Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Walker House Update-10-23/Cheese History/Recipes

Just inspired to write...so here are a few points of interest....along with a little cheese history from the Cheffy Boy...

The Walker House is rocking...construction projects produce a new image everyday...

I will be in Wisconsin on the Fifteenth, and I am attempting to recruit my buddy Chef Dave Bulla from Pittsburg, PA. Dave, his wife and I have a history together and I would love to have the three of us together. Dave is going to meet me in Mineral Point on November 20th for a week-long, hands-on interview for my Executive Sous Chef position. I hope Dave likes it in Mineral Point, he would be an asset of the dream I have in mind...

Anyway, just putzing around on the computer trying to get tired enough to go to sleep and found an article that I had written when I was staying with David and his wife in Austin, Texas. The article was about Cheese. I thought that was pretty ironic.

This article came from newsletters that I used to write...I have gotten away from the recipes and history writing somewhat and have become more of the kitchen reality writing so it was kind of fun to find this...I am even giving away some recipes, which is something that I haven't done in years....This article is dated May 2001, I took a short hiatus to Austin with my Rottweiler Harley for a couple months, and I was staying with Chef Dave and his wife.

To read some more of the newsletters and stuff go to "The Chef's Office Newsletters" you can sign up for the sporadic CheffyBabbles also, or just go give 'em a peek...

Cheese History Stuff

"...A little history on cheese ...
Most authorities consider that cheese was first made in the Middle East. The earliest type was a form of sour milk which came into being when it was discovered that domesticated animals could be milked.
A legendary story has it that cheese was 'discovered' by an unknown Arab nomad. He is said to have filled a saddlebag with milk to sustain him on a journey across the desert by horse. After several hours riding he stopped to quench his thirst, only to find that the milk had separated into a pale watery liquid and solid white lumps. Because the saddlebag, which was made from the stomach of a young animal, contained a coagulating enzyme known as rennin, the milk had been effectively separated into curds and whey by the combination of the rennin, the hot sun and the galloping motions of the horse. The nomad, unconcerned with technical details, found the whey drinkable and the curds edible.
Cheese was known to the ancient Sumerians four thousand years before the birth of Christ. The ancient Greeks credited Aristaeus, a son of Apollo and Cyrene, with its discovery; it is mentioned in the OldTestament.
In the Roman era cheese really came into its own. Cheesemaking was done with skill and knowledge and reached a high standard. By this time the ripening process had been developed and it was known that various treatments and conditions under storager esulted in different flavours and characteristics.
The larger Roman houses had a separate cheese kitchen, the caseale, and also special areas where cheese could be matured. In large towns home-made cheese could be taken to a special centre to be smoked. Cheese was served on the tables of the nobility and travelled tothe far corners of the Roman Empire as a regular part of the rations of the legions.
During the Middle Ages, monks became innovators and developers and it is to them we owe many of the classic varieties of cheese marketed today. During the Renaissance period cheese suffered a drop in popularity, being considered unhealthy, but it regained favour by the nineteenth century, the period that saw the start of the move from farm to factory production. How's that for a little bit of useless but interesting info...
Cheese dishes
Here is a little bit of Chef Mike fusion, mixing my love for Mexican staples with that of traditional Italian...
Fettucini alla Carbonara
This is not the traditional dish, although similiar, like all else it has that little Cheffy twist to it.
The traditional recipe calls for pancetta bacon and I substitute chorizo for the pancetta, cause that's thekind of guy I am...I love chorizo, something about that spicy pork fat I think...ha ha
If you would prefer to use bacon or pancetta, feel free, it's your world baby!!!
3/4# Fettucini or spaghetti
4-6 ounces of chorizo, pancetta or lean bacon
3 cloves of garlic, halved
1/3 cup of white wine
1/3 cup of heavy or whipping cream**
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Cook your chorizo and garlic, roughly 4-5 minutes, oruntil it is done.
Drain, reserve 3T of your sausage fat, discard your garlic.
Prepare your pasta, drain and rinse, return to dry pan.
When your sausage is done and you have drained it and returned it to the hot pan with the 3T of drippings add the wine. Allow the wine to simmer for 3-5 minutes, add your cream. In a double boiler, whisk in the egg and the egg yolk,whisk in 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese and cook until the sauce thickens slightly.
Pour the chorizo-cream mixture over your fettucini and toss well. Re-heat.
When reheated toss with the egg cheese mixture. Toss to coat.
Fix the kidz a peanut butter sandwich, sit on the floor of the kitchen and eat it all...
Some things are just not meant to be shared...mmmmmmm....ha ha
**Cheffy Notes:
You can thicken low fat or skim milk to replace the heavy cream.
One other thing I like to do is omit the sausage, keep the garlic when I am making the cream sauce and add asparagus tips and artichokes...
mmmmm, not to mention a helluva lot healthier...
Cheddar Cheese Dumplings
Ingredients for 4 servings:
16 oz Cheddar, Shredded
2 Large Eggs
1 c Unbleached Flour
1 t Salt
1/2 c Butter
1/2 pt Sour Cream
Mash the cheddar cheese and then add the eggs mixing well.
Stir in the flour and salt.
Drop by tablespoons into the rapidly boiling water or chicken stock
Cover and boil for 15 minutes.
Drain and serve with melted butter and sour cream.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley or paprika,if desired.
Good Stuff Maynard..."
OK...enough babbles...will be back soon...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Make it Happen-CheffyBabble

Making It Happen

Another Cheffy Babble

“This is who I am and this is what I do” is one of my favorite sayings at work, (I took it from an episode of Kung Fu a long time ago).. If I am bouncing off the walls rocking and rolling or if I am sitting at my desk with scratch paper and a calculator trying to figure something out, “this is who I am and this is what I do”, just “a magician that dresses funny…”

There are many professions in this world, why I have chosen to become a culinarian I have often wondered, as I am sure a lot of us have.

Is it the sense of and need for urgency? The speed, the energy, or do you just love to cook? Are you projecting your creativeness and artistic ability through food? Maybe your energy comes from the organization, development and imagination? Or is it the rush from seeing a major event come together from beginning to end, knowing that you were an instrumental part in”Making It Happen”

The line between success and failure in our business is a mighty fine one, but failure is never considered an option.

You have to do whatever you have to in order to “Make It Happen”, there is no alternative to success, and we are never given an option, we are expected to “Make It Happen”

Does that mean crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s? Absolutely.

I have seen successes and near failures (quite a few of them my own), and sometimes “it jus’ ain”t pretty”. It’s all about respecting everything that you are and everything you do.

We all have fallen prey to this situation before (myself very much included). As chefs, cooks, culinarians, managers, prep or stewards/dishwashers for all that matters, like I said, we have but one option: Make It Happen

“Are all the ovens set right? What product is going in what oven? What temp are the hotboxes? Who didn’t show up for work, where in hell is everybody? Is that enough sauce? Hmm, now that I think about it, do I have enough starch? Kristopher???? Where in heck is the banquet event order? How many pounds of potatoes did you have them cut? Where’s my calculator? Who’s got my probe? What time is it anyway??? OK, FIRING PROTEIN AND VEGGIES IN ONE HOUR LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!!??

** Cheffy takes a breath of air and tries to figure out what he is forgetting**

This scenario may seem a little exaggerated, but the funny thing of it is, that this happens more than not.

I feel that a process must be going through your head all the time; the second our guard is let down is the time we get slapped the hardest.

This occurs mostly out of not paying attention and respecting every logistical level of imagination, preparation and execution of the product you are permitting to leave your kitchen.

SO!!! MAKE IT HAPPEN BABY!!!!!!!!!!!

In Walks The Cook

In Walks The Cook
Cheffy Babble #1

In my not-so-illustrious career I wish I could have worked under a Gordon Ramsey, Rick Bayless, Charlie Trotter, Adrian Ferran, Martin Chiffers, Gerhard Keegan or any of the other million great chefs that rock the culinary world.

I have worked under some very great chefs don’t get me wrong, it is so cool when you find someone that thinks on the cutting edge or is hell bent on leather in creating his own edge. That kind of passion motivates me…

I’m just a freaking cook.

From the dish tank at Campus Inn in Ann Arbor, to chief cook/bottle washer in small Twenty-seater Mom and Pop dive in Michigan, into being an Executive Chef in some decent sized hotels, B&B’s in the southeast. To getting my ass beat more than more often than not in Conference Centers and Catering Facilities across this nation of ours over the past twenty years plus. I’m still just a freaking cook.

The cooks’ world is a community of some very insane people that thrive on passion, speed, love, hate, the sense of urgency, an uncanny sense of humor, and perhaps some of the meanest people that you can meet in the heat of the moment.

This is who we are and what we do…
Just freakin’ magicians that dress funny…

The kitchen is a battlefield. Either your team gets along or they don’t. They learn how to dance or they wind up standing there lost in a world they may not belong in. I have worked with (and once upon a time been) the kid that knew all there was to know but has freaked out totally when they stepped foot in a REAL kitchen with REAL cooks only to realize how ignorant they really are. REAL cooks are freaking animals…

In life, as culinarians, we make a whole lot of choices in our professional career. Some of us live in the mediocrity of just having a job, and then there are those of us that eat, sleep, and drink talking about food, these are the warriors!!! Simple people that take food very seriously and are always on the quest for new flavors, textures, colors, presentations, methods, systems----whoa!!! .now that’s life!! Chungachungabam baby!

Every chef has a story about some CIA, JW or FCI intern that has just simply amazed us with the misinterpretation of what they thought a REAL kitchen was about and the poor kid is totally lost… And then there have been a chosen few that motivated the chef because of their passion to learn and their passive submissiveness of clinging onto every word and questioning things they didn’t understand… These are the people I want next to me when I am going down in the heat of passion!!!


Why Waltz When You Can Rock and Roll?

I want the individual that is constantly seeking methods, answers, developing flavors, textures, techniques, simplifying this thing they call a life/profession. How can I be faster? What did or didn’t I do right? What was up with communication tonight? What issues do I need to address? Man, I need to talk to Chef…

For those of us serious about food,
This, my friend, is true motivation and stimulation.

You can not lie your way into a job in our profession. You can not lie about food or capabilities period-we’ll know in 43 minutes or less (and sometimes much less) if you were feeding us a line of bull. If you survive an evening successfully you may have found your next family.

“…Those who know not,
And know that they know not,
I can teach…

The ones that know not;
And know not that they know not,
Are fools;
Shun them…”

Bruce Lee- The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

A fed horse needs to run like hell, you have been fed the book of knowledge, now let’s see what you do with the “application of ass-whoopin’” that the REAL kitchen gives hundreds of thousands of cooks in our nation on a daily basis.

It’s Pass or Fail and failure is never an option.

Then, In Walks The Bloody Cook…

ChungaChungaBam Baby!!!

No Passion, No Love!!!!

CheffyBabble #1

Monday, October 15, 2007

More Walker House Stuff

This picture is of my first night in Mineral Point, I made dinner for Mr and Mrs Dickinson, their friend and resident roofer, Henry and the Cheffy Boy out of stuff I pulled out of their fridge...

Broiled Flounder with Parmesean Crust, served with Tequila-Lime Butter Sauce, Confetti Rice Pilaf and Early Peas with Smoked Salmon deglazed with Tequila

Picture before the plate was sauced and cleaned.

Roasted Garlic and Cheddar Riced Potatoes surrounded by a succotash of vegetables deglazed in Raspberry Beer and topped with a Soy Infused Pork Loin Steak

This is a picture of the plate that I did for the twenty guests the Dickinson's invited to dinner on Cheffy's second night in Mineral Point...

Dinner Night at The Walker House

Dinner Night was kind of fun...

For me, you know you can put me in any kitchen with any obstacles and I am cool with that...I am in my element...this is who I am and food is what I do...

The Dickinson's on the other hand were witnessing the beginning of their dream coming true, by having some long haired Chef guy from Tennessee pumping out an impromptu dinner for twenty out of their kitchen...the visual reality of the life that is to come...

Joe washing dishes and hanging out with Chef in the kitchen, while I am italking to a local farmer about products her family farm offers while flinging saute pans and broiling pork loin...

Susan and their kids finishing up in the dining room, Susan helping me plate salads and entrees...everyone running food, setting salads, opening wine, running a complete food service out of a kitchen that hasn't been cranked up in twenty years...

Fun stuff...

I don't think we have any pictures of Susan helping Cheffy plate up, but that was really cute...she just wanted to be such a part of this (and she definitely was), we all had a really good time...

Although I babble a bit about the food, Susan and their son Paul were the true heroes of the event. The dining room that we chose was a construction zone and it took them the better part of the day with all of the equipment and tools that had to me moved along with all of the other stuff that has long since accumulated in the dining room, all the sweeping, dusting, wiping, vaccuuming etc., not to mention setting the tables and chairs to resemble a finished product of a dining room set for twenty...

Susan bless her heart was non-stop...all the way up to Chef and her bussing the dining room after all was said and done...(we had to make sure Joe had plenty of dishes to do...ha ha)

Anyway...fun stuff...


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cheffy Does The Walker House Cornish Inn, Mineral Point, Wisconsin

Cheffy Does The Walker House Cornish Inn,

Mineral Point, Wisconsin

I have always been a history buff and have lived in some of the most historical cities and small towns in the States, from Charleston, SC to San Francisco, to Appomattox Court House and Pamplin, Virginia to the cobblestone streets of Calumet, Michigan. I love the history of everywhere I ever go…

This week I had the honor to have my travels land me in a little town outside of Madison, Wisconsin called Mineral Point. The history and the passion in Mineral Point’s restoration projects are absolutely overwhelming.

On one of my food message boards on the internet someone had posted a question:

“What would you do with a recently restored 150 year old hotel?”

Jokingly I replied,
“…I’d ask Chef Mike to send me his resume…”

So we took that one step further and Mr. Joe Dickinson and his lovely bride, Susan had sent the totally unpredictable CheffyBoy up to my newest favorite town, Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

The Dickinson’s had bought the Old Walker House Hotel in historic Mineral Point and have been working day and night as of late to get the doors open of this old railroad hotel, circa 1836, that has not been open in over twenty years...

The Walker House Needs A Chef

So they investigated Cheffy…man, this guy sounds like fun...

Joe and I had communicated both via email and telephone for a couple days and he got me pretty excited about his family project…the goal is to open up the doors of this critically acclaimed haunted house; the Walker House, and serve unbelievable food that is going to be an imagination destination both culinarily and historically in their recently restored Cornish Inn.

So I wound up taking a couple days off of work and the Dickinson’s flew me up to Mineral Point to see their passionate dream.

Words couldn’t express the feeling of stepping into yesteryear that I felt.

Before I got there I told Mr. Dickinson to have his wife go out shopping and find Cheffy something to cook, don’t care what it is, you just aren’t allowed to tell me what it is…

This “…don’t tell me what it is…” turned into Cheffy cooking a nice dinner for me ,the Dickinson’s, Henry, (the Dickinson’s good friend and roofer), the first night, just stuff I found in the freezer and reach-in…Flounder with roasted garlic-tequila butter sauce, Confetti Rice and some kind of veggie, I don’t remember…

Up to feeding a bunch of my new friends in Mineral Point, most of them on the Historical Society and involved with the restoration of Mineral Point that welcomed me with open arms, and I haven’t even talked about accepting a job yet…heck, I was just cooking supper...

Anyway, Joe tells me he bought a pork loin,

assuming that I saw it…
I didn’t…

Anyway, you know how the Cheffy mouth never sleeps…
“…a whole loin or tenderloin?...
Reealllly, why don’t you just invite some people to dinner?”

Anyway, I cut the loin into steaks and wound up with twenty and told him to invite twenty people to dinner…Now he’s excited…his wife on the other hand (I think) was a little more apprehensive then Joe and I were…This means that we need to turn the construction zone of one of the dining rooms into a dining room…I must admit that I was not much help, the Dickinson’s along with their son Paul and other members of the family turned the work zone into a dining zone, it took them most of the day, but they succeeded and was pretty awesome…

They set up a twenty top down the center of the dining room so that everyone was at the same table with Cheffy at the head of one end with Joe and Susan’s youngest grandbaby at the other...

The Menu:

I only did two courses since we were so pressed for time, I didn’t get into the kitchen until the afternoon, Joe and I were running around most of the day checking out produce markets, organic farmers (both vegetable and protein), local meat markets and butchers…that was fun…

For breakfast that morning, reminiscent of my Bed and Breakfast days, I cooked an Italian Herbed Frittata with smoked salmon and Hook’s Two Year White Cheddar. Flanked with Crisped Cinnamon Bacon. Yum.

Dinner was fun, even if I didn’t have time to do the dessert…

The fresh herbs I used throughout the day came from a Walker House flower pot…

Mesclun Salad with fresh basil, tarragon, oregano, dried fruit with marinated grape tomatoes and cucumbers finished with Hook’s award winning twelve-year Cheddar Cheese. Served with a Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing.

Italian Grilled Flatbread (home made)
Chef’s favorite- whole grain bread infused with roasted garlic, basil, thyme, oregano & honey, grilled and sliced into triangles.

Soy and Roasted Garlic infused Pork Loin Steaks
with herb scented brown sauce
Riced Potatoes with Garlic and Cheddar Cheese
Succotash Vegetables sautéed in Basil Infused Olive Oil then deglazed with Raspberry Beer…

I originally planned on serving dinner at 7:00 which would have given me time to throw together a dessert, but Joe threw a wrench…one of the things that I love about this business…sometimes…

There was the council meeting, a historical meeting, travel writer in town and the list was endless…no one could make it for dinner at 7 but they could be here at 5:30…hmmmm…

And the question is what…?

Heck its only 3:30 if I can’t pump out two courses in two hours for twenty people by myself I guess I just failed my job interview…ha ha…

But you know me…failure is never an option…

“But they ain’t gettin’ no dessert and I need a dishwasher…”

Mr. Dickinson found a oneness with the dish tank while hanging out with the dude who was pumping out a function for twenty of the town folk in a kitchen that has not pumped out food in twenty years…many of whom have not even set foot in the historic Walker House in twenty years…

I think I passed my job interview.

The hotel is just awesome, my first day Joe thought I was going to run away because I was pretty much speechless and overwhelmed with the experience. He thought something was wrong…I was just speechless and overwhelmed; trying to soak it all in…I was in love…

So, now that both of us pretty much decided that we found what we wanted we started on menu ideas, listening and interpreting the dreams of the Dickinson family, Willie Caffee (resident spirit), the Walker House Cornish Inn and the historic hideaway, Mineral Point, Wisconsin…

The Walker House found a Chef…

So if you live in Mineral Point and are reading this let me put the rumors to rest…

Yes, the Walker House is re-opening as a Cornish Inn with lodging and full food service. They have hired Chef Michael Hayes of Knoxville, Tennessee to be their Executive Chef.

No, the Pub is not gone…it has been refinished to meet building specs and is destined to be one of the coolest pubs in Mineral Point. The pub is going to host a variety of beers and wines until such time as a liquor license can be obtained. The pub food will focus on Cornish, Italian and Americana pub foods including gourmet pizzas.

There are three additional dining rooms available at the Walker House for dinner service. The two upstairs dining rooms will be open every evening at 5:00, only opening the third dining room when necessary for overflow.

The current estimation is that the Walker House can seat 160 people.

Although the Pub menu is available throughout the restaurant, Chef Mike and his team will design special menus to change periodically based on supply and demand from the farmers local to Southern Wisconsin.

Although we have filled out credit applications with local food service providers, I don’t favor seeing a truck in the Walker House driveway with availability that the local farmers, meat markets and butchers have to offer. As of November 15th, the can opener at the Walker House no longer exists and aside of paper products, things like salt, sugar, yeast, and boxes of printer paper for our Point of Sales system I really don’t want to see a box…

The evening dining focus is going to cover a variety of cuisines that includes Cornish, Italian, Mediterranean, and Chef Mike’s fun versions of fusion. All of the protein will be purchased locally from local farmers, as will majority of the herbs, vegetables and fruits.

We are projecting opening on New Year’s Eve 2007.
Understanding the diversity of the world of permits, inspections, fire marshals etc. this may or may not be the truth, this is only a projection.

My heart feels comfortable making a life’s decision with a community that has willingly embraced my spirit.

I think Cheffy is going to do Mineral Point for a long time...