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Inspired Continuing Education by Kiley Fields

In any profession there is continuing education. Sometimes it is required, other times it is inspired. Inspiration to learn something…just because. I often have these moments of inspiration in the kitchen. Sometimes I immerse myself in a unique cuisine or an underutilized ingredient. But I recently had a very unexpected inspiration to educate myself. There were a couple interactions that inspired me…

My husband came home from work a few weeks ago and told me about a colleague who has been replacing his meals with a nutritionally packed drink instead of food. Soylent. Have you heard of this stuff? I will let you do your own research and make your own judgements. His colleague’s take was that consuming this cylinder bottle of “liquid food” increased his productivity in the office. What? He voluntarily consumes this stuff?

Another friend shared with me his morning breakfast. A fruit and vegetable packed smoothie – which sounded delicious – until he threw in the 24g protein packed scoop of snickerdoodle flavored whey protein. Stop there!

And finally, a girlfriend who is constantly on the run with five kids. She is a self-described “clean” eater. A go to protein for her might be boneless, skinless chicken breast cooked with olive oil cooking spray and no salt. Bad idea for so many reasons. When I saw her last she gave me a cute little “protein ball.” Protein balls are her thing. Just pop a bunch of nutritionally balanced ingredients in a food processor, pulse away, roll into balls, and you have an on-the-go nutritional snack. Quick, easy and no baking. Generally speaking I like the idea of these “protein balls”. Finally, we are using “real” food – not engineered liquid food or snickerdoodle flavored powder. But, how can we make them taste better, have better texture? Hence, my inspiration for continuing education!

  I spent a Saturday afternoon educating myself. My challenge was to develop a nutritional high protein convenience snack made with “real” food that tasted good. I needed variation in texture and depth in flavor. I tried sweet, I tried savory. I tried TVP – that’s where I drew the line. TVP, textured vegetable protein. This is the main ingredient in dishes like vegan “chicken nuggets” and vegan “beef tacos.”  It provides the protein and texture without the meat. Uh, really? Not sure this qualifies as “real” food.

After many trials and an entire pantry of ingredients utilized, I finally landed on a snack I was pleased with. High protein, lactose-free, and no refined sugar mini muffin bites. Nice texture and good flavor. I sampled them to a few of my best critics. Thumbs up all around. Most importantly, my girlfriend with five kids loved them. Then she asked if she could leave out the egg and throw all the ingredients in a food processor to make them into “protein balls.” Nooooooo! Enough with the protein balls!

My self-written course on high protein convenience snacks began and ended on that Saturday afternoon. I will make the mini muffins again, they were good. But until I get around to it, my go-to high protein snack will be a simple and nostalgic one: a fresh cut apple with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter.

High Protein Mini Muffins Made With “Real” Food That Tastes Good
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ripe banana, mashed
  2. 1 egg, lightly beaten
  3. 1/2 cup peanut butter
  4. 4 tablespoons ghee, plus more for preparing muffin pan (can substitute butter, but will no longer be lactose-free)
  5. 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 cup teff flour (look for Bob’s Red Mill brand)
  8. 1 cup rolled oats
  9. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  11. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  12. 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  13. 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  14. 1/3 cup dried blueberries
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease mini muffin tin wells with ghee, set aside. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl stir to combine banana, egg, peanut butter, four tablespoons ghee, coconut sugar and vanilla extract. In separate medium bowl whisk together teff flour, oats, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in walnuts, flaked coconut and blueberries. Batter will be quite dense.
  4. Using spring loaded portion scoop or tablespoon fill each muffin well with 1.5 tablespoons of batter. Push down in to well slightly with back of tablespoon.
  5. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until puffed, golden, and cooked through.
Notes
  1. 3 mini muffins have 9 grams of protein. need more protein? eat more muffins.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Tasting Tuscany by Paul Lindemuth

I’m freshly back and still unpacking from two glorious weeks in Florence and Tuscany.  What an amazing destination for someone that loves wine and food!

My first full day in Florence was an immersion into the food culture of that city.  I had the privilege of sharing the day with Sharon Oddson Gargani, author of “Once Upon a Tuscan Table”, in the kitchen at her restaurant Trattoria Garga.

We began the day with a tour of Florence’s Mercato Centrale, a feast for the senses, filled with scents, a riot of color and every imaginable cheese, meat and vegetable possible.  We purchased the ingredients for our class and then returned to the restaurant where I worked alongside Sharon, one on one, to prepare a delicious lunch which we shared with my partner Michael and our friend Lynn, washed down with bottles of white and red Italian wine.

Working with the ingredients from the mercato brought a whole new meaning of “farm to table”, since we were so close to the farms and purveyors that sell their local products there.

The culinary traditions in Tuscany run deep.  We tasted the traditional Florentine dish peposo in several restaurants.  The rich history of this dish goes back to the construction of the Duomo.  Workers at the kilns in Imprunetta were producing the terra cotta tiles that cover the beautiful dome.  Hunger was satiated with a hearty stew made from inexpensive cuts of beef that had been heavily peppered for preservation, thus the name peposo, derived from “pepe” or pepper. More pepper was added to help keep the stew even longer.  The stew was cooked in massive clay pots in the same furnaces that produced the tiles. The labors ate the stew with plenty of bread and washed it all down with watered-down red wine.

In Florence and Tuscany today, peposo is served in virtually every restaurant. Rather than inexpensive beef, it is now prepared with much more luxurious cuts like beef short ribs or veal cheek, aromatic vegetables and plenty of good Chianti wine, served with a large bowl of Tuscan white beans and olive oil.

Peposo
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 bone in beef short ribs, 8 to 10 ounces each
  2. 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  3. 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  4. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  5. 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 3 sage leaves
  7. 3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 2 cups Chianti
  10. salt to taste
  11. cooked white beans
  12. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle all sides generously with 1 tablespoon kosher salt.
  2. Place the chopped garlic and a pinch of salt in a mortar and mash with pestle until it forms a paste. Add the tomato paste and mash until blended. Transfer the mixture into the bowl with the beef and rub onto all sides of the meat. Add the ground black pepper. Distribute evenly over all sides of the beef.
  3. Transfer the meat to a deep skillet or Dutch oven bone side down. Tuck the sage leaves, rosemary, and bay leaves between pieces of meat. Carefully add wine along the side of the pan to avoid washing over the top of the meat.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Place the pan over high heat and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly. Place the pan into the preheated oven and cook until the meat is fork tender, turning pieces every 30 minutes or so, about 3 1/2 hours. Transfer the pieces of meat to a warm bowl.
  6. Return the pan to the stovetop over heat to high and bring the braising liquid to a boil. Simmer until liquid is reduced by about half or until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the bones from the meat.
  7. When the sauce is thickened, transfer the meat back to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low and spoon the sauce over meat. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  8. Spoon the stew into bowls and serve with the white beans, drizzled with olive oil.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

The Other Girl and the Goat by Robin Nathan

With the first chill of fall in the morning air, twelve or so other food adventurers and I boarded a small tour bus yesterday morning – courtesy of Marche – for the drive to Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign.

Owners Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband have created a dairy and creamery oasis in Central Illinois, the first ever goat cheese producing farm in the state, while practicing core principals of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

We toured their busy, working farm, got up-close-and-personal with the goats, and were served a lovely lunch under the trees with foods that were grown, harvested and created within yards of where we sat. Pretty freaking cool.

A stop in their farm market at the end of the day means that I have some of their fabulous, brie-style goat cheese in my refrigerator right now, just waiting to be tempered and enjoyed in some, delicious, creative way that truly pays homage to Prairie Fruits Farm and their mission. For the past two years, I’ve taught many classes at Marcel’s that feature Marche cheese in every course. The next class, celebrating autumn flavors is running October 10 (shameless plug, a few seats are still available!) Honoring small farmers and producers who respect our planet, and bringing attention to their efforts is a one of the most important things a chef can do. All you need to do to try some of Prairie Farm’s product is pop into Marche!

 I plan to pay my respects to that small wheel of “Little Bloom on the Prairie” goat cheese in my refrigerator with white wine poached pears for a delicious salad!rd

White Wine & Rosemary Poached Pear Salad with Goat Cheese
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 firm-ripe pears, preferably Bosc or Bartlett (note: Bartlett pears turn from green to yellow as they ripen)
  2. 3 cups dry, fruity white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier)
  3. 1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar
  4. 1 large bay leaf
  5. 2” fresh lemon zest
  6. ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  7. 4 tablespoons whole rosemary leaves
  8. 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  9. ¼ cup fruity olive oil
  10. 6 ounces mixed baby greens (be sure to use some bitter greens, too)
  11. 4 ounces Prairie Fruit Farms Goat Cheese, at room temperature, cut into small wedges (or try their fresh goat cheese in crumbles)
Instructions
  1. Peel the pears and cut them in half from stem to blossom end. Use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds and use a small knife to trim out the tough strip extending from the stem down to the seeds.
  2. Combine the wine, sugar, bay leaf, lemon zest, peppercorns and rosemary leaves in a deep saucepan (the pears should all be submerged). Taste and add more sugar if the mixture is very tart. Bring to a quick simmer. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes to allow the flavors to really combine. Add the pears to the simmering mixture. Return the pot to a slow simmer until the pears are just tender, about 12-15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pears to a cutting surface to cool.
  3. Ladle out ¼ cup of the mixture from the pot, put it into a small bowl and add the balsamic vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange the baby greens on individual salad plates and chill. When the pears are cooled, thinly slice them horizontally and using the knife as an aid, lift from the cutting board and gently fan onto the salad greens. Place a wedge of the cheese (or crumbles if using the fresh cheese) on top of the salad and spoon the vinaigrette over. Finish with a tiny crumble of flaked sea salt and serve immediately.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

An Ode to Onions by Brandy Fernow

Sometimes when I’m teaching a class, I hear someone say “I don’t like onions.” My ears perk up and I can’t wait to change their mind! Generally the dislike is because of the texture or flavor of raw onion. Onions are certainly aggressive in flavor when raw, but cooking them creates a sweetness and tender texture that will only embellish a dish!
 
I love working with onions – the most common aromatic and essential ingredient that adds depth and flavor to so many dishes. The onion family includes bulb or globe onions, pearl onions, cipollini, shallots, leeks, scallions, chives and their cousin – garlic. Collectively they belong to a plant species called alliums.
 
In my classes, one of the most common “Ah-hah” moments is learning how to correctly dice an onion.  I will break it down below.
 
1. Cut the STEM end off and leave the ROOT end on. The root end is your friend!  
2. Place the onion cut-side down on the cutting board and slice it in half lengthwise through the root. You should have two halves and the root should still be on. You wouldn’t cut off your friend, would you?
3. Peel the onion halves – you have two edges to work with, so it’s easy-peasy.
4. With the root end toward the back of the cutting board, slice lengthwise at even intervals, stopping just short of the root end. 
5. Turn the onion and holding the root end, slice horizontally toward the root, again at even intervals. The pieces will fall away as you slice, leaving only the root end, your friend that held the onion together while dicing.
 
I can guarantee this will yield uniform shaped pieces for even cooking, but I can’t guarantee you won’t be crying at the end. Cutting onions can cause watery eyes or even crocodile tears so guests also love this tip: Freeze the onion for 20 minutes before chopping – it helps contain the sulfuric compounds that make our eyes water.
 
I always have a variety of onions on hand, as well as bread, cheese and cream – the makings of a classic bread pudding. So I’m sharing a favorite savory bread pudding recipe. I guarantee even those who “don’t like onions” will enjoy the delicious aromas and flavors created from some of the best alliums – leek, shallot, chives and garlic.
Savory Leek and Fontina Bread Pudding
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups cubed baguette, sourdough or ciabatta bread
  2. 1 tablespoon butter
  3. 1 small leek, white and light green parts only, sliced thin
  4. 1 small shallot, minced
  5. 1 garlic clove, minced
  6. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  7. 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  8. 3/4 cup grated Fontina
  9. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  10. 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  11. 2 eggs
  12. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  13. 1 teaspoon salt
  14. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread cubes in an even layer on a parchment lined sheet tray and toast for 6-8 minutes until dry and just lightly browned. Remove and let cool.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the leek and shallot; cook over medium-high heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Transfer leek mixture to a large bowl and add the chives, Fontina and Parmesan. Fold in the toasted bread.
  3. Whisk cream, eggs, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour custard mix into bread/leek mixture and stir to combine. Scoop bread pudding mixture into a casserole dish and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The custard should be set and the top lightly browned. Garnish with additional chives.
Notes
  1. You can add wild mushroom or asparagus to this as well.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Summertime & College Cooking by Lynn Dugan

Register TODAY for Chef Lynn’s July 18th Cooking for College Students: Plant Based Eating hands on cooking class.

I just returned from a week with extended family at my parent’s house in Michigan. With 90-degree heat, we minimized our use of the oven during meal prep for the 25 of us.  Most of our cooking was done on the grill except for the enchiladas I had pre-made and frozen ahead of time.  We were all happy that enchiladas cook in just 20 minutes!  But the heat in the kitchen generated from the enchiladas was well worth it. These vegetarian enchiladas- made with shredded sweet potato and lentils- were enjoyed by all.  It is a recipe I was refining for the Cooking for College Students class that I am teaching on July 18 at 6:30pm.  Marcel’s College Cooking class is a perfect opportunity for young adults to learn together in the kitchen; it is always a lot of fun!  Marcel’s hosts a college cooking class twice a year and this is the first vegetarian one we have offered.  It has an amazing menu: Black Bean Avocado Mango Salad, Mexican Creamed Corn, Enchilada Casserole with Sweet Potato, and Coconut Rice Pudding. Please don’t miss it! 

Just like the cooking strategy my family and I had in Michigan, summer is always the ideal time to economize oven use. This Baked Honey Chicken is a recipe for success: cook once, eat twice.  Essentially, use the oven once to produce two delicious meals.  The chicken marinates for 1-4 hours before it’s baked for just 30 minutes.  Half of this cooked chicken is then saved in the refrigerator for the next night’s dinner, Key West Chicken Salad Wraps. The remaining half of the Baked Honey Chicken is served for that night’s yummy Honey Chicken Rice Bowls with Steamed Broccoli.    

Baked Honey Chicken
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  2. 1/3 cup honey
  3. 1/4 cup soy sauce
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1/4 cup sliced scallions
Instructions
  1. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over chicken. Cover dish with foil and marinade in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours. Turn chicken once midway through marinating time.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken, covered, in oven for 15 minutes. Remove chicken from oven, uncover and turn chicken pieces over, and bake for another 15 minutes, until internal temperature is 165 degrees.
  3. Remove half of the chicken to a covered storage dish. Refrigerate and save for Key West Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps (recipe below).
  4. Use remaining chicken and the sauce from the baking dish to make Honey Chicken Rice Bowls with Steamed Broccoli (recipe below).
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Lessons Learned At The Table by Kelly Sears

There are 275 countries in the world; 19 major world religions; 6,500 spoken languages. Food is the one universal. Food has no language barrier, is borderless, and is entry: entry to people, their culture, their families, their lives. 

In a tribute to his friend Anthony Bourdain, Anderson Cooper shared “in places near and far in the world, he talked, tasted, with open mouth, and eyes, and open heart and mind.” Simple, yet with depth; raw and honest, much like the man we think we knew as Anthony Bourdain.

Bourdain expressed “…everywhere in the world, we go, and we ask these very simple questions, what makes you happy, what do you like to eat, what do you cook? We tend to get some really astonishing answers. People are telling you a story when they give you food. If you don’t accept the food, you are, in many cultures, whether in rural Arkansas or Vietnam, you are, rejecting the people.”

   When you sit down with someone and share their food, you are sharing their story.  People are telling you something about themselves with each bite, each sip, each serving.  No matter how small the size of the offering, the gesture is large, and the moment is magic.

We all tell a story through our food. If you listen closely, the dish will share more than the cook will reveal in standard conversation. It’s the ingredient not listed in the recipe, not found on the grocery list. It’s the depth of flavor, the peek inside, that if you are lucky enough, you can taste in each bite.

My husband is a landlord to college students. Our tenants represent the melting pot of not only America, but also the world. If you stay within the confines of your job, the relationship is tenant/landlord. But if you take the time to say hello, learn a name, discover what part of the map is home, doors open, and magic happens; you share a table. He calls them by name, they call him Mr. Dan.

Two young engineering students from a small village outside of Beijing invited us to their apartment to make dumplings. Multi-generational, mom and grandmother were visiting and deftly rolling out dumplings with the speed of a twelve-person assembly line. Every dumpling is the exact shape and size. Once all the dough was ready, it was time to fill.  Their dumplings were perfect, beautifully shaped, properly proportioned. Ours, overstuffed and unable to close. With direction, “the dumpling is the purse, the meat filling the money. Don’t let the money fall out of the purse.” An “ah ha” moment for sure; our dumpling skills improved. The meal was set out on two card tables, served on paper plates, with lots of chairs crammed around the tables. Make room for what’s important, worry less about what’s not.

Several young men from Saudi Arabia invited Mr. Dan to stay for coffee after he fixed their leaky faucet.  They set a cup in front of him and filled it half way. Mr. Dan said, only half a cup? The host then shared that his father, and his grandfather before him, taught him that you invite someone to stay by only filling their cup halfway. This way, the cup will constantly need to be filled, a little bit at a time, encouraging the guest to continue to stay and visit. When you fill the cup all the way, you are inviting them to leave; as in, This WILL be your only cup!  Half full leaves you room for more.

We invited some new tenants, a lovely Hispanic couple, over to teach us how to make tamales. We spoke with our hands, so we could understand one another. When I was about to add water in with the masa, my hand was tapped, and an index finger waved no-no.  She pointed to the pot where the pork had slow cooked and then back to the masa bowl. Yes, of course! Water tastes like water, but pork juice tastes delicious!!  We followed the leader and tied the husks. We counted hands and realized twelve hands make a hundred tamales easier than two. Share the work and it doesn’t feel like work.

After long holiday breaks, some would return with gifts for Mr. Dan, gifts from their home: tea leaves as fragrant as the small-town countryside, homemade candies and sweets from their villages, silk scarves, a Qur’an. Share a dumpling, a coffee, a tamale; open a door to a connection. This is me, this is how I live.

We spend a lot of time watching food TV, taking pictures of food, posting food but how much time do we spend breaking bread.  We look down into phones instead of up into experiences.  We can probably identify people by the parts in their hair rather than the colors of their eyes. How much time do we spend listening and connecting (the wireless kind).

Whether it’s a kitchen table, dining table, picnic table or folding table, pull up a chair and gather round. Eat what’s offered off the fork. People open up when you nod and say “yes please” to the plate being passed. More tales are told, more stories shared. It’s the first step to a connection, to listening.

May your purse hold money, your coffee cup never completely full, may you talk and taste with an open mouth, and eyes, with an open heart and mind. I know you’ll never leave hungry.

Bread can be sliced, dipped, slathered or torn, goes with any meal, can be served piping hot, toasted or stale tossed in a salad. Most recipes make two loaves, or in this case, rolls. Break Bread and Connect.

Pepper Bacon Bread
Yields 20
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Ingredients
  1. 340 grams Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  2. 70 grams reserved Potato Cooking Liquid
  3. 14 grams reserved bacon fat (can substitute butter here)
  4. 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  5. 332 grams all-purpose flour
  6. 9 grams sea salt
  7. 72 grams bacon, cooked and crumbed (fat reserved, see above)
  8. 5 grams coarse black pepper (may prefer 3 grams if making rolls)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees one hour prior to baking (baking vessel too)
  2. Boil potatoes (unpeeled) until tender, about 15-20 minutes
  3. Reserve 70 grams of the cooking water; set aside potatoes and liquid to cool
  4. Once cooled, mash the potatoes
  5. In a mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, reserved cooking liquid, bacon fat and instant yeast. Stir to combine
  6. Add half the flour and stir well (the mixture will be crumbly)
  7. Add the rest of the flour and the sea salt and stir. The mixture will seem very dry
  8. Use your hands and squeeze, press, and knead the mixture until it comes together as a dough
  9. Scrape the mass of dough on to a work surface and knead the dough 5-6 minutes. The dough will start out quite stiff and dry but will moisten over time
  10. Press the dough into a rectangle, top with bacon and pepper. Knead for a couple more minutes to incorporate the bacon and pepper
  11. Place in an oiled container, cover with plastic and ferment for 30 minutes
  12. After 30 minutes, fold the dough, cover again and let rest for 30 minutes
  13. After 30 minutes, the dough is ready to be shaped (loaf, batard or rolls)
  14. Proof the dough for 45 minutes to an hour; it should swell nicely and have a springy texture
  15. Once the loaf has risen, score the top from end to end
  16. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden browned
Adapted from Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, MI
Adapted from Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, MI
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

My New Favorite Word… Potluck by Jamie Bordoshuk

What happens when you want to host the party, but the thought of pulling together a meal for eight, twelve or (gulp) sixteen people takes the wind right out of your sails? You pull out the best trick in the book – potluck.  

I haven’t always been so smart. For years, my wife Rondi and I would invite people over for dinner and brush off their “what can we bring?” with an immediate “Nothing! Just bring yourselves” response. Those four little words invariably led to four (or more) days of planning, prepping and preparing.  

No more.

This past Easter, my two nieces and I were deciding who was going to host the get-together when one of them suggested a potluck.  Hmmm … interesting idea.  “I’m in,” my niece Marcie said, “but my house is torn up for the kitchen remodel.”  “I’m in,” my niece Mindy said, “but we’re just getting back from Florida the day before.”  “I can do it here,” I announced, “but it’s still going to be a pot luck!” 

Best decision I ever made.

The guest list eventually rose to 20 people, and as each guest was added to my growing list I simply asked them to bring their specialty.  Marcie brought two fabulous flatbreads as our appetizer.  Mindy was quick to claim the smoked ham.  My sister Sarah brought her famous “Party Potatoes” (yes, that’s a real thing), Kay brought the lamb cake, and Nikki rounded out the party with Mimosa and Bloody Mary fixings.

Since this party was all about bringing your specialty, I decided to spend my Saturday afternoon making Mom’s homemade sauerkraut and bacon pierogies – a Bordoshuk family favorite. They came out beautifully and would never have been possible without my new favorite word … potluck.  

Sauerkraut and Bacon Pierogi
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Dough
  1. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 3/4 to 1 cup water (as needed)
Sauerkraut Filling
  1. ½ pound thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
  2. 1 16 ounce package of sauerkraut
  3. 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  4. 1 medium yellow onion
  5. 1 stick butter
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, eggs, salt and 3/4 cup water together to form dough, adding more water as needed to form a ball. Let dough rest for 1/2 hour.
  2. In a sauté pan, cook bacon lardons over medium heat until just before crisp (approx 10 min) and remove to paper-towel covered plate. In bacon drippings, brown onion until translucent, (approx 6-8 minutes). Add sauerkraut and caraway seeds. Heat until sauerkraut just starts to brown. Let cool.
  3. Cut dough ball into 6 equal pieces. On a floured surface, roll out dough to form a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into 8 pieces. Drop 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of sauerkraut mixture onto on side. Brush dough edge with water, fold over other edge of dough, crimping edge with fork to seal. Continue process until dough and sauerkraut are gone.
  4. In rapidly boiling salted water, drop in 10 to 12 pierogis and cook for 8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to cool. In a sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter and cook pierogi, (3 to 4 at a time), until brown and crisp on each side.
  5. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of kosher salt.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Recipe Testing – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by Kiley Fields

Cooking Mad Lib:

“I found a recipe online for (insert dish of choice) Coq au Vin. I followed the recipe exactly, and it (fill in the blank with a negative outcome) tasted like a rubber shoe after I spent hours in the kitchen with the highest expectations for a fantastic meal at home. What did I do wrong?”

To be honest, probably nothing. Just because you found it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. And it doesn’t mean the recipe was tested either. Although a dish sounds amazing, sometimes executing it through a well written (or posted) recipe is a bit more challenging.

 As a chef instructor writing and testing recipes is one of the more tedious yet rewarding parts of my job. I don’t recall ever writing a recipe perfectly the first time. There is almost always a re-write, or two…or five. And, depending on the mood I am in or the recipe I am testing, sometimes the test is done on a controlled group of one (me!) or a large cackle of friends.

I have learned over time that there is a right way and wrong way to seek feedback while testing recipes.

  1. Don’t overserve the testers before serving the food – I had a group of girlfriends over to test cocktails and appetizers – after the fourth cocktail they “L-O-V-E-D” everything. Seriously?

  1. Don’t expect your starving teenager to give thoughtful feedback – After he downed a plate of mussels in sofrito and polished off a grilled octopus salad he said was “ok” and asked if there was any leftover pizza.
  1. Be clear that you are seeking their feedback (not their co-workers) – I gave a friend a plate of whoopie pies. I ran in to her a few days later and she said she didn’t want the “calories” in the house so she put them in the lunchroom at work.

And although the recipe successes have outnumbered the failures…failures have existed. “I like the flavor, but the texture kind of makes me want to vomit.” That response is probably my favorite – that was definitely a “back to the drawing board” moment. Shout out to the “honesty”…but man that was a shot to the ego!

Anyone who cooks can relate – there is unbelievable pleasure in making someone happy through food. I am always appreciative of those that are willing to try and retry my food to make me better at what I do. Because, at the end of the day, a good, well tested, solidly written recipe makes my kitchen (and yours) a better place to be. 

P.S. Here are some of my favorite more reliable, almost always tested, online recipe resources: marcelsculinaryexperience.com; seriouseats.com; cooksillustrated.com; and thekitchn.com.

One-Bite Chocolate Whoopie Pies
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For cakes
  1. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  2. 1 cup brown sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  8. 1 egg
  9. 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  10. 2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  11. 1 cup whole milk
For filling
  1. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, but still cool
  2. 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  3. 3/4 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 1 1/4 cup Marshmallow Fluff
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In stand mixer on low speed mix together butter, sugar, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla, until smooth. Add egg and mix until incorporated, then add cocoa powder and mix to combine. In alternating additions, add flour and milk in three parts, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Mix until batter is uniform with no lumps.
  3. To bake cakes, line rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Transfer batter to piping bag and snip off tip of bag. Pipe batter, about 1-1/2 inch in diameter, on to parchment lined baking sheet, leaving room between cakes as they will spread. A standard size 12” x 18” baking sheet should fit 36 cakes (4 cakes across by 9 cakes long). Bake the cakes until set and firm to touch, about 6-8 minutes. Let cakes cool slightly on baking sheets. While still lukewarm, peel cakes away from parchment and let cool completely.
  4. To make filling, in stand mixer, on medium speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add vanilla bean paste and salt and mix to combine. Beat in fluff on medium speed until well incorporated and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Transfer filling to piping bag and refrigerate until slightly firm, about 30 minutes.
  5. To assemble, pipe filling on one cake and top with second cake. Whoopie pies can be enjoyed immediately or stored in air-tight container in refrigerator if not enjoyed within 30 minutes. Bring whoopie pies to room temperature before serving.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Maison – Bringing The Chef To You by Paul Lindemuth

Maison is beautiful French word that, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, translates to “house, household, home.”  It is the perfect word to embody the wonderful addition to the Marcel’s and Marché family. 

Maison was launched last year, and now 4 chefs from the Marcel’s culinary team pack up their knives, pots, pans and prep gear to bring the chef experience to your home.  We also have a group of talented and professional staff working alongside us to create the perfect celebration.

Here’s how it all works:  An initial conversation with the client determines date, time and guest count as well as any specific event details. A Maison chef is scheduled and begins work on a very personal planned menu that focuses on great taste and seasonal flavors. The chef will embrace every detail of the event, assessing any dietary restrictions, the need for any rentals of tableware and linens, floral arrangements, as well as making wine and beverage suggestions.  

  On event day the chef and staff arrive early to load in, unpack, set up and complete prep and cooking.  Staff also assist with table setting, wine chilling, cocktail mixing and creating beautiful platters for passed appetizers.  Guests arrive, cocktails and appetizers flow, dinner and wine are served and dessert is presented.  At the end of the evening the chef and staff roll up their sleeves for final clean up before saying their goodbyes.   

 

We’ve had the pleasure of being part of milestone birthdays and anniversaries, a vow renewal ceremony and celebration, two full hands-on evenings where the guests prepped and cooked alongside us, as well as some fun and casual gatherings for family and friends. 

We’ve also had one event that began al fresco with a beautiful table set in the back yard.  Then the rain started.  Our team seamlessly moved everything indoors, shuffling furniture to accommodate tables and chairs, putting soggy linens in the dryer, polishing damp glassware and flatware, and resetting the tables – (all without missing a beat) while simultaneously serving cocktails and appetizers to the guests.  And never without a smile on their faces!

The greatest compliment we’ve received (and more than once) was “this was perfect and I was able to be a guest at my own party”.

So when you have an occasion for a celebration, whether big or small, formal or casual, call us and let us bring the party to your maison!

Salmon Poached in Escabeche
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds fresh salmon, cut into 2” chunks
  2. 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  3. 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  4. 2 tablespoons sweet Spanish pimentón
  5. 2 cups virgin olive oil
  6. ⅔ cup cider vinegar
  7. ½ cup dry white wine
  8. 4 bay leaves
  9. 10 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  10. 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  11. 2 yellow onions, peeled, trimmed and thinly sliced
  12. 2 large carrots, peeled, trimmed and thinly sliced
  13. 8 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Lay the salmon pieces in a shallow pot, large enough to keep the salmon in one layer. Sprinkle the salt, pepper and pimenton over the salmon. Toss the salmon lightly to evenly coat.
  2. Pour the olive oil, vinegar and wine into the pot. Add the thyme, parsley sprigs, bay leaves, onions, carrots and garlic.
  3. Place the pot over medium heat. Bring slowly to a boil and then turn the heat off immediately the moment the first bubble appears.
  4. Cover with a lid, set aside and let the salmon cook in the retained heat while releasing its juices, about 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer to small plates and serve with some of the poaching liquid and vegetables on top.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

My New Relationship With Yeast by Kelly Sears

After the cork pops, the ball drops, and all the decorations are put away, it’s time for the resolutions; the promises.  The time when we vow to turn the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s from the past year into motion in the new one.

The New Year to me is a clean sheet of white paper and a box of ten new pencils.  I love pencils, they allow forgiveness; a quick erase and the to-do list of twenty can become fifteen with just a flip upside down and a couple of sturdy set of swipes from left to right. Pencils allow for breathing room, edits, scratch outs and drafts.  Pen is permanent and seems super strict. For those of you under 25, a pencil is made of wood, has a strip of graphite running down the middle, starts sharp, after a series of bright ideas and big plans, whittles down to dull, can be sharpened again and you hold it in your hand and write on paper. Genius!

With the clean sheet of paper and the sharp new pencil, I write a list of things I would like to learn in the new year. My list rarely includes quitting a bad habit, losing pounds, or starting some new system.  These seem like processes to me; adjustments that require life changes to be successful, and a completely different blog post!

Some years the list includes things I fear, some years it includes things I haven’t made time for, in other years, on the list is something I think I should know, and yet others, that list includes something that seems really cool to know. In 2017 among other things, my list included learning to knit (epic fail), trying bungee Pilates (the comedic value alone was worth the effort), make a really good pie (satisfying), and baking a better loaf of bread (yes!!).

I’m not sure how I could have a friendship that has withstood forty years and a marriage of nearly thirty, and I couldn’t figure out how to have a relationship with yeast.  Sometimes, getting better at something starts with one move, deciding to do so. Whatever material you built the wall from to mentally stop you from doing it, is usually not made of kryptonite and usually crumbles once you make the decision to take action. Even doing nothing is doing something.

Back to bread, I enrolled myself in a four day boot camp in Ann Arbor at Zingerman’s Bakehouse.  For four days I surrounded myself with all things yeast and dough, shut my mouth and opened my ears.  Life Changing!

I embraced this new skill with gusto.  Soon I was baking six or seven loaves of bread a week and had multiple varieties of sourdough starter feasting. I purchased proofing baskets, lames, linen couches, and cast iron loaf pans.  My countertops continually had something rising at different stages and I asked my husband if he could build me a proofing box.  It was at this point, I got the look.  The look you get after nearly thirty years of marriage, the one that requires no words.  This look, in my world, usually translates to “perhaps we are taking this bread thing a bit too far;” grab some reins, apply the brakes.

He’s usually right.  My new found skills tend to teeter on obsession.  In my quest to master, I forget time and space, I forget the real reason I began the journey to begin with.  Learning a skill is all about empowerment; education + knowledge = power.  Once you learn how to do something you didn’t know how to do before, you no longer have to rely on others to do something for you.  Intrepidation is stifling. Remove hesitation and the results are unharnessed creativity and freedom.

As with most things one fears, once you face it, it’s never that scary, and the lessons learned transcend just bread making and baking.  On the journey to soft rolls, French loaves, cinnamon swirl breakfast bread, multigrain sandwich loaf, sourdough boules, crusty peasant bread, and warm brioche, this is what happened…..

Patience– like good conversation, friendship, wine, and marriage, a really good loaf of bread takes time

Renewed commitment – sourdough starter, when ignored for too long dies, if you feed it a little everyday it flourishes.  It only takes a little energy every day to keep the fire burning, without it, the light will go out.

Trust your instincts – even if the instructions say one thing, listen, smell, taste, adjust; follow your gut

Create a good environment – goodness thrives in a happy place

Recycle – stale bread = croutons, toast, and bread crumbs, heals are the best part of the loaf and make the best mop to sop of the bottom of the bowl, mistakes still taste good even if they don’t look good, save some of the dough to create the next loaf, old dough makes new dough taste better

Close your mouth and open your ears – it’s amazing what you can hear when you turn your voice off and your ears on!

Share – most recipes yield two loaves for a reason; eat one, share one.  They taste better that way.

Whatever your paper and pencil have in store for you this New Year, embrace the results.  Even with epic fails, you never stop learning. Keep tweaking; adjusting, trying new things, you just might learn something completely different along the way.

 

Warm Dinner Rolls
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Ingredients
  1. 12.5 ounces water (room temperature)
  2. .375 ounces instant yeast
  3. 21 ounces bread flour
  4. 2 teaspoons salt
  5. 1 ounce sugar
  6. .5 ounce non-fat milk solids
  7. 2 ounces butter, softened
  8. Egg wash: one egg, one tablespoon milk
  9. Sea salt for sprinkling on top
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine the water, yeast and half the bread flour. Stir together until the mixture is shaggy. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Using a bench scraper, spin the bowl as you scoop around the outside of the bowl, tossing the dough towards the middle of the bowl with each turn. Once the dough comes together in a rough ball, spill the dough out onto the counter (no flour!). Work the dough together into a tighter ball and then knead until the dough is soft and smooth. Press the inside of your wrist against the dough, if it doesn’t stick, the dough is ready to rest. (this process should take about five minutes or a little less if you put a little muscle into it)
  3. Place dough in an lightly oiled ball, cover and proof until double in size- about an hour in the right conditions – around 80-85 degrees.
  4. Scale the dough into 1 oz. size; Make up rolls into desired shapes. Place rolls 2 inches apart on paper-lined baking sheets. Proof until double in size (about 30-45 minutes).
  5. Egg wash; dust with salt, bake at 400 degrees until brown – about 20 minutes.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/