Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Road To The JBH Part 1

I hope you are not getting sick of the Beard House yet, Ill tell you that this opportunity is as good as it gets if your a chef. Sure there are many chefs who get to cook at the JBH more than once, some even a few times a year.

I'm just happy to go there once, to say I did it, in the same kitchen that so many of the chefs I grew up admiring did. To somehow feel the tradition and the vibes of all those who have cooked and especially feel the vibe of James Beard himself.

I'm excited, what can I say. I'm excited for my Chef De Cuisine, for my family who is coming to enjoy the dinner, who rarely get to experience my cooking at this level.
I'm excited for my crew that is staying back at the restaurant, without them I would not be able to go to NYC, I'm excited that they get to put all that they have learned into 4 days of running the show, making sure that the guests are blown away with the cuisine and service. Letting them challenge themselves to assure that every detail that Matt or myself will take care of is taken care of.

This week I will post "The Road To The JBH" a 3 part journal of the days ahead, the prep work, the packing , the last minute changes. I hope it is as much of a entertaining read, as it is a glimpse of what it takes to pull it off. Especially when you don't have a big budget, large staff, and are not even in the State of New York.

MONDAY MARCH 30, 2009

We began with some of the non perishable prep work and the foie gras torchon. Meyer lemon fluid gel(which we had to make 3 times before we got the final product right), champagne and bacon vinaigrette in the form of a fluid gel. Merlot gelee, Chocolate & Almond "soil".

I finished ordering all the food that we will need to bring with us, and ordered all the food that we have had the luck of getting delivered to the JBH. Finalized all the prep sheets, one for the Beard House and one for us to complete at the restaurant. And finished putting the equipment list together that we need to bring. Although the JBH kitchen is stocked with the basics, we need to pack the ISI canisters, immersion circulators, special small wares, portable food saver and make sure we have enough coolers and ice packs, make sure the ice packs get frozen(that's important).

Tomorrow Matt will begin to break down 20+ guinea hens, turn the legs into a mousse, stuff the breasts with the mousse, roll the breasts into a roulade, wrap them in the guinea hen skin,make a seamless roulade using transglutamine and let them set for 24 hours, then finally poach them sous vide. We will take the poached birds and sear them off for service at the Beard House.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

JBH Dessert Course: Chocolate & Blackberries



We have finished the final course of the JBH dinner, our "chocolate & blackberries" dish:
Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cylinder (Green & Black Organic Chocolate)
Dark Chocolate Soil
Blackberry fluid gel
Fresh Blackberries

We are thinking about a garnish for this dish now, but the flavors here are exactly what we were looking for. Plenty of textures and visually striking.

This week is going to be crazy, I'm going to write about the week as it happens. but apologize now if there are any periods of delay.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Island Creek Oysters



By now I'm sure the whole world knows about these beautiful oysters farmed right down Route 3 minutes from where I grew up. But these bivalve mollusks deserve a post anytime.

I remember about 9 years ago, you would have to go down to that little house at the intersection of the blinking light and hope that they had some oysters, if not you would go or call back until they had enough to sell you.

Today Island Creek Oysters have become one of the most sought after oysters in the country, grazing the menu of The French Laundry, Per Se, The White House and many more restaurants from the North East to the Pacific, and even the Caribbean. I used to ship them down to the Virgin Islands for special occasions.

More specifically, the Island Creeks are grown in western Duxbury Bay, which is directly fed by Cape Cod Bay. The spat is sourced from Muscongus Bay, Maine, and upon arrival in Duxbury, 1,000,000 pieces tip the scales at roughly five pounds. When the Island Creek oysters are harvested (just about 18 months later) they will have a combined weight of 200,000 pounds. Harvest is all done by hand. Each oyster is three to four inches in length, and possesses a medium salinity with an unmistakable sweetness and a hint of seaweed.

This is one of the best oysters in the world hands down.

At the restaurant we are currently serving an Island Creek Oyster Tasting.
Naked, served with lemon
Minted Creme Fraiche & American Caviar
Shucked out of the shell in a shot of house made yuzu & cucumber soda

Monday, March 23, 2009

Current Chef De Cuisine Pork Projects


Matt (our chef de cuisine at Tastings) spends a lot of time on projects around the kitchen usually involving some type of pork product. Here we have a Lomo which is a Spanish cured meat made from a pork tenderloin. Its cured and then left to air-dry for several weeks,Matts version I think has more in common with chorizo in its seasoning. The meat undergoes the usual chemical reactions of curing, gaining a translucent, rosy color and complex flavor. The tenderloin may be either brined or dry-cured; if brined, wine is typically used for the liquid. Matt dry cured his lomo. In either case, other flavors may be added to the cure. After the cure is done, the meat is rinsed, wrapped in cheesecloth, and hung until it is dry and hard.

In Spain Lomo is served sliced very very thinly, with some extra-virgin olive oil, some lemon juice, and a small garden salad.

There are three types of Spanish lomo, the cured tenderloin which is cylindrical in shape and contains very little fat,like the one in the picture, lomo "corteza" which is a flatter full loin with a layer of fat and rind on the outer and lome "Orza" which are chunks of lightly fried lomo in a jar of extra virgin olive oil.

There aren't many recipes for this Spanish luxury, so we had to go on what we could find and them improvise. I think it came out great! A little saltier that some of the lomo I have had in the past, but beautiful texture and color and flavor was very very good.

Today Matt was making another head cheese, small head (8 pounder) but yielded a nice 2 pounds of meat.



Saturday, March 21, 2009

Small Plate Demo: NEFS-EXPO

Sorry about the short posts this week, we are starting to get a little busy at the restaurant.Lots of good things happening!

This weekend if you have time, come check out the small plates demo I am doing at the New England Food & Lodging Expo, Boston Convention Center. Sunday at 3:00pm on the main stage.

I will be talking about ways to maximize profits using a small plate format at your restaurant, as well as a cooking demo on eggs. Yes eggs. We will use the plastic wrap technique to show how simple a poached egg can be EVEN during dinner service, and we will also be cooking THE PERFECT EGG. Cooked sous vide at 64C for 30 minutes.

A great day to come and see the newest trends in the industry, new products and network among other restaurateurs.

For more information click on the following link

NEFS-EXPO NEW ENGLANDS GREATEST CHEFS

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crudo



The Trout we received yesterday was so beautiful that I just had to do a raw application with it tonight.
Organic Irish Trout Crudo
Spanish EVOO (Las Brisas)/chives/grated shallot/Thai bird chili/lemon & olive oil sorbet

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Irish For A Day




We celebrated St. Patrick"s Day at Tastings with a "green" wine tasting(not green color)but Organic & Bio dynamic wineries committed to sustainable agriculture.

We featured Cashel Blue Cheese, Ireland's first farmhouse blue cheese and still handmade today. Cashel Blue is a semi-soft blue cows’ milk cheese. It is all made on the dairy farm of Jane and Louis Grubb near Cashel in Co. Tipperary Ireland. While some milk is purchased, the majority of the milk comes from the pedigree Friesian dairy herd on the farm.

Yesterday we also had the pleasure of accepting 23.8 pounds of Organic Irish Trout from Browne Trading Co. Farmed in Clew Bay, Mayo, the Irish Organic Trout differs from those of other origins and are characterised by their sleek body form and silver bright skin. The rich tasting trout, beautiful shade of pink, much like the color of artic char flesh.
We prepared a dish of:
Seared Irish Organic Trout
boiled new potatoes(cant say its Irish unless you have boiled potatoes)
cooked with watercress
dressed in a cream and amber honey sauce.

The last but not least of the Irish small plates:
"Bangers & Mash"
wild boar sausage
braised onion & fennel
fingerling mash w/creme fraiche
gravy



I always find it fun and interesting to research a countries cuisine, find and import the product from that country and then create a dish that exemplifies what a countries cuisine is all about. A great learning experience and pretty tasty I might add.

Quick Post

"A cook and a chef are different entities. "Chef" is a title, but when you are a cook, that is who you are, your spine & your soul" - Chef Eric Ripert

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Course 4: JBF



I think too many people believe that the art of pairing food and wine is "easy" even if you know what your doing. The Guinea Hen Loin with double fortified jus,
lavender spring peas, porcini mushroom froth & baby carrot tips is being paired with 2005 Goldeneye Pinot Noir. Can I say "big pinot". We actually incorporated the porcini mushroom froth after the almond milk froth with lavender just didn't work with the wine. Also the pinot just kept taking over, literally wiping the great flavors of this dish right out.

The mushroom has the earthiness we are looking for to help stand up to the wine, we will also be adding some "roasting" herbs to the mousse we made out of the legs to stuff the breast with.

Now the only dilemma I think is the colors on this dish are very 2 dimensional, Matt wants to put some different colored baby carrots and more fresh lavender flowers which I think will help a great deal to make the dish pop. All in all this is a great dish. The technique to make the guinea hen "loin" is great, the flavors of spring are all there and the look of the dish is different and interesting.

The beauty of this trial and error is that a perfect dish will emerge, a perfect pairing will come to fruition. Not everything works out for us the first, second third or fourth time. Honestly some dishes never even make the second cut.

To watch and taste a dish from the initial concept to the final product is always a challenge but it is what I love most!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Perfect Poached Egg: Our Plastic Wrap Technique


The perfect poached egg is a matter of taste - some of you will like slightly runny poached eggs for dunking toast into, whilst others prefer a firmer, meat like variety of poached egg.

But was about the perfect poaching method?? Some say that simmering water with vinegar is the only way.....I disagree. So many factors including temperature, how much vinegar, salt and whats the best way to get the egg into the water. Do you crack the egg directly in, what about in to a ramekin first then the water, Julia Child used to poach the egg in its shell for 10- 20 seconds, then crack the partially poached egg directly in the water.

I find that the direct poaching method more often than not, will not yield a perfectly round egg either.

What about the immersion circulator? I like what this does, theoretically the perfectly cooked egg. 147 degrees F. for 30 minutes. The egg yolk & the white have very similar textures and have a luxurious texture you will not get any other way.
But not every restaurant kitchen will have an immersion circulator, and do you have time to wait 30 minutes??

The plastic wrap technique.A combination of classic simmering water technique with sous vide applications. I learned this technique from Govind Armstrong chef/owner of Table 8 Miami/LA/NYC a few years back when I met him at Mohegan Suns Wine Festival.

Get a pot of water on and bring to a boil....
1. take a square piece of plastic wrap large enough to fit into a coffee cup with about 4 inches overlapping the top of the cup.
2. Lube up the inside of the plastic wrap were you will be placing the egg, I like to use flavored oils (white truffle, a good EVOO anything really)
crack the egg carefully into the cup lined with oiled plastic wrap.
3. Grab the overlapping plastic and tie at the base right above the spot where the egg lies.
4. You should have a little package with a perfectly round shape when placed on a flat surface.
5. Now drop the egg sack into the boiling water and turn the heat down to low, cover and let cook for 3-5 minutes depending on the desired doneness. Remove and cut right under the knot. Be careful you don't cut into the egg.

To me this is the perfect poached egg, I can execute the perfect egg during any busy dinner service no questions asked.

The Boston Globes food critic, Devra First, said we had a "perfect poached egg" in her review. I agree.....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sandwiches Of The World


I was looking through some old photos of some food shots from my time in the US Virgin Islands. I came across a picture of a dish that was shot for the book "Sandwiches Of The World" by Allen Battman.

The book is a collection of International chefs who took the simple sandwich to an entirely new level. Battman has created not just a book of recipes, but a book of art.

I was extremely humbled to be included in this great book. To be included in a collection of recipes with many of the chefs that I grew up watching and reading about and continue to look up to was just amazing. The photo above was our "sandwich" at Havana Blue.

"Soup & Sandwich"
Fried Soft Shell Crab BLT
crispy chorizo/ dehydrated heirloom cherry tomatoes/local Caribbean grown greens/ Chinese hot mustard/ yellow & red watermelon gazpacho

Other Chefs include Andrew Carmellini of A Voce, Mario Batali and Gina DePalma of Babbo, Daniel Boulud of db bistro moderne, Emeril Lagasse of Emeril’s, Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu, Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Perry St., and Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 among many other great chefs.

Interested in seeing more or buying the book? click here

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cod Collar



This was my dinner tonight. Roasted Cod Collar. I was breaking down a Casco Bay Cod from Maine,a beautiful 15 pounder, probably one of the nicest cod fish I have seen in a long time. Hats off to Browne Trading Co. , I just recently started to use them and don't know why I waited so long.

Everyone always talks about tuna collar, sword collar etc... but let me tell you that this cod collar was by far one of the best I have had in a long time. The meat was plentiful and by far more flavor that came from roasting it on the bone.

I'm going to pursue this I think, where do all the collars go? I mean at least here in the North East there are few restaurants that you cant find cod at. But for the most part everyone get fillets and not many people break them down themselves. Where are all the collars? They are going to make their way to my menu!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Restoring Americas Food Traditions: The 2009 Grow-Out

I have had the pleasure over the last two weeks of attending 2 of 3 kick off meetings for the Grow-Out of heirloom vegetables regionally adapted to New England.
Last Sunday in Providence the kick off meeting was held at La Laiterie, Chefs Matt and Kate Jennings local and nationally recognized bistro, known for their honest, haute farm cuisine. And yesterday the meeting was held at the recently opened Craigie On Main owned by one of Bostons "locavore" pioneers & JBF nominee for Best Chef Northeast, Chef Tony Maws.

The RAFT coalition to Renew America’s Food Traditions was founded in 2005 to restore America’s agricultural biodiversity and to develop a public understanding of place-based foods. Chefs Collaborative has put this whole project together along with Slow Food New England and might I say they have done an amazing job!

A group of chefs and farmers from 3 separate New England regions ( Boston, Portsmouth NH, and Providence RI) have agreed to grow and purchase 16 varieties of heirloom vegetables. Farmers will receive vegetable seeds provided by RAFT, Seed Savers Exchange and other seed providers, then grow the vegetables for chefs who have agreed to purchase the produce and feature it on their menus.

We are very excited to be a part of the pilot program and hope that we can be part of its success to encourage other parts of the country to start their own Grow-Outs.

At Tastings we have the luxury of being 2 miles away from Wards Berry Farm,working with farmer Jim Ward since we have opened last August, we are excited to team up with Jim on this project. We also hope to connect with some of the other farmers participating in the program to get as many of the produce varieties as we can get our hands on.

Some of the other Chefs participating in this years Grow-Out include, Chef Peter Davis of Henrietta's Table,Chef Will Gilson, Garden at the Cellar,Peter Macarthy of EVOO,Jason Bond of Beacon Hill Bistro, Matt Gennuso of Chez Pascal in Providence and many more chefs dedicated to offering local sustainable cuisine whenever possible.

As I get more information on the vegetables we will be purchasing I will post as much information as I can, their history & facts and of course what we will be preparing with them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Compressed Skate Wing Steak w/ "Peas & Carrots"




About a month ago Matt developed a dish with house cured duck ham where he incorporated a carrot fluid gel and some peas. I instantly thought "peas & carrots" and have wanted to incorporate that into our spring menu ever since.

I love Skate Wing and I also have wanted to do something with it that I had read about before. A compressed skate wing "steak". Skate has so much natural gelatin (as does a lot of white fleshed fish)that by stacking the skate fillets in an alternating method,thick end to thin end, and a 25 minutes sous vide bath followed by a weighted overnight stay in the walk in, we are able to obtain a 1 1/2 inch thick skate wing steak.

The finished dish:
Compressed Skate Wing Steak
English Peas cooked in butter,shallots & chardonnay
Carrot Fluid Gel
Local Pea Shoots
Fried Capers
Crispy Serrano Ham
Red Radish

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sous Vide Guinea Fowl "Loin"




This dish was just thrown together tonight after I was experimenting with making a sous vide guinea hen loin for the upcoming JBF dinner. I wasn't sure how to incorporate the whole bird at first, in fact I called Matt and was very skeptical about how we could do this without a lot of waste. He suggested a mousse, so I did just that.
I made a very classic mousse with the leg meat, egg white, yolk salt,pepper and heavy cream. I then stuffed the breast with the mousse, used Activa to bind the skin around the loin and then I cooked it sous vide for aprox. 30 minutes at 65C. I made a quick stock using the remaining bones, and made a guinea fowl glace while the loins were cooking.
Once the meat was done cooking,I then seared off the loin in a little butter and olive oil to get the skin real crispy. Let it rest a couple of minutes and sliced open the bird. BEAUTIFUL! The texture was perfect, In fact the mousse was much better than I thought it would turn out. A perfectly crispy skin and extremely moist interior.
The whole crew had gone home for the evening and the kitchen was clean, so I grabbed what was readily available, some English peas and black trumpets.
Very happy with the results with this one after the first try.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Team





A quick post about the Tastings culinary team.


Matt Maue my right hand man and even my left hand sometimes (Chef De Cuisine) Imani Greer(Sous Chef) have both worked with me for about 2 years, first in the Virgin Islands and then they came up to Boston to work at Tastings.

In fact much of my team Dione Johnson(Opening Sous Chef), Edgardo Santiago (line cook) and Ryan Jacobs (Line Cook) all moved up from the Islands to embark on the development of Tastings.

Imani was the lead line cook at Tastings when we opened and recently has been promoted to the sous chef. He deserves it!

Its very comforting to know that more than half of my staff has worked with me and understands the way I run the kitchen, what I am expecting, my style of cuisine and how far they can push the limits with their own cuisine.

I firmly believe that the food accolades that Tastings has received in the first 6 months of opening is directly related to the strong culinary team. We have also been fortunate enough to have brought on board some very motivated individuals to compliment and add to the unity of the kitchen team. Justin Warnant(Lead Line Cook)
Kate S.(Garde Manager) John B.( Line cook) Brian P.( Line Cook) and of course the DISH DOGS Porfillio (Main Dog)Juan,Dennis & Tim.

Thanks to all of you for giving all you can every time you step foot in the restaurant. We have just begun this journey together and without your hard work and dedication and of course the love of this business, our cuisine would not be where its at today.

My commitment to you in exchange is to continue to allow Tastings to be a platform for you all to express yourselves through food, to continue to teach and be taught by you and to help build your career as a chef.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring Menu Thoughts

Matt & I are right in the middle of testing numerous dishes for about 5 different out of house events in the next 2- months. A few multi course meals, several one dish wonders for charity events ( Taste of the Nation, Neponset Valley Flavors)At the New England Food Service Show we are doing a small plates demo and right in the middle and the most important will be our spring menu release.

This menu will probably change all but 3-4 of the current dishes that we just cant get rid of. Our Black truffle mac & cheese was just featured in a Boston Globe article,our calamari dish is staying( if you don't have some type of fried calamari on your menu in New England your just losing revenue) and honestly not just because it our recipe, but its damn good!

The spring menu will be both about combining classic with innovative, take our Skate Wing with "peas & carrots" we are thinking about compressing two pieces of skate wing to form a thick cut skate wing steak served with glazed cippolini, fresh English peas and carrot fluid gel.

We are also going to focus on simple flavors simple ingredients with the "garden section" of our menu. The garden section of the menu is intended to highlight the regions locally grown produce. A great way to showcase the pure and natural flavors of local farms in New England.

One of the two of the dishes we tried this weekend was the
"Veal 101"
veal cheek ravioli, fried veal sweetbread, locally grown baby arugula lemon and white truffle oil in a jus made of the veal cheek braising liquid.




Matt was working on a ricotta gnudi. A very light and flavorful gnocchi like dish.
His version with fava beans, black trumpets( morels in a few weeks) with a light sauce of white wine & Meyer lemon is a light refreshing dish, not heavy at all and very easy to do.