Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach. She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half-Baked.
Earlier this week, I advised a sick friend the only real remedy to any illness is chicken noodle soup. Not having the energy or capacity to make soup, she curled her lip up at the thought of picking some up from a near by counter service cafe.
"Eh, all those soups are so loaded with sodium. I don't really need that right now," I nodded sadly, agreeing with her. "Plus it probably all comes from a can anyway; that's why I never eat soup."
"Actually most places get it frozen in a bag. It's actually not bad stuff," that didn't ease her mind. But it did make me think about people's perception on the industry. Not to mention all the interesting products that food vendors have to make our jobs as chefs "easier". Throw in owners' favorite buzz words like quality and cost control and you'd be surprised what ends up on a plate.
The chef equivalent to clothes or house catalogs, I surfed through a very large and widely used food vendors catalog. Here are some of the highlights.
Apps, Soups and Sauces. Oh My!
Potato Russet Skin
Premium russet potato skins are ridged for a handmade appearance and extra crunch. Easily prepared in the fryer or oven; minimal oil absorption and breakage. Great appetizer item that can be filled with cheese, bacon or mash for twice baked potatoes. Shelf life- 1 year frozen.
The "handmade appearance" comment made me snicker until I thought of all the loaded potato skins I've enjoyed over the years. They should make them absorb more oil because no matter where you get them they always come out so dang dry.
Soup Red Bean, Rice And Sausage
Completely natural product from original recipe. Homemade appeal, high solids content, natural full bodied flavor, fresh wholesome ingredients, fresh herbs and select seasonings. Lower sodium, cholesterol and fat. No added preservative. Keep frozen until ready to use.
Yummy, yummy. Love those solids!
Sauce Alfredo Pouch
Classic combination of cream, butter, aged parmesan, and romano cheese. Lightly seasoned with cracked black pepper.
I've seen and, unfortunately know, I've been served this before. My thought is every restaurant carries the ingredients to make a proper alfredo, why buy one more product? Then Chef reminded me it's not always the ingredients you don't have but the skill.
Fun With Proteins
Pork Osso Bucco
There are six bags with two shanks per bag for a total of 12 portion per case. It is fully cooked in an italian style sauce. Each shank is approximately 24-26oz of which approximately 15oz is meat. Very tender, falls off the bone. This makes a labor intensive entree easy to prepare. Just heat and serve.
There's a place I go to, sometimes a couple times a week, because they serve food and booze late (perfect for us getting off a shift). Someone always makes the joke when we are deciding what to eat, "I dare you to get the Osso Bucco".
Meatball Italian Precooked 2oz
Genuine Mamma-Ranne italian house recipe. Blend of fresh spices, romano and ricotta cheese, oven broiled, IQF (Individually Quick Frozen). Approximately 80 count. Consistent flavor, size and quality. Simmer in sauce. Heat and serve. Perfect on sandwiches, pizzas, or on pasta.
Even some authentic italian places resort to this; let along any other type of restaurant that has meatballs on the menu.
Pork Diced 1x1
Pork diced 1x1 cube square. Product ships frozen and has a manufacture shelf life of 180 days.
Now that I've mentioned this you'll probably start to notice this product everywhere. Fact is there's nothing wrong with it. This is my thing with overthinking where the food came from? Is it a little too perfect looking? How many hands touched it to make it that way?
Florida Fresh Seafood?
Lobster Head And Body Meat
May have sulfites. This "raw" warm water lobster meat removed from "cracked" tails (which can not be packed as tails) in addition to pieces of body meat. This is an inexpensive product for use in bisque, stuffing, sauces, salads, etc. Quality is superior.
It's not neccessarily the description I find unappetizing but the strategic puncuation of this "product".
Clam Strip Crispy Super Surfer
Handshucked surf clam "foot" meat processed into wide cut, tenderized clam strips, lightly breaded (35% breading). Tumble breaded for a hand breaded appearance. Deep fry at 350 degrees. Can be used as appetizers, entree or in combo plate.
Yes people, clams have feet! This goes along with the popular theory that people will eat anything if it's fried.
Swai Filet 6-8oz- Phase out (anyone else notice the "PHASE OUT"?)
Swai is farm raised in Vietnam. It is one of the pangasiidae (catfish) family members. Swai is a versatile fish, mild enough to take on other flavors but flavorful enough to serve naturally. Swai is a clean fish with a pinkish, beige coloring. A great fish for any application.
(In honor of my good friend Sam and because I still love telling this story) At a popular wing place, he ordered an item only labeled as "A Cousin To The Grouper" Sandwich. When he had this meal painfully return on him several times later that day my response was, "if they won't tell you what type of fish it is you probably shouldn't eat it. Who orders fish at _________ anyway?!"
Breakfast of Champs
Eggs Scrambled Select
Classic pasterized scramble egg mix. Approxiametly 60 eggs, medium size, per five pound bag. Citric acid is added to prevent egg from greening. Eggs are packed in bags which are designed to cook scramble eggs. Eggs will stay hot.
Egg Patty Fried Natural Shape
Pre cooked egg in it's natural shape, fried and packed in a 1.75 oz formed shape. Thaw and serve.
Egg Patty IQF Sand Style
Ready to use fully cooked egg patty. Ovenable and microwaveable. Pre portion for for exact cost control. Great for plant feeders, caterers, convenience stores, hospitals, etc. that want a quick and easy patty for sandwiches and biscuits for take out use. Scrambled style patty.
Omelet Egg IQF Plain Folded (is also available with cheese)
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Ready to use fully cooked egg omelet that is folded to give the homemade appearance. This product is ovenable or can be microwaved. Great for breakfast buffets, catering for large events or for accounts that don't have time to fix traditional omelets.
Ever wonder how so many unlikely places are able offer breakfast? To be fair to those who use these products, people don't realize how hard it is to make breakfast happen.
Want more? Check out this Half Baked.