Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Just last week I had a client ask for a Halloween menu.  Halloween doesn't have anything traditional like Turkey or Ham (unless you want a big bowl of candy for dinner), so I did more of a play on words to spice it up.

Here are a fewof ideas:

Turn goulash (a warm pork or beef stew) into Ghoulash, and tell them it is made with werewolf shoulder (ha ha).

We did witches hair and eyeballs aka spaghetti and meat balls.

The fun one was we took small Phyllo cups (available in your freezer section) made a savory pumpkin, white truffle and parmesan filling (the color was great bright orange) and then a sliver of olive – it looked just like a cat’s eye.

Remember it is ok to play with your food.


Monday, October 26, 2009

It’s beginning to smell a lot like turkey…

Wedding season is just barely past and I am off into turkey land. You might have seen that our Thanksgiving menu is up and out for ordering. But before it could be finished the Turkeys had to begin…

Over recent years there have been many thoughts on how to cook the best bird. I like turkey a lot and have tried most of the recipes out there... deep fried... paper bag...Turducken... (The turducken is a whole story of its own)

This year I decided to experiment with what we would be offering on the menu.

It is a 95° day and I am face to face with 3 turkeys, this is not turkey weather. I scour my many cook books plus the internet for a brine recipe and a dry rub recipe. We use a 12-14# natural turkey. This is your classic turkey that mom cooked at home, not salt injected or heritage, just a good old turkey. Both brined and dry rub take an extra day of prep, the ideas is the extra time with salt water or salt should help to keep it moister. The brine we did submerged in a bucket over night approx 12 hours. The dry rub is rubbed inside and out and let rest 12 hours

Wednesday morning I prep all three turkeys; the brined bird is rinsed and panned;  dry rub is ready to go, and last I make a classic herb butter and season turkey number 3. We do not stuff our turkeys here and have the luxury of a convection over so after about 2 hours the turkeys are done.

Guess what we had for lunch… We blind taste tested all three and the old fashioned butter herb won!  A couple of our thoughts:  the brine changed the texture of the meat to be more deli turkey, though flavorful and moist it was just not right, the dry rub put off the least amount of drippings but at the same time the flavor did not come though and the drippings that were put off were really not usable for your classic gravy. I guess Mom’s turkey wins again ;)

Gobble, gobble


Saturday, October 24, 2009


It's not even Halloween, but in the culinary world it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving.  We've already had the first few calls about our Thanksgiving menu, so I rolled out of wedding season and wrote the Thanksgiving menu first thing.  We did a taste taste between our classic Herb Roasted Turkey, a new Brined Turkey, and a Dry Rubbed Turkey.  The classic won hands down for flavor and moistness.  But we have substituted Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes for the traditional; great flavor.  Plus added a few new items.

Herb Basted Turkey 12 to 14lb.

with choice of four sides
Celery Sage Stuffing with Golden Raisins
Buttermilk Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Tarragon Roasted Vegetables
Maple Yams with Brandied Raisins
Roasted Squash with Apples, Onions & Thyme
Creamed Corn with Bacon & Caramelized Onions
Scalloped Potatoes with Fennel

choice of one accompaniment
Cranberry Orange Conserve
Pear Sauce with Cranberries

all with
Mixed Sonoma Greens
Pomegranate Vinaigrette & Pralines
Turkey Gravy
Dinner Rolls

and choice of one dessert
Apple Streusel Pie
Traditional Pumpkin Pie
Fresh Baked Cookie Platter
Chocolate Pecan Pie

Thursday, October 22, 2009

MMMM Lemon White Chocolate Mousse

Many of you know that I am by education a chef, by experience a pastry chef, and by choice a caterer. I don't get to do a lot of pastry work these days since it needs to be done last minute, and even after the move there is not enough room for the dedicated refrigeration that is needed (I hate butter that tastes like garlic).

However this week for a special event I made Lemon White Chocolate Mousse.  The excitement is that I created the recipe from scratch and it is incredible!  We will be serving it up in a martini glass with fresh black berries.

1 cup Lemon Juice
1 cup Sugar
4 Eggs
12 oz Butter
8 cups White Chocolate Chips
4 Egg Whites
1 cup Sugar
8 cups Cream
Makes about 50 4oz servings

Combine the juice, sugar and whole eggs over low heat (don’t scald) to create a lemon curd. 
Take off  the heat.
Add the butter and white chocolate chips to the lemon curd, and stir in and allow to melt slowly.
Whip the eggs and sugar into a meringue. Set aside.
Whip the cream. Set aside.
Fold the meringue into the lemon mixture.
Fold in the whipped cream.

Off to make more goodies.  Chocolate marquis pavlova any one?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Petaluma Golf and Country Club

In the last couple of weeks we have catered a couple of weddings up at the Petaluma Golf and Country Club.  For many years it was members only, with only one caterer allowed; that has changed.  They have now opened it up for rental to the public, and (Yeah!) we can cater there too.

Such a beautiful view out over the Petaluma hills and the golf course.  The golden hills help to set the perfect back drop for the Fall themed wedding that we did last weekend, the blue and gold tables with Fall accents just set the mood perfectly.

It comfortably held the 160 guests with room to dance.  Cyndy (the club's Event Planner) is doing a great job helping the big events plan and run smoothly.  If you are starting to look for next year- stop in and take a peek.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

It ain't easy being green (actually it is)

Yeah Us! Go green!

After months we got word that our Green Certification from the County has gone through. It's great to be recognized for practices that we have had in place for many years. And we're now even better with our new building.  We had reps from the water department, PG&E, waste management and the County out to check our water and power saving devices, and our recycling program and waste reduction practices. All of which met or exceeded the county specs.  The presentation is on Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting.


Thursday, October 8, 2009


I got to do a great event last night - some business friends Phil and Natasha had a party and asked me to come and make Paella. What a great thing it was. I don’t always get to be out in the kitchen as much as I would like and I was there in the middle of the party cooking where the guests could watch.

Paella is a classic Spanish rice dish that is made open style, you never actually cover it. For this event I made it with Chicken Thighs, Sausage, Peas, Roasted Peppers and Artichokes. It is often combined with many seafoods. One of the key ingredients is saffron - one of my absolutely favorite spices - every time I cook with it I have to start with sniffing the bag for the beautiful aromas - who says cooking is not addictive.

For cooking heat I used an outdoor propane burner (much like that for a crab boil or deep fried turkey) and a large heavy skillet with slanted sides.

For 40 guests I used
15 lbs chicken thighs cut and rubbed with ½ cup paprika, ½ cup granulated garlic, salt and pepper. I did this earlier in the day and allowed it to rest for 3 hours.

2 cups olive oil
Brown together; brown in small batches, and as it is done push it up the sides of the pan away from the hottest part of the pan.

2 cups chopped garlic
1 tsp saffron
Place in the center of the pan and sauté

3 large Spanish onions - diced
Add to garlic and sauté
Once done spoon over the chicken up the sides of the pan

5 lbs sausage - chopped to bite sized (you can use anything you like here, often chorizo is used but a milder one is just fine)
Place into the center of the pan and brown slightly. As you can tell your cooking area is the center of the pan with the sides being a holding area. Once browned bring all ingredients back into the center of the pan and mix together well.

10 cups of rice - a medium grain rice that holds well (for ease on an outdoor event I used Uncle Bens)

By tradition the rice is poured on in a cross format, ostensibly honoring JC given Spain’s Christian background, but from a cooks perspective it offers a good visual add for anyone who cooks paella regularly as to how much rice to put in (saves that pesky measuring step). I suggest you measure it for the first 50 batches or so.
Then stir it into the to the meat mixture, making sure the rice is mixed in well and covered by the other ingredients.

Turn the heat down to med-low

Add in 4 cups of chicken broth at a time (16 cups total)
Each time making sure to stir well bringing the outside edges in
Allow to simmer till only moist

When the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed add in your garnishes. I used
2 lbs Frozen Peas
4 cups Artichoke Hearts
Stir well

Garnish with strips of Roasted Red Pepper, Chopped Parsley
 and Lemon wedges.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Soupa, soupa, soupa

More soup!  It is the time of year for soup.  We had a great event today with soup for 2,050 people (nope, not a typo it's 2,050), that equals 160 gallons plus 100 loaves of bread and 12 large batches of cookies.  For the soup we offered a choice of Chicken and Wild Rice with Vegetables or Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque.

A bisque is a smooth cream soup that is thickened with a roux (flour and butter mixture).  The mass of the soup is made up of a “meaty” material, two of my favorites are Butternut Squash or Tomatoes (you know our tomato bisque). 

Here is the recipe I used for the bisque  It yields approximately 5 gallons (which is as big of a pot as I wanted to lift).

6 cups of diced Onions – caramelized in ½ c olive oil
1 lbs butter
2 cup Flour
Melt the butter, whisk in the flour, then cook slowly till bubbly and sandy in texture

30 lbs Squash (you can use butternut, acorn, baking pumpkin, banana squash)
Split the squash into handlable size pieces (what we use comes in really big pieces 40-50 lbs each)
Place flesh side down on a baking sheet or dish (you want one with edges since it might leak a bit)
Roast till very fork tender
Allow to cool then prep for soup
Seed and peel (yields the 25 lbs you need for the soup)

4 gallons of roasted vegetable stock or chicken broth
½ cup honey (depending on how sweet the squash is)
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a large pot, use emersion blender to puree
Place on stove and cook slowly until it boils
Finish with 8 cups of heavy cream

Bring to a boil before serving

For home this might be a better size recipe  ;)
½ cup onions
1.5 Tbl Flour
1.5 Tbl butter
2.5 lbs raw squash
5 cups of stock
2 tsp honey
Salt and pepper
4 oz whipping cream


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Petaluma Electric Incubator Factory

I just met the daughter (Lorraine Byce Skoog) of the owner of the incubator factory that used to be in our building, and she was able to fill us in on a few more details. The factory was the "Petaluma Electric Incubator Factory" owned by Elwood Byce (not to be confused with the Petaluma Incubator Factory which was owned by Lorraine's grand father). It was here from 1938 to 1955.

I'm still hoping someone will find an old photo of the building.  That would be really cool.