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david coonce

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  1. I've made vegan phyllo pastries with olive oil. They don't crisp up like the butter ones do, I'm assuming b/c of the lack of protein, but they're not terrible. They're fine right out of the oven and piping hot, then they start to get soggy. You may want to check with your lactose-intolerant folks -most people don't realize that hard cheeses and some other dairy products contain very little lactose (it's all been converted in the aging process) and is suitable for lactose-intolerant folks. You definitely want to blind-bake the phyllo shells. They will get soggy regardless (because of the lack of butter) but if you blind-bake them, then fill them and re-bake on site they should hold up well enough. You also should cook your vegetable mix first and make it as dry as possible. Perhaps roast the vegetables separately rather than stewing them together. Then drain, combine, fold in your balsamic reduction, and top each pastry with a sliver of fig. Sounds good!
  2. david coonce

    NON Soy TVP

    True, homemade seitan is much better. I've done seitan/potato "sausages" for a vegan catering and the seitan was made from scratch, and although it's time-consuming, it is a better product. I don't think most non-vegetarians have the patience to make seitan from scratch. (Or tofu, for that matter, although both are really easy to make) In my kitchen we go thorugh 20-30# of seitan a week, hence the need for the bagged stuff. I'm not a big fan, although I accept that vegetarians love it and snap it up (especially smothered in a sweet barbecue sauce).
  3. Boodles. Best gin for the price by far (it's just a little more expensive than Bombay Sapphire) Smooth and floral and herbaceous and flavorful. I've had it straight, and I don't like straight gin. Boodles, though, I like.
  4. david coonce

    NON Soy TVP

    I am the kitchen manager for a natural foods place, and have used seitan every day of my life for the last nine years. In my opinion, it has a chewy texture but no flavor whatsoever, it is highly perishable (and if you've ever opened a bag of bad seitan you know it's the worst smell in the world - like a used diaper that has fermented), and, well, to put it delicately - seitan is very undigestible (it is pure wheat gluten, after all) and makes many people very gassy. As a chef in a vegan/vegetarian friendly place, I have learned to accept seitan and all its limitations - the biggest one being that it is texturally always the same - you can't freeze or cook it in any method that creates a different texture than just "chewy." (Even tofu provides myriad textures.) I can live with seitan; I'm just saying that generally, it's going to taste like a fake processed food, because that is what it is. You're never going to wonder "is this beef? Is it chicken." It's a unique profile - no flavor and all texture. It's only as good as the sauce you drown it in.
  5. Not defending him or anything - if he doesn't want laptop users there he should just come out and say so - but is the place big enough that it could survive many tables of people nursing a couple drinks and working on their computers? I know that's a reason why a restaurant I worked at refused to install WiFi - we were 40 seats and casual but in a neighborhood where the students would have driven our per-table averages down to nothing had we allowed them to sit there. Restaurants that aren't huge have to either turn tables quickly or make a lot of money off lingerers - and often people working on something tend to linger without buying much. As Steve Martin once put it: "It's a profit deal!" Just a thought. The guy could just be a jerk.
  6. david coonce

    NON Soy TVP

    beans? vegetables? Besides that, Seitan seems like your only bet. Seitan is pretty nasty stuff, but it can be useful filler with a decent sauce. It's pretty neutral.
  7. I worked in Chicago and while staging around the city ran into chefs and servers who had worked at Charlie Trotter's (and Moto and Alinea and Blackbird and Avenues, etc.. Take all these numbers with a grain of salt, since they are from people I worked with and certainly unverified. But this is what I was told: Trotter's servers make around $100,000 a year. A couple servers told me that this was the wage agreed upon when CT began pooling tips as a "service charge." It was a good enough wage that the servers could agree to it, although supposedly some made more than that yearly under the previous system. The cooks at Trotter's are evidently well-paid by Chicago line-cook standards. When I was working in Chicago, a line cook at a decent to good place made anywhere from $80-160 dollars a night. A sous-chef at a place like Blackbird might make 80 grand. (These are, again, all figures I was quoted, and I make no veracity for these numbers, although I worked plenty of places where I made $80 a night and some where I made 120. Mid-level places) Cooks at Trotters told me that while the job was demanding it was very rewarding as well, with some claiming that some of CT's cooks make 1000/week. There seemed to be mostly good things to be said about working at Charlie Trotter's, at least financially. Although I heard plenty of complaints about certain famous Chicago chefs, I never heard a cross word about Trotter from anyone who had ever worked there, which I take as a pretty positive sign, because in the world of the itinerant line-cook, everybody has something to say about a bad experience.
  8. we went to Tinto when we were there this spring. It was amazing, albeit pricey.
  9. And while I would agree that paring down the menu is a good idea, I would also say that this is your party, and if you want to serve that menu then you should do it. But do it smart. For every single dish create a start-to-finish procedures list, then figure out ways to compartmentalize tasks - if you're using slivered onions in three things, prep them all at once; make all your stocks and slow-cooked stuff a few days before - all that stuff is better reheated anyway. Make your mashed potatoes early, and, like somebody here suggested, make them a little dry and add copious amounts of butter and cream before putting them in the oven. I am a kitchen manager so this stuff comes second nature for me (I've done parties for as many as 40 people in my home with 10 courses in a kitchen that was 100 square feet), but, honestly, planning and lists are the two key skills you need for this task. Be obsessive about making lists and following them, and you can pull this menu off. And then, can I come over? Because that menu looks amazing. here's my menu: (keep in mind that my in-laws are not adventurous eaters) Oven-Roasted Heirloom Turkey (Brine Tuesday, wednesday remove from brine, rinse and rub under skin with citrus butter [lemon zest,, orange zest, butter, minced garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper - the butter will be made the week before and refrigerated], Roast Thursday approx. 4 hours before dinner. Smoked Duck with Black Cherry relish. (Score fatty part of duck on Wednesday. Soak wood chips on wednesday. Smoke Thursday, approx 3-4 hours. Relish will be made the week before and refrigerated) Braised, bacon-wrapped endive. (Braise endive Wednesday [chicken stock, fennel, and lemon], wrap in bacon and secure with twine. Place on hot charcoal grill Thursday 30 minutes before dinner. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with toasted nuts. (Toast nuts [done already], Tuesday, mince and marinate sprouts. Cook thursday morning, then place in warm oven) Smoked butternut squash puree. (Halve squashes Thursday. Rub with olive oil, garlic and cumin. Season. Put in the smoker with the duck. Smoke until soft. Puree with butter and stock. Keep warm) Mashed potatoes. (peel potatoes on wednesday. roast for 1 hour. mash and add butter, cream and stock to a slightly dry consistency. Put ina roasting pan. On thursday a.m., add more butter and cream and stock to potatoes and place them, covered, in the oven.) That's just an example.
  10. My grill is actually a char-griller that is half gas and half-charcoal. Two separate cooking surfaces. It looks like a big barrel smoker, is heavy as hell and pretty useful. It was relatively cheap, around 300 bucks, but I also had to assemble it, which wasn't fun. Can't recall the brand name and I'm too lazy to go outside and cook. I have a separate smoker -it's one of those 60 dollar bullet smokers, Brinkman. It's peretty handy to have around for Thanksgiving - while I'm smoking the duck I'll smoke the butternut squash I'm using for the mashed B.S. I would say that if you can get your hands on a gas grill and don't mind blowing through a tank of LP gas (propane) then you could set it to low, close the lid, and you'd have a separate oven/warming area. That's what I'll probably be doing with mine. I'll be making the mashed potatoes in advance, cooling them and then putting them in a roasting pan. Then I can just reheat them in the oven or on the grill. I'll use the charcoal side to do my grilled endives. Even if it's cold here the grill kicks out plenty of heat. Drinks? My wife's family is a "one-glass-of-wine" type. Well, actually my father-in-law enjoys a nice sherry and my brother-in-law drinks coors light. My other brother-in-law doesn't drink, so our drink menu will probably be a couple nice wines, probably a lighter red, a pinot noir(to match the smoked duck) and some dry whites. Unfortunately, cocktails are not my specialty.
  11. Funny, I am doing the same thing this year. My wife and I bought a house in April and decided to host Thanksgiving in our first year here, despite having a somewhat small house and small-ish kitchen. We're serving 9. One of the keys I've decided on is the use of outside cooking appliances - I have a charcoal and gas grill and a smoker. So I'm doing a 13 pound heirloom turkey in the oven, and smoking a duck. I'm setting the gas grill to a low temp as a sort-of staging area for keeping dishes warm. Aside from that, I'm not sure how to proceed. I'd be interested in any tips you have for this. I think my menu is going to be relatively straight-forward - mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts with toasted peanuts, pumpkin soup served in pumpkins, mashed butternut squash, bacon-wrapped grilled endive, and of course stuffing and cranberry sauce. Keep us - and me - informed. I could use the help! Restaurant cooking is nowhere near as stressful as cooking for your in-laws and loved ones!
  12. Yep, D'Artagnan's is good, albeit a little pricey, and if you talk to local restaurants (or someplace like Lotsa Pasta), they can probably put you in touch with a distributor named European Imports, where a giant tub of duck fat is pretty darn cheap. You can freeze whatever you don't use and it's good forever. Good luck, again. Duck Confit is one of those things people freak out about at restaurants, but if they only knew how easy it was to make it....
  13. Don't worry no animosity taken or intended by myself, we're just having a discussion here. I certainly didn't want to imply that you didn't love cooking. Just wanted to give you a poke and challenge your opnion! I just don't understand why you've set yourself this seemingly arbitrary number of 4 knives. To a pure Japanese chef this would be too little, to a similar Chinese one it would be excessive. Every cook is different so to set a limit is just plain wrong. I'm not arguing the fact that you should have 4 great knives rather than 10 average ones. But similarly i'd rather have 10 great knives rather than 4, space and cost allowing i would have more - why not? Timh has a point. You could probably get by with a couple of pans too but given the choice why would you? To extend this point; you could get by with a couple of spices in Italian cuisine and still eat like a king for the rest of your life. But you would be seriously limited if you wanted to cook Indian food with those same spices. ← True - I could use more than four knives (and to be honest, off in a drawer somewhere I have a few old Chicago Cutlery clunkers that I use when I want to, say, chop up a lobster shell for lobster butter or hack through a beef shin bone), but this was a question about economy of space, and the best way to economize space is to have less stuff to put into it. Cooking pans aren't quite analogous to knives - there are many more ways to cook something than there are ways to cut it. Having said that, ther are only a few pans that get regular use from my collection as well - a 12 and 10-inch skillet, an 8-inch non-stick pan for eggs, a dutch oven, a straight-sided sautier pan and an 8-quart stockpot. I cook all kinds of stuff, but I really do believe in simplicity.. It's some kind of zen thing. and spices are way different than pans or knives, Spices don't take up any room, really. And with the size of my home kitchen (small), I don't have much of a choice. So I suppose if I was wealthy I might have more stuff. I was just trying to provide a perspective from a professional who also cooks a lot at home without a lot of extra space.
  14. Honestly, You can use any fat. Olive oil is fine, although it will get expensive once you realize how much oil you're going to need. If you call a specialty butcher you can probably order buckets of duck fat. That's how restaurants get it - they generally don't render the fat themselves, just get a bucket of duck fat and heat it until it's liquid. I would ask around your area - I'm sure somebody in Louisville will have a source for duck fat in buckets, and if that fails, I'd go with a blend of half olive oil and half-lard. Good luck. Duck confit is one of the finest things on earth!
  15. I cook all kinds of food with my four knives. If you buy good knives they are good for everything. A cleaver is a limited piece of metal - great for hacking through a bone, not so good for finely mincing a shallot. A global chef's knife will go through a bone, mince a shallot, and turn a radish. All you have to do is sharpen and hone it regularly. And a good carving knife will do more than a "decent" job on fish - I can cut slices so thin they're transparent. That's not skill - that's the magic of a good knife. And I am insulted by the notion that I don't cook "for the love of it." The sole reason why I cook professionally is because I love it. It certainly isn't for the money, as any chef will tell you! I'm not trying to be a jerk. The questioner mentioned this elaborate set of a dozen knives that he/she needed and I just wanted to put my proverbial 2 cents in, as someone who uses knives every single day for many, many hours. The notion that somehow restaurant cooking would limit my view or experience with knives is ludicrous and counter-intuitive. I think people have too many knives in their home kits, and rather than spend on quantity, I think they should spend on quality. That's all. No Animosity.
  16. I know I'm probably risking sounding like some jerk professional chef, and I apologize if I do, but why, On God's Green earth, would anybody need 3 chef's knives? This is my job, and I have: 1 chef's knife (Global), 1 offset serrated (F. Dick), 1 paring knife (global) and one carving knife (Wusthof). I work in a professional kitchen and need no more than these 4 knives (which is why I use a magnetic strip at home - tiny amount of space, no counter space is compromised, and the blades stay sharp). Can anybody explain why a home cook needs 3 chef's knives? And "utility knives"? Why? I am a firm believer in 4 knives, total - and just buy the best you can. Four amazing knives will cost you much less than 10 average knives.
  17. Yes. You only need 3 or 4 knives for your kitchen - a chef's knife, a carver/slicing knife, a paring knife and an offset serrated. Get a magnetic strip and those four will fit just fine - and you've saved room on your counter top! Knife blocks are as useful as the Magic Bullet or the 24-piece Ginsu knife set. That is to say, not at all.
  18. If you want to get totally crazy, find the Millennium cookbook (The Millennium is a San Francisco vegan restaurant). While I (a many-years recovered vegan) find many of the recipes over-reliant on tofu, seitan and other fake, non-sustainable stuff, there are some amazing, intricate vegan preparations in there with nice presentation ideas. Have a vegan dinner, invite your non-vegan friends and don't tell them it's all-vegan, and see how many notice. It will be fun for all and a re-affirmation to your friend that her diet doesn't have to consist solely of crappy processed vegan junk food.
  19. Actually, beer CAN contain all kinds of animal derivatives. Much (if not MOST) of it does not. The problem sometimes with people on extreme diets is that they believe every single thing about a food product without checking. Vegans, more than probably anybody, should do their homework before saying things like "beer contains all kinds of animal derivatives." Because that's just not true. I was once a vegan, and I have home-brewed beer for many years, without ever putting a single animal product into it. Here's a resource. And I know there are others: www.veganconnection.com/veganbeer.htm
  20. I just got an email from Chicago magazine's "dish" confirming that Schwa has closed indefinitely. Bummer. One of the best meals I've had in Chicago - and that was at the beginning of its run. I really tried to go back but could never get in. Hope Chef Carlson is doing all right.
  21. Freezing soft cheese pretty much ruins it. Make it into a cheese spread (throw it in a food processor with some white wine, garlic, and some harder cheeses, cubed) and freeze it like that, or find some awesome recipe to use it in.
  22. For a French place (or French-inspired) I'd go with Roast Chicken. It's an easy dish to get wrong, but with the right chicken it's hard to get wrong. For a place that is near a shoreline, I'd go with seafood. For Italian I'd try any pasta dish - just to see if they make their own pasta. For Thai I always get the green curry. BBQ I always go with the brisket. For a breakfast place I always try 2 eggs sunny-side up. That's a hard preparation during a rush.
  23. Yeah, Iguess I should have qualified that with "In my experience..." because I certainly haven't eaten at every place in Chicago around Blackbird's price range.
  24. Never had a bad meal there, or even a bad dish. Chef Kahan is amazing, and I've never received anything remotely close to "steam table" quality fish. The service is impeccable - I wish they'd lose those goofy oversized suit coats and bad ties - but that's a minor quibble. Considering the prices, Blackbird is the best restaurant in Chicago - by far.
  25. I'd have to add The Outlaw Cook by John Thorne to that list, right at the very top. And probably Ruhlmann's Soul of a Chef/Making of a Chef/Reach of a Chef. The first two more than the latter. Pollan's earlier book, The Botany of Desire would be a nice addition to this list, too, although less germane than The OD. But seriously, go get the Outlaw Cook. It's one of the very best food books out there. It's out of print but copies can be had from Amazon and the like for around 25 bucks. all of Thorne's books are wonderful (Serious Pig, Pot on Fire and there's another I'm not thinking of right now) and quite worthwhile. The Outlaw Cook is the source of the quote below.
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