Ho Ho Ho. Yes, it's that time of year again. The time when we celebrate the birth of Christ, Hannakah, and other festivities. Celebrations, parties, food, friends, and stress. I decided to let myself off the hook this year and not feel guilty that I don't have time to send out holiday cards (again), personal or business. Whew, that's a relief!
In the chef world, it's always interesting when people don't plan ahead when they want a holiday event. They don't understand why they can't find an in-home chef on Monday when they want to have a party for 100 on Saturday. Even "light appetizers" for 100 is a mountain of work. You must also hire people to help you prepare the food and serve it. Not to mention that I have been booked well ahead for almost all December weekend dates, as have my other chef colleagues & servers who excel at doing parties. In this uncertain economy, people are waiting longer to arrange an event to be sure they want to and can spend the money. Can't blame them for that. But the good ones are usually already booked.
And then there are folks who want to pay a very minimum amount for a 4 - 6 course beef tenderloin dinner. What goes into any dinner party is a great deal of work, way more than meets the eye. Menu development, client meetings (in person and by e-mail), writing up the prep list and contract, food shopping, loading & unloading my car, driving to the client location, executing the party (food, service, clean up), and finally heading home to plop into bed. Much of this work occurs before I get to the client location so it is not seen. I can't do all that to take home just $100 for hours and hours of my time. Credentials and experience should mean something. I am certified, insured, have a culinary degree, know how to handle food safely, and darn it, my food is really good. If a potential client can find a chef who will cut them a "deal" and work for almost nothing, more power to them and shame on the chef. Chefs who conduct their business in this way tarnish what we do.
As I cruise into the middle of this crazy holiday time, I am truly thankful for the passion I have for my work. I am so thankful for my clients who appreciate my food and the care that goes into it, and who are willing to pay a fair rate for it. I have met some of the most amazing people in this industry who work so hard serving others because they love it.
In the spirit of the holidays, here is a great little recipe for a quick, easy appetizer that you can make ahead, freeze, and pull out to bake at a moments notice. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and may you have the love of friends and family surround you this season.
Artichoke Parmesan Cups
20 ounces (more or less) marinated artichokes, drained (reserve marinade)
3/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and fresh-ground pepper, to taste
2 boxes (15 per box) frozen Phyllo cups
Combine the artichokes, 1/2 cup of cheese, garlic and cayenne in the bowl of a food processor. Process until relatively smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the mixture is too thick, use a teaspoon or so of the reserved marinade to loosen the filling. It should not be runny.
Using a small scoop or a teaspoon, fill the phyllo cups to the brim. Top with a garnish of the remaining parmesan. Bake at 375 for 10 - 12 minutes, until the cups are slightly browned around the edges. Serve immediately!