It’s been busy out here in the wilderness. We’ve got lots of new ideas but minimal time to write them down. The cooking classes last week were a boon for us. It’s so much fun to be surrounded new perspectives. Even things that are routine for us in the kitchen get looked at in new ways based upon the skill levels of our groups. Each class is different. Before we begin, Alex and I have a rough idea of where we want to go and what we have to use. We start each class with a tour of the kitchen and pantry so that people can decide what ingredients or spices appeal to them and we go from there. Our first class got to play with the shipment of langoustines, but our second class actually had specific requests for smoking and chocolate sauce, which led to our menu celebrating smoke and chocolate. After class is over we write the evenings menu utilizing the things that our guest chefs have created that day. We add the wine pairings to go with the food. Our class then sits down for a formal dinner service and indulges in the fruits of their labor. It’s a lot of fun for them to see everything beautifully presented on fine china and know that it’s something that they created.
The stuffed langoustines are a case in point. Mark and Peter were the primary creators of that dish. We started out with the idea of splitting the langoustines, brushing them with a seasoned butter and broiling them, simple and delicious. Splitting the bodies was a challenge but both of them did very well. Peter did the lion’s share of the cutting while Mark and I began cleaning the bodies. Mark mentioned that he disliked eating the insides of lobsters and other creatures and that he was a bit squeamish about looking at their heads on the plate. So, we decided to remove all of the juicy insides and stuff the langoustines (we kept the heads). This began a discussion of what to stuff them with. I brought out some chorizo from Salumeria Biellese for them to taste. This was met with enthusiasm so Peter diced the chorizo while Mark chopped up some petite French horn mushrooms. We talked about fresh garlic but I didn’t have any so we added some pickled ramps instead. The chefs thought that it looks a bit greasy so we took some leftover bread from the night before and made breadcrumbs and folded them in. After we tasted the stuffing it still needed a bit more love so we foraged through the cooler and found some chopped chives for the finishing touch. We stuffed the bodies and Alex and I baked them off for service that night. Peter commented on how much he liked the presentation and I pointed out that all we did was add a bit of sauce to plate. They had done the rest.
A dish the second night grew out of some beautiful cured duck breasts that we had in the pantry. We started that class with a chocolate tasting. Using Valrhona we tasted four chocolates, beginning with milk and ending with Araguani, a bittersweet chocolate with 72% cocoa. The other special request that day was for smoking, so we decided to use chocolate and smoked items in all of our dishes that evening. Sharon and Tony were making a savory chocolate sauce to go with the duck breasts and we discussed what they like to eat with duck. Cherries and oranges were the consensus so we steeped some half and half with dried ranier cherries and grated orange rind (keeping in some of the pith for bitterness) for the sauce. While the fruit steeped we sautéed some onions and rainbow swiss chard and finished them with the juice of the grated orange. To finish our chocolate component, Sharon chose a combination of Equitorial, a semi sweet chocolate and the Araguani to combine create a fruity bittersweet sauce. We served the sauce and swiss chard with the seared, cured duck breasts and smoked vinegar. It was a beautiful dish. That’s how things evolve in our kitchen, just by being open to new ideas; we end up with great food.