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

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!

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

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