Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Promised Recipe.

A new client of mine requested this recipe after an anniversary dinner I cooked recently for she and her husband. This piquante pepper sauce is great for full flavored fish (wild salmon, tuna, etc.) or roasted chicken, and especially delicious with fried shrimp or calamari. The key ingredient, pappadew peppers from South Africa, are available in the deli section of Schnucks. Here it is, enjoy:

1 cup pappadew peppers
1 small onion, diced
1 large red pepper, seeded & diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 medim carrot, shredded
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt & pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
pappadew pepper brine, as needed

Preparation: Saute peppers, onions, garlic and carrots until soft. Deglaze with white wine, simmer until absorbed, add chicken stock. Cook 5-10min.. Puree in blender or with stick blender, return to sauce pan and add parsley and brine until desired consistency. Serve warm.

Good Ole Michigan

I've been up in the mitten state for almost a week now and besides the lack of humidity and urban living the big difference is the incredible availability of fresh berries. Everywhere you go up here you run into a farm or a market peddling fresh spring strawberries (small purveyors selling their berries out of the back of a pick-up truck is a common site along the county roads of Western Michigan). Cooking for the Winstons this week I've been using strawberries for everything (they've been good sports about it for they're blueberry people): salads, coulis for ice creams, tarts, glaze for chicken, etc.. Those of you who are forced to shop among those plastic pints of "cardboard" Driscoll's strawberries at Schnucks, Straubs or Dierbergs know what I mean when I talk about the allure of berries for sale mere hours after they were picked. I'm a sucker for those make-shift farmstands of locally grown produce, I'll almost always buy some of everything (provided the quality is there) and figure out what to do with it when I get back to the kitchen. The great thing for those of us up here in Michigan is that we have local blueberries, raspberries, sweet corn, apricots, peaches, etc. to look forward to. Missing all of you but not the humidity. Cheers.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Near Future.

I leave in a couple of weeks to spend the summer on the West-coast of Michigan to cook for my good friends, the "first family of food", the Winstons. I'll be updating the Traveling Kitchen blog regularly with stories, market reports and, of course, recipes. I'll be returning to St. Louis in late August to begin building Kirk's Traveling Kitchen in earnest. I'm finishing this post with a recipe for a great, light summer canape (and the final Amuse Bouche from my tenure as chef at Savor). Enjoy.

Kaffir Lime-Melon "Shooters" with Coconut Cream and Sesame Wafers
(makes enough for 12 canape portions)

Cantaloupe, Peeled/Seeded/Diced 1 medium
Fresh Lime Juice 4 limes
Simple Syrup, (1/2 water/1/2 sugar) 1 1/2 cups
Kaffir Lime Leaves (fresh or frozen) 2
Coriander Seeds (cracked) 15
Green Cardamom pods (cracked) 5

Coconut Milk 1 cup
Heavy Cream 1/2 cup

Spring roll wrappers 4 sheets
Eggs, beaten 1
Soy sauce 1 Tablespoon
Sesame Seeds (Black and White) as needed

Preparation Procedure: Preheat oven to 325.

Bring simple syrup, lime leaves, coriander and cardamom to boil. Remove from stove and allow to steep 30 minutes to one hour. Strain and chill.

Meanwhile beat heavy cream in mixer until peaks start to form, fold in coconut milk and mix until thick. Refrigerate.

When syrup is cold pour over melon and lime juice in blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate.

Brush springroll wrappers (cut in an appealing shape) with egg wash mixed with oyster sauce or hoisin or soy. Sprinkle with sesame while still wet.
Lay out on silpat or parchment lined sheet pan, cover with sheet of parchment or another silpat. Bake 10-15 minutes until brown.

Fill shot glass 2/3 full of melon soup, top with dollup of cold coconut chantilly and garnish with sesame wafer.
How I got here.

As I wrap-up my last few weeks at Savor, I've been taking a little time to reflect on how I became a chef and lover of great food. The food part is relatively straight forward, how was I not going to be a food person with a father who exposed me to great restaurants and unique ingredients since I was a toddler (an Indonesian-style rijsttafel [rice table] comes to mind), and a mother who is an incredible cook, restaurant owner and notorious portion monster (I still remember how impressed my friends were in grade-school when they came over to our house in the winter to find our back-porch transformed into a makeshift walk-in cooler and loaded with 50-quart stock pots of various delicious soups and stews my Mother had made for us as an after-school snack). Becoming a chef didn't come as naturally. Even though I loved cooking and working in restaurants, I'd always thought of professional cooking as a means to get through film school. Two things happened to help change my mind. The first occured during my first year of graduate studies, while taking a hiatus in St. Louis, my car was broken into and all my film equipment stolen. About the same time I received a copy of A. Dornenburg & K. Page's inspirational "Becoming a Chef" an incredible book that outlines the amazing world of prefessional cooking through interviews with some of the world's best chefs. I took these events as signs, left school (which I wasn't enjoying anyway) and committed myself to learning everything I could about cooking and food. Many incredible meals and unforgettable food experiences later I'm about to embark on another food adventure: Kirk's Traveling Kitchen.