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Friday, January 22, 2010

Pasta for "The Opimian Wine Society"

Tomorrow one of our functions is for the Opimian Wine Society. One of the courses features  three types of Starch. Two of these being a Sundried Tomato Gnocchi and a Spinach Fettuccine made in house.  The final being a Lobster Risotto ... and I'm not good at forming Arborio Rice Grains haha. So today pretty much everyone in the kitchen got a chance to try making Pasta.  Coady our Jr.Sous made the Sundried Tomato Gnocchi...and everyone made the Spinach Fettuccine. So I asked Chef for his Recipe for the Fettuccine and Coady for his Gnocchi.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

 Gather 2 pounds of ripe heirloom tomatoes (choose a variety of colors and sizes, as well as the most perfect tomatoes you can find at the height of the season). Cut them into various sizes: wedges, thick slices, in half, or, if you have some tiny cherry tomatoes, leave them whole. Arrange them on a chilled plate and sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and your favorite vinegar (balsamic, red wine, or sherry would be good). Top with a sprinkling of fresh, torn herbs like tarragon, basil, chives, and/or Italian parsley. Serve immediately.
 So I got the go ahead from Chef. My build Fort McMurray's first rooftop garden this Spring. How am I going to do this...with anything free I can get my hands on. Luckily the Hotel is going to foot the cost for anything I cannot scavenge.

 We work for a hotel that is Eco why not enhance our Environment and our Menu at the same time. Everyone likes to know that what they just ate was grown locally...even more so when it's nourished by the very cooks that made the meal. The current plan is to grow a variety of Herbs...the stuff you cant normally get off suppliers, Heirloom Tomatoes ( I harvested my own sees in British Columbia all last summer), Swiss Chard, a variety of Leafy Greens, a bunch of Edible Flowers...and anything else anyone comes up with that is practical.
 We will use the harvest on the restaurant menu only...not like I can plant enough to use throughout our kitchen. Anything we have an over abundance of we will donate to local Soup Kitchens or other deserving causes. I plan to enlist the help of the odd cook at the hotel..but would also like to get the local community involved in parts of it. Our Nations kids need to know where their food comes from. What better way to teach them.
 So the process is going to begin today. I will start stashing away all of the buckets our Salt Beef for Jigg's Dinner arrive in. Why you ask? That is what our rooftop garden is going to be built out of. Each growing unit is going to be constructed from 2 recycled buckets, a piece of PVC piping, some flexible tubing and a bar glass. The system will be self watering and self little work as possible once the initial setup is built. You dont get cheaper than that. The only things I will have to purchase are the PVC piping(watering tube), flexible tubing(creating a siphon irrigation system from a master barrel) and the dirt. I know your wondering why I would have to purchase the dirt when we live in the Wilds of Alberta. We live smack dab in the middle of the Oil Sands.

All soil in the area contains Bitumen ...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Mrs. Hering's Chicken Pot Pie"

So this recipe is for Florence at work....she is from Manila and asked if I had a recipe for Chicken Pot Pie..well Flo you dont get much better than this one!!! Totally Classic and Traditional.


Chicken and stock ingredients
1 (3 1/2 pound) frying chicken
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 small onion, halved
2 teaspoons salt
Pie crust ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (best to chill cubes in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before using)
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water
Filling ingredients
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
3 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup green peas, frozen or fresh
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Egg wash
1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
Special equipment needed
6 10-ounce ramekins


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1 Cook the chicken and make the chicken stock. Combine the chicken, carrot, celery, onion and salt into a large stock pot. Add cold water until just covered and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool for 15 minutes. While the chicken is cooling, continue to boil the remaining water and vegetables in the pot. When the chicken has cooled enough to touch, strip away as much of the meat as you can. Place the meat on a dish, set aside. Return the chicken bones to the stockpot and continue to boil, on high heat, until the stock has reduced to a quart or quart and a half. Set aside 2 1/2 cups of the stock for this recipe. The remaining stock you can refrigerate and store for another purpose.
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2 Prepare the pie crust dough. Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the chilled butter cubes and pulse 5 times to combine. And the shortening and pulse a few more times, until the dough resembles a coarse cornmeal, with some pea-sized pieces of butter. Slowly stream in ice water, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the dough sticks together when you press some between your fingers. Empty the food processor, placing the dough on a clean surface. Use your hands to mold into a ball, then flatten the ball into a disk. Sprinkle with a little flour, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.
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3 Prepare the filling. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, one minute more. Whisk in 2 1/2 cups of the chicken stock. Whisk in the milk. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the chicken meat, thyme, sherry, peas, parsley, salt and pepper and stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Divide the warm filling among six 10-ounce ramekins.
4 Prepare the crust. Roll out dough on a lightly flour surface to a little less than a quarter-inch thick. Cut into 6 rounds, slightly larger than the circumference of the ramekins. Lay a dough round on each pot pie filling. Fold the excess dough under itself and use the tines of a fork to press the dough against the edge of the ramekins. Cut a 1-inch vent into each individual pie. Use a pastry brush to apply an egg wash to each pie. Line a baking sheet with foil, place the pies on the baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

 So we broke down and bought a Wii Gaming System a couple weeks ago. Now I haven't played with video games since the 80's. I had a Commadore 64, and it took forever just to load a game. We do have an original Atari in storage though...complete with all the coolest games ever. So we went on the hunt for the Wii right after Christmas...Big Mistake!! Were in Northern Alberta and every system has been sold...restocks have not arrived. Then by chance we were at the local Video Rental Centre and Voila...the last remaining Wii in Fort McMurray was glaaring at me...didn't matter how much...We bought it!! Then began the hunt for the Wii Fitness Plus game (the original reason for buying the Wii). No luck everywhere we went. I am persistent though and eventually found one that was returned after the Christmas rush.
 Now buying a video game to exercise just did not make sense to me. Being cooks our schedules are usually never the same...and getting to a gym isn't exactly easy daily. So this seems like a great alternative if it works. She has been semi-fit sporatically while we have been together. I on the other hand am the type that everyone hates...I have not set foot into a gym since my Army days...and I truly believe a box of donuts a day is required to maintain my girlish figure. So,  everyone else seems to be doing it...we might as well jump off the bridge too. We have no gaming experience...and it doesn't have fifty thousand buttons you have to I guess I can do it. After our first day we were hooked...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chickpea Croquettes
adapted from Vegetarian Times . makes 8 patties
1 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c hot water
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t salt
15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 habanero or jalapeno, minced
3 garlic cloves , minced
2 T chopped cilantro leaves
3 T olive oil
In a large bowl, add flour, water, lemon juice, cumin and salt. Stir until well combined. Add in chickpeas, scallions, pepper, habanero, garlic and cilantro. Stir well.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil, over medium heat. With your hands, form the chickpea mixture into 8 patties, about 1/2“ thick (the patties may be quite wet, but will stay together when cooked). Place 4 patties in the pan, and cook 4-5 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. With a spatula, flip patties, and cook 4-5 minutes on the other side, until that side begins to brown. Transfer to a plate, or cook for an additional minute on each side, until desired doneness. Repeat with the remaining 4 patties. Serve with sour cream, salsa, or chopped avocado.
 So back to work today...switching from AM shift to the PM....the body always loves that. Today I just wanted to mention a film that everyone should seek out at your local movie rental joint. Eventually I will get a book and video list up...for for now just rent this movie. Your stroll down the  local grocery store aisles will never be the same again.

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Day Off

 So now you know I like my job...I think I am pretty good at least I hope I am...and I live in the Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. It’s my day off.....what to do..what to do??? I know I’ll text my buddy Shawn. We grew up together as teenagers in Ontario. Then  I'll drive into the Remote Wilderness  thru thick fog  - and roads that have holes the size of the tire on my 4X4 in really mushy slushy conditions...that'll be fun. Never should have bought a white truck either.

Why you ask??? There is a kitchen that’s not mine there!! I love doesn’t matter where they are. I just wanna poke my head and my camera into every one I see. They are never the same...go to two McDonalds restaurants and they won’t be twins. Now sometimes they create shock and dismay...but usually they just make me happy for some reason. Today I went to have lunch with Shawn. He is the Manager of an Executive Oil Camp with a Rigger camp just behind it. The Lodge has a Gleaming...yes it  F@ckin twinkles I tell you...Kitchen. The Kraft Camp behind it has a large Diner Kitchen meant to pump out a lot of food to some big hungry boys just off shift!

My Start

I guess I’m a Cook.  I’m not a Chef...I tell people I make food Hot. I have survived five years in an industry that usually chews you up and spits you out in three months. The Food Network has convinced the whole planet that anyone can be a Gordon Ramsay , Thomas Keller or Rick Bayless. This is NOT the reality of the industry. Most end up back in school working towards their next Dream. I am starting to get to the point where I can’t even remember all the cooks I have worked with...most of which are no longer cooks. This business is not what it is portrayed to be on TV. The television doesn’t show the heartbreak and the crushing of one’s soul.
 I got into the business later in life. I was a Goldsmith (made handmade jewellery) for the Family business and decided I was not happy and needed a change. I racked my brain for the things that made me happy and I ended up applying to a two year Culinary Arts program.  I was lucky...I worked full time in a kitchen while I went to school...I could apply the things I learned instantly. More often than not I was told that what I had just learned was useless and “Do it this Way!!”.
 I got my first job because of my Pastry Arts teacher at College. He mentioned that a local restaurant needed some help on the weekend and I should go talk to the Chef right after school. So I did what any student would do...I skipped the rest of my classes and spent a few hours in the computer lab making a half assed resume. I went down to the restaurant scared shitless! I had never worked in a restaurant before (excluding a stint at McDonalds as a teen) and had only been in school for a month or I just had the most basic of skills. I can remember the Chef bringing me down the stairs of the hotel to a little table (we will call it the staff room) sitting beside 80 cases of stinking empty beer bottles. He asked me if I smoked...we both sparked up..which helped to calm the nerves...then began to look at my resume. I could see in his face that he was disappointed. I knew he was in dire need of help the next day...but I also knew he was about to turn me down!! He stood up, put out and his smoke and was about to speak...I cut him off!! “I know I don’t have any experience Mr. Davidson...but I really want and need the job...I’ll tell you what..I’ll work for free for you tomorrow night..if you don’t like how I am working I will leave after the function and mention the job to a few others at school!”. All of a sudden he got a lil grin on his face...”How did you know I was looking for someone with more experience?”.  We agreed on the free help.!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Miso Soup


  • 3 cups dashi soup stock
  • 1 block tofu
  • 3-4 tbsps miso paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion


Put dashi soup stock in a pan and bring to a boil. Cut tofu into small cubes and add them to the soup. Simmer the tofu for a few minutes on low heat. Scoop out some soup stock from the pan and dissolve miso in it. Gradually return the miso mixture in the soup. Stir the soup gently. Stop the heat and add chopped green onion. Remember not to boil the soup after you put miso in. *Makes 4 servings
So we all survived Brunch yet again. With the Aid of Coffee of course!!! The day started out slow...Nick helped with panning some meats while doing his normal morning Buffet. Larry(aka Monty) got the line ready...and during Brunch he has been working a Pasta Action he got all his Sauces warmed and his Mise ready for that. Jesse arrived and got all the cold items ready...he rocks our Garde Manger Dept (GM). Lola our Pastry Girl arrived and got all the Desserts ready. Ibrahim and Paran started cleaning the stuff left from the night before...they are a great pair...never complaining and always ready to help. Billy our Exec Sous Chef arrived and got Monty's station set for him....then went to work on Todays order.  I am the Hot Food. As I said...the morning started out's usually a crap dont know how many people you are going to do...this town is famous for not making any reservations. Then 11am hit and WHAM!!! Full restaurant and more food more food....everyone gets a lil more tense...a lil more bitchy (oh ya)...and speed is the key! Today it was Scrambled Eggs, Bennies, French Toast, Hash, Sausage, Bacon, Honey Glazed Hams, Jerk Pork Loin served with a Wild Rice Pilaf, Citrus Marinated Catfish w/ a Garam Masala Roasted Potato, Caribbean Mango Chicken w/ Buttermilk Country Mash, and the usual Fruit and myriad of Salads and Cold items.....
 Brodie arrived in the thick of things...always a helping hand when needed.
 We ended up doing 199 in 3hrs...which for January is a decent number....all survived...we didn't run out of anything (though at the end we were running out of Billy was hand cutting some...and we had Pancakes ready because we were about to run out of Eggs lol)...but we made it thru.
 Smoke breaks had by all whenever possible...
 Once the rush was over I switched to making Jiggs Dinner for the Evening Salt Beef, Spuds, Carrots, Turnip, Cabbage, A few Roasts, Split Pea Soup, Mussels and Alaskan King Crab.......Done and out by 3pm.
 Then grabbed Christina (the Wife) to hunt for Milk Kefir in the stores...they were carrying it...but now not so much....I had no luck!!

The Brunch Crew

Water Kefir

What is Water Kefir?

You may have heard of Kefir, but are not sure what it is, or you have always thought it’s a milk product. There are actually 2 different types of Kefir: Milk and Water Kefir. Some recognize yet a 3rd type in Kombucha Tea, and call it Tea Kefir. Both Milk and Water Kefir are the same thing, Kefir, although adapted to grow on different culture media. Water Kefir grains are different from those of Milk Kefir: they are almost translucent and loose.

The only Kefir I knew was the milk product commonly found in grocery stores or health food stores. So, you can imagine how happy I was to learn I could also benefit from taking Kefir without the milk part of it! Lactose intolerant people can also benefit from Kefir’s multiple healthy properties, for whom this type of Kefir deems ideal. Water Kefir can be taken in much greater quantity than Milk Kefir (from 1 to 3 liters daily), and it is said that Water Kefir’s properties are far superior to those of Milk Kefir’s.

So now that you know about this other type of Kefir, you probably still don’t know what Kefir is. The word “Kefir” is thought to have originated from the Turkish word "Keif" which means "good feeling". Kefir is a polysaccharide structure where several non-pathogenic, but friendly or healthy bacteria and yeast live in symbiosis. While Milk Kefir has been compared to yogurt, Kefir’s microflora is much more complex. The exact composition of microorganisms that form the grains usually varies slightly, depending on the media where they are cultured, and so Water and Milk Kefir differ in some microorganisms that may specifically grow on milk and not fruit, and the other way around. Also, depending on the fruits used to culture Water Kefir, we may be adding new friendly yeast and bacteria to our grains. Typical composition of Water Kefir grains is: Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus , Lactobacillus alactosus, Lactobacillus casei casei, Lactobacillus pseudoplantarum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptococcus lactis, Streptococcus cremeris, Leuconostoc mesenteroide, Saccharomyces florentinus, Saccharomyces pretoriensis, Kloeckera apiculata, Candida lambica, Candida valida.

What are the Health Benefits of Water Kefir?

Water Kefir, due to its diuretic, depurative and regenerative properties, can be of benefit in a broad variety of health conditions. What follows is a list of conditions it can help to improve, and suggested dosage, as I have found listed in the several sources listed at the end of this document. Note that this document is merely informational and in no case is the information below meant to substitute medical diagnosis and/or treatment, nor should the product be used to substitute medical care. Always consult with your physician (or if you plan on using it on your animal companions, with your veterinarian) about your (or your animal’s) health condition. Kefir is no “cure-all” or universal remedy. It can only complement and help appropriate medical treatment due to its detoxifying and immunity-building effects.

As a natural product, Kefir works by slowly regulating the organism and helping it become healthier. If you expect a rapid overnight result, then forget about it. Water Kefir can be indicated in nervous disorders, internal ulcers, bronchial catarrh, sclerosis, myocardial infarction, liver and gall bladder disorders, kidney problems, stomach and intestinal diseases, diarrhea or constipation, anemia, allergies, dermatitis and other skin problems such as eczema. It’s use on an ongoing basis proves to have excellent effects in convalescence after serious diseases. It can also help regulate blood pressure and weight control, and has good results during pregnancy and abdominal feminine discomfort.

Kefir prevents intestinal putrefaction, which is the cause of multiple disorders, and contributes to the body’s depuration. It doesn’t alter the digestive process. It should be drunk on a daily basis, and depending on the condition, once or more times a day. In chronic conditions, great quantities of Kefir should be drunk, 3 times daily, about ½ a liter (approx. 2 cups) each time.

The list below indicates suggested doses indicated for some conditions:

1 liter daily
1 liter daily (they disappear after 2 months)
1 liter daily (during a longer time)
Bronchial Catarrh
1 liter daily
Anemia / Leukemia
1 to 2 liters daily (check blood test values after 2 months)
1 liter daily
Dermatitis / Eczemas /Skin Allergies
1/2 liter daily + local application over affected skin letting it dry. Wash hands and face (after 2 to 4 weeks allergy disappears)
1 liter daily
Kidney Problems
1 liter daily
Gall Bladder Disorders
1 liter daily
To regulate Blood Pressure
1/2 liter daily

Where Can I find the Grains?

Water Kefir grains are not commercialized, probably because this mother culture resists being manipulated and adulterated for commercial purposes. Maybe this is the main reason why Water Kefir is not paid the attention it deems, and is so unknown or forgotten… so we’re really dealing with a millenary culture that has always passed from someone’s hands to someone else’s like a legacy. Grains, thus, are usually obtained from someone who has them, then you give to someone else, and big sharing chains are formed introducing them to other folks and regions in the world. If you’re interested in getting some, simply ask someone you may know that has it, if they may be willing to share with you.
There are also some online Kefir grains sharing sites where you can try asking for some. The following web page offers a list of such sites in English language:
Alternatively, if you happen to have Milk Kefir grains, you may try “converting” them into Water Kefir grains. I have read some folks have achieved this successfully, but it takes time since the microflora needs to adapt to the new culture medium, and for a time it will still have the Kefiran of Milk Kefir. I personally don’t recommend this option, as it is not that you can switch your grains back and forth from milk to water and the other way around.
Since Water Kefir grains are so hard to come by, but multiply a lot and very rapidly, I suggest you never throw away your excess… kindly give it to a friend or relative or coworker, who may also benefit from it, or offer it for free through your local Health Food Store so other people have access to it as well. In this materialistic world, we really need more acts of generosity, giving away stuff not expecting anything in return. Aren’t we already sufficiently paid by knowing we’re spreading health? Health is something money can’t buy. Should you decide to ship it to someone else, it is fine to have the recipient cover the shipping costs, but it is obviously up to you. To ship the grains, you may either want to dehydrate them and put them in a plastic bag inside a padded envelope, or place them in a small plastic bag or small container that can be sealed with water and sugar.

How to Culture Water Kefir

Step 1: Add Ingredients

Add the following ingredients to a clean quart sized canning jar...

1 quart of spring water
1/3 cup organic brown sugar
1 tsp of molasses (optional)

Step 2: Mix It Up

Mix the ingredients until all the sugar is dissolved.
Step 3: Add Kefir Grains

Add 1/4 cup Kefir Grains.
Step 4: Let It Ferment

Place a cap on the jar and let it sit for 48 hours so it can ferment and create the Water Kefir.
Step 5: Taste Test

After 48 hours, taste test it. If its too sweet, let it go another day. They can ferment up to 5 days.
Step 6: Strain Water Kefir

When the Water Kefir is cultured to your liking, you can strain out the grains, ginger and any other solids, and now you can drink the Water Kefir.

Step 7: Rinse & Repeat

Rinse the grains well with room temperature water and repeat the process using the grains.

...See how EASY that is?

If your curious and want to check it out there are a tonne of websites out there...there are also alot of demonstration videos on You Tube. If you need help just shoot me a note and I will lead you in the right direction.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Early Morning...tis Brunch Day. Which for most cooks is usually about trying to use up anything that needs it...and drinking vast amounts of coffee. It's kinda like pulling decent food right outta your ass...way too early in the morning. Working with Nick and Monty it always makes for a fun day!! Have an excellent Breakfast and do something exciting today!!