Friday, July 6, 2012

Back at the range....

My Graduation Present from my

It's been a long time since my last post.

I've since graduated with a Certificate in Professional Cookery from the esteemed Kendall College and I've begun building Wit's End Catering, Inc., with the help of Kathy, my beloved wife.

But one thing that I haven't done much is COOK!  As I have sat at the computer, developing and pricing menues, Kath has been doing all the cooking for us.  She is a great cook and the food has been wonderful, but please... I didn't spend a whole year doubting myself and getting hassled by chefs with 35 years of experience for nothing!

Tonight's Main Dish:   Chinese Jamaican Fusion Grilled Chicken... my own recipe.

Juice of two limes
Juice of one orange
1 Finely Minced Jalepeno
1 Finely Minced Small White Onion
5 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Minced
3 Tbsp chiffonade of Cilantro
3 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Chili Oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce
6 or 7 Grinds of Black Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Chinese Spice Powder

Combine all of the above ingredients and marinated one cutup Fryer Chicken for 2 to 3 hours.

Grill chicken over medium coals for 45 to 50 minutes, turning every 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring leftover marinade to boil and add about 1/2 cup of honey.  Use as a baste the last 10 minutes of grilling, making sure you don't let the baste burn.

This is seriously good!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Family Cooking...

Family Cooking...

Dan and Kath Begin Plating

Every Wednesday for the last six weeks or so, I have been trying to do a cooking lesson for the kids.  In this day and age, it is just too easy for families to be kept apart by busyness.  I know that I regret wasting a lot of the time I put into church music while the kids were growing up because my schedule kept me from attending several of their high school events.  If I had it to do over again, I would definitely put a little less effort into church and a little more effort into attending their school events.

But, it's too late for that.

So, how about a little family time cooking?  I truly believe in the power of the table to bring people together.  A glass of wine, enjoyment of the fruit of God's earth, and great people add up to time well spent.

Dad and Dan (I'm only bigger because of the angle of perspective... uh...yeah.)

This past Wednesday we made a court boullion, poached Chilean Sea Bass in it, then made a Red Pepper Coulis and used it as the sauce for a Pan Seared Chicken Breast, boiled red new potatoes, and  made Sugared Strawberries with Marina Amusin's Apple Cake.

Here are some of the recipes:

Court Boullion
1/2 gallon water
3 fl.oz. White Wine Vinegar
1 fl.oz. Lemon Juice
12 oz. Mirepoix
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. crushed black peppercorns
1 pinch dried thyme leaves
1 bunch Parsley stems

1. Combine all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
3. Strain through a chinois and use or cool for keeping.  It can be frozen easily.

There are several things that you can do with a court boullion, many of them centered around fish.  Many times the broth is used to poach fish.  Simply take a fish or fish fillet and put it in the court boullion at 160 to 180 degrees F.  Keep it at that temperature and if the broth doesn't cover the fish, cover the fish with parchment paper to help it cook.  Cook for 10 minutes per inch of fish thickness at its thickest point. This method produces a perfectly cooked piece of fish which emphasizes the delicate flavor of the fish.  Danny actually doesn't like fish this way because he enjoys fish as an accent flavor to his hotly spiced dishes.  There is no right or wrong, but as time goes on he might learn to appreciate more nuance in his flavors.  If not?  Hey... nothing wrong with blackened fish fillets!

Chilean Sea Bass in White Wine and Vinegar Butter Sauce

The White Wine and Vinegar Butter Sauce actually represents a failure of sort.  (Can you have failure in the same room as your beloved children and grandchildren?  I think not.)  We were actually trying to make a beurre blanc, but Danny didn't quite get the hang of whisking the butter into the wine-vinegar reduction.  No problem... we ended up with a delicately flavored clarified butter that worked quite well.  (Unless you like Blackened Chilean Sea Bass!)

(A word about Chilean Sea Bass.  It is an incredibly wonderful, nicely textured fish that is being driven to extinction in many of its natural fisheries. Normally, I would never buy it.  However, there exists a small fishery off of Paraguay that has developed techniques and an action plan to maintain and repair its Chilean Sea Bass fishery.  The guy we ate Wednesday was one of those fish. It is an incredible pain in the ass, but you really do need to know where your fish is coming from and the impact you have on our oceans' resources when you eat fish.)

Red Pepper Coulis

3 Whole Red Peppers
1 fl.oz. Olive Oil
2 oz. finely chopped Onions or Shallots
2 tsp. finely chopped Garlic
5 fl.oz. White wine
8 fl.oz Chicken or Vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar to adjust taste
Salt and Pepper TT

1. Char peppers over open flame or under broiler, sweat in a bowl under saran wrap.  Take off the char        and julienne the peppers.
2. Sweat garlic and onions or shallots in olive oil until translucent.
3. Add the peppers and white whine and cook until au sec (fluid has boiled off and none remains)
4. Add chicken stock and cook for 15 minutes, reducing volume by a third.
5. Puree in a blender, adjust salt and pepper, and hold for service.
6. If the coulis is too runny, put in pan and gently simmer until thicker in consistency.

Danika asked, "Why char the peppers?".. You could just add the peppers and sautee until soft, but the char adds a lot of flavor to the final sauce even though you remove the char before using the peppers.

Pan Seared Chicken Breast and Red Pepper Coulis

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Frug...

Influences on my Culinary Career...
Jeff Smith, an ordained Methodist minister, became a wildly popular television chef during the 1980s and early 1990s. His shows fanned an already burgeoning interest in cooking across a wide swath of America. His warm, exuberant style and emphasis on the communal nature of the eating experience struck a chord among his viewers. He has been mentioned, in terms of influence on America cooking, as being similar in importance to Julia Childs, even though their respective levels of professional training are analogous to the difference between night and day. His career ended in the early 1990s, after a rash of publicity surrounding his alleged sexual involvement with underage boys during the 1970s became widely known. Even though there never was a definitive trial arising from the allegations, the fact that he and his insurance company paid out five million dollars to the plaintiffs to end the suit just days before the trial, led most to believe in the veracity of the complaints. (Behrens, 1998) Mr. Smith spent the days after his TV collapse cooking for many charity events in the Seattle area. He died in his sleep on July 9, 2004, and was buried in a private family ceremony. (Blake, 2004) Why would I even consider a likely pedophile, certainly untrained, chef as the most influential chef in forming my views on cooking? It has to do with the timing.

As I was raising my family in the mid-1980s, I was looking for something extra to add to my meals. Large grocery stores didn’t carry things like bok choy, fresh chives, and craft cheeses. My mother, who was an excellent cook, had limited herself to the old German standards of meat, potatoes, noodles and vegetables. Dad supplied a huge parade of organically raised vegetables that started in April with fresh hothouse lettuces and ended in early December with Kale. Yet, as good as her food was, I remember the first time I tried a pizza. It was after we travelled to my older brother’s house and having experienced it there, that Mom finally brought home a frozen Totino’s Pizza to bake in the oven. Mom never had an interest, nor were educational opportunities available, for her to branch out into different cuisines. At that time and place, and living as an immigrant family, cooking did not express itself as an interest in cultural exploration and giving hint of the worldwide connectedness of the human experience of enjoying the table. It was simply to put good, healthy food on the table for the family to enjoy. Not bad, but not enough for me.

While the Frugal Gourmet actually began his TV career in Seattle in 1973, it wasn’t until he transferred his show to WTTW Chicago in 1983 and later, in 1990, to A la Carte Productions, that he became widely known. It was in 1983 that I started watching his shows and became excited about his blending of culture, food and spirituality. In my autographed copy of the “The Frugal Gourmet” (1984), Mr. Smith notes, “I am primarily a people lover, then a food lover. The events of the meal, the friends gathered, the family excited over the coming dishes are much more important to me than what is on the plate.” The connectedness of spirituality and food is made clear in the “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine” (1986); “Hebrew was a desert language, and as concrete as the desert. Food and wine became a natural bit of the language since you could talk about hunger and yet be speaking about one’s longing for fulfillment. Salt, used as a means of preservation (…) becomes a symbol of friendship under this Hebrew method of speaking.” Mr. Smith points out that bread, eaten three times a day, becomes “the Staff of Life”; oil, a symbol of fulfillment and joy in the context of community; and wine is to “gladden the hearts of the people of God.” It was this blending of community, spirituality, plus the introduction of recipes that approximated authentic, multi-cultural food, that got me totally hooked on his shows and books.

In my bookcase, I see a clear visual analogy to my interest in the Frugal Gourmet’s work. His first two books are battered, stained and almost falling apart. His subsequent books are neat and tidy. I never bothered buying his last two books. It was in his first two books, and their attendant TV series, that Mr. Smith most clearly elucidates his interest in food and wine as an expression of spirituality and community. I also sense that these were the recipes closest to his heart, the ones he would have used as a “go to” whenever company would be coming. Looking back, I also see that the interest he inspired in me started a journey toward reading expert chefs that helped define and clarify culturally authentic cooking… people like Paul Prudhomme, James Beard, Marcella Hazan, Charmaine Solomon, Craig Clairborne and Pierre Franey, among many others.

Although he was disgraced by the sexual abuse allegations, was not trained as a chef, and although my interest in him waned as I developed my cooking skills, whenever I think about the contributions people have made to my interest in cooking, the Frugal Gourmet ranks first in opening up my vistas to more than meat, potatoes, noodles, and vegetables.



Behrens, Steve, Cooking star pays plaintiffs in sexual abuse case, Currents, 1998, July 27, retrieved from

Blake, Judith, Jeff Smith, 1939-2004: “Frugal Gourmet” was popular on PBS, Seattle Times: Living, 2004, July 10.

Jeff Smith, The frugal gourmet, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1984

Jeff Smith, The frugal gourmet cooks with wine, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1986.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Say Goodbye...

My Office

Today, I say goodbye to my office.  I lucked out and got one of the better ones in our building.  It is built for two, but I was the only occupant for my tenure as Clinical Nursing Coordinator for 5 North JRB.  You can't tell from this picture, but I have a window that looks out onto a small patch of green space... something you don't get much of in a major urban medical center.

I will truly miss this office and the job I did.  I had some incredible staff members to work with and they made my job so easy.  Most of the time, I would do rounds on my patients and hear what a wonderful boss I must be, because the staff were so good to the patients.  I know that it is mostly the staff's work that got the accolades, but I can't help but say that it did make me proud to be their boss.

I plan on staying at Rush as a part-time staff nurse until August 7, 2013, my thirtyfifth anniversary of becoming a nurse, while completing my culinary education.  Beginning August 8, 2013 I will find some job in the culinary field, most likely running a catering business, and start my second career.  In the mean time, I am looking forward to giving my patients the best of what I have learned over thirtythree years.