Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lamb Bellies

I love lamb bellies and here is a simple that I've been working on.  Lamb Pancetta which is cured with various spices for a few days and then hung even longer to enhance the flavor and texture..  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Salmon, Shellfish, Pine Nut Brittle, Spinach Powder, Duck Ham, Grapefruit Gelee, Oyster Cream, Parisian Gnocchi

Grilled Grapefruit Juice for Roasted Grapefruit Gelee

I've always been a huge fan of grilling citrus and then juicing to add more depth to a dish.  Here I've grilled some grapefruits and zested the outer skin.  I'm cooking the juice down with red wine, herbs, sugar, lime juice, and salt.  I will make the gelee by adding some agar agar and allowing the mixture to set in the cooler.  I will post the dish later once I get it ready for service tonight.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tableside Smore for Dessert Special Tonight

I had dinner at Alinea a few years ago and never forgot the signatue dessert they prepare on your table as the grand finale to your experience. I thought that we could do a simpler version of this concept by simply plating the desserts in front of the guest instead of in the kitchen. We shall see how this goes tonight.....More to follow

Rosemary Marshmallow, Three Chocolates Fondue, Graham Cracker Ice cream and Streusel, Chocolate Bark, Turkey Figs, Strawberries

Amuse Bouche Tonight

Smoked Deviled Egg, Venison Chorizo, Piquillo Jam, Jalapeno Syrup, Local Micro Greens, Cotija Cheese

Friday, October 5, 2012

Butternut Squash, 5 Spice Popcorn, Goat Cheese, Micro Sage

New Soup for the menu starting on Monday October 8th....

Harvesting our Herbs before the Snow Falls

 This is a few pictures of our herb garden here at the Craftwood Inn.  Since we had an official freeze alert, all the herbs had to be harvested and preserved for the winter.  The kitchen is now full of herbs drying or being vacuum sealed to be freeze dried.  I'm looking forward to the spring time arriving and planting many items for the spring and summer menus.

The Back Door of My Kitchen Leads to the Mountains and a Garden

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Menu

Just finished writing the first draft of the new fall menu for Craftwood Inn located in Manitou Springs, CO and I think it's a good first step.  Here is a small taste for now until we roll out on Monday....

Pastrami Spiced Ostrich
Golden Beets, Red Grapes, Cabbage, Fingerling Potato, Mustard Seeds, Cured Onions, Rye Croutons
Rocky Mountain Elk
Roasted Apple Risotto, Crushed Hazelnuts, Fontina, Nutella Powder, Wild Mushrooms, Arugula 
Red Deer
Rosemary Milk, Black Garlic, Potato Puree, Honey Marinated Figs, Root Vegetable Pickles
Nilgai Antelope
Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Brussel Sprouts,  Black Olive Dust, White Cheddar, Whipped Potato

Friday, September 14, 2012

A new chapter begins....

Brother Luck is new executive chef at the Craftwood Inn
There’s a new day dawning for the culinary team at the Craftwood Inn, 404 El Paso Blvd., in Manitou Springs, starting with the hire of Brother Luck as executive chef. Luck was the award-winning executive sous chef at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort until 2010. He transferred with Benchmark Hospitality to take an executive chef position at a property in San Antonio, Texas.

“I am so excited to allow Brother to put his personal and professional mark on the cuisine at the Craftwood Inn,” said Dave Symonds, owner of the restaurant. “Truth be known, we have been ‘working on’ Brother Luck for some time and finally we were able to talk him away from the big corporate environment so that he can showcase his true talent.”

There had been a couple of executive chef changes at the Craftwood Inn in recent months: Ben Hoffer left Feb. 1 and was replaced by Dave Cottrill, who left just a few months later in May. Tim Richardson has been the interim chef.

Symonds has added other members to his food and beverage staff.

“Over the years we have assembled a team in the front house that he (Luck) is very comfortable with, too,” he said. “E.J. Kelley worked with Brother at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, running their dining room, and Steve Kander is our sommelier and he too worked with Brother at the Resort.”

Luck takes the helm of the Craftwood Inn kitchen Sept. 17.

“Expect to see exciting things from the Craftwood Inn,” said Symonds.

Call 685-9000. Visit

Monday, September 10, 2012

Farewell San Antonio Paella Party

 So yesterday I was invited to a Sunday dinner amongst friends and was totally surprised to find out that it was actually a surprise going away party for my upcoming departure.  Yes, I'm leaving San Antonio once again and returning back to Colorado in the next few days.  Leslie Horne (who is the maker of Aurelia's Chorizo.. Amazing by the way) and Troy Knapp (Executive Chef of the Hyatt Hill Country Resort) got together and invited an all star cast of local foodies to send me off in style.  The biggest surprise of my arrival was that I had been given the task of cooking the main course for everyone which was to be a traditional paella...Now for those who don't know, this is the signature dish at our restaurant downtown "Las Ramblas" located in the Hotel Contessa and we serve over 250 of these a month (much smaller portions of course).  Leslie and I met at a local paella challenge a few months back and I enjoyed her Spanish chorizo so much that we started serving it in the restaurant.  I've known Troy for a few years and can always expect him to host a great party or bust out a flamenco guitar at any moment which of course he eventually did.  

As I was ushered into the kitchen and handed a clean apron, they began to show me all the ingredients provided for my paella challenge.  Opening the refrigerator I found smoked pork belly, chicken thighs, black mussels, littleneck clams, head on shrimp, spanish chorizo, calamari, and of course 2 bags of calasparra rice sitting on the counter.  After securing some onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, paprika, and saffron I enlisted my sous chef who was happily drinking in the crowd.  Once he was given an apron as well (Yeah, I totally made him help) we went into the back yard and fired up the propane tank with an enormous paella pan waiting for our arrival.  After some quick knife work and stock preparation we started to build the flavors one ingredient at a time.  The smoked pork belly was rendered in hot fat and then set aside.  Next the chicken thighs were caramelized in the pork fat and removed.  The head on shrimp got a quick dance in the pan before we started to make the sofrito.  Red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, paprika, saffron were all cooked together before we added the calasparra rice.

The rice was toasted before adding the first baptism of stock which was fortified with the chicken bones, lobster shells, shrimp shells, and vegetable scraps.  Now the hard part began which required socializing, enjoy a few glasses of wine, snacking on some great tapas, and monitoring the temperature to ensure the rice was cooking evenly.  Once the rice started to swell, we would add a few more ladles of stock and slowly simmer again and again for about 20 minutes.  Towards the end of the cooking process, we started to garnish the paella rice with all of our reserved proteins.  At the very end of the dish, I cranked the heat up to finish reducing the liquid and begin building the famed soccarat, a crispy almost burnt caramelization that occurs on the bottom of the pan ... After a final nod of approval between my sous chef and myself we started serving up plates and enjoying the fruits of our labor.  I felt truly honored to cook for this amazing group and also throw down with my sous chef Joseph Carrejo one last time.  This was a great way to close this chapter on my career and begin moving on to the next.  As a chef, I truly love cooking for others but even more so when it's people who share my passion. - Brother Luck

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lamb Shoulder, Squash Blossoms, Brussel Leaves, Dried Tapenade, Fingerling Potato Confit, and Queso Fresco

This dish was inspired was two different products that arrived straight from the farm.  The first was some lamb shoulders from Twin County and then 2 clam shells of baby squashes with blossoms still attached arrived this morning.  We wanted to create a dish that felt like the in between time of summer leaving and fall arriving.  The lamb shoulder was rubbed with lemon, garlic, rosemary, and garlic.  After I tied the shoulder into roulades with butchers twine, I made a salt crust.  The egg whites were mixed with some salt and packed onto the lamb shoulders.  We roasted them for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees before cracking the shells and slicing thin medallions of lamb.  The squash blossoms and fruit were served in multiple variations; baby squash parpadelle, raw squash blossom petals, and zucchini preserves.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Texas Quail, Foie Gras Torchon and Powder, Duck Confit Arancini, Blood Orange Gastrique, Pickled Fennel, Red Wine Onions, Rabbit Succotash

So this dish has been evolving in my head over the last 3 or 4 days and I've finally had some time to put my thoughts on the plate. I'm thinking the dish will pair better with poached pheasant breast and  making the arancinis out of pheasant leg confit to utilize the whole bird.  Overall I'm happy with this dish and will continue enhancing the flavors over the next few weeks before it's hits a dining room table.  The foie gras torchon is sliced and garnished with foie gras powder (foie fat from poaching liquid solidified overnight and mixed with tapioca maltodextrin).  The arancinis (meaning little oranges resembling their color and shape) are hand rolled spheres of creamy risotto with chopped duck confit folded in at the last minute.  The quail breast are glazed with a blood orange reduction and underneath is a mixture of rabbit pancetta, pistachios, sweet corn, portabello mushrooms, and red bell peppers.  Pickled fennel, red onions, and fronds garnish the dish with fresh blackberry to balance the fat and acidity. 

Olathe Sweet Corn

Cooking locally sometimes makes you forget about cooking regionally.  I just received a case of Olathe Sweet Corn from the Tuxedo Corn Company out of Colorado and it's amazing!!!  This corn is so sweet and taste great charred on the grill or simply sauteed with a cube of butter.  This case of fresh corn has inspired my kitchen equation of the day:  Great ingredients + Great technique = Great Food.

Rabbit Pancetta Lardons

Here is the rabbit pancetta I discussed in an earlier post after we decided to "meat glue" the bellies together after butchering some whole rabbits for the restaurant.  These were wrapped, pressed overnight, cut into lardons, and rendered down until crispy. It's very surprising how much the cure shines through the caramelization and doesn't overpower the natural rabbit flavor. This is definitely a great use for rabbit bellies which normally would have been tossed into the stock pot and cooked along with the bones.  My sous chef Nick gets the credit for this one and it's already being considered as a component for the many dishes to come out of my kitchen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Foie Gras Torchon

What is a torchon????  Upon one of my sous chef's returning my copy of The French Laundry cookbook, I was inspired to make a foie gras torchon and add it as a component to a new dish I've been writing.  Torchon literally means dish towel referring to the technique of wrapping the poached foie gras in a side towel and hanging in the refrigerator overnight. This is such an easy way to prepare foie gras and showcase why it's considered a true delicacy.  After asking some of the cooks what does torchon mean I thought it would be worth a few minutes to share the process.  After soaking the foie gras in milk overnight to remove any extra blood, it's marinated in kosher salt, white pepper, granulated sugar, and pink salt overnight. The foie gras is then shaped into a cylinder using parchment paper and then tightly bound with cheesecloth using butchers twine to secure on both ends and also a few ties around the center to hold it's shape while cooking. I poached the torchon in seasoned chicken stock for just under 2 minutes and then quickly placed into ice water to stop the cooking process. After a few minutes of chilling, I wrapped it tightly in a dish towel and secured again with butchers twine on both ends. The foie gras torchon is now hanging in the cooler overnight before I will slice into and begin finalizing my new dish.  Stay tuned.....

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rabbit Pancetta - Stage 1

My sous chef Nick Lachman had a great idea to start making pancetta out of the rabbit bellies after we finish butchering them for the restaurant.  The creative think tank has begun and we've started some great discussions about incorporating this technique into a dish component.  With the addition of "meat glue" aka transglutaminate, we can transform these miniature bellies into one large piece that is cured and hung just like a pork belly.  Here they are being cured beforehand to see what is the best process.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crispy Pork Belly, Chicharrones, Yukon Potato, Saffron Honey, Pickled Fennel, Texas Peach

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Valuable Chef Quotes

"If we go back five hundred years to the Renaissance, we’d find technique, theory, and aesthetic values most often handed down to young artists toiling away in their master’s studio (not unlike today's cooks who stage among the world's top kitchens). Copying the work of those old masters served as an important part of that training; by matching tone and color and each stroke of the brush, the student might also absorb the decision making process behind them." - Michael Laiskonis

"You have to know the rules before you can bend (let alone break) them, first commit to formal training and stage under numerous mentors to become a truly skilled, damn good cook." - Charlie Palmer, Volt Ink

"Gastronomy begins with technique.  If you haven't got technique, you will never master gastronomy.  You should buy the best ingredients and cook them perfectly, but to do this you have to question what you are doing and why you are doing it.  If you don't understand what makes a good, say, roast partridge - the hanging, the plucking, the trussing - before you've even started, then don't bother roasting it.  You've got to hang the bird correctly, pluck it correctly (without piercing the skin) and truss it beautifully (bring in the legs and plump out the breast so that it cooks evenly), retaining the heart and livers for sauce.  Seal it on all sides and then cook it on the back.  What's the timing of it?  About ten minutes in my oven, but your oven is different from mine.  A male partridge is bigger than a female partridge.  A partridge shot in December is bigger than one shot in September". - Marco Pierre White, Devil in the Kitchen

"Paying attention to details and making sure that it was done and done right.  You put a piece of tape on a box in the refrigerator, it should be straight, because why would you put it on crooked?  You cut a piece of foie gras, it should be perfect because if it's not, it's a waste.  If you're cooking something in the oven you should make sure you take it out at the right time.  At one point in the oven it is perfect, and that's when you should be aware of it and take it out". - Thomas Keller, Soul of a Chef

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Spoon Wall

This is the spoon wall and still one of my favorite reception presentations. The spoons are prepared individually and then they fit into these small slits on a stainless steel wall. It really makes for a dramatic presentation when hosting a party. These have a butterscotch pudding with caramelized ginger and pineapple.

Rethinking Bearnaise - A new dish in the works

A classic sauce consisting of a tarragon vinegar reduction, egg yolks, and clarified butter.  The technique is what really makes this sauce special as it takes time and repetition to master the emulsification.  Many questions come to mind when I consider the Bearnaise.  Why is this sauce so amazing on steak???  If black licorice is such a turnoff for so many people, why the constant request?  Is the richness the star or is it the flavor combination?  How can I enhance them all?  This led to me writing a new dish tonight called "Steak and Bearnaise" and I'm wondering how to interpret this classic pairing.  Where do I want to take it for the diner experience?  The first idea that pops in my mind is to make it a white Bearnaise?  I could torch a  tarragon infused meringue served with a soft boiled egg, brown butter powder, pickled shallots, and voila.  I think I need to hit the stove and start testing out my thoughts????     

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts, House Pancetta, Pedro Jimenez, Sage

Perfectly caramelized brussels are such a simple dish that can result in amazing flavors. By cutting the sprouts in half and dropping into boiling salted water for a few minutes par cooks them for an easy execution. Once they are cooled, place cut side down into a pan and crank the heat. Once the water has evaporated, add some oil and allow to brown evenly. I finish these with sage, pancetta, sugar, and sherry vinegar.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fingerling potato confit

We slice our fingerlings into coins and submerge them in olive oil, garlic, shallots, thyme, chili flakes, and salt. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until tender.

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McCall Creek Farms Tomatoes

Nothing like fresh tomatoes in the middle of summer. A whole case just showed up from a local farm. What to do, what to do???
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Coolest French Fry presentation

This mini fryer basket was lined with parchment and filled with freshly cut french fries at the burger bar inside the hotel New York in Las Vegas. Gotta buy some of these for our lunch presentations.
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Plating and spoons

I never really appreciated my own spoons until I worked with my last sous Perry. He was an intolerable cook that would go to war if you touched his spoons. I've always preferred them when plating as I hate ladles; but it wasn't until stepping back onto the line that I needed my own set. These are the 7 in my bag now and I'm still in search of a larger version with a rounded edge. Maybe its a order since nobody seems to carry them in town. I keep these bad boys sitting in sanitation solution next to my work area for tasting or plating all shift.  They are so valuble to my execution during service and I'm just as crazy as Perry now if someone reaches for them.  #randomthoughts #belovedspoons
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