Monday, November 7, 2011

What time is Brunch?

There used to be a commercial where this tired old guy got up at the crack of dawn and kept saying, "it's time to make the donuts".  Well we are not making donuts but there is some significant prep work that goes into brunch at Milestone  and I may not have been muttering about donuts but there was for sure lots of muttering going on. 

So my alarm went off at 6:00am. I said to myself, "do you really need to be in at 7:00? Couldn't you just hustle a bit when you get in and get an extra few minuets of sleep now? And if you take a short shower and skip breakfast... Hell there is a good half an hour in all that".  I am a bit of a pushover when it comes to self negotiation. So I rolled out of the house about 8:00.  I realized late in the game that we had fallen back last night.  Hell of a time to change the clocks.  There was no point in trying to go back to sleep and there was coffee at the restaurant.  So I kicked myself in the ass and headed in to open the doors, turn on the ovens and unlock the coolers.

Needless to say at 7:00am on a Sunday there are not many folks out and about in Columbus.  The Streets were bare the lights still on.  It was cold and quiet, frost on the grass and the windows of my truck.  I cranked the heat and reminded my self I was going to need a scraper and a shovel before this winter was over.  Add that to the laundry, cleaning the house and writing the New Years Eve menu to the list for my next day off.  For the short drive in I had my choice of NPR's version of Religion called On Being or Selected Shorts which is a really cool live show of people reading short stories aloud to people in NYC (this reinforces the idea that there are enough people in NYC that you can find an audience for almost anything). .   The Religion is usually a bit much first thing in the morning, but there was a discussion of how babies aquire language and the guy reading the short story was quickly getting on my already frayed nerves so I got a lecture on how we learn to speak and felt smarter for it.

The sun was coming up behind Miranova, the restaurant was quiet as I sat and planned out brunch. Holandaise really more a modified Charon, Biscuits, Country Gravy, Caramel for Waffles all needed to be done early.

Page 794 of my copy of James Beard's American cooking has a good biscuit recipe if you are looking for one.  It was where I started.  The first few times I made them I used the Pork fat from cooking the bellies . They seemed overly dense and left a fatty residue in the mouth after eating that I thought just might not go over so well.  I did not want to go the Crisco route and JB called for butter on page 794 so for this morning butter it is.  My sleep addled brain was having trouble taking recipe to eight times and since it was written for the house not commercial kitchen everything was in cups which is a pain.  Weight is so much better to work with when baking.  I could look up what 16 cups of flour should weigh but after having coffee and watching the sun come up I was running behind and had no interest in not being ready to go at 10:00 when we opened. 

So when making biscuits or pie dough it is a good idea to have the butter a bit soft.  Right out of the walkin is just going to make this whole process more of a pain in the ass.  So what you do is cut the butter into little chunks and then "rub" it into the flour.  I know there must be a faster, eiser way to do this but I am always worried about overworking the damn stuff so even with 1.5# of butter and 16 cups of flour I am still rubbing it in by hand.  What that means to me is that I garb handfulls of flour and butter push it through my hands with my thumbs going away from me and my fingers towards me pressing really hard against each other.  Over and Over and Over and Over.  Made all the more difficult since I forgot to pull the butter last night. 

Over time the butter is absorbed into the flour.  The flour changes color a bit and looks kinda clumpy or more ragged in a way.  If there are some bits of butter still hanging out that is ok.  You want most of it absorbed but if your hands are really tired out you can get away with a little bit that is not incorporated.  JB calls for both baking powder and baking soda.  Both of these are leaveners.  The soda is only used because we are going to use buttermilk.  It reacts with the acid in the buttermilk and starts right away giving off gas.  I am not sure how much benefit this really imparts. You are going to at least briefly knead this mess and then cut and tray it so how much of the leavening power is out the window is, I will have to admit a mystery to me.  The baking powder is "Double Acting" (NaHCO3 + H+ → Na+ + CO2 + H2O, don't be to impressed I lifted that from Wikipedia).  The first action is the same as the baking soda and in fact part of baking powder is baking soda.  The second action is slower and is heat activated.  This is what gives muffins that exploded to look to them. A crust of cooked muffin forms on the top and then when the center comes to temp it pops right through.

Anway that is what I was thinking about while trying to figure out how much soda and powder to put in the biscuits.  I will throw in a few photos here to keep you interested. 

That is my gratuitous homage to the Thomas Kellerish menu shot.  Always loved that one.  We tried to hit the highlights.  Steak and Eggs, Chicken and Waffles, Biscuits and Gravy.  There is a whole bunch of bacon, some Pork belly.  We are making quiche on Saturdays.  And we even are making Granola.  Of all the things we have made for this new menu the one I was most excited about was the Granola.  Who the hell makes Granola.  Well I looked into it and kicked out what I thought was a pretty cool version. We have Oats and Sunflower Seeds, Bran, Prunes, Dried Cranberries and Dates almonds and pecans.  The dish also has fresh fruit and organic yogurt.  How could we go wrong with this one.  We sold 0.  Not one.  Not one.  I am not saying I was crushed but when you sell 20 Eggs Beni and 0 Granola it is almost enough for an already grumpy Chef to throw the towel in.  But I persevere I am giving it another week.  Maybe I can get Walker Evans to use that photo over there in the Columbus Underground.

There is the Yogurt as well just want to make sure to hammer home the whole Granola Idea in your collective brain pans.

So when we left them the biscuits were thinking about leavening. We had the butter, flour, soda, powder some salt and some sugar in the mix.  We added in some buttermilk and grated cheddar cheese.  For awhile at this point we were also adding roasted jalapenos.  Mix in the Buttermilk and breifly knead the dough.  We are not making bread so the kneading is more about distributing the moisture and making the mix homogenous, not about developing gluten.  Then  roll the dough into fat logs and cut off biscuits.  Drop onto a sheet tray, brush with egg wash to make Doug happy and into the oven at 350 for about half an hour.  Depends on your oven and how often you open it.

So the biscuits are in the oven we turned our attention to the rest of the prep list.  The Staff was in house and working on their own projects.  After a bit the servers arrived and started setting up the dining room and doing their sidework. Matt Borth rolled in his chipper self right on time (hard after closing the night before, bet he left at 1:00 and was back in at 8:00).  Doug came in right before ten and then popped back out to do some accounting. 

At first it seemed that this whole thing was going to be a flop.  The first hour we could not have done more then 10 covers.  The servers were milling about, the cooks working on projects for the PM.  At one point I looked around and realized that there were no servers in the kitchen.  It is like the tide going out in front of a tsunami, when the servers disappear you know things are starting to move.  I popped out front, the dining room was mostly full and there were lots of menus out.  I went back into the kitchen and had the boys clear the decks cause it was going to get hairy for a bit. 

I ran out of eggs by noon, which meant I was barreling over to Kroger to plug the hole.  I after that it was cutting Quiche, firing Shrimp and Grits, expediting, scrambling eggs and trying to keep everyone moving in the same direction.  Colleen was on the expo line from 11:00 to 3:00 without a break, Matt bailed Maria and tried to find time to make cheesecakes..  The whole thing reminded me of when we opened.  I am glad to be busy but hell we could have used a week or two of practice.  In the end all went well.  We ran out of a few things, figured out you cannot hold the Waffles in the oven, had to refire eggs a couple times, and totally messed up Sarah Bolling's breakfast.  Those things are going to happen.  We will get better. 

Good Night Columbus here are a few photos. Come Visit..


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