Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Secrets of the Gourmet Grocer: Health department inspections

January, 1982

My health inspector Gwen calls me wanting to do another inspection after seeing a review of my shop in the Kansas City Star.  Gwen is attractive and I like to think that I charmed her during my initial inspection.

She asked a lot of questions about the business during that initial inspection, and having been through many inspections at Henny's in Spokane, I had a good answer for everything.  I  passed the initial inspection and opened the business.  One thing I soon learn is that you cannot charm a health inspector.  Gwen does like me and likes the idea of the business.  She tells me on the phone that there were some concerns she had during our initial inspection.  She wants to revisit the shop to get me to correct those concerns.  Oh boy!

She arrives the next morning dressed in a lab coat, hair net, glasses and white gloves.  She has an assistant with her.  I know I am in trouble.  Together the two of them comb the shop, looking in the walk-in, under all the shelves, testing temperatures of the hot and the cold cases, and inspecting our food handling techniques.  It seems like the inspection takes hours.  During that time I can't do any production.  One thing I have learned--when the inspector is in the house, stop what you are doing and pay attention to what they are looking at.  I grab a pad and make notes of all of her concerns.  Why bother? She will give me a long list in detail at the end of the inspection.

Another thing you never do with health inspectors is argue with them.  Their mission is to prevent food borne illnesses, and, depending on the inspector, they can be real sticklers on food preparation, storage, temperature, etc.  Gwen means business and I feel helpless.  She is nice enough about it, but I have hours of work to do to correct all of her minor infractions.  She smiles as she hands me the list and says she will be back in two days to verify that I have corrected the problems.  I look at the list.  How will I get these things fixed and manage to produce any food?  It's only 10:00 A.M. and I already have a headache.  I begin to think she is not so attractive.

Since it is Friday, I want to make something with fish in it.  I decide to make Seafood Strudel.

Seafood Strudel

I found this recipe in Spokane before a dinner hosted by friends John & Marlow Peters who were introducing me to a great Spokane chef--Billie Moreland.  She ran a French-styled bistro and had a wonderful selection of copper pots that I always admired.  Each of us were to bring a dish, and when I found this, I thought it would be perfect. That night it was a hit.  Over the years, I changed the recipe slightly as well as the method for filling the strudel.

Make a bechamel:
2 T butter
2 T flour
1/2 t Dijon
1 C milk
1/4 t salt, cayenne pepper, nutmeg
Melt the butter in a sauce pot, and add the flour.  Cook for a couple of minutes and add the heated milk, Dijon and seasonings.
Add the following ingredients to the bechamel and let it cool in the refrigerator.
1/2 C grated Swiss cheese
3 hard boiled eggs
1/4 C chopped parsley
1-2 shallots, diced and slightly sauteed
2 T chives
1 clove garlic, diced
2 T grated Parmesan
1/2 C sour cream

Take one package phyllo and let thaw in the refrigerator overnight if frozen.  Unwrap the phyllo and spread out on the counter.  Take one sheet at a time and place on a sheet of tin foil.  Butter each sheet with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with a mixture of finely ground bread crumbs and Parmesan.  Take the next sheet and cover the first and repeat with the melted butter and bread crumbs. You can mix a little olive oil in with the butter--that will help the strudel brown more evenly.  If your phyllo is sticking together, you can use two sheets at a time.  The butter should not be too heavy between the sheets.  If your phyllo is tearing, take a deep breath, be gentle and go slowly.  You can use more sheets so the strudel won't leak after you roll it.

When you have 12 sheets of phyllo (there are 20-24 in a box), take the cooled bechamel mix from above and place on the lower third of the strudel lengthwise.  Top the bechamel with 1/3 pound each of cooked peeled shrimp, crab meat and cooked whitefish.  Roll the strudel like a burrito by folding up the sides and rolling to cover the filling.  Place seam side down and butter the top of the strudel.  Fold up the tin foil to make a sling to transfer the strudel to a baking sheet without breaking it. Score the strudel with a sharp knife to make six slices.  Do not slice all the way through.  Bake at 375 degrees until the strudel is golden brown (this should take about 20 minutes or so).  Butter occasionally while baking, being careful not to tear up the top.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly.  Slice and serve.

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