Rigatoni with Broccoli and Sausage

Rigatoni with Broccoli and Sausage
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 3-4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  2. Extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage
  4. Salt and pepper
  5. 8 ounces rigatoni
  6. 1 pound broccoli, stems trimmed and peeled, stems sliced crosswise into ¼” coins, and tops cut into florets
  7. ¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes
  8. ½ cup Whipped Ricotta (recipe follows)
  9. ½-1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  10. ¼ cup dried breadcrumbs, optional
  11. Whipped Ricotta (Makes about 1 ½ cups)
  12. 1 ½ cups whole-milk ricotta cheese (from Marché)
  13. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  14. Freshly ground black pepper
  15. ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Put the garlic in a small bowl and pour over enough olive oil to cover. Shape the sausage into 4 balls then flatten them like a hamburger patty.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt until it tastes like the sea. Add the pasta and cook just shy of al dente according to the package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a small glug of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage patties and cook until nicely browned on one side, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the broccoli coins and the sliced garlic, including the oil, to the skillet. Flip the sausage patties and keep cooking until the sausage is just about fully cooked, another 4 more minutes or so. Break up the sausage with a spoon into bite-size chunks. Add the chile flakes and cook for 30 seconds or so. With a ladle, scoop out about ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water, add it to the pan to stop the cooking of everything, and slide the pan from the heat.
  5. About 3 minutes before the pasta should be al dente, add the broccoli florets and cook all together until the pasta is ready. Scoop out another cup of pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and broccoli, and add to the skillet.
  6. Return the skillet to the heat. Add ¼ cup or so of the pasta water, the whipped ricotta, and half the Parmigiano. Season the pasta generously with salt and black pepper. Shake the pan to combine the ingredients, put back over med. heat, and cook for a couple of min. to warm everything through and make a nice saucy consistency.
  7. Serve with more Parmigiano and top with the breadcrumbs, if using.
Whipped Ricotta Directions
  1. Put the ricotta, salt and 20 twists of pepper in a food processor and start to process. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Pause and scrape down the sides if needed. The mixture should get lovely and creamy. Taste it and adjust with more salt, pepper. Or a bit more olive oil – you should be able to taste the oil as well as the ricotta. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Notes
  1. From the book: Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Summer Vegetable Gratin

Summer Vegetable Gratin
Serves 4
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Base
  1. 1 garlic clove, minced
  2. 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  3. 2 teaspoons italian seasonings
Gratin Ingredients
  1. 2 large beefsteak tomatoes
  2. 1 red onion
  3. 1 large eggplant
  4. 1 zucchini
  5. 1 summer squash
  6. 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  7. 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  8. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Stir together base ingredients in a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. Wash the vegetables. Cut each vegetable into 1/2 inch slices.
  4. Arrange vegetables and cheese over base, alternating colors.
  5. Top with fresh thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Cover with foil and bake for 39 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes.
Notes
  1. This is a great side dish and can also be a main served over pasta.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Chef Talk: 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 Love of Marcel’s Cooking Classes by Graeme Reinhart

Welcome to our guest blogger Graeme Reinhart who has been taking classes in the Marcel’s kitchen since we opened and is currently enjoying his time in our classes for 12 – 16 year olds.  Read on for more about Graeme and his love of cooking.  Thanks for sharing, Graeme!
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How long have you been taking classes at Marcels? 
I think I’ve been taking these classes for close to 6 years.  I know I was really excited when I got to start going to the Mid-Kid classes. Now I’m in the Big Kid classes. 
 
What do you enjoy most about the cooking classes?
I enjoy learning how to cook and learning new techniques, such as when we learned different knife skills.  The first trick I remember Chef Jamie teaching us was to always crack your eggs into separate bowls in case one egg wasn’t good.  I also remember the tip about washing your hands with a metal spoon to get rid of the garlic smell.  And of course, I like getting the discount to use at the end of class so I can get some new cooking gadgets. 
 
What are some key things you have learned from these classes?
The tips and tricks; why certain things in cooking are the way they are, and what gives certain foods their taste.
 
How would you like to use these skills in the future?
I want to continue to learn more advanced skills because it seems like we are refining our skills in these classes.  I like to know the correct way of doing things because the correct way is usually easier and if it is the correct way, it usually tastes better!  Chef Robin told us to always cut peppers with the skin down, that way it’s easier to cut them. She also taught us the right way to cut an onion, and I’m still trying to remind my mom not to cut the root!
 
Can you tell of a time you made the recipes outside the cooking class?
I’ve made the jalapeño coleslaw chicken sandwiches for out of state friends. I make the egg drop soup every so often as an after school snack.  I also liked recreating the lemon chicken, lasagna and a lot of the desserts too.  I still need to make the clam chowder that was so good. 
 
Do you have a favorite kind of food you like to eat?  
I’m pretty adventurous. I love trying new things so I wouldn’t say I have a favorite. 
 
Any thoughts of becoming a chef?
No, not at all.  I think it’d be difficult job, but I do want to learn how to cook better. 
 
What kind of class would you like to see that you haven’t experienced yet?
I’d like to cook foods from exotic countries and learn more advanced techniques.
 
To register for one of our fabulous kids classes, click on the appropriate age below:

Celebrate Mom With Marcel’s This Mother’s Day!

As Mother’s Day quickly approaches, we once again have the opportunity to celebrate and honor our mothers and all of the women that have helped raise us and our children.  Moms, grandmothers, aunts,  sisters, friends, can all play an important role in our children’s lives.  Finding gifts that matter and are meaningful, can be a bit of a challenge.  What better way to show your love and appreciation than with a hand-made gift and some simple pampering?

Marcel’s is here for you.  Join us on Saturday, May 5th for a special Mother’s Day event where your child will create their very own masterpiece to honor that special woman.  Local artist, Kristin Fischer owner of Muirwood Reclamations, will be at Marcel’s from 11 am – 3 pm to work with your little artist (or artists of any age) to create personalized concrete coasters. These coasters are perfect for a bedside table, coffee cup, or wine glass.  After your artist has created their own coasters, Kristin will take them to be glazed and will return them by Wednesday, May 9th to be picked up from Marcel’s in plenty of time for Mother’s Day.

To start Mother’s Day off on the right note, you and your kids can present her with a darling breakfast-in-bed basket.  This basket will include our housemade individual-size quiche, Hudson Henry granola, a Strawberry and Champagne chocolate bar, spring luncheon napkins and a bit of light culinary reading.  We are also proud to include a bottle of fresh pressed juice from Glen Ellyn’s newest shop, JOY Bar.  Call, stop in the store or order your breakfast basket online.  Baskets are $35.00 and can be picked up on Saturday, May 12th. 

Finally, we will have a Mom’s Day Wish List that mothers, grandmothers, etc. can complete. Have mom or grandma stop into the store to complete her Mom’s Day Wish List or download a copy of the wish list. Is she a connoisseur of kitchen tools? Loves to set a beautiful table?  Now is the time to find the perfect way to honor her!

Happy Mothers Day to all of the women who mother in so many ways!

Chef Talk: 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/

Dinner Table Design Dilemmas…. Done! by Deb Forkins

Recently, while preparing for holiday dinner parties, Deb Giampoli took stock of her 35 plus year old formal china. Feeling her dishes were a bit tired and out of date, Deb looked at selling them online, but was discouraged by the lack of resale value. Instead, she called Marcel’s and spoke to Jill. “I always love the tablescapes when I come into Marcel’s and I vaguely recalled hearing about the Table Design service. Jill encouraged me to come into the store and bring in my china, which I did.” Deb brought in her Christmas dishes and worked with Dana for a little over an hour. Dana pulled out runners, table cloths, napkins, centerpieces and candles as Deb gave the YAY or NAY. “ We had so much fun!” Deb left completely overjoyed and went home to prepare her holiday table (photo right).

Soon thereafter, Deb returned to Marcel’s with her formal china in tow. After a second session of frenzied designing, Deb went home with a few new items that completely changed the way she felt about her china. “Now I have a beautiful table with so many options. My old pieces were contemporized with the addition of just a few new items. I am feeling so very hip and happening!” Deb’s new table designs have also sparked her interest in the art of napkin folding. Check out this gorgeous table design featuring Deb’s china on a Marcel’s inspired table and Deb’s rosette folded napkins!

Anyone who has ever set foot into Marcel’s knows the gorgeous table settings surrounding the store. Of course, there is a lot of LOVELY in the store to work with, but our talented staff know how to pull it all together. We know about the power of layering linens, mixing metals, adding just the right amount of playfulness to a formal setting. A well designed table is really about the ability to pair the items you have and to work with, not against them. If you are struggling with this, take advantage of Marcel’s complimentary Table Styling Service. Bring in your dishes, your colors, whatever you have that you want to work with and we will you help create a beautiful table design.

You do not have to wait for a dinner party to use this service. Give the store a call and set up an appointment for the Table Styling Service. As Deb Giampoli notes, “A table is reflective of YOU. A pretty table that has been well designed invites your guests to sit there longer…” and isn’t that the whole point of getting together?

Come To My Farm by Elliott Papineau

  It started as a tweet to the masses from Chef John Shields about sourcing black walnuts and Elliott Papineau answered.  His parents owned a 20 acre property in Bourbonnias and had an abundance of the trees on what is known as “The Farm”. 

Alan and Rebecca Papineau, both retired, bought The Farm in 2012 as a hobby to grow produce for themselves.  Each year, the plots would become larger due to Alan’s relentless desire for more tillable land and Rebecca’s intellectual curiosity driven by her lifelong dedication to botany.  Elliott saw this passion and coupled it with his love for cooking to form the idea of a chef and farm partnership. 

Chefs John and Karen came to The Farm on a whim, not knowing what to expect from these strangers. What followed was a true collaboration with the Papineau’s, keepers of The Farm’s natural pantry. 

The collaboration has blossomed into a full-on partnership.  John and Karen inform the operations at The Farm, and The Farm shapes the menus at Smyth + The Loyalist.  With over 200 different herbs, vegetables, fruits, and native plants, The Farm is as much a source of inspiration as it is a supplier to the restaurants. 

Back at Smyth + The Loyalist, the Shields take the product, along with their inspiration, weaving both into the menus to create two unique experiences in two distinct spaces.  

Smyth, with its two stars in the 2018 Michelin guide and winner of Best New Restaurant at the 2018 Jean Banchet awards, is a showcase of technique and ingredients balanced with straight forward presentation and zero pretense.  Walking in to the restaurant, the Shields welcome you to their home and the space evokes a comforting feeling. On any given night you may start with an oyster presented on apple and radish ice, followed by squab liver mouse tart with dried corn.  Aged beef rib-eye with accentuating components such as a brioche doughnut highlight the multi-course affair. Moving into the sweeter section of the menu, a chocolate bar with raspberry preserves and shiitake mushroom powder remind you that this is comfort with a conscious.  

Downstairs at The Loyalist, the comfort level extends as you tuck into a booth or step up to the bar.  A cocktail or beer followed by a few bites, and maybe a “Dirty Burg” (The Loyalist’s take on a classic cheeseburger), are what the regulars of this subterranean hideaway have recently had to share with restaurant adventurers after multiple national accolades. The creativity on the menu is not lost here, but is hidden in each dish’s depth. Beets and endive with smoked trout followed by leek mimosa or a variety of oysters could easily get you started.  Other dishes will move through the seasons such as a bone-in shortrib and house-made cavatelli.  A classic sundae would be a fitting end to a meal at The Loyalist, but the flavors here always let you know this is not a standard inn.  

With two busy restaurants and two young children, John and Karen are delighted to share an afternoon at Marcel’s. Join us on March 4th for a special event presented by Le Creuset & Marcel’s Culinary Experience, as John and Karen showcase their refined yet approachable way with food and hospitality in a way that makes you feel at home. Register online or call (630) 790-8500 to reserve your seat for this one of a kind cooking demonstration!

Chef Talk: 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
Print
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/

 

‘Twas The Season by Kelly Montgomery

It ‘s been said that there are 3 seasons in the retail year:  Before Christmas. Christmas. And after Christmas. Yes. Absolutely. 

Here’s how it goes at Marcels:

It begins in the spring, giving new meaning to ‘keep Christmas in your heart all year.” Dana and Jill will scour catalogs, scout a few shows and start ordering holiday merchandise. Snow men in June? It’s hard to put yourself in the mindset, but there they are.

Fast forward a few months. It’s late summer and the orders start trickling in through the back door.  And then it snowballs. It’s a fun little perk of our job. We get a chance to preview the merchandise customers won’t see for months. Ha! 

Next thing you know, someone is saying, me included,  “Hey Rita, did you see those mice ornaments? They have new outfits this year!” or “Guys! Come check out the Juliska stuff that just came in!” 

Before you know it, it’s mid-November. You’ll find our retail staff (and a few random awesome people who show up year after year) bringing up boxes and boxes of holiday merchandise and decorating the store. The whole thing.  In approximately 5 hours. It must get done, (since the very next night is Ladies Night Out!) 

And so the season begins—for you, our customer, bringing familiar faces and new ones as well, in varying degrees excited, stressed, dazed, hangry, focused, exhausted, over caffeinated, under caffeinated (or even a little tipsy!) Yes, we know. And it’s OK!

Shockingly early in December customers will begin to triumphantly shout, “I’m done! I had this one gift to get and now I’m finally done!” This, of course, sets off a growing panic here, and across the retail industry, that we haven’t even started!! Nor had we noticed since we all genuinely like working together. It’s fun to see the whole team in action at the same time. Organized chaos!

Somehow or other it all gets done so we can focus on getting ready for our own Christmas now. And soon enough, next Christmas for you all.

This might sound like the Nightmare Before Christmas more than anything else, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Something I didn’t really grasp until this year, when I couldn’t participate much due to a thumb injury and rehab. 

But more than the preparation and start to the holiday bustle, it’s the mulled cider. The private office parties and events. The samples. The smells from the kitchen. Everything. Like one constant Christmas Eve for however many days that I realize I miss. And, I’m missing out on. Cook. Create. Celebrate never meant more than during the holidays.

It has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Yes. Absolutely.

Happy Holidays everybody.