CHEFLIFE

By Chris Steele, Executive Chef ~ Stamford Marriott

As chefs we spend our careers working nonstop 14 hour shifts on our feet most nights and weekends foregoing family reunions, concerts and birthdays. It can be challenging to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, in an environment that rewards working crazy hours under the high stress of constantly needing to create, put up with an oven that worked up until today, broken mop buckets, leaking faucets and my personal favorite last minute call outs. Let’s not forget the craziness of a dinner rush that keeps us on a “flight or fight” state for most of the night. Kitchen life is not easy, but every job has its ups and downs, it all depends on which sacrifices you want to make.

My first night in the restaurant business as a dishwasher, the owner of the restaurant approached me red faced using a language I won’t repeat, explaining the importance of not mixing up the dinner plates with the pasta bowls, which at the time looked exactly the same to me. I thought to myself this is nuts, what’s the big deal?

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The life of a chef is now one I can’t imagine living without. For those considering this life, I have to say that the energy, the people, the team work, and of course the food makes it a working environment that is fun to work in. The people I’ve met are now friends I’ve acquired and the heart connections made are still holding. What draws me to being the chef in a hotel and what changed all that for me was I found out I was going to be a dad. Out of all my chef friends who are still in the kitchen, since many have left the business altogether, I’m probably the only one who has a consistent paycheck, health insurance and a semi “normal” personal life. I still get that rush of working on the line, platting large banquet functions and of course creating and interacting with guests at our unique chef’s tables.

The love of food is both universal and unconditional since everyone eats and has a favorite food that can be related to.  Think about it, a chef can go out anywhere, talk to anyone from anywhere and always find a common ground in food. Despite people’s backgrounds, upbringing, personal tastes and/or ethnicities, food transcends all our differences and brings people together.

NIKKI’S ELDERBERRY SPARKLE

by Nikki Abasolo; Hunt Club supervisor at the Christiana Hilton

Muddled with our handpicked basil leaves, locally foraged Elderberry syrup is the main flavor in or new bar cocktail,  Nikki’s Elderberry Sparkle.

We mix local Delaware gin or vodka if you prefer, with our fresh squeezed lemon juice and top with sparkling wine for a bubbly finish.

The sweet and unique flavor of the elderberries coupled with the other refreshing ingredients makes this drink a great way to stay refreshed and enjoy the heat of the summer.

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FORAGING FOR ELDERBERRIES

by Keith Davis – Director of F&B (aka Forager Extraordinaire)

There appears to be something mystical about Elderberries.  Many people have heard of them, but when you really start to ask them what Elderberries are and what they look like, you get a kind of stare.  And when you ask them if they have ever EATEN Elderberries, few people have.  Well, you are missing something delicious if you have never tried Elderberries. So what are they and where can you find them?

In spring, the Elderberries bloom and the flowers turn to green unripe fruit.

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Elderberry, or Sambucus, is a shrub in the honeysuckle family.  They can grow as tall as 10 feet and are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the winter.  They grow near wetlands, along damp roadsides, and easily can be located in the spring when flowering, which is what I do.  The flowers look like one big flower head, but upon closer observation, you will find they really are a cluster of tiny white flowers.  By the way, these flowers are edible and can be used to make a jelly, but I have not done so.  These flowers are also used to make the liquor St. Germain.  The flowers turn to little green and round seed pods which eventually ripen around the end of August and early September. They are ripe when the green pods turn from green to a deep black/purple, and the upward facing bunch of berries droops over toward the ground. Once you know what they are, they can easily be identified.  To learn more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus

http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Spring2008/Elderberries/tabid/905/Default.aspx

As I have said in previous posts, when I was a young boy, my grandfather used to take me out to pick berries. We picked blackberries, black raspberries, wild cherries, and yes, Elderberries.  He was the first person to teach me that the little bunches of round berries could be just wonderful as jam. But I also remember my mother toiling over getting the juice out of the berries, which can really be a chore.

When I go out to forage for Elderberries, I review my notes where earlier in the season I saw the white flowers blooming. I check each spot periodically, but find the areas in full sun will ripen first, though the whole bush doesn’t ripen at one time.  I carefully pick only the deep dark purple clusters with my shearers, and place them in a 5 gallon bucket.

Elderberries in my kitchen that my youngest son and I foraged.  Ready to be plucked and then cooked down.

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Foraging is actually the easy step.  Processing Elderberries takes a lot of time and effort.  Once you pick the clusters, you then need to pull them from the clusters, and separate out the unripened fruit.  You also need to wear gloves when handling the berries or it will look like you lost a battle with your ink pen.  Next, they need washed and cooked.  Then, and this is the hardest step, you have to extract the juice from the cooked fruit to remove the seeds and skins.  When I say this is a chore, I mean it’s not an easy feat.  Generally you have to put the pulp in cheese or cotton cloth, and squeeze the juice until it starts to fill the bowl underneath.  Black Gold! Now it is ready for processing. I usually add lemon juice, sugar, and put back on the stove to bring to a boil and make syrup.   If it will be jam, I add pectin.

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See the following for greater details:

http://www.homesteadandgardens.com/elderberry-jelly-syrup/

http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/surejell-elderberry-jelly-60866.aspx

Elderberries for many are harvested for medicinal purposes.  They are full of vitamins A and C, Calcium, Potassium and Iron. Some books say mention they contain anti-viral compounds that may be useful in treating influenza, or that the syrup helps to boost the immune system.  This may be true, but for me, it’s all about that wonderful distinctive taste.

CRAB LOVERS WELCOMED HERE!

Ryan ~ F&B Intern at Harbor Magic Hotels

Everyone knows that Baltimore is known for its Maryland Blue Crabs. If you are a new comer and it is your first time visiting this wonderful city or you are a local who has lived here all your life, crab infused dishes have and always will be your “go to” meal. Marylanders, alike, crave the savory taste of crabs during their “special” occasion; from crab cakes during that big Sunday night Ravens game, to softshell crabs while relaxing at the beach, or just the good ole fashion summer weekend crab picking party. Whatever the occasion might be, Marylanders love using their shared love for crabs as the center of their get together.

Here is a list of CRAB recipes that you can make for whatever “special” occasion you may have:

MINI CRAB MELTS

Ingredients:

16 (3/4-ounce) slices sourdough bread

3/4 cup mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon lemon zest

3 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 ounces lump crabmeat, drained and picked

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

32 (1/4-inch-thick) Roma tomato slices

4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler. Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and broil 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until lightly golden and toasted.
  2. Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon zest, 3 tablespoons dill, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small mixing bowl. Combine crab, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons mayonnaise mixture to bowl; stir to combine.
  3. Spread remaining mayonnaise mixture evenly over toasts. Divide crab mixture evenly over toasts; top evenly with tomato slices and cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with black pepper and remaining 1/2 tablespoon dill. Serve immediately.

OLD BAY CRAB CAKES

Ingredients:

1 egg, beaten

1 pound lump crabmeat

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Old Bay® Seasoning

2 teaspoons McCormick® Parsley Flakes

½ teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

2 slices white bread, crusts removed and crumbled

Directions:

Mix bread, mayonnaise, OLD BAY, parsley, mustard and egg in large bowl until well blended. Gently stir in crabmeat. Shape into 4 patties. Broil 10 minutes without turning or fry until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with additional OLD BAY, if desired.

 

 

 

SPICE YOUR DAY UP WITH OLD BAY!

By Ryan, F&B Intern at Harbor Magic Hotels

You know you’re in Maryland when everything has Old Bay in it. Here, we put Old Bay on everything and anything you can think; from pizza to French fries to corn on the cob… you name it, we put it on it. However, perhaps what its best known for is its use on seafood. Old Bay was first discovered and manufactured right here in our Chesapeake Bay area. Seafood fanatics not only just crave Old Bay on crabs and shrimp, they truly believe that it’s the only way it can be eaten. Marylanders love Old Bay so much that they found a way to incorporate it into their morning diet, going to the extent of mixing it into their Bloody Mary’s.

 The Pier 5 Hotel, located right in the heart of the Inner Harbor, is a great place to try some excellent dishes made with Old Bay. Every Monday through Friday, they provide a crabby hour from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm offering free wine, local craft beer, and crab dip made with Old Bay. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy some relaxing time the true Maryland way…with crab and beer!

All this talk making you hungry for some Old Bay seasoned dishes? Here are some excellent recipes you can try at home provided by Old Bay:

CREAMY CRAB DIP

Ingredients:

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese softened

1 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Mustard

1 pound lump crabmeat

1/4 cup cheddar cheese shredded

crackers or sliced French bread

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl mix cream cheese mayo OLD BAY and ground mustard until well blended. Add crabmeat and toss gently. Spread in a 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and additional OLD BAY. Bake 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with assorted crackers or sliced French bread.

SHRIMP SCAMPI

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic minced

1 pound large shrimp peeled and deveined

1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

1 tablespoon lemon juice

pasta or rice (optional)

1 teaspoon McCormick/ Parsley Flakes

Directions:

Check your watch. Heat oil in large skillet on medium. Add garlic. Cook and stir 30 seconds or until fragrant. (Do not brown.) Add shrimp and OLD BAY. Cook while stirring 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve over cooked pasta or rice.

OLD BAY BLOODY MARY BASE

Ingredients:

2 cups tomato juice

1 teaspoon Old Bay® Seasoning

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Your favorite vodka (optional)

Directions:

Stir tomato juice, OLD BAY, lemon juice and vodka, if desired, in small pitcher until well blended. Pour into ice-filled beverage glasses.

Tips:

Serving Suggestion: To rim beverage glasses, place about 1 tablespoon OLD BAY on small plate. Wet outside rims of beverage glasses with lemon wedge or water. Dip glasses into OLD BAY to coat.

OLD BAY CRAB CAKES

Ingredients:

1 egg, beaten

1 pound lump crabmeat

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Old Bay® Seasoning

2 teaspoons McCormick® Parsley Flakes

½ teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

2 slices white bread, crusts removed and crumbled

Directions:

Mix bread, mayonnaise, OLD BAY, parsley, mustard and egg in large bowl until well blended. Gently stir in crab meat. Shape into 4 patties. Broil 10 minutes without turning or fry until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with additional OLD BAY, if desired.

For more ideas and direction on how to add Old Bay Seasoning to your favorite meals,

visit: http://bit.ly/1uBT79I