Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Prelude to Palo Alto Grill part 7 - Creamed Kale and Restaurant Kitchen

Exciting news! This last weekend, we were finally able to begin cooking inside the kitchen of Palo Alto Grill.  We are right on schedule for an end of the month opening.

Some beautiful photos were taken of the dishes we were able to demo on site, I've included some here.  The rest will be debuting on http://www.paloaltogrill.com soon, so stay tuned...

It seems that there's a great deal of disagreement lately about the health value of different foods and food groups.  There is, however one thing that people can universally agree upon.  Kale is crazy good for you!  High fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and it can lower cholesterol levels.

In lieu of that steakhouse standard, the creamed spinach, at Palo Alto Grill, we will be offering creamed kale.  Here's how we're putting it together:

Ingredients (serves 6)

3 bunches Kale (about 15 leaves)
1 tablespoon Butter
4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 large Shallots, diced
1/4 cup Pernod liquor (more on Pernod to follow)
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
Salt and Pepper to Taste

- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt heavily

- Blanch kale until tender, about 30 seconds.  Shock in ice water.

- Sautee the garlic and shallots in butter until translucent.

- Deglaze pan with Pernod 
and simmer until reduced.

- When Pernod has simmered almost dry, add cream and reduce by half.

- After reduction of cream, add blanched kale, stir to combine and heat, check seasoning with salt and pepper.

Palo Alto Grill Creamed Kale - coming soon..

A little bit more on Pernod, for those unaware.  It is an anise liquor, the flavor is very similar to fennel.  It has been made in France for over 200 years and was originally very similar to absinthe.  It is drunk with a mix of ice and water, but I find it best suited for its culinary applications.  Pernod is an indispensable ingredient in Creamed Spinach (or Kale), Escargot, Bouillabase, etc.

We finished a few more new dishes for the menu.  Including what I think will be a very unique steak execution: the Turf and Turf.  Inspired by the combination of bacon and pork loin, this is our take on the beef version of that combo.  Because of the pepperyness of pastrami, we decided to use it as an anchor for our version of a pepper steak as well.

Peppercorn sauce is made with green peppercorns, which are a really cool ingredient, but not typically useful for much else.  They come in brine and look a lot like capers.  They have a lot of flavor, and the finer they are chopped, the more it is released.

We caramelize the peppercorns with shallots and reduce along with beef stock, a small amount of cream and brandy.

The grilled steak is topped with the sauce, onions pickled in pepperoncini, and smoked pastrami.

Lastly, the first of our fish entrees was finished... Grilled Mediterranean Branzino with grilled lemon, blistered swiss chard and fingerling potatoes.

Cool beans.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Prelude to Palo Alto Grill part 6 - Pot Pie, Steaks, etc.

More cooking in the last week.  We managed to execute a rough "cross-section" of the menu, including finally some STEAKS!

We had long planned to do a Vegetarian Pot Pie Entree for the restaurant.  There are certain concerns with executing a pot pie for a restaurant.  If one were to cook the pie in the traditional way, it would take an unacceptable amount of time from ordering to serving.  Possibly even an hour.  We had to come up with a way to be able to put the pot pie up within 15-20 minutes.  This way, as long as the guest were to order a salad or soup as a first course, there would be no perceivable wait.

We achieve this with two kitchen tricks.  First, we pre-bake the bottom crust.  For this we use a blitz puff pastry, which is somewhere between fancy puff pastry and regular pie crust.  I'll give a recipe for this down the road, but you can see the large lumps of butter that we begin with to the left <-.  The dough is then folded over on itself until the butter is roughly dispersed between layers of pastry.

If one wishes to try this pie at home, feel free to use frozen puff pastry dough from the supermarket, it works quite well.
We lay out the bottom crust in the vessel it will eventually be served in.  In order to prevent the pastry from over-puffing and filling its own cavity, we need to use a baking weight.  Beans are traditional, but some chefs have recently turned to coins, because they conduct heat better.

This gets baked at 375 until very golden brown.

Ingredients for the filling:

1/2 pound Button or Crimini Mushrooms, quartered
2 each jumbo Carrot, sliced
3 each ribs Celery, sliced
8 each Pearl Onion, halved and peeled
5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons  fresh Sage, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh Thyme, chopped
1 cup frozen Peas
1 each Kabocha Squash, cubed (or other hard squash)
6 each Baby Rose Potatoes
1 each Bay Leaf
2 Tablespoons Grapeseed Oil
1/4 cup White Wine
1 Tablespoon Constarch
1 cup Milk
Salt and Pepper TT

Begin by lightly sweating all
vegetables and herbs in
Grapeseed Oil until fragrant.

Add White Wine and
Water to cover.  

Simmer until the Kabocha and Potato are just tender.

Mix Cornstarch with just enough water to create a slurry and drizzle into stew.

Repeat until thickened.  Add milk to finish and season with salt and pepper.

The second trick we use to finish the pot pie quickly is to fill them hot.  When filling is finished, but still hot, pour into pre-baked bottom crust.  Top with a square of puff pastry, glazed with egg yolk and garnished as desired with designs of puff pastry.  We use stars, echoing the PA Grill logo.

Broil on medium heat until well browned.  This is the aforementioned 15-20 minute step.


Another successful upcoming dish is the octopus appetizer.  We simmer the blanched octopus in olive oil until tender.  We finish it on the grill, and serve with potatoes, garlic and preserved lemon sauteed in olive oil.

Chopped basil finishes the dish.

We further feature the grill with our mixed grill Entree, which is comprised of Coulotte Steak, Confit Chicken Wings, Prawns Marinated in Yogurt and Cevapcici Sausages.

The Palo Alto Grill Cowboy steak is a rubbed Ribeye, with charred blistered peppers, roasted garlic and smoked potatoes in garlic aioli.

One of the things we wanted to showcase at Palo Alto grill which sets us apart from many steakhouses are flavor profiles, chosen by the kitchen to accent particular cuts of meat.  We also wanted to showcase a Steak Frites (french fries) - that French bistro classic.  For this execution of frites, I use a method developed by Heston Blumenthal - triple cooked fries.  This ensures every fry has a delicate, glassy coat and a fluffy interior.

One can see the lightly marred surface of the
blanched fries, this is what will eventually give
them a glassy crunch.

First, the potatoes are blanched in water until just tender and allowed to cool rapidly in the freezer.

Once the fries are near frozen, they are simmered in 300-315 degree oil until the skin is leathery and near-brown.  They are then re-frozen until ready to serve.

The final fry happens at 375 degrees, this is where the fries gain their true golden color and crunch.

Steak frites with Bordelaise, Aioli and Frisee Lettuce.

This last week, we also found our preferred execution of Quail (in this demo, the part of Quail will be played by cornish game hen)

The quail is marinated in 5 spice, soy and honey before being grilled and served over sauteed snap peas and carrots.

The dish is finished with a Balsamic Reduction.

Our first side dish, confirmed for the menu will be a Sun-dried tomato Mac and Cheese.

Coming soon....

Cool beans.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Prelude to Palo Alto Grill part 5 - Birds, Eggs, and Meat


Well we've been busy.  Lots of cookin'.  Most experiments smashing successes so far.  Few failures.  To catch everyone up, I'll be going relatively quickly through this blog post.  If you miss something you were hoping to hear more on, feel free to comment, I'll happily reply.  Just try and get the Pork Belly recipe.  That's a cool one.

For one of our hot appetizers, we are doing a Soy-Glazed Pork Belly, with Charred Kale and Pickled Carrots.

Ingredients: (serves 6)
1 1/2 pounds Pork Belly
2 Tablespoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Sugar
6-7 each Baby Carrots, quartered, pickled in 50/50 water and vinegar
2 each Baby Carrots, shaved into curls
2 cups Kale, stemmed and blanched
1 tsp minced Garlic
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Soy Glaze, recipe follows

First, mix the sugar and salt and liberally coat the pork belly.

Allow the belly to marinade under refrigeration for 8-24 hours.

Rinse excess seasoning from belly.

 Roast belly in oven at 450F for around 35 min to 1 hour.  (This is very high heat, be careful the belly does not burn, but this initial high heat roasts the belly and melts the fat out, which allows the belly to self confit)

Lower the heat to 275F until the belly is jiggly and tender and nicely browned.

Refrigerate belly until chilled and set.

Once pork is completely chilled, trim off most of browned exterior and cut into brick shapes.

To finish pork belly, brown in a dry pan over medium heat until crisp on all sides.

Once pork is crispy, drain off extra fat (CAREFULLY!)  Then pour in 6 Tablespoons Soy Glaze. (recipe follows)

Toss pork lightly to coat and set aside.
Money Shot.

The Kale is allowed to
slowly char on one
side in oil, sprinkled
with salt and the garlic
and finished with
lemon juice.

To make the Soy Glaze:

3 Tablespoons Light Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1 teaspoon Cornstarch, dissolved in 1 Tablespoon Water

Mix all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Set aside until ready to use.

Other cool tricks employed for these dishes:

We wrap beef fillet in plastic and tie into a tube shape before setting in the freezer until firm, which gives us a great round shape for our Beef Carpaccio.

The capers for the Carpaccio
are fried crispy in oil

With our Circulated Egg dish, we wanted to put something crispy and smokey, reminiscent of bacon.  Instead of using bacon, I'll be using mushrooms, to keep the dish vegetarian.

We marinade the mushrooms in salt, sugar and paprika until they wilt their juices.

Once this happens, the mushrooms are drained and then smoked over Applewood chips before being dried until crispy.

The dish begins with a puree of english peas, some lightly steamed peas.  A bit of white wine and shallot cream and finished with the egg.  A circulated Egg is cooked at 62 degrees until fudgy in the center and custard-delicate on the outside (about 1 hour).  The crispy mushrooms finish the dish with their bacon-like flavor and texture.

For the duck, we begin by pricking the skin repeatedly with a dog brush (a brand new one, or at least one which has never met a dog)

The cage of the duck (all the breast and its attached bone, with all else set aside) is removed from the rest of the duck.

The skin is scored and salted before being roasted at 300F until the interior reaches 125F.  Allow the duck to cool before refrigerating.

Once completely chilled, carve the breast from the cage.

The sauce begins with orange skins, shallots and white wine.

The sauce is further enhanced with caramelized sugar, sherry vinegar, duck stock and orange juice.

Once the sauce is ready, sear the duck breasts over medium heat, allowing as much of the fat to render out as possible.  

Carve the breast, once lightly cooled.

The dish is finished with Kabocha squash browned in butter, with sauteed bitter greens and orange segments.

We did have one failure dish in this last batch: The roasted Quail.  It is stuffed with a chestnut stuffing and has a balsamic glaze.  Looks nice, but a mouthful of Thanksgiving in March is not mucho sexy.  We shall revisit soon.

Thanks all for following along.  Soon we'll be getting to the Meat of the matter....if you know what I mean.


Cool Beans