Archive for January, 2010

Grilled Portabello & Cognac Mousse on “FAHcaccia Crostini – a Horsey Twist on an Island Favorite

Friday, January 15th, 2010

For anyone who has been behind the scenes in large resort/hotel kitchens the knowledge that the bakery department is an entity all unto itself is not new. For this neophyte however, it hadn’t occurred to me that one department out of so many would operate by its own set of rules, separate from the rest of us.  Taking a spin on the old adage “the rich are different”, well, professional bakers are ‘different’ as well.  Alone in their separate-and-more-than-equal quarters, these scientists of flour, sugar and heat create a world much like that of the Manhattan Project: secretive, non-communicative, internally focused, incredibly tense,  and well, simply put, quite a bit ‘above’ the rest of the hoi poloi. To enter their time-defined and time-constrained domain, one must have a clear-cut purpose, be succinct in their request, and most importantly, have a good explanation for why they are intruding into the inner sanctum in the first place.

On the occassion of my first ‘friendly visit’  into the heady realm of the Caneel bake shop, I thought I had all three bases covered – my clear-cut purpose was to obtain a sheet pan of focaccia bread; my request was (to my ears) succinct; and my reason was simple, I needed it to make crostini for a party later that evening.  

Upon entering the shop and approaching the nearest member of the bakery team, I smiled and delivered my request in my best Oliver! voice, “Please sir, may I have a flat of focaccia bread?”, a smile firmly in place upon my face.

Without looking up from his work table,  “Fah”, came the unsmiling response.

OK, I thought, I’ll  say it your way…”Yes, may I have some Fah caccia bread”. 

 “FAH”, came the response again, faster, more terse.

 “Alright, FAH ccacia bread”, I replied just as quickly.

 “FAH!?” came at me like gun fire, dark eyes finally making contact.

Taking a deep breath, I replied “Yes…”, very slowly.

 ” I want some FAH“,

and louder,

CA CIA bread”. 

(The slower and louder being the universal and universaly silly response when one is talking to someone who obviously does not understand your language.)

 “FAH?!!!” came at me with a scream of time-wasted frustration and a snarl that had me taking a step back.

 “FAH! CAH! CCIA! BREAD! ” I returned in equal frustration.

 Throwing up his hands and shaking his head in defeat, he took a different approach proving that when something is universal, it is truly universal…very slowly, enunciating each sylablle in his island version of English, and rather loudly, he asked,

 “WHAT    DO    YOU    WANT    THE   FOCCACIA    FAH?” ?” 

 Comprehension dawned in this imbecile…’fah’ was ‘for’.  After a hurried explanation, the focaccia bread was acquired, and this island version of Laurel and Hardy went their separate ways.

And this, gentle reader,  is what the ‘ FAHcaccia was fah”:

Portabello & Cognac Mousse on Focaccia Crostini – Simple and simply delicious!

Ingredients:  Focaccia,  portabello mushrooms, cognac, cream cheese, white pepper, kosher salt, fresh basil and mushroom marinade of olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinagar.

Acquire some day-old focaccia bread or other artisan style, heavy-bodied bread and cut into 1/4″ slices. Brush the slices with a slurry of olive oil and garlic. Cut the slices into bite size pieces and lay out on a baking tray. Bake in a 275 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool – do not refrigerate.

Remove the stems and gills from two portabello mushrooms and place in a ziplock with enough marinade to fully coat the mushrooms. Let soak for at least 1 hour.  Place the mushrooms on a hot grill, cooking both sides for approximately 5 minutes or until soft and showing some char. Remove and let cool.

Place cream cheese and a splash of cognac in a Cuisanart and blend until fluffy and smooth. Add chunks of the grilled mushroom (equal to the amount of cream cheese), blending completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend a few minutes more until the mixture has the consistency of warm butter. Remove to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour.  Place the cooled mixture in a pastry bag (a ziplock with a corner nipped off works great) and squeeze onto the crostini.  Top with this slivers of basil and serve.

If you want to reduce your labor time, put the mousse in a nice bowl, sprinkle with the basil and present it as a dip for the focaccia ‘chips’.  Note: when you’re barbecuing, throw on some red peppers, red onions or other strong flavored vegetable and then store them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them to make your own version of grilled vegetable mousse.

Until next week…

Chilled Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Soup from the Islands to You!

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

A good friend recently asked “What’s the purpose of chilled soup?” – understandable coming from a man that builds beautiful homes around the valley (to steal and paraphrase from our esteemed US Postal Service) ‘through rain, sleet, snow and dark of night’. When  you’re working 30 feet off the ground, placing 600# roof skins in a blinding snow storm, chilled soup is most likely not on your mind – but winter does pass, and come mid- August, when the temps sneak into the 90s and the work or play day is through, there’s nothing quite like an al fresco dinner on Swan Lake with good friends and simple yet beautifully crafted food.

Each day at Caneel, I am charged with creating a chilled soup for lunch and with a large pantry and lovely produce to choose from, it’s a joy to be experimental (and for those of you who dine at the Horse, you know how I love to experiment!).  This week’s offering, although served chilled here on St. John, is also scrumptious served warm and is a spin-off of the Horse’s Mushroom and Brie Bisque.

Chilled Roasted Figs and Chevre Soup

Ingredients:    Fresh Figs (canned Kamato may be substituted out of season), fresh pears or apples, bananas, plain yogurt, guava or mango juice, brown sugar, virgin olive oil, cumin, white pepper, Kosher salt and chevre.

The key to a richly nuanced chilled fruit soup are the natural sugars existing in the fruit that -paradoxically- are only released with heat. Large dice your flat of figs, two apples or pears, and a couple of bananas and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the fruit with a bit of dark brown sugar (or honey), a pinch of cumin, salt and pepper and just enough olive oil to lightly coat the fruit when tossed. Place the fruit on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 425 for approximately 15 minutes, or until the fruit begins to brown. Remove and let the fruit cool to room temperature. Place the fruit in a Robo Coupe or Cuisinart with juice and yogurt and blend (I like my soups with some texture so I  forego the blender). Drop in chunks of tangy goat cheese and mix gently keeping bits of pure cheese suspended in the soup. Refrigerate for a few hours and serve with some fresh mint or basil. Yummm! Sweet and tangy, just like island life!  Until next week….I’m out of the kitchen today and  and heading out for a sail…take care.