Sometimes chefs put items on the menu, assuming that everyone knows what they are talking about. Other times we all know what an ingredient is, but have no clue to its origins. Still other times, the Chef has writer's block and can't seem to come up with an original idea for a blog. For these and lots of other reasons, we present the third installment in this list of culinary terms, and we hope you will enjoy.
Green Goddess Dressing: This dressing was created in the 1920's by the chef at San Francisco's Palace Hotel, in honor of actor George Arliss who was appearing in a play called the Green Goddess. The classic Green Goddess is a mixture of mayonnaise, tarragon vinegar, anchovies, parsley scallions and garlic. In addition to salads, it was often used as a sauce for fish. Today, bottled versions of the dressing include avocado, and tarragon is minimized.
Grouper: large member of the Sea Bass family found in the Atlantic as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Grouper can get very very large, although they are more commonly caught at 5-15 pounds. The flesh is lean and firm; it is suitable for many styles of cooking. On menus lesser fish are often substituted for grouper as the popularity has led to overfishing and high prices. Any fisherman or chef can tell you that the cheeks-large lumps of solid muscle just behind the gills is the tastiest and most tender piece.
Hanger Steak: a thick, boneless cut of beef weighing 1-2 pounds that hangs between the rib and the loin. This used to be known as the Butcher's Cut as they would often keep this delicacy to themselves. Best for marinating and grilling.
Heart of Palm: The inner portion of the cabbage palm tree. Slender and ivory colored, these are delicately flavored. Difficult to find when fresh, these are often canned in water, and used in salads and are a great addition to stir-fry. When you see this on the menu, you know that the chef needs a vacation soon, somewhere tropical.
Herbs de Provence: an assortment of dried herbs said to reflect the cuisine of southern France. The mixture commonly includes basil, fennel, Lavender, marjoram, rosemary, and sage. Used to flavor meats and poultry.
Hops: a hardy, vining plant that produces conelike flowers. The dried flowers are used to impart a pleasantly bitter flavor to beer. The shoots of the vine are edible when young, and taste like asparagus. Hops have been used for centuries, not only for brewing, but as a soporific in teas. A pillow stuffed with hops flowers is an old farmhouse remedy for insomnia. I personally find brewing the hops into beer and then drinking it before bedtime is more effective. To each his own.
Horchata: a very popular drink in both Spain and Mexico, horchata is made by steeping grains or nuts in water. They are usually sweetened with sugar and sometimes spiced with cinnamon. My personal favorite is made with rice, and the cooks at Vi make an excellent horchata for themselves when they have the time-be sure and pester Lupe when you see him at the Omelet Station.
Huevos Rancheros: Spanish for "rancher's eggs", although the more common translation is "country-style eggs". This dish is made with corn tortillas and fried eggs topped with salsa, although many versions include refried beans and even cheese.
Irish Stew: made with equal parts lamb or mutton, potatoes and onions. Best left to stew all day and even better reheated the next day as the flavors get to know each other.
Jack Cheese: Pale cow's milk cheese originating in California. Credited to David Jacks, who shipped this cheese to the world under the name Monterrey Jack. Eventually other areas began making the simple mildly flavored cheese, popular for it's high moisture content that makes it melt easily. Jack cheese is commonly flavored with hot peppers, and very fine, aged Jack cheeses are world-renowned. Vella Jack is my personal favorite, although it has been hard to find in recent years.
Jerk: Seasoning style originating in Jamaica. Recipes vary, but commonly contain chilis, garlic, onions and allspice. Used as a marinade or rub, foods cooked in this way are referred to as Jerk Pork or Jerk Chicken. Certain politicians and justices also fall under this category.
Jerusalem Artichoke: also known as Sunchoke: This tuber of a sunflower originating in North America has nothing to do with Jerusalem or artichokes, but the Italian word for sunflower is Girasole which sounds a lot like Jerusalem and is probably where the name originated. They neither taste nor look like artichokes, but do resemble ginger root. The flavor is mildly sweet and nutty, they can be eaten raw or cooked like potatoes. They are quite delicious, although they have been known to cause flatulence, much like beans so make sure if you have them that everyone has some. Personal experience has taught me that these beautiful and hardy plants are easily grown, and once grown will continue to grow despite repeated efforts to stop them. Our Director of Facilities, Kendall Guinn has a particular fondness for all sunflowers, and has requested that we plant these pale yellow flowers wherever we think the property needs improving.
Jus: French word for Juice. this term refers to either the drippings of a roast or seasoned bouillon served with meats. At Vi, this term is used interchangeably with gravy.
Kitchen Staff: term used for hardworking, underappreciated staff members who thrive on praise, but often shun attention. This might refer to Dishwashers, Cooks, Sous Chefs or if one is handsome enough, the Executive Chef. The Brigade system has been in place since at least the Nineteenth Century (some would argue earlier) to divide and classify the jobs of this group of ragtag artisans and most professional kitchens use some form of it today. The idea was to divide labor in much the way that Henry Ford created a production line for his automobiles. This system worked very well, but as cuisines and restaurants have changed drastically so have the Brigades. Some surviving titles are still used. Garde Manger-prepares all cold savory preparations such as salads, dressings, and charcuterie. The Commis chef refers to any line cook, basically the life blood of the kitchen-this can also be called the Partie Chef . The Entremetier-creates and finishes side dishes such as vegetables, starches, sometimes soups. In many kitchens this position has become the Expeditor-one who calls tickets to the other cooks and finishes plates.
Patissier-also called the Pastry Chef prepares desserts and breads. Sous Chef-refers to assistant or under chef, but is sometimes translated into "drunken" chef for reasons which need no explaining. Anyone who has worked in a kitchen can tell you that the Plongeur or Dishwasher is the most crucial role in the kitchen and is treated with honor and respect. In the Vi Kitchen, this position is given anything they want to eat and is highly regarded by all.
Thank you for taking the time to read and learn, I hope you all have a great time at the Cinco de Mayo party tonight, and I look forward to seeing you all at the Culinary Corner this Monday at 10 am.