Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Almond cream, marinated strawberries

A play on the classic strawberries and cream. The classic version is simple and oh so decadent! This dish attempts to improvise the tried and true and add a few more components. The strawberries are marinated in grappa, then sprinkled with some sugar. The cream, which usually used full fat (35%), is made with table cream (18%). Using carrageenan, we can achieve a texture that is just as creamy if not creamier than full fat cream. The carrageenan also helps to allow the flavour to linger just a bit more. I also added pure almond extract to the cream and just enough sugar to enhance the almond flavour without making the cream too sweet. Some chocolate and blueberries to complement and colour the dish. The people who tried it said the sweetness was just right. Just enough to be considered desert sweet, but not too much to be the dominant flavour.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Creamy Chicken Pate

This thing is actually inspired from faux gras, but instead of using butter, I used cream. MAN it's good. A very creamy and LIGHT texture to it. Not as fat-filled since I used butter. The taste is also more pronunced. So I decided to pair it with some fairly sweet complements, all with different textures. Crispy, crunchy and...crushy? The sugar brulee on the side, with some sauteed cried currants, and sliced apples.

In retrospect, I wish I had sprinkled some fresh thyme as an aromatic and for a bit of colour.

Scallops and Saffron!

It's been a while since my last post! I was kept busy attending workshops during the research chef conference in Phoenix, AZ. I'm back now though, with plenty of ideas sparked from the conference.

First creation, seared scallops with saffron cream. Those 2 key ingredients are really the base for this dish, and everything else is only complementary. Saffron tastes incredible with almost any seafood. Unfortunately, it's quite expensive, $9 Canadian per gram in grocery stores. Regardless, its price is well worth it. Scalded the saffron with table cream for about 30 minutes, VERY low heat. Added some carrageenan into the cream to make it behave as if it was 35% cream. Parsley puree is made with blanched parsley and thickened with carrageenan as well. I could use xanthan as a thickener, but I'm not a fan of xanthan gum for this dish. Its mouthfeel is too clingy for the puree. I wanted the puree to be tasted, and then disappear, not linger. Added a twist to the puree by putting in some grill flavour. Complements are roasted peppers and sauteed asparagus. OH, and of course, extra virgin olive oil.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chicken Sliders

Recently, sliders have been getting plenty of attention. Pick up a fod magazine, and theres bound to be a few slider recipes in there. Restaurants are picking up on the trend as well. This rise in popularity may be because sliders seem to hit several spots simultaneously. In terms of variety for example, I would imagine a slider main course to be a trio of sliders served with some thin cut fries. Each slider being different from another, say, burger trio; lamb, chicken and beef burger all with different complimentary flavours. If a restaurant wants to kick it up a notch, foie gras slider with brioche, wagyu beef on a mini kaiser. ENDLESS IDEAS. So to partake in this trend, I created my own.

Smoked chicken slider. Nothing fancy. I wanted it to be approachable, non pretentious. What's interesting is that the chicken wasn't actually smoked. Instead, I added a char smoke powder flavour. Also some carrageenan to keep the patty juicy and hold it together without using eggs. It's smoky, crispy and oh so juicy. Another wonderful attribute of carrageenan is that it is able to hold the juices inside, helping to keep the patty crispy. I'm not a fan of soggy sandwiches. I wanted the smoky flavour te be the main attraction here, so I didn't go crazy with the extras. Just fresh tomatoes, spinach and onion sprouts.

I can just imagine, summer back porch party food.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Da Vittorio, Bergamo, Italy (3 Michelin stars)

Man was this place to die for! That was some sublime seafood. I ordered the seafood tasting which had some of the best, freshest seafood I have ever tasted. Everything was cooked perfectly. See, the difficulty in cooking seafood is getting it at the perfect temperature. Too rare, and the flavours don't come out. Too cooked, and it becomes tough, rubbery and dry. This place had their seafood cooking perfected all around. Unfortunately, some of the photos did not turn out very well. I did not want to use the flash since it might disturb people who are eating, it lights up the entire room. We all know how annoying that is, when you just want to enjoy a meal and have lights flashing all around.

This is the restaurant. Quite elegant, almost French.

The next two photos are images of the Amuse Bouche. The one below is a parmeggiano regiano ball. It's deep fried, with a creamy, semi liquid centre. The 2nd image is a slice of banana topped with a cinammon ice cream. There was also a crispy component to it that tasted like bruleed sugar.

This dish was a bit of a mystery to me because of the texture. It's scampi, and it's damn good scampi too. Served with a cream sauce and a variety of caviars. See, the texture of the scampi was almost raw, but the flavour of it was very present. It was seemed like the perfect middle between raw and cooked. But wasn't just cooked medium, it was also too cooked to be rare. My guess is this had to be cooked sous vide to get these results. Very low temperature to avoid overcooking, just enough to bring out the flavour, not too high to actually "cook" it.

Another extremely interesting dish. Cod espuma, cod broth and bits of cod. See, the bits weren't the flesh of the fish. They were the best parts, which are mostly found in the face. Parts like the cheek, lips and other bits that have that tender, melt-in-your-mouth OH SO GOOD texture.

Aahhh, main course. Variety of deep fried seafood. To a Torontonian whos been to many chinese restaurants, this somewhat looks like Cantonese chow mein. At least, that was the first impression I got. Obviously the flavours are completely different. Each seafood was allowed to shine, the flavour of each piece was exquisite and unique. It wasn't just jumbled up flavours that has that generic seafood taste. No, the langoustine tasted like wonderful langoustine, the calamari was distinctly calamari, and so on. I believe this dish is a great example of how a dish does not have to undergo complicated processes to be delicious. Just simple, but perfect technique. As Thomas Keller would say, "It's all about finesse".

On to desert. Tiers of various cookies. The first photo makes me wish I was better versed in the realm of baking. Soon! Needless to say, they were amazing. On the 2nd photo, the one that really caught me is that green semi circle. It's pistachio cream, but extremely light. It had a butter tart on the bottom and a crispy component as well, most likely candied pistachios. Very delicious.

I have to say, the presentation and general feel of the restaurant, from the ambience to the food seemed French. However, when you taste the flavours, it was undeniably Italian. I'd love to go back.