A short installment of "What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen....and Others'....."

The last month and a half have been full of roller coaster excitement, both positive and negative.  Well, just one negative, when I was sick for two weeks with strep and could not talk for 9 days straight, and even the next five days were with a strained voice.  But the end of my work year was amazing and washed over me like a tsunami, full of activities and tasks and culinary fun.  I was asked by an ardent, supportive colleague, whom I shall forever be grateful to, to cater her daughter's graduation party.  I pulled together my "Wrecking Crew", my team.  It was so much fun being creative, learning a lovely and new kitchen.  It was also a "Proud Papa" moment - actually, two days - as it was the first time I'd worked in the kitchen with both of my sons.  They both did fantastic, as did my partner in culinary crime, Miss Maria.   We had two stations:  a taco bar with pulled pork in chile ancho sauce and finely sliced marinated skirt steak.  Delicioso!  We also served steak bruschetta and a small caprese salad.  My oldest son, Matt and Miss Maria ran what I called the "Make n Bake n Take" Pizza Bar.  The kids and adults were able to "decorate" their own personal pizzas, complete with an array of sauces, cheeses and toppings.  After starting off with a bit of management pains, the Wrecking Crew took charge and it flowed smoothly.  All it took was us writing peoples' names on the parchment paper the pizzas were baked on.  Like I said, growing pains and learning experience.  We all talked about how much fun it was for an entire week afterwards!  Here are some pictures of that.  

Jackson tends to the Chile Ancho Sauce in the making

Matthew rolled out and cut the pizza dough for the personal pizzas

Miss Maria removes fresh pizza dough from their bags for Matt to work and roll out.

Setting up the pizza station, while Matthew slices steaks for the Taco bar.

Caprese Salad I made for the grad party.  

I am grilling steak I'd marinated in Italian seasonings and herbs for steak bruschetta.  I toasted a baguette sliced into angular slices drizzle with garlic infused extra virgin olive oil and melted parmesan cheese, and topped with with the thinly sliced steak.  

Grilling steaks on my Pampered Chef grill pan for the Taco Bar. 

This is not from that day, but this is what my Steak Bruschetta looks like.  I was so busy I was unable to take many photos.  Next time!

I am toasting spices and dried herbs for my Mexican Spice Blend.  Smoke Paprika, Coriander seed, Dried Oregano, Chile Pasilla and Chipotle Powders, Dried Minced Garlic and Cumin Seed.  

My Mexican Spice Blend, ground in my spice grinder and jarred.  Smells so good!

                               I used my spice rub on six roasts before searing and braising.

Searing one of the six spice rubbed, seared and braised pork shoulder roasts.  

Searing two of the other roasts in preparation for a four hour braising. 
Quite a fantastic couple of days!  Life-changing experience!
Loved IT and my incredible client and her family. 
As  I mentioned, I have been very busy in the kitchen.  Here are photos of a few more dishes I have recently prepared  Most will be blogged soon!  I am Very Excited about getting back to writing.  It is a true joy to me. I have loved writing from a very early age.  Confession:  I so loved writing and drawing that, upon getting in trouble, my punishment was not to go to my room, it was to go outside and play!!! 

With that awkward confession, here is a one of two of my "reworkings" of past dishes, my Herb and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Bundles with Garlic Parmesan Polenta Cake topped with Marinated Tomatoes, and my Garlic and Herb Cheesy Potato Stacks, along with a Parmesan Crisp topped with Marinated Cubed Salad. 

The Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Bundles are topped with a sage leaf, my salute to searing this Saltimbocca style. 



I just learned how to smoke pork roasts.  I am fairly an expert at spice rubs, searing and braising pork roasts, as I have had much happy practice, but smoking?  All new to me, and great loads of fun!  I borrowed my other Partner in Culinary Crime, Miss Anne's (pronounced like Annie) smoker and she gave me a lesson on how to get started.   Grilling is great fun for me, but smoking was a different story, altogether.  I got the charcoal going, had the wood chips soaking for the better part of an hour before using, was happy to remember how to put the contraption back together.  One of the best things I did, I do believe, was to brine the pork roast overnight.  Equal parts salt and sugar, a half cup of Ponzu, a half cup of a Cajun spice blend with a quarter cup reserved and two tablespoons lavender flower honey made up my brine, along, of course, with water.  The roast sat in the brine for fifteen hours.   Although knowing that the roast would take at least four or more hours to smoke, I put it on at too late a time.  Busy day, it was.  So, I also made fried chicken.  

My pork roast out of the brine and spice rubbed with leftover spices.  Hickory wood chips have been soaking in water for nearly an hour.  

The smoker gettin' its smoker business on!

I mentioned above that I knew that I had put the roast on too late to be done right at dinner time, and I had been soaking six boneless/skinless chicken thighs in seasoned buttermilk overnight, as well, so I made a beer batter and fried the chicken for our meal - to pick at - while waiting.  I seasoned the milk with two tablespoons sriracha, a palm full of smoked paprika, half a palm of garlic powder, half of palm of garlic salt, two teaspoons black pepper and two teaspoons turmeric.  In addition, I spiced my beer batter with the same spices, along with half a palm each of crushed dried oregano and dried fenugreek leaves. Delicious!!!

Here is the final plated product.  I also served this with semi-homemade rosemary,  parmesan and black pepper biscuits and pan fried sliced red potatoes with pancetta and topped with shaved parmesan. 


AND FINALLY..........

Another reworking of a previously posted meal, Chicken Paillard with Pomegranate and Grape Sauce, Marinated Tomato Slivers and Cheese and Grape Stuffed Pasta Ears. This was so much fun to prepare!!!  
Another view

And that endeth "What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen"! 
Please look for the recipes of many of these dishes soon! Thank You so much for your time and consideration!  Go Cook Something for your loved ones and friends!

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