Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beet That!

We have made some changes to our hours of operation due to the upcoming holidays. They are:

Friday, December 24, 9 am - 3 pm (though we may close earlier, depending on how busy/slow we are)
Saturday, December 25, CLOSED
Sunday, December 26, 9 am - 3 pm (Normal Hours)
Friday, December 31, 9 am - 10 pm (Normal Hours)
Saturday, January 1, 9 am - 3 pm (Closed for Dinner)
Sunday, January 2, 9 am - 3 pm (Normal Hours)

On New Year's Eve we will be offering our full menu and featuring a special menu as well. Check back next week for a full description.

 ~~~   ~~~   ~~~

I still can't believe that Christmas is this weekend. It seems like just two weeks ago when I said the same thing about Halloween.

Since we are only open for a few nights this week before another gluttonfest holiday I wanted to offer something simple and light, featuring one of my favorite ingredients: beets.

Beets are beautiful, versatile and delicious. I like them simply roasted (never boiled) to concentrate their sugars and flavor. I feel that the best way to serve them is sliced cold and dressed like a salad, and it is one of the few dishes that I truly enjoy reprising.

 This time I am using the Chioggia, or candy-striped beet, a heritage variety originally grown in Italy that has concentric rings of red and white much like a candy cane; perfect for a dish this time of year. Though cooking tends to allow the colors to bleed a bit, I prefer it over any raw application. Instead I roast them whole in a deep pan covered with aluminium foil and a little water to help loosen the skin. If done properly you can wipe away the skin with a paper towel once they are cool enough to handle. When completely cooled and sliced thinly the beets are dense and meaty but have ultimately lost their crunch. To compensate for this I needed to use the textures of other local, seasonal ingredients.

To dress the beets I made a vinaigrette with hazelnut oil, champagne vinegar, garlic and shallots, and sprinkled them with flakes of Maldon sea salt. I also added chopped, toasted hazelnuts from Oregon (our nation's top producer of them) to accentuate the flavor and add a ton of texture.

Next is another favorite of mine. I finely julienned Granny Smith, or green apples, to create a sort of crisp salad to top the beets. The acidity of the apples really accentuates the earthiness of the beet and makes the flavor really pop. But the one addition that truly speaks from this dish happens to be one of my least favorite ingredients.

I've always hated celery. I rarely use it, even in stocks because I find it overpowering, even in small quantities; blasphemy in the traditional French techniques that I have been trained in. Perhaps I am ultra sensitive to it - a complete opposite to my perception of ginger root - but what I finally figured out was that I dislike the texture of celery,  and I associated the flavor with that. I needed to forgo that association because I knew the flavor would really make the final product stand out, so I bypassed the fibrous texture by juicing the ribs of the celery stalk and then freezing it in a shallow pan. Once the plate was assembled I grated the frozen surface, creating a finely shaved ice known in Italian as granita.

Along with a pinch of fresh chives the granita really added a whole new dimension to the dish, not only in terms of flavor but also the way the cold crystals melt on the tongue as you scoop up the green apple and beet, with little time bombs of toasted hazelnut pieces to help drive the dish home.

The final installment of my trio of holiday dessert cocktail specials was actually the first one that I came up with, bringing the theme full circle now that we are in the Christmas stretch.

It is probably no surprise that this week's special is a candy cane cocktail since it's the most iconic sweet treat of the holiday season, but what may be a surprise is how good this cocktail actually is, and not just a novelty.

I simply shook Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur over ice with Cruzan Vanilla Rum and peppermint schnapps and strained it into a martini glass rimmed with finely crushed candy canes, with another one hung from the rim.

A final wish of Happy Holidays to you from all of us at Table 219!!!

With Love,