Sunday, October 24, 2010


Why do we pay to go out to eat? How do restaurants get that wow factor into each dish? Sometimes I think that keeping things simple makes a dish super special. Showcasing high quality ingredients makes you appreciate each part of the dish more. But, sometimes it is the extra thought that chefs put into dish, the extra pow that house chefs do not always think about.

Today I learned how to braise meat. First we braised pork belly. After rubbing the meat in a cumin, coriander, paprika, salt, and pepper rub we seared the meat. We used mixed oil and heated it until very hot. The meat sizzled as soon as it hit the pan and formed a nice crust before we cooked it in the oven. We put the meat in a hotel pan and covered it with a mirepoix (carrots, onion, and celery) mixture that had been cooked down. Finally we covered the meat with some vegetable stock, the meat drippings, and this secret ingredient: ham stock. A ham bone had been cooked down in water and that was then added to the pork to highlight the meatiness. The addition of the ham water added even more pork flavor. After slow cooking this in the oven, the dish was beyond tender.

The rest of my day I helped make sauces that are used in many of the dinner plates. I made the Bravas sauce. This sauce cooks for hours and it is the caramelized onions that really make it work. The sweetness that comes from the onions after their sugars break down in the hot rondo makes them compliment the spicy chiles and peppers that are also put into the sauce. Another sauce I started to make is the date mostada sauce. It is time consuming, but the sweet fig like sauce truly highlights the porkchop it is paired with. I also made a simple roasted tomato mayonnaise (the only ingredients are roasted plum tomatoes and mayonnaise). These sauces can be complicated or simple, but the addition of them to meat, vegetables, starches, or bread can make a huge difference.

A new item on the menu was the hot item today. A BAM sandwich, made with bacon, avocado, and mozzarella with a special sauce was being ordered non-stop. It was delicious and yet so simple. The ripeness of the avocados, paired with the crispness of the bacon and contrasted with creamy mozzarella made this sandwich a hit. The sauce gave it a bit of kick and extra flavor. Simple, yet so creative.

At the restaurant I get to see both complicated and simple dishes made each day. When I cook for myself I typically use recipes that with simple instructions, few ingredients, and not too time consuming. I love cooking at home and making different dishes, but I still go out to eat because I like to try what others can cook. I want to experience the delicious flavors of another chef. The thought that goes into each recipe and the hard work that can go into a sauce or preparation method makes me want to pay for food. While I can always try to put the extra wow factor in my food, many times its easier and much more convenient to go out to eat.

Here is a new pesto recipe I have made that I find gives chicken added flavor. I think it will go well with steak too, but I have not yet tested that out.

Sundried Tomato-Rosemary Pesto
Put all ingredients into food processor: 4.5 oz sundried tomatoes (packed in olive oil), ¼ cup grated Asiago cheese, 1 garlic clove, 5 fresh rosemary sprigs, salt and pepper. Blend until the consistency is thick but even throughout. I served this on top of grilled chicken with goat cheese crumbles on top of the pesto.

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