Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In Your Eyes...

working with "pitufos" always make me smile.. .
(note the matching sneaks)
coming soon: ball caps and chef coats!

Peter Gabriel had no idea what he was getting himself into. 

Remember when I blogged about opening our new restaurant here along the beach? And I was busy, stressed? THAT WAS NOTHING. Since then, we’ve hit the ground running, with big, super VIP events, that made me want to laugh, cry and hurl (do people still quote Wayne Campbell?). I’m tired. beat. it’s been too many hours, too many days, so many special requests and new projects arising! 
 But I’m smiling. I’m actually having a blast getting my butt kicked here at work.

I've been blogging elsewhere- check it out:



 This morning, I came into the kitchen and saw one of my dishwashers kneeling on the ground, with a cook standing over him. It appeared as though she was helping him get something out of his eye. Rather than intrude, I let them be, but was eyeing them, asking around... and sure enough, she was- apparently, Fadel had a bit of “trash in his eye.” But she appeared to have a utensil. A soup spoon? I immediately tense and get a little concerned- is she scooping out his eye? Internal panic... but I calmly walk over, and he begins to get up, I ask if everything is okay. It is. But there's something kind of white around his eye. And I ask, why not just stand over the sink and wash your eye out with soap?

 Josefa replies, well, Calley, I did wash his eye out, with “leche de pecho.”
No words. I’m speechless. speechless. Apparently she had squeezed it onto the spoon... I can't go into it. Wow.
 Just when I think I’ve seen it all... bienvenidos a Nicaragua.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Wowza. So much has happened since Thanksgiving.

Some news:
The restaurant moved two days before Christmas. To an amazing new location about 200 yards away from the old restaurant, right on the rocky shore of the Pacific Ocean.
dining room at sunset
It’s been a long project for the development project and the finishing touches are still being completed.

From Christmas to New Year’s, basically, the entire country takes a vacation. Hilarity ensues (she says with a fake laugh) as every day had major snafus that can’t be fixed because no one, including the contracted construction crew, is around for the holiday. I couldn’t document the chaos because I was so busy, but also, at the end of the day, I was just too exhausted to rehash what had just happened and was just thankful for another day to be complete.
At least one big ticket item was problematic daily. As if on cue, this normally happened right about 7pm each night. The extractor hood above the grill shorts, the kitchen fills with smoke and it seeps into the dining room, the only person with a key to the panel is on vacation, the gas convection oven had been misappropriated for propane and turned food sooty, we had power failures, refrigeration failures, generator mishaps...
making dinner rolls in the dark with a headlamp
The size of the kitchen is enormous. In fact, it took a few days to adjust. In our old location, we all became accustomed to having everything within arm’s reach, and keeping our legs fairly still... but, well, I've been going through Icy Hot like it's pure-sugar-coca-cola. Part of the solution for maintaining the giant kitchen & restaurant and having the best service possible has been to add 13 new employees!
the "before"

"after": what a happy staff!

plus, as always, a few of the same old problems, like:
I had a short staff meeting that included the statement: “no picking your nose.”
I just redid the original music selection after one awkward night at the bar, when I heard some artists now on our “do not play list:” (yes, I know people at karaoke want to know how will I know (if he really loves me), but it just sets the wrong mood for our paying guests:
N'Sync, Phil Collins, Celine Dion, Madonna, Wilson Phillips y "soft rock de las ochentas," Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Kenny G, Rod Stewart, Britney Spears, Aerosmith

Admist the chaos and too many hours of working, I took an evening to personally cater a wine pairing dinner for my boss and 11 other guests at a gorgeous house atop a ridge here at here at the Ranch. It was a really needed and refreshing change of scenery. I was chatting with a few guests saying, "It's so nice to get a night off!"... and felt good about it until they retorted: "Cooking a 4 course dinner for 12 with wine pairings is a night off?"
hmm. good point. But, I made it through! We all did! we all did (slightly somber, relieved fade to black with a herman cain slow smile). This month has been a little slower gearing up for a very busy February.

here are some fun facts:
We have a restaurant name! La Finca y El Mar
(highlights our simplicity in clean, local and ingredients fresh from the garden and ocean)
We have a new sous chef! Nick is an American, who is a great counterpart!
We have a Toyota Hilux for the restaurant! piiiiiimp!
We have a new, updated, “Calley-esque” menu coming next month! hint: homemade pastas!
We have a salamander, a pizza oven and 3 walk in coolers!
Keyner walking out of the kitchen
with our first bar food orders

We’ve got a blog to showcase our daily specials, especially great for guests and residents in the area:

I had a wonderful holiday season, and look forward to a whirlwind 2012!

ps: vote herman cain!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Andouille and Lobster Bread Stuffing

 Here on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, we get excellent fresh fish. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving doesn’t revolve around ocean products. Well, I’m going to change that this year. For this recipe, we use Spiny Lobster. It’s very tasty, but there is no claw meat, and the meat doesn’t shred easily. If you can get your hands on Maine lobster, go for it! This means that the shell number will vary. Basically, to make this recipe to scale, you want one pound of raw meat.
eat me! (little corn island, 2011)

  This recipe is perfect for the Thanksgiving potluck. It takes time: you make a stock. If you want to simply add this to the chaos that you're already preparing as the main Thanksgiving cook, I suggest making the stock the Sunday before Thanksgiving (if you are a 9-5er) and lightly poaching the lobster in the stock and keeping the cooked meat on ice until game day.

Serves 16 as a side dish.
Lobster Stock (the make ahead: you can make it the Sunday before Thanksgiving, but keep the lobster meat on ice:
6 lobster tails, shell only
1 onion, cut in quarters, paper and all
2 heads garlic, cut in half, paper and all
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns, whole
1 packed cup of celery leaves (stalked okay, too... or eat them while you cook)
2 cup white wine
1 gallon water
*bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour, until reduced and flavorful. Strain and cool. 
To Make The Stuffing:
2 pounds baguette, cut into 1” pieces, lightly toasted in the oven or left out overnight
1 cup butter
4 medium onion, large dice
2 pound Andouille sausage, casings removed
1 pound lobster meat, cut into 1” pieces (all of the meat taken from said tails above)
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
3 cups premade lobster stock**
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 Teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
In a large pan or dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cover. Stir occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the onion is wilted and slightly browned. Remove and place in a large bowl. Add the sausage, cooking and breaking up into bite size pieces with stirring utensil. If you are using precooked Andouille, cut into large dice and cook until browned in a bit more butter (yum). When almost cooked through or fully browned, add the lobster meat. Stir together and cook until the lobster meat is just cooked through. Remove and place in bowl with onions.
Stir bread into onion-sausage mixture, toss in time, salt and pepper. Then, 1/2 cup at a time, add the stock and lightly toss with a spoon until it is completely absorbed. Do not add all of the stock at once, nor add all of the stock if the bread won't absorb the last parts. This will create a mushy mess. Lightly pack into 2 greased 9 x 12 baking dishes, or one of those huge aluminum pans (easy clean up!)
Bake for about 45 minutes at 350°F, until the top is browned and crunchy.

 It’s Thanksgiving, baby! Make a lot! This recipe is simply halved for smaller occasions. That means 1 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, for the kitchen math novice.
 HERB NOTE: Dried thyme is great because you don’t have to pay $3 for a bunch and then pick off the leaves that you need in a painstaking fashion, only to have the other half of the bunch dry up in your fridge. That said, dried herbs don’t last forever. It’s like nail polish, or mascara (that you eat?). Buy small jars! When you crumble it in between your fingers, it should smell herbacious, not like dust.
*If you have fennel bulb, please, substitute for 1/2 the onion
** so over bread stuffing? substitute pre-cooked wild rice for bread, and cut bake time to 25 minutes.
***The Lobster stock makes about 2 quarts: use the leftovers for soup. What a way to spice up your Thanksgiving leftovers!
****Not Thanksgiving, but interested in making this anyway? It’s a great side dish to Pan Fried Jumbo Shrimp, Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin or served as a main course with a spicy Arugula, raisin and lemon salad.