Lamb Ragu with Ricotta Cheese and Mint 

A simple slow cooked ragu is simple and tasty. Once you get it going you just let it simmer away for a few hours. This recipe is for a lamb ragu, however the method will work for any ragu you would want to make. Rabbit ragu is also fantastic.
It’s simple in the method as well as the food and equipment you’ll need. What you’ll need:

Olive Oil 

Onion 

Carrot

Celery 

Fennel

Salt/Pepper

Oregano 

Thyme 

Rosemary 

Mint

Red wine 

Diced or ground lamb 

Tomato paste 

Canned tomatoes 

Pasta 

Ricotta cheese 
First of all you’ll make you’re mirepoix. Dice your onions, celery, fennel and carrot. In a large pan sweat your vegetables in olive oil and season. 

Now you’ll chop and add your herbs. I tend to go moderate on the herbs. This can make the difference between an okay and a really good ragu. Depending on the protein you’ll be using in the ragu adjust what herbs you’ll use. For this recipe I use oregano, thyme and rosemary. Lamb is a gamey protein so you’ll want herbs that can stand up to that. I love basil, but it doesn’t add much adding it now. It’s too light and delicate for this recipe to come through enough in the final flavor of the ragu.

Add your tomato paste at this point. Stir it around and let it fry out. Let most of the moisture cook out. This will create a fond on the bottom of your pan. The stuff thats kind off cooked onto the bottom. Now you’ll want to deglaze this with your red wine. I just use a simple table wine. 
Add your canned tomatoes and water. Now is when you let it simmer for hours. Cook until your diced lamb is falling apart. If you used a minced lamb this would take less time, however the texture of the chunky lamb is nicer. Gently simmer don’t let it boil. Adjust your seasoming at this point.
For this recipe and ragus in general, use a bigger pasta. I prefer a short pasta like a penne or papradelle. Fresh pasta is perfect for this kind of recipe. Cook it al dente in seasoned water. 
In a separate smaller pan add as much ragu as you want and your pasta and stir. Let it sit for a minute. It will be extremely hot so it’ll stay warm for a minute. This helps the pasta and ragu come together as one the most they can. 

Ricotta cheese does this a lot of good. The creamy soft cheese with the rich tomato sauce is a match made in heaven. Finish with a little chopped mint and you’re ready to serve. 

What you need to know about crab 

Being a part time Alaskan something I know an awful lot about is crab. It’s a seafood fan favorite. I think every summer I worked in Alaska you can bet I cooked thousands of pounds of crab. Almost everyone that came off the cruise ship sought after king crab. 
This blog post will help you decide what crab to use for what, how is the best way to cook it and what to look for when buying crab. 
First of all lets talk about how to look for good crab. Luckily this is basically the same from crab species to species. You want your crab to look bright and vibrant not pale and dry. Look at where the legs meet, they should be clean and the flesh bright white. The legs should be firm and have practically no bend when you try. It’s pretty simple to buy crab. I always reccomend buying from boats on the dock. It’ll be the freshest and usually the cheapest. Fish markets are second best then grocery stores after that.

Crab from species to species have different flavor characteristic. My favorite is Dungeness crab it has the most distinct crab flavor. It’s a nice balance of salty and sweet when it’s been cooked. I used to go crabbing on weekends as a kid and I would get so excited when a big Dungeness crab would come off my trap when I pulled it up. 
Dungeness crab is good for crab cakes mixtures, but only about 50 percent of the crab you want to use. This is my favorite crab to eat by itself. Maybe with lemon and an herbed aioli. When you think Dungeness think what can I make with it that the flavor of the crab comes out more than anything else. Like a light crab salad or by itself. 

Rock crab come In several subspecies. Where I grew up there was no catch limit on rock crab. I caught and ate so much I almost got bored with it. Rock crab is sweeter and more mild than most other crab. Usually smaller and less meaty than Dungeness.
When you cook rock crab use them in things like crab cakes where they can be helped by your other ingredients. I also like to use rock crab in crab dips, hot or cold, and potato croquettes. Rock crab and things like bacon and pancetta go well together. Adding something salty really helps rock crab. It can be eaten on it’s own if you like crab that’s a little sweeter. 

King crab to me is like king salmon in the sense people love it because it’s big. You get huge meaty crab segments from it. King crab is more flavorsome then rock crab and less than Dungeness. King crab is the most meaty in texture. It’s actually pretty nice on it’s own. With and herbed aioli and lemon juice. Crab cocktails is a good usage of this type of crab too.
If you’re looking for the funnest crab to go fishing for I would go with king crab. Dungeness tastes the best, however the huge king crab are the funnest to pull out of the sea. 

When I cook my crab I just use salted water. It’s simple and the best way in my opinion. It keeps it flavor neutral so no matter what you’re going to do with it, it’ll taste really nice. Don’t limit what you can do with your crab by adding uneccisary flavors. 
Put your crab in at a full rolling boil. You can slice a knife through the head to kill them instantly before, but if you put them in alive still they’ll be dead within a few seconds. Either way is just as humane. Once your crab is cooked shock it in ice water. This prevents it from overcooking and separates the flesh from the shell. I slice my crab down the leg and peel the shell off to get nice clean segments of crab meat. 

Now that you have just your meat you need to cook something with it. I like a nice simple crab dip. Just mix it with a soft cheese, herbs, cream, butter and vegetables and serve or bake. Baked crab dip with warm bread is incredible. I’ll upload a post with my recipe for this in a later post.

Crab is also popular in sushi. Like in a California roll. A hand roll. Sushi is a nice way to eat crab because it balances the crab flavor with that of the rice and other ingredients. 

Cheese and cheese boards 

All about cheese. As a kid I get up not far from the Tillamook cheese factory here in Oregon. It was amazing. Seeing how some of the best cheese in the country is made, start to finish. I grew up eating a lot of cheddar and swiss. Pretty standard decent cheeses. I wouldn’t touch American cheese them, because I couldn’t do the taste and now, because I’ve learned it’s very close in composition to plastic. 
However as I got older I realized that cheese isn’t a simple thing. There are thousands of different cheeses with different flavors and purposes. In this post I’m going to focus on a good cheese board and some differences in classifications of cheese. 
First of all let’s look at the main way cheese is classified, by it’s hardness. Cheese is separated into 4 groups this way. Soft, semi soft, semi hard and hard. This makes it far easier to find the cheese you want. For a good cheese board you want all 4. A full, well rounded experiance of cheese. Below I will post a helpful chart on how some cheeses are categorized, so you better understand the idea. 

The harder the cheese the more difficult it is for it to melt. American cheese melts extremely easy, because it’s a soft cheese. You can put a decent sized slab on top of it and it would melt just fine. That’s why pizzas are generally made with mozzarella, because it melts so easily. When I make my Alfredos when I add my Asiago or parmesan cheese it has to be shredded pretty fine to melt properly. Also the aging process makes cheese not melt as well. Most cheeses are hard because they’ve been aged a long time like parmesan. It changes the composition and makes it saltier and harder. 

When I put together a cheese board I put one of several of each cheese on. I will also look to put a nice rustic bread on my board. Cheese and bread are so nice together. I love spreading a soft cheese over crusty bread. The texture and flavor are incredible. This is one of those simplicity is bliss things. I always warm my bread and slice it relatively thick. Try something with a gentler flavor like a light sourdough or a baguette. 

Crackers are a classic on cheese boards. I prefer crackers for harder cheeses. Remember to slice your hard cheeses very thin. The cracker holds up much better than bread against these cheeses. Again likewise with bread pick a flavor neutral cracker. With it being eaten with a hard cheese that’s already salty, pick a cracker that is light on the salt. 

The best fruit for a nice cheese board is something mildly sweet and tart. This lets the cheese bloom and is a good underdone to the rich and salty cheeses. I really like fresh figs and grapes of several varieties on my board. It gives you options and flavor and allows you to eat a lot of cheese. Apple’s can also be nice, especially a green apple. 

Wine and cheese to me is almost as good as it gets. Due to the rich and salty nature of cheese a light red wine is my preference. It changes by what cheese I’m eating, but pinot noir is usually my go too. A generally smooth, gentle and fruity red wine it helps cut the fattiness of the cheese, without overpowering it. Never over power your cheese it defeats the purpose. Chianti can also be nice. It’s mildly spicy and aromatic it’s better for more flavorsome cheeses like a hard Asiago or blue cheeses. White wines can go well with a lighter, summery cheese board. If you choose a white wine make sure it’s fruity and tart. 

Blue cheese is an interesting thing. It’s the least popular of all the cheeses. It’s packed in flavor and it has a pungent odor that is off putting for a lot of people. Blue cheese is moldy, it’s injected with penacillium to encourage the bacteria growth. This mold is what gives blue cheese it’s salty and sharp flavor. This is also why it has the pungent flavor and blue veins. Blue cheese comes in many types too some more mild than others. 

Tips for cooking a Chefs dream protein: Duck

Duck is an incredible protein. It’s by far in my top 3. I love it for its flavor, as well as its versatility. I could sit here for an hour and riddle off duck dishes to cook. I’ll spare you that and give you a few of my favorite ideas.
Think of duck like a very fatty chicken that’s all dark meat. I know some people don’t like dark meat, but give duck a shot anyway. You breakdown a duck nearly identically to how you’d break down a chicken. The way you cook it is different though. You can utilize every part of the duck. 
The simplest way to cook a duck is to season, rub oil on it and roast it whole. A roast duck is very nice. Low and slow for this to let the fat render. I reccomend scoring the skin, this will also help the fat render. Duck like I said earlier is fatty, so you want to render a lot of that fat out to get a crispy skin. A crispy skin is key for a good roast duck. 

Confit is a cooking method I wrote a blog about not long ago. Duck lends itself well for this. Duck confit is incredible. Simmer in olive oil with parsley, thyme and garlic for hours until it’s crispy and the flesh is falling off of the bone.
Always use the leg and thighs for this. They have the most connective tissue and do the best this way. It’s so simple to do this. Just put it on the stove and simmer until done. This is really a crowd pleaser too. I would argue it’s far better than bacon even.

If you make duck confit, you can now make rilettes out of that. This is almost like a duck spread. Duck confit with chopped herbs, shallots, duck fat and a little bourbon. I chill mine and have it ready in jars in the refrigerator. It’s a great snack, or appetizer on some warm bread, or a cracker.
Duck breast is fantastic. Get a nice hot pan for this and a miniscule amount of oil or butter. Cook it like you’re cooking a steak in a pan. You want to make sure your duck is salted and dry when you put it into your pan. Always sear it skin side down with the skin scored. 
Cook it 70 percent the way on the skin. You want a nice dark golden brown. When you flip add butter, maybe a compound butter and baste it. You should have a nice crispy duck breast, flavorsome and medium rare. Yes medium rare. Duck breast goes tough quickly when you overcook it. Medium rare makes for the best result in texture and flavor. 

Foie gras is arguably the best part of a duck. It’s the fatty liver of a duck raised for that purpose. This is a hot topic, because most places force feed the ducks with tubes to make sure the liver is engorged. It isn’t humane in some places. Some places do it better. Some places in Spain let the ducks rome fields with nuts. The ducks gorge themselves and you get the desired result. Not only is this more humane, but it tastes better too.
Foie gras is like duck butter. It’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Just sear it and put it on some toast it’s perfect. In a hot pan with no fat sear golden brown on both sides and serve. 

Try a few ways to enjoy an oyster 

Oysters are really delisuous. Oysters have the most wonderful ocean flavor. It’s like salty ocean breeze. I love raw oysters. A lot of people have written off oysters, because they tried them raw once and they hated the texture. The texture of a raw oyster can be off putting for people who are texture oriented. When you buy a whole oyster you have to shuck it. Take an oyster knife to the joint of the oyster. It’s the part of the back where the little indent is. Gently place the tip of the knife in and rock slowly back and forth. This will pop the oyster open. Then pull the top off and separate the oyster from the bottom by gently running the knife around the bottom of the oyster. 

When I eat a raw oyster I like a splash of Tabasco, or lemon juice. The acidity does wonders with the salty ocean flavor. A  mignonette is a nice touch too. It’s vinegar, or lemon juice with shallots and sometimes liquor or honey. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. 

When you go to buy an oyster make sure it’s closed. Oysters are alive when they’re closed and they go bad quickly when they’re not quite closed. Scrub the outside of the oysters well to make them look nicer. Be mindful when you harvest oysters to check for red tide warning. This is where there’s been a algae boom and shellfish harvested in that area shouldn’t be eaten. They can be very dangerous. 

 When a raw oyster doesn’t suit your fancy try cooking them like something more relatable. Fry frying oysters. Fried oysters can be incredible. They’re already seasoned, I simply flour them, eggwash and coat them in panko. They cook extremely quickly. Serve them with some dipping sauce like a herbed aioli. 
Try putting the fried oysters on a sandwich like a po-boy. A baguette toasted with a spicy remoulade, tomatoes, onion and lettuce. The oysters go perfectly on this sandwich. Fried oysters also go really well with cole slaw. 

Baked oysters can also be nice. When you cook an oyster the texture is much nicer. It’s firm not slimy. When you bake an oyster try removing them and adding some mayo, herbs and bread crumbs to the oyster and baking it in the shell. These make for a really wonderful appetizer. Just serve with an aioli and lemon. 

What you need to know about tuna 

For the longest time most thought of tuna as the cans you buy for 50 cents that you mix with mayo and put on bread. Tuna is much much more than that. Canned tuna is all the scraps and lesser quality tuna cooked way longer than it should be. It’s dry and bland. It needs tablespoons of mayo to be attractive to eat. 

Tuna steaks can be really nice.  You need to make sure the tuna is of good quality. Good tuna is deep read and stays together nicley when you slice it. Most tuna at the grocery store has been frozen, so I reccomend a fish market. 

In my opinion, and that of most chefs, tuna should be seared all around and sliced. A nice tuna niscoise salad is great. Green beans, fingering potatoes and niscoise olives tossed in a simple dressing with your tuna sliced over top. 
When I sear my tuna I use sesame oil and get it smoking hot and sear it all around until it’s a nice golden brown all around. I set it aside and let it rest a bit. Slice it thin, it’s relatively dense, the texture is nicer if it’s sliced tjin.
Eating fresh tuna raw is also nice. However when you eat raw fish you always need to make sure it’s never been frozen and it’s fresh. If it’s not fresh and it has been frozen i won’t usually eat it raw it’s just a safety thing. Being safe is the most important.
Poke is nice with tuna. It’s sliced red and green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and the tuna diced small. It usually has a little more than that, but that’s the just of it. Raw fresh tuna of course is always nice on sushi.

Tips to take the challenge out of Salmon 

I lived in Alaska on and off for years and one of the best ingredients there was the incredible salmon and crab. Almost everyday, all summer long I would come into work and fillet at least 2 big king or sockeye salmon. Fish can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. 
Salmon is great, it has it’s own distinct flavor, yet it’s light and takes on other flavors well too. Stay away from pink or chum salmon. I used chum salmon for bait and pink salmon for smoking. They don’t have the most pleasant and clean flavor you want out of a salmon. King salmon, or Chinook depending on what you call them where you live, are nice and large. King salmon to me has a little bit of a generic flavor compared to sockeye. Chinook is so popular, because of their large size. Sockeye is flavorsome and contains the least amount of mercury. The fillets that come off of a sockeye salmon have a very bright and distinct color.  Coho salmon is also pretty nice. It’s similar to the taste of a king salmon, just a bit smaller. 
I always prefer fillets over steaks. I think steaks don’t look as nice and they’re more of a pain to eat. Usually in super markets salmon comes fillet and with the pin bones already removed. Also I find salmon cooks more evenly cut into fillet portions rather than steaks. 
Look at the label in the case. Wild caught is always better. Farmed fish isn’t good. They feed it corn pellets and something to make the flesh look kind of how it’s supposed to. The flesh should look bright, not washed out or faded. Look for salmon that hasn’t been frozen. Previously frozen salmon will almost always end up being dry and it makes it harder to cook, because it’ll be falling apart more. This will also drain it of a lot of its flavor. 
Try cooking it skin on. A nice crispy skin can be nice on A salmon. I prefer it myself. If you don’t like the skin and don’t want to ruin your fillet by trying to skin it, cook it skin on and it’ll just come right off with your fingers. 
When it comes to cooking your salmon I prefer to pan sear, bake or eat it raw. Salmon is nice on sushi and in poke if it’s fresh and fatty. When I sear mine I just heat a pan up with some oil in it and put it skin side down in the pan. Let it cook about 70 percent the way on the skin and flip it. It will finish soon after. You can see it when you cook your salmon in a pan how cooked it is by looking at the side. Salmon is nice medium rare. When you bake it just season it and put it skin side down in a oven around 350 degrees until it’s done. It really is that simple. 

My easy shrimp Alfredo recipe 

Alfredo by nature is an incredibly easy thing to cook. Your basic Alfredo consists of just butter, garlic, cream, pasta and salt. This makes for an easy great dish, however it is pretty boring that way. Prawns with a relatively strong, mildly sweet flavor does well with the richness of the cream. What you’ll need:

Butter
Garlic 
Salt/pepper 
Italian seasoning 
Shrimp 
White wine
Parsley 
Heavy cream 
Linguini pasta 
Asiago cheese 
First of all you’ll heat your butter and add your garlic. Let this toast for a second and add your shrimp. Add a little white wine and simmer. Season and add your Italian seasoning.
When the white wine is almost gone add your pasta and heavy cream and reduce. Once your cream has reduced add your shaved Asiago cheese and stir off the heat. Never stir in your cheese on the heat, it’ll give it an off texture and become gummy. Finish with parsley and stir. 
I use linguini pasta for my shrimp Alfredo. It’s relatively thick and stands up to the heavy cream sauce better than a thinner pasta. 

Social Media Marketing of Restaurants

Marketing is a key component of any successful restaurant. You have to let people know that your business exists. A while ago you had to be more creative with marketing. As of late marketing has gotten a lot easier with the coming of social media. Facebook and Twitter especially is a very common form of marketing now. It’s almost taboo for a restaurant not to use social media formats. It’s a really great innovation. You can post features and events happening at your restaurant. You can network and vastly expand your customer base. It assists in networking with other culinary professionals as well. It can be a huge advantage if people like your restaurant and content, but if people aren’t fond of your establishment it will show on your page and new customers will not come to your restaurant nearly as much. A case of this would be Amy’s Baking Company, but being on a national TV show doesn’t help either. It’s essentially become and industry standard to utilize at least one form of social media.