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Oct. 4th, 2009

So ya wanna open a restaraunt, pt 1

Ok, so Southwestern cooking has always been among my favorites.  My biggest culinary learning experience to date has been the season I spent working in Winter Park, Colorado.  Since I've been in Sarasota, I've made it a point to familiarize myself with Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Jamaican cuisines.  It was rather easy for a while, as my last boss was Cuban born, and though his menu was eclectic, there was a very heavy Cuban flavor.  Staples such as Ropa Vieja, Arroz Con Pollo, and Jerk meats have become some of my favorites.  Well, since my list of favorite tastes is ever expanding, I've played around and discovered some tasty dishes.

Now, the concept I have hit on is one I'm calling "Latin-Fusion"  Most of the dishes I plan on serving at "Tranquilo" could trace their roots to non-latin cuisine.  The dishes range from being classic american to Italian, to Thai and more.    This time around, we're going to start with, well, Starters!

Chips and Guac- House fried tortilla chips with fresh Guacamole.

Bruschetta-  A latin spin on a classic.  Cilantro and queso fresco join ripe tomato and extra virgin olive oil on top of toasted Bolillo bread.

South Of The Border Satay- Mojo marinated chicken or steak skewers with bacon and jalapeno.  Served with Sweet Chipotle Glaze or Chimichurri.

South Of The Border Spring Rolls- Cilantro, Basil, and sweet Red Pepper with Mojo marinated chicken rolled in Rice Paper

Colorado Style Green Chili-  A hearty classic, straight from the Rockies.  A pork and tomatillo green chili, served with sour cream, onion, and shredded cheddar cheese.



So, there you have it.  As the time and funds permit, I will cook a few of these up, and take some photos. 

Next Post: Entree's

Oct. 3rd, 2009

(no subject)

When I started this journal, I set out to chronicle my culinary adventures, particularly here in sunny South Florida.  Well, it hasn't worked out as such, at least not yet.  But, due to an interesting change in my circumstances, I feel it's time to make good on this little experiment.  So, for your reading pleasure, the last 9 months in my culinary life....


As I set out, for Florida, I was uneasy, but confident.  I had labored the last several years in a corporate environment, and in the fall of 2008, I had to pass on a job as a Sous Chef in Beaver Creek, Colorado.  The job market in South Florida was tight in early 2009, and it still is now in late 2009.  But, armed with a little wit, a decent resume', and enough money to last a month.  In addition, I had been in touch with the kitchen manager at one of the local Outback  Steakhouses.  Since I had spent a significant portion of the prior two years working for Outback, and I was moving into their corporate back yard, I felt good about my prospects.  Well, despite solid references and a decent resume, it didn't happen.  So, needing some kind of work, any kind of work, I took a job as a server for a local seafood place.  And, armed with my knowledge of food, I did alright there.  Sadly, though, I had been hired right before the end of the busy season.  Once the snowbirds left, I wasn't making much at all.  So, I began my search anew.  Eventually, I found a job working in a small but funky kitchen.  The food was good to begin with, but I was allowed to add my own little touched here and there.  For four months, I used my workplace as a test kitchen.  And, slowly, I began to build a small following.

Sadly, as of a few days ago, I am no longer employed there.  Business had fallen off to the point that I, as the newest guy, was the first to get cut.  But, even though I am essentially where I was before, I'm not worried.  I still have my talent and skill, and some new ideas for dishes.  In addition, I am starting a business of my very own.  I am available for private cooking lessons and demonstrations, as well as small-scale catering jobs. 

And, in addition to all of that, I am full speed ahead on opening my own place.  With any sort of luck, fall of 2011 will bring the start of "Tranquilo", a new latin-fusion restaurant in sunny Sarasota Fl.

Well, kiddies, that's all I have for now.   May good times and good meals come your way.

Nov. 27th, 2008

Thanksgiving Update:

Ok, been doing the finishing touches on the big feast.  The turkey is quite possibly the most beautiful bird I've ever roasted.



It's just got a little more time to go, in the slow roaster to finish.

Also, been working on the gravy.  The giblets I had marinating went into a frying pan for a quick sear, then into a pot of chicken stock, onions and celery.  It's been simmering for a couple of hours by now.



just got to let it reduce a bit more, and then skim the fat, remove the neck, blend a little, and thicken.  And, finally, I needed another dessert.  Coconut Cream Pie, anyone? 



And, just a quick note:

I realize I missed posting my recipe of the week this week.  Due to the Thanksgiving holiday and the new job, I really haven't had the time to put it together.  But, rest assured, I will have another tasty treat for y'all this weekend.  Thank you, the dedicated few who read this blog.  Happy Holidays, y'all!

MMMM...thanksgiving dinner

Ok, so here I sit at 10 in the morning, taking a break from my Thanksgiving cookery.  I love Thanksgiving dinner.  It is, by far, the best meal of the year, in my opinion.  Anyways, here are some pics from my preparation. 

First, the turkey:
this bad boy weighs in at 21 lbs, and was lovingly rubbed down with a garlic/rosemary compound butter.  It's not quite done as of this posting, so it's not quite as brown as it's going to be.  Prior to the butter rub/roasting, I soaked it for about a day and a half in a brine consisting of salt, brown sugar, pepper, garlic, and rosemary.



Of course, this bird is stuffed with my own stuffing, made of day old bread, chicken stock, rosemary, onions and celery.  Since it's all in the bird, I can't show you pics of that.  Of course, the obligatory mashed potatoes and gravy also will be served, but since dinner is a few hours away, I have not begun the potato prep yet.  But, for the last 2 days, I have been marinating the giblets in dijon mustard, cider vinegar, rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper.  Here's what they look like:



Of course, what Thanksgiving day dinner would be complete without the sweet potatoes?  Traditionally, I haven't been a big fan of the sweet potato, especially with the marshmallows and heavy syrup.  So, I did a sweet potato souffle, instead.



And, finally, dessert.  Kept it simple this year.  Just some pumpkin pies and a pecan pie.


So, in a nutshell, that's my Thanksgiving day feast.  it kinda sucks that I have to work this afternoon, so I won't be able to enjoy this until later tonight.  But, such is life.  I guess I should be thankful that I have a job and a dinner to look forward to later on tonight.  Have a good Turkey day, guys.

Nov. 14th, 2008

for dinner this evening...

Corned Beef with sauteed cabbage and mashed potatoes...nummy



Nov. 12th, 2008

Decided to do some baking today...

Yeah, with the holidays rapidly approaching, I decided to do a little baking today.  Found a whole bunch of baking chocolate in the pantry, so I made Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies and Brownies from scratch.  Tasty.


mmmmmm....brownies.




Nov. 11th, 2008

Recipe of the week...

This week's recipe was taught to me by Amy, the kitchen manager of the East Point Corner Tavern.  We ran this as a special while I worked there, and I fell in love with this recipe.  Some of the prep, like the Barbecue sauce and the grit cakes, need to be done ahead of time.



Low Country BBQ Shrimp w/ Jalapeno-Cheddar Grit Cake


1.5 lbs 16-20 count Shrimp, peeled and de-veined
bamboo skewers

for the sauce:

 1 cup Dijon mustard
    1/2 cup molasses
    1/4 cup cider vinegar
    1/4 cup honey
    1 tablespoon oil
    1/4 teaspoon  oregano
    1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
    1/4 black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne


3 1/2 c. fresh spinach
2 cups cooked grits
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
2 jalapenos, diced
cornstarch
olive oil


To start, mix the cooked grits, diced jalapenos and cheddar cheese together.  Spread out on a baking sheet, and cool in the fridge until they are nice and firm.  Next up, barbecue sauce.  The recipe I  have here is for more of a South Carolina style mustard sauce.  To start it off, take all of the dry ingredients, and toss them in a dry and thoroughly heated pan.  Swirl them around for about a minute or two, just until they toast a bit.  When the spices are nice and toasty, add the vinegar, and mix thoroughly.  When that's mixed together, go ahead and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Simmer together for about 15 to 20 minutes.  When it's finished, set it aside.

At this point, you should take the completely chilled and set grits out, and turn onto a cutting board.  Use a biscuit cutter, and cut rounds of the grit cake.  Dredge in the cornstarch, and then pan fry in the olive oil.  If you are cooking your shrimp on the grill, go ahead and do that at this point.  If you are not using a grill, you can pan sear the skewers.  You want to cook them just until the tails turn pink, and then brush them with the barbecue sauce.  Pull them from the heat, and set aside.  Now, one last step before you build the dish.  Heat a little more olive oil in a saute pan, and wilt the spinach.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ok, now to assemble.  Take some of the barbecue sauce, and drizzle on the plate.  Lay a grit cake in the center, and top with a nice mound of the wilted spinach.  The, lay the shrimp on top of the spinach, making it look kind of like a crown.   This recipe should serve 4.

Bon Appetit!

Nov. 7th, 2008

(no subject)

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Nov. 5th, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes....

Ok, so as any of you who have followed the saga know, I was hired by Beaver Creek resort in Colorado.  This is a position that not only be a fantastic learning experience, but look awesome on the old resume as well.  Well, as fate would have it, I will not be able to afford the move, so as of now, that plan is scrapped.  I'm disappointed, to say the least, but I know I tried to get it done.  Hindsight being what it is, given the chance to start over, I might change some things in my planning.  But, as the majority of circumstance is not directly my fault, I can't feel too bad about the way I approached the whole situation.  So, a new plan falls into place.

I will begin to travel, study, and find myself as a cook.  But, my first step is to head south.  I have taken an old friend up on an offer he made, and I will be relocating to Florida.  Specifically, the Bradenton/Sarasota area.  On a professional level, I can't complain too incredibly much.  There are more good restaurants in that area than one can really shake a stick at.  In fact, I have a few prospects already. 

I know a lot of you here in Atlanta might be confused by the sudden turnaround, and even ask why I can't beging this journey here in this city.  But, rest assured that I feel this is the best move for me.  I will be moving into a good situation, surrounded by a group of people I have gotten pretty close to over the last few years.  I know also that it will not be my last stop.  The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my journey professionally.  In my opinion, a great cook becomes a great chef by learning as much as he or she can from as many great chefs as he can.  And, in the spirit of that, it is my intention to try new areas, and new styles of cooking.  How long will I be in Sarasota?  Who knows.  Maybe a year, maybe a bit longer.  It's not time to make that decision just yet.  But, you should also remember that I have family and friends that are important to me right here.  Because of this, I will be back at least a few times a year.  I will not lose touch, nor will I forget the people who inspire me to be better than I am. 

Now, don't go panicing.  I will remain here in Atlanta at least through the holidays.  And, in that time, I intend to spend as much time as humanly possible with the people that matter to me.  So, let the countdown begin.  Let's call it 2 months and counting. 

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