Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's going on, you ask?

Another busy month is coming to a close, so I thought I’d get you caught up before getting into a new post, especially since it's an important topic.
I started a new semester at Wake Tech where I’m teaching the Cooking Fundamentals course as well as From Brunswick Stew to Manhattan Clam Chowder. The latter is an idea I’ve been kicking around and dabbling in for a while now. I’ve taught a couple of individual classes at A Southern Season on the topic and they were well received (they sold out, too!). So, I decided to dedicate a whole course to the subject. It’s been fun, challenging, and a great learning opportunity for me.

I’ve also tried to embrace a few more social media sites; Twitter and Linked In specifically. I’m starting to wonder if I’m just wasting time or truly sowing seeds though.
I also made the cover of the new A Southern Season CLASS booklet. Come “Grill & Smoke” with me on 4/14/12 or bring your children for a Father’s Day special: “Dad and Me in the Kitchen” for some fun and tasty bonding on 6/10/12!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em

After years of resisting, I have finally conceded. I’ve been using the same “Molten”, “Lava”, “Warm”, whatever you want to call it chocolate cake recipe since they first became popular (still my most requested dessert by the way).  The thought then, when I a sous chef and chef de cuisine in restaurant kitchens, was if you added truffles, ganache, or anything else to the batter, it was because you were a shoemaker and couldn’t make it oozy and gooey enough by using proper technique alone.

Well, this past Christmas season, I was obsessed with truffles. I must have ended up with at least 5 different varieties (can’t remember exactly because some failed). You name it; I played with balsamic vinegar, ginger, honey, bourbon, stout, scotch and so on, but when Saint Valentine’s Day rolled around, I was reminded again of the hack “Lava” Cake recipes with their secret hidden short cut. I was shocked. It seemed liked practically everyone was making it that way now. So, naturally, I set out to show them how unnecessary all of their extra steps were.  
Then, one night a few weeks ago, I made my old stand by Individual Warm Chocolate Cakes (the recipe is in my August 19, 2009 blog post). The next night, I made that recipe again, but this time I hid one of my “go to” truffles inside each. Night 2 comments went like this; “The best chocolate cake ever!”, “Mmmmm, this is definitely better than the one last night.”, and “Daddy, can you make this for my birthday?”

I’ve got to admit; it was pretty good. Sure, it could save a hack shoemaker of a pastry cook from turning it into an overcooked chocolate muffin, but if you cook it properly, the double shot of chocolate is ridiculous. The semi-sweet chocolate harmonizing with the bittersweet and cocoa is a very cool touch. I also love the extra flavor that the liqueur provides. Plus, if you are a fan of gooeyness, this version is hard to beat. So, without further ado, here is my compromise. Give it a try and let me know what you think.     
Warm Chocolate Cakes 
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Your choice of liqueur (i.e. Frangelico, Chambord, Grand Marnier, or Crème de Menthe)
3 tbsp. heavy cream
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 ¼ sticks of butter
Cocoa powder
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, plus extra to garnish
½ cup flour
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

Place the semisweet chocolate and liqueur in a small bowl; set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer; pour over the chocolate and let sit for about a minute. Stir slowly until smooth, then let cool slightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. Divide chocolate mixture into 6 portions and shape each portion into a cherry sized ball. Refrigerate until chilled and firm.
Pre heat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease 6 molds and coat with cocoa.
In a small sauce pan, melt the bittersweet chocolate and butter. Stir until completely smooth.

In a largish bowl, add the sugar and flour. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and stir until well blended. Whisk in whole eggs and yolks until well mixed. At this point, batter can be tightly covered and refrigerated for about a day.

Divide half of the mixture evenly among the 6 prepared molds. Place 1 truffle into the center of each mold and push it lightly into the batter. Divide the remaining batter evenly among the molds, totally covering the truffle.

Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until firm around edges but soft in center. Let rest 1-2 minutes then run a paring knife around each cake to loosen. Carefully invert onto individual plates. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (and/or whipped cream, if desired) and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Care to Share for Guiding Lights

Sorry for going so long in between posts. At least now, I’ve got a lot to catch you up on.
This Saturday (2/25/12) I’ll be at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill teaching a double header. Both classes will be Basic Knife Skills. The first starts at 11 am and the second is at 2pm.

More importantly, after those classes, I’ll be going to the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh to judge a cooking competition. It’s part of an annual fundraiser for Guiding Lights, a nonprofit providing training, life management, connections, and support to family and professional caregivers who are assisting the elderly through difficult times.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and end of life issues affect us all and some of us may not have enough time or finances to properly care for our loved ones in their time of need. That’s where Guiding Lights comes in and for those of us who can do it ourselves, they provide emotional support, professional contacts, and counseling to give us some peace of mind.

If you can, please support them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New

I’ve never been one who looks at New Year’s as a time to make resolutions, reflect on the past, or create bucket lists. However, since 2011 was a pretty bizarre one for me (and my family), I decided to check out a few end of year posts by some of the writers I admire and respect. The exercise left me inspired and grateful. So, I thought I’d share those sites with you, hoping you have the same experience.

A few Blogs/Sites that inspired me in 2011:

Monica Bhide’s “A Spice of Life”                      

Susan Ely’s “The Shared Table”                        

David Leite’s “Leite’s Culinaria”                            and
                            “David’s Blahg”                            

Nancie McDermott’s Blog                                   

Michael Procopio’s “Food for the Thoughtless"

Marc and Angel’s                                                    

There are also several people who made my 2011 special and for that I’d like to thank:
the generous and talented Nancie McDermott and the amazing and inspiring Monica Bhide for all they taught me - I look up to you both as mentors and models of success,

the gracious educator Antonia Allegra ( ) and the golden standard of hospitality Lynn Swann for hosting one of the most amazing weeks of my life at the Greenbrier in West Virginia ( ),
Don Fry ( ) for sharing with me a priceless amount of advice and knowledge,

Marilyn Markel of A Southern Season ( ) and Susan Ajygin of Wake Technical Community College ( ) as well as the hundreds of students I taught in 2011 in their classrooms,

Crash Gregg, the tireless publisher of the Raleigh Downtowner Magazine, ( ) for continuing to allow me to write about the Capital City’s food scene,
and last but not least, my family and friends for their limitless love and support as well as their ability to put up with my crap.