About Caron Golden

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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Here are my most recent posts

Chefs, what vegetables are you growing this summer? In my garden I’ve been growing two varieties of sweet Italian peppers: Jimmy Nardellos and Marconi Reds. Both are considered frying peppers, although the Marconi Red–yes, singular; so far I’ve only gotten one–is at least three times the size of the Jimmy Nardellos.

These are what you could call “wash and wear” peppers. They don’t need skinning. They barely need seeding. Put them on the grill, chop and add to a sauce, add raw to a salad, pickle them, or sauté and add to eggs or a quiche or wherever you enjoy a pepper.

I decided to culture bend and create a lovely summer appetizer I call Sweet Italian Peppers and Goat Cheese Toasts–and want to share it with you as an easy and really tasty dish you can create for catering gigs. This doesn’t call for a strict recipe. All you’ll need are olive oil, the sweet peppers, a red onion, garlic, sea salt and pepper, a baguette or long loaf of Italian bread, and a creamy cheese.

Slice the peppers into thin strips. Slice the red onion. Mince the garlic. Sauté them in olive oil until they’re soft and just beginning to caramelize, then season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Want to change up or deepen the flavors? Add capers like I did. Or add toasted pine nuts. Add currants or diced dried figs. Or basil leaves. Or sauté a small amount of fennel root. Or a dash of sherry vinegar or dry sherry or your favorite red wine or balsamic vinegar.

Okay, once you’ve cooked up the peppers, turn on the broiler. Slice the bread in half lengthwise and into individual pieces (about 2 1/2 inches in length), then place in the broiler cut side up for just a few minutes. While the bread is lightly toasting, break up the cheese. It could be mozzarella or ricotta or panela, or–as I used–chevre (remember, I already acknowledged culture bending).

Pull the bread out of the oven and top with the pepper mixture. Then dot with the cheese. Put back under the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese begins to melt or darkens. Remove from the oven to plate and serve.

Have extra pepper mixture? Don’t toss it! Leave it for your clients to add to scrambled eggs. Or a tomato sauce. Make polenta and top each serving with a spoonful. Stir it into pasta. Just don’t waste it!

Do you have a much-loved go-to summer appetizer you make for clients? Please share!

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!

We’re in the thick of hot and lazy summer days. Okay, hot but probably not so lazy. Or are they? Have clients gone out of town on vacation? Has business slowed down for other reasons? If so, this is the perfect time to look inward and consider how you can ramp things up for the fall as well as protect the business you already have.

I was poking around the Internet and came across some must-read small business tips for food entrepreneurs. They come from a Sidney Morning Herald interview with Sarah Hancox, a woman in Australia, who provides outside catering and offers consultancy services to small hospitality businesses. The story is five years old, but Hancox’s tips are evergreen. Here they are:

1. Know your trade. These days you need to know your strengths, whether it is cooking or in other parts of the business. If it’s not cooking, take a back seat and let your chef do it but be able to fill in for them if for any reason they can’t.

2. Understand your target market. Know who they are, how to reach them and what they want.

3. Know your key performance indicators. You need to understand your KPIs very well, especially your food and labour costs. This will help you understand your cash flow and what’s happening in your business, including whether someone is stealing from you.

4. Quality products almost always produce a quality dish. People are very educated about food these days – many through watching cooking reality shows – so don’t scrimp on quality.

5. Focus on customer service. Too many in this industry forget about the customer and instead think they are the stars of the show. If no one is buying your product because they are not getting the right service then the venture is pointless.

6. Value your staff. Not only should you reward good work but you should not be afraid to get rid of poorly performing staff. By looking after staff you get low turnover and consistency of product.

7. Plan your menu well. Stick to your skill set and remember who is going to be eating your food as well as where and how.

8. Be organised. There’s a lot that goes into cooking including organising storage and understanding products throughout. When you run a food business you have to wear many hats.

9. Get a good accountant. You need someone who is proactive; they don’t have to understand your industry but they need to be able to make suggestions. You should also outsource anything that you don’t have skills in, especially marketing.

10. Use social media. How successful you are with social media will often depend on the customers you are marketing to. Find out where you are getting responses and capitalise on them through targeted marketing.

Many of our personal chef members are great business people. You understand the value of what Hancox advocates here and have already been implementing these concepts. You also get that having a passion for cooking and feeding people isn’t enough. If you’re going to turn that passion into a business you need to treat it like a business. If you find that your talents are not in keeping books or tracking costs, find someone trustworthy who can do that for you.

And, remember that Candy and Dennis are here to help, with advice and resources that will help you overcome any walls you think you’re facing.

Here’s to a happy August. Refresh, review, and ramp up for a busy fall!

What are your tips for running a small food business well? What are your challenges? 

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!

Peach Tomato Panzanella

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , July 30, 2018

I don’t know what kind of steamy swampy weather you’re enduring right now, but in San Diego, where Candy, Dennis, and I live, it’s been pretty hot and humid. Just the thought of standing over a stove or turning on the oven makes me sink onto my couch in front of a blasting fan. It’s forced me into a chill–salads and summer soups and smoothies. If you feel the same way–along with your clients–here’s a dish you’ll love and that you can make for clients and their special events. And the only heat involved comes from toasting bread.

I’m talking about panzanella. But not your traditional panzanella. This one marries peaches and tomatoes.

Now you may wonder why peaches and tomatoes? But they actually pair beautifully together. And peaches are perfectly lovely in a savory dish. Is it authentic panzanella? Well, consider this, the “pan” is panzanella means bread. Food experts, including one of my heroes, J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, put it this way: “Panzanella is not a tomato salad with bread; it’s a bread salad flavored with vegetables.” I’m going to extend that to fruit. I doubt he’d mind.

There are a couple of tricks to making this salad that I picked up from López-Alt. First is that instead of letting the bread sit out to get stale, try drying it in the oven, tossed with olive oil. What you’ll have are magnificent large croutons that will soak up the vinaigrette and vegetable/fruit juices, yet still remain crispy. It makes for a great bite.

The other is to chop your tomatoes (if you use them), toss them with salt, then drain the juices into a bowl with a colander. This will increase your juice yield, which you’ll want when you make the vinaigrette.

Everything else is easy peasy. While the bread is toasting, make your vinaigrette, chop the peaches and basil. Once the toasted bread has cooled it’s time to put it all together. Then let it rest for half an hour so the vinaigrette can penetrate the bread and the flavors come together.

One other thing I learned–on my own. It doesn’t make for great leftovers unless you’re fond of soggy bread. The next day, facing leftovers, I just picked around the bread and ate the tomatoes and peaches. My suggestion? Add just enough of the croutons for the servings you plan to eat at that meal and save the rest for possible leftovers and add them at that point.

Peach Tomato Panzanella
Adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt’s Classic Panzanella Salad
Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients
1 pound tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ pound rustic bread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups bread cubes)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons for the bread)
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large ripe peaches, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions
Place tomatoes in a colander over a bowl and toss with kosher salt. Place on counter at room temperature to drain for at least 15 minutes. Toss periodically during that time.

To toast the bread, pre-heat oven to 350°.  Place rack in center position in oven. You can also do this in a toaster oven. Toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and firm but before they brown—about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Remove colander from the bowl with tomato juice. Place the colander with the tomatoes into the sink so it won’t drip on the counter. Add the shallot, garlic, mustard, and vinegar to the bowl with the juice and mix. Gradually whisk in the remaining olive oil until it emulsifies. Season vinaigrette with sea salt and pepper to taste.

In a serving bowl mix together the toasted bread, tomatoes, peaches, capers, and basil. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat all the ingredients. Season again with sea salt and pepper. Let rest 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by the bread.

What’s your go-to hot weather dish? 

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!

Looking for a no-cook option for creating a brunch for clients? Then you’ll want to make gravlax. It’s easy to make, a rich and briny alternative to lox or smoked salmon, and perfect for these hot summer days when you don’t want to get near an oven.

First let’s tackle the difference between lox and smoked salmon. Lox is cured salmon, preserved with salt. But back in the day in places where salt was a scarce resource, the fish was smoked. According to Jewish food historian Gil Marks in his “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” during early 1930s America cured salmon fillet became known to Eastern European Jewish transplants as lox. This is the Americanized spelling of the Yiddish word laks, or salmon, itself from the German lachs–and the Swedish gravlax. See where I’m going with this?

Skip ahead past the ways shipping and refrigeration technologies evolved and made intense brining to preserve the fish unnecessary and you have a lightly salted preservation method, which resulted in a smoother, milder tasting fish. What evolved for lox was a method that could include light brining or dry curing in salt and perhaps brown sugar before then cold-smoking it. This method doesn’t cook the fish the way warm-smoking does. The result is a delicate slice instead of flaky flesh.

While we’re here, let’s also address the difference between lox and Nova. Lox became known as the curing style that was wet-brined with no additional smoking or cooking. Nova, with its origins in salmon from Nova Scotia, became known as the method discussed above: mild brining in salt, water, and perhaps brown sugar, then lightly cold-smoked for up to 24 hours. Lox, as anyone who tastes it knows, is the saltier of the two. And, as Marks notes, it’s less expensive because it’s easier to prepare. Today, the terms are largely interchangeable since most of the lox sold today is actually prepared Nova style with cold smoking.

Now to gravlax. Here’s a brined salmon dish that anyone can make with just a few key ingredients. This Scandinavian cured salmon is primarily different from Eastern European lox thanks to the inclusion of dill. Look up recipes for gravlax and you’ll find all sorts of intriguing variations. But what doesn’t change is the salmon belly, salt, and dill. Lots and lots of dill. And time–48 hours in the refrigerator.

You can sweeten it a bit with sugar. You can add vodka to the brine. You can add pepper. You can also add complementary spices. I add fennel seeds and grains of paradise, a cool variation on peppercorns, with a floral scent and flavor.

Here’s how making gravlax works:

Buy the freshest 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of salmon belly you can. Most recipes will call for it to be skin on. I accidentally found myself with a big piece that was supposed to be skin on but wasn’t. It turned out fine.

Make sure you or your fishmonger pulls out all the pin bones in the fish. Then in a bowl mix up your cure: salt, sugar, spices. Mine is a mixture of lightly toasted, then crushed fennel seeds and grains of paradise along with sea salt, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. And have on hand bunches of dill. I also had Absolute Citron vodka to add a distinctly citrusy Scandinavian flavor.

Place half of the dill fronds in a baking dish just large enough to hold the fish. Then sprinkle half of the cure on the dill and place the fish on top and press down gently. Sprinkle the vodka over the top of the fish and then the rest of the cure and the rest of the dill. Cover the fish with plastic wrap.

Now you have to weight it down so the curing mixture will penetrate into the fish. So place another, slightly smaller, baking dish on top of the wrapped fish and a couple of cans into that dish. Refrigerate overnight. After 24 hours, remove the weights and flip the fish over so the cure will penetrate the fish evenly. Put the weights back on the fish and everything back into the refrigerator.

Once the 48 hours has passed you can remove the fish from the refrigerator, remove the weights and unwrap the fish from the plastic. Don’t worry about any liquid that’s accumulated. That’s exactly what you want. Discard the dill and rinse the fish with cold water, removing the salt, sugar, and spices. Pat dry.

Now comes the fun part. You’ll need a knife with as sharp an edge as possible because you’re going to slice the gravlax very thinly at a sharp diagonal. If you have skin on the fish, slice away and off the skin. You can plate the slices in straight lines or as rings. Sliced lemon goes nicely with it, as does diced red onion and capers.

And then we return to our initial conversation. Bagels and cream cheese? Sure, it’s grav”lax” after all. But, how about some marscarpone cheese and black bread for a change?

Gravlax
Serves 8 or more, depending on how many other dishes are served

Ingredients
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon grains of paradise (you can substitute with black peppercorns)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup sea salt
2 bunches of dill
2 tablespoons Absolut Citron vodka (or regular vodka)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon belly, pin bones removed

Preparation
Lightly toast fennel seeds and grains of paradise. When cool, crush them together in a mortar and pestle.

In a bowl mix together the fennel seeds, grains of paradise, both sugars and salt.

Place half of the dill fronds in a pile the size of the salmon in a baking dish just large enough to hold the salmon. Sprinkle half of the curing mixture on the dill. Then set the fish on top. Sprinkle the vodka over the salmon and then press in the rest of the cure. Top with the remaining dill fronds to cover the fish.

Cover the fish with plastic wrap. Place another, smaller baking dish on the fish and put a brick or two cans into that dish.

Refrigerate for 24 hours, then remove the weights and turn the fish. Put the weights back on the fish and refrigerate another 24 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, remove the fish from the refrigerator, remove the weights, and remove the plastic wrap. Discard the dill and rinse the fish under cold water, then pat dry.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the gravlax as thinly as you can at a diagonal. If the salmon still has skin on it, slice away from the skin and discard the skin once the salmon is sliced.

Serve with lemon, diced red onion, capers–and a whipped cheese–on brown bread, pumpernickel, crackers, or a bagel.

What’s your favorite hot weather dish for catering brunch? 

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!

We like to touch base with members to learn their best practices for getting new clients. We’ve written on this subject several times over the years, mostly because marketing is one of the most critical aspects in any business for developing new business.

 

Your strategies tend to break down into a couple of categories. See where you fit it:

  • It’s who you know: Carol Tipton Wold explained, “I’ve gotten more business through relationships and word of mouth than anything else I tried. Belonging to service clubs (Rotary, Lions, Soroptomist, etc.) and volunteering at their events has paid off 10 fold because you make friends who tell their friends. Of course, you always give them the “Because we’re friends” deal. Website, Chamber of Commerce, ads, never worked out.
  • Website: Member Christine Robinson, as well as Katie Muente Losik and Kitchen Kalibur agreed with Tipton Wold about word of mouth–but also added website. In fact, your website is your front door to your business, opening up to a world of information–if you give it the love and care it deserves. It’s also a point of impression. It can either deliver a terrific first impression or turn someone away. Be sure you have the basics (your name, service area, and services, along with contact info), as well as beautiful photos, menu samples, and other information a potential client would want to know. Make it easy to navigate and make sure it’s linked to your social media platforms.

Four additional marketing practices we advocate include some very simple concepts:

  • A professional-looking business card with all contact information. Take advantage of both sides, with one listing your contact info and the other your services–or a mouth-watering photo of a classic dish you prepare. And, please, have them with you at all times! You never know who you’ll meet, even at the market, even at church, even at your kid’s soccer game or on line at the checkout at Old Navy! (That means you also have to be sociable and strike up conversations with strangers.)
  • Up-to-date social media, with beautiful photos. You may not actually get a client via social media, but that account of yours could reinforce a decision to hire you–or turn someone away. Post beautiful photos of food you’ve prepared. Note events you participate in, new types of services you offer, new ingredients you’re working with. Ask questions (the answers can help you identify new approaches to your business or new service areas). Make social media work for you.
  • Networking. Get involved in your community. It doesn’t even have to be a food-oriented organization–just anywhere you’re going to meet people, like your kids’ school, your church or synagogue, a beach clean up group, or a political organization. Volunteer to help put together a meeting or event–or host one–to demonstrate your chops. It’s all about widening your circle and then showing off your skill set.

Cooking Classes

  • Teach classes. Offer cooking classes to clients or others you know to which they can invite friends and family. The classes put you and your skills–and charm–into the spotlight.

What are your most successful strategies for building your client base? What lessons have you learned?

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!

 

 

Aged Fruit 911: Savory Plum Compote

Filed under: Bites & Bits,Cooking Tips,Recipes , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , July 9, 2018

No doubt, like me, you have the best of intentions when you are at the market, especially during spring and summer. All that gorgeous produce in all their vibrant colors and alluring fragrances can be too much to pass up. So you buy. And buy. And buy. You put the veggies away in the bins in the fridge and set out the fruit on the counter to ripen.

And you forget about them. Or you accept too many dinner invitations. Or you just overbought and can’t keep up. But time passes and what was once bursting with freshness and seduction is now just this close to becoming garbage.

Of course, you want to prevent that to begin with, but if you somehow let that produce go beyond nature’s expiration date there are ways to save it before it’s time to toss. Veggies can go into soup or a sauce or undergo roasting. And, the same with fruit, too. Puree strawberries (which have virtually no grace period),  add them to a smoothie, or make jam or sorbet. Turn blueberries into a granita. And, as I did recently, rescue über soft plums and pluots and make a savory compote.

Those plums. Oh, they were delicious when fresh. Dribble down the chin juicy with a hint of crunch. Sweet yet tart. But, then I had a spell of outings and there they sat, waiting–fruitlessly–for me to remember they were there. They softened. They sank. And then finally when they caught my eye again they no longer held any attraction and I tried to ignore them. But there was no ignoring them and since I had some free time–and a gorgeous Berkshire pork chop I planned to make for dinner–it occurred to me that I could work their sad state to my advantage and turn them into compote.

Plums and pluots have plenty of natural pectin so they are perfect for jamming and for compote. Since I only had half a dozen pieces of fruit to work with, I decided on the compote as a perfect accompaniment for the pork chop and in about an hour and a half had a gorgeous purple sauce at the ready.

The process is simple. You’ll sauté shallots and garlic until they’re translucent, add a little wine–in my case, Madeira–and reduce it, then add the plums and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer slowly, stirring periodically, and the liquids will gradually evaporate, leaving you with a deeply rich perfumed sauce that complements pork, chicken, and duck.

Now, I’m offering this in the context of preventing waste, but even if you’re cooking for clients and think they’d enjoy a fruity but savory sauce to accompany the proteins you’re cooking for them, a plum–or peach or other fruit–compote is a lovely addition.

Plum Compote

Ingredients
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot bulb, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Madeira
6 plums, very ripe, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons blackberry balsamic vinegar (or other fruity balsamic)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 dried red chile
2 dried lemon verbena leaves, crushed (or 1 teaspoon fresh, minced)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
In a stainless steel saucepan, add olive oil and heat. When warm, add shallots and garlic. Sweat them until they’re translucent. Add the Madeira and simmer until it disappears.

Add the plums and the rest of the the ingredients and stir to mix. Slowly and gently simmer until the mixture reduces and thickens until jammy–stirring occasionally. It should take about an hour. Discard the cinnamon stick and red chile.

Serve as a sauce with pork, chicken, or duck.

What are the ways you use up tired produce (besides soup)?

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!

Do you ever have an occasion in which you feel you should gift one of your clients? Usually we discuss this around the holidays but over the course of the rest of the year there are birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or other special events your client celebrates. And, how about a thank you on the anniversary of your beginning work for them?

Well, if you’re feeling the need to present a gift, how about making them sea salt caramels? If your client can eat–and absolutely loves–sweets, this will be such a cool way to say thanks or congratulations.

There are certain foods that no matter how simple they actually are to make if you actually endeavored to learn how still have a mystique about them. Caramels, for me, fall into this category. Honestly, we’re talking just four basic ingredients–butter, cream, sugar, and corn syrup. But this quartet, once cooked together, is the foundation of sweet magic–that is, if you use really good ingredients and have the finesse and creativity to take it to a sublime level of deliciousness. I found someone in San Diego, where I’m based, who taught me her secrets.

Nancy Flint created a small business–Sugar Mamma–around caramels five years ago. She’s taken these four basic ingredients and elevated them with various flavorings to create 17 flavors of caramels that you can find all over San Diego County.

Flint makes everything by hand by herself out of her Talmidge home kitchen, usually working in the neighborhood of 12 hours a day every day to meet her orders. She starts by combining her foundational ingredients–the butter, sugar, cream, and corn syrup, in a large pot, heating the mixture over medium high heat until it reaches 248° F–stirring all the while.

“Once the sugar dissolves, you can step away briefly, but stay close,” she advised. “You can stir every minute instead of constantly but you don’t want it to stick or burn.”

With a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper next to her, Flint stirs until she reaches the temperature she wants, at which point she removes the pot from the heat. Then she adds kosher salt and vanilla, stirs to incorporate them and pours the mixture into the pan. If it’s her Sea Salt Caramel flavor, she’ll give the mixture a few minutes to set, then sprinkle Maldon sea salt over it. In general, fruity flavors get the fruit addition during the cooking process. Any alcohol flavor gets that at the end of the cooking process, once it’s off the heat.

If you make these–Flint has generously given us her Sea Salt Caramel recipe–follow these additional tips of hers:

  • Use the best ingredients you can.
  • Pour what comes out into the pan. Don’t scrape the dregs of the pot into the pan because they won’t crystalize. Instead, scrape them into a silicon ice cube mold.
  • Got bubbles? Don’t worry. Flint said they tend to pop on their own over the 12 hours.
  • Got a sticky pot? Soak it in hot water to melt the sugar so the mess will release.
Sea Salt Caramels
from Sugar Mamma
Yield: 240 1-inch pieces
Ingredients
3/4 cup of unsalted butter
4 cups heavy cream
4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups corn syrup
2 teaspoons kosher stalt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Maldon sea salt to sprinkle
Directions
1. Line a 10- X 15-inch jelly pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Combine the butter, cream sugar, and corn syrup in a large pot. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
3. Once the mixture comes to the boil continue stirring by just every minute instead of constantly. Add a candy thermometer to the side of the pot reaching into the caramel mixture. Once it reaches 248° F, remove the pan from the heat.
4. Stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. When mixed well, pour into the jelly pan.
5. After 5 minutes sprinkle the Maldon sea salt over the mixture.
6. Let set for 12 hours or overnight. Cut into 1-inch pieces and wrap them individually in wax paper.
Have you ever made caramels? Do you ever make special edible gifts for clients?

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!

Those of you chefs who cater, especially for vegetarian clients, are probably thrilled that summer produce is finally here and simply begging us to turn it into irresistible meals.

That’s especially true of tomatoes. I plant several varieties of cherry tomatoes in my garden and already am harvesting them, little by little. Most of the time I can’t even wait to take them back into my kitchen. Instead I tend to munch on them  them while watering my garden. There’s really nothing like eating a sweet, sun-warmed, perfectly ripe tomato with one hand while holding a hose in the other.

There’s no point in even mentioning the many ways to enjoy tomatoes. I assume you and your clients have your favorites. But if you’ve never tried making a tomato tarte tatin, you both are missing out, especially if you’re catering a dinner party or brunch. It has a lot going for it–it’s pretty easy to make, requires few ingredients (some of which can be prepped in advance), it’s stunningly gorgeous to present to the table, and it has a sweet savory flavor that you can elevate even more depending on your ingredient choices. Me? I add kalamata olives to insert a little saltiness. I’ve also been known to top it off at the end with shredded burrata.

I made my first one years ago at the home of a friend. She has an abundance of tomatoes on her home’s grounds (yes, it’s that kind of home; it has “grounds.”). One year when she had a bumper crop, she invited a bunch of friends over to make sauce. And I made a tarte tatin. It all went well until I took the masterpiece out of the oven and placed it on the stove to cool. I got involved in something else–I can’t remember what exactly–but I needed to move the tart out of the way and unthinking just wrapped my hand around the skillet’s handle. And screamed.

It was a stainless steel pan that had just come out of a 425-degree oven. And so I ended up with a painful second-degree burn. Yikes.

I learned after that to pay special attention to the pan since then.

Recently when I made the tart I pulled out the only 9-inch skillet I had, a flameware skillet. If you haven’t heard of or used flameware, you’re missing out on a great cooking experience. This is a clay cookware that is specially created to be totally heat resistant, that cooks evenly even at high temperatures, and doesn’t get killer hot the way metal does. I bought mine online at a Minnesota shop cookbook author Paula Wolfert introduced me to, Clay Coyote.

I hadn’t made a tomato tarte tatin in a flameware skillet before but it worked out perfectly. And, significantly, the pan is so light it makes flipping it over onto a plate a breeze, much easier than stainless steel or cast iron, and with almost no sticking–certainly no more than any other metal skillet I’ve used.

The tart itself is a marvel of sweet and savory. There are several ways to make it in terms of ingredients. Sugar instead of honey, sherry vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Whole tomatoes, cherry tomatoes. Whole or sliced tomatoes. Onions. No onions. Whatever. The fundamentals are tomatoes, some kind of caramelizing ingredients, and puff pastry. For me, I enjoy a lot of red onions, cooked down and caramelized in butter and a large pinch of brown sugar. Honey and vinegar. The kalamata olives I mentioned above. And, the star of the dish, whole organic multi-colored cherry tomatoes.

You’ll start by cooking down and caramelizing the onions in a large skillet. Put them aside and in the oven-safe, 9-inch skillet you’re going to make the tart in cook up the honey and water to a point at which it thickens, then add vinegar and swirl to combine the two. Remove the pan from the heat.

You’ll sprinkle the olives over the honey vinegar mixture and start building the tart. The tomatoes go in–whole–over the olives, along with finely minced fresh thyme. (Want to use basil instead? Go for it.) They should cover the entire bottom of the skillet. Then you’ll spoon the onions over the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.

The last step is rolling out the puff pastry sheet and creating a 10-inch round. Place it over the onions and tuck the excess around the tomato onion mixture. Cut some long vents into the pastry.


Before you put the tart into the oven, be sure to place it on a baking sheet covered with foil to catch the tomato juices so they don’t hit the bottom of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes until the crust is nice and puffy and golden brown. Then remove it from the oven and let it cool briefly before running a knife around the edges.

Now comes the moment of truth: Select a plate/platter larger than 9 inches. Place it upside down over the pastry. Be sure to use oven mitts or a thick towel and carefully flip the skillet and plate over, place it on the counter and gently lift the skillet. If all goes well–and why wouldn’t it–you’ll have a beautiful, rainbow of glossy tomatoes staring back at you, encased in a crunchy crust. That’s perfectly good enough as it is, but you can also decorate it with a scattering of basil leaves.

 

Tomato Tarte Tatin
4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
1, 14-ounce package all-butter puff pastry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
Pinch of brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of brown sugar and sauté until onions are caramelized. If you’re using a pan in which there’s some sticking, at the end of sautéing add a couple of tablespoons water and let it cook off, scraping brown bits from bottom of pan.

Transfer onions and brown bits to a bowl.

Combine honey and 3 tablespoons water in an ovenproof 9-inch skillet. Cook over medium heat, swirling pan gently until honey bubbles and thickens, 5 to 6 minutes. Add vinegar and swirl gently for another 2 to 3 minutes until combined. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle olives over honey mixture. Scatter tomatoes and thyme over olives, then spoon onions on top.  Season with salt and pepper.

Unfold puff pastry sheet and roll out into a 10-inch round. Place on top of onions  and tuck edges around the mixture. Cut several long vents on the pastry.

Place tart on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until crust is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around pastry to loosen it from pan, place a large plate upside down over the skillet, and, using oven mitts, flip the skillet upside down, place the plate on the counter, then carefully remove the skillet.

What is your favorite summer dish to prepare for yourself or clients? 

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!

Do you have an adult child, niece or nephew, grandchild, or young friend just starting out in an independent life? Hopefully that young person has at least some foundation in cooking for her or himself, but who couldn’t use a great cookbook, a food bible to turn to? Think back, chefs. It’s probably something you had and cherished–and learned to cook with.

Now that college graduations are a recent memory and the grads are going to be on their own–not to mention the college students moving into their first apartments–wouldn’t the gift of a cookbook be a great thing to surprise them with?

Need some inspiration? I got suggestions from a number of chefs on our APPCA Facebook group:

  • How to Cook Without a Book by Pamela Anderson
  • The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (From Chef Anthony Caldwell: It teaches about developing flavors which is soooooo important!)
  • Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
  • The Betty Crocker Cookbook in hardcover or the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (From Chef Lola Dee: For budding chefs, these are great go to’s to make just about any basic recipe. I’ve had them on my bookshelf all my life and still find myself looking there for certain recipes. They also have a whole section on cuts of meat, and what temperatures to prepare them at.)
  • The 1942 edition of Fanny Farmer Cookbook, the Betty Crocker Cookbook-2nd edition, and The Young Chef from the CIA (From James Haley: I am teaching my sons to cook. I started them off with The Young Chef by the CIA.)
  • The Whole30 Fast and Easy Cookbook by Melissa Hartwig (From Chef Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown: … because it is. And kids today do not like to cook.)

  • The New Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated
  • The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt (From Chef Cliff Chambers: Easy read. Focuses on Culinary Fundaments, which many forget as we progress in the field.)
  • How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Now to the naysayers who say that young people don’t cook, I say they need a better introduction to being self sufficient in the kitchen. Maybe it won’t take at age 21 or at all–and down the road they’ll be clients of yours. Of course, cooking isn’t for everybody. But maybe you will inspire them. Cooking’s a skill that represents independence, that can help economize when they’re just starting out, and could turn into a joyful endeavor that gives them respite in an increasingly crazy world. It’s worth a try and worth sharing your passion in the hopes that it will become theirs.

If you could inspire a young person with a cookbook, what would it be? What is your favorite cookbook?

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!

Glazed Duck Breast

Filed under: Catering,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , June 12, 2018

Hey, chefs, are you catering dinner parties? If so, I came across a divine dish you’ll want to incorporate into your offerings. This Glazed Duck Breast is being made by the young chef of a San Diego restaurant called Cloak & Petal (a place you’ll want to visit next time you visit). For this dish chef Dominic Valenzuela created a yuzu marmalade for the glaze, and sits it in a swirl of potato puree, accompanied by confit turnips. Feel free to substitute the puree with a seasonal vegetable puree.

The first thing you’ll do is brine the two skinned and boned duck breasts in one quart of water mixed with a tablespoon each of salt and sugar. Valenzuela pointed out that this simple brine works just as well for chicken and pork. Note that the duck breast is skinned but still has a nice layer of fat on it. You’ll trim the excess fat–but, Valenzuela suggested, keep the excess to render and then cook scrambled eggs or sauté vegetables. Score the fat and place the breasts in the brine. You can brine it for a couple of hours or up to overnight.

Once the duck breasts have been brined, pre-heat the oven to 500° and score the breasts to help render the fat for crispness. Heat a skillet, preferably aluminum, cast iron, or stainless steel–not non-stick, and once it’s smoking hot, add a little melted butter or ghee or even vegetable oil to the pan.

Lay the duck breasts fat side down on the skillet and cook for about a minute and a half. Sprinkle some ground black pepper onto the breasts before turning them and cooking for another minute. Then flip them again and place the skillet into the oven for 7 to 8 minutes for medium rare (think of duck as meat, not poultry). Add or subtract cooking time in 2-minute increments for rare or for medium to well done. Remove the skillet from the oven and let the breasts rest for 3 to 5 minutes, tented with foil.To make the puree, dice and boil the potatoes until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Place in a blender with 2 teaspoons of salt and about 1 1 /4 cup of heavy cream. Puree, then pour into a bowl with a sieve to remove any lumps and make impeccably smooth. It reminded me of the texture of mayonnaise. Valenzuela explained that the puree can be made in advance and reheated in a pan with a little butter.


Valenzuela then sautéed mizuna, a Japanese green (you can substitute with other favorite greens), in butter, adding a splash of sake and lemon juice for flavor. He also placed his yuzu marmalade in a pan and added ponzu and unsalted butter to create the glaze, swirling it around to warm it until it reach a boil, at which point he took it off the heat.

Now comes time to plate. First place a mound of puree on the plate and using the back of a large spoon, push it into a swirl. Place the greens in the center. Then slice each duck breast and (tip) place on a paper towel first to drain the released liquid before placing on the puree, crispy side up on each plate, fanned out. Finally, spoon the glaze over the duck. Valenzuela then garnished the dish with cilantro oil and edible flowers.

Glazed Duck Breast
from Dominic Valenzuela of Clock & Petal
Serves 2

Ingredients
For duck
1 quart water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 duck breasts, skinned and boned
1 tablespoon melted butter, ghee, or vegetable oil

For potato puree
2 russet potatoes, peeled
Ground pepper to taste
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 heavy cream

For greens
1 tablespoon butter or oil
2 cups mizuna or other greens
Sake
Lemon juice

For glaze
1/4 cup marmalade
1 ounce ponzu
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Mix together water, salt, and sugar. Score the fat on the duck breasts and add them to the brine, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one to two hours or as long as overnight.

Do a large dice of the potatoes and add to a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain and add potatoes to a blender bowl. Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Puree.

Place a sieve over a bowl and pour the potato puree onto the sieve. Press through into the bowl. Set aside the puree.

Pre-heat oven to 500°. Remove the duck breasts from the brine. Heat a skillet until it’s smoking. Add melted butter and lay each breast fat side down and away from you onto the pan. Sprinkle some ground pepper on each breast and let cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Turn over and leave for another minute. Flip again and place in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Add or subtract cooking time in 2-minute increments for rare or for medium to well done. Remove the skillet from the oven and let the breasts rest for 3 to 5 minutes, tented with foil.

While the breasts rest, sauté the greens in a tablespoon of butter or oil. Add a splash of sake and lemon juice. Once the greens have cooked, remove from heat.

Make the glaze by adding 1/4 cup of marmalade, an ounce of ponzu, and 2 tablespoons butter to a warm pan. Swirl around to keep the butter from breaking. Once it reaches a boil, remove from heat.

To plate, place a mound of puree on a plate and, using the back of a large spoon, swirl it around. Place the cooked greens in the center. Slice the duck and place on a paper towel to drain the liquid, then fan the slices of each breast onto each plate. Spoon the glaze over the duck.

Do you cook with duck for clients? What’s your favorite duck dish?

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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