Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Month of Somedays

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July - I know I did!

Usually, my specials are a specifically composed dish that, at least in my mind, couldn't be made any other way, but throughout the brainstorming process I have these little ideas that sit around waiting to be picked up someday. I refer back to them when I need inspiration, but it can take some time for one of these good ideas to finally surface, and even when I find a good fit I can't use them right away because there are more factors to offering a good dish than just a good idea. 

Like next week, when I will be out of the kitchen on Wednesday because we will be serving our deviled eggs at our booth at Farestart's Guest Chefs on the Waterfront and when I'm away I want everything to go smoothly, and while the staff has the regular menu down, I don't want to trip them up with an overly complicated special. 

And then there was a braised pork belly idea that by the time the vendor had delivered the meat, I cooked, cooled and portioned it, it wouldn't be ready until Wednesday. That would only work when I schedule it ahead of time.

So in the end I had to compromise, but by no means settle.

I had a little idea of a seasonal jam made with rhubarb and red wine, and initially I felt that it would be awesome paired with lamb, which tripped me up because I have to be very creative with my cooking techniques in order to use an economical cut to keep within our price point, and I haven't yet been able to follow through with the thought, so I went instead with the breasts of Cornish game hen, which I have used with rhubarb before, but this time I feel like my experience with it has allowed me to make it even better this by not adding too much wine to the rhubarb allowing for its natural liquid to leach out and not having to cook it down a lot.

Since I started brewing my own beer at home (which I would love to do for the restaurant but would be a WHOLE other licensing beast to wrestle) I have felt like I really underutilize the great flavor value of grains, and though I'm not ready to cook with interesting ingredients like chocolate barley, I feel like I could find a place for it sometime in the fall. In the meantime I went with the more common pearled barley.

Pearled barley is a grain processed by polishing it in order to remove the bran, helping it from being too chewy once cooked. I simmered it in a rich, seasoned chicken stock and allowed it to cook in the liquid, further absorbing the flavor. Once ordered I sauteed it in butter, onions and garlic, local baby spinach, and the leg meat that I poached in the chicken stock to both fortify it and keep the meat juicy.

For some reason July has become synonymous to sangria for me, probably because it is one of the hottest months of the year and exactly why sangria was invented in the first place. So I decided to exclusively dedicate this month's drink specials to variations of the refreshing wine punch.

This week is inspired by my favorite ingredient for sangria: the apple. I love the way it absorbs the flavors and retain its crunch. Since I wanted to use Granny Smith apples, my personal favorite for their crisp flavor, I started this sangria tribute with the unofficial white variety.

I started early by dicing the apples and slicing some oranges so that they would have plenty of time to macerate in brandy and simple syrup, leaving a reason to actually eat the fruit - little explosions of flavor and liquor.

To top it off and add even more of the apple flavor I finish the glass with a couple of ounces of Hornsby's Crisp Apple Cider that retains more of that bright flavor without too much sweetness.


We're off to a great start!!

With Love,