Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Bonjour, ya'll!"

Guest Chef Charles Semail greeted those of us who gathered for Heidi Billotto's latest class at Reid's Fine Foods in Charlotte with a smile and a "Bonjour, ya'll!" After 20 years in Charlotte by way of Chartres, France and California, he speaks fabulously French-accented English. Charlotte's own Jacques Pepin.  Visit his website

Heidi Billotto and Chef Charles

I blogged about Heidi's Labor Day Grilling class last month, and I'll say again that I'm enjoying the mix of demo classes and hands-on cooking lessons that I've found around town. Heidi's a culinary expert who teaches classes at Reid's Fine Foods, at her home, at your home, on site at local farms and expos, she writes articles and does cooking segments on TV. 

Heidi's blog is a treasure trove.

Today's demo "A Taste of France with Chef Charles" did not disappoint! Reid's wine guy, Mike, chose 3 wines to pair with our appy, entree and dessert.

We started with Chef's housemade charcuterie (which was made ahead) and a fresh-baked baguette. Wow! Two gorgeous pates and salami...rustic and bursting with flavor. Louis Latour Grand Ardeche Chardonnay was the perfect complement..."it's rich, fat and lingers on the palate." Sounds decadent, no? Not great copy for an online dating ad, but a yummy kick off to our day of cooking.

On the menu:
Alsagienne Tarte Flambee (fancy name for French pizza!)
Braised Local Beef Short Ribs with Potatoes Fondant (we had braised chicken, too!)
Tarte Bourdalou (Pear tart with almond cream)

Heidi coaxed the ingredient lists out of Chef Charles, and created recipe outlines for the handout. Chef cooks from his heart, not from a recipe. I will share the recipe for the pizza dough at the end of this was spine tingling.

I jotted down some pointers and "methode" for my home use but I will let my photos recap the afternoon.

The chicken leg on the left has been "frenched" and the one on the right has not had the joint removed. Frenching is a neater presentation. Sharpen your chef's knife.

Braised local beef short ribs with potatoes fondant, local veggies and a sauteed mushroom cap. The potato was bathed in butter and roasted. Paula Deen the Butter Queen would approve.

Wine pairing for the braised beef and chicken: Chateau La Bouree Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux. "A solid everyday drinker." Again, I'd avoid those adjectives for dating.

Chef Charles using a wine bottle as a rolling pin, just like his Maman did when he was a child.

Lifting the dough for the pear tart onto the bottle and....

...into the tart pan. Great cooks use so few gadgets. It ain't the hammer, it's the carpenter.

The layout of the pears was purposely random...Chef Charles was showing us two pattern styles...fanning out slices, and larger pear slices laid sideways. This was a demo, not a beauty contest. Leave room between the slices though, so the custard can puff up!

Tarte Bourdalou. Sweet dough (pate sucre) with almond frangipane (almond cream.) B-e-y-o-n-d.

Chateau Loupiac Gaudiet was the perfect complement to the pear tarte. Dessert wines can sometimes be too cloyingly sweet. This wine gave me goosebumps, in the very best way---citrus fruits and honey flavors, nicely chilled.

After demo'ing, dining, sipping and chatting, we were released into Reid's to shop! Class attendees get a 10% discount.

Ooh la la!

I just needed a few things for the pantry. Hibiscus balsamic vinegar (!), baker's yeast and orange extract.

Mais, oui! Here's the recipe for Alsagienne Tarte Flambee, by Chef Charles Semail.

Ingredients for the pizza dough:
3 1/2 cups all purpose (a mix of wheat and white, if desired) or bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbs yeast
2 Tbs honey (activates the yeast)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 Tsp salt

Mix all ingredients and put into the mixer bowl, using a dough hook. When it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, stop mixing. Put a little flour on the dough hook to remove the dough. Form dough into a ball. Oil a stainless steel bowl, put the dough ball in, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise 2x. Rest the dough for an hour or 2 before using. Divide in to 4 pieces, for 4 pizzas. (You can freeze dough at this point, for later use.) Flour 2 jelly roll pans, roll dough out into a rustic oblong shape. Top with the topping...

4 oz cream cheese (room temp)
4 oz sour cream
1/4 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 Tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 small onion
2 Tbs olive oil
4 slices cooked, chopped bacon
Whatever herbs you like...parsley, rosemary, sage...

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix together cream cheese, sour cream, black pepper and nutmeg. Dice cooked bacon. Peel and julienne onion and saute with 2 Tbs olive oil until golden brown. Spread cream cheese mixture onto rolled dough and top with cooked onion, bacon, herbs. Place in a 350 F oven for 15-20 mins until crust looks irresistable. Serve hot. 

Bon appetit and au revoir, ya'll!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sweet Corn and Raspberry Ice Cream

Sweet Corn and Raspberry are two great tastes that go great together, as it turns out!

I was looking for an interesting dessert recipe for an end-of-summer Slow Food dinner, and I came upon this one created by Jeni Britton Bauer. Jeni started her "Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream" business in Columbus, Ohio and her originality in flavor combinations has put her on the map. See the link below for her basic ice cream base.

Here is the recipe for Sweet Corn and Raspberry Ice Cream (made with Blackberries by Saveur Magazine's Stacey Nugent, who could not find raspberries...)

The corn lent a very subtle and nuanced flavor---disguised as a deeper, rounder vanilla. The raspberry sauce was the perfect foil--a bit tart, and then sweet.

Here are some pix of the process...and my final product. The ice cream got good reviews!

The only reservation I have surrounds the final texture (very smooth but kind of elastic.) It was my first try, and Jeni knows her stuff, so who am I to question the use of cream cheese in ice cream?! I'm going to experiment with a "more standard" custard-y base recipe to make pumpkin ice cream, and salty caramel ice cream for a dinner later this month.

Cream Cheese

Milk and cornstarch slurry.

Homemade raspberry sauce. Yum.
Boil corn with milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup

Force boiled corn mixture through a sieve, whisk in the slurry, bring to boil, then remove from heat. Whisk into the cream cheese, pour into a zipper bag and submerge into an ice bath for 30 mins.

Pour the chilled base into a frozen ice cream maker canister, and spin until creamy.

Spread the ice cream into a container, and layer the raspberry sauce....without mixing it in. Lay a piece of parchment directly onto the surface, then freeze until least 2 hours.

A nice balance of sweet and tart, with that mysterious and wonderful hint of corn.