Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dream analysis and the smoking unagi

This morning I woke up in mid-dream. I was laying on the floor of an old house trying to get to sleep. I noticed something move out of the corner of my eye up near the top of a very tall wall. When I looked more carefully I saw that it was a tiny little bat clinging to the wall near the ceiling. Another flutter out of the corner of my eye and another bat clinging to the wall. Almost immediately there were four huddled together hanging. Huh. Not good for me getting to sleep.

I shined a flashlight in the eyes of one of them to see if I could get them uncomfortable so it would fly away. When I did the bat was startled from the light and all of a sudden a flurry of bats filled the room - hundreds of them all fluttering around heading toward the wall, and finally all of them clinging to the wall above where I was trying to lay.

I obviously decided it was time for me to get out of there and sleep somewhere else. As I started to gather up my bedding, one bat flew toward me and I realized that they weren't tiny bats, but huge bats - the size of large papayas. AND, not only were they large, but they were wearing Mr. Roger's periwinkle blue cardigan sweaters! Not quite sure what that was about. Right at that moment, Tyler's alarm went off and I woke up.

So, what's this all about? We've been packed almost every night, but we're having very few reservations. Last night we had two reservations for two people and so I assumed it would be a slow night with maybe six or eight total joining us. That was nice since I just finished another week of 18 hour days. I've been running on caffeine and sugar just to make it to the end of the shift. (My prep cook's grandfather died and he had to go back to Boston for the week. He'll be back tomorrow so my more sane hours will return.)

It appears to be the norm that I can triple or quadruple our reserved number now to estimate how many will show up. I told Tyler about this dream and he said when he was a server back in college he had dreams like this all the time - stress dreams about rushes of customers flooding in. But, I still don't know what the deal is with the Mr. Roger's sweaters.

Moving of our most popular dishes has been the smoking glass. Its actually evolved a number of times and probably will again this weekend and I regroup, but the basic concept is unagi (sauced broiled eel) in the bottom of a glass, smoke blown in and capped with a savory tuile, a quennelle of white chocolate savory risotto and a bit of caviar. The customer taps the tuile with their spoon, releasing the smoke and combining the flavors. Its a fun dish that always brings laughter (and sometimes shrieks) into the kitchen. Always the highlight of my night.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review: Black Pudding & Goie Gras

I've been sitting on this book review for months and months because, quite frankly, this may be my favorite cookbook ever...but one I'll never use.

Andrew Pern and the Star Inn in Harome (near Helmsley (in Yorkshire (in England (I think you know that's in Europe)))) is a Michelin gastropub for the past 14 years.

In 2008 Pern self-published Black Pudding & Foie Gras as a sort of celebration of their work. This is no regular cookbook. Sluffing off the shackles of the publishing world, Pern has created a book that is ripe with graphic ingenuity, poetic wanderings and even a cover coated in brown velvet.

You want to curl up on a damp English night next to the fireplace, glugging your dark ale, reading this wonderful ode to food romantics. Pern shares the story of how he came to own The Star Inn. He writes about all of the local suppliers of his ingredients and how seasons effect his dishes.

And naturally he delves into a hearty list of recipes, the vast majority of which you won't ever make because of his use of regional ingredients. I've played with a few of the recipes, but what's the point when you can't get the great seafood that he has access to.

But that's hardly a concern for me. This is still my favorite cookbook. Every time I touch it, my foodie loin tingles and titters as I find some new hidden gem - normally a quote, a short poem or beautiful picture of the English countryside. For cookbook collectors, this is a must. For passionate foodies and romantics, this is a must. For someone wanting to recreate a Michelin starred-restaurant's dishes...don't bother.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Any serious sushi connoisseur knows that Omakase means "I put myself in the hands of the chef." Literally it means "Its up to you." I would love to have a collection of comparable phrases in other languages. Anyone want to help? If you speak another language, or if you know someone who does, could you post a reply with the phrase in the other language that someone could use in a restaurant to tell the chef that you trust them and will eat whatever they want to serve you. Thanks.

Book Review: Ready for Dessert

I come from the school of thought that says rock bands shouldn’t release their Greatest Hits album until their career is complete. Likewise, chefs should restrain themselves from re-releasing their favorite recipes until their career enters a culminating phase. That said, David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes will be excused since some of his previous books are no longer in print, and his greatest hits truly are classics worth reprinting.

Read the rest of this review at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Recipe: Campton Place Pancakes

I love breakfast - the sweet kind with a side of bacon, but it is really hard for me to make breakfast with all of my other cooking. Last week, knowing I had a long day coming, I stopped to make some hearty pancakes from one of my cookbooks. Turns out that they were some of the best pancakes I had ever had:

1 C AP flour
1 C Cake flour
¼ C Whole wheat flour (btw, mesquite would be very nice here)
3 T Sugar
2 t Baking powder
1 t Baking soda
¼ t Salt
¼ t Cinnamon
2 Eggs
2 C Buttermilk
1 t Vanilla
2 oz (half a stick) Unsalted butter, melted

Sift together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla and melted butter. Whisk in the flour mixture and combine well, but do not overmix. As you can see I also added blueberries which were tossed in the flour mixture before adding the liquid.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Menu 2.0 cntd

Here are a few more of the dishes from our current dinner menu. You saw this in the previous post on salt cured egg yolk - poached asparagus, enokitake mushrooms, cured yolk.

Roasted walnut tossed chickpeas, cous cous, feta, sunflower sprout, roasted red pepper.

Here's a cool one for ya - fired goat cheese croquette, picked beet, but then look the left. That goat cheese is about 1" across. See the little blob? I have a local farmer who has a chicken laying runts. The egg was no more than a half inch across. I sous vide soft poached the eggs, and then cracked them into the dish - very tasty! Let's hope that chicken keeps under performing.

Clay baked purple potatoes, olive oil pudding, basil pesto, parmesan cream, parmesan strips. This was prettier than the pic lets on to.

Roasted vegetables with almond espuma.

Raw tuna, wasabi crema and caviar.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Technique: Salt cured egg yolk

Here's something new for many of you - salt cured egg yolk.
Why you ask? my world, just because. But more practically this is a unique condiment and a good outcome for that large meringue that had you wasting a dozen yolks. I found the technique over at StarChefs and have incorporated it into my current menu.

Start by making a Swiss meringue of 85 g Egg white, 38 g Sugar and 87 g Salt. Huh?! 87 g Salt? Yep...salt cured is what I called it, right? Combine all three ingredients, set over a water bath and whisk like any other Swiss meringue, then remove from the heat and whisk until stiff. Line a muffin pan with some of the salty meringue and gently, very gently lay a yolk inside the pillowy next.

You can use any old egg, but goose eggs are good for this one. The fresher, the darker, the better. Cover the yolks with the remaining meringue and set in the fridge for 12-18 hours. Repeat this process one more time. After this cycle, remove the yolks from their nests. They should be relatively firm, but a bit tacky to the touch.

Put the yolks in your fridge overnight, uncovered so they can dry out a bit. Mine were still tacky so I put them in the dehydrator and that really did the trick (an oven set on the lowest temp would work too). Then grate over your dish as you might bottarga or any other salty condiment. I serve it on poached asparagus with sauteed enokitake mushrooms.

My favorite compliment

Last night delivered my favorite compliment to date:

I've never been to the French Laundry, but I can't imagine it being as good as this.

Now, if they go to the FL and say that, I'll be their personal chef for life!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Menu 2.0

Bread Course
Sage financier
Tomato bread

Dinner 1
Tuna wasabi shooter & caviar
Chilled pea soup with daikon dots and steamed edamame
Vessel of unagi, smoke, savory tuile, white chocolate risotto & caviar
Salmon with red thai curry and sunflower sprout ragout
Dinner 2
Mozzarella wrapped in tomato gelée
Brie and pear soup
Watercress barlotto
Grilled lamb loin with almond espuma

Dinner 3
Chickpea feta garlic: garlic, chick/cous & feta
Sunchoke soup with olive oil milk foam & arugula pudding
Poached asparagus with GRATED cured yolk of local fowl
Marinated early vegetables

Dinner 4
Goat cheese with local greens and beetroot, Bee Chama honey and walnut dressing
Brie and pear soup
Clayed purple potatoes on basil pesto with parma ribbons and olive oil pudding
Burger on brioche

Strawberry Frasier
Passionfruit chocolate many layers

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bike Race pt 2 and many other rambling thoughts

First, let me start with the confession that I normally write my posts early or late in my day, but rarely am I buzzed while I write. Tonight is an exception. But, let me digress a moment. We got our beer and wine license on Thursday at 4 pm!

This is no small matter. New Mexico has very...umm...well, let's just say, conservative liquor licensing issues. The process took four months, required a major floor plan shift, and many, many revisions to our original application. I don't recommend the process to anyone prone to paranoia or suicidal ideation. But enough of that. We got it. I bought some amazing beers and tonight I finally had a chance to drink my first one - Don de Dieu from Canada. Beer Advocate gave this beer an A-. I won't bother acting like I can review this awesome beer. I'll just say at 9% alcohol, I'll be reading my alcohol percentages in the future - it kicked my rear!

This past week was the Tour of the Gila professional bike race. Lance Armstrong and bunch of other big names that were wasted on me showed up, as did 600 of their closest friends and media.

And Lance was still the star, although not as much as last year. His RV (parked in front of our store) was much smaller, suggesting Leman Brothers have not been good to him.

But once the big downtown race started, we already had three nights of serving racers under our belts. This year we served over 100 racers each night with an all-you-can-eat pasta dinner. My sauce was very simple but received very positive reviews - sauté onion, carrot and celery, add zucchini, then thyme, salt and pepper. On some nights I added cayenne which the riders loved. Every night had a different salad, low-fat protein, and dessert (brownies, granola, mango crumble and baklawa). I prepared the meal based on the next days ride - spring = more protein; longest = more carbs; last day = kitchen sink because its a huge, long, hard ride. I really enjoy cooking for this many people, and really was humbled by how appreciative the riders were to get affordable, but fresh and tasty food.

After the Saturday dinner, all I could think about was how I have been juggling so many balls for so long, and I could finally put them all down. Our renovation is essentially done (did I mention that I built a papercrete wall last week?). I have no major catering jobs (except for the New Mexico Film Commission tomorrow). No major events (until our Blues Fest at the end of May). And my desk, bill paying and universe are almost under control.

Now I can focus more on Tyler, our house, my family and so many other neglected aspects of myself. I'm ready for that rest.