Friday, November 25, 2011

New position, new school, new list of bloggable projects ;)

So, as you may already know, I started this new job with a private day high-school back a few weeks ago. I'm really looking forward to sharing my knowledge and passion for food with everyone. My new staff is just awesome and I recieved a very warm welcome from all the faculty and students.

Just so happens, this month is Native American Indian Heritage Month. It's a great way to, not only, introduce the students to a fun and exciting new food, but also a great chance to educate them about a topic they may not know much about.

So, that being said, I decided to set up a little Fry Bread Taco station in the corner of the servery, put up some nice educational posters, make an authentic recipe given to us from the Rose Bud Tribe that a teacher just happen to have laying around and start handing food out. The schools percussion section of the music department put together an AWESOME tribal drum demonstration in the middle of both lunch periods. Wow, was that fun! It was a learning experience for all involved.

Pics below...

Monday, September 05, 2011

Been a long time, lots of changes for the better...

Sorry for the delay in blog updating these past few (cough) months. Well, to say the least, a lot has happened in my life and to make a very long story a lot shorter, I'm back home. After 16 years in North Carolina, Manchester or bust! I've had some great times and have met some great people. I will miss a few of the people that I have met and am looking forward to my new life back home in Manchester where I was born and raised. I need to thank the good and, especially, the not-so-good people that I have met along the way while I was down there. Good or bad, you have enhanced my life in one way or another. You have helped me be a better person and showed me how NOT to act and for that, I am truly grateful.

Charlotte, NC (The Queen City)

Anyway, I'm settling in to my new life, one day at a time, and it's great to be back. I missed everyone so much, I missed this old city from which I was brought up. I missed all the old mill buildings, the river and the food. I must admit, not being plugged into the local food scene like I was in Charlotte is kind of a drag, but I just got back and this town could use my help, for sure.

Manchester, NH (The Queen City)
I must admit, though, Manchester, NHs local food scene has come a long way since I left almost 16 years ago. At one time, the best place to eat here was the local diner, but now, there are many locally owned places that take advantage of the local/ seasonal fair in this area. I'm amazed on how many farmers markets and farm stands there are around here! So many to chose from. Makes me very happy to know that I can drive within 15 miles and find a half dozen places over flowing with produce and locally made products.

I'll miss the friends I met in the Charlotte area, I'll miss the amazing food and the southern hospitality and charm, but BOY its great to be back. I'm looking forward to our first snow storm, growing old with my amazing girlfriend, landing my dream job and making a difference. Thank you Charlotte for helping me become who I am today and thank you Manchester for such a wonderful welcome home.

Stay tuned for more fun and excitement :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Radio interview at Basil magazine...

In another attempt to spread the word about local and seasonal foods, I had asked Basil Magazine to allow me a few minutes to discuss this on their online radio show. The Hostess Chef Jennifer Booker interviewed me this evening, asking questions pertaining to what projects I am working on, where I work, the challenges of writing a seasonal menu and more.

It was awesome to be able to chat with Chef Booker. What a perfect medium to get the word out! In addition to plugging my employer, we discussed lowering our carbon footprint by buying local, the nutritional value of foods that are very fresh as well as the excitement of using products that are fresh and grown or made with passion. Of course, we discussed the two schools I'm currently working with with the "Chefs Move to Schools" program.

Check out the interview here. Thank you for listening!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter Cooking Demo at Pinewood Elementary

As we are slowly making our way out of winter and into spring, I've been asked to return to Pinewood Elementary and talk to a few 4th grade classes today about eating locally and seasonally.

For this demonstration, I brought a farm box from Barbee Farms that had the items that they have in season right now that I can make a salad with.

The demo began with a review of what we learned last time. It was awesome to see hands fly up to discuss Basil Pesto and Pasta. Most of the students even remembered my full name! Was great.

As we progressed, I opened my box of goodies and discussed the lettuces and vegetables I brought. Red and green leaf lettuces, arugula, mesclun mix, carrots and more. I brought some citrus and some balsamic vinaigrette to make a seasonal dressing and, of course, a few cool gadgets to show off.

We discussed the nutritional value of eating fresher, local foods that are in season. Also, informing that, once the vegetables are picked, they lose vitamins and minerals and the sooner they are eaten, the better. This is one good reason to eat from your area farms as the stuff is coming out of the ground.

A film crew from the local health department was there to film my demo as well as a photographer taking pictures. They submitted their film to a government web site and sent me a DVD of the video and all the pictures. Very cool, helping to spread the word!

Before we all left, the film crew and I visited the 4th graders garden sites where the new spring garden will be going in a few short weeks. We are all very excited to grow stuff and I'm SUPER excited to show the students how to create healthy meals with their new food items.

Coming up, we will tour a local farm and I will create a healthy dish using those ingredients grown at the farm.

Check out the video below!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Garden planning at Davidson...

Moving right along with the "Chefs Move to School" program with an area school in Davidson, NC.

We are in the beginning stages of the garden planning for this Spring. We will be planting a small garden in front of the school for the next semester and today we pulled weeds, marked off the garden plot with stakes and twine, discussed what we will be planting and so on.

The students decided to grow snap peas, carrots, radishes and more. I will be showing them how to create healthy meals and snacks using these ingredients and to help them make smart choices when eating.

It was great to see everyone get excited about the garden. I think I'm more excited to show students how to make the food than they are of planting it, lol.

Stay tuned for more fun!

My "nose-to-tail" pig project...

I've always been in to pushing the boundaries of the day-to-day. I think this is why I am so attracted to the restaurant business. Never a dull moment and you never know what each day will bring.

A fellow chef and good friend texted me asking me for ideas on what to do with a whole pig he recently purchased. My mind was racing with great things one could do with such a divine creature; guanciale, bacon, smoked trotters and hocks, head cheese, chicharrĂ³n, the sky's the limit! I was inspired by my friends quest and so I did something about it. (Thanks Bryan!)

Someone showed me this pic and asked me if I could really eat such a cute creature? (Umm...YES!)

So, I've decided that, since I've never broken down an entire animal before, I'd do just that. I bought a whole 60 pound suckling pig decided to create as many items as I could with that beast. Kind of like showing respect to the animal. Besides, will be great practice for my butchery and charcuterie skills. :)

Cut in thirds...

My piggy came in frozen solid and needed a few days to thaw. After a good "chill" in the cooler, I plopped her out onto the prep table and began. Armed with a hack saw and a couple sharp knives, I began my duties.


Even though this was a small pig, I still had to put two cutting boards together to have enough work space to butcher this bad boy. After a good rinse, I began by removing the head. I put this aside for head cheese I plan to put on our charcuterie plate at a later time. Besides, I've always wanted to taste head cheese over a nice local salad.

Burning off the hair for the head cheese.

Simmering away in wine, garlic and herbs for about 5 hours.

The finished product, pretty yummy!

Next, I removed the hams and then the buts with my boning knife and under sized hack saw (next time I do this, I will be sure to buy a real butcher-style hack saw and not a small house-hold one from my neighborhood hardware store, lol). It took some doing, but worked out perfectly.

I removed the skin for pork rinds, the trotters to add to the head cheese and the hocks for smoking (think I'll put those in some local collard greens, yum), then saved the butts to make American style hams. The hams came out amazing, but, sadly, I didn't get a picture of the pork rinds before we ate them all! Yes, they were insanely good.

Perfect ham with Dijon brown sugar glaze.

Smoked ham hocks for collard greens? Maybe soup?

Now, I split the saddle down the middle. I removed the bellies of both sides. One of them will be stresa (a flat pancetta) and the other half will be traditional belly bacon (or streaky bacon).

Hack saw. Splitting the saddle in half.

Future bacon.

With the loins, I sawed one into chops (I marinated those with jerk seasoning and grilled them!) and the other, I broke down into loin/ tender loin feeding the ribs to my cooks for our dinner. (they simmered them in a spicy jalapeno salsa and we ate them over rice with tortillas, yes, it was good.) The other loin, I made into Canadian bacon for eggs Benedict ;) .

My finished Canadian bacon came out perfect!

Tiny loin chops!

I love tasso ham, so I de-boned the shoulders, cured them, packed them with spices and smoked them over hickory. Salty, hammy goodness :)

Any scraps left over were set aside for meatballs. I will sear them and serve them Swedish style over home-made egg noodles.

So, head cheese, tasso ham, American style ham, pork rinds/ chicharrĂ³n, bacon, stresa, Canadian bacon, smoked hocks and meatballs. This little piggy definitely went to market and a tasty market at that! Next time, I will source a larger animal and get some better tools. But, this was a great experience for sure and I really learned a lot!

(more pics to follow!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chefs Move to School, continued...

This week at Davidson Middle School, another day with the Chefs Move to School Program, we discussed how to make salad dressing and dipping sauces using the emulsion technique. I brought along my handy stick blender and a container with a screw-on-lid discussing that you don't need a fancy gadget to make an emulsion. The students chopped garlic and grated ginger while I discussed different oils and vinegars that one could make a dressing with. A couple students cleaned sugar snap peas for later.

Afterwords, the students went to visit a local farm in Concord, NC to discuss eating local and to see where there food comes from. They toured the farm, picked lettuces and discussed the importance of local farms in the area.

They then came back and ate what they bought from the farm using our emulsions and their dipping sauces. A fun time was had by all! If you hadn't had a chance to work with kids about the importance of good food choices, eating healthy and using seasonal ingredients, you should try it, its great!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deep Plate Challenge...planning, plating and eating!

Wow, this is gonna be great! I'm doing this sweet challenge with another chef for the upcoming Deep Plate Exercise. In case you hadn't been following along, this plate company sends out a plate to you (if you are a professional chef or culinary student) each month, you plate up your food on it and send them pictures. They then post the pics with descriptions on their web site and facebook page.

Since I really shouldn't post this blog until the contest officially starts, you'll be reading this after that day. Makes things a little more fair, eh?

The chefs name that I will be challenging is Richard Taitt. I don't know this person, but I'm looking forward to doing this with him. Should be a blast.

After a little planning and scheming, we have to do 5 courses to consist of an amuse, an appetizer, a salad, a main and a dessert.

For my amuse, I've come up with something small, two bites, that reflects the season:

Butternut squash and wild mushroom filled ravioli with fried shallots, chili oil and micro basil and radish. Soft fresh pasta filled with local butternut squash, some wild mushrooms and a little ricotta. Combine that with the crisp fresh micro greens and fried shallot, a perfect bite.

For the appetizer, something a little more substantial but light:

Pan-seared scallops over pesto with micro radish salad and extra virgin olive oil. Seared on a hot pan and placed on a fresh pesto sauce, great combo. Of course, we need a little crunch, so its topped with strips of radish and local micro radish greens. And, for some color and nuttiness, topped with some amazing Greek olive oil. A nice app to set you up for the next course.

Salad, fennel, frisee and radicchio salad with toasted hazelnut vinaigrette. Crisp and delicious. The bitterness of the radicchio and frisee together with the sweetness of the fennel and leaf lettuces go great with the nuttiness of the toasted hazelnuts. Perfect combo.

Main, pan seared loin of beef over creamy polenta and topped with roasted mushrooms and pearl onions topped with local micro greens. A heartier course but not too heavy. Even though it is beef, the portion size is perfect. Soft polenta goes great with the roasted mushrooms and onions. The mushrooms have a unique crispness that just blow your mind!

And, finally for dessert, double chocolate cherry cheese cake topped with bourbon cherries and micro mint. A chocolate blast! Dark, semi sweet chocolate, bitter sweet cocoa and bourbon soaked cherries go great with that punch of micro mint and crunch from the Oreo crust. You may have to keep yourself from licking the plate!

I got the hook up on the micro greens from Lucky Leaf Gardens, thanks Kate!

Each of the above pictures, along with the other chefs pics, are judged by our peers on Deep Plate's blog. Not sure if there is a prize, but bragging rights to the winner is good enough for me!

Check out the link and cast your votes! :)

[edit] Thank you to all who voted, I won by over 50% of the votes! Cool stuff :)