We Didn’t Start the Fire- Cook Eat Love VDay Weekend Cooking Class Recap

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When Valentine’s Day falls on a long weekend, a Sunday night cooking class for lovers and friends is the obvious next step.  Right?

So that’s exactly what we did.  This VDay, TomCookery hosted “Cook Eat Love-Valentine’s Weekend Cooking Class.”  I can’t speak for everyone else, but my Assistant Instructor Sara and I had a blast with this group of foodies.  I was definitely a proud mama watching this dream team drink, dance and bang out a four course meal in about an hour and a half.

Menu

Roasted Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad with a Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

Squid Ink Linguine with Jerk Salmon in Vodka Sauce

Grilled Lamb Chops with Caramelized Onions and Herb Butter

Coconut Basmati Rice & Peas

Chocolate Soufflé with Whipped Cream and Berries

Highlights

-The fire at Rob’s lamb lollipop grilling station and my uncharacteristic lack of concern.  “It will take care of itself.”- said nobody about any fire, ever.  Except me.

-Mustard-herb butter.  And the group vote that it be elevated to a main course.

-My resident Jamaicans making the jerk salmon.  No pressure, TomCookery.

-That salad that stole the show.  Tails-on shrimp…a must!

-So. Much. Souffle.  Hats off to the couple who kept track of all 24, yes, 24 egg whites.  And the stand mixer that whipped them into shape.

-Kenny asking for, and being awarded an internship at TomCookery LLC.

-The pasta and vodka sauce group not so secretly declaring themselves to have the best dish.  Pass the parmesan please!

-My old-lady recipe interpretations (pinch of this, dash of that) for rice and peas and the ever patient student.

Thanks to Marisa, event planner extrodinaire at House of Flores for her clutch tablescaping and flower arranging.

If you are interested in a cooking class or cooking party, contact us at events@tom-cookery.com.

Until next time,

Tom

 

An apron, a side towel and a recipe booklet are the keys to success in this class.

An apron, a side towel and a recipe booklet are the keys to success in this class.

I love this couple AND these aprons!

I love this couple AND these aprons!

Poster child for cooking class wholesomeness.

Poster child for cooking class wholesomeness.

 

Great to have some old friends in the kitchen.

Great to have some old friends in the kitchen.

I know.  I'm also sad we're on the last course :(

I know. I’m also sad we’re on the last course :(

Salad? Don't mind if I do!

Salad? Don’t mind if I do!

Painstakingly prepared this salad with more elements than you can shake a stick at!

Painstakingly prepared this salad with more elements than you can shake a stick at!

If you can't stand the heat...just stay in the kitchen and keep cooking. -Tom

If you can’t stand the heat…just stay in the kitchen and keep cooking. -Tom

There are few things that make me happier than seeing people happily eating ;)

There are few things that make me happier than seeing people happily eating ;)

Hey girl, hey!  The inspiration for the class sitting right here.

Hey girl, hey! The inspiration for the class sitting right here.

Snapshot of what all we made.

Snapshot of what all we made.

 

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?

 

TomCookery’s Valentine’s Weekend Cooking Class

Tired of the same old V-Day Plans?  Nothing says bonding like watching your soufflé rise with your boo, bestie or new friend that you just met an hour ago!  TomCookery’s COOK – EAT – LOVE Valentine’s weekend class is perfect for people who want to learn some serious kitchen skills in a laid-back environment.  Part class, part dinner party, come ready to cook, sip, boogie, and chow down.

Email us today at Events@tom-cookery.com or register on Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.com/e/valentines-weekend-cooking-class-tickets-10452272027.  The class is intimate and its filling up fast!


TomCookery Cooking Class Flyer V 3

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 life gives you salmon scraps–

Make salmon cakes!  Have you ever been portioning salmon filets for a party and you want all the pieces to be identical so you end up with all these little scraps of salmon that are perfectly good?  No?  You haven’t?  Because that probably isn’t your typical Saturday night.  But it was mine.

So I woke up this morning and looked at the scraps and viola.  Salmon cakes for brunch.  Even if you don’t have the scraps, you can still make this recipe.  Just buy a regular piece of salmon and bake or boil it or just purchase the canned variety.  No judgement here.  As a matter of fact, I kind of like those stray crunchy bones that always sneak their way into the canned salmon cakes.

Personally, I like to eat my salmon cakes with grits and eggs.  That’s just plain and natural to me.  They also go nicely with a salad or even on a sandwich with a fun spicy mayo.  Below is my go-to recipe but everyone has their own way.  Hopefully you can experiment at home and come up with your own variations with this easy and impressive brunch.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 good-sized salmon cakes.

1 Cup of cooked flaked salmon

1 whole onion chopped

1 scallion (green and white part) chopped finely

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cayenne (more if you like spice)

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup of milk

1 egg beaten

3/4 cup Italian seasoned panko

Directions

Mix flaked salmon, onion, scallion and spices in a bowl.  Make sure everything is evenly distributed.  Next add your milk and your egg.  Then add your binder, either panko or breadcrumbs.  Incorporate the binder in slowly.  You don’t want to over mix because then your cakes will be on the bread-y (not a word) side.  Form your batter into cakes about 1/2”- 3/4” thick and 3” wide.  Heat up a frying pan with oil and butter.  Non-stick will make your life easier but its not a necessity.  When your pan is heated, fry your patties 1-2 at a time being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  They only need 2-3 minutes per side.  This should result in golden brown salmon cakes with a nice crusty edge.

Happy brunching,

Tomica

Salmon Cakes 2

Salmon Cakes

 

Then there was that time we catered a bar mitzvah…

You drooled over the mandelbrot.  You fantasized about the kugel.  Now its time to see how it all came together.

Last November, while you were probably still recovering from your Thanksgiving or Thanksgivukkah food comas, TomCookery was planning one boy’s coming of age.

Our Mission

-Subtle Elegance.  The bar mitzvah boy wouldn’t be riding in on an elephant.  Rats!

-Kosher Luncheon Menu for a southern and Caribbean comfort food chef?  TomCookery loves a challenge!

-Have it be an enjoyable experience for the kids, tweens, teens and adults.  Piece of cake…right?

So we obviously accepted and the rest was history.  We honored tradition with Mommom Sylvia’s mandebrot and kugel recipies, we kept it kosher with our menu and overall we were really pleased with the transformation of the Riverdale Temple ballroom into a swanky midday lunch venue complete with an ice cream sundae bar, Jenga tournaments, dreidel, gelt and juice boxes on ice.

Special thanks to our event planner House of Flores.  They were the backbone of this event and we couldn’t have done it without them.  I’d also like to mention some of my other go-to vendors that worked with on this event.  Makini Regal Designs  (florals), Noirstyle Invites (printing and signage) and From Cupcake with Love (Cake).

Photo credit: Martina Micko Photo

Riverdale Temple ballroom in the Bronx, NY

Riverdale Temple ballroom in the Bronx, NY

 

Buffet Line Long with Lighting

 

BM Table with Lighting

 

We all scream for the ice cream sundae bar.

We all scream for the ice cream sundae bar.

 

Pickled Herring with Cream and Onions and Gefilte Fish

Pickled Herring with Cream and Onions and Gefilte Fish

 

Driedel and Gelt

Driedel and Gelt

 

Juice boxes.  Shaken.

Juice boxes. Shaken.

 

Our buffet lines are a happy place.

Our buffet lines are a happy place.

 

Main course was Pan Seared Halibut with Brown Butter Sauce

Main course was Pan Seared Halibut with Brown Butter Sauce.

 

A whole lotta kugel.

A whole lotta kugel.

 

 

Winter salad with goat cheese, apples, walnuts and crispy shallots.

Winter salad with goat cheese, apples, walnuts and crispy shallots.

 

The kids table got Mac & Cheese.  The adults got jealous.  Understandable.

The kids table got Mac & Cheese. The adults got jealous. Understandable.

 

The gift that keeps on giving.  Mandelbrot favors with the recipe attached.

The gift that keeps on giving. Mandelbrot favors with the recipe attached.

 

Menu Cards by Noirstyle Invites

Menu Cards by Noirstyle Invites

 

Don't worry, its sparking maneschewitz.  Kids like bubbly too!

Don’t worry, its sparking maneschewitz. Kids like bubbly too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

What’s with all the Black Eyed Peas?

Happy New Year, TomCookery Family!  Last year, like most years, had its ups and downs.  The ups: TomCookery got rolling, I made lots of new friends in the wedding and event industry here in NYC and I finally started walking the walk and making my dream a reality.

Black Eyed Peas Message Blog PostIf your social media feed is anything like mine, you have been seeing recipes for black eyed peas in the most unlikely places.  Bon Appetite Magazine?  Really?  I’m also guilty of the propaganda.  I’m not sure where the tradition comes from but legend has it that black eyed peas give you luck and collard greens give you prosperity, specifically cash money.  Mix that with the belief that whatever you do on the first day of the year will carry through and voila, a whole nation of people eating black eyed peas and collard greens on New Years Day.  Judging by the dearth of black eyed peas on the supermarket shelves last night, I think we could all use a bit of luck.

Black Eyed Peas Blog Post 1

Now for the downs: It’s hard for me to eat a meal like this without thinking of my grandma, Maggie, who passed away this year.  I’ve been sitting at her table eating meals like this since before my feet could touch the floor.  She taught me everything I know about southern food and I often bounced my #southerncomfort recipes off of her for authenticity.

So, I dedicate 2014 to living out my dream, making Maggie proud and putting all the love she gave me into everything I make for you.

Forward ever, backward never.

-Tom

 

“Best I Eva Had” French Toast

French Toast Blog

 

A few people have been asking me for my recipe for French Toast.  I think this is probably one of the first breakfasts I learned how to make and can I just say I’ve come a long way.  8-year-old Tom’s french toast was an eggy, cinnamonny mess.  This recipe, which is an adaptation of the one from The Joy of Cooking is sweet, fluffy deliciousness.  As always, we keep it simple so you probably have these ingredients at home.  Go ahead and make someone some french toast this morning.

Tom’s French Toast

1 loaf brioche bread (preferably day-old)

2/3 cup of Heavy Cream

4 eggs

1/3 cup maple or pancake syrup (We like Log Cabin)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon of dark rum (optional)

6 tablespoons butter for frying

With a bread knife, slice bread into about 1″ thick portions.  Set aside.  Mix eggs and heavy cream.  Whisk until well beaten.  Then add syrup, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and rum.  Whisk until all of the syrup is incorporated into the egg batter.  Pour the egg batter into a large rectangular pan.  I find that casserole dishes work nicely for this.  Carefully dip bread slices, one at a time, flipping once.  The goal here is to make sure they are soaked through but don’t leave them so long that they turn into a soggy mess.  Set bread aside and heat up your griddle or pan to medium heat.  Melt one to two tablespoons of butter on the griddle.  When it begins to bubble, put your first few soaked slices on, leaving about 1″ space between the bread.  After about 2-3 minutes flip your bread and cook the other side.  You should have nice golden brown coloring on both sides.  Eat immediately OR keep warm in an oven set at 200 degrees.  Top with fresh fruit and serve with maple syrup or powdered sugar.

Deliciously yours,

Tom

 

 

 

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