Chef Tom – Stories and Stew

I’m ba-aack. Been doing a deep dive into creative writing over the last few months, as well as transitioning careers, so my schedule has been whacked. Thanks, Bob, for having me back.

You are always welcome here, Chef. – Bob

On a slightly different tack. If you would be so kind as to indulge me, the next few submissions will include three (very) short stories I’ve written as part of a program called Round Robin. For eight weeks we had to write something every day based on short “prompts” from the instructor. We had to set the timer for 12 minutes. No longer. Hence their brevity. Had to squeeze as much into a few paragraphs as I could. Some stories, as you will see, even have multiple chapters.

Alarm goes off…stop writing.

WARNING: These stories are for entertainment only. If you’re not up to escaping for a couple of minutes and allowing each short story to unfold on its own without much in the “deeper meaning” department, please do not read.

This first set is food themed, of course, so as not to shock my audience too much. The daily prompt is the title.

Golden Gate Bridge

Picnic

Looming overhead was the Golden Gate Bridge like a magnificent spider spanning the bay. I can see in the distance next to my left near the amphitheater, a dozen brightly colored kites like tiny jewels against the blue sky. Dark haired women in a silken rainbow of sari’s hold onto the invisible strings. I can hear their laughter.

I notice a large man in a tuxedo in conversation with two ladies in Indian dress. They’re looking at me. The man suddenly starts running towards me. My heart is pounding. If this is a park official, I do not have a permit.

He comes bounding up to me wearing a big smile. Out of breath he points to the ladies flying kites and exclaims that what we are looking at is a wedding. He says, pointing to the small group of colorfully dressed people, “I know what that is. But the ladies want me to ask what THIS is.”

He points to the formal table for two I’ve set up on the point of a green berm overlooking the bay. I told him my nephew has just popped the question to his longtime girlfriend and this is a surprise for her…a Romantic Dinner for Two. They’re both on their way here from Baker Beach.

“Cool!” he says and runs back to the two women.  I watch him point back to me and say something.

I hear them both go, “Awwwww!”

 Soup

Covered with Flowers

Aram bread is a wide oval about a foot and a half wide and two-foot-long, with a light scatter of sesame seeds. Thing is, it’s maybe a half-inch thick. I needed twenty crackerlike “croutons” that were one inch by six inches to lay in a diagonal across the top of a bowl of pureed brandied cauliflower. The bread was the perfect size to cut out twenty symmetrical pieces.

Each crouton would be painted with a thickened syrup of French mustard and browned butter. The syrup would serve as a savory glue to hold white micro-blossoms of radish, golden-orange calendula petals, and deep blue blossoms of borage.

Frank’s sixtieth was a big deal and corporate big wigs were gathered around their big table. Frank’s wife was nervous that it would all go well. I assured her she was in good hands.

She looked up at me without smiling as I sat the first course with its lovely crouton, covered with flowers, in front of her husband.

The grin on his face ricocheted off the linen tablecloth, bounced against the silver candle holder with the violet tapers, and slid its way home onto the lips of his darling wife, whose grimace turned suddenly into a wide, toothy grin shining out towards me like a lighthouse through the fog.

Tweezers

Ok, Let’s Go

Eight square white porcelain bowls filled three-quarters to their brims with a deep green cream of pistachio soup. I pass each bowl and using a squeeze bottle, squirt a loose circle of bright golden Argan oil in the middle of each pool of soup. Brandon follows with a pinch bowl full of bright green pistachio powder and scatters a subtle galaxy of nut bits over the top of each circle. Jim comes through with a light trace of black Urfa. Rosalie follows Jim with a stainless tray of bright blue Camas blossoms and uses her precision tweezers to place one blue flower to the left of each golden circle, creating a beautiful asymmetry.

I take a minute to examine all the bowls and make sure they’re the same. The colors are striking; deep green, bright gold, brighter green from the pistachios, the stark black of the Urfa, and that splash of blue from the flower. Gorgeous. I already know the flavors are on point. They will love this.

Ok, places.

Eight servers gather around the prep table and each one picks up their bowl of soup.

In a low voice, I remind the team. I know you all have done this a hundred times but remember to watch the lead for when to move – and watch each other at the same time. We want the bowls to be placed on the table in front of each guest as close to the same second as possible. Symmetry is key here. Think synchronized swimming.

Light chuckles all around.

Yes, chef!

John, you have the hostess, so you’re lead.

Soundless, everyone.

Ok, let’s go.

Beef Stew

Hearty Beef Stew

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 pounds lean boneless chuck steak

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions

1/4 cup flour

1/2 bottle dry red wine

3 cups beef bone broth (or stock)

3 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon thyme

5 sprigs parsley, tied in a bundle

5 large carrots, trimmed and scraped

1 pound baby potatoes

5 celery stalks, sliced into ½-inch pieces

Directions:
Cut the meat into two-inch cubes. Salt the meat with 2 tablespoons salt, mix it well to distribute the salt, and let sit for one hour to season (takes time, I know, but you will thank me later). Using a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil to med-high and add the beef cubes. Place the cubes in one layer with room in-between. This is important. If the pan is crowded, the meat will steam and boil and not brown. Set the timer for 5 minutes and leave the meat alone to brown on the one side.

With tongs or a fork, flip each piece and brown again for 5 minutes. Do this at least twice, and three times is better. Remove the meat to a bowl.

Reduce the heat to med-low and add the onions. Cover and let cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. Give them a stir, scraping up all the brown bits, cover, and cook another 15 minutes. You want to get the onions nicely caramelized for amazing flavor. This takes time, but it’s well worth it. Once the onions have turned dark and caramelly (30-40 minutes), add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

Add back in the meat, give it all a stir, sprinkle in the flour, and stir to coat the meat evenly. Let cook for two or three minutes to get the floury taste out. Add the wine and stir until the mixture boils and thickens. Stir in the bone broth (stock). Add the cloves, bay leaf, thyme and parsley. Cover closely and simmer stovetop for one hour or cover and place in a 325 oven for an hour.

Meanwhile, cut the carrots into one-inch lengths. If the pieces are very large, cut them in half lengthwise. Add them to the beef. Add the baby potatoes and the celery. Cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes, or until the veggies are tender. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve the stew sprinkled with chopped parsley.

ON THAT NOTE

Les Twins

Les Twins. These highly talented guys just keep going and going. They were million-dollar winners of World of Dance 2017, even with brother Laurent injuring himself during the contest (they just used it in their final performance).

Les Twins World of Dance 2017 Final Full Performance (2.08.17)

This is one of the more recent performances. Astounding. Enjoy.

Les Twins Showcase at FUSION CONCEPT 2019

And remember this guy? This is one of his latest.

Josh

Josh Turner Loves Me Like A Rock – Paul Simon Cover (Full Band)

Don’t Let Me Down (Beatles Cover)

=CTH=

Chef Tom is currently transitioning from Personal Chef to Private Chef. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at www.hippkitchen.com

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