Funeral Food and Deli Trays

Fake mourner attended up to four funerals a week to enjoy free food

‘Grim eater’ even filled containers with food to take home

A New Zealand funeral home has stepped in to stop a fake mourner who was attending up to four funerals a week to stock up on food, even filling containers and taking them home, according to media reports.

Harbour City Funeral Home director Danny Langstraat told local newspaper The Dominion Post that the “grim eater” appeared at up to four funerals a week in March and April to enjoy the finger food but clearly did not know the deceased.

The funeral company grew so concerned that it took a photograph of the man, thought to be in his 40s, and distributed the picture to its branches.

“Certainly he had a backpack with some containers so when people weren’t looking, he was stocking up,” Langstraat told the newspaper.

He said the man was “always very quiet and polite, and did as the rest of the mourners did in paying his respects”.

Langstraat said the man stopped coming after one staff member took him aside and told him he could come to funerals but could not take food home with him.

Funeral Directors Association president Tony Garing told the newspaper that such cases happened occasionally but it was difficult to stop people from coming or call their behavior theft because funerals were usually public events.

Not Sabatelle's, but the best I could find. image from Ralph's

I have had this post sitting in my draft folder, waiting for the proper time to post it. Creepy around the holidays, somehow inappropriate when someone I knew, even through casual acquaintances, has died. But someone did die, unexpectedly, and I never knew them, but I know someone close to them very well. They are a close family friend. The friend you call when you lock your keys inside your house, inside your car while it’s running, parked at a gas pump, multiple times a year. The friend you call to borrow their truck to pick up your new 1950’s bedroom set, grill, or bookshelf. The friend you call when you get arrested, get stuck in the snow, get your house broke into, have your basement flood over Thanksgiving Eve night. Yeah, that really happened. We still had one of the best dinners ever.

They are also the kind of friend you enjoy having a drink with more than most, who taught you to shoot your first gun, who you can trust with your life, and does a pretty bang up job at being all things to all people.

Some people give. Some people give more. And when they do, it seems unfair that they still have to lose someone close to them just like the rest of us. But they do.

When that time comes, and you have offered kind words and hugs, go out and purchase a meat tray. Not some rolled turkey and cubed-orange-cheese nightmare. A proper meat tray. Prosciutto should be invited to this platter. The highest quality you can find. And of course some great neighborhood bread. We are lucky to have a great little Italian store, Sabatelle’s, in a small town near my childhood house, which should be everyone’s standard when sending funeral food. If you console with sub-par food, you are giving sub-par love.  Even though Jim did not grow up with the sending-food-after-a-death custom, and thinks it’s weird, I think it’s required, and seems obvious to me. Most people don’t want to cook on a normal day. After losing a loved one, they aren’t even thinking about eating. There will be a ton of people in and out of their house, and those people need some food comfort. Plus they will eventually feel like eating, and you don’t want them eating jelly and old pickles from their fridge.

Do not stop at the meat tray. Meatballs, coffee, porketta, and of course booze are always welcomed. Think of doing this for the next couple of weeks, not just the funeral weekend. Grieving does not have a three-day limit. Watch their house, watch their pets, even their kids if that’s what is needed. Put gas in their car, get their mail, do their laundry. Small kindness is the kind I notice most, so that’s what my brain automatically tells me to do. So if your cousin dies, I might end up cleaning your car. Even if you’ve only met me once. Really, it’s not that strange.

So yes, even in the most terrible of times, food again can at least salvage, if not save the day.

And as I leave this less than happy post behind, I want to thank my mother for agreeing to never die. Ever. There are not enough meat trays in the world.

image from hotdawgtruck.com

Blue Cheese and Our Friendship

Echo Mountain from Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon

I have come to a decision that if you buy bottled blue cheese dressing or dip we can no longer be friends. I think our friendship is worth 3 minutes to make some yourself. Don’t you?

I remember growing up and getting blue cheese dip in the plastic tub, which I think was supposed to be some kind of upgrade for lazy people. Just because it is refrigerated and not shelved (blehk), does not make it better. High fructose corn syrup has no business sniffing around blue cheese. And for your mouth’s flavor and touch receptor’s sake don’t even look a second time at blue cheese crumbles. Pretend you just saw your parents making out and walk away. Blue cheese doesn’t just decide it want to stay crumbled. It has binders added to it. Keep away.

Some people turn their nose up at the mention of the pungent blue, but it can be an acquired taste, so don’t write it off forever. I didn’t always like strong blue cheese, and now I eat a slab for dinner. With bread of course.

One of my favorites is the Echo Mountain cheese (as seen above). It is seasonal, and available right now. You do not need to use the best blue cheese when making dressing or dip, but don’t use garbage cheese either. Use what you can afford. That means maybe paying your bills late, not buying cheap cheese.

 

Cornichons, olives, strawberry preserves, and pretty girl blue, Echo Mountain.

 

Blue Cheese Dip/Dressing

1 1/4 cup crumbled-by-you blue cheese (I like mine only a tad chunky, not completely creamy. Adjust to your liking.)

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tbls. fresh lemon juice

1 tbls. freshly ground pepper ( I know it’s a pain, but no cheating)

Cholula hot sauce to taste

pinch of salt

buttermilk : adjust for desired thickness

Mix everything together.

Eat.

* Put some in your favorite biscuit recipe, use it for blue cheese coleslaw, pipe it into olives or dates,put it on your steak, or use it as a pizza base.

 

Buffalo chicken bites. Not exactly the same as from home, but they did in an unwavering craving.

 

For all things cheese, go here:

http://www.murrayscheese.com/

And here. These are two of my favorite cheese blogs:

http://brielegrandfromage.blogspot.com/

http://itsnotyouitsbrie.com/

Thanks for all the love and support while I have been in school. My frequency of writing has no reflection on how much I love you guys. Hang in there, a pie or something has got to be made soon. While these spritz are addicting, I need to make some bread pronto. I miss my oven.

 

Valentine's Day spritz cookies.

“People who know nothing about cheeses reel away from Camembert, Roquefort, and Stilton because the plebeian proboscis is not equipped to differentiate between the sordid and the sublime.”
Harvey Day

 

“Efficiency is intelligent laziness.”

-David Dunham

Well hello knife cuts from weeks ago, how have you been? They have been hanging with all the other things I did in school and didn’t post about. Six weeks go by like eating a taco. You’re all like that was the best taco (six weeks) ever, I devoured that taco (culinary information) so quickly, and savored every second of that spicy meat (class), did I just eat (take) four (20+) tacos (quizzes, tests, and practicals) that fast (that fast)?

We took one field trip down the road to a Filipino supermarket, made hollandaise, mayonnaise, an impromptu soup in 20 minutes with no meat or broth, made hollandaise, grilled salmon, had half an hour to mess around with plating non- edible food, had trussing demos, chicken butchering, squid, sole, and salmon filleting demos, made gazpacho with only brunoise cuts (which is even less satisfying when you are going to throw it all in a blender), had stock, roux, and bisque, and mother sauce demos, made a roux, oh and all the while sanitation was boring the hell out of me. A whole book of Serv Safe, and the most important thing I learned is wash your hands. Seriously, it’s the answer to most of the secrets of the universe. Oh, and terrorists are one of the saboteurs that will try and jack up your food. Terrorists, people.

Lobster Bisque

It’s a new feeling for me to look forward to going anywhere everyday. Every day. I get fidgety. Not here. The first six weeks was a lot of introduction, but also a chance for me to find out little details about things. It’s weird being in a class with people who don’t know who Anthony Bourdaine or Thomas Keller are, but then I never filleted a fish. We all have different knowledge, which I love most of the time (except for some venison butchering that came up once too much, there is a creep limit, buy a book, or google it). Of course there are a tiny few poky people, and what I like to call culinairheads, but for the most part we have a really great class. Being at the top of my class with people who are friends is pretty great too. It’s so nice to be able to talk about food and food nerd-related things, and not have to worry when you have to stop (at least I hope so).

week 2

I need to hustle more, and with zero knife skill practicing at home (I know, I know), I need to make cuts way faster. I do have less waste with my cuts. Yay me. My hand torture, I mean made mayo and hollandaise, is tops, but I look forward to you food processor mayo, my wrist does too.

week 2

This is just a fraction of the last six weeks, but just imagine the other parts being just as positive and smile inducing. Monday I start Culinary II, and no sanitation. Did I mention no sanitation?

This has been the extent of cooking since I have started school. Chicken scampi farfalle. While delicious, I miss cooking for real.

All in all it’s been a marvelous six weeks filled with pasta, fried rice, sandwiches, and breakfast for dinner. I did finally get to cook this weekend. That will have to hold me for six more weeks🙂

It’s All a Roux

Béchamel

If you’ve made gravy, or stew before, a roux was most likely your road to thickening. It is also a major player in our next two mothers sauces. That’s four if you are counting. I am saving sauce tomate for last. It will get its own little post. After all she is the crimson princess.

A roux is equal parts (by weight) fat (butter, oil, animal fats) to equal parts bread flour, cooked to the desired color.  A good roux is stiff, not runny. There are three types of roux: white, blond, and brown. Remember, the darker your roux, the less thickening power it has. A roux is good to use in sauces that require medium to long cooking times, since you will need to cook long enough to rid your sauce of the raw flour taste. Other thickening agents are: egg yolk, cornstarch, arrowroot, vegetable purees, bread crumbs, and beurre manie. A beurre manie is equal parts (by weight) fat and flour that are uncooked. A beurre manie is used for quick thickening at the end of cooking to finish a sauce. You can keep this mixture at room temperature, to have on hand when needed. Another way to thicken is to make a slurry, which is a starch (cornstarch, arrowroot, corn, potato, or rice flour), mixed with cold water. Starches are less stable than a roux, so it can lose its thickening ability if added to an acidic sauce, or cooked too long.

roux<bechamel and veloute<small sauces

Roux

2 oz. butter

2 oz. flour

Melt butter over medium heat.

Once foamy, add flour all at once.

Stir well, and allow to cook at least 1 minute.

For roux blond, continue cooking until it begins to color.

For roux brun, continue cooking until darker color is achieved.

* Always add cold into hot, or hot into cold. Cold stock into hot roux, or hot stock into cooled roux. This will help prevent lumping, and give you a smoother sauce.

Veloute

roux blanc

chicken, or veal stock, or fish fumet

bouquet garni

1. Make a roux blanc (see above), and allow it to cool.

2. Heat the chicken stock.

3. Pour hot stock into cool roux.

4. Whisk until roux has dissolved and the mixtures begin to thicken.

5. Add bouquet garni, and allow to come to a low boil.

6. Skim the scum!

7. Leave to simmer until thickened.

8. Remove bouquet garni, strain through a fine sieve, or chinois.

9. The veloute should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Here are some small sauces you can get from veloute: poulette, Bercy, curry, Normandy, Venetian, and Hungarian.

Bechamel

roux:

8oz. clarified butter

8oz. bread flour

1 gallon of milk

1 bay leaf

1 whole small onion, peeled

1 whole clove

1. Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

2. Make a white roux (see above), and allow to cool slightly.

3. Gradually add the milk to the roux, beating constantly.

4. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to simmer.

5. Stick the bay leaf to the onion with the clove. Simmer at least 15 minutes, if possible 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally.

6. Adjust consistency with more hot milk, if necessary.

7. Season lightly. Spice should not dominate.

8. Strain.

Here are some small sauces you can get from bechamel: Mornay sauce, cheese sauce, soubise sauce, and mustard sauce.

As if school wasn't great enough, I get to eat too!

Chef's plate, our tasting. Pork with charcuterie sauce, mash, and cornichons.

Your Mother

Hollandaise

Like a dog, I thought hollandaise would sense the apprehension on me, and not want to cooperate. Good thing this hollandaise was a cat.

We had a demo, then it was our turn to emulsify some magic. I broke my first one right before it was finished. My fault. I added to much butter at once. Patience! Next one, much better. That was last week. I practiced once at home that weekend. Today, we had twenty minutes to make one. A surprise that I aced. And the only one in class that served at temperature! Woo hoo!

Hollandaise

2 egg yolks

lemon juice to taste, start with 2 tsp.

6 oz clarified butter, warmed

salt to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring 1-inch of water to a slow simmer.

In a bowl that is safe for use as a double-boiler, whisk (by hand) egg yolks and lemon juice until you reach the ribbon stage. It is what it sounds like. Whisk will make ribbons in egg yolks.

Over barely simmering water, cook the egg yolks while whisking until thickened. Control your temperature by removing from steam. The bottom of the bowl should be just too hot to touch. If you notice the egg cooking on the side of your bowl, check your burner and bowl temperature, and adjust.

Remove bowl from steam. While whisking, add a few drops of warm clarified butter. You are now starting to emulsify. Add a few more drops. Whisk. You will need to put your bowl back on the steam from time to time to keep a consistent temperature. Keep checking this! Your sauce will break if it gets too hot or too cold. It’s a sauce baby. You need to coddle it. You will know when it breaks. It will be a big greasy mess, and you will feel sad.

Continue to add butter slowly until all is added. Add hot water from you saucepan to loosen your sauce if it becomes too thick. (I have always had to do this). Do not over-whisk at this stage. You will be whipping in cool air, which your warm sauce does not want.

Add salt to taste, and more lemon juice if needed.

*Emulsified sauce: an amount of fat (butter or oil) is introduced to a water based liquid

*They can be hot or cold, and the fat is incorporated off the heat to ensure emulsification.

*Hollandaise is a hot emulsified sauce.

*Hollandaise can accompany many fish and vegetables, and of course eggs Benedict.

*Hollandaise is also a foundation for a number of other sauces (mousseline and mustard)

*Hollandaise is one of the five “mother” sauces. Mother sauces are leading or primary sauces.

Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk

1/4 tsp. vinegar

1/4 tsp. mustard

4-6 oz oil

salt to taste

lemon juice to taste

Whisk all ingredients except oil.

Slowly whisk in oil, creating an emulsion. Mayo will thicken as you whisk. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

*Mayonnaise is also one of the five “mother” sauces.

*Variations include: aioli (basically mayo), tarter sauce, remoulade, and gribiche.

*Herbs, citrus, and other flavorings can be added to make a derivative sauce.

*Mayonnaise is a cold emulsified sauce.

emulsion: a stable liquid mixture in which one liquid is suspended in tiny globules throughout another

lecithin: most common emulsifier, found in eggs and mustard. One end of the lecithin molecule dissolves in fat and the other end of the molecule dissolves in water – bringing the water and fat together.

Culinary school is about learning technique, not recipes. If my recipes seem not exact or not written in a strict sense, this is because I have written with the purpose of getting you to focus on your technique and palate, instead of your measuring spoons and cups. I know it may be hard at first, but soon (very soon), it becomes freeing. I prom promise.

Be Great, Not Good: Make Some Stock

Fish bones for fumet.

Along with measurements and recipe conversions I have learned that stock is the stuff of cooking life. It seems making stock at home has become a thing of the past, and I’m not sure why. Is there much better than homemade chicken soup? If a restaurant makes good soup, and nothing else worthy of my palate, I’m still visiting. Making lasagna is more time-consuming, yet I think there are more noodles being layered than stocks being made. Why cruel world, why?

Fish fumet

There are 5 main categories of basic stocks: fonds, fumets (fish stocks), essences, glaces (concentrated stock), and jus. They are divided generally into brown and white stocks. The basic ingredients of a stock are : bones, mirepoix, acid, spices and seasoning, and water. Veal bones are used for beef stock; chicken for chicken stock; white, non-fatty fish bones for fumet; lamb, shellfish, and the like for specialized stocks. Mirepoix is onion 50%, carrot 25%, and celery 25% (substitute parsnip for carrot if making a white stock. This is a white mirepoix, used when making a white stock to keep a light color). Leeks can be added to white and brown stocks. A vegetable stock may have a variety of vegetables. An acid helps to dissolve connective tissue. Use  white wine for white stocks, tomato or red wine for brown stocks.  Spices and seasoning can be added as follows: sachet bag or bouquet garni. They can contain parsley, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns (I crack mine), cloves (2 or 3), or celery. Last but certainly not least, the giver of life, water or remouilage (stock made from the bones that have already been used once to make a stock).

The bone-to-water ratio is debatable. At least 50%, up to 80% bones. I say start middle ground at about 60% bone, and tweak to preference. Do not use Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or spinach/leafy greens in your stocks. They will cloud your stock, and will not hold up to long cooking times. These are all general measurements. Most importantly, make sure your bones are covered with water or remouilage, and don’t use any overpowering herbs or seasoning, skip the salt, and as Chef says, “skim the scum”!

Hello, fish fumet.

Brown Stock

If you are making a brown stock, cut your bones in 3-4 inch pieces, roast your bones in a *375 oven until browned (about an hour). You can also separately roast your mirepoix if you like flavor, but you don’t need too.

Bring roasted bones to a high simmer, skim the scum, add mirepoix, keep at a simmer. Not a boil!

Skim the scum.

Simmer for 6-36 hours. Obviously the more you simmer the more concentrated your stock will be. If you are going for the long haul, add your mirepoix, and bouquet garni during the last couple hours, so you do not cook out the beautiful flavor they have just given you.

Strain through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

Cool in small batches, and refrigerate. Then freeze if desired. Frozen stock can last for months.

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

And, white stock is even easier!

White Stock

Same as above, but no roasting. You want to achieve a light color. No Maillard reaction for you. (chemical reaction when glucose and amino acids are heated, the color and flavor change)

Chicken bones, water, mirepoix, boquet garni, and wine if using.

Bring to a simmer, skim the scum.

Simmer for 3-4 hours. Only 3-4 hours!

Skim the scum.

Strain.

Cool in small batches.

Refrigerate or freeze.

Oh wait, fish fumet: even easier!

Fish Fumet

Fish bones, water, wine, mirepoix, sachet in the pot.

Bring to a simmer, skim the scum.

Simmer for 30-45 minutes. That’s less than an episode of your favorite show. If you can give 45 minutes to Dexter, you can give 45 minutes to you and your loved ones’ tummies.

Strain.

Cool in small batches.

Refrigerate or freeze.

* For a cleaner stock, you can blanch your bones to rid them of impurities. Blood and such. You may also be blanching out flavor. Weigh this when thinking about blanching.

No, that is not every detail of stock making, but when you add some chicken, carrot, and some egg noodles to the chicken broth you just made, I promise you, you will want to perfect your stock, and will be on the hunt for all the little details. If  you go no further on your stock quest, you will still kick any canned soup’s ass, and that in itself is worth twenty minutes of prep work.

Fond of Fond, and Bubble Brioche

But a twee brioche.

I have not baked in two weeks, since I started school, and it’s starting to get to me. At least I think it is. It could be the lack of alcohol and cigarettes I have consumed since I started school. Okay not lack, but severely decreased amount. Which is a good and a bad thing. Yay healthy, blah, blah, blah. Boo, I miss red wine. It gives me migraines, and I just can’t risk missing even one class. We cover such an array of things in one day. I think when you are already educated on what is being taught on any given day, it is even more important to be there. You pick up tips, get answers to things that you may have questioned before, but had 5 different competing answers to, or learn a new, better way to do something. Since you don’t have to spend every brain cell trying to learn  something foreign to you, you can look at the details of a technique or an ingredient. I never put a lid on my pot to sweat vegetables, but Chef did. I thought they would steam, not sweat, and would not release the water necessary to, I don’t know, sweat properly? Sounds ridiculous, but it did prompt the question. All those sciencey things that happen when you are cooking is really what “cooking” is. You, and hopefully your delicious, handicraft-action produces a reaction.  And the reaction is the must-be-there-browned-crunchy-garlic-breadcrumbs that go atop macaroni and cheese. Yes, I could get by if I missed a day, but I would miss all the fiddle-faddle. I would have missed Chef joking about how the 4 hour window in a Viagra commercial (It was before a 60 Minutes story about Jose Andres) is the same as the 4 hour window for your food to be in the danger zone (41*- 135*). In either case after four hours, you are in an emergency situation. There are some things that you just can’t learn from books. A sense of humor is one of them.

Daily knife work has pretty much ended, and we will be putting what we learned (or should have learned) into action, not spending time on just cuts. With hardly any practice in class, unless you are a natural, you will need to practice at home or put in some extra hours at school. We will be tested on cuts in the weeks to come, but I look forward to improving beyond a passing grade.

We started stocks on Friday (tasting and lecture only), tasting vegetable, veal (my favorite), and chicken stock, chicken, lobster, and beef base. Base is the jarred, or cubed stuff that is readily available and most of the time made from the same stuff you would make stock with, but it’s expensive, and can be loaded with MSG, and other additives. Check your labels before you buy. It is called a convenience product for a reason. It is not called house made with fresh, local ingredients and love product. Be cautious.

It will be stockfest soon enough, but for now I will give bubble brioche the stage. It was the first time I made brioche, and the last thing I baked the night before school started. If you don’t eat them all, make french toast the next day. You may never used sliced bread to make french toast again.

Bubble-Top Brioche

makes 12

  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
  • 1/4 cup warm whole milk (110°F to 115°F)
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast (measured from two 1/4-ounce envelopes)
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and warm milk in bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Sprinkle yeast over and stir to moisten evenly. Let stand until yeast dissolves, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Add flour and salt to yeast mixture. Blend at medium-low speed until shaggy lumps form, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in sugar. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat until dough is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until blended after each addition, about 4 minutes (dough will be soft and silky). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and climbs paddle, 8 to 9 minutes.

Lightly butter large bowl. Scrape dough into bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.

Gently deflate dough by lifting around edges, then letting dough fall back into bowl, turning bowl and repeating as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill, deflating dough in same way every 30 minutes until dough stops rising, about 2 hours. Chill overnight. (At this point, use the dough to make 12 brioches, or 6 brioches and 1 tart, or 2 tarts.)

Butter 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces; cut each piece into thirds. Roll each small piece between palms into ball. Place 3 balls in each prepared cup (dough will fill cup). Place muffin pan in warm draft-free area; lay sheet of waxed paper over. Let dough rise until light and almost doubled (dough will rise 1/2 inch to 1 inch above top rim of muffin cups), 50 to 60 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Place muffin pan on rimmed baking sheet. Gently brush egg glaze over risen dough, being careful that glaze does not drip between dough and pan (which can prevent full expansion in oven). Bake brioches until golden brown, covering with foil if browning too quickly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Cool 10 minutes. Remove brioches from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

by Dorie Greenspan
*These are great with butter, whipped cream cheese, and your favorite jam. Maple butter is especially good.