Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007


As I sat staring at the menu of Manuels Mexican Restaurant tonight with a fellow extern it dawned on me about a conversation we had months prior about mexican food in general.

If memory serves me correctly (which it sometimes doesnt) the original question posed to me was about the difference between Tacos, Burritos, Chimichangas, and Enchiladas.

As I thought about it I realized that many people may not know why they are so named aptly.

So get that pen and paper ready, cause next time you eat out ala Mexicano you can wow family and friend with in depth knowledge of these dishes.

As with alot of dishes it may be only a small change in preparation or cooking method that differentiates each dish.

So we will start with the most famous of all mexican foods:

Burrito: a flour tortilla folded and rolled to completely enclose and of several savory fillings. Usually including Shredded/Chopped Meat, Refried Beans, Grated Cheese, Sour Cream, Lettuce, etc.

Now onto one of my personal favorites. It's hard to find one done well, but when you do you fall in love. Its also a good sign that the establishment knows what they're doing if they can make a good:

Chimichanga: Hailing from Sonora Mexico this dish is actually a burrito that is fried or deep fried. It can contain a number of fillings, most commonly pork, chicken, or beef. The burrito itself is often encased in a second protective layer of flour tortilla to protect it during frying.

This brings us now to the also very popular:

Taco: A mexican-style "Sandwich" consisting of a folded corn tortilla filled with various ingredients such as beef, pork, chicken, Chorizo sausage, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, onion, etc. Most commonly served in the United States in a crisp(Fried) tortilla shell, but can also be served with a soft shell.

Last but not nearly least we have ourselves the:

Enchiladas: Mexican specialty is made by rolling a soften corn tortilla around a meat or cheese filling. Served hot usually topped with a tomato-based salsa and melted cheese

As you can see each is very similar yet differentiated by one or two things. Such is the case with many different foods and dishes. A good example, and sticking with our theme, would be chiles. Chipotle chiles for example are nothing more then dried and smoked Jalapenos stored in Adobo sauce. By drying and smoking a single type of chile we change its name, such is the case with many dishes.

Now keep in mind weve only scratched the surface of Mexican food, and the dishes listed above were picked because of their popularity in North America. Mexican food, Nay, South American food is a very diverse and misunderstood mix of fresh ingredients and amazing adaptation to local surroundings.

South American cuisine in general is very defined and mostly so due to region, climate, and accessability. Cuisines of South America have one of the richest and strongly rooted foundations then most. Influenced by numerous cultures and backgrounds it has managed to define itself as a very different and unique cuisine.

If you can manage to locate an authentic South American eatery near you I invite you, no I implore you to try it when the next craving for a Supreme Burrito or Nacho Salad from your local Taco Bell or other tex-mex fast food joint lurches at your stomach.

You may find yourself pleasently suprised.

Happy Eating

All definitions came directly from Food Lovers Companion 3rd edition

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Can I get mine over medium please?

As with most of my days off I find myself "Link Jumping" (The act of spending countless minutes jumping from one link in a online blog or article to another) again in an attempt to try to catch up with the going ons of the culinary world.

Having your head buried in a pantry station for 5 days from sun up to sun down leaves little time for it. (Can you tell I worked alot this week?)

As luck would have it it I stumbled across a link for WD-50.

I had heard whispers over the last year about WD-50 and its owner/chef Wylie Dufresne. Named after his initials and the street address, this is Chef Dufresne's first time as owner and chef. His career started with the likes of Jean George at the time of the opening of Jean Georges.

As I usually do I began to poke around the photo section of the WD-50 webpage to see what hes up to and where hes going with his food.

One image had me stopped and amazed. I said to myself "Wow..." and a big grin spread across my face. Its rare today that an image alone can get me giddy about food. Dont get me wrong, Im giddy about food in general. But not often do I see an image alone that makes me clap my hands together and bounce in my seat like a 5 year old.

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All rights belong to WD-50

Now I know what your probably thinking "Um dude, its only an egg"... but wait theres more!

Under the picture is the caption :
Carrot-coconut "sunnyside up"

By now Im hoping the wheels are starting to turn and your saying "Wow... NEAT!"
Im going on an assumption here, but by the looks of it I would have to say its a coconut cream with a carrot puree or juice encased inside a gel.

I find myself sitting here saying, "I have to have that, I MUST go to WD-50 and eat that!" if it werent for my damn coconut allergy.

Ive added WD-50 to my "Hit List" and hopefully will be able to cross it off soon.

50 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002
Phone: 212.477.2900

On With Spring...

Spring has sprung (in most cases) and as a result diet will change with the arrival of fresh vegetbles that dont grow in the ground.

leites culinaria has a short but good artical on Peas.

The article taps on the debate on Cold or Hot Pea soup for spring and I thought Id take a swing at my thoughts on it.

In the winter months were more then happy to find a bowl of split pea soup with fresh potato and pork. As we approach on the warmer (For the most part) months of spring we start to dread the coming summer heat and it begins to reflect in our food choices.

Soup, in my very humbled opinion, is the easiest, most fun, and most comforting of one pot meals. I find soups to be the simplest of comfort foods as well as a great source of flavor.

As such the debate of hot vs cold soups in itself is a very tough call. Im not adverse to cold soups in the least, matter of fact I love a good cold soup sitting at a window seat of air conditioned Bistro or small restaurant during the summer. But when it comes down to soup in general Im a fan of pipping hot soup.

The thought of slurping down a bowl of hot tomato or potato leek soup during a summer heat wave may not sound very funny at all, but my mind is swayed by the idea of flavor above body comfort any day of the week.

I find that hot soups really do impart a stronger more robust flavor then cold soups ever will. This of course can be scientificly proven, but Ill spare you the details. Also cold soups can be a little worse for the wear as more salt is required to enhance the flavor of a cold soup vs a hot soup.

A cold soup though can offer a very unique culinary challenge. When dealing with cold soups you have to adjust seasonings, be very aware of consistency of your soup taking into effect cooling thickens soups naturaly, and maintaining color/clarity.

Not only do those factors play into the challenge of making a cold soup, but also the type of soup you are going to make. Any soup high in fat (IE: Split Pea Soup with Ham Hock) will not suite well to cold service. Fat coagulates at cold temperatures leaving a very greesing film. As stated before flavor also plays a part. While some soups lend themselves well to either temperatures (IE Green Pea, Squash, Tomato) some soups dont (IE Chowders).

So whats a good soup to serve cold?

Well, keep a simple rule in mind. If the soup is a pureed thin bodied soup then chances are it will work well cold. Also think of any ingredient you wouldnt mind eating right out of the fridge. Amazingly enough that rule works great, Cucumber soup? Of course!

There are rules when it comes to cold soups, heck soups in general. But more rules tend to bar and control cold soups then hot soups. This should not deter you from attempting to make cold soups, but be aware they do pose a culinary challenge to the unitiated and uninformed.

But whats life without a good fight right? ... boring thats what!

Not to drag to far from the original meaning of the post, I think Cold Vs Hot really boils down to a matter of personal choice. Cold soups if done right and well will make your taste buds explode with flavor, if done poorly... well ever have to drink that medicine when you get broncidus? you know the one that coats your tongue with that awful flavor for hours afterwards.

As for my choice, It really depends on what the soup is and where Im going to be eating. A cold Leek soup at Lon's, sure Ill give that a try... Cold Onion Soup at Mikes Bar and Grill, Ill take the mixed green salad thank you very much.

All in all, if you find a place that does a good cold soup then tell your friends cause theyre hard to find sometimes. And most importantly, be your own judge and jury. No one knows what you truelly like better then you.

Happy eating.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Trial and Error

Upon arriving for my second shift of the day I began to piece together what I wanted to do for the Amuse.

I prepared a Broccoli soup as well as a red pepper coulis. I also prepared some Creme Fraiche with fresh tarragon.

In the end I am really glad I tasted each seperatly then together before plating up.

The result was an overpowering pepper and tarragon flavor which covered the main subject, Broccoli.

I spent some time toiling over what to do to fix the situation, I couldnt very well serve shots of Broccoli soup now could I?

So after a few minutes I swallowed my pride and approached one of the chef de cuisines and asked him for his take.

We tasted all the parts together and discussed why they werent working and what could be done.

What we settled on was plain creme fraiche and a hand puree of tomato concasse with taragon and rice wine vinegar. In the end it was the better choice. The tomatoes neutral flavor left the broccoli soup to shine through while adding tang and coolness to the dish.

So what did we learn today?

Pay attention to your main ingredient. A concept I had neglected to remember. Also, sometimes you have to swallow your pride and ask for a second opinion because as hard as it may be to do so, sometimes it can get you on the right path.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Search of...

A co-workers family is due in tomorrow for dinner. I offered to do an Amuse Bouche for her.

Now its 1 am and I find myself turning to the internet of all places for an idea or something to get the creative juices that have all but dried up after a 15 or so hour shift.

In my search I find myself boggled by the amount of "Recipe" websites and blogs that offer very little in the way of creative ideas. For example on googled search led me to, which isnt even a recipe database its mearly another google-like link site.

Due to my current state being away from home and the rest of my personal belongings I am devoid of what little food books I have. Currently I feel like, how do I put this, a pirate without a parrot. Ok maybe not the best association but work with me here, Long shift today remember?

Anyway, so I spent an hour or so trying to find at least some decent idea or something to jog a flow of thought. My mind keeps going back to the asparagus soup I made last week but I was hoping to try something new.

I thought something with blueberries might lend a bright and fresh color, but I dont want to do something sweet. I dont think it will go well with the menu at all.

I have a few ideas currently but not sure how I feel about them just yet.

-Broccoli soup with herb infused Creme Fraiche and red pepper couli, served in a shot glass

-Broccoli soup with Pancetta and shaved truffle, served in a porcelain spoon

-Apple Consomme with fruit and vanilla shaving, served in a shot glass

again the last would be a great Intermezzo but Im not sure about an Amuse.

My mind keeps going to Broccoli or Asparagus for the reason that both lend themselves to a nice smooth, glossy, and vibrant green when made into a soup.

Whatever I end up doing Ill be sure to share... but I cant think on it anymore now.

8 Am shift comes early, to early.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Not food related but hits close to home.

Shooting at VA Tech

For more on this from someone whos a little closer to it then me check out:

The O's Blog

My first thoughts were of Drew and his wife Ina. When I heard they were ok my thoughts turned to the familys of those killed.

My heart goes out to them.

As more information comes out about this horrible event the worse it gets.

Many of the dead appear to be professors or teachers at the school, many of which are experts in thier field.

One moment of rage takes from the world many great minds. The whole thing is turning out to be a giant mess. Response time from the school could have saved countless lives, but amid the confussion its impossible to say it would have done any good to lock the school down.

Classes were in session and it looks to me this was planned. A few shots at the dorms then run over to the main building while theyre trying to figure out what happened at the dorms.

All in all a very tragic event. Many bright futures and great minds snuffed out in a single moment of rage.

Again, my heart goes out to the familys of those killed and I hope the wounded recover swiftly.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I got it!

Nope.. lost it.

Thats been my mental state all night. Some decent ideas for entries but they kept slipping through the cracks today. Now that Im home and I crawled into bed of course theyre flying through my head at a hundred miles an hour.

So heres a list of possible topics:

-5 Signs Your Restaurant is Struggling
-Higher Education: Culinary School vs School of Hard Knocks
-What We Eat Volume II: Modified Food Starch
-Best Laid Plans: Dreams of the Culinary Youth

Just thought Id get them down so I could reference them later.
If any look interesting or you think youd like to see please comment.

Oh and my camera did grow legs and walk out of the kitchen. Awsome, great super, and I had big plans for that camera in the coming week.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oooh How Green It Is!

Michael Ruhlman recently returned from cooking at The Culinary Vegetable Institute in Ohio.

His post and pictures really got a mental block in my head broken.

My parents had reservations at the restaurant Im currently working at and the Executive Chef has been asking me since I made the reservations what I was gonna make for them.

Now my parents are far from foodies, matter of fact I really think theyre uncomfortable in restaurants. How I fell so in love with the scene and the work Ill never really understand when I look at them. So, with the way they feel about food I was stumped at what I could possibly do for them.

After reading Michaels artical this morning I had a brainstorm of thoughts and ideas, so much so I had to write some things down to get it all straight.

The picture that really stood out to me was
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Photo by Chefs Garden

The bright green of the Pea Soup really took to me, So when I got to work (30 minutes early mind you to get the ball rolling) I immediatly set to work.

What I ended up with was a Asparagus Soup with Creme Fraiche and white Truffle Oil.

On the plus side my parents loved it, which I was suprised at.

Unfortantly I left my camera at work, sitting on the window of the Pantry station. I hope those night porters didnt see it... stuff walks out all the time.

But in the end I was proud of the job I did (though it did thicken up a little after it cooled) and I was able to secure a very good connection with my mother at least in a sense of now she can see why I love to do what I do.

Food, bringing people together since the beginning of time.

*ques sappy music*

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Will Bourdain Blow His Top?

Or will this whole thing blow over?

What on earth are you talking about your probably asking yourself.

Well being the movie geek that I am I check from time to time to see whats new/coming soon.

And low and behold I find:

No Reservations

and no it has NOTHING to do with Bourdains book or show.

Ive been slightly worried about the fame of Food Network spilling over into movies for some time and I think this one is gonna be the start. But I cant judge until I see it, but I cant help but wonder what Bourdains gonna think....

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


So when Bob del Grosso Posted a link to photographs of a making of a pancake in a very unorthadox way I thought I had to share.

At the basic level cooking really is just like this!

Making A Pancake:A Users Guide

Q & A With The Foodist

A friend recently sent me a message posing a question, or rather a topic, that he thought might be interesting for me to address. The AIM name has been changed to protect from spam.

"The Friend" (7:24:04 PM): culinarily professional things you can do to spice up house-hold classic
"The Friend" (7:24:20 PM): grilled cheese & tomato soup, mac & cheese, hamburgers, etc.
"The Friend" (7:24:57 PM): came up with the idea because i was making grilled cheese and i thought, "how would (You) suggest to make this better? multiple kinds of different cheeses? seasonings? butter? types of bread?"

Its really a good question in alot of ways.

The idea of making our home cooked meals more exciting and adventerous has always been goal of a real foodie. The problem that prevents most of us from obtaining the "upscale quality" that we hope to at home really boils down to just a few things:

-Fear- We are afraid to try new things, try some different method of preparation, or think outside our cubbard.

-Lack of Information- This plays into the fear, without proper information we are afraid to try new things because we dont want to mess anything up. Just remember, a recipe is ONLY a guideline and the best way to learn is to experiment!

-Lack of Proper Equipment- The simple fact folks, is most of us will A) Never be able to afford the quality of equipment found in most professional kitchens and B) Would only use the equipment at home once in a blue moon.

Adaptation is the key when cooking at home. Your not going to go buy a couple thousand dollar smoker just cause you want to try smoking some ahi at home, instead use a good quality wood chip some metal pie tins and your backyard grill... There are all kinds of ways to do quality proccess' at home without shelling out big bucks.

So lets look at the basic things you can do by using my friends situation.

Grilled Cheese. The single, lonely, and lazy mans best friend. So what do when your feeling not so lazy or when you have a lady coming over that you want to impress (And I hope to god your gonna make more then grilled cheese sandwiches!).

Sometimes small and simple changes can be the most impressive or amazing.
The standard grilled cheese sandwich consists of:
Cheese (Yellow American Anyone?)
Tomato (if your one of THOSE people)

The key to spicing up something as simple as the GCS (yeah, thats right I abbreviated!) is change the base ingredients to different products.

Bread- Try using a different bread. Instead of your standard white bread loaf try something like Sourdough, Nine Grain, or even a Baguette.

Butter- Not a whole lot you can do to change this. Try making a compound butter. Be aware though if you use lemon juice or herbs not to over power the taste of the cheese. Too much can make everything bitter or sour.

Cheese- Now we come to the center of attention. Whats a GCS without Cheese? Toast. So how do you change things around? Well here in the states the standard GCS is either Mozzerella or Yellow American. But looking at what kind of bread you want to use you could go any number of cheese routes.

Just keep in mind, ALOT of cheeses do not lend themselves to melting well. Now in my opinion a nice Baguette with a slightly warmed Brie would be great. But you dont want to throw the Brie in the oven and let it melt all the way, at least in my humble opinion.
If your not sure how a cheese will melt or the flavor youll get from it when it does, cut off a piece and do a taste test prior.

Other Items- Tomatoes and the like make a great addition to a GCS. They break up the monotony of it and adds flavor and texture to the product. So what to do about tomato.. what to do... Well you could always find some nice Hierloom tomato. Oddly shaped, beautifuly colored, and amazingly flavored Hierloom tomatoes would definatly spice up a boring GCS.

Outside of tomatoes you could do any number of additions:
-Carmalized Red Onion
-Fresh Herb

The options are really limitless. Just remember to keep in mind what cheese your using and the flavors it gives.

Frankly a standard GCS on its own is a wonderful thing. Comforting and warm its the basis of good lazy sunday afternoon cooking. But if your looking for spice and change change the basics for something new and exciting.

I hope this gives you some ideas and thoughts on the GCS topic and others!

Happy Eating!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A New Home

Well Friends;

I hope you've all found your way here ok. Hopefully this will be the start of something more then just Livejournal posts, and my hope is that I can keep this up and rolling for awhile.

Like the saying goes:

"The First Step Is Always The Hardest"

So Heres goes!...