Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apples, apples everywhere!

 Yes, friends, it's apple time!  I love cooking apples almost as much as I love cooking peaches.  Even though I'm slightly allergic to cinnamon, I love the smell of it with other spices.
  My favorite apple for apple butter is the Stayman Winesap, and here are a whole bunch of them.  They're tart and sweet and crispy, and really, really juicy.  I can peel, slice and core one bushel in one hour, thanks to my lovely peeler, corer, slicer thing-a-ma-jig that I forgot to take a photo of.
  I didn't forget the recipe, though.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section.  Be sure to wear long sleeves because this stuff splatters and sticks.  I have a blister on my index finger to prove it!





APPLE BUTTER
Yield - approximately 12-  12 oz. jars

10 lb. apples, peeled, cored and sliced  
5 lb. golden cane sugar
2.5 lb. commercial apple cider
5 oz. lemon juice
5 oz. Brandy
1 oz. vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon sea salt

In a deep pot, bring all ingredients to a full, rolling boil, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and pour into a clean, dry container.  Cover the surface with parchment paper, allow to cool  and cover with a lid.  Refrigerate over night.  The next day, blend the ingredients as smoothly as possible.  Pour into a deep pot and bring to a full, rolling boil.  Cook on high to medium-high heat (beware of splattering), until mixture holds its shape on a spoon and is thick.  Blend again, if necessary and jar immediately


I had to stop for lunch, though!  Homemade bread, my peanut butter and mmmmmm!  Chocolate milk from Cruze Farm!  It was yummy!  And then I started working on recipes for the new cookbook.  The one thing I didn't have a recipe for was the apple sauce upside down cake.  I made the apple sauce first thing this morning, then sketched out a cake formula.  The monkey wrench in the works was that the caramel had to have espresso grounds in it.  Yep!  Coffee in my caramel!  
                         
Here's the cake:
I took a bite and all I could taste was the espresso!  I was worried about the coffee taste and the lack of spice in the cake, so I took pieces of it around to my co-workers to get more input.  Here's the funny thing:  the men couldn't taste the coffee and the women thought it was too much!  I still haven't gotten the input from my biggest bosses, one of whom asked for the coffee in the caramel.  I hope they like it!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maryville Farmers' Market Dinner

  Here is the back of my car, filled with desserts for the Maryville Farmers' Market Dinner.  While I wish blogger would understand which pictures need to be rotated, you do get the idea.  There are 130 pieces of cheesecake and 130 apple tarts.  The sheeps' milk caramel sauce is in the front seat.  I drove the desserts out to the farm, M & J Farm in Friendsville about an hour ago, and had to leave them there for the other chefs to plate.  They were kind enough to indulge me, because Bella had been in the kennel since I left for work 12 hours ago.  I couldn't possibly leave her in there while I spent another 6 hours to plate dessert!
  The whole dessert is the first plated dessert I've made in a year, since last year's dinner, not counting my several GULP desserts this year.  It was fun but somewhat terrifying!  It seemed to me that I kept making rookie mistakes, but noticed that every time I did, I had the experience to know how to fix the mistake.
  The cheesecake is an old recipe of mine, a no-bake cheesecake that is very light and creamy.  I made it with the Brebis cheese our cheesemaker, Adam Spannaus makes.  It was a bit curdier than I thought it would be, and I had to smash the batter through a screen, but it came out quite delicious.  It's on a gingersnap crust, a bit of spice under the simple cheese-and-vanilla taste of the cheesecake.  I hadn't made gingersnaps in a long time, and the smell that filled the kitchen was intoxicating.
I love them when they're still warm and not quite ready to "snap," but even when cool, they're like biting into autumn to me.
 
The tarts are made with Stayman Winesap and Mutsu Apples, one tart and sweet and the other juicy.  The crust is a favorite from LaRousse Gastronomique, a classic French culinary reference book.  I baked them in muffin tins to keep their shape, important when you're making as many as I needed, and counting on them all coming out perfectly.  Which they did!  And now they are all waiting to be enjoyed by farmers, farmers' market supporters and happy Maryvillians, waiting to be fed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Order Out of Chaos

  During my life with okra, I ignored most fiber arts, as well as my fiber friends.  I wondered if I would make it through, with my assistant leaving, okra threatening to run out, sore thumbs and complete exhaustion when at home.
  But, as previously reported here and elsewhere, there was light at the end of the Okra Tunnel!  I have a rare Friday off, and have taken the opportunity of no other obligations to finally face the mess that is my turned overshot warp.  I realized one sleepless night a few weeks ago that I wasn't making headway with it because I kept running at it head first, all at once.  I figured out that it needed to be looked at in small chunks, so today, that's what I've done.
I pulled sections of the white cotton gently away from each other and put them through the shafts.  I sat down with my plan, three months old and somewhat senseless to me now, and figured out what it all meant.  I separated the sections of color from each other, pulled the lease sticks for the white forward and took the beater apart to be able to sit in the front and thread the heddles.  I had to put 100 more heddles on shafts 2 & 3, because the tabby will be on those two shafts.


  Then, I started threading.  I've gotten the two inch hem through, and the first section of green, but must stop for now, due to the weird angle I need to sit in to reach the heddles.  The treadles are in my way, and I haven't figured out how to move them to avoid sitting on the chair "side saddle."  Maybe that will come to me in the wee hours, too.  Much inspiration finds me then.
  Leo has the right idea for the early afternoon, though.  He's found a sunlit spot and is going to snooze, my favorite day-off pastime.  Napping, piano practicing, three chick flicks from Netflix...  it's going to be a good Friday!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hasta la Vista, Okra!

Some of you may have seen this picture on facebook, but it bears repeating.  Here is jar number 6,830 of the pickled okra ordeal.  We needed 6,604, but I bought 18 cases of okra Tuesday, and needed to pickle it all.  Dustin and Melanie and I got pickling this stuff down to such a science, we were able to get 400 jars a day done.  Yesterday, we made 355 before noon.
  I'm so happy to have the order done, plus enough to keep the gift shop in the stuff for a while.  Today, we'll wash the 355 jars, box them and send them to the warehouse.  Then, we'll make granola and start to prep Spicy Pear Chutney.  We are all so excited to be making something else!  Melanie's been in the preserve kitchen for three weeks, and aside from one day with peaches, she's done nothing but pickle okra.
  Now, fall can officially begin in my kitchen.  The Stayman Winesaps for apple butter should be ready next week, and I just bought the last of Mike Z's pears.  I'm going to have to find a lot more pears than he was able to sell me.  The smells of the chutney and the apple butter are two of my favorites.  Along with the cooler air, the smell of autumn leaves and the slightly different angle of sunlight, cinnamon and cloves are my favorite things about fall.
  This Sunday is the Maryville Farmers' Market fundraising dinner.  http://www.maryvillefarmersmarket.com  I'll be making rustic apple tarts, sheep's milk caramel and Brebis cheesecake for the dessert.  I really don't want to do it!  I'd really rather have a day off to ponder my newly okra-free existence!  But I'm beginning to look forward to making a big dessert for 100 people.  And it will be at a farm in Friendsville on what will probably be a beautiful late-summer evening, with a lot of happy farmers and farm supporters.  There are still tickets available, if you'd like to go!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Lovely Day Off

  Yesterday, I had a pleasant day off:  big fat breakfast with blueberry pancakes, laundry-laundry-laundry (I love the smell), the fair with Mom, dinner at Chandler's, two movies with a cold beer.  It was good.
  Today, well, I confess that today was better!  I finished winding the warp for my double weave project.  Finished the laundry.  Dusted and swept--I wrote vacuumed, but can't lie, didn't vacuum--and tidied.  I cleaned the porch for the first time in months, and spent an hour sitting on it talking to my dear son on the phone.  Such a lovely day!
  Then I took a delicious nap and woke up wanting cookies!  So I made some peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies.
I wish you could smell my house!  The windows are all open and the cookies are mighty odiferous!  The afternoon light is filtered in the old wavy glass windows in the living room and kitchen and it's a perfect afternoon.  Bella and I will go for a leisurely walk when the cookies are done.  Then I'll come back and eat one more cookie, with some Cruze Farm chocolate milk.  Mmmmmm...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hanging out with French guys

When I posted on Loomy Tunes on Monday, I promised news of my day with the chefs from Daniel Boulud's restaurant.  Because the pastry chef, Dominique Ansel, was so prepared, I didn't get to help him with his dessert, after all.  I counted inventory in the preserve kitchen, instead, and waited for the dinner to begin.  I gave all the chefs a tour of my kitchen and made each a jar of peanut butter to take home with them.  
  Drinks and appetizers started at 6:30, and as always, it took a while for everyone to be seated and be ready for the onslaught of food.  First course was a tomato tasting, with two elements from Daniel's Executive Chef, Jean Francois Bruel and two from the Executive Chef of the Barn, Joseph Lenn.



Here's Joseph's tomato gelee, with a tiny current tomatoes captured in the gelee.  Before the plate went out, we put in tiny rye croutons and poured yellow gazpacho into the glass.





The tomato sampler looked like this:

It's just missing the tomato sorbet the Jean Francois put on top of the stuffed cherry tomato right as the servers took the plates out.  That was too chaotic to photograph, though, hands reaching everywhere to plate the sorbet as fast as possible and get it to the guests before it melted.






The next course was Joseph's fish course, sea bass with caviar, roasted fingerling potatoes and bacon jam.

I squirted the bacon jam.  That was my contribution.

 Now, I might have missed a couple of courses.  I know I missed photographing Joseph's lamb course.  It was simply too busy, because we were plating all the courses on an assembly line, and Chef Boulud was snapping orders, making us all nervous.  But here is my favorite course, the frog legs' souffle.  Chef Bruel made this course, and during the afternoon, I walked by to ask him if he was coming on the garden tour.  He said, sure, as soon as he finished piping his souffles.  After the tour, he tested one, and I just happened to walk by when he pulled it out of the oven.  "Here," he said. "Try this."  I made yummy noises and swooning motions, and he said, "That ees nossing.  Wait teell you taste the sauce."  So that night, after we plated the guests' portions, he made one more, and said, "This is for the madame," meaning me.  He put extra sauce on the plate, too.  Everyone else was eyeing it and pulling out their spoons, but I said they had to wait until I got a spoon.  They did, which they normally wouldn't have done, let me take one bite, lots of sauce and pronounce it amazing.  Then they ate every last drop.  The souffle is filled with frog leg meat, then surrounded by fava beans and more frog leg meat, with a very rich sauce veloute around it.  It was superb, absolutely delicious.
  Chef Boulud made the Grouse course, the final meat course.  It had celery root boxes, cooked, then hollowed out to be filled with celery root puree.  Alongside were beet and salsify batons.  The grouse was covered on three sides with some kind of crumb coating that Chef Boulud and Chef Brune browned on the stove top right before it went out, in very hot skillets.  That is all that cooked the meat, leaving it rare in the center, and gorgeous.  This plate sat a little while before I could take the photo, so it's not quite as beautiful as it was.




 Next came the cheese course, one wedge of our Singing Brook cheese, candied pecans and pecan vinaigrette:
  And, of course, the most important part of the meal followed.  It was coffee mousse wrapped in chocolate, with coffee ice cream, coffee pate de fruit, coffee biscuit underneath the mousse and on top of the chocolate shard that rested on tope of the mousse.  There's also some "chocolate crumb" on the plate, keeping the ice cream from sliding around.  So beautiful...
  Dominique was the pastry chef at Fauchon, the famous gourmet shop in Paris before he came to Daniel.  He opened the new branches of Fauchon around the world when they expanded.  He is amazingly talented, but very down to earth and kind.  I'm hoping he'll hire Abby to work with him when she returns from her world travels.



And he made plates of chocolates for the finish:
They also made Madelines, warm from the oven, but I couldn't find my camera, and was busy helping the chef plate them.
 It was a long day, and I'd forgotten how difficult but how fun it is to work a function like that.  Everyone gets tense and sweaty and we all work together to make the food go out as beautiful and delicious as possible.  I'm glad I was able to participate, glad that it isn't my everyday job anymore, and so glad to meet such an extraordinary team of chefs.
  And I'm glad I was able to share it with you!  Bon Appetit!