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Archive for November, 2008

pot1

Wow the holidays have started. Thanksgiving down, Christmas on deck. Time off from the restaurant…good.

We are taking the four day weekend off for Thanksgiving. It’s always bittersweet to close the restaurant since the expenses still continue, power bills, leases, insurance, bills, etc, but there is no revenue coming in. Fortunately we have 10 caterings this upcoming week for the start of the holiday season which will allow us to make up for being closed the two days. Ultimately both Nancy and I love our business and really enjoy everything we do, but when we close before Thanksgiving and around Christmas is like our vacation time.

Before I get into my vacation time let me give you a few updates on what is going on with past topics.

I’ve gained 40% of the weight I lost in the first seven months of the year back in the past four months. It’s unbelievable to me that I can repeat the same patterns over and over again. I’ve been trying to get back on track for the past few weeks and today might be the day.

The new restaurant is still on track. The land is completely cleared, grading has begun and they expect to lay the concrete pad in the next few weeks. We are so busy and still turning down business so we are going to do some work to expand the current restaurant so we have more prep space and room to prepare more food. I’m in the process of turning part of our dry storage area into part of the restaurant.

So we are taking advantage of the time off before the work all starts again. We have been relaxing, seeing friends, cooking, watching movies, and exercising the dog.

eckoblog

I think so far we have made THE turkey, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, gnocchi, pumpkin pancakes (see picture below, and Nancy’s recipe here), Italian sausage and egg breakfast burritos, butternut squash, mashed potatoes, stuffing…holy cow. No wonder I can barely move and have been constantly full for the past three days.

panblog

Last weekend I made pot roast braised in Chianti and served it with glazed parsnips and carrots as well as some mashed potatoes. I’m sure I’ve had parsnips before, but I couldn’t recall the experience. I loved the texture, the flavor, pretty much the whole package. I actually ended up making parsnip soup a few days later as well. Recipe to follow soon!

The pot roast was perfect for a cold fall/winter day. I braised the meat for three hours and it was perfectly fork-tender and super flavorful. I found the recipe in Molly Stevens book “All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking“. This is the 2nd or 3rd recipe I have cooked out of this book and I’ve liked them all.

Chianti Pot Roast with Glazed Parsnips and Carrots – serves 6 to 8

  • 3 1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 1 cup Chianti or other dry red wine
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock
  • 3 large 3-4″ sprigs fresh sage
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh Italian parsley
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • Parchment Paper

Glazed Parsnips and Carrots – serves 6 to 8

  • 1½ pounds small to medium carrots, peeled, or ¾ pound each carrots or parsnips, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup braising liquid from braised beef
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add beef and brown on all sides, turning with tongs, about 18 minutes. Remove beef and set aside on a large plate to catch juices. Remove charred bits with a damp paper towel.

Return pot to medium-high heat and add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until just starting to brown, about five minutes. Pour in wine and scrape bottom with a wooden spoon to release caramelized juices. Boil to reduce by about a third, about six minutes. Add broth, return to boil and cook until reduced by about a third, another five minutes. Return meat to pot and add sage, parsley and peppercorns. Cover with a piece of parchment paper, pressing down so it nearly touches the meat and the edges of the paper overhang the pot by about an inch. Set lid in place.

Transfer pot to rack set in lower third of oven and braise at a gentle simmer. After 15 minutes check that the liquid isn’t simmering too vigorously. Lower heat by 10 to 15 degrees if it is. Turn roast once halfway through braising, total time of about 3 hours or until fork tender. (Be careful when opening lid to turn meat — the steam is very hot.)

While the beef is cooking, cut carrots and parsnips into sticks by first cutting crosswise in half. Cut thicker tops lengthwise into quarters and thinner tips in half, then cut into sticks about three inches by ½ inch. Set aside.

Remove pot from oven. Lift beef out with tongs, set on a carving surface and cover loosely with foil. Strain cooking liquid into a saucepan, pressing down on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Let braising liquid settle for a few minutes, then spoon off fat with a large spoon. Reserve ½ cup braising liquid for vegetables.

Heat oil and butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add vegetables and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly glazed and browned in spots. Add reserved ½ cup braising liquid. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered six to eight minutes or until tender but not mushy. Uncover and bring back to a boil. Add vinegar, sugar, sage and parsley. Cook about one minute or until liquid is reduced to a glaze.

Heat remaining reserved cooking liquid over medium-high heat and boil for a couple of minutes to concentrate their flavor. (The juices will not be thick.) Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Cut strings from roast and cut meat across the grain into thick slices. Serve with vegetables and juices on the side.

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bolwithpolenta

Okay back to the blog. We’ve been fairly busy at work in the past week and I’ve been working every night on books and business stuff trying to make up for the prior weeks of screwing around while Chad was in town. I’ve been cooking, I just haven’t really had the desire to sit down and write. Last weekend I made my favorite, but the toughest version of Bolognese and served it over polenta. It was enjoyable as always. Last night I made a pot roast braised in Chianti with glazed carrots and parsnips, which I loved and will post in a few days.

On another positive note yesterday was the first day in a million years that I ate reasonably. I didn’t exercise, but I think I will be able to get back in the swing of things today. It’s all mind over matter, so I just need to get my head straight again. One of my challenges is to get through the day at Dish without going crazy. We have a way of cracking a scone or dropping a cookie or miscutting a piece of pie almost every day. Of course we are not going to throw away good food so we, mostly me lately, eat it.

If I can stop myself from eating the scraps then I have to make sure I don’t sneak into the dry storage room and eat chocolate chips or tear pieces off the big blocks of chocolate we use for brownies. Oh and I have to stop myself from eating whatever other creation gets made on a daily basis…tapioca, rice pudding, key lime pie, etc,etc, etc. Wow, what a tough life, ha ha.

So for any of you that want to gain some weight and bulk up, send us your resume. We have plenty of calories to go around!

Well, what about the Bolognese? It’s good, it’s terrific if you do it right. I’ve made it three times now. The first time it was out of this world, so good we couldn’t believe it. I followed the recipe almost to the letter. The second time I screwed it up because I became paranoid about the method and the meat turned out to be really tough and dry. It was one of the days that I thought I should just stop cooking. The third time, last weekend, it worked out great, but still not as good as the first time. The recipe came out of an incredible book I found last year called “Cooking by Hand“, by Paul Bertolli.

So without further ado, here is the recipe with my notes about what I think you should watch out for.

Bolognese #3 – (enough for 5 servings over polenta or with pasta)

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds freshly ground skirt steak (have your butcher grind it with a 3/8″ plate)
  • 3 1/2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 onion
  • 10 to 12 sage leaves
  • 1/2 ounce dry porcini mushrooms
  • 3/8 cup tomato paste
  • 6 cups of meat stock, simmering
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot.  Add the skirt steak and the pancetta.  Turn the heat to high and stir in two tablespoons of salt.  Maintain the heat on high until the meat juices evaporate and you begin to hear the meat sizzle, indicating that it is beginning to brown. Lower the heat a little to slow the browning.  If the meat is not leaving a residue there is probably too much fat in the pan.  Por some of it off.  In this case, the meat is likely to fry, causing it to toughen up rather than gently brown.  (This is where I had problems the second time around. The first and third time I poured a rather large amount of fat off and it worked much better)

bolpol1

Break up the butter and distribute it over the surface of the meat.  This will aid in the browning process.  Stir the pot frequently to expose the unbrowned sides of the ground meat to the bottom of the pan.  (This is super important).  If you notice that the browning is occurring unevenly, move the pot relative to the flame in order to encourage an even development of residues.  Raise or lower the heat if necessary to encourage the development of color (a deep chestnut) or discourage too much color (blackening).

While the residue is forming, cut and set aside a 1/4 inch dice of one celery stalk, one carrot and one small onion.  After about 30 minutes, yeah you read it right, you could notice a solidly stuck layer of brown residue covering the bottom of the pan.

Add the diced vegetables along with 10 to 12 fresh sage leaves. Add a 1/2 ounce of dry porcini mushrooms broken into small pieces. (This adds an incredible flavor).  Lower the heat and allow the vegetables to sweat with the meat for 15 minutes. Then add 3/8 cup of tomato paste.  Stir in well to distribute evenly.  Maintain moderate heat and cook the meat and vegetables for 5 minutes more.

You will notice that the addition of the vegetables and the stirring of the pot have caused most of the residue to loosen.  Raise the heat to high and add 1 cup of hot beef stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any residues still clinging to the bottom and low sides of the pot.  Allow the broth to evaporate.  When the meat appears nearly dry and you notice some reformation of residue, add another cup of broth.  Repeat this process one more time, using 3 cups of broth in all.  After the third and final addition and evaporation, add another 3 cups of broth to the pot, making certain that all residues are free from the bottom. Reduce to a bare simmer and cover the pot tightly.

Cook the ragu until it is meltingly tender, 1 1/2 hours. Remove the ragu from the heat, skim away some of the fat if there is an excessive amount.  Stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream and then simmer the meat over very low heat for five minutes.

Season the ragu to your taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour it over polenta (here is my reciepe, leave out the cheese though) or use with tagliatelle.

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Bolognese coming

I made the Bolognese for part three this past weekend.  I’ve been working 12 to 14 hours days for the past few to make up for the staying up way to late and video games of last week so I will get it posted soon.  Sorry!

The restaurant is crazy busy this week, thank God for the continued success we are having… even with the economy in the tank.  I feel bad for all the restaurants out there struggling right now!

Stay tuned, more to come soon!

Joe

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maca3

A few weeks ago I started a quest for some good mac and cheese. Nancy makes a killer mac-n-cheese but I wanted my own. I’m sure I frustrate the crap out of Nancy sometimes because I’m always looking for something better when it comes to food and recipes. Now mind you , this mac-n-cheese is not Bobby Flay mac-n-cheese with some crazy-sexy ingredients, but it is really, really good! I would make it for any of my friends and be proud.

My first attempt was with a Jamie Oliver version that didn’t include a bechamel sauce but instead called for mixing the cooked pasta with the cheese and then baking it. I found it to be okay, had some nice flavor as he added garlic salt to his, but overall it didn’t make the grade for heart-attack-5,000-calorie-kill-me-now before-I-have-a-stroke-and-die type of mac-n-cheese. This is what I’m looking for. Why make mac-n-cheese if you aren’t going to go for broke? I thought about mixing in bacon or truffle oil, but why make something simple complicated?

The second version, I made a few nights ago for my best bud Chad, Nancy and the boys. I found this version in Kurt Beecher’s book, “Pure Flavor”. I was also able to find Beecher’s Cheddar in the local store and was glad. Nancy and I visited their flagship store in Seattle last year. Great cheese!

Chad is up from San Francisco and has been visiting for the past week. I’m almost out of energy. I think I’m getting about five hours of sleep each day. We are mild though, old guys I guess. Our pattern consists of playing sports games on the Playstation 3, drinking large amounts of liquids, cussing at the TV and throwing controllers and in general fighting for the most wins. We are both super competitive. Most of the time we have a great time but there are nights where we are about ready to kill each other.

chadjoe

Last night was particularly funny though since you can customize your player characters. Chad always plays with a male character, but I always pick a female character. I figure if I’m going to have to watch a cyber-person on the screen for hours and hours, I would rather look at a woman than a man. So, I’m buying some hot clothes for my hot cyber golfer when Chad asks me, just as Nancy appears around the corner, “Can you turn her around on the screen so we can see her a%$?” Bad timing, hahaha, we laughed our a$% off as Nancy gave us a dirty look out of the corner of her eye!

Well back to the mac-n-cheese. It was quite a story. I thought I was going to double the recipe, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Problems from the start, because I was trying to cook and hold a serious political discussion with Chad and Nancy. I doubled the butter, but nothing else in the bechamel sauce. By the time I noticed it was way too late. From there I threw caution to the wind. I ended up doubling the cheese by mistake and the resulting mac and cheese, though incredibly cheesy and awesome had a bit of a texture issue. We ate it, Jacob and I really enjoyed it, but Nancy and Chad complained about the texture.

Chad, who is like me, super-competitive and a bit of a perfectionist said “Let’s do it again and do it right this time!” DOH! “Oh what the hell,” I thought, it was about 9:30 at night, but let’s make it again. Chad started the bechemel while I tried to grate the cheese with the correct proportion this time. It worked out perfectly, and we ate the second version at 11:00pm. Everyone loved it, plain and simple. It was great mac-n-cheese. From what I can tell, the secret to this recipe is the proportions.

Perfect Mac-n-Cheese (serves 4 as a side dish)

  • 8 ounces penne pasta (half a box)
  • 2 cups Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce (see below)
  • 1 ounce Cheddar, grated
  • 1 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter an 8-inch dish. Cook the penne 2 minutes less than the package directions. You want the noodles not quite done because they will finish cooking in the sauce in the oven. Rinse the pasta with cold water and set aside.

Combine cooked pasta and Flagship Sauce in a medium bowl and mix carefully but thoroughly. Scrape the pasta into a prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cheeses, then the chile powder. Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the top has a nice golden crust. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

If you decide to make this as a main and double the amounts, use a 9×13 inch baking pan and increase the time to 30 to 35 minutes.

Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce (makes 4 cups)

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 14 ounces semi-hard cheese, grated (I used Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar)
  • 2 ounces grated semi-soft cheese (I used Gorgonzola)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk and cook for 2 minutes. You just made a roux, a substance used for thickening sauces!

Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Now you turned the roux into a bechamel.

Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chile powder and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. If the cheese isn’t melting completely you can put the pan on low heat.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to three days!

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Here’s a Preview

I’m in no-sleep, over-worked, Internet broken at home, hanging out with my friend Chad, video game playing mode still.  The post is on the way… soon!  Here is something to hold you over.

maca3

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Coming Soon…. Awesome, super duper, award-winning, simply the best Mac-n-Cheese.  My best friend Chad is in town and we made a few versions of Mac last night between drinking beer, debating world events and playing video games.  It was awesome, so stay tuned.  I should have it up in the next few days along with the pictures!

Joe

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Rigatoni with a Tuna Ragu

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I was remembering embarrassing moments from the last 18 months of my employment at Dish. Before leaving corporate America for the lure of being my own boss and the excitement of running a growing business, the only restaurant experience I had was washing dishes for Lyon’s Restaurant when I was a senior in high school.

I’ve learned quite a bit in the last 18 months. Some of it the easy way, most of it the hard way. Today when I was washing dishes I remembered one of the first days after starting at Dish. I was trying to make an impact, be helpful, show the employees I was willing to do anything…I was back in the kitchen washing dishes.

For those of you new to the blog, our kitchen is 87 square feet, included in this area is our 3-well sink and under-the-counter dishwasher. Well I thought it was a “dishwasher”, we will get to that in a minute. In the same area we have two other employees, Megan our cook and at the time, Scott our sandwich maker and prep cook. Enter into the equation Joannie who comes in and deposits various items into the ovens to bake, or the counter people who bring back dishes to be washed or to grab soup or various other items.

So here I was standing in the middle of it all trying to earn the respect of my co-workers who were also my employees and at the time knew much more than I did. In fact they probably still do, but that’s another story. There is barely enough room for someone to do the dishes and I’m trying to make myself as small as possible. If you can imagine, I’m squeezing myself up against the sink so the staff have room to move behind me. I’m trying not to ask too many questions but unfortunately I don’t know where all the knives go, which plates and cups go where, what to do with the pie pans and various lids and bowls and plastic containers.

I’m starting to lose my cool and get frazzled.

tunapasta1

It seems I’m always asking questions or I have to reach around or over someone to put something away. Everyone is trying to get their work done and fighting over space and when it’s busy everyone is focused on what they have to do, not about helping you or moving out of your way. It’s almost survival of the fittest.

Our dishwasher at the time was getting old and I was trying to be cool and show my owner properties so at some point while washing dishes I made the comment “this dishwasher is a piece of shit, I don’t know how you guys have used it, we really need to buy a new one”.

At this point both Megan and Scott stopped working, looked at me and said “It’s not really a dishwasher at all, but a sanitizer. You need to wash the dishes by hand and get everything off of them before you run them through”. I can’t really remember if they said it with sarcasm (I think they did) or if it was just my embarrassment of not really knowing what I was doing, but that comment and moment has stuck with me since.

There have been many other moments since then.  I think Megan has said a few times that I find the hardest way to get something done.  But fortunately things have changed quite a bit and I would recommend to anyone to follow your dreams, even if it means you are changing careers at 40 years old and doing something you have very little experience in, but a ton of passion for.

I do still wash dishes every day. Sometimes only for a bit, sometimes for an hour or more. I do still try to keep my presence as small as possible but I don’t get intimidated by the staff any longer and I demand my space too.  In my defense I do understand how to run a business, how to handle money and I think I’m a pro at sales and marketing.

So with all this said, once again I found a recipe to try that was completely new (always trying to advance the knowledge base, work, play or otherwise).  I found and adapted it slightly in a Jamie Oliver book called “Cook with Jamie”.  This is the second recipe from the book I have tried, the other which was Mac n’ Cheese, will be featured soon.  I’m trying a few other versions before I post about it.

I would recommend only good quality tuna if you make it.  I would also say that you had better like tuna if you are going to make it.  It was super easy and didn’t take much time either.

Rigatoni with a Tuna Ragu (serves four)

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Bunch of fresh basil, leaved picked, stalks chopped
  • 1 28 oz.  can of tomatoes
  • 20 oz. can of good-quality tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Handful of grated Parmesan cheese

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook the onion, chilli, cinnamon and basil stalks on a medium low heat for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion has softened.  Increase the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes, tuna and a good pinch of salt.  Break the tomatoes up, then bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Meanwhile cook the rigatoni in a pan of salted boiling water per the package instructions.  When al dente, drain the pasta in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water.  Toss the pasta into the sauce with the roughly torn basil leaves, a tablespoon of olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice and the Parmesan and mix together.

Loosen the pasta with a little of the reserved cooking water if needed.  Check the seasoning and devour immediately.

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