Is it really bad manners to lick your plate? Last night, I was invited, last minute to sit in on a cooking demonstration at Taste and Technique in Fair Haven, NJ. This perfect little gem of a kitchen features many different styles of cooking classes, some hands on and some demonstrations. I have written about my experiences in this post and this one.
Originally, I was taken by the way this store and studio is set up, the classes teaching some techniques that I wasn't too familiar with. Last night was the second time that I got to witness first hand the Chef Joe Romanowski cook a meal. Start to finish, I was intrigued. The menu seemed pretty basic...jumbo lump crab souffle, corn chowder, roast vegetable tart, grilled fennel crusted tuna, and peach crostata with blueberry compote. With the demonstration, you are given a print-out of all of the recipes...as I followed the Chef through his brilliant and very concise demo's, it occurred to me several times that I would never have thought to finesse a recipe the way he did. First up was the corn chowder and crab souffle. I have made corn chowder before...I was actually raised on corn chowder made by my mother from corn grown on Long Island year after year. I looked at the recipe skeptically...no potatoes, no bacon...hmm, how good can this be? This is the recipe: Corn Chowder
2 onions cut into small dice
2 stalks celery
8 cups corn stock
7 cups corn kernels
1 tbsp salt & pepper
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp olive oil
Place the olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pot. Add the chopped onion and celery. Add a little pinch of kosher salt and sweat with no color until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add the corn stock and bring to a boil. Add the corn kernels an simmer for 5 minutes...season soup. Puree half of the soup and strain back into pot. Thin the soup out with a touch of heavy cream.
Right about now you are asking what exactly is corn stock...basically it is the cobs of the corn (a dozen), cooked in a gallon of water (brought to the boil and simmered for 45 minutes) until it develops into a milky stock. Now here is where the cooks and the magicians part ways. The soup was oh so good, however, the Chef added the little corn souffle's to the soup...
bringing this dish to an other worldly culinary experience. Who would think to add a little souffle to soup? A very good, very sought after Chef. The dish was so good that the three beautifully dressed, lovely ladies sitting next to me came within inches of licking their bowls. The man sitting on the other side of me sighed contentedly when he finished... and me...well I just wanted more! If that had been the only dish it would have been worth coming out for this class/demonstration. The ideas and secrets that I learned last night will keep me busy in the kitchen for months to come. Here is Chef Joes recipe for the crab souffle:
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs lightly beaten
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 cup crustless white bread
2 tbsp diced red onion
2 tbsp diced celery
1/4 cup grated swiss cheese
pinch of parsley
1 cup lump crab meat
salt and pepper
Whisk together all of the ingredients except for the crab. Fold in crab meat after all is whisked. Cover and let chill for 1 1/2 hours. Spray molds with vegetable oil spray and fill with crab mix. bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Let rest for 5 minutes before you pop them out.
There was more and all were equally successful and amazing.
The summer squash tart, brought to a whole other level with the goat cheese and basil oil. Then there was the main course...
Fennel encrusted tuna in a sauce that left everyone wanting bread to sop it up with...there was no bread, but I did leave with the recipe! To finish the meal...
Honey scented peach crostata with lemon blueberry compote. Stunning to look at and completely gone in the wink of an eye.
So, why am I telling all of you brilliant cooks out there about this meal? Because there is always something more to learn. There is always a technique, a method, an ingredient that one of us might not know about or have thought of and expanding our culinary horizons is what makes us foodies in the first place. I hope to try all of the recipes that I learned last night and to share them with you first hand after I practice my own "perfect" execution.
Joe Romanowski is the Chef and part owner of Bay Avenue Trattoria in Highlands NJ. Taste and Technique Cooking Studio is in Fair Haven, NJ. They can both be found by clicking on the links. This post is being linked to Miz Helen's Country Cottage for Full plate Thursday, and Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday.