Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Overtime work gets harder

Well sorry for my absence the past few weeks. With the end of spring break also comes the ending of working 60+ hour weeks. My boss is back, and we just hired a new worker, so I can "relax" by going back to my 40 hour a week schedule. Anyway if you ever think about working in a kitchen, you can expect to be working for long hours at least at some point in your career.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cross Contamination

Have you ever gotten a "stomach flu" or the "24 hour runs"? Well more than likely food poisoning is the culprit. There are a few major points that you should watch out for when you are cooking at home or at work. Toxins, spoilage, and cross contamination.

If you have toxic food. Don't prepare prepare it unless you are knowledgeable about it. Wild mushrooms may look tasty, but don't eat it if you don't know if its toxic or not. The same rules apply about many other foods, like fish (Fugu), plants, and insects. Toxins are simple and straightforward to avoid.

Spoiled food? We all know what moldy bread looks like, but would you be able to tell if other foods are spoiled, like soups, and meats? There are three ways to check if something is spoiled. Look at it, if it looks rotten, it probably is. Smell, unless its supposed to smell rotten its probably rotten. Also if it doesn't smell rotten, it may smell "sour" just like milk. Other than the "sour" attribute, that food obtains, I think everyone knows what rotten meat, and seafood smells like, so smell is pretty straight forward as well. Last, if the food looks, and smells alright, but your are still unsure, taste it. Taste it does not mean eat a whole mouthful, it means take a small bit and check the taste. If it is spoiled, spit it out. If you are at home and the food looks and smells alright, but your instincts tell you otherwise my advice would be to follow your instincts. At work, if you are still unsure after tasting it, get a second opinion from someone. 

If you are sure the food isn't poisonous, and not spoiled, the last thing you have to check for is cross contamination. The basics for this is, if you cut something like raw meat on your cutting board, make sure you wash your cutting board and knife, before cutting something else. The same rules apply to allergens, if you use one spoon to serve peanuts don't use the same spoon to serve berries to someone with a peanut allergy. With cross contamination it is easy to understand, but harder to put into practice, because you have to think about what you are doing.

It is easy to make sure you don't get food poisoning at home, as long as you follow those simple steps. If you are going out to eat you are placing your fate in other peoples hands, so be wary, but don't let it scare you away from going out to eat.

The reason I bring this up is the other day at work, I had my helper (whos been working for a good 6 months in the same kitchen as me, and over a year of previous experience) preset some bamboo shoots for the night service. Then before we opened, I smelled something "sour" and knew instantly something had past its prime and needed to be thrown out. So I searched for it and found that the bamboo shoots that he had set were the culprit, and threw it out, and asked why he was going to serve something spoiled, and the response I got was "I didn't know". I thought I did a good job teaching to always check food for spoilage because first off, it is dangerous to the customer, especially young children and the elderly. Second, its utterly embarrassing to have spoiled food leave the kitchen unless its in the trash. So I went back and made sure that everyone who is below me knows how to check for spoiled food, so that this kind of thing does not happen again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tomato soup

I went out to eat recently, and had a really good soup, which was a simple tomato soup. Normally tomato soup has a vegetable or chicken base, but the soup I had was a dashi base similar to the one I made in a earlier recipe. I want to share a version I've come up with after eating that soup, hope you enjoy it.

You Will Need
  • 2L Dashi (or chicken/vegetable stock)
    1lb Mirepoix (2:1:1 ratio of onion, celery, carrot. so 8 oz onion, 4 oz celery and carrot.)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoon Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shoyu
  • pepper (I used about 2 turns of my pepper mill, more or less is up to you!)
  • Parsley (if you are going to serve this to family or friends it would make a nice garnish!)

1. Add your olive oil to the pan, and heat the pan up.

2. Sweat the vegetables and stir to help keep the vegetables from burning (onions should turn translucent not brown or black)

3. Once the vegetables have been  sweated, add the can of tomato paste to the vegetables, and cook together until the tomato paste has a sweet aroma.

4. If the tomato paste is burning, and it hasn't achieved a sweet aroma, you can add some of the dashi, or what ever stock you are using to help keep it from drying out.

5. Once the tomato paste has a sweet aroma, slowly add your stock while stirring.

6. Bring the soup to a boil, and lower to a simmer.

7. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, while you add salt, shoyu, and pepper. Be sure to check the taste while you are adding these seasonings, you can put more or less of all of them to your liking.

8. Dish out, and garnish (I forgot to buy parsley so I didn't)

9. Either serve hot, or chill and serve cold, (its delicious both ways!)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tsunami 2011

Japan had a 8.8 earthquake at around 7:30 pm Hawaii time, and a tsunami is expected in Hawaii at around 3:00 am tonight. Well I live in Hawaii and while I don't live in the low lying coastal areas, I am very worried for the people who do. Well if you live anywhere that was or will be affected, I hope for your safety. Off to go fill buckets with water and do other last minute preparation, only 4 hours till impact.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Onion, peeling and cutting

In culinary school they teach you "the proper way" to do things. For everyday use their way is usually impractical, because it wastes a lot and takes much more time to do. If you are tired and short on money, do you really want to take more time to do something, and also waste a lot of what you are using? Not really. But for onions, I have found that the way they teach you in school is probably the best, fastest, and you can choose to not waste the "imperfect" cuts.

I hope this helps!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cutting celery into small dice

Being in the culinary industry, and also having taken culinary classes, there is a certain way that school, and some restaurants will teach you to cut small dice celery. It makes the cuts perfect, but there is a lot of wasteful cuts, so I will also show you the way I cut celery at home and for employee meals. If you want to impress your family, friends or loved ones, I would highly recommend cutting it in the culinary school fashion.

Thanks for watching!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Peeling carrots

If you ever have peeled vegetables and made a big mess, or wondered how you can speed up the process then there are two tips that I have for you!

If you couldn't hear me well or don't want to watch the video, the two simple things you can do to make peeling vegetables an easy and quick task are to, keep your vegetable on the cutting board, while you are peeling, which keeps the peelings from flying everywhere. Also most people have seen a peeler, and noticed two blades, but only peel on the down stroke. If you keep the peeler on the vegetable and peel going both ways, you effectively double the speed at which you are peeling! The last thing I have to say about peeling vegetables that I find helps a lot, is to do half at a time, do the top or bottom first and then turn it around, it keeps your fingers safer and lets you speed up peeling.

Sorry for the lack of posts, I'm busy with work, getting ready for my boss's vacation and all, but the good news is I took the time to get material ready for a bunch of new posts. So be ready for an awesome soup recipe coming soon!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What I learned in February

To help myself see my progress I will be writing a "reflection" of what I have learned throughout the previous month, and hopefully achieve and create goals for the coming month.

Well in February I discovered blogging. It was completely new to me and I have found through blogging that watching myself on camera is not only embarrassing, but also a good way to see what I may be doing wrong, or what I can improve on. Blogging also gives me an excuse to take more pictures of the food I make, and I think this will help me in the future if I forget. Besides blogging, at work I have been working on my katsuramuki much more than before, and I have made noticeable progress. I also am gaining a better understanding of making tempura, tamagoyaki, and cutting fish.

Within the next month my boss will be going on a two week vacation, and I will be working about an extra 20 hours a week on top of the 35 I already work and 12 credits worth of school. This will be a good opportunity to have a taste of what it is like to be a head chef in a restaurant and have to work everyday all day. With all the extra time I will be spending at work I hope to become better at cutting fish, and working tempura.

Sorry for the boring post, its more for myself than anything else. Thank you to everybody who has been supporting me in my first month of blogging, and I hope to provide you all with quality reading for a long time to come!