Monday, December 20, 2010

Porterhouse vs T-bone

This gets confusing for me, and a 22oz prime graded porterhouse is going on the menu at work next week so I have been doing some research lately. I understand people dont eat steaks like this very often, but once in a great while you may find yourself in the position of a splurge and like many you may look to the steak to celebrate. These steaks are as high end as you get, eventually I am confident you will be in a position where you want to know. Both of the steaks are cut from the shortloin of beef, both contain the tenderloin (filet) on one side of the bone and the strip steak (New York) on the other. To further confuse things all Porterhouse steaks are technically also T-bones.

The New York is fairly uniform in shape and size from one end to the other, but the tenderloin (we have talked about this before) has a very serious taper from one end to the other. T-bones are the steak cut, with the bone, that encompasses both. To be a Porterhouse it has to be one of the cuts coming back towards the head, but depending on who you ask this can only include the first 4-5 ribs (keep in mind the tenderloin piece is getting smaller the further you go back). Furthermore the strip loin has a nerve/vein that will not break down during the cooking process, and it cant be easily removed. So to be a true Porterhouse steak you have to have one of the first five cuts, but the first 2-3 arent as good as the fourth. Any cuts that follow down the animal have to be labeled strictly T-bones. Some would argue that the nerve end is part of the deal, and most of the people that eat a Porterhouse are going to expect it.

All of that makes the Porterhouse steak the nicest money can buy. We are looking at aging techniques for our menu but for now will go "wet aged". Don't take that for more than a second to mean the T-bone isn't as good. Skips the nerve end, and is a bit more manageable as an eater, and less expensive. Still encompasses both of the money cuts of meat, just the filet in a less amount. I have found T-bones at my local grocer on sale at a really fair price on more than one occasion.

Again- if in doubt ask your meat cutter (thats the guy who stands behind the counter at your megamart- he isnt just there to get stuff out of the case), or find a butcher shop that would be happy to guide you. If you are a steak lover, or trying to impress just about any man I know you can do this at home for much less than it will cost you to go out and have it done for you. Not to mention the steak is more than plentiful for two people. If the bone section of my steak hits 4 oz, then the NY side of it is about 12-13 oz, and the filet section is still around 5-6 oz, that is a lot of meat. This is a 22 oz choice graded Porterhouse that I am doing a little research with, as we are still arguing about the hip end. Regardless it will hit the menu as an item that wont be my lead selling item, and has an extremely high food cost, but all of that is just fine with me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


The restaurant has been closed since the end of November, but wanted to clarify that I haven't been on any sort of extended vacation. We closed to do a very extensive remodel of the dining room, our goal was to open with a new approach but to maintain our concept. Extremely hard to do, and I was out of loop on most of the choices. From the dark I was a bit worried, but felt better understanding that our company never goes into projects like this without the highest standards. We will reopen on the 24th of December and while my opinion is a tad biased I feel like we will reopen to one of the nicest restaurants I have ever seen. We continue to emphasize the view, but pushed for a more timeless feel with dark woods, mostly reclaimed, and darker less trendy colors. I am incredibly excited about all of it.

With Front of House changes this dramatic also came the need for menu changes, changes that were much needed. A menu overhaul was in order and we have been conceptualizing dishes with that in mind for months. Some old classics have been replaced with food that is a better representation of what we are trying to do, and for the first time in my career I feel like the menu is a pretty good example of my personal cooking style. To make a successful restaurant everything needs to have a recipe, be costed, descripted, plated, photographed, and then those cooking and plating processes have to be taught to my kitchen staff, and then I have to teach my servers how to sell them, and how to answer questions about the food or our choices of products. It is a long, hard, process that I am almost finished with, and I feel very good about.

With all of this change came the need for new china. Months of shopping and decisions involving everything from durability, flexibility, and amounts needed ensued. We bought a gorgeous glazed foot porcelain plate from a company called Syracuse, in round and rectangular sizes. In all 165 dz pieces were delivered and put up yesterday. I am so excited about the end product and feel like the plate is two times nicer than one you would get at any other restaurant in my local area.

All of this translates into money, but we balanced menu pricing as well as we could. A huge reason I work work for this company is that we refuse to settle for less than best. Two chefs buying the best product available, the only ocean view in town, two of the best managers I could hope to have, a service staff that is not only motivated, but understands good service and struggles to get better at it every day, and the best cooking staff anywhere on the coast. Couple all of that with one of the nicest restaurants in the state, the nicest china, the nicest glassware, etc, and you get value in your dining experience. We can be expensive, but we also stand by our products and treat our customers and employees better than anyone else around. All that being said we have still constructed the menu to be very approachable, and there are some really good deals in all the meal periods, and more importantly some things you wont see with any of my competition. If you do have the chance to join us keep an eye out for some signature things. Things we are cooking that you are familar with, cooked better and perhaps presented in a manner that is a tad more playful than you have ever had before.

Lastly I have again invested in a better phone in hopes of getting better pictures to this blog. I hope that effort translates into quality you can notice. Along with the new phone comes the ability to blog on the fly. Also, as some of you notice, I have a new twitter account, and you can read those updates on the blog to your right at the top. I am very new to the twitter thing, so please give me some time to figure it all out. The "tweets" will hopefully be less formal than the posts are, and if you ever want more info about something I have tweeted and not blogged about please let me know. As always I will keep them as food related as I possible. If you have a twitter account I would love to follow you, so please let me know. Still dragging some feedback here, so if you have questions or advice as to how to make all of this more approachable I plea with you to let me know. Thanks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Often people are excited by vegetables that they have never seen before, or don't see very often. In my line of work this translates into value on the plate for a customer. If I can cook a protein perfectly, and a starch, and give someone a vegetable or three that they have never had, and cook it well, there is value in that. At the restaurant we spend a lot of time tracking things like this down, especially this time of year when I have to look outside of the local arena for most of my vegetables.I like broccolini as it isn't what I would call mainstream, and it looks great on a plate. Broccolini is often wrongly assumed to be a hybrid of an asparagus plant, but is really a hybrid of Chinese kale, and broccoli. It was developed in China by a certain company in the late 90's, that in turn patented the product for there usage only. Now we are seeing it more and more and even my local grocery store has it in stock most of the time. It cooks similar to asparagus, and the stock tastes very closely to that. The entire stalk and flowers are edible, even the yellow flowers you see on them sometimes, I usually trim the bottom inch or so off the stalk, just to them closer to the same size. It grills pretty well, but is great blanched and sauteed. It is worth saying that nothing bothers me more than overcooked green vegetables. I eat and cook vegetables as "al dente" as I can, as I think they are best that way. Overcooked green (brown) vegetables lose all of their flavor, and more importantly most of the vitamins and minerals we are looking for in them. Look for quick cooking methods, for a la minute serving. If you are really stressed about feeding a large group, or will need them quickly later just blanch them in boiling water for about 30-45 seconds, then ice them. When needed toss them into a hot pan and crank the heat until they are warmed through. Finish them with some salt and butter and maybe a squeeze of lemon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Creme Fraiche

It seemed a while back that everywhere I went I saw some sort of creme fraiche on menus. The idea behind it is to be able to add some fat, and acid in what is usually garnish form. Not to mention it looks nice on almost anything. To make it is a snap, but there are a few different approaches, and it involves leaving dairy at room temperature for at least a day if not two. Again if you or family members are at risk (older, pregnant, young children, weakened immune systems, or already ill are the high risk groups for food born illness) proceed with caution. Some people will use yogurt or sour cream to help with the consistency, but I think it should be done the original way. You need heavy cream, and buttermilk. Per cup you need 6 oz of heavy cream, and 2 ounces of buttermilk. The buttermilk is highly acidic and will start bacteria that much like a good yogurt, or sourdough starter, will develop a depth of flavor that is impossible to fake. I whisk the cream and buttermilk and usually squeeze a half a lemon to help with the inoculation process. That's it. Let that rest at a warm room temperature in a covered bowl for at least over night but it usually takes about 30 hours or so. The liquid will thicken more and more, and develop more flavor as it goes so it is up to you. I salt it but not until it is done, as the salt will actually inhibit the growth of the bacteria (good bacteria) that you are looking to invite to the party. Once thickened to your desired consistency, cool it and hold it for up to a few weeks.

As far as serving- it goes pretty well with almost anything. Over soups, stews, beans, fish, french toast, etc. I cant think of a dish where it wouldn't belong. I like to cool it and then split it up in a few different bowls and flavor them differently so I am not making it everyday. Any sort of herb addition, more lemon or lime, peppers, hot sauce, etc. are all great directions to go in. I really like it with cilantro and lime as a taco topping that easily replaces the need for sour cream. 


A parsnip is a root vegetable related to the carrot. It plays a big part in classic French cuisine, and is very, very versatile and sweet. In some instances it is part of what is called a "white mirepoix" a mirepoix you would use if you were making a stock that you needed to be as neutrally colored as possible.Usually replacing carrots but keeping the onion and celery ratio. I like them in stocks, but think they are great for stews. They have a high starch content that will help to thicken your liquid during the cooking process, and will go a really long way with flavor.

They look a lot like carrots with varying color but usually a white to tan color. They need to be washed peeled and I always core them as well, as the core can be bitter and stringy, even when cooked. They are great blanched and then sauteed as a vegetable for dinner. This time of year they should be readily available and relatively inexpensive at your local grocer. My favorite preparation is a puree of parsnip, or parsnips that have been boiled and added to potatoes and then whipped or mashed. The flavor will change just enough that it will seem new but still familiar, and is a nice way to spice up a normal bowl of mashed potatoes.


The Monday before Thanksgiving is always the day my meat purveyor brings our birds up the back ramp at the restaurant. At work we are able to sell out our reservations usually 3 weeks ahead of time. This is really nice as it leaves no guess work for ordering. We know that at max capacity the restaurant can feed about 350 ppl from noon until 8pm. Add a few walkins and a few no-shows and you get 334ppl this year in those hours. They feast on a limited 3 course menu, our offering for the first course are a pretty simple salad, or a mushroom bisque (crimini, shitake, chanterelle, and porcini). Second course options are our crab cakes with asparagus, and rice. Glazed pork loin with a cornmeal stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and vegetables (braised brussel sprouts, broccolini, butternut squash), and of course turkey with a apple hazelnut stuffing, and everything the pork gets. For dessert- pumpkin pie, malted chocolate cupcake, or a berry cobbler with brown sugar ice cream were the options. About 70% of our customers will chose turkey, and we focus on it pretty hard. Our birds were pre ordered in September. We also do a catering for a local RV park with stuffing, turkey, gravy, and potatoes on the Saturday afterwards for about 150 ppl.

All of that leaves me working on a Monday evening as our meat guy rolls up the back dock with about 800#'s of whole turkeys. Big turkeys. We bought 30-32 # avg this year, from a company called Norbest. The task at hand was to get them broken, brined, carcasses roasted, and get the carcasses started for stock. The best way to cook a turkey is to break the breast off of the bone, and then the hindquarter away from the cage as well. It will roast more quickly, and evenly. Breast meat should be cooked to one temperature, and dark meat a much higher temperature, leaving a technical dilemma in roasting them whole. Once broken they can be cooked independent of each other, not to mention stock can be made, cooled and used for gravy, and for stuffing. I know this sounds like a shocker to some, and people tell me that it isn't Thanksgiving with out the whole bird carcass on the table, but I would never do it any other way. It ensures proper cooking, and gives you full utilization of the bird, not a carcass for the trash can after dinner. Anything less is a horrendous waste of that turkeys life.

The carnage involved in the breaking of 800#'s of turkey is a bit reminiscent of Vietnam battlefield movie scene. No matter how I tried, I had blood to my elbows, breast and dark meat all over the table, and carcasses in every oven in the restaurant. The birds are placed in my biggest lexan bins and then brined for at least a few nights, but once full those lexans weigh about 80-100# and to get them on the cart and to the walk-in was a task in itself. The task for timing purposes had to be done that night, and for sanitation purposes I wouldn't have done it any earlier in the day. Once the stocks were rolling, and the breast, and hindquarters were all in the fridge- we scrubbed, then hosed, then sanitized the table, floor, trash cans, sinks etc, changed chef coats, and came home to shower. All in all though everything went really, really well. We continue to get families that return year after year, who have decided that going at this at home or alone isn't worth it anymore. A choice that is gaining popularity is seems. For any of you who went it yourselves I would love to hear how everything went down at your house. In a restaurant I have a hugely qualified staff, plenty of space to store and cook, plenty of seating, and plenty of silverware and china. Which makes it pretty easy in comparison to what some people are able to do at home with one stove, one oven, and a fridge. That coupled with the fact that the "thank yous" seem to be few and far between makes it pretty obvious why people are eating out more for these major holiday meals. That being said, I from my core don't think that there is any better day of the year to be in your own kitchen. Part of cooking means I will always work these days, as my boys get older, I find myself wishing I was at home more and more every year. Teaching them, and making sure they understand and appreciate everything it takes to make meals like this happen.