Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shooting for the (blue) stars

Big gig on Saturday. A full day of cooking for a crowd- a room full of people who were made aware of the menu ahead of time. Curious foodies with amazing kitchens, who watch Hell's Kitchen, subscribe to Cooks Illustrated, have opulent dinner parties, and know food well. I was intimidated, to say the least, as I drove to Lebanon. My purpose was not only to feed some very food aware people, but to use a specific oven range to do all of my cooking: Blue Star. I will admit, it was the best range I have ever had the pleasure of using. That gave me some confidence, but I was in plain site of everyone who would be eating what I made. They asked a lot of questions and they were simply delightful. Bob Gerlack, the owner, may be one of the few people I know who's passion for food rivals my own. We shared recipes all day. A better situation could not have been created by my own hands.

All of this wouldn't have been possible without the help of my friend Katie Farrell. Katie designs kitchens and bathrooms and she excels at this. She also recently turned 30 and I had the pleasure of catering her shin-dig. After that day-long fete, Katie had been gracious in sharing the news of my talents with her co-workers and clients. It wasn't long before Bob called me, curious if I was free to do a customer brunch at their location. I jumped at the chance. We had a great seasonal menu with varied tastes for all palates:

Apple Stuffed French Toast

I made the French toast with cinnamon raisin bread. The egg mixture had some light cream, cinnamon and nutmeg in it. I put them on the griddle and when finished, layered them with the next two elements.

I sauteed some McIntosh apples in unsalted butter and cinnamon. Simple. 

For the syrup, I went super sweet. Equal parts corn syrup (not *high fructose* corn syrup) and brown sugar. Then I added some chopped pecans. Once it hit temperature, I poured it over the toast. Then a layer of apple, then more toast, then more syrup, etc. This was a huge hit and the layers made for a very pretty presentation. Be sure to keep this offering warm, or the syrup might turn to candy!

Sweet Potato and Turkey Hash

I love this combination. So simple, but so delicious! I diced some onion and garlic and sauteed that in just a bit of unsalted butter. Then I added cubed sweet potatoes and let them sit and steam themselves for a while. when they were getting close to soft, I threw some turkey breast on the griddle seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic. When it was just about done, I chopped it up and threw it in to the potatoes and let the two make friends for a few minutes. This dish went the fastest and I wasn't too surprised by that.

Pumpkin Bisque

I love pumpkin bisque and it seems like everywhere I get a chance to have some the end result is drastically different than any other I've tried. The formula, however, can be really simple. Some onion and chicken stock, pureed pumpkin and heavy cream. Cinnamon and nutmeg add another level of flavor. For added effect, I mixed up some creme fraiche with more cinnamon and a table spoon of brown sugar. So easy, but so fun to make and even more fun to eat.

Mini Cannolis

My little cheat with these is that I buy the mini shells. I could make them, but they're so labor intensive. Instead, I make the filling- that's the best part, anyway. Ricotta cheese, I add mascarpone cheese, confectioners sugar, some vanilla, and BANG! Filling. I like adding some cocoa powder to a separate batch for a nice chocolaty option. I dumped the filling into two gallon plastic bags so I could pipe it into the shells. These are fun to scarf down with a group of people. They carry well and mean minimal mess- kind of important in a kitchen show room. 

We had Mexican food when I got home. We had some friends over, Allie made chorizo nachos, for which she *made* her own blue corn tortilla chips, and Hanna made a phenomenal maple cake that I couldn't stop eating. My darling husband did the cooking on our behalf and knocked some grass-fed beef quesadillas right out of the park. All of that coupled with LOTS of champagne? That's a great Saturday night. 

It's a beautiful life. I'm thrilled for all of this to really get rolling. Need a chef? Don't hesitate to reach out to me. I love what I do and I love to share it. Great food is meant to be shared.

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