Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Using My Noggin

Due to the Christmas holiday we will be closed on Thursday and Friday, leaving me with three nights of dinner service. This short week gives me an interesting opportunity to work outside the box with this week's special and come up with something that embodies our ideology that plates don't have to be either small or large, but rather a variety of sizes to mix and match to suit individual tastes. As a chef, this style of cooking is incredibly freeing; at a lot of restaurants the appetizers are more interesting than the entrees because with a smaller plate, people are more likely to take a chance on something a little different, where with entrees they want something more cohesive and complete.

Since most of our customers expect the special to be of an "entree" size I tend to oblige them, even if a lot of the time I don't conform to the standard meat-vegetable-starch format that the traditional ways of cooking stipulate. So with a short week like this, I can take a chance with an idea that is smaller but more interesting without pissing too many people off ;).

Another interesting aspect to a medium-sized serving portion is that I can also implement more vegetarian options, because even though "Meaters" won't normally order a vegetarian entree, everyone will enjoy a dish like this!!:

People often associate winter with rich, heavy food, but in fact this is the season where bright and vibrant flavors such as citrus fruits and pomegranates are starting to peak, so I used that misconception to pair with the more notorious cold weather ingredient, the beet, to create a refreshing plate that still brims with seasonality.

I didn't use the standard red beet, of course; instead I whole roasted both golden and chiogga (a.k.a. candy striped beets) to concentrate their flavors and peeled them easily while they were still hot. While the beets cooled I finely zested the rinds of blood oranges and used that to make a vinaigrette with champagne vinegar, shallots, garlic, a touch of fresh thyme and a wonderful blood orange-infused extra virgin olive oil that I found from California. I then carefully cut the segments from between the membranes that I saved in the remaining juice until I was ready to finish the plate.

Once ordered I alternated thin slices of each beet and drizzled them with the vinaigrette and topped them off with crumbled Greek feta cheese, the blood orange segments and a fine shaving of fresh mint to end up with a dish that is as beautiful as is delicious!

Since I didn't feature a holiday-style dish for the food-side of my specials, I couldn't help but introduce one of my favorite holiday drinks to make up for it: Boiled Custard.

Boiled custard is a Southern beverage that is similar to egg nog, but growing up, I always felt that it was lighter, and well, less eggy than egg nog. Traditionally speaking, the only difference was that boiled custard was cooked and egg nog was not, but now they are both cooked, so the difference nowadays is that egg nog is richer and contains cinnamon and nutmeg, whereas boiled custard is lighter and contains vanilla.

One thing that has never changed for either? They both do very well with the addition of liquor!

For mine I tempered egg yolks with sugar, vanilla and hot milk and then cooked the mixture slowly until it thickened slightly. Once cooled I whipped the leftover egg whites with granulated sugar and cream of tartar (used to "cook" them so they're safe to eat), then folded them into the cold custard.

We are offering our boiled custard with or without brandy, but either way, it's like sipping sweet clouds and happiness!!!!

Happy Holidays!

With Love,