Tomato Soup

I wanted to wait for tomato season for this, but I watched a stand-up special this morning that inspired me. (Chris Gethard ‘Career Suicide’  (Check it out. Please.))    Just wait for tomato season for a proper tomato ketchup recipe…

For some reason, I’ve had a skill for pureeing tomatoes.  Not sure where it started.. likely wanting to improve upon the canned version that my mom always made (love you mom).  I remember making soup for my friend Mark (best cook I’ve ever seen) in cooking school which ended up on the menu at Quince.  Most recently, this was “the best soup i’ve ever had” by a man that has owned many restaurants..   not “the best tomato soup”  “the best SOUP”…   I love the stuff, clearly.  I make it any chance I can.

This brings us to my point of this article..  I don’t remember any of the recipes.  I was either drunk (most likely) or I was just winging it (also likely).  But for some reason, I thought that booze helped creativity.  Does it?   I’m going to just say that it doesn’t.  I’m absolutely more thoughtful without alcohol and equally as creative and better yet, curious about cooking.

So, today, lets put it to the test.   May I present to you, out-of-season tomato soup.  Enjoy.

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  • 4 T Olive Oil
  • 4 Cloves Garlic – Thinly Sliced
  • 1 big bunch Basil – Leaves Only
  • 2 8 oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes – San Marzano (Also, canned tomatoes are far better than fresh)
  • .25# Parmesan Rinds/Scraps
  • 3 C Half and Half
  • 1 C Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock
  • Kosher Salt
  • White Pepper
  • Tabasco

 

  • In a stock pot on high, add the olive oil.  When Its VERY HOT, add the basil.  The trick is to fry the basil until its crispy.  Stir it constantly.
  • Add the garlic and cook until you can just smell it.
  • Add the tomatoes, half and half, parmesan rinds, and vegetable stock.  Stir.
  • Bring this to a Simmer (Not a Boil), then reduce to a low simmer.  You want to cook out the acidity of the tomatoes, so, taste it along the way.
  •  When you feel confident that the acid is gone (15 min or so), blend the heck out of it.
  • Strain.  Return to a clean stock pot and season with Salt, White Pepper and Tabasco.
  • Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich

 

 

 

Cinnamon Rolls, Just in time for Mother’s Day.

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  • 2 pkg dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (35 c or 95 f is just about perfect)
  • 1 cup warm milk (see above)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 C fat (dealers choice, but don’t go all fight club) (shortening is best)
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 – 8 Cups All Purpose Flour

Combine the yeast, water, milk, and sugar.   The goal is to dissolve the solids into the liquids and let rest until bubbly.

In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, mix shortening, salt and eggs.   This will separate.. its okay.  Alternating, 3 times each, add yeast mixture, then flour, ending on flour.. this will allow you to adjust the amount of flour needed to make a smooth dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Now, let it rest.  Cover it with plastic wrap in a new bowl (pro tip : use the mildly washed bowl you used to activate the yeast) and set it somewhere warm until its doubled in size.  Punch it.

  • 2 C Sugar
  • 3 T Ground Cinnamon
  • 1.5 C Chilled butter

Cream all above ingredients in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Set Aside.

Knead the dough until the dough just becomes elastic.  Keep adding enough flour to keep your fingers from being coated with dough.  Set aside and let rest for another ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

You’re going to want to roll this like a 1/2 ” thick, using a rolling pin and enough flour to keep your dough from sticking to your table and rolling pin.

Evenly spread all of your sugar-cinnamon mixture over the dough.  Roll the dough tightly (if this messes up, you just made an awesome batch of monkey bread.. skip all the rest, chop it up, put it in a pan, and bake it)  into a spiral shape.. the tighter, the better.

From here, cut the log into two inch thick pieces. Smash them together into a greased baking pan (or as I did, large muffin tins) and bake for about 30 minutes.  I’d check after 10-15 and rotate.    They’ll be done when they’re golden brown and a bit crusty on the top.  NEVER EVER OVERBAKE OR UNDERBAKE.

Word to your mother.

-J

Bone Broth

Stock vs. Broth

To me the difference between the two is delicacy.  In a broth, we’re trying to coax as many vitamins out of the ingredients as possible.  This comes from us cooking the vegetables lightly and just barely browning the bones.

In a broth, we’re trying to find a harmony with the ingredients.  Less bones are used, because although we benefit from the collagen and gelatin, they’re playing a different role in a broth.

In stocks, we’re trying to produce a workhorse of a liquid.  We add things like chicken feet for example..  Things that don’t have a ton of calcium, but work wonders for thickening sauces.  Also, we add peppercorns and bayleaves, etc. (aromatics) that do very little for nutritional value.

Uses for a broth would be soups obviously, its going to make a much lighter, but still flavorful base.  Ramen would work well with this recipe, matzah ball soup, dumplings.. its kind of endless and is a wonderful blank canvas for any other ingredients you want to work with.

Aside from actually cooking with it, I know a few people that keep this handy for a substitute meal in the day.  For me, who usually doesn’t eat breakfast, its a good thing to drink a glass of this stuff on the go because of all of the vitamins and minerals it contains to wake my body up.

Also, its just as a great substitute for coffee or other sugary drinks in the morning.

I could go on about the benefits of bone broth or vegetable broth for a while.  It’s simple to make and is full of vitamins and minerals, plus it makes your house smell great.

Feel free to add any thoughts or ask any questions.  Good Luck!

 

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Ingredients

  • 5# Beef Marrow Bones
  • 1 Large Spanish Onion, peeled and large diced
  • 1 Leek, Washed, White Part Diced, Green Part Left Whole
  • 1.5# Carrots, peeled
  • 1.5# Celery Hearts
  • 2 oz Thyme, fresh
  • 1 Bunch Flat Leaf Parsley
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled and Smushed
  • 8 oz Tomato Puree

 

Blanch the marrow bones.  Fill a stock pot with cold water and the bones.  Bring to a boil and discard the water.

On a sheet tray begin roasting the bones at 450 degrees until they start browning, cover the bones with the tomato puree and continue to brown the bones and caramelize the tomato puree.  When the bones are brown thoroughly and the tomato puree is very thick and dark in color, remove from the oven.

In a large stock pot on high heat, begin sweating the onions, garlic, and the white part of the leek in a small amount of blended oil.  Stir this mixture constantly. Continue to sweat until the vegetables become translucent but not caramelized.  Sweat the celery in the same pot, then add the carrots.  By this time the onion mixture should start to show a hint of coloring.

Add the roasted bones.  Using a rubber scraper, scrape the leftover “fond” or residue left on the bottom of the sheet tray into the stock put.

Add the herbs and green part of the leeks.

Cover completely with cold water and bring the mixture up to a boil.  After its reached a boil, turn the heat down until the broth lightly simmers.   Allow mixture to simmer for about four hours, constantly skimming the fat that floats to the top.

Strain and cool immediately in an ice bath then transfer into smaller containers into the refrigerator.

 

Tips:

Keep everything clean.  Wash and peel your vegetables.  The broth is not a compost bin.

Take the time to blanch the bones.  Your finished produce will be a lot less greasy.

Use as little fat as possible when cooking, a scant tablespoon should do.

When you roast the bones the first time, take a moment to remove any excess fat that melted.

Stir and skim all the time.  Your goal for the final produce should be delicate.  Cooking the bones and vegetables for too long can make the broth too strong.

Freeze the final product.  This recipe yields a lot and it should last quite a long time, but the general rule for a frozen stock or broth is one to three months.

After the broth has cooled completely in the refrigerator, there will be some fat that survived your diligent skimming, use this opportunity to strain one last time.

 

 

 

Pickled Ramps

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Pickled Ramps

  • 1# – 1.5# Ramps, Cleaned
  • 2 Habaneros, Halved
  • 1 Garlic Clove, Thick Slices
    •  Combine all ingredients, set aside
  • 2.5 C Cider Vinegar
  • 1.5 C Water
  • 1 t Coriander Seeds
  • 1 t Fennel Seeds
  • 1 t Cumin Seeds
  • 1 1/2 t Brown Mustard Seeds
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
    • Combine all and bring to a rolling boil until sugar is dissolved.

Combine all ingredients, reduce to room temperature, and refrigerate.   Use within seven days.

*Alternatively, can or use a reduce oxygen packing method to store for long term storage.    Follow your local regulatory authority’s rules if you want to tackle something such as canning or vacuum sealing.

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“You’re too talented to be a dumbass.”

 

How many people that you know in this industry are addicts? Mentally unstable? Both?

This was the whole purpose for this blog, is to understand why this industry finds the people that are “one step above carnival folk” are talented or worth while or robots or anti-social or addicts or crazy..  the list is full of extremes.  WHY?

Are we a product of the environment or are we drawn to this because we were wired to be this way before we could count?

I can tell you many stories of addicts, crazy folks in the industry for days..

One person that I knew that podiumed on a famous television show cooking competition used to stash pre-made cocktails all over the restaurant so that they were never without an adult beverage.

Another would regularly raid the pastry station of “whip-its” and get so stoned that they were basically brain dead for service.

I would get phone calls from a chef’s girlfriend asking why I let him drink so much that she was concerned he wouldn’t wake up.   (It was my fault?)

I walked in on someone in the wine-room doing a whole mess of cocaine (maybe?) off an actual bottle of wine.

There have articles and biographies written, about these “wonderkinds”.

These are the “brilliant ones”.  The people that had this natural skill needed to succeed in the restaurant industry.

I start to attribute this to stress.   But that can’t just be it.  I imagine an ER doctor is swimming in more stress than a chef could ever take on.

What about the creative nature of the job?  Some of the most successful people in the industry, are likely sober. Look at the Pellegrino list..   But are they the ones putting ants on ice cream? Probably.  So, what the hell?

So, the next most likely thought is that we only know about people in this industry having a higher incidence of addiction/mental illness is that society puts them under a spotlight.   Your favorite celebrity-accountant doesn’t share the same stage as your favorite celebrity actor.

Why the hell is Chef X important for serving ants?

Q: Who the hell wants to eat ants?  A: Lots of people.   And this didn’t come into vogue because my sober mother (who only eats well done steaks) thought it would be tasty or that there is nutritional value in it.  It came up because, like Radiohead, Van Gogh, or Elon Musk… someone saw things in a little bit different light.  That person had the canvas to express themselves.

Society cringed at first, then we had an “ah-ha” moment.. but I guarantee that it took someone either in a dire situation or someone just said “lets see how far we can go”.

Back to chefs, artists, musicians, etc..  My dilemma with them is that they had sobriety and education to create something that makes sense.  Where did that train derail from something that is classically accepted?

You look at Alinea or El Bulli.. What I think becomes interesting is that someone had a new idea, and they had the wherewithal to keep that in the confines of a system.   El Bulli is famous for taking a concept and documenting it’s values to death.  So, creativity meets systems..

Addicts need systems to survive in society.   Thats it.   I need to know where the day is going to go.  If not, I use alcohol to flip the light switch to await a new day.

 

 

 

What is the next fad?  I’d place my bet that its from the chef that has a bit of a storied past.   But it won’t be successful without a support system and sobriety.

Can’t wait.

The Trust Equation

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+/- Trust = Time + Consistent Behavior

 

I wish this was more complex.  But it’s true.  All you need to do is exhibit a behavior consistently and people will come to define you by it.  Bad behavior, over time, will develop distrust from people that care about you.

Obviously this works in reverse.   For example, this coffee shop makes the best cappuccino in town CONSISTENTLY.    Not only will I be exclusive to this coffee shop, I will tell my friends all about it.

Its okay that mess up, barring that you don’t make the same mistakes frequently.   This goes back to step 10 (taking personal inventory).  If you make mistakes, own up to them and swiftly resolve them.   That is all anyone wants.

And, on the cynical side of it, NOBODY REALLY CARES IF YOU MESS UP. You could be a fuck-up all day, and if that is what people come to expect of you, its not that you disappointed them, it is that you set that expectation.

Be a fuck-up, be a saint, be a know-it-all, be drunk, its only cementing how people perceive you.

On a positive note, any of the bad things you think you have done, you can undo.  It just takes time.  Be persistent.  I trust you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monster Cookies

Here you go.  Your first recipe.

love,

J.

Monster Cookies               Date: 1-4-2017

 

  • 3 Eggs (Large… or try 1 duck egg.. I dare you)
  • 1 ¼ C Brown Sugar
  • 1 C Granulated Sugar
  • ½ t Salt (Kosher)
  • ½ t Vanilla (if you have beans handy, trade up for a bean) (also, if youre crafty make some vanilla salt (store your spent beans in kosher salt and save for a rainy pastry day)
  • 12 oz Peanut Butter (Jiffy is my favorite because its almost Jeff-y.  Be a grown-up and get chunky)
  • 110 g Butter (use grams, you caveman)
  • ½ C M&M’s (or the equally cool but misrepresented “Magic Pieces”)
  • ½ C Chocolate Chips
  • ¼ C Raisins
  • 2 t Baking Soda
  • 4 ½ C Rolled Oats

 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
  • In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda, and oatmeal.
  • Drop batter however large you want 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  • NEVER EVER EVER JUST EAT THE DELICIOUS BATTER BY ITSELF OR FOLD INTO YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to racks to cool. When cool, eat all of them immediately.  Don’t share with friends or enemies.

 

Victims Unite

Demands made upon other people for too much attention, protection, and love can only invite domination or revulsion..”

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 44

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Karpman’s Triangle.   This idea of this is that in a conflict, there are three components essentially struggling for power.

The victim is the person in the conflict that is being oppressed, feeling hopeless, powerless, ashamed, etcetera.   The only power that the victim holds is the power of escape.

The persecutor is the person placing blame, often being oppressive and authoritarian. This person holds the power of control of the victim.

The rescuer is responsible for helping the victim out of the conflict.  They feel guilty when they’re not able to help the victim.  The primary interest is to avoid their own problems, which are disguised as concern.

The drama triangle begins when someone takes the role of  the victim or persecutor.  That person then feels the need to enlist another party into the drama, and this is where the conflict begins.  The motivations for the players for this is that each gets their psychological needs met in a way they feel justified, without having to acknowledge the harm done in the situation as a whole.  This is in a sense a sub-conscience selfishness for the individual.

The role of the rescuer is, to me, the most interesting person in this situation.   They really have little to gain in the conflict. They may say, “I am acting to help the victim” , where what they are really doing is deflecting or attempting to take another role.  Ego may be the biggest driving factor for this role, everyone likes to feel like the one who rescued.

When you look at the rescuer and victim the triangle, you may notice that there is some codependency happening.  The rescuer may keep the victim maintaining their victim status by encouraging them to continue their behavior.

I suppose my goal in sharing the idea is so that you recognize your role in any conflict.  Be real with your emotions.. Try to avoid being a persecutor, and if you’re the rescuer think of who you’re really rescuing.

Also, I’m aware that “persecutor” is misspelled on the image above. ..just wanted to see if you noticed.

…Relapse Prevention (part one)

This is my struggle lately.  Alcohol has dulled emotions, helped me to fall asleep, made life more livable..  Alas, I am out of control.  As the twelve steps would say, my life has become unmanageable.

I don’t want to change.  Alcohol simplifies everything.

But, for those of us that need to change our thought patterns, here are some examples of how to change..

First, acknowledge your emotion.  Check out my post on mindfulness.  Being aware of your thoughts goes a long way.

So, lets start with acknowledgement.  With any of these, try completing the statement “I feel…” then take a suggested action.

Anxiety

  • take a nap (not too long though)
  • journal your gratitudes (you need to stretch this one out.. give me 20)
  • meditate

Sadness

  • journal
  • call someone that understands your feelings

Fear

  • keep your routine to the letter (no matter how bad it gets, keep going)
  • be in contact with a trusted friend
  • find a safe space

Frustration

  • practice controlled breathing
  • journal/speak your mind out loud
  • meditate

Loneliness

  • call a trusted friend or family member (They want to hear from you, I promise.)
  • write a letter or send a card (there are few things better than receiving hand written letter or card)
  • email (for those of you that have zero patience)

Self-Pity

  • call someone supportive
  • play the “How-Could-This-Be-Worse” game
  • do something rewarding for yourself (within reason) (you deserve this)
  • focus on things you can control

Shame

  • focus on the present (see mindfulness)
  • own up to your mistakes (this goes a long way)
  • be honest
  • let it go

Depression

  • exercise
  • treatment!
  • call your friend/sponsor
  • do something you’re good at
  • walk a dog.. unless its not your dog and you don’t have permission.   (don’t steal dogs)
  • AA (I guarantee that someone has a story that trumps yours)

Try some of these.   Your substance of choice doesn’t need to be the cure-all.  Just be aware of what you’re feeling and follow some steps to get you back to the present.

/ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/

Before we get into a lot of specific topics on mental health, I wanted to bring up the idea of mindfulness.  In a nutshell, this is accepting your feelings, thoughts, and how your senses are perceiving your environment.  It is a concept in therapy where the person practicing acknowledges and accepts the present.  This can be practiced through meditation or simply noticing things in the moment, such as the weight of your phone or how you felt when someone paid you a compliment.
The importance of practicing mindfulness is broad.  One of the most important reasons to practice is that it improves your ability to cope with stressful situations, therefore reducing your overall stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.  This simple practice of coping and being self-aware generally leads to a positive outlook on life and just feeling good!
This practice can be quite useful in the hospitality industry.  We are expected to react in the moment while maintaining perfect composure towards our guests.  Practicing mindfulness increases self-awareness and how we react to situations.  If a guest were to tell you that your soup is salty, your immediate reaction is usually to respond quickly and defensively.   Rarely have I seen new cooks take a moment to accept the feedback, calmly investigate, then correct the situation.
I want to take a moment to recognize that there are different types of mindfulness.  Chewing gum or squinting when light is too bright is different than something like making eye contact in an uncomfortable situation.   Its safe to assume that you do pay attention to squinting, and how the light is affecting you.  Just take note of when it is happening.  Understanding and repeating mindfulness in simple situations will make the more complex situations less daunting.

Instructions for Practicing Mindfulness:
 1. Pay attention to one particular thing or event in your present moment.  This can be something such as petting a dog or listening to a joke.  Take note of how your dog is reacting to you, how soft it is,  What is the tone of the joke teller?
2.  Stay focused on the subject.  Bringing yourself to the present is paramount to mindfulness.  Notice when you start to wander, then bring yourself back to the moment.
3. Keep practicing.  Live in the present!