Another Day in Poe's Kitchen at The Rattlesnake

Chef Brian Poe shows you the world in the back of the house.

Archive for September, 2009

How I Roll on Rosh Hashanah, or, When Poe’s Kitchen Is in Someone Else’s Home

prep list I’ve done a lot of off-property catering over the years, for three reasons. Charitable causes are number one. Two and three are because it’s fun and because it’s fun. I find that when I cook in people’s homes for them and several of their closest friends, we have the opportunity to really connect over food. It is truly the most relaxed and intimate setting to cook in. I get eye contact; I get verbal feedback—and you can bet that when I overhear an “mmmm….that’s good” or a “wow, that sauce is incredible,” I’m mentally writing the next Unleashed Menu. It’s a daily treat to build a menu from scratch at the restaurant—but it’s easy, I’ve got staff to help me. It’s a real adventure to build a menu from scratch in a strange kitchen, flying solo with only a chef’s knife and whatever equipment the owner makes available.  

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This past weekend I went to New York to cook a  Rosh Hashanah dinner for someone whom I  consider a dear friend—someone who has unknowingly been a strong influence on my career, in terms of both my creative direction and my business sense. He shares the crowning title of “People I Love to Cook For,” and here’s why: he too accepts my nutty-professor approach to cooking, based on endless curiosity, and he too understands that fine dining doesn’t mean always mean foie gras and crystal. It emphasizes simple fun with high-quality ingredients in any setting that brings good people together. And it’s their voices I hear in my head as I cook.

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fennel and fenugreek bassOnce I’ve accepted a gig, here’s the general sequence of events:

1.      E-mails are exchanged with menu ideas. Everything from the season and likes/dislikes to religion and allergies are discussed. In this case, there was no pork, no shellfish, no dairy, no vinegar, no raw fish—talk about taking all of my favorite tricks out of the book!

2.      A menu is presented.

3.      The atmsophere is discussed; a sense of how the evening will unfold begins to develop.

4.      Flights are booked; hotels are booked.

5.      As preparation on the ground begins, 16 hours in advance, time is of the essence, stress levels build, and confidence is tested.

6.      Cooking from scratch begins—I must get organized quickly! The last few hours before guests arrive in someone else’s home are always the most intense!

7.      I have one hour to to run to the hotel, shower, put on my best chef’s coat, and return to the house for a meet and greet!

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Exposure is the most interesting part of catering versus cooking at Poe’s Kitchen. In my own place, I have time and space to meditate and regroup before the dinner rush begins. In another person’s home, I’m constantly on display. No cursing when I burn myself, no one but me to clean up the mess, no one even to demonstrate my methods to. And this brings me humbly back to my roots. Real cooking happens when it’s for people you love and respect. How do I take that feeling back into a professional environment? One course at a time…

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The menu, for your approval.

The C Family

 Rosh Hashanah Dinner Celebration 2009

 

Appetizers

Fig & Pine Nut Butter Stacks

Gravlax on Cucumber with Caper, Onion & Blackberry Compote

Minted Mediterranean Vegetable Cous Cous “Spring Rolls” with Leek Dipping Sauce

Salad:

Apple Carpaccio Salad

  Arugula~ Champagne and Apple Vinaigrette~ McIntosh Apples~ Strawberry Honey Glaze~ Cashew & Cinnamon Sugar Dust

Soup:

Mrs. C’s Secret Recipe of Chicken Soup

Traditions:

Potato and Noodle Kugel & Gefilte fish

Entrees:

Trio Plate of:

Pan Seared Coriander Cilantro Chicken

Apple & Tomatillo Salsa

  Saffron Infused Celery Root Puree~ Leek and Scallion Nest

Apricot & Mint Stuffed Tenderloin of Beef

Sun dried Apricot, Basil & Mint Stuffed Filet ~ Balsamic Jerusalem Artichoke & Garlic Mashed Potatoes ~ Veal Stock Reduction

Cabbage Wrapped Roasted Sea Bass

Upon a duo of Beet Borscht and Tzimmes Purees ~ Date and Acorn Squash “Salsa” and Fennel Pollen

 

 

 

Dessert will be Purchased

 Shana Tova Umetukah!

Culinary Artistry: The Syllabus!

I feel like Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Back to School. Ten years ago, if you’d asked me to step to the front of a classroom full of 20- and 21-year-olds and try my hand at teaching, I would have laughed in your face and kept my hand where it belonged, on the handle of my saute pan.

But now, in retrospect, it seems I never really left the classroom. It just happens to look like a kitchen. I was 23, an instructor from the Greenbrier Resort told me that in order to be a good chef you have to be good at the following five things:

1. You have to be a good cook.
2. You have to be a good manager.
3. You have to be a good businessperson.
4. You have to be a good parent and a good citizen (because you will probably raise some kids in that kitchen!).

And most importantly,
5. You have to be a good teacher.

I’ve lived by these five rules ever since.

I started teaching at Newbury College last year. Not with the goal of switching professions—and certainly not for the money. I was simply very curious to know what schools were teaching the chefs of the future and wanted to be a part of it.

51X63CJ0V7L._SS400_My first class was conducted online from Santiago, Chile, where I e-mailed the students a great chapter from Becoming a Chef titled “Travel, Eating, and Reading: Learning Something New Everyday”—which is just what I was doing, teaching by example as I discovered that the South America you see on CNN is not the warm, wonderful South America you meet in the kitchen and around the dinner table. In the book are some quotes from Lydia Shire—someone I never thought I would actually meet, but who has turned out to be a strong influence on my career—who noted that kids should spend less money on Walkmans (now iPods) and more money and time on travel and education. Guess who I quoted on Monday night during the intro to my fall seminar, Culinary Artistry?

The beauty of it all I’ve grown to love teaching. In our industry we work a lot of hours with some happy people and some unhappy people, some cheery optimists and some bitter drunks. The industry can be tough on us all. But there is nothing more restorative than walking into a group full of eager young people who excited to take everything to take all that fresh learning and apply it in the real world!  As they learn and grow, so do I—while remembering just why I love this business so much.

Here are a few key items on my syllabus. It’s already shaping up to be a great class.

9780316178310_388X586October 5
Cooking for Ideas: Where to Look While We Cook and While We Live

Assignment- Research the top 50 Restaurants in the U.S. and World (guidance will be provided on where to locate this information) then choose one that you would like to research further for your final exam/paper.

October 26
Realities of Our Workplace and How to Create Around Them?

We will discuss how to create around the demands of staffing, bosses, ownership, shortages, costs and running your business. (case study)

December 7th
Building Your Happy Place

How do you inspire those around you to create? How do you create? What is your best environment and time of day for creating food ideas? How do you work around the hectic schedules of school and work to create? What does your ideal creative space look like? (with reading assignment from the book The Six Thinking Hats).

Jeepers! Or, My Shiny New Flying Burrito

For about ten years I had an old red Jeep Wrangler, thoughtfully referred to by myself and friends as “The Burro.” She earned the nickname when a fishing trip turned into a 4×4 adventure on a motorcycle trail that wound around a steep and narrow cliff. Unlike me, The Burro wasn’t scared; she just kept kicking along like the donkey she was. I say “was,” because she was the victim of a hit-and-run last October and we had to put her to rest. Sniffle, sigh.

What does this have to do with food, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, but first—a little background. All my life I’ve sworn that before I got married, I would have a Jeep, a boat and a dog named Salty. Salty is going to be a yellow Lab, and the boat is on the horizon for next spring. No comment yet on the future wife, except that we’ll own a retirement home with an ocean for a front yard and a farm for a backyard, so that Salty and the Jeep will have nice places to play (separately, of course).

48black_Shirt I also intend to own 365 Hawaiian shirts under $15 with the center buttons missing, so I can get in a good old-man belly scratch after every meal. (My collection is well on its way already; I even have a Hawaiian print housekey.)

Anyway, so far I’ve only had the Jeep. But that Burro and I took some serious food trips in our time. We had a tent, sleeping bags, a camp stove, fishing rods, and of course Hawaiian shirts within reach when we lived in Arizona, where we visited every farm imaginable. We toured Colorado and fished Pagosa Springs, picked wild strawberries in the redwoods of Northern California, and sipped wine all along the left coast. Warning shots were fired at us while we looked for a buffalo ranch on an Indian reservation in New Mexico. We dug deep around El Paso, where we ate like kings out of roadside trailers and stared in awe at the realities of border life. We scoured Nogales and pondered Chihuahua. We had our fun on the East Coast, too, touring Virginia wineries and the Pennsylvania Dutch country. We did all of New York state—The Burro and I loved our Hudson Valley. Connecticut brought us Mark Twain and some good grub. Vermont confused us but we fell in love. We really got to see this country, The Burro and I. Why, in Massachusetts, we were even given permission to drive through the cranberry bogs in Lakeville, the corporate headquarters of Ocean Spray, one Sunday; we then headed up to a great goat farm in Topsfield and milked the goats before slugging some Ipswich beer out of a jug and listening to the Sox game on the radio. We even almost got arrested on a trip toNewburyport for not knowing that a) Burros are not allowed on the beach and b) you have to have a license to dig for clams!

At points in my career I was told that I should have a grown-up car—that I should live up to the standards of my position (not to mention of a good boyfriend)—so I finally bought one of those fancy Grand Cherokees with GPS and lots of buttons. But The Burro and I outlived them all on our culinary journeys.

Yesterday, I woke up a little sad to feel the weather turning. With apple-picking season just around the corner and pumpkin patches about to burst, I really missed The Burro. So when I saw

Jeep

the ’97 Wrangler in my driveway, I thought I must be dreaming. But then my girl—one of the few who never hounded me to get rid of The Burro—handed me the keys! She and I tossed names around—and we’re leaning toward a play on The Burro that also alludes to Poe’s Kitchen—The Burrito. With a name like that, she can only carry us in good directions.

Much like my signature Flying Burrito Bro’.

Poe's burrito

WIth grilled chicken, chorizo, black beans, asparagus & tobacco-chile sauce, it’s got all-wheel drive.