Gentieu’s West

August of 1978 Gentieu’s West was opened in the Safeway shopping center in the former Tims Steak house location. It was quite the expansion from the Pantry on third st. From the start it was a huge success. We actually opened on Thursday and had to close on Sunday to restock food due to the volume of business.

The ice cream creations were introduced and named after the local school mascots. Our ice cream sales were so great Dryers out of Fresno delivered two upright freezers at no charge to store the large inventory of ice cream needed to satisfy demand . Close to the high school and college sports venues we were always busy after local sporting events and football games. Those were the days we would have lines out the door with a waiting list durning dinner and again at 10:00 pm after a game. Our staff was remarkable rising to the occasion everyday to serve the people of Taft and surrounding area. Many have commented to me years later that working at the restaurant was a great experience and it taught them how to work, preparing them for work experiences later in life.

It was a big financial investment for me borrowing close to $200,000 by the time we added the two spaces next to us expanding our square footage to almost 6000 sq ft. Our first years sales projection summited to the bank to help secure the loan was $750,000 we closed the first full years sales at $785,000 and the following years sales eclipsed $1.1 million. With the highest priced item on the menu a T-bone steak at $9.95 these sales were incredible, securing our place as the top restaurant in town .

A look back for me and sharing this with you, I realize what a special time that was within a wonderful town filled with great customers and friends. I will always remember, cherish and appreciate that wonderful group of people that comprised the staff at Gentieus. Truly a place in time that cannot be duplicated but can always be remembered with fondness and warm feelings.

Thank you all for being part of those memories.

Chef Len

Gentieu’s Pantry | A Look Back

The year was 1973 and I was 25 years old, opening my first restaurant in Taft. I first came to the area from Delaware in 1970 to teach ROP food services for Taft and Maricopa schools.

Gentieu’s Pantry was a modest entry into the restaurant industry with the first day receipts total of $128.00. Modest start, yes! With just a $7000 investment and rent of $300 a month, it was the start of a wonderful 50+ year career in the food business.

Looking back over 40 years, the Pantry was well received by the community and I think most will agree, the sandwiches we created there were one of a kind and have not been duplicated to this day. We accomplished many firsts there: 5ft. Sandwiches delivered by motorcycle, home of the KiWi sandwich, the first pickled tongue sandwich in town, the record breaking worlds longest sandwich and of course, Philadelphia subs and cheese steaks sandwiches.

My sincere thanks to the people of Taft and surrounding trade area for your continuing support now and back then. There will always be a special place in my heart for the town where my entrepreneurial spirit first began.

Please share your memories of the Pantry by posting comments on our blog or on Facebook. It would be so good to hear from you.

Chef Len

Fruit platter | Go Big or Go Home

Summertime is a great time for bar BBQ’s and outdoor entertaining. Fresh fruit always a favorite and the quality and availability is much better this time of year. Rather than place the typical  platter of cut melons, grapes, strawberries and pineapple etc. I decided to make a display the focal point of the buffet.

This display was for a fundraiser being held at the Biddel House in SLO (Biddle House pictured above). Owned by Adrian Lena, it is a beautiful Victorian home located just off the business district. Adrian was such a gracious host sharing her home for an event for Gods Haven for Children (foster family agency) . The kitchen island topped with granite was spectacular and I decided (with her approval) to create the display on one end of it, no platters. I began by placing large leaves of romaine down to create a base for the fruit to rest on. On top of that placing watermelon basket filled with strawberries then adding  apple birds, citrus crowns, grape clusters, pineapple tops and assorted other fruits displaying some in their packing boxes.

photo courtesy Jim Davis

The colors and shapes can’t help but be pleasing to the eye. The point here is not how good you might be at fruit carving but rather to create a WOW! factor when the guest step up to the buffet to begin service. People also eat with their eyes! Have fun with it , when complete you can step back to view it and be proud of what you created.

So when time permits and good quality fruit is in season leave your platter in the pantry and set up right on the counter or table top. Use my photo for ideas. This display was the hit of the party and will be at yours too.

Let’s get cookin!

Chef Len

Check out my abalone recipe to go well with this display!

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Fresh Boiled Shrimp | 2 Sauces

I had the Papagallo hauled out in Ventura for inspection. A fishing boat came to the yard with some mechanical issues and they still had some of the catch onboard. The captain handed me a container of shrimp and asked if I might prepare them for some of the yard workers. I told him of course I would be glad to. There is no comparison between freshly caught shrimp and frozen. These were going to be good eating.

Method:

In a large pot bring water to a boil with slices of fresh onion and celery , couple cans of beer and some pickling spice or old bay seasoning. Place the shrimp in when pot reaches a boil. Do not over cook! They will take five or so minutes depending upon their size. They are done when turning red in color and flesh is firm and white when you cut a sample in half. Undercooked the flesh is translucent and not real firm. After the cooking time is reached always cut one in half to check for doneness. Can be served warm or after cooled in ice water. Boil with shell on ! On this day I boiled them off right at lunch time so the guys could enjoy them hot and steamy for lunch. What a hit and a real treat they talked about during my stay in the boatyard.

Sauces:

I prepared two that day.

-Melted butter with squeeze of fresh lemon juice and 10 cloves of chopped fresh garlic.

-Cocktail sauce : mix : 4 cups of catsup , juice from 2 lemons, few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup of prepared horseradish. Chefs note: I find good horseradish at the Smart and Final store. With the large amount of horseradish it will give the sauce a more orange color than a deeper red you see in most restaurants. This recipe also has a wonderful kick to it which most people like. If too hot add more catsup.

Good quality catsup and good quality horseradish are keys to getting good results.

Yum!

Chef Len

Check out last week’s recipe here!

Flaming Coffee A’la Gentieu

Ready to WOW your guests?! This Flaming Coffee recipe is sure to do the trick!

To begin, you will need glassware that can withstand the heat of burning rum. I use a 17.5 ounce Libbey 8418 Bolla Grade wine glass that has worked well for me over the years. You can find them, here.

Ingredients: 

Brewed Coffee
Kahlua
Bacardi 151 Rum
Baileys Irish Cream
Ground Cinnamon
1 Fresh Orange
Sugar
Fresh Whipped Cream

You will also need a flame, preferably from a candle. Start by quartering the orange and using one piece and rim the edge of each glass with it’s juice. Dip each orange-rimmed glass into sugar placed on a small plate as if you were rimming a margarita glass with salt. Next, pour a scant ounce of rum into a one-ounce ladle. I prefer Bacardi 151 Rum, a highly flammable variety that’s 75.5 percent alcohol.

Holding the ladle in one hand and the glass in the other, run the ladle under the open flame to ignite it. Place the burning ladle of rum halfway into the glass. Carefully lift and tilt the ladle upward and out of the glass, catching the burning rum in the glass. When the ladle empties, blow out any remaining fire in the ladle. Swirl the glass with the burning rum as if it were a red wine. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon into the fire to create a colorful sparkling effect.

The rum should burn for several seconds, but don’t let it burn too long as the glass will become too hot. Pour the coffee into the glass by resting the edge of the coffee pot or container on the edge of the glass. When you begin pouring, move the glass in a downward motion and the coffee container in an upward motion. this causes a stream of coffee to flow through the air to half fill the glass and extinguish the flame.

Add shots of Kahlüa and Baileys, a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and sprinkle with cinnamon. When handing the drink to the guests, caution them about how hot it is. This dish exists in many versions using a broad range of ingredients. Once you’re comfortable making it, experiment with coffee syrups, other liqueurs and chocolate.

This coffee service is even more spectacular performed in the dark. The rum burns with a beautiful blue flame and sprinkled cinnamon adds a “Fourth of July” effect. Just be sure there’s enough light to let you see what you’re doing!

Enjoy!

Chef Len 

Check out last week’s recipe!

Chicken Piccata | A Savory Summer Favorite

This week’s recipe is a perfect Summer recipe. Whether you pair it with pasta, a fresh salad or something a little more savory, the blend of  flavors are refreshing and a perfect dish for Summer!

Ingredients: 
1.  4 - 6oz skinless/boneless chic breast
2.  Seasoned flour S/P for dredging 
3.  1/3 cup drawn butter for sautéing 
4 .  Juice from one lemon
5.  1/4 cup capers
6.  1/2 cup Chardonnay wine
7.  4 TB. Heavy cream 
8. Chopped parsley to finish


Method:


Place chic breast between cling film and lightly tenderize with mallet
Dredge in seasoned flour. Heat butter and sauté breast until brown on both sides, remove from pan place in 325 degree oven for 5 to 10 min. Until done. 


To make sauce deglaze sauté pan with wine, add the cream and capers and reduce by half. Finish with lemon juice and parsley. Serve chicken with ladle of sauce over top.

Chefs note:

Most recipes do not call for heavy cream , I like to add it for a little extra richness, you don’t need much. Also if you sauté pan is large enough it’s nice to return the cooked chicken to the pan with sauce and let simmer a minute or so before serving, then ladle sauce over top, giving the dish a little more flavor.

Enjoy !

Chef Len

Ps. Looking for some more inspiration in the kitchen? Check out last week’s recipe for another culinary treat!

Abalone Ambitions | Sauteéd Abalone

I drive north from Morro Bay, nine miles along Highway 1 to buy abalone, a key ingredient in one of my favorite special dishes. Abalone has been cherished for centuries for its delicate flavor, beautiful shell and, among other believers, its aphrodisiac qualities.

The drive to the Abalone Farm on the north end of Cayucos at Estero Point, along some of the most scenic coastline in California, is as wonderful as the succulent mollusk I’m procuring. Turning left off Route 1, I soon detect the smell of wild sage and rosemary. Cresting the last steep hill of a winding, bumpy dirt road, the farm comes into view. Scores of cement salt water tanks filled with kelp and abalone stretch across the tops of the cliffs above the crashing waves of the blue Pacific below.

The Abalone Farm is the oldest and largest producer of farm-raised abalone (halitosis rufescent) per year, which it supplies to restaurants and ships all over the world. If I arrive during lunch, I may catch a soccer game between teams made up of the farm’s largely Hispanic work force. Brad, the General Manager, usually meets me in the lower parking area, from which we ascend to the production building to pick up my order.

In the production area, six to eight women seated at worktables and armed with tenderizing mallets pound away at the abalone flush to make it tender enough to eat. Brad usually reaches between the falling mallets to grab a couple small steaks for us to sample sashimi style. After dipping them in a mixture of rice vinegar, soy sauce and red chili oil, we down the delicious slices with quick chew.

I like to sauté abalone when I’m not using it for sashimi or sushi. Preparing sautéd Abalone is very simple; however, the trimming is critical. Chris Jones, a long-time friend, taught it to me more than 40 years ago. Chris liked to dive for wild abalone at a time when they were still plentiful along the Central Coast.

Let’s get cookin’!

Sauteéd Abalone

 

Ingredients

Abalone

Eggs

Saltine Crackers

Clarified Butter

Lemon

 

 

Begin with pounded pieces of abalone steak. Dip them in whole beaten eggs, then place them in crushed saltine crackers, breading the abalone on both sides. To sauté, bring clarified butter up to temperature. Place the abalone steaks in a large pan, taking care not to crowd them. Lightly brown the steaks, approximately 40 seconds per side. At the last minute, squeeze a fresh lemon over them and serve immediately, ladling a little of the now browned-butter over them. Any overcooking will cause the abalone to toughen and dry. 

What I like about the dish is its simplicity. There’s no reason to even accompany it with a sauce. The light cracker crust seals in the abalone’s delicate flavor. We serve the dish on our charter yacht, the Papagallo II, and always to rave reviews. 

In 2012, I was hired as a guest chef for a video shoot in Monterey, California, to introduce Dreaming Tree Everyday, a new wine varietal brought out by Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthew’s Band. I prepared Sautéd Abalone for Dave and his winemaker as a part of the shoot. Dave said it was one of the best things he had ever eaten.

Enjoy!

Chef Len

Rack of Lamb | Garlic/Tomato Reduction & Date-Fig Mint Jam

Nothing elevates the simplest of get together’s like a rack of lamb. Let’s get right to it as this is a lengthy one, but well worth the detailed instruction. Your next get together will be a hit!

Ingredients:

  • Frenched rack of lamp.
  • Garlic, chopped
  • All-purpose meat rub spice
  • Butter
  • Roma tomatoes, diced
  • White Wine
  • Dried Dates
  • Mint Sprigs
  • Red chili peppers, dried
  • Mint jelly
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary

Instruction:

Remove any excess fat at the base of the rub bones of the Frenched rack or on the rib eye itself. Don’t remove all the fat, as it’s an important part of the cooking process; supplying flavor to the finished dish. Season with a dry all – purpose spice rub, or add salt and black pepper with a little rosemary. Rub the seasoning over the entire rack up to three the bones have been Frenched. If the rack is to be charbroiled, wrap the exposed bones in foil to protect them from blackening. If the lamb is to be roasted in the over, the foil is not necessary. If broiling outside on he BBQ grill, start the seasoned rack on the hot part of the fire and brown quickly on both sides. Then move it to a cooler part of the fire to finish cooking, which could take up to 40 minutes depending on the BBQ. Ideal doneness is achieved at an internal temp of 125 to 130 degrees for medium rare. Like most steak – cut meats, the rack should not be cooked to the well-done stage, which greatly reduces the dish’s quality.

If roasting, place the seasoned rack in a hot oven at 425 degrees for the first five to ten minutes, until the meat browns. Reducte the temp to 375 degrees to finish cooking, which will take approximately 20 minutes, or when the internal temp reaches 125 – 130 degrees on a meat thermometer half way to the center of the thickest part of the eye to get an accurate reading. The reading should climb the scale steadily, and slow when reaching the desired level. If it climbs too fast, you’ll likely over cook the lamb. Remember the lamb will continue to cook a little after removing it from the oven or broiler.  Paying close attention to the lamb’s temp and how it rises can make all the difference.

When the rack reaches the desired temp range, remove it from the heat and let it rest a couple of minutes before carving. To serve, cut four two-rib portions by running a sharp French knife between the bones and completely through the eye, creating beautiful medium-rare two-bone chops. Crisscross each two-bone pair in the center of the dinner plate to serve with your choice of side items.

In years past, lamp was always served with a small portion of mint jelly, a practice some restaurants still follow, but many more creative sauces and garnishes are available to enhance the flavor of this dish, including two of my favorites –  a garlic and roma tomato reduction and date-fig mint jam.

Prepare the garlic and tomato reduction by warming half of a stick of butter in a saucepan. Add eight cloves of chopped garlic and two dices roma tomatoes, also known as plum or Italian plum tomatoes. Cook down slightly, then add half a cup of white wine and reduct by half. Season with a little salt and pepper, and serve as a reduction or pureed to a velvety smoothness and ladled under the chops.

For the date-fig mint jam, place half a cup each of dried figs and dates in a food processor. Add a few sprigs of fresh mint and a teaspoon of fried red chilies, and blend into a paste. Stir in half a jar of mint jelly until the mixture acquires the consistency of jam. Thin, if necessary, with a little warm water, and serve on the side.

Bon Appetite!

Chef Len

WHERE’S  THE  BEEF? | Serrano’s Chili Verde

Forget the beef, let’s do pork — Serrano’s Chili Verde
     Easy as Uno, Dos, Tres!

I first tasted Serrano’s Chili Verde over 20 years ago at the Bakersfield Country Club, where I was the General Manager.  It was one of the club’s main dishes and often served as a lunch special.  Fidencio Serranc, the first cook at the club, learned the recipe, an authentic Mexican version, from his mother.  We all looked forward to it.  How simple it is to prepare is the most surprising thing about the recipe.  Whenever he made it, the other cooks tossed tortillas on the open fire to heat, and then spooned in helpings of the Chili Verde, rolling up the tortillas for quick, flavorful snacks.  It happened every time a pot showed up on the stove.

 

Ingredients:
2 lbs. pork butt, cubed
1 large yellow onion, diced
10 cloves garlic, minced
20 tomatillos, outer skins removed
4 large jalapeno chili peppers, roasted and diced
5 Tbs. cumin, ground
2 cans green enchilada sauce
1/3 cup lard
chicken stock, optional
salt & pepper to taste
flour tortillas for service

Method:
Melt the lard in a heavy roast pan or skillet. Add the onion, garlic and pork, browning over medium heat.  Brown the tomatillos in a hot oven.  When the pork browns, add the tomatillos, jalapenos, cumin and the enchilada sauce to cover the sauce to cover the meat, then stir.  If necessary, add enough chicken stock to fully cover the meat. Season and slow cook covered in the oven until meat is tender.

Chef’s note:

Depending upon desired taste, a little more cumin and jalapeno pepper can be added to increase the flavor and heat of the dish.

Serving suggestions:

Serve with flour tortillas and Spanish rice.  This is a very versatile dish and can be used in breakfast omelets, tacos, burritos, enchiladas and meat quesadillas.

YUM!

Chef Len

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAUTEED  CALAMARI  STEAK | Keeping it Simple


                                                  


Calamari – What is it?  It is the body of a large Squid with no head; a great protein food source low in fat often referred to as Humboldt Squid.  It is tough and rubbery and always should be tenderized before cooking unless you use a slow cook method.  Sometimes available fresh in fish markets, but most often purchased frozen.  It can also be purchased online.  The frozen product usually comes tenderized, but I always hit it again with a meat mallet to be sure my finished dish will be tender.  This tenderizing step is similar to my Abalone preparation.  The steaks I use are five to six ounce portions, about a quarter inch thick.  Price per pound fluctuates with market but fairly consistent at $5.00 per pound.  Grab your apron and head to the kitchen – let’s get cookin’.

METHOD:

Thaw steak overnight in refrigerator or to thaw quickly, place in a container of cold water for about 15 minutes until pliable.

TENDERIZING:

Place steak between two sheets of cling film and lightly pound with meat mallet. It is best to pound from the edges and work toward the center. Don’t pound too firmly as the steak will tear and be difficult to work with.  It normally doubles in size after pounding.

BREADING:

Use the standard breading procedure. Dredge in seasoned flour, dip in egg wash, and then place in breading media to coat.  I use Panko, but crushed Saltine Crackers also work well.  During the breading, the thin steak may be a little difficult to work with. Don’t worry if it breaks in two, just bread both parts.  After breading, you can go right to sautéing then service.  The tenderized steak can be refrigerated an hour or so before cooking or wrapped and frozen for future use.  The quality is best if cooked soon after breading.  In many restaurants, it is breaded to order then sautéed.

SAUTEE:

Use Canola or Vegetable Oil.  Choose a frying pan large enough to accommodate the size of the steak. The oil should be approximately a quarter inch deep and brought up to temperature before placing steak in pan.  Do not deep fry.  Oil should lightly sizzle when steak is sautéed and not crackle like a house afire. If that happens, the oil is too hot.  The best way to check oil temp is to lower the edge of the steak into the oil and it should gently sizzle then place the whole steak in. If there is no sizzle, the oil is not hot enough so wait for the temperature to come up.  Sautee on both sides until golden brown, this should not take more than four minutes. If the steak starts to curl during cooking or if it gets an air pocket underneath it, cut the edge or pierce the pocket with a paring knife until the steak lays flat.

FINISH:

When cooking is finished and steak is plated up, drizzle one or two tablespoons of melted butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon over the top. Garnish with fresh chopped Parsley; best served immediately.

CHEF’S NOTE:

If you’re serving several people and don’t have room on the stove, it’s okay to hold the cooked steaks in a 200 degree oven until served (best no more than 10 minutes).  On the yacht, we accompany this dish with fresh tartar sauce or a homemade Arrabbiata Sauce with Angel Hair Pasta.  Dish pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay or a nice Pinot Noir.

Butta Bing, Butta Boom!

Chef Len