Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Salad Days

 Salad Days Editorial Lettering Client: Chicago Magazine

So as the cold weather creeps back with an evil grin I am reminded that Fall and Winter is a scary time for me.  Scary in terms of my waistline, I am constantly having dreams I will one day end up looking like Peter Griffin, chin and all.  Horrifying I know, so I need to be proactive and make sure I don't end up eating everything I see before next March.  One way I tend to do this is by starving myself, this is not very good because I get grumpy.  Okay not just grumpy, more like I become Jack from Shining walking around with a ax in my hand. The other way to make sure I don't devour everything in front of me is to have some self control, yeah this doesn't work either.  You would know this if you have ever been around when chocolate and or peanut butter is within arms distance to my mouth.  So where does this leave me?

"...My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood..."  -Shakespeare

Not sure if that quote is fitting but I love it just the same.  I will have to let you know I believe my true salad days was somewhere between the ages of 22 to 25.  One day I will get into those days, but for now let us just stick with the waistline.  I have always had issues with deciding on what to eat and if what I am eating is healthy for me.  I know I should just eat grass and sprouts but I am not a goat so don't suggest any such thing.  Next closest thing would be to eat a salad.  A salad just sounds healthy right?  Is it really that healthy when you order it in the drive-thru at McDonald's?  It is certainly a better alternative, but so is not going to McDonald's at all.  For me, if I am already in the drive-thru line at McDonalds I am getting a quarter pounder with fries and a diet coke, yeah I know, a diet coke, don't you love cliches.  So I suppose I should make some salads at home, yeah doesn't sound very exciting right, well I went on the hunt to find a fun and healthy salad that would be not so dreadful to make.

Well I didn't really find anything I am happy with so it looks like its time to open up the " The Mouthful Test Kitchen." I think this calls for a theme song hmmmmm.

To be continued.......

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Effing Awesome Mac And Cheese

Watch it again I know you want to, just bubbling and oozzzing with awesomeness.  This is a recipe I made a few weeks ago for dinner with friends.  This is a legendary mac n cheese recipe from Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, KY.  I did use Cabot sharp cheddar cheese for this and if you can find it I highly recommend using it. 

Here is the recipe:


  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, plus extra
  • for preparing the baking pan
  • 4 cups evaporated milk
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
  • 1 1/4 pounds shredded extra sharp Cheddar
  • cheese (preferably Vermont cheddar)
  • Crumb Topping:
  • 1/2 cup dry sourdough breadcrumbs
  • (or other firm-textured white bread)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 to 3 grindings black pepper


    Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and set aside.

    In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, evaporated milk, eggs, paprika, salt and white pepper. Set aside.

    Make the crumb topping by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

    Layer 1/3 of the cooked elbow macaroni in the prepared pan. Cover with 1/3 of the shredded Cheddar. Repeat the layers twice more, ending with an even layer of cheese on top. Pour the evaporated milk mixture evenly over the entire casserole. With gloved hands, press lightly on the top so the ingredients are moistened by the milk. Bake for 30 minutes, covered with foil. Remove the foil and sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top. Continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

    Serves 12 as a side.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Just got done watching Top Chef: Just Desserts tonight while I was digesting my super awesome burger from Red Robin.  Yeah I love that place, don't judge.  Anyway, yeah Top Chef: Just Desserts was a horrible example of taking a really good brand and effing it up.  Sorry I am not much into doing reviews but I think the reality show genre has ran its course.  With so many shows out today it seems that there is a bunch of inbreed three eyed crap being made for TV viewing.

"I mean does everyone have to get in a car and take me to every damn restaurant in America? "
Food should be discovered by getting off of your couch and finding it yourself.  Some spiky haired dude wearing more jewelry than a busload of gray hairs heading to casino is not how you learn about food. And Guy if your reading, umm when your not using the sunglasses umm don't wear them backwards it makes  you look ummm weird.

I have seen the reality in a busy kitchen, its nothing like Gordon Ramsey yelling at a bunch of wanna be waffle house cooks on Hell's Kitchen.  No its a lot worse, and what I find, at least at school,  is that a lot students have no idea that Hell's Kitchen is no way reality.  The truth is that if they made a real reality show in a busy kitchen you wouldn't be able to show it on TV.  I mean nowhere on TV, it would make Jersey Shore look like brunch with your grandma.  If you need further clarification on this read Anthony Bourdain's,  Kitchen Confidential.

So I am not telling you to stop indulging in some funny unrealistic reality on TV.  Enjoy yourself, just don't watch Top Chef: Just Desserts because it is terrible.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Food Will Call You Chef

Today I was asked a very interesting question from a fellow student at school. The question was, "At what point do you consider yourself a Chef?"  If you are a frequent reader of this blog you would know the answer to that very quickly.  But I knew this person wasn't ready for the ego humbling answer I had, so I sat and pondered this thoughtfully.  Yeah I know, this occurs about a handful of times a year, but I admired the person for asking so I thought I would be a little less crass than normal.

Now the technical answer to this question is a simple one on paper.  At my school, the Midwest Culinary Institute, you achieve your CC or, Certified Chef, once you have satisfied your credit hours at school and then you complete a final competencies test and if you pass your a Chef.  But as I thought about it further I realized he had to know this, its common knowledge at school.  So I think he may be wanting the sarcastic, ego humbling answer I had.  I love when I can give my answer, it feels so good, like wrapping myself in bacon while someone drizzles honey on me... oh no back to the answer.

Before I give you my answer I think we should set the landscape of what I see on a daily basis at school.  I see are lot of culinary students strutting around in their chef uniform and thinking they are going to be the next Bobby Flay or Paula Dean.  Now of course I am not here to dash any ones dreams away and let me be the first to say I wish I had me some Flay of Mrs. Paula money.  But this answer shouldn't be about money, because being in the Culinary business doesn't add up to a lot of coin.  I also see a lot of ego at school, with the advent of every cable channel having a cooking reality show it seems this has inflated a lot egos at school.  So we have some starry eyed students with egos that require their own personal assistant.  Normally the ones who steal my Mise en Place in cooking lab are the ones who think they are a hot shot, well son your not.

My answer, I don't think you ever achieve the level of Chef.  I will always consider myself a cook.  A cook is someone who makes food for people with love.  If others think I deserve to be called Chef then they can call me Chef, otherwise I hope they enjoy the food I cook.  If you are going to Culinary School for a title then you will be facing some harsh realities in the kitchen.  There are a lot of awesome cooks who get called Chef everyday who have never set foot into a Culinary School nor would they want to honestly.  They learned cooking by burning themselves a thousand times and watching others cook amazing food.  Being a Chef is not about ego, its not about titles and a name on a chef jacket, its about humbling yourself enough to where the food speaks for itself.  Its not you, its the food that will call you chef.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Baking and Santa

Baked goods to me are like presents from Santa on Christmas morning.  I just want the delivery, I don't really care about the elves that made them, or how long it took you to get to my house.  I am quickly understanding that there is a lot of work and painstaking effort that goes into making that simple eclair.  Although there is still a few obstacles I am encountering with this Baking deal still.

First you have to understand something about me, I am not a morning person.  I generally dislike the idea of getting up early, and when asked I would prefer to sleep until noon everyday.  This I think may be an underlining issue with Baking, and the whole Pastry world in general.  Let me stand in front of a grill until 2am before you ever ask me to wake up at 3am to roll dough.  That will be met with a swift no, and a look that will haunt you in your sleep.  Again just have it there at the bakery for me, in case I do ever wake up before noon and decide I need something loaded with carbs and sugar to kill a nasty hangover.

While I was reading my Baking textbook or as I like to call it , "The road to restful sleeping" I discovered a another big obstacle with me and Baking.  You have to measure.  I know you actually have to go and find measuring spoons and measure out ingredients.  The idea makes me shake and bite my lip in a way that drives my wife Nicole crazy.  Measuring ingredients is crucial in the success of your baked good and if not done to properly can lead to something you wouldn't feed a dog.  So along with reading today I have been practicing actually holding the measuring spoons in my hand, I think may be getting the hand of this, but it will take practice.

So if I could go back and talk Santa for a moment,  I am sure glad I didn't have to learn how he got my Legos to me when I was five years old.  I am sure it would be filled with some very uninteresting information that would've made me sleep through to New Years.  Baking is going to take some convincing and some compromise..... ugh I hate that word.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Baking For Patience

As I start my second year at the Midwest Culinary Institute I find myself faced with the evil I like to call Baking.  I apologize Chef Ketover, but as of Tuesday I have avoided baking like the plague... and I mean like a real plaque like Bubonic where have your probably going to die and stuff.  Not sure specifically why I have avoided it but I think it deals with my little problem with patience.  I have a slight problem with patience, more like I don't really have the ability to be patient. 

Up to know I have quite well in all of my cooking labs because its about being efficient and being quick.  I found out quickly on Tuesday , while making some petite apple pies, that rushing through them is not the correct approach.  So as the chef instructor examined my pies she noticed that they seemed rushed and could have used some more attention to detail.  Although I was told that it tasted very good.

So somehow I need to find some patience and make sure I have it in my knife bag for next week.

Any suggestions?