Food For Thought
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Written by Gerry Nooney
It's been a busy few weeks for me. In a past life, I was a working chef. That's how I've met many of you. We've had a changing-of-the-guard in one of our places, and it required my putting on the chef's whites for a few weeks. Kitchen work is fun. It has been easy for me to get back in the groove, with the exception of staying up past 9 PM - I forgot what it's like to be a night owl.
I didn't know the crew I was working with all that well. Sure, I know their names and some details of their life. But after a few twelve-hour shifts, you learn a few things about each other. One team member had trained with some very skilled chefs and operators. It showed. I knew he had great respect from his co-workers, and now I knew why. This was a dedicated professional working smart at every task, always thinking, always planning ahead. Another surprise was a young woman who recently graduated college with a degree in some sort of food-system management. She is a sponge - asking questions, listening, always thinking, always trying to improve. She's also very punctual, one of my favorite attributes. The other main person in this crew was the strong quiet one. Never overwhelmed, always looking ahead, and never caught off-guard. I like people who look ahead. Effective kitchens are full of camaraderie.
Hustling around a kitchen is an adventure unto itself. I'm lucky to have had a long and healthy career in this field. These past weeks have driven home that message. They've given me not only reasons to look back and reflect, but more importantly, reasons to look forward to tomorrow.
What's on tap for tomorrow? After recording a show for New England Cooks (a web-based show that runs out of Barre), breaking out some smoothies for Gate House Lodge, and training the Day School staff on proper food safety, we have a busy holiday week ahead... Lots of folks visiting, lots of meals and beverages to serve. And skiing. Amidst all that, it's time for some skiing.
P.S. I'm sharing my tried-and-true Christmas Eve Hungarian Goulash recipe, in case you need some inspiration. Happy holidays.
90 minutes total time - 20 minutes active time - serves 4
Gather up these ingredients and a large heavy pot
- 1 onion small dice
- 3 T vegetable oil
- 3 lbs pork cut 1.5" pieces or smaller or bigger, pork tenderloin works well here
- 1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1 teaspoon of hot Hungarian paprika (can substitute cayenne if needed but use less - it's hotter)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 can sauerkraut
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 1/2 T dried whole leaf marjoram
- sea salt to taste, I use about 3/4 teaspoon
- sour cream
Now do as I say
- Brown the meat in a pan, use good judgement, use a little oil and season your meat
- Sweat the onion in the oil, add the paprika and cook for 2 additional minutes.
- Add browned meat to onion mixture, add stock, kraut and ketchup and simmer until fork tender. Takes around 60 minutes. Use good judgement and don't rush it.
- Add marjoram and salt and cook 5 more minutes.
- Serve with sour cream either mixed in or dollop on top.
This is a poor man's dish. It's more sauce and filler than meat. Don't be afraid to add a little more stock or water if you have it. Make this dish your own.