Large and in charge

Summer pulls everyone this way and that. I myself have two more out of town trips planned, all the while balancing a schedule of classes to teach, demonstrations, and my 3 jobs.

At Veil, we are running on a skeleton crew with our sous chef working “off site” on a yacht for two weeks, and our owner/executive chef at home these past weeks with Jack, the newest member to his family. Tonight our chef de cuisine is also off site.

This leaves no one above me in the pecking order, thus I am in charge. I have had a management title for some time now, “pastry chef”, but never has there been anyone but myself in my department. Save the rare intern under my wing, like the outstanding Jasmine, I am really only in charge of myself.

Sure, I holler at the boys when I find things out of place, and offer guidance when applicable. But it’s been since the day I left Lampreia that I have managed the kitchen.

My reign begins tonight, and runs through the two brunch services this weekend. With all the authority of a substitute teacher, I am using it to do just one thing, run a brunch special.

I tested this dish a while ago, and it’s absolutely delicious. It needed but one thing, strawberries to be in season. This dish could have made it to the dessert menu, but here in the States, where we like to start our day off sweet, it is perfect for a summer brunch.

The dish is composed of warmed disks of cream of wheat, little patties that behave much like polenta. Once warmed, they are served with a mound of fresh strawberries, strawberry sauce, and a billowy cloud of malted whipped cream.

When testing recipes, the plates are left for the staff to taste, who usually pick at it, and leave some politely for those busy with other things. When we put this dish up, I made it 3 times, watching the staff devour it each time. This was fine with me, I improved the pick up and plating each time, and took the compliment.

(The “Pick up” is the steps a cook takes to prepare the food for your dish, from the moment the order is called to them to the time the food is completely plated. This covers everything from how you store the prepared components, to the manner in which you cook and hold them, and the process of putting the food on the plate. A good line cook will constantly watch their pick-up techniques looking for ways to streamline the process and improve quality.)

If you cant make it into Veil this weekend for the first of the season strawberries, and one of our stellar bloody mary’s or my preference the dirty caesar, then try making it at home.

Cream of wheat

3 cups milk

3/4 cups cream of wheat

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1. Bring the milk and brown sugar to a simmer and whisk in cream of wheat. Whisk constantly to avoid lumps, and cook over low heat.

2. Stirring constantly, cook until the cream of wheat is thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes. When the mixture has thickened, stir in the butter, cinnamon, and salt. Pour this into a greased or plastic lined pan, roughly 9 by 9 inches. You can use any pan you have around, it will effect only the thickness of the patties.

3. Allow the cream of wheat to cool and set, and cut it into your desired shape. At Veil we will cut disks, which produces a little waste. To avoid this you can cut squares or triangles that utilize every bit of your cream of wheat.

Malted Whipped cream

2 cups cream

1/2 cup malted milk powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Whisk the malted milk and sugar together, until even. Add the cream and vanilla and whip to medium peaks


4 pints of berries, or what the heck, get the half flat!

Separate the best of the strawberries, reserving them for slicing. If you are short on time, take the B-list berries and immediately puree them with a little sugar in the blender, using as much or as little sweetener as you like. Strain the puree of seeds and serve in a pitcher or bowl with ladle. Slice the remaining berries and toss them with just enough sugar to gloss them.

If you have a little more time on your hands, follow the following process for making strawberry puree.  It is worth every extra step you take, and makes for a remarkable puree.

Strawberry puree

To Serve

Reheat the cream of wheat by frying them in a thin layer of butter, or alternately warm them on a greased cookie sheet in the oven. You can serve this family style, but the patties are delicate, and do better the less they move, so you might want to take them directly from reheating to the individuals plates.

Serve the berries and whipped cream family style, so each person can take as much or as little as they like

5 Responses to “Large and in charge”

  1. Dana, why do you choose to make a simple puree with the b-list strawberries as opposed to your frozen/thawed fruit puree technique which is truly remarkable?

  2. dana says:

    Alex- you caught me. I was cutting corners, with the idea that a home cook would pick up strawberries that day and deal with them immediately, using the best for slicing and the rest for sauce. Never in my restaurant would berries skip this step, and I shouldn’t give my readers any less either. I will amend the post to reflect this process, thanks for keeping me on my toes.

  3. Hey Dana – is there a better malted milk powder than Carnation? I used Carnation to make a malted milk chocolate ice cream recently and thought it came out well, but was wondering if it is the best available.

  4. dana says:

    Michael- While I am a staunch believer in Carnation Malted Milk powder, which I love because it makes everything taste exactly like an all american malted should taste, there are indeed other choices you can make. Malt is a barley product, and carnation malted milk simply contains this along with things like powdered milk, sodium, sugar, and flavorings. Ovaltine also is a product that contains malt.

    In Europe, malted powder is widely sold, under such names as Horlichs, and is not to my memory sweetened or mixed with milk. It is served warm, before bed to children, or so I have been told by various people.

    You can find plain old malt powder in the bulk bins at PCC sometimes, or special order it from a company called Terra Spice. You can also purchase Brewers Malt Syrup at most natural stores, which is a malted barley syrup, very sweet, and not too bitter.

    All these products are usable, expecially if you are going to do something creative, like a malted parsnip puree, or mount a demi glace with it.

    But if you want an all american malted milkshake, I believe with all my heart that Carnation Malted Milk Powder provides the gold standard.

  5. Jo-Jo says:

    Does anyone know if Horlichs malted milk powder is sold anywhere in the United States? Carnation can’t even compare to Horlichs malted milk powder. I also remember eating Horlichs Malted Milk tablets, which were sold in a roll like Life Savers.Oh, to have a malt like we used to get at the old Prince Castle ice cream shops. Those malts were made with Horlichs !
    Steak and Shake has a very good shake and it tastes close to the the Horlichs malts, but still not the same taste.

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