Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An Apple a Day

Autumn is a very nostalgic time for me: the leaves have changed and are clattering in the streets; the crisp, chilly air while the sun is still shining, and even hopes of seeing another harvest moon. Despite working on this past Halloween (and every other one that I can remember) I still appreciate the enchantment that it brings. As a kid I all I ever thought about was the candy that I would get, but now as a chef all I think about is the bounty that the season will bring... and it's funny how those two emotions now feel the same.

One of the many great parts of living in this area this time of year is the abundance of our state fruit, the apple. Despite haunting memories of bobbing for apples (the waterboarding of Halloween tradition), the apple remains one of my favorite fruits, whose family spans from tart to sweet with the ability to accent every course.

The process for this week's special went like a word association game:

I started with the idea of combining apple and fennel since they have accenting flavors and great textures, then I used those flavors with other ingredients that they compliment - fennel goes great with fish and seafood, and green apple gives a bright acidity that pairs well with spices, and they both blend well with earthy ingredients.

I started with a broth made of fresh Alaskan halibut bones and fennel, not too fishy and not too light, along with ginger, star anise and a touch of soy sauce. While the stock was simmering I cooked pearled barley with apple cider and a splash of heavy cream for body. I emphasized the apple and fennel in the broth with a fresh shaved salad of each on top, along with king crab, seared scallops and shrimp, but there was an underlying treat to this dish as well:

The Ozette potato.

Though it may sound like some new fancy hybrid, it is actually the only potato that has come here directly from South America (the origin of all potatoes) in 1791, where all other varieties came to North America via Europe first, thus being a highly unique ingredient that is distinctly from our region, a knobby gem of the slow food movement here in Seattle. With this year being the first time that this tuber is available on a limited commercial basis, I jumped at the chance to use it in one of my dishes. Some say it's earthy, I say it's minerally, but we all agree that it's flavor is distinct.

Keeping with the apple theme I have decided to feature it as our cocktail for the entire month of November!I started with a take on a popular cocktail that is loved by all, though few would admit it - the Appletini.

For this version, I wanted to reflect on the ghosts of Halloween past, if you will, and offer a familiar treat with a combination of apple vodka, apple pucker, butterscotch schnapps and a touch of my personal recipe of caramel sauce on the rim.

A touch of home, a touch of sweetness, a touch of comfort.

With Love,


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