Duck Saltimbocca Ballotine

Here are some guidelines to making a beautiful ballotine of duck for under $30. I used the inspiration of one of my favorite Italian dishes, and made it with duck instead of the traditional chicken. This process will take some minor knife skills but in the end I think you and your guests will adore the results.

Cut the duck skin down the center. The skin is sturdy so don’t be afraid to pull it back and cut in the grooves between the breast, skin, and legs. Once both sides are down to the wings, flip over and use your handy cleaver, or carefully find the cut with a chefs knife.

Now, once you remove the skin you separate off the legs first, then the breast. Leaving the rest of roast off and boil for stock, or toss it. Then the next step is to remove all the meat from the bones and prep the skin to be rolled.

Now that you have your skin patted down with a paper towel. Line it completely with proscuitto on the whole side. Chiffonade up some sage and lightly dress the whole area. Then add your baby swiss to the stop of the duck meat like so.

Once you’ve rolled up this beauty, you’re going to need to crisp up both sides in a large nonstick pan. You can most certainly tie the ballotine in Butchers Twine, but Ill typically just start by cooking with the crease side down. Once you’ve achieved the right color and texture of the skin, toss it in the oven for 15-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Let rest for at least 8 minutes once out of the oven.

Then Slice

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Duck Saltimbocca Ballotine over Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Acorn Squash Puree

Any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask!

Finding a Home in Hospitality

I love interviewing. At the very least interviewing is a chance to exchange philosophy and make connections in the industry, and at its best, an opportunity to find your second home. In an industry which encourages turnover, veterans tend to take a different approach in where they will land, prioritizing teamwork and education over money. On your next interview, stage, of even first couple weeks on the job, here are three things to keep in mind to help you avoid becoming a “number”.

My Staff vs. My Team- I’ve seen it a hundred times. A bartender or line cook gets promoted, and immediately starts posting about ” Their staff”. They have waited so long to hold that clipboard that they are injected with a sense of empowerment and completely neglect the idea of servant leadership. So be weary of the interviewer whom refers to her or his team as “my staff” constantly, and hope for the ones who say, ” our team”, because thats the family you want to be a part of.

Good afternoon, Good evening, and Goodnight- One thing I learned from spending two years in the Caribbean, is the importance of respect for my neighbors and co-workers. Now that doesn’t suggest I won’t bust chops or call someone out, or be called out myself, but you better believe I am wishing them a good day first, and expect the same in return. I worked briefly for a major restaurant group in Austin, and for three weeks I walked into work and wished everyone I passed a Good Afternoon, and only about 10% of the people said it back. This suggests two things, either they hate their jobs, or truly feel themselves to be locally famous. Either way, theres always time to show respect, and it’s a great way to find out early if you are walking into a team, or just a bunch of staff.

” So, what are you doing with all of this?” – In all of my years of interviewing, only two people asked me this question. Joshua Walker & Joey Ryan, the owners of Xioa Bao Biscuit in Charleston, S.C., who happen to be two of the most respected names in the industry, sat me down and asked me how I was going to make a name for myself, asked me about my objectives and big hairy audacious goals. After listening, they proceeded to share with their goals, their journey to opening, and their philosophy toward their team taking ownership over the restaurant. To this day, turning down that job to work for a big James Beard Award restaurant, where I was literally called by number one, two, or three, remains a huge regret.

Before your interview, just remember to respect yourself first, and beware of those who won’t take the time to wish you a good day, call you by your name, or show interest in your goals. It is the only way you’ll find pleasure in your work and more importantly, the only way you’ll ever understand the true meaning of hospitality.

A Note to Employers without Restaurant Experience

Allow me to apologize in advance if you have had terrible experiences with servers, bartenders, or inept managers. Your food has no doubt at one time or another arrived cold, oversalted, untimely, bland, or even unedible. These are some of the unfortunate issues that arrive when dining out, and for some employees, this will be as good as it gets, but for many, the job is just a small step in their life where they can refine skills in an area they are interested in. Once a few of these skills are honed, they become a force that industries across the board should be embracing. Just to name a few.

Patience- Rarely, do things run effortlessly. The average server or bartender will be responsible for 15-25 seats at a given time. This means that one person can keep their head and stay focused amidst of an onslaught of questions about menu items, dietary restrictions, available substitutions, product sources, food and beverage pairings, cooking techniques, and personal ones like my favorite, “ So is this your real job?”, all while continuing to smile and manage requests, from a consumer holding an App in their hands, ready to brutally critique your performance and make it available to everyone.

Sense of Urgency- While you shouldn’t see it, you have no doubt seen a server or bartender “In the Weeds”. This is because they are reliant on their team to deliver the product as described, to the end-user, as quickly as possible. The best servers and bartenders in the world are scowling(mostly in private) because they know they have to give someone disappointing news, or are forced to ignore a guest who just sat down at a dirty bar seat, or have to manage an order for 20 old-fashioned cocktails with 15 different whiskeys to a large table that decided to show up without a reservation, simultaneously. A task some might find impossible, a person with a sense of urgency always steps up to the challenge, and not just for the money or their team, but for their name as well.

Intelligence- Food and Beverage, being sort of up there in our hierarchy of needs, has an incredible past, present, and future. The rich history of how people nourish and reward themselves around the world is fascinating to many of us. In the midst of all the pressure of the job itself, having answers on deck about anything from the subregions of Burgundy or Barolo from north to south, to how sodium alginate works, the differences between raki and ouzo, where beer comes from, why sous vide the octopus, what’s in a soufflé, is it gluten/dairy/sugar/locally sourced and GMO free? These of just a few of the questions the average server or bartender will receive in a 20 minute timeframe. Many of us take pride in teaching our guests, and as a representative of your company, will do the same.

I implore you. Set aside a few time slots to interview someone pivoting out of the Food and Beverage industry. Not only will you potentially add a team member with a few of the virtues I just mentioned, but someone who will no doubt be ready to entertain and inform potential or existing clients, work alongside other departments for a common objective, and seal the deal with a heightened sense of urgency while always remaining fiduciary.

Thank you

 

 

 

14 Layer Turkey Lasagna

Haven’t made Lasagna since helping my Mom in 4th grade, and even she remembered to put the Egg in the Ricotta! But my guests seemed to be happy with the result. I highly recommend, when making a ground turkey lasagna, adding a 4th of the weight in turkey sausage. I added single layers of spicy breadcrumbs and freshly diced Roma’s. Make sure to add the liquid from the ground turkey and sausage to your sauce and reduce down to a slightly chunky consistency. Lastly, lots of onion in the sauce, more than you think you need, and cook them down with whole garlic until the cloves break apart easily, then add your white wine. A little red wine after the tomato’s will not hurt, according to Godfather one, and I believe it

The Educational Institute VS. The Restaurant

Yesterday I bar hopped after a long run. Not usually going to work on my days off, I stopped in to see a busy happy hour and three teammates sitting at the Bar, enjoying their day off and the weather. I asked to join them and ordered a Grappa Mule, and very quickly the convo turned to backstories and restaurant theory. It made my day because before I ran out of there, they invited me to a study group they were putting together. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest that others still believe, and desire to work in a Restaurant that is an Educational Institute.

In Arlington, VA. For nearly 2 years, some “soon to be” giant restaurant success stories let us in on a secret, every day, for 30-45 minutes before evening service. These secrets are the bottles your wine directors never allow you to taste, the Wine and Spirits Reps who were encouraged to build relationships with the entire team, not just one person, the kitchen that would send out a dish on the menu to taste almost daily. Everyone on the FOH team would then go around in a circle suggesting wine, beer, a cocktail that would pair, and why? We would even practice mock service, and give presentations to educate our peers further on the menu we served. These circles of taste were what inspired most of us to come in and take our jobs fucking seriously, always.

Everyone from that team is either still there or gone on to some of the top levels and honors of the Food and Beverage world. Is this just coincidental? No Restaurant Manual I’ve ever read, covers this section. The need for the Educational Institute transcends the manual that only rates a restaurants success by Ratios.

Simply, I rather use a restaurant to build a network, and thats exactly what I just got invited to at my job. Can’t wait.

What’s your Wifi?

When the person providing your service asks, how you are doing? please do not reply, ” What’s your Wifi?”

Instead, Ask about the restaurants Concept, or Pick out an obscure word on the menu and ask your server about it. Or simply reply, Im fine, and you? Offer at least a semblance of human decency, if only upon greeting.

I assure you. The thought will always pay off, unless your server acts like they’re famous, in which case, screw them!

 

 

 

Tipping the Kitchen: It’d be a lot cooler if you did.

A couple years ago now I took a position as a server assistant @ FIG in Charleston, SC. For 3 Months, working at one of the busiest restaurants in the Country, I became obsessed with the idea of going above and beyond. If this were the top, at least in the South, why not bring water faster than anyone, polish a glass better than anyone ever had, describe a dish in less than 5 seconds dropping it off & have them salivating, panties wet. Though I loved the idea of proving myself somehow, I suddenly felt compelled to give my 2 weeks for two reasons, Politics, and the day a gentleman my own age, handed me 5 dollars for how efficient I was at keeping his water-glass full, after he’d been waiting in line outside for over an hour.

In that moment, I missed the Kitchen. A lifestyle that requires 12 hours of work for 8 hours of pay to do correctly.  Hell I was making fantastic money  polishing glassware while watching Jake and Rachel cook fish perfectly behind the line. Polishing Silver while watching a Chef, who a week before had won a James Beard Award, washing dishes to keep the service solid. Asking them if they were truly willing to make themselves look dickish, for putting out something they knew wasn’t perfect.

There are other kitchens, where the Chef gets all the praise. Interviews, access, swag, you name it. Some don’t share, some do, but nevertheless a small consideration will mean more to the person who spent their entire afternoon making sure your evening was spectacular, than it will to someone working exclusively for tips.

Something as small as a 12 pack of High Life, Gatorade Mix, or a 5 Dollar bill, means the world to  cooks whom rarely receive the praise they deserve, both in print and financially. Though it is about knowledge and passion, in my experience, people who throw a kind gesture at the kitchen are generally remembered, and for the most part given special consideration in future visits.

You’re not required to feel any empathy for a Chef, it’s the life they choose, and this message is not meant to make you feel forced to ever spend more money than necessary while dining out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not classy as fuck.