Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Christmas List Grows Like Puff Pastry

I want this pastry book, this pastry bookthis pastry book, this pastry book, this pastry book, this thermometer, this pastry form, this knife book, and this air brush. Don't think poorly of me. It's just that I haven't been that naughty, and I really do want world peace. But, if I had these and world peace...well, wouldn't that be the best Christmas ever!?

Recipe: Salmon Tart

As requested, here is the recipe for the salmon tart that I made this past weekend. It won rave reviews, but alas, I didn't get a bite (now do you all see why I stay so thin?!)

A very simple dough that anyone can do!
2 C. All-Purpose Flour
1/3 C. Sugar
1/2 t. Baking Powder
1/4 t. Salt
1 Stick (4 oz.) Cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" cubes
2 Eggs, lightly beaten

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in food processor until just combined. Add the butter and pulse until it looks like cornmeal. Turn machine on again, add eggs until ball forms. Remove dough and knead it for about 1 minute. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes or until needed.

The filling:
5 oz. (150 g, 15 cl) Whipping Cream
4 Eggs
Lightly whip and salt/pepper to taste. If you do use pepper, I recommend white pepper to maintain the appearances.

Let's go:
Pre-heat oven to 350. Roll out your crust to as thin as you can get it and not destroy it. Line with parchment or foil and weight it with beans or pie weights. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until just slightly brown on the edges. Pour the filling into the crust. Add your favorite ingredients. I used goat cheese with a bit of herbs encrusted on it, lox-style smoked salmon, and fresh dill. Bake about 30 minutes or until the filling just stops jiggling. Please don't over-cook like most people like to do. Stop it once the jiggle stops. Bring to room temp and eat.

New Toy: Scale

I've needed a good scale for a while. I've had a few others which are perfectly adequate for general kitchen use (Salters), but I needed something with more accuracy for my baking and molecular gastronomy work. Based on recommendations at the Alinea Mosaic site (I won't link since you need to buy the cookbook to get access to the site), this is what I picked:

The Joy of Chestnuts: Castagnaccio

"Castagnaccio" and online friend suggests as a use for my chestnut flour. "Great," I think. "I've never made one of those. This will be fun."

Its an interesting recipe with chestnut flour, water, olive oil (I used lemon infused), rosemary, raisins, walnuts and piñon. You drizzle oil on the top then bake:

Then you put it in your mouth and get this:

And then you swallow and get this:

Needless to say I won't be posting the recipe. Tyler dubbed this the worst dessert since the infamous rosewater trifle disaster of 2006.

Since some of our customers read this blog, I thought I would share that we have a nice selection of chestnut ingredients at the store...just don't ask me to give you any recipes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chestnut Flour

I have 25 pounds of it...any suggestions?

Catering to their every whim

This weekend I had four catering jobs - yes, I am very tired. Here are a few of the creations that I made:

My favorite - a pistachio cheesecake with pomegranate seeds

Smoked salmon tart with Fleur Verte goat cheese and fresh dill

Gingerbread petit fours, lemon glaze and chocolate decoration (didn't come out as nicely as I had hoped)

Tuile of Asian Cabbage Salad - I purposefully left the tuile (little cup) sweet to pair with the sour of the slaw. This was very, very good.

And asparagus tips with homemade morel mayonnaise on toast

I made a few other things but the pics were boring. Finger food is so much better than fork food!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Prickly Pears continued...What to do with them?

Continuing our harrowing story. Now I have 40 tunas, de-stickered, de-skinned and de-seeded. I have plans for them, but not until the end of October at my next tasting menu. So how can I preserve them and keep them usable. I have two experiments going. First, I've vacuum packed and froze this set.

And then I had a burst of genius - what about candying?! So I dredged them in sugar.

And put them in an oven at 175F. But that didn't quite work out the way I had hoped:

And even worse...

Oh well, back to the old drawing board.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Prickly Pear Tunas

You may have caught my earlier post about the 12-course tasting menu where I had "Tuna Tempura." The tuna, much to the surprise of my guests, was the fruit of the prickly pear plant - tuna. The crimson flesh looks enough like tuna meat that the two foods share their name.

Getting to the point of eating one is no easy task however. Here's how I do it - the best way I've found to not have a handful of stickers. Let's go for a hike!

I started on the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) just north of town.

Lexi lead the way

She is the ultimate trail dog with me. With Tyler...not so much.

She led me to the motherload of tuna!

It's been an odd year. I haven't seen as many tuna, even though locals say this is the most moisture we've had since 1974. We had nearly 2 months of daily rain during our monsoon season. Its been wonderful for agriculture and temperature control.

Here are the tools of the black market tuna snatcher

A good set of tongs and a plastic basket or bucket is all you need. Don't even mess with the idea of gloves or short grabbers, you'll end up with a handful or stickers that won't come out! Look at my booty:

I grabbed 40 of the biggest, darkest ones I could find. And that's enough of that...we headed back down the trail to the car, back to the store kitchen and got to work.

Here's my processing method - I'm sure your neighbor's grandma will tell you its the wrong way, but I'll tell you what - I didn't get a single sticker in my fingers with this method. Grab your trusted tongs and a good knife.

Next, cut the top and the bottom off, just removing the least amount possible, but enough to allow for your fingers to grab the two ends, or to set the tuna on its end on a cutting board.

Just a quick note that this tuna is a bit under-ripended. Still tasty, but it could have used a few more weeks. The problem is that I'm not the only one looking for good tunas. So are the deer, javalinas and bears. So the early bird gets the tuna, and in this case, that would be me.

Now, you have two options. First would be to hold the tuna in your fingers, and using a peeler (preferably a soft-skin peeler), peel the sides away.

Second (my preferred method), set the tuna on a cutting board. Hold the tuna with your tongs, and use the peeler to remove the skin as far as the peeler will allow. Then remove the remaining skin with a sharp knife.

Wanna see the guts?

What you see above is the nemesis to any tuna lovin' American! Them thar is seeds! Lot's of seeds. Seeds that seem to never go away. This time of year the trails are covered in purple animal poop full of seeds. Also notice that it has an inney. The inney is the top of the tuna. See how meat separates the inney from the seeds? That will become important in a second because that meat is not there at the other end - the bottom.

I then take my knife tip and open the bottom with a hole smaller than a pencil eraser. That's about enough to get the seeds to spew forth upon the land. Coax, plead, suck, shake...do whatever it takes to get them out - every last one of them! It's not easy, and after the first tuna or two, you will be asking if its worth the effort. I normally start with my knife, then go to a stainless steel slurpee straw that I have, then my pinky. The pinky is great because you can use your nail to scrap all around the sides and bottom (really the top) to get every seed. You can't feel the seeds as well with any other tool. Just get them out.

Again realize that this tuna is very young. It will be bitter. But for my purposes (top secret), that's okay.

Finally, after all that effort, here is what you have:

And a view from the bottom:

You can see how thin that last layer is. If you're just going to eat it, then you don't need to be as careful as I was. But I want to fill them with stuff. At this point you can pop it in your mouth.

In my next post I'll talk about preserving and storing. This is important because I want these for late October, but I have them now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recipe: Maque Choux

I think its funny that the Cajun food I enjoy the most is one I never had while I lived in New Orleans. Why didn't Auntie Young ever make this for me?! I discovered Maque Choux (Mock Choo) while living in Indianapolis.

I used to be known as a professional luncher back then as I wined and dined prospective donors to the agency I ran - Indiana Youth Group. One of my favorite supporters and friends was the most Reverend, Bishop Al Lankenau. Al and I would find almost any hole in the wall. One of our favorites was Yat's. It's just a little dive, but man did Joe's food sing to my soul. (His new Chicago location was recently lambasted on eGullet.) But never mind all that, his was the first maque choux that I ever had, and I ate a lot of it. A lot. Al would marvel at my ability to eat two plates, and the nasty butter bread, and a beer or two.

Maque Choux is my special this week at the cafè, and became dinner for Tyler and I tonight.

It may not look like much, but give it a try and tell me that it isn't better than puppy dog kisses!

Here we go:
(Serves 2 big stomachs or 4 normal stomachs)
4 T. Butter
4 C. Corn (fresh is preferable, but frozen will suffice if you're too lazy to zip the kernels)
1 C. Onion, chopped
1/2 C. Diced bell pepper - any color
2 T. Cajun Spice (I only use Tony Chachere's)
1/2 C. Cream

First, for you foodies who are going to tell me that true maque choux uses the corn milk to thicken this dish...I know, but back off y'all, this is a good version!
Second, this meal can be made in less than 30 minutes, so blow it off for a while and enjoy a Dixie beer while you ponder your last Mardi Gras embarrassments.

Melt the butter in a dutch oven, then add everything but the cream. Stir, scraping the bottom until it starts to stick and get black stuff all over (them's is flavor crystals brah). Finally, after about 10-15 minutes, but a few minutes before you're going to eat, add the cream and stir. At the cafè I added andouille and chicken to this, and for dinner just the sausage, both were very good. I like it with jasmine rice.


Blog of a blog: FX Cuisine's Swiss Wine Tart

If there were any blogger whom I covet their kitchen, this would would be the one. Every now and then we see his kitchen filled with mounted lighting and photography equipment. I, on the other hand, just have my cheap little digital and Photoshop.

Last week FX Cuisine posted a recipe for Swiss Wine Tart. I grabbed my favorite bottle and gave it a go. Relatively simple recipe, and an outstanding crust. I ate all of them before they got home to Tyler...sorry Tyler.

Here is one of them fresh from the oven.

And after a few minutes of meditation:

It tasted of an apple pie, with no wine taste. I liked it very, very much and it is a recipe that I will repeat, probably for customers. On my next attempt, I'll include some fresh rosemary either in the crust, or in the filling itself. Give it a try.

Big Week in Local Foods

The stars are aligning and I'll be bushed by the end of the week. This is our county fair week. In New Mexico, the county fair is more important than the state fair, and in fact, is after the state fair. This is when schools shut down so their kids can show their pigs and goats, and its the week I get to buy a bunch of their pets and have them slaughtered!

I've got folks on the ground who are shopping for goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys and most importantly bunnies. Its a good time to buy because you're getting the best of the best, and because all bought animals are automatically sent to a USDA processor which makes the cost a bit cheaper.

I'm also entering the fair baking contests with a couple of items - I'll post pics tomorrow. Why? Because if Granny Betty Crocker wins one more time, I'll scream! This year I'm taking down granny!

I also picked up a slew of cater jobs, mostly appetizers, but also a twice a week, two dinner per pick-up cater for a couple that is having health issues. Tonight I made Maque Choux with andouille. Tomorrow they'll be having stuffed, baked zucchini with bison, vegetables and pecorino peperoncini served with a fresh fruit salad dressed with vanilla and lavender essence. Last week I made a Chicken tagine with locally grown figs, piñon and Israeli couscous served with Hondroelia olives. Kind of makes you want to be sick, huh?!

Anyway, details will be flowing soon. Cheers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Food BlogRoll

I know many of the readers here are armchair foodies, so I've joined the Foodie BlogRoll which links this blog to a bunch of others. I think you'll enjoy the extra reading...so start clicking!

My next entry will be about prickly pear processing!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fried Squash Blossoms / Ras al Hanout

It all started with a penis and a vagina (as most of my stories do).

A friend was telling me how you need to pluck the male stamen (or is it the stigma or style...I don't remember anymore) if you are going to eat the blossom. I asked how you know the difference between the male and female, to which I received a very graphic representation demonstrated by her fist and fingers. Needless to say I rushed to a booth at our Farmers Market that was selling blossoms at 5 cents a piece. This became my off-the-menu special for the day!

I bought 15 of the biggest I could get. They were pretty fresh, but it would have been nice if they were fresher - so into a bit of water and a nap in my walk-in. In the meantime I made a mixture of ricotta, smoked Soho salmon, egg yolk, salt, pepper, and ras-al-hanout.

I first learned about ras-al-hanout from Chef Shevek at Shevek & Co.. This is the place we go when we have a celebration - good food, well executed. Shevek occassionally sources products from us and a couple of years ago as he was transitioning his menu, he needed ras-al-hanout.

From Wiki:

Ras el hanout (Arabic: رأس الحانوت) is a popular blend of herbs and spices that is used across the Middle East and North Africa. The name means "head of the shop" in Arabic, and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer.

There is no definitive set combination of spices that makes up Ras el Hanout. Each shop, company, person would have their own secret combination containing over a dozen spices. Typically they would include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers (also known as paprika), coriander, cumin, mace, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric.

Some recipes include over one hundred ingredients, some quite unusual, such as ash berries, chufa, Grains of Paradise, orris root, Monk's pepper, cubebs, dried rosebud, and the potentially toxic belladonna and insects such as the beetle known as Spanish fly (however, the sale of Spanish fly was banned in the spice markets of Morocco in the 1990s). Usually all ingredients are toasted and then ground up together. Individual recipes are often improvised.

Ras el hanout is used in pastilla, the Moroccan squab/young pigeon and almond pastie, is sometimes rubbed on meats, and stirred into couscous or rice. It is often believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Shevek also claimed that it often contained opium. Well, I had a source (for ras al hanout, not opium)! So Shevek incorporated it into his menu. Now we carry it in the store and sell it surprisingly fast. Ras al hanout would not be a standard spice in squash blossoms. In fact, they would be the anti-spice in a dish that typically highlights the light, delicate flower. But I spit upon your traditions! And in the end I had a very nice, flavorful filling.

Just enough filling to fit without bursting out during the frying process. I then twirled the petals to close in the filling, and rested the blossoms in my walk-in to set up a bit.

Next it was into the fryer.

Not for long though. Maybe they fried 45 seconds at most.

Not bad for my first attempt. They sold out in the first 15 minutes - every single customer who could, bought them. I had one for myself!

My Food Philosophy

I thought I would share something I sent to a friend recently that tries to articulate my current views on food and cooking. My comments are in response to her suggesting we be conscious in revolutionizing how people eat in New Mexico (she said the state, I would be happy with my customers in town). Here it goes:

So, revolutionizing the state. I’m all for it. I’m not sure how, but I know I’m all for it. I’ve spent most of my night playing around at the Alinea Mosaic website feeling a bit trapped by my lack of knowledge, but knowing there is nothing that he’s doing that I couldn’t with some tools and time. I have spent a lot of today thinking about how I’m the only restaurant at the farmers market, and how I’m making pennies doing it. But then I have customers who say things like, “I’ve been a vegan for years, but your sandwich gives me a reason to cheat.” Our conversation turned to how my food has taste when it seems that no others do. I haven’t eaten out in longer than I can remember because its all boring, bland tripe. I’m sick of that shit.

I don’t know what all this means, but I know that I want to be an Alinea toned down to 80% with truly local foods ramped up to 60%. I love all the fun things I’m doing with prickly pear tunas. I love how I have a basket of perfectly ripe juniper berries sitting on my table waiting for inspiration (will they become gin if I don’t touch them? That works for me to!). Alinea is great, but it loses touch with essence. I want to keep essence. I want someone to push away from my meal and say, “How the hell did he make all of that from foods out in our woods?” That’s what I want.

Breakfast at the Connoley House

Fresh grilled pita, cajun fries, Farmer's Market eggs and the latest catalog from K&L Wine Merchants in San Fran. That's the only way to wake up in the morning. BTW, we've been invited to speak at the San Fran Fancy Food Show in January. Hopefully some of you readers will be there. Let me know.

My baby's first poop!

See, you spend $300 bucks on a new mixer and you get organic peanut butter dog biscuits! Money well spent.

I'm A Proud New Papa

Isn't he beautiful!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oui Chef!

I have always held the opinion that the term "Chef," should be reserved for someone with schooling. Technically, it simply is the title for the head of the kitchen, normally the person who does the management. I have not called myself chef since my kitchen take over.

Today, I served a guest a sandwich and a dessert. When I came to see how she was enjoying it, she was having one of those orgasmic moments...you know the ones. She told me that she attended the French Pastry School in NYC and had recently moved to town. I did a little shop talk and raced back to the kitchen to keep cooking. Later she had a second dessert - a mango, strawberry cheesecake that I had made. It was perfectly baked - perfect. Most people bake their cheesecakes until firm, but that is actually too baked. You stop when there is just a bit of jiggle left. This one was dancing in its pan perfectly. I went to see if she enjoyed the cheesecake and she started referring to me as "Chef." She must have said it ten times after that.

A very cool, key moment in my six week career. I'm willing to let my opinion soften...after all, it was a damn good cheesecake!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tasting Menu: Next Step

This morning I wrote a bunch of concepts on poster paper on the wall in my kitchen. This is my first opportunity to see how they might flow within a meal, and how the flavors might transfer. As is typical, I am heavy on desserts, but my food is not "savory" and "sweet," but rather logically irrational. I am very happy with my draft entrees - two locally sourced, very fresh meats.

On a related note, one difficulty for me is keeping the secrets, but sharing enough info to get technical support. I would love to post the whole menu and have folks pick it apart, but what fun would that be!? Tyler really wants to know what's planned, and I want him to know just enough so that he can enjoy the flavor surprises that I want him (and everyone else) to experience.

I'm still working on a venue for this meal...just as difficult as picking a menu!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ephinal Spewforthedness: The Creation of Tasting Menu

You saw my last tasting menu from a few weeks ago. I was fairly tight lipped about it to ensure the element of surprise for the diners. I'm gearing up for my next one in late October, and I'm going to attempt to share the formation process here for anyone interested.

I hadn't given it much thought before yesterday with the exception that I want to stay true to the season and local foods. Then late yesterday the floodgates opened! My library of tastes has been throwing reference cards out faster than I can process them. It reminds me of one of the modern magicians who asks you to pick a card, then throws the whole deck against the wall only to have your card be the one that sticks while the rest fall to the floor.

When I start tasting menus, I start with flavors, not so much techniques or texture - that will come later. For example, I have some "sure things" that have come out: Whiskey, cheddar and apples; chapagne and pomegranate. Then I have the concepts that are dangling on the wall waiting to decide if they'll make it: jicama and coffee, for example.

In less than a day I have over 20 flavor combinations that I'm playing with. More will come. Most will be tossed. And that's just the beginning.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A couple of things...

Nothing significant, but here is how my bread is looking these days:

And, here's a recent snack that we had. A wedge of Humboldt Fog cheese with some of that bread:

Good as Gold

I've been making way too much chocolate lately at the cafè, but I wanted something for our celiac community. Here's a flourless chocolate cake with a chocolate mirror glaze and a bit of gold:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Want to know my dream?

This link has pictures from the recent Pastry World Championship. Look at how beautiful these creations are. I know for many of you it will seem like a pointless or odd dream, but for me, to be able to create something this perfect, this beautiful, this inspiring would be a highpoint in my life. Whenever you all say positive things about my work, I appreciate it, but I know that in comparison to these masters, I am but an infant. Some day it will come. That is my dream.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Marbled Cake Frosting Experiment

I wanted a cook cake frosting that was appropriate for a 95 year-old. I thought a white glaze would be nice, and ended up doing white chocolate, a bit of corn syrup, a few sheets of glelatin (silver) and created this art deco marbled cake. The birthday girl was happy, so I was too!

Aloo Gobi Paneer

I don't know if there is such a dish, but I made it last night after I taught our Basic Indian Cooking class at the store. We made fresh paneer and fresh chapati, so I brought the extra home for this great meal. As always with us...fast and easy!

1 Gal of whole milk
1/2 C. Fresh lemon juice

Bring milk to a rolling boil. Add juice and stir SLOWLY and in one direction for 15 seconds. Add 1 T. of salt. Cover, remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes. Carefully and gently pour the curd and whey into a strainer lined with cheese cloth or an old t-shirt. Gently rinse with warm water. Tie the curds into a ball and squeeze as much liquid as you are able. Hang the ball from your sink faucet for 2 - 3 hours.

Aloo Gobi Paneer
  • Peanut or canola oil, for shallow frying

  • 1 lb Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes

  • 1 Cauliflower (1 3/4 pounds), cut into delicate florets

  • 1 T. Peeled finely chopped fresh ginger

  • 1/4 t. Ground turmeric

  • 1 t. Salt

  • 1/4 t. Cayenne

  • 1 t. Ground cumin

  • 1 t. Ground coriander

  • 3 T. Water

  • 3 T. Coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

Put the oil in a large frying pan and set over medium heat. When it is hot, put in the potatoes and fry them until they are golden and almost tender, about 10 minutes. Lift the potatoes out with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Do the same with the cubed paneer.

Turn the heat to medium-high, put in the cauliflower florets, and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are golden brown. Lift the cauliflower out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Turn the heat off. Remove all the oil from the frying pan except for 2 tablespoons (the extra oil can be drained and reused). Turn the heat to medium-high and put in the ginger. Stir for 10 seconds.

Now return the potatoes, paneer and cauliflower to the pan. Turn the heat down to medium. Put in the turmeric, salt, cayenne, cumin, and coriander. Stir gently to coat the vegetables with the spices. Add 3 tablespoons of water. Stir once and cover the pan. Turn the heat down to low and cook very gently for 4 minutes. Add the cilantro and toss gently. Serve hot.


I've said it before and I'll say it again. Even though I own a kitchen store, I am very anti-gadget. I hate having a kitchen full of crap that collects dust and takes space. (For the record, Tyler is just the opposite). BUT, this is one gadget that is a must have!

Orka now makes silcone, see-through measuring cups. Do you see the impact of this?! Do you see the life-altering advances that this provides!? You can microwave in your cup. You can freeze in your cup. You can poach in your cup. You can see through it, so there is no question how much is inside your cup. And best of all...it is flexible which means you can pour your beaten eggs, easily into their container; or you can pour your fresh vinaigrette into the serving bottle. I love these things!

This is my morning cherry/almond smoothy, mixed right in, and drank from, the measuring cup.

Brownies By Request

(Contrary to the length of these instructions, this is my fastest, easiest recipe that I use in the café. They take less than 5 minutes to prepare so don't be intimidated. And, the fact that I can sell a little bitty brownie for $2.95US gives you an indication of how much people like them. They always sell out within a day.)

I call these my "Over-the-Top Brownies" because they are. They are a riff on the Katherine Hepburn brownies that you'll find all over the internet, 0nly better.

Oven to 325 F
Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper (foil if you don't have parchment) and butter the paper (you can just butter your pan if you don't care about how they look when you take them out. I line with parchment so I can chill the brownies, lift them out of the pan, frost them, and cut them for selling.)

Melt 1 C. (230 g) of unsalted butter in saucepan on stove (you can microwave it also).
Add 1 C. (230 g) of chocolate - I use 75% Chocoa, but any brand will be fine.
Remove pan from heat and let sit about 30 seconds to a minute.
Stir the chocolate until it is melted.
Add 1 3/4 C. (400 g) Sugar and 4 whole eggs to the chocolate mixture.
Stir until just completely combined - not more.
Add 1 t. Vanilla and 1 t. Raspberry extract/compound/ or 2 T. puree.

Add 1/2 C. (100 g) of All-Purpose flour, don't stir yet.
Here is a key step!!!
I add 1/2 t. of course salt - not ground. I prefer my Spanish sea salt or Balinese Pyramid salt, but really, just anything course that won't dissolve in the batter.
Add 3/4 C. (200 g) Toasted pecans (with or without salt is fine).
And finally, 2/3 C. (140 g) of chocolate - I use 64% Cacao Barry Guayaquil. Just get as close to that percentage as you can to provide the contrast to the 75%, and you can also go to a lower percentage if you want.

Bake around 35 minutes or until set but not over-cooked.
(A quick note: I use only my gram measures when baking, so I can attest to their accuracy. I used the gram to cup converter at gourmetsleuth.com for the volume measurements and had to round things. Brownies are forgiving, so you should be fine.)

Once they are done, bring to room temp, then set in the fridge until cool. This is when I take them out of the pan for frosting and trimming, but you can leave them in if you don't mind less clean cuts. Remove by pulling up on the parchment paper and set on a cutting board.

Now, take 1/2 C. (100 g) Cream and microwave it for about 90 seconds in a bowl. You want it to come to a boil but not scald. Then add 1.5 C. (300 g) Chocolate - I use the 75% Chocoa. Let it sit for a minute to soften. Stir until smooth and silky. For those of you who don't bake much, this is called a ganache (or for me, I call it breakfast spread). Spread the ganache all over the top of the brownie. Let it sit for a few minutes until the ganache firms up a bit and set in the fridge. After 15 minutes pull it out and cut into your serving shapes. I cut by resting my sharpest knife in a glass filled with very hot water, then wiping the blade with a towel, I cut cleanly into each piece. This method assures you ulta clean edges...if you care. If not, just take a fork to it and save the step!

What takes this brownie beyond the rest is the raspberry and course salt, so don't skimp on those two steps. Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Down the Hatch: Green Chile Dinner Pics

This meal launches our VIP Dinner service at the Cafè.

This menu was inspired by Hatch Green Chiles. I didn't want to beat folks over the head with HGCs but I wanted the food to play off of the experience of the morning at the festival. As much as was possible, I wanted to source my products locally. Here we go...

Course 1: Pixie Stix

Let's just start it off with straight HGC! I gelatin clarified roasted HGC, eye dropped it into tart Granny Smith juice and a sprinkle of wasabi. This was served in a long tube that reminded me of those Jumbo Pixie Stix when I was a kid - you know, the ones where we ate 2 cups of flavored sugar in one fell swoop.

Course 2: Pan de Vida

This is my sourdough shaped into chiles. I've had such amazing success with this sourdough and I owe much of it to hummingbirdkiss at eGullet. This was the first time I made a small bread out of it, normally making batards. It's turned upside down in this picture.

Course 3: Roasted Corn

This was the course I was most looking forward to making. A piñon tuile with a roasted sweet corn panna cotta served with fresh garden tomatoes and a piñon horchata soup.

Course 4: Sushi Nofishi

I pureed HCGs, added a bit of egg white and corn syrup, spread them on a silpat and slow baked at 175F until dry. I then cut them into nori squares, added hitomobore rice, fresh mango and some sodium alginate HGC caviar from my gelatin clarified batch. It would have been more visually stunning if I had used my non-clarified chile. And here is the nori by itself - beautiful:

Course 5: Tuna Tempura

I'm starting to have fun now! I wanted folks to expect the fish tuna, but instead I took prickly pear tuna. I seeded them, stuffed them with chuchupate, an indigenous herb infused into local honey, white chocolate and topped with blueberries. I tempura battered and fried them. They were served on top of an oil lamp chimney, which had an Everclear soaked square of green chile at its base. The burning chile gave a brief, but dramatic moment, but what I really wanted was that whisp of roasting chile.

Course 6: Red Sea Caviar

I had many failed trials working on this dish. I ended up with beet soaked tapioca pearls flavored with rice vinegar and soy sauce, set over a soft poached Guinea Fowl egg and a bit of gold leaf for good measure.

Course 7: Bison Under Pressure

This is the only course where I felt out of my element and it showed in the results. Sous vide bison tenderloin pan seared to finish with a molè verde, homemade ravioli with pancetta, parmesan and piñon, a light limoncello butter sauce, and a smear of morel infused ganache. The ravioli was the only self-anointed disaster of the night.

Course 8: Summer Fruit

I roasted some of my garden tomatoes, skinned, pureed, seasoned, gelified every so slightly. I served it with 25-year balsamic (guests said it was lost in the overall dish) and powdered basil oil.

Course 9: Curso Queso

Whiskey cheddar fondue with fried cornbread and microgreens. Just a transition course.

Course 10: Tooty Fruity

Hungarian sour cherry stuffed bao/bun served with lemon chantilly soup and sour cherry geleé cubes. I was afraid that this might be too bulky at this point in the meal, but none came back, so then I was worried that it wasn't enough food...so...

Course 11: Tamal Dulce

I re-created my dish from the eGullet Iron Baker Challenge, and made the orange infused masa tamale with mincemeat filling, pan seared to finish, served with sage/agave ice cream (very melted in this pic).

Course 12: Margaritas

A little after dinner drink. I had been chatting incessantly with the Chocolate Doctor, Kerry Beal, on this since I had never made a pate de fruit. In the end it was exactly the finish to the meal that I wanted. Margarita pate rolled in sugar, salt and lime zest.

Thank you to Chris Hennes for these fantastic pics! And thank you to our hosts, Mike & Cathy; and to our expert server, John, and his wife, my sous for the evening, Alysha! All were rock stars!