Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Ingredients

Today isn't too busy so we decided to start playing around with some new ingredients that I just got in. The new ingredients that we used were "agar agar" and "egg white powder". I got the ingredients from a website called which offers a wide variety of molecular ingredients and ways to use them. I wanted to play around with a classic dish called "Baked Alaska" which is pound cake and ice cream and covered with torched meringue. I started with a macadamia pound cake and placed a salt pineapple cube on top. I made a pineapple gel using the agar agar and also made a pineapple ginger meringue using the egg white powder. The egg white powder was mixed with sugar, powdered ginger, and pineapple juice and whipped until stiff peaks were formed. I topped the cube of salt pineapple with the meringue and torched it golden brown. The agar agar was mixed with pineapple juice and brought to a boil before allowing to gel at room temperature. The final dish was garnished with some kiwi puree and looked really nice. The only area that needs some more work is the salt pineapple. I need to figure out some barrier to prevent the salt from overpowering the sweet pineapple while it bakes in the oven. I decided to give this dish a new name and call it "Baked Hawaii".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Like Clockwork

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are enjoying the bountiful food displays and family gatherings around the world. I personally have been in the kitchen today serving everlasting portions of food to a large amount of people. We started with 1,100 people on the reservation list for our Thanksgiving Brunch and finished with 1,015. We cooked 85 turkeys, 25 new york striploins, 150# of salmon, and 200# of mashed potatoes. The best part of the day is the resort has been doing this brunch for so many years that it runs like clockwork. The toughest shift to work is from 4am-10am because number 1 it's way to early and second your getting ready for the brunch and cooking in an extremely cold kitchen (remember that it's Colorado in November and actually snowing right now). I'm glad that I didn't have to work the morning shift, instead I worked came in at 10am and will stay to make sure that it all gets closed down properly. I've worked in a few other hotels that did major holiday brunches with 1,500 people, but never worked in one that ran this organized. Since I've been here the past two years, I've really picked up some serious organizational skills to aid in executing a large party. I'm now sitting down enjoying a some nutmeg spiced pumpkin pie and molasses brined turkey that we worked on earlier this week. I hope that everyone is partaking in this joyous occasion and savoring the memories of all the goodness that food brings.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving,
Chef Brother

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Pressure Cooker"

Last Friday, I went to the Denver Film Festival to check out a new documentary called "Pressure Cooker" produced by Jennifer Grausman. The film was based on the growth of some inner kids that became involved in a non-profit organization called "C-cap". This program works with inner city schools in numerous cities across the country by helping students and teachers consider the hospitality industry as a career path. They give the students a chance to change their lives by awarding culinary scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $80,000. Since they started this program in 1990, C-cap has awarded over $25 million in culinary scholarships. Each year they host culinary competitions that take undeserved students through a rigorous cycle of essay writing, cooking techniques, interviews, and stressful situations. This film took you into the world of Mrs. Stephenson's culinary program in Philadelphia at Frankford High School. She was tougher than any chef I've ever worked for and truly cared about the students she was teaching. The film focused on 3 students that were trying to make their way out of some bad situations and better themselves for the future. It was an inspirational documentary that followed these students and their teacher from the first day of school to the end of the year where they had clearly made a change about their outlook on life. I was touched by this film because it hit really close to home as I had been one of those students during my senior year of high school . Mr. Richard Grausman (who is the president of the organization) asked me to come view the film and give my opinion since I had been through the program and made my own way out of a bad situation. After I participated in the C-cap program, I was awarded a scholarship to the Art Institute of Phoenix. C-cap is a family that gives chances to students who are willing take advantage of an opportunity and build their own futures for the better. I don't know where I would have been if they hadn't given me a chance to change my lifestyle and stop making some bad decisions that could have ended with serious consequences. I cannot wait for the film to make a debut to the public and start to share this inspirational story that each year students re-write for themselves. Make sure to look out for "Pressure Cooker" next year and watch it if you get the chance, it's well worth it. If you want to really see what C-cap is about make sure to check out their website.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lobster & White Chocolate

This was a dish that took some time to figure out how these two would work without overpowering each other. I tried make a butter sauce with white chocolate but it had way too much fat and kept breaking. I didn't want to lose the natural sweetness of the lobster by using the wrong cooking procedure. Eventually the inspiration came from Thomas Keller's technique for cooking lobster by melting butter in it's emulsified form. I've used the technique in the past for resting meat or making sauces, so I knew it worked and made sense for this dish. I started by bringing 1 Tbl of water to a boil and slowly whisking in chunks of chilled whole butter over medium heat. Once the emulsification occured I added some shallots, lemon zest, sea salt, and white chocolate. This technique works perfect because the ideal temperature for holding is 185 degrees and ideal for poaching. I sliced the lobster into 1" coins and poached them for a few minutes. By using this cooking method, the lobster not only picks up the sweet flavor of white chocolate but also shares the salty ocean flavor. I still need to work on the other components of this plate, but the highlighted white chocolate lobster is going to be memorable.

Rabbit Terrine on Carrot Air

This was a fun dish to play with because I'm stuffed on rabbit and bacon. For the terrine, I cleaned a rabbit and ground it up with some applewood smoked bacon. After it had been ground fine and pureed with some heavy cream in a food processor, I added some colorful garnish. Chopped parsley, crushed juniper berries, grated carrot, shallots, garlic, sea salt, and white pepper. I placed the mixture in a plastic wrap lined rectangle terrine mold and covered with foil. I then cooked it in a water bath for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. I allowed it to come to room temperature before weighing it down with a few cans overnight in the cooler to shape the form. For the Carrot Air I played around with an "El Bulli" recipe and found a variation. I juiced 5 large carrots and grated some fresh ginger into a saucepan. I added a small pinch of soy lecithin and heated until the emulsifier had dissolved. After straining the mixture, I used an immersion blender to create a foam that was bright orange and held up for an extremely long time. With a piece of toasted bread, the carrot air, rabbit terrine, and fresh chervil I'd say this is a winner for a James Beard hors d'oeurve.

Foie Gras Stuffed Fig

So my New York trip is less than a month away for James Beard House and I'm working hard on my dishes. I started working on my foie gras stuffed fig last week and finally reached a satisfactory result. I've decided that making a mousse works best for flavor and texture with the fig. I poach the foie in a sweet white wine until slightly warm inside and allow to cool. Once it has marinated in the chilled wine, I puree it in a food processor with a little cream and season with some fine sea salt. The fig is partially hollowed out from the bottom and filled with the mousse. I allow it to set up in the cooler for awhile before cutting in half and showing off the beautiful center. I will be posting pictures in the next few days of each dish.