Can you believe they are finally here?  Click on the icon below to download your very own copy of the Chef Demo recipes form the 2013 Minnesota Garlic Festival.  Do you know what is even more exciting?!  There are still more recipes to come!!  I just thought I'd put out what I've got so far and let you start enjoying them.  Stay tuned for the Garlic Stuffed Prime Rib Sandwich recipe from Restaurant Alma's own Chef Bryan Morcom.  I know I loved every bite of my sandwich at the Great Scape Cafe and look forward to recreating it at home.  Mmmmm.
 
 
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Deviled Eggs

8 hard cooked eggs, peeled
1/3 cup mayonnaise
 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste

  • Halve eggs and pop yolks into a large bowl.
  • Add remaining ingredients and mash with a fork until smooth.
  • Spoon into reserved whites and garnish as desired.

Make 8 servings

Garnish Ideas
  • Fresh herbs
  • Smoked paprika
  • Black sea salt
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Smoked trout chevrons
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • sliced salami
  • crisp bacon
  • radish slices
  • pesto drizzles
  • Smoked salmon or gravlax
  • Crumbled kale chips
  • French fried shallots
  • Trout caviar
  • Garlic scape pesto
  • Pickled milkweed buds or capers
  • Prosciutto, duck or pork



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Quick Cooked Mayo

3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice OR vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash pepper
1 cup olive oil OR vegetable oil

  • Whisk egg yolks, lemon juice, water, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper in small saucepan until blended.
  • Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture bubbles in 1 or 2 places. 
  • Remove from heat immediately; use rubber spatula to scrape into blender.
  • With motor running on high speed, ADD oil slowly, in a thin stream; blend until mayonnaise is thick and smooth. Turn blender off occasionally to scrape down sides with rubber spatula. 
  • Refrigerate, covered.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups


 
 
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No, my garden is still not in.  I'm getting closer, though. and I have the makings outside of my garden for a perfectly lovely little salad.  the dandelion greens are perfect right now.  The whole reason we have dandelions in our yards today is because early settlers, probably French, brought them to plant in their gardens.  The French still love springtime pis en lit salad....which translates to pee the bed salad, by the way.   What with a dandelion being a natural diuretic, I guess it makes sense.  I'm glad they didn't apply those naming game rules to  stewed prunes.  Let's just stick with dandelion salad, shall we?

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Run outside and cut yourself a bowlful like I did this morning.  Right now, the tender green leaves  have a pleasant herbal astringency.  You've chewed on rubber bands, right?  They have a bitter flavor because they are made of natural rubber...which is made from the same kind of milky sap, or latex, that makes dandelions bitter.  The rubber-band bitterness is still a ways off.  The latex doesn't start really running until after the plant blooms.  So go ahead and pick some, I'll wait.  

Grab some chives while your out there, would you?  They look good, too.

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Wash the greens in a big bowl of cold water and drain well.  Either in a salad spinner or on a towel.   If you have a puppy, like I do, be extra careful to pick your greens in a puppy free zone of the yard and wash in several changes of water.

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Parker, a valued member of my staff.
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Now make a vinaigrette.  I'm flavoring mine with garlic and fresh chives and sweetening it with a big spoonful of luscious local maple syrup.  A bit of sweet will balance that bitterness in the greens.

Whisk together:
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste

Drop some wafer thin sliced red onions into the dressing to marinate a bit while you finish the salad.

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For two hungry people, pile about 4 cups of the greens in a big bowl.  Top with the marinated onion.  Now cook 3 slices of chopped bacon and drain off the fat.  (save it for frying potatoes later)  Add the bacon to your salad.

Add a poached egg to this salad and you've got a dandy brunch.  Once upon a time, I had brunch at one of my all-time-favorite places, Lucia's Restaurant.  She served a perky green salad with the luscious biscuits and gravy I'd ordered.  I've been sold on salad for brunch ever since. If you'd like to add the egg, now is the time to get it poaching.  

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Pour about half of your vinaigrette into the pan you cooked your bacon in and stir it around to loosen the yummy bits from the pan. Save the rest of the dressing for another salad.

Pour the hot dressing over the salad and toss.

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Mark, in his PJs, at the crack of noon.
Lift the tossed salad onto a serving plate and top it with that perfectly poached egg.

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10 Ways With Dandelions
  1. cook like spinach, topped with a splash of hot sauce
  2. sautee with garlic and fold into mashed potatoes with plenty of Parmesan cheese.
  3. Toss with hot cooked pasta--don't forget the garlic and Parm
  4. scatter petals from the blooms onto salads
  5. add to your next stir fry
  6. add to spicy cooked pinto beans
  7. sauté with garlic in olive oil and top with lemon and crumbled feta cheese
  8. add crumbled dry petals to pasta dough for a pretty golden color.
  9. sauté with onions and mushrooms and serve atop a grilled steak with a crumble of blue cheese
  10. cut into slivers (chiffonade) and scatter over a rich risotto just before serving

 
 
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It's Saturday--we didn't get around to breakfast until around 10:30, so I decided to brunch it up a bit with some sweet peas.  

Last week I had a bite of pea puree at Tilia.  Since the Top Chef Pea Puree Scandal I've been seeing it everywhere.  When done right, like at Tilia, it is silky smooth, a gorgeous shade of green, and elevates the pure mild flavor of peas.  

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It's a snowy March in Minnesota and I welcome the fresh green sweetness locked in the lowly frozen pea.

I decided to go for a more rustic mashed pea to go with our bacon and eggs.  

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Cook about 2 cups of frozen peas in a little bit of water in a covered pan until just tender, about 4 minutes.  Drain, and add a tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of cream.  Then stomp your immersion blender around in the pot a few times until just mashed. Add more cream if it's too thick and season with plenty of salt and pepper.  That's it.  

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Oh look, a picture of my peas last summer---I wish I had frozen some, but we just ate them all as fast as they came off the vines.  I always plant snap peas and they mash up just as well.



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I had to include a picture of the beautiful eggs my friends gave me yesterday.  What a treat. Almost too pretty to eat.  Almost....

After I fried the bacon, I poured in some boiling water from the kettle (cold water can warp your hot pan).  The bacon fat flavors the poaching water that those pretty eggs are simmering in.

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And finally we eat.  I know for a fact, it took me longer to write this post than it did to make this brunch.  The puree was a huge hit.  It will make a reappearance on my Easter table to back up the leg of lamb, perhaps with a bit of fresh mint.  Mmmm, it would be nice with ham, too.  

Enjoy!

 
 
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It's the first day of spring...it is bitterly cold, the snow is still piled high, the ice on the lake is so thick you can safely drive on it...but the sun is strong and bright.  Last week I tromped around the yard pruning my fruit trees.  I brought an armful inside and stuck them in a big vase of water.  The plum buds are swelling and showing a bit of welcome green.  It will be a delight to have some honest to goodness spring blossoms from my own yard  in the coming weeks.  

Our sweet friends' daughter, J, is getting married to her high school sweetheart June 1st.  I've offered to make her bridal cake.  J's mother, future mother-in-law, and a bridesmaid met around my kitchen table Monday evening to talk about cake, eat cake, and look at pictures of cakes.  

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I wish I had been at my sister and brother-in-laws' wedding reception in 1985. The reception was held at the fairgrounds and the sandwiches were prepared by the church ladies. They are an elegant couple, still happily married and continue to make their own fun.
I love a homemade wedding.  I think by doing the preparations ourselves we make our own joy.  When did the notion that baking fancy cakes, singing pretty songs and arranging lovely flowers was something only a professional can do?  (OK, so I write recipes for a living----but I am not a professional cake decorator.  Never have been, never will be.)  Baking a cake to celebrate a loved one's special day brings a whole lot of joy for just a little butter, flour, sugar and eggs.

  Fortunately, special occasions are few and far between so the task doesn't become a burden.  I try hard not to bake any crabbiness or martyrdom into my cakes.  I can taste it.  It's bad.  My decorations are always very simple.  I want J and her guests want to make this cake again someday.  The bride is going home with the recipe. I won't pretend that this isn't a fair amount of trouble.  Of course it is.  This is good; it keeps me from eating cake every day.

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 So Monday, we had two kinds of cake: a soft butter cake, and a sturdier sponge drizzled with a lemon syrup.  We chose the sponge.  A cake made from good real butter, home grown eggs, hand-scraped vanilla beans, and fresh lemons tastes so good because the ingredients taste so good.  

I fiddled around with fillings, lemon curd, raspberry jam, and banana custard.  Vanilla custard it is.  

The frosting is a super basic powdered sugar buttercream.  I know Italian meringue buttercreams and frostings with cooked custards beaten in are the bomb, but they are a pain to make and frankly turn out overly heavy and  buttery/greasy sometimes.  I whip a little orange juice into my frosting to smooth out any grittiness from the cornstarch in the sugar.  

Then the decorations.  I divided one cake into quarters and showed her what I can do without making a fool of myself.  It' s a good life lesson to know your strengths and limitations.  I can make almond paste flowers, and crystalize fruit.  I can do a few basic piping techniques.  I know how to get a perfect matte finish with a Viva paper towel instead of a heavy yucky fondant.  I even know how to grow pretty blue forget me nots to adorn the bottom edge of her cake.  That's what we'll do.  Fresh flowers around the bottom, and three tiers of simple natural buttercream with minimal piped decor.

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I must say I do love me a cake topped with lots of swoopy frosting..... and I love the decadence of a cake covered with fat rosettes.  I'll save those for another day.

I'll be sure to post some pics of the wedding and the final cake in June.  I'll share the final recipe with you, too so you can make your own fun.

 
 
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My quest is over.  One of my favorite dairy rants (I have two that I can think of) is why can't somebody make a plain, un-gummed, un-stabilized cream cheese.  If a dairy product is allowed time to fully culture and enough whey is drained away, it will naturally thicken...and stay that way. Finally I've found one....right in the dairy case of the Harvest Moon Co-op.  Nancy's cultured cream cheese.  

I just went to their web site and saw that they rant a little bit too.  You know what they say about great minds...... Look what they say about stabilizers and thickeners:
Because we take the extra time to fully culture our products, they are naturally thick and creamy. We never add ingredients that are meant to stabilize or thicken dairy products. You can count on Nancy's for all natural, real food. Nothing that is 'man made'

When I make homemade yogurt, I add powdered dry milk to make it naturally thicker.  Oh look, so does Nancy:

Ingredients: Organic cream, nonfat dry milk, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum and 4 strains of Lactic cultures, salt.

The flavor is decidedly more cheesy than the blocks of Philly.  Wow, it tastes great.  I haven't cooked with it yet, but it inspired bagels.


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I love to bake bagels.  I've been baking them since I made them for a 4-H project as a kid.  This recipe Bernard Clayton brought home from a trip to Paris is a winner.  I love the look you get from shaping a rope of dough around your hand.  If I try to poke a hole in a ball of dough, like some recommend, it always closes in and looks like a bun with a belly button.

I also like to weigh my dough.  I do not eyeball well.  I never have, so I use a scale and weigh out 3-oz balls.  Today I used my antique scale because my batteries were dead in my digital version.  Who needs batteries, anyway!

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Jo Goldenberg's Parisian Bagels
MAKES 10 LARGE BAGELS

3 1/2 cups (approximately), bread flour [or substitute all-purpose flour] 
2 packages, dry yeast 
3 tablespoons, sugar 
1 tablespoon, salt 
1 1/2 cups, hot water (120-130 degrees) 
3 quarts water 
1 1/2 tablespoons, barley malt syrup [or substitute sugar in the same amount] 
1 egg white – beaten with 1 teaspoon, water 
topping of choice, if any (see Variations, below) 


Make the dough: In a mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer) measure 3 cups of the flour and stir in all the remaining dry ingredients. Pour in the hot water, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon (or with the flat paddle attachment of the electric mixer at low speed) and beat for about 2 minutes. 

Add the remaining half-cup of flour, a little at a time, stirring by hand. When the batter becomes thick and heavy, attach the mixer’s dough hook (if using) or lift the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface for kneading by hand. 

Knead the dough: Knead the dough at medium low speed on the mixer – or by hand (using a push, turn and fold motion, energetically) for about 10 minutes – or until the dough is firm and solid when pinched with the fingers. Add flour as needed if the dough is sticky in your hands, or sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl (if using electric mixer). 

First Rising: When dough is kneaded enough, place it in an oiled mixing bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature until it has doubled in volume – about 1 hour. 

Prepare water bath: Near the end of this rising time, bring the 3 quarts of water to the boil in a Dutch oven. Add the malt syrup or sugar; then, reduce the heat and leave the water just barely moving – at a slow simmer. 

Shape the bagels: When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with extended fingers to deflate.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces (each will weigh about 3-4 ounces). Shape each piece into a ball. Allow the balls to stand and relax for a few minutes.  Roll each ball into a 6-inch rope with tapered ends.  Wrap the rope around your opened hand with the ends meeting in your palm.  Slide your hand across the work surface, rolling the bagel off of your hand and twisting the ends of the dough together.

Second Rising: Cover the shaped bagels with wax paper or parchment paper. Leave them at room temperature just until the dough has risen slightly – about 10 minutes (this is called a “half proof”). [Cook’s Note: If the bagels are allowed to rise too much during this “second rise” – they will not sink when put in the simmering water; but, if that should happen, just pretend that they DID sink – and cook them for the same 1 minute as described below. The difference will be nearly unnoticeable-the bagels will be just a bit puffier.] 

Prepare the baking sheet: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. [Cook’s Note: If using a convection oven, reduce the heat by 50 degrees.] Line a baking sheet with parchment or sprinkle with cornmeal.

Water-bathing the bagels: Into the gently simmering water prepared earlier, slip one bagel at a time (use a large skimmer, and gently lower them into the water). Simmer only 2 or 3 bagels at a time – do not crowd the pan. The bagels will sink and then rise again after a few seconds. Simmer gently for one minute, turning each bagel over once during that time. Lift each bagel out of the water with the skimmer, drain briefly on a towel, then place each bagel on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all bagels are simmered, drained and on the baking sheet. [Cook’s Note: Thanks to the malt syrup or the sugar that was added to the simmering water, the bagels will be shiny as they come from the water.] 

Baking the bagels: If toppings are desired, (see “Variations” below) now is the time to add them, by sprinkling the desired topping over the bagels. Brush each bagel lightly with the egg-white-water mixture first, then sprinkle the topping if desired – or leave unadorned, for water bagels. 

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. 

Place the bagels on a metal rack to cool.

Variations:
Toppings may include: coarse salt, shredded onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, or other flavors of your choice. Sprinkle toppings over before baking bagels, as described above. 





Recipe adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads (Simon and Schuster)

 
 
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Today is F's birthday and he deserves a cake.  I always make him angel food with 7-minute divinity frosting and end up with dozens of egg yolks left over.  This year it's going to be different.  Meyer Lemon Chiffon.

Once in a while a girl likes to get all Betty Crocker for her man and today's the day.  Chiffon cakes send out a decidedly 50's vibe.  I'm sure that's what Donna Reed baked while wearing heels and pearls.  This cake also has the rep for being touchy and difficult.  Not so.  Let's take a look.

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In my sunroom I have a Meyer lemon tree growing in a pot.  I've had it for about 10 years.  Every other year or so I get a bumper crop of lemons, otherwise the blooms just smell good then drop and call it a day.  Fine by me.  I can get Meyers in the grocery stores these days.  They are a lovely cross between and lemon and a mandarin orange.  The flavor is much sweeter than lemons.  

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Chiffon cakes are baked in 10-inch tube pans with removable bottoms, a.k.a. angel food cake pans.  Save the Bundt pan for coffee cakes and pound cakes.  The pan is clean and dry so the fragile cake can stick to the sides and climb it's way to the top as it bakes.  Isn't that clever?  That tube in the center is there for a reason.  It helps pull up the cake, too.  Otherwise it would be a sad saggy mess.

The fluffy high stature of Chiffon cakes is supported by sorts of insurance policies built right into the recipe.  They are leavened by whipped egg whites.  the egg whites are stabilized by cream of tartar and lemon juice--both acids that kind of start to "cook" the protein in the whites, but leave it just raw enough to stretch like a balloon.  Just to make sure, we have a big spoonful of baking powder to boost that puff.

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How 'bout a little gadget talk.  I love Microplanes.  They zip off the zest of the lemons lickety split.  Here's a tip....use the Microplane tooth-side down and the zest collects neatly on top waiting for you to scrape it off into a measuring spoon.

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If you don't have one of these juicers, get one.  You put the citrus half cut-side down and close the press.  It turns your fruit inside out and juice flows out the bottom leaving the seeds behind.  Slick!  And you can use it at the table to drizzle just a little lemon or lime juice from the cut half and save the rest for later.  

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Every chiffon cake recipe tells you to whip up the yolk mixture, then whip the whites in a clean dry bowl and fold the two mixtures together.  Egg whites refuse to whip in the presence of fat.  Yolks have all the fat--so this makes sense, right?  I suppose....but I don't have two sets of beaters and bowls for my mixer.   Yolks don't care a bit about some egg whites hanging around on the edges of their bowl, so  I've switched it up.  Whip those egg whites in your nice clean bowl, then scrape them onto a plate.  Drop the yolks and remaining ingredients into the same bowl you whipped your whites in and finish up the job.

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Oh, and a word about folding in those egg whites.  They are tougher than you think---don't be afraid to use the whisk attachment on your mixer to blend them in.  A hand whisk works great too and does a much better job of giving you a streak free batter.

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While my chiffons may never reach lofty angel food heights, they always taste good, efficiently use my  ingredients and really truly go together just as quickly as a boxed mix....almost.

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Cool the cake on a wine bottle---even if those stubby little legs on the pan are tall enough to keep the cake from touching the counter--they restrict air flow do it takes waaay to long to cool.

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Now tease it out of the pan with your fingers and a slim knife.  I like it right-side-up on the platter.

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I thought this needed a little drizzle.  Stir a couple of tablespoons of melted butter into two cups of powdered sugar.  Then stir in teaspoons of buttermilk until it's just thin enough to spoon.

He hasn't seen it yet.  Shhhh.....don't tell, it's a surprise.

Happy Birthday F. Michael Miller.

XOXO

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MEYER LEMON CHIFFON CAKE
This is very nice served with berries.

8 eggs
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I like grapeseed)
4 Meyer lemons
2 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Separate yolks and whites, dropping whites into large clean bowl of electric mixer.  Grate zest from lemons (you should get between 2 and 3 Tbsp.)  Juice lemons (you should get 1/2 cup--add water to make up the difference if it's just a little off.)

Add cream of tartar to whites and beat on medium until frothy.  Whip on high speed until will hold stiff peaks.  Remove whites to a bowl and set aside.

Add yolks to mixer bowl (no need to wash bowl).  add sugar, salt, oil, lemon zest and juice.  Beat on medium until smooth.  Add flour and baking powder and mix until just combined.

Spoon about 1/4 of the whites into batter and beat to lighten.  Spoon in remaining whites on top of batter and whisk just until no white streaks remain.

Pour into clean, dry 10-inch tube pan with removable bottom and bake 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and springs back to the touch.  Cool cake completely in pan inverted onto neck of a wine bottle.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; transfer to plate and dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with a lemon glaze if desired.

Makes 12 servings


 
 
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The party's over...and it was great.  Last Saturday I enjoyed a smashingly successful holiday gala at the Minnesota Governor's Residence.  

I have been honored to have been appointed to serve on the Governor's Residence Council (GRC) under Gov. Pawlenty and now Dayton.  I like to think that I came into this job through the kitchen.  So when the 1006 Society decided to throw a gala celebrating the 100th anniversary of the home, I stepped up to arrange the food.  The 1006 Society and the GRC work together to ensure the historic preservation of this historic home owned by the people of Minnesota.  

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I started by asking chef friends of mine to join the fun.  J.D. Fratzke, of The Strip Club Meat & Fish offered to help coordinate the chefs and it blossomed into a celebration of 8 of Minnesota's best chefs and three of Minnesota's best pastry chefs.  Then I started calling on my favorite brewers, cheese makers, farmers, ranchers, and bakers.  It turned out that Minnesota really does know how to throw a party.  

Wanna see what the chefs came up with?  Let's take a look at my clumsy notes from the party.

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The residence's own executive chef, Micah Pace, opened his kitchen to everyone.  It was great---after the party started rolling front of house, it was a party in the kitchen.

Micah started things off with a couple of nice appetizers. My favorite was his crepe filled with with locally raised muscovy duck and tied with a chive ribbon.

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JD from Strip Club Meat and Fish 
cooked up an amazing dish himself
in addition to helping me secure all the chefs.  Thousand Hills Cattle Company donated the beef tenderloin---JD arrived with untrimmed tenderloins and started butchering.  He works fast and clean and left the residence with a tidy package of trimmings Chef Micah can use in the future.  At the end of the night--he arranged the leftovers onto a lovely tray for the staff.  The State Troopers he fed were beyond grateful.  Those sprouts were my favorite part of his dish.  

Grilled Grass Fed Thousand Hills Beef Tenderloin with roasted Brussels sprouts, horseradish cream, jus and pomegranate



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Thomas Kim, the Left-Handed Cook arrived first.  It was fun to watch him decide how put together his plate.  The pickled mustard seeds popped like caviar when you at them.  He kept a plate of pork trimmings on hand for kitchen treats.  Mmmm.  I had never heard of Mrs. Pork.  I look forward to learning more about their business.  Mrs. Pork (a.k.a. Minnesota Research Swine)  donated the pork.  

I picked up the radishes from Greg Reynold's Riverbend farm.  His sandy soil grows these straight white monsters with a mildly hot flavor.  Greg also included some baseball-sized rose hearted misato radishes with a similar flavor.  I'm always happy to connect a new chef with a good farmer.  


    Braised  Pork Belly on a bed of a thick rice porridge with Riverbend farm daikon and pickled mustard seeds

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Steven Brown of Tilia's
    parsnip ravioli with seared duck breast and lardo finished with citron salt and a demi glace

Early on Steven talked about making pressed duck using the massive silver duck press from Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale.  I'm glad he didn't, while delicious--crunching duck bones to extract their juices is hard to pull off on a small table in a crowded room.  The photo does not do it justice.  That sauce, the nutty parsnip pillow the rare duck with the crispy skin and the aromatic salt really sang.  Wow.  And Steven came with his own mini kitchen complete with induction burners.  He set up shop in a small corner of the kitchen and did his part to  keep the kitchen staff well stocked with Surly's finest.


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Scott Graden of New Scenic Cafe rolled in through the fog from his gorgeous spot in Duluth and then rolled back up after the party ended around 11 pm.    That's a heck of a drive and I'm so glad he made it.   His 
Braised Lamb Shanks with caramelized Root Vegetables
were luscious.  The plate was so pretty---alas I didn't get a shot of it.  Rats.  However, while chatting with a guest, I learned this couple loves his restaurant and make it a destination in their travels.  I asked if they'd like to meet him.  So I stepped into the kitchen and a asked Scott if he could spare a minute as someone would like to talk to him.  As he came toward me a uniformed trooper came around the corner----whoops.  Didn't mean to scare you, Scott.  

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a similar dish from another of Scott's events.
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Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma's 
Mushroom Consomme with a Porcini Custard

The broth was light and flavorful while the floating custard flavored richly with porcini mushrooms was velvety on the tongue.  A mirepoix of diced vegetables were in the bottom of each cup.  Celeriac stood in for the usual celery in the usual carrot-onion-celery trio.  We set Alex up with a couple of induction burner from home in a conference room.  It's an old house--and over and over the fuses blew.  Alex remained calm and pleasant and finally his broth got hot.   

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Sharing the conference room with Alex was Hai Truong from Ngon Bistro.  He made a nice little riff on the Bahn Mi sandwiches I love.  He took a slice of great Rustica French bread and topped it with braised pork.  A tangle of pickled vegetables,  daikon sprouts, and cilantro topped the bite.  Nope, didn't get a pic of this either.   Trust me, it was great.  I did get a sophisticated shot of Hai relaxing a bit after the party.  By the way---look at the proper foam rings in his glass.  Thank you, Muddy Pig, for washing your beer glasses well.

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Jamie Malone from Sea Change had the date wrong.   Oopsy.  She redeemed herself by sending her sous chef, Ryan and two decadent tastes.  I can't believe I didn't  snap a shot of these beauties.  First, the oysters.  Ryan unpacked a container of small pillars of gray sea salt--kind of ugly on their own, but perch a Malbeque oyster in it's shell on top and it's beautiful.  A drop of horseradish creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon finished each one.  I finished 3 or 4 and had to restrain myself from snatching up every one I saw.  Her second offering was brilliant--think potato chips and dip and then kick it up an atmosphere or two.  She topped crisp slices of potato pave with cream, onion and a generous blob of super luxe caviar.  A couple of savvy guests found where these were being plated and hung around the door for first dibs as the servers went by.  

Potato Pave, by the way, is something I must learn to make.  Come back soon and I'll have it down for you all.  The basic idea is sliced potatoes are neatly layered about a fat inch thick into a loaf pan and baked with cream  until tender.  Then the brick is chilled under weight to press it into a pave, French for cobblestone.  The brick is sliced and each slice is pan fried into a crispy lovliness.  When it's done right the layers flare a bit, showing off all the hard work you put into lining up those perfect slices of potato.  Jamie's were as crisp as a chip, so they tasted great at room temp.  Often they are cut thicker and and keep a creaminess in the center.  Think--deep fried scalloped potatoes.  Yes, please.

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I haven't even gotten to mentioning the stellar band, Jazz Front freezing in the terrace tent.  Yes, that's my sweet husband on bass.  He never knew he could play with mittens.

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At least the ice sculpture was in no danger of melting.  Those ice bowls on either side were filled with a  Prairie Vodka cocktail.

Well, I'm out of time.....but I'm not done yet.  I'll post part two of this epic party where we'll talk about 

Lenny Russo's charcuterie, fantastic local cheeses, and desserts to knock your socks off.   See you soon.

 
 
Well, no pictures today for some reason.  I can't seem to upload any---it's getting colder, maybe my digital data refuses to leave the warm house.  

This is one of my favorite soups.  I've got two ways to get you there.  Neither one is hard--one slow cooks all day and the other comes together in under an hour.  Both are mostly unattended and both are delish.  Especially on a cold, blustery day like today.   

Oh, look at that!  My photos came through after all.
Thai Curried Butternut Soup

This is a take on one of my favorite Thai meals whipped up into a creamy soup.  The heat of the soup releases a heady perfume from the cilantro, so don’t skip the garnish. This makes an elegant meal paired with grilled chicken and a fresh green salad.  At parties I like to serve this in cups before we all sit down to dinner.  It freezes well.

 Serves 8

1 large (4 lb.) butternut squash

2 tbsp. butter

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 tbsp. green or red Thai curry paste (dry curry powder works, too in a pinch)

4 c. chicken broth

1 (13.5 oz.) can regular or light coconut milk

3 tbsp. fish sauce

2 tbsp. brown sugar

3 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Directions

1.  Heat oven to 400°F.  With a large knife, split the squash in half lengthwise.  Don’t bother to scoop out seeds, they add to the flavor.  Brush the squash with a little vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the squash, cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes or until very tender.

2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Cook onions and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes to soften.  Add ginger and curry paste and cook 30 seconds to develop the flavors.  Stir in broth, coconut milk and fish sauce.

3.  Use a large spoon to scoop out and discard seeds and stringy pulp in squash.  Scoop squash into soup.  Use an immersion blender to puree soup. Alternately puree in batches in an electric blender.  Note:  Hot liquids expand when blended, so be careful not to fill the jar more than halfway and leave the lid ajar covered with a dishtowel.

Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before serving (soup will thicken slightly as it cools).  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Top each serving with chopped cilantro.

Tip: I freeze cilantro blended with vegetable oil to use in the winter.  A drizzle of cilantro oil is a gorgeous garnish.


Slow Cooker Thai Curried Butternut Soup

This is a take on one of my favorite Thai meals whipped up into a creamy soup.  The unusual addition of butter rounds out the flavors and adds a real silkiness to the soup.  Adding it at the end of the cook time along with the brown sugar and fish sauce, keeps it from cooking into caramel.  The heat of the soup releases a heady perfume from the cilantro, so don’t skip the garnish.  This makes an elegant meal paired with a skewer of grilled shrimp and a fresh green salad.  At parties I like to serve this in cups before we all sit down to dinner.  It’s also handy that it frees up your stove and can hold for a while.  And it freezes well.

 Serves 8

1 large (4 lb.) or two small butternut squash (8 c.), peeled seeded and roughly cubed

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1 tbsp. green or red Thai curry paste

4 c. chicken broth

1 (13.5 oz.) can regular or light coconut milk

3 tbsp. fish sauce

2 tbsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Directions

In the slow cooker toss squash, onion, garlic, ginger and curry paste.  Don’t worry if the paste is in a clump, it will dissolve as it cooks.  Pour the broth and coconut milk over all.

Cover and cook on high 4 hours or low 8 to 10 hours.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.  Alternately puree in batches in an electric blender.  Note:  Hot liquids expand when blended, so be careful not to fill the jar more than halfway and leave the lid ajar covered with a dishtowel.

Stir in the fish sauce, brown sugar and butter.  Soup can keep warm in the slow cooker for up to an hour at this point.  Unplug cooker and let stand 15 to 30 minutes before serving (soup will thicken slightly as it cools).  Top each serving with chopped cilantro.

 
 
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Last Sunday F and I went to brunch at Tilia.  Brunch was amazing and then we went next door to Coffee and Tea Ltd. and I renewed an obsession.

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When I was 16 I went to Europe.  Halfway through the flight the food served became more European. It was on that flight that I tasted my first really good coffee.  The coffee I drank all over Europe was a revalation.  Dark, rich and fantastic with cream.  

The summer after my high school graduation I worked in the gourmet department at Younker's department store.  There I sold McGarvey whole bean coffee and began my journey toward becoming a full blown coffee geek.

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When I went to college in Ames, Iowa I worked at Cheese and Puppets in the old livery building downtown and later for the Country Gourmet selling beans again.  

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Then I got busy with real work and children, making coffee much less important.  When the kids were older and the pace had slowed a bit I found myself living in the Minneapolis area....which led me to renewing my delight in the old Mary Tyler Moore shows.  And you know how Mary brewed her coffee?  In a Chemex pot.  See where I'm going with this?

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When I picked up a Chemex pot at a garage sale a few years ago, I started brewing crystal clear coffee in this gorgeous pot.  This beautiful pot is in the permanent collection of Museum of Modern Art in New York.  How cool is that?  I love the simplicity of pouring hot water over ground beans.  It's pretty when I pour it into my cup.  The stream of coffee flows perfectly.  No dribbles or drips.  The clean coffee never stales on a warming plate making fantastic iced coffee later in the day.  Mmmm.

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That brings me back to Coffee and Tea Ltd. in Linden Hills. The cluttered shop is piled high with bags of green beans waiting for their turn in the antique roaster in the front window.  John, the roaster's son, walked me through their assortment.  I bought 4 quarter pounds to sample--three types of fruity floral deep flavored beans (Flores "Green Dragon" Organic, Sumatra Mandheling Crown, Sulawesi and one sample of the coffee they roast for Surly's Bender (Guatamala Vinca Vista Hermosa) just because. 

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The thick filters are pretty expensive and some say they give the brew a papery flavor.  I have heard you can use Hario filters, too.  I'm going to try them next.  I know you need to make sure the cone shaped filter has a pointed end.  The flat bottomed cones, like Melitta, have a weak seam that will blow out.  Yup, the voice of experience, here.  Well, I could go on about lids, water kettle spouts, and warming options....but I think I'll go have another cup of coffee.

Enjoy!