Monday, December 20, 2010

A few new dishes...and wild olives I have known

Nothing too exciting here, but I wanted to test a few pics with my new camera and see if TasteSpotting likes them better.

First, these are wild olives that one of our foragers brought us. These are the size of capers and came from a tree that hasn't fruited in nearly a decade.

PBJ - Hazelnut dacquoise, strawberry gelée and peanut butter mousse

Chocolate cocoa cake, peanut butter mousse, chocolate mousse

Friday, December 17, 2010

Foraging Workshop January 17th, 2011

As I get deeper in the foraging aspect of our restaurant, I've sought the assistance of Doug Simons, a man who lived in the Gila Wilderness for many years. Doug lived exclusively off the land and when he finally stepped back into civilization he started teaching workshops. Doug will be teaching an Edible Gila Wilderness workshop on Monday, January 17th from 10-4. The workshop is free for anyone wanting to forage for me, and $25 for all others. The workshop will have follow-ups in May and October as the seasons change. I'm also working on an agave roasting workshop in the spring. Any out of towners I'll throw in a free dinner at my place.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My latest dishes

As I mentioned previously, currently I'm looking at indigenous foods and historic Apache diets. Naturally I'm twisting them in my own way, but I think its a good place for me to be right now as I settle into my dinner menus. I'm beginning to work with area experts on indigenous foods and Apache diets, so those will make an even stronger mark in the months to come.

Squash, lavender pudding, cacao bean, gruyere, parsley, bee pollen

I have two soups - roasted chayote with pepper and cilantro oils; and tea smoked duck consomme

One of the first pictures taken with my new camera - butternut frites, three sisters (squash, corn and white teparary beans), and white truffle oil powder

Elk osso bucco, creamed corn, wilted arugula, baby corn

Beef cheek, blue cheese grits, wilted arugula, spiced caramel corn - not my best plating

Deconstructed relleno - farmers cheese wrapped in whole wheat fillo atop three sisters, with roasted peppers, squash disk, powdered bean soup and mango coulis

Tea smoked duck breast, acorn blini, duck foam, three sisters, juniper infused goat yogurt, duck reduction

My current intermezzo - figs that have been soaked in limoncello for four weeks, Point Reyes blue cheese, candied pecans, agave nectar

My current dessert - bison mince meat, pecan praliné mousse, saffron infused pistachio butter, cacao

Needless to say I'm glad to have my camera back and I seem to be getting the hang of it. I used to have a simple point and click, and now I have an EOS Rebel XTi with my lenses from back in the film days. The photos above with black backgrounds were taken with the new camera AFTER I read the manual, so I think I'll get better the more I play.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Been busy...and refocused menu

So much has happened in the past month and I'm putting in long hours refining my menu and philosophy. Since we started dinners I have always featured local ingredients with a smattering of foraged foods. Heading into winter my local growers are diminishing and I continue adjusting the menu to match the foods that they're bringing me. The challenge of less grown foods is only pushing me to find an even more sustainable process.

Enter indigenous.

I live in the lower 48s largest wilderness area. That means boundless possibilities, right? If we look at the history of the area we see Mimbreano and Apache people living year round in this area and surviving. Its possible that it was more meat base, but I suspect through my readings that it has to do with preservation and planning. So I've been spending my free time gathering a team of foragers, preparing a code of ethics for my foragers, and exploring the historic Apache diet (which is very different from the modern Apache diet). That's a big part of why I haven't been able to post in a month...that and I dropped my camera in a pot of oil!

But, new camera in hand (although I'm still learning how to use it) and a few weeks of my new menu behind me, I'm gearing up for even greater dishes on the menu and better pictures. Here's a start (pics taken while I was reading the manual).

We've been working with La Buena Vida Farms just south of us to raise chicken and turkeys. There are no other poultry options in our region, and our co-op sells factory raised "free range" birds...we all know that means very little when considering health and ethics. The difference can be three or four times the cost, but when we eat poultry at least we'll know how it was raised. On our recent visit to pick up the Thanksgiving turkeys we also bought some of their heirloom squash. The first one they gave us was a Douglas Squash.

Let me tell you, this was one tough cookie that did not want to give up its fruit! I have never had to hack at a vegetable before, but I took my sharpest cooks knife and gave a few good machete swipes before I could split it open.

Beautiful webaline structure inside with plenty of seeds.

Gutted and cleaned and tossed in the pan with a cup of New Mexico Riesling and a bit of chile and salt. 45 minutes later I had a succulent flesh held by still rigid skin.

For Thanksgiving I wrapped some in whole wheat fillo with feta and made cigars, and topped the rest with nuts and cheese for a quick casserole. Wonderful flavor and texture and worth planting. The farm said that they only watered twice at the beginning of the seed process and never again. The plants grew to nearly six feet tall and they're in the dry part of the dessert!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dia de Muertos Chocolate Sculpture

I've been wanting to practice my chocolate sculpture skills so here is a Day of the Dead sculpture I made for an offrenda to my dear RuthAnn - best dog ever.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A quick update and ethical conundrum

First the ethical conundrum. Actually, its not an issue for me at all. On this blog I've gone above and beyond to appropriately credit. In fact, I only remember one recipe that I simply couldn't recall the source and stated so. But recently a chef emailed me asking me to credit their work which I photographed. The interesting question (at least to me) is that this chef was working in another chef's kitchen and had a peer assistant chef. The two assistants are the ones who created the work, but in the lead chef's kitchen. I can only assume that the lead provided guidance and possibly even direction, and possibly even a hand on. Whose work is this? I'll credit whoever wants to be credited, but wonder who really "owns" this work.

For the update. We're smack dab in the middle of restaurant award pre-season. Our on-line reviews continue to glow, and having dined at many award winning restaurants I'm comfortable stating that we're worthy of a nomination. A win...well, that's up to someone more experienced than me. But, we're definitely operating in the same caliber as other James Beard and Food & Wine magazine nominees. Our rural location will certainly not work to our advantage, but I'm keeping my knives crossed that some in-the-know food writer will stumble upon us and enjoy a good meal.

Today I wrap-up my next dinner menu which will launch in two weeks. This next cycle will focus on indigenous ingredients and historic Apache diets. Its been fun research to say the least.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi is the culinary equivalent of one of those books you find in a museum gift shop – impressive, beautiful, inspiring… but not likely to get opened much after its first reading. And yet, this book will fill you with hope in our culinary future, inspire you to expect more out of your local restaurants, and re-examine the food on your plate.

Read the rest of my review at TheGastronomersBookshelf.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Recent Bauscher Submissions

Here is my latest round of pics for the Bauscher company dishes:
A new salmon mousse, lemon granite, powdered herbs, dried capers, dried candied lemon

Chocolate hazelnut

Armagnac soaked prunes, grevenbroeker blue cheese, acacia honey

Carrot mousse, lemon curd, ginger cake, caramel glaze

Another version of the salmon mousse

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Case of the Mummified Quabbit

I vaguely remembered a mummified dish in Under Pressure and it recently motivated me to come up with my own gruesome spin. Dig around in the bottom of the freezer and sure enough I happened to have bags of rabbit livers from my last batch of 4-H rabbits. Dig around in the top of the freezer and sure enough - quail. In my own Dr. Frankenstein manner...I've created Quabbit!

I started by making my house paté with the livers and painstakingly deboned the quail. The liver was piped into the quail and I did my best to reconstitute the quail to look somewhat birdlike. Not being a plastic surgeon, I wrapped the quabbit in a gauze, tied it into shape, incanted a few jumbled words and hoped for the best.

The quabbit victim was then stuffed into a canning jar with some duck fat (might as well go for the turkducken homage), added some quail consommé, and finally closed them up for cooking.

A quick flick of lightening and I unwrapped my first child.

I returned the quabbits to the consommé and fat and let cool.

He looked a bit peeked so I thought maybe some glaze would be appropriate for that healthy glow. The glaze was the reduction with a spot of dark muscovado sugar and about 10 shellackings.

Having that healthy glow, I returned the quabbit to its home, blew in some cherry wood smoke and off to the table for the townsfolk to stab with their pitchforks.

The first night of customers weren't so sure about this little creation of mine, but it quickly became the highlight of the menu and is now out of stock...its alive!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recipe: Carrot Spice Tower

Carrot Spice Tower
Serves 12

Spice Cake
3 g Salt
125 g Bread flour
125 g Cake flour
8 g Ground ginger
3 g Freshly ground cinnamon
2 g Freshly ground cloves
1 g Freshly grated nutmeg
440 g Eggs
250 g Dark muscovado or dark brown sugar

Line half sheet and preheat oven to 320º/160º. Sift the flours and spices together. In mixer, whip eggs and sugar until ribbon stage. Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the sugar/egg mixture. Pour into pan and bake about 15 minutes. Once cooled, freeze. *Note: For soaked cakes I prefer to use a cake that does not have a fat included as it tends to soak better and have a better texture.

Lemon Curd
500 ml Lemon juice
225 g Butter
6 Yolks
6 Eggs
150 g Sugar< 2 Sheets gelatin (silver) Combine juice and butter in saucepan and heat until simmer. In mixing bowl, combine yolks, eggs and sugar and whisk until just combined. Temper egg mixture with hot juice and return all to stove cooking until thickened. Remove from heat and add softened gelatin and strain. Pour onto lined sheet pan and freeze.

Carrot Mousse
4 Carrots
30 ml Lemon juice
30 g Sugar
4 Sheets gelatin (silver)
30 ml Rum or Brandy
350 ml Cream

Cook carrots with lemon juice in covered saucepan until soft. Add the sugar and cook uncovered for an additional 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Soften the gelatin and clarify. Add gelatin and liquor to the carrots and process til smooth. Strain and hold. Whip cream to soft. Fold carrot mixture gently into cream mixture and hold in piping bag.

Caramel Glaze
8 g Salt
40 g Water
30 g Corn starch
495 g Sugar
125 g Water
415 g Cream
4 Sheets gelatin (silver)

In mixing bowl combine salt, 40 g water and cornstarch. In saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and 125 g water. Cook to caramel (about 338º/170º). Heat cream and add carefully to the caramel, whisking. Add the salt/corn starch slurry to the pan and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and add softened gelatin. Cool to room temp.

Candied Nuts
150 g Unsalted walnut pieces, lightly toasted
100 g Sugar
45 ml Water
Pinch, salt
Pinch cinnamon

In saucepan combine nuts, sugar and water. Heat until the sugar liquefies then begin stirring. Continue stirring as the nuts crystallize and continue until the sugar re-melts, coating the nuts. Once completely melted and all nuts are evenly covered, remove from heat, stir in salt and cinnamon and turn out onto silpat to cool.

Pipe carrot mousse into pastry form. Cut curd and cake to size. Press in frozen curd disc. Press in frozen cake disc. Soak cake with lemon simple syrup. Smooth form and freeze. Once frozen, pour caramel glaze over mousse. Garnish with candied nuts.

[Note: Thank you to Carla for recipe testing at sea level for me.]

Monday, October 4, 2010

Recent Dishes

I'm still recovering from this weekend's dinner so here is my lazy post. In a day or two I'll post a new dessert that (if everything goes as planned) will be published in Pastry & Baking North America.

Braised oxtail in tempranillo on puff pastry

And its a beautiful puff isn't it?

Goat mofongo, fried plantain

Long Island Cheese squash soup, habañero, cranberry, olive oil powder, beets, lemon granite

A flavor goof around: Apple, balsamic, stout, pomegranate leather, fennel, leek and orange

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Balsamic Harvest Dinner Preview (Monticello, NM)

Any foodie worth their salt has been to or put on a balsamic tasting dinner (okay, actually I never have), but rarely do you get to experience that on the farm that the balsamic has been grown on. I've previously reported on the Darland's organic balsamic farm and next weekend I'll be putting on a 10-course tasting dinner to feature their amazing vinegar.

Maybe its my own personal insecurities, but I always feel like I need to say, "I know what you're thinking...New Mexico...balsamic...but you just need to trust me on this one." I remind you that I sell 25 year balsamic from Modena and the Darland's rivals if not surpasses those $200 bottles.

I won't say it again. Your skepticism will be your loss! As I type this entry the Darlands are out in the field picking their blend of grapes and by the time we get to the farm next Saturday, the fermenting room will be ripe with black gold.

(Here are their vines from two weeks ago, covered to protect against bugs.)
But this farm is much more than balsamic. An amazing array of both culinary and non-culinary lavender fill nearly an acre.

You feel like your in the south of France (or a Bed Bath and Beyond shop).

And the vegetables - oye! Here are some beautiful peppers.

And even as staunch of an anti-smoker as I am, I was impressed by Steve's stash of heritage tobacco. If I recall, he has three plants, one will be used for the wrapper and the other two for the filling.

They gifted me with these shashito peppers. All the rage at the Sante Fe farmers market, these little peppers aren't very spicy hot (one out of ten will kick your rear), but addictive when flash fried and seasoned.

Simply throw them in a hot wok with some oil - I used peanut oil. The Darlands swear by saffron salt.

And the farm is littered with other bounty - so much so that I don't even remember what this is, but I know its important because I took the time to take a picture (oregano bud maybe?)

And Long Island Cheese, I immediately made that into a spicy soup and served it back to the Darlands for dinner - beautiful color and fantastically rich flavor.

But enough about the farm, dinner (which is sold out) will begin at 6 pm. My tentative menu is:
Tomato beignet
Fig and grape salad
Cashew ravioli
Grilled apricots and balsamic foam
Goat cheese terrine
Cantaloup carpaccio/duck prosciutto
Portabello mousse
Braised pork belly
Carbonated watermelon with balsamic dimple
Balsamic ice cream and dulce de leche napoleon

I'll be sure to post pics next week.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What if Alinea was opened in Omaha?

Would one of the world's most famous restaurants be famous if it were opened in Omaha? What if the French Laundry had opened its doors in Boise? When a restaurant opens in a location that is not known for having a conglomeration of foodies, can it find its potential?

Lately I've been thinking about when Alex and Aki were in southwestern Colorado at a little known lodge. I used to live in that neck of the woods so I know that its at least five hours to the nearest major airport and hence major metro area. They found fame through the internet and dedicated followers, but surely it was a tougher road to take than if they had lived in NYC or San Fran where food writers and bloggers could highlight the work they were doing. Now living in the northeast, they have widely known fame and a much anticipated book.

But they were just a couple of passionate chefs doing their thing. They weren't a restaurant trying to make its mark on the American restaurant scene (they may dispute this).

So what if Grant Achatz decided to stay in small town Michigan? His skills surely would have drawn the attention that would lead to greatness, but would it have been the same if it weren't in Chicago? For that matter, what has Alinea done to elevate Chicago's status as a foodie city? I would suspect that Alinea would be a destination restaurant, but not to the degree that it has become. Grant may have thrown in the towel and headed to a bigger market in hopes of staking his claim.

As the human psyche ponders the cost-benefit of a great meal versus a three hour drive from the airport for the meal, few would make the trip I suspect. I wouldn't visit Boise or Omaha just for a meal...well, unless Alinea opened up in one of those cities. Maybe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: Foods of the Americas

Recently released in paperback version, Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions, brings renewed life to this James Beard Foundation book award winner of 2005 (originally published in 2004). Numerous books have been written about native or indigenous cooking in the Americas, but most focus on a small subset of people, and are rarely written by accomplished chefs. Fernando and Marlene Divina, in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, have created a book that documents important cultural history, and thankfully convert it into a useful culinary tool.

Read the rest of the review HERE.