Halibut a la gastrovac

We are trying to utilize our gastrovac more than we have been. We infused a bunch of hammock hollows tomatoes with j. leblanc olive oil, crushed garlic and opal basil in the gastrovac. Then we used the oil to poach the halibut and served it with the tomatoes. We cooked the halibut for 10 minutes at 54C and it came out great. It literally melts. Next time we are going to cure the halibut a little before low pressure poaching it, hopefully this will firm it up a bit so it will hold together better.

It gets a little challenging trying to time our courses on the tasting menu with the gastrovac. Some tables move faster than others and when you have multiple tables on different courses we have to time it just right so we can go straight from the gastrovac to the plate. With each cycle running for 10 minutes per table it's up to the FOH to control the flow so the halibut course from another table doesn't fire while we are in the middle running the cycle on another table. It takes a lot of communication and luck doesn't hurt. So far no issues, hopefully we can continue like this.

a little home cooking

I don't get to cook too much when I'm home but when I do it's mostly simple and quick. We grilled the night before and had a bunch of leftovers so we did some breakfast "pizza" the next day. Some charred veggies, mahon, eggs and home made bread is what we had to work with.

Like I said, simple.

Can't go wrong with egg yolk.


Chanterais Melons

We are officially in the dead center of chanterais melon season here. The heirloom french melon, a true cantaloupe species, dating back to the 17th century is the highlight of our tasting menu this week. The french would suspend glass above the growing chanterais to magnify and increase soil temperature to produce the super sweet melon. Here in Florida with the summer temperatures ranging in the high 80's to mid 90's the melons mature quickly. Traditionally in the south of France they would halve the melon and fill it with sweet wine and indulge. This was the basis of our chanterais theme last year. This year we are serving the iconic melon with serrano ham, lychee sorbet, fig, and basil.

Some of the melon is compressed with fleur de sel, olive oil, a touch of acacia honey, and some Forvm vinegar. Some is compressed with opal basil that grows next to the melons at hammock hollows. We shaved a bit, compressed with an envision solution to tame the sweetness and dehydrated it. Orange and meyer lemon fluid gel provide acid, the sweetness of the fig and melon work well with the salty ham.

An overall cooling sensation to start our tasting menu. We also have a chanterais mignonette addition to our raw bar until they are no more. Laurent has even developed a dessert around the melon that is killer. Come and get it while it's here, hammock hollows is due to shut down for the next couple of months after this growing season. We look forward to his return in the fall with some more beautiful and inspiring product.


Mangalitsa Country Ham

We started curing our mangalitsa country ham at the end of May, we went with 1.5 days of curing time per pound. After the curing process we hung the ham to dry and form a pelicle.

We have an electric smoker at the hotel that automatically feeds itself hickory pellets. You can set the time, temp, and hold time if you like. The only issue is it doesn't produce a lot of smoke if you set it below 140F. Our country ham required 2 days of smoking @ 100F so I took it home and used my smoker which is much more time consuming but runs on good old Florida oak. I've been working with it for long enough that I know how to control the temperature for long periods of time.

I soaked some oak logs and trim to quell the fire when necessary. The one benefit of having a huge smoker in this case it takes a long time to heat but requires a lot of attention when it comes to keeping a low flame going for such a long period of time.

This is the ham that has already gone for a day in the smoker. I removed it until I had time to give it one more run.

You can see the smoke already at work after the first day but we wanted more.

This is after the second round of smoking. We have a really nice crust on the meat, The skin is hard as a rock and we are ready to begin the aging process.

Here it is back at home in our cooler where it will stay for the next 12 months or so. We ended up rubing the exposed meat with a mixture of lard, curing spices, and corn flour for added protection which you do not see here.


Wagyu Cheeks

We received some well marbled wagyu cheeks 3 days ago. They were bagged with veal stock, fresh laurel, thyme, peppercorn, and a garlic clove. We sous vide @ 65C for 72hrs, actually 71hrs. We were about to get hit and I didn't want to forget about them so really 71hrs. Super tender and literally melt in the mouth.

I had to sacrifice one for all the cooks to try. Tomorrow we will slice,season, cryovac once more with truffles and warm them slowly for service.


Lower East Side Pickles and a delivery straight from Tallahassee

Charlie from Hammock Hollows once again has given us some amazing product. We have an abundance of mini white cucumbers on hand and what better than some full sour pickles. I recently picked up The Joy of Pickling after reading through and researching many pickling books. This one has it all. You want asian, low country, fermented, sweet or quick pickles this is a great book. They cover everything and leave lots of room for interpretation. Our F&B Director is a born and bred New Yorker who is fanatic and vocal about his pickles and what he believes is a good or bad representation of basically his childhood. The Lower East Side pickle recipe is one I hope he will be fond of. I had our very own New York native pickle aficionado, F&B Assistant Director Luciano Sperduto, try the pickle brine and immediately he was on board. The author Linda Ziedrich comments in the book on all the New Yorkers requesting a pickle recipe that they could relate to. She went to all the corner delis, inspected the barrels and their contents and came up with the recipe that we based our pickles on.

After a few modifications from my own experience coming from a family that grew up in New York we came to our own recipe. We stuck the pickles in our back bar where we have a constant 58F for our which happens to be a perfect pickle arena for us in the kitchen. The humidity and the temperature in this room duplicates the environment of that northern east coast basement. I cryovac'd some water in a large bag and placed it on top of the pickles to hold them under the brine, every day we will wash the bag and skim any scum that develops. In a couple weeks we should have a good representation of some classic NY pickles. Of course you can't compete with the aged barrels or the mineral rich water of NY but I feel we can come close and provide our guest something akin to the original. It's a waiting game now, we'll have to just wait and see.

The second part of this post is a fresh delivery of squash and eggplant from my grandmother in law's garden in Tallahassee. They have a perfect summer climate to grow some amazing stuff. Her garden was recently ravaged by deer eating all her cherry tomatoes, okra and peas. I guess they don't care for squash or eggplant which is fine by me. She is old school, well educated in traditional preparation and always teaches me something about food.

Encouraging Words from the Mangalitsa Master

Heath from Wooly Pigs hit us with some flattering words recently. See his post here about our use of the local mangalitsa we have on hand. I don't know if I can consider us as being "probably the restaurant in the USA that uses Mangalitsa pork in the most experimental ways" but it is a very nice gesture. I have had many conversations with Heath via email and facebook about this breed of pork. Really for us it comes down to local product and the utilization of everything we get. Heath sent me an email about a year ago letting me know Torm of Pasture Prime Wagyu had just recently purchased some mangalitsa and we would have some local product to work with. Had it not been for that bit of information I'm sure it would have taken us a bit to catch on and embrace the great product that was right in our backyard.
We are mainly a seafood restaurant but we look to our pork as a major flavor enhancer. House cured and smoked bacon brings our chowder to another level. Bacon and clam ragout over wild king salmon, cured and smoked head diced with sea island red peas, bacon wrapped tuna, the earthiness of brined-braised-and pressed shoulder is out of this world. We have a dish called "Dirty South Swordfish" where we start our risotto with house made tasso. Who doesn't like fresh pork rinds still popping and cracking on the way to the table? It may never be listed on the menu but its there. It's what we have when we have it.
This is not your normal pork, you have to have other creative outlets besides pork loin on your menu to sustain this product. When we get a loin in it has a 2-3 in layer of fat cap on it! Half the weight is fat. If your any kind of chef you know you can't just chalk it up as waste. Make lardo! Our first batch of lardo is finally done, most people just slice it and put it on the plate and there is nothing wrong with that. We cubed and rendered a bit until it was crispy. The beauty of mangalitsa fat is lower moisture content from most kinds of pork. When you render it surely it loses some weight but not even close to he norm. If you could describe fat as being meaty then this would be it. After it was rendered we all tried a single piece and it was ridiculous, well seasoned from the months of curing and hanging, but light as air, crispy on the outside and molten goodness on the center. In the end, thanks for the words Heath. It just gives us more fuel to push the envelope on our future pig projects.


Hulled Hemp Seeds

I picked up some organic hulled hemp seeds from whole foods to play with. They look similair to sesame seeds and taste almost like pine nuts but less intense. We roasted them first.

Pureed them wth a touch of H2O, lemon juice and extra virgin.

Then served them as the base of our baby artichoke barigoule on our tasting tonight. A little fennel frond that has been compressed with envision and dehydrated.