Archive for February, 2011

Chivry green dressing versus the Emerald Goddess

February 24th, 2011

green dressing

The Chivry group’s green salad dressing is really my dad’s adjustment to the salad dressing from an old Swiss chef friend of ours.  It’s really a very simple method of utilizing many of the left over scraps from the kitchen with some fresh herbs from the garden thrown in.  Salad dressings need to taste good, but they also need to fit in with the overall menu so as to not require too many additional ingredients.  Parsley stems, celery ends, onion ends are all examples of kitchen scraps that can be used to make salad dressings.

Not content to maintain the status quo, I whipped up a similar salad dressing with some very definite alterations.  I titled this offshoot of Chivry group’s green dressing the somewhat humorous (in my mind anyway) title of Emerald Goddess salad dressing. Of course this recipe is merely the jumping off point because I rarely make the salad dressing the same way twice.

Basil and parsley are important, but the real basis of Chivry group’s green salad dressing is the onion and the garlic whereas the Emerald Goddess is an onion-celery twist on the recipe.  I add avocado and apple cider vinegar to my dressing (and sometimes an egg if I am feeling it).  Although the present recipe on duckspoon abstains from the use of Maggi, it is probably because I didn’t have a bottle in the kitchen at the time I was filming it.

The Chivry green dressing is not only a crowd pleaser, it is simple to make and somewhat inexpensive (the fresh herbs bump the cost up…Maggi itself is not too cheap, but a bottle lasts quite a while).  The seasonality of the salad dressings is a topic that I will shy away from at this point in time.  Let’s just say that the Chivry group’s green salad dressing is a late summer dressing that can be enjoyed year around if you don’t mind purchasing basil and parsley in the off months.

The only real curve ball with the Chivry group’s salad dressing is Maggi.  Maggi is a Swiss wheat sauce, similar to soy sauce, that can be purchased at German markets or sometimes can be found at a local Cash & Carry.  Although a worthwhile seasoning to have in the kitchen, it is not an imperative ingredient for the Chivry group’s green salad dressing.  Sample the dressings yourself and decide which is your favorite.

Cheers!

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Do play with your food!

February 17th, 2011

franit

Packed in between my buddies and the crates lined with CDs I wasn’t thinking about food: I wasn’t thinking about my job as a bartender or the anomalies of my chosen profession. Michael Franti was playing his guitar and singing his soulful reggae tunes to a crowd of 200 happy Portlanders crammed tight like sardines into Music Millenium.  Yup, wasn’t thinking about food at all.  Then Michael hit us with a sermon.

“I’m a fortunate guy,” he said, “I play music for a living.  Ya, when I go to work, I get to just play.  If you have a job where you can play and get paid for it, then you should feel really good, really happy about your life.”

He went on to point out Larry Steele in the audience and mentioned that here was another great player.  I glanced at Larry in the front row and clapped, but that little introduction echoed in my ears.  It is still reverberating in my inner ear and somewhere even deeper.

Just about every day that I go to work at The Country Cat, I feel like I am playing with the cooks, with the guests dining, with the other front of the house staff.  It is play when I am mixing cocktails or pairing wine or tweaking the menu to accomodate someone with food allergies.  Sure I’m not stretching the boundaries of my mind, nor am I making a ton of money, but I walk around smiling all day.  That sense of playfulness that I bring to work everyday with me somehow fills the very air of the restaurant with fun, with good times, with whimsy.

There is something very spiritual about serving  food.  That spiritual experience becomes multiplied when the food is local, when it is made from scratch, when the foods have just recently been harvested.  Folks come into restaurants not merely to eat.  People come into restaurants to be in a social setting, to experience positive social energy, as well as to eat.   So the more positive energy, the more serious play you can infuse into your food, the more attractive your restaurant is to the crowd of hungry people.

There are, of course, the occasional grumpy moments, but those clouds don’t come often and they don’t stay long.  Mostly I just walk around smiling and having fun with the folks in the restaurant.

The cooks have fun and laugh at me all day.

And I laugh right back.

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The best corn grits in town

February 12th, 2011

Grits

Corn grits are different all over the United States.  The corn grows in different soil, is generally milled the same into meal, and the water which absorbs into the grits through the cooking process has a different mineral element depending on where you are.  People come in to the restaurant and consistently complement us on the grits that we serve either as a side or with the pork dish.

The process takes about 45 minutes to take the milled corn and transform them into the corn grits.  Now, differences in corn aside, the proper way to make this southern corn dish is the slow absorption of water into the grits coupled with the slow absorption of butter.  Cheese can be added after the cooking process is finished, but that is a matter of taste and of diet.

Even though there are local places to buy corn grits, we bring them in from South Carolina.  This is an expensive way to make grits and sometimes the supply chain can break down and we won’t have them on the menu for a week or two, but Adam says the grits from South Carolina are his favorite and that’s what he wants to serve.

The white corn grits from South Carolina are mandated by the states to be enriched, similar to the enriched flour that we use in our kitchens.  I asked Adam about that once and he replied that they just taste right to him.  Corn grits should be creamy and lovely, and that’s what we do at the Country Cat.

I jumped in to the Cat one morning and was able to catch Mike making corn grits for the day (we serve the grits during the day with country ham and the red eye gravy).  Of course conversation took the turn and next we were discussing the movie My Cousin Vinny and how the cooking of grits was a pivotal point in the court case.  So come visit duckspoon.com and check out the corn grits made in the kitchen at the Country Cat!

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How do we help the hungry?

February 8th, 2011

Unknown

World food prices are rising.  Higher food prices help out the farmers, but hurt the consumers.  For many consumers even a moderate bump in prices can be devastating.  The combination of higher prices with the government subsidization of many of the food products featured in the dollar menus at the fast food shops ends up driving people to eat food that may ultimately be the cause of their death.

Governments in the western world would certainly like their citizens to feel as if they are helping the world’s hungry, but that may just be more hot air.   In the January 2009 inauguration speech President Obama promised the poor of the world to “work alongside you to make your farms flourish.”  He set up a bureau of food security to back that promise up and convinced other countries to follow suit.

Well, the promised aid has materialized, but in a trickle rather than a torrent.  Congress is hewing into the President’s budget, the United States is at a record high deficit spending, and a large part of our workforce  cannot find work.  Many of the employed are working jobs they are incredibly over qualified for.  What are we to do?

We can start by buying local and eating seasonal.  We can swear off of the fast foods (the cost of the 1$ burger is much, much higher when the costs of the tax funded subsidies, harmful farming practices, and the health effects are taken into consideration).  We can focus on helping the hungry around us.  That is the first step.  Feed those you can, and feed them well.  I am on the fence about GMOs, but if I were starving I would eat a flounder-tomato.  If my children were starving I would feed them corn grits made from modified corn. I can afford to eat local food, but what about those who can’t?

Learn to cook real food from scratch.  Trade your chicken eggs to your neighbor for her fresh baked bread loaves.  Every time you are tempted to buy an “almost” beef taco (the temptations will diminish as you eat more real food) put that dollar in a jar.  At the end of the month donate the jar’s content to a local agency that feeds the homeless.  Start small. Feed your family well.  Hold a monthly soup-a-thon and donate one portion from everyone.  Everyone should ask themselves this burning question.

How do we help the hungry?

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Chipped Beef: some old traditions are the best.

February 2nd, 2011

chipped beef

An introduction to chipped beef

Chipped beef harkens from the days before refrigeration when meat needed to be cured, dried or canned to preserve it until the next hog or steer was slaughtered.  It seems unimaginable to us today to be unable to barbacue steaks or pork cutlets whenever we feel like driving down to the corner market and purchasing our plastic wrapped, already fabricated protein.  This was not always true.

Smoked salmon and beef jerky are the two most popular and well known methods of preserving meat, yet chipped beef in its heyday was universally known around the country.  In military jargon this was called SOS (Shit on a Shingle) because the meat could be dry packed and shipped overseas and then draped over a slab of toast for breakfast.

The recipe for chipped beef varies as you travel across America: at one point many small diners served SOS (Same Old Stuff in more gentile parts of the country) for breakfast, but I will hazard to guess that not many diners are currently serving this meaty dish.  There is a resurgence with the traditional butchery of hogs and cattle and with that movement comes the traditional methods of preparing and preserving the meat.

Chipped beef at The Country Cat is beef brisket that has been brined for five days, then pulled from the brine and sliced thin.  From there the brisket gets dredged in seasoned flour and deep fried until it is golden brown.  The chipped beef is then added to a combination of sweated celery, onions and fennel which has had sufficient chicken stock added to cover the beef.

I wasn’t able to capture the completion of the SOS, but managed to catch the begginning in An introduction to chipped beef.  We haven’t received our side of beef yet this week so when that happens, and when Mike makes the recipe again I will get in there film the chipped beef getting made and upload it up to duckspoon.com.

Stay tuned!

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