A Dinner on the Island...

a couple weeks ago, I went on a short get away with my lovely wife and kids up to Whidbey Island to clear my head, get away from the bullshit of the city, a loss of a family member, and a f*d up situation with my rental property as well as the general overload of stress. It was very relaxing to say the least. On one of the nights, I had the opportunity to cook for a few close friends and family. I say opportunity because you see, with my position, it does not always come freely. I have to sometimes take what I can get. I know that to some, that may sound crazy and absurd, but really, when you have the level of administration and responsibility that I do, cooking is not the first and foremost thing that one does. I try to push myself to get into the fire but inevitably, there is always something to work on, some fire to put out, some employee that needs addressing or counseling, some detail that needs my view on or some meeting that has my damn name written all over it. That is what I signed up for so no crying here. In today's economic downturn and whirlwind of tornado proportion, this has made me even more focused on what to do next and this is a good thing. So, with all the craziness in the air, as I said, I take what I can get. The chef's tables are really my creative outlet. It allows me an opportunity to somewhat forget about the daily challenges and just cook with our team. It is a great bonding inspiration, or at least for me. When up at the Island, I just wanted to cook savory flavors with good wholesome products and with not much fuss from the heart. We went to the local market...well, not much truly inspiring product, but it was fresh nonetheless. Seafood blared out at me from the start...a hot saute of calamari with red chili pepper, grated lemon, garlic, spicy salumi, some tomato pesto in the fridge, white wine, evoo and herbs...a sure fire hit! Even the kids loved them. Next was some steamed local mussels...fresh from none other than...you guessed it; Penn Cove. Shallots, tarragon, thyme, Riesling, lime and butter with some tasty charred ciabatta. I then grilled some additional bread for a panzanella salad with olives, fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, sauteed onions and shallots, roasted garlic, and roasted eggplant. Toss in some balsamic vinegar and evoo and what a great salad to eat on the deck looking out at the sunset over the Island. Then I butterflied a fresh flank steak and filled it with sauteed crimini mushrooms, olive tapenade, grated Beecher's Flagship, herbs, shallots, garlic and cracked black pepper. Used a skewer to fasten it together (no string) and sprinkled generously with Tom's rubs with love Bengal Spice, which kicked ass! Pan seared then finished in the oven. Pair that with olive oil smashed yukon golds, and a pile of sauteed chiffonade of brussels sprouts, slowly allowed to caramelize with shallots, roasted onions from the pan of flank, sugar and walnuts. What an awesome taste. Lastly, I just could not be complete without something sweet, so I opted for Tom's buttermilk cake from his big dinners cookbook since my friend had it out as I was browsing ideas and I added some fresh chopped rosemary from her garden to liven it up. Macerated strawberries and balsamic with sea salt was the final embellishment to the wonderful meal. It is a far cry from the daily cooking we do at the club, and sometimes I ask why. Just different vibe I guess. No real buzz or adrenaline. It is times like these though that I always cherish and that keep me cooking professionally. It is what inspires me daily to not only cook, but to motivate others around me to do so.


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