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Everything posted by xxchef

  1. I think Omaha Steaks (etc) cater to the lowest common denominator in gifting. Perceptually, one step up from a gift certificate or Hickory Farms. They are recognized and low-risk gift along the lines of how fast food franchises originally got so popular; a safe haven where you knew what you were getting, even if it wasn't anything special. I really can't understand how they get the prices they do. Maybe it's a mentality that "I'm spending a lot of money on this so it MUST be good". I don't know anyone who buys their products for themselves, it's always "for company" or gifting, or something else. I have been given some of their steaks in the past and found them uniformly dull and tasteless. The filets were like little hockey pucks (emphasis on little) even when cooked black-and-blue. Boggles the mind how they stay in business, let alone grow.
  2. Fried crispy: eat it all. Otherwise, I don't care for the shell but find that if cooked properly, the meat pulls cleanly and easily out of that little bit of tail shell. Even those tiny meat tail "feathers" will pull out, and are worth eating. Unfortunately it's not exactly easy to do at the table with any style or grace. I guess I figure if the kitchen has left the tail shell on, regardless of the type of restaurant, it's OK to do what is necessary to get all the meat. It would be a shame not to.
  3. Just because a food costs a lot doesn't mean that it is contributing to high food cost. Food cost is the ratio of the cost of the food to the price it is sold at. If your rack of lamb dish costs you $20 and your selling it for $60 that's 33% food cost. Not bad, depending one your other costs. Don't get too hung up in the percents either. I understand that the owner is fixated but you can educate him. "Margin" is another, probably more important number to assess. Margin is kind of the inverse of food cost but in dollars, not percent. Using the lamb dish example above your margin would be $40 ($60 sales price minus the $20 cost of the ingredients). If you have another dish, say a pasta dish, that costs you $10 to put out the door and you sell for $40, that's a 25% food cost. The owner will like the sound of that BUT it has only a $30 margin. At the end of the day if you sold 20 lamb dishes and 20 pasta dishes, the amount of money left over after paying for the ingredients your owner is going to have another $200 dollars to pay his other bills by selling more of the higher food cost lamb. That brings me to another point. Menu mix. When you're looking a food cost you need to look at your overall food cost, not just those for the individual dishes. The owner is going to have some kind of idea about what food cost he wants to run but that doesn't mean every dish is at or near that cost. The nature of the beast is that you will likely have a pretty wide range of individual dish costs. Your pasta dishes should run better food costs than your racks. There's just no way to mark up some things enough to get your costs down (and still sell them) and it would be just silly not to mark up even low cost items to their local market value. If, in the above examples, you sold only racks, your food cost would 33%; only pasta = 25%. If you sold an equal number of each your total menu food cost would be 29% (33+25 divided by 2). So you can see how you can also manage the food cost by massaging the menu mix in addition to the selling price or cost of ingredients. On the other hand, I suppose that if costing the recipes is daunting, menu forecasting is probably close to impossible at this point for you. Keep it in mind for down the road. Good luck.
  4. Perhaps, but some foods that make the transition from rarefied and exotic to abundant and inexpensive go a different direction and become staples; chocolate, sugar, and even salt come to mind. I think for a food to make such a leap, it helps to have near-universal aesthetic appeal coupled with an eminently practical application. Not sure caviar would make the cut.
  5. I think it's simpler than you might imagine. 1. Different formulas are designed for different results. All puff pastries, pastry creams, ganaches are not designed to be identical. Different chefs may be looking for different characteristics in the end product (or the same chef will have different needs for different applications). 2. Ingredients are not the same universally. Standard pastry flour is not the same in the US as in France. Neither is butter. A formula written for one type of ingredient may need to adjusted for another to achieve comparable results. Formulas written for sea level will not work properly at high elevation. Fresh eggs act differently than old eggs; shell eggs differently than frozen eggs. 3. Method/time/ingredient/skill/temperature: There is often more than one way to achieve the same thing. Take something as simple as making caramel (just plain caramelized sugar, not a sauce or caramels, the candy). It can be made equally well and correctly by dry heating sugar in a pan or by combining it with water and cooking it down until it caramelizes. Each method has its advantages and drawbacks. Additionally some chefs will include a little acid (typically lemon juice or cream of tartar), or maybe some invert sugars to help prevent crystallization. Put all this together, it's easy to see how you can end up with a number of different formulas for the same result.
  6. ... We have a contraption like a big fan that plucks the feathers for you, but, since he didn't have many to do, he did this one by hand. I'd also like a picture of your feather plucking contraption, if possible. Thanks!
  7. Thanks for the link. I didn't notice it the first time through the post and went to Amazon to buy. It's $19.99, plus shipping! The crooks!
  8. Tell me about it. We celebrated a phenomenal year for our business at Christmas with a couple of 4-6 lb lobs overnighted in from MA. It was about $160 bucks with shipping. Unfortunately (especially for the shipper) the package hung up in some weather related delays out east and ended up getting here on day 3. Not a pretty sight (or smell) but the company immediately re-shipped the order and the second box got here in less than 24 hours. The lobs were feisty and fresh and delicious.
  9. Have used that same brand for years. Get full-sheet pan size in the 1000 ct box and am usually well-pleased with it. Exception: anything too moist. It doesn't seem to do well with wet. For bagels etc I mist with cooking spray. before putting the pieces on which helps.
  10. This is very true. I'm not sure I'd use the word "stale" but the longer out of the bird an egg is, the more moisture it has given up through its porous shell = larger air sack and a loosening of the albumen from the shell. If you are sourcing your eggs from a local farm, too-fresh could be part of the problem. Try keeping a dozen in the fridge a week and try them again. At a week old certainly will not be "stale". If you have the option you might also try a different breed of ducks for your eggs. In chickens, for example, Aracona eggs (the shells have a blue or green tint) will peel well when boiled right out of the bird, but not so much other breeds. We've had Pekin and "golden hybrid" ducks before and their eggs have been uniformly hard to peel fresh. We have a bunch of Muscovies now who should start laying in a few months so it will be interesting to see how theirs are.
  11. We've raised 2-3 hogs in a 30x30' pen with a 4x8 shelter for years and it's adequate but not overly so. We're going to increase it to about 50' x 60' this winter with some more shelter options and do 4 hogs starting in the spring. They'll appreciate the extra room to run around, romp and play but I'm a little worried that with so much space they will be harder to convince to get in the trailer when it's time to go. Anybody have a good chute/gate ideas for large (600+ lb) hogs?
  12. THANK-YOU CHRIS!! You've saved me (and many of us I suspect) from wasting our time and money on this book. I like Amazon's "look inside" feature for books but I don't use it as often as I should, especially with professional/trade-type publications, especially from reputable sources. I assume they will be exactly as advertised and of uniformly high caliber. Thanks to your reservations I did use it and was quite disappointed. Your observation of "cut and paste" publishing is dead-on and despite the lush illustrations, way too much of the book seems to be filled with standard-issue charts, graphs and food safety caveats (inspired by lawyers rather than chefs, I'll bet). You da man. Thanks for taking one for the team. (any upsides from your purchase since your initial observations? had a chance to try anything practical from it?)
  13. Well, that's another thing to consider.. If you're not nearly at or below sea level it's hard to get that stock up to 100C (212F) without a pressure cooker. We're at almost 6000 feet elevation and our water boils at about 198F (92c), depending on barometric pressure etc. Drives the Dept of Ag inspectors absolutely crazy when they come to calibrate our pasteurizer thermometers. According to most references I've seen, it requires about 30 minutes at 198F to have the same effect as 5 minutes at 212F. Food for thought/grist for the mill.
  14. My favorite preparation for beef tenderloin is a nice thick steak, well-wrapped in some really good ham (I usually use our spicy Capicola) or sometimes prosciutto, pan-seared, finished in the oven and served on a Blue Cheese sauce (basically a cream reduction with lots of the cheese) I use my own goats milk blue now but Gorgonzola works really well too.
  15. Yes, it's quite enough. See my post. Let's be clear. Enough cooking heat + enough time will kill the common bacteria responsible for food-borne illnesses but NOT necessarily effect the toxins or kill the spores produced by the bacteria. Look at the chart on the page that Alex was good enough to link to in his previous post. The Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinum, and Bacillus cereus organisms can all produce toxins or spores that are "heat stable" (can survive cooking). The spores can then "hatch" post-cooking with new bacteria. The toxins can make you sick outright. Honestly, if it were just for me I'm not sure I wouldn't use it BUT it would be silly to do so not being fully informed about the risks. And by-the-way, the "sniff and slime" test just isn't good enough. There are plenty of bad bugs that can make you sick way before they begin to decompose the food they're in enough to notice that way.
  16. The rule in food service is that a perishable food product should not spend more than 4 hours of it's life in the "danger zone" (45-140F). That is a running total for every second of its existence from the time it was killed, milked out, harvested or whatever. That temperature range is where the most bacteria growth can occur. Further cooking may kill most of the bacteria but will not guarantee safety if certain toxins (botulism, for example) have already been produced by the organisms. Cost/risk/benefit analysis is up to you.
  17. Like cdh said, It really should be OK for 2 more weeks unless it is already getting over-ripe. Camembert-style cheeses are living foods. The molds and bacteria need to breath or you'll end up with a dead, ammoniated mess. Hopefully it was properly packaged when you bought it and you can simply re-wrap it, and put it in safe place in the fridge and be good-to-go. If it came wrapped in a non-breathable plastic wrap or something similar wrap it in parchment or waxed paper then over-wrap with aluminum foil. If you really want to baby this cheese you might consider continuing the affinage that it probably received at the store and certainly got where it was made. This should entail nothing more at this point than turning it over ever few days to keep the moisture evenly distributed throughout the pate. Since the cheese is local you could also just call the cheese maker up and ask them what they recommend. Good luck!
  18. Doing the same as every year...making lots of ready-to-eat full turkey dinner meals for the freezer. We like turkey a lot and we always cook a BIG one, even for just the two of us (this year I cooked two 14 pounders because I couldn't find any big ones to buy), and make LOTS of sides and accompaniments in quantity. In the days following Thanksgiving we package up a couple dozen home-made TV dinners with a little bit of everything in ~5x5x2" plastic Tupperware-type containers. It's just my wife and I here on the Ranch and our work schedule gets pretty crazy especially around goat kidding season and this time of year with all the extra candy-making work and sales in addition to our regular dairy work. 14-hour jam-packed work days are not uncommon at all so meals are often grab-n-go. These nuke-and-run holiday meals are just the ticket for such days.
  19. So where does one draw the line between "proselytizing" and "teaching"? I am forever educating people with tips, tricks, short-cuts, methods etc that I have learned/discovered over 30-something years in the kitchen and some of them I feel pretty strongly are vast improvements over what would be considered to be SOP. If I opine such am I an elitist bully? Perhaps the difference is in expressing the opinion that "method X or product Y is superior in all cases and under all circumstances to all persons, ignoring personal taste, cost-benefit or individual situation". We hold cheesemaking workshops periodically and people pay us good money for our opinions. Additionally, we regularly get phone calls and emails from people seeking our advice on off-grid living, goat herd management and farmstead dairying and we tell them what we've found works for us. Yes we have some very strong opinions on some of these subjects and have no problem telling people exactly what we think, which seems natural and right. Of course we also make it clear that "one size doesn't fit all", "your mileage may vary", "caveat emptor", etc. So maybe another component to "proselytizing" over "educating" would be the unsolicited or otherwise inappropriate pushing of advice/corrections.
  20. We're going with the traditional/classic Thanksgiving dinner this year. I suppose some would call it "pedestrian, "boring" or "lacking in imagination" but we've DONE all kinds of adventuresome, cutting edge and even bizarre menus in the past and they were never as completely gratifying as sticking to the basics (here's a link to my recent blog post about one meal in particular). They were always memorable, but more in a "gimmicky" way than in a deeply satisfying one. Anyway, late lunch/ early supper will be around 2pm and here's what we'll be having... Assorted Black Mesa Ranch goat cheeses (duh, we are a cheese dairy here so this was a given!) with "sour doe" toasts. Twin Roast Baby Turkeys* Bread Stuffing w/ Apricots & local pecans ("inside" and "outside" versions) Giblet Gravy Buttery Mashed Potatoes Fresh Yams with cinnamon and chipotle Winter Vegetable Medley (carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutebegas etc) Brussel Sprouts w/ Mushrooms in Goats' Milk Sauce with nutmeg Cranberry Sauce (2 kinds) Deep dish Apple pie w/ home made vanilla bean ice cream Pumpkin pie, Bourbon whipped cream * OK, these are not technically "baby turkeys". I've never cooked a turkey smaller than 22 lbs for Thanksgiving before (even if it was just the two of us) but the grocery store in town apparently got severely shorted on their bird order this year and the biggest ones they had were all under 14 lbs. So I got two. They look like big chickens to me but I was lucky to get any at all. We're celebrating an exceptional year for the Ranch and Dairy business in addition to a bumper harvest from the gardens this year so we're going with a couple bottles of a domestic "champagne" as the main accompanying beverage to this menu.
  21. I am a bit confused by your comment. If humidity makes a significant difference in the measurement of your flour, then doesn't that make the case for using volumetric measuring to eliminate the difference in density due to humidity? In support of your conclusion, I agree w/ weighing ingredients and use it exclusively for my baking. Hmmm. Interesting point. The humidity difference was one of the reasons I was given for weighing when I was taught and I've never looked at it from that angle. I suspect that as flour absorbs humidity it will swell slightly, making volumetric measures off too, Perhaps the difference is greater with volume a opposed to weight? Dunno. Maybe a food scientist will "weigh in"
  22. xxchef

    Turkey Stock/Broth

    Then I would definitely roast the bones & mirepoix. That's where all the color and much of the flavor comes from. Without roasting you'll basically end up with a broth. When you make the sauce save a little stock to deglaze the turkey roast pan with after cooking. I add some flour right to the fatty drippings to make a quick pan roux, then deglaze. Make your regular pan gravy and add it to your turkey sauce. And don't forget the giblets (liver, heart, gizzard): simmer all until very tender, cool chop (take off the tough outer layer from the gizzard)and add late in the gravy-making process (I also add the cooking juice for even more flavor).
  23. Good point. True for me too. But smoking is bad for everybody who does it (even a little) and also bad for the people around them. Not so for everybody who eats salt - even lots of salt. How would you have the government go about identifying the ~5% of the population who seem to be adversely effected by too much salt, determine what "too much salt" is and then go about setting a higher premium for just them? It seems to me this is a place for the private sector to go to work. If an insured person develops hypertension (etc) that can be linked to "excessive" salt intake on their part, they should be put on notice by their insurer that the need to a) cut down on that intake now or b) loose their insurance (or start paying a LOT more for coverage). As govt get deeper involved in health care this gets to be a more complex situation. Perhaps govt should encourage the intake of lots of salt, tobacco, alcoholic beverages and promote risky behaviors of all types to significantly shorten the life spans of The People. Lots of sudden, catastrophic deaths at an early age would be good for the health care system and might just save Social Security!
  24. True, but that was education, not legislation that accomplished that (with a little help from taxation, I suspect).
  25. Serious bakers and pastry cooks weight all their ingredients because that is the only way to be precise enough to make sure that their formulas work properly and consistently (bakers don't have "recipes" which is another insight into the need for precision in these chemically-balanced mixtures). Take humble flour; The difference in the weight of a cup of flour that is very dry and one that has been kept in a humid environment is noticeable. Add in the difference in measuring methods (packed? scooped? scoop and scrape level?, shaken down to level?, sifted then measured?) and you've got a pretty awesome opportunity for significant variances which will effect the end product. Don't even try to follow the formula and, yes you could easily ruin the outcome. 10-20% is a HUGE difference even by non-baking standards. Maybe not for a mirepoix for a roast or onions to go with your liver, but try adding an additional 20% salt to your next pot of soup and see!
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