Working Holidays and Cinnamon Bun Bread Pudding Pie


Mix up your Easter Sunday dessert offering with this recipe.

If you give a cook a cinnamon bun, he’s going to want to turn it into Cinnamon Bun Bread Pudding Pie… and ask for a cup of coffee… and probably a Red Bull… and likely ask you to cover him for a minute so he can step outside… and then just need to make a quick phone call… and then use the bathroom, but be right back, he promises…

When you prepare this recipe on Easter, just make sure you save some for your restaurant industry spouse, son, friend or mother. Dessert is often the only thing left for us when we come home from feeding hundreds or thousands of people on one of the busiest days of the year in professional cooking.

Most of us are accustomed to working while the rest of the world plays and celebrates. In fact, it seldom even bothers us. However, it is our families who suffer. They have to celebrate without us, to cook, set the table, eat, drink, laugh without us. They make plans without us, and there is nothing we can do about it. Not when we love it. Not when we enjoy what we do, or we have bills to pay.

Just remember, though, if you are one of those who goes out to eat on Easter, or any other fun day when you simply can’t imagine how horrible it would be to work on such a day, leave a tip. Leave a big, fat, grateful tip.


  • 2 large cinnamon buns
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  vanilla ice cream
  • whipped cream
  • Maraschino cherries or Strawberries for garnish


  1. Dice up the cinnamon buns and place into the graham cracker crust.
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat the cream and sugar to a simmer. Be careful—as soon as you take your eye off of it, the cream will boil over.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla and cinnamon.
  4. Steep the eggs. Do so by slowly pouring the hot cream into the mixing bowl, while whisking vigorously.
  5. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the cut cinnamon buns in the pie crust, taking care that all pieces have soaked up some of the liquid.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until egg has set.
  7. To determine if the egg has set, perform the “bounce test” or a toothpick test.

Tip of the Trade:

Cutting pie—the struggle is real. To prevent major and catastrophic crust damage, try this impossibly simple method. Place a small and light cutting board on top of the pie. Yes, you read that right—on top of the pie. Lift the pie and cutting board together, holding your dominant hand beneath the pie. In one smooth and swift motion, flip them over so that the cutting board is now beneath the upside-down pie. Cut the pie with a sharp knife dipped in hot water. Once finished, place the serving plate on top of the cut upside-down pie, and again, lift both the pie and cutting board together. Repeat the flip and remove the cutting board. Practice the swift flip a few times without any pie involved—we won’t be there to clean up the floor if you make a mistake!


The Sober Sous Chef’s Live Television Debut

June 9th, 2015—From ABC40 Western Mass News, The Sober Sous Chef demonstrates how to make a unique dessert, which first appeared on this site in a slightly different form.

The process of cooking on live-television was a great experience. It was also nerve-wracking. There were several points which I rehearsed, and never had a chance to say. There were also some funny things which I could never have expected! Have a look for yourself:

The Link below is the property of its owners.




If you’ve scrolled down here, you missed the link. It’s above.

Stretch it!

Bacon-Stretcher Operating Tips


Every professional cook knows a thing or two about “stretching it,” the mathematical-art of making enough be just enough.

Chefs take pride in their 86’d boards being white, green, black or whatever the wipe-able surface color may be. They pride themselves in a lack of 86’d (out of stock) items.

Customers don’t really appreciate this unique ability possessed by the best of the professionals, but they can certainly be bothered by its absence. Have you ever been to a restaurant where half of the specials on the list are crossed out? Or, worse yet, you have probably exhausted precious time thumbing through pages of a menu until finally deciding on what to eat, only to be told upon ordering, “We’re all out of bacon.”

All professional cooks have 86’d something. There are certain products which can’t be found, or purchased, and some trips to the grocery store in a pinch could result in an accounting and financial disaster. Chefs are occasionally forced to admit that they are not, after all, God (but still God of their domain!). The phrase, “I’m a cook, not a magician,” has been useful for this problem.

Chefs in charge of purchasing are often the last to admit when something is 86’d. They are defensive when confronted with the possibility of a missing ingredient, and almost always insist the cook or server just can’t find it. They always know of secret stashes of things, and always seem to find the item that no one else can.

Imagine a storeroom or walk-in refrigerator, and picture several people in that room, pulling their hair out, trying to find the same thing. Now picture the purchaser, who walks right past them all, with no effort or hesitation whatsoever, and picture him grabbing the 86’d item and tossing it to a dumbfounded cook. This is a learned trait.

You see, every cook, chef, purchaser or restaurant owner has worked at least one “first day.” On that first day, they didn’t know anything about food, labels, storage—you name it. They have all told their boss, “We’re all out of such and such.” And they’ve all been proven, many times, that they’re wrong. Frequent suffering of the humiliation of being wrong will cause even the strongest willed cooks to amend the statement to, “I can’t find it.”

When something is truly 86’d from the stock room or walk-in, the purchaser will undoubtedly become more defensive, and insist one of the following things happened:

  1. You are over-portioning.
  2. The supplier screwed up the order (which is most likely the actual reason).
  3. It wasn’t on the “needs list” (a fail-safe mechanism which all restaurant employees should contribute too).
  4. It was there yesterday.
  5. Someone stole it.
  6. You’ve been selling it like crazy?
  7. (Finally, the closest thing to an admittance of guilt) Huh. You’ll have it tomorrow.

Before the ingredient, and all of the menu items which require it, are written in dry-erase marker on the 86’d board, a good chef and proud purchaser will “stretch” it. He might tell a cook to get the bacon stretcher. The cook might go look, and come back with the same problem, “We don’t have a bacon stretcher.”

Again, many cooks have fallen for some prank of that nature. Bacon-stretchers only work with thick-sliced, uncured bacon, and each town only has one, which is shared between restaurants. It works best at setting number three.

Suppose the missing, or about-to-be-86’d item is bacon. Suppose there are thirty slices left, or enough for ten turkey club sandwiches. A clever chef or purchaser will chop half of the bacon into bits, and mix it into the sandwiches’ heavy-duty mayonnaise. He’ll call it, “Bacon Aoli,” and charge an extra dollar for the up-sell.

That leaves fifteen slices of bacon. He’ll cut them all in half (across) and carefully slice the thirty half strips into thirds (lengthwise). Now ninety small slices of bacon, he will instruct the cook to put three slices directly in the middle of each sandwich, visible to the guest, where the first bite will take place. He will use twenty more slices to create eye-appealing mini BLT skewers.

He will spread a teaspoon of his Bacon Aoli onto a quarter section of a grape tomato, which he will wrap with a large baby spinach leaf, which he will wrap with the model railroad sized bacon strip, held together by a six-inch skewer. He will instruct the cook to impale the turkey clubs with the mini BLT skewers, which will be a big hit with the customers and cause them to completely ignore the fact that they are getting half the amount of bacon they normally do, and being charged an extra dollar for it.

Bacon stretching at its finest! The clever chef has managed to double the amount of turkey clubs he can sell without 86’ing bacon, and in doing, has made an extra twenty dollars. And there’s still ten one-sixth slices of bacon leftover.

It’s not magic, it’s wicked cool magic. So is this event being held at a wonderful banquet facility in Massachusetts: BACONFEST!!!

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Barn Finds: Popcorn Pudding with Bacon, Maple and Cajun Caramel Corn Ice-Cream


Chef Toddler’s Latest Creation

Popcorn pudding. Like bread pudding, only made with popcorn. Yes, it’s gluten-free, and cheap. If you consider sugar to be among the most important ingredients in a kitchen, which The Sober Sous Chef does, and don’t count the entire cost of a five pound bag against the it, the total cost of this creation was less than five dollars.

We strayed slightly from our last Barn Finds post, and used some ingredients which we didn’t buy at the scratch-and-dent store. Rest assured, though, in the spirit of the article, the Cajun spice has been on my shelf for well over three years, and the eggs in the custard had a sell by date of April 9th.

Use it or lose it. The most wholesome cuisine, the least pretentious, and the most responsible. You might call it “omnivore,” but it goes beyond that. The point is to actually seek out food which is about to expire, or be thrown out. Don’t dumpster dive, unless you enjoy being dangerously ill, but employ the restaurant industry’s standard of FIFO, or First In, First Out. Use up the old, and make room for the new.

An omnivore’s “use it or lose it” diet means no guilty conscience wondering if someone used chicken stock in your vegetarian soup, no conversations about evil farmers poisoning corn, no obnoxious chef asking if frogs and capybara fit into your pescatarian life. No calorie counting, no picky bitching, no nose-holding, no half-eaten meals, no bloated “food baby” bellies, no trends, no funny languages, no rude and demeaning waiter, no reservations, and a hell of a lot of trial and error.


It’s just food. If you screw it up, fix it. If it doesn’t taste good, make it taste good. Add to it. Change it. Unless you’re on death-row, it won’t be your last meal. If you eat it, you will live to try again. Some people can’t eat. You can help those people by clicking this LINK and making a donation, then make this decadent dessert (which we fixed—a couple of times—before it was perfected).

Feeds Six

For the Pudding:

  • 3 cups air-popped pop corn, preferably unsalted
  • 4 whole, past the sell-by-date eggs
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 over-ripe banana, sliced
  • 1 bruised granny smith apple, roasted and sliced
  • 1 snack-size box of stale raisins
  • Vermont or Massachusetts Maple Syrup (to taste)

Mix eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and cream in a bowl. In a greased two-inch deep pan, place all of the dry ingredients. Pour egg mixture over dry ingredients and gently mix by hand until all of the popcorn is wet. Cover with foil or a tight lid and bake for approximately 30 minutes (or until it’s done) at 350 degrees. Just prior to the custard setting completely, remove lid or foil and allow the top to lightly brown. When serving, add a little more maple syrup to the top of the pudding, if you desire.

For the Caramel Corn Ice-Cream:

  • 4 cups air-popped popcorn
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 smart phone to post pictures on facebook
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup chopped bacon
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Pint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Warm popcorn in oven, set at 250 degrees. Combine all remaining ingredients and melt over high heat, stirring constantly. When a caramel color forms, pour over popcorn and mix well, coating all pieces. Spread on a greased pan and bake until desired color results. Using a sturdy spoon, or with a paddle attachment in a mixer, incorporate the caramel corn into your favorite flavor of ice cream.


The result is a salty, sweet topping for the popcorn pudding, with a slightly spicy after taste, which goes really well with a cup of strong coffee. Then again, what doesn’t go well with a strong cup of coffee?


A Food Photographer’s Conflicting Interests

And a recipe for a healthy snack!

I have a conflict of interest. As an online writer who specializes in food things—restaurant industry, recipes, fun food facts—I should never allow an elaborately plated and vibrant dish to leave the kitchen without some photos. As a professional chef, I won’t let a dish sit on an unheated surface to be photographed like some bored model at an unorganized photo shoot.

With that in mind, many of the photos you will see on this site are staged specifically for this site. Before I began this blog, the only reason I ever photographed food was for a practical reason—to show an employee a specific presentation—or for a joke:


Above: Chef Wilson

I subscribe to the philosophy that cooking is a science, not an art. There are several reasons I believe this to be true (outlined in a previous post) but the first and foremost is that I’m a lousy artist! I can’t draw, paint, write poetry, sing, dance, play music; I have absolutely zero artistic aptitude.

In fact, I am so inept at the “art of food photography” that each food dish you see is selected from a file of a dozen or more blurry, smudged, poorly lit photos destined for the “Recycle Bin.”

And the only way I can get a good one is if I re-enact a glitzy and flamboyant stereotypical Los Angeles photographer, which is rather ridiculous, considering my model won’t pout or smile, and I circle around the dish, and the entire table it’s on, to get those all-important crooked angles. I could just as easily turn the plate, or tilt it ever so slightly.

Anyway, sometimes the science of cooking lends itself well to the art of food photography, as in the case of these inexpensive little snacks, or appetizers. It is an easy recipe—fifteen minutes with ten minutes of photos—and it is somewhat healthy. I suppose anything that’s green is healthy, but I’m no expert about that. Here are the pictures, the recipe follows.


Above and Beneath: Marbled Rye Sausage and Watercress Stuffing



Above: Place a thinly-sliced radish in the wrap for some bite and a fresh “crunch.”

Above: The stems of the Swiss Chard make for a nice, eye-catching tower for the wraps.

Sausage Stuffed Swiss Chard Wraps

For the Stuffing:

  • 5 slices marbled rye, dried or toasted and cubed
  • 2 sausage links, cooked and diced (I prefer Andoulle Sausage) (cook with butter and de-glaze the pan with chicken stock to increase the stuffing’s flavor)
  • 1 cup of mirepoix
  • 1 1/2 cups of Chicken Stock
  • 1 radish, diced
  • 1/4 cup “crunch” (I used roasted chick peas, but you may use some sort of nut or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 cup watercress leaves

Directions: Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix, adding the chicken stock a little at a time. If the stuffing is too moist, place it in the oven to dry it out some. If it is too dry, add some extra chicken stock. Read the Disclaimer to find out why the measurements might not be perfect.

Assembly: Roll the swiss chard up with stuffing and a slice of radish in it. Finish the dish with a drizzle of light salad dressing.

wilson birth

Chef Wilson is happy with you.

Highlights from the Western Mass Home and Garden Show

eric wmhs

Watch The Sober Sous Chef prepare a Chop Chop Salad, Braised Beef Short Ribs and Crème Brûlée at the Western Massachusetts Home and Garden Show. Video quality is better in full-screen mode.

For the Salad:

  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Red Onion
  • Corn Kernels
  • Peas
  • Carrot
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
  • Bacon
  • Blue Cheese Crumbles

The name of the salad, Chop Chop, is also the preparation instructions. Toss with ranch dressing.

For the Short Ribs:

  • Boneless Beef Short Ribs, or Flap meat
  • Oil
  • Flour
  • Mirepoix
  • Garlic
  • Red Wine
  • Beef Broth
  • Salt and Pepper

Dredge the meat in flour, and sear on both sides in a hot, oiled, pan. Add mirepoix and saute until the vegetables begin to tender, add garlic, red wine, beef broth and salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer, cover and finish in the oven at 200 degrees for approximately 4 to 6 hours, depending on the size of the meat etc.

For the Crème Brûlée:

  • Egg Yolk
  • Heavy Cream
  • Half and Half
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Vanilla Bean

Heat cream, half and half, granulated sugar and vanilla bean in a saucepan. Temper hot cream into egg yolks, and fill oven-safe dishes. Create a double boiler and put in 300 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until done.

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Croquembouche for Too Many


Published March 26th, 2015 in The Montague Reporter

Croquembouche (kroh-kuhm-BOOSH uh huh wee) is French for “crisp in mouth,” but for all those who’ve had the responsibility of making it, croquembouche is synonymous with “pain-in-the-rear.” In it’s most simple form, croquembouche is a pyramidal stack of cream puffs with a hardened caramel coating. If you are a “foodie,” you already knew that.

Foodies, or epicures, know everything about food. At least, they think they do. They are like the back seat drivers of the restaurant business.

Their comments that they post on internet based review sites always give them away. They start with something like, “Anyone who knows anything about cooking knows that you should always . . .”

They intentionally imply that they know something about cooking. So why are they the one’s eating, and not cooking? Don’t like it? Make it yourself!

The other irritant, though slightly drifting from the topic here, is the foodie that complains about slow service when he or she ordered a two-inch-thick steak well-done. It’s the incessant, “Are we there yet?” coming from the back seat.

Croquembouche is a foodie favorite. It has just enough pain-in-the-rear appeal to it for the ultimate pain-in-the-rear customer, or dinner guest, should you dare to feed these people, who actually become more obnoxious when they’re pleased. Then the comparisons come out, about this chef and that restaurant and it just never ends. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, a sort of let-them-have-their-profiteroles-and-eat-them-too compromise, I will teach you a couple of simple tricks to make the process a little bit simpler.

First off, buy the cream puffs. In today’s fast paced work, shovel, cook, sleep, repeat life you’re wise to let someone else do the baking.

In all reality, the hard part is the sugar, and there are no ways around that.

The second trick is to use a filler. For instance, take an upside down soup cup or small cereal bowl and put it in the center of the plate or platter you intend to use.

Last, add some chocolate covered strawberries to the first row as a solid, tacky foundation. For clean up, I recommend a hammer and chisel.

Now comes the hard part. Prepare an ice bath large enough to fit a small saucepan into. Using that small saucepan and a wooden spoon, melt two and a half cups of granulated sugar with two thirds cups hot water. If you have a candy thermometer, stop reading this article.

For everyone else, allow the sugar to melt and boil over high heat, stirring constantly, until the color begins to darken.

The darker the color, the harder the sugar will be when it cools. When the color is a nice light brown, or resembles that of caramel, take the pan off the heat and dunk it in the ice bath, just for a few moments to stop the cooking process, stirring all the while.

Quickly and frantically dip two cream puffs at a time in the sugar, and glue them together. Scream at the top of your lungs when the molten sugar sticks to your fingers, and shake it off.

It’s important that you get as many cream puffs stuck together as you can, so don’t go running off to bandage yourself now.

If the sugar hardens, put it back on the burner and stir until it is syrupy again.

If you used the chocolate covered strawberries on the first row, and were careful in selecting your plate ware, you should be able to glue two by two, and then start gluing one on top of the other, in a circular way around the plate, until you get something like a pyramid.

Now, for the spun sugar, there will be yards of tiny and shinny sugar hairs, gleaming in the smoke burning from the splatter of sugar on the stove top.

You can either dangle the melted sugar above the croquembouche-like-thing and let strands of sugar drape over it, or just collect all of the residual strings that are now getting permanently hardened to your counter top.

Or you can attempt to make spun sugar, or just plop another strawberry on top.

When you’re finished, and satisfied, turn off the smoke alarm, then announce to anyone who cares to know, “There’s your (expletive) croquembouche!”

You think it’s over, do you? Local pastry chef Mark Wikar recently told me a nightmarish tale about an elaborate event he hosted at Captain Toby’s restaurant on Nantucket,

“There were so many people in the room that the temperature rose past eighty, causing my sugar that held it all together to melt, causing my croquembouche to start to fall apart onto the dance floor.”

Wikar also suggests to use the ice bath, in addition to cooling the sugar, for the burns you will have on your fingers.

There you have it, Croquem-pain-in-the-bouche.

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By Eric Damkoehler

Crowd-Pleasing: How to Make Every Stinkin’ Guest Happy


Above: Chef Toddler gives his opinion of a meal, high in fruit.

Apply restaurant business principles to your home cooking and watch your guests marvel in delight.

Taste is unique, subjective and different. When something tastes too salty, or too spicy, it’s a matter of contention between two separate tasters. When something tastes good, though, everyone seems to agree.

When dining out, you’re going to decide what to eat based on your opinion of what tastes good. But, when preparing a meal for your family, much like a professional chef, you must decide on their behalf what tastes good. Is it possible to please everyone?

The short answer is no, it isn’t. However, many cooks have pleased everyone at one time or another, and considering all of today’s diets and allergies, you wonder how that’s possible? When serving a large group, the amount of options you include in the single meal, or variations of the same things, will earn you the crowd-pleasing award, with only a grain of extra work. With Easter Sunday on the menu this weekend, heed these tips:

  1. Know your patrons, or guests. Understanding the needs and tendencies of your guests will make the art of pleasing them much simpler. For example, if your brother is allergic to nuts, remove them from the menu, and replace them with sunflower seeds, which are now specially produced in separate facilities to avoid the awful lawyer written package disclaimer, “May contain traces of nuts.”
    • Knowing your patrons eating habits is critical in the restaurant industry, where a puny $70 lamb chop with truffle-fed-pig bacon and caviar might go over brilliantly in one market and have the creator of it run out of town on a pitchfork in another. Use the insight of the professionals, do market research, ask your guests if they have any allergies before you begin cooking, and do your best not to give them the, “are you really allergic or is this just a new fad” look.
  2. Do more with less. Cross utilization of ingredients is a good way to offer more options, and please a large amount of people. If you plan to serve mashed potatoes to twelve people, you will need about six pounds of potatoes. If you serve them mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes, you will need about a few more pounds of potatoes, and with a simple three-step cooking process, there will be another choice of sides.
    • Restaurants seldom incorporate menu items which only have a single use. Principally for cost effectiveness, cross utilization of products is critical when figuring preparation, spoilage, waste, storage and purchasing.
  3. Give them wine, and more wine. As mentioned here before, the quality of conversation is directly equivalent to the timeliness of the meal being served. Guests engaged in engrossing, entertaining conversations always feel as though they received speedy service, whether it was from the host at a dinner party or at a popular and busy restaurant. Conversely, the guests who have nothing to say to one another will undoubtedly require some diligent attention from the host, or the opinion of the meal will suffer. Use wine to get the people talking, to get the mood entertaining, and let the guests forget that you said dinner would be ready in fifteen minutes—about forty-five minutes ago. Also, some popcorn and snacks go a long way in buying time. Here is Chef Toddler making popcorn:20150330_162844
    • As one might expect, The Sober Sous Chef doesn’t drink, but that should not be an excuse, nor is it a good reason, to neglect one of the most traditional, time-honored focal points of a gathering. If you don’t drink, or are inexperienced with purchasing wine, ask your guests to bring a bottle. For a large holiday, they assume you put a lot of work into preparing their meal and are more than happy to bring something. They will feel like they contributed to the overall meal, which in turn pleases them.
  4. Play some music. Mood, ambiance, call it what you will, play an important role in the final opinion of the meal. Remember one of the nicest meals you ever had, and try to visualize the surroundings. Was it in a nice restaurant, elegantly appointed and with pleasant—but not overwhelming—music playing? Chances are, if you think real hard, you will remember some sort of pleasing ambiance when you remember your favorite meals.
    • In two studies, published in 2000 in the National Library of Medicine, an identical meal was served to guests in a restaurant, laboratory and cafeteria. It should come as little surprise that the restaurant meal received better reviews, however, the laboratory came in second over the cafeteria. The studies go to show that the perception of food and the manner and environment in which it is served has a decisive correlation on the taste of the dish, or at least the perceived taste. The studies fail to mention that this is common knowledge among restauranteurs, and that they wasted some grad student’s time and money in conducting them.
  5. Show the love! Best served as a side dish in itself, love is the most essential ingredient to show the guests. If they see you putting heart and sole into the dish, they may be disgusted. So, talk it up, remind them how much you enjoy their enjoyment, and they will walk away pleased, as ever they can possibly be.
    • People have a reverence for a person wearing a crisp, clean, pressed and embroidered chef coat. The best thing a chef can do to ensure that everyone is pleased is to talk to his guests. The difficult thing, though, is the chef is supposed to be cooking for the other guests, and if they see him at the wrong time, say, when their meal has been taking too long, they may become irritated, which defeats the purpose of pleasing everyone. It is best to avoid asking to “speak to the chef” for this reason, and others, in general.

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Asian Bratwurst Reubens

The Sober Sous Chef’s first demonstration video!  Continue reading to learn more.

Asian Bratwurst Rueben

What to eat?  You may think the family of a chef has a five star meal every night, but the chef is working five, six or seven days a week, and when he’s home, the last thing on his to-do list is cooking.20150325_174852

Above is Chef Toddler, looking for something to cook for his family’s dinner.

You may find yourself in the same predicament, far too often.  You go to the fridge, open it and look inside, just as you’ve done a dozen times in the last hour, as though you’ll actually find something this time.  The longer you stare at it, the less motivation you’ll have to cook, and the hungrier you’ll get.  So, start grabbing.  Grab six or seven leftovers, sauces, veggies—whatever.

They don’t all have to get into the meal, but taking them out of the fridge is the hardest part.  Once they’re on the counter, the combinations will appear to you, and you should be able to come up with something.

This dish did require a trip to the store, but the “use it up” mentality was applied here.  Get rid of the old, and make room for more.  The store lacked kim chee, a spicy Korean pickled condiment, however, as mentioned in previous articles on this site, limitations are the launching points for discovery and creativity.

For this dinner, Chef Toddler and his brothers chose broccoli as their side.  Here is how to cut broccoli, please excuse the whining toddler:

For the Asian Bratwurst Reubens you should have:

  • buttered rye bread
  • swiss cheese
  • 1,000 Island or Russian dressing
  • bratwurst
  • spicy brown mustard
  • The Sober Sous Chef email subscription

Make this Asian Kraut Slaw:

Use a griddle to make the sandwiches, because it is less to clean up afterwards.  If you use the last of the butter on the bread, use this trick to get the rest of it—that stuff is expensive!


Try to save time, by cooking the brats and browning the bread at the same time, like so:


Add the Asian Kraut Slaw as soon as you add the cheese.

Some soy sauce added to the cooking bratwurst once they have a golden-brown color and slightly crispy texture goes a long way.  Before assembling the sandwich, add some more 1,000 Island dressing and some spicy brown mustard.

Cook it ’till it’s done.

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Video courtesy David Damkoehler


Recipe Writer’s Block

Secret Recipe

Secret Recipe

Hand an experienced chef a recipe and he or she will quickly glance at the ingredient list and the name and return it to you. Generally, it’s not out of arrogance or stubbornness that the chef won’t read the cooking instructions, but the chef already knows how to make most dishes. Once you have learned the professional basics, there isn’t much else to say about it.

Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, I don’t have enough baking experience to wing a loaf of bread, but hand me a chicken and I’ll hand you the wings—no recipe needed.

When I sit down to type the articles you have come to enjoy, I always reach a certain point where it gets boring. The process, that is. I thoroughly enjoy writing about food, but I lose interest when I get to the inevitable recipe portion. I do my best to disguise that from the reader, and often try to insert a joke or a trade secret directly into the middle of the mandatory ingredient list.  A list should be funny, right David Letterman?

Being a food writer and, in contrast, someone who doesn’t care for recipes is like being a mechanic who doesn’t care for fixing Fords. That’s the market. The Ford is always broken, and the reader wants to know how to cook the food which the writer is so passionately describing. There is a definite obsession with recipes these days; the other Quintilian food writers and I exasperate the problem.

Not to say that there isn’t a good use for recipes, but the reader should first make an attempt to learn the cooking process before bothering to learn the ingredient list. If packaged dinners didn’t have instructions for how long to microwave or sensationally simmer in a skillet, would families starve? They would just put it in the oven or skillet and check on it more frequently, until eventually they learn how to tell when it’s done. Perhaps some black pizza crust is a better teacher than I can ever be.

There’s an old joke, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll call out of work once a week.”

I’m not a teacher, I’m a writer. Heck, I’m not even a writer. I’m a chef. Really, honestly, I’m a cook. The word “chef” doesn’t always sit well with me. It indicates a Gordon Ramsey like, cocky, unapproachable attitude. There is a pea sized difference between the arrogant chef and the confident cook. You can learn to cook, or you can learn to be a cook.

If you want to learn how to be a cook, the first and probably hardest piece of advice to swallow is lose the recipe. If it feels like you’re driving with your eyes closed, that’s all right. Think of it this way: If your car’s digital navigation system directs you to a boat ramp, you should shut it off. If you must use the recipe, use it as a guide, just don’t drive into the river.

Consider the source of the recipe. In order to decide if it is a good one, you must first decide if it was written by a recipe writer or a cook. Chances are, if it was a really good cook, the measurements won’t be perfect.

By the way, that’s a disclaimer.

That’s not done by design. No one is holding back here, but cooks, or chefs if you must, often don’t measure anything. I use “glug” as a measurement when instructing young, inexperienced cooks. They always start out by adding a “drizzle” to whatever they’re making.

I correct them, “That’s not a glug.”

I grab the ingredient and pour, until I have satisfyingly heard, seen, felt—call it measured—the requisite amount of “glugs.” It’s similar to a bartender’s “four-second pour,” which can vary greatly depending on whether the bartender counts seconds with “Mississippi” or “one-thousand.”

If the recipe was written by a recipe writer, than you can probably trust that it is going to come out just like it looks on the internet, it will taste pretty good and you can snap some pictures of it for your social media friends. They will like it. But if you follow it precisely, never deviating, you will not learn anything. You will be trapped forever in the trend—remember kale chips? that was a thing—and may never make something that your kids remember you for. If you follow my advice, when they ask you for that family secret, hand them a list of ingredients with a name on top, and let them figure out the rest. It will be the secret which will feed them for generations.

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