No Matter How You Slice It

Looking Through a Glass Onion

The misunderstood onion is the multiple personality disorder victim of the culinary universe. Is it yellow, red, or white? Spanish, pearl, or cocktail? One minute a flavor enhancer and then quickly a breath altering son of a bitch. Sometimes a taste bud joy bringer and oft times a tear jerker this mood changing bulbous veggie staple is a well known in kitchens throughout the world. People are often compared to these versatile ever popular alliums. “He is a complicated Person, with as many layers as an onion.” Indeed concentric in nature the royal onion is as complicated as a vegetable can be. “An onion a day keeps everyone away” That man was so ugly he could make an onion cry.” “ A cat has nine lives but an onion has seven skins.“ “An onion by any other name will never be a rose.” Okay, I made that last one up but you dig what I‘m saying.
Ranging in size from tiny pearls to giant softballs the onion can in fact be peeled one layer after another. A staple in nearly every culture despite having an essence so peculiarly strong and venomous it rivals the skunks ability to cause one to pinch their nose shut tight. It can turn ones breath into a date breaking whiff of “please don’t call me ever again.” Alfalfa was turned away by Darla on occasions when he had recently indulged in scallion chewing. It has a unique ability to coax salty droplets of liquid from our tear ducts which are normally saved for more emotional occurrences. Only the slightest provocation of cutlery piercing its flesh brings teardrops scampering down our cheeks in a sometimes uncontrollable frenzy. This audacious vegetable permeates our olfactory senses in an all out assault that challenges the garlic’s long standing reign as king of tasty but offensive vegetables.
The reason these bulbous alliums make tears come to our eyes is because of a chemical reaction that is much too scientific for me to memorize. Suffice to say the onion contains amino acids in the sulfur family that gets released into the air. These guilty gasses travel up into the air and rub their irritants into our eyeballs prompting the tear ducts to come to our aid and flush out the acrid acid with a tear or two. I have heard many methods that “really work”. Keeping your mouth open will indeed work for a while because you will inhale the noxious fumes into your lungs via your oral cavity, but eventually so much gas will enter the atmosphere you will still tear up and have onion breath on top of it. Other methods such as running water, cutting near a flame or on the back burner of a stove produce even less successful results. Keeping something in your mouth is the same principle of an open mouth but for the less disciplined of us. The only real advice I have on this is to keep the onion as cold as possible or keep a small fan blowing away the fumes as you slice, dice, mince, or chop.
Once past the tear inducing cut up stage the onion performs its intended task, the enhancement of flavor to almost any dish. In Cajun cuisine they call the onion and its often present partners peppers and celery the Holy Trinity of cooking. It is the basis of nearly every soup an stew in the world, it adds umpf to pilaf, zing to zucchini and pop to popcorn shrimp. Its in sauces and sides, dressings and dinner entrees, salads. In appetizers and entrees, starches and sides, veggies and meat combos. Fried in rings or just bloomin it makes solo appearances and it even has a starring role in cocktails. Yes the onion has a many faceted personality and it brings tremendous flavor enhancement to just about any dish. With a presence so pronounced in the culinary world you may think it deserves a birthday celebration all its own. Only problem is, we have no idea exactly when that would be.
Some botanists say it was born in Iran and Pakistan, others argue it is originally from Central America, but the omnipotent onion seems to have been around forever. Many anthropologists believe it was used by our cave dwelling ancestors, so a birthday would be next to impossible. They have seen evidence of onions in ancient Egypt where they believed it potent aroma could bring the dead back to life. Perhaps until the first unfortunates soul tried shredding the much more aggressive horseradish which may very well have the ability to awaken the non living. The onion made its way into Bible passages as well. The book of Numbers has the Israelite children lamenting of a diet filled with leeks and onions as they traveled the desert. The Romans, Greeks, and Indians all recognized the healing power of the vitamin rich veggie. The Olympians of ancient Greece fortified themselves with onions before their grueling events. Even the Middle Ages showered glory on these globes of culinary prominence. The three main foodstuffs of that era were cabbage, beans, and onions. Sounds more like weapons of mass stinkation. The magnificent onion was believed to have incredible medicinal properties curing everything from mouth sores to insomnia. I can only assume the happy sleeper was in bed alone! These special kitchen necessities were even taken on board the Mayflower, adding a special flavor enjoyment to the first Thanksgiving. It was one of the very first botanical treasures planted by the pilgrims on American soil.
Yet with all of this, still no mention of a birthday celebration for the used and abused reigning king of culinary staple foods. This then has become my New Years resolution for 2013. I will do everything in my power to raise awareness of the injustice we have bestowed upon this essential aid in recipes around the world So I am asking you to join me in wishing the fabulous culinary workhorse, this noxious bulb, this fortune bringing, tear coaxing stench maker of the vegetable kingdom a very happy birthday the very second after the ball drops in NYC. Don’t cry for me Argentina, just slice me a few of those birthday onions to have with my champagne. Happy Birthday you many layered edible gem you……PEACE

The Next Great Cupcake

Kiss Me, I’m a Cupcake
It was once said that a cupcake poets work is never done. Okay so it was me that said it, but its not without some inkling of truth. No sooner has the satisfied sweet treats of Valentines specials been fully consumed when the question comes. “What’s up for St. Patrick’s day chef?” After a few hyper-ventilating breaths, a fair amount of Pinot Noir, and a meditative clearing of the creative chasm in my head I am ready. A very successful array of valentine treats have been digested by my cupcake foodies and now I look towards what will be coming up in the next few weeks here.
I know, I know, its not until March 17th, but around here in Jersey the parade celebrations start early. Apparently its hard to engage a good bagpipe band around St. Patty’s day because everyone needs one in their town parade. Due to the scarcity of good pipers the demand is high and it has become necessary to hire the bands on alternative Saturdays in different towns. I call bullshit! Sounds to me its all about having a four weekend celebration of partying in various towns in the area. Regardless, I take on my normal challenge of coming up with something special for the extended celebration as serious as the consumers of corned beef and green beer take theirs. So today I begin working on my 2013 St. Patrick Day Cupcake.
To begin with I will remind you of our regular specials which have become standard fare due to popularity. We presently have four cupcakes that will be making cameo appearances over the next few weeks. “The Screaming Banshee, a chocolate Guinness cupcake with whisky custard and whipped cream topping (my fave), “The Danny Boy” , an Irish cream vanilla cupcake with Irish cream custardf an whipped cream, “The Shamrock and Roll,” chocolate cupcake with clover honey whiskey custard and cream cheese icing. And “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” vanilla cupcake with oatmeal cookie bottom orange mousse an vanilla icing. Those are the four horseman of St. Patrick’s treats. But as a cupcake engineer its my responsibility to have something more 2013-ish.
Creating the proper cupcake isn’t done in one sitting. It begins with a concept and continues as a work in progress. First the working title. This year I want to pay homage to the great Irish population of Boston. Loud and Proud the Bostonian Irish community have a strong voice in pop culture, and our cupcakes are largely inspired by pop culture, especially the music. So the name. House of Pain is a terrible name for a cupcake as is Dropkick Murphy’s. The dropkicks do however have one song that I absolutely love! Ergo, my working title is “Shipping Off To Boston”. The finished product hasn’t been determined yet but to reflect this wonderful communities culture the cupcake will be filled with Indian Pudding, a staple at Boston’s most famous restaurants. Of course this too can change, but for now it sounds really promising to me. It sounds so damn good it makes me wanna…..Jump Around, jump up, jump up, and get down! Stay tuned….PEACE

Kitchen Burnout

If You Can’t Stand The Heat

Restaurant life is a love story. Right from the start it shoots its arrow and takes you under it’s spell. It casts a love Jones on you that grabs you by both cheeks. Once its in your blood a life sentence without parole begins. Possible time off for regeneration if you stay at it too long. I began my journey into the world of restaurants at the not so tender age of 14. I busted suds, cut lettuce, plated desserts, peeled shrimp, rolled meatballs, and did all the chefs culinary biding no matter what the request. I worked my way up the kitchen ranks and was feeling great. Then I went and hit a plateau. I was a line cook and it seemed that was as far as I would get. Along with a friend one night after an evening of substantial alcohol consumption we went to a diner. Behind the grill were two old relics of cooks, like bald 80 somethings, cooks frying eggs and flipping burgers. I turned to my friend and said, “Shit man look at those dudes. I don’t wanna be flipping no damn eggs when I get that old.” My friend suggested cooking school. Of course! So off to the CIA I went to get a culinary education. I received an associates degree in culinary arts and I secured a job at Windows on the World. But there I was still just a line cook. I learned a helluva lot there, more even than I did at school, and it opened quite a few doors for other jobs. I worked in 2 or 3 other restaurants and continued to learn, mostly through screaming chefs an blubbering angry managers. I learned to sauté, roast, some butchering, sauces, and a ton of culinary “tricks” but was still just a line cook. An experienced one in great restaurants , but I still hadn’t made the jump towards being The Chef.
So I moved back to my hometown on Long Island and took a job an hour away as a sous chef. Now I was moving up and things were getting better. Soon I was in charge of the operation of a very big conference center in the famed “Gold Coast” of Long Island. A huge mansion that sat on 55 acres of beautiful land in Glen Cove Long Island. The conference Center housed about 400 people in an old Pratt mansion, quite possibly one written about in “The Great Gatsby”. I answered directly to the chef who saw very little actual kitchen time. We did weddings and ceremonies on the weekends. I worked 6 days a week, from one in the afternoon until ten at night. The kitchen staff then went out to party. No cell phones, no idea where friends may be by then so we all just kind of stuck together. Party we did! Gallons of beer, pounds of weed, and whatever “special enhancers” came around. We worked really hard and we played even harder. Too hard. Most of us were just beginning to raise families and it was bad enough to miss family celebrations, but to stumble in at 3AM half in the bag an wake up late in the morning with hangovers took its toll. Our marriages broke apart and we spiraled out of control. Basically we were all a mess, but we had each other. Eventually that faded too, as cooks took different paths on their careers. Being a chef can be a seriously burnt out profession, and almost every chef I know has left the business at some point or another due to burn out. Most returned but a few casualties managed to switch careers, or go the way of asshole managers. I was burning out quickly because one of the lures of restaurant life is constant party and fun times. Fun times never seem to last and I had to get out. I was beginning to HATE the industry I had fallen so deeply in love with. I met up with some old school friends who got me a job in construction.
Me, in construction? I sucked at building Lego structures. But this offered me a 9 to 5 life with weekends and holidays off. I was in career heaven. Coffee breaks, lunch hours, a few beers after work, I felt almost human. The trade off? I had to perform mundane tasks like putting together hundreds of clothes racks, and lining the entire parameter of Filenes Basement store with floor boards. It didn’t take long to hate the monotony of the work but I didn’t want to go back to restaurants. Service time in a restaurant is an intense drama that unfolds different each night. Wait staff yelling at cooks, cooks screaming at wait staff. A total vortex of chaotic high pressure.
I continued my patch of escapism and hammered, screwed, tiled and did a plethora of things I had neither the proper talent nor the slightest desire to accomplish. I was miserable I thought, but not as miserable as I was in a kitchen. Yet in some bizarre way I kind of missed restaurant life. I did stay in touch with people working the food industry and one good friend in particular understood what I was going through. She accused me of being in denial, of wanting to go back to working the high pressure world of cooking. I of course told her she was crazy and I had no intention of going back. She invited me to a faux opening of her uncles restaurant. In a faux opening the guests are all family and friends and the cost of the meal is a full critique of service and food. It’s used by many restaurants to get some of the kinks out before opening to the public. She asked her uncle to sit us at a table as close to the kitchen as possible. He put us right next to the kitchen doors where I could hear the ceramic clanging of dishes, the whirling machine sound from the dishwasher, the near tears plea’s and the multi lingual cursing that is the noise and clamor of service time in the kitchen. Ordering 2 beef, 3 chicken, picking up table 5, where is my chicken, all the familiar sights and sounds I had grown up around.
Like the song of the sirens in Ulysses the ceramic clank of plates sang out to me bidding me to return. Seeing the intensity of action just inside those two way kitchen doors screamed out ‘I miss you”. I noticed how those doors always worked flawlessly, in on one side out on the other and stood in stark contrast to the juggling of foods and emotions inside. How the wait staff would be screaming profanities and shouting poisonous darts of anger in the kitchen, then transform instantly into a composed happy waiter driven to make the diners experience as content as possible in the hopes they will return the favor in an over 15% tip. That e transformation occurred in the kitchen doorway, like a magic portal between heaven and hell. Then as the greasepaint is to an actor, all these sights, sounds, and memories whirled around tugging my emotions and I truly did miss that shit.
That was it. all she wrote! The next morning I went straight to the classified ads and began looking for a job in a restaurant. I admit, part of it was because I was sure it was the one thing I was really good at, but I also know that it was my first true love and I just could not live without it. Despite all the bullshit, the horrible epochs of time in which I was completely and utterly debased, despite the long hours, weekends of working and missed family holidays, I was gonna stick with my love. I wanted back with my ex and my ex welcome me back with open arms. A chef position was open at a Cajun restaurant so I studied up, consumed a shot (or two) of vodka, put on some nice clothe and laid on my charm and charisma. I landed the position. It only lasted for six months which was okay cuz I’m not a Cajun cook but it was all I needed to get back into the field. The rest as they say, is history……..PEACE

Cupcakes for Your Valentine

Getting Lucky through Cupcakes

For years and years valentine day has come to represent a nice dinner, a card, and a box of chocolates. Not anymore! Time to think outside the heart shaped box. But what special treat would accomplish the same result as the “get lucky” oriented goal of the longstanding aphrodisiac, chocolate candy? Why the cupcake of course. Cupcakes are neat, sweet, petite, and ready to eat! They can also release phenyl ethylamine from the brain which has been rumored to accelerate the sex drive. But don’t buckle up to soon, its not as simple as giving her some chocolate and waiting for a result. Lovers enjoy some romance, some sensual tango complete with a few moments of awkwardness, or sexual tension. Tension? That sounds promising but its up to you to put in an effort. The Existential baker starts with a cupcake. For me cupcakes represent the beauty, the wonder, the glory of women!
Way back when baking was done almost exclusively by males. Men dominated the field of scientific baking of cakes, breads, and pastries. Well of course men did the baking, why just look at the shape of our basic breads. Loaves, long glutinous proteins all puffed up and boldly bragging its airiness. In addition to the phallic loaf they made other male oriented shapes. Round rolls and hero’s. Oh the wonderful hero. Even the names seem oddly masculine in a sexual contest sort of way. Hero, hoagie, rocket torpedo, sub, blimp, zeppelin, and of course the aptly named grinder. And as more alpha males got into baking the hero’s grew in size. Six inch, 12 inch or foot long, three, four, up to six foot hero’s. That’s a lot of cleverly erected flour product to be waving around. Size matters! All for bragging rights as the bigger and better baker. While men dominated the bakeries it was all about the bread, especially the length!
During that time however, the women were expected to do their fair share of the baking for the family celebrations. Moms baked cakes for every occasion. Birthdays, weddings, holidays, christenings anniversaries, or any reason for the family to share in a delicious ceremonial treat. Psychologists would suggest its because females by their nature are more sharing and compassionate focusing not on her own happiness and enjoyment, but everyone else’s. Kind of materialistic and selfless like a mother would be. Yep, it was Mom, so everyone gets a piece. That’s why it is my opinion that the cupcake is the perfect sweet treat to represent a woman. Cupcakes are meant to be indulged by only one person. Sure you can share, but the nature of the cupcake is to be a one person show, a solo act, an act of self indulgence. Cupcakes deerve to have ones undivided attention as do the most important gender in life, the female. Aside from that cupcakes are small, and small is cute. Who doesn’t get that big surprises come in small packages. So get her some cupcakes guys, it’s one of the truly foolproof methods of pleasing a woman
Now comes the shameless plug, the moment of truth for me and my business, Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes. Of course I use only the freshest and most aphrodisiac enhanced ingredients, and I always bake with love and passion and what one puts into cooking come out during the eating. So just bringing home some of our delicious stuffed cupcakes will open some doors, but here at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes we are true romantics at heart (get it??) Therefore we are offering some extra special valentine choices. If you don’t celebrate, or if you find yourself alone on valentines day we have you covered as well. So here they are.
In addition to our crowd pleasing Red Velvet and our assortment of delectable chocolate and vanilla cupcakes we are offering some lovers specials. The “C’mon Baby Do the Casanova” is a vanilla cupcake stuffed with banana’s foster (banana’ cooked in spice rum) and vanilla cinnamon icing which has been falsely reported as the treat Casanova used to seduce Brazilian Bossa Nova dancers. Brining cupcake love to a new level is our “Just Like Romeo And Juliet“, an Amaretto cupcake stuffed with a raspberry champagne custard and covered with a sensuous dark chocolate icing. It’s like a old time love song! And speaking of Elvis we will have the “All Shook Up“, a banana chocolate chip cupcake stuffed with peanut butter mouse an topped off with vanilla icing. The perfect compliment for your little “Teddy Bear”. In addition to just cupcakes we will have some other creative and seductive treats including our annual tradition of fresh strawberries dipped in Belgian Chocolate or White Chocolate.
Like I said, if you don’t like Valentines Day and don’t celebrate it or are in between relationships we have you covered as well with two special Anti-Valentine Day cupcakes. Buck the tradition with the all new “Love Stinks” the cupcake inspired from the classic cliché of sitting on the couch dipping a cookie into an ice cream sundae to peel away the guilt laden layers of being a solo artist, it’s a half chocolate half vanilla cupcake with a chocolate chip cookie baked into the center, covered in chocolate whipped cream and topped with a cherry. It’s a cupcake that simply drips of self indulgent bliss! Even if your not alone this is a crazy good treat because even if love does stink, the cupcake does not! The other Anti-Valentine Day cupcake is the “Emotional Rescue” a cupcake originally designed to offer a bit of emotional rescue to some special friends who needed it. The Emotional Rescue is a red velvet cupcake filled with Heath bar custard an finished off with a cherry brandy whipped cream. I have no doubt The Rolling Stones would be proud to sing a song about it.
We have entered the post “Sex and the City” stage and have moved on to women and their cupcakes. Guys, take the hint. Two Broke Girls, DC Cupcakes, and Cupcake Wars top the list of shows that have replaced the ever popular “chick flick’s”. So cash in by brining her cupcakes while fifty Shades is still spinning around in their romantic thoughts. Not only will they make your love happy, it will cause more elation being able to show your considerateness off to their friends and followers with pictures of these sweet pieces of gastronomic heaven on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. When I bake my cupcakes I always add some extra love and a fair amount of good Karma, so every bite is drenched in positive emotion. I opened the door guy’s, now all you need do is pick up some edible romance and let your partner know how very much they really mean to you.
Carpe Valentines Day and every other Diem and share the love. Remember my dear friends, while orgasmic pleasure is undeniably an intense enjoyable feeling its not JUST about the sex because if you have real love……. you have already “Gotten Lucky!”…………….PEACE

Love Apple Cupcake??

Love Apple Cupcake? Not on my Watch!

What could possibly be more appropriate for Valentines Day than something so romantically named as a love apple cupcake. Cupid could trade in his arrows for a batch of these passionate sounding treats. Ah, love, puppy love, true love, love poems, love songs, Love don’t cost a thing! But love apple? In a cupcake, really? Not on my watch, because this tempting fruit of love is not an apple at all, but a tomato!
That’s right, the confused red headed step son of the fruit family is not a crispy sweet apple, but a gnarly sandwich friendly beefsteak. From my kitchen that deceptive chameleon of a fruit/vegetable will not be found in a cupcake. Not on my watch! Now I admit I am not well versed in botanical history but it seems to me that the tomato is somewhat of an outcast. What dastardly evil deed must the tomato have committed against the vegetable brethren to have it excommunicated and forced to live out its existence living within the fruit family. What heinous crime has the ever popular tomato committed to be sentenced to a life of exile from its rightful place in the vegetable kingdom? Could it be the culprit that made mini cabbages sprout in Brussels? Did the tomato cause the beet to see red, or turn the chards so bitter? What could this star of pizza and pasta possibly have done?
Whatever its infraction it does have a lesser known partner in the crime family of fruits, the greenbean. (don’t get your hopes up for a greenbean cupcake either) Also techniquely a fruit the green bean seems to get way less notoriety as a mislabeled food. Perhaps its after being force fed this fruit disguised as a vegetable in its most rudimentary pabulum stage when we were Gerber babies leaves us unenthusiastic to its state of being. Perhaps it just flies under the radar or maybe its skinny self has left us a bad taste in our mouths. No matter, neither fruit will ever be found in its rightful place in supermarket produce sections, they will be left to sit amongst veggies and live out their lives ostracized by their fellow fruits who, rightly so, feel betrayed.
But back to the popular hamburger and sandwich accompaniment, our tomato. Let face it, we all treat it as if it is a vegetable. Yet despite being used exclusively in vegetable preparations by culinaryians the scientific community refuses to acknowledge its status as anything other than a savory fruit. Try as it may our androgynous treat looks, tastes, even feels like a vegetable. But alas poor beefsteak, though Horatio knew you well you remain a fruit. Never part of any ensemble cast of fruit flavored candy treats of chewing gums. Never a mention in the jelly bean world. No tomato flavored cough syrup. But that’s like comparing apples to green beans, and that information ain’t worth a hill of oranges.
While I am not usually one to jump on any kind of bandwagons I am ashamed to admit that I too have disregarded its natural born status and used the tomato as nothing other than a lost soul of a vegetable trapped in a fruits body and it will never appear in a cupcake. Did I say never? Here at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes we never say never!
All things considered the tomato has risen above the pomp and circumstance and taken its place as an edible chameleon and keeps its true identity discrete. Besides, there is one thing the misunderstood vegetablesque fruit can boast amongst those who are aware of its authentic beginnings. It is the center piece of a very wise proverb. Knowledge is understanding that a tomato is actually a fruit and not a vegetable, but wisdom is knowing that the tomato does not belong in your fruit salad.
Enjoy Valentines and every other day, and share the love… PEACE