February Deep Plate Blog Entry

Crispy Brik wrapped Fox Fire Farm lamb sweetbreads with a Madeira cream sauce and shiitake mushrooms

For February’s entry I decided to do some sweetbreads.  My mother in law was staying with us and said she really liked them so I figured lets put something together for Deep Plate as well.  I had some Fox Fire Farm sweetbreads in the freezer that they had sent me as a sample. Their lamb is outstanding.  I have used it on several occasions and can tell you it is superior to any other lamb I have had in the US.  Their ranch is just south of Durango in Ignacio and I will have to get out there some day.  This is great motorcycling country, so I can imagine a road trip in the future.

It is more of a challenge to get a plate together for a picture when you have kids running around you while you work, but the advantage at home is that I have some cool props to play with.  I also used a tripod for this shot and opened my aperture all the way up as it was the end of the day and natural light was fading.

First thing some of you might ask is what is and where can I find Brik dough.  It can be referred to as Ouarka or Burek and is from the countries that form the Maghreb,  meaning Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia (the same area that brought you Barbary Pirates).  They traditionally use it for a dish called Brik à l’oeuf, where they fold a disc of brik dough in four to form a triangle with vegetables and a raw egg in the center.  They then pan fry it nice and crisp and serve it as an appetizer.

The dough is more versatile and less fragile than filo which it is often compared to.  It has a tendency to dry out quickly and must be thoroughly brushed with oil before you use it to wrap an item.  It is resilient and has a bit of the feel of a fine leather.  A double layer will suffice to get the flaky crust you will enjoy.  If you do more you will lose crispness in your dish.  The closest oriental dough would be lumpia from the Philipines and Indonesia which are also made from wheat.  Both are compared to crêpes and as a matter of fact if you buy them from Italco they will come to you in a case called “shape a crepe” with a bunch of Gaelic designs on it to make you think you are in Brittany.  I almost returned them when they sent them to me once, thinking they didn’t know what I was looking for.  Unlike lumpia or Crêpes they become somewhat translucent so you can put herbs or spices in between the layers and they will show through.

The French are all intimately aware of them, but they are just starting to become known in the US.  Don’t be afraid they are cool and you can use them to wrap all kinds of product (works great on fish) or you can also use them to create compressed layers for a Napoleon.  Try them out they’re fun.

OpenSky Project

Through reading Michael Rhulman’s Blog I became aware of this new online shopping experience called the OpenSky Project.  The concept is that blog writers can become shop keepers on the OpenSky Project site.  Since blog writers are usually specialist in their chosen field why not utilize them to sell the products they care about the most.

So I contacted the people at the OpenSky Project and asked them how I could become a shop keeper.  I was quickly signed up and have since opened my own store.   I will continue to fill the store pages with cool kitchen equipment and other stuff I really enjoy.  They have a whole bunch of distributors they work with and I can choose the stuff I am really into to feature in my store.  Or I can suggest pieces of equipment they don’t have and they will source them for me.  I write about why I like the particular pieces and can upload a picture that features the tool or even upload a video to feature it.  I’m just starting to become familiar with what my shop can do.

So if you want to see what I recommend so far click here.  And if you see something that catches your eye then buy it or tell your friends and family to buy it for you.

This also opens up a whole new topic for my blog posts.  Equipment that works.

Soupe au Pistou

January entry for Deep Plate Blog: Soupe au Pistou

Being at home non stop changes my whole routine, but shouldn’t limit what I can do in the kitchen.  My kitchen at home is well equipped and I can still make a lot of nice food without the vast easy availability of food at my former workplace.  I will continue to submit entries to the Deep Plate Blog each month.  However it will require much more thought and planning than before.

Normally my entries are done pretty quickly after I receive a plate from Bauscher.   Due to recent events it took me a little longer to complete my January entry.

Another major benefit of my new status is that my body is not subject to the 2,000 calories of daily food consumption that came with my teaching position.  I have a much healthier diet now and I am making purchasing decisions  that will feed my family with less meat protein yet leave them satiated.   I’ve been thinking a lot about Provence and France lately.   As I was thinking about my plate presentation for Deep Plate, I remembered a Soupe au Pistou we cooked once with my friend and co-teacher Michel Depardon.   He made his version of Soupe au Pistou and I was completely drawn to the beauty of its simplicity and the complexity of its flavor.

Michel Depardon showing Lisa Dawkins how to sauté

Michel's Soupe au Pistou

I decided I wanted to make similar soup yet keep all the elements whole.   Pistou refers to the garlic, basil and parmesan purée that is put into the soup at the last moment.  Pistou is a very close cousin to Pesto.  In Michel’s version of Soupe au Pistou we used fresh coco beans.  Little white beans that are a lot of work to shuck but add an unmistakable fresh legume flavor to the soup.  I chose instead to use dried cannellini beans, which are available in bulk at Whole Foods.

My recipe for Soupe au Pistou:

2 lbs. Dried Cannellini Beans (you could substitute navy beans or great northern)

1 gl. of Chicken stock

2 Tbsp. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 onion

1 leek

6 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

3 zucchini

For the Pistou:

1 oz of fresh basil

2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 cloves of garlic

2 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano)

Method:

Soak the cannellini beans in water overnight.   If you live at altitude like I do, I recommend pressure cooking them, if you are at sea level you can cook them until tender in the chicken stock.

To pressure cook the beans.  Place the beans in the pressure cooker and cover with chicken stock . Cover and put on high heat until the pressure indicator pops.  Turn down the temperature and count off twenty minutes.  After twenty minutes cool down the pressure cooker by pouring cold water on it.  Check the consistency of the beans.  If you are happy with them then set them aside.  If not continue to cook them under pressure in small time increments until they are done.

While the beans are cooking, cut all the vegetables into a small dice.  Add a little olive oil to a pan and cook the onions over low heat until they are translucent.  Approximately 10 minutes. Then add the carrots and the garlic.  Continue to cook until they are almost tender.  Then add the zucchini.  Season and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.  Add the vegetables to the beans and stock.  If necessary add more chicken stock to reach the desired consistency.

To make the Pistou:  Pick the leaves of fresh basil and blanch them very quickly in boiling water.  Then submerge them in ice water.  Remove the basil leaves and wring out any water.  Mince the garlic very fine and then in a blender add the garlic, basil leaves, grated Parmesan and the extra virgin olive oil. Blend until very smooth.

Heat up the soup and serve in a bowl and top with the Pistou.  Enjoy.  If you want to make Michel’s version purée the soup and then top with the Pistou.

Off to the SOBE Wine and Food festival

A close friend of mine, Julie Mautner, who lives part of the year in France and has a really nice blog called The Provence Post, has just finished writing a cookbook based on the SOBE (South Beach) Wine and Food Festival . The book will be published by Clarkson Potter, just in time for the festival’s 10th anniversary in February, 2011.  Meanwhile I am going to be joining her for this year’s festival from February 25-28th and rubbing elbows with Culinary Royalty.  I will be attending a bunch of the events and of course be on the beach in the Grand Tasting Tent.  If I am really lucky I will get to see Padma in a bikini telling me she will “turn my culinary dreams into reality.”

A shot of Padma from her website

I attended a day of this event six years ago.  It was not a huge event back then, but apparently has really grown.  I remember the tasting tent being packed with people and after a while it was too much to bear.  After leaving the tent I ran into Anthony Bourdain and chatted with him for awhile.  It was quite strange.  The epicenter of the event takes place right on the beach and at different venues around SOBE.

This year they will be paying tribute to the great Daniel Boulud.  It will be nice hanging out in SOBE again with my close friend from High School who lives right on the beach.  This should be a great networking opportunity.  I will post about the whole event and my time in Miami.  Always crazy stuff happens when I go there.

France Food and Wine Experience is open for business

France Food and Wine Experience is the name of my LLC which has been somewhat dormant during my tenure at Cook Street.  It is time to bring it back to life during this transitional phase of my career.

I am multi talented and multi lingual which translates into versatility and creativity when it comes to the services I can provide for you.  Here are just a few possibilities:

Culinary Tour Guide: I have 9 1/2 years of experience taking groups of up to 15 people to France for a month at a time.  I know the ins and outs of this country and have a vast network of chefs and artisan producers.  I am particularly well versed in the region of the Vaucluse around Avignon.   I can organize a 1 – 2 week  tailor-made excursion for a group around the food, wine and culture of this rich culinary region.  I have  access to the kitchen at the Chateau de Suze la Rousse in the heart of the Côte du Rhône wine country.

A view of the chateau de Suze la Rousse
A view of the Chateau de Suze la Rousse
Cooking at the Chateau de Suze la Rousse

I can also design trip itineraries for you to the same region,  if you are looking to discover the Vaucluse on your own but don’t want to waste time trying to find its hidden treasures.  I did a trip to Spain this way and I can vouch how much better it is to have people expecting you at different points of culinary interest.

Teacher and Trainer: I have been teaching people how to cook professionally for the past 12 years.  It is my life’s path and I enjoy empowering people with the skills necessary to cook with finesse and sound technique.   This is a craft I fell in love with at an early age and sharing this skill with others is very gratifying.   I can arrange for private or group lessons at your home and customize them to your personal needs.

Home Kitchen Tool Assessment and Recipe Instruction: You have all the gear from Williams and Sonoma but you don’t how to optimize its use or maybe you don’t know the right gear to get in the first place.  Let me come to your house and help you get the right stuff and show you how to use it correctly.

Cooking Demonstrations: I have done cooking demonstrations in different venues to different size groups. The last cooking demonstration I did was to a group of Uruguayan potato farmers in Montevideo Uruguay.  I am comfortable in front of a crowd and can successfully navigate a demo on foreign soil.  I have also done numerous TV segments. 

Cooking  Stages (apprenticeship) in France: What do all the top chefs in the U.S. have in common? They all spent some time in Europe working under master chefs.  There is no substitute for this kind of training.  If  you are cooking professionally and want to take your cuisine and resume to a whole new level, then let me arrange a stage (apprenticeship) at a Michelin starred restaurant for you.  I can handle all the logistics and you can focus on getting an authentic and life changing culinary education that will set you apart from every other U.S. culinary graduate or line chef.  I can even give you restaurant specific French Culinary Instruction so you won’t feel like such an outsider when you walk through the doors.

Food Photography and Food Styling: I have just spent the last two years putting together a portfolio of pictures.  Though I am no Ansel Adams, I have come a long way.  If you need customized food photos taken for your company, I can probably beat the price of any stock photo.  I collaborated with Bauscher Plates USA on the launch of their Deep Plate Blog and many of my pictures using their plates are featured on their blog.

Sea bass wrapped in Brik dough with a soupe de poisson emulsion

Sea bass wrapped in brik dough with a soupe de poisson emulsion on a Bauscher silhouette plate

Recipe Writing and Development: I have written recipes for Niman Ranch and for my TV segments.  I have also written tons of recipes for my professional students during my tenure as an instructor.  I can come up with original recipes for your product, test them, photograph them and provide you the whole package.

Until I either find a new place of employment or open my own shop these are some of the services I can provide.  Call me at 303-926-8963 or write me at Chef-Floyd@comcast.net if you are interested in discussing any of these services.

I went down to the crossroads

On Tuesday December 28 my employment at Cook Street was Terminated.

I have always left all my previous jobs voluntarily.  For me this is a new experience.  Of course after I received the news,  I started to scroll through all the foreboding and writing on the wall I had ignored but which my subconscious had registered.

The timing from the perspective of my employer was as perfect as could be planned, given the format of the School’s curriculum.  The last class had just graduated and the new class, who had just finished their wine course two weeks prior, would not be starting until January 4.  If I was faced with the same regretful task I would have chosen the same time to deliver the blow.

I could wallow in the mud of rancor and bathe in a bath of revenge by composing a post that details all the events leading to this moment. That would serve no purpose and would not change my current status.  I recently read a quote that said, “Be careful not to focus all your attention on the door that just closed as you might lose sight of all the doors that just opened.”

I am hardly the first person to find myself in this position in 2009/10.  I am at a crossroads and am excited about what direction I will go in next.  This will be my complete focus.  There are so many avenues for me to explore in this industry and so many of my own talents I can exploit.  If any of you has a potential lead, please do no hesitate to pass it along.

I have been mulling starting my own business for some time and this might be the impetus I needed to move forward on achieving my own vision.  If I choose this direction it will certainly involve culinary education and working with the French.  I have too much experience and passion in both these areas to ignore them as an option.

To all the staff  I associated with at Cook Street:  It was a pleasure working alongside you.  There are plenty of talented people there and these talented people are in culinary education for all the right reasons.

Stay tuned to see how my life adventure unfolds.  I’ve already got some exciting plans brewing.

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