Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today's tip-duck

For all of you who cook duck for the holidays here is a simple and tasty tip.

Whenever cooking duck always keep the fat, provided it isn't burned. 

Saute your vegetables in duck fat.  Duck fat has wonderful flavor and I am sure you will enjoy it..............unless you are vegetarian.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving leftovers

We all know what to do with the turkey leftovers but what about the other things?

Well, here are some suggestions.

Stuffing.  Take any leftover stuffing, make it hot, or at least warm and press it into a flat pan. It will be easier to do this while warm.  To know what size pan to use you want the stuffing to be about two inches thick. Chill it thoroughly.  Cut it into squares then saute them over medium heat in a non-stick pan with a little oil and butter. Think of it as savory French toast in an abstract way.  If you saute it until it is golden on one side and a little crisp it has a nice contrast in texture to the soft middle.

Turkey carcass and scraps.  I hope you all are making a nice turkey stock.  Put all turkey scraps and the carcass in a pot large enough to accommodate it, cover the carcass with cold water and simmer for about 6 hours.

Cranberry relish.  That will make a nice cheesecake if you just adjust the seasoning. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Today's tip-seasoning

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating and hope you all have a great holiday.

Here is a quick tip when seasoning food that is going to be served cold such as potato salad or tuna salad for example.
Always season a little more than you would if the food is to be served hot.  The reason for this is cold hides flavor.  Have you ever noticed that if you have a really lousy white wine that the colder you get it, the more it hides the flavor? 

Try testing it.  Make some potato salad and season it as you normally would, then taste it.  Now take some of that same potato salad and refrigerate it until it is completely chilled and taste that.  Can you taste the difference?


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A twist on Thanksgiving stuffing

Here is a neat idea for stuffing that is much more presentable and less messy.

Make your stuffing mix and put the mix in muffin tins as if you were making muffins.  I fill each muffin tin about 2-3 inches above the rim or about the size of a small ice cream scoop

You don't even need eggs to hold it together.  If your stuffing mix is wet enough (although you don't need to make it sopping wet) it will hold.

Another benefit is it only takes about 20-30 minutes to bake them in the oven at 350F depending on the size of the muffin tins.


Thanksgiving tip number three

For those of you who like beets and turnips try this tip.

If you find beets or turnips with the greens attached don't throw them away.  Here is what you do.

Cut up your beets and turnips as you normally would and cook them.

Wash the greens and tear them into large pieces, removing the larger veins.  Saute them over medium heat in a bit of olive oil with minced garlic, salt and pepper and cook them for a few minutes until they are tender.  You may want to add just a bit of water or chicken stock. 

Toss the greens with the beets or turnips and serve

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yet another Thanksgiving tip

Here is another twist on a classic

Make mashed potatoes as you normally would and add fresh grated parmesan cheese and fine chopped green onions......Very good!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another Thanksgiving tip

Ok all here is another creative twist to a traditional item: Cranberry relish

For those of you who are using that canned cranberry relish crap you should be aware that it is a form of culinary sin and there is something very easy and much tastier that you can serve. The following recipe is one I have been using for about 12 years and always receive raves on it.

Please note that these quantities are not exact, but an approximation as I don't use recipes.  I just throw a bunch of shit together hoping it comes out well-and it always does.

Here is what you need.

Frozen cranberries-1 cup
Sun dried cranberries -1 cup
Fresh rosemary-chopped- 1 teaspoon
Fresh orange-1 ea
Brown sugar-just to sweeten-approximately 1-2 tablespoons
Cornstarch-to thicken
Red onions-julienned -1/2 cup
Olive oil-for cooking
Salt and black pepper to taste

Red wine
Port wine

Note: for the wine, I use equal parts and you need just enough to cover the cranberries


-In a heavy-bottomed pot, add just enough oil to barely coat the bottom and cook your red onions over medium heat for about five minutes.  Make sure they do not brown.

-While the onions are cooking, run the orange over a cheese grater on the side with the smaller grate and set the orange zest aside.

-Add both types of cranberries, rosemary, orange zest, brown sugar, juice from the orange and both types of wine to the pot and put on high heat

-Put some cornstarch in a bowl and add some cold water and mix it with your hand until it is free from lumps and about the consistency of heavy cream.

-Once the mixture is boiling add about two teaspoons of the cornstarch mix to the pot and stir. 

-Reduce heat to low, season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes.

-Chill and serve.  I suggest serving this room temperature as opposed to cold.

A few points for you to consider.  

-Once finished, you should be able to taste the wine but it should not taste too "winey."  If it does, simply add a bit more sugar.
-The thickness should not be like that of a cranberry relish in a can, it should be more like a chutney only slightly looser. It should not be "soupy" though.

-I personally like using 100% sun dried cranberries and no frozen cranberries at all but it is up to you

Remember, this is not baking or pastry where you have to follow a recipe exactly so if you like a sweeter relish, add more sugar.  If you like more orange flavor, add more orange.  If you don't like wine, use cranberry juice instead.

Lastly, when it comes to seasoning remember to add a little seasoning at a time, constantly tasting to see how the flavor develops.  This is how you develop your palate.
You can always add more seasoning but you can't take it out once it is in there.

Happy cooking and I will post some more Thanksgiving ideas and tips for you

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving turkey tip

Here is a great way to put a twist on the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

Get some achiote from your supermarket.  You may need to go to a Latin supermarket to find it depending on how much variety your local market has.

Achiote comes in different forms.  I have seen it in big spice bags but I normally use the one that comes in little bricks, about half the size of a pack of gum but it doesn't matter which one you use.

To help you guage how much to use, I use about two of those little 'bricks' for one turkey.

Put your achiote in a bowl.  Add a large pinch of dried thyme leaves, a teaspoon of ground cumin and start mashing this together with between the fingers of one hand while pouring a little salad or olive oil with the other hand until you have a paste consistency.  If you want a stronger flavored paste, use less oil.  There is no rule here.
Please note that you don't want a paste so thick that you can't see the turkey through it once you apply the rub because if it is too thick it may burn.  I always make the paste so it is slightly thicker than a vinaigrette. 

Rub this on the turkey then season the bird with salt and pepper.

Cook as you normally would and BINGO, it is killer!!

I will give you some more Thanksgiving tips soon

If you have any requests please email me at: csassakb@gmail.com
I have been told it is difficult to post comments on my blog so my email is better.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tip for peeling fresh garlic

Sorry for my absence everyone but have had some computer issues.

Here is a quick and easy tip for peeling fresh garlic.

Take a head of garlic and smash it with your palm against the counter until all the cloves are separated.

Put the garlic in a container and cover it with hot water. 

Let it sit in the water for about 30 minutes and that is it.

Use a paring knife to peel back the skin and you will find not only is it easier but your hands don't get all sticky from it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kitchen tip-slicing roasted meat or chicken

Here is a quick tip for y'all.

Whenever you roast a piece of beef, pork, chicken or basically any piece of meat that you will slice in order to serve it always remember to let that piece of meat rest for about half the cooking time BEFORE you slice it.
Why?  Because while the meat rests after cooking, the juices redistribute through the meat.
For example, if you cook a piece of meat medium rare and slice it right away after cooking it will not look medium rare.

For the average home cook some of the more common items cooked at home is roast chicken or roast beef. If you give that beef or chicken about 15 minutes to rest you should be fine

Happy cooking

Monday, November 1, 2010

House of Frank part four

The one thing about this restaurant that I have never seen before is how low the turnover was.  In most restaurants people leave after a year or two and there is the rare employee who is long term, but many of these employees had been there anywhere from three to ten years.  The owner paid really well to keep it that way and overall, the staff there was not highly skilled.  They knew they couldn't go anywhere else and make the kind of money they were making there so many of them were trapped in a way. To give you an example of how generous the owner was, one day he found out I had started a second job and when he was walking along the line saying goodnight to all the cooks he casually told me "next pay day you will have more money."  It was that simple.  I remember hearing stories about how much of a tyrant and an asshole the owner was before I started but after I got to know him I found the opposite to be true. He was demanding and wanted things a certain way but he was also fair.  You certainly can't expect to have such a highly regarded restaurant by being lax for Heaven's sake.

If you are wondering how a restaurant can be so highly regarded, (for those of you who haven't read my earlier postings, this restaurant was the number one restaurant in the Washington D.C. area by the readers of an upscale Washington publication for, at the time, almost two decades) with a low to average skilled staff, it is because of how the kitchen was run. I don't know if it was accidental or by design but in most kitchens you are responsible for a station and you prepare almost everything for that station. 
At this place about 90% of your prep was done during the day so all you had to do was bring the prepped food to your station from the walk in refrigerator.  When I worked the meat station all I had to  prep was the three hollandaise based sauces and saute a shit load (for those of you who don't know, a shit load is slightly more than a but load) of mushrooms.  That was it.  Then we would move into dinner service and cook the orders. You really only had a few tasks to do.  On the meat station I had to cook six different dishes.  During dinner I would get an order for a steak, cook it, pass it down to the expediter and they would finish the plate with sauce, garnish and some form of accompaniment.

Each cook only had a few tasks to perform which was quite smart because it helped with the consistency of the food and that is one thing I can say this place had that many don't; consistency.  One of the single most important things a restaurant can have is consistency.  Consistency is why McDonald's was more successful than its competitors when these fast food joints started popping up in the 1950's, because if you bought a burger in Washington it tasted the same in New York. 

The downside to how the place was run was I really didn't learn much. I learned how to speak Spanish and that was about it.  After I left this establishment I went on a job interview for the position of sous chef in a leading Washington D.C. restaurant. The chef said I had too much hotel experience and the best thing on my resume was The House of Frank. Because of that he would consider me for chef de partie, a step lower than sous chef.  The funny thing is if he only knew the truth.  

To give you a bit of background, hotel chefs are not thought of as highly for their culinary skills because they are more of managers than cooks.  It is what the job requires.  In my case, I worked in many upscale hotel restaurants so while I may have been working in a hotel, the restaurants I worked in were run more like a freestanding establishment. The thing is, if you didn't know the places I had worked at you would never know.