Category: chef life

T Minus Countdown

Ok everyone, so it’s the last official day before we officially start serving the general public with their opinions and their impressions and their reviews.  Am I nervous?  I would say terrified is more appropriate of a feeling.  Am I starting out with safe desserts?  Crowd pleasers that are tried, tested, and true?  Well, no, obviously.  That would be too easy.  There is risk involved, there is a good chance of failure.

Things not helping my anxiety:  the boys are killing it with their dishes and their execution.  These are professionals with professional tongues.  Every time I taste the food, my ego is like “what the fuck are you doing here?”  I have wanted this for a very long time, I have worked very hard to get here. I have the training, the education, the creativity, the work ethic, the vision, yet still, I feel unprepared, and no amount of work will make me feel prepared.  After a 6 month build up, and 3 weeks of work til you drop, the focus of a med school student, I still feel like a wet lost dog.

Thanks for listening everyone, see you on the hot side of the counter.

Seeing Tres

 

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Early summer’s rendition of 3 leches:

Lemon-poppy seed cake with buttermilk added to the traditional three milk soak, rhubarb preserves, fresh market strawberries, confit lemon, strawberry chantilly, violet meringue.

Light and bright like spring’s glorious rays warming up our frosty skin, delicate like those first flowers brave enough to poke out of the hard ground, melts in your mouth like fresh spun cotton candy.

Flavors mimic a sweet tart candy, just sour enough to make you crave another subtly sweet bite.  A disappearing crunch, a creamy cloud texture, a cartwheel of flavors to carry you home.

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Coming Attraction

Prototype week at work means taste testing and tweaking.  Its time for the early summer dessert menu to sprout its warm weather wears.  Spoiler alert: everything must contain a berry.  Its berry season and I must exploit this seasonal ingredient fully.  We are all very impatient to have fresh food again, and I anxious to use fruit!

One example of lessons studied this week:

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The quarto chocolate is almost ready to hit the plates, it just need to be refined a bit more.  What’s on the inside you ask?  What exactly is it? Well, you are just going to have to wait and see…

Spring Remodel

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Black Bottom Brazilian Cheesecake, Violet Meringue, Rhubarb

 

Forging for spring ingredients,

Feeling frantic for bright flavors,

Inspired by natural colors

Enrobed with the love of chocolate

Somehow we find a way to wait patiently for the spring produce to pop.

 

 

Rice Pudding Parfait

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This rendition of the classic rice pudding dessert truly highlight the humble grain of rice.

It’s a rice on rice concept, one that makes the most out of one ingredient.  The rice is cooked in horchata-  a Latin American drink made from water soaked in rice, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. This flavor is highlighted by first toasting the rice in the horchata and in the rice pudding itself.

The dish is served with candied almonds, to bring out the almond flavor in the horachata, to match the toasted flavor in the rice, to add a necessary crunch to the mushy pudding.

The horchata rice pudding, rice on rice custard, is also served with diced raw banana and a caramel sauce made from Guanabara beer- A Brazilian Imperial stout made with raw cane sugar.  The caramel sauce is additionally sweetened with raw cane sugar- in this instance piloncillo, a Mexican version that is readily available.  The banana and beer go great together, each drawing out the flavors of one another.  The grain of the beer pairs well with the toasted rice, unifying all the flavors.

To further draw out the raw sugar flavors present in the beer, and the natural sweetness of the banana, the horchata rice pudding is sweetened with demerara sugar- it’s like sugar in the raw but just slightly less processed, having a nice raw flavor to it.  The only processed white sugar in the dish is presented in the candied almonds- here it is necessary because the almonds are caramelized slightly, and this can only be done with a purified sugar else it will burn.

This dish is finished off with long, thin crisps made from almond meal, banana purée, and rice flour to add height and another crunch dimension.

This dish is presented in layers in a parfait style to give class to this common food item, to showcase the subtle flavors that all tie together nicely to highlight the simple grain of rice.

A Good Day To Eat

So many tasty things went into my mouth today, and the ironic thing is, that this is me trying very hard to eat healthy, to get ready for summer by watching the foods I consume.

Breakfast:  Green Curry Soup.  Yeah that’s right, green curry soup.  No it was not leftovers, I purposefully cooked that this morning for no other reason than that is what I wanted.  I like soup for breakfast, its hot and satisfying. If you have stock on hand, which I do because I work in a commercial kitchen and there is always no less than 12 quarts lying about, and you keep it veg (or use quick cooking meats like chicken and/or bacon), the time commitment is minimal.  Chop some veg, sauté in butter, and the spice, the stock, coconut, cook until the potatoes are done, about 20 min.  In that time you make a list, set up you station, then you are ready to sip down as much soup as you like while starting out the day.

Lunch:  Family style served at the restaurant for the staff.  Today’s lunch included kale salad with poblano buttermilk dressing, radishes and pumpkin seeds, tomato soup, mashed potatoes and chicken with gravy.

Dinner: a late night dinner that used many leftover ingredients in the fridge.  Arugula salad with strawberries (going bad, mind as well mince them up) with olives and crushed cashews, dressed in fresh lemon and olive oil.  Pan fried flounder (in the freezer, wild caught from Aldi) topped with a sauce made from onion, cumin, tomatoes, mushrooms, and coconut cream.

Today was a good day.  Its times like this that I look forward to tomorrow, and all the deliciousness it holds.

3 Leche Spring

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Because the concept of the 3 leche cake- a Latin American iconic confection, a cake soaked with 3 types of milk until soggy, is limited to white cake and milk soak.  I love this concept and I want to build upon this classic dessert with a curious twist, with fanciful flavors, and whimsical undertones.

In this rendition, I made a cajeta sweetened cake (cajeta is goat’s milk and sugar cooked down to a caramel flavor and consistency- when it is cooking it fills the entire restaurant with the scent of snickerdoodle cookies.  This is a heavenly smell and produces an equally heavenly end product) that is then soaked with the traditional 3 leches, but with goat’s milk replacing the cream, and further fortified with chocolate to make a unique chocolate milk soak.  This lightly sweet, slightly chocolaty and caramel cake is served with Brazil nut streusel (for crunch and a nice nut flavor that resembles the Macadamia nut), acai purée (a small dark purple berry valued for its high nutritional content and subtle blueberry flavor), candied cocoa nibs (a pure form of chocolate) to enhance the chocolate notes in the dish, and cajeta chantilly (whip cream sweetened with cajeta) to balanced out the heavy liquid with a cloud like aura.

This dish is reflective of the season.  This is a spring dish in the ingredients used, the textures represented, and the earthy presentation.  This dish is modeled after the soggy spring, with lush, muddy ground waiting to sprout new growth.  The chocolate soak mimics the wet and fertile ground.  The streusel mimics broken up, freshly tilled soil in appearance and texture.  Because of limited local seasonal availability,  I used the hard to source acai berry to add a fruity flavor that interacts very well with the established flavors of the cake.  Early spring, right off winter, is the season to focus on frozen and preserved foods, and highlight them in the menu when you have the chance to search to globe for ingredients.  If you are going to use a frozen product, you mind as well use one that invokes curiosity and is not readily available to the average person.

Finally the whipped cream adds such a soft touch, light as the spring’s warmth, to round of the overall mouth feel.  The flavors are not too bold, except for the tiny explosion of flavor in the cocoa nibs- as a final lasting impression.

 

 

Geometrical Patterns

Ok, ok so if art is breaking the rules, that means that you take something that you normally try to avoid and twist it around some so that the negative becomes something you embrace, transforming in the bad into the good.

Today’s topics: crystallization.    This is the reorganization/unstable transformation of the structure of a substance, normally making it an inferior/subpar quality.  Primary examples include: butter once it has melted, does not solidify the same, chocolate will bloom if it has not been properly melted down, ice cream will get gritty if ice crystals form from the latent water content.

Granite, or shaved ice, has been around for a long time.  This technique takes a solid frozen confection, then shaves the ice block to form a slushie.  This takes advantage of the ice crystals to create a both a liquid and a solid, both a wet and a textured product.

This method is a precursor to ice cream, a continually rotated while freezing invention, where the solidifying happens at such a small scale, that when initially frozen, this product is still a liquid (think soft serve ice cream)

What I need to focus on is the beauty of naturally occurring ice patterns.  These are highly visually appealing, perfectly symmetrical, yet all so unique.  Normally this is avoided, but what if I purposely form these as a decoration?

 

 

 

Dissecting Microscopic Details

What I like about working with a controlled and highly selective area of cooking is that it really lets you dive into the diversity of a singular resource.  For example, I use many different kinds of sweeteners in my dishes.  I resort to refined white sugar only when necessary when make a caramel or meringue when you absolutely need pure sugar for the process to be successful.  Other than that, I use all sorts of raw, unrefined, fruit sourced, and naturally occurring sweeteners to add a unique flavor profile that highlights the quintessential sweet sensation of the last course.  My desserts are not just sweet, they are interesting, which in turn makes them memorable.

I have been thinking a lot about alternative fat resources, which includes using coconut oil a lot more.  Bacon has a been a recent dessert phenomenon, a movement which I have embraced, but what about other animal fats?  Sheep, cow, duck?

I have also been thinking about how yeast can affect the flavors of the final product. Baking yeast is highly commercialized, serving a function more than a flavor.  You increase the yeasty flavor with time- as in sour dough and fermented yeast, but think about how brewers use different strands of yeast to change a define a flavor of their brew?  Can I do that with baking?  With bread?  With cake?  Crossings, brioche, muffins, doughnuts?