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Everything posted by xxchef

  1. My range is directly behind my prep area so it's easy to... 1. Move pan to board, hold below table height, scrape food in. 2. Move board to pan and scrape food in. 3. Scrape food into sizzling platter, take to pan and dump in.
  2. According to a new study, low salt intake does not prevent hypertension and raises heart attack and stroke risk. "Researchers from the University of Leuven, Belgium, measured urinary salt (sodium) levels in 3,681 individuals over an eight-year period. Of the total, 1,499 completed every scheduled urine test. When the study began, none of them had any cardiovascular disease. 2,096 had normal blood pressure levels at the start of the study. They found that those with lower salt intake over the eight year period had a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, compared to those with a high salt intake - completely the opposite to what we are told." So I suppose Penzeys will now be putting out a special "salt only" supplement to their catalog touting the health benefits of all things salty. I mean, if you're going to be politically correct, you've gotta be equal-opportunity PC by definition, right?
  3. I have dealt with restaurant/hotel purchasing departments from all sides (supply, demand and management) and I have developed some real mixed feelings about their value. On one hand they can really take some of the drudgery and extra work out of a chef's week by making sure that his storeroom is always par-stocked to specifications while keeping him from having to deal with salesmen constantly. From a management point of view a good purchasing department can save the business a lot of money through cost, receiving and inventory controls and through the power of quantity buying for multiple kitchens/outlets at the same property. On the other hand, they can form a creativity-stifling buffer between the chef and his suppliers. Without excellent communication practices a chef may miss out on a gonga special catch, short-season product, or new specialty purveyor. I'm currently dealing with just this situation from the supplier side. I'm a seasonal cheese maker now and we're about a month into our new season. As I do every year, I sent out emails to all of last year’s customers letting them know that we were opening again, what products we would be offering during the season, provided product/price lists etc. A number of our traditional customers are large hotels, resorts and conference centers and I have worked almost exclusively with the Purchasing Departments at these properties. Usually I get a cold call from a Purchasing Director saying “The Chef heard about your cheese and wants to feature it on the new menu. How do we set up an account?” From then on they are customers for life. To my consternation, several previously very good customers never responded to the emails or got back to me with orders this year. After a couple of weeks I sent follow-up emails - but still no response. Phone calls were not returned. I know the economy is in the crapper but this was ridiculous! Finally, through some clever subterfuge and some diligent digging, I was able to get either the direct phone numbers for the exec chefs or their email addresses. To my surprise (and relief) they were all delighted to hear from me, glad to hear that we were back open for the season and most placed very nice orders right then and there. "I was wondering why you hadn’t contacted me” was the general tone of the conversations. Now, obviously, they had not been getting the necessary information from their purchasing departments and I probably did the right thing by going around their back BUT, I’m not sure of where to go from here. I don’t want to mess up the systems and I don’t want to bug the chefs. I do want to keep them informed and happy and keep selling them my product. I’ll talk to these guys, of course, but I’m looking for some broader input from chefs in general on how they have or would like to handle this type of situation.
  4. The first time I hear the word "absinthe" was in a punny joke/tongue-twister. Something about abstinence, absence and absinthe and it went right over my head since I had not a clue what it was. I still get it mixed up in my mouth (thank-you very much old college roommate) and couldn't even pretend to have known the correct pronunciation before this thread. Thanks. And don't forget.. Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder!
  5. Haven't seen the full recipe but could it be for pasteurization purposes? Fresh garlic has been linked to salmonella so if the garlic will be spending a lot of time at "danger zone temperatures" I suppose that might be the reasoning (despite the MC authors taking grief for some of their Food Safety writings).
  6. Welcome back to reality, Mitch! Yes, good milk was always that good. The trick is in finding good milk. Industrial dairy products may, on whole, be a lot of things (readily available, inexpensive, safe to consume etc) but they are usually not very good - at least when compared to what they could and should be. As with so many things in today's grocery stores, peak product quality and exceptional product flavor are simply not the primary focuses of the system that brings milk to market these days. I get probably half a dozen dairy industry periodicals sent to me. Do you know when the last time I saw an article about a company who was making great tasting milk? Never. Creative marketing: all the time. Innovative packaging: constantly. Cost saving production upgrades: every issue. Latest and greatest "functional ingredient" advances: yada, yada, yada. And let's not even talk about the widespread use of hormones, defoamers etc in large-scale dairy settings. Yuck. Tasting good dairy after submersion in mass market dross is like the first bite of heirloom tomato, warm off the vine after a winter's worth of hard, tasteless supermarket specials. Epiphany! (quickly followed by "Why did I even eat that other crap?") Viva la revolucion!
  7. I'm at 6000 feet but have not noticed a difference in texture from what I made at sea level and I'm not sure why there would be. In my experience; yes, the mixtures do come to a boil earlier (at around 199F for water where I am) but with a recipe like caramel, where evaporation of the water components is the main factor in getting to the correct sugar stage it does not seem to take much, if any, longer. I also found that cooking a recipe to a slightly lower finished temperature than is called for usually works well (maybe 241F where it calls for 245F), so it's actually cooking for less time than it might. As I understand it, this is because evaporation happens faster and easier at higher elevations where there is less atmospheric pressure to fight against. It's times like this I wish the gang at Modernist Cuisine had taken on some pastry topics with their laser-like scrutiny!
  8. Try here: http://www.rugsusa.com/rugsusa/control/search-furniture?&fid2=FBarStoolsType We just bought some counter stools from here that could be ordered in one of several heights. You can filter for stools of a certain height range and they have several that are height-adjustable. (Standard disclaimer: no affiliations) and FWIW, one of the new stools broke after 3 uses. Might be a fluke. Will let you know how their customer service is when I know.
  9. Pare off the peel & pith with knife then section out segments into a bowl (supremes) then squeeze all the juice out of the membrane over the sections. If sweetening is needed I'l drizzle on a little real maple syrup.
  10. Things that, for me, make a really great red beans & rice: 1. Use small red beans (not kidney beans or other large types) 2. The meat component should be pickle pork (pickle meat). 3. Use the "holy trinity" in good measure. 4. Toast the rice lightly before cooking it. 5. Serve with lots of Frank's hot sauce and crusty bread on the side.
  11. No hard data but it seems like those who really "cook" around here are in a small minority. Some experiential observations: 1. We sell a lot of cheese ("cheese shares", technically) to one CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) organization with which we've become good friends with the owner. His core business is building and supplying weekly baskets/bags/boxes of in-season, fresh, organic produce to his members. His biggest obstacle in keeping members, and for getting new members is that so few people know what to do with non-pre-prepared foods. A large part of his work is teaching members how to prepare and make meals with the produce he is providing. Cooking demos/classes, recipe sheets, newsletters, visiting chefs etc are all offered free of charge to members. Most of the recipe/meal suggestions are designed to be as "fast" and "easy" as possibly. It's like everybody has some kind of culinary ADHD. 2. My shopping habits sound similar to lstrelau's. I buy ingredients. Sometimes to the point that my grocery list looks more like I'm stocking a Conestoga wagon for the long migration west than doing the week's shopping (produce, sugar, flour, coffee, dry beans, salt, gun powder (oops)...) I'm used to my shopping cart drawing stares and comments, "You one of them survivalists? heh, heh, heh". The cashiers have trouble ringing up my order, "Ummm, what is that?". "They're Brussel Sprouts". "YUCK!, Do you know the price code number for them?" It's pathetic. Funny, but pathetic.
  12. I can't see it working either. You can probably take several picture of the same mixed plate of food and have it come up with a different result every time. Another cool idea waiting for technology to catch up. So, it's a $2.99 rip off (or maybe it's a cheap toy for doing parlor tricks at the dinner table)? That it actually recognized the BRAND of your jelly beans is pretty amazing!
  13. And even if it can correctly identify a food correctly, how can it tell how much of the food is really there without something to give it scale? Is that a cup of soup or a bowl? Is that brownie 2x2" and 1" thick or 4x4" and 2" thick? The app does give a range of calories (sometimes a large range) but it would be interesting to know what parameters define the ranges - is it a question of portion size or variation in possible ingredients involved, etc?
  14. "Want to know how many calories you are going to consume when you reach for that cheese burger or slice of pie? Take a picture of it using your iPhone. A new app called MealSnap allows users to photograph food and get the calorie count." So claims an article today in Discovery News: http://news.discovery.com/tech/new-app-counts-calories-through-photos-food-110413.html Anybody seen/tried this out?
  15. FWIW... STEVEN RAICHLEN has an article in the NY Times today "Ribs Without Smoke" in which, after building him up, takes a bit of a pot shot at Dr. Myhrvold and his "preferred method of cooking ribs" (end of the article). Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/dining/06ribs.html?pagewanted=all
  16. Made these today and thought I'd share... BMR "Everything" Bagels Yield: 12 Bagels Ingredients 12 Grams Dry Yeast 70 Grams Non-diastatic Malt Powder 24 Grams Sugar 1 pint Warm Water 720 Grams Bread Flour 16 Grams Salt As Needed (about 300 grams total) Topping: Your choice combination of: Sea Salt, Poppy Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Onion, Garlic, Carraway, Etc. For Water Bath 3 Quarts Water 50 Grams Non-diastatic Malt Powder 24 Grams Sugar Method Combine the yeast, malt and sugar in a mixer bowl Add the warm water, mix, and let the yeast proof for a few minutes. Add the flour and the salt then knead the dough till smooth. Shape the dough into a ball place it in a lightly greased bowl covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow it to rise till doubled in bulk, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. When the dough has risen, release the air and transfer it to a clean work surface. Put the water into a 4-5" deep pot about 10" in diameter -- the water should be about 3 inches deep -- and add the malt and sugar. Bring the water mix to a boil while shaping the bagels. Scale the dough at about 3.5 oz (100 grams, .22 lb) which should make about 12 pieces. Roll te prices into balls. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape it into a ball, poke a hole through the center with your index finger, and twirl; the dough will form a ring. As you get 3 or 4 bagels ready, boil them immediately for chewiest bagels, or let them rise a bit (see notes). Keep the water bath at a simmer. Dont crowd the bagels in the water. Simmer them for about 30 seconds on each side, then drain briefly. While still hot and moist, dip the bagels top and bottoms, in topping mix, then move them to a parchment-lined sheetpan, liberally sprinkled with corn meal. Bake the bagels in a preheated 425°F oven for about 20 minutes, or until they are a deep golden brown. NOTES : Second rise or not? Boiling the bagels immediately after shaping will produce chewy, dense bagels. Letting the bagels rest and rise for 30 minutes or so after shaping, will yeild a lighter, puffier bagel. Be advised that rising the bagels before boiling will make them more fragile and more difficult to handle (they will want to deflate in the water bath). What's with the "Non-diastatic Malt Powder"? Malt Powder improves the flavor of the bagels a good taste and, more importantly, when used in the water bath it gives them a shiny crust. Non-diastatic malt powder is made from sprouted barley kernels which have been roasted (to intensify their natural sweetness), ground, filtered in water (to remove husks and bran), then dehydrated. The resulting powder, has a characteristic sweet caramel taste and aroma. Regular (diastatic) malt retains enzymes which gives yeast a boost - a desireable characteristic in some applications, but not for bagels. Non-Diastatic Malt is much more stable here. Too much Diastatic Malt might cause the bagles to collapse or even start breaking a part in the simmering water.
  17. But, of course, the volume-measuring of those ingredients, with all its inherent flaws, will only compound the chance of recipe inconsistency compared to weighing.
  18. Absolutely, as time allows. Are we posting the recipes here, in the recipe section, new thread, etc? How do we group them for ease of searching by-weight recipes?
  19. I am quite interested in this thread as I have been diligently converting my most-used recipes and formulas to weight for years but I have been having a couple of problems... 1. Available conversion charts and calculators usually do not agree, especially at smaller measurements. The 4.5 cups of flour from the doubled Greenspan spaetzle recipe in Chris' original post came back variously as 562 grams, 561 grams and 562.5 grams between 2 online convert utilities and a recipe software program (MasterCook) I have on a computer at home. All very close (although a ways from Chris' 600 grams) but the 1/2 tsp of white pepper came back as 1 1/8 gram, 2.5 grams and 2 grams on the same calculators as above - a big range for something as powerful as white pepper and bracketing Chris' 1.5 gram result. There is even some question of how much a large US egg weighs (47 to 52 grams) some of which may be attributed to confusion between "shell-on" and "shell-off" eggs and the difference between the minimum legal weight per dozen eggs and the minimim/maximum weight allowances per individual egg. Egg weights in recipes are of particular interest as I use home-grown own eggs exclusively and they are all over the place in size. 2. Accuracy of empirical data. Usually when I convert a recipe for the first time I double check the calculated figures I get against real-life. Everybody's style of measuring is a little different and I want an accurate conversion of my standard measures. I do this by taking 10 cups (or tablespoons, or teaspoons...) of the ingredient, weigh it and divide the weight by ten. I do this twice and if the numbers are reasonably close I take the mean. If they are not I'll do it a couple more times and take the average. This gets it about as accurate as I need and also helps make really small amounts (10th of grams) more manageable. These are now my base weights and the recipes work well with them but I wonder how different (better?) they might turn out with someone else's conversions. 3. In practice I still find myself reaching for the measuring spoons for very small measures so now all my recipes have dual measure/weight notations for dry ingredients under a tablespoon. It feels like cheating.
  20. So far, the Brand Police have not gotten so bad in the US. I know that in the EU many cheeses (and other foods) are highly brand-protected and must be made in a certain area and manner to be called a particular name. Parmesan and Feta cheeses are two that come to mind right away (although I understand there is still quite a fight going on over the name "Feta", and rightly so). Regardless, what then is one supposed to call "Eggplant Parmesan" if it is actually made with Romano, Asiago, Grana Padano, Pecorino or David's Old Goat Cheese... "Eggplant Italian-Style Grating Cheese"? I don't think so! It's a common recipe name for a style of presenting a certain dish, not a branded product.
  21. and to me that means one is an ovo-lacto vegetarian. I've never heard that expression used to mean anything else. <snip> Since you asked, and I am just saying so please don't be offended, but technically those aren't meals that would satisfy any vegetarian, as parmesan is not vegetarian. I assumed she was ovo-lacto veggie too but that particular sub-diet (along with vegan I might add) is so restrictive that those choosing to follow it should, at the very least, understand the challenges of eating away from home if not fully expect to provide their own food especially when visiting a cheese dairy! From what I understand of the vegan practice, I'm not sure how a "committed vegan" (oh Lordy forgive me for the inappropriate jokes now running through my brain) could even consider eating anything but their own, well-researched and pre-approved foods. I mean, there are SO many, seemingly innocuous foods that are SO wrong for vegans, right?? I would never presume to represent any of my food as vegan, not even a carrot stick because God only knows if a bug got smooshed on it when it got picked. Or maybe that particular vegan wouldn't want it because it was grown in compost from my barn which houses our dairy goats, which I'm sure is some kind of an anathema. And, by the way, the Parmesan in the eggplant IS vegetarian. I know this because I made it myself with vegetarian rennet. I may be a Neanderthal - but I'm a market-sensitive one.
  22. They never mentioned there being a vegetarian amongst them AND the menu I suggested were already suitable for any vegetarians by simply having them not eat the meat component. For example, a dinner menu: Eggplant Parmesan, baked ziti with 3 cheeses, Ital saus w/ peppers & onions, garlic bread, green salad, etc. The other lunch suggestion was a cheese-tasting menu with 6-8 farm-made cheeses, fresh baked bread, fresh fruit, crudités, salad, and a ranch-made meat platter (smoked sausages, capocola ham, etc). Tell me those aren't full meals for any veggie. Actually this group will just be lodging guests, not associated with a workshop. Still no sure why they want to stay here.
  23. Thanks all. Not exactly the calming voices of reason I was hoping for but some damned fine suggestions never the less! The Bunkhouse does have a full kitchen. I'm not sure that helps in this particular situation but for the future "Cooking facilities are available for those who wish to prepare their own meals..... " is something we're going to have to seriously look into. (God, I can just here our lawyers and insurance agents screaming at us already). No murder-suicides here, I promise. We're too well armed and proficient to be murdered, way too stubborn for suicide and much too polite to consider harming a guest, no matter how irritating (self-defense situations excluded, of course). I mean, the customer IS always right...Right?
  24. Well, I'm dealing with this issue right now and could use some guidance. We host periodic cheese making and goat herd management workshops here at the Ranch and also offer our "Bunkhouse" for small group lodging. We are a very long way from town and further from decent dining so we include meals for our overnight guests. The meals we provide are good home-cooked meals proudly featuring almost exclusively Ranch-produced foods including our own pork, beef, chicken, duck, veggies from our own gardens or greenhouse, dairy products and cheeses from our on-site goat dairy. The meals are very diverse, well balanced with something for everybody and considered by most the highlight of their stay. I am in the process of booking a group of four women who will be staying one night. They are nutrition students at a school in Phoenix and as so wanted to get a sample menu of the food I might be serving, which I provided. That's when it started. The "she can't have that" and "she doesn't like this", and "one is ovo-lacto and one is kind-of vegan, and one can't have lactose" and "we'd rather do it THIS way", etc, etc, etc. Example: For the lunch I suggested a nice quiche meal: free-range ranch eggs, ranch grown and smoked bacon, vegetables and a blend of house-made goat cheeses (swiss, jack and cheddar) with several types of salad and some fruit. They came back with (and I quote): "How about making the quiche without the eggs or the meat and putting it on grilled bread, like a panini?" <sigh> We are not talking about a lot of money per person here at all and now she wants to know what brand of coffee we use and she's concerned that our "whey-fed pork" will have too much whey in it for one of the women. HEY LADY!!! The HOG was FED WHEY before we KILLED it for the pork chops! There is NO WHEY in the PORK! I'm usually pretty accommodating but why on earth do these people even want to come here? I'm considering countering with "Salad buffet for every meal, meats and cheeses on the side, BYOB (ALL beverages). Take it or leave it". Hoping cooler heads here will steer me in a different direction. (edited to fix a couple of typos)
  25. For our food packaging solutions at our dairy we decided on the completely opposite response to the issue of cost pressures. We actually increased our packs and unit sizes. We went from 5 1/3 oz (3 to the pound) fresh cheese logs to 6 oz logs. We went from 3 lb wholesale tubs of fresh cheese to 4 lb tubs. We discontinued wholesale 4-packs of logs and began offering 5-packs. This made real sense for us because wrapping/packaging/labeling costs are a significant portion of our expenses. When we found that we could squeeze 4 lbs of product into the original tub we used for 3 lbs, it was like cutting our costs by 25%. By moving to 5-packs instead of 4-packs we are using lots fewer labels (20%) and packing material. At 25-40 cents per package that starts to add up pretty quickly. At the same time we made the packaging changes we also had a price increase so some education was in order. Chefs used to paying $33 per tub of cheese were then paying $48 but we didn't lose a single account, despite the initial "sticker shock". I understand that the pressures of competing in a more price-sensitive part of the market might tempt one into using these smaller-at-same-price strategies but they seem short-sighted. Who do they think they are fooling and how long do they think they can do it? Perhaps because "everybody's doing it" they feel compelled. I think it's a poor response on many levels, but what do I know?
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