Shutter skills

I’ve been working on my food photography…. what do you guys think?

The biscuit recipe can be seen here.









I’ve been borrowing an SLR camera (a Canon) and taking a photography class. I feel a little more legit! Of course I almost dropped the camera and fogged it up with steam trying to shoot those potatoes frying, but hey, it’s an improvement.

I’m totally stoked to see Joy The Baker next week. I’m making the trip to Portland to have her sign my book. What should I bring her?? I’m thinking…. homemade mustard. Or cookies. Either one. Anyways, enjoy this food porn in the meantime, and maybe next week I can post a photo of me and Joy 🙂


Pie Lady

I have always wanted a food related nickname. Like my Aunt who’s dad (my Grandpa) calls her Cookie. Or the old time family church friend we used to call Brother Fudge. How does one get such a delicious nick name? Can some one please come up with a nice one for me? I decided that I might as well start throwin’ nicknames out there myself to suggest that people use.

Last week I dropped off a pie at my boyfriends work. It was all very Fairy Godmother, I just snuck into the break room and left it on the table, with no note and not a peep to anyone. As I was leaving I felt very much like a Pie Lady at that moment. You know these ladies-or at least you’ve heard your mom talk about them. That wonderful woman who brings pie? Or leaves pie, in my case.

If you want to be a Pie Lady (or Man) it’s very easy.

1. Make a pie. (My chocolate cream pie, maybe. Just a suggestion.)

2. Take it to someone or leave it somewhere for people to consume. You can tell them it’s you whose leaving it, otherwise it kinda defeats the purpose of a nickname and your more of just a Pie Fairy, aren’t you?

3. Do it often enough and people will catch on.

I am very sorry this doesn't have the whipped cream on it yet. This was the only picture I got since I got up and sleepily put whipped cream on this morning I really wasn't awake enough to get a finished picture.

Drama Queen

I think my Dad is a bit of a drama queen. He likes the drama of a stunner main course that takes your breath away and gets your friends talking. He is the guy that deep-fries the turkey at Thanksgiving. He is the guy that makes a viking ship out of a watermelon, complete with apple swans, you know, just for the extra touch.

I think I might have learned from him how fun it can be to impress people with food. And possibly the adrenaline rush you get when you’ve actually pulled something off. I don’t think I’ll ever make a viking ship out of a watermelon, but I wouldn’t put it past me to deep fry a turkey. I’m already well on my way to being my own little Foodie Drama Queen. The week after Christmas I was at the store, and on a whim I bought a prime rib roast. I have never cooked a prime rib roast. I like it, sure, but never even thought about cooking one. I confess, it was on sale. It was my shiny pair of red shoes, half off, designer brand. I had to have it. Before I even knew what was happening I was home with it, showing my boyfriend my amazing thrifty purchase when he said “So you gonna cook it for dinner?” Gulp. I thought it might live in the freezer for awhile- at least until I did more research and read about 10,000 recipes, comparing notes. Easter sounded like a better bet. He convinced me, and so I called the only person who knew about this sort of thing. Dad.

He has done prime rib at Christmas many times, but of course, he puts his own Drama Dad stamp on it. He covers it in salt. This may not sound like much drama, but when you take away one of the main senses I rely on to tell if I’m cooking something right (my eyesight) because the thing is covered in a 1/4 inch thick layer of pure white, you will be holdin’ your breath alright when you finally take it out of the oven and crack that sucker open. I was more worried then a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Dad’s instructions weren’t too hard to follow:

This was for a 7-8 lb. bone in, prime rib roast that already came tied from the store.

1.Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with rock salt (ice cream salt, Drama Dad calls it.) Preheat your oven with a rack in the bottom third to 450F.

Place your roast on this bed of salt, drizzle with olive oil all over, then add seasonings. I used dried rosemary, thyme, dried chives, marjoram, salt and pepper, and garlic from the jar.

2. Put it in the oven uncovered, for about 20 minutes. This sears the meat for you.

3. Take it out and turn your oven down to 300.  Then, in a large bowl, put an ENTIRE box kosher salt (DD says, best to have 2 boxes on hand, just in case. In fact, I ended up using about a box and 1/2). Moisten the salt with water, until you can take a handful, squeeze it in your hand and it sticks in a little knuckle shaped bar, like wet chunky white sand. I think it looks like gleaming slushy snow.

4. Proceed to cover the entire roast in this sticky salt stuff. Dad recommended I “build a foil gate, so that the salt is held onto the roast” this proved easier said then done. It took some finessing with foil and salt errosion before I figured it out (should have known, coming the man who once spent his weekend creating a sea worthy craft out of a fruit!) But in the end he was right- it did help.

Once you have it all covered, about 1/4 of an inch thick, stick a meat thermometer in it (I recommend the digital kind) and cook it at 300 until it reaches 125-128 (rare to med. rare) I cooked it to 128, then took it out and let it rest for a good 1/2 hour (it will keep cooking, but also, the juices will redistribute and it will stay delicious this way).

Then, if you dare, break into the salty crust to make the dramatic reveal…

Frankie was totally impressed.

The real drama is when you cut into it. And this one took my breath away. It was exactly how we wanted it. Of course, to some of you this make look bloody and disgusting, and you may want to cook yours to 130 or even 135. But then, why even go to all the trouble? You might as well over cook a NY Strip and call it good (the best part about being the drama queen is that you have license to say catty things).

This comes out with a fabulous crust. The best part, is the salty herby end piece. That one’s for the cook. I learned that from Dad too.

If you are looking for a full meal, try mashed garlic potatoes, and a salad something. It doesn’t really matter what the sides are, everyone will want seconds on meat.

Embracing your inner drama queen, AND eating juicy red meat? What could be better? Actually, the sandwiches we had the next day were a close second.

2011 in review

Well, I certainly have room for improvement, but thanks for reading, Fellow Foodies! I’m looking forward to a very tasty 2012! See my blog stats summary from 2011 below, or send me a note with some topics or dishes you’d like to see on CorvallisFoodie!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Lessons learned

So I started at a restaurant. Let me tell you, it is a LOT different then watching food network. It’s work. Mostly the physical kind. But also a lot of the mental kind. I always have one ear opened. Two hands on what I’m doing, one ear opened, listening. Yes I’m a dishwasher, but when someone says we need to work together, what do you think I say? “YES CHEF!” That’s the way it’s done in the kitchen. Where the action is. And if you can’t handle it, you best get out of the way.

It’s important to have one ear opened because you never know what the guys on the line (where the cooking happens) might call for, or what random thing might need to be brought to the line. (also, you should probably always know what’s in the walk-in fridge. Amazingly, 30 seconds does make a difference). And when you looking at a 10 minute ticket time, a 3 minute trip to the back of the room is too far for the guys to go get it themselves. That’s the way it is. But I love it. So what are my lessons learned so far?

1. When someone says their behind you, they mean it. Literally, they are behind you. Move or don’t move, just don’t go backwards and run into them. Lord knows the second you do, a whole 5 gallon bucket of tomato sauce will be everywhere. And yes, you will look like the idiot.

2. Communication is key. “HOT, Comin around” also happens to mean get out of the way. Or look up at least and clear a spot in the dish pit for a hot pan. “Sharp behind” is not a come-on, it just means some one has a knife and they are walking behind you. If you are a smart little kitchen hobbit, you will listen, and communicate. It is always better to over communicate in the company kitchen then under. A few months ago the Chef came up to me and asked me to do about 5 things before I left that night. I am new. I am tired (mostly) and I generally do not have a good memory. I had to roll this check list around in my head until I had few minutes to complete it. There I was, scrubbing saute pans thinking “don’t forget so wrap up the extra beef bones, and add new paper towels to the duck breast… what does a rabbit  carcass look like and where in the walk-in did he say it was again? Oh well, I’ll find it. Because I am scrub dub dub woman, prep- person and all things capable!” (yes, this is my mental chat. It is mostly motivational while I’m at the restaurant.) And I did just what I feared I would. I labeled the wrong thing with the wrong label. The next day I was practically sick over it. I decided the only course of action was to come clean. I told the chef that I honestly thought I wrapped up rabbit carcass when in fact, I didn’t know what rabbit carcass looked like. I was sorry. He laughed, and took me to the walk in and helped my find the rabbit carcass. I was worried, I thought I might be told something demeaning and derogatory, but in fact, when I was honest and communicated my fear of doing something wrong, I prevented wasting money and good food (a Foodie sin, if you ask me.) I also hope to think I proved that I saw the bigger picture: if you can understand how one simple mistake can hurt everyone, it is better to come clean then save your pride. Oh, and rabbit carcass looks like a rabbit, minus the skin (eww).

Besides that, and having nothing to do with me, the guys on the line communicate constantly. How many minutes until the plate can go out, and about how they need this or that or what inventory is left for the rest of the week.  But also about ideas. Ideas are flowing constantly and are the heart of every innovative kitchen.

3. Clean up after yourself. If you leave something out, you will get called out on it. And I will probably be the one cleaning it. It’s not much of a problem for me, I am a dishwasher after all, but also I get a chance to handle equipment, to understand how it works and to take it apart. The simplest things about cooking are taught in the dishpit. For example, all the sausage making parts to the sausage stuffer must not be lost, must be dried very well, and must be returned to the walk-in fridge. Why? If you lose one part, the device will not work. If they are not dried, they will rust or freeze in the walk-in. They should be kept in the walk in because the animal fat in sausage melts easily, and it results in a firmer and better sausage if things are kept cold (our charcuterie guys have been known to even work in the walk-in, for about an hour at a time grinding meat for sausages, and house burgers the next day.( I get cold after about 5 minutes looking for the back up 5-gallon bucket of beer-cheese sauce.) Everyone in the kitchen is willing to teach you something if you keep asking why. Even if the “why” question is “why do I have to handwash this” they will tell you exactly. I’m proud to say, I know how to disassemble (and correctly clean)  a meat slicer, a fry cutter and an authentic Belgian waffle iron. Cleaning up after yourself is a lesson that would make any mother proud, a life long skill that I can take with me everywhere. I have previously been a very poor housekeeper. Quite inept. Hated it. But just the other day I amazed myself by compulsively getting out the broom and sweeping the kitchen floor. What on earth possessed me to do that? Getting told to by someone else. And seeing how they were right.

I expect in 2012 to learn a lot more. I hope to. It’s why I go in every thursday and friday nights. I’m still trying to learn the ropes in the commercial kitchen, but I think with a few simple rules I’ll be okay. How to get all the ketchup out of the ramekins, however, that I could use a few suggestions for.

Top Secret Morsels of deliciousness….

I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I’m so excited I can’t help it. I have my first training at The Cave tomorrow and just had my orientation last week. The chef, Darius Jones, proves to be imaginative, experienced, and pretty cool. The thing I like about his vision for The Cave: it’s exactly the way I would cook at home for myself, my family, and post to tell you all about, dear Foodie. You have got to try this place out. If you are looking for something different, delicious, and something your taste buds can get up on a soap box and preach about, this is it. “House made” is a word I expect to get thrown around so much I might get a black eye from it if I don’t turn around fast enough.

The menu sounds amazing. It’s not final yet- so I don’t feel comfortable giving out a lot of details, but I can tell you a few things.

1. Farm to table. This place is going to be all about local sourcing and doing things the right way (amazingly, Chef has found a local source for Belgian endive. THAT’S dedication to the cause!)

2. Crazy/awesome flavor combos. From apps to desserts, we are gonna rock your socks off. (I’ll post the menu after we open- but don’t wanna lose my job since I haven’t even started yet, mmm kay?)

3. It’s all about the beer here. The menu is about the beer. And what you can eat with the beer and what we can cook with the beer and what we can do to get you to fully experience the beer (beer in salad dressing? Oh yes, The Cave goes there).

Right now, the opening to the public is scheduled for October 5th. More details to come. Or better yet… go and see for yourself!

Les Caves here I come…

I just received the formal offer of a job from the head chef of Les Caves. I’ll begin working there in the kitchen, as the dishwasher of course. This will be a challenging (hard?) job, but I’ll learn the basics of a kitchen, and I’d rather be in the back then in the front any night of the week! Be sure to visit them when they open at the end of September.