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Friday, March 16, 2018

Chef K's Paella

The national dish of Spain literally means "for her" it is para ella in Valencia, a dish made by the men of the region to give the women a break from cooking. Paella is not so much the dish, but rather it is the pan in which the dish is cooked, its roots is in the Latin word 'patella' meaning pan. Originally made as a luncheon dish for farm workers cooked over an open fire and “without” seafood, now it is the name for as many as 200 differing dishes in Valencia Spain alone. There as many recipes for Paella as there are cooks, as common with most comfort foods, it was made with rice (arroz in Spanish) and whatever else was nearby,chicken, rabbit or even snails.

The rich yellow color of Paella is derived from the addition of saffron, which is the stigmas of very tiny crocuses which grows freely in Spain, although it is the most costly of the spice world ($75 US per ounce), it is very common in Spain and easily found. There are only 3 stamens per flower so it takes a lot of flowers to make that ounce, yet it takes very little to flavor and color your Paella or Bouillabaisse, it is also great in risotto. Look carefully at the stigmas it should be only that, some are attached to a long, slender “style” which is white when picked and turns yellow when dried, trust me, it is not your style, so do not choose it, it has no culinary value, that means no aroma, flavor or color, it simply is used to add to the weight. Be sure to use ISO approved saffron, you’ll want, Saffron threads (Stigmas) that are all red (no other color). Saffron threads must be dry and brittle to the touch. Saffron aroma is strong and fresh, never musty, remember you’re paying a high dollar even for a very small amount you should get a very high quality for the dollar spend. Like anything that is priced very high there are counterfeiters out there, yellow, streaking, uneven color of red, are indications of “styles” made to be passed off as stigmas. Look for Sargol saffron, it is pure, potent and aromatic and flavors a recipe just right.

1 pound extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined
Salt and ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press 
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each thigh trimmed of excess fat and halved crosswise
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut pole to pole into 1/2-inch-wide strips
8 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the bias (Chorizo, Spanish sausage)
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 cups Valencia rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 dried bay leaf
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 350°F.

Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic in a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin begins to blister and turn spotty black, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pepper to a small plate and set aside.

Add 1 teaspoon oil to the Dutch oven; heat the oil until very hot. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer; cook, without moving the pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown on the second side: transfer the chicken to a reserved plate. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo to the pot; cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned and the fat begins to render, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a plate with the chicken, reserve.

Add 2 tablespoons oil to the fat in the Dutch; heat over medium heat until very hot. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes; cook until the mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with the tomato mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven; cook until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, about 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven (close the oven door to retain heat). Uncover the pot; scatter the shrimp over the rice, insert the mussels hinged-side down into the rice (so they stand upright), arrange the bell pepper strips in a pinwheel pattern, and scatter the peas over the top. Cover and return to the oven; cook until the shrimp are opaque and the mussels have opened, 10 to 12 minutes.

When  soccarat is desired, set the Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot 180 degrees after about 2 minutes for even browning. (Soccarat, a layer of crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella.)

Let the paella stand, covered, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened and the bay leaf, if it can be easily removed. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve, passing the lemon wedges separately.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Today IS Pi Day

(Apple Crumble Pie)
Today is National Pie Day, what a great gift to give, finish a dinner with, or, just along side a great cup of coffee. Pie is always right, whether you serve a slice of warm apple with cinnamon ice cream, or a dinner pie like the Tourtiere, or, maybe a hand pie (turnover) like a Cornish Pasty, or the famous Canadian Butter tart you simply won’t go wrong.

Pies have been the “to go to” meal as far back as early Eygty, the Greeks and Romans had hand pies to travel with, while in the12th century the crust of meat pies was known as a “coffyn". Fruit pies began to show up sometime in the 15th century. Apple pies are served at nearly every county fair throughout North America, thanks to Johnny Appleseed. Apple trees were grown and prized for their fruit by the people of ancient Rome. It is believed that the Romans took cultivated apples with them to England when they conquered the country. Apple growing became common in England and many other parts of Europe.  Both the seeds of apples and the trees themselves were brought to America from England, probably in 1629. John Endicott, one of the early governors of Massachusetts Bay Colony, is said to have brought the first trees to America. The cultivated varieties of apples gradually spread westward from the Atlantic Coast. John Chapman is said to have helped spread apple growing in America. He carried apple seeds with him wherever he went, and planted them in thinly settled parts of the country. For this reason, he became known as "Johnny Appleseed".

Be sure that your guest, of course, will enjoy the pie you serve, make what they do like, I was once had Tony Orlando (super star musician) as a guest on Chef K & the Friends television show, we made a beautiful seven layer Lemon Meringue pie. He stirred the lemon filling, carefully spread it on each layer, made a prefect meringue, only to find out he was allergic to it.  Find out what they like was the moral of that story.

Use Very Cold Butter or Fat
Butter, shortening, lard, or suet—whatever fat the recipe calls for should be well-chilled and cut into small pieces to start with for the flakiest crust in the end.
O Nuts
Many recipes call for you to work the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles peanuts, or crushed walnuts, do not overwork the dough,  this will toughen the dough,  your cardboard may be better.
Limit the Water
Start off using the minimum amount of water or other liquid called for in the recipe.
Make a Disk
Before you chill or rollout the dough, take the time to shape it into an even disk less than 1-inch thick and with smooth edges.
Chill the Dough
Chill the dough before you roll it out for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.
Roll, Turn, Roll, Turn
Roll out the dough on a very well-floured work surface with a well-floured rolling pin. Turn the dough 90 degrees, roll and turn again, this assists in sticking and it easy to use.
Chill the Lined Pie Pan
Cover and chill the lined pie pan (and any rolled out top crust) before blind-baking or filling the pie. This will help the pie keep its shape (and size!) when baked.
Complete the Baking,
Nice golden honey top, but the bottom crust is still not done, this is because people tend to believe the pie is done when it is golden like honey, leave it a little longer, it is supposed to be brown, then the crust is done.
The Rolling Pin is a Pick Up stick.
After rolling the dough, place a small amount onto the rolling pin, roll to wrap the dough on the pin, then unroll it over the chilled pie plate, prefect fit each time.


3 tbsp butter
2 fine diced onions
3 minced garlic cloves
2 cups peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes
¾ lb lean ground pork
¾ lb fine diced beef
1 cup beef stock
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp each of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
⅓ cup fine bread crumbs
1 quantity double crust pie dough
3 tbsp milk
1 egg

In a large skillet, heat the butter and sweat the onion and garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes covered. Add the pork and cook thoroughly. Add beef, stock, bay leaves and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the bread crumbs. Cool mixture to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400◦F (200◦C).

Roll out the pastry, divide in two and line a 10" (250 cm) pie shell with one part. Fill with the mixture and, cover with the remaining pastry. Crimp edges and cut a 1" (2.5 cm) hole in top. Make a tin foil chimney and fit into hole.

Mix milk with the egg and brush over pastry.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350◦F (180◦C) and continue to bake for 25 minutes. Rest the pie for 20 minutes before cutting, or cool and chill and serve

1 pound beef sirloin tip steak, diced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (3 cups)
3 green onions with tops, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash nutmeg

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch baking powder
1 cup shortening
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup cold water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, combine the beef, potatoes, onions and seasonings; set aside. For pastry, in a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening and butter. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 12 pieces; roll each into 6” circles. Moisten edges with water. Place about 1/2 cup filling on half of each circle. Fold other half over the filling; press edges together with a fork to seal.
Cut several slits in each pastry. Place on a baking sheet. Combine egg and cream; brush over pastry tops. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake 40-45 minutes longer or until golden brown. Yield: 12 servings.


1 cup + 2 Tbsp cake and pastry flour
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 Tbsp cold water
1 ½ tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
1 egg white, lightly whisked
Lemon Curd Filling
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup water
6 large egg yolks
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ tsp cream of tartar
⅓ cup sugar
3 Tbsp icing sugar, sifted


1. Sift the flour, sugar and salt to combine in a bowl or using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut in the butter by hand with a pastry cutter or on low speed until just small pieces of butter are visible and the mixture as a whole just begins to take on a pale yellow colour (indicating that the butter has been worked in sufficiently).

2. Stir the water and lemon juice together and add this to the dough all at once, mixing until the dough just comes together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling. Alternatively, the dough can be frozen for up to 3 months and thawed in the fridge before rolling.

3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is in a circle that is just under ¼ inch thick. Lightly dust a 9” pie plate with flour. Press the dough into the pie plate and trim away any excess dough, pinch the edges to create a fluted pattern and chill for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the chilled pie shell with tin foil and fill the foil with dried beans, raw rice or pie weights. Bake the pie shell for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and weights and bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes more, until the center of the pie shell is dry-looking and just starts to brown a little. Immediately after removing the pie shell from the oven, brush the hot crust with a little of the whisked egg white. This will create a barrier to keep the crust crispy once filled. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.

Lemon Curd Filling

1. For the filling, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepot, then whisk in the cold water. Have the other ingredients measured and nearby. Bring the sugar mixture up to a full simmer over medium-high heat, whisking as it cooks, until the mixture is thick and glossy.
2. Pour about a cup of this thickened filling into the egg yolks while whisking, then return this to the pot and whisk just one minute more. Whisk in the lemon juice and cook until the filling just returns to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter then immediately pour the hot filling into the cooled pie shell (the filling will seem very fluid, but it will set up once chilled). Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap to keep it hot. Immediately prepare the meringue topping.

3. Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed to high and gradually pour in the granulated sugar and icing sugar and continue whipping just until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted.

1. Remove the plastic wrap from the hot lemon filling, then dollop half of the meringue directly onto the filling (the filling will still be very soft, so work gently). Be sure to spread the meringue so that it completely covers the lemon filling and connects with the outside crust, then use a bamboo skewer or paring knife to swirl the meringue just a touch (this will secure it to the lemon curd). Dollop the remaining meringue onto the pie and use the back of your spatula to lift up the meringue and creates spikes. Bake the pie for about 20 minutes at 325 F, until the meringue is nicely browned. Cool the meringue completely to room


For crust:
7 (5-by 2 1/2-inch) graham crackers, broken into small pieces
3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
For filling:
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
Grated zest of 2 Key limes
1 cup fresh Key lime juice (from about 2 pounds fresh Key limes)
4 large egg yolks
Accompaniment: sweetened whipped cream


Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch pie plate.
Pulse together graham crackers, almonds, and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of pie plate. Bake until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely. (Leave oven on.)
Make filling and bake pie:
Gently whisk together filling ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth and pour into crust. Bake until just set in center, 15 to 20 minutes.
Cool completely (filling will set as it cools). Chill pie, loosely covered, at least 8 hours.


2 cups   500 ml   chocolate wafer crumbs
 cup     80 ml     butter
¾ cup    180 ml   filberts   ground
Combine the ingredients.  Press into the bottom and sides of a 10" buttered pie pan.  Bake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 7 minutes.  Cool, then chill.

2 tbsp    cold water
1 tbsp    unflavored gelatin
2              eggs, separated
½ cup    milk
1-½         marshmallows   miniatures
2 tsp      mint extract
1 cup     whipping cream
1 tsp      green food coloring
1 cup     chocolate curls

In the cold water soften the gelatin, transfer to a double boiler.  Add the egg yolks and milk and cook to thick. Melt the marshmallows in a second double boiler, fold into the egg mixture and remove from the heat.  Stir in the extract.  Cool. Whip the cream with the food coloring.  Fold into the cooled mixture.  Whip the egg whites and fold into the mixture.  Pour into the shell.  Chill for 4 6 hours. Garnish with chocolate curls before serving.


2 unbaked 9” pie shells


7 large green apples
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (ground)

Crumble Mix

1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup coconut
1 tablespoon cinnamon (ground)
2 teaspoons nutmeg (ground)
2/3 cup butter (melted)
2 teaspoons vanilla essence


Peel and core apples, then cut into rough 1-2cm cubes. Place apples in large saucepan and cover with water. Simmer (but don't boil) covered with lid on med-high until apples are just tender but not too soft (usually 5mins once water is simmering). Drain apples well and place in large bowl
Combine caster sugar and cinnamon (ensures even spread), then toss through the apples. If you like the apples to be less sweet and more tart, you can omit the sugar in this step, though there may be excess juice as a result.

Combine flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, coconut, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl until evenly mixed through.
Melt butter (do not burn or boil it) and add vanilla essence to butter, stir through.
Add butter mix to dry ingredients and mix well using a fork. Ensure all ingredients are moist and mixture has a crumbly texture.

Place the apple mix evenly in the pie shells. Spread crumble mix over top of apple. Bake at 190°C 375°F for 30-45 minutes, or until crumble topping is slightly browned.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, cream, or custard

3/4 cup (175 mL) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) corn syrup
1 egg
¼ cup (60 mL) butter, softened
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 tsp (5 mL) vinegar
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) currants or raisins

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Roll out chilled dough onto floured surface. Cut out discs of pastry about the size of a store-bought sour cream or yogurt container top. Press into muffin or tart tin wells carefully so as not to tear pastry. If possible, weigh shells down with dried beans or some other type of weight so the empty shells will keep their shape. Bake shells for 10 to 15 minutes until they're starting to brown but not totally brown. Remove from oven and remove weights.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt butter with brown sugar. Do not allow to boil. Whisk egg and set aside. Add salt, golden syrup, vinegar and vanilla to warm butter mixture. Whisk gently until smooth. 

Whisk in egg.

When tart shells are baked (and still warm), fill about two-thirds with filling mix. Bake for 12 minutes or until filling is mostly cooked yet not set. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Run metal spatula around tarts to loosen; carefully slide spatula under tarts and transfer to rack to let cool.

Tart Shells

1.375 l (5 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
250 g (1/2 lb) butter, unsalted, cold and cubed
125 ml (1/2 cup) cold water
In a large bowl, place flour and salt. Add cubed butter and rub into flour with fingers. The mixture should look like oatmeal, with butter-like slivers or pebbles. Make a well in flour. Add cold water. (Keep it cold in the refrigerator until ready to use.) Roll into balls, then, wrap ball in plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and chill overnight in refrigerator.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


We will look over the next few articles how to refresh our winning attitude in our restaurant operation.

There has been a pestilence placed upon doing business in Ontario, it is called an interfering Liberal government, lead by professional disrupters, Kathleen Wynn and Justin Trudeau. High wages (and higher yet to come), heavy tax burdens as they give every special interest group “free”  whatever they demand, a new regulations that neither has reason or sensibility but designed as appeasement to more special interest groups, higher and then even higher utility costs, fuel surcharges, carbon taxes and list is an ever growing snake of destruction.

The politician; once the friend of the common person has become an adversary to those who just desire to live, provide for their family, and enjoy that which their hard worked has gained. Yet even the family has come under the politician gaze and is a target for their troublesome meddling as well.
In Ontario there was a loss in part-time jobs (59,300) in January 2018, could the fact the Wynn increased the minimum wage to 14.00 per hour have any bearing on this increase in job losses? The small business cannot endure such harsh increases. More small businesses are shutting down, fast food is acquiring ordering kiosks to eliminate employee’s, full service restaurants have placed unreasonable tip out demands on their servers so they supplement the wages of BOH staff, effectively eliminating the servers wage increase. Gas has increased by 0.30 per liter (or $1.13 per US gallon) as fuel companies’ deal with the wage and carbon charges. All these, of course, are past down to the average consumer, who did not get a substantial increase to assist in covering these additional and onerous cost of living expenses.

Some wonder why restaurants have placed a 25-30% increase on menu items, they believe that it just an opportunity to rip off the consumer and the consumer is left with but one choice, boycott the restaurant and find another place to spend their money with, yet the problem is universal as every restaurant contents with the new stresses. We need to remember that these increases were not handed one piece at a time, but were sudden, heavy and were across all industries.

So how did that menu price get increased by such a substantial increase? If we break it down, (in a rather simplified manner) the farmer incurs a labor cost and a transportation increase to get their product to the manufacturer or processor who incurs a labor cost and a transportation increase to get the product to the distributor who incurs a labor cost and a transportation increase to get the product to restaurant who now must pay substantially more now for that same product. The restaurant operator (or any business) must recoup these heavy increases or face the loss of the business. The only way is to increase the menu price; there is no other way. These costs were not small enough to just tighten the belt or bite the bullet, they are not small enough just to absorb, this time the bullet was aimed at the heart of business in Ontario by the government, business had little choice but to pass these costs on to the consumer and bullet hit them squarely in the wallet.

So how does the restaurant withstand a governmental onslaught or any other for that matter?   We must go back to the basics of a good operator:   When the sales income equals the cost for labor, overhead, and food, the breakeven point has been reached. Our formula is, the breakeven point sales = labor + overhead + food costs. However we are not in business to breakeven, we are in business for profit, profit is not a dirty word as some suggested, it is however the “paycheck” of the business owner/operator so our formula is: profit = sales – (labor + overhead + food costs).
The basics begin with using financial statements, measure progress and results, financial statement are the road map of where we begin (are at) and to the future, following it can prevent your getting too lost at a place where there is no returning from. The financial statement proves the ability of the manager, the efficiency of employees, where weaknesses exist and what the urgency to attend to them is.  In hard uncertain times your financial statement pinpoints what are problems you face so that you can make the right corrective decision.

However, in order for the truth to be shown on the financial statement the truth must be entered into it. Opening and closing inventories, every transaction entered, from the smallest cash transaction to every invoiced item. Look at every line item and then look again, a good operator will not wait until the month end P&L, they will know daily what their Prime Costs are.  Be sure all sales are accounted for, are cash sales handled exactly the same as charged sales, skimming is s scourge to a good operator, unrecorded sales make the financial statement worthless, as all consequential controls are lost in restaurant skim. Keep in mind too, an operator who cheats will (knowingly or not) employ staff that will also cheat, skim, and steal.

Speaking of the employee, do you keep them in the dark, or, do you train them to understand their business? Yes, their business, you are a team; no restaurant can be successful without a great operating team.  Those in BOH or FOH, to the very managers and owners, must become a single minded team, with the idea of providing the very best to their customer for fair recompense.  When the staff learn the cost of doing business, they begin work toward achieving profitable goals. When they think opposite they will work crosswise to the owner/operator.  Make it simple for them to understand, give them 100 pennies (if you can still get them here in Canada) 100 pennies= 1$, now have them break that dollar down as if they are in business.

$1.00, minus 33% for food = 0.33₵, 0.67₵, minus 32% of the $1.00 for labor=0.32₵, minus .10₵ for rent, 0.10₵ utilities, 0.02₵ insurance, 0.03 advertising/marketing, 0.02₵ taxes, 0.01₵ breakage & loss, when the employee sees seven little pennies left in their hand they begin to understand the operator and the problems they face to just keep that employee employed.  The good employee sees and knows the challenges faced by their employer and will work to be as valuable as any other “asset” in the business.

As a team, employees will give thoughtful acceptance of the operation, like exact portioning, reducing waste, controlling utilities, and the multiplicity of great and small steps a restaurant must make to control costs and having a shot at making a profit, therefore giving the operator a paycheck in addition to the employees own. Staff have a wealth of knowledge, they will often see solutions to problems management may not have considered, they are certainly in tune with the desires of the consumer so may provide a clearer perceptive on vital changes that are required.  You have a team make use of them.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

For National Banana Bread Day


For National Banana Bread Day.

I recently had an inquiry of “have you ever been to  Hawaii?” My response was just one island, Maui. My very gracious brother-in-law (Glen Richards) has hosted us a couple of times in his condo at Kihei so we have seen much of this island, my biggest regret however, I had to go home.
Maui is a very fascinating island, with beaches, fishing, diving, whale watching and so very much more a week spent here is just way too short. You most likely will fly into Kahului the main city, the commercial and industrial center of the island. Under a banyan tree a city block in size is Lahaina's Front Street, which has been ranked one of the "Top Ten Greatest Streets". Lahaina is an old whaling town that has become the tourist center of Maui. Great shops, wonderful restaurants, like Cheeseburger in Paradise where you’ll find a really great hamburger. Sitting right on the ocean so the views are just incredible.

There is morning sunrise parties from the top of Haleakala, the volcano on Maui, although there has no volcanic activity in hundreds of years, scientists still monitor Haleakala for potential eruption activity. So much to do, so little time.

One of things, the must do things, people will tell you to do, is, set a day aside and take the road to Hana.  The “highway” from Kahului to Hana is just 51.1 miles, so why on earth would anyone need an entire day to drive what should be less than hour down a “highway”? The actual drive will take 2 hours and 6 minutes, so “they” say, but who are “they”? Most likely those who have never driven the road to Hana. So why do want to take the journey? The journey takes you through Maui’s rain forest, past waterfalls, across 50 or more one lane bridges, and along tall ocean side cliffs. You’ll experience breathtaking views and dazzling sites along every one of the road’s 600 turns. The stop and go allowing others to pass you, waiting for others to clear the one lane bridge, waiting for those who stop in the middle of the road for photography instead of pulling over (most of the way you simply cannot pull over).  The drive is very stressful and the driver must pay very close attention to driving and not the spectacular scenes around you. The Hana Highway has earned itself an interesting nickname over the years. It is sometimes referred to as the “divorce highway”. Why? Because it has the probability to cause great anxiety for couples who decide to brave driving it themselves. It is a “white knuckle” drive for the driver, while the rider will be given to uttering death threats as they pass by 1200 foot drops. But your driving through a rain forest, the Earth's oldest living ecosystems.
Plumeria, Bird of Paradise, ‘Awapuhi Ginger, Heliconia, Hibiscus, and Protea are some of the flowers you will see along your way. 

Another interesting sight are the vendors of banana bread you find along the road to Hana. Usually made with the local apple bananas that are plentifully in Maui’s because of the tropical weather and generous rainfall, you’ll find some made with fruit, such as mango and pineapple, chocolate chips, coconut or macadamia nuts. Who makes the best, stop at as many as you can find and you decide. Then of course when you get home and that longing for the island returns go ahead and bake a Chef K loaf, or try my Banana Nut Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls, just close your eyes, bite into a slice or  a roll and wish upon a shooting starfish.

Banana, Well Sort of, Bread, or Cake, or, Well Something

Here are some useful tips to make a really great banana bread and or banana cake, Use overly ripe, black bananas (I freeze mine, frozen are great) for moist bread and plenty of banana flavor. Don’t have black bananas, blacken your own, bake unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet in a 250°F oven until soft and black, 15-20 minutes.

Choose oil  for the bread, but butter for cake. Oil emulsifies and coats the flour, preventing it from absorbing too much water, which results in dry banana bread.
If using nuts, walnuts are the nut of choice for banana bread, as their slightly bitter taste complements the sweetness of the bread.

Liquefy the bananas, (very important for cake) here the flavor will burst through, add the moistness, and of course is part of the liquid needed to form the batter. Besides just mashed bananas often result in small slimy pieces within the loaf or cake.

Bananas should be very ripe. Don't use fermented bananas or those with split peels, which could contain harmful bacteria.

Test banana bread with a toothpick for doneness in three places: left, center and right side.
Wrap banana bread in plastic wrap while slightly warm to keep it from drying out overnight. This is how those peddling the bread on the road to Hana keep their’s nice and moist.

Most recipes call for 3 bananas, I find four works much better both for flavor and moistness.
Layering nuts, raisins or even chocolate chips (when using) instead mixing them into the batter ensures even distribution throughout the loaf or cake.

If like a more caramel flavor to your banana bread substitute the white sugar for dark brown sugar.

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
1 cup raisins or Walnuts (optional)
Crumb Filling and topping
1 cup cold butter, cubed
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups flour

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 350°
Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, set aside
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. set aside.
In a large bowl, mash bananas until they become liquid.
Mix in butter until combined and then stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla until mixed well.
Stir in milk and flour until combined.

Crumb Filling/Topping

Prepare crumb filling/topping by combining all the ingredients together cutting them together with a fork or pastry cutter until a coarse crumb forms.
Pour 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with raisins or nuts if using. Top with 1/3 of the crumb mixture. Cover the filling with the remaining batter and top with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake for 50-55 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes.

Mix the powdered sugar and milk together and drizzle on top.
Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Banana Cranberry Nut Cinnamon Rolls
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 packets of yeast
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup banana puree
2 large eggs
6.5 cups flour

½ cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans
2 banana’s, thinly sliced
½ cup sun-dried cranberries

Caramel frosting:
½ cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the 1⁄2 cup of milk and the 2 tablespoons of sugar until the sugar has disintegrated. Transfer to a small bowl. When the milk cools to 110°, sprinkle in the yeast. Set aside for about 20 minutes, for the yeast to get foamy.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the 1 cup sugar, salt and 1⁄2 cup milk, butter and salt. Cook, stirring until everything is melted and well combined, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the banana and mix until well incorporated. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add in the yeast mixture.

With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour, 1 cup at a time. After you have added all the flour, increase the speed to medium and keep mixing until you have a smooth dough, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Grease a large mixing bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and put the bowl somewhere warm. Let the dough rise for at least 1 hour, and up to 3 hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 1⁄4 inch thick. Rub the butter over the surface of the dough.

Sprinkle with the 2 cups of brown sugar, the cinnamon and the pecan pieces. Spread the bananas evenly over the dough, sprinkle with the cranberries.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . Carefully Roll the dough into a huge round log. Slice into desired size. Put them on a sheet pan and let them rise while the oven heats up about 15-20 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, cream and salt. Cook over medium heat until melted. Stir together and cook until simmering for about 3 minutes.
Pull the pan off the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar.

Pour the sauce over a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan, sprinkle with the pecans. P{lace the rolls evenly over the nuts, allow to continue to rise an additional 10 minutes.

Bake the rolls at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until barely golden on top and baked through.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Chicken Stuffed With Garlic Mushrooms and Beet Tops

Catch The Beet Chicken

Here is a wonderful dish, boneless chicken breast stuffed with garlic mushrooms and beet tops, served with julienne'd beets and creamy mushroom sauce.

For Chicken,
2 medium beets with tops
1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
6 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, fine diced
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ cup flour
1 tablespoon multi-purpose seasoning
4 chicken breasts
1 egg
¼ cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Remove the tops from the beets. Place the beets in boiling salted water, simmer for 7 minutes, remove from the heat and run under cold water. While the beet’s boil and cool, remove the stems and veins from the beet tops, coarsely chop them and rinse under cold water.

Heat the butter in a skillet, add the beet tops, mushrooms and garlic, sauté for two minutes, add the wine and simmer until the liquid has evaporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper, allow to cool.

Place the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound chicken breasts thin.
Place equal amounts of the mushroom beet mixture on each breast within 1/2 inches of edge.
Fold edges of chicken over filling and secure with toothpicks.

Mix flour and seasoning together. Mix the egg with the milk, Dip the chicken breasts into the flour and coat chicken, dip into the egg mixture then again in the flour mixture.

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook chicken until browned on all sides, or, brown quickly in a deep fryer.
Bake the chicken for 22-25 minutes, until thoroughly cooked and reaches 170°F on an inserted thermometer. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

While the chicken bakes, slice the blanched beets in julienne batons, toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper and the thyme leaves.

Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven with the chicken for 15 minutes.

Mushroom Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons oil
5 cups approximately mushrooms, halved/sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup 250ml cream
1 cup milk mixed with 3 teaspoons corn flour/corn starch
1-2 tablespoon lemon juice to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the butter and olive oil together.
Add the mushrooms to the pan with the thyme and season with salt and pepper.
Allow the mushrooms to fry until golden brown, then add the garlic and fry until fragrant.
Pour in the cream and milk and allow to simmer gently for 5-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and cooked through.
Season with lemon, salt and pepper and add the parsley.

Place the beets, slice the rested chicken and place on the beets. Smother with the sauce and serve the chicken with vegetables along with rice or potatoes.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Labor saving Tips To Help The Up and Coming Huge Minimum Wage Hike

As Ontario, BC and many states make a mandatory switch to higher than forecast, wages, most to the 15.00 minimum, we must look closely at ways to maintain both service and staff without driving the cost on to the consumer where possible.  So lets look at some of the steps we should be doing and perhaps a few that may be new. Refreshing policies are always a good idea and should be a standard part of our operations.  Many restaurants have few controlled areas, mortgage, lease, utilities may not be in your control, but food cost and labor and the ones an operator absolutely must be hands on with.

A)    Schedule

The schedule is the daily map to success. Every employee has one, they “must” maintain it as posted. An establishment that has just 20 employees who sign in or out 15 minutes different than the posted schedule will cost the establishment an additional 5 hours per day, or 75.00 per day, if left uncontrolled this would equate to a labor charge of 27,375 per year, the equivalent to a full time line cooks wage.  Management must be sure employees are signing in and out as per schedule, and regrettably cutting staff when sales volumes are down.

Most point of sale (POS) systems now allows you to monitor this information, they keep your records, so you may follow hourly, weekly, monthly and yearly trends and records. Did you overstaff that last holiday, check the POS and adjust for the next.  A good manager will know exactly what the labor for the day will be against sales at every hour throughout the day. Balance your needs with the staffs needs through considerate scheduling: Create flexible schedules that allow for personal or family commitments that may be seen as a part of wage payment. Try to avoid split shifts or irregular scheduling that may prevent employees from having a healthy work and personal life. Long or double shifts, short shifting, or called in shifts can have a negative effect on morale and therefore a negative effect on service.

Have a good mix of full and part time employees. A well trained part time employee may also be a happy employee, they work the hours they want and should a full time position become available, they are the first to acquire the position, a little additional training will be required.
Management must understand what labor cost is made up of before they can understand how to control it. Every customer makes up the labor component, whether adult or child each one adds to the labor,  at times that 6 year old make take more time than the adult with him or her. Labor cost is usually expressed as a percentage of the total net sales.  The basic formula for calculating labor cost is:


Covers per Labor Hour (total covers/total labor hours) Covers per Labor Hour are calculated by dividing total covers by total labor hours. (Regular time and overtime) All labor is calculated and all sales are included. So restaurant  with 10 servers working 6 hours each would give 60 hours, while the BOH has a combined full and part time labor of 40 hours, while sales of the day were 6500 created by 700 covers of various amounts so the equations would be:
FOH 11.66 covers per hour
BOH 17.6 covers per hour

This is within the benchmark of productivity depending on the operations a good operator may consider various benchmarks as achievable targets.

QSR 8.5-10 cover per labor hour
Fine Dining .9-1.4 covers per labor hour
Family Dining 3.8-5.8 covers per labor hour

You may want the reverse knowledge as well when calculating your labor benchmark, or, Labor Cost per Cover (total labor $/total covers) So this formula would take the total labor dollars spent so using the minimum wage of 15 dollars we would have 60 x 15 = 900 then divide by covers dollar amount or 6500 resulting in a labor parentage of .138 labor hours per guest cover.

Good base operational  restaurant should be capable of providing quality service to its guests while operating at a total payroll cost of approximately 30%.  This figure includes:
1.            All hourly payroll
2.            Management salaries
3.            Employer contributions

The percentage you achieve is dependent on your sales volume. The hourly portion of your total payroll should be approximately 18% of the weekly net sales. This does not include management or employer contributions.

Front of house hourly average should be 6-9% with kitchen labor averaging 10-12%. The ideal is 7% in front and 11% for back with 8% management.

Costing your Schedule
Forecast sales:
•             For each day of the upcoming week/weeks – check reservations
•             Consider the previous week, same week last month and same week last year
•             Look at special events and holidays
•             Consider day parts (11-5/ 5-9/after 9)
Establish labor budget:
•             If forecasted sales for the week are $50,000.00 and labor is 18%, then $9000 is available for wages.
Divide the labor budget ($9000) by volume distribution
$  5857
$   1054
$  6007
$   1081
$  6607
$   1189
$  7207
$   1297
$  9757
$   1756
$  8888
$   1599
$  5707
$   1027

$ 9003.00

Establish average wages by department.
Wage Structuring
Establishing wages is an integral part of labor cost control.  Wage structure is influenced by many factors and may consequently vary from restaurant to restaurant.  When determining pay levels, the following factors should be considered:

1.            Local Labor Market.  The degree of job competition and the availability of job opportunities in the relevant marketplace.
2.            Competition amongst employers/restaurants in the local market.  Your ability to pay is constrained by your ability to compete.
3.            Laws and Regulations.  Minimum wage rates, overtime, statutory holidays.
4.            Individual restaurant factors.  The restaurant sales volume and your business strategies.
B)      Train, Train and Then Cross Train

Think about the cost of employee turnover, the cost to hire and train a new employee can easily reach over 1,500.00 each. So a manager must consider carefully before making a staff change, it may be required, but ROI is found in the employee that your investment is already within.
Have a step by step training method, your employees handbook is your plan to excellent service, there should be no variance from it. Each section (from greeting the guest to presentation of the guest check and the collection of the funds should be covered) is signed off by both the manager and the employee once he/she has mastered the area, then that signed page becomes part of the employment record. 

Create and have visible daily and weekly checklists, there the employee finds and knows the expectation of the day and week and requires reduced supervision to ensure the duties have been completed. Checklists remove guess work, show direction, give procedures, and make everyone accountable thus reducing the time required to perform the tasks. All too often a shift ends without side work being complete, the employee must remain and complete the work driving up the labor cost while the checklist could have prevented this.

Train  and cross train your staff, a server should know exactly what the busser must do and the busser should know exactly what the food runner is required to do. Never assume each knows the others position, train them and they will know. A trained employee must develop an understanding of how the restaurant functions as a whole, BOH and FOH although separate in function are both interdependent to the success of the entire operation, so why shouldn’t employees of both know what each must endure somewhat. I once created a daily position I called “the dining chef” this person was required to go and ask each table how their meal was and do it in a manner that required more than just an “okay” response, okay isn’t an answer, and if that was the response then we believe the guest did not have a happy experience. Servers would spend a couple days working in the kitchen to formulate an understanding of what the BOH staff dealt with daily. Crossed train employees can quickly move into a secondary position whenever required.

Train employees to know what is happening in the restaurant on a daily base’s, do they know the features of the day, have tasted the soup of the day, do they know how many reservation are coming in, have hostess’ confirmed those reservations.  Have they checked the “86” notification board?
Training requires the use of regular “required” staff meetings, those who miss these meetings drive costs up, so make them requires attendance. Keep them positive, but deal with the shortcomings that have come to light. Hold pre-shift meetings, as each shift change’s, and the staff hits the floor the pre-shift meeting is a great way to relay news regarding the restaurant (ending local gossip), menu changes, 86 items or shortages and other important items, eliminating errors and providing for an effective efficient service. Training will help prevent slow service and will teach staff the proper method to handle guests when there is a backlog in service.

Hold regular employee reviews, every employee wants to know exactly how they are doing and a honest employer will let them know.  Here the is a great one on one opportunity to discuss the strengths the employee brings to the team and how they can improve on areas that they may be weaker in.  You have the opportunity to reinforce the vision of the company and how the employee can assist in accomplishing that vision.

The following guidelines will assist in running an effective meeting.
Preparation –
•             Define objectives
•             Draft an agenda – remember to include positives with criticism
•             Select a time and location that will be without disruption or distraction
•             Communicate the meeting time and location in advance
Presentation –
•             State the objectives of your meeting
•             Establish eye contact with attendees
•             Maintain order and direction
•             Solicit questions
•             Summarize key points

C)      Know the Procedures then Perfect Them

A good operation knows and follows “The 5 P’s” Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Both FOH and BOH have procedures that are required to ensure a smooth service BOH refers to this as mise-en-place (everything in its place) it means is to have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking. Having to stop and prepare a key ingredient in service slows or stops that service, so the mise-en-place is absolutely required. So it holds true in every area of service, are servers side station properly stocked, how about the bar, every area has to ready so have procedures to be sure that they are prepared, again checklists may assist here as well.
Your checklists should cover all areas of the unit:
Exterior, Reception Area, Bar Area, Dining Area, Back of House (Kitchen), Public Washrooms,
Customer Service, Staff Washrooms, Authorized Suppliers, Administration

A professional never considers just “winging it” they know that is a sure fire way to get into the “weeds” real quickly, and there may be no getting out. The 5 P’s are the way the kill the weeds and have a great service.

Planning and Organization
These are essential components to a smooth-running operation.  Planning saves time and money by identifying the goals you want to pursue in advance.  Organizing is the way to implement goals into the operation.

1.            Prepare a list of the items you need to accomplish, including how to do them.  Be specific with the goals and the anticipated results (ie. money, hours, customers).
2.            Prioritize your goals and concentrate on the top three goals on your list.  Do not try to accomplish all the goals at the same time.
3.            Determine the resources you will need to accomplish your goal (ie. time, money, equipment, materials and/ or people).
4.            Delegate and establish accountabilities for the goals that you have planned.
5.            Set deadlines or due dates.