Honey tequila salmon four days later

As promised here are the shots of the Honey tequila cured salmon that I will be slicing Thursday night for the honey presentation. It gave up a lot of liquid and smelled amazing. Fruity and floral. I can hardly wait to slice into it tomorrow to taste the magic. I totally created this recipe with honey in mind and if it rocks, it will become a staple.

Today, I also took the duck breast out of their 24 hour cure of honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili sauce for chicken (this is good on almost anything) and fresh ginger. Exact recipe to come. I baked them in the combi @ 375º and 10% humidity for 9 minutes. I then (after much fiddling with the awesome smoker they have at the school) smoked them for 45 minutes. The result a beautiful mahogany colored duck breast that had tons of flavor and juiciness. I slathered them with a last coat of knapweed honey from Montana/soy mix (OK, and a little more chili sauce for chicken) and let them set in the walk-in until the gig on Thursday.

So the pictures of cured salmon:

I dumped off about two cups of liquid from the hotel pan. After, I had LBMI clean them, they looked liked this:

The aroma was amazing and too bad that I can’t send a scratch and sniff version over the blog, but I can hardly wait to dig into it tomorrow. More to come……………………………

Honey, I shrunk the salmon

So I am working on this honey presentation for the Belmar Lab a sort of funky but cool art gallery in Lakewood. They have put together a series of 4 presentations on taste.  The topics: pork, salt, mushrooms and honey.  Chef Michael came up to me one day and said “hey how do you feel about doing a presentation on honey?” and I said sure.  What do I know about honey?  Not much, but I am always up for a challenge and especially if I learn something in the process.

2 weeks ago, I went to the presentation on Salt, which featured a paleontologist and one of the founding chefs for Cook Street Shelley Qark (might have misspelled her last name, so sorry).  The science guy was awesome and Shelley was quite entertaining as well.  At the end we spent a good amount of time waiting for chef Bijou’s dish which was basically seared tuna with various juiced vegetables (including beets, spinach and carrot). None of them were seasoned with salt which was the idea.  Individuals could season their own with the salt samples provided for the tasting.  This was great experiment for people to go through.  Salt makes a huge difference.  Every chef knows this.

Well the wait for the plates was excruciating and turned into a how do you get the audience to ask questions about salt.  Science guy answered most them but the presenters were pushing for every angle possible.

So I vowed to not fall into the same trap.  Not that I am afraid about answering questions about honey, but dead air is mighty uncomfortable for all.

My presentation is on honey.  So I have been thinking about honey for the past three weeks.  I met with the marketing person responsible for the gallery and she recruited me for producing the food as well.

Well at least I will have control over that too.  I had our marketing group put out an email out to all of our alumni to see if any would be willing to help.  Good response and I am already thanking the ones that are donating their time.  One alumnus even sent me knapweed honey from Montana.

One of the dishes that I am doing is honey tequila salmon gravlax.

The recipe is:

1 whole salmon H&G, skin on and PBO (in industry speak that means head off gutted, skin on and pin bones out)

3 cups kosher salt

1 cup honey

1 cup tequila (I used 1921 Gran Reserva, some of the best sipping tequila I have tasted)

1/2 cup cracked black pepper

2 Tblsp. Whole coriander seeds

1/4 lb. fresh cilantro

On Friday, I was prepping the salmon that arrived late from Shamrock and one of my present students walked in to give her friend Jessie a tour of the kitchen.  It turned out that she was amateur photographer.  So, I had her take pictures of the dish as it was being made.  Here are the highlights:

Initial mise en place,

Gotta to have the honey shot,

The elements of the cure all ready to be mixed together,

Applying the cure,

It’s a wrap,

Weigh it down

Let it sit for 4 days in the walk-in, being careful to turn it every day.

Next post will be what it looks like when it has shrunk or cured.

Week 3: It’s getting weird

Alright so I have been slacking on the posts as of late, but like I said I don’t want to repeat the same stuff every session.  If we make something a little differently or a new dish then I will include it on a post but otherwise I want to focus on other stuff for now.

Week 2 was difficult because several of our students got sick and since we have a small group we are more easily affected.  We had one student whose 2 1/2 year old daughter got strep throat, another who got diagnosed with  walking pneumonia, another who cut herself several times during the first week and then had to go in for stitches on one of her cuts and another who had to leave early several times to take care of her 3 1/2 yr. old.

On Wednesday of last week it appeared I was going to be putting together our part of the meal with only one student.  Then suddenly Luis appeared. They managed to enroll another student a week and a half into the program. Luis is originally from Juarez and speaks very good english.  To be bilingual in the American food industry is ideal.  Plenty of opportunity for latinos that can become managers of less fluent latinos.

Of course Luis came to the program after missing tons of crucial information.  What Luis does have going for him is several years of kitchen prep work (this is also a hindrance because one can develop  a lot of bad habits in that time).

So I was able to put together the dish by giving him a crash course in the station.  Eventually Elle (short for Gabrielle) came back from getting stitches and was able to help us out.  We got the food out but I took a more accelerated  approach to plating than was intended.

Friday of last week was amusing as the students went to the wine room for the  organoleptic wine evaluation with our sommelier Debbie Gray.  Elle who has a low body mass index took in a little too much wine during the tasting and had to be picked up by her boyfriend (literally and figuratively).  I am now calling her LBMI, other nicknames have been bandied about.  The rest of he students came back flush from the tasting and considerably louder than when they left.  They of course went to the bars after.

On Monday of this week we had a new menu that I had yet to teach.  Salad of blood oranges and olives,  Seared swordfish on a bed of gnocchi with a fennel tomato broth and for dessert melon balls wrapped in prosciutto and handmade mozzarella pesto roulade as well handmade ricotta.

Here is the blood orange salad with olives. Very refreshing salad.

It had been  along time since any of the instructors had had a nice piece of swordfish and this one was truly exceptional.

The gnocchi were nice though a little gummy from  too much flour.  The broth was outstanding and the swordfish was very fresh.

I did my cheese lecture in the morning and we decided to add the mozzarella and ricotta demo after the lecture.   Along with the  prosciutto and melon ball  they formed the dessert platter for  our day.

On Wednesday DJ (no he is not a cast member for Hustle and Flow) cut himself badly on the thumb while in Pastry.  He spent a good part of the day with his thumb elevated to stop the bleeding.  He eventually got it to stop and then at the end of the day he cut his other thumb.  Today he came to school with both thumbs bandaged up.  Obviously he is “thumbs” from now on.

This is the last week that we see the previous group of students before they head off for France at the beginning of May.  They casually stroll in everyday slightly buzzed from their tasting and like to loiter around the kitchen.  It is clear that they miss being there and kind of feel like there are aliens in their place.

When I went to culinary school, during the second year of the program we used to come back once a week to the school to take classes or watch demos, but we rarely ever saw the present students.  And boy did we have big heads, as we knew what was in store for them as they entered their apprenticeships.  Those days were special and once a month Jean Louis Palladin used to come in and do a cooking demo for us.  He was an inspiration.

The students in this group seem to be finally coming out of their shell and the weirdness of week 2 seems to be calming down.  Maybe we will able to get into a groove now………..or maybe it will get weirder.

Piedmont wine dinner

Yesterday, I was hired to cook a meal for a bunch of cork dorks at my brother in law’s house. By cork dorks , I mean people that have been in the retail end wine and liquor sales for many years. Enough time to acquire vast portfolios in their personal wine cellars.

A few week back, my Bro-in-law gave me the theme and I started to build the menu. Over a group email these guys start to write about the wines they were planning to bring and I quickly realized this was not going to be your typical wine gathering.

My menu was:

Spinach and ricotta filled agnolottis with a pistachio brown butter sauce

Cream of Asparagus soup

Osso Bucco with risotto

Panna Cotta with a raspberry ginger compote

The wines were mainly focused on Northern Italy. Superlative wines and some very old Barolos including a 1967.

Here is the line-up.

After all this and the party was starting to dwindle down. Gary from Total Beverage in Westminster pulled a Reciotto from the Veneto which is not included in this picture.

It was a great gathering and it proved the old axiom: if it grows together, it goes together. Hopefully I will get to do more of these in the future.

Week 1: Educational tsunami

The fighting geoducks are probably wondering why I have been so remiss in my blogging. They were used to my daily bleetings on their dishes.  So why have taken the foot off the accelerator?

Two reasons: 1, the first week of culinary instruction was really busy and kind of tiring and 2 I felt that I accomplished the daily log of all the dishes we did during the course of the last class (with the exception of the first week) and feel that I want to take a different angle with this group. Still trying to figure out what that angle will be (ideas are welcome).

My role at the school is quickly evolving and it is clear that I will be in charge of more stuff soon. I welcome the challenge and look forward to contributing my ideas to making Cook Street the best Culinary School possible.

The week was intense as everyone is trying to figure out the kitchen and their respective instructor’s style.  I am always amazed at how quickly a routine can be created and how quickly we can progress.

I was not at my best on the photo duties and contrary to my habit, I actually took more pictures of the pastry kitchen’s contributions.

So to summarize the week’s menus.

First day of cooking (Tuesday) we teach our students about how to set up each station and how to plan out the days cooking tasks (prioritizing our mise en place, cooking times etc.). The appetizer course from GM was a deconstructed roquefort tart on puff pastry (the custard didn’t quite set up in time, but the flavor was great). The main course was roasted pork loin. Unfortunately the only shot I took was of a boozy prune clafoutis for dessert (which also didn’t quite set up completely, but bacteria could have never survived under such high alcoholic conditions). So not our most stellar day but understandable for the first week while we get used to working with each other.

Wednesday: The focus was on everyone learning how to make and bake bread. So the menu was up to Chef Dale and myself. Chicken vegetable noodle soup: not your grandmother’s chicken n noodle soup (no offense to your granny but ours is better). Tender homemade pasta, finely diced vegetables , housemade chicken stock, perfectly cooked chicken breast and a little persillade for good measure.

Thursday: now menus already get to be little more challenging and creative.

Grilled fennel salad with beet vinaigrette and orange suprêmes

This was followed by roasted duck breast on a bed of leek confit and purée Parmentier with Fines Herbes (or PCCT: parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon) and sautéed mushrooms.

For dessert we had a pastry cream stuffed saffron poached pear with cardamom crème anglaise and a tuile cage.

I joked that it was the most expensive dessert in the world because it uses the 3 most expensive spices in the world (in order: saffron, vanilla and cardamom).

Friday: Was a particularly busy day for me as I was trying to get all the instruction for the day done as well as M.E.P. for the Taste 5 that evening.

I have been handed ownership of Taste 5s from now on and I want to make sure it runs smoothly and it accomplishes what I believe it has morphed into over the years. There have been around a 120 of these Taste 5s over the course of the school’s history and originally they were intended to give the public a view into our programs, provide education about wine and food pairing and to entice them to join in our fun.

I want the T5s to be instructional, to showcase our students to the general public and in the process entice our paying guests to spread the word about our school. It might take me awhile to accomplish these goals, but I can see glimmers of acceptance of these ideas.

The menu for the day was quite fun;

Provençale tomato and gruyere tart. This is one of my favorite dishes from Provence and always reminds me of my good friend Michel Depardon (who died about 3 years ago. Too long of a story for this post, but suffice to say this man had a lot of influence on my culinary perspective and my life).

He used to teach the students this tart when I would bring them over to Provence under the employ of CSR. It has all the elements of a great dish and of the products of Provence. Tomato , gruyère, pâte brisée, spicy Dijon mustard and basil. This version came close to honoring his memory.

For the main course. We worked on salmon wrapped in Kataifi with a Moroccan tagine based broth (saffron, coriander, cumin, preserved lemon, chicken broth and green olives.  Let’s just say that we had issues with the salmon and that what could have been an easy day turned into a more difficult one.

Of course the best thing about this dish is that I get to do my rasta albino chef imitation with the kataifi.

For dessert we had the ubiquitous molten chocolate cake with raspberry ice cream. Molten chocolate cake is essentially an unfinished chocolate cake or a cake that has been pulled out of the oven early (bakeus interruptus) so that the sides of the cake firm up but the center is still uncooked and since it came out of a 500° oven it is molten.  What is not to like?

That concludes the food we prepared for the first week.  Not bad considering the newness of its makers.

T5 (the theme was Red Hot Rio) was a big success and all the particpants were happy.  Don and Thomasino came to lend a hand as well as Alice, Lauren and Erin form this present class.

Thanks for you help.  It was great to have such a good student turnout.

I was tired from such a long week. But up for Week 2.  More adventures await.

Week 1: Monday, A new beginning

So here we go again, new group new faces to teach, more band aids to apply and new minds to inspire.  I already feel good about this group they seem excited and receptive, of course it is the first day and true personalities don’t always come out until later in the program.

The first day at Cook Street is about getting the students oriented and comfortable with their new environment. After each instructor gave their intro and their share of orientation spiel, chef Dale took them through basic knife skills and terminology. Mirepoix, Julienne, brunoise, concassée, Etuvé, emincé and persillade.

Meanwhile I am working on putting together the main meal for the day in partnership chef Lexie.

The garde manger students set the table and my students on hot line helped me plate the food.

We had Turin, which I found out from Larousse gastronomique is an onion soup that originated in the SW of France and could also be known as the Turin des Mariés as it was often brought to the wedding reception and enjoyed as the last dish before parting early in the morning. French wedding receptions can easily last until six am and this soup should sober everyone up before they hit the road unless of course you pour a glass of red wine in it as it suggested was sometime the custom. We garnished this version with a quenelle of goat cheese parsley compound butter

For the main course we had Quiche Lorraine. A classic that many men still eat. Lorraine is the region between Champagne and Alsace and is known for its pork products. This quiche was perfectly baked and filled. So many overcook their quiches and fill them beyond capacity with everything that they can fit into them.

A true quiche should make the custard the star, the ingredients the supporting cast and the crust the stage. Chef Lexie did a great job on this tireless classic. Both of these courses were paired with a nice and fruity proseco.

She also made a gianduja mousse which was quite delightful, of course I forgot to take a picture.

Molecular BBQ

I just received this post today from blog.khymos.org

It is an interview for Home of BBQ another blog. This is just in time for America’s favorite outdoor sport. It is an equally important view on cooking meat in any capacity and closely parallels my own understanding and method.

Cook Street: The fighting Geoducks of January 08

Being a teacher is about sharing information and inspiring confidence and imagination in your students. The hope is that they will be moved by the subject matter as much as you are.

Fortunately I am not teaching micro economics or accounting. I get to teach students about cooking and all that is involved in the world of food.

I am passionate about this topic. I study it every day. I strive to learn more so that I can teach more. I want to experiment with dishes and take them further. I want my students to feel the same and to feel that with diligence they can even exceed my abilities. Ultimately it is not about me but about them. I believe that good teachers live for the success of the good student and pushes for the success of the lesser student. I have been lucky to have been taught by several inspirational teachers and they have motivated me during my teaching career.

I wanted to do a little photo essay of the first group of students that I have taken from beginning to end at Cook Street.

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Thomas is a great student and a great human being. He is a perfectionist and is never satisfied with what he has produced (redundant no?). He is entering a world were he will find many others who are in the same psychological maelstrom, but that is what makes extraordinary food. This man is funny and a joy to have as a student. He is a sponge for information and it is clear he has a love for France (as any good foodie does). He always comes to my mind first in the group, but only because his family name starts with an A.

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John came to the school as a multiple career changer. He is also a great student and a great human being. He is at the doors of the school come hell or high water at NLT 6:55am every morning regardless of what rotation he is on.

He was quickly dubbed Papa John because of his age and because he’s just so damn lovable. I am always amazed at the level of seriousness he gives to his education and to his critiques of our food everyday (he takes on a very different tone and facial expression). Mostly I enjoy when he lets loose and really laughs (his laugh is honest, sincere and it’s clear that he is happy to be alive and cooking).

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Alicia is an egg I have taken some time to crack. Very bright and dedicated. I would love watching her on Fridays as she studied for her quiz. She would hyper analyze what we might ask. Study every detail of what was lectured and what we handed out. She somewhat figured us out, but I believe that she learned so much more by trying to.

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Kiwi (Justin), was a joy to have in the group. His accent set him apart right away but his great positive attitude endeared him almost as quickly. He is the patron saint of this blog, being a kiwi and the keeper of sheep (what his girlfriend and soon to be wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her). He’s crazy for pavlova and could eat it at every meal.

He became quick friends with Stormin, though you could never tell by their constant repartee.

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Meth Boy (Jason), was a true joy to have in every rotation. Quiet but motivated to tackle this new craft. He jumped into every day with clarity of purpose. He loves to grill. Don’t all men? He has gone way beyond caveman technique now and has truly conquered refined cooking.

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Deb, my “top slot” was a joy to teach. I will never forget the first day when she was on hot line and I handed the members their checklist of daily station set up and clean up. Deb, looked down the list and noticed that I had written “collect male and female spoons” and she asked “what are male and female spoons?” and “I said well isn’t obvious, male spoons are solid and females are slotted. “

She said, “I don’t like that and the connotation is sexist.” So, I went to my computer and changed the verbiage to “slotted and solid” spoons. From that moment on she became my top slot and any women in charge became the top slot as well.

We laughed hard daily about this.

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This is the only shot I could get of “Sniper.” You see David just got back from Iraq and is still settling into civilian life. He was more used to being on the other end of the lens (or Scope) and so was tough to capture. He was the personal body guard for a top ranking general in Iraq. He talked of target practice on targets a mile away. Can you imagine shooting someone from that far away? The tops of his ears are never exposed…..ever. Has anyone ever seen them? Is he a vulcan?

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Stormin Normin, is truly a character. Take a highly intelligent human being, put him in charge of the intoxication of the masses, mix in a good dose of sarcasm, Irish rebellion and OCD behavior and you have the perfect candidate for a career in food. He is committed or should be to the culinary world. Look at the second picture, he tatooed the likeness of his knife on his calf and calls his knife “big papi” Enuff said……………… Oh BTW died hard Soxs Fan.

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Janet or “Dammit” as she was quickly dubbed by me (from Rocky Horror picture show, and then it just became so easy to say in every circumstance when she made a mistake). She is in the process of opening up a restaurant called “Reds” in Grand Mesa Colorado on the western slope. Hey, I will link your website here if you have one….talk to me. Janet was always respectful e.g. I say “Dammit go get me some shallots” and she says “yes Sir” Reds is going to be a tapas restaurant. Now I have two alumni students whose restaurants I need to visit on the western slope.

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Ricardo was the class clown and someone you could quickly grow to enjoy. Great at characters and accents (he does an awesome Mick Jagger impression). We would feed off each other during the days on that first rotation. Add Thomas to the mix and we were in hysterics most of the time. We did get a lot of great food produced as well. Ricardo was always humble to the food and filled with respect. He has a great future ahead of him. But you need ze discipline und to follow ze rules.
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Das Meghania is a sweetheart who finally got to pursue her dream of going to Culinary School. She was so shy on the first day and was so scared of speaking about herself on the microphone (boy does that change when you get few tequilas in her… just joking unless I can get a witness). She quickly warmed up to the group and blossomed into a fine culinarian. She and her husband are rolling stones. They have been all over the country and beyond following her husband’s career. Maybe it’s your turn now to drag him across the planet of food. Glad that you are able to pursue your dream.

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My personal favorite (yes teachers play favorites, though technically I respect all of you) was Larissa. This young lady is rock solid in every way. Great student, great cook, great individual and she will be one to watch in the future. And I will never forget her because she comes at the end of our student alphabet.

I have nothing but the highest respect for women entering the industry and feel that their presence can only return humanity and RESPECT into male dominated kitchens.

Women are the gatekeepers of the food that we first eat and are more connected to food. How many times have I heard (from men as well as women): “I fell in love with food by my mother’s or grandmother’s apron strings.”

OK, now that is the roster of all the students that made it through culinary part of the program (as far as I know you all made it and of course there is still the final exam) Don’t stress just study……………… which leaves……………….

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There are very few people that Lynn could not have a huge impact on. On the first day she set the tone and laid the groundwork for our understanding of her personality. God plays a huge role in her life and I am not mocking that in the least. I firmly believe that everyone should be free to believe in whatever they feel comfortable with and gets them through the day as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Lynn definitely kept me on my toes during lectures.

Lynn cut out of the program in week 10 to take a job offer. She is supposed to come back next year to finish up the course.

Lynn when you come back and finish the rest of the program, I only have one quiz question for you. “how do you spell turd? (inside joke)

Rock on Fighting Geoducks and see you on Monday. Study hard.

Crawfish boil, Louisvilliana style

About a week or so ago, Kelly, a student of mine from my last class at CSR wrote me on facebook inviting me to come to her crawfish boil on Monday the 31st.  She works the line at the new restaurant in Louisville called “Empire.”

So Monday is her day off.  Now I’m not really the kind of guy to go out on a Monday anymore, but I couldn’t pass this up. She had  a 150lb. of crayfish flown in from her home town in Louisiana.  She was a little concerned because she had to get them in on Saturday and wasn’t going to cook them until Monday.  So she kept them on ice the whole weekend and crossed her fingers.

My wife was fighting off some kind of gastro bug that has been going around so I took my son who is fascinated with bug like creatures to the shinding.

Kelly resuscitated the iced down crawdads by pouring cold water on then and rinsing them off.  Sure enough the treatment brought them back to life and provided hours of playtime for my son.

Here they are after a little bain frigide.

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Here is my son preparing two gladiator crawdads for a combat to the death.

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Kelly was busy womanning the crawdad kettle (now how low tech is this, trash can with a perforated insert over a gas burner).

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There were a few other students there from the same class as Kelly and it was great to catch up with them.

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Nate Dogg, myself, Kelly and Carter (pronounced Kahterr, like welcome back Cotter) actually the poor bloke is from OZ and a hell of a good guy.

It was cold as hell this evening and when the mudbugs were ready they were poured over a table set up in the garage which was covered in paper.  The crowd gathered around like bunch of hungry piranhas and set out to devour the bounty.

It was tasty, fragrant and spicy.  Fun evening, Thanks Kelly

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