Soul Cocina

Eco Chef Roger Feely

Tooth Decay Posse Reunion

I am excited to be visiting the kitchen of Citizen Cake this week and seeing old friends like the basil strawberry tart and the gianduja tart. For the strawberry tart I used Thai basil this time, infusing it into the milk for a smooth pastry cream. I developed a new softer, lighter recipe for the baked chocolate hazelnut custard, and finished the milk chocolate pot de creme with a few grains of grey sea salt.

It is always fun to make ricotta cheese, so I incorporated the ricotta into a frangipane custard tart filling recipe that the Tooth Decay Posse developed and baked it with some tangerines and candied citron. There is no way I am not going to take advantage of the last few weeks of sweet tangerines. I also garnish the top of this almond citrus tart with a teaspoonful of fresh ricotta. One of the interns is from Thailand and she brought in a great Thai dessert she made at home for us to try. jackfruit and pineapple ice cream and sticky rice with coconut sauce to be eaten with fresh mango. It was great, I love when sticky rice is a little salty and not too sweet along with a ripe mango. I could not resist making a tart with the sticky rice.

Many of the desserts are similar to the stuff I used to make but now there is a bigger emphasis on molecular gastronomy. There had always been a lot of savory technics and ingredients in this pastry kitchen along with cutting edge cooking applications but I had always been a part of it, in the belly of the beast. After being away for half a year, some of the new "scientific" ingredients and methods seem more foreign to me. Luckily, the chefs at CC have found a great balance, surfing the wave of molecular gastronomy while honoring local and organic produce, meats, and fish with fresh, simple and traditional preparations. One of the chefs, William told me to read the philosophy of The Fat Duck restaurant. I did, and I see why he insisted that I check it out. "Flavor perception is multi-sensory" and we as chefs have to think about how we can control what we prepare to affect the senses, utilizing the ingredients to their full potential. This involves studying what others have discovered, rethinking what we have learned ourselves, and making new discoveries through experimentation. It is like the Shikshantar philosophy of learning and education. "Unlearning". It involves surpressing what we have been trained to think and feel and to aknowledge that we associate certain tastes, odors, and textures of food with certain feelings because of what we have learned is right. Why? What is right? How can we create new sensations? Many of these types of questions are dealt with everyday in the CC kitchen. You can see what it is like in the cyberkitchen of Ideas in Food, but experience is the key to learning, so get in the kitchen and observe, taste, listen, feel. I have not changed any of the plated desserts during my stay at CC. I would not know what to do with all this stuff. I guess I have a lot of studying to do.
One of the desserts that caught my attention is the "Bourbon Street". The unique part of this dessert is the ice cream. Like Heston Blumenthol's experiments with egg and fats in ice cream, this recipe had me wondering about the different effects that fat has on the churning process and how ice cream sets up differently with different types and amoints of fat. Whoever developed the recipe for this brown butter sage ice cream was on a deep quest to find los secretos del helado.

Bourbon Street Brown butter and sage go great with the sweet potato custard. Carrots are great in dessert and the carrot paint on the plate help to solidify the savory theme of "Bourbon Steet" (and the street theme too I guess!). The sweet bourbon molasses keeps it down south and adds a deep sweetness to balance the acidity of the limes. Chickory powder ends the dish with that bitter-sweet New Orleans finish. I would call this one Rue Royal or Esplanade Street because it is a little more off the beaten path than the touristy Bourbon Street.
(Beatwalla JU JU Gris Gris Nawlins mix coming soon. Meanwhile get your Crescent City funk fix at Home of the Groove.)

Spring Fling Another late spring dessert with strawberry and rhubarb, but this time with a nice surprise........Fennel! Candied fennel, sambucca panna cotta, and licorice micro greens

But all these sugar dreams take a lot of work. It's no cake walk. After all that work I'm mighty hungry. Luckily El Pingüino agrees to put together a paella in exchange for something sweet. The sausage in the paella is Italian sausage from Fra' Mani, a new company by Bay Area Chef Paul Bertolli. The paella has halibut cheeks and saffron gel. In Spain I ate pallea cooked over an open wood fire out of paella pans the size of a baby swimming pool at ferias and family parties. I love Paella and I have tried many versions. This is one of my favorites. I ate it so fast that I forgot to eat it with some of Amy Brown's famous Pugliese bread, what a shame.

(Flamenco mix coming soon, I need to check out Ojos de Brujos new album that just came out)