March 05, 2014
One quality that restaurant chefs could use more of is patience.
We are constantly dealing with time constraints, and when our restaurants are filled with hungry patrons, any patience we may possess is taken over by an undeniable sense of urgency. We need to feed the people, and fast!
So you can imagine how a chef, stuck between restaurants, feels when he learns of yet another delay in the construction process that pushes back the timeframe of opening yet again. Emotional—yes. Painful—YES. A feeling of loss of control—which rocks the bedrock of any chef—triple yes!
I have felt all of these emotions during the process of renovating our new building. We have found some hidden problems that needed immediate and costly attention. For example, our roof turned out to be just bad enough that we need to replace it. A load bearing wall (the only one in the building) turned out to be not bearing enough and required another fix. The piece de resistance turned out to be the crawl space under the original part of our building which, due to rising water tables, undermined the entire sub-structure of our new home.
These issues put our patience, not to mention our budget, to the test. What were we to do? Well, to follow the advice of Forrest Gump, we are turning those lemons into lemonade.
Because we needed a new roof, we are adding insulation above the ceiling so that we can keep the exposed beams and capture a few feet of airy headroom. We have filled in the swamp below the floor, allowing us to have the polished concrete floors throughout the building that I have always wanted. Shoring up the load-bearing wall means we can install sliding barn doors to separate the main dining room from our private dining room, creating a celebratory space for up to 40 guests. I am certain that the time and expense we have endured will be more than made up for when we finally open—with an awesome space that is comfortable for our guests and well thought out for our staff.
Looking at the bright side, however, does nothing to advance our building schedule! Taking these developments into account, we now anticipate being ready to open in late May-early June. Because of this we are forced to postpone our cooking class series! My brother and I are sorry about this and we have tried to contact everyone who signed up. Just as soon as we have a firm date on opening we will re-publish our catalog and resume our popular classes. If you are a cooking class registrant who has not yet heard from us please give us a call at 401-247-1200 so that we can accommodate you. Thanks!
Speaking of patience, I would like to leave you with one of my go-to recipes that requires lots of it. I have been making caramelized onions in this manner since approximately 1987, and with each pot I set on the stove, am reminded that patience can be a very good thing. The key to this recipe is to resist the temptation to turn up the flame in order to speed up the cooking process, and trust me, that resistance reaps rewards of flavor and texture that simply cannot be duplicated. Whenever I make them I always make way more than I need because they will keep for several days in the fridge and can be added to many recipes. So I invite you to make a big batch of caramelized onions and think warm thoughts of the late Spring. I will be right there by your side.
Joe and the Simone’s Crew
3 pounds Spanish Onions
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 heaping tbsp fresh sage or rosemary leaves (or a combination of the two), coarsely chopped
1. Trim and peel the onions and cut into 1/8” thick julienne.
2. Place onions and olive oil into a large saucepan, cover, and set over very low heat.
3. Cook onions very slowly stirring occasionally until the onions have given off their water and are very soft. Add the fresh sage if using and continue to cook slowly (covered) until the onions are a golden brown and very silky. This process will take between 2 and 3 hours. Alternatively you could cook them in your crockpot. I would begin with one hour at high and then turn down
to low for several more hours. Just remember to keep stirring every once in awhile so that the
onions cook evenly and also so that nothing sticks and burns at the bottom of the pan.
4. When the onions are golden and silky—almost melting in your mouth when you take a (careful) taste—off the heat and allow to cool. At this point you can cover and refrigerate them for several days. Or you could turn the batch into a simple Caramelized Onion Soup.
Caramelized Onion Soup
1 tbsp butter
2 cups Caramelized Onions
1/4 cup each Dubonnet Green and Red or 1/4 cups each Sweet and Dry Vermouth or 1/2 cup dry
2 cups each Beef and Chicken Broth (or Vegetable broth)
Salt to taste
Optional—baked crouton with cheese on top (recipe follows)
4 slices country style bread, preferably day old
Grated Gruyere (or whatever cheese you like) to cover the bread
1. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan and when it sizzles add the caramelized onions. Cook
over medium heat for a couple of minutes until you can smell the onions. Add the liquors if
using, turn the heat down to med-low, and simmer until half of the liquid has evaporated.
2. Add the beef and chicken stocks, bring to the simmer and cook 5 minutes to meld the flavors.
Taste and adjust salt as necessary. Serve hot with or without the cheese crouton.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Place the slices of bread on a baking tray (hint: cover the tray with parchment or aluminum foil to facilitate cleaning).
Cover with the cheese and bake for 8-10 minutes until the bread is golden and the cheese bubbly.
4. Divide the soup into 4 bowls and top each with a crouton and serve with a soup spoon and
knife and fork. Pass the peppermill. Enjoy!