Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring is here!!

It's no surprise that after a long winter of staring at root vegetables and rubbing my chin in thought that the bounty of new ingredients that the spring brings is more than just a warm welcome. Don't get me wrong, I love crafting new and intricate dishes out of winter's deep, earthy vegetable goodness and pairing them with rich and hearty counterparts. In fact, some of my best dishes have been pulled out of me with a mere tuber for inspiration, but there is something special about the anticipation of a new ingredient palate, with new colors, textures and flavors. For me it almost rivals the warm, anxious feeling of Christmas Eve; only now I know what gifts will come... and that makes me even more excited.

Honestly, sometimes the hardest part is choosing what vegetable to use, since many of them are only available within a short window of time. I am often torn between one idea and another, which is hard enough as it is, but then to be faced with the chance that I may have to wait an entire year for it to become available locally!?!

And that's what brings me to this dish. Almost this time last year I whimsically thought up the dyad of white asparagus pureed with white truffle oil. In the right balance, it can be ethereal, but too much truffle will crash the flavor faster than a drunken pilot. I came across this realization at the tail end of white asparagus season last year and have since waited with bated exuberance to use it again... until now.

Now that I have the sauce as my foundation, the only problem is that I don't do subtly well, in food or in life; I love big, bold flavors that punch you in the mouth, and, I don't mind saying it: I'm good at it. So I start building from there and decided to envelope handcrafted porcini fettuccine noodles with it, made by adding pulverized dried porcini mushrooms to a basic, egg-rich pasta base, kneaded by hand, rolled by machine (hey, this isn't the Dark Ages), then cut roughly with a Chef's knife. I then added fresh shucked English peas for more seasonality and sweetness, roasted tomato for some acidity and color, and finally the meat - ground Moulard duck rendered at the beginning of the dish, and finished with some duck cracklin' on top to complete it.

One note on the cracklin': though pasta dishes pack great flavor, they usually have the same mushy texture, and even with the occasional pop of the English Peas, I decided to take it a step forward and complete the pasta with a crunchy yet airy preparation rarely found anywhere.


Of course, no indication of spring is more evident than the surfacing of fresh rhubarb on the market. I for one decided to skip over the traditional strawberry-rhubarb pie for something a little bit different. Instead I ran some fresh topped strawberries and stalks of rhubarb through my (now angry) juicer to end up with a thin, concentrated blend of sweet strawberry and tart rhubarb, then I swirled in a hefty amount of rum to complete what I call a Strawberry Rhubarb Punch!!!

I know, I know... it sounds a little too simple to be called a "punch", but by juicing the fruits instead of cooking it all down into a thick pulp, the cocktail goes down so fast, one Tuesday night regular said it was more like a "slap in the face"!

I still like to think that the term "punch" is still more accessible for some reason.

With Love,


P.S. - The irony of it all: My allergies are acting up.

Stupid Spring......