Yesterday was quite a whirlwind of a day, chock full of meaningful human interaction, coachable moments and a kitchen alive with fervor. Three Corporate chefs, each paired with one young grasshopper or Sous Chef hopeful, descended upon my kitchen. Their mission: to produce three vegetarian dishes each, in two hours time, to be served to a gathering of 15 or so other Corporate glitterati. Six extra life forms in my kitchen alone is enough to challenge my time-space continuum let alone the addition of their beets, apples, eggplant, peppers, arborio rice, liquid eggs, kitchen gadgets, awkward clumsiness and selfish intensity. None the less my kitchen was humming & buzzing with activity and that my friends is what charges my batteries.
So, as these three teams focused on their marching orders I quietly found a tiny little corner of my own kitchen in which to prepare a 3 course lunch for 8. And the steps of preparation I will share with you now.
For the first course I prepared a salad of Shaved Fennel, Roasted Beets & Paula Red Apples with a Sweet Cider Gastrique & Vinaigrette and Sheeps Milk Cheddar. I gathered, removed tops and washed 3 medium sized beets. Place beets in a roasting pan like a pyrex lasagna dish, add some fennel seed or 4 pieces of star anise, 2 Tbls of olive oil and 1/2 cup of water. Cover pan tightly with foil and wack in the oven for about an hour until beets are tip of a pairing knife tender. Let these cool down before peeling. While beets are roasting take care of the gastrique by reducing some apple cider and lil’ bit of sugar with a piece of cinnamon bark, more fennel seed and a slice of fresh ginger. When this is reduced by 75% or syrupy if you will, add a splash of white balsamic vinegar. Reserve s0me of this gastrique to dot or streak your plate with. Use the remainder to make a vinaigrette with some whole grain mustard, pure olive oil, not extra virgin and some more white balsamic….use the vinegar to achieve the sweet-tart balance that you prefer….oh and whisk, whisk,whisk to emulsify. You have time to shave your fennel on a mandolin or slicer, cut match sticks from your Paula Reds and splash them with some vinegar to curb oxidation. Toss the fennel with some baby beet greens or arugula. So, the beets are cool…peel them and cut into 1/8 inch thick discs. Line each plate with 3 overlapping discs of beet. Season your fennel & greens with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper then dress with your vinaigrette. Mount…i said mount your greens and fennel atop the beets…this is why food is so sexy. gently lay your apple match sticks atop the greens, shave your sheeps milk cheddar atop this then dot, drizzle or streak all with the gastrique. You can use the tip of a spoon to do this or a squeeze bottle or a small zip lock bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off.
Second course of seared sea scallops over celery root puree & spaghetti squash with balsamic-sage brown butter:
Grab 2 medium sized celeriac or celery root, peel them down and cube. Simmer in some milk until knife tip tender. Strain from the milk and place in a food processor or blender. Slowly add the warm milk while machine is spinning until you have a smooth puree. Keep puree warm or just give it a zap in the micro when ready to plate up. You should have already split 2 whole spaghetti squash lengthwise and placed them cut side down on a cookie sheet that you have pan sprayed, and spray the tops of the squash too. Roast squash in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until they are tender as well. Come to think of it you should have done this step with your beets…it would conserve energy i suppose. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the seeds. Then take a fork and gently drag the tines through the squash perpendicular to lengthwise so you get long strands that resemble spaghetti…hence the name. Reserve the squash for plating and same deal, either keep warm or zap in the micro. Make a beurre noisette or brown butter. Noisette meaning hazelnut in French as this is the reminiscent aroma of brown butter. So be very careful, don’t burn the butter but let the milk solids settle to the bottom and get toasty and let the foamy stuff dissipate. Smell it…you’ll know if you nailed it. At this point throw some fresh chopped sage in…careful again, it’s going to erupt. Reserve some of this heavenly concoction in another small sauce pan and add a couple splashes of balsamic and reduce for 2 minutes or so. This will be for the scallops. The rest of the brown butter is to dress the spaghetti squash, which you will also season with salt & fresh black pepper. Now time sear the scallops. Shake a little wondra flour on these pups, it will foster a nice carmelized crust on them. Get one side nice and crispy, paper bag brown color, flip over for 1 minute then remove to a sheet pan so you can blast them in the oven just before plating…..I am assuming that you have not overcooked your scallops but rather they are still slightly undercooked in th middle. Okay, so time to bring it together…place a smear of celery root puree on each plate, some dressed and seasoned squash in the middle of this; then after you have blasted the scallops in the oven to bring up to proper doneness, mount 4 or 5 scallops atop the squash and drizzle some of that sexy balsamic brown butter on all.
If you’re like me you have served your salad already, eaten it with your guests then run back to the kitchen to put your scallop dish together because you did most of the leg work prior to crunch time. I’m not saying you’re not going to be in full sweat by now but hopefully you’ve been tipping back some tasty libations and you don’t really give a shit bout that anyway.
Oh yeah, dessert, well I didn’t make it…my amazing Sous Chef did. It was gingerbread cake with caramel whipped cream and a compote of gingered pears …..it was fucking killer !! Go crazy