Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Indian Summer

For my birthday my wife and I treated ourselves to one of our favorite restaurants in the Seattle area: The Herbfarm in Woodinville for their "Sketches of Summer" themed dinner.

One of the more memorable dishes was in the beginning of the meal featuring (among other things) a morel mushroom filled with caramelized cauliflower puree. It was one of the most amazing bites I have ever taken! The only complaint that I had was that they didn't give me a bowl full of them. When the chef made his rounds at the end of dinner service I commended him on a great meal and informed him that I will be stealing that idea.

I sat on that idea for two months now, thinking of how I would do it my own way. I have already known the wonders of caramelized cauliflower, but I knew that there is no way that I could offer an affordable special and use authentic morel mushrooms, so I decided to recreate the earthy duo with meaty lobster mushrooms instead.

So I heavily seared florets of cauliflower in olive oil until well browned before adding chopped onions and garlic, cooking even further until all was well browned. I pureed the mixture with just enough half and half to allow the blender to create a silky smooth sauce.

Lobster mushrooms are actually a fungi that grows on specific types of mushrooms that gives them a reddish hue like a lobster as well as have a seafood-like flavor. I simply saute thin slices of them in a little butter and freshly chopped chives because, for some reason, I really find that the subtle herb really brings out all that mushrooms have to offer. To further enhance the flavor of sea within the mushrooms I seasoned them with some Hawaiian sea salt that is now a part of my culinary arsenal.

To balance the sweetness that came from the caramelization of the cauliflower I decided to saute finely shredded treviso, a bitter lettuce like an elongated radicchio, along with baby arugula, onions, garlic and butter just long enough to wilt them down.

Not that my choice of pan roasting bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs was an afterthought, but let me be honest, it was the last component needed to finish the dish. The plate really could be served as a complete meal without it, but I wouldn't sell that many either, so I sprinkled two thighs with freshly ground coriander, salt and pepper and seared them briefly before sending them to the oven to finish.

I promised myself that I would create more punch drinks to fill a void in a chapter of a potential book on cocktails (not that I have enough on my plate already...), hence the back to back punches these two weeks.

A punch is categorized as being a drink made with fruit juices, which is why the summertime is a great time to offer these delicious beverages!

In addition to the mushroom/cauliflower combination that I've been holding onto I've also been day-dreaming about a drink that is made with a toasted almond syrup and an almond rum. Since I love cherries, I automatically realized how wonderfully they go together!

I toasted some sliced almonds and divided them; half went to steep in a simple syrup and half went into a bottle of rum that I sped along the infusion process by using a wine vacuum pump.

I assembled the drink in a pint glass full of ice with the almond rum first, followed by the almond syrup and plenty of pure cherry juice!!

With Love,