Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recipe: Crawfish Mac n Cheese

We've been foraging a lot of crawfish lately so here's a simple special we ran a few weeks back:

Oven to 350ºF

Cook 1 pound pasta al dente (shells, rotini or penne)

In large sauce pan combine:
-2 tablespoons ExV
-1/3 C diced bacon (we use our house cured)
Cook until starting to crisp, then add:
-1/2 C diced onion
-1 clove garlic, crushed
Cook until onions soften a bit. Add:
-A large spoon of butter
-5 T AP flour
Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes.  Add:
-3 C milk
Whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Bring to simmer and add salt and pepper to taste.  Grate in some nutmeg and cook for a few more minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in:
-2 C crawfish tails, shelled

Add 1 pound of grated cheese - we used parma, gruyere and munster, but any combo will work as long as at least some are melty cheeses.  Add 2 T Cajun spice (your own mix or I like Tony Chacherie).  Pour into a 9x13 pan and top with panko toasted in butter.  Bake 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Photo ripped from web, let me know if its yours.  Recipe based on Emeril recipe.
Curious Kumquat

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homeade Gin

Tyler gets to take over the blog for a day because he's making gin!

I didn't keep track of exact amounts on the ingredients, except the powdered Green Chile, but here's a best-guess:
Popotillo (Mormon Tea) - Three 4-Inch Twigs
Juniper Berries - 1/4 Cup
Pine Needles - 1/8 Cup
Fresh Mint - 1/8 Cup
Cilantro - 1/2 Cup (Loosely Packed)
Peel from 1 Lime
Powdered Green Chile 1/8 tsp

The Popotillo, Juniper Berries, Pine Needles, and Mint were foraged on a dog walk in the forest near my house.
I bruised each of the ingredients, except the Green Chile, in a mortar and pestle before putting it in the jar. I poured 2 Cups Smirnoff Triple Distilled 100 Proof (the only 100 Proof vodka I could find in my town) over the mixture and let it sit for four days, swirling it around in the jar three or four times during that time. On Day 4, I poured the mixture through a coffee filter, and then poured it through another coffee filter. I haven't bought a Brita filter yet, but will probably do that at some point. I then mixed the resulting green liquid with 2 Cups Stolichnaya.
Next time -- and there will definitely be a next time -- I'll use less Lime Peel. All-in-all, it was a grand success.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why I love my job

I always love my job, but moments like this I REALLY love my job:
This is an order from last Saturday.  A family of 3 - a mom and two small children (7 and 9).  All three ordered our modernist tasting dinner.  The 7 year old girl ordered the lamb chop - which, btw, is her regular order (they come once a month).  The 9 year old boy ordered oxtail...why?...because he had never had it.  Bottom right shows the drink order - mom had a nice German beer while the kids both had Japanese Ramune drinks.  Great night out for them and lots of fun for me!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review: Melt

Due to their specialized nature, chocolate cookbooks are more about instruction than style, and that lays a heavy responsibility on the author. Because chocolate making requires precision and accuracy in technique, time and temperature, instructions must be clear and keenly focused on the intended readership . Melt, while offering beautiful photography and ample recipes struggles to achieve this level of accuracy.

Read the rest of the review HERE at the Gastronomer's Bookshelf
The Curious Kumquat

Thursday, March 29, 2012

(Belated) Valentine's dinner wrap-up

Bad pictures unfortunately, but here we go:
Our dinner was all chocolate and all savory. We have one couple who has been to every one of our tasting dinners and they declared this the best meal yet. One major change is that I offered no entree - all small bite or mezze sized portions.

Course 1: Paté Lolli
Local chicken liver paté with candied cherry and hibiscus liquer, rolled in sugar and finished with cacao.

Course 2: Celery root mousseline with cocoa and truffle espuma
best course of the night

Course 3: Mushroom Cocoa Millefuile

Savory acorn crepe layered with savory dark chocolate ganache infused with foraged oyster mushroom

Course 4: Cocoa Caponata with Parmesan Crisp

Course 5: Cauliflower risotto
I think I borrowed this concept from Osteria F where you painstakingly cut off the micro flowers of cauliflower and cook them ala risotto with white chocolate. Topped with a cocoa tuile.

Course 6: Arugula Salad with Vodka Dressing
Wilted arugula, mushroom crema, liquid cocoa-infused vodka sphere dressing

Course 7: Crawfish Cakes
Foraged crawfish cakes with sweet potato, foraged watercress and foraged amaranth

Course 8: Savory Brownies
This was a stretch but we pulled it off. Small bite of savory brownie with candied mushrooms and topped with mushroom whipped cream

Course 9: Bratwurst
House made cocoa wild boar bratwurst, dijon, potato purée and greens

Course 10: Beets
Borderline sweet/savory beet mousse with cocoa crumb and beet greens

Course 11: Ash pasta
This was served earlier in the night but I don't remember where...leek ash pasta, cocoa sphere, mango, parma and olive oil powder

Curious Kumquat

Monday, March 26, 2012

Random Yumminess

This is a new cookie for us:

We call it a Spring Shortbread, but really its a spinoff of alfajores. Cornstarch based cookie infused with lemon zest, topped with candied violet petals, crumb, toasted sunflower seeds, Balinese pyramid salt and a bit of Valhrona white chocolate grated on top.
And here's Adam who made it - the tall one, not the short one. He's been my pastry guy for a while now and will be heading to ABQ in the Fall for college - I doubt you'll find a more competent pastry worker in the Duke City...he'll be looking for work.

And here's someone who's kind of competent himself - me doing some precision cuts on a dish I'll show in my next post.

Our Easter bon bons are starting to roll out...more on those at Easter.

Last week's dinner special - Aji de Gallina (Peruvian chicken stew with aji amarillo)

And finally we've been serving vegan saffron ravioli stuffed with cashew cheese...very good.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chocolate Sculpture week final

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History held its annual Chocolate Fantasy Event this past Saturday in Bernalillo at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort. There were plenty of scary masked people in attendance

and the event included a Parade of Chocolate bon bons

which was funny since many of the servers had such sour faces!

But, what a great crowd! 3oo in attendance.

Our bon bons were judged the best of the event - rosemary salted caramel. Our sculpture drew a very positive response from the audience. Our title was Venice Crumbles, honoring the corrosion of the city into the canals. I used a number of new techniques for this sculpture including 50 paper thin dress panels and the detail on our column.

The column was actually made to be pink marble but my coloring was off so we sprayed it with a mustard yellow cocoa butter which created an effect that we preferred.

There are a few corrections we would make in the future. First, the judges were all traditional pastry chefs, so we should have stuck to a very traditional design and technique. One of my criticisms of traditional sculptures is that they lack artistic life. They're very static and meant to look good on a buffet table. That said, the judges are the audience for an event like this. We should have also not used my favorite skull mold and continued the folk art style used on the hands and feet. Those changes, I believe, could have made a big difference in our outcome.

Here are many of the other entrants. This one was 100 pounds of modeling chocolate with very expressive detail.

A fun interpretation by a Native American culinary school program

One of the resort entrants

A restaurant entrant - some beautiful hand work on this one

Another resort entrant and one of my favorites

Dancing chocolate figurines

Our former intern, Patrick Abalos' entry for NM State Univ.

One of the restaurant winners - if you stood in front of the chocolate costume you would see yourself wearing it in the mirror on the wall.

Beautiful detail

The overall winner from Hard Rock Casino - well executed traditional design

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chocolate Sculpture week cont'd

Small but steady progress. I've decided to make the dress hundreds of chocolate panels instead of one large sheet. I just didn't think I could get the fragile large dress to Albuquerque without it breaking. This new strategy will offer a more dynamic effect anyway.

And I've finished her head and a series of flowers.

Today I hope to start on the marble columns.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Sculpture week

I'm getting ready to melt down my Valentine's Mardi Gras sculpture - Voodoo Love:

And now I move on to a sculpture for a competition this weekend in Albuquerque. My biggest fear/problem is that the competition is 5 hours away and we'll need to transport the sculpture. I'll take it in pieces and assemble on site, but still that's a lot of rough roads and potential warm weather to wreak havoc.

The competition is part of a fundraiser for the New Mexico Natural History Museum and the theme is Venetian Ball. The title of our sculpture is "Venice Crumbling," because I'm fascinated by how the city is eroding into the canals. We have a very tight production schedule for the week related to the competition:

One key strategy I learned at the World Pastry Forum showpiece workshop is to make way more pieces than you think you'll actually use. There will be inevitable breakage and need to hide flaws, so make plenty of flowers and other items for that purpose. We're working on mums and sugar gems for our bling.

Yesterday we poured our primary vertical base. Start by drawing the design on butcher paper taking into account structural strength, overall weight, quantity of chocolate. Our base won't be seen so it is purely structural.

You'll notice that I took out negative space in spots where I believe there is adequate structural support and where I thought I could save some weight and chocolate.

Then we poured. This is where our troubles have started. We don't have a tempering machine so we have to do it by hand. That's not a problem with a pound or two at a time but we're doing about 15 pounds per pour and so our temper is not very good. I'm not concerned about the look since it will be covered but I am concerned about internal fracturing due to improper temper.

That was allowed to set up overnight and this morning I removed the frames and cleaned the edges. Sure enough - due to the poor temper I had a crack which I fixed but it raises a lot of concerns about the overall durability of the internal framing.
Curious Kumquat

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Season of Love pt 1

Our staff is finally getting some down time - well, slower anyway - now that Valentine's is over. A few Mardi Gras King cakes and then I'll have some time myself. Some of the servers are just scratching at the mouth from all of the craziness.

Some pleasant surprises came my way right about VDay - a fantastic box of baklava courtesy of Mina Yamashita (foodie and author):

And one of my servers and her friend (Annette and Shawna) brought me a plate of Valentine's cookies. Annette's father was a baker in Germany so her treats are always delicious:

And this was our knockout super mega success of VD week - a non-chocolate cake. Two layers of hazelnut dacquoise, vanilla bavaroise, creme fraiche panna cotta and fresh strawberries. If there's interest I'll happily post the recipe.

As for me - well, I'm wrapping up a couple of chocolate sculptures and preparing for the eGullet Chocolate and Confections Conference - hope to see some of you there in DC!

Curious Kumquat