House Cured Prosciutto...

I have been fortunate enough to be able to practice my craft for the most part, exactly the way I choose to at the place where I work, and for the matter, many places I have "done time" cooking at. I think that is possibly one reason why I have not ventured out on my own to open my own place because I have not had that need to, to some degree. I know that a lot of chefs and cooks get into places that they are restricted and stifled with their creativity, their vision and the like. The situation is always someone else's vision, therefore, they strike out on their own. I do not blame them in the slightest! One of the things I have been able to work on is my desire and passion for the Garde Manger, or...the cold kitchen if you will. This is an area in the kitchen that produces a lot of the cold foods, i.e; pates, terrines, salads, amuse bouche, decorative buffet platters and such. This also is where some of the charcuterie and salumi making processes have developed. It is there that back in the mid 80's, I started to dabble in the art of prosciutto making. Now there were not a lot of books and developed techniques(that were written for modern cookery) that I could turn to. Sure there was culinary school brief tid-bits of teasers that only made you wonder more and get more confused. I think that either the chef's in culinary school did not really know what they were talking about, or they perhaps did not want to share it. I remember after months of reviewing notes, that they were vague and somewhat misguided. As of late, there have been a few really helpful books by well known chef's and authorities in the field about charcuterie and salumi production so that many a chef can now start to cure their own products. So as it were, I started by making prosciutto. Duck at first, then whole legs of fresh pig. My first encounters were that of something really salty or flat out rotten as they had spoiled. I think Mario's(Batali) dad; Armandino, principal and owner of Salumi Cured Meats in Seattle, said it best pertaining to his son, you end up making mistakes in order to learn what happens to the meat when it is being dry cured so that you can then move forward. I never had a dry curing room, or anything close to it. It was always the walk in refrigerator. Lots of moisture, mold, off flavors and humidity. Didn't always mix. Some though, came out very nice. It kept me going. I tried different cures, different spices, different lengths of curing time. I then ventured into coppas, salamis and soppresatas, landjagers, andouilles and such. It became addictive. I still was using a walk in refrigerator, but I found one that somehow was just right. No mold, just natural good bacterias (white powdery mold on outside), good curing/drying and rich fermented flavor. Then, I had this great brainstorming idea to rebuild the whole walk in. All was lost. Major bummer. The new refrigerator was too effective for my own good. Too cold, too much moisture, too much of everything I did not want. I lost many batches of product before finding a new alternative...a wine cellar. It worked pretty well. It was humidity controlled. It did have a bit chill, but not much. By standards, it was good. The only thing was it did not have the right humidity, as it was designed for the wines. I started to get severe case hardening, where the outer 1/8 inch of the salami or prosciutto was so hard and dry that it virtually sealed off the rest from curing properly, not to mention get so tough that it was hard to chew. Things had been going decently for a while, but I grew anxious for that sense of perfection. I searched for a new home. Alas, I opted for a dry place where to set up shop. A cellar-like room where it is cool and dark. I am controlling humidity with pans of salted water, although physically building a humidity and temperature controlled room is ultimately the best. Again, Armandino will most surely vouch for that. Perhaps in the future as the next phase. The verdict is still out on the process, but I am becoming quite pleased with the results. I think a fan on an electric timer that can replicate the natural air of Spain or Italy's age-old reputation is in order. Anyway, my whole point is that things have come a long way, both for me and for the industry and world of chef's looking to produce artisan style products. As soon as I take some more photos of the rest of them, they will be added. Enjoy...


What the Summer has in Store...

In the Northwest, specifically, Seattle and it's outlying areas, (amongst a few others of course...Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia etc) we are so very fortunate to have ready at our fingertips, by way of our trusty foragers, a plethora of funghi! This time of year brings us some of the nations best, if not the world! Bright, gleaming and beautiful Yellow Chanterelles, complete in all their glory, just ready for the saute pan, or grill, or marinade, or...whatever! They are probably one of my, if not THE favorite of mushrooms. I truly enjoy morels as well. Nice and dry, no worms and smokey. God I love this shit. Matsutakes...now there is one that blows me away. They are down right awesome. So clean and piney. Where does one start? Truffles go without saying. Cepes-Porcini-Boletus...they rock. They take on such a wealth of robustness, especially when roasted. I really love just about all of them. I always have. From button domestics simply sauteed in butter and paprika, cooked graciously and gently by my great, late mum, to the illegally foraged and consumed psilocybin that I used to hunt in my late teens to my first truffle and morel in cooking school and a very old French style restaurant, now defunct called appropriately...Morilles! Now we must not forget the Lobster mushrooms. Rich red in color, with hints and wisps of rust. Meaty and hearty when sauteed, which brings out a almost poultry-esqueness (I was NOT going to say it tasted like chicken!) that melds well with many a different foodstuff. Tonight we used them on a a dish with Coffee Crusted Bison Loin, Truffled Potatoes, Caramelized Walla Walla Onions and a sauce of Wild Blackberry Gastric infused Veal Jus, enriched with pepper. Another dish they ended up on, which worked quite well was a vegetarian composure of golden Polenta "Fries", Wilted Beet Greens, Ratatouille, Lobster and Chanterelle Mushrooms and two oils...Balsamic Infused and Black Olive Infused. The next couple days will surely provide a foil for these beauties. I can not wait.


A High Profile Wedding...

It is quite common, and I have grown accustomed to seeing high profile folk who grace the halls and dining rooms of the Rainier Club. Business CEO's, government dignitaries, Presidents of countries (not to mention our own), sheiks, sports and music celebs and of course...chefs! It is a place that not many can boast such a claim. And what makes it unique and interesting is that it is done with such professionalism and class in that everyone is left alone and taken care of...made to feel as if they were in their own homes without the paparazzi and general public asking for a damn autograph. It is a place that many of Seattle's "who's who" are in the know and in the dining room at any given time. It gives me pleasure to be able to cook there. There are a lot of very prominent community movers and shakers( perhaps some that may back my restaurant some day) that constantly throw very swank events. This last weekend was no exception. It was a special wedding for a couple's ( Ken & Kathy Hatch) daughter. It was sit-down for about 210 guests. A 5-course menu with passed hors d' oeuvres, both before dinner and afterwards. After having a bad experience elsewhere, there was admittedly by the clients, a bit of skepticism about being able to carry out their meal in a timely and orderly fashion. That was all I needed to hear. Bring it the f$&@ on! We started passing hors~ french brie "tarts" sitting on a base of prosciutto, pecans and herbs, and topped with thin wedges of red grapes... "dauphines"...little fritters of potato, mushrooms and cipolline onions...a few others were intermittently interjected. The served menu started with a chilled version of one of our amuse~ a Marinated Shrimp Salad with Mango, Avocado, Caviar Creme Fraiche and Micro Greens, all tucked inside an egg shell with a hint of Agro Dolce Dressing. The next course was a Sweet Corn Soup with Baby Chanterelle Chips, House Cured Bacon, Micro Basil, Basil Foam, Chives and just some simple goodness to go with it. What followed was a fish course of Alaskan King Salmon with Horseradish Potato Mousseline, Roasted Beets, Apples, Salmon Candy-Marcona Almond "Crumble" and a Cider Poultry Jus with micro Tatsoi. Rich. By choice of the guest...a quaint pairing of Pepper Crusted Strip Loin of Beef followed, flanked by creamy Celery Root Puree, laced with Walnut Oil, Caramelized Garlic, Artichoke Chips, a Chanterelle-Goat Cheese "Chausson", or turnover if you must, and a very heady Wild Blackberry Gastric-Black Peppercorn Essence. As we headed into dessert territory, yet steering a course for someone else's wedding cake, we played our part with a transitionary course of Old Chatham Camembert "Brulee", 2003 vintage Truffled Apricot Conserves, Rhubarb Coulis, Meyer Lemon-Rhubarb Vinaigrette, Micro Arugula and Dukkah Spices. We bruleed the creamy, buttery cheese with a mixture of turbinado and muscovado sugars. We hit the mark for sure. People were ecstatic. The parents of the bride very satisfied. The bride and groom in heaven. We pulled this off in just 150 minutes for over 1000 plates with nothing being rushed or hurried for the sake of it all. We just simply kicked ass. It is events like this that challenge us to step up and make the business successful. It takes care of the little things (those wonderful Chef's Garden Micro Greens!) that sometimes are not always a viable entity in this business due to costs and budgets. Here is a glimpse of what took place...

A Menu Amongst Friends...

It was like the ol' days of the Salish in the early 90's~ The times when the hours of the work day just seemed to never end, in a good way of course! Not that the hours today do not seem to get long and run into overtime, but it seems that life, whether be it family, commitments, hectic schedules, meetings or whatever...just seem to get in the way of spending the whole day and night at that place that you love to be...in the kitchen and cooking away with your hair on fire! That aura of camaraderie and friendship, that sense of someone who has your back who is always there to listen to what you are saying and watching what you are doing, and sharing precious, valuable knowledge with you as well, all committed to the furthering of the mission to be the best was re-visited the other day when some past colleagues came in for dinner at the club. It was a great honor to cook for them. It was fun. It was meaningful. It was nourishment for my soul. A chance to really give satisfaction to someone is a gift worth giving. One from Vegas. Two from Seattle and with significant others in tow. It reminded me of those days spent together. Good times. Here is how it went down...(sorry no photos as I am still waiting for them to be sent up. Jen...if you are reading this...

The Salish Crew Gathering…
Chef’s Tasting Experience
July 20, 2007

Salmon Candy Ice Cream Sandwich
Micro Fennel, Hawaiian Black Salt and Fennel Shortbread Cookie

Maine Lobster Salad “en Chemise”
Mango, American Sturgeon Caviar, Lobster Coral and a Champagne-Yuzu Sabayon
Dungeness Crab and Herb Salad
Heirloom Tomato Sorbet, Pickled Watermelon Rind, Micro Peppercress, Lobster-Vanilla Oil
Chilled Crenshaw Melon Soup "Shooter"
Brulee of “Torchon” of Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Truffled Apricot Conserve, Sour & Bing Cherries, Pickled Chanterelles, Foie Gras Marbre
Micro Burgundy Amaranth and a 30 year old Balsamic Condiment
Seared Foie Gras & Roasted Veal Sweet Bread Skewer “ala mode”
Grilled Black Mission Fig, Pedro Ximenez Ice Cream, Shiitake Chips, Peppered Fig Tartare,
and a PX brushing
House Cured Bacon Wrapped Gulf Shrimp
Sweet Corn Pudding, Charred Heirloom Tomato-Plum Composure, Baby Octopus,
Tomato “Glass” and Braised Baby Fennel in a Jus de Poisson
Watermelon Gelee, Wasabi Nuts, Fennel, and Lemon Verbena Ice
Pan Roasted Snake River Farms Kobe Flat Iron of Beef
& Seared Diver Scallop
Chanterelles, Fava Beans, Demi Carrots, Truffles and a Fig-Mustard Jus
Heirloom Tomato-Lemon Verbena “Consommé”
Watermelon Sorbet, Baby Sungold Tomatoes and Sea Salt
"Faberge Egg”
Hazelnut, Manjari, Caramel and Coffee Flavors
Praline Chocolate Silk, Rhubarb Sorbet Roulade
Basil Milkshake, "Cocoa Crispy"
Wild Frais de Bois “en Cocotte” with Lemongrass infusion and Olive Oil Gelato
Almond Macaroons, Citrus Zeppole, Salted Caramels, Ras el Hanout Chocolates,
Fennel Meringues Chocolate Caramels
Kitchen Alchemies

Bill Morris Executive Chef
Jim Campbell Executive Sous Chef & Alex Pitts Sous Chef
Culinary and Service teams…