Displaying items by tag: John Reardon
Hello my Foodie Friends!
Next week is Cinco de Mayo. Many of us foodies may be planning some type of festivity for this day. And what better way to celebrate than to eat delicious Mexican food. Our son lives in San Diego. The city is renowned for its wide selection of excellent Mexican restaurants and influence on the cuisine in that area. Mexican food is a major player on the San Diego food scene. Our son has also learned to add many Mexican flavors to his regular meals. One of his favorite things to do is to work with avocados and make guacamole or to get creative with salsas. To make the guacamole, the molcajete (a black volcanic rock) connects with making amazing and laborious Mexican dishes. One of those dishes is a salsa cruda, which is a red raw spicy salsa. The molcajete can be a very valuable object to assist when making your guacamole or salsa this Cinco de Mayo. The molcajete is among the world’s oldest culinary tools, volcanic rock mortars and pestles like these have been used by great cooks for thousands of years. Our molcajete (mortar) and tejolete (pestle) are hand carved from a single piece of basalt rock, so every piece is unique. In addition to being a great prep tool, the molcajete makes an impressive serving dish for guacamole and other party favorites. It is perfect for crushing whole spices and making spice blends, ideal for blending and serving guacamole—or for making pesto and other rustic sauces. You can line the molcajete with lettuce leaves to use as an all-purpose serving bowl. The rough interior texture of mortar helps crush and grind ingredients and it has a heavy pestle that does the work for you, ensuring efficient grinding, blending and mixing.
At Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place, we offer various types of mortar and pestles including the beautiful molcajete. Stop by and view our many spices that can be used to help you with your Cinco de Mayo culinary creations. Have a festive Cinco de Mayo. Remember Foodie Friends, “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”
John & Paula
Hello my Foodie Friends!
For the most part, I do not like having spiders in my kitchen -or anywhere, really. When I was a child, I would love to play with insects in my mother’s garden. However, I have outgrown that! I will make an exception for one spider, though: my beloved wood-handled, stainless steel spider. I am talking about the kitchen tool that looks like a mini flattened colander with a long handle. (It’s called a spider because the woven metal netting resembles a spider’s web.). It is much less creepy than an actual spider. I have found that the spider has become one of the most reached-for tools in my kitchen. The perforated bowl is perfect for transporting pasta from pot to pan (while reserving the pasta water), lifting items like dumplings or thinly-sliced potatoes out of sizzling oil, and picking blanched vegetables like carrots or green beans out of boiling water. Another great way to put the spider in action is when making eggs hard or soft-boiled. Any egg that goes in boiling water benefits from being carried in a spider. The spider makes it easy to lower multiple eggs gently into a pot, and removing them three at a time is no problem either. Eggs love spiders, and spiders love eggs—it’s the perfect boiled egg tool. The best part is that you do not need a fancy or expensive one to reap all of those benefits. We carry the Helen Chen Spider, offered with a wooden or stainless steel handle. It is comfortable and lightweight.
At Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store, we carry all types of “cool tools” for cooks. Sorry, no real insects like spiders, but we have the ones that will help you do the job in the kitchen. Remember my Foodie Friends, “Life Happens in the Kitchen!”
John & Paula
Hello my Foodie Friends!
There are many ways to make coffee. Our cups of coffee are very important to us since we start our days with that “necessary cup.” If you like coffee, you will find that you have many choices. You can spend lots of money to let other places make it for you. Many people find that their choice is a French press machine. People who use a press know and act like it is their own secret. You can see it in the smile they have when they talk about it as they are purchasing one for a friend. You can also see it in their frowns when they need one because the old one is lost due to a move or they are visiting here for an extended vacation and need one now! My customers have many different passions for their favorite products but French Press people are knowledgeable and loyal. French Press coffee captures more of the flavor, aromas and oils from the coffee beans than drip coffee makers. You lose a lot in a drip maker to the paper filter. The difference between French press and drip coffee is that the grounds using a French press are steeped in boiling water while water just passes through the grounds in an auto or manual drip system. Grounds used for French press coffee must be larger and rougher. These grounds tend to release more caffeine, especially when steeped longer. Connoisseurs contend that this method of brewing produces a richer, fuller flavor. A serving that’s higher in caffeine may also have health advantages as well.
Once you have your press, here are the simple directions:
• Place the pot on a dry, flat surface. Hold the handle firmly, then pull out the plunger.
• Add a heaping tablespoon (7-8 grams) of coffee to the pot per 200 ml (6.7 oz) of water.
• Pour hot water—not quite boiling—into the pot, and gently stir.
• Carefully reinsert the plunger into the pot, stopping just above the water and ground coffee (do not plunge yet), and let stand for 3-4 minutes .
• Press the plunger down slowly, exerting steady pressure.
After each use, wash the pot with water and mild detergent, and dry thoroughly. Use coarse ground coffee. (remember fine will come through your screen).
You should probably consume your coffee within about 20 minutes as it could become bitter. Some people prefer it that way so whatever your tastes are is fine. You can also vary the strength by adding more or less coffee. If you remember, last week I talked about Tea and they also make a tea press which is catching on with Tea customers also.
Whereever your tastes take you, do what is best for you! Stop by Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store. Remember my Foodie Friends: “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”
John & Paula
Hello my Foodie Friends!
One of our family’s favorite food is pizza, especially Paula’s homemade pizza. Pizza is an excellent all-round family food that every person can personalize and enjoy on the day it is cooked, or the following day (Breakfast Pizza?). It is also a perfect “on the go” food to help with the crazy schedules that we all have. Back in the days before children, pizza was a frequent meal for Paula and me. Our lives were basically like “two ships passing in the night.”
When Paula and I first dated one of our favorite romantic places to eat was an Italian restaurant called Verdolini’s. We were there so much they knew our order when we came in. The waitresses used to elbow each other and fuss over the young lovers. They were planning our wedding even before we even thought about getting married. The lighting and ambiance were straight out of a movie. The whole Verdolini family worked there and when he was old enough, my brother Bill, worked there also. They made a pizza that was different from any pizza I have had before or since. Paula was curious about their ingredients and how it was made. She would ask and they would say “it’s a secret.” We had my brother Bill, however, as our spy on the inside. Bill would bring home any leftover pizzas at the end of the night and hand them out to whoever wanted them. He could not manage to get the entire recipe from the owner, but he got enough that he and Paula came close. One of the special parts was baking them in their stone oven. We have tinkered with it over the years, and I think Paula’s pizza is now perfect. That’s the thing about pizza; it’s a personal taste type of food. The way I like it might be different than the way someone else likes it and that’s ok.
Paula still enjoys making homemade pizza. A key tool that she uses is a pizza stone. When using a pizza stone, the unglazed clay surface absorbs and distributes heat evenly, producing a crispy crust, but this is how to do it correctly: Place a pizza stone in the oven on the lowest rack. Placing the stone in a cold oven is very important because if you put the cold stone into a hot oven, the stone will crack and break–it’s called thermal shock. Allow at least 30 minutes for the stone to heat before you cook the pizza. Let the dough come to room temperature before baking. If cold dough is placed directly on a hot stone, the abrupt change in temperature may also cause the stone to crack.
Because pizza stones are porous, they absorb odors. Avoid using soap to clean them. Wash with hot water and use baking soda to remove stubborn stains.
Stop by downtown Saratoga Springs’ Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store. Get creative with your pizza and make lasting memories. After 60 years in business our hometown Italian Restaurant, Verdolini’s had to close due to a flood and family health problems but they live in our memories forever. Enjoy making pizza with your family and friends. Sing, dance, play music really loud, and have fun eating your very own creation. Remember Foodie Friends; “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”
John & Paula
Hello my Foodie Friends!
This week, the must have gadget for your kitchen are onion goggles. Let’s start by telling you about my first job in a restaurant when I was 16 years old. The manager brought me to the back of the restaurant and said to me “son, we are going to make you a ‘boss,’ being the boss of onions!” I was so happy and I couldn’t wait to tell my mom. The manager told me that they needed me to peel, cut and chop onions for my entire shift. Yes, life was going my way as a 16 year old might perceive. I had received my driver’s license the week before and started a new job. On one particular day after my shift ended, I was going on my first date with Anna, a cheerleader at my school. My plan was to take her in my used 1966 Ford Mustang that had a 289 engine, factory air, and an eight-track tape player with a reverberator! On the day of the date at work, the manager handed me a knife that seemed to me to be two feet long in length. He said “now have at it.” I was nervous, however; I wanted to be the superstar “Boss of Onions.” So I started working on peeling, cutting, and chopping the mountains of onions in front of me. I believe that they last sharpened this knife in 1922, so I figured it was safe. Peeling was no problem for boss man because I peeled a mountain of them. Now it was time to cut the onions in half. I steadied my “Crocodile Dundee” knife and pressed down on the onion. Did you ever try that with a dull knife? As I attempted to cut the onion, the juice proceeded to squirt everywhere, and you guessed it, landed right into my eyes. Down goes boss man as I put my hands on my stinging eyes. As I continued to persevere into my task, I simply stated to myself that this was no problem and I could just rub my eyes and I would be fine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working the way that I had hoped. Soon I was looking like “Rocky Balboa.” I knew I had a job to do so I carried on but by now the tears were like waterfalls while I was wondering if I would be victorious over the onions. By the end of my shift the mountain was sliced and chopped. Yep, I did it and the manager told me I was great but suggested I take a long shower before my big date. When I got home my mother screamed and called my Dad in to see his oldest son. I had onion hair gel and my clothes were covered with juice and pieces of onions. My eyes were very puffy and I had about seven Band-Aids on my fingers. Ah yes, my hands I noticed were now permanently yellow and it was one hour to my date. At his point I exclaimed; “Mom, you have to help me. I am a walking onion.” I could not come within 20 feet of anyone without someone saying whew you reek. I took my shower but it didn’t help. Mom and my two sisters went into full date prep mode. My sister Patty grabbed the lemon juice, my older sister Carol Ann stole Dad’s Hai Karate cologne and mom grabbed a nail brush and went to work with the lemon juice to rid me of yellow hands. She also had Patty hold ice cubes on my eyes, which worked. She wasn’t going to let her son mess up his first date. The yellow and smell did not go away but the date was a success. Anna was very nice and said it made her think of salad and she like the Hai Karate cologne smell.
Why do onions make us cry?
When onions are cut, an enzyme called sulfoxide lyase and sulfuric compounds are released from the broken cells. When exposed to air, they react with one another to form a vapor called thiopropanal sulfoxide. As this vapor evaporates, it irritates our eyes and causes us to cry. Kitchen folklore remedies such as burning candles or matches, slicing onions under water and freezing the onions before cutting are comical at best. The two methods proven most effective in preventing onion-cutting tears include; wearing goggles or contact lenses. Onion goggles are a unisex design and fit most adults. Stop by Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store to help you with those culinary items that make life a bit easier for you. Remember my Foodie Friends “Life Happens in the Kitchen!”
John and Paula.
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1 small white or yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
• 4 large garlic cloves, minced
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
• 2 cups milk (recommend 2% or whole milk)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
• 4 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
• 2 cups freshly-grated sharp cheddar cheese*, divided (feel free to add more cheese if you’d like)
• 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1. Prep oven and baking dish: Heat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray, and set it aside.
Sauté the onion and garlic. Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 4-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the flour until it is evenly combined, and cook for 1 more minute.
2. Simmer the sauce. Gradually pour in the stock, and whisk until combined. Add in the milk, salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon thyme, and whisk until combined. Continue cooking for an additional 1-2 minutes until the sauce just barely begins to simmer around the edges of the pan and thickens. (Avoid letting it reach a boil.) Then remove from heat and set aside.
3. Layer the potatoes. Spread half of the sliced potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Top evenly with half of the cream sauce. Then sprinkle evenly with 1 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese, and all of the Parmesan cheese. Top evenly with the remaining sliced potatoes, the other half of the cream sauce, and the remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese.
4. Bake: Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. The sauce should be nice and bubbly around the edges. Then remove the foil and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.
5. Cool. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, and sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of thyme and extra Parmesan.
6. Serve. Serve warm.