View From The Kitchen: May/June 2014
May 21, 2014 12:35PM ● Published by Erik Dittmann
Food: Everybody eats it. You are probably thinking about it right now. Some people like food so much that they dedicate their lives to learning every which way to grow it, cultivate it, cook it and sometimes sell it. I fall into the "cook it" category.
My story began in Chicago, where I was born and raised into a very Polish family on the south side. Needless to say, the culinary scene consisted of a never-ending parade of hot dog, Italian beef and pizza joints. Good eating, if you're a kid.
While in college, I was inspired by a friend to check out culinary school. It was chaotic at best, but it did open the door to some of the best restaurants in Chicago and thus, my passion for food.
LIFE BEGINS: I moved to Wisconsin in 1997 to be with my family as my father had become very ill. My plan was to move back to Chicago after my help was no longer needed, but as most stories go, I met my future wife and it is a story we are still writing.
My education and background were primarily in baking and pastry, so after seven years of creme brûlée, sourdough and chocolate, I had to teach myself how to cook. I was fortunate to work at some excellent restaurants, starting in pastry and working my way up to Executive Chef in the process.
My last job really set the stage for my love of catering. From simple picnics to full-blown, sit-down parties for 500, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
It has almost been one year to the date that I quit my restaurant job and started SmokeHaus Catering. I can hear you thinking, “What's with the smokehaus?” A few years back I purchased a small smoker to basically experiment with, and after a few tries, I became hooked. I smoked everything. That is not hyperbole. If you could eat it, I smoked it. I wasn't sure of the demand, but I knew that I wanted a place that would cater (no pun intended) to my BBQ cravings. We started small but after the Arts & Ales festival in Columbus and the LocaLeben 2nd Annual Party, we started to garner a small following. Compound that with the functions we do at Kestrel Ridge Golf Club (we are their in-house caterer), and we are blessed with work.
We love what we do. When I say "we," I am referring to my staff, which also happens to be my family, my wife Kara who is my right hand, and Billy, Kaycee and Madelyn. When we're not working, we like to keep ourselves balanced by running and biking. Life balance is the key to a happier you. That and a BBQ brisket sandwich.
Now that you know who I am, let me tell you why I am here. My plan is to talk food and beverage. From apples to ziti. Recipes, trends, nationwide topics, you name it. I love food and experiment in some small way everyday. Alas, I am still learning on the job.
My hope is to bring you an enticing reading experience that is as informative as it is entertaining.
See you next issue.
1 gallon water
1 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons peppercorn
Spices or herbs if desired
Mix all brine ingredients until dissolved. Add salmon (the fattier, the better) and completely submerge. Let salmon sit for at least 8 hours.
After at least 8 hours, rinse salmon under cold water and place on smoker rack skin side down. Coat with honey and cracked black pepper if desired. Smoke at 180 degrees for about 2 hours (internal should be 140 degrees) using 3 ounces of wood. I prefer alder, but apple, pecan and hickory work well also.
Once your salmon has hit 140 degrees, remove from the smoker and refrigerate.