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Working in a restaurant? Then these articles are probably perfect for you! From server issues to recipes for the cook, these are some of our favorite In The Restaurant finds.

Awesome Fried Foods & The Restaurants That Serve Them

Fried Food Prawn FrittersThe last post I wrote was on healthy oils, which I would hope anyone that ventures out for a deep fried meal would look into. 

As soon as you start talking about deep frying, people begin telling you the crazy things they’ve eaten that’s been covered in batter and cooked in oil to perfection.  I’ve heard of deep fried twinkies, pickles and Rocky Mountain oysters, but I wanted to see what other inventive, tasty ingredients restaurants are frying up across the nation.

Yet, it’s one thing to write a list about fun fried foods, and another to send you on an adventure across this fried-food nation to discover restaurants serving up some of the best fried foods in the country!

1. State Fair of Texas – Dallas, Texas

Not technically a restaurant, but once a year you can venture down to the State Fair of Texas, known for its fried foods, and taste some of the most extreme fried foods ever invented:

  • Main Courses: Deep Fried Butter Balls, Chicken Fried Bacon, Fried Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwiches, Fried Chicken Skin, Fried Frito Pie, Fried Mashed Potatoes
  • Beverages: Fried Coke, Fried Kool-Aid
  • Desserts: Fried Cookie Dough, Deep Dried Bubble Gum

And this isn’t even the full list of fried goods – just the tip of the frying oil!

2. Sodolak’s Original Country Inn – Snook, Texas

You may have heard that everything’s better with bacon, but what about deep fried bacon?  Sodolak’s Original Country Inn has been serving up chicken fried bacon since the early 1990’s and claims to have invented the dish.  I’ve read numerous comments on this tasty dish, from people feeling guilty after eating it to completely delighted; either way, it definitely makes a mark on the map of fried food musts!

3. Goodson’s Café – Tomball, Texas

Chicken fried steak isn’t exactly a new dish on anyone’s menu, but when it comes to a restaurant claiming to serve the best, it’s definitely worth the drive!  Sticking with the great state of Texas, “Ma” Goodson’s chicken fried steak recipe has been known to bring people to Goodson’s Café from miles around since 1950 – now that’s a good recipe!

4. Dyer’s Burgers – Memphis, Tennessee

Have you had your vitamin “G” today?  That’s lingo for Dyer’s famous burgers that are cooked in the restaurants secret sauce… grease that dates back to 1912!  Yes, the thought of old oil may sound a bit off, but it’s made Dyer’s burgers world famous – and hey, they have been serving up the same burger recipe for more than a 100 years now.  There’s got to be something impressive about that burger!

5. Bruce’s Bar – Severance, Colorado

If you don’t know what Rocky Mountain oysters are, you might be a bit confused as to why Bruce’s Bar has so many bulls hanging around – and no, I’m not talking about the bikers.  Either way, these tasty oysters are served all-you-can-eat style, or frozen, so that you can take them home for later.  Their Rocky Mountain oyster recipe has been serving happy oyster lovers for well over 60 years now!

6. Fat Cat Café – Grand Lake, Colorado

The first time I tasted Scottish eggs was at a small town restaurant called Fat Cat Café, and those delicious eggs have kept me a loyal customer over the past few years.  Besides the more than 50 menu choices on the weekend breakfast buffet, the drive over beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park is always worth it!

7. Chip Shop – Brooklyn, New York

And when you just can’t decide what it is you want fried, the Chip Shop in New York is the only place to go!  The Chip Shop opened its doors in 2001 and promised to fry up anything their diners wanted; that is, until they fried an orange and it exploded – so, no juicy foods (they obviously haven’t discovered Rocky Mountain oysters yet).   Other than that, they’re list of deep fried foods are untouchable by most: hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, oreos, pop tarts, sushi, whole pineapple and much more.

For more information on commercial fryers, visit Tundra’s main website.

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FOH vs. BOH: 12 Tips to Ease Tension

Restaurant StaffOh the woes of being a server: the fast paced rush, the kitchen yelling at you for what  your customers have ordered, the table of people that are mean to you and make you want to cry and the co-worker who is always telling you how to do things better!  It seems the woes never end!  One of the biggest influences on a shift can be how you and the BOH interact with each other.  Thankfully, this is an area that you have more control over then you may realize.

I asked 100 chefs to offer their advice to servers to create a more pleasant and respectful relationship between the two houses.  Here is what they said.

  1. Use your expediter to communicate.  Your Expediter is the liaison between you and everyone in the kitchen.  Don’t attempt to talk to chef’s on the line for any reason. Problems or modifications should be discussed with the Expediter. They will take it from there.
  2. Run food!  Everyone in the kitchen has taken great pains in preparation and the creation of dishes that sit on the line waiting for anyone with time to deliver them.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your table, your section or not, it is a paying guest’s food; plated and ready.  Any call for “food runner” should be met with a sense of urgency.
  3. Don’t take things to heart.  Thick skin is the order of the day.  Don’t take any immature, stupid or sharp comments personally.  Sometimes it’s not that easy but what is said during a busy rush is best not taken as a genuine insult.
  4. Hush on your tips.  Don’t boast, bitch or talk about the gratuities you have received or not received. While it’s fine to talk to your FOH peers about the money you make that conversation should be a private one and does not extend to the kitchen.
  5. Don’t use your cell phone.  While you are at work you should be focusing on things that need to be done or attended to: cleaning, guest’s needs or running food, not planning your time after work.
  6. Don’t use perfume or cologne at work.  People come out to eat to smell food, look at food and eat food.  The smell of perfume, while pleasant, has no business competing with the natural smells of the food.
  7. Make sure your order is correct.  It begins with what the guest says they want and ends with them receiving what they said they wanted.  The tricky part is everything in between.  Make sure you write down what the guest says, correctly and legibly, and put effort into putting that correct information into the computer system.
  8. Have a solution, know what is needed.  If you bring a dish back to expo from a guest, make sure you know what needs to be done to fix the problem right now.  Don’t explain the whole situation to expo…they don’t care, not at that moment.  What they care about is fixing the problem as fast as possible.  Clear and direct dialogue is key. “Table 1, seat 1: cook this steak up to mid-well, please” or “Table 6, seat 3: Please re-heat this risotto, it’s too cold.” are great ways of communicating.  The chef doesn’t need any back story, not right now.
  9. Say Please.  Please!  These are basic manners.
  10. Say Thank You. Thank you!  You were taught this since you were a kid.
  11. Buy a round.  Not all the time but if you have had an exceptional night thanks to a great kitchen team, it never hurts relations to buy them a drink.  They’ll remember and they’ll be grateful.
  12. Greet and bid adieu.  Saying hello to everyone when you come into work is a friendly and a nice introduction to a shift. There are often many servers that come in at a certain time and yet it is rare that any of them will actually go out of their way to say hello to the kitchen team. Often times they (the kitchen team) have been at the restaurant all day working; a friendly greeting is always welcome.  A genuine good night is always thoughtful as well!

Alright, here is where I ask you to check out my website: http://iamwaitress.com. The 427,826,211 person to visit it will win a billion dollars, maybe it will be you!

Jennifer Anderson is a server, certified Sommelier and FOH trainer/re-organizer.

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Conserve & Control: Portioning Out Your Precious Resources

Picture your next outing to a new restaurant or eatery. Mouths watering, you and your dinner companions order the same large entrees based on similar tastes and growling stomachs. As your succulent steaks make their way to the table, you notice your friend to the left has a small spoonful of potatoes overshadowed by an over-sized steak.  On the opposite side, your friend to the right sheds a tear when he sees his small piece of beef half hidden behind a heaping wall of potatoes. While you’re plate looks just right, you chuckle at how disproportionately different the three meals are, and how each of you paid the same price.

Now extend this imaginary dinner outing to the typical guest experience at your own establishment. Are the two uncannily similar? From an operational standpoint, how can you calculate margins and accurately tally expenses when each plate sent out is proportioned differently? The short answer is, you can’t.

Controlling the portions you provide your customers is an easily overlooked but extremely important way to cut costs and preserve your restaurant’s margin. Amid the hustle and bustle of today’s high-energy commercial kitchens it’s essential to have a tried-and-true method of keeping the portions your staff dishes out exact.

One place to weight watch when it comes to portions is proteins. Outfitting your kitchen with the right restaurant equipment is important, and a quality portion scale is a greatPortion Scales way to keep an eye on what is probably the most expensive item on your entrée plates. Pop that protein onto a portion scale to quickly and easily stretch your product as far as it can go.

Starches, veggies, and soups are highly susceptible to varied portions.  What is shrugged off as an additional carrot or extra green may be adding up to cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year! The simplest way to take control of these portion sizes is to utilize a handful of portion measuring utensils. Using a specific disher, Spoodle, Loon, or ladle for certain food items, and always using that same sized utensil, will help you avoid over serving.

Water use is often undervalued and overlooked. Restaurants use a lot of water, it’s a fact. From washing dishes and tables to cooking and serving guests, water output eats up a nice chunk of your monthly budget whether you realize it or not. An excellent way to save, and also help your establishment be greener, is to watch your water. Here are 5 sensible tips to help you do just that: 

Fix leaky faucets – don’t let that drip drain your budget!

Wash full racks only – it’s a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often a member of your staff starts a half-filled rack through the washer.

Use a foot pedal for hand washing sinks – foot or knee pedals are a great way to avoid waste. They not only give your staff a sanitary way to operate the sink, but also shut off automatically to instantly help you save.

Landscape with conservation in mind – water outside can be as costly, if not more, than water inside. Keep that in mind when you’re adding a flower garden or line of decorative shrubs to the outside of your establishment.

Train employees – without the help of your employees your conservation plan is just a plan. Make sure each employee knows where your business stands when it comes to conserving.

Go GreenBONUS: Spread the word –people love to hear when steps are taken to be more environmentally conscious. If you’ve made changes to how you do things, and these changes have a positive effect on the surrounding community, don’t be ashamed to toot your own horn and let people know!

So when it comes to portion control it’s time for you to be in control. As a basis for calculating your restaurant’s profitability, portioning out your product is essential to keeping your margins low and your plates consistent. Effective portion control is easier than you think and is a good way to accurately assume where your expenses will sit each month. Without a proper portion control method in place you end up gambling with these assumptions, and in the restaurant industry it’s often these kinds of gambles that can make or break you. Why not sway the odds in your favor as much as possible?

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6 Ways to Cook a Turkey

In 1621, Pilgrims dressed in black and white with buckled shoes and hats atop their heads in the Plymouth Colony to celebrate their first harvest. They invited the Wampanoag Indians and everyone gobbled down turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

That’s the story you probably learned as a young child. Well, it turns out that only part of that is true. Historians say there was indeed a feast that year shared by the colonists and Indians but nobody actually knows whether Turkey was really on the menu. Deer was served in 1621 and turkey may have been there too but there is no record of it. Pumpkin was available but probably not whipped into pie, sweat potatoes were not a familiar food to the colonists and cranberries may have been at the table but most likely not as a sauce or relish. Pilgrims didn’t even dress in black and white with buckled shoes and top hats.

It is still unclear why Americans started eating turkey in the 1800s for Thanksgiving but I do know one thing… It sure is tasty!  That’s why I have compiled 6 different ways to cook a Turkey for your feast this year. Whether you’re serving patrons or your family, these cooking methods will work for you. Perhaps you will decide to try something new this Thanksgiving!

Deep Fried TurkeyDeep Fried Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 3 gallons of peanut oil for frying, or as needed
  • 1 (12 pound) turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • ¼ cup Creole seasoning
  • 1 white onion

Directions:

In a large stock pot or turkey fryer, heat oil to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Be sure to leave room for the turkey, or the oil will spill over. Layer a large platter with food-safe paper bags.

Rinse turkey, and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Rub Creole seasoning over turkey inside and out. Make sure the hole at the neck is open at least 2 inches so the oil can flow freely through the bird.

Place the whole onion and turkey in drain basket. The turkey should be placed in basket neck end first. Slowly lower basket into hot oil to completely cover turkey. Maintain the temperature of the oil at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and cook turkey for 3 1/2 minutes per pound, about 45 minutes.

Carefully remove basket from oil, and drain turkey. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh; the internal temperature must be 180 degrees F (80 degrees C). Finish draining turkey on the prepared platter.

Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Smoked Turkey smoked-turkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12 pound) turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 1 (20 pound) bag high quality charcoal briquettes
  • Hickory chips or chunks

Directions:

Place the charcoal into the bottom pan of the smoker. Light the coals and wait for the temperature of the smoker to come to 240 degrees F (115 degrees C). Lightly oil grate.

Rinse turkey under cold water, and pat dry. Place hickory chips into a pan with water to cover.

Place turkey onto the prepared grate. Add 2 handfuls damp chips at start of cooking, then a handful every couple of hours during the cooking process. Leave the lid on – DO NOT keep looking at turkey or you will let the heat out! Continue smoking until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 180 degrees F (82 degrees C), or keep going until the coals die out. 

Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Roasted TurkeyRoasted Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 (18 pound) turkey
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ qt turkey stock
  • 8 cups prepared stuffing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Place rack in the lowest position of the oven.

Remove the turkey neck and giblets, rinse the turkey, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Loosely fill the body cavity with stuffing. Rub the skin with the softened butter, and season with salt and pepper. Position an aluminum foil tent over the turkey.

Place turkey in the oven, and pour 2 cups turkey stock into the bottom of the roasting pan. Baste all over every 30 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan. Whenever the drippings evaporate, add stock to moisten them, about 1 to 2 cups at a time. Remove aluminum foil after 2 1/2 hours. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads 180 degrees F (80 degrees C), about 4 hours.

Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter, and let it stand for at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving. 

Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Turkey Brine turkey-brine

Ingredients:

  • 1 (10-18 pound) turkey
  • 1 gallon vegetable broth
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 tbsp crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried savory
  • 1 gallon ice water

Directions:

In a large stock pot, combine the vegetable broth, sea salt, rosemary, sage, thyme, and savory. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to be sure salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.

When the broth mixture is cool, pour it into a clean 5 gallon bucket. Stir in the ice water.

Wash and dry your turkey. Make sure you have removed the innards. Place the turkey, breast down, into the brine. Make sure that the cavity gets filled. Place the bucket in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the turkey carefully draining off the excess brine and pat dry. Discard excess brine.

Cook the turkey as desired reserving the drippings for gravy. Keep in mind that brined turkeys cook 20 to 30 minutes faster so watch the temperature gauge.

Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Rotisserie TurkeyRotisserie Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12 pound) turkey

Seasoning:

  • 1/4 cup lemon pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tbsp celery salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sage

Turkey Stuffing:

  • 1 medium onion cut into 8 equal parts
  • 1 carrot cut into thin disks
  • 1 apple cored and cut into 8 thick slices

Directions:

Mix together seasonings and rub over the surface and inside of cleaned and dry turkey. This is best done the night before to let the seasoning permeate the meat.

Stuff turkey and place securely on rotisserie skewer. Test it to make sure it’s well balanced and tightly secured. Make sure that the wings and legs are firmly tied to the turkey and that the turkey is well balanced on the rotisserie skewer. Prepare grill by removing grate and placing a drip pan in the center. Pan should be big enough to hold the turkey itself.

Light grill and let it heat up. If using a charcoal grill make a medium fire around the drip pan. With gas turn the burners to medium. But generally follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Half fill the drip pan with water and place the turkey on rotisserie. The cooking times should be similar to that of a 350 degree F. oven so use the time chart on the turkey packaging as a guide. You will need to use a meat thermometer to be sure of doneness.

Remove rotisserie turkey from grill when the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees F. The water in the drip pan is there to keep the drippings from evaporating away. If the pan goes dry add more water. I suggest hickory, oak or alder wood chips if you wish to add an extra smoky flavor.

Recipe courtesy of about.com

Grilled Turkeygrilled turkey

Ingredients:

  •  1 (12 pound) turkey
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Prepare an outdoor grill for indirect medium-high heat.

Rinse turkey and pat dry. Turn wings back to hold neck skin in place. Return legs to tucked position.

Brush turkey with oil. Season inside and out with Italian seasonings, salt, and pepper. 

Place turkey, breast side up, on a metal grate inside a large roasting pan. Arrange pan on the prepared grill. Grill 2 to 3 hours, to an internal thigh temperature of 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Remove turkey from grill and let stand 15 minutes before carving.

Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

These are all great and tasty ways to prepare your Thanksgiving bird. And though the colonists possibly left the Turkey out of their first holiday feast it would be a shame if your guests were deprived of their Thanksgiving gobbler.

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Flatware & Care: A Need-To-Know Guide

FlatwarePurchasing flatware for your kitchen, be it at home or for a restaurant, is often an expensive essential when you’re looking for quality. Whether you’re buying flatware for the first time, looking to re-stock after a move, or aiming to improve the atmosphere of your eatery with new utensils, it’s wise to know a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to combating wear and tear.

From picking out your pieces to running them through the wash, finding and keeping quality flatware in excellent condition is pretty simple and straightforward:

What makes quality flatware quality flatware?

Two factors that separate most forks, spoons, knives, and the likes when it comes to quality are composition and weight. The composition of your flatware’s stainless steel coupled with its weight class determines how durable each piece is and essentially how long it will last in your kitchen.

Composition – While all flatware is made of stainless steel, not all stainless steel is created equal. In fact, the “stainless” is unfortunately a misnomer, as most stainless steel does indeed rust over time, and most manufacturers add metals like chromium and nickel to help prolong the inevitable rusting. The difference in percentages of both metals is apparent in 18/0 stainless steel and 18/10 stainless steel.

  • 18/0 stainless steel has 18% chromium added and 0% nickel, making it the more economical, inexpensive choice of flatware. Great for homes or restaurants where flatware is abused or goes missing often, 18/0 stainless steel utensils lack the luster of their nickel-rich counterparts and are more susceptible to rust and staining.
  • 18/10 stainless steel also has the 18% chromium coating, strengthening the steel, but has an additional 10% nickel content for added brilliance and rust-resistance. 18/10 flatware sits on the more expensive end of the flatware spectrum, and the presentability of each piece makes it suitable for professional and formal occasions.

Weight – Weight classes, much like composition, ascend from the least expensive, most economical flatware to the pricier, flashier pieces. Determining which flatware will perform appropriately in your kitchen is a must.

  • Medium flatware, also known as “economy weight”, has a relatively short lifespan and is easily manipulated. Being the most affordable to replace, and the easiest to get over losing, medium duty flatware is ideal for home use or casual eateries.
  •  Heavy flatware is one step up and is the most common flatware in use. Much sturdier than medium weight, but still bendable by hand, heavy duty utensils last longer and are a little more expensive.
  • Extra Heavy flatware is yet another step up in weight class and is therefore more expensive and more durable. Extra Heavy utensils don’t break or bend as often or as easily.
  • European Style flatware is most commonly used in high-end establishments due to the size and added weight. About three times heavier and bigger than traditional weight class flatware, European Style flatware is perfect for formal serving or celebration.

Caring for your flatware

Forks

Depending on the quality of your flatware, and even if it’s 18/0 medium weight, you’ll want to keep it in attractive, usable shape for as long as you can. Failing to care for your flatware is a quick road to rust-speckled spoons and flaking forks. Luckily practicing a few simple care tactics when cleaning up after a meal can drastically extend the life of your flatware.

  • Pre-soak your utensils for approximately 10 minutes before running them through the dishwasher. Pre-soaking flatware helps break down the food remnants that cling to tines and nestle into crevices, and if you don’t let flatware soak before washing there’s a good chance your dishwasher could miss some spots. NOTE:  Pre-soaking for longer than 10 minutes is not recommended as it encourages rust to start forming. Also, do not soak in aluminum or metal pans as the pans react with chlorine in the water and speed up the oxidation (rusting) of stainless steel.
  • Remove food bits manually with a soapy sponge after a good pre-soak to ensure you get everything, but avoid using abrasive pads or steel wool. Rough pads tend to scratch and tarnish the surface of your flatware and create tiny grooves where rust likes to form.
  • Run your pre-soaked utensils through a high temperature dishwasher to properly wash them, but remember to avoid using chemicals that will damage your flatware like bleach or chlorine.
  • Once washed, don’t let your flatware sit before drying. Dry as soon as possible. Using a dishwasher’s drying cycle is a good start, but to be sure each piece is dried thoroughly wipe them down with a cloth or towel. Remember, the longer your flatware is wet the quicker rust will move in and take over.
  • Store your flatware somewhere it will stay dry.

With so much going on in the kitchen, especially in an ever-busy eatery, it’s easy to overlook the little things. Given that your forks, spoons, and knives are used and re-used on a daily basis (if not hourly) it’s important to not let caring for your flatware become one of those little things.

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10 Energy Saving & Compliance Tips For Your Restaurant

Here are suggestions for energy savings and compliance with the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations:

1. Ensure efficient door closers for coolers. I frequently observe cooks open doors on line coolers and the doors are left standing open until someone thinks to kick them closed. What a waste of cold air and increased compressor run time! It equals $$ lost, plus foods can warm up above 41 F.

PDT3002. Obtain and use the Comark PDT-300 thermometer. The regulations require a thin probe thermometer if you serve “thin foods” such as patties. I use it, it is NSF approved, and in my opinion, it is the best one for the money.

3. Use overhead glass hangers for 3-compartment sinks if drain board space is lacking. The regulations specifically allow for “alternative methods” for drying in lieu of drain boards.

4. Use metal pans, instead of plastic, for prep table coolers. Metal is superior in heat conduction and will REALLY help your foods stay at 41 F or below, which is required.Metal Pans

5. Ensure tight fitting pivot lids on prep table coolers. If yours have gaps or are loose fitting, this allows warm air in, energy $$ are lost, and foods can warm up above 41 F.

6. Be aware that due to the increased emphasis on hand washing and the prohibition of bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food, it is more and more common for additional hand sinks to be required, especially in existing facilities. The smaller modular hand sinks with integrated splash guards are a great and relatively inexpensive solution.

Shelving

7. Use nail brushes…although they are not required, clean fingernails are required.  I know of no other way to clean under nails than with a brush.

8. Purchase color codedutensils.  They are a great way, if used properly, to separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods, preventing cross contamination. They are a convenient, easy for non-English speaking employees to comprehend, and easy for managers to verify their proper use by employees.

9. Install additional shelving in your walk-in cooler.  Step back and look at your shelves and the food containers on them.  Do you have unused vertical space?  Get the most out of your walk-in!

10. Use walk-in cooler curtains.  They help maintain the temperature of foods in the walk-in and result in $$ savings in energy costs.

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Your Butcher Block & You: Tips For Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

Butcher BlockElegant yet practical, the butcher block is an attractive kitchen addition that many culinary adventurers choose to install in their home or business. The appeal of a professional butcher block, for both its beauty and everyday convenience, often leads budding chefs and casual cooks alike to spend hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, on the right style or quality guarantee. Unfortunately, professional butcher blocks require a professional dedication to cleanliness and care to stay their best, and if that new butcher block isn’t maintained and cared for properly it quickly becomes an expensive, unattractive chopping block.

Fortunately, forming a healthy, long-lasting relationship with your butcher block is relatively easy. By following a few simple guidelines while you’re working and during cleanup you can keep your block strong, beautiful, and working for you for years to come.

Before installation:

Butcher blocks are made from various woods, and the funny thing about wood is it has a tendency to play by its own rules as time progresses. Over the years, and as the seasons pass, your butcher block will respond to the changes in humidity and continually expand and contract. During those hot, humid months of summer many blocks will expand by as much as 1/8 of an inch, and when the heat retreats and the colder months of winter sweep in your block contracts and shrinks. Accounting for expansion when installing a brand new butcher block is a must, and failing to do so can cause your block to bow and crack when it expands.    

While you work:

  • First and foremost, never use razor-edged cutting tools on your block if you want to preserve its integrity for longer than a few months. Razor-Striped Butcher Blockedged tools are simply too sharp to use without chipping away at the wood’s surface. Punishing your butcher block by repeatedly chipping away at the surface creates soft spots and unwanted cracking that eventually affects performance. Make sure the edges of your utensils are dulled to keep your block in the best shape possible after each use.
  • Just like using razor-edged tools, cutting in the same spot on your butcher block leads to early aging and premature deterioration. Evenly distributing your cuts, chops, and preparation whatnots around the butcher block prevents any one area from wearing too quickly and developing soft spots. Periodically flip your block over and alternate between cutting surfaces to extend the block’s life and keep both sides wearing evenly.
  • When it comes to fish or fowl:  Never cut fish or fowl on your butcher block unless the block has been thoroughly cleaned. The safety stipulations surrounding seafood and popular fowl require a sanitary prep environment, and a poorly maintained butcher block is a quick way to customer complaints, sickness, and possible legal actions.

Cleaning up afterward:

  • Moisture is the enemy when it comes to keeping your butcher block solid and strong, and the worst thing you can do after you’re done on the block is let moisture stand for a long time. Sooner than you’d think that standing moisture (be it water, juices, brine, or blood) soaks into the surface of your butcher block and softens the wood, causing it to expand and for the glued joints to break down. As soon as possible remove any lingering moisture from the block’s surface.
  • A tried and true method of removing up to 75% of the moisture from a butcher block’s surface is scraping it with a steel scraper or spatula. Scraping many times a day helps keep everything clean, dry, and sanitary by removing the risk of harmful bacteria build up. To remove remaining moisture be sure to wipe the surface down with a soft, absorbent cloth.
  • Once you’ve scraped and wiped down your block it’s smart to give it a good wash to ensure you’ve removed all contaminants and food remnants, but NEVER PUT YOUR BUTCHER BLOCK IN THE DISHWASHER. Wash your block by hand, using regular dish soap and hot water, and avoid submerging it in water. The key to a good, thorough clean is keeping your block as dry as possible while washing (which sounds counter-intuitive since you’re washing the thing), but once again the longer your butcher block is exposed to water the more it will absorb that moisture and cause damage. If you don’t rush, and clean thoroughly and consistently, you’ll have an odorless, clean cutting surface for next time.

Onions being sliced in motion on butcher block*NOTE: Never use a steel brush to scrape. It’s too rough and will damage your butcher block.

Avoiding a rocky relationship with your brand new butcher block is a must if you expect the block to stick around for longer than a month or two. You’ve got to show it some love, treat it right, and care for it appropriately if you want the time you and your butcher block share to be long-lived and fruitful. Following a few simple guidelines is all it takes!

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Fiesta of Flavor: Mexican Food Recipes

Mexican cuisine is off the charts with flavor and color. The best part about making Mexican food is that you can use canned ingredients from your cupboard or fresh produce from the local farmers market to make a tasty and appealing dish.

Below are a few Mexican recipes we compiled that will not only impress customers at your establishment but also your friends and family at home.

Vegetarian Mexican Salad Boats:

1 bunch romaine hearts, rinsed and separated
1 sweet potato, finely diced
1 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 oz) can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
4 radishes, thinly sliced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 lime
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 avocado, diced

Directions: Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add the sweet potatoes, cumin, chili powder, a pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Sauté about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 Tbs. oil, juice from the lime, cilantro and another pinch of salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the beans, corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and radishes. Pour in the dressing and toss to combine. Spoon the mixture into each romaine boat and top with diced avocado and more cilantro, if desired.

Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

Ingredients:
1 poblano chile, cut into matchsticks
2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, halved and slivered
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
3 T heat-safe oil like grape seed or coconut
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups homemade or store bought salsa/pico de gallo
2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 big handfuls)
9-10 corn tortillas, halved (try making homemade tortillas!)
2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar-Monterey Jack blend)
sour cream and thinly sliced scallions (green onions) for garnish, if desired

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet.

Place poblanos, red bell peppers, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, and corn kernels onto cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle the cumin and minced garlic over top. Add a generous pinch or two of salt and black pepper, and then use your hands to mix everything together. After everything is coated well, spread the vegetables evenly in the pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are tender and begin to brown in spots. Stir or shake the pan every 10 minutes for even roasting. Remove pan from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Prepare an 8” or 9” square baking pan with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, stir the cilantro into the salsa. Spread 1/4 cup of salsa into the bottom of the baking pan. Add a layer of tortilla pieces, to completely cover the salsa. Top with 1/3 of the vegetables, a handful of spinach, and 1/3 of the cheese. Make a second layer of tortilla, salsa, vegetables, spinach, and cheese. Top with a layer of tortillas, salsa, vegetables, and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Let it sit for 5 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced scallions.

Photo Credit Pinch of Yum. Click on image to view recipe.

Chicken Tamale Pie

1/3 cup fat free milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 tablespoon taco seasoning, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14 3/4 ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8.5 ounce) box corn muffin mix (such as Jiffy)
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
1 (10 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
3/4 cup shredded white cheese
Cilantro and crumbled Cotija cheese for topping

Instructions: Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine milk, egg, ½ tsp taco seasoning, ground red pepper, corn, muffin mix and green chilies in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a round pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes. While corn is baking, toss the chicken in the remaining 1 tablespoon taco seasoning. When corn is done – it will be just barely set and golden brown – pierce entire surface liberally with a fork (it might stick a little bit to the fork). Pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Top each serving with cilantro and Cotija cheese.

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Summer Ice Cream Treats

Ice cream is one of those treats that can put a smile on anyone’s face who is indulging in the desert. It comes in many forms and flavors to appeal to everyone and can be enjoyed throughout the day. Here are a few appetizing ice cream recipes that would be great for an ice cream shop, restaurant or even at home. They make us smile just looking at them.

Chocolate Covered Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

 

 

 

 

 

 


For the Brownies:

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cocoa, plus more for pan
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
pinch of kosher salt

For the Ice Cream Sandwiches:
1 qt vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
2 lbs chocolate chips
1 tsp oil

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a quarter sheet pan (a small jelly roll pan), or a 13x9inch pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom, spread with butter, and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. When the mixture is creamy, and all lumps are gone, add in eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add in vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add in flour and salt. Mix until just combined. Spread into prepared pan and bake until shiny on the top, 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely.

Remove brownie from the pan, and cut in half. Spread ice cream on one half, and top with the other half. Freeze for 2-4 hours, until firm.

Cut the large ice cream sandwich into smaller sandwiches. Insert wooden Popsicle sticks, and freeze for another hour.

Melt the chocolate chips with the oil in the microwave in 30 second intervals, until chocolate is smooth. Dip each ice cream sandwich in the chocolate and let set on a sheet of parchment paper. Wrap in parchment paper and freeze until ready to serve.

Recipe from: http://www.goodlifeeats.com

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup bottled Key lime juice (such as Nellie and Joe’s)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Dash of salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
6 graham crackers (1 1/2 cookie sheets), coarsely crushed, divided
Key lime wedges

Directions: In a large bowl, combine milk, lime juice, heavy cream, salt and sweetened condensed milk; whisk to combine.

Pour mixture into your ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Stir 1/3 cup graham crackers into ice cream. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container, and cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon graham crackers. Garnish with lime wedges.

Recipe from: http://www.goodlifeeats.com

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Tap into Better Drink Service with Keg Cocktails

Busy nights at a restaurant bar can be hectic. The chaotic atmosphere will test your bartenders’ skill and your customer’s patience. Cocktail orders and other hand-crafted concoctions act as roadblocks in the bartender’s effort to keep up with the barrage of incoming drink requests. These specialty drinks require more time and effort for the server to prepare and are often a favorite among customers.

One way to continue accepting these complicated drink orders and improve the efficiency of your service is to hire another bartender to help out with mixing cocktails. This may help but it will also add another server to your payroll and creates a crowded space behind the bar. Thankfully this is not your only option.

Keg cocktails offer a trendy solution to your service problem. Large batch cocktails allow your restaurant to continue offering all of those tasty drinks your customers love without slowing down your drink service. From red and white wine to vermouth and sangria to house cocktails, serving specialty drinks has never been easier.

Now I know what you’re thinking: these cocktails can’t possibly be of the same quality as fresh drinks made right at the bar. Not so fast! Drinkers have given these large batch cocktails good reviews. Customers at Mercadito Restaurants in Chicago and Miami reportedly preferred an almost week-old batch of kegged margaritas to those that were made fresh at the bar. The theory behind this is that the ingredients have more time to sit and blend together making the cocktail taste better.

Restaurants that already started using these keg cocktails have some methods that will help keep the drinks fresh and tasting as good as new. Tavernita in Chicago serves up to six on-tap cocktails at a time and currently practices a few different preservation methods to keep drinks fresh.

Tavernita stores large batch cocktails in 50 gallon containers that are pumped with carbon dioxide to keep the drinks fresh. The restaurant also attaches cocktail kegs to agitators that periodically shake the large batches to keep the cocktails mixed well.

Quick service is not the only advantage to keg cocktails. Enabling bartenders to get drink orders out faster large batch cocktails also free up more time for customer service. Serving specialty cocktails in large pre-mixed batches allows bartenders to offer samples to customers as well. Cocktail samples are very rare and could give your bar a unique advantage over the competition.

Get on board with this trend before everyone else does. Keg cocktails are an innovative way to improve your service and offer something drinkers have likely not seen before.

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