An Elegant Christmas Brunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appetizers, Salads and Platter Selections

Jars of Marinated Vegetables

Sun dried Tomatoes, Assorted Olives, Pickled Cauliflower, Chanterelle & Pearl Onions

Display of Roasted vegetables

Portobello mushrooms, Grilled Zucchini, Steamed Asparagus, Roasted Bell Peppers, Roasted Fennels

Red Onions, Roasted Pear with Cheddar Crumble

Braised Leeks with Dijon Herb Vinaigrette

Salads

Winter Greens with Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette & Buttermilk Dressings

Romaine Lettuce with Cesar Dressing, Brioche Croutons, Shaved Parmesan

Spicy Thai Pork, Lemon Grass and Vegetable Salad

Braised Beef Shanks & Leek Terrine, Herb Vinaigrette

Wild Rice, Roasted Butternut Squash, Marinated Veal Flank Steak

Russian Vegetable Salad, Quail Eggs, Caviar

Apple & Jicama Celery Salad with Grapes

Poached Salmon & Lobster Roulade

Crab & Fennel Salad with Creamy Lime Dressing 

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Goose Liver & Apple Compote

 Cheese & Charcuterie Table

Imported American & Marinated Cheeses

With Stewed Prunes, Poached Pears, Quince Paste, Dry Fruit & Nuts

Duck& Chicken Liver Terrine on Toast with Red Wine Onion Jam

 Bread Table

Mini Muffins, Croissants, Mini Danish, Apple Turnovers, Sugar Pies, Twists, Chocolate Croissants, Brioche

Bread Selection

Rustic Rolls, Fig & Walnut Ficelles, Sourdough Epi, Potato Dill, Assorted Foccacia

Fresh Fruit Station

Assorted Apples, Marinated Fruits

 Seafood Station

On Ice:

Gulf Shrimp, Crab Claws, Green Lip Mussels, Malpeque Oysters

 Sushi

Chef Station

Sushi Made to Order

Assorted Condiments

Smoked Seafood

Homemade Winter Cured Alaskan Salmon, Peppered Mackerel, Trout

Traditional Garnishes, Buttered Black Bread

 Caviar

American Sturgeon, Salmon, Gold Caviar

Pumpernickel Bread, Blinis, Classic Garnitures

Breakfast Station

Chef Station

Omelets &   Eggs- Made to Order

Eggnog French toast Sticks

Vanilla Waffles

Caramel, Chocolate Sauces, Cinnamon Whipped Cream, Maple Syrup, Chopped Pecans

From Chafing Dish

Roasted Red Bliss Potatoes, caramelized peppers, onions

Poached Eggs Benedict, smoked Salmon, Canadian bacon, Hollandaise Sauce

Ricotta Cheese Blintzes, Blackberry Compote

Chicken sausage links, Applewood smoked bacon

 Carving/ Entrée Station

Chef Station

Whole Roasted Capon, Georgia Pecan Jus

Slow Roasted Prime Rib, Pinot Noir Reduction

Traditional Christmas Ham, Pineapple Peach Marmalade

From Chafing Dish

Banana & Sweet Potato Puree, Maple Syrup Swirl

Braised Savoy Cabbage stuffed with House Cured Smoked Bacon

Creamy Roasted Garlic & Chive Potatoes

Winter Root Vegetables with Shallot Butter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Pasta Selections

               Lobster Ravioli, Braised Leeks, Wild Mushrooms, Cognac Butter

Honshimeji Mushroom & Celery Risotto, Braised Oxtail, Natural Jus

Sautéed Seafood

Pan Seared Scallops, Blue Crab Orzo Pasta, Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Smoked Scottish Salmon, Lavender, Purple Peruvian Potato, Acorn Squash Glaze

Soup

Toasted Chestnut Soup, Crisp Pancetta

Christmas Brunch Desserts

Eggnog & Chocolate Chip Croissant Pudding

Poached Cranberry Vanilla Swirl Cheesecake

Candy Cane Mousse Chocolate Cups

Chestnut “Mini” Yule Logs

Ginger Pear Upside down Cake

Cappuccino Éclairs

Bouche De Noel “Brandied Cherry” Buttercream

Fruit Tarts

Pecan Tarts

Vanilla Brulee

Chocolate Mint Brulee

Assorted Chocolate & Bon Bons

Assorted Holiday Cookies

Pate De Fruit

Assorted Macaroons

Marshmallow: Peppermint, Vanilla, Mocha

Apple Cobbler with Crème Anglaise

Chocolate Fountain

Assorted Dipping Items

 Chef Station

Apple Cider Beignet, Warm Rum Butter Caramel sauce, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream     

“Ingredients are not sacred. The art of cuisine is sacred. It is at that altar I worship, and I shall go to sacrifice the fat geese and tender cattle to serve its ends. The holy icons of the chef’s faith—fragrant truffles, rich foie gras, well-marbled meats and other luxurious ingredients – these are not God. Their synthesis and their miraculous transformation into a sum greater than its parts is creation, and this is what I find most worthy of reverence.” Tanith Tyrr

 

 

 

 

 

Dim Sum for Three

 Yuen has been feeding us the leftovers from her soirees into Atlanta’s Chinatown for weeks. Tony the grill guy, had spent two years  in Hong Kong teaching English, fallen in love and found a wife before returning to the United States, suggested it would be fun, if we all met up for Dim Sum one Sunday. We all agreed, and Yuen volunteered to take us to

Learning to use a chopstick is not as easy as it looks

her favorite restaurant. Chinese restaurants usually serve Dim Sum on Saturdays and Sundays between 11 am and 2pm which would be perfect for our little crew on the night shift. We could meet, hang out, eat and be at work in time for our 2pm shift.  That was a month ago.

EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES

Celia – “Sorry, I’m pulling a double this Sunday, can’t make it.” Like Murphy’s Law if something could go wrong it did.

Tony –   “my father is coming that day to help with repairs on the house, can’t make it.  Finally, I decided that with or without my coworkers, I was going, so Yuen and I made plans for this Sunday, December 12th.

This is my first Dim Sum experience; I’m twelve years old again and dreaming about opening all my presents under the Christmas tree. The night before, I made sure to set my alarm for 10:30am, but there was no need. At 10 am, my eyes pop open like twin slices of crisp warmed bread from the toaster. Impatient, restless and excited, I try to lie still and breathe. It’s warm and cozy under the blankets but adventure beckons. I stretch, wiggle my toes, turn on my right

Naw Mai Fan (Sticky rice): steamed sticky rice with chinese sausage, dried shrimp, shitake mushrooms, soy sauce
Shrimp spring roll

side, then the left and squeeze my pillow tight and tighter until finally, exasperated; I toss the covers aside and head for the bathroom. It’s December, and the water is bracingly cold and invigorating. With a bar of soap in hand, I quickly wash my face, shifting from foot to foot, as tiny droplets cascade down my chin and onto my pajamas.  Shivering, I reach for a towel and with it, wipe away the last vestige of sleep from my face. 

Oolong tea

I’m awake and like the squirrel, bright eyed and bushy tailed. It’s a Sunday morning and I’m not sure if the rest of the world is up like me; so I text Yuen instead “Are you up?” I ask.  Standing in the kitchen, I press the send button and begin to poke around in the pantry, for something warm to appease my (tummy) savage beasty. A steaming cup of hot

Jun Gee Gai (Lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice and meat): Soft, chewy sticky rice mixed with fatty pork bits, chicken, and Chinese sausage.

chocolate will do. Some people drink coffee, others prefer tea, but I’ve never outgrown the taste of Nestlé’s Swiss chocolate mix, with the tiny marshmallows in it. Triumphant, I find my prize, hidden behind a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. I’m still in the kitchen, sipping from my coffee mug, when the phone vibrates on the counter, it’s a text message from Yuen, “yes I’m up, 11:30am at the BP gas station on Buford Highway,” she replies. Yuen works as a bartender at my restaurant and has agreed to meet me today. She’s from Hong Kong, which in my opinion makes her an expert on Dim Sum, and the perfect person to act as my guide.

Cha siu bao, (Cantonese barbecue pork buns), the buns are filled with barbecue-flavored cha siu pork.

Outside, it’s cold, wet and windy; already Jack Frost has sent the first December snowflakes a swirl in the air like fine confetti. Don’t care, like a true Jamaican I’m wrapped from head to toe, – knit cap, scarf, jacket, gloves, boots and thermal under clothing – its dim sum or

Haa Churng (Rice noodle rolls stuffed with shrimp): Soft, slightly chewy sheets of rolled up rice noodles filled with shrimp and doused with sweet soy sauce.

bust. My phone rings, its 11:30, “grabbing my car keys I head for the door, as the phone continues to ring, “I’m heading to my car, I’ll be there in five minutes” I say while closing my apartment door. “That’s okay, I’m on my way too” Yuen replies. This is good; I thought I was late, which would have been embarrassing.

I’m ashamed to admit, that I’ve been living in Atlanta for more than a year, and I still get lost easily, which is why Yuen had agreed to meet me at the BP gas station. So we meet and I drive behind her on Buford Highway. Within minutes, we are in the parking lot of a large Chinese restaurant filled with cars. We go inside and head towards the table where her son, Daniel, is already seated.

The restaurant is busy and the loud hum from a hundred different conversations is reminiscent of bees gathering nectar for the hive. The restaurant has a festive feel, parents with children in tow coming and going and servers pushing carts laden with food in steaming metal containers navigate between the tables. The color red in Chinese culture symbolizes good fortune and joy, and it is prominent- in the lettering naming the restaurant , in the main foyer, on vases, even the servers’ aprons are red. I love it! This is Dim Sum in full swing.

Beef Chow Mein

Yuen explains that in Hong Kong, Dim Sum is a communal affair where people gather to eat, gossip and most important of all drink tea. She says it’s not about the tiny bite size morsels offered on these carts, “Dim Sum is about drinking tea”. On our table there are three ting cups, and an aluminum tea pot filled with steaming hot Oolong tea. The idea is that one drinks tea, talk/gossip and if something on the Dim Sum cart catches your eye, it is placed on your table and the server makes a mark on your check. And so we sat, for an hour then two, drinking Oolong tea, talking and sampling whatever caught our fancy. It’s fun, there’s no rush, we could stay as long as we pleased, and at the end whatever food lay uneaten was placed in “to go” containers, for home. Between the three of us the bill came to around sixty dollars, which is a fair price to pay for all that food. Sated and content, we said our goodbyes, and made promises to do this again – soon. Taking my little container of goodies home, I felt as if indeed I had received an early Christmas present. I will be back, hopefully with more friends, on a Sunday morning to enjoy an ancient custom and cuisine that is Dim Sum.

Thomas Keller – The Man and the Mystique

This is my  living memorial for Thomas Keller a chef who I have never had the pleasure to meet. Meeting the man would be an honor, because his creative genius and philosohy has helped influence my career as a professional cook. I need to note that all the photographs in this post are reproduced from his cookbooks. In other words I took a picture of his pictures with my camera.

 Michael Ruhlman in his book, “The Reach of a Chef,” asked Tim Ryan president of the Culinary Institute of America to define greatness in any artist. His response was “great artists are excellent craftsmen, they are innovators that do things no one has done before, their innovations are perceived to be of value, and they are influential because others start to do what they started.”

Thomas Keller is at the cusp of his career, regarded by his peers as a chef among chefs, not one, but two, three star Michelin rated restaurants confirm this. He is a man on a mission, a purist dedicated exclusively to constantly perfecting his craft. His purpose is personal; his motivation turned inwards could be viewed as selfish to a fault. Thomas Keller and his restaurant empire epitomizes American fine dining, they exist in the rarefied air reserved for the few with the talent and ambition to cook as none before them.                                             

From afar he is viewed as a culinary mastermind, a demigod in the kitchen, up close he is over six feet tall with wavy hair streaked with grey. Dark pensive eyes stare from a face that seems deep in thought, as if the machinations of normal people are a distraction to be tolerated fleetingly. An American icon, his place among luminaries such as James Beard and Julia Child is assured because like them, he has inspired a generation to revel in the bounty of American ingredients. He has demonstrated how exhilarating it can be, when ingredients are taken by a master technician and transformed into a sumptuous feast that tempts the eye and teases the palate.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 In October 1997, the New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl in speaking about the FrenchLaundry said “this is the most exciting restaurant in America.” A meal here, she exclaimed, “is a wild ride, an exhilarating flavor carnival.”

"Tagliatelle" of Cuttlefish and Hawaiian Heart of Peach Palm, White Nectarine, Sweet Pepper Confetti, and vinaigrette A L'Encre De Seiche

Success and acclaim did not happen overnight. In fact his journey towards this final culmination when ambition meets careful preparation began thirty- four years earlier at the age of nineteen. As fate would have it the chef at the Yacht club where his mother Betty Keller was manager had just quit. Deciding that her son needed to learn a trade, and begin the journey towards self-independence and manhood she convinced her son to accept the job as the Yacht Club’s new chef. Smiling at the memory Thomas remembers the first time he made a hollandaise sauce’ “I was so excited, I ran out and told Captain John the dock manager. I was twenty years old; I’d never made a hollandaise sauce before.” The story does not end there, because for the next two years, each   day he made that hollandaise he would try to make it better than he’d ever done before. This personal glimpse into the psyche of young Thomas Keller sows the seeds for what would later develop into his relentless pursuit of finessing everything he touched, down to each minute detail. His quest to improve on knowledge learned, would lead him to the kitchen of his mentor, Chef Roland Henin.

Steak Tartare - Compressed Watermelon and Hayden Mango "Yolk"

This meeting was the beginning of a relationship in which Henin was the teacher and Thomas the eager pupil. Thomas recalls that” Henin was the first person to teach him the fundamentals of cooking: how to make stocks, how to roast, how to braise. He taught me how to peel a tomato, things that nobody took the time to show me before.” From this foundation Thomas went on to work in the kitchens of other classically trained French chefs. He did this for several years until he decided that the time was right for him to refine his training in France.  The knowledge learned in the kitchens of these masters of French cuisine would give Thomas the technique, the how to, that would serve him well in years to come. This was one half of the equation that helped Thomas Keller become the man and chef he is today.

To learn more about this great chef, the impact of Betty Keller on helping to shape and guide her son’s life cannot be denied. It was his mom who helped to instill in her son characteristic traits that would make Thomas Keller a legend among chefs. When speaking about his mother

Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche

he says, “She showed me tenacity, hard work, cleanliness.” His determination to succeed, to expect the best and accept nothing less, he learnt from his mother. It is the combination of technique learnt by working in the kitchens of great chefs and the values he learnt from his mother that has made Thomas Keller into what he is today. Despite his exalted stature Thomas still enjoys performing even mundane tasks. One of his line cook’s Grant Achtaz of Alinea fame, recalls the first time he met the chef. Remembering his first day of work, “on the day I arrived in Yountville and appeared in the kitchen, the first thing I saw was the chef sweeping the floor, and I knew that this kitchen would be different.

Glazed Breast of Pork with Swiss Chard, White wine poached ?Granny Smith apples, and Green Mustard Viniagrette

These words would ring true and as several of the cooks who have left to start their own careers as executive chefs will attest, working with and for Thomas Keller has irrevocably changed their lives. As Thomas Keller continues to cook, he will also continue to influence future generations of chefs who will look to his example for guidance and inspiration. His philosophy is simple and he uses a childhood memory to give it voice. “I was very lucky to have been raised by my mother in such an ideal way as to allow me to understand the details of things. A lot of it is based on having to do certain chores around the house. You clean the bathroom, which was my job. There was only one way to do it. Everything had to shine. Everything had to be just perfect. Her definition of perfect which became my definition of perfect.

Works Cited
Ruhlman, Michael, The Reach of A Chef: beyond the kitchen  Penguin Putnam Inc., 2006,New York, New York
Ruhlman, Michael, The Soul of a Chef– The Journey Toward Perfection  Penguin Putnam Inc., 2000,New York,

My Little Voice

“Today is the same as yesterday as it will be tomorrow.”Jomo Morris

My little voice grates inside my head, it pulses and seeps through my every waking and sleeping moment, like the stain of roasted coffee beans percolating drop by drop through a conical paper filter. My little voice courses through every crevasse of my soul, a molten tide, seething and powerful. I am in awe at the strength of my emotions. Captive in its grasp, I burn with fever because of its touch. My little voice is reason – my conscience, my fears, my mentor and tormentor. This is my core, my font for inspiration  as a professional cook.  Clogs, chequered pants and jacket, they are mine, a part of my profession and I am proud to wear them.My passion binds me to my craft and it is an exhilarating elixir to taste, as delicious as the best Blue Mountain coffee. The stoves, ovens, steamers, pots and pans are mine to use with skill and precision. In my hands,  they are old friends that speak a language my little voice understands.My kitchen exudes confidence and a unified sense of purpose, as seasoned line cooks adeptly navigate through the tension and underlying currents that build in anticipation of 5:30 dinner service. I am at home in the kitchen.

 I wish this were not true, then I would be free to walk on the sun.

My little voice knows my passion in life, is a two edged sword – a blessing and a curse. Facing my own fear, leaves an acrid after taste, like ash on the tongue. I hate cooking, I love to cook. Calluses, scars, cuts, bruises, from elbow to finger tip. So many I’m numb, they don’t hurt anymore. I’m too busy, ignore them. Do I care enough to taste the last plate I put in the pass, did I even taste the first one? Where am I in my craft? Am I learning and growing in this kitchen? Do I even want to stay here, maybe, not anymore? Who said that? Who’s speaking? Little voice inside my head – go away. But what about your goals and dreams. They don’t care, YOU ARE NOT IMPORTANT,  just keep working! I guarantee you’ll never be out of debt. That’s living paycheck to paycheck in the professional kitchen.

Focus– My little voice retreats and I’m grateful for the solitude. The kitchen is eerily quiet, the morning shift is gone and for a few precious moments, time stands still. Running my hands along the polished stainless steel counter-tops, that tonight,will cradle gleaming white plates, with food still sizzling from the saute pan; I’m reminded of my purpose as a professional cook. My craft is more than sustenance for the hungry, it is magic to the uninitiated. The act 0f cooking is a stimulating conversation between the cook and each guest. It is an introduction to my life, my experiences, my joy. Your patronage says that my hard work is appreciated and  my little voice knows that I am happy.

Sacrifice – To dream of becoming a professional cook is not what you can do; but what you are willing to do without.I have no regrets for the birthdays I’ve missed. Yet another holiday celebration spent behind the high octane burners of a Garland stove. Unanswered phone calls, messages I forgot to return. They pale in comparisonto the bonds I’ve formed with fellow cooks. We share, laugh together, drink together, we fiercely protect our own. My little voice is a part of this community, this is our reality and we cling to it. The kitchen is our melting pot, it doesn’t care about your race, age, ethnicity or background – you belong.