White Chocolate-Peppermint Cheesecake

Okay. Here is the final dessert using the aerated chocolate as a garnish.

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For the cheesecake, we made a standard batter flavored with white chocolate and ground starlight mints. We baked it without a crust, let it cool, then placed it in a mixer with a paddle attachment to cream it back together and to aerate it. We then made some mock Oreo cookie dough, baked it, then ground it into a fine powder for garnish as well. IMG_0861
For the final plate up, we put another starlight mint in a low oven to allow it to soften, then pressed it paper thin so it shatters when it’s put in your mouth. We placed 3 quenelles of the cheesecake on the plate, a stripe of chocolate sauce and micro peppermint, and we’re good to go.  Here is the dessert plated on white china and also marble.

Aerated Chocolate – Simplified

I have had a fascination with aerating foods and setting foams for some time now.  For a couple years I have thought about aerating chocolate, cheese, and other gels like agar and gelatin.  There always seemed to be other priorities in my career for some time now.  But, I have finally reached a point where I can continue some good experimentation.  I started off with purchasing a couple high impact plastic vacuum seal containers with a 2 1/2  quart capacity.  I chose the Vacmaster because it’s made with solid, thick, heavy plastic to stand up to the chamber vacuum sealer.

Many chefs talk about tempering the chocolate and/or adding oil to it to increase the fluidity, or even adding stabilizing hydrocolliods.  We found you don’t need to do any of this.

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With this container, we melted 1 1/2 pounds of Valhrona white chocolate and put it in a 1 quart ISI canister and charged it, while warm, with 2 N2O charges, shaking very well in between charges.  We then dispensed the chocolate into the container, put the lid on, moved the dial to “vacuum”, and placed it in the vacuum chamber.  We closed the lid and put about 60% vacuum on the canister and the chocolate ballooned up by about 300%. I then stopped the vacuum and opened the lid and found the chocolate was still holding the air bubbles, and not collapsing,  I placed it in the refrigerator and let the chocolate set for 4 hours.  When I removed it, I released the vacuum and took the lid off.  I then placed the container in warm water to release the chocolate from the sides and took it out.

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This was my 5th attempt.  The first 4 times, it wasn’t working and I could not figure out why.  I learned that you cannot vacuum too much because this will actually suck all the N2O out.  You need to just pull a slight vacuum to allow the chocolate to rise, and then stop.  Otherwise the chocolate will collapse before it sets.

The texture is amazing.  It completely collapses on the palate and melts away to nothing almost instantly.  It fools your mind into thinking you’re suppose to have something in your mouth, but then it’s gone. It looks like white bread or angel food cake from a small distance.  We are working on a new dessert that will use this chocolate as a garnish for a white chocolate-peppermint cheesecake.  More to come.

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Planting my #Garden for #Earthday Today

After WWII, America realized what we thought was the golden promise of an Industrialized Era.  We were (and are) an industrious bunch, working on efficiencies and trying to make EVERYTHING cheaper, better, faster…  at any cost, apparently.  We got good at it.  VERY good.  The problem is, in an era of excess, waste occurs.  We are content with car that get 20 MPG when gas is under $2 a

gallon.  Now it’s over $4 a gallon and we’re worried.  We, as consumers don’t see why it’s so expensive.  We don’t often realize that it takes MILLIONS of years to create the oil we use in practically EVERYTHING we produce from gas, to industrial fertilizers to plastic goods.  It’s taken us under a hundred years to notice that oil is not unlimited and that we maybe running to the end of our supply.  Millions of years to make, a century to use.  Hmmm…  Time to move on to something different.

What does this have to do with my garden?  Nothing really, except that by planting a garden, you too can help save the Earth, just like supporting endeavors to utilize renewable energy sources.  I guess they are linked.  And, it is Earth day after all.  And there’s only one Earth.

So, let’s ALL plan ahead.  Invest in renewable energy now AND start finding ways to conserve water.  Because, the next wars will be fought over H2O.  Trust me.  And it worries me.  Plan now.  Happy Earth Day, Earth.

Farmers and Their Chickens

I have had the fortune of connecting with a man by the name of Douglas Hayes.  He is the one behind the Napa Valley Buckeye Chickens.  I was invited by his farm (or “Preservation Sanctuary Learning Center” as he has coined it) to see his operation and try to convince him to be a featured farmer for one of our Beyond The Kitchen farm dinners.  While he has a lot of space (over 30 acres) he has a very small area devoted to the raising and perfecting of the Buckeye chicken breed.  Image

Douglas is committed to preservation and sustainable agriculture.  Through the many hours speaking with him, I feel that he has always been this way.  This is not a trendy thing for him to be doing, rather a way of life he has always embraced.

Taken from his write up:

“The Buckeye Chicken:

The Buckeye chicken was created in Ohio by Nettie Metcalf before 1896.  Four Standard Bred chickens were used to establish the breed.  Buff Cochin, Barred Rock, Black Breasted Red Game, and Dark Cornish were crossed over a period of six years… the result of this selection is the Buckeye. The Buckeye is a Multipurpose breed with good meat and egg qualities.  At the height of popularity there may have been 2-3 million Buckeyes, by 1960 there were about 10,000 of these chickens; now, there are only 2188 Buckeye breeders remaining, of which there maybe only 500 with really good genetics.  The breeding Buckeye flock at this Preservation Sanctuary Learning Center is 125 chickens with good genetics, and is pasture raised.  The chickens are processed at 16-18 weeks the old fashioned way in a completely humane way.  These chicken know NO violence, only love.  No antibiotics, no preservatives, no hormones, no GMO Grain, and no additives are fed to the chickens.”
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I had the opportunity to cook one of his chickens recently.  I brined it overnight in a 6% salt water solution and roasted it whole, stuffed with onions, apples and sage.  Served it with roasted baby marble potatoes, green beans and linguica sausage.  I have to say, this was seriously the best chicken I have ever had that was super moist, crispy skin and dark meat that was so dark, flavorful and steak-like.  Wow.
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I can tell Douglas has a deep philosophy about food, life and living.  After knowing him, it’s easy to understand the words he chooses to finish his write-up:
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“If animals are raised with love and respect, processed with love and respect, cooked with love and respect, and served with love and respect, then we eat love and respect, and we are healed.”
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Look forward to meeting Douglas and having some amazing chicken with us on his sanctuary in mid August.  Details forthcoming.

Beyond The Kitchen – Farm Dinners at the Source

Here’s  a great link to our first newsletter.  Please, won’t you check it out?

http://mim.io/d9bf12

The Slaughtering of Animals

I had the opportunity to join a small farm as the called in a small, mobile slaughter truck that came in and slaughtered a cow and a Mulefoot hog.  It was a calm and quick .22 shot to the head.  The use of a mobile unit coming to the farm is preferred because the pigs live a happy, healthy life on the farm and to truck them away would add undue stress.  They were then processed in the space of about 30-40 minutes a piece.  It was amazing to watch, but unnerving at the same time.  I appreciate animals for food so much more now.  What was even more amazing was listening to the slaughterer and the farmer discuss the current affairs of big agribusiness and factory farms and how sad the condition of our food supply system is in.  My new favorite quote is the farmer saying “Pigs in factory farms are merely holograms of the real thing.”   The following pictures are a bit graphic.

 

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Culinary Demonstration

Thanks to all the fine folks that came to the cooking demonstration today. It was a great blast. The recipe for the lentils will be posted under the recipe tab at the top of the page. We’ll see ya next time.

Cherry Citrus Strudel with Lavender Ice Cream

Nice one with candied zest.

Wild Columbia River Sturgeon and Fresh Rainbow Trout

We’re getting some great seafood in right now…

Vineyard Dinner Photos

Here are some shots on what we hope to be a regular occurrence…  Imagine taking a trolley ride to a Southern Oregon winery where you are greeted with wine and fantastic food, much grown on the winery’s grounds.  This was a lot of fun.  Stay tuned…

Oregon Ramps Are (finally) Here!

Okay, okay, okay!  I’ve been asking Louis over at Mushrooms All Year where the ramps are for the last 2 months.  “No, chef” he would say….  “Only from Michigan right now.”  Michigan??  What???  Well, I would have to wait.  Well, that wait is OVER!   We have been  waiting for a while (Honestly for about 10 months now since last season…) So, now I have pickled them and am thinking of how to use them.  I wanted to use them fresh, but they seem to be in really short supply just like morels this year.  How depressing.  So, They are now pickled and I will probably make ramp butter with the tops.  It’s the best way I can think of to stretch them in case I don’t get another crack at ’em this season.  

New Cooking Demo Video

Here’s the latest video from KTVL Channel 10 West Coast Flavors.  Grab some popcorn and enjoy!

New West Coast Flavors Video…

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I oftentimes think about what makes me who I am.  I haven’t always felt I was confident in my life’s path.  The older I get, the more I realize the life tools I was taught growing up has given me what I need to be proud of who I’ve become.  Today is a time of reflection because it’s my Mom’s Birthday and without her, I would not be here.  Not just in a physical sense, but also in a sense of being or a sense of place.  Happy Birthday Mom.  I love you.

What is Sustainable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the USDA Website:

Definition of Sustainable Agriculture

The term ”sustainable agriculture” (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

 

From Yourdictionary.com:

us·tain·able (sə stānə bəl)

adjective

  1. capable of being sustained
  2. designating, of, or characterized by a practice that sustains a given condition, as economic growth or a human population, without destroying or depleting natural resources, polluting the environment

I need to qualify this by saying I am not a farmer.  I respect farmers/ranchers/food producers.  It’s hard work.  It’s also very unpredictable.  Farming sustainability requires an understanding of the relationships between organisms and their environment.  One must benefit the other.  Consider it a closed loop system.  You don’t really need to introduce anything if done well.  Composting, water catchment and wind or solar power are examples of sustainable practices.  It’s important for me as a chef to understand how this works.  I need to understand why a commercial egg costs me 11 cents while a sustainable egg costs me 25 cents.  It’s important for my guests to understand this as well.

Food is getting more and more expensive.  There are reasons why.  Food in the US is cheaper than most other countries.  It’s artificially kept low by the government.  I don’t yet fully understand why.  I’m in the process of studying it now.  The main thing to know is that the food system must change.  If we are to continue as a people, we need to get back to basics and re-learn what our grandparents held dearly.  Are we as Americans generally privileged?  Yes.  Are we softer because of this?  Yes.  Will this be our undoing?  Only you can decide.  For now, support your sustainable food producers.  Just in case.  It may cost more, but can you put a price on a healthy planet?

The Homogenization of American Food.

There are an awful lot of “convenience” foods available today. From canned foods to frozen-prepared foods all the way to fast food. There are more options available today than ever. These “food” manufacturers are dictating what food “should” taste like. No longer is the croissant that a Parisian baker produces after years or more of training considered the standard. Now it’s the big-as-your-head croissant that you pick up at your local big box store that resembles little of its namesake.

We all make decisions on what food to eat. As a Chef, I feel I have a professional obligation to uphold. I am faced with many options. There are so many food manufacturers that want me to purchase their ready made crap. “Flash frozen at it’s peak” they say.  “Thaw and serve. Cut down on labor. Increase consistency.”   Sound wonderful, no?

I fear food manufacturers. They are huge. Their products are distributed far and wide. The goal is to manufacture these “foods” as cheaply as possible which often include absurd amounts of fats, sugars and salt.  They begin to dictate what pesto sauce or crab (“krab”) stuffed sole or croissants should taste like. The more people purchase and consume these products for their cheap convenience, the less we come to appreciate what real, home made food tastes like without all the fillers or additives. Why artisan bread from one region of the world tastes different than the other. The more restaurants that purchase and use Sysco’s latest “thaw and serve” product, the less we can appreciate a chef’s own ability to create the same thing from whole foods. So the “krab” stuffed sole you had last week at Bubba’s Fish House will taste the same as the one from Bojo’s Krab Shack because they get them from Sysco. For crying out loud, I can now buy caramelized onions, thaw and serve. God help us!

I promise I will make all my food from scratch using whole foods. My buttermilk dressing will not taste like “Hidden Valley” and my Mac n Cheese will not taste like Kraft. And this, I am proud of. Keep this in mind the next time you crave something “convenient” or manufactured. The Kraft’s and the Tyson’s should not and cannot be dictating what food should taste like.

Google “food manufacturing” if you want to be scared.  Then thank the one who taught you how to cook.  Then use that skill.  Get back to tradition.

Cippolini Onions

Whole roasted.  Delicious…

50 Layers

Spinach, Gruyère, mushrooms, crepes…

Refreshing.

Sometimes things get hectic.  Big plans are made.  You see things changing at a rapid pace.  Sometimes you need to step back and refresh yourself.  Take a day, drive to the water and commune.

New Spring Dessert

Here we are playing with our new blueberry-lemon mascapone cheesecake.  Sold a lot of them on it’s debut night…

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