Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cheese Review: Greven Broecker

This Belgian blue has limited production so I was happy to get my hands on a wheel recently for our cheese lovers gathering.

Formed by hand and aged on a tin tray, this was unlike any cheese I had seen before.

Its claim to fame is how the blue spores are added during the rennet phase instead of being injected like pretty much every other blue. The result is a gorgeous, marbled blue.

And when allowed to crumble with the grain of the curd, a majestic landscape unfolds.

But how does it taste? I'm not a fan of blues - I'll eat them, but they aren't my first choice. This was bold, embracingly aggressive, yet subtle and creamy. Really a winner. I had read that it enjoys being paired with honey, so I added a drop of German Langanese honey which softened to my tastes. We also tried a bit of the 25-year balsamico and the vinegar disappeared under its boldness, so don't waste your balsamico.

And as a closing note, we served this on our new charcoal crackers which were a nice combo for the blue.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A food lovers vacation...where to go?

Tyler and I are looking at a real vacation in October. We don't have much money, and only plan on a week to 10 days. We need a true rest, but we also enjoy exploring so rustic is fine. We've been talking about a cruise, with the appeal being locked up with nothing to do but rest and eat. We'd love to hear from all of you where you think we should go. What do you think?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Product Testing: Cookbook Holder

I recently received this sample of a cookbook holder:
I put in my thickest, then my largest books...

And it worked well. It should sell at around $20. I give it a thumbs up since it held the worst I could throw at it. The holder has a page protector, swivel base and adjustable rear arm. Its well designed and doesn't take much space.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nocino: Day 10

Getting darker and thicker!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Here's Looking At Me Kid!

Like most bloggers, you don't often get to see the author, but I recently needed some pics and so Tyler started clicking. Feel free to download these, modify them and post them on your favorite naughty website.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Tasting Menu Wrap-Up

As with all of my tasting menus, this was about elevating the status of local foods. I joked on Saturday that people only view local foods as casseroles, and there's some truth to that. But it doesn't have to be that way. Knowing that it would be hot, the meal was cool, light and fast. While the guests were gathering in the bar of Gallery 400/Gila House B&B, we served three amuse bouches. The first was the only one I didn't get a picture of - beet lollis. I lightly seasoned local roasted beets, froze them in my full sphere mold, dipped them in cocoa butter with wasabi and maldon salt, then re-dipped them in white chocolate. They were served thawed - meaning liquid centers with hard out shells, so guests were warned to just pop them in their mouths...even with that, we had one explosion on a guest's white shirt.

Our second amuse was fresh squeeze cucumber juice served with bottarga caviar (not sure if anyone got the joke) - meaning bottarga infused into some 25 year puerh tea, squid ink, then set with sodium alginate.

The third amuse was a light mojito shooter using fresh mint from our surrounding wilderness. We recently discovered this vast field of wild mint that is bustling in its minty glory right now, and served as a perfect starter for the evening.

While the guests are seated, let me share some breaking news! Not even a week ago a revision to the gelatin clarification technique was released at Cooking Issues (listed in my blogroll). Great timing for me since I wanted a clear gazpacho. I'll let you read the details at their site, but lets just say that within 30 minutes I had a nearly clear tomato juice. Here's the agar which holds on to the color:

And here is the clear liquid seeping from the cheesecloth:

A really rather amazing technique that lead to my gazpacho. In the juice which I only seasoned with a light salt, is a piñon milk ball, frozen micro spheres of cucumber, mint "caviar" of sodium alginate, and for decoration a dried tomato slice and espresso salt. One guest really understood the concept which was to use the boba straw to drink the juice with the cucumber and mint, and then drink directly from the glass for the piñon and salt. I thought this was a very complex, yet inviting combination of flavors and the impetus for the whole meal.

I then wanted to slow things down and get some food in the guests stomach. Nothing fancy, just a vegetable "terrine."

Fresh basil on top, everything wrapped in cucumber, and inside carrot, basil, white asparagus and other veggies I found at the farmers market.

This was served with yucca blossoms that were pickled in ginger rice vinegar, then carbonated, and a quenelle of sunflower sprout ice cream.

Try to find a jicama in this town and you'll be sorely disappointed! Good thing there were some turnips because that let me make turnip spaghetti using the technique recently released in the Pastry in Europe cookbook. I served this with red radish sprouts.

Enough with the slowing down! Let's have some fun again! Monkfish ceviche using my favorite ceviche broth recipe, roasted corn salad, avocado pudding, and frozen salad of spinach and red wine vinaigrette.

And then came the big project. I have been toying with the idea of clay baking for quite some time. And I wanted to present it in two formats, the first using New Mexico red clay. Traditionally this would be used to encase a fish and bake on an open flame, but that's a bit rustico for me. I attempted to make a clay vessel in my mooncake mold, fill it with meat and bake it. There were many problems with this concept. First is that clay needs to dry before it is fired, and that involves time, and time can lead to bacteria. New Mexico red clay is actually a good option then since it dries quickly and fires at a low temp, but I also added a safeguard of pre-cooking my meat.

In my trial run I dried for about 2 hours then baked at 550ºF. That resulted in shattering - it was still cool looking, but not perfect. I think the problem here was that I rolled and folded my clay which most likely produced air pockets. In the final version I simply took a clump of clay and shoved it in the mold with no manipulation. This worked much better.

When I finally addressed the shattering they came out looking really nice:

I scored the sides before firing so that they could be opened like an egg with a simple rap on the side of the table (at least in theory). But when we finally opened one we had another problem. My moist meat that had been topped with some prosciutto fat had completely dried out. My potter friend explained that clay draws a lot of moisture out so anything inside would be dried as well...okay, fine, but I wasn't ready to give up. So instead of pate, how about going to pork belly. With all of that fat, surely something would remain after the firing.

And with the major problems behind me and a dinner in just a few short hours, I inserted some sous vide cooked pork belly seasoned with powdered pear into the clay vessel, sealed it, poked a small vent hole in the top and crossed my fingers.

Much to my surprise it mostly worked. Some were harder than others to open, and some guests didn't care for the inside, but others raved about it. Cest la vie. I'll keep playing with this technique for the future. On the remainder of the plate going clockwise - clay coated potatoes (really beautiful in my opinion), sous vide cooked bison tenderloin that was seasoned with espresso and cocoa, a potato dome filled with pâté de lapin, brie and cherry reduction, and in the center a rolled geleè of saffron and molasses which was a very nice combination.

Cheese course - locally produced goat cheese, aged in lavender and pink peppercorns, basil oil, a field of dried herbs and served on a lambs quarter leaf. On top I made a cherry foam sphere filled with 25-year balsamic.

Desserts in red:

Raspberry macaron, watermelon candied with cardamon, ginger and szechuan, sour cherry film and topped with a sugar balloon. BTW, this was my launch into the ship in a bottle fixation that begins today. I really want my dessert inside of that sugar orb. Here's the watermelon:

Bad picture, but good bite - a white truffle infused 72% chocolate mousse tower topped with an organic roasted Ghana- FT- Kuapa Kokoo '08 cacao bean. That cherry reduction made one more appearance in this dish.

And last but not least, 4petitfour:

Clockwise: A verrine of four layers - madras curry infused chocolate almond horchata, lemongrass geleè, cardamon coconut milk & orange barley geleè; fresh lychee, espress madeleinitos, flexible chocolate coil topped with sel gris.

That was it - just right for a hot summer night! I hope the guests enjoyed themselves and I look forward to our next dinner in September or October.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My latest love: Turkish Sour Cherry Juice

Not much to say about this really except that its 34% juice, just tart and sweet enough, and in the hot kitchen, this has become my daily rehydrator.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bastille Day: Riviera Cake

Ripped from the Desserts by Pierre Hermè book (p215), this perfect cake is four layers of thin chocolate meringue, lemon curd & lemon mousse. A huge hit at a very fun party!

Flourless Chocolate Cake
115 g Bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona Manjari)
87 g Unsalted butter, softened
142 g SugarBold
1 t. Dutch-processed cocoa
2 Yolks, room temp
1 Egg, room temp
6 Whites, room temp

Melt the chocolate in microwave and cool to 114ºF.

In mixer fitted with paddle, beat the butter and 3 t. of sugar and cocoa until creamy. Add yolks and beat until well blended. Add eggs and then the melted chocolate beating only until smooth and satiny - don't overmix. In separate bowl whip whites to soft peak. Add the remaining sugar adn beat until firm and shiny. Fold whites into chocolate. Pipe in spiral onto parchment in 350ºF oven and bake 25-30 minutes. This will make four discs.

Lemon Cream
1 C. Sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
4 Eggs
3/4 C. Lemon juice
2 sticks plus 5 T. butter (10.5 oz), unsalted, softened, cubed

Heat saucepan of water to simmer. Off heat rub the sugar and zest until aromatic. Whisk in eggs and juice. Place bowl over saucepan and whisk until cream is thick and reaches 180ºF. This will take around 10 minutes.

Remove cream and pour through strainer into blender. Cool in blender container until 140ºF. Blend on high adding butter in pieces until incorporated and then run for another 4 minutes.

1 3/4 C. Heavy cream
2 Eggs, room temp
4 Yolks, room temp
10 oz Bittersweet chocolate (Valhrona Manjari)
1/2 C. Sugar
3 T. Water

Beat cream to firm peaks, cover and chill. In mixer bowl, add eggs and yolks and beat on low just until they break up, then set them aside. Melt the chocolate in microwave and cool until 114ºF. Place the sugar and water in saucepan and boil until 257ºF, remove from heat.

With mixer on lowest speed, beat the eggs and slowly add the syrup in thin steady stream. Turn to high and beat 5 minutes or until pale and doubled. Continue on medium until cool. Fold cream into chocolate and finally the egg - carefully.

The layers are - disc-mousse-disc-cream-thin mousse-disc-mousse-disc.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tasting Menu: Summer 09 Preview

This Saturday is my next tasting menu. The point of these meals is to 1) see how much I can push my skills; 2) see how far I can push local/foraged ingredients; and 3) see if I can create a modernist foodie community in Silver City.

One of the many components in this menu is going to be pickled yucca blossoms, frozen with liquid nitrogen, and depending on how they turn out, either eaten as a crisp or powderized. I won't know until I have my liquid nitrogen on Friday.

Here is the preliminary menu:

Beet Lollis: horseradish coating
Cucumber juice w/bottarga caviar
Mint julep

Vegetable terrine: yucca blossoms; sprout granita; bottarga shavings
Sunflower sprout ice cream
(235g milk; 110g glucose; 70g yolk; 45g sugar; 3 g salt: blend; vacuum; 82 c for 30 minutes; pour hot over sprouts; blend; strain; freeze in ice cream maker)

Gazpacho Boba: clear tomato water seasoned with smoked paprika, cucumber juice, salt, white pepper; cucumber balls, mint alginate, freeze large piñon balls, dip in gelatin. Served in glass with straw mint leaf; tomato chip garnish

Jicama spaghetti, fresh mint julienne, lemongrass vinegar (pink book technique); saffron geleè

Monkfish ceviche; roasted corn salad; avocado pudding (p 66); basil oil; rice vinegar; salad

Clay packed bison sweetbreads set on top of sous vide tenderloin slices; Cherry reduction; paper thin potato dome filled with scoop of patè & anchovy butter; pickled carbonated juniper berries; kaolin potatoes; molasses

Goat cheese wrapped in local herbs set on plate with swirled powderized herbs (fried caper powder); cheese geleè on bread; dandelion greens with sherry walnut vinaigrette; cheese balls

dessert sampler in reds; sugar cello cage (red pepper; watermelon; raspberry sheets; tomato chips)

White truffled chocolate lollipop with liquid nitrogen mint leaves

Four Petit Fours: Madeleine; Lemon meringue mini; Macaron; verine in bodum sake; flexible chocolate as garnish

*Did I miss anything, Larry?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Pot Luck Contest Winner Announcement!

A final thanks to everyone who participated in our Summer Pot Luck recipe contest. Every one of the recipes is worth making, and there wasn't one that we didn't enjoy.

Alexandra's Kitchen's Summer Strata

The Essence of Womanhood's Tortellini Salad

RAHiggin's Shrimp

Pimp that Food's Chicken in Pocket

Mark's Embutido

Meagan's Banana Ice Cream

And the winner of the electric espresso maker is....

Mark's embutido!!! I simply can't believe that I let a snout and tail dish win this contest, but it really was great. Thanks to all and I hope you'll try some of these summer pot luck recipes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Summer Pot Luck Contest: Banana Ice Cream

Our final recipe in this never-ending contest comes to us from Meagan. As far as I know, Meagan doesn't have a blog (if you do let me know and I'll link to it.) If anyone else submitted a recipe and we didn't post it, then I either assumed it was just taken from someone elses site, or I missed it. Either way, if you think I have some more cooking to do, email me quickly!

From Meagan:
My most cherished summer memories are from my childhood, dumped with my brother at my grandparents' house in KY by my parents, who were looking to recapture a few weeks of their pre-child marriage days. Most of my time was spent following my grandmother around her garden, pulling weeds, playing with cousins and happily eating the most vegetable-laden meals of my life. We had many family gatherings (mostly when my parents decided to reclaim their children) and none were complete without making ice cream.

A few years ago I called my grandmother and asked her for the recipe to my favorite - banana. I was surprised to see how simple it is. So here it is: Grandmommy Kirksey's Banana Ice Cream....
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 large can evaporated milk
1/2 gallon whole milk
2 T. vanilla
4 mashed ripe bananas

Instructions: Mix together the eggs, sugar and evaporated milk. Microwave until good and hot, stopping to stir it every once in a while. Add the vanilla, whole milk and mashed bananas. Freeze using a churn or ice cream maker.

Our family always used a churn, as sitting on the porch and listening to it freeze gave us plenty of time to "visit." I love it in that semi-soft state, with totally naked except for the sweet banana flavor. But I guess you could top it with chocolate sauce for a little extra decadence. Freeze any leftovers (although we never had any!) in a plastic container.

My notes:
I used my frozen banana bread bananas that I thawed, and I let the mixture rest for 8 hours before putting in my machine. Very good ice cream and would have been even better with chocolate flakes or cacao nibs IMO. But that's all I can say for now.

So, last call for any recipes that I missed. Tyler and I have picked a winner pending no more recipes and we'll announce the winner in a few days.