I think that all of us have fond memories of those home made dishes that remind us of our childhood and those simpler times. For me its the barbecues, holiday dinners, and the everyday comfort food that really sends me back in time.
Last night I made a beef brisket with my mom's homemade barbecue sauce. The sauce was a staple during the many grilled chicken outdoor social events my mom and dad were happy to host. The events would start off with music from the phonograph and evolve into a full on feast.
Usually, no always, there was the jello salad, of course the chicken, green salad with either blue cheese or thousand island dressing, green beans with bacon, and home made desserts. The desserts were brought by the neighbors, family, or musician friends eager to participate in the fun fest. My mom and dad made everything else, because at that age, and at that time, working in the kitchen was not my forte. It's funny I really didn't even think of helping in the kitchen as that was my mom's domain.
The smell of the barbecue sauce transports me to the laughter and joy of those simple dinners. It really wasn't about anything else but enjoying each others company. My uncle Jack and Aunt Marianne were staples at those events. They were funny, gregarious, and always willing to help my mom and dad execute the perfect social gathering/dinner. The jokes, laughter, and smiles were contagious. The happiness is what occasions centered around food should be.
That is perhaps why I chose the restaurant business as my occupation. I see the surprise and joy from guests when expectations are exceeded. I don't take that lightly as I remember my parents genuine surprise and smiles the first time I cooked for them. Those memories are etched in a very special place that lights up the inner smile that goes beyond the moment and lives in a place I will never forget.
Recipes of the past connect generations of the future to those moments in time shared through stories and tales of jubilation centered around family and friends. Then there is the spin off anecdote which ultimately ends in chortling, guffawing, or simple giggles.
Certain recipes either created by family, copied from a chef of notoriety, or simply an old cookbook long forgotten all have there place in this evolutionary process. The right of passage becomes a culinary note in the annals of family history. Then, the connection brings about a memory that lives in the hearts and minds of all of us for as long as forever is.
My daughter Chelsea loves my recipe for spaghetti I copied from my mom. Nancy makes an enchilada dish that is spectacular. The list of family members that make their own special dish becomes a catalog of go to culinary treats that becomes the family's epicurean heart and soul. When you think about it the same is true for most successful restaurants.
At Jean George Steak House at the Aria in Las Vegas (where I work) there are several dishes that help create that magical experience. In the appetizer category it would be two dishes:
Bacon wrapped shrimp wrapped in a Nueske bacon with a flavor of smoke and maple finished with a papaya mustard marmalade.
The Wagyu beef carpaccio where the beef is sliced very thin draped over a cheese truffle fritter topped with Perigord black truffles and surrounded with a four leaf balsamic vinegar.
Entree specialities include the Sea bass roasted in the oven and finished with a miso glaze accompanied with a maitake mushroom. Finally, the short rib. Prime beef braised for 12 hours served with an apple jalapeno marmalade topped with julienne apple and dusted with rosemary bread crumbs.
The art of cooking is about giving and sharing. You give of yourself to produce a meal that brings joy to all those you serve in a world that needs that spirit to thrive.
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