Saturday, July 13, 2013


First the ingredients are carefully measured
For our starting gift to the guests at Palo Alto Grill, our Pastry Chef, Yoomi, wanted to do something unique and interesting, yet at the same time very familiar and satisfying.  Trying to think of bread products that were typically seen as part of Americana, we stumbled across the combination of soft pretzels and mustard.  We decided to refine the appearance by borrowing from the French Epi-Baguette, a baguette which has been cut into shapes resembling a stalk of wheat.  We further upped the ante by making zesty mustard into a rich moreish spread.

Next, Chef Yoomi carefully combines the ingredients,
dry ingredients first, then wet, in a stand mixer.
Pretzels are unique in the bread world in many ways:
- They are topped with salt
- They are brushed with baking soda to give them their unique brown/white look
- They are brushed with butter to shine them


1500 grams Bread Flour
500 grams Cake Flour
1300 grams Water
16 grams Yeast
12 grams Salt
Butter, as needed
Pretzel Salt, as needed

After the ingredients have all been mixed on speed 2 for
6 minutes, the dough is divided and shaped.

The dough is divided into 95 gram portions before being carefully rolled out as pictured
Remember, bread dough has memory.  If you grab a piece of dough by both ends and pull to achieve the length we're going for with this bread, when it bakes in the oven, it will spring back together.  In order to get the dough to achieve the proper shape and hold it, the dough must be flattened out, then rolled up before being rolled out.  The act of winding the dough tighter and tighter around itself allows the elastic proteins to loosen lengthwise, sort of like unwinding a spring.

Chef Yoomi paints the dough with a mixture of 250 grams water to 15 grams baking soda, to achieve greater browning.
This is done before and after proofing.
Bread this thin doesn't need long to proof at all.  In a hot, muggy kitchen like ours, it proofs at room temperature in about 10 minutes.

Once the dough has puffed ever so slightly (like the first step of filling a balloon, when the air goes in, but the balloon has yet to stretch) paint the dough with the soda water once more and cut slashes at a 45 degree angle, leaving the dough connected at the bottom, but using the scissors to angle the points of the mini rolls.

Sprinkle with pretzel salt and bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, turning once.

When the breads come out of the oven, they are well browned, but do not have pretzel's characteristic shine.

Note: you can see the areas where the baking soda did not get painted into, these parts of the pretzel stay bright white.  This is the advantage of soda washing the bread:  a beautiful two-tone surface.

To achieve shininess, the bread is brushed with melted butter right out of the oven.

These breads are super sick, and a great way to start a meal at Palo Alto Grill, especially with our house cheese mustard.

For our recipe for cheese mustard:

Cool Beans.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Steak and Potatoes

Being the Chef of a Steakhouse, the concept of Steak and Potatoes carries a lot more depth for me than most.  There are good steaks, great steaks and near-perfect steaks.  Very flavorful steaks are usually more tough, and vice versa.  Ribeyes have so much juice, but they are riddled with different tendons and muscles that have a completely different texture and flavor.  At Palo Alto Grill, we constantly seek perfection, and consistency, within the boundaries of nature.  For this reason, we have recently incorporated a procedure to separate the ribeye cap from the eye of the loin, creating 2 more perfect steaks out of 1 very inconsistent steak.  The ribeye cap is particularly special, because it is as soft as a filet mignon, nearly as tender but juicier than the juciest ribeye, and as flavorful.  There are only about 8-10 half pound portions of ribeye cap per cow, which compared to 14-16 half pound portions of filet mignon per cow makes it very special, indeed.

But lets start with the potatoes.  First, reach for your peeler (a very important tool, indeed.  I keep mine in my sleeve pocket, always!)

Our potatoes are prepared in the context of a potato puree, a recipe developed by Chef of the Century, Joel Robuchon.  It is said that this is the recipe that earned Chef Robuchon his 3rd star Michelin, as well as propelling him to his status as the most important Chef of the last 100 years.  These are a far cry from mashed potatoes, much more smooth and rich.  It takes 2 tricks (on top of otherwise proper technique) to get the potatoes this way: A - The puree is double-refined by being pushed through a fine mesh screen after mixing. B - The butter/potato ratio is about 1/2 (don't worry, this kind of potato puree is meant to be eaten only a couple tablespoons at a time.  Think of it as being low carb!)

1 pound Yukon Gold Potatoes or Large Fingerling Potatoes
1/2 pound Butter
1/2 cup Milk, or as needed
Sea Salt, to taste
1 bunch chives, finely chopped
Peel the potatoes, dice them in large pieces and put the peel in hot milk to steep.
The potato skins have an intense amount of potato flavor, so steeping them in the milk helps make the final product taste that much more potato-y.  The potatoes for this recipe must be a waxy non-grainy potato.  Yukon Golds and large Fingerlings are an excellent choice, Idaho Russets and Kennebecs are a bad choice.

Cook the Potatoes in water until very tender.  Use  very gentle heat, we want to break them up as little as possible.

When the potatoes are cooked, we will be passing them through a food mill.  A hand-held ricer is also an acceptable tool, and takes up less space in the cupboard, but the food mill will always be faster.  Speed is important, it must stay hot.  Potatoes are a very unique vegetable.  They have very starchy granules which, in the presence of fat, can have a very nice mouth-feel.  However, if the potatoes are chilled and then re-warmed, the crystalline nature of these starch granules becomes mealy and unpleasant.  Mashed potatoes can be held hot for quite a long time, but if they are chilled, they will lose most of their luxuriousness.  At Palo Alto Grill, we make these potatoes from scratch every day.

After the potatoes are cooked, pass them through a food mill.  Heat them to remove excess moisture, add 1/2 their weight in melted butter and add the heated, potato skin-steeped milk to texture.  The potatoes should be the texture of creamy polenta or risotto.

Season the potatoes to taste with sea salt, pour them into a fine-mesh strainer and pass them through with a ladle to remove any graininess.

Silky smooth...

Though not part of the original Robuchon recipe, per se, we add chopped chives to our potatoes.

And now onto the steak...

This is the end of a Ribeye.  We typically use bone-in ribeye at Palo Alto Grill, but for the first part of this demonstration, we will be showing a boneless ribeye.  This is the process to break down a ribeye and remove the rib cap.  You can see the slightly darker ")"-shaped section on the right side of the steak.  This is the cap.  It cooks more slowly than the eye (the round section on the upper left).

To isolate the rib cap, start by removing the excess fat cap at the top of the ribeye.

The rib cap can then be easily separated  by cutting along the fat line between the eye and the cap.

Note: the purpose of this demonstration is to show how special the cap is, though it is highly unlikely that one might try this at home.  Ask your local butcher to do this for you (though you may have to buy the whole loin!)

The loin now separates into two sections:

The eye, which after bone-sawing makes these bone-in ribeye cuts...

and the cap, which needs to be cleaned of fat...

Then cut into portions.

1/2 pound rib cap steaks

Note the amount of fat that needs to be cut off of the ribeye loin:
The original block of meat is called a primal ribeye, which is where the term "Prime Rib" comes from because the whole loin is roasted whole before slicing.  The reason that prime rib can be sold so cheaply is because it is roasted with all of this fat still left on it.  Gross, right?  At Palo Alto Grill, we never leave more than 1/4 inch-thick bands of fat on any steak.

Rib cap char-broils really well because it has so much fat marbled throughout and it cooks quite slowly, compared to other cuts.

One can use these attributes to create a nice crust on the outside of a very juicy, tender steak.

A steak this special should be presented as simply as possible, salt, pepper and a little butter.

Steak and potatoes - done right.  Cool beans.