has a lot of experience in Japanese cuisine. A trick he said his old sushi chef would do was to salt his fish heavily for 20 min and then rinse it off. We also found a reference to this in Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking. He would break down whole fish and rub salt over the flesh. this would do a couple of things. One it would leach a lot of liquid out of the fish. Dry fish is easier to brown and make crispy, especially the skin. Two it helps to kill surface bacteria on the fish extending the shelf life of your fish. Three the salt helps to remove parasites from within the flesh. Fourth it helps to season the fish just so lightly.
This is great for sashimi, sushi or any cooked fish. It's like a cross between curing and seasoning. It makes truly amazing fish. So to be a little more clear here is our method below. And we will keep looking for new uses for salt.

Break down your whole fish into sides. Clean the fillets and de-bone. Place the fish on a purforated rack skin side down and heavily salt the top and bottom. Place in the refrigerator and let rest for 20 minutes. Set a timer you don't want to forget. Rinse all he salt off the fish and pat dry. Now you are ready to cut steaks. Skin on or off is your choice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From Scratch

Working in a restaurant we often have to make choices as to what we make from scratch and what we buy. I go back and forth a lot on items and for many different reasons. Usually time and space hinder a lot for us. I am no bread baker but I can make bread. We do not have the space or equipment to make bread from scratch so we buy it. And we buy great quality bread. But do we make bacon?, depends on what we want to accomplish with a dish. Sometimes yes and sometimes now.

But we often over look from scratch items that are so simple and so effortless. They only require some time and a limited amount of space. After some recent reading online I found two things to start on. First on the Popular Science website the guys from Ideas in Food layout the specifics of making vinegar from just about anything. I decided to start with they're recipe for maple vinegar. Mainly because I love maple syrup.

The other is yogurt. Yes you can go buy high end yogurt or you can spend a lot of money on a yogurt making machine. But Harold McGee lays it out really simply.I have made creme fraiche before and what a treat. But to have a solid fresh yogurt on hand at any given time would be great. Should my experiments work, I might go for making it at home. What else am I overlooking? Sausage?