Sunday, March 21, 2010

French Toast on a big ship

More travel, more adventures, new places. In the last cruise I have been in five countries: Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and now Mexico. It all goes a little fast, but that is how the cruise ship is going. I don’t have time to go out in every port, but sometimes I take the time for a little walk like through Roatan in Honduras. It is a little island just of the coast with absolutely beautiful nature. Everything is green, green, and green. It is hot and humid, tropical and there is a slightly sweet smell in the air.

There is plenty of diving around and the beaches are stunning, if one goes to the other side of the island. We were in the harbor of Roatan, so I just went out a little bit. There are plenty of shops, mainly t shirts and other little souvenirs. There are plenty of small bars and restaurants, but nothing looked very inviting to me so I just walked up and down main road a bit and then went back to the ship for a good work out in the gym, nicely air-conditioned. Yes you hear right, I am usually not a big gym goer, but here on board I have to taste so much food, I just need to have an extra work out from time to time.

Just to give you a little run down of the ship I am on at the moment. We have just over 3000 guest and 1200 crew. 170 of them are working in the galleys and we easily prepare more than 14’000 meals a day. So yes, that is quite a production we have going here. We prepare two sessions in the main dining room, usually having around 1400 guest per seating. We have 2 main galleys as the main dining room is on 2 levels. We serve around 900 guests on the bottom level and then another 500 on top. Now if you expect shouting, screaming and performing chefs during service, sorry you are wrong. Service goes generally very quietly and organized here. Of course there is the odd word and of course it is noise, imagine how many people are on the line (20 on one line in the main restaurant), the pans on the stove, the plates the people, but that hustle is what I enjoy most.

Now we are busy looking at French Toast. I know it is such a simple thing, but a good French Toast in the morning is just the right way to start, so I thought I give you the recipe for a simple but good French Toast. I have chosen the French Toast as we still cook it to order or just a little bit in advance to make sure it is perfectly fresh and cooked for our guest.

90 ml (3 oz) Milk
2 ea Eggs
15 g (0.5 oz) Sugar
Vanilla Essence

30 g (1 oz) Butter

Icing sugar

Whisk the eggs and milk together, add all the spices and the sugar.
Dip the sliced Toast in the egg mix; let it in the mix for 5 seconds on each side.
Drip off excess egg mix
Heat up butter in a pan and fry the French Toast on both sides till golden brown.
Cut diagonally in half, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Yes I am in Colombia, no danger, no drugs, just a beautiful town called Cartagena. I didn’t read anything about the place so had no expectations, but what I saw truly blew me away. It is a town with over 450 years of history, the old town is really well preserved and just invites to sit and have a drink. People are very relaxed here and very friendly. I just got a nice feel about this town.
The Spanish built huge fortifications and still now one can see the walls all the way around the old town of Cartagena. There are still 11 km of wall preserved. Of course there are plenty of museums, art galleries and shops, especially for the Colombian Emerald, a lovely and glitzy green gem stone.

They say as well that Cartagena is the town of mangoes as every house has their own mango tree and yes, when one arrives at the cruise terminal, there is an absolutely humongous Mango tree.

I just took a taxi driver and he drove me around town, telling me all sorts of stories, trying to get me into some special jeweler stores, asking if I wanted to go so “special” bars for a drink… thank you! And I am sure ripped me off for the tour, but after all it was worth it as I really had about 2 hours to explore and one needs to take a taxi to town anyway. He was also able to give me a lot of history and back ground information, which was really nice. A bit more than an hour later he earned 25$ and I was able to see a lot of the town, stop and go and he even walked with me like a tour guide through town, so I think it was not a bad deal after all.

Opposite the old town is the new part of Catagena, high rise buildings, then beaches with huge hotel complexes. It was nice to stand on the walls of the old town and look over the bay to the new side. When walking in the streets of the old town, one easily forgets that Cartagena is actually a big and bustling city.
At one place I just couldn’t resist buying a couple of sweet from one of the many sweet stalls. They are all very, very sweet, caramel based and some of them with coconut. I tried them together with Denton, the Executive Chef on board and with Thierry; he is the Senior Corporate Traveling Pastry Chef. The sweets are not very refined, but they were tasty and were reason for some more animated discussions. Especially with Thierry who was not overly impressed and actually didn't want to taste them, chicken!!!

So today it is more about town and travel, rather than recipes, but no worries, there are still plenty more recipes to follow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gourmet Diner in Miami

Gourmet Diner

Being in the States Diners are not necessarily associated with gourmet, but wow, I was proven wrong this weekend while back in Miami.

I am just waiting to join the next ship up in Fort Lauderdale and after being a day in the office I had time to go shopping and have a bite to eat. This time I am staying in the Wyndham Hotel, which is basically next to the airport. All the other hotels were full so I had to go here. In general the hotel is not bad, but no comparison with the other hotels I usually stay. I had a lovely dinner last night, a steak with salad……which unfortunately did not agree with me for some reason and my tummy was not feeling well at all in the morning.

Never mind that, Bruno, the Corporate Executive Chef came to fetch me in the morning that we can go shopping a bit, just all the necessities one needs, tooth paste and so on, so off we went and I got everything I needed. Then we decided to have some lunch and Bruno saw this little diner called Gourmet Diner. So in we went and what a surprise we had. The diner runs since 1983 and the interior is so typical Diner, blue plastic chairs, simple interior. But then we saw the menu we were totally surprised with what we saw.

Fresh Artichoke with vinaigrette
Steamed Mussels
French Onion Soup
Brisket in jus
Snails in Garlic Butter
Snapper Provencale

Wow what a treat.

So we had an artichoke to share as a starter, plain and nice, we picked off the leaves and dunked them into the vinaigrette deeply in discussions about food, products, foie gras and cooking. Then we had a brisket sandwich with its own jus. What a treat to have the soft and tender braised brisket in the crunchy baguette, with melted cheese, wow. We dunked the sandwich in the jus and loved every bit, for me the best Diner I have been to (and there are quite a few of them.

The owner has to be from Europe, there is just too much lovely food there and I will for sure be back, inviting maybe Mike and Marilynn for a treat as they have always looked so well after me while here in Miami.

It is a little bit of a drive to get to this Diner, it is on Biscayne Boulevard driving north from the city centre, fairly close to Aventura Mall on the right side and yes, it is simply called Gourmet Diner, a real treat!!!!!!

But now a little recipe, let’s go a little gourmet too

Seafood on Saffron Risotto for 4 people

120 g (4 oz) Risotto rice
50 g (2 oz) Onions
15 ml (0.5 oz) Olive oil
60 ml (2 oz) White wine
300 ml (10 oz) Chicken stock
1 g (0.05 oz) Saffron
60 g (3 oz) Butter
30 g (1 oz) Parmesan, grated

Cut the onions in fine cubes
Heat the olive oil to medium heat, add the onions.
Shallow fry till translucent, then add risotto rice.
Again fry till nearly translucent, but no color.
Add white wine and saffron, simmer, stirring all the times
Then add chicken stock and simmer uncovered till rice is al dente. You might have to add a little more chicken stock, depending on the rice.
Add ice cold butter and parmesan just before serving
Season to taste

8 ea Scallops
8 ea Prawns
8 ea Mussels
120 g (4 oz) Snapper
120 g (4 oz) Eggplant
90 g (3 oz) Cherry tomatoes
Olive oil

Cut the eggplant in cubes, half the cherry tomatoes.
Fry the eggplant in olive oil till tender, season to taste, add the cherry tomatoes at the very end to avoid them getting too soft.
Fry all the seafood, season to taste.

Place the risotto in deep bowls and top with the seafood.
Top with the fried eggplant.
Next Blog will be about the new ship I am on, the Equinox, a dream of a ship, so much I can already tell you!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Creme Brulee in Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman and Creme Brulee????? Oh yes, I like it. I am on a quick trip to Grand Cayman and back to Miami with one stop in Key West. So I should actually write something about Key Lime Pie, which is absolutely wonderful, but as I could not go out in Key West I decided that I write something about Creme Brulee.

I think it is as well as we have just received 300 new Creme Brulee forms and everybody is very exited about it, so I want to show you the perfect Creme Brulee!

But before that a bit about my days here. It is a lot of fun, I really enjoy my job. For the time being I am not cooking too much but that will change soon as next week I have to photograph some chicken dishes, yes and I will of course give you a glimpse and some recipes too. At the moment we are trying to get the guest eating in the alternative dining venue called Destinations.

The food is fantastic there, but it seems that many people forget about this place, so tomorrow we will be doing a presentation table together with the bar manager and hopefully more people will be booking a table.
Then we will look at the presentation of the Tapas in Cova Cafe. One of my favoured spots on the ship where I have my daily dose of Cappuccino and Espresso. They serve the most amazing Danishes and Croissants in the morning, then lovely Pastries in the afternoon and then around dinner time there are a range of Tapas with lovely live music, changing from classical to acapella to jazz, just a great place to be. So all we want to do is making sure the standard is as the company requests and that the crew is well trained and the buffet looks nice. So another busy day but at least loads of little projects.

But now enough talking, here the promised recipe

Creme Brulee for 10 friends

750 ml (0.75 quart) Cream
750 ml (0.75 quart) Milk
1 ea Vanilla Beans
200 g (7 oz) Sugar
8 ea Eggs
4 ea Egg yolks
100 g (3.5 oz) Sugar for Caramel

Boil up milk, cream, sugar and scraped out vanilla pod
Strain through chinoise strainer
Whisk egg yolks and eggs together
Add hot liquid carefully, stirring all the time
Pour the mix into creme brulee containers
Poach in the oven in a water bath at 110 o C (230 o F) till cooked, about 25 minutes
Cool the brulees down completely
Sprinkle the remaining sugar on the creme brulees
Caramelize the sugar with Blow Torche

Enjoy the Brulees as soon as possible to have the caramel still nice and crispy

I am siting at Grand Cayman airport right now, still nearly 2 hours to go for my flight, but having fun writing this Blog and watching Cricket at the same time!!!!
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