Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category
I created this pasta salad for the Spring Potluck for the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance. The theme was Back to the Beginning, to be interpreted any way we wished. So, in honor of spring, which is all about starting again, I made a completely green pasta salad. It was my first potluck with the NYWCA, so I wanted to impress. I don’t know if I did, but this salad got rave reviews the next day.
This pasta salad is open to many variations—you can add anything you want, as long as it’s green! It has several components to it, but if you’re willing to spend a little time on it, the result will truly be gorgeous, not mention delicious. Aside from the broccoli florets, I split the string beans in half, used only the green part of the zucchini, and garnished it with zucchini curls.
Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad
1 medium head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more
2 small zucchini, diced small
2 ½ cups cut string beans
2 cups peas (if frozen, thawed)
1 lb short pasta
½ lb arugula
¼ lb watercress
1 cup sliced scallions (white part only), divided
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium green bell pepper, diced small
½ cup chopped parsley
Garnish: zucchini, scallion greens, broccoli florets
1. Cut the broccoli into florets. Set aside as many “pretty” florets (they should be similarly sized). Chop the remaining florets, stems, and pieces. Blanch and shock the florets. Cook the remaining broccoli until crisp-tender; drain well.
To blanch and shock: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water on the counter. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for a minute or 2, until broccoli is slightly tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet; add the onion and salt, and sweat (cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Do not brown.)
3. Zucchini: Saute in 2 teaspoons just until tender. Transfer to a bowl; let cool.
4. String beans: Bring pot of salted water to a boil; add string beans and cook just until tender. Transfer to the ice water and let cool. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside ½ cup.
5. Peas: If fresh, cook in boiling water until just tender. If frozen, boil briefly. Drain well.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and let cool.
7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, watercress, ½ cup string beans that were set aside, ½ cup scallions, garlic, salt and pepper. With the machine processing, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil until a sauce forms.
8. When pasta has cooled but is still slightly warm, add the sauce and mix well. Add the green pepper, the chopped broccoli, onion, cooked zucchini, peas, remaining string beans, and remaining scallions. Mix well. Blend in parsley. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add whatever herbs or spices you like.
I’m not calling this recipe Sauteed Valor Green Beans because it’s something you should eat as a reward for bravery. The word valor is actually the Indian name for these particular green beans.
I found these beans at Patel supermarket in Jackson Heights. It’s my favorite Indian market and I always find something in there that I’ve never tried. When I saw these beans, I thought they were odd looking. They looked like string beans but with thicker skin. I was curious how they would cook up, so I bought some.
Common sense would say to cook these beans with Indian spices and ingredients. But I decided to cook them a little more European style. So, I sautéed them with some sliced shallots, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (because I didn’t have any fresh garlic). My suspicions were right—the thicker skin meant that they needed longer cooking time and some liquid to keep them from burning. In this case, I used some water and a little bouillon.
After they beans had softened, I uncovered the pan and let the liquid dry up. Then, I veered back toward Indian because I decided to deglaze the pan with a splash of coconut balsamic vinegar. I had picked it up at F. Oliver’s oil shop in Ithaca last summer and I haven’t used it much. (It’s delicious but coconut balsamic does have limited uses. I mean, I’m not going to splash some into my marinara sauce, ya know?) Finally, I mixed in some toasted slivered almonds.
The result was kind of a sweet and sour flavor and the crunch of the almonds really made it texturally satisfying. I can’t say I enjoy them as much as regular green beans because they have a different flavor—kind of earthy, where really green beans are sweet-ish.
So, here’s my recipe for Sauteed Valor Green Beans. Unless you are somewhere near an F. Oliver’s, you probably won’t be able to get Creamy Coconut Balsamic Vinegar, so just use regular balsamic, or omit it altogether.
Sauteed Valor Green Beans
½ lb. valor green beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 or 4 shallots, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
½ cup vegetable broth
¼ cup almond slivers
2 tablespoons coconut or regular balsamic vinegar
Trim off the ends of the green beans, pull off any strings, and slice them open (this might be easier if you cut longer beans in half). Chop the beans into half-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a medium pan. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté just until they start to brown. Add the string beans and sauté over medium heat about 5 minutes. Add the broth, cover the pan, and cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet. Add the almonds and toast, stirring often, until lightly browned.
Uncover the pan with the beans and continue cooking until liquid had evaporated. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir; when the balsamic has evaporated, toss in the almonds and mix well.
Serve as a side dish or over brown or white basmati rice.
Makes 2 servings.
This panini is Italian style, with broccoli rabe, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, and Asiago cheese. Slice the bread thinly so that’s easy to eat. Enjoy!
|Broccoli Rabe-Provolone Panini|
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, 1 sliced, 1 cut in half
- 3 cups chopped broccoli rabe
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 oz. cremini mushrooms
- 4 slices rustic Italian bread
- 4 slices provolone cheese (deli sliced)
- 2 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 oz. Asiago cheese, thinly shaved
- Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add broccoli rabe; lower the heat and cook until tender, about 5 minutes (add a little water if the pan dries out). Remove from the pan. Mix in the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
- In the same pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil; add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan.
- Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil; rub with garlic and sprinkle with salt. Toast in a skillet (preferably cast iron). Turn them over. On one piece, place a slice of provolone, half the broccoli rabe, half the mushrooms, half the tomatoes, another slice of provolone, and half the asiago. Turn the other piece over onto the filling. Press down and cook until cheese melts.
After several experiments, I’ve finally decided on my entry for Pete & Gerry’s Heirloom Eggstreme Crepe Contest. It’s Raspberry-Coconut Tiramisu Crepes with blackberry sauce.
Numerous people tasted them—friends and co-workers—and it was pretty unanimous that they were FABULOUS. I just may have a winner here.
There are 3 parts to the recipe: crepes, filling, and sauce. I made both plain crepes and buckwheat crepes (the darker ones in the photos) and tried different plating and garnishing techniques. I took many photos along the way and even attempted some video, but the files were too big to upload. I’m working on editing them. (Cooking and taping simultaneously is not easy. I have a new-found respect for on-air chefs!) Thanks to Malika at the Association of Food Bloggers for putting out the call for entries!
So, without further ado, here’s my contest entry.
RASPBERRY-COCONUT TIRAMISU CREPES
Makes 12 crepes.
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
4 large Pete & Gerry’s heirloom eggs
2-1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur or brandy (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, eggs, milk, and salt. Add butter and liqueur (if using). Whisk until smooth. Work out any lumps.
2. Heat a 10-inch skillet (preferably cast iron, otherwise coat the bottom of the pan with a little bit of butter).
3. Pour 1 cup batter in the center of the pan and quickly swirl it around. Shake the pan to spread the batter to coat the entire bottom. You want the crepe as thin as possible, so as soon as the pan is coated, pour off any excess batter back into the bowl.
4. When the top forms bubbles, it’s ready to turn. Flip the crepe and cook until underside has brown spots. Transfer to a plate.
5. Repeat with remaining batter.
* You can substitute some of the flour with buckwheat flour for nutty tasting buckwheat crepes, or all if it with non-wheat flour, such as spelt, soy, sorghum, or barley.
4 Pete & Gerry’s heirloom eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 lb. mascarpone
½ cup strong coffee
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur (or another 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur)
¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes**
2 cups raspberries
1. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with half the sugar until thick. Add the mascarpone and beat until smooth.
2. In a clean bowl and with clean beaters, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the remaining sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, mix the coffee and liqueurs in a medium bowl. Dip 10 of the ladyfingers in the mixture, then coarsely chop them. Place in a bowl.
4. Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture until well blended. Fold in the chopped ladyfingers and coconut. Finally, gently fold in the raspberries. Refrigerate until needed.
** This is often labeled “desiccated coconut.”
Makes ½ cup sauce.
2 cups blackberries or raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
Place berries and sugar in a food processor and puree. Press through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl.
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Assemble the crepes:
1. Lay a crepe flat. Place about a half cup of tiramisu filling on one side of the crepe. Brush both sides of a ladyfinger with the coffee mixture, then place it on top of the mascarpone; roll the crepe up. Use your hands to spread the filling out evenly in the crepe.
2. If you’re using cocoa powder, dust a little on the center of the crepe, then place the crepe on a plate. Garnish with berry sauce, berries, coconut and/or sliced almonds.
— Crepes can be made several days ahead and refrigerated, or frozen up to 3 months.
— Filling can be made a day ahead. Keep tightly sealed and refrigerated.
This weekend I began experimenting and testing for the Pete & Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs Crepe Contest. I would have preferred to start earlier, but it’s difficult to find time when you have a full-time job and a million other projects going on simultaneously. Ideally, you would come up with a perfected recipe before making it for photos but, unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time because the deadline for the contest is August 31! The Association of Food Bloggers will announce the winner.
Anyway, I started with a dessert crepe of Nutella and poached pear. I loved the concept—silky hazelnut chocolate spread rolled up with Barlett pears poached in apple juice, cinnamon, and a drop of vanilla. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? To make it more interesting, I added pear liqueur to the Nutella to enhance the pear flavor.
It never occurred to me that Nutella could seize. Because of the added ingredients in Nutella, I thought it would be stable enough to handle the liqueur. But no. It seized up on me and shrunk tight like World War II-era school paste. I had to put the bowl of Nutella on top of a pot of simmering water and stir, but it was so stiff that it stubbornly refused to melt. So I had to add some half-and-half and keep stirring. Finally, it smoothed out again. Obviously, this was a problem I would have to work out if I was going to use this recipe.
After spreading some Nutella over a crepe, I laid some poached pears, which I had sliced, over it and rolled it up. I piped some of the Nutella concoction over the top and sprinkled it with toasted almond slices.
As scrumptious as it was—what chocolate dish isn’t?—the pear was so delicate in flavor that the Nutella completely overwhelmed it, even with the liqueur. My tasters all agreed. I was disappointed because I really wanted this combination to work. But, alas, we have to accept it when our brilliant, amazing, fool-proof ideas don’t work.
Next, I tried my Peruvian concept. This worked out better, and having made my filling ahead of time, it was quick and easy to put together. Even the filling itself was quick and easy, and it can be refrigerated for several days. It was delicious on its own and I’m having it for lunch this week. I’ll hold off on the other dessert crepe for next time. For now, here’s my recipe for savory Peruvian Quinoa Crepes. I haven’t perfected my crepe recipe yet, so I don’t want to jump the gun and print that. For now, use any crepe recipe.
Peruvian Quinoa Crepes
1 quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced red pepper
1 small chile, minced
1 cup diced potato (purple, if you can find them, or Yukon gold)
1 1/2 cup diced calabaza or butternut squash
3/4 cup diced tomato
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds, toasted*
1/4 cup minced cilantro
6 (10-inch) crepes (recipe to come)
1 avocado, diced
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
1. After you rinse the quinoa, drain well. Heat a medium saucepan; add the quinoa and toast over medium heat until quinoa is dry and starts to brown. Pour in the vegetable broth or water; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add onion, red pepper, and chile and saute until vegetables have softened. Add the potato, squash, tomato, garlic powder, and salt. Mix well and continue cooking until all vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently. Mix in the almonds and cilantro and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Lay a crepe flat. Place 1 cup filling on one side of the crepe and roll it up. Place on a plate, sprinkle some paprika over it, and garnish with a few pieces of avocado and a cilantro sprig. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling.
* Spread the almonds out in a small frying pan and toast, shaking often, over medium heat until lightly browned. Or spread them out on a baking sheet and place them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes; check frequently.
Cassoulet is a traditional French dish containing various kinds of meat and beans cooked in a casserole dish. Originally from southwestern France, cassoulet is a rich and hearty dish and is usually labor-intensive. You can take a few shortcuts for a quicker, easier cassoulet, but it will turn out rather flat. It’s meant to be a complex, savory dish and you won’t get that depth of flavor if you take shortcuts, so it’s worth taking the time to prepare each component. It’s not that complicated—you just have to be a little patient. Just taking the extra step to cook the beans alone will give a layer of flavor that you simply won’t get from canned beans.
In the U.S., cassoulet often refers to any number of bean dishes cooked in a casserole dish. The word cassoulet comes from cassole, an earthenware casserole dish in which cassoulet was first made. For a great historical account of cassoulet, visit Clifford Wright’s site HERE.
What makes this vegetarian version of cassoulet so delectable is roasting the vegetables. Roasting coaxes the sugar out of vegetables, turning them into something divine. Keep an eye on your veggies and stir them occasionally for an even browning.
What I used in this recipe is brown vegetable stock, which is wonderful to use in many dishes. It’s worth sit to spend the time making it—then just throw it in your freezer for when you need it. However, I know that time is a precious thing these days, so you’ll see that the recipe just calls for vegetable stock. The end product won’t be as rich, but it will be good.
As I said, the beans are made from scratch—that is, you start off with dried beans and cook them until tender. This will give you a much better quality and better tasting dish. You’ll want to throw a piece of kombu in with the beans.
Kombu is a type of seaweed—algae, to be specific. Adding a piece of kombu to a pot of cooking beans makes it more digestible because the amino acids soften the beans’ skin and eliminates some of the gassiness. Kombu is a mild-tasting seaweed so it won’t impart a fishy taste to your dish, as long as you use only a small piece, which is all you need anyway.
Yield 6-8 servings
1 cup dried lima or white beans (navy, Great Northern, cannellini), soaked 12 hours or overnight
5 cups vegetable stock
1 piece kombu (1 to 2 inches)
Sachet (sprig rosemary, 2 bay leaves, few peppercorns)
6 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
3 large carrots, cut into ½-inch chunks
3 large parsnips, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 small sweet potato, cut into ½-inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
¼ tsp fresh thyme
¼ tsp crushed dried oregano
¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
3 tbsp olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Drain and rinse the beans and place them in a medium to large pot, along with the kombu, vegetable stock, and sachet. Bring to a boil; lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until beans are tender (1 to 2 hours, depending on the bean).
3. Toss the carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, and garlic with 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out onto a greased baking sheet in a single layer and roast until browned. Stir occasionally. Pick out the garlic and finely chop or mash (they will be very soft). Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil and a medium pan. Add the onions and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium-high and continue cooking until they are nicely browned. Transfer to a bowl.
5. In the same pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Add the tomatoes and roasted garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
6. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of oil, parsley, thyme, and oregano. Set aside.
7. When beans are cooked, add the onions and tomatoes to the pot and simmer another 5 minutes. Set a mesh strainer over a bowl and drain the bean mixture; remove the sachet and kombu and discard. Reserve the liquid. Pour the liquid back into the pot and cook down over medium heat until thick (it should coat the back of a spoon).
8. Return the bean mixture to the pot and mix. Simmer another 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium casserole dish (about 9 x 6). Spread the roasted vegetables on top of the beans. Finally, sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top.
9. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until browned.
My friend, Linda, asked me recently for suggestions on what to do with the water she had used to cook kale. This water, known as pot liquor, has set many a cook’s heart aflutter because it’s loaded with flavor. Not only that, it’s also packed with nutrients from the kale, or whatever greens you have cooked in it.
Pot liquor can be used in place of water or broth in almost anything. Here are some ways to use it:
* In soups, stews, or chilis
* To cook rice, quinoa, or any other grain
* To braise vegetables or a vegetable casserole
* In a vegetable smoothie
* In place of broth in a pan sauce
* If you have enough of it, you can reduce it and add a roux for a sauce, too. This would go very well with grilled/baked/sauteed tofu or tempeh.
* Add it to your pet’s food—it’s nutritious for our furry friends, too!
So, get yourself a nice big bunch of greens—any greens—and cook it down. The best way is to sauté greens in a pan with garlic and oil. But you can also use a small amount of water to boil them. That way, you get the nutrient-packed water without leeching everything out of the greens themselves. Place the greens in a large skillet or dutch oven and add about a cup of water and salt. After the greens are cooked, remove them and save the liquid. To sauté in oil, follow the recipe below, then use the liquid for something else. It will have incredible added flavor from the garlic and spices.
(By the way, I was very tempted to call this blog “Pot Liquor,” but I was afraid it would draw the wrong kind of traffic. As it is, I expect to get a lot of garbage from spammers who are keying in on the words “pot” and “liquor.”)
1 large bunch greens, washed, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Coarsely chop the greens.
2. Heat the oil in a wide pan; add garlic and cook 1 minutes. Add paprika and red pepper lakes and immediately add the greens.
3. Add ½ cup water, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cover the pan and cook until greens are tender. The time will vary, depending on the type of green it is. Add more water if it starts to get dry.
4. Use tongs to remove the greens and garlic. Reserve the liquid for use in other recipes.
On Saturday February 25, 2012, I worked my last internship dinner at the James Beard House. I was so excited to get my hours completed so that I can get my diploma and move on. But I walked in there a little sad, too, knowing that it would be my last time, at least as a “student.”
This dinner was with Chef Jason Santos of Blue Inc. of Boston, and his theme was Modern Comfort Food. The idea was to take comfort foods, the kind many Americans remember from childhood, and “adultify” them—that is, to give them a modern take.
So, for example, one of the hors d’oeuvres was miniature corn dogs. But these dogs were made of kobe beef, which explains why I didn’t get that hot dog repeat action when I tasted it. I haven’t had a hot dog in more than 20 years, but the chef de cuisine, Brad, handed one to me after they were cooked, and everyone, including Chef Jason, was standing there watching. I felt obligated to taste it. But it wasn’t bad. Anyway, for that hors d’oeuvre, I cut up the hot dogs and skewered them on lollipop sticks, which I’d split in half for little mini munchies. Although, mixing the batter for the dipping of the dogs was the easiest thing I did all night, the frying was probably the most complicated because the Fryolater decided to be difficult on this night. Thankfully, I was not the one doing the frying.
The housemade ketchup was a flavorful sauce that was definitely a notch up from the store stuff. It was a nice balance of acid, sweet, and tomato flavor, and everyone was treated to a jar on their way out (I made sure to grab one for myself, too). The “pot roast” was actually short ribs, doughnuts were filled with fig jam, and…well, I really don’t know what the foie gras was supposed to represent but it was the focal point of a “PB&J”—it was served with a peanut purée, toast crumbs, and strawberry gelée. The Nutella powder on the seared scallops was another nod to childhood delights but served in an entirely new medium.
One hors d’oeuvre that was not on the menu was the deep-fried eggs. These eggs were soft-boiled, just until the whites were set, and I helped to very carefully peel them. This was a difficult task because they were truly just barely set and, therefore, so fragile that they broke open very easily. The other volunteer rolled them in flour, dipped them in beaten eggs, and coated them in panko breadcrumbs, and laid them out on a sheet pan. Later, they got lowered into Fryolater for a crisping. At that point, the hope was that they would not break in the oil. When diners cut into them, they got a yolky treat. Personally, I’m not a fan of runny yolks, but many people are and (I suppose) that was a delightful surprise for them.
I so wanted to try the pretzel rolls with mustard butter, but they all went like hot cakes. They were served as dinner rolls at the table but were made from pretzel dough, and the mustard was in place of butter. Needless to say, they were a big hit. They looked soooo good, too. Damn.
Probably the favorite part of the meal for most people was the soup course. This was Creamy Tomato–Goat’s Milk Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons and Micro-Basil, which was served in Campbell soup cans. No, really. The soup from the cans was dumped and was replaced with the homemade soup. I made the croutons, which I made really small to fit into the cans comfortably. The idea was to put a whimsical twist on an old favorite; people seemed to enjoy the whimsy.
The pre-dessert (which was a new concept for me) was a real throwback to after-school treats with a strawberry milkshake and jelly doughnut, and the dessert course was a holiday memory made up of Sticky Toffee Pudding with Gingerbread and Eggnog Ice Cream.
His wine director is Tricia LaCount, a really sweet person who mixed up some wild elixirs to accompany the menu. The most intriguing of her concoctions was the Amarena Cherry–Infused Vodka with Amarena Cherry and Peanut Butter Powder, which was essentially a liquid peanut butter and jelly sandwich (with a kick, of course). And the lingering flavor in the mouth really was like I’d just eaten a PB&J. I really would’ve loved to try her other drinks—especially the Chocolate Martini with Giant Marshmallow—but she had set up her bar in the atrium, removed from the kitchen, and I just didn’t have the time to chase anything down, so to speak.
And so went my last James Beard event. I walked out happy, proud, relieved, and sad. I really am proud of my work there and despite moments of sheer depression over things that I’d done not quite right, I think I did most things right. I’m going to look back on this experience fondly and, hopefully, as the start of a whole new chapter of my life.
Kobe Corn Dogs with Housemade Ketchup
Deviled Eggs with Tuna Tartare and Olive Tapenade
Buttermilk-Fried Chicken Fingers
The Anorexic Model — Pierre Ferrand Cognac with Lychee Bubbles, St. Germain, and Berry Garnish
For the Table — Pretzel Rolls and Mustard Butter
Caesar Salad with Crispy Egg, White Anchovies, Crème Fraîche Dressing, and Pickled Onions
Krupp Brothers Chardonnay 2009
Pan-Seared Scallops with Slab Bacon, Tabasco-Soaked Cherries, Nutella Powder, and Maple Aïoli
Krupp Brothers Black Bart’s Bride 2007
Creamy Tomato—Goat’s Milk Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons and Micro-Basil
Krupp Brothers Black Bart’s Bounty Syrah 2007
Foie Gras PB&J with Peanut Purée, Toast Crumbs, and Strawberry Gelée
I Know I Jamm Jamm — Amarena Cherry—Infused Vodka with Amarena Cherry and Peanut Butter Powder
Pot Roast with Carrot Purée, Blue Potatoes, Onion Ring Salad, and Horseradish
Krupp Brothers The Doctor 2007
Milkshake—Fig Jelly Doughnuts with Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Gingerbread, Eggnog Ice Cream, and Micro-Celery
Blonde Afro Puff — Chocolate Martini with Giant Marshmallow
Day 9: Chef Ron Eyester, Rosebud, Atlanta, GA
Day 9 of my internship was non-stop. I began working almost immediately and it seemed like I never stopped. There was no break to speak of, although food was brought in to munch on as we worked.
Chef Ron Esyester has a little bit of a reputation. He created an alter ego for Twittering and called himself “The Angry Chef.” It was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek vehicle for venting his frustrations with the biz. Eatocracy, CNN’s food blog, invited him to do a blog, called “Six ways customers tick off chefs,” and he was skewered by commenters who did everything from calling him names to sending him death threats.
I asked him if he really tells off his customers. He said, “I’m not afraid to let customers know what’s on my mind. I’m of the belief that the customer is not always right. But I do believe that a guest is a guest.” (I hope he realizes that I was just kidding by asking him that!)
But that doesn’t seem to really be him. In fact, I didn’t find him to be angry at all. On the contrary, he was very even-tempered and quite patient with me, even when I wasn’t sure about how to do something. And he’s quite involved in philanthropic activities: he volunteers at local schools, serves on the board of a local farmer’s market, and donates meals to firefighters on Thanksgiving.
But he definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer. He infuses his work with humor and a tongue-in-cheekery that reflects his non-traditional path in the culinary world: he didn’t go to culinary school—he went to The Citadel, a military college, and received a degree in Literature. And when another volunteer and I called him “Chef,” as we were taught to do in school, he told us to just called him Ron, that he couldn’t stand the whole “Chef” thing. In fact, everyone to him is “brother” or “sister,” as in, “How’s that salad coming, sister?” and “Can you take care of this for me, brother?” His menu is an example of his down-to-earth style: the beverage selection is called “stuff to drink,” the eggs on the brunch menu is “stuff with eggs,” and the favorites list on the brunch menu is “stuff regulars eat.” The pricing of the available wines are described as “cheap,” “decent,” and “good.” He is a believer in locavore eating, something he picked up from his former boss, Scott Crawford, who came to assist him the night of the Beatles dinner.
He’s very into music and got this idea from a Jerry Garcia dinner he did a couple of years ago. In fact, he has different ideas for combining music and food. To him, they are often (if not always) intertwined. For example, he found himself so well prepared, that he had time to devised an extra hors d’oeuvre—a soup shooter, which he concocted from the poaching liquid from the haddock (see menu below). He called this “Beatles Bisque,” and commented that it’s like an encore after a concert—a little extra something. We had music going in the kitchen all day long, from (of course) the Beatles to the Band to James Brown. One of the JBF staff who came in said, “It’s like a jam session in here.” I sang my way through dinner that night.
By the end of the night, I was showing my work on my physical being: I was covered in chocolate from the dessert and smelled fishy. One of the things he had me do was to make a roux, which I whisked into an oyster soup, which got on my hands; I trimmed and chopped scallops; later, I removed the little suction cups from the tentacles of several octopi; then, I chopped anchovies; and during dinner service, I poured the impromptu “Beatles Bisque.” By the time I left the JB House, I had a somewhat oceanic aroma about me. I think a couple of cats tried to follow me home.
On the other hand, oysters and chocolate are considered aphrodisiacs, so it could have been a worse combination.
I’ve never heard of anyone removing the suction cups from octopus tentacles, and that was definitely a new experience. My favorite task that evening was cutting up and cooking mushrooms. But I’m talking about a HUGE pot of mushrooms. The pot I used was a rondeau, which a child could take a bath in. Seriously. The mushrooms were for the Braised Mushroom Manicotti with Lightly Pickled Leeks, Lamb Jus, and Midnight Moon Cheese, and it was a combination of cremini, king, shiitake, enoke, and trumpet mushrooms, plus a black mushroom that I had never seen before (and neglected to ask about). They were foraged and were mixed with leaves, twigs, and rocks that I had to pick out. But what a gorgeous mixture of fungus! Part of the dessert was a pistachio cream, which I made using the fabulous Vitamix blender (one of my fantasy toys). It was so smooth and delicious, I fell in love with it. It’s going to be my new dessert topper. You can see more photos HERE.
You say you want a revolution? Well, you know… Okay, I don’t know where I’m going with this Beatles song reference, so here’s the menu:
Beatles Tribute Dinner
I Am the Walrus — Scallion-Baked Eggs with Milk-Poached Haddock and Cornflake Crostini
Eleanor Rigby — Carolina Rice Fritters with Dates and Curried Honey
Penny Lane — Fish’n’Chips with Potato Gaufrettes, Onion Crème Fraîche, and White Anchovies
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away — Spaghetti and Nantucket Cape Scallop Egg Roll
Lamberti Extra Dry Prosecco NV
Octopus’s Garden — Chilled Octopus with Baby Fennel, White Beans, Borage Cress, and Citrus–Oyster Vinaigrette
Conti Formentini Pinot Grigio 2010
Magical Mystery Tour — Braised Mushroom Manicotti with Lightly Pickled Leeks, Lamb Jus, and Midnight Moon Cheese
La Scolca Pinot Nero 2008
And Your Bird Can Sing — English Tea–Braised White Oak Pastures Chicken with Georgia Grits, Olives, and Natural Jus
Museum Tempranillo Crianza 2008
Piggies — Crispy Pork Cutlet with Mean Mr. Mustard–Bacon Sauerkraut and Lemon and Honey–Marinated Dried Apricots
Hugel Riesling 2009
The Ballad of John and Yoko — Buttermilk–Chocolate Cake with Pistachio Purée and High Road Craft White Chocolate–Toffee Crunch Ice Cream
Churchill’s 20-Year-Old Tawny Porto NV
Day 7 of my internship at the James Beard House was called “Champagne Elegance” and was headed by Chef Todd Hogan, Executive Chef of Indigo in Roswell, GA. Chef Todd’s menu was a French-inspired blend of easy-to-love modern classics, such as fava bean hummus, to more daring plates, such as Corn-Dusted Smelts with Lemon Aïoli (almost whole except for the head and tail) and Veal Rib-Eye with Bacon–Onion Marmalade, Fiddlehead Ferns, and Fried Chanterelles.
Chef Todd’s demeanor throughout the day was calm, cool, and collected. Even when I screwed up. Which made sense after he told me that he had been an instructor at Johnson & Wales University, one of the best culinary schools in the U.S.
I was put to the task of slices gaufrettes on the mandoline. (Graufette is just a fancy French name for waffle fries. Well, technically, gaufrettes are dessert waffles, something like Italian pizzelles. Gaufrettes pommes de terre are waffle fries— pommes de terre being “potatoes.”) Anyway, Chef was concerned about the size and shape of the potatoes so he had one of his crew slice the potatoes while I laid them out on a sheet pan and then helped brush each one with browned butter. They were then put in the oven to crisp up like chips. Unfortunately, they baked unevenly and some of them burned. Chef decided that they were burning where the butter was dabbed on (as opposed to being brushed on).
I’m not entirely convinced that this was my fault. First, I wasn’t the only one brushing on the butter; second, the gaufrettes were so thin and fragile that to run the brush across them without destroying them was almost impossible; third, one tray burned entirely—and quite evenly—which means they were just in too long. Whatever the case was, I felt terrible and I apologized, because I was a part of the whole thing. But Chef just said to stop with the butter and to spray the rest of the potatoes with cooking spray, which helped them bake more evenly.
The next task I was given was to make sweet potato pancakes. The pancakes in my first batch were too fat. Then they were too small. Then the grill got really hot and they started to burn. Then I was flattening them too much. It seemed that I just couldn’t get them right. Enough of them came out well, but I was getting pretty frustrated there for a while. On the plus side, I used a flat-top grill for the first time and learned how to cool it down when it gets too hot.
This evening proved my theory that you can do something a million times, but it’s when they’re watching that you screw up. C’est la vie.
On a sad note, Chef Todd’s restaurant, Indigo, sustained a fire recently. Hogan considered the possibility of canceling his James Beard gig but decided that they needed to soldier on and do something that would make them feel good. I said, “And here I come along and screw up the sweet potato pancakes.” They were very nice about it, and Chef Deborah Willyard, Chef Todd’s assistant for the day, told me to “Stop that!” It’s a life-long habit I have of beating myself up, and I’m working on stopping it. (Chef Deborah, by the way, has a catering business in Marietta, GA, called Blue Dragonfly Catering. I love the name and told her so.)
One nice aspect of the evening was that one of my classmates, Elena, came to have dinner with her boyfriend. It was really nice to see her and I was glad to cook for one of my peeps. Once again, I’m hoping to get some professional photos, but for now, here’s my gallery.
Here’s the menu:
Hot-Smoked Lamb Loin with Sweet Potato Cake and Spicy Tomato Jam
Corn-Dusted Smelts with Lemon Aïoli
Fava Bean Hummus with Black Truffle Pâté
Housemade Duck Prosciutto with Blackberry Conserve and Bleu de Chèvre
Iron Horse Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2008
Duck Confit–Goat Cheese Napoleon with Crispy Potato Gaufrettes and Meyer Lemon–Infused 25-Star Balsamic Glaze
Iron Horse Vineyards Russian Cuvée 2006
Double Beef and Thyme Consommé with Short Rib–Butternut Squash Dumpling
Iron Horse Vineyards Classic Vintage Brut 2006
Baby Arugula with Warm Walnut Morbier, Dried Apricots, Red Onions, and Orange Blossom–White Balsamic Glacé
Iron Horse Vineyards Wedding Cuvée 2007
Veal Rib-Eye with Bacon–Onion Marmalade, Fiddlehead Ferns, and Fried Chanterelles
Iron Horse Vineyards Ocean Reserve 2005
Farmhouse Pear Tarte Tatin with Drunken Fig Gelato
Drambuie Caramel Milkshake