Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter Sunday with Blue Hill at Stone Barns

To celebrate Easter Sunday, I went up to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It was a whole day affair, and although we sat down at 4:00pm, we did not leave until 8:30pm, 4.5 hours later. Yet it did not feel drawn out, and I left sated but not sickly. Touring the farm and seeing all the produce and livestock that is grown and raised on this sprawling farm (part of the Rockefeller's humongous estate) and then sitting down to taste and savour it at the dining table was a life changing experience. The food is country dining at it's best: elegant but no nonsense, unadorned and unadulterated, simple but highly sophisticated.
The courtyard of the restaurant's entrance.
The farm's green house.
Purple and green basil.
Kale in candy colours.
I believe these ewe's were sheered because they are pregnant (note the swollen bellies and pronounced udders).
The chicken are free-range and unlike factory farm chicken coops, have ample room to move around and get some exercise, which means less fatty meat and more nutrients. A carton of 6 eggs was given to each guest to commemorate Easter Sunday. I am going to brainstorm how I plan to prepare and cook these "immature gems." Shall I have them poached, fried, scrambled? En cocotte, benedict, or scotched? One thing is certain: screwing up is not an option.
Berkshire porks rolling around in the mud. The stench was nauseating. I wonder which one will be dragged to the slaughter house next?
Perhaps this lazy oaf.
Cattle grazing in the pastures. Peace and tranquility reign supreme on the farm, and the trails provide great walks in the fall. It was quite hot and stale, and there was no breeze on the farm's grounds. We all opted for the 8 course surprise menu. Everyone was asked what their dietary preferences were, and based on that Chef Dan and the team created tailor-made menus for each of us. To begin, garden vegetables grown from their greenhouse with an herb spritzer: carrots, purple and yellow cauliflowers, and a succulent leafy green called ficoïde glaciale.
The most delicious beet burgers with warm sesame toast buns and a dollop of goats cheese.
The mighty ficoïde glaciale, bursting with verdant flavour. The frosty bubbles on the leaves come from the soil in which it grows, where it is indigenous to the sea coasts near Brittany, France. They are slightly citrusy and carry an icy crunch that makes it perfect for garnishing. To find out where to purchase it in the city, check out the NYTimes article on the frosty plant.
Baloney and Bresaolo.
Bone marrow with crispy pancetta served in bone. Note: this will clog your arteries, but it's 100% worth it if you're not overweight.
Roasted parsnip with ketchup.
Red Mullet, skin torched with a spicy sauce. It tasted sashimi grade and melted in your mouth. Move over Fatty T, there's a new kid in town.
Grains harvested in biblical times are seeing a resurgence among artisan farmers (from top): red fife; spelt; freekeh; emmer.
Red fife brioche with black pepper, mustard green ramp and mustard seed jam, and fresh ricotta.
Baby leeks and broccoli rabe grilled with polenta mousse and at the bottom a trifecta of grated parmesan, lardo and young egg yolk, served on triangular stone slabs. The smokiness from the grilled vegetables merely heightened the creaminess of the mousse. To accompany the freshly baked potato onion bread and matzoh (from left, above): hudson valley butter, fines salt (tarragon, parsley, celery leaf and chervil), and carrot salt.
A slow cooked stone barns spring easter egg with pistou and lettuce broth. I stared in utter bliss as I tore the white outer layer to unveil a glistening yolk that burst into a linoleum stream, like crude oil a thick, viscous liquid trickling slowly but steadily into the green. Gold rush!
Homemade linguine made with immature egg yolks, tossed with black trumpet mushrooms and grated with immature egg yolks. There is a whole science behind the immature egg yolk which I will refrain from elucidating as it is beyond my proletariat mind's comprehension, but I will note that the pasta had a richer, roe-esque taste that masked the starchiness of regular pasta.
The culmination of farm to table cuisine: my fat friend turned into a beautifully roasted, succulent and tender pork chop with hazelnut salsify sauce and romaine lettuce, accompanied with a spring vegetable broth spiked with sherry (below). The pork must have been sous vide, it was near perfection.
To cleanse the palette, a champagne jelly and homemade yoghurt sorbet with pink grapefruits and fennel seed lady fingers. It was the perfect synergy between bitterness, acidity and sweetness, stirred together with a finger that was buttery and fluffy. I'd hitherto only had hard and crunchy lady fingers, but these were like slender madelaines, pillowy and soft with an aniseed aftertaste.
And the final course of the evening, a multi-textured glass of coffee foam, chocolate sorbet, crunchy spice crumble and moist spice cake. Incredible.
Blue Hills makes their own charcoal using an elaborate gas machine. What you are looking at is bones that were used for stock and a lobste heads, which impart the most divine smokey flavours when burnt under a grill. The restaurant's efforts to become a sustainable farm that minimizes wastage and their carbon foot prints make it one of the most noble and valiant food centres I've read or come across. Every restaurant should aspire to be as sustainable as Blue Hill (but then again, not everyone has the space for a farm). It's all about working with local artisans and food purveyors in your area, because the sustainable food movement is no longer a trend; it is the golden standard.
A mini green house in the private dining room.
To end the meal, petite fours consisting of homemade Stone Barns milkshakes and pistachio pralines (if I could I would have bought boxes to bring home for everyone), it tasted like the best baclava in the Middle East (sans sirop, crispy, flakey, crunchy) coated in an ungodly delicious chocolate. My mediocre home-cooked meals will never taste the same again.

Blue Hills at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Road, Tarrytown NY 10591 (aka Sleepy Hollow)
Best to take the Metro North at Grand Central to Tarrytown, roughly 35 minute train journey. Take a taxi from the station to the farm (5 persons = no more than $20)

Sunday, 24 April 2011

A Roman Spring

Tomato and Basil Crostinis

1 box grape tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Bunch of basil leaves, chiffonade
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Greek yoghurt
Whole wheat baguette, sliced thinly

Heat a cast iron skillet with oil. Once it begins to smoke, add the tomatoes and flash fry until the skins burst.

Add the garlic and toss until the garlic chives begin to brown, then season. Take off the heat, mix in the basil and then top over a toasted crostini spread with Greek yoghurt.

Cannellini Bean and Red Capsicum Crostini

1 can cannellini beans
1 streak of pancetta or bacon, roughly chopped
Half red capsicum, finely chopped
Half red onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
Few leaves of basil, chiffonade
Greek yoghurt
Whole wheat baguette, sliced thinly

In a medium sized sauce pan, add some oil and the pancetta and cook on medium-high heat. Once the pancetta begins to crisp, add the onions, red capsicum and carrots, cooking over medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the cannellini beans and toss, then add enough water just to cover the beans. Simmer until the water has nearly boiled out and you are left with a thick, porridge-like stew, about 8 minutes.

Stir basil into the cannellini bean stew and top over a toasted slice of baguette spread with Greek yoghurt.

Blood Orange, Radish and Basil Salad

4 blood oranges
6 small red radishes, washed
300g spinach
100g mixed greens (lollo rosso, rocket, frisee etc.)
Handful fresh basil
1 tbsp capers, drained
2 tbsp dijon mustard
100ml olive oil
Anchovies (optional)
Coarse sea salt and pepper

To make the dressing, roughly chop the capers. Mix with the mustard, then slowly pour the olive oil in a thin stream whilst whisking until you reach a thick, vinaigrette consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice the radish so that they are paper thin. If not using immediately, soak in cold water and refrigerate. Chop and discard ends of oranges, and one by one stand the orange upright on a chopping board and cut downwards to remove the skin and pith. With each slice, follow your knife along the edge of the pith so that the skin is peeled neatly. Cut each orange into thin slices and place in a bowl.

To assemble add the spinach, mixed greens, basil, blood oranges, anchovies (if using) and radish slices (drained and dried with paper towels) in a big bowl, and add a tablespoon of the dressing. Toss with clean hands, and add more dressing if needed. You want it lightly coat the leaves, not drench it so that it becomes soggy. Taste and season with coarse sea salt and pepper if needed.

Linguine with Savoy Cabbage, Pancetta and Mozzarella

Half head of savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
400g pancetta, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large ball of Buffalo Mozzarella, torn into small chunks
1/2 cup White Wine
3/4lb of Linguine
Handful of pine nuts, toasted

In a large sauce pan, saute the pancetta with a little olive oil on medium-high heat until the pancetta begins to brown.

Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the cabbage and saute for a minute. Deglaze the pan with white wine and then turn the heat to medium, cover the pan and let the cabbage cook until it softens for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the linguine. Cook according to the package's instructions until it is al dente, making sure you stir the pasta regularly. Linguine has a tendency to stick together so it is very important that you constantly stir it.

Once it is cooked, scoop a laddle of the pasta water into a bowl, pour the pasta into a colander and drain. Add the linguine to the cabbage mixture and toss, adding some of the pasta water. Add the buffalo mozzarella and pine nuts until it begins to melt. Transfer to a large serving dish and serve immediately.

Almond and Hazelnut Sponge Cake with Honey Greek Yoghurt (Adapted from David Tanis)

250g shelled hazelnuts
250g unblanched whole almonds
4 large eggs, at room temperature and separated
1/2 cup sugar
Grated Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp flour
Pinch of salt
Confectionary sugar, for dusting

1/2C Greek Yoghurt (or more)
1 tbsp Honey
2 tspn confectionary sugar

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Line a 10 inch spring form pan or cake tin with parchment paper and set aside.

Roast hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes or until the skins blister and nuts are lightly toasted. Put the nuts in a dry dish towel and rub them together to remove the blistered skins. When cook, coarsely chop in a food processor with the almonds. Do not blitz into powder.

In a mixing bowl, beat yolks with sugar until creamy, then add lemon zest, juice, flour, salt and chopped nuts and mix well. Whip egg whites until stiff, then fold into the batter in three parts to lighten the batter. Visible white streaks are perfectly fine, so long as the batter is well-incorporated.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 15 minutes on 175C/350F. Turn down the heat to 160C/325F and bake for another 25-30 minutes until it is cooked through, using a skewer to check if it comes out clean. Let the cake cool before removing from tin.

To make the honey greek yoghurt, mix the yoghurt with the honey and sugar. Taste and add more honey if you like it sweeter. Serve a slice of the sponge cake with a dollop of the yoghurt.

Store basil by leaving it out in a container of water. It will keep for longer and will not brown as quickly.

Tonight's dinner ingredients were all purchased at Chelsea Market: the whole wheat baguette was bought at Amy's Bread, the linguine at Buon Italia, all produce at the vegetable market and the pancetta at Dickson's meat farm stand.

Most of these photos were taken by Artsynthesis.com, another fellow food blogger/graphics designer/photographer.