Over-used, Misused, and Annoying Words and Phrases

The restaurant world often seems to have its own language, from kitchen lingo to descriptions on menus and critiques of food.  We all use a form of code, silly, annoying or inaccurate descriptions, or simply misuse the English language all together.  My last post talked about trends in restaurants that I think need to go.  Here are some words and phrases that need to go, or at the very least be used less frequently and used properly.  Like following an occasional trend, I too have been guilty of this heinous crime, though not nearly as much as some, and far less in the future.

Curated doesn’t mean what a lot of people who use it in menus think it means.

Artisanal has become pretty watered down.  It no longer means anything when the crappy bread sold by Price Chopper’s bakery department is called such.

Tuscan, Provencal, and Asian-inspired dishes are generally made by people who know little about Tuscan, Provencal, or Asian cuisine.

Sando, sammie and sammich are cute, but I’m just looking for a sandwich.

Heirloom doesn’t mean fancy or expensive.  If you don’t know what it does mean, stop using it.

Moist is a word nobody likes.

Menu categories like Shareables, Little Bites, Noshes, Prologue, and Sweet Endings all belong at chain or hotel restaurants with silly names and bad food.

Isn’t everything at a restaurant crafted?  Not necessarily well-crafted, but crafted in one way or another.

People tend to point out that some ethnic restaurants or dishes aren’t authentic, but I’m willing to bet that if they were to have the authentic version, in the majority of cases, they would not like the preparation.  Make it good, I don’t care if that’s the way they do it in Mexico or Belgium or France as long as I can enjoy it.

Y’ever look on some takeout menus or the sides of pizza boxes and see “We use only the finest ingredients?”  Does anyone actually believe that?

Wouldn’t the finest ingredients make the food pricey?  What does that even mean?   Is 15 Church pricey?  Is Yono’s pricey?  Sure they cost more than some other restaurants, but they’re not necessarily over-priced nor do they fail to deliver good value.  The question is whether it’s affordable, another relative term.

Bread for mopping and sopping up sauce or broth. Mopping is what is done in the kitchen every night after service.

If you think food can be orgasmic or better-than-sex, then either you’ve got some food I’ve never heard of or you’re having sex completely wrong.

There is nothing amazing about chicken wings, cheeseburgers, short ribs, ramen, foie gras or any other food that we eat.  A professional cooked it, I’m not amazed.  Impressed, happy, excited, or satisfied?  Yes.  Being able to run a mile in 3:43.13 is amazing.

Yummers, yummo, nom-nom, delish, and tummy are not grown-up words.

Finger-licking isn’t sanitary even though we all do it.

Mouth-watering makes me think of a big wet mouth on a dog panting, not what I want to imagine when I’m reading about or discussing food.

 Deconstructed lasagna.

I’ll be doing a twist on pub food as I take it to the next level.  Included will be my riff on the traditional Caesar salad.  I’ll also be doing my interpretation of Buffalo wings.  They’ll be cooked to perfection then tossed in a hand-crafted  honey-hot pepper sauce and served with baby celery and bleu cheese.

I once had a server relay a question from a customer.  “Is the tuna farm-raised?” she asked.  Terms like line-caught, wild-caught, locally sourced, farm-to-table, organic, free-range, cage-free, gourmet, and foraged get thrown about quite often, but I know in many cases the terms mean very little to customers and are not accurately or honestly used by restaurants.  In my experience most people simply don’t care that much.  If a restaurant has a stellar reputation, then the diners trust the restaurant and it’s kitchen to use good products.   You can’t convince me your food is better with these terms.  As they say, “the proof is in the pudding” as long as it’s made with local milk, fair-trade chocolate and non-GMO corn starch.

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There are many things to criticize about the restaurant business and the people in it.  By it’s very nature it’s unlike most other businesses, as it’s quite open to close scrutiny by so many people.  I do on many occasions on this little blog of mine make references to things I see as sub-par, silly, or downright awful in this business, and I must confess that while it appears that I’m almost perfect, I, by my own admission, am not.

I have always tried to keep away from trends and just cook what I like to cook, which mostly consists of Mediterranean flavors.  I have certainly been guilty of many missteps, errors in judgement, and some seldom tendencies to follow trends.  Trends are just that, trends meant to have a starting and an ending point.  The problem I see often is some chefs and restaurants unwilling to give up on trendy items, preparations, and presentations when they have clearly passed their peak.

Following are some of the trends I think have run their course and it’s time to retire them, give them a break, or learn to use them with some restraint.

I really love hamburgers, and no, it’s not time to stop making hamburgers.  What it is time for is to go back to the burger itself and appreciate a well-prepared, high-quality ground beef mix from great cuts like chuck, brisket, and short rib with the right lean-to-fat ratio without too many additions and condiments.  Too much bacon, too strongly flavored cheese, eggs, chili peppers, and the now over-used sriracha should be left off.  A good burger with a nice deep char and a good bun that holds up well without overwhelming the beef is all I ask.  The time has passed for super burgers.

The gluten-free thing got old years ago.  Eat better quality bread and other properly grown and processed wheat products.  You can’t eat three slices of pepperoni pizza and then blame gluten for your twisted belly.  If you’re one of the ¾% of people with an actual allergy, then you’re excused.

If you follow trends just to survive, then perhaps you need to reevaluate your place in this business.

Sometimes riding a trend is necessary.  Who do we blame, the restaurant owners and chefs or the dining public?  Or do we even need to blame anyone?  It’s like what came first, the fried chicken sandwich or the egg on everything?

I love eggs on things, just not everything.

Balsamic reduction should have been eliminated a long time ago.

Everybody is doing octopus now.  I had it on the Wine Bar menu five years ago.  In truth, octopus is good, but it’s not great.  What is great is bacon.  However, bacon is over-used.  It’s not the cure-all for adding excitement and flavor to otherwise bland cooking.  Let’s add pork belly to the list, as well.

Avocado toast is one of the first solid foods Stella loved.  She’s seven now.

Tuna nachos should have never started.

I’m OK with serving things like cheese or charcuterie on slates and boards but not everything works.  Please figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Steaks do not.

The overloaded Bloody Mary is just silly.  If I want a drink I’ll order a drink.  If I want brunch I’ll order food.  I just don’t want to have to eat my drink.

Misuse of truffle oil.  It’s not a condiment, so stop pouring it on french fries.  One tiny drop of good quality oil from a trusted supplier is plenty to add at the end of something like a mushroom risotto.  You’d be better off making your own truffle butter with high-fat butter and truffle shavings.  Never get hoodwinked by a “great deal” on truffle oil.

If we could do away with the gluten-free paranoia, then perhaps quinoa would go away and the demand would stop hurting the poor farmers in Peru and Bolivia.

The Food Network, sex scandals, mac and cheese, kale, sliders, micro greens.

There are so many other choices besides sriracha.  Explore some other chili sauces and spicy condiments.

Nitro brewed coffee, I just don’t get it.

Bone broth, or in other words, stock.  Been making it for years. Escoffier made it. Millions of chefs have made it.

I love ramen, but it’s been around too long to be a trend at this point.  I learned to make it in my dorm room in 1981.  My roommate was Chinese (he’s still Chinese) and from Cambodia.  Have you seen The Killing Fields?  He had to walk 52 days out of the country with his father and brother to Vietnam to escape the Khmer Rouge.  Anyway, he taught me how to make ramen on the Coleman gas stove we hid in our room.  We had to feed our RA well.  Even better when he found out about the deep fryer we had.

David Chang opened his noodle spot back in 2004.

Restaurants without focus perplex me.  Ya gotta figure out what you are and stick to it.  If you don’t know, then how will the public know?  Many years ago I did a one night stage at Mare which was upstairs from Luna Lounge at 17 Maple Ave in Saratoga.  At 9:00 pm the music from the dance club started and the floor in the restaurant shook to the beat.

I don’t have to explain the issue with pumpkin spice, do I?

We’ve done Brussels sprouts to death.

Let’s get some new ideas in 2018, I certainly will when I get back to the kitchen.

Twists on carbonara.

 

What’s Old is New…………Snippets too

Update:  I did start a new blog but decided against it as I want to streamline my life and make better use of my time. Read on.

I’ve changed.  My blog should change too.  In fact, I think it’s time to start a new blog.  No, I’m not ending chefsday.  I try not to be political here but with the fools in Washington, and all the non-food and restaurant related things I experience I often feel myself wanting to include my thoughts about the daily happenings in my world (which has a different color sky than your world) in chefsday.  So, I’ve decided to start a new blog about the world inside my head away from food and the restaurant life. As a rule I don’t invite too many people into that world but since I’ve started to open up my life with discussion about my long-term depression and alcohol misuse  I think the natural progression is to keep the gates open and let everything flow like sewage from a politician’s mouth.  While I certainly intend to keep a personal life as everyone should, I’d love to share my thoughts outside of my life as a chef in a different forum.

I’m starting dominicsbrain as an outlet for those thoughts to stand on their own and I’m refining chefsday with some new themes, a new layout, and expanded features and perhaps even some useful information, culinary tips and interesting and original recipes.  The original intent will remain the same as always; an insight into the experiences and thoughts of a chef but with a generally more positive approach.  Also I will pay closer attention to the technical aspects of my writing.  I am fully aware that I misuse commas, and several other rules of punctuation and grammar.  I guess Strunk and White never got through to me.  I also need to have my work edited.  2018 will see some great changes in this blog, in my life as a chef, and in my life as me. Stay tuned.

Now a few snippets

By telling us that you don’t need to rinse dishes before putting them in your dishwasher Cascade® is suggesting that it’s ok to run all that debris into your machine.

Spot Coffee has the worst black and white cookie I’ve ever had.  As dry as dirt in Kansas.

I think it’s funny when restaurants advertise the fact that they use imported pasta.  If you want to impress me tell me you make your own.

Although I’ve done it, I dislike special menus such as those put out by restaurants on New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day.  Why overspend for a menu the kitchen is not used to doing.  I think most culinary professionals will agree the first night of a new menu is very difficult.  50 covers feels like 100 on those nights.

Y’ever go to a casual place like a pizzeria or fast food restaurant and notice every guy eating alone has one leg out of the side of the booth as if to say I’m just stopping quickly to eat, I’m on my lunch hour and I don’t normally eat alone?

Look at Me!

There’s not much writing here, just some links to some stuff I recommend you take a look at.  Some of them are short enough to watch now and others will require you to make some time to sit and enjoy for a while.  Cooked is a great series, and the Water segment is my favorite.  The first YouTube link is from that section and seems like a great rule to live by.

Watching this is a very good use of an evening.

This is important.  Our land, our space, and our soil are all natural resources that are being used up.  We’re also adding people.  Doesn’t look good.  https://chefsday.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/dont-blame-factory-farms/

We have some very good restaurants in our area, but none are close to Michelin Starred status.  https://chefsday.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/twinkle-twinkle-little-star/

This is a longer one, but the good use of an hour that you may have wasted anyway.

I just found this interesting and it gives you a little insight what it’s like on the busy line.

If Marco says it, then it must be true.

Just because Freddie Mercury is pretty damn good.

That’s it, and you can thank me for the entertainment by being nice to each other. Peace.

It’s My Birthday

It really is the anniversary of my birth, but this post has little to nothing to do with that glorious day.  Today my family and I went out to Bailey’s tree farm in Cambridge and cut a 9 1/2 foot tree, decorated it, and had some eggnog.  Eggnog is much thicker than I remember, but then again I normally thin it out with some Bourbon.

I did some shopping as well and took some pictures for you.

Byron’s, the little grocery store here in Schuylerville, sells these as dog bones for $2.29 lb.  Sold elsewhere as marrow bones for a trendy restaurant dish?  A few more bucks.  Yes, I bought them all so don’t waste a trip.

You think running out of cheap TVs at the Walmarts on Black Friday makes people act like animals?  Wait until our food supply runs low.

Organic “chocolate flavored” syrup.

When I was in college, the dining service would not set up the hot food line until 9:00 am since it wasn’t too common to have students up that early on a weekend.  What they did was put some eggs and pancake batter out by the flat-top and students could drop whatever they wanted on to the griddle and be on their way.  Well, I would find my way into the coolers and find some prepped items I could use for omelets, French toast, ham steaks, sausages, and bacon.  After a few weeks of that I started to get a 7:30 following, but the dining manager eventually got wind of what I was up to.  I was banned, so I went back to sleeping in.

Some people tell you what they’re going to do, others show you what they’ve done.

Do I even try to explain this?

 

Just the other day I took notice of an interesting Instagram photo of a quiche with a salad.  The plate was posted by someone eating at one of the restaurants that’s part of a local restaurant group and apparently one of the better places to get a meal.  What struck me was that the crust for the quiche was clearly a poor-quality pre-made pie shell you’d see on a $4 pie at Hannaford.  Also, the salad was simply a thoughtless handful of mesclun greens straight out of a bag.  The person reported how good this lunch was.  That’s the problem.

I watched these glasses for 15 minutes and they were not entertaining at all.

 

Tate was mad because there were no onions in the guacamole.  Five-year-old kids generally get mad if there are onions in anything.  It’s not that kids are picky, it’s more plausible that parents assume kids won’t eat “adult” food items so they give them chicken fingers and spaghetti-o’s instead.

I had grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch today.  Campbell’s tomato soup.  It’s my birthday so stop the judgement.  We all need that sort of thing in our lives.

If you’re always posting on social media about how busy you are then I’m guessing that you’re not all that busy.

A true loaf of bread is 3 ingredients, a commercially manufactured loaf is up to 35 ingredients.  Don’t tell me it’s the gluten that’s bothering you.

Adolescent kitchen humor here.

 

Inconsistent restaurants are often open too many hours (brunch, lunch, dinner), too many days (seven days), and cannot staff themselves with enough quality people for long-term positions to create solid dining experiences as a rule.

Tuscany, known for their cheddar.

Tate asked me why all the pictures on my Instagram are of food.  I told him because I’m a chef and the things I like to follow are food and restaurant related.  He disagreed and told me I need more pictures of Godzilla.

When using a public restroom I find it troubling that there’s too often a urine puddle either in front of the urinal or toilet.  Whoever is responsible please do not invite me to your house for dinner, or anything else for that matter.

“Fresh” out-of-season cherries at Fresh Market for $9.99 lb.

 

I was working in a small kitchen many years ago in Albany and during dinner service the owner came into the kitchen to microwave some coffee from lunch for a customer.  I called him on it and said he should be ashamed of himself, and that’s no way to treat a paying guest.  Oh, and I didn’t work there anymore.

Stella:  “Real is better.”

Yes, and we know how well the Federal Government has managed our nutritional needs.  These are the people in bed with Monsanto.

It was a great day with the family packed with Christmas decorating, carols, and eggnog.  Since I slept in, as well, I didn’t have time to make the pot of Sunday sauce I was planning, nor did Jenn have time to make a cake.  That’s just fine, we’ll do it tomorrow and call it Monday sauce.  It’s my birthday, I can do what I want.

 

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving is done aside from the leftovers and a nice batch of turkey stock that I’ll use for some vegetable soup with egg noodles.  It’ll be a great in the kids’ thermoses for school lunch on Monday.

This was my first family holiday without alcohol in a very long time. My initial experience is that holidays are much better with booze.  So are families.

I always heat my mug before pouring coffee into it.  That’s the best thing I learned in college.

At about 2:00 yesterday afternoon while preparing dinner I realized I was a couple of hours past due for a sip of Bourbon as part of my normal holiday routine.

When I was shopping the other day for Thanksgiving items I observed what was in most people’s carts.  I’m glad I wasn’t eating at most of their houses.

Yesterday’s dinner was simple, traditional, and exceptional.  I had a thigh.

I paired Polar cranberry-clementine seltzer with the meal.

Tate is working on his beat-boxing.

The mashed potatoes yesterday were gluten-free, no one noticed.

I made cranberries with tangerine and cardamom.  I also opened a can of cranberry jelly stuff.  I had almost all of the homemade cranberries leftover, and the canned cranberries were gone.

When you hear a crash in the other room and a child immediately says “it’s not my fault” then it’s more than likely their fault.

I like my leftovers the same as my Thanksgiving, simple and traditional.  This morning we had crispy fried stuffing with poached eggs on top.  For lunch we had turkey sandwiches on Heidelberg bread with lots of mayo and some of those leftover cranberries.

“Leftovers are for quitters” ~ Jake Vig ‏

I also made vegetarian carrots with ginger and honey and said nothing to our guests.

My announcement at dinner of my plan for a Moroccan inspired Christmas dinner was met with quite a lukewarm response.  It bordered on resistance.  Sorry, chef’s choice.

Aside from the roast duck with ras el hanout and blood oranges, I’m planning tagine makfoul (goat curry), tagine of yam, shallots, carrots, and prunes.

I’ll include some couscous with dried fruits and nuts.

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way.  I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” ~ Jon Stewart.

The mushy bread with celery and onions was a hit.

Not everyone has heard of Google.

One thing that’s great about leftovers is that they’re an easy meal for the next day when you don’t feel like doing a whole lot.  If they’re too complicated then they aren’t within the spirit of good leftovers.

I do much of my Christmas shopping in my underwear, the looks at Target are interesting.  No one notices at the Walmarts.

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been posting more.  I’m trying to get into a rhythm of writing every day.  I really want to start posting culinary ideas, tips, and recipes.  I also need to get my book off the ground.

Actually I do 90% of my shopping on Amazon  The ability to sit at the dining room table in my undershorts with a dish if ice cream at 10 pm and get the bulk of my shopping done keeps me in the house.

The Holiday season is here. I wish all of you a great season and hope the New Year brings you all you deserve.

 

Thanksgiving

A very happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

I have a deep appreciation for all my friends, family, and those of you who take a few minutes to read my thoughts, rants, likes, dislikes and all my experiences as a chef.  It has been a tough, rewarding, painful, wonderful, rewarding, fun, miserable, and satisfying career in the restaurant business to this point.  Yet, I’m not done.  Given an opportunity I plan to do much more in this business, and tell all of you about it as it happens.

I’m not much of a turkey fan but we follow tradition in my house however since it’s what my wife wants. I’m thankful for her, she gives me very clear instructions.

I do enjoy a good bowl of turkey noodle soup.

I’m sitting here with the house filled with the aroma of cranberry, tangerine, and cardamom stewing as well as the pot of turkey stock I’ve had simmering for hours that I’ll use for the stuffing and as the liquid in the roasting pan to be used for the gravy.

We’re pretty much doing the classics.  Roast turkey (I brine it), mashed potatoes with lots of butter, sweet potatoes without marshmallows, corn, Brussels sprouts, glazed carrots, cranberry stuff, and of course my favorite, stuffing made with Heidelberg peasant bread. We’ll also have apple and pumpkin pie.

While our simple and classic Thanksgiving dinner seems mundane for a chef, I must confess that it’s the way I like it.  Besides, I’m a chef so I prepare everything well and I can knock this dinner out with just a few hours of work.

Turkeys are like any other animals we eat. There are good ones, then there’s factory farmed, chewy, dry, cheap ones.  Grocery stores boast 49 cents per pound for a turkey that unnaturally weighs 27 lbs.  That’s bad eating.

We buy a good turkey from a farm.

As the Holiday season kicks in I feel better than I have in years about Christmas and the possibilities of the New Year.

The Pilgrim story I learned in school is a bit warped.

Last year a coyote ate our turkey, not quite the death that was planned for it.

I’m thankful for:  People in my life that love me unconditionally,  my time at The Wine Bar as it was mostly good, my time at Cafe Capriccio as it was there that I really started to cook.  Also for the community of support for this blog, my work, and my mental health.

Thank you especially to my wife, Jennifer. You have been patient, supportive, and understanding beyond a reasonable level.

I hope you all enjoy the day, have a great Holiday season and I hope to feed many of you before long.

 

That’s Not My Job

I was reading a FB friend’s post about an interview that went south when the young man being interviewed explained to his potential employer that he left his last two positions because he was asked to do something that “wasn’t his job.”  immediately a bunch of random snippets ran through my head.

When you work in a restaurant, pretty much everything is your job at some point or another.

I recently saw an ad on Craigslist for an Executive Chef’s position, got my resume updated and started composing a cover letter with some degree of hope and potential excitement.

Part of my process for healing is to not repeat mistakes I’ve made in the past.

When you see an ad for a sous chef and line cook the next day for the same restaurant looking for an Executive Chef you wonder if that’s somewhere you should send your information.

Many chefs do move around often, but if you read Craigslist enough you’ll find that there are a lot of places that are continuously hiring.  The truth is that there aren’t that many great places to work, especially for a group of people who are often strapped with emotional issues.

And on the third day the same place has an ad for a dishwasher.

There are plenty of people on both sides of the restaurant employment game that have their shit together.  Just not enough of us.

I feel really good about finally working on getting my shit together.

Jennifer and I are going to some dear friend’s home next Sunday for dinner where two dear friends will join us.  I’m really looking forward to getting out of the house aside from going to Hannaford, Healthy Living, or Target.  I’m getting a bit of cabin fever without heading out to work every morning and with Winter on the horizon I fear it will get worse.

Six months ago I dreaded going out of the house, especially to a job I had no interest in doing.  Now I’m looking forward to doing it again.

When you run a restaurant, every job is your job.

I’ve worked for a lot of people who wouldn’t be caught dead in the dish pit.  They’re either out of business or constantly struggling.

I’ve never held a job as a dishwasher.

Some places are successful due to their location, some are successful despite their location.

I’ve done a lot of dishes in a lot of kitchens.

What makes a good chef’s job?

Autonomy.  If you’re going to hire a chef and pay them a good salary then let your chef do the job you’ve hired him/her to do provided they’re keeping costs in check and are producing good product.

Credit.  I once worked for a chef/owner that took credit for my work.  I once worked for an owner who claimed to be a chef, and would claim responsibility for the menu and the quality of food

Fair pay for hours worked. I’ll work hard, and I’ll put in the hours, but you’ve gotta pay me.

Financial support.  Ya gotta be able to pay your bills.  I want to order the food I need without being concerned about vendors looking for COD payments and you’re nowhere to be seen. Don’t bounce paychecks.

Ability to understand and contribute to the business in a positive way.  If you have no desire to contribute with a day’s work, or to work hard during service then stay out-of-the-way, especially if your behavior has a negative effect on the business.

Education.  As a leader (owner) you should be educated, and continue to educate yourself.  As a leader you need to make sure your staff is educated, and that they’re working on educating themselves.  Also, allow time for education for both the FOH and the BOH.

Some owners spend a lot of time sitting at the bar, some do not.

The ability to recognize what is likely an unhappy work situation is something that I’m finally developing.

I’ll miss wine at Thanksgiving dinner.

What’s so difficult about saying “excuse me” or “pardon me” at the grocery store?

Chefs can get too creative before they learn good technique.  Learn to caramelize onions properly before you attempt a rift on French onion soup with Gruyère foam and beef gelee.

I’m going to work on getting off of caffeine next.

Just kidding.

I’ll miss Bourbon in preparing for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m doing a Moroccan inspired Christmas dinner this year.

I don’t need the alcohol to help cook the dinner, it’s to help prepare me for having family here for dinner.

I’m not a fan of lunch.  I don’t like making it, I don’t like eating it, and I certainly don’t like working it.  Lunch comes at a very inconvenient time of the day for me since I’m typically busy prepping for dinner.

Excellent post on Daniel Berman’s Fussy Little Blog recently.  I reminds me of a place I was chef for a while.  We had great food and a decent wine list, but for some reason ownership insisted that all beer should be the same price, $5 per bottle at the time. Sam Adams was the high-end beer.  A little effort would have gone a long way. One sous chef who was well-schooled in the craft beer scene even offered to revamp and oversee the beer list.  In many restaurants, one aspect falls short whether it’s part of the beverage program, the desserts, or the service. If you as the owner or manager cannot cover one of the bases find someone who can. It will help your bottom line.  I find that a passion for the business is a key to success, not just a passion for one piece of the business.

When your friends tell you you’re a great cook and you should open a restaurant chances are that putting on nice dinner parties does not qualify you for the business unless you have a lot of money and are willing to spend it.

I misuse commas all the time.  When I pause to think I generally put a comma in. My writing follows my thought cadence. Look at it this way, I’m displaying my thoughts in alphabetic symbols, not writing.

 

 

Indian Giver………

……….is not only derogatory, it’s based on historical lies from a cultural misunderstanding pertaining to trade and gift-giving.  As Thanksgiving approaches children are still learning the incorrect historical lessons in school of the Pilgrims and their relationship of the original owners of the land we call America.

The term Indian giver when I was a kid was used to describe someone who took back something they had given you.  I strongly suspect that it was the white man who did most of the taking, and taking back throughout the early days of our history by broken treaties, and reclaiming of land “given” to Native American populations.  As a holiday gesture I unofficially change that term to Pilgrim Giver.

That however is not what this post is about.  I’m thinking of the wonderful gift of Indian spice blends and the vast array of curry preparations available to those who explore the intricate cooking of India.

Some years ago I had a young line cook working for me, a CIA graduate.  We were discussing curries in the kitchen one day and he used his very expensive culinary education to exclaim that he thought there was only one curry.  You know the one, coconut milk, ginger, tomato, and generic curry powder.  Simmer a protein in it and presto! quintessential Indian curry.

The complexity of Indian cuisine is one I hope to understand better.  I certainly accept the fact that I will never have a grasp on it as I do Mediterranean cooking, but if I can get myself beyond the simple use of basic garam masala, generic curry powder, and a chutney or two I’d be far better off as a cook.

Since I’m home to cook dinner almost nightly I have discovered that it’s easy to fall into a rut, especially with young kids in the house (one of which has a dairy allergy).  Stella seems to have passed from her phase of hating almost everything to excitement over trying new foods.  She has even fashioned a chart to keep track of everything she adds to the list of new foods she’ll eat.  Last Sunday’s roast duck was huge hit and she had requested it for Christmas dinner.

Yesterday I decided to do some simple Indian cooking since the kids are exploring new tastes and I introduced them to some curries. Nothing I can call regional or authentic, but both a learning experience for me and something different on the dinner table.  As Jennifer said at the end of the meal “I really needed this.”

Above is one of several spice shelves in our kitchen.  As my exploration continues we’ll need more shelves.  Below are whole spices toasting in a cast iron pan which were used for a cauliflower in coconut milk based dish.  I wish I had a photo of it even though it needs tweaking.  I made a total of three different blends each with unique characteristics and applications. One thing I had to be mindful of was the heat level for the kids.

Below is a tomato based lamb and pumpkin curry which was great.  Jennifer and I agreed that the chili paste we each added at the table was needed to bring out a lot of the flavor.  Theresa liked it, and was told it was lamb and not beef after the meal.

While the lamb simmered I put Tate on naan rolling duty.  He rolled then I hand stretched them before throwing them directly on the top of my makeshift tandoori oven.

The finished product.  They need a bit of work, but the kids loved them.  Seeing them puff into pillows was particularly fun for them.  “Pillow bread” is now in our repertoire and simple to make.

Two pizza stones close together and an oven at 550° did a nice job with a tandoori style pork tenderloin.  Rather than using yogurt I used dairy-free sour cream from Wayfare available at Healthy Living.  It has a thick creamy texture like Greek yogurt and a pleasant tangy flavor.  Te mild spice blend was perfect for the kids.

It was a satisfying meal rounded out with some basmati rice and a couple of glasses of flavored seltzer.  I think the kids would be fine without having my version of Indian food again except for the pillow bread, but I will definitely continue to explore and learn.

Old Fashioned Snippets

 

Cage free means nothing.

 

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/11/09/restaurant-owner-arrested-for-choking-customer-over-cold-fries/23272075/  I’m not sure if he did it or not, but I’ve certainly been in his position.  When I was chef at Café Capriccio there was a prominent Albany dude that would come in regularly. His wife would order the eggplant with 4 cheeses and insist that it be bubbling hot when it came to the table.  She would gab for 20 minutes the send it back to the kitchen because it was cold.  Every time.

I say a lot of things, but there’s a lot of shit I don’t say.

The problem with social media is that you often have to interpret the tone and specific meaning of comments made by people who you don’t know. If you don’t have a good handle on what someone’s comment means, or how it was intended then it’s best not to respond to it.

http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/2017/11/09/why-should-never-order-daily-special-in-restaurant.html

Many of the same restaurants are looking for help all the time.  If you see the same place on Craigslist constantly then think carefully before accepting a position there if you can help it.

40 days without booze, going well.  I miss beer the most. I don’t miss the intoxicated feeling.

It says “No Parking – Fire Lane”

It does not say “No Parking, unless you’re lazy, waiting for someone, or will only be a few minutes”

Forno’s, Chianti’s, dp’s, Capriccio’s, Lo Porto’s, and Villa Valenti’s are not restaurants in Lathams near the Walmarts.  Milano’s is in Lathams but not near the Walmarts.

The difference between the chaos my kids can cause and the chaos of a busy kitchen is that I seem to be able to control the latter much more easily.

Should it really take a basement full of people to count 711 absentee ballots?  And should it take enough of a day that they needed to break for lunch?  The cost?

David Chang opened a noodle bar back in 2004, that’s a long time ago and ramen is not the new trend many think it is.  With that said, it’s damn good when done well.  Sometimes even when it’s not done well.

Please don’t discount or mock someone’s idea, solution to a problem, or plan until you can come up with a better one.

Great food at the expense of a healthy food and labor cost has a short shelf-life.  There’s a fine line between art and business.

Political signs should only be allowed on private property with the permission of the land owner and it should be required that they be taken down within three days of election day.

I know it’s fun to see friends at the grocery store, but you don’t have to corral your carts in the middle of an aisle while you chit-chat about your son that just got accepted to Hudson Valley.

http://www.foodandwine.com/news/dominos-pizza-checker

I’m going for my third colonoscopy soon.  I’ve told this story before butt there are some of you that are new to chefsday, so here’s how my first one went.  As I’m in my final preparation phase on the table about to be rolled into the procedure the nurse asks me if I have ever had this done before and I responded “not professionally.”  The look on her face was as blank as I’d ever seen on a person.

When did it become a thing to pile a bunch of crap on french fries?

https://www.jesrestaurantequipment.com/building-a-restaurant-when-you-cant-afford-a-ventilation-hood.html  If you cannot afford a hood, you likely cannot afford to open a restaurant,

From Craigslist:

We are open 365 days a year, must be able to work a variety of nights (must be available to close), weekends, days and holidays.  We are a high volume, fast paced restaurant and are looking for people to grow with us as a company. Please send resume to email given with the title “Line Cook.”  All new hires start at $10hr with quick advancement based on capabilities and performance.   $10 per hour and be available 365 day or night?

Paying restaurant workers more will do some things.  It will reduce the number of restaurants which will add to the customer bases of the ones that remain and it will develop better cooks because of increased dedication to what can be a more lucrative career, it will aid in employee retention, and will raise the overall quality of restaurants.

I’m off alcohol, using my cpap for better sleep, used to my “crazy” medicine, and through therapy have some new perspectives on life.  I’m not fully there yet, and have some issues to deal with and some work to do but……

I’m more than ready to cook again.

Better than before.