Spatchcock Your Client’s Holiday Turkey

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 19, 2016

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Yeah, I know. For some people a roasted turkey is strictly a Thanksgiving affair. But many people also feature turkey for the Christmas holiday table. 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.

But heads up–it really only works well with turkeys 14 pounds and smaller so it will fit in a roasting pan. Think that’s not a big enough bird for a crowd? Well, I had 14 people for Thanksgiving dinner at my house and with all the sides that 14-pound bird was plenty and there were still some leftovers.

Here’s how you do it. Place the turkey on a cutting board and pull out whatever may be in the cavity (neck, giblets), trim any excess fat, and drain the bird of any liquid. Pat it down with paper towels so it’s as dry as possible. Using a very good pair of kitchen shears, cut the bird from one end to the other along the backbone. Most people cut the backbone out entirely but I like to keep it and roast it too. When you’ve done that open up the bird skin side up with the breast facing you. Place the heel of one hand over the breast bone and your other hand over the first. Bear down on the breast until you feel and hear a crack. That would be the breast bone. Now your turkey can rest flat on the pan, which is where it should now go.

Pre-heat a conventional oven to 450° F.

I season my bird lightly with garlic salt and paprika. Then I rub in olive oil (you can also use butter) and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over before tucking the remaining lemon halves under the bird. You can also add slices of onion and fresh herbs.

Put the turkey in the oven and let it roast for about an hour and 20 minutes. Don’t baste it. Really. Just leave it alone so the skin gets crispy.

At 1 hour, 20 minutes, pull the turkey out of the oven and measure its temperature with a meat thermometer to test if it’s done. The breast should hit 150° and the thigh should be 165°. If you’ve hit that, turn off the oven and lightly tent the turkey (if not, put the turkey back in the oven and try again in five minutes). Let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.

Yeah, it’s that simple. Here’s my cheat sheet from year to year:

Turkey instructions

 

P.S. This is a great roasting technique for chicken and even Cornish game hens (just shorten the roasting time).

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Can you believe that Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks? In Southern California, it may be November but as of this writing we’re sweating it out in a heat wave–and turkey and all the fixings seem like a strange meal to be preparing. But it’s here and maybe the grill is better than the oven for the big bird.

If you’re catering your first Thanksgiving and feeling a little dread, relax. Do what you’re so good at as a personal chef: prepare. APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace is a firm believer in streamlining holiday gigs to keep them from becoming overwhelming. You’ve already done your client assessment, so you know what foods your client and their guests can eat or need to avoid before you planned your menu. And, we’re going to assume that if the meal needs to be vegetarian or vegan, you’ve got experience in that milieu.

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So, really, the biggest things to do are advanced planning and shopping along with mindful prep. With that in mind, Candy offers seven tips to make your Thanksgiving week easier:

  • Make turkey stock to be used in multiple dishes in advance of your event. Roast vegetables and puree in advance to have for a gravy base.
  • Measure and prepackage everything to be used in assembling your recipes. You’ve got that down, of course. Personal chefs are the experts in food packaging and meal storage for clients. But this time, use your skills to set up efficient and smooth assembly of components used to prepare the holiday meal your clients are looking forward to.
  • Are you baking cornbread? Then be sure to pre-measure all dry ingredients, then package and label them. Do the same with the wet ingredients. Same with stuffing.
  • If you’re making cranberry relish, again, pre-measure the berries, dried cherries, etc. and package and label them separately from the liquid components, which you’ll also package. Assemble the relish on the day of service.
  • Vegetables can take a lot of prep. So get that done ahead of time, including any blanching, shocking, and cooling so you can store them and make the recipes with little fuss on the day of the meal. Do the same with your herbs and spices–prep, measure, and store them. If you’re using the same herbs and spices for different dishes, separate them for each dish and mark them.Haricot verte, Escondido FM
  • Clean and prep your bird ahead of time. If you’re dealing with a frozen turkey, be sure you give it enough time to thaw in the fridge. If you’re going to do a wet or dry brine, you’ll need to start that process within a couple of days of the holiday.
  • If space on the stove or in the oven is limited, identify the dishes that can be cooked in advance, frozen, and then reheated for the meal. Many pies–apple and pecan, for instance, as well as stuffing, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes–can be made ahead of time, wrapped well, and frozen to be reheated briefly in the oven or (except the pies) in the microwave.

Working a day or even several days ahead will save you time, and keep you sane and strong on Thanksgiving and other holiday service. Hey, do it right and you will still be able to enjoy the day yourself!

Happy Thanksgiving!

What dishes are on your Thanksgiving menu for clients? What tips can you share to make holiday catering more manageable?

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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Come September and it’s soon time for the high holidays. This year, they fall late, with Erev Rosh Hashanah (the eve of the Jewish New Year) falling on October 2 and Kol Nidre (the eve of Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement) falling on October 11. Rosh Hashanah and breaking the fast of Yom Kippur call for traditional Jewish comfort food–and in my family that always includes a sweet noodle kugel–or lokshen kugel if you want to go all the way with the Yiddish.

Noodle kugel (there’s also potato kugel for Passover)–basically a noodle pudding or casserole–is dish usually made with wide egg noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and butter. Made well, it’s a sweet, fluffy, cheesy dish. When I was growing up, my grandparents would often show up at our house for Friday night dinner, almost always bearing three things–her Hawaiian chicken, a Pyrex dish bubbling with a warm kugel, and mandelbread (the Jewish version of biscotti) for dessert. Because kugel is such a cholesterol nightmare it’s no longer something I eat much of, but if I get half the chance I’m all over it. Plus, it holds up well as a leftover or frozen and reheated. For personal chefs with Jewish clients who call on you to make Jewish holiday foods, this is a must-have in your repertoire.

I’ve had many versions of noodle kugel over the years and tend to avoid it at most Jewish delis because at least our local ones in San Diego don’t do a great job with it. A lousy kugel is kind of flat and dense and unpleasantly chewy. Whether it includes raisins or other dried fruit, pineapple chunks, or peaches (as one friend prepared it), it should be a bite of rich creaminess under a crisp top. In looking at other recipes over the years I’ve found a key difference between my Nana’s and these others. Nana always separated the egg yolks from the whites and beat the whites until stiff. You can’t miss with that technique–even if you use cottage cheese (yet another ingredient option).

This recipe below is about as traditional as you can get. But you can change it up with extra ingredients you enjoy, like reconstituted dried or fresh or canned fruit, and different toppings. I added a little brown sugar to my most recent kugel and enjoyed the deeper flavor it created.

Nana’s Noodle Kugel
Yield: 12 servings, depending on how you slice it

Ingredients
1 pound dried wide egg noodles, cooked and well drained
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional), soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pint sour cream
6 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat egg yolks with sugar and add to cooked noodles.

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Beat egg whites until stiff. Add butter, cream cheese, and sour cream to noodles. Gently fold in egg whites. Yes, it will be loose. Don’t worry. It will come together while cooking.

Pour mixture into buttered 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan. If you want you can make a topping with brown sugar, cinnamon, and granulated sugar (and/or breadcrumbs, crumbled graham crackers, streusel, or crushed cornflakes).

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Bake for about an hour until the center is set and the noodles are light brown on top. Let the kugel rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

Kugel tray

What special dishes have your clients requested for the High Holidays? Do they ever give you family recipes 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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Turning Matzoh into a Meal

Filed under: Holiday Foods , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , April 11, 2016

 

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Jews around the world will begin celebrating the eight days of Passover beginning Friday, April 22 at sundown. Traditionally, the first two nights are organized around the Seder, but you knew that.

And, you probably know that for these eight days Jews are forbidden from eating hametz, or leavened food. That’s why we eat matzo. It’s all wrapped up in the symbolism of the holiday, which commemorates the sudden liberation of the ancient Jews from Egyptian slavery. As children, we’re told of the story of the Jews fleeing Egypt with such haste that there was no time to bake bread that needed time to rise. So the flour and water cracker that is matzo became the staple then and ever since has been eaten every Passover. And, trust me, even though we’re talking two, maybe three ingredients (salt), every family has their favorite brand of matzo. Of course, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make it yourself.

Even with this dietary restriction, it’s amazing the dishes you can turn out. Matzo offers tremendous versatility and below I’ll share some ways you can use it for Jewish clients who want you to prepare kosher for Passover meals.

Matzoh brei2

Soak sheets of it in hot water, drain the water, break it up and add some beaten eggs, then put in a frying pan with oil or butter and you have matzo brei. Now some people use a 1:1 ratio of matzo sheet to egg and enjoy something more akin to a matzo omelet. My family does a 2:1 matzo to egg ratio. I prefer this style which gives you beautiful crispy puffed out pieces of matzo that, depending on your particular style, can be served with applesauce, sugar or salt. I’m a salt girl myself but our family was split with Mom’s side also going for salt and Dad’s for the sweet stuff. (If you’re Jewish, no doubt you have the same sweet versus savory divide in your family at Hanukah over potato latkes.)

Matzo can also be the basis of a sweet, crunchy “brittle,” as in covering it with chocolate or butterscotch or caramel and nuts, baking briefly and then, when cool, breaking it into bite-size pieces. Google “matzo brittle” and you’ll find scads of recipes with any number of variations. In this case, the matzo essentially is just a delivery system for the sugar, chocolate and nuts. And not a bad one, actually.

Salted Chocolate Matzoh2

And, for those who simply cannot live for a week without their favorite dishes, there are recipes for matzo lasagna, matzo spanikopita and matzo quesadillas. And, yes, even matzo pizza. Thanks, but I can do without for awhile. Of course, if you’re desperately seeking ideas for other things you can do with matzo, you have to watch this wonderful video.

Then there’s farfel, which is basically matzo that’s been broken up. Farfel can be used as a cereal substitute or to make sweets (it takes some imagination, but yes, there are recipes for desserts with farfel like this chocolate nut cluster), kugel (pudding) or stuffing. I know someone on Twitter who is using it to make granola with dried blueberries, apricots, sliced almond and pecans. She’s changing it up from this LA Times recipe.

Matzoh meal

And, finally, if you grind matzo you get matzo meal. And matzo meal itself is endlessly versatile. Use it as a bread crumb substitute or pretty much anything for which you’d use flour. You can buy it in a box or, if you’re feeling industrious, grind it yourself using a blender or food processor.

Of course, if matzo meal is known for anything, it’s for being the basis of matzo balls, but during the week of Passover, once the Seder is history and I have to come up with ways to live without my daily bread, I often turn to matzo meal for cooking. Look on the panel of most boxes and you’ll find a recipe for pancakes, in which beaten egg whites play a prominent role to fluff them up. I also use matzo meal to bread and saute fish fillets or skinless, boneless chicken pieces for oven frying. I mix some with grated Parmesan cheese to top a baked tomato or roasted vegetables. And, even when it’s not Passover, I like to use it as the binder for zucchini pancakes (grate the zucchini and onion, wring out to get rid of the liquid, add a beaten egg, minced garlic, salt & pepper and matzo meal to bind it together, then fry in a little olive oil in a skillet).

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Are these enough ideas to help you help your clients through the week?

Do you make Passover foods for clients? What are your/their favorite recipes?

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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Richie Vought

For me, corned beef is a special treat since I don’t eat much meat anymore. Year-round it’s the ultimate Jewish sandwich, sliced on corn rye and slathered with mustard, with some cole slaw on the side. But once a year corned beef, with cabbage and boiled potatoes, belongs to the Irish and is shared with all of us.

So, how did corned beef become corned beef? I went over to one of San Diego’s most prominent butcher shops, Iowa Meat Farms to speak with master meat cutter Richie Vought.

When Richie Vought was growing up, he used to visit his dad’s workplace, Stan Glenn’s meat palace in Chula Vista, a town near the Mexican border in San Diego County. Two memories stand out: the hot dogs that Glenn used to give away to kids and the line of wooden barrels in a corner of the walk-in cooler in the back, all holding large pieces of meat brining into corned beef.

Decades later, Vought, a second generation meat cutter (Dad was a meat cutter and Mom was a “butcherette” during World War II), works under Glenn at Iowa Meat Farms. And, those barrels? They’re no longer wood, instead your basic 32-gallon plastic trash cans, but inside is the beginning of a most delicious corned beef based on years of playing around with the brining recipe to replicate those flavors Vought remembers. Iowa Meat Farms and its sister shop, Siesel’s Meats, sell between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds of corned beef a year, mostly around St. Patrick’s Day but they do carry it year round.

Corned beef got its name because the beef was preserved with coarse grains–or corns–of salt, going back hundreds of years before refrigeration. The technique could also be applied to pork. Brining has since replaced salt cures, but the name remains. Now, is it truly an Irish dish when paired with cabbage? The website Irish Cultures and Customs provides research that they say shows that it’s about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs; beef was just too pricey and pork was the preferred meat, particularly bacon joints. But Irish immigrants to the U.S. found that beef was cheaper than in the mother country. So the newcomers treated the beef in the same way they did the bacon joints, soaking off the excess salt, and then boiling or braising the meat with cabbage.

At Iowa Meat Farms, the process begins with trimming the large brisket of excess fat and separating the two overlapping muscles–the round and the deckle, or point.

The round and the deckle-raw

The round (left) and the deckle, or point of the brisket

Then they prepare a salt brine that includes sodium nitrate, phosphate, pink salt, sugar, pickling spices, garlic, and water. In go the pieces of meat with the brine into those containers to brine for six weeks. This breaks down the muscle and lets the meat absorb the brine’s flavors.

Brining

Once the meat comes out of the brine it’s ready for cooking. Here’s what you do:

  1. Place the meat in a pot, with just enough water to cover. If you want, you can add a few fresh cloves a garlic, but that’s really it.
  2. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender. Tender = inserting a fork into the meat and trying to lift it out. If the meat comes up with the fork, it’s still not ready. If it falls off immediately, it’s done. Vought tells me that it should take about three hours for a two-and-a-half-pound point and two hours for a five-pound piece of round.
  3. If you like to boil vegetables to accompany the corned beef, Iowa Meat Farms suggests that you cook the meat first and keep it warm in a low oven, covered with foil. Then layer the vegetables–potatoes, carrots, cabbage–into a pot with the potatoes on the bottom, covered by the carrots and then the cabbage. Then strain enough of the cooking liquid into the pot to cover the carrots. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook until tender–perhaps 30 to 45 minutes.
The round, cooked and ready for slicing

The round, cooked and ready for slicing.

 

The point, also cooked, and perfect accompanied by boiled cabbage and potatoes, slathered in Irish butter. Be sure to cut against the grain.

The point, also cooked, and perfect accompanied by boiled cabbage and potatoes, slathered in Irish butter. Be sure to cut against the grain.

Alternatively, you can cook the meat in an oven, placing it in a covered roaster and adding enough boiling water to nearly cover the meat. Tightly cover the roaster and place in a 350-degree oven. It should take roughly the same amount of time to cook. This is a good method if you have a particularly large piece of meat.

Now for serving. The smooth round makes for wonderful sandwiches. I pulled out a couple of slices of rye bread, slathered them with deli mustard mixed with horseradish and had a delicious lunch. At the shop, the folks used the point for their sandwiches and they looked equally good.

Corned beef sandwich

Vought told me his favorite way of preparing corned beef for his family is to blend together French’s yellow mustard, a couple of teaspoons of horseradish, and honey. Then he smears it over the top of the cooked corned beef and runs it under the broiler for about three minutes. You pull it out just as it starts to bubble and glaze. Let it cool, then slice and serve with cabbage, boiled potatoes, and butter.

Are you preparing corned beef for clients on St. Patrick’s Day? What’s your favorite way to serve 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.

 

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Salad with poinsettia2

Looking for a break from all of the holiday indulgences that too often temp us to overdo with tempting rich foods and sweets? Both you and your clients are probably trying to balance the inevitable splurges at parties with some exercise and nutritious meals, as well as strategies for keeping the holiday fare healthier. After all, as much fun as this time of year is, it’s also very stressful. The best thing you can do for yourself and your clients is to fuel right so that the celebrations are welcome and enjoyed.

We’ve put together a dozen links to sites that have great suggestions for enjoying a healthy diet during this period–and we have a great Holiday Kale Salad from our own Candy Wallace, APPCA’s executive director.

Let’s start with the links.

And here’s Candy’s gorgeous salad.

As she says, a colorful holiday kale salad using seasonal fruits, nuts with or without roast poultry can satisfy your hunger without adding to your waistline during these days of temptation. It’s is a seasonal holiday salad that my family and friends look forward to each holiday.

One thing to remember about kale is that it can be tough and even slightly bitter if simply torn and tossed into a salad bowl, but can easily be transformed into a more tender and even sweeter green by handling or massaging it with acidity such as fresh lemon juice.

There is no trick to it, just remove the ribs and stems and place the torn kale into a bowl. Add fresh lemon juice and “massage” with your hands or repeatedly turn with tongs for 3 to 5 minutes. This will soften the kale and reduce the volume by about ½. The end result is worth the extra step.

Just add the delicious fresh ingredients you selected for your salad and set in the refrigerator for up to half an hour before serving.

 

Candy's Kale Salad2

All Hail Holiday Kale Salad
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

1 Honeycrisp apple – peeled and sliced into matchstick cuts
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ lemon – juiced for massaging the kale
1/2 lemon – juiced to pour over apple slices to keep from turning brown
¼ head red cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot – shredded or thin sliced
½ cup dried pitted tart Montmorency cherries (available at Trader Joe’s)
½ cup jumbo raisin medley (available at Trader Joe’s)
½ cup toasted walnuts, rough chopped
½ cup salted peanuts
Shredded roast chicken or turkey (2 cups if the salad is an entree, 1 cup if it’s a side)

Traditional Slaw Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup white wine, champagne or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ tsp salt

Directions

Peel and slice apple, combine with lemon juice to keep from discoloring. Set aside.

Shred cabbage and carrot on box grater or slice into thin strips. Add to kale.

Add dried cherries, jumbo raisins, chopped toasted walnuts and salted peanuts to kale.

Add sliced apples and pomegranate seeds.

Add roast poultry.

Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. Use just enough to coat the salad. As an alternative you can also use a citrus vinaigrette.

How are you keeping it healthy over the holidays? What’s your go-to recipe for a healthy holiday-time meal?

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.

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Candy and I have been talking about all the various issues that crop up for personal chefs over the holidays. So we have several posts planned to help you get through the season and do some planning for the coming year. For this post, we look at catering over the holidays.

“If you’re a personal chef who includes catering under your business umbrella–or you’re making the leap this year–then the holidays can be a time when you’re booking fewer Monday through Friday meal service cook dates and instead booking more cocktail and dinner parties through the end of the year,” said Candy. “There’s no more critical time to have a plan and strategy for catering these very special events. Perhaps your clients don’t have optimal kitchen facilities for prepping the dishes. Then you need to book commercial space. No doubt you’ll need special equipment. You’ll have to come up with a formula to have the right amount of food–and know what kind of food works best in a buffet and how to plan portions. You need to know how to display and present your dishes and tables.”

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Candy realized that the best source for all this advice was already pulled together by Chef April Lee of Tastefully Yours. Some of you who attended the 2013 Personal Chef Summit probably heard her make this presentation. But for those of you who weren’t there–or want a refresher–here it is. Many thanks to April for updating her presentation for this post–especially given the busy holiday season!

Let the holiday season begin! Happy Delicious Holidays from Candy, Dennis, and me!

Buffets and Banquets: How to Please a Crowd
By April Lee

Planning and Organization: More than just date, place, time, and number of guests
Here are the basics you need to address:

  • Client’s budget (add 5 percent overage for unexpected expenses)
  • Additional help (sous chef, assistants, bartender, etc.)
  • You must have everything spelled out in the contract, including what you are NOT providing, because you don’t want any surprises the day of the event, such as your client asking you if you brought table linens, champagne glasses, or other party supplies/equipment.For large events, you need to include the expense for renting a commercial kitchen, which may include extra fees for refrigerated storage of prepared food.
  • Onsite visit is mandatory. Here’s what to look for:
    • Availability of equipment/rental of equipment
    • Access, layout and flow
    • Where to set up staging and holding areas
    • Where to store supplies
    • Where electrical outlets are located
    • Access time
    • Parking availability

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Equipment: Another key component of planning and organization

  • Insulated Food Carriers (Cambro) – food safety first and always
  • Instant-read thermometers
  • Chafers/Steam Tables and chafing fuel
  • Warming Trays
  • Buffet Servers
  • Insulated coolers
  • Freezable ice sheets
  • Folding 6-foot banquet tables
  • Platters & Bowls (all sizes, shapes): White ceramic is best
  • Butane lighters
  • Table sign holders
  • Extras! You need to bring extras of everything so make sure you’re able to transport not only all the food, but all of the equipment.

 

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What Kind of Food: What works and doesn’t work on a buffet?
What Works:

  • Long braised or slow cooked meats (e.g., Beer Braised Short Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, Osso Buco, etc.)
  • Casseroles (e.g, Lasagna, Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Strata, Moussaka, etc.)
  • Meats with gravies or glazes
  • Sauced meats with rice, mashed potatoes, pasta (Moroccan Lamb Stew, Beef Stroganoff, Coq au Vin, etc.)
  • Contrasting textures from different cooking methods
  • Contrasting colors
  • Balance between cold and hot foods
  • Balance between expensive and inexpensive foods (always place more expensive dishes toward the end of the buffet)

What Doesn’t Work:

  • Fried foods, in general (e.g., tempura veggies, fries, etc.)
  • Foods which are runny (e.g., au jus, brothy dishes, etc.)
  • Foods which require extra utensils (e.g., seafood forks)
  • Clashing cuisines and overpowering, unbalanced flavors
  • Foods of the same color
  • Foods of the same texture
  • Rare to medium rare beef or delicate seafood in chafers (these items will always overcook just sitting in food warmers)

How Much Food: These are the standard minimums for buffets ranging from 25 to more than 100 people.

  • 2 to 3 Entrées (meat, poultry, seafood)
  • 1 Non-Meat Entrée
  • 1 to 2 Hot Starches (potatoes, pasta, rice or other grain)
  • 1 to 2 Hot Vegetable (one green, one non-green, 2 textures)
  • 1 to 2 Salads
  • Bread/rolls (optional, dependent on menu)
  • 2 to 3 Desserts
  • Beverages and Coffee Station

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Biggest Question: Portion Size and Number of Portions

This is, by far, the most important question I get asked all the time: How much of each dish? This is also a most critical aspect to understand; otherwise you could end up (1) underestimating the cost and having to eat the extra expense yourself or (2) overestimating the amount needed and ending up with an enormous excess of food which is not just a waste of resources but will be seen as a waste of the client’s money and unprofessional on your part for grossly miscalculating what was needed for the event.

There are several factors that can affect portion size. These include the purpose of the event (e.g., art exhibition reception versus wedding reception), the age and gender of the guests (younger people eat more), the time of day and length of the event, and any pre- or post-event functions. Mid-afternoon or late evening receptions which aren’t meant to serve as a meal require less food than events which are meant to include full meals (this includes heavy hors d’oeuvres buffets).

AP versus EP: This is a crucial concept to understand. In order to make accurate cost estimates, “as purchased” (AP) versus “edible portions” (EP) calculations must be made before you make a formal job quote to your client. AP refers to how you buy any particular ingredient (e.g., whole, untrimmed beef tenderloin). EP refers to the finished product result after you have prepped and cooked it. So, with a whole beef tenderloin, for example, you’ll lose a great deal due to waste/trimming plus shrinkage from cooking, perhaps losing as much as 20% of the total raw weight to get to the finished product. This means that the yield (the EP) is only 80% of the total raw weight of the meat. If you want to serve 100 people 4 oz. of tenderloin, then you will need 400 oz. or 25 pounds EP (which is after it is prepped and cooked). But you will need to buy about 31 pounds AP of untrimmed whole tenderloin in order to get your yield of 25 pounds EP (31 x 0.80 = 24.80). Obviously, other proteins which don’t require much trimming, e.g., boneless, skinless chicken breasts, will have a smaller percentage of loss, maybe 10%, so your calculations will depend on the type and cut of protein.

AP versus EP calculations affect everything, however, not just proteins. If you buy 1o pounds of romaine lettuce heads, you will end up with about 8 pounds or less after you discard the outer leaves and the tough ribs. With grains and pasta, the numbers go the other way: 10 pounds of dry pasta will yield almost 18 pounds of cooked pasta. It is essential that you use the food production charts (sample charts below) to help you estimate the amount of each type of food to buy in order to meet the needs of your client’s event without miscalculating either the cost or amounts. There are very detailed and definitive AP vs. EP charts available in catering handbooks and food production textbooks. (References listed below Food Portion/Quantity Chart below)

*Figures compiled from “Food for Fifty” by Mary Molt, 13th Edition and “Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen” by Nicole Aloni

*Figures compiled from “Food for Fifty” by Mary Molt, 13th Edition and “Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen” by Nicole Aloni

 

Microsoft Word - GRAINS YIELD CHART.docx

When preparing entrée buffets (lunch or dinner), you’ll need half-size portions for all entrees (3 to 4 ounces per person EP) and half-size or smaller portions for sides, depending on the number of sides offered (2 to 3 ounces per person EP) and whether there will be dessert as well. Most guests want a taste of everything so will tend to take half-size portions (or smaller in some cases, like lasagna).

Hors D’Oeuvres and Appetizer Dinner Buffets

These, of course, are the most time-consuming and labor-intensive food. They’re the most difficult food to transport safely and the most space-consuming food to store. So, choose time-efficient recipes–not just easy ones. It’s okay to use purchased products as part of the display, but remember that quality is first and foremost, the end product must be top notch, and use high-end resources.

The number of selections and number of pieces per person is dependent upon the type of event being catered:

For one-hour receptions: 4 different foods, 6 to 8 pieces per person

For longer lunch or dinner receptions (2 to 3 hours): Minimum of 6 different tastes, 10 to 12 pieces person or 12 to 15 pieces with desserts

For food not in pieces, such as soft cheeses, spreads, dips, terrines, and pates, plan on 1 ounce per person.

 

fruitkabob

Display and Presentation: We eat with our eyes first!

Delicious food is one component of catering. Making it look not just appealing but irresistible is another. Here are some things to keep in mind as you design your presentation:

  • Think color: Contrasting food colors and boldly colored fabrics, not just tablecloths. Fabric remnants are wonderful display accessories.
  • Think height: Vary the height of platters and trays; use vertical containers or displays for food; tilt cold trays/platters on two corners towards guests. Glass blocks (used for showers and basements) from the hardware store make beautiful and stable risers for heavy bowls and platters. Wrap sturdy boxes in brightly colored or iridescent wrapping paper to use as risers for lighter platters and baskets.
  • Think textures: Vary cooking methods for differently textured foods; use different fabric textures on the table(s)
  • Think space: Don’t crowd food; leave 18 inches for each dish; set off food against white space for a clean and uncluttered display

Think WOW! Here are some resources for getting inspired to make your presentation pop!

Take a look at websites which feature beautiful hors d’oeuvres or small plate foods. These can include your favorite tapas restaurant or catering industry supply vendors, because seeing professionally designed small ware or miniature food items (chocolate shells, baked cones, etc.) will inspire you. You’ll get an instant idea of what your own creations will look like, presented in creative and eye-catching ways. They may even give you new ideas for appetizers that you can offer to your clients. The following companies have particularly well-designed sites with great photos which will excite and motivate you:

  • Albert Ulster Imports (www.auifinefoods.com): Edible food vessels (savory and sweet), decorations, glazes, personalized chocolates, molecular gastronomy supplies, etc.
  • Restaurant Ware (www.restaurantware.com): “Fashion for Food” – specializing in small ware: plastic, bamboo, glass in every shape and size. There’s no way you will peruse this site without coming away with new ideas!
  • Appetizers USA (appetizersusa.com): Over 200 different hors d’oeuvres from which many hotels, caterers, country clubs, and other foodservice companies order. Can order by tray, not by the case.

Good luck and have fun wowing your clients and their guests this holiday season!

Are you making the leap into catering for the holidays this year? What are your biggest concerns? If you’re experienced, what are your tips for newbies?

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.

Photos courtesy of April Lee

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Pickled Beets as Holiday Gifts

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , October 26, 2015

pickled beets2

You know what’s going to happen once the stores clear the shelves of Halloween costumes and decorations. In come all the flotsam and jetsam of the holidays. If you’re starting to plan ahead for client or vendor gifts, think pickling and preserving. These two home arts are perfect to show off your culinary creativity and they represent nothing if not affection for the recipients. (They’re not a bad marketing tool for personal chefs either.)

Personally, I love making pickles–bread and butter, dill, onions, garlic. If it grows in the ground, it’s a candidate for pickling. But I have to admit I am no beet fan and not even pickling can help me there. However, my dad adores them and asked me to make them for him. And, of course I would never say no. So after doing some research I came up with a pickling recipe for beets that resulted in a snack he loves. If you’re looking for a colorful gift to make clients for the holidays–something that will really grab their attention–this is it.

Pickling gives you a great opportunity to be creative with different flavors. Now my dad has Alzheimer’s Disease and it seems to also be affecting his palate. He just likes the basics. I scoured cookbooks and online recipes for something with simple flavors–nothing fancy or exotic. Cloves and cinnamon? Out. Tarragon? Out. The more I read, the more variations on a theme I saw. I could boil them or roast them. Put them in the refrigerator to let the brine penetrate over days or use a hot water bath to sterilize and can them. So many options.

Well, here’s what I finally decided on. Roasting root vegetables is always a good thing, so I trimmed the stems (saving the beet greens for my mom and a neighbor to enjoy), then rubbed the beets in olive oil, and roasted them with large shallots.

I made a simple brine with white wine vinegar, sugar, salt, a couple of bay leaves, and yellow mustard seeds.

I washed a couple of quart jars in very hot soapy water, filled them with cut up beets and shallots and poured the boiled brine over them. After sealing the jars with the lids and screw rings, I put the jars in the fridge for a few days.

That’s it. The toughest part–aside from red-stained fingers and living with the aroma of roasted beets–was peeling the roasted beets. The skins don’t uniformly just slip off, unlike what many recipes will tell you. Keep a paring knife on hand to deal with the pieces of skin that simply won’t budge. And, by the way, the paper towel rubbing method wasn’t effective either.

Ultimately, it was no big deal. The beets got peeled and everything else was ridiculously easy. And Dad? He was a happy guy.

Pickled beets ingredients

Pickled Beets with Shallots
Yield: 2 quarts

For Roasting Beets
4 pounds red beets
3 large shallots, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Brine
3 cups white wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
4 tablespoons kosher salt

Roasting

Pre-heat the oven to 400°. Trim tops of beets to one inch. Save the greens for a saute, soup, or salad. Trim the root. Rub each beet and the shallots with olive oil and place in heavy duty aluminum foil. Cover with more foil and roast for 40 minutes or until the beets are easily pierced through. Remove from heat and let cool enough so you can handle them with your hands.

roasted

Remove the stem and skin. Cut into bite-size chunks. Arrange in a clean jar with the shallot pieces.

Mix together the brine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Strain the liquid as you pour it over the beets in each jar. Place the lid on each jar and tighten the screw rings. Refrigerate three to seven days before serving.

Pickled beets

Do you enjoy pickling? What are your favorite veggies to pickle? And what kinds of culinary gifts do you give clients and vendors?

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.

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Guest post by APPCA member Nicole Gaffney:

Nicole with clams

Christmas Eve in our family is a big deal, unlike Christmas Day, when we lazily lounge around in our PJ’s all day. Each year there’s a huge Christmas Eve party with my extended Italian relatives from my Mom’s side. Each of my maternal grandparents came from a family of 13 siblings, so the amount of aunts, uncles and cousins will make your head explode. And of course, at the center of our gathering each year, is the food.

The vast majority of my family members made their living as commercial fishermen, so I never really thought twice about how most of the food on our table was seafood. When I got older, I learned about the Italian tradition of The Feast of The Seven Fishes and realized that our seafood-centric celebration was not just a coincidence.  I suppose having family in the business just makes it a little easier to pull off.

This tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve evolved from the Roman Catholic custom of abstaining from the consumption of meat products on holy days, much like during Lent. Many families, like my own, follow the tradition simply for the fun and deliciousness of it.

grilled fish

There are many traditional dishes served at The Feast of Seven Fishes, such as octopus salad, baccala (salt cod), fried smelts, stuffed shrimp, clams, and scallops. But to host a celebration of your own, any of your favorite fish dishes will do. The key to a successful spread is making sure you have the freshest seafood possible and not to overcook it.

Clams

Here are some of my family’s best tips for selecting and cooking seafood:

  • First and foremost, have a good, trustworthy fishmonger. Get to know them, and ask their opinion on what is best that day or time of year.
  • The flesh of fresh fish should look vibrant and firm, never dull and mushy. If buying fish whole, always look at the eyes and gills. The eyes should be ultra clear and slightly protruded, while the gills should be bright pink. An old fish will have cloudy, dull sunken eyes and grayish gills. Avoid this at all costs.
  • Ask your fish monger to filet and skin a whole fish for you; they should do it at no additional cost. This way you can select the freshest fish possible without having to wrestle with it at home.
  • Fresh fish begins to deteriorate quickly after its caught, so purchase as last minute as possible, and always store it on ice. It’s best to place the fish on ice in a perforated container over top of another container so the water can drain out, as you don’t want the fish sitting around in the water.
  • Choose bivalves like clams, oysters and mussels that are tightly closed. If some of them are slightly opened, give them a little tap. If they’re alive, they will snap right shut. If not, it means they are dead and should be discarded (or not purchased in the first place).
  • If access to a good fishmonger and fresh seafood is difficult, frozen seafood can be a great option, especially when planning ahead. Cold water fish spend their lives in near freezing temperatures, so freezing them doesn’t affect their flesh much at all. Alaskan king crab, snow crab, shrimp, and lobster tails are often flash frozen right on the boats, so they’re just as good as buying fresh. Always look for the words “vacuum sealed” or “flash frozen” when purchasing frozen seafood.
  • Defrost frozen seafood gradually – overnight in the refrigerator is best, or under cold running water. Never run under hot water, never leave at room temperature, and never ever microwave.
  • Ask your fishmonger if they have any leftover shrimp, crab, or lobster shells they can either give or sell you on the cheap. You can use these to make an incredibly flavorful soup or stock to use in pasta or risotto. I save my shells all year long and take them out at Christmas time to make the most delicious bisque. I love being able to utilize what would have been waste in order to make a luxurious and elegant soup.
  • To freeze shells properly, be sure to clean them thoroughly of all guts and remnants of meat. Dry them off and store in doubled plastic ziplock bags with as much air removed as possible.
  • When cooking fresh lobsters and clams, it’s best to pop them in the freezer for about 20 minutes (but no longer) prior to cooking. For clams, it helps them to open easier, while for lobsters, it temporarily paralyzes them making it much easier to get them into the pot. The same tip also works for opening raw oysters – a few minutes in the freezer will get them to pop open with ease.

 

lobster meat

Whether you opt for one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, all 7 fishes or no fish this Christmas, the important thing is to enjoy it with the ones you love.

From my big Italian family to yours, we wish you a very happy, healthy, and whole holiday season.

New Jersey resident Nicole Gaffney is a chef, writer, and television personality best known for being second runner up on the 10th season of the reality cooking competition, Food Network Star. She runs a personal chef business called The Dinner Belle and is the author of the blog, Too Full for School.

Photos courtesy of Nicole Gaffney

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