Salmon. It can make you crazy. Are we only supposed to eat wild Alaskan salmon? What about farmed? What’s in the chemicals added to make it, well, salmon colored? How about Scottish salmon? It’s so delicious but it has to be shipped here and how is that good for the environment? Forget salmon. What about swordfish. Is it okay to eat it? And, no bluefin tuna? Seriously?

Talk about sustainable seafood is all the rage. With two-thirds of the world’s fisheries reaching depletion and overfishing putting some species, including some in California, close to extinction, we have serious issues to consider as consumers. We aren’t supposed to eat endangered species or seafood caught by large trawlers with turtle by-catch. Or eat some farmed fish. We’re encouraged to eat local, but what’s local (especially for those not on a coast)? Is it from oceans surrounding our country or more specific?

We’re encouraged to eat species like swordfish that are caught by harpoon or hook and line, not net. But how do we know how it’s caught?

Good luck, chefs, keeping all the do’s and don’ts straight.

And, yet it’s important to make the effort. According to the annual Fisheries of the United States reported released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, fish and seafood consumption in the U.S. increased in 2017 to 16 pounds from 14.9 pounds in 2016. And we’re eating more of a variety of seafood. While shrimp, salmon and tuna continue to be America’s favorite fish and shellfish, the Top Ten Species List by National Fisheries Institute makes up only 84 percent of the 16 pounds consumed. In 2016, this list accounted for 90 percent of the 14.9 pounds consumed. That means we can influence what shows up in restaurants and stores. But we have to be smart about it.

So, what is sustainable seafood? Addressing how to be a good consumer is complex, not the least because depending on who you talk to you get a different definition of sustainability. NOAA holds that seafood is sustainable when, “the population of that species of fish is managed in a way that provides for today’s needs without damaging the ability of the species to reproduce and be available for future generations.” But others–from Seafood Watch to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to chefs engaged in seafood sustainability all have different definitions. And different issues that concern them, such as carbon footprint and community economics.

So, it’s complicated. And, some of the decision making consumers have to do centers around how much research they’re willing to put in on an ever-changing industry that is often accused of fudging its practices.

It also has to do with personal values and economics and even a willingness to try new things. Perhaps grilled sardines instead of tuna sashimi. Farmed fish instead of wild. And consuming less of it all, just as with beef, pork, and chicken.

So here are some things you can do for yourself and your clients, assuming this is a concern of theirs. First some guides to sustainable fisheries:

Consumers can find guides on websites including

Now, are these guides the easy fix for consumers? No, a pocket guide is one tool among many, including Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) labels at major retailers like Whole Foods.

Smart consumers should also recognize that they need to ask their vendors questions about where seafood comes from, how it was caught, if it’s sustainable. The bottom line? Buy from businesses you trust.

All this can make a difference. When there’s a shift in customer demand and interest, it can impact businesses that sell fish. Back in 2012, Trader Joe’s announced a goal of shifting all seafood purchases to sustainable sources by the end of the year. And they can use their purchasing power to leverage change among seafood suppliers.

And here’s one other issue to consider. How do you use your seafood? Are you buying strictly filets or trying other parts of the fish, like cheeks, collars, and bellies? How about preparing the whole fish?

Is seafood sustainability an issue you’re interested in? If so, how do you go about selecting your seafood?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

Winter Comfort Food: Stuffed Cabbage

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , January 7, 2019

Chefs, how many of you rely on cherished family recipes that come from your people or your clients’ family? Given how closely knit food, tradition, and love are my guess is that even if you don’t exactly replicate those recipes many are the basis for the dishes you prepare for clients–and, of course, yourself and your own family.

When I was in my 20s I hounded my grandmother, Tillie Gould, to write down her recipes for me. The result was a small denim loose-leaf notebook with a photo she taped on the front page of her with my grandfather Abe carving a Thanksgiving turkey. The photo was taken before I was born and I treasure it and the notebook, which is filled with all sorts of family favorites. The recipes vary from holiday classics–Jewish holiday classics, that is–to kind of strange salads of the day, jello molds, chuck roast, dill pickles, and hummus. And lots of desserts. Tillie was a wonderful baker.

But one of the most cherished recipes in this book is for stuffed cabbage, or prakas in Yiddish. Unfortunately, by the time Tillie wrote it out for me her handwriting was moving toward illegible and she had a tendency to leave out ingredients or directions in her old age. So I took out a red folder filled with recipes my mom has given me over the years. There it was. But the ingredients list was slightly different. I gave Mom a call and together we reviewed the process with me typing and editing as she talked. Then I got an assignment last summer from the San Diego Union-Tribune to write a piece on holiday dishes for Rosh Hashanah. We spent a day in late August making it together in anticipation of the photo shoot. The great thing is that this fairly labor-intensive dish is freezable, so we were able make a ton of it for the shoot and then freeze it to enjoy later. You see, prakas is a traditional Rosh Hashanah dish, but it’s not exclusive to the holiday. In fact, it’s the perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s dinner.

Stuffed cabbage is one of those peasant dishes that makes great use of inexpensive ingredients to create a large filling meal. Traditionally, it’s made with ground beef but I’ve had it with ground turkey and it tastes wonderful too.

Here’s the trick for getting the leaves off the head of cabbage intact. Core the cabbage head, then microwave it in short bursts. That will loosen the larger leaves enough so you can more easily pull them off. Then trim the thick membrane and blanch the leaves so they’ll fold.

Stuff them with the ground meat mixture like you would a burrito and place the rolls seam side down in a tall-sided pan. You’ll cover them with crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, as well as dried apricots and prunes.

After two hours pull out as much  of the now soft fruit as you can and some of the juices. Instead of pushing them through a sieve, like my mom and Tillie used to do, make life easier for yourself and puree them in a blender with the pan juices. Then add a mixture of lemon juice and sugar to the puree, stir, and pour back into the pan to continue cooking. By the end you’ll have a thick sauce enveloping your cabbage rolls. I think this sweet-and-sour sauce is the dish’s most important element. Play with the lemon juice and sugar amounts until you get it just right. It should have some punch to it.

Try to make this at least a day before you’ll be serving it so the flavors can deepen.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Yield: About 20 rolls, depending on size

Ingredients

2 large green cabbages
2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
2 cups cooked or instant rice
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Large can of crushed tomatoes
Medium can of tomato sauce
½ pound each seeded prunes and dried apricots
2 bay leaves
1 ½ cups of sugar
Juice of 2 1/2 lemons (to taste to get sweet and sour flavor0

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring large pot of water to boil. Core cabbages and microwave each for about a minute and a half to begin to soften the leaves so they can be gently lifted with as few tears as possible. Once they become difficult to separate, microwave again at 30-second intervals. You only want the largest leaves but pull off some smaller ones to use as patches in case larger ones tear. On the back of the leaves is a thick membrane. Slice a thin piece off to make the leaf more flexible for rolling. Blanch the leaves in batches in the boiling water for about 40 seconds or until the spines are pliable. Drain and stack on a plate. Set aside.

Mix together ground meat, rice, pine nuts, garlic salt, kosher salt, and pepper. Place about 2 ½ ounces—depending on the size of the leaf—toward the bottom of the cabbage leaf. Fold the bottom up and over the meat mixture. Then fold in the sides and roll to the top. It should look like a cylinder. Place each roll in a high-sided pan with the seam of the roll on the bottom. You can stack a couple of layers.

Scatter the prunes and apricots around and on top of the rolls. Pour crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce over the rolls. Add bay leaves. Cover and bake for about 2 hours or until the leaves begin to look wilted. Starting after 45 minutes in the oven, baste the cabbage rolls with the liquids. Do this a few times in 20-minute intervals (more or less).

While the cabbage rolls are cooking, mix together sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. After the two hours, remove the pan from the oven and spoon out a little of the hot cabbage roll liquid and add to the sugar/lemon juice mixture to dissolve the sugar and create a sweet-and-sour sauce. Remove as many of the prunes and apricots you can find. Put them in a blender and add the sweet and sour sauce. Puree and pour the puree back into the pan with the cabbage rolls. Stir it around to incorporate well. If it’s too thick, add a little water and stir into the sauce.

Taste and correct with more sugar or more lemon juice until flavors are balanced sweet and sour but not bland. Make sure the sauce covers the cabbage so it absorbs the flavors.

Cover and return to the oven to cook for another hour. Then remove from the oven and remove the bay leaves. The cabbage rolls can be served at this point but the flavors are best when this is made a day ahead. It can easily be frozen with the sauce.

What family recipe do you most love to share with clients? How have you updated it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

As we look ahead to 2019, Candy and I hope you’re taking whatever downtime you may be enjoying right now to plan your business strategy. I thought it might be helpful to look back across our blog’s 2018 posts for the helpful words you and your personal chef colleagues offered us. Think of it as a friendly reminder of the wisdom you and your peers have and have enthusiastically shared. Perhaps they will spark some cool idea that you were just developing. Or perhaps they’re concepts you’re ready to hear and act on now that you weren’t months ago.

We also wrote several posts in 2018 with strategy in mind that we hope you will find worth revisiting. I’m going to start with this essential checklist I wrote this time last year:

General Review:

End of Year Checklist: Start here for the basics—from reviewing and updating your business plan to reviewing your equipment and organizing records for taxes.

Making Changes in 2017? Tell Your Clients Now!: Candy addresses how to talk to clients about issues like price increases or other changes in service.

Time for Your Year-End Business Review: Candy’s advice for reviewing the past year and making plans for what you want to create in the new year—from how to enjoy your business more, evaluating your income streams, and marketing.

Is a Commercial Kitchen Right for You?: Most personal chefs travel to clients’ homes to prep meals, but some chefs are opting to rent commercial kitchen space. Here’s why and how.

Marketing:

Five Venues for Marketing Your Personal Chef Business: If you’re looking for marketing inspiration, check out these tips.

Can Public Speaking Help Your Business?: Members offer tips for getting started in public speaking

Are You YouTube Ready?: Here’s why you should start doing video to market your business—and how to do it, from fellow chefs.

Five Essential Marketing Tools for Personal Chefs: We get down to the basics, from photography and business cards to a Facebook page, good website, and chef’s coat.

Marketing Your Business Through Williams-Sonoma Chef Demos: Member Anne Blankenship explains how she got into doing demos at the retailer and how it works.

Specializing:

Serving Clients with Dementia: Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service talk about how they work with dementia clients and their family.

Cooking for Patients with Cancer: Member Gloria Bakst explains how she helps clients with cancer.

Cooking for Special Diets: Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen gives insights on cooking for clients with special needs.

How to Create a Vegan Menu for Clients: Here we learn from Jim Lowellbach of Custom Provisions about how he developed a vegan menu for clients.

Cooking for Seniors: Do seniors need personal chefs? Yes, and here’s why and how to best serve them.

Taking on Special Diets: A Personal Chef Challenge: Food sensitivities?: Yes, you can handle this. Learn how.

Additionally, check out these topics:

We’ll be back in 2019 with more ideas and suggestions to help you run your business effectively. And we hope you’ll contribute guest posts with your own successful strategies! In the meantime, we wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year!

What are your 2019 business strategy resolutions? What do you need help with?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

Be Sociable, Share!

No doubt over the last few weeks you’ve been binging on holiday cookies–or at least recipes for them. I studiously avoided adding to the glut. But here it is a week from New Year’s Eve and all I can think about are the beautiful snowball cookies I grew up with.

You may have seen variations on these. I’ve seen them called alternately Mexican Wedding Cookies and Russian Tea Cookies. In our home, they were snowballs–and why not, what with the double dipping of these spheres into powdered sugar.

These cookies are addictive, mostly because they’re not overly sweet. Yes, they’re coated in powder sugar, but in the cookie dough itself, there’s a mere tablespoon of sugar. The rest is butter, flour, vanilla, a pinch of salt, and toasted nuts (preferably toasted chopped pecans). It’s that very classic combination of vanilla, butter, and nuts that is so compelling.

And, they have a classic aura of elegance. They can be dressed up on a pretty plate and be a perfect accompaniment to New Year’s Eve champagne. As a thank you to clients who enjoy a good cookie, you can’t beat these–and they’re easy to make. You just need a whole lot of powdered sugar! And the willpower to not eat them all yourself. FYI, they freeze wonderfully!

I’ve always referred to these as my Nana Tillie’s cookies. Back in the day after I had graduated from UCLA and moved to New York, she regularly packaged them in a shoebox and sent them to me with her unusual chocolate bit cookies (chocolate chip squares topped with meringue and walnuts), rugelach, and mandelbread (a recipe I’m not allowed to give out to anyone outside of our family). I lived for their delivery and I always became everybody’s best friend at my job on the 33rd floor at The William Morris Agency when they arrived. I have Tillie’s handwritten recipe for the snowballs and at the top of the page she attributes it to my cousins’ grandmother Ida. But, my mother insists that she actually gave Nana the recipe. So, these are now Evie’s Snowball Cookies. Whoever came up with them, all I can say is thank you. They remain my favorite and I hope become yours and your clients’.

Happy New Year!

Evie’s Snowball Cookies
Yield: About 40 cookies

Ingredients
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon powder sugar
2 generous tablespoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chopped, toasted nuts (I prefer pecans but you can also use walnuts)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups powder sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream butter. Add the rest of the ingredients up to the 2 cups of powder sugar. Mix well.
3. Form balls about the size of ping pong balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 30 minutes until just brown.
4. Add the 2 cups of powder sugar to a medium-size bowl. When the cookies come out of the oven, start dunking and rolling in the powder sugar. You’ll do this twice. The first round, while they’re still hot, is to get the sugar into the cookie. The second roll is for decoration.

Note: Cookies can be frozen before or after baking.

What are your treasured family cookies? How do you thank clients at the end of the year?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

Holiday Brunch Blintzes

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 17, 2018

Are you going to be catering holiday brunches? Have you considered making blintzes for guests? They’re easy enough for a kid to make (I’ve been making them since I was a child) but sophisticated enough to impress. Plus, you can make them in advance and freeze them, meaning all you have to do the day of is fry up the defrosted blintzes to serve. You can even make the fruit compote ahead and freeze that. What’s not to love?

Unfamiliar with blintzes? Okay, you don’t want to miss these. They’re thin pancakes that are crepes-like (but with more eggs and no milk), cooked only on one side, then stuffed with a filling (traditionally cheese or fruit compote to be a dairy dish, but they can also be savory and have a meat filling). Once filled, they’re pan fried. The sweet, dairy blintzes are traditionally topped with sour cream or a fruit sauce. Think Eastern European Jewish breakfast burrito.

Earlier this fall I had a cook date with a chef friend who actually asked me if she could come over and make them with me. She had a craving and figured this Jewish girl could help fill it. And this Irish-American introduced me to a slightly different approach to the cheese filling that totally won me over. Instead of the traditional eggs and ricotta and cinnamon sugar my Nana Tillie taught me, my friend Maeve Rochford blends goat cheese and ricotta with melted butter and sugar. So the filling remains creamy and full bodied, with a slight tang.

One thing I love about making blintzes is how forgiving the batter is. Eggs, water, sugar, flour, and vegetable oil come together in a mostly smooth, just slightly thickened texture. Whisk it together well to get as many lumps as possible out–but don’t worry if some remain. Heat a non-stick pan and add just a bit of oil. Using a ladle drop a couple of ounces into the center, swirling the batter around until you get a nice large circle. Let it sit until the edges curl up. You won’t be flipping it. Instead slide it onto a plate and then start the next one.

At this point, if you aren’t ready to actually make the blintzes, you can just refrigerate the crepes for a few hours or overnight. You can also prep the blintzes, which involves dropping a dollop of the filling onto a blintz crepe and folding it up like a burrito. Wrap them well to freeze them until you’re ready to defrost them and then pan fry them in butter. So, yes, they’re very versatile.

And we haven’t even discussed the compote, which is divine. Maeve and I collaborated on this. Here’s our blueprint, but feel free to riff on it with flavors you enjoy. We used citrus liqueur, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice with the fresh blueberries. Simmer and stir it over heat until the blueberries begin to burst. You could just as easily, with just as marvelous a result, use sugar and cinnamon, and no liqueur.

You can also go seasonal and make an apple compote or applesauce. Or come up with other toppings for the season: jams, a sweet compound butter, even maple syrup or chocolate sauce.

(But make the compote. It’s really good!)

Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Compote
Yield: 12 blintzes

Ingredients
Crepes:
5 eggs, beaten slightly
2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Filling:
Maeve’s version
2 cups ricotta cheese
12 ounces goat cheese
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup sugar

OR

Nana Tillie’s version
2 eggs
1 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste

Blueberry Compote:
¼ cup water
¼ cup citrus liqueur, like Cointreau (or substitute with more water)
½ cup honey
Lemon zest from half a lemon
10 ounces (2 cups) fresh blueberries
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions
Make the crepes by beating the 5 eggs slightly. Add the water and sugar and beat together. Slowly beat in the flour until smooth. A few lumps are okay.

Set out a plate covered with wax paper. Heat a skillet and brush it lightly with vegetable oil. Using a 2-ounce ladle, scoop in some batter and pour it onto the skillet. Tilt the pan all around so the batter forms a circle around 9 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about perfection. This is a homey dish.

Return the skillet to the heat and let the crepe cook until the edges curl up slightly and the surface is cooked entirely–you won’t be flipping them to cook on the other side. Use a spatula to help you turn out the crepe onto the wax paper on the plate. Then brush the pan again and repeat until you use up all the batter. You should have a dozen crepes. You can make these a day ahead. Just cover the crepes and store in the refrigerator.

To make the blueberry compote, bring to the boil compote ingredients. Simmer, stirring periodically, 3 to 5 minutes until the blueberries begin to burst. Remove from heat. Set aside.

To make the filling, blend together the ingredients from either of the choices above.

Make the blintzes by placing 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the crepe. Fold the bottom half over the filling. Then fold the sides in. Then fold the top down over the center. Refrigerate until ready to fry.

Heat a sauté pan and add butter. Once the butter has melted add three to four (or five, depending on the size of the pan) and fry at medium heat until the first side browns, then flip the blintzes and brown on the other side. Serve with the blueberry compote.

The blintzes can be frozen before or after frying. The compote can also be frozen.

Are you catering holiday brunches this year? What are your go-to dishes?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

Perhaps you know this intuitively, but according to a new survey, Chatter Matters: the 2018 Word of Mouth Report, 83 percent of Americans say that a word of mouth recommendation from a friend or family member makes them more likely to purchase that product or service.

In fact, writes Jay Baer, whose organization Convince & Convert, conducted the research, “And not only is word of mouth a powerful motivating force, it’s actually the preferred mechanism for information when Americans are making purchases. Among all Americans, word of mouth represents two of their three most popular sources of information when researching purchases (online search engines are the third).”

Aha, you say! I sell a service. Perhaps I should do more to stoke positive, even ebullient word of mouth about my business.

What you’re doing is the initial groundwork laying for a marketing strategy–which is especially important in such a social media/internet heavy environment. It’s not like you’re just trying to get your latest client for a catering gig to recommend you to her BFF. You also want that happy client to post a rave about you on Instagram or Facebook, replete with photos. It’s word of mouth on steroids.

Wendy Marx, president of Marx Communications–a B2B boutique PR firm, just published a terrific piece on this in Business 2 Community. It’s worth your time to read, but let me share here her “8 Powerful Ways to Ignite Your Word of Mouth Marketing”:

  1. Build Trust: Here Marx says, you should do right by your customer and go above and beyond to champion them to build loyalty. And, she adds, “Trust also depends heavily on your skill and competency. Create a reputation of unparalleled expertise.”
  2. Create an Unbeatable Customer Service Strategy: Have a solid, reliable, well-trained team to improve a customer’s experience. Use appropriate humor to set customers at ease, resolve problems quickly, and leave them feeling satisfied. You don’t have a “team?” Then this is up to you.
  3. Be Different: Distinguish yourself from the competition in simple ways, including your marketing language. “Think of words that describe your product in new and engaging ways. From your website to your email marketing campaigns, make your messaging reverberate.”
  4. Encourage a Rich Brand Culture: What do you stand for? What are your values? Marx advocates writing a rich values statement that portrays your values–and then you should act on them. Maybe you support helping the homeless or a cure for breast cancer. If you actually volunteer for those causes, let people know via social media so potential customers who also hold those values can relate to you.
  5. Find Passionate Advocates: You may have happy, but quiet clients. But you may also have some who are more naturally outspoken. Nurture them as loyal advocates who will let others know about you and your services. Marx suggests creating a system where they can best advocate for your brand. Think about that in the context of being a personal chef. Perhaps they could host a gathering you cater. If you have a blog, they could write a guest post on what they look for in a personal chef and then share that on social media. Be creative.
  6. Give People a Platform: This could refer to to #5 above. As Marx says, “Social media pages, customer testimonial sites, and case studies are all excellent ways for your customers to share their happy experiences. You might include a link on your site or an email that encourages customers to leave a review. This could be as simple as Did we make your day? You can make ours by leaving a review below! Keep it light and conversational.” If you encounter someone who is especially happy with your service, perhaps you could interview and write about her for your blog–or this one!
  7. Incentivize Your Audience: You may have customers who love what you do but need a little something extra to get them to chat you up. How about creating a loyalty or brand advocacy program that rewards them for engagement? Big brands can create incentives for retweeting or posting something about you on social media. Personal chefs don’t necessarily have that kind of largesse available. But is there something you could do at a more modest level for spreading the word at incremental levels? Baking a dozen cookies? Offering a discount?
  8. Be Enthusiastic: This is a no brainer. As Marx says, “Love what you do. Enthusiasm is contagious.” She adds, “Love what you do, and do it well, others will be naturally attracted to your brand. And these enthusiasts will tell others about you who in turn will tell others and on and on.”

We know that personal chefs are not at all the same as large businesses that make and sell products. But, in fact, good, strong word of mouth is probably even more critical to small service businesses lacking a large marketing budget. So the more focused you can be on building a following through your own happy clients the more successful you can be as a personal chef.

What kind of strategy have you developed for better word of mouth? Can we help you with this?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

Everyday Dorie’s Lemon Goop

Filed under: Books,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 3, 2018

Chances are if you know Dorie Greenspan, it’s because of her divine baking cookbooks. I’m one of the thousands of her fans of her über chocolatey sablé World Peace Cookies, the recipe for which is on page 138 in her 2006 tome, “Baking: From My Home to Yours.” Yeah, I love those cookies.

Greenspan is the author of 13 cookbooks—and baking is only a slice of her culinary skill. She’s a magnificent cook and shares those recipes in books like “Around My French Table,” which takes us from sardine rillettes and chestnut-pear soup to chicken basquaise and fresh orange pork tenderloin. The Brooklyn-born writer has collaborated with Julia Child, Pierre Hermé, and Daniel Boulud on their cookbooks, and is the recipient of five James Beard Awards. She is the “On Dessert” columnist for The New York Times Magazine, and she’s just published book number 13, Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook (HMH/Rux Martin Books, $35).

In October, I had the huge pleasure of interviewing Dorie in front of an audience in San Diego. Yes, she’s as delightful as you’d think she is from her books (as is her husband Michael). And, oh, the stories she told!

In preparation for the interview I read the book cover to cover. Greenspan brings decades of experience—both her own and what she’s learned from chefs—to home cooks from the perspective of a home cook. “Everyday Dorie” may surprise you by how accessible the recipes are. And by the familiarity of many of the ingredients. It’s just that she uses them in ways that make you stop and want to slap your head upsides with a “why didn’t I think of that” roll of the eyes.

I also made several dishes from Everyday Dorie. Well, one wasn’t actually a dish, but a condiment–and I want to share it with you because I just thought it was so cool and unique. When it comes to condiments I have to admit, I think I’m a hoarder. One of my favorites is preserved lemon.

When I saw that Dorie had a recipe at the back of the book she calls Lemon “Goop” I had to check it out. It’s like preserved lemons, but it’s a jammy-like condiment. And it’s made with both salt and sugar. And in making it you also get lemon syrup. So it’s also a two-fer.

Lemon goop and the syrup are easy to make. You’re going to peel the zest from 6 large lemons, then cut off the top and bottom of each lemon and cut off the rest of the rind and pith so all that’s left is the fruit.

From there you’ll section the lemons. Then you’ll combine sugar, salt, and water in a pot and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the zest and the lemon sections, bring back to the boil, then lower the heat so that it just simmers. Leave it for about an hour. Once it’s cooked down and nice and syrupy, remove it from the heat, and strain the syrup from the lemon solids. Puree the solids in a food processor or blender, using some of the syrup to create the texture you want. That’s it.

Lemon goop is just the acidic/sweet note you want to hit to balance the richness of a fatty fish. Or a pork chop. Or roasted chicken. The syrup can play all sorts of roles. Dorie adds it to vinaigrettes, as she mentions below. How about mixing it with garlic and ginger and a little neutral oil to brush onto shrimp for roasting? Or add to a seafood salad?

The great thing is that you have plenty of time to consider how to use the lemon goop and syrup because it lasts in your refrigerator for ages–like forever–until you use it up. Just keep it tightly covered.

Lemon “Goop” and Syrup
from Everyday Dorie by Dorie Greenspan

Makes about ⅔ cup goop and ¾ cup syrup

From Dorie: I had something like this years and years ago at a restaurant near Le Dôme in Paris. It was served with tuna; perhaps tuna cooked in olive oil, I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I loved it, went home, tried to re-create it and came up short. The second time I had it was at a Paris bistro called Les Enfants Rouges, where the chef, Daï Shinozuka, served a dab of it with fish. Daï gave me a recipe — and this is based on it — but his started with preserved lemons. The recipe I finally came up with uses ordinary lemons and finishes up as a glossy jam that tastes a little like preserved lemons but is sweeter and more complex.

You’ll have more syrup than you need to make the jam — aka “goop” — but the syrup is as good as the jam. I’ve added it to vinaigrettes (page 307), roasted beets, sautéed green beans, tuna salad, chicken salad and more. It’s a terrific “tool” to have in the fridge.

I serve the goop with fish and shellfish, pork and chicken. To start you on the road to playing around with this, try it on Twice-Flavored Scallops (page 193).

6 large lemons
2 cups (480 ml) water
1½ cups (300 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons fine sea salt

WORKING AHEAD Refrigerate the goop and syrup separately until needed. In a tightly covered container, the syrup will keep forever, and the goop’s lifespan is only slightly shorter.

1. Using a vegetable peeler or small paring knife, remove the zest from 3 of the lemons, taking care not to include any of the white pith; set aside.
2. One by one, cut a slice from the top and bottom of each lemon, cutting deeply enough to reveal the fruit. Stand the lemon upright on a cutting board and, cutting from top to bottom, slice away the rind and pith, again cutting until the fruit is revealed. Slice between the membranes of each lemon to release the segments.
3. Bring the water, sugar and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Drop in the segments and reserved zest and bring back to a boil, then lower the heat so that the syrup simmers gently. Cook for about 1 hour, at which point the syrup will have thickened and the lemons will have pretty much fallen apart. It might look as though the lemons have dissolved, but there’ll still be fruit in the pan. Remove from the heat.
4. The fruit needs to be pureed, a job you can do with a blender (regular or immersion) or a food processor; if you have a mini-blender or mini-processor, use it.
5. Strain the syrup into a bowl and put the fruit in the blender or processor. (Save the syrup in the bowl!) Add a spoonful of the syrup to the lemons and whir until you have a smooth, glistening puree. Add more syrup as needed to keep the fruit moving and to get the consistency you want. I like the goop when it’s thick enough to form a ribbon when dropped from a spoon. Thicker is better than thinner, because you can always adjust the consistency with more of the reserved syrup.

LEMON “GOOP” AND SYRUP is excerpted from Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

What cookbooks are you hoping for or gifting for the holidays? List them below to give us inspiration! 

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

APPCA member and personal chef Anne Blankenship has pretty much served as our reporter on the ground for personal chef transitions. The owner of Dallas’ Designed Cuisine a Personal Chef Service, Anne is working her way toward retirement and has written about that process for us. This week she outlines the process of hiring and working with an intern, the idea being that she could eventually refer incoming potential new clients. 

If you’re looking for help and a way to pay forward the help you received when you were just starting out–or if you’re a culinary school student searching for some practical internship experience–you’ll want to ready this guest post by Anne:

They say too much of anything is not a good thing. When you have more business than you can handle, what do you do? I have recently found myself in the position of turning away clients on a weekly basis for the first time since I started my personal chef business. While I am thrilled that potential clients are calling, it is also frustrating to be unable to accommodate potential new business.

When I sat down to ponder this issue, a light bulb went off in my head. Recalling my days in culinary school I knew that there were required internships of students. I so “fondly” recall working for $5.85/hour, scrubbing fish scales out of the sink around midnight, and then mopping the floor! However, it was a great experience and when you are the “low person on the totem pole” you never say “that’s not my job.”

I contacted my alma mater (a local community college with an outstanding and highly rated culinary program) and sent a message to the head of the Food and Hospitality Institute at the college. The school’s culinary program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation, and I of course knew that the “CPC” (“Certified Personal Chef”) designation was available through the organization. I told the chef that I wanted to hire a student for an internship as well as provide them with insight into a different area of the culinary world—that of a personal chef. I also reminded him that the “CPC” designation was a viable option, as many culinary instructors are unaware of this classification. He responded and said he would mention my internship to his classes and that the best option was for me to post it on the online job board for students, which I did at the end of August when school started. In addition, I contacted my clients to let them know I was considering hiring an intern. I wanted to check  whether or not it would be alright with them that this person would accompany me on future cook dates.

I received a response to my ad within a week from a promising young student. However, I had neglected to post the days/hours that I needed the applicant, and his school schedule was such that he would not be available. After I amended the posting to include the hours, I received a second response at the end of September. This time I knew I had potentially found the right candidate in Tina, who is in her first semester. Like me, she had been in the corporate world for 20 years and wanted to change careers, had always wanted to be a chef, loved to cook, and had planned and executed dinner parties for friends with various cuisines and interesting dishes. We exchanged e-mails and as she told me more about herself I became certain that if she was interested, I could help her pursue becoming a personal chef as well as have someone viable to whom to refer new business.

We met for lunch a few days later and after three hours of discussion we made plans for her to accompany me on upcoming cook date at the beginning of October. Once at the client’s home I showed her the menu and recipes for that day and we divided up the tasks and who would make which menu item. Although I was watchful, I knew she was competent and I truly didn’t have to worry about the way she cooked the food. Everything she has done thus far has been excellent (and made me think I’ve been a little careless in the way I cooked some of my recipes!). Even better is that when we review the menu for the day and divide up tasks, she usually has a good idea of how to execute the recipes but always asks if she is not sure.  Truly, she is the best person I could have gotten for the job!

The “end game” is that if she decides to pursue being a personal chef, I would help her get started and hopefully be able to refer any incoming potential new clients to her as I am quite satisfied with the client base I now have. I told her that it wasn’t all “philanthropical” on my end—she would be helping me so that I wouldn’t have to turn away business and she would benefit by having her own clients. I have been very honest with her about how clients come and go in the personal chef business, that you have to be flexible, manage your finances well and be prepared for what could happen. However, I also told her that being your own boss, making your own schedule, and truly enjoying what you do for a living is beyond compare to working in the corporate world. I still love what I do every day and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

She will be with me until the middle of December but has until the end of December to decide whether or not to go back to the corporate world or pursue her dream of being a chef.

I did not change my liability insurance policy as I did not know how long Tina would be with me.  Since my insurance premium is due in December, I will take a look at everything at that time. When we talked she asked me what the “big picture” was and I said that I wanted to try and retire in 2020 and if the right person came along, I would consider turning my business over to them.  I was working out details about possibly taking a percentage of the client fees for awhile when I turned over the business.  I am still mulling over that idea. If Tina does not want to go forward with this then I will start over again next semester and possibly hire someone else.  If I cannot find the right person, I will just keep on doing as I am now and turn business away.

If you are in a position to hire an assistant for your personal chef business, consider your local community college, as many of them now have excellent culinary programs. You have the ability to mentor someone (probably younger) and show them that there is so much more to the food industry than working at a restaurant. I feel it is one way for me to “pay it forward” for someone who wants to be a personal chef. I have the Internet presence, the knowledge and 12 years of experience to assist her in getting started. I believe she feels as strongly as I do about the “personal” in being a personal chef and how we interact with our clients’ families, children and lives. As a result, my tagline has now become “Personal Chefs – We Make a Difference in Peoples’ Lives.”

Have you considered working with an intern? What are your concerns about the hiring and collaboration process?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

We’re now three days out from Thanksgiving. For some of us deciding what to make isn’t an issue. Our recipes seem to be etched in stone and family members will simply not abide any variation. Tradition, my friends, tradition.

But for those of us who like to change things up a bit–even if it means just switching out evaporated milk for cream cheese in our pumpkin pie–perhaps a little inspiration is in order. It could be a different twist on a favorite dish or an altogether new one that could establish a new traditional favorite.

In that spirit, here are some Thanksgiving dishes we’ve featured over the years and a new suggestion:

Turkey Stuffing Muffins and Cranberry Chutney: Just when you thought you couldn’t come up with a new way to approach stuffing someone turns it into muffins. What a cool idea! You could certainly do with your own favorite, traditional stuffing, but take a look at this recipe from the Art Institute of California-San Diego. And pair it with this divine cranberry chutney!

Everything Sourdough Popovers: I just wrote about these popovers, but if you missed it, take a look. Who doesn’t adore airy popovers? Along with the intriguing sourdough flavor these have, I’ve added something a little extra: everything topping–you know, the topping you find on bagels. If you or your clients are not a fan, no worries. You can leave them naked and dunk into a gravy or sauce. You can make them a little sweet by topping them in cinnamon sugar. You could also top them with finely chopped toasted nuts with or without sugar. Be bold! Or not if you or your clients are purists.

 

How to Spatchcock a Turkey (and why you should): Turkeys can be a challenge. You want the skin crisp but if only the breast if facing the heat, the skin on the thighs below tends to get greasy and unpleasant. You want moist white meat but it can get overcooked while waiting for the dark meat to reach the right temperature. Bottom line? Roasting a turkey can be an aggravating guessing game. So, I’m going to make it easy for you. Spatchcock your bird and roast it at high heat. Spatchcocking is a way of breaking down the bird so it will rest flat in a roasting pan and cook evenly. You avoid the age-old problem of having the white meat dry out while the dark meat continues to cook below. Instead, you have moist meat from the drumstick to the breast. And because it roasts at high heat, the turkey cooks quickly and the skin all over the turkey is fully exposed, making it all nice and crisp.

Macaroni and Cheese for Kids and Adults: Is mac and cheese really a Thanksgiving dish? Heck, yeah, and who doesn’t love every cheesy, comfort food bite? You’d be surprised at how many different techniques there are for making it. Yes, I know, your mom or grandma’s is the best, but, whoa, there are a lot of contenders out there. After spending perhaps too much time looking through cookbooks and online to get a better sense of what’s involved I was drawn to two approaches by two big names: Alton Brown and Martha Stewart. By then it was easy enough to sort out the basics and create my own version using the best of what I found. A little less cooking of the pasta here, the spice combo there, tempering eggs, adding a panko topping. Well, it all came together in a bubbling, rich, creamy casserole with a crusty top and lots of flavor.

 

Apple Pie: What about dessert? My sense is there are people who love to bake pies and those who are terrified of the idea of making a crust. I get it. I was taught by my grandmother when I was a teenager–but for years it was always an iffy proposition as to whether or not the crust would come out. So I set off several years ago to hit up all my pastry chef friends to learn their techniques. They were all different. Some used butter only. Some butter and lard or butter and Crisco. Despite the variations, I gained confidence. And I make pies with gusto and delight. So, to those of you savory chefs who steer away from THE CRUST, I offer my go-to pie recipe from my friend Michele Coulon. Her way is the traditional French way. It’s simple and straightforward, relies on just a few quality ingredients, and sticking to formula. Bake one up and serve it to clients or your family. You–and they–will be hooked!

Michele Coulon’s Apple Pie

Yield: 1 Pie

1 Southern Pie Pastry (see below)
1 pound, 5 ounces apples (weigh after peeling and coring)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce butter
1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup cream
1 egg

Pre-heat conventional oven to 450°.

Make pastry and set aside.

Peel and core apples, placing in a big bowl. Sift dry ingredients together and add to apples, mixing well. Add 3 tablespoons cream and mix with apples. Set aside.

Place one pastry disk on a floured surface and roll out to just larger than your pie plate or tin so that the edges will hang over. Use the rolling pin to place the dough in the pie plate, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out the second disc and you can either leave it whole for the top crust or slice into 1-inch strips to make a lattice. Refrigerate.

Fill the bottom pie crust with the apple mixture. Dot apples with butter. Put lattice or intact top crust over the apples. To make the lattice, Michele just lays half of the strips in one direction, then lays the other half across them. If you’re using the intact top crust, center it over the apples, then make a 1-inch hole in the center to release steam and use a fork to gently poke holes around the top. Once the lattice or intact crust is set, roll the top and bottom edges together and under the bottom crust edge. Using a fork, gently pinch edges together but do not go all the way through the dough.

Mix together 1/2 cup cream and the egg. Brush egg wash onto lattice or top crust and any dough decorations.

Put on a parchment paper-lined tray (to catch drips) and put in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 350° and bake until apples are cooked — 30 minutes at first, then probably another 15 minutes. Use the tip of a sharp knife to check. If the tip goes into apple slices easily, they’re done cooking. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Southern Pastry from Michele Coulon

Yield: 2 pie crusts, top and bottom. Cut recipe in half for 1 pie.

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound cold European-style butter, cut into 1-inch chunky pieces
Ice water

Mix ingredients by hand using two knives in a bowl or in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Then add 12 tablespoons or 160 grams of ice water. Mix until just blended. It should be rough with striations of butter.

When making the full recipe, divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a disk about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. At this point you can start to bake with them, wrap the disks and refrigerate overnight, or freeze them until you want to use them (defrost in the refrigerator). It’s one of those great do-ahead options.

What dishes will you be making for Thanksgiving? What is the one that makes it Thanksgiving for you and your family?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!

Consider this post another chapter in my quest to identify ways to use excess sourdough starter when I do my weekly feeding. I’ve made cake, crackers, and biscuits so far. Unlike fresh starter, the pre-fed starter doesn’t contribute much to rise. Its role instead is flavor.

Thinking about Thanksgiving, I recently made popovers and thought I’d share the results with you so you could put them on your clients’ Thanksgiving menus. Who doesn’t adore airy popovers? Along with the intriguing sourdough flavor these have, I’ve added something a little extra: everything topping–you know, the topping you find on bagels. You can find everything seasoning online at King Arthur Flour and locally at Trader Joe’s. If you’re not a fan, no worries. You can leave them naked and dunk into a gravy or sauce. You can make them a little sweet by topping them in cinnamon sugar. You could also top them with finely chopped toasted nuts with or without sugar. Be bold! Or not if you or your clients are purists.

The other delightful aspect of these popovers is how ridiculously easy they are to make. You’ll heat up milk until it’s just warm–not hot! Then you’ll combine the milk with eggs, the sourdough starter, and a little salt.

Whisk in the flour–but don’t over mix. Even a few lumps are just fine. This batter is very forgiving. Notice I used the word batter, not dough. This mixture is very loose–like heavy cream. Don’t worry. It’ll work just fine.

It’ll start baking in a very hot oven. After 15 minutes you’ll turn down the heat and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes. Try as hard as you can to time this with when you want to serve the popovers because these guys are best eaten right away. But, get this, I froze what I couldn’t eat immediately. When I wanted one, I pulled it out of the freezer and let it defrost, then heated it up in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes. It was still delicious.

If you are going to add a topping, melt butter in a wide little bowl just before the popovers come out of the oven. Then pull them out of the cups, dip, and roll.

Everything Sourdough Popovers
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 6 popovers

Ingredients
8 ounces milk
3 large eggs
4 ounces sourdough starter, fed or discard
¾ teaspoon salt
4 ¼ ounces all-purpose flour
¼ cup melted unsalted butter
¼ cup everything topping (available from Trader Joe’s or King Arthur Flour)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450° and add muffin or popover pan.

Warm milk in the microwave or a small saucepan until it’s just warm to the touch.

Combine warm milk with eggs, sourdough starter, and salt. Gradually whisk in flour until it just comes together. Don’t worry about eliminating all lumps.
The batter will be loose, about the consistency of heavy cream.

Remove hot pan from the oven and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray or brush generously with oil or melted unsalted butter.

Pour batter into the popover cups about ¾ of the way up. If you’re using a muffin tin, fill all the way to the top. Space the popovers around so each one is surrounded by empty cups to allow the popovers to expand while they bake.

Bake popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375° and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the popovers from the oven. Dip the top into a small bowl of melted butter and roll in everything mixture. Serve immediately or cool and freeze. To reheat, defrost and place in oven at 350° for about 15 minutes.

Will you be making a baked side for Thanksgiving? What is your go-to recipe?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Be Sociable, Share!
Older Posts »