Saturday, July 21, 2007
How about the book (well, actually it's a play, but if I ask that, you might think I mean a particular version of the play)?
How do you feel about Hemingway?
Yeah, me too.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Recipes: Taco Meat
Praiseworthy dispositions for the discipline of kitchen management: The art of Simplicity Makes the Spice of Life Come Alive.
Taco Meat: taco meat should not be over spiced. One or two spices is all you really want in there, otherwise your flavor becomes less powerful and loses its identity. My favorite taco spice is cumin, but you might want to try a little chili powder, chipotle powder, or cayenne, or you might want to make a sauce of your favorite hot pepper and add it immediately before serving.
Never add a sauce that is supposed to be hot too early. Sauces lose some of their heat, and worse, their flavor to evaporation.
Prep the hamburger by cooking it throughly, but do not let it get very brown. Now I'll tell you the secret that makes the texture of restaurant taco meat so much more attractive to most of us than the chunky blah you usually get when you cook at home: chop it in the food processor, use a salad shooter or even a blender, if you have to. It is so worth the extra ten minutes of prep and cleanup. I warn you, though, do it once and you will never be happy with the chunky junk again.
1 lb hamburger (prepared as above)
2 Tbs cumin
and salt to taste
Put that in a taco, on nachos, or on a tostada and you'll wish you had twice the appetite.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The Discipline of Kitchen Management
I've been the head chef here at Chez Kortan for about two- and- a- half years, during this time I've learned a lot about managing a kitchen and I think it only wise to pass down some of what I've learned. After all, many of you have little time and less money and need cheap, fast, and easy ways to keep you kitchens working well. Managing the kitchen is the key: if you step into the kitchen and think that you are going to cook, you'll leave a mess that will take longer to clean up than the meal took to cook and eat. Walk in with the goal of making that kitchen work as efficiently as possible, as well as producing a quality product.
Praiseworthy dispositions for the discipline of kitchen management: Look for Opportunities to Improve your Future.
Yesterday was a typical night: Spaghetti. I started the hamburger on medium heat, sealed the meat contaminated waste immediately, washed up (20 seconds, soap and hot water, twice after meat), and --here's what I'm trying to push here-- I looked around to see what else I could possibly do to prep the next steps of the meal. The options for spaghetti are: put water on to boil, open cans, set table, clean up any residual mess, and (at that moment) empty the dishwasher. I chose to put water on , because it always takes longer to boil than you think, with some olive oil (to keep the noodles from sticking) and salt (because it helps make the water boil and because it gives the noodles a buttery flavor) then I opened cans.
Praiseworthy dispositions for the discipline of kitchen management: Never get Angry at the Things Others Have Left Undone.
Just a little aside: It is a waste of time, harms your relationships to get angry at other peoples failures, and it doesn't actually get anything done. If people failed to do what they were supposed to do, if they are courteous and kind it was a mistake, if they are not talk to them later and impose appropriate sanctions. If you live with discourteous or irresponsible people (like I was until recently) and must force them to improve their character and abilities then you must be willing to remember for them and to remind them of their responsibilities long before their oversights become your problems. You might want to remind them that in the past they have tried to put things off and failed to do them, so it is necessary for them to do them promptly or they will forget entirely, which is not fair to anyone else. Such talks may be necessary, especially for children, but make sure that you have mastered the art of cleaning up after them with a smile on your face first, otherwise your nagging will not result in anything but resentment.
Okay, so I had the burger on and the water on high, I had the cans opened and waiting to go in. I checked the burger and had a few minutes so I got out a second pan for Gina (she just likes tomatoes and hamburger with some added tomato juice, not spices, olives and mushrooms). I checked the meat again, emptied the dishwasher. By the time I finished, the hamburger was just right, so I put in the tomatoes. At this point, I should have put Gina's sauce aside, but I forgot and started to put in olives, so I had to pick them out with a spoon. When you have to pick out an item, use a large surface (in this case the skillet), if the surface is too small, the ingredients stack and then it will take forever. Okay, mission accomplished, I put in the mushrooms and spices, turned the sauces to med-low heat, and then and the water was boiling, so I broke in the spaghetti, turned the burner down a few notches, picked up trash, wiped down the counter, and set the table.
Praiseworthy dispositions for the discipline of kitchen management: Never Put off until Later Tonight what you can do now.
By the time I was done, so was the meal. Steve needed to watch Bennett while Gina and I ate, so I put some water back in the spaghetti pan and put it on med-high with the colander of spaghetti staying warm in the steam on top. Then, while Gina started eating, I put all the other dishes not used to serve into the dishwasher.
In the end, I had a skillet and two pans, in addition to utensils and dishes left. I convinced Gina to let me put her pans in the washer a few months ago because it makes the psychological task of cleaning easier (even though it only takes a few extra minutes). It also insures that our dishwasher will be full by the end of the day so that I feel better about running a load. If I were Ryan, if I didn't have to sanitize things for Tank or if I'd read this article before last night, I would probably hand wash everything and then set the dishes in the dishwasher to dry.
Praiseworthy dispositions for the discipline of kitchen management: Always Check the Kitchen later.
So, I had to go upstairs to work on Epiphanius stuff and I asked someone to let me know when they had finished so that I could clean the last few items . . . no dice. I walked down a few hours later to find stuck on tomato sauce on a skillet. I need to remember to set an alarm when I have to leave before everything is done.
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