Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fiona's New Lamborghini Tractor


We just picked up Fiona's new tractor!  Just kidding - I spotted this fine tractor early this morning on my way to work (surely here for the Concourse) but maybe someday our garden will be large enough to support its own Lamborghini tractor!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Linne Calodo Dinner

Recently we were invited to cook at Linne Calodo winery in Paso Robles. While we don't normally do catering, the opportunity to cook at Matt and Maureen Trevisan's home above the winery, for small group of friends and supporters, was an offer too good to pass up.  I met Matt, the owner and winemaker, last year while tasting at a few wineries in Paso Robles. Post Ranch has long supported Linne Calodo, so I knew the wines would be fantastic, but I was also very impressed with Matt's philosophy on business and making wine.  In many ways his philosophy towards wine is very similar to how I think about food, and we spent several hours touring his property and tasting from barrels and library vintages.  We created a simple menu based on products from local farms and producers all prepared in an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven.  I couldn't have pulled it off without my wonderful team: Sterling, Maya and Ramon.

Reception:
  • Wood Fired Flat Breads featuring Central Coast Creamery and Jacks Creek Farm

Dinner:
  • Wild Foraged Leaves and Flowers with Local Stone Fruits (served family-style)
  • Local Red Abalone with Heirloom Tomatoes, Brown Butter, Basil and Balsamic
  • Smoked Bacon wrapped Berkshire Pork Tenderloin with Summer Shelling Beans, Sweet Corn and Hay Roasted Cippolini Onions
  • A Tasting of Local Cheeses
  • Wood Fired White Nectarines with Local Honey - Sheeps Milk Ice Cream and Anise Hyssop

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Mushrooms

The wild mushroom season is starting to work its way down the coast for Oregon. Last week we got in some tiny chanterelle buttons and giant lobster mushrooms!





Friday, August 23, 2013

Edible Jellyfish?

video
Jellyfish, though abundant in California, rarely finds its way onto our tables.  I have long heard that dried and reconstituted jellyfish is considered a delicacy in Southeast Asia and parts of Japan, but have never seen any reliable reference on eating fresh jellyfish.  Hours of research unearthed few details on how to prepare jellyfish or even whether fresh jellyfish are edible.  The idea that an ingredient that stings would be an choice ingredient is not too unusual, think about stinging nettles as an example.  In the case of nettles the toxins are quickly destroyed when heated, allowing the cooked leaves to be used in soups, pastas and a variety of preparations.  While this analogy is somewhat reassuring, I have never heard of a nettle killing someone, unlike some species of jellyfish that can kill their victims in a matter of minutes.

My research indicated that cannonball jellyfish is one of the most widely consumed species, but unfortunately, are not found in Monterey Bay.  Moon Jellyfish were the only benign local species that seemed even semi-promising.  The best instructions I could find called for brining the jellyfish with salt and alum in various ratios for several weeks, then drying it.   Given that a fresh jellyfish is composed of 95% water, this seems like a last resort.  Given how perishable the fresh jellyfish are, it seemed likely that over the years people might have used curing and drying as a method of preservation rather than a culinary necessity.  Unfortunately I could not find any sources to back up my hunch that a fresh jellyfish could be eaten raw, other than a couple of odd online videos depicting a fisherman swallowing a live jellyfish with visible discomfort.

Having come to an impasse in my quest to determine if local jellyfish is edible, I decided there was only one thing left to do, find one and give it a try.  Two days later I held a clear bag filled with filtered sea water and watched as the translucent bell of a live moon jellyfish undulate inside.  After removing the live jellyfish I removed the tentacles and internal organs, then rinsed the bell in cold fresh water.  The gel was firmer than I expected and looked like a block of ice melting in my hand.  At first I cut a small piece of the gel and dropped it into simmering water.  Almost immediately it began to curl and shrink, quickly dissolving into nothing.  I cut another small piece and popped it in my mouth before caution got the best of me.  The texture was soft and smooth with a slight firmness.  The gel soon began to melt coating my tongue with the briny taste of sea water.  The sensation was cool and refreshing, like the world’s most delicate oyster, awakening the palette before dissolving into memory.  Like the aroma of fresh sea urchin, it brings you to the ocean, like inhaling a waft of sea mist.

Next I took a small piece of the jellyfish and topped it with fresh grated ginger and lime juice.  The spice and acid helped cut a bit of the saltiness and balance the sea flavor into a more palatable experience.  By this time the remaining jellyfish had already started to dissolve, trickling down the sides of the cutting board into viscous pools.  As soon as the jellyfish touches air it begins to break down, which may explain why it is so often seen dried rather than fresh.  In a last ditch effort to save our jellyfish we dipped it into liquid nitrogen and then put it into the freezer.  This did stop the gel from dissolving, but the refreshed gel did not have the same delicate texture as the fresh gel we tried.  In the future I will try keeping the jellyfish in water or oil to minimize its contact with oxygen.  Either way, this is a product that would need to be procured just hours before serving……….I think it will be well worth the effort.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chef Aprons


There are few tools more valuable to a professional chef than a quality apron.  These days most chefs opt for the full length bib apron, though some still sport aprons tied at the waist.   You can find designer aprons in every shape, size and texture, but finding one that is both stylish and practical can be a challenge.  I like aprons that have an adjustable neck strap and waist tie that secures in the back, not around the front.  The apron should have a couple of pockets adequate for holding a pen, sharpie, tweezers and notebook.  The material should be substantial enough that the front collar does not sag, but breathable and comfortable to the touch. After spending a few years looking for the perfect apron I found one I really liked from Union Wood Company.  While this particular bib apron was designed with wood workers in mind, I love its industrial looks and sturdy design.  Thick leather straps and vintage buckles secured to the canvas front with heavy snaps so they can be removed for washing. There were a few things I wanted that didn't come with the stock apron and the company was
happy to modify it for me.  I liked the apron so much I bought a few for our chef team.  Here is Willy Ono and Elizabeth Murray helping me model our new aprons for the Union Wood Company web page.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rattlesnake


As a child, growing up in New Mexico, rattlesnake encounters were not uncommon.  I remember stopping at a roadside attraction somewhere near the four corners that had a cage full of giant rattlesnakes in the back of a gas station.  The store sold taxidermy snakes, fake vibrating rattlesnake eggs and all kinds of other rattlesnake-themed souvenirs.  These mysterious creatures have always intrigued me, so when I heard about an unusual number of rattlesnakes being spotted in Big Sur this summer I took note and decided it was time to cook one.

Rattlesnake has lots of bones and not much meat.  What meat they do have is completely devoid of any fat, making it very challenging to work with.  So far my favorite preparation is to cure the snake, then slow cook it in duck fat.  Once the meat is falling off the bones, I mix it with garlic, lime and jalapeno to make a Big Sur rillet.  While many have compared the flavor of rattlesnake to chicken, I feel it is far more complex and difficult to identify, almost reminiscent of seafood, but with a slightly musky aroma.

Unfortunately getting rattlesnake makes finding komochi kombu look easy……..but maybe that makes it all the more special.





Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Striped Bass


Pan Roasted Striped Bass featuring heirloom summer squash, spot prawn-stuffed squash blossom and lemon verbena.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mornings On The Wharf

A few days each week I will start my morning with a trip to wharf #2 in Monterey.  This time of year the water is usually calm.  Fog wraps around the bay like a misty vignette, surrounding rafts of otters and rocking sailboats.  Pelicans perch on wooden posts waiting for the fisherman to arrive.  Each day brings something different: a small day boat with a hatch full of live black cod, a squid boat unloading its catch with a giant vacuum and conveyor belt into two waiting semis, an old fisherman with a half dozen rockfish.  Seeing the commercial wharf, with its rusty lifts and patches of crushed ice is like a window into the past, when small towns still had commercial fishing operations.  Even here commercial fishing is a fraction of what it once was, and most of the catch is destined for a table hundreds or thousands of miles away.  I spend a lot of time wondering how the local community could better support our fisheries and keep the local industry vibrant and the catch closer to home…




Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pork Cheeks


Watermelon Braised Berkshire Pork Cheeks, Fresh Garbanzo Beans, Pickled Watermelon Rind

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Six-Course Intercontinental Affair Dinner - September 7


We've got a great event coming up next month here in Big Sur.  Own own talented pastry chef Yulanda Santos is being joined by two very special culinary talents to bring you a six-course dinner spanning the globe from from Big Sur to Bali to Singapore.  The dinner includes wine pairings with each course.

We're thrilled to welcome our two guest chefs, Will Goldfarb, former Executive Pastry Chef at the acclaimed El Bulli and currently the director of the pastry program at KU DE TA and WillPowder in Bali along with Pastry Chef Janice Wong, of Singapore’s famed 2am:dessertbar.  It should be an incredible evening.

The dinner is being held at a private home in Big Sur.  We'll provide transportation to and from the dinner from Post Ranch so you can park here at the hotel.  For more information about the event or for tickets, please visit http://intercontinentalaffair.bpt.me/

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Forbidden Blossoms



A giant stalk of yucca blossoms taunted me- waving just out of reach at Pfeiffer Burns State Park……

Monday, August 5, 2013

Staying Sharp


A few weeks ago some of the cooks and I made a trip to San Francisco to take a sharpening class at The Town Cutler.  Galen Garretson owns the small shop at 1005 Bush St. and his passion for knives and cooking is evident the moment you walk in the door.  Behind a retractable glass wall are dozens of hand-made knives, ranging for a hundred dollars to several thousand.  On the other side of the room are custom made leather honing straps, hand-made knife rolls and sharpening stones.  A few times a month he leads a class on sharpening with Japanese water stones.  While I have been sharpening knives for years, it was really useful to hear his explanation and see his techniques in person.  At one point during the class he hooked a USB microscope up to his computer to analyze the edge on a blade and show us exactly what he was looking for.  We walked out of the class with several sharpening stones and a leather strop for the kitchen.  The three cooks enjoyed it so much I hope to make a repeat trip later this summer.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thai Nasturtium Salad

When I lived in Hawaii I had a tall papaya tree that grew outside my bedroom window.  I remember the distinct aroma of the unripe fruit, its spicy bitterness and the white sticky sap that would seep from the cut stem.  On Eastern Maui, papayas are garbage food, rotting beside the roads and forgotten in backyards.  The only person who seemed remotely interested in them was a Thai lady who would make some of the most incredible green papaya salad I have ever had.

Papayas don’t grow in Big Sur, but we have plenty of wild nasturtiums.  The flavor of the seeds and flowers has always reminded me of green papaya.  It was not until recently that I discovered they both belong to the Brassicales order, a large group of plants known for producing glucosinolate (mustard oil).  This might explain why they are reminiscent of one other.

This week I am slow braising sweetbreads with young coconut water, then crisping them with rice flour and serving them with toasted cashew butter and a thai style nasturtium leaf salad.