Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful for Thanksgiving

You know what makes Thanksgiving so wonderful; it's not the family, the friends or the travel.  The food is what makes Thanksgiving worth the trouble.  The menu is almost so sacred that virtually no one eats it outside of November.  Depriving myself of turkey, stuffing and gravy for one holiday seems crazy and yet we follow along because it makes the day that much more special.

When thinking about a thankful Thanksgiving one must contemplate the turkey.  We have over the years tried several variations.  Frying made the skin crispy and lovely but created a texture with the meat that wasn't perfect for the Holiday.  Smoking a turkey was a novel idea and tasted wonderful (especially the one with Cajun seasoning) but produce a gravy that was not very tasty.  Roasting a turkey in the oven makes the perfect Thanksgiving.  In my opinion roasting a whole turkey with one of those bags is a great way for any average cook to make something close to perfection.  For the more advanced start by buy a fresh turkey, brine and then roast starting breast down and switching half way through cooking.  I have had a frozen turkey cooked in a bag with no prior brine taste as good if not better than others that were crafted by skillful cooks.  Turkey is a great anchor on the plate but by no means what brings me to the table.

This is one of those times when the side kicks make it all worth while.  Must start with mashed potatoes that are as fluffy as clouds.  There must be both stuffing and dressing (please research if you don't know the difference).  Cranberry relish (the recipe on the back of the fresh cranberries works well) and canned cranberry jelly (I know this is a little wrong but somethings are just supposed to be a little wrong and processed).  Green beans (whole with bacon and almond slices comes to mind but any fresh will do) and other fresh greens cooked in some sort of butter or pigs fat.  Gravy lots and lots of gravy.  I like my gravy to create a bath for the food to swim in on my plate.  A dinner roll and a large tab of room temperature butter rounds out my perfect plate.  I know there are hundreds of sides to be had but these can in some portion fit on one fork to give me the perfect Thanksgiving bite.

No matter what you eat may your Holiday be filled with a full tummy.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What I like to order at chains!

Chain restaurants get little love in the blogging and foodie world and for the most part for good reason but I've listed below a few of my favorite choices at each restaurant.

Olive Garden:

Zuppa Toscana- My only suggestion

PF Changs:
Orange Chicken or Shrimp

Long Horns:
Pork Chops with Asparagus

CPK (California Pizza Kitchen)
Thai Crunch Salad Substitute Avocado for Chicken
Taco Mac:
Wings swimming in TMI sauce cooked 5 extra minutes

Outback Steakhouse:
Rack of Lamb or Baby Back Ribs

Cracker Barrel:
Meatloaf sandwich and Greens

There are more but I have no specific recommendations.  I try to eat at chains as little as possible because I like exceptional food but when out at a chain no reason not to attempt to get close. 

Tell me what's your favorite thing to order at a chain?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fish in Parchment

Once you get the basics down for this recipe you can play with more flavors, exotic citrus', edible flowers, and interesting vegetables.  The photo below is a basic fold there's a heart shape fold once you've practiced that will add additional flair.

4- 18" long piece of parchment paper
4 Fish fillets (6 oz each)
1 cup of shredded carrots
4 slices of lemon
1 cup of diced zucchini
1 cup of diced tomatoes
8 small thinly sliced Red Potatoes
4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons of Butter
1 Teaspoon of fresh Parsley
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees

Place the carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, red potatoes, 1/2 the olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper in a bowl and lightly mix.  In the center of each parchment place a 1/4 of the bowl ingredients then top with the fish, parsley, olive oil, lemon slice, salt, and pepper.   To close the parchment fold the top like an brown paper bag then fold the side the same.  After completing all 4,  place them on a cookie sheet and back for 20-35 minutes depending on type of fish and thickness.    

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Restaurant Tipping

This one, I thought needed no explanation but after working in restaurants you see just how cheap people can be when the bill arrives.  Tipping is the only way your waiter, waitress, or bartenders make a living.  They receive an hourly rate below $3 and that just pay some taxes.  The starting percentage should be 20% or higher depending on how satisfied you are with your service.  If however the service is substandard or just plain terrible then move the percentage down to as low as you see fit.  
I have seen that there are certain types of people that consistently tip poorly and I don't think they are aware of just how dreaded they are by this entire industry.  Some terrible tippers even have the nerve to keep visiting the same restaurant over and over again.  I'm not saying that someone should mess with there food although I'm sure it happens (I would never do that because I am very particular about how food is treated) but they shouldn't be allowed to eat at the establishment.
Let's be clear here 15% is not acceptable.  In the 80's and maybe the early 90's this worked but now that's just not enough.  I'm sure if you've never been a waiter or a bartender this probably makes less sense to you.  Most people think waiters have a pretty easy job; they take your order and bring out food but most don't know that everything besides the kitchen (even part of this) is cleaned by a waiter or bartender.  Every piece of silverware is rolled and cared for by the wait staff, and they usually even have partial responsibility when it comes to cooking duties such as salads, desserts and some appetizers.  Plus 3-5% of the tip goes to tipping out a bus boy/girl, hostess, and any other auxiliary person used.  Leaving 10-15% consistently is wrong and says that you don't care if that person serving you can pay his/her rent or feed his/her child.

How we treat those who serve us is a reflection on how we treat others.