Mack's Corner

This Week

Cooking in the dark

A few years back on Sunday morning in the middle of the 8am service in the south hall all the electricity in our neighborhood went out, no sound, no lights, no video, nothing. Of course Bruce's (Bruce Carrol) guitar still worked and the piano still worked, so we just continued in the dark. When sermon time came we gave Craig a flashlight so he could see his sermon and everything went on as usual. People laughed, had to listen real hard to hear Craig, had to watch real hard to see him, couldn't really take notes … Several people told me after, that it was one of the most powerful services they had ever been to …. 

One of my favorite chefs is Gordon Ramsay. He's one of the greatest chefs in the world. If you've ever watched his TV show "Hell's Kitchen", you kinda get an idea of what he's like.  The show is built around his reputation of being really, really, really hard to work with if you're cooking in his kitchen. People quit, cry a lot … he yells at them, throws food…. Etc. So they put 10 want-to-be chefs in the kitchen with him and we get to watch what happens. None of these people know any of the dishes they are going to serve, so they get a crash course and the restaurant is open for business that night! ...The thing you need to know about Ramsey is that he only puts out perfect food. If it's not perfect it doesn't go out. It can't be pretty good or good enough, it has to be perfect. If it's not perfect, he makes them do it till it is perfect, so needless to say, the first night the kitchen is really slow, people are waiting 2 -3 hours for their meal to come out. They get mad …etc … High drama! The thing that's interesting is Ramsey himself, he's a study in leadership. He's painfully honest about how bad the food is that these people cook but insists that they can do it better even when they don't think they can. He believes in them more than they do in themselves. He yells when the food is not right or if it's too slow, but he gets angry when they when they don't try or give up. He keeps telling them that they can do it and he never lowers his expectations. He gives them really hard stuff to do
and expects it to be done perfectly...The thing that most of them don't get is that slowing down and doing it right is faster than quickly doing it wrong and having to start all over ….  There's another side, the customers, who are waiting 2 hours for the first course. They walk up to Ramsey, who's at the front of the "Open Kitchen", and complain "Where's the food?", "What can be taking so long?" "What kind of place is this?" …etc. He never says "None of my cooks know what they're doing" or "This is a new staff and they're real slow" … nothing like that, no excuses. He simply says, much stronger than this, "if you don't like it, you can leave" … totally defending his staff that he's been yelling at all night. ….. The other thing that's happening is that everybody is slowly getting better; they're learning how he wants it to look, what it should taste like, and how to do the steps to make the dishes faster. And one thing I know will happen in the last few weeks of the show, is that the kitchen will be running well, food will be perfect, people will be fed on time and the people cooking will be proud that they are part of the team and they'll be good cooks … Best of all they'll go home telling their friends that they cooked with Gordon Ramsey and what a good guy he is, or at least how much they learned…..

God's like that: he gives us hard things to do. Sometimes it's raising a certain child, or dealing with an illness, working with people, or taking care of someone, or living with pain…. It's hard but he doesn't lower his expectations because it's you. He wouldn't have given it to you if he didn't know you could do it. If you do it wrong, you get to do it over …. You'll learn ….. And he'll always always defend you and take care of you. Sometimes the most powerful part of your life is when you're in the dark… you have to watch closer and listen harder and go slower …..

Maybe I'll go home and cook Gordon Ramsey food tonight, he's got this caramel banana thing that will make cry … everybody needs a good cry now and then …. Yeah Baby!

Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

If you read this part of my weekly blog, you know I love iron skillets. If I only had one pan it would be a 12 inch iron skillet. Last Wednesday I made the "Halibut, Skate style" that I wrote about last week. I used my 12 inch Iron skillet. It was great!! Here's another perfect example:

This is from Melissa Clark in the Wednesday New York Times Food & Dining section, the best food section in the world. You can get The New York Times at Starbucks every Wednesday..

Splayed Roast Chicken with Caramelized Ramps, Garlic and Capers 

1  4 1/2-pound whole chicken, patted dry (don't be afraid to by a whole chicken. It's way cheaper and this is easy)

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch fresh ramps (6 ounces) … Who's got RAMPS?? .. How about green onions, or just regular onions sliced… I would use 2 large Vidalia onions and slice them long ways (top to bottom)..

1 lemon, quartered

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled.. lay each clove on your cutting board and lay the side of your knife on top of it. Then whack the knife with your hand to smash the garlic clove.. The peel will come right off.

1 tablespoon capers… like I said last week, you should keep Capers in your fridge all the time. They are great just to put some zing in to any dish. They were in the Halibut dish last week.

1. Rub the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. If you've got time, do this 2 to 3 hours ahead and refrigerate the bird uncovered. Otherwise, let it rest uncovered at room temperature while the oven heats.

2. Place a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet in the oven and heat to 500 degrees for 45 minutes. If you salted the chicken in advance, take it out of the fridge so it can warm to room temperature.

3. (optional - prep onions instead) Meanwhile, prep the ramps: trim the hairy bottoms and remove the outer layer of skin. Separate the leaves from the bulbs, rinse both gently and pat dry. Cut any fat bulbs (wider than a pencil) in half lengthwise. Tear the leaves into large pieces.

4. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Lay it on its back, breast up.  Using a sharp knife, cut the skin connecting the legs to the body (this is the inside of the legs). Splay the thighs open until you feel the joint pop on each side (push the legs out against the cutting board until you pop out the joint). Place 2 lemon wedges inside the chicken.

5. Carefully transfer chicken, breast-side up, to the hot skillet. Press down on the legs so they rest flat on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the bird with the oil. Roast for 30 minutes. Toss ramp bulbs (not leaves),(onions), garlic and capers into the skillet. Stir to coat them with pan juices. Roast for 5 minutes more, then stir again. Continue cooking until ramps are tender (or onions are cooked) and chicken is no longer pink, 5 to 15 minutes more (for a total cooking time of 40 to 50 minutes).

To be sure use an instant read meat thermometer. The internal temp should read 160. Be sure to take the temp where the breast and thigh meet…. Or if the juices run clear, you're good.

6. Remove chicken from oven (optional - and stir ramp leaves into the pan until just wilted). Let chicken rest for 5 minutes, then serve with the pan juices and ramps, garlic and capers, seasoning everything with juice from the remaining lemon wedges, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

One pan, 1 chicken,  2 onions, 1 lemon, 1 garlic = feed 4 people a great dinner for $8


How about saving a kid's life!!

When you give Platelets it's like giving St Jude $700 - $1000. If we don't give them, they have to buy them.

Giving Platelets is like giving blood, it just takes longer (1 1/2 hours) and you get all of your blood back (so you can do it every week if you want) . I know it's a long trip to go all the way down to St Jude, but you may be saving a kid's life . plus you get to watch a movie while you're there. Call Kim at 901.595.2024 and she'll setup an appointment and treat you like family. Just tell her you're from Hope.

Directions: From Poplar, turn north on Third Street, then right on Lauderdale/Jackson Ave (first right after you go under the expressway). Enter through the north guard gate (you'll see the Danny Thomas Pavilion. Gold top).

Tell the guard at the gate that you are here to donate blood. The guard will instruct you where to park. You will then enter the hospital by the red side door closest to the blood donor parking lot. The Blood Donor Center is in the southwest corner of the hospital on the ground floor.

Appointment times are generally available Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Except on Tuesdays they start at 9:15am.

See you this weekend. Bring a friend. It's going to be great!!!



Posted by Mack Oates at 1:51 PM