It’s that time of year again when chefs look forward to spring produce. Here in Colorado, the farmers markets open again and we start to see the first of the peas, favas, asparagus, ramps and rhubarb. If you ask any chef when their favorite time of the year is to be cooking, I would bet the majority would say “Spring”.
Now that I spend less time in the kitchen, I don’t get the opportunity to play with these spring ingredients as much as I used to. When I do, I’m sure to take advantage of it.
Right now I’m working on recipes for one of the new restaurants we’ll be opening this summer. I was fortunate enough to find some peas and starting working on a simple spring soup. You can serve this soup warm or chilled. I garnished a warm bowl with a little citrus crème fraiche. You could just as easily top a chilled version with a watercress & citrus salad.
¼ cup olive oil
½ lb onion, diced
2 oz garlic, minced
1 bay leaves
1 qts stock, vegetable or chicken
2 lbs English peas, cleaned
2 bu watercress
1 tbs mint leaf, minced (.1 oz)
½ cup cream
1 fl oz. apple cider vin
Salt to taste
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive over medium heat.
- Add the onions and garlic and sweat gently.
- Add the bay leaf, stock and peas.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer for 25 minutes.
- While the peas are simmering, remove the stems from the watercress.
- Remove the peas from the heat and add mint and watercress.
- Puree until smooth with a hand blender or in a traditional blender.
- Strain through a china cap.
- Stir in the cream.
- Stir in the vinegar.
- Season with salt to taste.
This post is going to be a little different, mainly because I haven’t finished the sauce yet. I’ve done a little research and I’ve put together a recipe I’m hoping will work. While you can find plenty of hot sauce recipes on the web, I’m fermenting mine in a charred oak wood barrel for a month. So far the fermenting process has been going two weeks. I pulled a sample this morning and it really smells like smoky Tabasco.
My goal is to test the process before I begin to tinker with the recipes. This first batch is simply peppers, salt and water to this point. I’ll be adding vinegar in a couple of weeks and letting it rest in the barrel for 7 more days before I pull it out. I’m excited to see how the wood reacts with the sauce and even more excited to try it with a meal!
Let’s get started….
10 lbs Fresno Chilies
¾ cup kosher salt
1 qt. warm water
You’ll need a few items that are a little more difficult to come by, such as a barrel. Used or new is fine, in fact, a used barrel, depending upon what was previously in it might even be better. I went with the new barrel because like I said, I wanted to prove the process first. If you’re looking for barrels, I found a few places online you could get one here, here and here.
You’ll also need a food processor of some type to process the peppers so they release their liquids, I used a juicer. Lastly, you’ll need a funnel to get your pepper mash into the barrel. A turkey baster or large dropper helps to remove periodic samples.
First thing you want to do is inspect your pepper for rotten spots or mold, remove those from the process.
Remove any stems that are on your peppers, making sure to leave the seeds intact. Depending upon how you are going to process your peppers to mash, you may also need to rough chop then at this point.
Process your peppers. If you’re using hot & spicy chilies, make sure the area is well ventilated and no kiddos are around. The oil from the peppers can get into the air and cause coughing fits, trust me, I found out the hard way. Once I had juiced all my peppers, I combined the juice I had extracted with the pulp.
After juicing my peppers, I still had a few large chunks of pepper so I used an immersion blender to puree the last remaining bits, mainly so it would fit through the narrow bunghole (snicker…) in the barrel. I had roughly a gallon of pepper mash after processing all 10 lbs of the Fresno chilies. My original thought was to add 25% water to the mash to a) make sure there was enough liquid to withstand 30 days in the barrel; b) easily incorporate the salt; c) tone down the heat, if only slightly.
I was going to use a 30 to 1 ratio of liquid to salt by volume for the fermentation. Including the mash and the water, that brought me to just over 5 qts. I dissolved 6 oz (3/4 cup) kosher salt in the water and combined that with the mash.
Once the salt had fully dissolved, I ladled the mash into the barrel. I covered the bunghole with a cloth as I wanted the mash to have access to the air to help with the fermentation. As I mentioned earlier, it’s been two weeks. Today I drew a sample and rolled the barrel. I wanted to make sure what had settled was remixed after two weeks. I’ll do the same thing when I add the vinegar.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of the barrel, this could also be done in glass or mason jars.
Check back in a couple of weeks when I add the vinegar!
After the chiles had fermented for four weeks, I added 2 cups distilled white vinegar and set the barrel back to sit for 7 more days. As life would have it, I got busy and didn’t pulled the sauce out until it had reached day 10 since the vinegar addition. I removed the sauce, pureed it again with a stick blender and passed it through a fine china cap, not a chinois mind you, that would remove too much of the pulp with would take away the body of the sauce. After an initial taste, I wanted a little more acid and a little more salt. I added another 1/2 cup of vinegar and a 1/2 cup of tamari. I didn’t want to use more salt. Perfection!
In total, the full batch yielded 3 qts after aging and straining and the addition of the vinegar and tamari. The heat is good and upfront, which means it won’t keep on making you suffer. I’m getting ready to start the second batch, this time with 10 lbs of cayenne chilies. I’m expecting a good deal more fire on this next one.
If you get the chance to try your own, I’d love to hear how it comes out!
One of my culinary heroes is the Earl of Sandwich. A guy who, off the cuff, created what is in my opinion, the most profound culinary delight of all time, the sandwich. Were there other similar creations throughout the world in different countries and cultures? Probably, but I’m sticking with Lord Sandwich.
My family will tell you all I eat are sandwiches when I’m home. When I’m home late, I’ll put the leftovers, doesn’t matter what they are, in bread and eat it. Sometimes I warm it up, sometimes I don’t, depending on how hard my night was. What makes a sandwich so wonderful is that you can make a it of virtually anything. One of the best sandwiches I ever had was mayo, lettuce and two warm, crispy potato-zucchini pancakes. Each individual ingredient must be stellar, as should the bread. You can get great fresh bread all over, but sometimes it’s a little more special when you’ve made the bread yourself.
For Christmas last year, my wife wanted a bread machine. I was very excited at the prospect of having fresh, homemade bready daily for my never-ending stream of sandwich meals. The first few breads were barely edible. Being familiar with the way kitchen equipment works, I figured it would take some time to get the process perfected. Two months later, still no good bread, I was patient but I think my wife gave up. Now the bread maker is where I get my mail every evening. You win this time Cuisinart. All though I will say, it is a great letter holder…
Here is a recipe for a very simple foccacia. I’ve done this one with caramelized onions and rosemary, but you can flavor it in any way you like. If you are thinking of making a specific sandwich, why not have the bread flavored to complement the creation. I was using this foccacia for a Roast Beef and Swiss with Roast Red Peppers, Greens and Pesto Mayo…yeah, it was as good as it sounds (photo at the end of the post!).
Makes enough dough to cover an 18” x 13” baking pan
6 cups AP Flour
1 oz. active dry yeast
2 ½ cups water, very warm
¼ cup honey
1 ½ tsp salt, more for topping if you wish
¼ cup olive oil + more for proofing
1 small yellow onion, julienned and caramelized
2 Tbs. fresh rosemary, minced
1. Preheat your oven to 425°.
2. Combine the water, honey and yeast in a kitchen Aid mixing bowl. Stir well.
3. Allow the yeast to bloom 5-8 minutes. It should begin to look foamy.
4. Add the flour, salt, rosemary and olive oil.
5. Mix on medium low speed until the dough starts to come together. It should be slightly tacky but not wet. Add a touch more flour if needed.
6. Lightly oil the sheet tray with a little more olive oil.
7. Stretch the dough out until it mostly covers the sheet pan.
8. Rub the top of the dough with a little more olive oil.
9. Top with the caramelized onions, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place about 30 minutes.
10. Remove the plastic and, using your fingers, press holes halfway into the dough.
11. Allow the dough to rise for another 10 minutes uncovered.
12. Bake at 425° until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.
13. Pay attention in case you need to rotate the foccacia while cooking.
14. Remove from heat and allow to cool in the pan.
15. Gently, turn the foccacia over on its top side and allow the bottom to release its steam so it doesn’t get soggy.
16. Turn the bread back over and portion. Can easily be frozen for up to 2 weeks.
Instead of baking the foccacia in a sheet, if your feeling adventurous, go ahead and form the dough into 5 oz balls to make foccacia buns! Proof and bake the same way.
In my new role at my ‘day job’, I spend fair amounts of time researching trends, restaurant concepts, cuisines and what is new and happening around the country. In this role, my menus are no longer fine dining, nor am I looking to be ahead of the next trend. I’m creating food that is comfortable and accessible yet it must have an air of originality (I’m over the phrases ‘give it a new twist’ & ‘put my own spin on it’). Trends are still important, as are the various buzzwords that have taken over restaurant speak like seasonal, hyper-local, sustainable and organic. But in the end, it’s still all about the food and how well that food is thought out, sourced and prepared.
As I’ve gone about my research, I’ve noticed lately I’ve been thinking about Southern food, constantly. Inevitably, every research topic seems to lead me back to the South, specifically the Carolinas and Georgia. The food movement, as it currently exists, seems to have taken up residence in places like Husk, Empire State South and Table and Main, simple, straightforward food, and all southern.
“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”
One of the staple ingredients of the south, though not exclusive to it, is oysters. In the south and all along the gulf coast, oysters are prepared in most every way you can imagine. You’ll find them grilled, fried, sautéed, in soups, in sauces, in sandwiches, and of course, raw. Traditionalist will eat oysters raw or with a squeeze of lemon, some insist a little Tabasco is acceptable. Purists scoff at cocktail sauce, pungent enough to cover up the mild, briny flavors. Condiments for oysters should accent the flavor of the oyster, something the French do really well.
Mignonette is a French condiment made for shellfish, specifically oyster, simply enough, it is comprised of minced shallots, vinegar and black pepper. The vinegars are interchangeable, as are the shallots, but fresh cracked black pepper is what gives the mignonette its punch.
I’ve played with many different combinations but this recipe is far and away my favorite, I come back to it time and again, it is just pungent enough so as not to overpower the oyster and provides just enough sweetness to accent the salty brine of the oyster. Try this with a dozen of the Olde Salts from Virginia.
Ginger Jalapeno Mignonette
1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
3 oz fresh ginger, brunoise
3 oz jalapeno, brunoise
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
2. Mix well.
3. Refrigerate for 6 hours
4. A half tsp per oyster should be enough.
Aside: We’re all familiar with the concept of eating oysters in the months that end in ‘r’. While this notion is based on the fact that crops were subject to the warmer ocean waters in the summer, most oysters are now farmed under relatively controlled environments, making it easier to find quality oysters throughout the year.
I think years down the road, when I look back on 2012, I will realize that this was the year everything changed. When I started 2012, I was the chef at one restaurant here in Denver, as the year ended, I was the chef at 12 restaurants spread around Colorado. Last year on the 1st, I was a father to 2 girls, as the year closes, it is now 3. And lastly, the thought of shooting a cookbook was only a fantasy at the beginning of 2012, here at the end, photos, shot list and photo log are all fully submitted for an August publication. Throughout the year, I’ve seen great personal and professional accomplishments, I’ve been able to meet and surpass virtually every goal I set for myself in 2012 (save the smoking, still working on that one…), but through all of it, my blog, this one here, never got much love.
I’ll be treating my goals for 2013 a little differently. While I was aggressive in 2012, 2013 will be about focusing on the accomplishments of last year. I don’t want to just do my job, I want to do my job better. It is the same with my children and my website/photography. I want to work on excelling at what I earned in 2012. To be a better father, a better blogger, chef, photographer and person. That is the challenge for this year.
I want to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2013. I’ll be back later in the month with a renewed dedication to this site with new recipes, photos and stories.
Peace & love, peace & love,