Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Lucky 3

I love my father. A feeling that took me many years to understand and accept. Given my isolating and reclusive lifestyle for the majority of my life, years void of communication with him, this reality came with great struggle but so much release.
And I love my son so very much. A feeling so powerful it can frighten me at times. I cherish his life and the gift of life he has provided for me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Food Culture: To Have and to Hold

In respect of those who prepare our food we must embrace the struggle, the art and tradition which creates such sumptuous delights for our palates. Luckily, in the past decade as people have become more involved in their food, interests have changed from homogenization to natural and true offerings allowing cooks to reveal their recipes and traditions in an honest and appealing light. 

 We crave the honest grit and flavor found in a proud establishment
Ruddell's Smokehouse, Cyucos, CA.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Making Apple Cider Vinegar

The origin of this blog started as a simple means to document my fermenting and preserving projects and promote the vinegar & jam creations sold on Etsy. Time went by and I began to post more frequently on other food related topics. However, as a proud 'ferment er' I never offered some instruction for making vinegar in the home. Since this is one of my loves and origin of this blog it seems fitting and overdue.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Kitschy Chic - Salts Blends & Rubs

Since my wife and I opened Entropy the Shop on ETSY.com a year ago (summer 2012), I have found a world of fellow chefs, artisans, and foodies who create a vast amount of original, handcrafted culinary supplies. From hand forged knives to kitchen hand soaps, marshmallows, spice blends and even Kombucha scooby's. The majority of the incredibly unique edible selections are not only made with the choicest of ingredients but with pride and sincerity as well. Since the primary form of advertising and promotion on Etsy is the quality of your products and service, a shopper is guaranteed to be impressed when searching for quality ingredients, supplies, or new and delicious pantry elements.

Through my searches and tasting among the various artisans on Etsy I have had the great fortune to find a spicy little shop named Kitschy Chic; Salts Blends & Rubs. Upon first viewing the shop and it's selections, I was instantly impressed with the fun and professional packaging, and the displays of flavors, all accompanied with tantalizing descriptions. The more I shopped and read the more I became interested in who this person was and how the unique blend of flavor profiles had been created.
Kitschy Chic on Etsy.com
"Find your inner spice today!"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Barrels from Oregon Barrel Works

As I mentioned in the post A Change or Two in Plans, my father had wanted to get involved with my vinegar making and somehow found Oregon Barrel Works. Through some phone calls he commissioned Rick DeFerrari to create 2, 15 gallon vinegar barrels; one made of French oak and one made of Oregon oak.

The work I wanted done was specific and finally, through some emails, phone calls, and tough decisions, the barrels were  finished and in route to my front door. I admit I grew impatient at times, as the process took roughly 3 months, but upon the arrival of the 2 works of art, I was reminded of just who I was dealing with, and what I had ultimately received. These barrels were handcrafted for my needs by an artist in the Pacific Northwest's only cooperage.

Stone Soup

I have only known this story for a couple of years now. My wife, Cherie introduced me to it, surprised that I, a chef, had never heard it before. The moral of the story was not unique to me, having grown up in a religious family, but I believe that there can never too much enchantment and intrigue woven around the importance of community and sharing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To Roast A Chicken

I realize that the number of recipes for chicken out on the Internet are limitless, sometimes viewed as over done if not redundant. This does not render them useless providing they are accurate and offer some new and useful information.

For example this blog has come to include some very basic recipes and methods out of my desire to reveal the fundamentals of some obvious recipes; some which are still difficult to consistently master, some not so common but basic and recently popular (fermenting is coming up) and some, like this one (roasting a chicken) which while common can be used as a platform for discussing some very useful and important topics and current global issues. That's right! Roasting a chicken can be as intriguing as delicious.
A juicy chicken trussed and roasted.
I used the optinal 2 teaspoons of one of my favorite spice blends mixed into
the olive oil and butter mixture used for basting:
Tango Mango Hot Habanero Spice made by Kitschy Chic

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

To Truss A Bird Without Twine

The practice of trussing a bird (any variety) is to ensure an even cooking temperature throughout the legs, thighs and breasts. If a bird is not trussed before it is roasted, hot air will circulate inside of the cavity as well as the exterior which will cook the breast portion of the bird more quickly than the leg and thigh portions. By the time the legs and thighs have come up to a safe temperature the breast meat has been overcooked. The main function of trussing is to gather the legs, thighs and arms of the fowl, holding them snugly in place against the body of the bird. The drumsticks obstruct the opening of the cavity allowing even cooking on the surface while limiting heat from overcooking the breast portion from the inside out.

I learned this no twine trussing method from a dishwasher with whom I worked. I was impressed and kind of surprised that I had not figured this out nor seen it after 13 years of professional cooking. I told myself that to my benefit I was a product of my rigid, formal culinary training and therefore never sought another method. But still...duh.
A plump, well formed chicken trussed and roasted without twine

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dragon Fruit: Science for Kids in the Kitchen

Well, not exactly science but a lot of fun and education while spending some quality time with your young ones.

My wife, Cherie and I love to expose our children to new experiences. One area of great entertainment is with exotic and new foods. As a chef with a vast knowledge of foods and how to prepare them my professional education is transformed into a fun activity for all of us. I am not saying you need to be a chef to enjoy this activity with your children rather my enthusiasm for food is where this ritual sprung from.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SLO County

For the majority of my life I have always thought of California's northern coastline as one of my homes. From my youth and into my early adulthood I would always return to the Santa Cruz county coastline after my adventures in other parts of the country. I was in my late 30's when I finally took notice of the central coast and since then I have enjoyed returning there as an escape than another home.

Cayucos Pier

Monday, March 18, 2013

Calibrating Your Instant-Read Thermometer

Forgotten in the back of a kitchen drawer rolling around with an odd number of corn cob handles and a tiny wooden mustard spoon. Surfacing once maybe twice a year to check the Thanksgiving turkey and the holiday prime rib roast. Maybe you have just purchased one or use one all the time yet get unsatisfactory results. How do you know if it is accurate? How do you check it?


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cookbook Stands

One more point I have been asked to discuss is how to successfully and easily read along with a recipe in a cookbook or magazine while working in the kitchen. Along with sharing my tricks I thought this would be an excellent time for some shameless advertising paired with my curt opinion. Win, win!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To Brine A Chicken: Quick Method

Brinning a chicken (whole, cut or boneless) is a great way to help your bird retain some of it's natural moisture but more importantly heighten flavor. Let me put the notion to rest that a brined bird will survive poor cooking methods. An un-brined bird can be cooked to juicy and flavorful perfection just as much as a brined bird can yield the flavor and texture of sawdust if cooked carelessly. However, taking the time to prepare a brine and appropriately cook a chicken will give you an obvious results that will have you and your guests satisfied with your efforts.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reading A Recipe

As this blog grew to encompass recipes and techniques, I realized I had neglected to offer some very basic yet fundamental advice.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Preserving Meyer Lemons

At the time that I was introduced to this recipe I had yet to break out of my classic culinary training and realize my own voice in the kitchen. Sharon, one of the owners of a restaurant that I eventually became the chef of, had a very natural and honest approach to food. A philosophy, which, at the time, was still relatively adolescent in the culinary scene in California.
On an early week day of menial prep and menu planning for the week, I found myself uninspired and tired of my usual tricks. At a stand-still with my creativity, Sharon suggested I take a break and help her preserve some meyer lemons while searching for inspiration. The activity of salt packing lemons in a big glass jar and stashing them away in a dark nook of kitchen waiting for their transformation was such a mysterious activity. My attention had been captured even if I did not realize it for another 6 months.
This recipe, which I still use to this day, was one of many old world recipes which opened my eyes to the wonders of traditional culinary practices. Recipes created out of necessity rather than entertaining trends. The  romance of a few quality ingredients mingling with science and time to create a unique food matched by no modern technique. With the intrigue and respect I developed for these traditions my own voice became clear as I continued my culinary profession.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Liebster Award

Little is to be found in searches on the Liebster Award. Exactly who, where, when and why, are a mystery; however, proof that this tradition has been carried out for a couple of years is apparent.

Information I have gathered in searches shows the earliest documentation in Germany 2010 ("liebster" means dearest in German). This chain letter style award has been passed from an admiring blogger to a handful of bloggers whom if are willing all pass the award on to each of their handful of nominated recipients. As vague as the history are the suggested requirements for participating. The core steps in accepting and passing this award along however have been listed consistently.
One of the many Liebster Award badges.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Rubber Egg: Science for Kids in the Kitchen

The three women who raised me all had their own special recipes for the children in their home. These were not recipes for eating but ones for playing. As I think about it now I am surprised and very grateful for the effort put into making playtime supplies instead of just going out and buying similar toys or commercialized substitutes.

Now that I am a father with four children of my own I find myself recalling the fun and imagination these recipes brought me and I want to pass the experience on to my little ones. So I have decided to revisit the recipes (or experiments) shared with me as a child while researching some new kitchen science to pass on to you. This is not in the normal scope of this blog, but it has been so much fun!

The Rubber Egg 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Making Playdough: Science for Kids in the Kitchen

Never underestimate your power of creativity as a parent; 
To create an opportunity for a child will be your greatest work. 

The aroma of homemade play dough cooking on the stove takes me back to the first time my grandmother made a batch. The smell was as curious as the idea that my grandmother could make her very own play dough. To think that my grandmother knew the secrets to one of the most fun and imaginative toys would surely mean that she possessed supernatural or divine  knowledge. I am sure my image of her changed from that day forward. An exhibition of pure wizardry.

Homemade Playdough 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ocean in a Bottle: Science for Kids in the Kitchen

I am a professional chef however as a father of four children I am frequently reminded of how much energy can be put into feeding and entertaining my young ones. While researching and drawing from my own childhood memories to present new activities for their play I thought that it might be fun and useful to share these "recipes" with you. As a professional chef I have to admit that my toughest yet most loyal patrons are my family.

In my youth my sister and I would spend lengthy visits with my father and stepmother on the east coast. My stepmother, Lisa was rather unconventional when it came to toys and activities. More than anything I can remember her playtime projects and suggestions for curing boredom always sparked my imagination. To this day her creativity has left me with fond memories far exceeding the instant gratification of store bought popular toys (of which I had plenty).

One summer while on a regular stay on Fire Island, Lisa introduced me to the Ocean in a Bottle. What now might seem like a simple science project in a glass jar was such a treasured object that it followed me back to Manhattan where I admired it till the day I had to fly home to California. I had kept it sealed all  summer but apparently the thought of a 6 year old on a plane with a jar full of oil and blue water didn't settle well with the airline.

On that note be aware that this project could end up in a terrible mess somewhere in your home should the container be opened or damaged allowing the liquids to leak out or spill. So use your discretion in supervising the creating and play of the magical object.

Ocean in a Bottle

Friday, February 1, 2013

Honey Tasting

"Bee Good, Bee Well, Bee Healthy."
Cottage Industries.
For Christmas 2012 my stepmother, Lisa, who lives back east, sent me a precious surprise; two jars of her own cultivated wild honey. One jar still holds a chunk of the comb, which has a delicious chew to it. I was thrilled when I opened the small hay packed box, and as soon a I touched the nectar to my lips I was very excited to find ways to fully enjoy this honey.

With my work in kitchens I have encountered my share of wild honey from various pollen; lavender, clover, apple, etc. My all time favorite until this experience has been an orange blossom honey which is available at The Orange Store in Fresno, Ca. No commercial or artisan orange blossom honey has come close to this honey's distinct flavor. Although Lisa's honey does not possess a specific blossom flavor, it has a complexity all it's own; light, floral and clean. It dances on my tongue as it melts.

After my initial taste straight from a spoon I realized that a tasting was in order. To pair and contrast Lisa's honey with other sweet syrups, fruit, nuts and cheese would be a fun way to enjoy and experience subtle nuances of her and her bees hard work. After all, this was her first bulk harvest, and from what I understand, processing the honey was no easy task. I was a lucky recipient of a rare substance.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Small Steps in the Kitchen #1: Shaken Vinaigrette

During this first month of the new year when those of you who have made resolutions find yourself faltering or wishing you hadn't chosen such a ridiculous task why not take a this moment to substitute or add a simple new project in which you can become more involved with your food. Topics like proposition 37, eating locally & organic, farm to table, humane and sustainable are all very hot right now being a concern of lifestyle and morality if not just a healthy trend. If you would like to become more involved with your food but are overwhelmed or intimidated with an approach do me a quick favor; go to your fridge or pantry and take a look at that bottle of commercially made vinaigrette or salad dressing. It should be the last one you want to buy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Change Or Two In Plans

 Entropy the cat by Cherie.
Image for our kitchen labels.
Quite a few developments began to materialize for Entropy Kitchen in the late months of 2012. Some sad farewells would be said while some new ground gained and support rallied. We are expecting 2013 to be an exciting and productive year in our kitchen. Hopefully you will follow along.

While on the path to incorporating our kitchen items and protecting the name(s) it came to our attention that we would no longer be able to use the beloved name Shadow Creek. We are so connected to the name, the place. Suddenly we would have to let go of the namesake of where we live, work and play. On a less sentimental note what would we be able or want to rename our kitchen and products?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hachiya Persimmon

Along Cull Canyon Road.
There are a couple of very special winding roads in the hills where we live. Studded along are farm-style houses accompanied by orchards and stables. There is an odd nursery too, occupied by a quiet, bearded, hobbit-looking fellow.

With winter approaching, the leaves had all turned and fallen and the scenery was all shaded gray. These persimmons hung in their dark cold trees like rosy orange glowing paper lanterns. Several trips were made past the fruit trees and a sign reading "$1 a bag" before we actually stopped and bought some for ourselves.