Hatch Chile Potato Salad

Filed under: Vegetarian , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , August 31, 2020

In a year in which time has come to mean almost nothing, here we are at Labor Day–that weird pause that declares summer to be over even if it’s really not yet fall.

I have two tells, though, for this transition. The first is in late August when there’s always one day in which the harsh light of summer changes to something slightly more subtle, more refracted.

The other is the start of Hatch chile season. The chiles, also known as Big Jims, are grown in one region, the Hatch Valley, along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, although it’s also an umbrella term for the green chiles grown throughout New Mexico. It could be the elevation that makes them so distinctive or perhaps it’s the volcanic soil. Or the hot days and cool evenings. Or the combination of all three, plus its short August/September season. It really doesn’t matter. They’re delicious. And they’re available beyond New Mexico. I find them in markets in San Diego this time of year and already have seen them.

But everything that’s of value comes at a price. Hatch chiles are a bit labor intensive to prepare initially since they require roasting and peeling/seeding.

You could do it on the grill but really all you need are heavy cookie sheets, and the oven broiler. There’s no special trick to it. Just line them up in a single layer and fire them up. Let your nose tell you when they’re ready to be turned–once–and then removed from the oven. You’ll get the distinctive aroma of burning chiles and, indeed, they should be well charred.

Then gather them into plastic or paper bags, close the opening, and let them steam for about 10 to 15 minutes. This helps loosen the thick skin from the flesh. Then peel off the skin, remove the stem and seeds, and chop or slice them. I bag what I don’t use immediately and put them in the freezer, so I have them to use the rest of the year.

While Hatch chiles are a go to for posole or other stews, omelets and frittatas, and, well with anything you’d usually add chiles to, it is going to be Labor Day this weekend, so how about Hatch Chile Potato Salad to go with your socially distanced picnic? This potato salad has some heat but also the smoky flavor of the chiles combined with slow roasted tomatoes and garlic in a lemon-garlic dressing.

Hatch Chile Potato Salad
Serves four as a side dish

1 pound red potatoes (baby or regular size)
1 large shallot, finely minced
2 large roasted Hatch chiles (about 1.5 ounces), peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large pieces of sun-dried or oven roasted tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 scallions, chopped
Lemon-Garlic Dressing (see below)

1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add whole, unpeeled potatoes and cook until tender (about 15 to 20 minutes).
2. While potatoes are cooking, make the Lemon-Garlic Dressing and prep the other ingredients.
3. When potatoes are fork-tender, remove from heat and drain in a colander. When they’re still warm but cool enough to handle, slice or quarter them into bite-sized pieces. Add to a large bowl with the shallots, chiles, tomatoes, parsley, and about 3/4 of the scallions. Reserve the rest for garnish.
4. Pour enough dressing over the potato mixture to moisten it, then toss to mix well. Let sit so the potatoes absorb the dressing. If necessary, add more dressing before serving. Top with the rest of the scallions.

Lemon-Garlic Dressing
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
A mix of herbs (I use chives, epazote, and parsley)
Kosher salt to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine the first four ingredients, then slowly whisk in oil until the dressing thickens.

Do you enjoy cooking with Hatch chiles? How do you cook with them?

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Remember back to the end of February/beginning of March when our world began to shut down and we were scrambling for supplies to stock up for quarantine life? It wasn’t just hand sanitizer, bottled water, and toilet paper we couldn’t find. It was pasta and rice, chicken and beans.

We were never going to run out of food per se but six months later it seems we’re still dealing with some empty shelves or at least the disappearance of ingredients we’ve long taken for granted. And it’s not just in New York or L.A. It’s across the country. I asked participants in our Facebook group if they’re still dealing with this and got a grocery list of missing ingredients that are surprising in their variety:

  • Russell J. Earls in Orlando, Florida said he can’t find staples like sugar, flour, and basic simple ingredients.
  • LS Owens in San Francisco is missing herbs, bacon, ground beef, and tuna. She said cuts of meats come and go.
  • Carol Borchardt in Tennessee can’t get soy sauce or tomato products.
  • Lynette Nieman of Charlotte, North Carolina went to whole foods and needed frozen chopped spinach for a dish. “Their frozen vegetable section was basically empty,” she said.
  • Daun Pullem in Central Valley in California exclaimed, “Yeast! Bread flour, proteins have gotten extremely expensive here.”
  • Jackie Alejo, who lives in Tennessee, can’t find regular all-purpose flour, although at a high price point, she can find self-rising flour. She can’t find cornmeal or buttermilk for baking.
  • Bill Collins in Western Massachusetts can’t find distilled and red wine vinegar.
  • Jenny Elmes of Virginia can’t find quinoa or Dukes mayonnaise.
  • No cornstarch for Sebastian Münkwitz in New York City.
  • Low quantities and low varieties of rice are a problem for Evangeline Kochanek in San Diego.
  • The pasta aisle is thin for both Erin Tripp and John Pastor in Southern California.
  • Tira Collins of Naperville, Illinois can’t find cornstarch, bread, or OO flour.

And, adding to the pain, are increased prices. Tiffany Long Bowers in Weare, New Hampshire complained, “Prices going up has also caused issue[s],” she said. “Still having trouble finding items but cost of all is hurting.”

Your pain seems to be universal. According to The Wall Street Journal, roughly 10 percent of grocery items remain out of stock. So, what’s going on and will things return to pre-pandemic normal?

Here are some answers. According to an August 10, 2020 report by SupplyChain Management Review, government-imposed stay-at-home orders drastically increased the amount of food and household products we consume at home. No surprise there. But while panic buying was a thing initially, it was the transition from commercial to retail channels that have caused challenges to manufacturers.

Spaghetti is an example. According to Supplychain Management Review, “When restaurant dining options diminished because of the pandemic, households began preparing more meals at home; spaghetti became abundantly popular. Spaghetti was also subject to brief panic buying and sustained stockouts; there was a brief pause before replenishment. The supply recovery for spaghetti took about five weeks.” They point out that large-scale retail pasta producers are typically multi-channel suppliers who faced the collapse of foodservice industry demand. So pasta suppliers had to change their packaging from commercial to retail. Then restaurants started opening again toward the end of May and demand increased commercially, even as home-based spaghetti consumption stayed high.

For commodity baking products–flour, yeast, sugar, cornstarch, cornmeal, etc.–commercial baking has remained high and home baking simultaneously increased. The failure to find yeast has been a common complaint. If you’re Fleishmann’s you’re supplying commercial and retail customers–and even beer manufacturers. Fleishmann’s may be a full capacity and still you may not be able to find yeast at your local market.

Another issue, pointed to by the Journal story is that as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in certain states, grocers are reporting a new increase in staples purchases–like baking ingredients–that could lead to empty shelves.

And, unless you’ve been sleeping under the proverbial rock, you know that meat processing plants have been facing multiple challenges in maintaining full capacity–leading to scarcity in some regions as well as higher prices.

According to MyRecipes, “canned vegetables, another category that’s had a hard time keeping up with early-pandemic supply surges, are only available at 80 percent.”

In tandem with this need to super produce staples, the production and distribution of the variety of products we’re using to having at our whim are being cut back. AllRecipes reported in July 2020 that multiple major food and drink brands have made the strategic decision for now to pull back breadth to focus on what sells. PepsiCo, for instance, acknowledged that it has stopped manufacturing a full 20 percent of its products during the pandemic.

Will this change after the pandemic? Maybe not. Basics will likely not be at issue but variety will. Food Dive reported in July 2020 that food companies are not so much averse to giving shoppers a choice but rationalizing that consolidating production around fewer SKUs (stock-keeping units) would lead to more efficient supply chains. The opinion among analysts is that product categories are “overloaded with multiple brands, product sizes, flavors, or other attributes.” And retailers just don’t want to stock on less profitable or slower-selling items to bolster their profitability once the retail environment becomes more predictable.

The era of “more is more” grocery choices may have ended in February 2020.

Chefs, what ingredients are you having a hard time finding? How are you making do?

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!

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Bake a Blueberry Pie!

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Desserts , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , August 17, 2020

I know many of our chefs aren’t bakers, but in this time of homebody-ness, perhaps learning how to bake a pie could be your new sourdough bread. Summer is a brilliant time for pie baking, given the gorgeous fruit that’s in season.

I’m an inveterate pie baker, thanks to my grandmother, who taught me how to bake apple pies. Ironically, all these years later I do it totally differently than she did. She made crusts with margarine and Crisco. I use butter (although adding Crisco for a flakier crust isn’t a bad thing and if you’re into lard–that’s even better). But I still cherish the memories of learning how from Nana to combine the ingredients–cut the fat until they’re the size of peas and use your fingers to combine the fat, flour, and water until just shaggy. Form into discs, wrap, and refrigerate to let the dough rest. Roll gently and make sure excess dough hangs over the pie plate to have enough to form a consistent edge. Cut into the top crust to allow steam to release.

My Nana? She taught me well–as have numerous pastry chefs who have since instructed me. More importantly, she gifted me with the passion to bake. If you have children or grandchildren, you probably have given them a similar gift.

Despite the heat, this time of year is perfect for a big fat blueberry pie. With this one I changed up my usual crust just a little. I scouted around online and recalled that vodka can make a crust flakier. I had some vodka in the freezer so I added that to the crust, along with a little sugar, salt, and fresh lemon juice, as well, of course, ice water.

For the filling, I combined the fresh blueberries with the usual: lemon zest and lemon juice, along with cornstarch to thicken it. But instead of granulated sugar I opted for brown sugar to lend a deeper flavor. And instead of cinnamon, I added a wonderful pie standby of mine: Divine Desserts fennel pollen blend.

The rest went along the usual way. I made the dough, formed it into two discs, wrapped them in plastic and refrigerated them for a couple of hours. When you make the dough be sure you don’t overwork it. You want striations of butter throughout to help make a flakier crust.

Before you start rolling the dough for the pie plate (and try to use a deep dish pie plate), make the filling. Just combine all those filling ingredients. The mixture can sit a bit and macerate while you roll out the dough.

Roll out one at a time, leaving the other to continue to chill in the fridge. Make a circle larger than the pie plate, then using your rolling pin, lift and set it into the pie plate. You’ll want to trim the overhang to about 3/4 inch over. Save the excess dough and set it aside. Fill the pie with the blueberry mixture, then roll out the other dough disc, place it over the filling, and trim that overhang. Then you’ll pinch and crimp the edges.

Brush the top crust with the egg wash, then cut slits into the crust to let steam out while the pie bakes.

That’s it! Now it goes into the oven to bake. You’ll start out at high heat for about 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature while it bakes another half an hour or so. Check at the 30-minute mark to make sure the pie isn’t burning. If it’s getting a little too brown but not ready to remove, cover it with a piece of foil.

Once you remove it from the oven, place it on a rack to cool before serving.

Oh, and that leftover dough? Form it into a small disc and wrap it up for the freezer. You can use it to make a small tart later just for yourself–perhaps with apples for fall.

Blueberry Pie
1 deep dish pie


4 cups AP flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) cold European-style butter cut into 1-inch chunky pieces
¼ cup chilled vodka
¼ cup ice water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed with stems removed
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon Divine Desserts fennel pollen blend (optional) or ground cinnamon

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

1. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Toss in butter and using your fingertips, lightly coat with the flour mixture. Then quickly rub butter into flour mixture to get pea-size pieces.
2. Mix together in a small bowl the vodka, ice water, and lemon juice. Then drizzle over flour and butter mixture and mix together with a fork until it starts to get a little shaggy looking. Then use your hands and knead briefs just until the dough comes together. If it’s still dry, add a little more ice water.
3. Gently form the dough into two ¾-inch discs and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least two hours or preferably overnight. You can also put them in the freezer.
4. When you’re ready to make the pie, preheat the oven to 425°. Make the filling by combining the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, brown sugar, and fennel pollen blend in a large bowl. Stir gently but thoroughly to make sure all the blueberries are coated. Set aside.
5. Pull one of the dough discs from the refrigerator. Flour your surface and roll out the disc into a circle large enough to drape over your pie plate. Place the dough into the pie plate and trim the edges to 3/4-inch over the pan. Refrigerate while you roll out the second dough disc.
6. Pull the pie plate out of the refrigerator and fill with the blueberry mixture. Place the second crust over the blueberry filling and trim.
7. Gently press the crust edges together and tuck the dough under the edge of the bottom dough. Crimp the edges by gently pushing the index finger of one hand into the edge of the dough and your thumb and index finger of your other hand, going around the edge of the pie.
8. Quickly make the egg wash by whisking the egg and milk together. Brush the top crust with the wash. Then score the top crust several times to let steam release.
9. Place the pie on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350˚ and bake another 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is a golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
10. Remove to a wire rack and let cool before serving.

Chefs, are you pie bakers? If so, what’s your favorite to make?

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!

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As a national organization APPCA has members serving clients across the country. We know that the  coronavirus has hit different regions with different intensity over the past five months. That makes it challenging to determine on a national level what the appropriate approach is for serving clients–beyond CDC recommendations and ServSafe guidance. Each member is bound to be guided by local and state health regulations. For some, there’s more flexibility due to fewer outbreaks. For others, there may not be any real options in a total shutdown.

It’s a confusing time.

We’re seeing a variety of approaches being taken by personal chefs. While there are some who just don’t feel comfortable going into other people’s kitchens Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Services in Boston are going full speed ahead:

“We are cooking for a select number of clients and have maintained the same routine since March, with a couple of add-ons,” says Christine. “We cook in their homes and have established a ‘safety plan’ for each household…we dress out of the dryer, we are masked and carry sanitizers, cleaners, and just got a new UV wand…depending on the house we use their cookware or ours, or a combo…we maintain distancing, take our temps several times a day and have remained healthy…our habits were formed early in the pandemic, and we have modified and enhanced them as needed…some clients have not come back yet, a couple have, and we have added new people…we clean everything when we arrive and again when we leave…honestly, I like the routine and the attention to detail…we spend most of our downtime at home and do not venture out where crowds may be, and have eaten at home since March 15th except for three take outs from Chipotle…so far so good but we are not letting our guard down…”

Another chef is choosing to cook at his home for clients and then making a delivery at the client’s front door. This chef keeps the food in an ice chest and texts the client to make sure they’re home before leaving.

Similarly, we have heard from a chef who is making “to go” meals for clients from a commercial kitchen.

Another potential piece to puzzle out is payment. Anyone who ventures out to shop for food or other provisions knows that retailers prefer not to take cash or checks these days. Likewise, you are probably not eager to take anything other than virtual payments. Here’s a link to a site called Clockify, which lists 16 payment methods for small businesses, along with the features that they say are important, including transaction fees, processing times, payment methods, and transfer limits.

As difficult as this year has been, you all know how important you are to your clients. In some cases, you’re probably a lifeline to normalcy–something we’re all seeking these days. And you’re providing people with exactly what they need: delicious, healthy food that is an important factor in fending off disease. Perhaps, like Christine adds, you’re even doing a little bit extra for your clients.

“We go out of our way with the precautions but try to normalize this unfathomable situation as much as possible for our clients with humor and sensitivity…we have a standing rule with all clients that we are out in the stores more often than they are and are happy to pick stuff up, so have running lists with most of them as we know the local stores really well and can be in and out quickly…”

Who wouldn’t appreciate that!

Are you serving clients in your region? How are you going about 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!

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Well, it’s been, what, five months–six months–since what should probably call “before times.” Who can keep track anymore? In that time, many or most of us have found our lives and businesses have been turned upside down. Some of us have gotten sick. Some have lost family or friends. Our country has lost more than 150,000 people. These are sad, confusing, frustrating days.

And, yet, we have to go on, albeit carefully. Those of us who operate solo businesses have to do our best to hang in there and find new resources, new ideas, and new opportunities to shine and earn a living. It’s all about flexibility, ingenuity, and doggedness.

Over the past several months we’ve tried to offer ideas and inspiration for new approaches to your personal chef business. And we’ll continue to do so.

Today, though, here are some tips for solo entrepreneurs. We tend to call these the lazy days of summer. If that’s true for you, perhaps it’s the right time to start mulling over next steps and thinking about how to rev up business come fall. We’re hoping these tips can sizzle your brain and juice up your enthusiasm for this very important business you run.

  • Stay agile and don’t be afraid to say no. Andrew Wassenaar of software firm Timely makes the great point that without extra staff, solo business owners have less baggage and are able to enjoy more freedom in business. It’s so true. You may wish you had help or a boss to tell you what to do, but as a personal chef running your own business you have the agility to switch things up if you find something isn’t working or you discover something unexpected that brings you joy–and more money! As Wassenaar notes, it also gives you the flexibility to say no to whatever doesn’t align with your vision. “It comes back to the fact that time is valuable, and when it’s being consumed by things that don’t contribute to what you’re doing, it’s being wasted,” he writes.
  • Be specific with your goals. Kelly Spors of The Hartford’s SmallBiz Ahead published seven business tips from successful small business owners. One of them seemed directly relevant to personal chef business owners. Be very specific with your goals. Break big goals into smaller ones. It could be based on a timeline, such as 10 years, three years, and one year. It could be work/life. It could be seasonal. Once you have set your goals, develop a dashboard that allows you to note your progress with your goals to help you stay focused.
  • Build a wide range of skills. Small Business Trends published a list of 21 rules for solopreneurs to live by. Among them is “Build a Wide Range of Skills.” Now you already know how to cook, but during this down or downish time you could focus some more on the skills of owning a business–like marketing and accounting. Networking might seem like a crazy idea these days but “out of sight, out of mind” is a cliché that’s all too true. Work on your Zoom or Facetime skills and make or revive connections. Get smart with video and teach virtual cooking classes. Learn how to write professional recipes using tools like “The Recipe Writer’s Handbook” and put together virtual meal kits for clients or launch a food blog. Improve your food photography.
  • Get technical. Of all places, The UPS Store published a series of tips to advertise your solo business. Their idea is you want to drive awareness and engagement. Even if you don’t advertise, we hope you’re doing a good amount of marketing via social media, email newsletters, and blogs. We’ve offered lots of tips on these in the past, but here are some extra ones. If you’re on Twitter, use their polling feature in a multiple choice survey question about, well, anything. Perhaps you’re interested in changing up your menu. You could test out ideas. Or you’re considering targeting a different type of client. Ask questions that would help determine if athletes or vegans or adult children helping their aging parents are a viable option. Or just ask food-related questions that are fun and capture an audience’s imagination. They also advocate asking for retweets on Twitter (let’s extend that to “sharing” on Facebook and Instagram) and making use of SEO, but using SEO keywords that aren’t as competitive. Clueless about SEO? See above’s “build a wide range of skills.”
  • Band together with others. Time published a fascinating piece on small business owners banding together to adapt during the pandemic. It featured a New York City chef scheduled to open her first restaurant in March. She never got a chance to open it. As you can imagine, she had to transition to takeout and discovered a community of fellow restaurateurs in her neighborhood seeking to help one another. As personal chefs, you work alone. But you live in a community that might have other personal chefs, and certainly small markets, farmers, and other purveyors. You all need to do business. How can you help one another? Perhaps you buy from them, they promote your services. Or you and your fellow personal chefs who have different types of clients can cross promote each other. This calls for networking, zoom meetings, and ingenuity.

What tips resonate with you? Do you have any special tips to share with your colleagues?

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!

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