Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends

I recently received the disappointing news that my favorite getaway Kurtwood Farms is ending their five and a half years of Sunday Dinner, where practically everything you eat in the seven family-style courses is grown and raised within eyeshot of where you sit. Sure, I'm sad to hear it, if not just for selfish reasons then for the many who never got a chance to dine there, but alas Kurt Timmermeister is on a new journey, promoting his new book: Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land. Good luck, my friend.

To commemorate this departure I wanted to do something to pass along to those new people who have found us through our latest Groupon promotion, in spirit at least, so I thought back to my favorite dishes that I had there, and the most predominant was from the pasta course, thanks largely to Tyler Palagi from Spring Hill in West Seattle who has cooked each Sunday dinner at Kurtwood Farms since its inception. The guy knows his pasta, and he would routinely serve a wide, handmade noodle with either a braised pork or beef (the two types of meat raised there, unless you count the AWESOME eggs from chickens in the yard) and topped with a shaving of hard cheese that's made there as well.

Though I don't have my own farm, I decided on a similar style of pasta dish - the most humble form of appreciation there is. Every chef has their own way of doing things, and I prefer my pasta to be made with whole eggs, half semolina flour and half bread flour to make it rich and vibrant with that al dente bite that marks a great pasta. I machine-rolled the dough into thin sheets that I hand-cut wide strips, known as Pappardelle, by cutting them with (of all things) a pizza cutter. While they dried I had time to assemble the other ingredients.

One of the greatest things about the Pacific Northwest this time of year is all of the great wild mushrooms, especially true with delicious chanterelles. These bountiful jewels represent the hallmark of foraged goodness that beg to be eaten, so I started the dish by slowly simmering them in butter until soft, awaiting the addition of a sauce.

A pasta is nothing without a sauce, no matter how simple or complex. I made mine with a combination of my own marinara and the braising liquid made from slowly cooked and shredded beef that I finished with a healthy dose of sherry wine, resulting in a sauce that is robust and complex with a slightly acidic bite. I countered that bite by topping the dish with breaded and fried Taleggio cheese that, when cut into, acts like a luscious egg yolk that oozes its richness into the rest of the components, creating a swirl of delight!

If autumn had a flavor, it would taste like this:

I have been waiting months to showcase this cocktail; biding my time until the air is crisp and the leaves begin to turn into a kaleidoscope of colors. With apples and pears abound people expect to see cobblers and crisps turning up on menus, but I have a better idea.

I instead chose to create a cocktail with all of the flavors of a pear cobbler but without the heft; a drink that could be enjoyed either as a cocktail or as a dessert because it isn't cloyingly sweet.

I started with a base made by simmering fresh, ripe Red Anjou pears in water with a cinnamon stick, fresh ginger slices, allspice berries, lemon juice and just a touch of brown sugar to keep it all balanced. Once cooled and strained I combined the fresh nectar with an equal part of Absolut Pear, a splash of Frangelico hazelnut liqueur and Creme de Cacoa over ice, shook it and strained it into a martini glass rimmed with an oatmeal crumble made by cooking a batter made of oat flour, eggs, brown sugar, milk and baking powder that was then ground to give it that final touch of authentic texture and flavor.

On a final note, one day last week a couple wandered in an asked our server, Nikolia, if we will be offering any kind of pumpkin dessert in the near future. My response? Sure! Believe it or not I do take requests...

The first thing that came to mind was the first pastry recipe that I developed myself six or seven years ago. By using a recipe for cheesecake that I was already familiar with I added pumpkin puree and gradually added ground cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg and ginger, substituted brown sugar for more depth of flavor and adjusted the consistency until it yielded a rich and creamy texture that had a flavor that screamed autumn. I topped it with an egg nog cream, which is actually handmade egg nog in a whipped cream maker, that is now in its third year of use to top our brunch coffee cocktails during the fall.

I hope to see you soon!!

With Love,