Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘chicken brine

Sydney has more than seven times the population of Seattle but sometimes it feels like both cities have the same volume of traffic. It was gridlock en route to The Pantry at Delancey‘s Back to the Basics cooking class on a weeknight. I slowly inched towards Ballard, anxious about being on time. I noted a reminder on my calendar several months ago for the release of their winter schedule and reserved a spot for this class and the coveted Great Pizza at Home with Delancey owner and chef Brandon Pettit.

Located at the back of Delancey, The Pantry has a stepped garden entrance. The patio would be lovely during summer for post class al fresco dining.

Decorated in a neutral white, the kitchen shimmered in glossy tiles and brushed stainless steel.

A bookshelf is laden with classic and contemporary cookbooks.

In a nook illuminated by tealight candles, I love this rustic honeydew sideboard stacked with ceramic crockery, serveware and linen.

Salvaged metal shelves displayed goods for sale including olive oils, salts, cooking chocolates, jams, granola and Weck jars.

At the heart of The Pantry is the communal table where groups gather to learn, cook and eat.

I tied my apron and settled into an azure stool. I sipped a complimentary glass of wine while flipping through the recipe booklet.

Brandi Henderson and Olaiya Land briefed us on The Pantry as a ‘community space’ and detailed the sequence of the evening.

First was homemade butter. Butter is simply churned cream. We huddled over the KitchenAid to watch the progression from cream to butter. The ‘super pioneer style’ butter was drained and rinsed of residual buttermilk.

Brandi and Olaiya waxed poetic about the flavour profiles of creams, some have grassy notes and others are sweet with hints of caramel. Homemade butter cannot be used for baking due to its varying moisture content.

Murmurs of appreciation echoed through the room as we nibbled on the thick smear of homemade butter on fresh bread.

Next was roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary. I’ve roasted beef, lamb and pork but never chicken. I consider this a fundamental cooking skill and Olaiya was an excellent teacher. The chickens were soaked in a heavily seasoned brine for at least eight hours. Brining reduces the risk of overcooking, infuses the aromatics and tenderises the meat.

Mustard seeds, water, salt and vinegar were ground to a paste in a food processor for homemade mustard. We sampled this mustard and one made two months ago. The new mustard was too pungent for my palate. Mustards mature with age and the two month old was still sharp but more balanced.

We assisted in the preparation of the roasted winter vegetables, and roasted beet and arugula salad with hazelnuts. Gargantuan beets were halved and wrapped in aluminium foil.

I despise eating Brussels sprouts but I was okay with peeling and cutting them.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips were chopped into similar sized chunks for even cooking. The onions were sliced with the grain to maintain its shape. The winter vegetables were loosely scattered on a sheet pan so they would roast and not steam.

Brandi is the pastry chef at Delancey and desserts are her specialty. She whisked the ingredients together for a bittersweet chocolate sauce.

Brandi also demonstrated how to make vanilla ice cream. A split vanilla bean was steeped in milk, cream, sugar and salt, and tempered with egg yolks. The French custard was stirred, chilled and churned in an ice cream maker.

Olaiya expertly emulsified a vinaigrette for the salad. She recommended tasting the dressing for mouthfeel and adjusting the acidity with additional sugar.

We were warmed by the heat of the oven and the perfumed air whetted our appetite. The chickens were rotated and rested. Brined chicken retains a pink hue. Cut into the thigh and if the juices are clear, it is ready.

Tossed with toasted hazelnuts and crumbled Bleu d’Auvergne, and drizzled with the piquant vinaigrette, the roasted beet and arugula salad was a delicious and seasonal first course.

The highlight of the meal was the beautiful birds. The blushed portions were succulent and the charred lemon had an intense citrus tone.

Despite my aversion to Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, I ate one of each. I chewed fast and they were caramelised. All the vegetables were well roasted.

Dessert was a sundae of homemade vanilla ice cream and bittersweet chocolate sauce sprinkled with salt flakes. The savoury flecks were a contrast to the sweet and creamy sundae.

I lingered a while afterwards and chatted with Brandi. She lived in my beloved Sydney for six months and we exchanged anecdotes about the Emerald City.

I purchased a container of Maldon sea salt and returned home happy with the tips on improving my basic skills.

My third trip to the Eastside in a week was for a cooking class with Lisa Dupar. In the kitchen at Pomegranate Bistro was held at PCC Redmond and I had the lovely company of Kimberly.

PCC Cooks is to the left of the entrance, a room with a gleaming modern kitchen and several rows of tables and chairs for attendees.

This was my first PCC Cooks class and I had registered on the day the autumn schedule was published a couple of months ago.

A Southern native who has been living in Seattle for three decades, Lisa Dupar is the owner of Lisa Dupar Catering and Pomegranate Bistro. She is an IACP Julia Child First Cookbook Award winner for ‘Fried Chicken & Champagne: A Romp Through the Kitchen at Pomegranate Bistro‘.

We were welcomed with a mug of warm mulled sangría, a spiced alcoholic beverage that evoked Christmas memories.

There were three cameras with three screens above the kitchen to view the demonstration.

Lisa was a delightful and successful woman with catering and restaurant stories to share. As she was making Jerry’s muffaletta mix, she told us about her children finally saying ‘I don’t like hairy fish’ after many pizzas with anchovies. Traditionally layered into a muffaletta with the bread soaking in the juices, Lisa served this with white corn tortilla chips. One of her cooks, Jerry from Louisiana, gave her a jar of the olive salad mix for Christmas one year and this was how she ate it!

On the bottom right of the screen is a simmering pot of aromatic chicken brine with blue agave syrup, bay leaves, garlic cloves, black peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, Italian parsley and lime zest.

Radiant in chef’s red, Lisa laughed about being ‘out of kitchen shape’. Her comment reminded me of the episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain returns to Les Halles as a line cook.

As Lisa added salt to the chicken brine, she explained she’s using natural salt. She recently attended a salt class with Mark Bitterman at The Meadow in Portland and was shocked to learn that kosher salt is a desiccant and a manufactured chemical. She has rid her 14,000 square feet commercial kitchen of kosher salt! 

Next on the menu was a Mexican chopped salad with chilli lime vinaigrette. As Lisa was blending the dressing, she explained that a neutral oil will absorb the seasoning. Many of the components in dressings are natural preservatives so can be refrigerated for at least a couple of weeks. She recommended ‘smelling everything you cook with’, especially liquids to avoid rancid oil.

Crunchy with diced apples, cucumber and jicama, and raw corn, the salad was vibrant and appetising. The recipe can be seasonally adjusted. For example, radish and pear would be autumn additions or substitutes.

As Lisa carved the blue agave lime roasted chickens, she reminisced on a staff trip to Quillisaskit Farm. She was candid about her chef’s guilt. She loves to cook but dislikes slaughtering animals. When she expressed her apprehension, the farmer asked her ‘are you the mechanic for your car?’

‘Cooks are like carpenters’, tools are personal and about the ‘hand feel’. Lisa was at an event with The Chef in the Hat, Thierry Rautureau, and he was asked about his favourite knife. His response was ‘a sharp one!’

Brightly coloured bell peppers were roasted and stuffed with black quinoa. As she was splitting the bell peppers and spooning black quinoa, the fennel in the stuffing returned Lisa to her time in Switzerland. She noticed Italian dishwashers munched on fennel for digestion as they worked.

A seasoning salt recipe is included in the booklet and Lisa purchases her spices from MarketSpice. She had inherited her grandmother’s spice rack, an anecdote on how our approach to food has changed since then!

The main course was roast chicken on warm tortilla, bell pepper stuffed with quinoa and Juan’s jasmine rice. The dishes are hearty and rustic, a representation of Southern comfort food.

Dessert was ginger molasses cookies sandwiched with Coconut Bliss. These cookies are so popular that they have been nicknamed ‘crack cookie’ but to her family, they’re ‘typo cookie’. There was a mistake for the flour measurement in the first edition of the cookbook and each copy was patiently corrected by hand with a Sharpie!

Lisa emphasised the importance of resting the dough. Each batch of flour is different and the protein has to be activated. As she scooped the batter and rolled the dough balls in cinnamon sugar, she happily recalled foraging for mushrooms with a friend. Chanterelles and morels haven’t been cultivated. She also mentioned catering for President Obama and the Secret Service chef being in the kitchen!

These cookies were indeed delicious, a lovely balance of spices and sweetness. The ice cream sandwich was pre-made and we sampled cookies out of the oven which were soft and gooey on the inside.

With a hint of Southern lilt, Lisa was charming and gracious. I look forward to a meal at Pomegranate Bistro soon!


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