Sunday, January 23, 2011


How versatile this recipe is and how many cooks fail to realize it's potential. Pate a choux is a french dough that can be turned into a multitude of favorite dishes. Pate a choux is creme puffs, cheese gougeres, churros, profiteroles, and my recent favorite; Parisian gnocchi. This dough is simply boiling water and mixing in flour and eggs. The Parisian gnocchi requires the cook the create the pate a choux dough and add herbs/Dijon/Parmesan. The gnocchi is blanched and seared in a hot fat to create the most luxurious gnocchi ever experienced without any potatoes. My sous chef Perry made this dish and it's by far one of my favorites right now. I would encourage any cook to master the Pate a Choux recipe and investigate the many ways of cooking this versatile recipe.

My take on Caesar Salad

Here is my perspective on Caesar Salad. It's a great salad that is recognizable by every clients and packs tons of flavor. I've taken some baby romaine hearts and tossed them shaved Parmesan reggiano. The cracker is puff pastry rolled in cheese and wrapped with a white sardine. The dust on the plate is dehydrated kalamata olives.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Where does your product come from???

Miller Farms Amish Chicken and Neuskes Bacon are two ingredients that are currently being used in our kitchen. They are both great products and really give us a story to share with the guest when describing our dishes. Every Chef has recently talked about the green initiative or farm to table movement with clients, but how many chefs actually understand the work behind their products. My most memorable experience is killing a chicken to understand how to properly cook this animal whose life I've actually taken. I nurtured this roasted chicken beyond expectation to ensure it didn't die in vain by my hands. How many times does your staff burn a sauce or overcook a steak? This is a true smack in the face of the farmer, transporter, and distributor of that product. We've been striving to bring in quality ingredients to showcase a Michelin experience within a corporate conference center here in Chicago. Why Not??? As a chef, it's our responsibility to educate not only our guests but our staff. I've really enjoyed working in this new setting and understanding my role as a main component to the overall experience from the guests perspective.

Cauliflower Bisque with Vanilla Foam

Now foams are played out and I'm definitely not the trend follower; but i do implement when necessary. This cauliflower bisque had an amazing flavor of caramelized cauliflower florets and dark chicken stock. A vanilla bean foam was perfect to top this hor d'oeuvre. I blended some vanilla bean with hot milk and created a natural foam with an immersion blender. The essence of vanilla truly complimented the creamy cauliflower bisque as it was topped for each individual guest.

Yuzu Chipotle Chicken Wings

This is the perfect way to showcase an extra piece of chicken that usually gets added to the stock pot. We've taken the chicken wings and actually turned them into an appetizer. The chicken wings and drumsticks were both Frenched to display a clean bone lollipop presentation. I've actually blended some yuzu juice with chipotle pepper to create a marinade/sauce. This is the perfect example of total utilization.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meyer Lemons - What to do???

One of my favorite citrus fruits arrived this morning and I instantly began grinning from ear to ear. These sweet fragrant beauties have such thin skins and are very versatile for cooking. Meyer lemons add just the right touch when striving for that sweet lemon flavor. I cannot wait to decide what to do with these but I can ensure you that we will be zesting, juicing, and preserving in the near future. I've actually found a random article in the LA Times archive titled "100 things to do with a Meyer Lemon". Number one is make Meyer Lemonade and that sounds like a good start.

Aji Pork on Smoked Gouda Grits and Tomato Preserves

One of my favorite spices of the year so far has to be the Aji chile pepper from Peru. The chile powder has an intense heat that really explodes on anything you pair it with. One of my vendors dropped this small container off a few days ago and it's almost completely gone. I've taken the Aji chile powder and rubbed it into a pork shoulder that was roasted until tender. The shredded meat was served on a fried grit cake infused with smoked gouda and a dollop of sweet tomato preserves. The balance of sweet, smoky, and heat was my favorite hor d'oeuvre of the night.

Spicy Scallop Ceviche with Yuzu

Here is a passed canape from tonight that really showcased some fun flavors, "Scallop Ceviche with Yuzu and Chipotle". Ceviche by definition is raw fish marinated in citrus juice. I took a different approach when flavoring the sea scallop by using Yuzu juice. Yuzu is an Asian citrus fruit that is like a mix between an mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit. I garnished the ceviche with small bites of fresh pear and celery root The acidity of the yuzu with a spicy chipotle pepper infusion really made this a fun bite to excite the palate.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kumquat Ketchup

Kumquat Ketchup was an idea that we had to accompany a Pork Belly Slider canape the other night. With the winter season in full effect, citrus fruits are looking pretty nice upon arrival in the kitchen each morning. We started with the basic core components of a ketchup which was: Fruit, Vinegar, Sugar. We decided to use some beautiful Kumquats that had just arrived as the featured fruit, the vinegar was a sweet rice wine, and a mixture of brown sugar, molasses, and honey were added to round out the sweetness. We started the sauce by sauteing some shallots, kumquats, and fresh thyme leaves together in a little olive oil (the kumquats were split in half with the piths and seeds removed). Next we added brown sugar, molasses, honey, Worcestershire, smoked paprika, grated ginger, and orange juice. All these ingredients were simmered for about two hours over low heat to really concentrate the flavors by reducing before finally blending smooth. The ketchup was chilled overnight and resulted in my favorite sauce of the year so far. It has the color of a ketchup, it's sweet and tangy from the vinegar, and the heat from the smoked paprika gives it a fun spice that lingers afterwards. We have been using the remaining sauce for everything such as turkey meatloaf glaze, lamb chops, duck breast, and even french fries,

Friday, January 14, 2011

Celery Root Bisque with Crystallized Celery Chips

Here is a passed canape that felt perfect for the cold winter season we are currently experiencing in Chicago. The celery root was simmered in cream and aromatics with a hint of vanilla until tender. The mixture was pureed until smooth in a blender and then strained to remove any gritty textures. The steaming hot soup were passed in a shot glasses and garnished with the crystallized celery chips that I blogged about a few days ago.

Lamb with Cous Cous, Red Wine Cranberries, and Mint Oil

Here was another dish that was composed live for the same evening reception. The lamb was from New Zealand and roasted to perfection. The cous cous was poached in saffron vegetable stock and seasoned with a chiffonade of freshly chopped parsley. The cranberries were stewed in red wine, pink peppercorns, cinnamon, and sugar until the mixture had thickened. For the mint oil, we brought a pot of water to a boil and dip the sprigs in for about 15 seconds with a handful of spinach leaves. After shocking in a bath of ice water and squeezing dry, it was pureed in a blender with canola oil until smooth. The mint oil was strained through a fine mesh sieve until all impurities were removed. The result was a beautiful green oil that tasted of fresh mint to garnish our lamb dish.

Salmon with Black Olive Puree and Citrus Wild Rice Salad

Here is a simple dish that we showcased a few nights ago for an evening reception. The salmon sides were cut into petite portions and pan seared on really high heat to give the fish an amazing caramelized texture. The wild rice was cooked and tossed with tangerine segments, extra virgin olive oil, dried apricots, and fresh herbs. The black olive puree consisted of blanched walnuts, Dijon mustard, dried kalamata olives, and oil. This presentation was displayed live in front of the guest to show them how we actually compose a dish. The colors of the salads, micro herbs, and salmon really made the station stand out.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Buttered Popcorn Sorbet

Here is a sorbet course that I put together that truly created a conversation piece. The sorbet was a palate cleanser that became the talk of the night with comments of "it was amazing" or a questions of "why?". Instead of serving your traditional berry or mango sorbet, I made the decision to create a buttered popcorn sorbet. After melting freshly churned butter and toasted kernels of corn over high heat until they burst into the familiar movie style popcorn, I pureed them into a simple sugar solution and froze them into an ice cream maker with whipped egg whites to provide body. I really showcased the color and flavor by garnishing each scoop with locally grown popcorn shoots to compliment the sugar component of the sorbet. I thought this was a fun dish to provide a memory for the guests that night by serving them popcorn sorbet, maybe next time we will include a short movie clip in between the cheese course.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Crystalized Celery Chips

I was having a discussion about this concept with one of my key team members on how to garnish an hor d'oeuvre with crystallized celery stalks and I couldn't find the picture of when I actually made celery stalk chips. The celery stalks were sliced on a very thin bias and dipped into a simple syrup (50% sugar and 50% water cooked together until the sugar is melted). Each piece of celery were layered out onto a sheet pan and dried in the oven overnight with the temperature at approximately 140 degrees. The next morning resulted in perfectly crisp and crunchy celery stalk chips that gave a unique presentation and a true "WOW" factor to the final dish. This technique works for many different vegetables such as lengthwise peeled stalks of asparagus, root vegetables consisting of carrots or parsnips, and colorful summer squash cut into thin ribbons. I will be using this celery garnish as a final component to a upcoming passed shot glass of creamy celery root bisque on Tuesday evening for a signature reception.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Random Menu

Small Bites

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Hazelnut and Queso Fresco

Pork Belly Butterscotch Lollipops

Cocoa Dusted Ahi Tuna

Curry Chicken Samosa


Roasted Chestnut Bisque

Aged Sherry and Pear Chutney


Mosaic of Baby Winter Root Vegetables

25 year Balsamic Vinegar and Pistachio Aillade

Family Style Entrees

“Wagyu” Beef Striploin

Citrus Essence, Olive Oil Confit Potatoes, and Rainbow Swiss Chard

Crispy Duck Breast

Foie Gras Cherry Spoon Bread with Wild Mushroom Fricassee, Roasted Shallot, and Salsify Crema

Pan Seared Striped Bass

Caramelized Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan Chip, Pancetta, Cauliflower Almond Puree, and Black Olive Crumbs


5 Spiced Banana Cake

Chocolate Pecan Praline and Brown Butter Ice Cream

Here are some other displays from that same function...Enjoy!!!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Broken Crudite

Here is a reception display that we put together for a function that consisted of fresh vegetables and fruits displayed in a non-traditional manner. There was green asparagus, white asparagus, purple cauliflower, candy cane beets, heirloom tomatoes, fresh figs, grilled artichokes, baby carrots, dried root vegetable chips, and yellow watermelons to choose from. Each piece of fresh produce was displayed on a single plate to showcase the variety of colors. It was then arranged together on multi level tiers to resemble a traditional display. With our new facility, we needed to find better ways to showcase our ingredients and provide an experience rather than just a meal. This was a fun way to take a very standard idea to the next level but also keep it familiar.