Archive of ‘Advice’ category

4th of July “Cook-In”

Nothing says Fourth of July like some TomCookery ribs and potato salad, but this weekend we will be checking out some Bon Appétit recipes from the July 2014-Grilling issue.  Its not often that we brazenly lift recipes from magazines but the food in this issue just jumped off the pages and asked to be in our mouths.  We’ll be entertaining in Queens for a “TomCookery Cook-In.”  That’s right, folks.  The grand ole cookout tradition in the comforts of an apartment, because when are we not redefining comfort food at TomCookery?

Did we mention that everything looks amazing in this grilling issue?  Because it does.  But we had to pick a few so here’s a run down of our menu for the Cook-In.  First, we’ll be attempting to cooking the cover, the Mint and Cumin-Spiced Lamb Chops.

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

The recipe is as follows:

INGREDIENTS

2 medium onions, peeled, quartered

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems

1 cup fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons allspice

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon ras-el-hanout or garam masala

Kosher salt

24 untrimmed lamb rib chops (about 5 lb.)

Vegetable oil (for grilling)

Pulse onions, cilantro, parsley, mint, cumin, paprika, allspice, red pepper flakes, and ras-el-hanout in a food processor until very finely chopped; season with salt. Place lamb in a large dish and rub with spice mixture. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat and oil grate. Grill lamb to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

If these savory lamb chops could talk, they would love to be served alongside the Bon Appétit recipe for Grilled Bread Salad with Sweet Peppers and Onions.  Looking for an awesome summer side dish?  Then, look no further… the TomCookery staff is sold on this one. Bon Appétit’s panzanella seems like it will have an aromatic acidity, which should compliment the richness of the Mint and Cumin-Spiced Lamb Chops.  We can’t resist this smoky twist on the classic.

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

The recipe is as follows:

INGREDIENTS

¼ small loaf country-style bread (about 6 oz.), crust removed, bread torn into large pieces

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large red bell peppers, halved, ribs and seeds removed

2 small red onions, peeled, quartered, with some root attached

3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon paprika, preferably smoked

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh chives, plus more for serving

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Toss bread with 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Toss bell peppers and onions with 2 Tbsp. oil; season with salt and pepper.

Grill bread, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Grill vegetables, turning often, until very tender and charred in spots, 8–10 minutes for peppers and 10–12 minutes for onions; transfer to a cutting board.

Trim root end from onions and separate layers. Transfer to a large bowl, add vinegar and paprika, and toss to coat. Remove as much skin as possible from peppers; discard. Cut into 1½” strips.

Add peppers, grilled bread, 2 Tbsp. chives, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to bowl with onions and toss to combine; season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired. Serve topped with more chives.

Don’t you dare skip out on dessert!  After a long day of grilling, we want a quick and easy dessert to satisfy our sweet tooth without slaving over a hot oven.  For those of us who are no-dessert-intolerant, a buttery puff pastry will do just the trick.  Puff pastry can take the place of cake any day if you ask me.  Just make sure you get a good one.  We’re partial to Dufour.

To finish the day we’ll making a variation of Bon Appétit’s Plum Tarts with honey and black pepper pictured below.  Stay tuned for pictures of the TomCookery one.  We’re thinking pistachios.  We’re thinking baklava.

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

The recipe is as follows:

INGREDIENTS

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (one 14-oz. package or half of 17.3-oz. package), thawed according to package directions

1 pound red plums, apricots, or peaches, pitted, cut into ½” wedges

¼ cup sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon honey

Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preheat oven to 425°. Cut pastry into six 4” squares, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and prick all over with a fork. Top with plums, leaving a ½” border. Sprinkle with sugar; season with a few grinds of pepper.

Bake tarts, rotating pan halfway through, until edges of pastry are puffed and golden brown, 25–30 minutes. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with salt just before serving.

Ya’ll come back soon to see how the Cook-In turned out.

Oh yes,  and Happy Independence Day, America!

–Alana

 

Impromptu Tea Parties

If you have been following me for a while, or even a short time, you probably already know that I love tea.  Half my family is from Barbados and I grew up drinking quite a bit of tea.  I also had the most impressive variety of tea sandwiches at every single one of my birthday parties as a child. #caribbeanchildhood

We all know tea parties can get pretty fancy.  At TomCookery, we pull out all the stops.  But one thousand obnoxiously small sandwiches and and more scones than you can shake a stick at have lead me to really appreciate the casually thrown together affair.

Nowadays, I think the best tea parties are loosely planned, made up of last weekend’s brown butter pound cake, your friend’s brownies expiriment, some leftover eggplant lasagna and chicken biscuits for the win.  I just got invited for another casual tea this week at a friend’s house so I can safely say this is becoming a thing.  Just remember you heard it first on the TomCookery blog.

I’d like to present the most unpretentious of posts on tea: Impromptu Tea Parties.

What you will need:

Tea

-Some Tea, looseleaf or a solid bagged tea like Mightyleaf Organic Breakfast or Vanilla Bean.  I threw my Fairway “Victorian Early Gray” into my handbag before I left the house because its the hostess’ favorite.

-A good, ceramic tea pot with a strainer

-Milk

-Sugar-I like Demerara because it has a bit more depth than white sugar

Nibbles

Sweet is great, but if you are trying to be held over until dinner, I think you need some savories as well.  At our party yesterday we took the sweet route and had:

Caramel Sea Salt Brownies

Banoffee Pie- Amari’s version was bananas, whipped cream, dulce de leche in a homemade graham cracker crust.

Biscuits (not cookies, real country biscuits) with Honey Butter

If I could go back in time, I probably would have made a fancy egg salad sandwich with some stuff the hostess already had in her fridge.  Below is TomCookery’s new version of a comfort food classic, the egg salad sandwich.

TomCookery’s Not Your Grandmother’s Egg Salad Sandwich

Ingredients

6 hard boiled eggs

1/8 cup of mayo (or more if you like mayo)

1 teaspoon grain mustard

1/2 cup of minced white onion

Salt/Freshly ground black pepper to Taste

Shaved Parmesan

6 slices of your favorite bread.  I like a toasted sourdough for this.

Directions

1.  Peel your hard boiled eggs and give them a really fine chop.  My idol Ina Garten puts her eggs through a few pulses in a food processor, which makes them super delicate and fluffy.      Your call.  2.  Add the mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and onions.  3.  Mix it up good.  Taste it.  Adjust seasonings to your liking, and then put it onto your bread with the shaved parmesan layered on top.  4.  You got yourself a egg salad sandwich.  5.  Cut off the crusts, and cut into triangles to up the fancy meter but if you are keeping it impromptu, skip this step and just make it shareable.

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Happy sipping,

Tom

Tom, Pimp My Party – Super Bowl Edition

You may or may not have read my post from last week, Super Bowl Party Blunders.  Per usual, I was on my soap box about how to throw a well-appointed party.  This week, I decided to get my hands dirty and actually do something.  I know, I’m soooo generous.  Welcome to our newest segment on The TomCookery Blog…

Tom, Pimp My Party – Super Bowl Edition

Enter, Tyriel.  Urban professional, rice and peas addict and an unapologetic party-thrower.  Enter, Tom.  Caterer, friend of Tyriel and a card holding Restaurant Depot member.

Highlights

Outsourcing.  Tyriel has a lot of friends, all of whom are ready to chip in.  But instead of getting 25 bags of Tostitos, I encouraged Tyriel to be really specific with his asks (i.e. “John, pls bring 30lbs of ice.”)

Hors D’oeuvres.  Tyriel’s guests come hongry.  This year we got some frozen hors d’oeuvres (no judgment here), baked or fried them off with minimal effort and served them to his guests before the real food came out.  These bites, along with a $10 veggie plate from Costco held people over.

Sliders with Chipotle Aioli.  Tyriel didn’t realize flavored mayo was so easy to make.  The chipotle peppers in adobo literally came right off the shelves of his corner bodega.  We threw 3 peppers, 3 cloves of garlic and 2 cups of mayo into the food processor and viola, a fancy sports bar quality slider in no time at all.

The Cobb Salad.  This year, Tyriel wanted to be a little kinder to people who wanted to eat light.  So I suggested a cobb salad.  Sure, its technically a salad but its really like a bacon egg and cheese on lettuce.  Gourmet dressings were non-existent in his Harlem Pathmark so we got some regular old spicy brown mustard, two lemons and some canola and made our own dressing.  And it was delicious.

All in all, I’d say our mission was accomplished.  The food was great, people seemed super excited about the food and Tyriel got to reign supreme as the king of all Super Bowl Party hosts.

If you want me to come pimp your next party (for free) email us at info@tom-cookery.com.

Meet Tyriel.

Meet Tyriel.

Tyriel doesn't eat beef.  Tom doesn't care.

Tyriel doesn’t eat beef. Tom doesn’t care.

 

Check out his serving skills.  I'd use him at my next event.

Check out his serving skills. I’d use him at my next event.

Making Burger Patties

Making Burger Patties

The Sliders with Chipotle Aioli

The Sliders with Chipotle Aioli

The Cobb Salad

The Cobb Salad

Festive fan enjoys cobb salad

Festive fan enjoys cobb salad

Good thing we got that veggie plate.  It went to great use.

Good thing we got that veggie plate. It went to great use.

With friends like Tom, who needs slavedrivers?

With friends like Tom, who needs slavedrivers?

 

Super Bowl (Party) Blunders

Much to my chagrin, I don’t go to Super Bowl Parties to watch football.  While everyone else is, what I call, ”watching the game,” I am usually eating and drinking and trying to find someone else who isn’t really “watching the game” to be my friend for the night.  This has provided me with years of data to form the following observation:

Super Bowl Sunday can really be renamed Entertaining for Those Who Don’t Entertain Sunday

If you find yourself throwing a Super Bowl party and you fall in the non-entertaining camp, below are the are areas where you don’t get a pass.  Hopefully this advice will prevent you from fumbling your host duties.  Puns stop here, I promise.

Hot Food 

If its supposed to be hot, try to serve it hot.  Cold meatballs in cold sauce are not appetizing.  Honestly, you don’t have to get #fancy for this.  Pick up a cheap warmer set at any dollar store for about $15 bucks or you can order it on Amazon and it will come straight to your door.

 Enough Food

This is one department where you don’t get an “A” for effort.  Sure you had an impressive spread, but it was only enough for 15/30 of your guests.  Nobody said you had to feed an army but invite less people OR ask for some kind of financial contribution.  If the amount of people you need to cook for seems daunting, see my earlier post on When to Hire a Caterer.

Appropriate Food

Now is not the time to serve duck confit.  Unless its in a taco.  I see in your eyes that you want to break out of the same ole boring wings and nachos Super Bowl party fare.  But refrain.  Reinvent the classics but remember, finger foods are popular because you aren’t really sitting down at a table.  Not to mention the food replicates the feeling of being at a game.  When was the last time you sat down with a fork and a knife at a sporting event?

Enough Seats

I’m just putting this out there.  You should probably have enough seats for your guests.  People milling about is a recipe for disaster.  Guests will be all up in your kitchen, your bedroom and dark corners of your apartment.  Chaos ensues.

Something to Drink (That isn’t Coors Light)

This last point is really for the hosts AND the attendees.  I’ve noticed that people tend to prioritize quantity over quality when they bring drinks to a Super Bowl Party.  Maybe thats okay with you but the rest of us graduated from college years ago.  Hosts, if you are going to do this party, do it right and provide a variety of drinks.  Guests, if someone is gracious enough to host a party, say thank you by bringing good quality beer or cider.  This way you don’t have to feel guilty when you conveniently exit before folks start cleaning up.

Feel free to keep running menu planning and entertaining questions by me at info@tom-cookery.com.  I’ll be sure to post the amusing ones.

Happy planning,

Tom

Top 5 Reasons You Should Hire a Boutique Caterer for Your Wedding

boutique caterer blog post

At the Lovesick Bridal Expo I attended last weekend, I ran into so many awesome and unique boutique wedding vendors.  This inspired me to do a post on the merits of going with a small business for your wedding or event as opposed to a big one.  I hope you are in the mood for a bit of Shameless Self-Promotion (SSP) for myself and the other boutique event planners, bakers, stationers and florists that we often work with.  Top 5 reasons below to go with a boutique catering company.

1. We Customize Our Menus

My approach to menu planning is similar to my approach to cooking…start from scratch.  Instead of sending over pages and pages of menus, I start every consultation with just getting to know the couple.  This helps me create a menu that fits your style.  Turns out you want your grandmother’s peach cobbler at your wedding?  Lets conference her in too.

2. We Can Bend the Rules

This is mainly because we make the rules.  A lot of catering halls and large catering companies do things the same way, every time.  Be prepared to meet some resistance if that way doesn’t fit your needs.  Lets say you want five buffet stations instead of three.  That could potentially give the chef a conniption.  On the other hand, boutique companies are in a better position to adapt to special requests, mainly because every event is a new experience.

3.  We Can Negotiate

Boutique companies have the flexibility to negotiate.  It’s like the difference between negotiating the price of a sweater at Bloomingdales v. negotiating the price of a sweater at the fun boutique in Soho.  Need I say more?

4. Chain of Authority is Short

Often, you are speaking with the owner herself or the person who is in all likelihood sitting next to the owner in the office.  If you have any realtime requests or changes, you don’t have to wait for information to go through the grapevine.  You are almost always talking to the final decision maker.

5. We Actually Care

Because we don’t do a lot of big advertising, most of our clients come by word of mouth.  This makes client interaction very special.  I tend to go out of my way for my clients just because I like them and value the relationship.  I’ll admit that sometimes when events are over I have to resist the urge to eat pints of ice cream on the couch in my pajamas but that’s my problem, not yours.

Other boutique vendors, let me know if there is anything I’m forgetting in the comments!

Dutifully yours,

Tom

When to hire a caterer v. When to do it yourself

2014 party planning is in full swing and you are probably wondering if its worth it to hire a caterer for your upcoming bridal shower, birthday party, anniversary, bbq, etc.  My blatant disregard for hiring a caterer in the BTC (Before TomCookery) time period and the back ache that followed, was the inspiration for this post that should help you with your decision.

I will never forget NYE 2009.  My friend asked me if I would cook for his NYE house party of about 50 guests. Remember, this was BTC.  So I started cooking that evening at 5pm and finished at 11pm.  I literally had to run home, shower, throw on a dress and haul ass back to the party for the ball drop.  I had great help, but I was TIRED.  Then there was the time I catered my friends baby shower in 2011 when I was working as a corporate lawyer (stupid).  I think I got three hours of sleep.  In the pictures I looked like the walking dead.  See the theme arising here?  Sometimes you gotta call in the professionals.

So here is my short list on when to hire a caterer vs. when to do it yourself.

1. Cooking Ability.

Cook tasty meals on a weekly basis?  You may be okay.

Don’t even own measuring cups/spoons.  Outsource.

2. Basic Math Skills

If you can keep track of quadrupling recipes and don’t loose count when you are measuring 48 cups of flour.  Give it a go.

If multiplying and fractions stress you out, you won’t be happy.

3. Organizational Skills

If friends describe you as an anal, obsessive kitchen dictator, you are literally halfway to owning your own catering company.  You go!

If you are a free spirit who has it all written down “up here” (points to head), prepare yourself for many many trips to the supermarket.

4. Whose Event is it Anyway?

If you are a friend, distant relative, or someone who can slink into a corner, I think you just may be a good candidate.

If you are the center of attention for the event, or even the close friend or relative of the center of attention, you just can’t do it. Trust me.

5.  Time

You have all the time in the world and you get off on challenges of the culinary variety.  Right up your alley.

Checked your schedule and you noticed that you can’t exclusively devote about 30-40 hours to food shopping, prepping, cooking, packing and transporting large amounts of food.  I recommend you pass.

6. The Help

Finally, if you have a dedicated (reliable) entourage of family members, friends or robots, you will have the support you need to get anything done.

If you have made the calls and everyone who you would consider using is “swamped,” take a pass on this event.  You will be all kinds of overwhelmed.

Hope that was helpful ;)

The Ever Bossy,
Tom