Spring Semester Dishes

The 2023 spring semester at Ozarks Technical Community College where I teach culinary arts is halfway over with the spring break upon us. Here in this post, I will share two of my favorite dishes that you can make at home. The first one is Grilled Lamb Chops with Kalamata Olive Relish and Mediterranean Salad. The Second one is Stuffed Chicken Breast with Spinach, Fontina, and Wild Mushrooms. Both of these recipes were from kitchen labs in my Fabrication class where we first fabricate (butcher) the cuts in the first class of the week and then cook them in the next class.

Fabricating the lamb rack chops and cleaning the bones is also known as Frenching the chops which is done by cutting the meat between the bones and then scraping the chops with the back of a boning knife to clean off all the sinew.

Here is my recipe for the dish:

Grilled Lamb Chops with Kalamata Olive Relish
Yield: 24 each or 8 portions

Grilled Lamb Chops
24 single-bone lamb pork chops marinated for 2 hours in balsamic vinaigrette
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper for seasoning

Kalamata Olive Relish
1 cup Kalamata olives: rinsed, blanched, and chopped
¼ cup red onion: finely diced and blanched
¼ cup red bell pepper: finely diced and blanched
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup Roma tomatoes: skin and seeds removed and finely diced
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon sherry or balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon fresh pepper

Mediterranean Salad
1 quart spring mixed greens
1 quart chopped romaine lettuce
1 cup artichoke hearts (canned) cut into quarters
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
½ cup red onion cut in julienne
1 cup feta cheese in crumbles
2 cups croutons
balsamic vinaigrette to taste

Mix all ingredients for olive relish and set aside.
Over hot coals, grill the lamb chops to medium rare (130˚ F).
Toss together all salad ingredients with balsamic vinaigrette.
Place salad in a large bowl and top with the lamb chops. Finish with olive relish.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
Yield 2 ½ cups (8-10 salads)

½ cup finely chopped shallots
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 1/2 Tbl Black pepper
1 ½ tsp Granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp Chopped fresh basil
½ tsp Salt
1 ½ cups Extra virgin olive oil

Mix shallots, vinegar, pepper, sugar, basil, and salt
Whisk in the oil to form a simple vinaigrette or emulsify in a blender

This next dish is my stuffed Airline Chicken Breast with Spinach, Fontina Cheese, and Wild Mushrooms. This is an easy stuffing to make and can be used to stuff a boneless or airline chicken breast. The airline chicken breast refers to a chicken breast with the first joint of the wing bone attached because it resembles an airline wing. For the first class, we butcher three whole chickens to use in later classes. Here is a photo of the three chickens left to right airline chicken breast with legs and thighs (this technique yields a chicken carcass for preparing stock. The next one is trussed with string for roasting the whole bird. The last chicken below it in the photo is known as 8-cut chicken and is normally used for frying, braising, or baking.

Stuffed Airline Chicken with Spinach, Fontina, and Wild Mushrooms
Yield 24 portions

1 ½ pounds spinach, picked, steamed, & chopped
4 ounces prosciutto ham, cut into fine dice
4 ounces wild mushrooms (preferably morels) chopped fine
1 pound fontina cheese, cut into small dice
½ cup minced onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
6 ounces heavy cream
1 cup bread crumbs
Salt & fresh black pepper
Olive oil for cooking
24 each free-range Amish airline breasts

6 ounces sherry
1 tablespoon shallots
1 tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 quart chicken Jus Lie (reduced chicken stock)
Arrowroot or cornstarch slurry

*For Jus Lie, prepare Chicken Stock with the carcasses. Roast the chicken bones to make a golden stock then strain and reduce the stock by 50%.


Sauté onions, garlic, morels, and prosciutto ham. Add spinach and heavy cream. Then, add cheese and stir until melted. Add bread crumbs and cool.

Sweat shallots, garlic, and rosemary. Add sherry and reduce by half. Add jus lie and reduce by one-quarter. Thicken with arrowroot. Strain.

Cut a pocket from a wing joint into the breast. Pipe in stuffing and close the incision with a toothpick. Dredge breast, skin side, in flour. Pan-fry until crisp and golden brown. Turn over and finish in the oven. Remove the toothpick, slice it in half, and serve on a pool of sauce.

My methodology for teaching is to demonstrate classical techniques with many of my signature diner-praised dishes that can be used in real-world restaurants. Many of my recipes can be used at home and all the techniques are useful for cooking at home or in a professional setting. Hope you enjoy these and keep on cooking!


Baking at Home with PDT

Baking at home during the cold winter months is a great way to spend your idle time versus sitting in front of a computer screen or TV. This past couple of years have seen a spike in DYI baking and cooking at home. In the last few weeks, I too have been baking and making desserts at home using some recipes from my book PDT short for “Pastry and Dessert Techniques”. As with all at-home cooking, baking, and other craft and handy work endeavors, practice is required to produce nice products. Here in this post, I will show the steps, give you some tips, and illustrate the techniques I used to prepare these classic desserts and pastries. Some of the recipes from my book were scaled back to yield smaller amount of portions.

In the last two weeks, I made five classic-style desserts: Lemon Tart, individual-size Bourdaloue Tarts, Chocolate Pecan Tarts, and Gateau Opera featured in the opening image.

The first dessert is a lemon tart featuring a creamy lemon curd bound with gelatine and butter topped with a Swiss Meringue. This recipe is on page 213. For one tart I used a half batch of the recipe. I also used a graham cracker crust; however, a sweet dough crust known as pate sucree can also be used. Here is the recipe for the graham cracker crust:

3 oz granulated sugar, 3 oz butter, 6 oz of graham crackers ground into crumbs, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. To prepare it mix the butter and sugar together until blended well. Then add the graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon.

A slice of lemon cream tart topped with a thick layer of Swiss meringue served on a Steelite plate. In full disclosure, I must give credit to Fellers restaurant supply which provided me with this beautiful rectangle plate for this post. In the next image are some of the steps to produce this tart.

In rotation from the top left image are some steps and tips for making the lemon curd cream.

  • After grating the lemon zest with a micro plane rub it together well with the sugar. This will help to release the essential oils in the skin and produce a more pronounced lemon flavor in the cream.
  • When extracting the juice from the lemon use a fork and twist it well to obtain the most juice. This technique is often done with a reamer however a fork does just as well.
  • Cook the curd over a pot of simmering water on the stove and use a thermometer until the egg yolk, lemon, and sugar mix gets thick and reaches 175 to 180F.
  • Add a small amount of melted gelatine to the hot curd and then cool to room temperature. Then whip in the soft room temperature butter to attain a creamy lemon curd. Spoon or pipe into the tart shell or crust and cool to set in the refrigerator. Then top with a cooked Swiss meringue made with the egg whites left after separating the yolks for the curd.

Tart Bourdaloue is a classic tart made with Pears and Almond Cream which is called Frangipane. To make this tart make sure to first gather all of the ingredients and measure out all of them so that the production of the tart will be easily done. Some tips are:

  • After making a smooth sweet tart dough (pate sucree) make sure to chill it slightly and roll it out to a rectangle while the dough is chilled. If the dough is allowed to get too warm it will be too difficult to handle.
  • When peeling the pears make sure to peel them quickly and toss them with a small amount of lemon juice to inhibit oxidation of the pears. This will help them to not become brown. Poach them in 25% white wine, 75% water, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook them until they can be pierced with a pairing knife with no resistance and cool them on a plate in the refrigerator.
  • I use either apricot jam or orange marmalade in the bottom of the tarts prior to lining them with sliced poached pears and then piping in the smooth frangipane. Lastly, I press in sliced almonds around the rim before baking.
  • Once baked I thin out some apricot jam with water and then boil and strain it before I brush the tarts to give them a nice shine.

To prepare Gateau Opera the famous French layer cake I first baked an almond sponge cake known as a biscuit Joconde (1/4 batch from pg 268) then I prepared a 1/2 small batch of French Butter Cream with 1/2 pound of Plugra butter. Coffee syrup is used to soak the layers. lastly, I prepared a chocolate ganache used in the first layer and on the top of the Gateau.

Paris Brest is my wife’s favorite pastry and it is made with Pate A Choux. In PDT the base yield on page 58 has a typo in the ingredients, the butter should be cut in half to 1/2 a cup instead of 1 cup that is printed on page 58. Paris Brest is named after a famous bicycle race which is why the shape of the pastry resembles a bicycle tire. Traditionally it is made with praline-flavored buttercream. I used Nutella for the hazelnut flavor which does quite well instead of preparing a praline paste.

Choux pastry is also used for Profiteroles (ice cream-filled cream puffs) that I served with a Bananas foster sauce and chocolate sauce topped with toasted hazelnuts.

This last image from my baking-at-home post is one of my favorite and easiest desserts to prepare from my book. French Apple tart (Alsatian Apple Tarte pg 214) is made with apples with only four ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon. It can be made in a sweet pastry crust (Pate Sucree pg 55) or a traditional pie crust (Pate Brisee pg 49). This tart can be prepared without a mixing machine by hand in a bowl. Although my book is meant to teach cooks how to prepare classic sweet and savory desserts and pastries in a commercial kitchen the techniques and many of the recipes can be made at home in small batches too. Hope you enjoyed this post and until next time… bake on, my friends.


A look back- Missouri Restaurants in 2022!

This past year has been a tough year for restaurants in our state and the country in general. Rising food costs, supply chain issues, pandemic woes and difficulties in finding staff often created an unsustainable environment for restaurants. That said, the public in general is, has been and I believe will be very supportive of eating out and ordering food to be delivered from restaurants and dining establishments. For these reasons and for my appreciation of those who work in the field I have been motivated to seek out and write about the favorable experiences and wonderful food options offered by Missouri restaurants in the regional magazine “Missouri Life”.

When I contemplate which restaurants to choose in my column, I consider this 4-point matrix to determine which restaurants to focus on. They are as follows:

  1. Renown for excellent food and service
  2. Unique in its class
  3. Historical location or story
  4. Underrepresented world cuisine or style of food served

In 2022 I wrote about seven restaurants in my column in the magazine. Find Dining is the name of the column and once it goes through the editing and revision process it is cut down and resized from my original submission. Due to this fact, many images and points are not able to be published due to the size and layout planned for the magazine edition. Here is a rundown of this past year’s restaurants with some unpublished images and information. To access the published article please see my “Articles” page they can also be found on the magazine’s website https://missourilife.com/category/missouri-food-and-drinks.

In 2023 I will be writing more articles for the 50-year-old magazine and look forward to shining a spotlight on some of the best restaurants in the state. Hope you enjoy them and keep on dining!

 Affäre is an innovative German restaurant that features seasonal, locally raised and grown foods and ingredients. It is centered in the Crossroads Art District in Kansas City and is co-owned by the native German couple Martin and Katrin Heuser. Check them out at- https://www.affarekc.com

Bulrush in Saint Louis is a locavore-centric restaurant that serves multi-course flights from the historical records of food from the Ozarks along with the eclectic composition of culinary techniques from Chef Owner Rob Connley. For the latest information go to- https://bulrushstl.com

No. 5 Bistro is housed in a re-purposed building in Sedalia with a long history and four-generation ownership dating back to the 1800s. Early in its history, it was J.A. Lamy Manufacturing, which was contracted by Levi Straus for the production of its blue jeans. To see their menu and latest information go to- https://www.lamymfg.com/play/no-5-bistro-bar

La Habana Vieja is housed in a renovated former bank building that operated midcentury in the 1800s on historic Commercial Street in Springfield. Its menu focuses on traditional Cuban cuisine. Check out the latest at their website- https://www.la-habana-vieja.com

Glenn’s Café in Columbia has operated since 1939 and has been a favorite dining destination in Central Missouri. Currently located in the newly renovated boutique hotel the Tiger on 8th street, it features traditional and re-imagined Creole and Cajun-style specialties. For the latest information about Glenn’s see their site- https://www.glennscafe.com

801 Fish is a first-class luxurious seafood restaurant in Clayton, a suburb of St Louis. The restaurant was recently recognized by 24/7 Wall Street Magazine as the best seafood restaurant in Missouri. Check them out at- https://www.801fish.com

Salvatore’s restaurant in Ozark Missouri features homemade pasta and is currently owned and operated by Chef Daniel Oawster. This restaurant has been a true family-run restaurant since its inception in 2012. For their latest offerings and menu options go to- https://freshsalvatores.com

Seven Interpretations of Classic French Cuisine

Fin Fish lab with Stuffed Sole with Shrimp, Scallops, and Italian Vegetables with Pernod Beurre Blanc and Black Sea Bass with Little Neck Clams in a Tomato Fennel Broth.

Classical haute cuisine with an emphasis on French techniques is the subject of cooking textbooks that are used in all culinary schools in the USA. In many areas, French restaurants are not as prevalent as many other styles of restaurants; however, the majority of fine dining restaurants still use classic techniques in modern applications in their cooking. The philosophy that I try to instill in my students is to use the recipes and methods that are found in the classical realm in ways that would sell in fine-dining restaurants today. I tell them that classics became classics for a reason in culinary or any other genre. That is because they are popular with the majority of people and have stood the test of time. In the culinary field, they have been reproduced by many great chefs past and present. All top chefs who are known for excellence in their cooking use classic techniques, methods, and composition in combining ingredients, because they are just as popular today as when they were first prepared often decades if not centuries before. The principles that are used in classical cooking are also applicable to home cooking as well as in fine dining establishments.

Here are seven dishes from my demonstrations in this past semester’s culinary labs. They were examples from three of this semester’s classes that I taught: Culinary 101, Soup and Sauces, and Fabrication. During my career as a working Executive Chef in private clubs and hotels, I used many of these recipes and presentations to great success and received rave reviews and feedback from the diners that consumed them. I tell my students that each one of these dishes or the components used in these plates can also be prepared in the home kitchen as well.

This image is from my soup and sauce class. On this day we prepared Tuscan-style white bean and kale soup along with sauteed airline chicken breast with a pan sauce. The sauce is made with a classic reduction of chicken stock known as a Glace de Viande or more precisely Glace de Poulet. Finished with Maderia and mounted with butter. I accompanied it with a type of Gnocchi made with semolina flour in the Roman style – Gnocchi Romain.

Here is another dish from my soup and sauce class. This one is a vegetable Napolean that is layered with spinach, grilled portabello mushrooms, asparagus, mashed potatoes (pomme mousseline), and crispy disks of spaghetti-cut Idaho potatoes. The sauce is roasted tomato coulis. Coulis is a classic type of sauce today mostly prepared as a puree of berries, in old times the sauce had a very different meaning and was made with meat.

In this 101 class, seafood was the lesson. It was one of the last classes of the semester. It featured crispy skin trout, garlic shrimp, and oven-poached salmon with a butter sauce made from the poaching liquid (cuisson). This dish would be called a seafood medley in a fine dining environment. In that case, I would use a more expensive fish such as red snapper or sea bass instead of trout.

Classic rustic Beef Bourguignon (Burgandy Beef) is a bistro favorite. Here is a way to present it with the classic potato preparation called Pomme Duchess. I elevated the dish with garnishes of bacon lardons, heart-shaped croutons, crispy layered potatoes inlaid with flatleaf parsley, and roasted baby carrots. Due to its aesthetic appeal, when served in a cast iron dish along with these garnishes this method of presentation could garner a higher price in a restaurant when compared to serving it alone in a bowl.

This is a cold soup fashioned after the classic potato leek soup, Vichyssoise. In my career as an Executive Chef, we often served high-volume banquets with asparagus leaving us with enormous amounts of leftover stems. So I adapted the classic Vichyssoise by chopping the stems and adding them to the cooking process along with leeks and potatoes before pureeing and straining the soup. I used to serve it hot or cold. When I serve it cold I would garnish it with goat cheese mousse and chive oil. A delightful chilled soup on a hot summer day. Here is my recipe:

Asparagus, Leek, and Potato Soup
Yield: 1 gallon

1 quartAsparagus stems, chopped fine
1 cupLeek with light green stalk only, chopped
½ cupCelery, chopped
½ cupOnions, chopped
4 ozButter
½ cupFlour
1 ½ tspTarragon, chopped
1 TBLBasil, chopped
1 TBLChives, chopped
1 cupWhite potatoes (Yukon Gold or Idaho), peeled and diced
5 cupsVegetable or chicken stock (hot)
1 quart½ and ½

Garnish: Asparagus, chives, diced potatoes

For cold soup omit the diced potatoes in the garnish and top with goat cheese mousse, blanched asparagus tips, chives, and chive oil.

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pot
  2. Add the onions, celery, leeks, and asparagus and saute until translucent and tender over medium heat
  3. Add the flour and stir in to make a roux
  4. Add the ½ and ½ and cook to form a bechamel reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes while stirring
  5. Add the hot stock and continue to cook while stirring occasionally for at least 20 minutes, do not allow it to boil.
  6. Add the herbs, and potatoes and cook until the potatoes are tender
  7. Blend until smooth (if to thin return to the stove and thicken with a cornstarch slurry, if too thick add more stock, cream, or half and half)
  8. Strain and season with salt and white pepper if needed
  9. Garnish and serve or chill, garnish and serve.

This class was from a lab in my fabrication class which featured two baked shellfish dishes, Oysters and Clams. On the right is the New Orleans classic Oysters Rockefeller next to my version of the favorite – Clams Casino. I prepare the clams in a more elaborate way than the traditional style. I make it by cooking the clams with wine and shallots and then removing them from the shells and chopping them up. From the cooking liquid, I then prepare the sauce cooking it down with a concasse of tomatoes, red bell peppers, leeks, fennel, and herbs. After I mix it with the chopped clams and refill the shells I topped it with garlic butter, bread crumbs, and bacon. At service time I broil the clams and serve them on kosher salt.

I hope you can glean some ideas using classical French-style cuisine from this post in your cooking either at home or in a commercial kitchen. Until next time… Bon Appetit!

In my new remodeled home kitchen!

All my life I have cooked for others in professional kitchens that range from humble small restaurant spaces to huge establishments with multiple kitchens in hotels and clubs that serve thousands. This past summer my wife and I were finally able to have our home kitchen transformed into a modern elegant kitchen. In this post, I will share some images of some great meals that I have prepared for us in this wonderful new space.

How I make lasagna with tomato sauce made from tomatoes from our home garden. I serve it with a rich Alfredo sauce.

Late harvest German Queen heirloom tomatoes that I used to make the tomato sauce for my lasagna. Scroll down to find the recipe for my sauce.

Grilled “Tri-Tip” of beef with Chinese ingredients in a Garlic Ginger marinade with rice and stir-fried vegetables. The vegetables include Kale from our winter garden.

How I make the Italian classic dish – Sal Tim Bucco. Filled with julienne prosciutto ham, provolone, mozzarella cheese, and fresh sage from our herb garden.

A simple BLT with Sourdough with fresh Basil mayo.

Tomato Sauce (Home version)

Yield: 1 quart

1 qt                              Tomato Concasse
½ cup                          Onion, Chopped fine
1 Tbl                            Garlic, Chopped fine
3 Tbl                            Olive Oil
3 Tbl                            Flour
1 Tbl                            Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl                            Sugar
2 tsp                            Thyme leaves, fresh
2 tsp                            Basil, Chiffonade
1 tsp                            Kosher or sea salt
½ tsp                           Black pepper

  1. Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent
  2. Add the flour and stir in
  3. Add the tomato concasse
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients
  5. Cook down to the desired constancy

Puree if desired.

Made some fettucini with Alfredo sauce and basil served with Italian sausage, shrimp, and tomatoes Caprese style. Cooking in my new kitchen with vegetables from our home garden is a great joy for me and hope you too can find peace and happiness through cooking and enjoying your own food.

Macademia Nut Cresents

Macadamia nut white chocolate cookies are nothing new. The flavor combination of rich macadamia nuts and silky white chocolate is very popular and found in many mass-produced cookies. My version of macadamia nut and white chocolate cookies uses a very fragile short dough and is sandwiched with white chocolate buttercream and tangy orange marmalade before being dipped in white chocolate. They are one of my best fancy cookies. When produced in small one-bite cookies they are classified in a category known as petit four sec in classic French pastry.

A platter of my Petit four sec-from left to right Frangipane tartlets, Linzer cookies, White chocolate macadamia nut crescents, Dresden schnitten, Checkerboard cookies, Florentine cookies, and Frangipane tartlets.

I first developed this short dough many years ago when I was the executive chef at the Capital City Club in Raleigh, NC. In July I prepared them for a local ACF scholarship fundraiser dinner as a to-go gift.

Fill the baked crescents with white chocolate Swiss buttercream and orange marmalade.

Here is my recipe for the dough along with a step-by-step photo gallery for how to prepare them.
1) Prepare the dough and chill well
2) Roll out the dough on sheet pans and chill again
3) Cut the dough into crescent shapes with a fluted cutter
4) Egg wash half of them to be used for the tops
5) Bake at 350F until lightly brown and baked through
6) Cool to room temperature
7) Pipe a thin fence around the edges of half of the crescents with white chocolate flavored Swiss buttercream
8) Fill in the center with orange marmalade
9) Place the egg-washed tops on the filled bottoms
10) Dip in tempered white chocolate
11) Chill and serve.

Macadamia Nut Dough
Yield: 15 lbs
3 lbs                              Unsalted butter
3 lbs                              Granulated sugar
3 lbs                              Toasted macadamia nuts, ground
15 each                         Eggs
4 ½ lbs                          50/50 cake flour/bread flour, sifted
1 Tbl                             Baking powder, sifted
6 Tbl                             Vanilla extract
2 Tbl                             Salt, sifted

1) With a paddle attachment in a large mixing machine cream butter and sugar until smooth.
2) Add nuts and blend well.
3) Slowly add eggs and vanilla until well-mixed.
4) Add dry ingredients to nut dough and mix well scraping the bowl often to ensure proper mixing.
5) Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan and chill for 30 minutes.
6) Remove just what you need and roll out and cut into desired shapes.
7) Bake and use.

Here is another way that I have used the crescents, topped with white chocolate truffles for a garnish on individual white chocolate buttercream tortes
Here the white chocolate macadamia nut crescents were used as a garnish for one of these fancy pastries that I served while I was the Exec Chef at the University Club of MU.
A Taste of Gold

Besides being used as a fancy sandwiched cookie I also use round cookies made from the dough as a base for one of my composed desserts, “A Taste of Gold” which is a layered sphere-shaped dessert made with Mango Bavarian Cream, Rum soaked Sponge Cake and Coconut Pastry Cream encased in a thin White Chocolate. A Taste of Gold is an award-winning dessert and the recipe can be found in my pastry book – Pastry & Dessert Techniques.

For a personally signed copy please email me at daniel.pliska.gmail.com

Twelve ways to reduce food costs at home and save money

Stir fry rice with vegetables, nuts, marinated pre-cooked diced protein, and egg is a very economical dish. Portion and marinate meats and seafood prior to freezing to minimize kitchen prep time.

Inflation is running rampant and food costs are rising to historic levels. Improving and learning more about cooking and baking from scratch will save you money, increase your health and make your food taste better. As a professional chef, many of the ways that I have used to cut food costs in professional kitchens can also work at home. Here are 12 ways to cut your food cost and improve your diet for a healthier life.

  • Cook more with grains, legumes, and rice. Most of us love foods that are made with flour like pizza, pasta, and sandwiches made with wheat bread. However, flour is going to become much more expensive with the war in Ukraine. Learn how to make rice dishes like paella, jambalaya, stir fry rice,  etc. Buy dried beans and legumes and cook them yourself instead of using canned beans which are more expensive and not as healthy.
Lentils or beans cooked with diced vegetables and flavorful spices in stock or broth then serve with rice makes a filling, tasty side dish. Dried legumes are cheaper than canned and contain no added preservatives.
  • Learn how to fabricate your own meats and fish then buy large sub-primal cuts like pork loins, top sirloins, whole legs, whole chickens, and skin-on whole filets of salmon. Then cut, marinate, and freeze. Additionally, use cheaper cuts of meat such as flat iron steaks, thigh meat, turkey, etc.
Learn some fabrication techniques and buy sub-primal cuts then break down, portion, and freeze to save money. Here is an image of a bone-in whole pork loin that is broken down and cut into various portions and roasts.
Buying whole chickens and cutting them up will save you money and then make stock from the bones and freeze then use later in soups, sauces, or rice dishes. Pictured here are 3 whole chickens two cut up in different ways than one whole one trussed for roasting.
When fabricating large sub-primal pieces of meat costs can be reduced by learning how to use all of the trim in other ways. Here beef tenderloin chain is used for beef Burgandy and trim is used to make stir fry beef.
  • Learn how to use leftovers to cook in tasty ways. Enchiladas, pasta dishes, soups, stir fry dishes, etc. Purchase and learn how to cook in a slow cooker like an Instant Pot or Crock-Pot. Make stocks and broths whenever possible and use them in soups and sauces or in rice dishes to increase the flavor.
  • Cook in large batches, portion, and freeze – chili, stews, soups, lasagna, etc. Invest in a vacuum sealer to extend the freezer life of your food and inhibit freezer burn.
  • Control over production – don’t cook more than you will eat whenever possible. That is of course if you do not have a plan for your leftovers. Take rice for example: instead of cooking a cup of rice which is the standard recipe on most rice containers try cooking a half cup. The perfect portion for two sides of rice.
  • Cut your own vegetables, lettuce, and fruits. Whole heads of lettuce will last longer and are much cheaper if you buy them whole instead of pre-chopped. This goes for fruit as well.
  • Learn how to make your own desserts or dessert toppings instead of buying premade desserts, cakes, pies, etc. Some easy desserts that take minimal equipment and skill are cobblers, crepes, cheesecakes, pies, poached fruits, cream puffs, bread pudding, and dessert sauces such as chocolate, caramel, or fruit sauces.  
  • Organize your refrigerator and freezer to minimize waste- try using inventory lists on your refrigerator. This will help you to rotate your food out before it becomes too old, or freezer burned.
  • Grow some of your own food if possible. Focus on vegetables that are easy to grow and produce high yields. Tomatoes, squash, potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, Swiss chard, and herbs and learn how to preserve them by freezing, drying, pickling, and making sauces. Many of these can be grown in containers like 5-gallon plastic buckets or pots if yard space is an issue.
Tomatoes are easy to grow and can be made into sauces and frozen and used later in the season to preserve the harvest.
  • Compost your vegetable and fruit scraps and use them in your garden, mix with equal parts dry brown matter such as leaves or shredded brown paper, and turn frequently, perhaps in a compost tumbler. Coffee grounds and eggshells work well in compost as well. Don’t use any meat scraps or citrus fruits.
  • Don’t buy convenience foods such as rice mixes, dressings, frozen dinners, etc. Make them yourself. They will taste better and save you money.
  • When shopping- Instead of buying what you want or items that are listed on specific recipes buy items that are on sale (loss leaders), buy in bulk when possible, however, do so only if you can use the food before it spoils, purchase produce that is in season. Don’t shop when you are hungry so as not to impulse buy foods that are more expensive or risk purchasing too much.

Cooking more at home can be very joyful. If you have children cook with them to increase your family time and help them to learn life skills that will be useful when they grow up. If your children have grown and left the nest or you do not have children cook with friends before you dine with them. Have some small appetizers or charcuterie boards to snack on while cooking and promote the anticipation for dinner. Play some good music that matches the type of food that you will be cooking such as Latin music when making Mexican food, Italian opera when cooking Italian, or New Orleans Jazz when making Creole or Cajun foods.

I hope my ideas will help you cut your food costs and prompt you to cook more at home and have fun when cooking. Until next time- Bon Appetit!

Secrets of the Saucier

The aim of a great sauce is to bring food to ethereal heights. Great soup creates sumptuous comfort when eaten and can create memories that will always be cherished. Developing flavor and silky consistency is the goal for cooks who make sauces and soups. Although this is a vast topic and one that takes years to master there are five core principles/secrets that will enable you to make great soups and sauces.

  1. Extraction + reduction = Flavor
  2. Low and slow cooking
  3. High-quality ingredients produce the best results
  4. The best soups and sauces begin with a great stock
  5. Skim, strain, and reduce
Clockwise from the top – Oxtail Consomme with Ravioli filled with braised Oxtails and Porcini Mushrooms, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo Ya Ya, and Vegetarian Napolean with roasted Tomato Coulis, Stuffed Sole on a creamy Lobster Ragout, Oven poached Cod with Mussels and Leeks with Buere Blanc made from the poaching liquid.

In my Soup and Sauce class at Ozarks Technical Community College, I teach the classical ways to create soups and sauces in ways that could be used in contemporary fine dining establishments. We focus on building soups and sauces from stocks made carefully from bones, vegetables, and aromatics. In this post, I will discuss the 5 basic principles/secrets for building flavor. The photos in this post feature soups and sauces which were derived from modern versions of the Mother sauces found in the classical Haute cuisine. The Mother sauces that students learn are Espagnole, Veloute, Bechamel, Tomato and Hollandaise.

Extraction + Reduction = Flavor

This equation describes the process of developing flavor at its most basic level. Consider the example of making stock for a flavorful chicken soup. The first step is to create a stock by pulling the flavor of the chicken out of the bones, mirepoix, and aromatics into a pot filled with cold water. After the stock has cooked slowly for 3 to 5 hours it is strained and then reduced to evaporate some of the water and to strengthen the flavor of the chicken. Umami is the sought-after flavor profile in a great chicken soup and when it is consumed it can create a comforting memorable feeling.

Low and Slow Cooking

The best stocks, broths, sauces, and braised dishes are achieved by slowly cooking. When stocks boil rapidly with the bones and vegetables the process agitates the particles and any fat in the liquid. This results in a clouding finished product. Slow and gentle simmering creates a clear clean stock. Another important point when making stocks and broth is to always start with cold water. This is done to slowly draw out the flavor and nutrients from the bones, mirepoix (vegetables), and aromatics (herbs and spices) to create a stock or broth this is achieved through the scientific process of osmosis. In the braising of meats, slow cooking keeps the meat tender when finished. In contrast, if the cooking is done rapidly the meat can become stringy and unpleasant when eaten.

This stuffed chicken breast is served with a pan sauce made with reduced golden chicken stock (glace de viande), sherry, and butter. Produced after pan-roasting the stuffed chicken. The classic glace de viande or meat glaze is when a stock made from meat is reduced to a thick syrupy glaze without any starch such as roux or slurry.

High Quality Ingredients Produce the Best Results

Always try to use the best quality ingredients when preparing soups and sauces. Start with the freshest and best ingredients and treat the products with care in the prepping and cooking process. This will produce the best results in finished dishes. We used to say you have to baby a soup or sauce when cooking it by treating it with the best care and techniques to yield extraordinary results.

These lobster shells are flambeed with brandy after roasting and then made into a lobster stock along with mirepoix, tomato paste, and aromatics. Use for lobster bisque or lobster sauces.

Fantastic Soups and Sauces Begin With a Great Stock

Stocks and broths are the foundation of any great soups or sauces. Compare this to an analogy in the construction of a house, starting with a solid foundation on top of which a frame can then be built which will result in a beautiful house when finished. Without a solid base to start with the finished product will not be excellent. Always start with a flavorful clean and clear stock to build and produce the best sauces and soups.

In this presentation of beef tenderloin prepared in the classic style of “Beef Wellington,” the rich sauce that was served with it was made with a modern version of Demi-Glace. This sauce is created from a stock (Fond Brun de Veau) made with roasted veal bones, mirepoix, tomato paste, and aromatics then slowly simmered for at least 8 hours.

Skim, Strain, and Reduce

These three actions are of the utmost importance when creating flavorful stocks and sauces.

Skimming the scum, grease, and impurities that rise to the top in the simmering process of stocks and sauces must be done carefully and often throughout the cooking process to create a clear stock and a shiny sauce. This technique is called Dépouillage in French. Do this by carefully pushing the scum to the side of the pot or kettle and carefully skimming it off and discarding it.

Straining the stocks and sauces is also very important to yield a clean and shiny sauce by removing any of the particles that would break down and cloud a sauce during the cooking process. This is often done several times throughout the process of reduction (cooking down the sauce to evaporate water). Each time transfer the sauce to a clean smaller pot and then repeat the process. A fine mesh strainer (Chinoise) or sometimes cheesecloth is used to achieve the finest results.

Reduction is the process of simmering or lightly boiling stock or sauce to evaporate the water to intensify the flavor of the finished sauce or soup. If a sauce or stock is bland and watery the flavor will be weak. Reduce it to improve and strengthen the flavor.

If you would like to make the short ribs in this post go to my page on recipes and scroll down to find my recipe for braised short ribs with wild mushroom sundried tomato risotto. I hope the techniques and images in this post will help you to improve your soup and sauce making and as always if you enjoyed this post or have any questions please let me know in the comments. Bon Appetit!

Comforting Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie for the Holidays

During the holiday season cooking at home for family and friends is enjoyable and can help to facilitate comfort and relaxation. In this post, I offer my recipe for Chicken Pot Pie, which I recently demonstrated in a virtual conference for high school consumer science teachers from the kitchen of Ozarks Technical Community College. In the actual demo, I prepared the Chicken Pot Pie with an Arugula Pear Salad with Candied Pecans, Gorgonzola Cheese, and Dried Cranberries. I decided to share the techniques and recipe on how to make a pot pie because many people serve roast turkey during the season and then wonder what to do with the leftovers. A pot pie is a good way to use leftover meat with a stock made from the roasted turkey carcass. In order to make a great pot pie two separate preparations need to be accomplished. First, a pie dough needs to be made and then the filling needs to be prepared. After the filling has been made and bowled up in an ovenproof dish or dishes, it is covered with the pie dough. In the final step, it is brushed with an egg wash and baked until the crust is golden brown and then it’s ready to be served.

To make a flakey tender pie dough, cut the chilled fat into the flour until the fat particles are the size of small peas. Make sure the fat and water are very cold. When forming the dough mix briefly with the water to avoid too much gluten development which makes the dough tough.

Pie dough

  • ½ lb                                                                      All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp                                                                  Salt
  • 3/8 cup                                                                 Shortening, chilled
  • 1/8 cup                                                                 Butter, chilled and small diced
  • ¼ to ½ cup, or more                                             Water, ice cold
  1. In a stainless steel or glass bowl mix the flour with the salt
  2. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender
  3. Cut in the shortening until only small pea size lumps can be seen
  4. With a fork mix in the water in small increments to form a shaggy dough
  5. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or over-night.
Once the dough is made and is chilling and relaxing the next step is to prepare the filling with a classic basic sauce known as Veloute.

Once the pie is made prepare the filling with the following recipe:

Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie

Yield 2 Individual ovenproof casserole dishes or 1- 8” glass pie dish

  • 12 oz                                                     Pie dough
  • Pinch Coarse Sea salt (optional)
  • 2 cups                                                   Chicken, cooked and large diced (Leftover turkey can also be used)
  • ¼ cup                                                    Carrots, medium diced
  • ¼ cup                                                    Parsnips, medium diced
  • ¼ cup                                                    Celery, medium diced
  • ¼ cup                                                    Pearl onions, blanched and peeled
  • ¼ cup                                                    Mushrooms, medium diced
  • 2 ½ cups                                               Rich chicken stock, or double chicken stock
  • 3 TBL                                                     Butter
  • 4 TBL                                                     All-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp                                                      Chopped Tarragon or Chives
  • 2 tsp                                                      Chopped Parsley
  • ¼ cup                                                    Heavy cream, hot
  • 2 TBL                                                     Dry Sherry or Maderia
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Corn starch slurry if needed        50/50 starch and Sherry or water
  • Egg wash                                             1 egg and 1 yolk, mixed with a little water
  • Large crystal sea salt if desired
  • AP flour for rolling out the pie dough
  1. Prepare the pie dough and chill
  2. In a heavy bottom sauce pot, melt the butter and sauté the pearl onions, carrots, parsnips, celery, and mushrooms
  3. Dust with 3 TBL flour to form a roux and cook while stirring over low heat for 5 minutes
  4. Whisk in the chicken stock to make a Velouté
  5. Simmer while occasionally stirring for 10 to 15 minutes, skim any scum that forms
  6. Add the diced chicken and return to a simmer, cook for 3 more minutes
  7. Add the hot cream, chopped herbs, and sherry
  8. Adjust the consistency if needed with some cornstarch slurry
  9. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed
  10. Remove from the stove and fill the oven proof dishes or pie dish with the filling using a slotted spoon so as not to get too much sauce. The filling should have just enough sauce in it to make a hearty filling and should not be too runny.

Final preparation:

  1. Dust a cutting board or surface and roll out the pie dough
  2. Cut into the proper shape and cut a small hole in the middle of the dough to form a vent
  3. Brush the rim of the dishes or the pie dish with egg wash
  4. Cover the dishes with or pie dish with the dough and crimp the edges
  5. Brush heavily with the egg wash and sprinkle on some of the large crystal sea salt if desired
  6. Bake at 350F for approximately 30 to 35 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown

Remove from the oven and serve.

Smokin’ with Show Me Beef™!

Show Me Beef™ ribs slow smoked on the grill makes for a great summer meal with beef raised, processed and sold in Missouri. In full disclosure I was gifted this beef to prepare and enjoy at home to showcase in this post and as a self proclaimed beef aficionado I am happy to do so.

Chefs have many things in common. When it comes to food, we all get excited when a new high-quality purveyor comes to our area. Recently I was invited to a grand opening event introducing a line of beef raised, processed, and sold in Missouri both for retail consumers at Price Cutters and for restaurants and chefs from Springfield Grocers. It is also sold throughout the state. For more locations and information about the beef go to https://showmebeef.com

Show Me Beef™ short plate. Photos from top right- Short plate has three bones, Two plates broken down into boneless short ribs, soup trimmings and silver skin for beef jus, and bone in ribs for smoking, BBQ glazed ribs ready to eat, dry rubbed ribs ready to be smoked.

In this post I am using the short plate. The short plate is the sub-primal cut from which comes short ribs that are highly prized by chefs and beef lovers. Smoked short ribs that are fabricated from the plate are used in many ways such as slow smoked, braised in red wine and cut thin marinated and grilled in the Korean Style. For more information on the short plate go to https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/cuts/cut/2850/short-plate-primal.

Located in the front part of the belly in the carcass the short plate comes from the forequarter portion of the animal. It is a tough cut of meat with high amount of fat which makes for better flavor when cooked slowly.

Smoking the ribs with the indirect grilling technique for a low and slow method takes time and patience.

The process to prepare the ribs first starts by trimming off the silver skin (tenuous gristle) and fat from the top of the short plate. Then portioning the plate into ribs by cutting down the plate between the bones separating them into single bone ribs.

Next prepare the spice and rub into the meat on the ribs and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This enables the spice to penetrate and flavor the meat prior to smoking.

Prepare the beef jus use as a basting juice on the ribs in the next step.

To smoke the ribs I used my weber grill with charcoal and hickory smoking chips. First build a hot fire on one side of the grill. Bring out the ribs and allow them to come to room temperature for about 20 minutes and soak about 2 cups of chips in water. Once the charcoal is white and hot, sear the ribs directly over the coals. Once they are marked on both sides move them to the opposite side of the grill so that they are not directly over the coals (this technique is called indirect grilling). Place the smoking chips on a disposable pie tin or on a tray made from foil and put over the coals and bring them to a smoking point. Then cover the grill and open all the vents on the cover. Let smoke for 45 minutes and then uncover and add a few more charcoal briquettes and re-cover the grill. Continue to grill for 45 more minutes. Uncover and turn the ribs and baste with the beef jus. Check the charcoal fire and add a few more briquettes if needed then re-cover and continue this process two more times for a total time of 3 hours of smoking. Then turn the ribs once more and baste with the BBQ glaze and add a few more briquettes to the fire and continue to smoke for 30 minutes. Repeat the process until the beef ribs are tender. Then remove from the grill and cover with foil (tenting) and let them rest for 30 minutes, serve with BBQ sauce if desired. The total cooking time will take around 4 to 4 1/2 hours.

Short Rib Spice Rub

Yield approximately ¼ cup

2 Tablespoon  Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon  Sugar

2 teaspoons    Black Pepper

2 teaspoons    Paprika

1 teaspoon     Chili Powder

1 teaspoon     Granulated Garlic

1 teaspoon     Onion Powder

Mix all together and use or store in a jar.

Beef Jus

Yield 2 cups

½ pound    Silver skin beef trimmings

½ each       Small yellow onion, cut into slices

1 each        Garlic Clove cut in half

1 each        Small bay leaf

8 each        Whole black pepper corns

2 ½ cups    Cold water

Optional     Parsley and rosemary

  1. Spread out the silver skin on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400F until brown (to render out the excess fat) for 15 to 20 minutes
  2. Drain the fat and discard or reserve for another use
  3. Brown the onions in a little beef fat in a thick bottomed pot over medium high heat
  4. Add the browned silver skin, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns and herbs if used
  5. Bring to a boil, skim and simmer for 1 to 2 hours
  6. Strain and use as a basting juice for the ribs or reserve for another use.

BBQ Glaze

Yield ¾ cup

½ cup BBQ sauce (commercial tomato based)

¼ cup Beer (IPA, Pilsner or light beer)

1 teaspoon Honey

Mix together and use as a mop to glaze the smoked ribs in the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Smoked Short Ribs with Bi-colored Corn, Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes… Yum!
Show Me Beef™ Rib Eye in all its glory!

As an added bonus I was given this rib eye to cook. It had great marbling of fat throughout the muscle and the steaks that were tender and flavorful. Compound butters are a great and easy accompaniment for steaks. Here is a recipe for one of my favorite butters that goes great with a grilled rib eye right off the grill or out of the the cast iron pan. Use the best quality butter for the best taste and flavor.

Hope you enjoy it and until next time- Keep on Grillin!

Steak Butter

Yield 18 to 20 servings:

1 pound          Butter (Unsalted European style)

1 Tablespoon  Fresh Tarragon leaves

1 Tablespoon     Fresh Chives

2 Tablespoons    Fresh flat leaf Parsley leaves

2 Tablespoons   Minced shallots

½ teaspoon     Ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon     Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon   Worcestershire sauce

  1. Prepare the steak butter by coarsely chopping the herbs and mixing them along with the rest of the ingredients thoroughly with the soft butter.
  2. Roll up in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill or freeze slightly to firm up into a cylinder.
  3. Slice and top hot grilled steaks or chicken right off the grill.