Thoughts on “Scratch Cooking”

I got into a discussion online the other day about some new and exciting things that are happening here at the Grill. In the process of describing what is different, it all-of-a-sudden hit me that I should really talk about what is the same. This led me to a bit of a rant on MY definition of “Scratch Cooking”. It’s a little frustrating as a real chef in the Land-of-the-Chain (aka Dayton, Ohio) how so many throw around the words “scratch” and “cooking” in the same sentence. Hence, this description of what I believe the words to mean.

pasta sheetspasta wip 2
At the Hawthorn Grill, “from scratch” doesn’t mean opening a box and throwing a frozen pie into the oven. It doesn’t mean dropping frozen mozzarella sticks in the fryer. It doesn’t mean mixing together a few spice packets and tossing that with pre-tenderized, pre-seasoned, pre-breaded, pre-cut chicken or fish or beef and putting that in the oven and calling it ours. It doesn’t mean taking a lump of bread or pizza dough out of the freezer and calling it made from scratch. Too many people use these ingredients and techniques in today’s hectic world of fast and cheap.  However, in our kitchen, we use flour, cream, butter, yeast, sugar, carrots, onions and celery.

Huevos WIP 03.06.16Chocolate Pudding WIP 03.06.15

We cook things the way your grandmother did. We chop vegetables with a knife, we mix flour and butter together to make pie crust and fill that crust with apples we peel and dice in our kitchen. We peel real potatoes everyday for service, cook and mash them with butter, cream and salt. We roll out pasta that was made from nothing but flour and local eggs. We get in whole chickens, break them down, roast the bones for stock, brine the breasts for dinner service, and grind the thighs with freshly ground ancho chiles and tequila for real chicken chorizo.

Spatzle WIP 02.02.17

We simmer mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion) with garlic and herbs for our vegetable stock. Would it be easier to get in pre-chopped veggies, pre-marinated meat, pre-bagged salad greens, canned stocks and bases and pre-made desserts? Of course. But that isn’t what we do. We cook. From scratch. Every day. Because we love it.
The next time you go out, think about what it is that happens in the kitchen….is it scratch…or is it memorex?

Rich idea for a decadent Valentine’s Day

Crispy Chicken with Alfredo 11.16.16

I got an email notification yesterday that Christmas decorating ideas were trending on Pinterest…wait, WHAT?!?  I’m not quite that ahead of the game and I’m guessing you aren’t either.  I am barely ready for Valentine’s Day and that’s only a few days away!  That started me thinking about something yummy to make at home for your sweetie with little to no effort.  Something rich, decadent and befitting a holiday characterized by rarely eaten chocolates and overpriced roses.  Alfredo, I figure, is just the thing to fit the bill .  It goes with chicken, beef, pork or fish equally well and (don’t tell anyone!) it’s one of the most simple things you can make at home.  A box of pasta – any shape will do but I prefer mini penne or traditional fettuccine – some cream, butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano and you have the makings for one of Italy’s most coveted and popular dishes.  Of course, I like to shake mine up a bit.  So put the water on to boil, open a bottle of wine and have a very happy heart day!

Boursin Alfredo
8oz dry pasta – any shape will do
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 (5.2oz) container Boursin cheese, or more to taste
1/2 cup good quality, imported grated parmigiano-reggiano
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Bring a large pot of water to rolling boil. Add enough salt for it to taste like the sea. Drop pasta in water and cook according to package directions (I always take mine out about 2 minutes early and finish it directly in the sauce).
Meanwhile, in another shallow pan, melt butter over medium heat. When it starts to sizzle, add garlic. Let cook until fragrant but not brown. Add cream and Boursin and bring to rolling boil. Drain pasta (saving some of cooking liquid in case the sauce gets too thick) and add to cream mixture. Let simmer 2-3 until thickened to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Finish off heat with with parmigiano-reggiano and fresh parsley.

NOTES: Good ingredients are always imperative, but when you’re cooking something with such a short list, it’s REALLY important to use only the best. This recipe doesn’t call for much of any one thing so splurge and get the best butter, cheese and pasta you can buy. It will make all the difference in your end dish.
A quick rant on curly vs. flat leaf parsley: Please promise me, and yourself, that you’ll NEVER buy/use CURLY parsley. Ever. Again. Curly parsley is a relatively bland, tasteless herb that was overused to the point of ubiquity in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s a non-functional garnish – my least favorite kind – and a complete waste of resources (both time and money). Flat leaf parsley (aka Italian parsley) on the other hand, has a fresh, herbaceous, almost lemony, quality that enhances any dish to which it is added. BTW – always at the end, always off the heat.

Good eating, Candace

Grilled Ribeye with Fettuccine Alfredo 01.08.16