Saturday, January 23, 2010

ON FOOD: Local chef's cooking classes pack 'em in

I recently taught a cooking class on our new restaurant concept "Colorado Fusion" and was fortunate to receive a great review from the local foodie of Colorado Springs. Please take a second and read this week's food section about my class:

January 21, 2010 9:55 AM

Brother Luck is like a rock star when he teaches classes at Chefs Catalog. He never lacks for a full class.“I had enough on the waiting list to fill another class,” said Kathleen Weintraub, culinary specialist for Chefs Catalog who coordinates the classes. It’s no wonder. Luck, the executive sous chef at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, has taken the local culinary scene by storm, winning several chef competitions. And he has introduced an exciting new à la carte menu at the resort. The restaurant has had a great reputation for its buffets. Now it’s going to build a reputation for its order-off-the-menu option.“That’s my baby,” Luck told the class, referring to the new menu. “Tonight, I’m going to show you some of the new dishes.”

The theme of the class was Colorado Fusion, the style of food he is preparing for the new menu.“The fun part of the Colorado Fusion menu is it has lots of different spices,” he said.

Most of the recipes he taught us featured spicy chiles — Spicy Goat Cheese Dip, Poblano Cheddar Soup, Jalapeño Ice Cream. And there were enough cooking tips and interesting new ingredients introduced to keep foodies of all levels enthralled.“One thing I want to be sure of is that you can go shopping and find all the ingredients I use this evening,” he said. “I had a man from a class call me, wondering where to find passion fruit puree. I don’t want that to happen again.”

The number-one tip for working with hot chiles, like jalapeños, he said, is to remove the seeds and white membrane inside the pod.“Then chop the pepper very finely,” he said. “You don’t want to kill someone with a big bite of hot pepper.”

The first recipe he made was the ice cream.“It takes the longest to get chilled, so it can be churned,” he said.Then he whipped up the Spicy Goat Cheese Dip, possibly the best thing I’ve tasted in a long time. And why not? With three types of cheese zipped up with smoky chipotle in adobo sauce and heated until smooth and creamy, this dip is one recipe that I’ll be making often. Another tip for the dip: Use Alouette herb cheese.“You can buy it at any grocery store and it already has great flavor,” he said.The next recipe, and one I adored, was the Poblano Cheddar Soup.“Making soup is about building flavors,” he said.

And his tip for making sure the Cheddar cheese melts smoothly? “Toss the cheese in cornstarch,” he said. “That will protect the fat so it stays creamy and smooth.”He surprised us with a new-to-me ingredient: huitlacoche (wheet-lah-KOH-chay).“It’s corn truffle in Mexico,” he said. “Farmers here call it smut.”The nickname wasn’t surprising after he opened the can. Its contents were sort of disgusting looking: blackish gray and slimy.According to inmamas, huitlacoche is the edible fungus on corn. It has an earthy, delicate flavor. Luck sautéed it with onion, garlic and some other spices to use as a coating on salmon. Whatever you want to call huitlacoche, I call it delicious. You can buy it at Hispanic stores.

Ghost Chilies

One of the best parts of cooking is the unlimited number of new ingredients. Our pastry chef brought in some "Dried Ghost Chilies" for me to use and I have no idea what to do with them. As you can see, my first precaution was to put on some gloves before touching them. They are ranked as the hottest chilies on the planet according to Guinness World Records and are used to ward off elephants by grinding into a paste and rubbing on the outer city walls in countries like India. I ask myself after reading this, "who would want to eat such a thing". Maybe this is the difference between ordering your curry 1-10. Besides playing a practical joke on someone, my culinary mind is currently blank when considering possible uses. If anyone has any experience or suggestions, feel free to leave them on my comments section.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Raw Food Luncheon

The first Charlie Trotter book that I ever read was called "Raw". I had gone to the book store before work that night and wanted to gain some inspiration from some of the new cookbooks, a really cost effective way to decide if you want to buy them. I was blown away at the high level of cooking this book offered and the pictures were amazing. The book was based on a cuisine called the "raw food diet". The diet was exactly that, everything you eat is raw and nothing is heated above 118 degrees to ensure that the natural nutrients are preserved. Today I was challenged to create a small luncheon based around this concept. Creating a meal from only raw foods is extremely challenging and my chef hat goes off to anyone who manages to stay true to this lifestyle. I did four different dishes that were all within the raw guidelines. I started the meal with a pickled vegetable salad with asparagus, fennel, carrots, radishes, beets, and bell peppers. The next course was raw cauliflower cakes with heirloom tomato and watercress salad. The main course is salt cured salmon with jalapeno, jicama, and cucumber avocado puree. I finished the meal with a pineapple springroll filled with honey, pecans, mango, pear, and berries. I am glad to have taken on this educational challenge and learn a few new tricks when approached about raw "cooking".

Friday, January 1, 2010

Cinnamon Peach Empanada with Jalapeno Ice Cream

It seems as if I'm in some sort of dessert mode lately and the calories are killing me for it. This dessert is something that I created for an upcoming cooking class that I'm teaching on 1/11/10 about "Colorado Fusion" cuisine. The concept is based on utilizing Colorado ingredients with a southwestern flare. An empanada is a simple thing to make and I personally enjoy using puff pastry for the flaky texture and deep golden color. The peaches are diced and tossed in spices, corn starch, sugar, and lemon juice. Simply fold the pastry over the peaches and crimp the edges with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. The jalapeno ice cream is a nice surprise because it's extremely subtle with a hint of spice at the end. The lime zest that has been grated into the ice cream creates a balanced flavor between the chile and vanilla bean. Placing a scoop of jalapeno ice cream on top of the warm peach empanada fresh out the oven makes it a symphony of hot and cold textures. I'm seriously considering placing this dish on the dessert menu this spring so please try the recipes and tell me what you think.
Cinnamon Peach Empanadas
2 Tbl Cornstarch
½ cup Granulated Sugar
¼ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch Salt
6 ea Peaches (peeled, seeded, chopped)
2 Tbl Lemon Juice
2 sheets Puff Pastry
¼ cup Egg Wash

Procedure: Toss the cornstarch, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, peaches, and lemon juice together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Roll out the puff pastry and cut out 8" circles. Place the peach mixture in the center, fold the pastry over into a half moon, and seal together with a fork on the edges. Brush the empanadas with egg wash and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and puffed. Serve warm with ice cream.

Jalapeno Ice Cream
1 ea Jalapeño (Seeded and Chopped Fine)
1 ea Lime (Juiced and Grated)
1 cup Water
2 cup Granulated Sugar
1 ½ cups Milk
1 ½ cups Heavy Cream
9 ea Large Egg Yolks
1 Tbl Vanilla Extract

Procedure: In a small saucepan bring jalapeno, water, and 1 cup of sugar to a boil. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Bring milk, grated lime, and cream to a scald. Whisk egg yolks, with the remaining sugar and add hot cream mixture in small portions while constantly stirring. Once the cream is tempered in with the egg mixture, place back in saucepan on medium heat. Slowly stir until custard is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool completely before freezing in an Ice Cream Maker.