Kerfuffle – n
informal chiefly ( Brit ) commotion; disorder; agitation
Thus was the general mood as the club kicked into full swing this past weekend. All went smoothly, but tempers were flaring just a touch as cooks realized that the season stood the chance of getting tense.
Adding to this degree of anticipation was the annual event of the ventilation coming to a screeching crawl on Friday night. As such the average temperature in the kitchen was a brisk 95 degrees.
By industry standard, 95 degrees is cold, but as summer has yet to begin and our bodies have yet to acclimate to the balmy clime of the mid-Atlantic, it was a tad toasty; and it did not take much for a couple of the cooks to get snappy.
Hence the kerfuffle of cooks angry at no one but mad at everything; akin to a testy dog who realizes that he’s at the vet’s office looking for the nearest exit. Yet, despite the general sense of agitation, all went well. The members were fed and happy, the club was cleaned and the kitchen abuzz with the commencement of the best months of the year.
One of my favorite parts about cooking at Bellehaven is preparing Sunday Brunch. Being a chef I understand the value of money and like other chefs I am saddened when I see food discarded.
And that is exactly why Sunday brunch is such a valuable meal. It is a chance for the kitchen to build delicious and satisfying entrees and salads from the leftovers from the weekend.
This is not to say that everything on Sunday Brunch is leftover grub, but just that a good culinary team knows how to best utilize any items not sold prior to Sunday. It is well recognized in the business and what makes a good buffet into a great buffet is the care that goes into the production of the salads, sides and entrees.
Digging through the walk-in I found some unbelievably delicious spicy beef from a BBQ table a day earlier. A quick slice and a basic set-up gave us a Steak Caesar, a winner in anyone’s book excepting vegans.
Texas Slaw with a few craisins and crisp peppers was another basic salad that we added and that sat right next door to the fresh green bean salad. The green beans, steamed and blanched, were then shocked (chilled in ice water to stop the cooking process) and tossed in a sweet and sour vinegar dressing.
As we were putting the finishing touches on the salads, I decided to build the simplest of Maryland salads and one that I learned from my own mother; Tomato-Cucumber salad.
This is a basic salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions. The dressing is similar to the green bean salad being a cider vinegar-sugar dressing into which vegetables are tossed.
Upon inspection, Kevin Halpin (Executive Sous Chef) suggested that we dress it with some crabmeat. Something that simple was all that it needed to take it to the next level.
After running carefully through the crabmeat to remove any shells I gently folded in the crab meat and let it sit for half an hour before serving. The crab absorbed the flavors of the salad beautifully; the crisp cucumber, the sour vinegar, the sweetness of the sugar and the acidity of the tomatoes.
Helpful Hint – before you compose the salad, wash your cut red onions under running cold water to release some of the heat so intrinsic of this potent root vegetable. This also comes in handy when making salsa cruda or any other dish with raw onions.
So on to the salad, as simple as it was, it was bright, vibrant and a simple burst of flavor in the mouth. Being a classic salad already without the crab, the Tomato-cuke salad comes to life with the addition of our local crustacean.
When all is said and done the employees will stop fighting and they will work to put out the best food that they can. Then you will be able to reflect on the commotion of the day, the various irritations of employees and employers alike and know that sometimes all it takes is one simple twist, and you can start fresh.
Tomato-Cuke and Crab Salad
serves 8 as a side
4 ea. Medium tomatoes
3 ea. Cucumbers
½ ea. Medium red onion
1 c. Cider or sherry vinegar
Sugar to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tsp. Celery seeds
1# Jumbo crab meat
Parsley, chopped for garnish
Core the tomatoes and cut into wedges
Peel the cucumbers and using a spoon scrape out just the seeds. Slice the cukes on the bias (on an angle as you’re looking down on the cutting board)
Cut the onion into a fine julienne
In a bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and celery seeds. Taste and adjust the flavor to ensure a well balanced and delicious picnic-style vinegar
Toss the vegetables in the dressing and when you are ready to serve, gently fold in the crab meat and finish with the parsley
Give the salad a final taste test and adjust as necessary