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23 posts categorized "In the Kitchen"

August 3, 2018

Trend Alert: Shakshuka

Shakshuka_redBy Piet Jones

Restaurants have probably never had such a wonderful advertising medium as Instagram. Not only can you put your dishes out for all to see (for free!) but your customers are taking word of mouth buzz to a whole new level by snapping pics and sharing them with their friends and, potentially, tomorrow’s new customers.

Instagram also gives you the opportunity to look at what your competitors are up to and what hot dishes are getting the most buzz. Sometimes, though, the dish you see leaves you just a tad befuddled. What exactly is it you’re seeing? It looks like eggs floating in some kind of sauce. Some sauces are red, some are green. It looks tantalizingly appetizing, but what is it?

In this case, the mystery dish flooding Instagram is shakshuka - an Israeli dish of baked tomatoes, onions and peppers topped with eggs and flavored with earthy cumin. Popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it’s been introduced here by American chefs who have been scouring the globe for inspiration and adding their own twists to the traditional dish.

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July 3, 2018

Globally-Inspired Kids' Meals

By Piet Jones

Kids_food_inlineExperts say the best way to raise a child to be an adventurous eater is to serve them the same food as the parents are eating. That’s a great rule at home but it can be a real problem when you go out to eat and see the same children’s menu over and over, populated with fresh from the freezer chicken nuggets and burgers. These dishes often look a little sad and neglected when sent out next to your expertly curated plates for the adults.

One way around being saddled with a boring, standardized kids' menu is to take a cue from the trend of globally influenced cuisine and use that for inspiration to help deliver meals the are both extraordinary and appealing to your younger clientele.

Rice Dishes - Rice can be a crowd pleaser for kids and it’s amazingly versatile and easy to use. Think a paella for kids. Perhaps not with shellfish, but chunks of chicken or a little sausage then mildly seasoned with paprika and turmeric, then garnished with some finely chopped cilantro. Or you could do a fried rice dish, flavored with soy sauce and a touch of sesame oil then tossed with crispy bits of your house cured bacon. Another option is biryani, fragrant garam masala and coriander flavoring the rice. The key here is to go mild, strong flavors can make kids a little hesitant, season accordingly.

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April 3, 2018

Incorporating Mushrooms into the Menu

Mushroom1By Piet Jones

Typically, we look at our food as only belonging to one of two groups: plant or animal. But there is a third group that we regularly consume, one that belongs to a separate branch on the tree of life and is, oddly, closer to animals than to plants: mushrooms.

One bite and it makes sense. The texture? More like meat than most any plant. The taste? Rich and deep, sometimes woodsy, a real departure from vegetables and unlike any meats. Perhaps that is why they are such a great compliment to nearly any dish and are increasingly taking center stage.

The problem for any chef is finding the right mushroom out of the myriad of choices, not to mention simply procuring them consistently. Mushrooms are notoriously hard to cultivate and many still must be harvested by hand in the wild. Science has helped, and exotic mushroom farmers have cropped up, but there’s still plenty of progress to make. 

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February 6, 2018

Create Custom Condiments

By Piet Jones

Condiments newYou spent months experimenting with different cuts of beef to get just the right amount of fat content for your grind. Hours with different seasoning combinations. Visits to every artisan bakery within driving distance for just the right bun. Finally, all the components of your signature house burger are ready and you’re going to top it with a dollop of… Heinz ketchup?

No, probably not. Like many other chefs and restaurateurs, you’re going to make your own condiments from scratch. That is what your house burger and specialty sandwiches are crying out for. The nice part, you’re only limited by your imagination as to what you can do.

Traditionally, a condiment is a pickled or preserved food that is used to enhance and complement the flavors of a dish. In America, we’ve narrowed that down to a few. For burgers and sandwiches it’s ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard. Add relishes for hot dogs and then cocktail and tartar sauces for seafood. But there’s a certain sameness to all those and, in the competitive world of dining, you need to stand out. Fortunately, there’s a way to make condiments that will help you separate from your competition.

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October 3, 2017

Squash the Competition

Squash_competition_soup

By Emily Caldwell

Fall into the season by including winter squash into your menu. Whether you are preparing a specialty holiday dish or want to warm up your customers on a frigid fall night, traditional gourds provide a variety of flavors that will draw clients to the comfort of your establishment.

These hearty vegetables will attract vegetarians and loyal diners alike, with their nutrient rich ingredients. According to the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, “winter squash are exceptionally rich in carotenes… and are loaded with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and insulin-regulating properties. They are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and B1, folic acid, potassium and dietary fiber.” Best of all, they are versatile vegetables that you can use in your soups, salads, side dishes, and desserts! 

The most popular and well-known are Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, and Pumpkin. Not sure how they taste or how to use them? Here is a guide to help you discover how to incorporate these flavors into your fall menu.

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April 26, 2017

Veggie Noodles are Here to Stay

Zoodles

By Piet E. Jones

Culinary trends are constantly on the move. Some pop big with lots of buzz and perhaps a bit overuse, like sous vide, before settling into becoming a somewhat commonplace technique used effectively for some dishes. Others, like foams, devolve into culinary punchlines. 

Spiralized vegetables, or zoodles, looks like it might be on track to have some staying power. Typically made from zucchini, hence the Z, zoodles have crossed the boundary from restaurant to home kitchens cementing their popularity. Part of that is driven by the gluten free and reduced carb trends; the rest is that they are both tasty and versatile.

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March 29, 2017

There's a Hot New Ingredient in Town

Fried-egg-burger2

By Piet E. Jones

Nope, it’s not some rare plant with an odd sounding name that’s only available on alternate full moons. Nor is it some high end heritage meat with a genetic line that exists only on some remote mountain farm. The hot new ingredient is actually one of the oldest ingredients of all - the egg. Now, it’s not an unusual egg that’s hot. Quail, goose, duck, even ostrich eggs can be found on menus all over but that’s not what the buzz is about. No, it’s your garden variety chicken egg that’s showing up on the hottest dishes in town.

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February 1, 2017

Make the Most of Valentine's Week

Make the Most of Valentine's Day
By Piet E. Jones

Valentine’s Day. One of the roughest days of the year for many a restaurant. Some call it “amateur night,” filled with high expectations of a quiet, romantic dinner that is at odds with the reality of barely controlled dining chaos. Look around, do you see any of your regulars? Probably not. Maybe they stopped in for a quick drink before it gets busy and then flee the scene. Most of the people you see are new faces. Some you may be able to capture as new regulars, others are out for a very rare dinner. That’s all great, take good care of these people, it’ll give you a nice bump in an otherwise slow month but there is still so much more potential you can get out of this day.

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December 20, 2016

Beef Wellington is Back

Beef_welly_foodcentricBy Piet E. Jones

Ah, those classic French dishes. Back in the day, they were the height of cuisine. Over time, however, changing tastes and an overabundance of kitchen shortcuts led to many of them to fall out of favor.  Duck à l’Orange, a beautiful dish when prepared in the right kitchen, became a cloyingly sticky sweet mess. Chicken Cordon Bleu, a wonderful convergence of haute cuisine and comfort food, devolved into an overly breaded sodium bomb that most have only sampled from the freezer aisle.

Dining these days, though, is a high-demand, ever-changing business and many chefs are looking to the past for inspiration. Old techniques and classic sauces are appearing on menus, often in new and novel combinations. One dish that is getting a new lease on life owes its revival to a TV reality show—Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen. Yep, Beef Wellington is back on people’s minds.  Bad pastry and a propensity to be overcooked all but killed it off in the 80’s, but in the right hands it can be a showstopper.

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November 30, 2016

Yes, You Need a Coffee Program

By: Piet E. Jones

Coffee_foodcentricSo, your wine program is the talk of the town. Your craft cocktail program gets updated seasonally to raves and online buzz. Your coffee program…. Wait, what? You don’t have a coffee program? Why not?

People willingly drop big money on coffee. Plus coffee is an integral part of the closing part of any good meal service. It can even be a way to jump that check average up by ten or twenty bucks per person. Without coffee, they might not get that extravagant dessert or relaxing cordial to wrap things up. Or worse, they know someplace else to get that robust cup and either leave to spend that money elsewhere or never come in in the first place because they want a fuller dining experience.

The sad reality, too many restaurants treat coffee as an afterthought and the lack of planning to integrate coffee into what is otherwise a well-choreographed meal shows. Yes, you made the pasta yourself with imported, small batch flour that’s been extruded from a custom ordered, hand-made bronze die. The sausage was created in-house using a heritage pork breed. Everything is served on ceramic plates, made from locally sourced clay, thrown and glazed by two ladies living off the grid just outside of town. Your coffee, well, your coffee comes from the same machine and is served in the same Bunn carafes as the culinarily questionable greasy spoon down the street.

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