Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category
‘Winter is coming.’ In boots and coat, and accessorised by an umbrella, I splashed to Foodportunity on a sodden Seattle day.
ART Restaurant: vodka vegetable soup in petite jam jar rimmed with lentils and sweet potato panna cotta with shaved romanesco.
WA Beef: blind taste test of grass-finished, grain-finished and naturally-raised beef.
KuKuRuZa: Hawaiian salted caramel popcorn.
Chan: steak tartare of Painted Hills tenderloin, Korean pear, toasted sesame and pine nuts with Korean soy garlic dressing on yucca chip.
Trace: braised short rib with pumpkin purée and Korean pepper sauce.
Din Tai Fung: spicy vegetable wontons.
The Food and Cooking of Scandinavia by Judith Dern, Janet Laurence and Anne Mosesson: geitost, Norwegian goat and cow milk cheese.
The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance: grilled cheese with Fontina and caramelised broccoli rabe.
Peaks Frozen Custard: pumpkin frozen custard with chocolate sauce.
Marx Foods: Sichuan buttons. The flower buds of an African plant, the petals have a grassy, herbal flavour that converts into an intense effervescence. It tingles and numbs, like hyperactive popping candy.
The Sichuan buttons was an electrifying conclusion to another successful Foodportunity!
Coffee art at Strand Arcade in Sydney.
Bacon and egg breakfast sandwich at Mr Stuzzichini in Hunters Hill Sydney.
Burrata and beet salad at Pendolino in Sydney.
A country lunch at Grazing in Gundaroo.
Scones at The Old Bakery Tea Rooms in Berrima.
Lunch at Vessel in Downtown Seattle.
Chocolate tasting at Northwest Chocolate Festival.
Tilth, James Beard award winner Maria Hines‘ Oregon Tilth certified organic restaurant, has been on my restaurant list for many months. I’m yet to dine there but I attended a cooking class with Tilth’s chef de cuisine, Jason Brzozwy, at PCC Greenlake on Monday.Smaller and older than PCC Cooks in Redmond, the narrow stairs to the room is marked by an enormous balloon whisk and a wooden serving set.
The stainless steel kitchen had two cameras focused on the stove and the bench. The galley is stocked with accoutrements in an assortment of shapes, sizes and colours.
Each course was paired with a wine. From left to right: Terre Margaritelli Pietramala, Chinook Cabernet Franc Rosé, Lachini Pinot Noir and Château de Corneilla Muscat de Rivesaltes. The Muscat had a ‘quite the find‘ sticker on the bottle indicating that the wine is exclusive to PCC.
We snacked on marcona almonds as Jason welcomed us. He is from Chicago and has worked at Tilth for four years. He smiled as he recalled how as a child his attempt at boiling water for oatmeal ignited a fire. He discussed Tilth’s philosophy and how to ‘create memorable food’. We introduced ourselves and described what that meant to us.
A handsome man, Jason is affable and genuinely loves to cook. He demonstrated each recipe with aplomb.
First was a salad of figs, arugula, Rogue River blue cheese and marcona almonds. Jason explained that ripe figs are plump, heavy for their size and appear delicate. Another tip from the chef was to ‘dress the bowl, not the lettuce’ to avoid wilted greens. Sweet, peppery and pungent, it was a simple salad of complex flavours.
Next was gazpacho. Jason demonstrated his knife skills in cutting peppers into brunoise, eighth inch cubes, for the pepper jam. Fresh corn kernels and diced onions were seasoned and blended until a creamy consistency. Canola oil, lemon juice, black and white pepper, and salt are his staples. The pepper jam was reduced to a syrupy liquid and cooled.
To serve, the corn gazpacho was ladled over a quenelle of pepper jam, halved cherry tomatoes and basil. It was a piquant soup, a summery appetiser.
Tilth’s fisherman teaches anthropology at Seattle Central. Jason spoke with respect about what the fisherman does and the importance of letting the quality of the ingredients be the highlight of each dish.
The fleshy sockeye salmon was deboned with tweezers and portioned.
Atop a slice of heirloom tomato and in a shallow pool of tomato water, the seared Alaskan salmon was garnished with slivers of sugar snap peas and drizzled with edible flower vinaigrette. Cooked to a medium rare, the salmon was buttery with a crispy skin.
Dessert was macerated local raspberries, Greek yoghurt and honey tuiles. The tuile batter was spread on moulds, baked and draped over rolling pins to curl. The tart yoghurt balanced the sweet berries and the fragrant wafer.
The recipes are perfect for a summer dinner party!
Posted Monday 18 June 2012on:
Mark Bitterman is championing the salt renaissance. The owner of The Meadow and author of Salted hosted a dinner class at Lisa Dupar Catering a couple of weeks ago. At home we have small containers of Australian and English finishing salts and a large jar of French salt for brining, pasta water and roasting. I’m a cautious salter but I have learnt to embrace how sodium chloride is transformative in cooking.
Adjacent to Pomegranate Bistro, the catering kitchen is a labyrinth of stainless steel, storage and commercial sized accoutrement.
Catering staff has a view of the restaurant through square panes and vice versa.
A seven course tasting menu paired by Mark Bitterman and Lisa Dupar.
Rimmed with carbonated black takesumi bamboo salt, a spicy Bloody Mary apéritif greeted us.
Rows of tables were orientated to the preparation area where chefs plated our food.
Mark was as charming and engaging as I remembered. He spoke with passion and humour about the history of salt, and the composition and flavour profiles of our samples.
Coral coloured and glistening, the salmon was cured by being pressed between two Himalayan pink salt blocks. The gravlax had a firm texture and was absent of the sliminess that sometimes afflict cured fish.
Soft slices of house made bread were smeared with butter and sprinkled with fleur de sel. The sweetness of the butter accentuated the moist crystals and delicate crunch.
The pretty flake salts were savoured on rice cake with carrot, avocado and black sesame salad. A flat disc with a crispy edge, the plain rice cake was perfect for comparing the salts. I love the elegance of Murray River flake salt, a parochial favourite. The charcoal pyramids of the Black Diamond was bold and earthy. From Anglesey, the current home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the oak smoked salt had an intense aroma.
The highlight of the evening was Juan’s chilli relleno with Molokai red salt. A popular family meal at Pomegranate Bistro and Lisa Dupar Catering, a whole poblano pepper was roasted, stuffed, battered and deep-fried. Garnished with guacamole and tomato sauce, the cheesy filling laced with the heat of the pepper was rustic comfort food. From the volcanic clays of Hawaii, the mineral elements of the Molokai red salt brightened the chilli relleno.
Blushed strips of Painted Hills beef were on a bed of mashed celeriac and topped with threads of sweet potato. The luscious sel gris complimented the meatiness.
A bowl of Kauai guava smoked salt.
Dessert was burnt caramel cheesecake with salted pecan crust adorned with fresh blueberries and a white chocolate curl. Unfortunately this was too salty for me.
Mark recommended flake salt, fleur de sel and sel gris as the foundation set for the pantry. Which salt to use? Consider if the intent is chemical, seasoning or visual. The final advice was ‘don’t grind salt’!
Posted Wednesday 06 June 2012on:
Our home in Sydney had a small L shaped garden in the courtyard. The previous owners had planted tropical specimens that were coarse and prickly and it took many hours to dig out all the roots. We replaced the grotesque fluorescent plants with evergreen hedges and Japanese maple trees.
We had terracotta pots of herbs and vegetables which yielded produce sporadically. We had a stubborn lettuce that was determined to grow up so all we had were stalks and no leaves. The singular chilli we patiently cultivated was pecked at and spat out by a bird. But we did have an abundance of basil. My only gardening skill is watering. I was excellent at that!
The workshop is the bakery for all the Tom Douglas restaurants. Serious Pie Westlake is on the mezzanine level with a view over the commercial kitchen.
We were greeted with a rhubarb lemonade in a mason jar. Macerated rhubarb was strained and mixed with lemonade, a refreshingly tart beverage.
Our snacks were courtesy of Serious Pie. Buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce and fresh basil, and Penn Cove clams, pancetta and lemon thyme pizzas sated our hunger.
A stack of recipe cards were tied in a bow.
A cardboard tray of Prosser Farm vegetables had asparagus, oregano, Chinese cabbage and mustard green seedlings.
We gathered around Dev as he and chatted chatted with us about farming in Prosser.
We tasted a trio of greens. Clockwise from top: baby mustard greens, mustard greens and Chinese cabbage. The peppery red mustard greens contrasted with the grassy green variety.
An orange coriander vinaigrette was in a spray bottle. A spritz of the citrusy dressing on the red mustard green leaves alleviated the spiciness.
Dev peeled stalks of rhubarb with a paring knife which he reserved for colouring. The yoghurt and asparagus are from their neighbours. There are no asparagus on Prosser Farm as it requires space and takes three to four years for the crops to develop. The sheep milk yoghurt is from Mercer Sheep.
Thick and creamy, the piquant yoghurt balanced the mellow sweetness of the poached rhubarb. Tossed with crunchy asparagus spears, crisp green leaves and slivered almonds, it was a unique salad.
Dev foraged a handful of devil’s club for us to nibble on. There were murmurs as we considered the flavour. It was herbal, like juniper berries in gin. These can be eaten raw in salads or pickled.
Green garlic is straight and garlic scapes are curved. The former is young garlic and the latter are the stalks of garlic. Both have mild, dulcet notes that differentiate them from the pungency of garlic cloves.
These curious curls are fiddlehead ferns. The fronds have to be carefully cleaned, and can be blanched or seared.
We were surprised with chorizo made by former Harvest Vine chef Joseba Jimenez and they were smoky paprika morsels.
Dev explained that hard boiled just laid eggs are difficult to peel. The egg whites thicken after three days.
Coddled in 145 °F water for 35 minutes, the glossy eggs were gently cracked into individual bowls and briefly warmed.
Dev sautéed kale and green garlic, and spinach was wilted in stock.
The greens were puréed.
And simmered with brown butter, and cooled in an ice bath.
Mushroom slides and A ladle of green garlic broth were topped with a coddled egg. Luscious and healthy, the broth was the definition of spring.
Currently Prosser Farm is supplying 300 pounds of food to the Tom Douglas restaurants per week. It will peak at 1000 pounds in summer. There are quince, fig and peach trees on the property. Last year the restaurants did not have to purchase any tomatoes and only had to supplement lettuces. Next will be eggplant and peppers.
Dev answered all our questions with aplomb and recommended rhubarb leaves as rain shields!
Posted Monday 23 April 2012on:
I have a fading memory of my uncle making dumplings (餃子). I don’t remember where or when the family gathering was and I don’t recall eating them but there is a faint image of his nimble fingers deftly pleating the wrapper, patiently making dozens for the dinner party. An exchange of emails with my father confirmed my uncle’s dumpling skills.
The lovely Kimberly was my companion at the Handmade Asian Dumplings class at The Pantry at Delancey. I had intended on snacking on a Jersey salad at Delancey prior to the cooking class but had forgotten the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Instead we perched on the azure stools on the deck at The Pantry and chatted.
Located behind Delancey, The Pantry has a herbs and vegetables garden.
A custom made timber table is the centrepiece. The space is practical and welcoming, a celebration of countryside kitchen and communal dining.
Blushed tulips in a mason jar, bottles of olive oil in a vintage crate and local jams, preserves and jellies (Deluxe Foods) were some of the provisions for sale.
Dumplings mise en place prepared by the volunteers.
A glass of sparkling Rosé was a refreshing apéritif.
We munched on crispy wonton skins and spongy tofu cubes (豆腐泡) as appetisers.
In America via Malaysia and Australia, Kathleen Khoo was our teacher. She was an affable lady with an cheerful persona. On the menu were ‘water dumplings’ (水餃), Japanese gyoza, deep fried wonton (炸雲吞) and siu mai (燒賣).
Kathleen demonstrated how to make a basic dough and an egg dough. ‘Just like pasta’, a dumpling dough is formed with flour, water, egg and a pinch of salt. Once combined, the dough was kneaded quickly and firmly until silky and pliable. The dough was then rested before flattening into wrappers.
We paired up to make a basic dough and an egg dough.
Kathleen explained some of the Asian ingredients such as shredding only the green parts of the Napa cabbage as the whites have a high water content.
A tray of condiments included hoisin sauce (海鮮醬), mirin, sake, sweet chilli sauce, sesame oil (芝麻油) and Shaoxing wine (紹興酒). A splash is enough as the condiments are pungent.
As our dough rested, we emptied the various containers of the mise en place and stirred the components together for each of the fillings.
You can buy packets of dumpling wrappers from Asian grocery stores and supermarkets but it is easy, economical and healthier to make fresh ones.
Water dumpling wrappers can be made in a tortilla press. We learnt to do it by hand with a narrow rolling pin. The egg dough was rolled in a pasta machine.
Being organised is essential to successful dumplings. The surface should be lightly floured, spoons or chopsticks to portion out the fillings, corn starch for dusting the wrappers, a basin of water to seal the dumplings, and cotton tea towels to cover the wrappers and dumplings to prevent them from drying out. The rested dough was rolled into a sausage shape and cut into inch wide lumps.
A vibrant green, sprigs of coriander were roughly chopped as garnish.
Sauces in earthy shades were poured.
My first handmade dumpling!
The water dumplings were crescent parcels of minced pork, shredded Napa cabbage, aromatics and seasoning. They were boiled, tossed in a store bought spicy dumpling sauce and adorned with coriander. Thick and doughy, the slippery dumplings were meaty.
The crimped edges of the Japanese gyoza were fun to make. These sturdy morsels of minced pork and prawn chunks were seared in a non-stick pan and steamed in stock. Golden bottomed and translucent, the juicy and robust gyoza was my favourite.
Wontons were folded into nurse’s caps, deep fried and served with sweet chilli dipping sauce. I prefer wontons boiled in a broth ladled over noodles.
Siu mai, an open dumpling that is a staple dim sum (點心) at yum cha (飲茶), were a dexterous challenge. Traditionally made with twelve pleats, I maxed out at seven! The siu mai were plump bites laced with the distinct flavours of shiitake mushrooms.
Bunches of Chinese cabbage were quartered and steamed as a side. The first bamboo basket was too wilted but the second was just cooked, the stalks crunchy and the leaves tender.
Dumpling making is the perfect rainy weekend activity!
Posted Thursday 29 March 2012on:
I was thrilled that the first Little Taste of the Dahlia this year was duck. I’ve never cooked duck at home and was keen to learn the basic skills of the game.
With crimson walls and amber lights, the Dahlia Lounge had a sultry feel. The dining room was set for the evening service.
The event was held in the private dining room, divided by sliding opaque glass panes.
Dahlia Lounge menus were creatively recycled as booklets with the duck and wine menu printed on the back, and blank pages for notes.
Beverage director Adam Chumas matched the duck dishes with 2008 Château Grande Cassagne Grenache Syrah Costières de Nîmes (right) and 2009 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling (left).
Groups were seated at round tables and couples at bar tables. Our attention centred on Tom Douglas and Dahlia Lounge Chef Brock Johnson. The employer and employee was an entertaining pair. Duck has been on the menu since Dahlia Lounge opened more than two decades ago. It’s Tom’s favourite ingredient and he ‘would pick Chinese barbecue duck (烤鴨) over Texas barbecue any day’!
Pekin duck is native to China and Muscovy duck originated from South America. Restaurants cannot serve wild game and local ducks can be expensive. There was a discussion on the definition of local. Tom explained that the animals may be farmed locally but the butchering and packaging are often centralised. It may be branded and marketed as meat from Willamette Valley but the reality is it was processed in California.
A jar of duck liver mousse was sealed with rhubarb jelly. I spread a thick layer of the silky mousse on a slice of bread. Its intense, rich flavour was heightened by flecks of sweet jelly.
Tom commentated while Chef Brock demonstrated how to confit a duck leg, an ancient method of preserving. Rubbed with a herb salt as a dry brine overnight, the leg is then rinsed, submerged in rendered duck fat and slow cooked in 180°F for twelve hours. A five pound duck yields two to three cups of fat. It can be strained, frozen and reused.
The second course was duck confit with duck fried potato. A tumble of shredded meat was atop a halved fingerling potato.
Chef Brock expertly separated the breasts from a whole duck. The skin was scored, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme, and pan fried on medium low heat. Tom emphasised it is better to err on lower heat. One of the ‘lost techniques of cooking is warmth’, once the stove is off, the residual heat will continue to cook. Rest for at least ten minutes, sprinkle with fresh thyme and the duck breast is ready to serve.
Dolloped with cherry preserve, the slice of Muscovy duck breast had a sliver of crispy skin attached.
Dahlia Lounge roasts an average of thirty ducks on the rotisserie per day. The Dahlia duck is stuffed with aromatics, wing tips clipped and trussed in slits of its skin. Tom recommended 425°F for half an hour and 325°F for forty five minutes in a home oven.
Our final course was the famous Dahlia duck bun. Similar to the versions at Momofuku Seiōbo and Wild Ginger, the tender duck was wedged in a soft bun with mandoline cucumbers, a squirt of hoisin sauce and a spring of coriander.
My appetite was subdued by a bout of laryngitis but the duck morsels roused my palate!
I have two pizza classes scheduled within a month. I was at Serious Pie Downtown on a Wednesday morning for the first one. The pizza classes are held on weekdays and Saturdays before the restaurant opens. The city felt lethargic on a cloudy midweek day and it was a little odd walking into an empty Serious Pie.
Coffee and banana chocolate walnut loaves greeted us. I nibbled on the sweet, nutty bread as I leafed through the printed notes.
The Kitchen Table is the new private dining room at Serious Pie Downtown. For dough-shaping and dining parties, the dual purpose room was rustic and decorated in warm tones. Twinkling lights were strung overhead.
Vases of dried flowers lined the window sill as an organic curtain. Metal shelves were laden with commercial size tubs of World Spice herbs and spices.
I was happy to spot a large container of Murray River flake salt in their inventory.
Chef Audrey Spence was ill so Cari kindly shared her expertise with us. The Serious Pie dough recipe is a secret but there is a modified version for the home cook. Cari detailed the three-day dough making process. Bread flour, semolina flour, biga starter, olive oil, honey, salt and water are mixed, proofed and hand-shaped. Cari demonstrated how to stretch the dough.
Silky and supple, the wet dough wobbled and yielded easily to touch. We each dusted the wooden surface with flour and stretched a ball of tacky dough. Gentle and nimble fingers were the key! We sprinkled the pizza board with semolina flour and slid the dough on top.
Mise en place: basil, caramelised onions, clams, fennel sausages, hedgehog mushrooms, pancetta, potatoes, olive oil, roasted garlic, roasted peppers and tomato sauce.
Parmigiano, Provolone, Feta, Mozzarella and herbs were in terracotta dishes for us to sample.
Clockwise from top right: Provolone, tarragon and Parmigiano.
I created a half and half pizza. On the left: olive oil, hedgehog mushrooms and caramelised onions. On the right: tomato sauce, pancetta, roasted red peppers and basil.
My half and half pizza on the rack in the queue for the oven.
Our cheeks were rosy from the heat of the apple wood burning pizza oven.
Gauge of the wood fire pizza oven indicated a temperature of 658 °F (348 °C).
The pizza was placed at the edge of the fiery glow and in one swift motion the board was displaced. An enormous stainless steel paddle pushed the raw pizza to the side and back where it blistered and crisped. After five minutes, Cari dabbed on the Provolone, and the pizza was rotated and cooked for another two to three minutes.
A pinch of marjoram perfected the seasoning. I wielded the mezzaluna and sliced the pizza into eighths.
We settled into the dining room with our artisanal, personalised pizzas.
It was deeply satisfying to eat the pizza I had handmade, and without any clean up afterwards!
It was fun to be in the Serious Pie kitchen to learn some of the techniques of their famous pizzas!