Friday, February 26, 2010

Dinners start tomorrow

Tomorrow night is our first dinner in the store. For blog visitors - We're a gourmet grocery that's been open for six years and started a lunch café two years ago. Then we added pastry and dinners-to-go. We've expanded our indoor seating and are now going to do sit-down dinners that are modernist (molecular gastronomy) inspired and locally sourced. Tomorrow I am feeding the local growers and producers so they can see what I'm going to be doing. Its also a chance to train our service staff.

The menu has been the toughest challenge. I want people to just sit back and let me feed them, but of course, people want choices. You'll note that our most recent menu only shows the entrees. I'll then package a table starter, an amuse, salad-like dish, and dessert. In all folks will get a minimum of three courses and probably five if you include small bites. We don't have our liquor license yet so the beverages are just sodas and waters. We hope to have that license by the end of April.

This will be a really good experience so I can see what I'm not ready for...many things are already popping up. Anyway, I'm ready for a good rest which will not come for quite some time...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mugaritz Fire - Stagières' Knives Appeal

(Clipped from DocSconz The Blog)

Early on Monday February 15th, fire severely damaged the kitchens at Mugaritz, the world-famous restaurant in Spain's Basque Country. Luckily, no-one was hurt. For the management and staff of Mugaritz, the destruction of their workplace was a tragedy. But for three other young people, this was also a calamity.

Stagières are unpaid apprentices, usually young, without whom no top restaurant can function. Driven by a common passion to learn from the world's best chefs, they travel from all corners of the globe to train at world-class restaurants. When the dust settled on Mugaritz after last Monday's inflagration, Mattias from Sweden, Diego from Guatemala and Greg from the US found themselves without their most valued possessions. Their precious knife sets, not covered by the restaurant's insurance, had been incinerated. Read Greg's story here.

Fellow food blogger Aidan Brooks of Aidan Brooks: Trainee Chef, his father Mike Green and I are setting up a special transatlantic fund to help them recover from their combined $2,500 losses and re-equip themselves for work. As Aidan says, "This is something I understand well - two and a half years ago I set off for Spain as a novice stagière myself. It's taken me years to put together my knife set, so I know exactly how devastated these lads must feel." Can you please help with a personal pledge? Donations will be so welcome, no matter how large or small. Email me at docsconz[at] at with your pledge and we'll get back to you with details of exactly how you can contribute to the fund. Would food bloggers please copy part or all of this post and publish similar appeals. Together we can make so much difference to a group of people who really deserve our support.

Heart - I like it

I wasn't so sure about this month's FoodBlogRoll Joust of heart, plum and kohlrabi because I knew I couldn't get kohlrabi and I had never prepared heart before. But I wanted more practice with my sous vide bath since I'm starting dinners in the next week. I cracked open a cookbook that I haven't found too useful, although its very good - Under Pressure by Keller. I riffed off of his confit of calf's heart to make this dish:

180 g Kosher salt
60 g Curing salt
105 g Sugar
3 kg Cold water

Boil half of the water, add salts and sugar and stir to dissolve. Add remaining cold water and then heart. Cover and let sit overnight.

1 Cow's heart
500 g Rendered duck fat, cold

Remove heart from brine and pat dry. Rub fat around heart and vacuum. Cook sous vide for 24 hours at 174.9ºF (79.4ºC). Remove the heart from the bag, strain reserving fat and hold until service. Put fat in saucepan and heat.

Trim excess fat and tissue from heart and slice meat very thinly - I used a meat slicer.

Baby turnips
15 g Rendered duck fat
30 g Chick stock

Clean and trim turnips, toss with salt and sugar. Coat in fat and vacuum. Cook sous vide 30 minutes at 185ºF (85ºC). Place turnips and fat in saucepan and add stock. Season and glaze the turnips in the sauce.

2 C Red table wine
4 Plums, pitted and quartered
1 T Whole peppercorns - I used Balinese long peppers
50 g Sugar

Place everything in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Let rest covered until service.

Drop meat into hot fat for a few seconds. Lay the plums on the base, top with turnips, then meat. Drizzle plate with a good balsamico.

Let me just say that I really loved this and ate almost the entire heart - I am very iron enriched right now!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quest for inquisitiveness...A recent conversation

You may have noticed that I'm curious. I always want to know the why and what if.

So yesterday Tyler and I were enjoying some down time - me reading Torreblanca 2, and I began to wonder what effect vibration would have on gelatin setting. Specifically, if I set a pan of gelatin on a vibrating table and allowed it to set at various temperatures and levels of vibration, what would happen. What if I put a blueberry in the gelatin - would it sink, float, do nothing? Would the vibration inhibit setting, slow setting, create cool patterns?

Tyler's response - "Why not just pour part of your gelatin with a blueberry and let it set up, then add the rest of the gelatin?" "That's not the point," I responded.

"Why not just set a blueberry in the bottom and turn it over when its set?" "You're missing the point!" I barked.

I don't really care about the blueberry, I want to know the effect of vibration on gelatin setting. Isn't that good enough a goal in itself? I'm sure I'll be playing around soon.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

24-Hour Turnips

I get asked to donate food for events multiple times each week, and I've gotten to the point where I get tired of making the same things for these events. So, when its appropriate I use these donations as an opportunity to play.

I've been increasingly playing with Pierre Hermé's 24-Hour Apple technique. This technique creates a delicate, flavorful apple that maintains its structure versus turning to mush. This donation was for a Spanish tapas event, so I thought I would apply the technique to turnips. Here's how it goes.

First, slice the turnips (or applies or any other firm veg or fruit). I used my Japanese peeler which created a 25' continuous strip, but a meat slicer works well or a hand peeler if you have the patience.

Brush the bottom of a pan with butter (or oil), and start layering the turnip. The key is to have thin turnip to work with.

Continue layering, brushing every two or three layers with melted butter. Sprinkle these layers with salt, sugar and pepper. On the apple version you just do sugar, although black pepper might be fun too. You can add other seasonings: cinnamon, citrus peel, smoked paprika...but I kept it simple because every 10th layer I added blue cheese and crushed pecans.

Once you've made as much as you want - at least an inch thick, wrap the whole pan really well with a couple of layers of saran wrap. Poke a few holes for steam release and weight the top down.

Oven to 175ºF and bake for 12 hours. He calls them 24-Hour apples (turnips), but I've never gone longer than 12. On most ovens you need to turn on Sabbath mode to have your oven not turn off automatically, so go read your manual.

I turned the turnips (ha!) upside down and let them chill in the fridge until set up.

Now let me tell you something- I don't know if my kitchen has ever smelled so amazing as when I walked in the next day. Really an incredible smell - deeply complex aroma of turnip and blue cheese.

I just happened to be playing with inverse puff pastry so I made little squares of puff.

Next I split the puffs and placed a square of the turnips inside. I glazed the top with honey and set a lavender bud on top. And off they went to the party.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book Review: The Modern Café

What’s the difference between my café with its sous vide machine and pantry filled with twenty varieties of salt, and another in our town – Grandma’s Café which still features Salisbury steak every Saturday and hosts Bingo Night at the VFW?

Nestled in between the greasy spoon and the bistro, the café holds a special spot in a community’s heart and stomach. Easy on the pocketbook, but with a touch of decadence, cafés allow us to treat ourselves to comfort food that jazzes it up a bit. In The Modern Café, Francisco Migoya captures this unique genre of eatery and challenges us caretakers to take our standard fare and make it truly remarkable.

Read the rest at TheGastronomersBookshelf.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Making a chocolate sculpture

In preparation for my recent chocolate event I knew that I wanted two show pieces - one that showed off my talent, and one that showed off local artists. I put the word out for any artists working in cast sculptures and found Jay Scott. He does some really beautiful casted work including the faces that I used on my Cake of a Thousand Faces.

For this centerpiece he loaned me a silicone formed mold of a female bust with long flowing hair. I didn't have the time or chocolate to do a trial run so I just started my tempering. I poured about two pounds of dark chocolate into the mold then swished it around a few times, let it rest for 30 seconds each time, re-swish, re-rest...a process of about ten minutes.

After ten minutes I poured out the excess and let the sculpture rest overnight. The next morning I very carefully removed the plaster cast from the silicone.

And then even more carefully removed the silicone mold from the chocolate. This was incredibly nerve racking!

Knowing my chocolate was in perfect temper and believing that the mold was at a good room temp, the lack of sheen was, at first, disappointing. But, the more I looked at it the more I liked it. The dusty finish looked like terra cotta. I opted to leave it as is and am very glad I did.

After the event I crushed her up and put her into brownies :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

X'ocotal Chocolate Fantasia, Silver City, Feb 2010

For once I agree with Larry (I am the chef who never sleeps). Last night I slept 10 hours, something I haven't done since I had strep in 1988. Leading up to this event I did two straight 18 hour days and I was pooped. But, I was very happy with the results. I asked someone to take pics for me so the photos aren't my typical style.

First, the chocolate sculpture. I'll post separately about this in a couple of days.

I prepared some 40 items for 75 people with a mix of sweet and savory. I learned through this event that many, MANY people don't know what savory means. What's up with that?!

These are flourless chocolate Kahlua cakes with fun garnish on top - just tempered chocolate on a texture mat.

Its too bad I didn't get a good pic of this - Cake of a Thousand Faces. I made two rounds of 3" tall Hermé chocolate cake, split each into three layers for a total of six layers. Each layer was filled with goat cheese lemon ganache and soaked lightly with sour cherry syrup. Chocolate buttercream and a miroir glaze. Then I attached fifteen (not quite a thousand) chocolate faces. The faces were made from a molds loaned to me by a local artist.

Wasabi green pea filling with my new transfer sheets and magnet mold. The filling came from Young's new chocolate book which I really do like. You can read a review at TheGastronomersBookshelf.

I can't honestly remember since I made 20 different bon bons, but I think these were orange cream. They may have been white truffle bon bons, or chili muscovado. Not my best ones but I did the colored cocoa butter finger rub thing which was fun.

Saffron or goat cheese and lemon bon bons.

Savory chocolate ravioli.
450 g AP Flour
55 g Cocoa powder
4 Eggs
2 Whites
Knead, rest 30, roll and dry.

Served them with an orange black pepper sauce and dusted with my standard savory chocolate soil.

How about this bad mama jamma - cacao (FT Forestrero 09) encrusted pork tenderloin, sous vide cooked 36 hours and served with a lemon butter sauce. Boy was it tender.

Savory chocolate linguine with gorganzola cream sauce.

Really great combo. And here they are drying.

Worst pic alert! But darn good vittles! Savory chocolate gnocchi (from Young's book) with the gorg sauce again and bacon jus (aka grease).

Cocoa dusted beef tender roast, sous vide cooked for five hours. Look how red that beauty is.

I didn't get pics of everything obviously, but for posterity's sake I want to mention the pâte choux sandwiches filled with Niman Ranch bacon, Gorgonzola and 85% ganache - I couldn't make them fast enough. I also served the same ganache in crepes with fresh berries.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Recipe: Rootbeer Float ReDeux

I recently learned that this dessert will (most likely) be featured in a major pastry magazine.

Knowing my track record with publishable pics, I had pros do it. That was a very odd experience as I powdered and misted my dessert to make it photogenic. For my inside readers, you'll note that my maraschino cherry spere deflated during the shoot. Hopefully no one will notice. I've reworked this since my last version in March of last year. I think this one is better and the recipe is more refined for others to use. I count this as one of my best desserts along side my Peanut Butter Pie, Pop-Tart, and maybe the Sugar Cream Pie.

Root beer Base
30 g Sassafras root
15 g Dandelion root
8 g Wintergreen
15 g Hops
30 g Juniper berries
226 g Sugar
226 g Light muscovado sugar
226 g Palm sugar
115 g Honey

Rinse sassafras and dandelion in cold water. Crush juniper berries, and add to mix with hops and wintergreen. Place all of the herbs and berries in a cheesecloth bag. Boil two gallons of water and pour half over the mix bag. Simmer for a half hour.

Remove bag and discard. Add the sweeteners and the other gallon of water. Taste the root beer and adjust. Boil the base until slightly thickened. Let cool to room temperature. (Alternatively you could use Amoretti root beer extract at 1% in the cream.)

“Ice Cream”
150 g Milk
30 g Sugar
2 Egg yolks
1 T. Vanilla paste
5 Sheets gelatin, softened
200 g Whipped cream

Bring milk just to a boil. In separate bowl combine yolks and sugar. Use the hot milk to temper the egg mixture. Pour egg mixture into remaining hot milk and continue whisking until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and add the vanilla paste and softened gelatin. Allow to cool, and fold into the whipped cream. Pour into a 40 mm half sphere mold (Chef Rubber ref: 800304). Freeze.

Root Beer Cream
180 g Heavy cream
30 g Rootbeer syrup
3 Egg yolks
1 Sheet gelatin, softened

Heat heavy cream until hot. In separate bowl, whisk syrup and yolks. Temper yolk mixture with hot cream. Whisk in the softened gelatin. Cool until thick enough to support the weight of the “ice cream.” Fill a 60 mm half sphere mold (Chef Rubber ref: 800302) with the cream half way. Set the frozen “ice cream” into the root beer cream and level the tops. Freeze.

138 g Maraschino cherry juice
3.4 g Calicium lactate
25 g Sugar
500 g Water
2.5 g Sodium alginate

Using an immersion blender, combine juice and Calcium lactate. Pipe juice into a 1” sphere mold (Chef Rubber ref: 800414). Freeze until solid.

In a blender mix the water and sugar creating a vortex. Add the sodium alginate and be sure to thoroughly blend. Transfer solution to a deep prep bowl. Drop the cherry balls into the sodium alginate bath and allow to set for 45 seconds. Carefully remove the spheres and drop into a clean water bath. Keep chilled until service.

Turn frozen “floats” over exposing the round bottoms. Spray bottoms with white chocolate and cocoa butter (equal parts) through an air brush or sprayer. This will become the serving shell. Allow the “float” to thaw in the cooler for service.

At service, using a melon baller, scoop a 1” half sphere from the center of the “ice cream.” Carefully place the cherry sphere into hole. For additional garnish, crush Brach’s root beer candy and melt on silpat sheet, forming into desired shape.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Japanese Dinner

Last year our local gourmet club invited me to cater a dinner. This was historic because they've met for over a decade and have always gone potluck. They must have liked it since they asked me back. Here is last year's Spanish meal. This year I asked them to pick the theme and accepted Japanese because it would be a challenge for me. I love sushi and tempura, but beyond that I know I researched and ended up with this menu:

Kaiseki Ryorik Grande
Sushi Maki
Kamo tsumire (soup with duck dumplings)
(Sorry, no pic)

Chawanmushi (cold custard) & grilled prawns
Tomago dofu (omelette)
Gelée assortment (lemongrass vinegar, blue cream soda and two others that I've forgotten)
Served with Chiyonosono Shochu, Kumamoto, Japan

Hotate Ringo Kama-Yaki (scallops in apple)
Onigiri (rice patty) with umeboshi and smoked salmon
Sake steamed asparagus, puffed sushi rice and espuma
Roasted squash oil
Seared scallop

Unagi Kabi-Yaki (broiled eel)
Fried whole trout
Rolled seaweed
Daikon in lemongrass vinegar
Korokke (croquette)
served with Yamazaki 12 yr Single Malt
(sorry no pic)

Ong's cover recipe from Sweet Spot - Spiced Plums

Chocolate kumquat springrolls

Friday, February 5, 2010

Liquid Nitrogen and my big photoshoot

Let's start with the liquid nitrogen. I've been wanting to play with this for a while and finally bought the storage container. Most of the uses I've seen so far have been gimmicky - meaning not really enhancing the food itself, but you know I'll obsess until I can find a good way to use it.

Liquid Nitrogen has been around (in culinary useful form) since the 1800s, but its resurgence has been just in recent years due to the molecular gastronomy movement. What intrigues me most is the possibility of freezing booze. Imagine a frozen sphere of rum set inside of a chocolate shell...or what if it was set in side of a coconut milk shell that had been made by freezing it in the LN. The idea is that booze will freeze at that temp, but once in a regular freezer it will thaw, leaving you with a liquid center. Opens up the mind doesn't it?

Here's I'm testing my photoshoot dessert to see if I can form a stable shell using the actual dessert mousse. It didn't work because the shell thawed too quickly.

This is an old trick where you fill a ladle with ice cream base, freeze it for a few seconds and then you have a bowl made out of the ice cream that you can fill...before it melts...this is a recurring problem.

I did the old standby of 30 second ice cream, and yes it was amazingly smooth and may show up on special occasions at the restaurant.

Not fully understanding the boiling properties of liquid nitrogen I was intrigued by the eruptions caused by placing my frozen dessert inside of a ladle of ice cream base. The base erupted needing a place for gases to release.

All of this was final play before a photo shoot for Dessert Professional magazine. I've submitted my rootbeer float dessert for publication and it appears to have been accepted. Since TasteSpotting and FoodGawker both think my pics suck, I went to a professional to make sure the pics were magazine worthy. I'll post some of the pics and the updated recipe over the weekend.