Crabapple Cookery

I've had a crabapple tree for 10 years and always ignored it....until now! I always let the birds swoop in this time of year and pick the tree clean.  For lack of cranberry bogs in Kansas I thought I would give these the "Cranberry Treatment".

First step - get the crabapples off the tree!

Next step, clean and sort through the fruit.

Next I placed them into a large non-reactive pan with jalapenos, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, apple cider, honey, and sugar. This cooks until all of the berries burst open. They are then pressed through a fine mesh strainer. This is exactly like cooking cranberries.

Sweet, tart crabapple jelly.

A Thanksgiving Story

Some stories from the trenches are worth telling. This happened to me at a former restaurants on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.

Thanksgiving Evening 1984

It's now 6:00 pm and we've fed over 1200 people, the restaurant is still packed with people waiting for the Plaza lights to be turned on. They're in the holiday mood and thrilled to be in the warmth of one of the highest acclaimed restaurants in the country, this is a special night. I'm standing on the line in the display kitchen with an exhausted crew, partaking in some complimentary post shift drinks. All of a sudden there's a loud scream as a lady darts out of the restroom with her pants halfway down around her knees, it's more of a waddle than a full-out run. She manages to pull her pants up as she rounds the charcuterie station, past the dessert case, and into the middle of the dining room. She now begins to stutter hysterically, T-T-T-T-T-T-T-TURKEY!, her hands are gesturing wildly towards the restroom and she continues to scream TURKEY! TURKEY! TURKEY!. The entire dining room breaks into applause as if the curtain had just been lifted at a Broadway show. I'm thinking, our turkey was pretty damn good today, but not good enough to announce it to the whole dining room in the semi-buff, perhaps she is really drunk.

Now there's more screaming from the bar area.....THERE'S A LIVE TURKEY IN THE WOMEN'S RESTROOM!!!, with that I instinctively bolt off the line flanked by two blood thirsty cooks with french knives. We are now in hunter-chef mode. Right outside the display kitchen our hunt is halted by Doug, the GM,....."What the hell do you think you're doing!!??", Doug doesn't realize that after 8 hours of hacking turkeys from their roasted carcasses we've become very numb, crazed and vengeful towards the birds....."Dougy, it's F*$%ING thanksgiving and someone yelled LIVE TURKEY, we're on re-con". My partners in crime put down their knives because Doug was panicking; the mob scene at the bar-restroom area was escalating. We made our way to the women's restroom, went inside, and indeed there was a live turkey!! Someone had put it in one of the stalls and evidently climbed out from underneath and left it trapped inside. The bird was crazed (like us), banging around inside the stall, making screeching-gobbling noises, and crapping everywhere except in the toilet! Doug kicked the door open, my cooks lunged at the bird and held it down, I took off my apron and threw it over the birds head and tied it with the apron strings. The police were called but couldn't get there because the streets were jammed with a couple hundred thousand people. Plaza security was sent in to take custody of the bird. The crowd was cheering as the apron hooded bird was hauled off......I'm not sure if the applause was for the bird, or us and our SWAT-like tactics.

The women who first encountered the bird said she went in to use the restroom, entered the stall and took her appropriate place on the commode......and then it happened, the bird began to gobble and bang against the walls of the stall next to her, she could see it's feet and wings as she looked down under the partition!! She was in such a state of shock that she opened the door and ran out without thinking to pull her pants up....and then, like a bad dream, she was in the dining room without the proper attire.

The next day the story appeared on local television. This incident became a favorite after-work-drinking-war-story-conversation, the conspiracy theory runs deep. To this day I don't know how someone could have made it through the restaurant undetected with a live turkey, slipped into the restroom and disappeared.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Webster House

A great dining destination in Kansas City!

Jumbo Shrimp and Anson Mills Grits
Burger’s Country Ham, Red Eye Gravy, Sautéed Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, and Scallions

"Bacon & Eggs"
House Cured Pork Belly, Sunny Side-Up Quail Egg, Sweet Potato, Poblano, Red Bell Pepper Hash & Smoked Tomato Aioli

Alton Brown's Turkey Derrick

You have to love any recipe that includes the following text.

WARNING: Failure to follow these instructions could result in fire or explosion which could cause property damage, personal injury or death.

Follow the link below for the full set of Alton's Turkey Tower!

Thanksgiving on a Bun

It really is ashamed that turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce got labeled as food you traditionally only prepare once a year. It's not just me, most people I talk to also crave this flavor combination all year but they feel like there's some sort of clandestine authority controlling the days where it's socially acceptable to prepare the feast......I mean Jeez! someone might frown upon you making this combo of goodness on any other day than Thanksgiving.

My solution to this paradigm isn't to do a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner. I just want all of those familiar flavors, so I made "Thanksgiving on a Bun".

It was absolutely everything I wanted. As I ate it a thought crossed my mind, why is it so satisfying to eat with your hands? especially something that always requires a full set of serving and eating utensils. Maybe this year for Thanksgiving dinner I will remove the silverware from the table.

Unhinge your jaw Pilgrim!

Grilled turkey burger, crispy stuffing, cranberry mayo, and gravy

Sriracha Sauce Refillable Key Chain!

As reported by Eater....."Sriracha2Go Is the Most Adorable Unlicensed Sriracha Experience Around"

If you don't want to leave Rooster Sauce at home when dining out then get one of these and never find yourself saying "I think this would be much better if it had a little Sriracha sauce on it!"

Pimento Cheese + What to do with the leftovers

A low country staple, pimento cheese spread. This has a nice kick with a smoky finish provided by smoked paprika......oh yeah, and then there's the ham! which is cooked down in a "Redeye Reduction" with a heavy dose of Kentucky bourbon. There are endless preparations you can make with leftovers like melting it on burgers, pimento cheese creamed corn, or what I have below!

Pimento Cheese with Bourbon Glazed Kentucky Ham
with homemade S+P cracker and celery

And now it gets really interesting, these are absolutely amazing! Roll up your sleeves....

Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich
with sourdough and Kentucky ham

Two Ingredient Pizza Dough Test

II recently saw an article on the front page of Yahoo for a two ingredient pizza dough. I was intrigued enough to click through to the article written by the Yahoo Food Team. The recipe is from Elettra Wiedemann of the Impatient Foodie blog. She first read about the method in The Slow-Roasted Italian.

Elettra states this for any naysayers about whether or not it works,” I SWEAR IT DOES. I am totally confounded by the chemistry of this, but it tastes amazing and the texture is perfect. I tested it in multiple kitchens with multiple people and everyone was like, “WHOA. Why didn’t we know about this before?”

It simply uses self-rising flour and Greek yogurt with active cultures. The dough doesn’t need to rise, it’s ready to use as soon as it’s formed. I let it sit for a couple hours just to give it time to develop.

The science behind it made sense to me because self-rising flour contains baking powder and salt. Baking powder also has an acidifying agent, cream of tartar, which is important because this combination is what reacts with the sodium bicarbonate when liquid is added. This is what causes carbon dioxide gas that provides leavening. Baking soda on the other hand is pure sodium bicarbonate and won’t rise with liquid unless some sort of acid is add, that’s the science behind buttermilk biscuits with the buttermilk providing the acid.

OK…..enough of the science already, I made the dough in a large batch and baked one piece off as a round and it had extraordinary rise. I cut the rest of the dough into smaller pieces and rolled it through a pasta machine to get nice long pieces so I could make crisp crust flatbreads. I par baked them with asiago cheese which actually allows you to freeze them for later use, which I did this and here are the results.

Left – Gorgonzola & Pear Flatbread, with fig jam, smoked bacon, scallions, and parmesan.

Right – Smoked Salmon, with roasted garlic white sauce, chives, and capers.

Left – Grilled Chicken Flatbread, with goat cheese, roasted garlic, and asiago.

Right – Grilled Chicken, with BBQ sauce, and cilantro.

Devilish Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs have awakened after dozing off in the 70's. Deviled eggs were standard fare at family get-together's but everyone's were the same. It was like there was a master recipe out there that didn't allow anyone to vary from the "Standard Deviled Egg"......well, how many of those can you possibly eat? So they just faded. Classics always come back in a reinvented's now time to put the "Devil" back into Deviled Eggs.

with Broadbent's bacon and chives.

with smoked salmon and capers

The Art of Writing Recipes

René Redzepi, owner of Noma in Copenhagen holds the number 1 spot on the World's 50 Best Restaurant list. Redzepi is also the man behind MAD, A non-profit community of chefs, cooks and farmers with an appetite for knowledge. "Mad" is also the Danish word for "food."  EATER recently did an article about a tour of the Culinary Science Bunkers of Noma. MAD also has a resource site called MADFeed which has great articles and videos.

One of their recent articles was about writing recipes. In the piece Christine Muhlke, executive editor of Bon Appétit and co-author of Eric Ripert’s On the Line and David Kinch’s Manresa explored different styles of communication and addresses topics I have always thought about while writing my own recipes.

I have spent most of my career writing recipes for Chefs and Cooks who are located 100's or even 1000's of miles away. This article really hit home with me because it addresses how much intuitive cooking ability you should rely on from the end user, or what are some visual markers that reduce any misinterpretations about the cooking process embodied in these recipes.

Here is one style provided:

Get a frying pan very hot, pop in your knob of butter, followed by the hearts, and fry them for 4 minutes, rolling them around occasionally. Apply a splash of balsamic vinegar and chicken stock, season, and let the hearts get to know the liquor for a couple of minutes. Place the hearts on the toast, leave the sauce on the heat to reduce for a moment, and pour over the toast and duck hearts. Eat. The hearts have an amazingly ducky quality. — From “Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking,” Fergus Henderson.

Kentucky Proud

I've been working on Low Country cuisine recipes and I've been graced with some fantastic products from Kentucky. There's a cool group called Kentucky Proud that works hard to get these local products into restaurants, it's been pretty great working with them. This is a fraction of what I've used during recipe development, there's also been great hams, Kenny's Farmhouse White Cheddar, and so much more! Here's a sampling of few items they represent.

From Top Left to Right

Broadbent's Country Bacon, Kuttawa Kentucky
You know it's REAL bacon, the way it was made 100 years ago, when the label says "No Refrigeration Required".

Weisenberger Mills White Stone Ground Grits, Midway Kentucky
These are some of the best grits made with non GMO corn grown in Hardin County Kentucky at the Rogers Farm.

Bourbon Barrel Foods, Louisville Kentucky
If you haven't heard of this soy sauce it's a must have. They make it with non GMO Kentucky grown soybeans and pure limestone filtered spring water. It's brewed and aged in used bourbon barrels and the barrels are only used once. It's a true micro brew, each bottle has a handwritten batch number and bottle number.

Bourbon Barrel Smoked Sugar!
After the bourbon barrels are used once for the soy sauce they are used to smoke different items.

Kentuckyaki Sauce
That's not a typo!

Smoked Sea Salt
This is a great finish for steaks, pork, butter, caramel sauce....... I could go one endlessly!

As The Gardening Season Winds Down...

It was brought to my attention this summer that my garden looked better than my lawn.....guilty I guess! How excited can you get about growing a lawn? You can't eat it so what's the point? Maybe this is just "Chef Brain" but there is so much talk about organic sustainable gardening that I think it would be perfectly acceptable to till up your entire yard to grow tasty Vittles.....Nope, the subdivision committee and city council would be on me like foodies on Foie Gras! When I lived in London the English Garden would embrace this idea. Martha gets it in this article describes it as "Edible Estate".

Ramen Noodles

Most of us can probably cook fairly well with a full pantry of ingredients but making something really good using only a few ingredients is the most rewarding. These types of recipes are usually technique heavy and I believe they are the basic building blocks of rudimentary cooking. We tend to forget there was a time when unlimited amounts of ingredients were not available to cook’s. Sourdough bread comes to mind, water + flour + salt.....there better be some solid technique involved because these three ingredients have a better chance of tasting like crap than not, but when you can transform them into something great it’s magical!

Another recipe using simple ingredients is ramen noodles – water + flour + baking soda*

There are several articles in first edition of David Chang’s magazine Lucky Peach, it's about everything ramen. I was intrigued by the alkaline noodle recipe, aka ramen noodles. The recipe involves taking baking soda and baking it at 250° for 1 hour. This process changes the sodium bicarbonate to sodium carbonate, an alkaline salt. This method was developed by Harold McGee and published in the NY Time. Previously this ingredient could only be purchased at a specialty store, commonly called kansui.

The chilled ramen dough

Step #1 - run the dough through a pasta roller.

The ramen dough after sheeting it out on the pasta roller.

Step #2 - Running the dough through a cutter.

Finished ramen noodles (alkaline noodles)

Girl & The Goat

Girl & The Goat Restaurant, Chicago, Chef Stephanie Izard

Chickpea fritters
Caponata . green chickpeas . crave brother's mozzarella

Squash butter

Goat liver mousse
Pickled rhubarb . blackberry mustarda . crumpets

Wood oven roasted pig face
Sunny side egg . tamarind . cilantro . red wine-maple . potato stix

Chef - the movie

If you haven't seen Chef yet it's a really good movie, I give it 3 knives up!

Crisp Batard Loaf

15 hour poolish,  20 minute autolyse,  30 minute mix,  3 hour ferment,  3 turns,  15 minute pre-shape, 1 hour post-form. You may not use this info but great bread is universal.

The Crouton Arts

Is there anything more beautiful or satisfying....taking scraps of leftover bread and turning them into crunchy golden croutons?

I know, they're just croutons, but making perfect croutons is an underrated art. Perfect crispness, even browning, rotating and turning while cooking......You have to babysit the process until you achieve the vision desired

Farm to Table Rhubarb

This is a really expeditious Farm to Table!

Rhubarb from the garden at 2:00

Brown sugar rhubarb sorbet at 3:00

Ginger-Rhubarb Crisp with rhubarb sorbet at 6:00

Ahi Tuna "Nachos"

Simple, Fresh Flavors
Wontons, seared tuna, avocado, cilantro, lime, wasabi mayo, kecap manis

Some Ideas Need Time To Evolve

It's interesting to connect the dots and see how an idea starts and ends, well, it actually never ends, it's always a static idea subject to further change by myself or someone unknown, someone who takes it in a whole different direction. I like the idea of constant movement, it might be uneasy for some not having finality, but if there were finality we might never taste great things, we would just settle.

About 5 years ago I ate at Daniel Boulud's restaurant, Café Boulud, in Palm beach. I had some chickpea fries. Great idea, I stored it away. I was eating Poutine at Salt House in San Francisco and was still thinking about the chickpea fries, somehow fries and gravy had an opportunity.

If you've followed my blog you might remember a post I did called Doritos Jenga, it was about the extension of the chickpea fries and the mad path of ideas and development. Still, the idea and convergence of ideas was still very much in motion.

In some recent menu development many ideas came together!

crisp dorito “fries", Carniceria Lupita chorizo gravy with serrano chiles


Green Chile & Chorizo Mac and Cheese

SERIOUSLY! This is absolutely over the top!

Serrano chile, local chorizo from Carniceria Lupita, abundance of cheese, ancho breadcrumbs, pico de gallo, and cilantro! baked in a 500 degree oven until "Volcanic"