Monday, March 31, 2008

Grilled Grouper & Fennel Bulbs

Well, this past Saturday my old boss invited me out on his grouper boat for a day fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. And since I love fresh fish and being out on the water it was just too hard to say no. He really had to twist my arm. After a long day we managed to catch three large grouper, a ton of pink mouths (better known as grunts), seabass and one flounder. 

Sunday morning I prepped the grill, soaked a plank of maple and a handfull of wood chips in a pan, and then separated out two nice grouper fillets for Adrianne and myself. I put the grouper in a large Zip-Lock bag with virgin olive oil, soy sauce, and chopped garlic. I let them sit all day in the fridge while I ran some errands. On a side note, my father discovered this wonderful marinade while working in the Florida Keys. He said the local fisherman would grill everything using it and I can see why. Try grilling portabello mushroom caps with it! Mmmmm mmm taste just like steak, so rich and earthy. 

The market had some great looking fennel bulbs and squash so I picked them up along with a few other items. Back at the house I split the bulbs and rubbed the insides with curry paste and virgin olive oil. I fired up the grill and had Adrianne crack open a bottle of chilled Hopler (Gruner Veltliner 2005). During the transition from spring to summer I love to sit on the back deck with a chilled pinot grigio or some other white wine and cook. The weather is mild and the bugs have yet to descend upon us. 

I put everything on the grill at once; the fish, the split fennel and squash. I tossed the handful of soaked woodchips on the coals and closed the lid. The grouper grilled up nicely on the maple plank in no time. The fennel came out slightly charred and very aromatic. Along with the wine it was a perfect evening to end the weekend. 

Friday, March 28, 2008

Honey Time!

Recently I was asked by a reader how I make my herb infused truffles. So, today I'm going to divulge my master secret and let everyone in on it. Sorry I don't have step by step pictures as I was too lazy to take them during the last batch. I think maybe next time I will have the camera ready, or better yet have someone else take them as I tend to get pretty messy.

My favorite combo for these types of truffles are honey and thyme. The honey plays off of the thyme and gives the ganache a wonderful buttery texture. I prefer to use local honeys like Tupelo or Orange Blossom but you can use whatever you prefer. 

2 1/2 ounces of 38% milk chocolate (broken up)
2 1/2 ounces of 64% dark chocolate (broken up)
2 1/2 Tbs. of Tupelo Honey
2 1/2 Tbs. of Heavy Whipping Cream
3 Tbs. of Salted Butter (soft & cubed)
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
A pinch of salt

Temper Coating
3/4 a pound of 38% milk chocolate (I'll explain how to temper in another blog. For those that don't know how I suggest looking on-line) 

For the ganache: place the 38% and 64% chocolate in a bowl, set aside. In a sauce-pan gently stir the cream and thyme over medium heat until simmer. Afterwards remove from heat and cover. I usually wait for this to cool and then place the mixture in a cheese cloth to strain the cream from the thyme (into a separate cup). Clean out your sauce pan and now mix in the thyme-infused cream and honey. Put back on the stove and cook over medium heat. Once the cream and honey reach a good boil pour directly over the chocolate. Stir slowly until the chocolate has ALL melted. Now add your pinch of salt and soft butter. Keep stirring until silky-smooth. I like to let the ganache sit until it hardens while I clean up and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. When the chocolate is firm enough pipe-out small balls on the baking sheet (using a piping bag or zip-lock bag with one of the corners sniped). Let the chocolate sit over night (covered). Here's where I get messy, roll the balls in your hands and place on a new parchment lined baking sheet. The trick to this is to keep your hands cool and dry. Chocolate doesn't like to work in a warm environment so turn on the A/C. Also, chocolate isn't a big fan of wet weather so pick a day that is bright and clear. Now you're ready to dip the balls in chocolate that you tempered or coat with cocoa powder but that's completely up to you. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hershey goes to Mexico!

I know this topic is a tad on the late side, but I had to get my facts straight before committing it to writing. First of all the rumors are true, Hershey is indeed closing plants here in the states, cutting its workforce by 11.5 % and moving jobs to a new plant in Monterey, Mexico. The times quotes Hershey CEO Richard Lenny as saying that labor costs in Mexico are 10% less than in the U.S. and that by 2010 the changes will save shareholders $190 million. This move is what the company is calling a "global supply-chain transformation." I call it GREED!

Look, I understand economics and how the money go-round works. What I don't understand is why would this great American icon let its board of directors and CEO carry out such heinous business decisions in the name of their shareholders, and then line their own pockets. I know times are tough but come on Dick this is a company built on the backs of hardworking Americans! This decision is yet another byproduct of the North American Free Trade Agreement which, from its beginning, has done more to erode the U.S. economy than perhaps any single piece of legislation in U.S. history.

Milton Snavely Hershey bailed out so many folks during the Great Depression by offering jobs, building schools and taking in young boys off the street. He even struck a deal to put chocolate in k-rations during WWII. He was quite the philanthropist compared to these money grubbers. I'm pretty sure he's turning over in his grave over this.

I would very much like to say boycott their products, but I haven't found Hershey's to be particularly tasty these days. I don't know if the recipes have changed or what but it's definitely a lesser chocolate. Now, knowing that people have had their lives disrupted for a few extra bucks makes it that much easier to steer clear.

* In December 2004, Hershey acquired the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. from The Shansby Group.

* In July 2005, Hershey acquired the Berkeley, California-based boutique chocolate-maker Scharffen Berger.

* In November 2005, Hershey acquired Joseph Schmidt Confections, the San Francisco-based chocolatier.

* In November 2006, Hershey acquired Dagoba Organic Chocolate, a boutique chocolate maker based in Ashland, Oregon

As of February 1st 2008 Hershey closed their Oakdale, California plant laying off some 575 workers. 

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Keep My Job: Impossible

After learning that my least favorite chef (well, next to Rachel Ray) got canned from Food Network for lying on his resume I was extremely satisfied. Robert Irvine has a way of getting under my skin with his loud British accent and his alpha male attitude.

He hacks and slashes his way through these so called "challenges" that any caterer would tell you is what they handle at least once in any given month. He yells, stomps, throws things, and muscles his way around the kitchen. He has the audacity to be a complete ass to strangers around him like it's gonna get the job done faster. Afterwards he sits back and basks in the glow of his "hard work". Well, I think it's more for the dramatic flair than actual talent. So here's to you Robert Irvine... and your just desserts. (news article below)

NEW YORK — After rising to culinary stardom preparing impossible meals on his Food Network series, Robert Irvine has met an obstacle his kitchen prowess couldn't overcome _ an embellished resume.

The star of "Dinner: Impossible" has acknowledged fabricating some of the more fantastic parts of his resume, including having cooked for Britain's Royal Family and various U.S. presidents.

Following the revelations, the network announced it would not renew Irvine's contract, though it would air the remaining episodes of the current season, the series' fourth.

"I was wrong to exaggerate in statements related to my experiences in the White House and the Royal Family," Irvine said in a written statement. "I am truly sorry for misleading people and misstating the facts."

The Food Network said it might revisit its decision at the end of this season, but for now would begin searching for a new host for the series, which challenged Irvine to cook under arduous conditions.

"We rely on the trust that our viewers have in the accuracy of the information we present, and Robert challenged that trust," the network said in a written release.

Irvine, who is from England, first acknowledged the fabrications in a Feb. 17 story in the St. Petersburg Times.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Spring's in the Air

Well, I ended up having a wonderful 3 day weekend this past weekend. My job gave everyone Friday off to prepare for the long hours and mental strain of working the 08' Florida Session. You would have thought that I could have been productive and made a ton of chocolates or worked on my blog or website....well you would have. Instead I had the most enjoyable time of playing, eating and pretty much just sluffing off. 

Adrianne and I ate at some of our favorite restaurants, we drank champagne, grilled cornish game hens, declared war on our cat, slid around in our socks, cleaned the house, oh... and watched Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited (which I highly recommend). It couldn't have been more fun. 

The weather and temperature was perfect! It reminded me why I live in Florida and not in the frozen tundra. While all of my friends up north were shoveling themselves out we were in our shorts and tees with the windows open. I felt like one of those twitterpated squirrels you see darting out in the traffic chasing each other. There was just something in the air. I love this time of year! Trust me...chocolates are soon to come!