Tuesday, May 26, 2009


A croque-monsieur is typically hot ham and cheese served on bread. The sandwich originated in France as a fast food snack served in cafés. The first time I ever saw it in a restaurant was at Foreign Cinema in San Francisco.

So as my first experiment during the summer, I made a croque-monsieur with a twist. The sandwich consisted of ganache, peanut caramel and bananas. I got the idea from Michael Laiskonis’s Workbook site recipe.

First I made the peanut caramel which consisted of sugar, glucose syrup, heavy cream, milk couverture and peanuts. This particular recipe taught me how to make caramel from scratch which I’d never done before. Then I made the ganache which consisted of heavy cream, glucose syrup, dark chocolate and butter.

The construction is rather simple. Bread, spread with ganache, layered with bananas and then another layer of peanut caramel. Then quickly sauté in a non-stick pan and if desired put on the grill for grill marks.

The sandwich was absolutely fabulous. At eight centimeters it was the perfect size to accommodate its rich flavors. Upon cutting the sandwich the chocolate ever so slightly oozed out of the sandwich, giving you that cheese feel of a tradition croque-monsieur.

This will be a perfect pair to a dish later on, possibly with a critic sorbet and a banana parfait.


Peanut Caramel

Yield: approximately 1500g

300g granulated sugar
125g glucose syrup
375g heavy cream (35%), warm
200g milk couverture, chopped
600g roasted, salted peanuts, chopped

1. Combine sugar and glucose in a heavy, non-reactive saucepan and cook to a medium dark caramel.
2. Remove from heat and deglaze with a portion of the warm cream. Add remaining cream and cook until caramelized sugar has dissolved and mixture is homogenous. Final amount of caramel should measure approximately 675g.
3. Combine couverture and peanuts in a large bowl. Pour the hot caramel into the bowl. Stirring to combine completely. Ensuring all chocolate is melted and thoroughly incorporated.
4. Pour into Silpat-lined frame or other form; allow to set at room temperature or under refrigeration.


Yield: approximately 235g

100g heavy cream (35% fat)
15g glucose syrup
110g dark chocolate couverture (55-61%), chopped
10g unsalted butter, softened

1. In a saucepan, combine cream and glucose. Bring to a boil.
2. Place couverture in a large bowl and gradually pour hot cream over it, stirring to emulsify.
3. Allow to cool to 35ºC/95ºF before incorporating butter. Further emulsify with immersion blender, if necessary.


Yield: 4 servings

200g peanut caramel
8 slices brioche, or good-quality white bread, crusts removed (8cm square by 1cm thick)
dark chocolate ganache, as needed
2 bananas, peeled and thinly sliced
Maldon sea salt
unsalted butter, softened, as needed
Confectioner’s sugar, as needed

1. Place the peanut caramel between two sheets of plastic film and roll to a thin, uniform thickness. Briefly chill for ten minutes, or until the caramel is firm enough to cut into four 8cm squares. Reserve.
2. Arrange the bread onto a work surface; spread one side of each with room temperature chocolate ganache. Sprinkle with a few grains of the sea salt, if desired.
2. Divide the banana among each of the slices. Place a slab of the peanut caramel onto four of the slices. Close the sandwiches, wrap tightly, and refrigerate (The sandwiches can be assembled to this point up to two hours in advance of serving).
3. Spread the softened butter onto both sides of each sandwich.
4. Place each sandwich on to a clean, hot grill. After about ten seconds, turn each at a 90º angle to create grill marks. After another ten seconds, carefully flip and continue to cook an additional 30 seconds. Alternatively, cook the sandwiches in a non-stick sauté pan until golden brown on each side.
5. To serve, slice the sandwiches in half on the diagonal, and then in half again. Arrange on a plate, dust with confectioner’s sugar, and serve immediately.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


As summer approaches I’m starting to imagine the possibilities it brings. Hopefully I’ll learn something new every day. Whether it’s making ice cream or experimenting with things from our garden. No longer will I be pressured for time, everyday will be the weekend, until August seventeenth.

During the last few months I’ve been reading Workbook daily, operated by Michael Laiskonis. Michael Laiskonis is the Executive Pastry Chef at Le Bernadin. He daily experiments with new possibilities such as, trimoline or ice cream stabilizer. His work in Molecular Gastronomy has shown on Le Bernadin’s dessert menu.

Reading through his work majorly influenced me. I thought to myself, “Laiskonis’s ideas are superb, but are in reach of my cooking ability.” Now with five hundred plus pages of ideas, I plan on cooking frequently. Another influential book is Larousse Gastronomique, which is about recipes from all over the world. I look forward to posting this summer.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Chives, related to green onions and scallions are the smallest species in the onion family. Native to Europe, Asia and North America, they have been used many different ways over the years.

The chive is a bulb forming perennial plant, soft in texture prior to the blooming of the flowers. Standing at thirty to fifty centimeters tall, the leaves are completely hollow inside. Once bloomed, the flowers are star shaped with a light purple hue. Chives also have insect repelling properties which can be used to control pests in your garden.

Chives are grown for their leaves, which are used for culinary purposes. They provide a somewhat mild flavor and are found most popularly on fish, potatoes and soups. The flowers can also be used to garnish a dish but are a rare oddity.

The medical purposes of chives are similar to garlic. They are shown to lower blood pressure and are rich in vitamins A and C. As chives are served in small quantities, negative effects are rarely encountered.

Chives thrive in well drained soil and can be grown from seed and mature in summer. Typically, they need to be kept moist and be at a temperature of fifteen to twenty degrees Celsius. Where I live, chives die back to the underground bulbs in winter, with the new leaves appearing in early spring. Usage of chives date back five thousand years ago.

As chives are an abundant herb, they are seen in many dishes. While at Le Bernadin in New York City they served shaved chives with tuna, foie gras, toasted baguette and extra virgin olive oil. While I start to experiment with making ice cream I could see a chive ice cream in the future.

Friday, May 15, 2009

On The Line

On The Line, written by Eric Ripert is by far one of the best books on the market. Anyone in the restaurant business should spend some time and read this book. It explains in details, everything from the history, to the kitchen, to the business.

In January 1986 Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze opened Le Bernadin at its present location. By April of that year they had four stars in the New York Times, a restaurant first. During January 1994 Gilbert unexpectedly died leaving Maguy leaning on the young executive chef, Eric Ripert, who had worked there for three years.

The restaurant today is very different then it was fifteen years ago. Few people after the first course remember that they are in a fifty story building.

Every minute from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. is precise in the kitchen. Every dish that goes out is inspected by the sous-chef or the chef at the pass. Every plate is tasted and the temperature is checked with a metal skewer.

The one true star at Le Bernadin is the fish. Justo Thomas the fish butcher transforms eight hundred to a thousand pounds of fresh fish into perfect filets daily. Alone it takes him six hours but whenever he goes on vacation it takes two guys twice as long.

The porter Fernando Uruchima spends eleven hours a day making sure all the deliveries have been received and counted. Once done he puts everything away, from locking up the truffles to checking every light bulb in the dining room. Without this special thirty-four year old man the restaurant could not and would not operate properly.

Le Bernadin wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for Michael Laiskonis. He is the executive pastry chef and works in a ten by fourteen foot patch in the bustling kitchen. Everything in his pastry kitchen is precisely organized, even the squeeze bottles of sauces and syrups. Laiskonis is constantly trying to push the boundaries of his predecessors. Everyday around three o’clock, he begins experimenting with new ingredients and techniques.

If you have been a recipient of the “egg” than consider yourself special. After creation, it quickly became Laiskonis’s special. Only making around ninety a day, the “egg” is comprised of: milk chocolate crème brûlée, liquid caramel, caramel foam, two drops of maple syrup and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt.

The maître d’ Ben Chekroun has welcomed diners since 1993. He is responsible for the front of the house, as well as for who staffs it. A meal at Le Bernadin is usually so relaxed and gracious; it’s hard to imagine the military precision with which the dining room is run. With one hundred and thirty eight people they are promoting that experience.

Many don’t know, but Le Bernadin has a second location, Les Salons. Les Salons is directly above Le Bernadin. Everything is exactly the same from the uniforms to the kitchen, just downsized. It’s used mainly for business-get-togethers but not always.

On The Line without a doubt shows what it takes to run a restaurant of this caliber. The book highlights all positions because everyone is equally vital in their operation.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Every year I get excited when we start to plant food in the garden. Recently we choose to plant blueberries. Blueberries are very sweet when properly ripened and grow abundantly in North America. I think it’s amazing to grow organic products right in your own backyard. It just goes to show you don’t have to use chemicals to get something to turn out great.

Blueberries are flowering plants with a flared crown at the end. Blueberries are one of the few things native to North America. Native Americans used the berries, leaves and roots for medical purposes. The fruit was also commonly used for fabric dyes in clothing.

During the growing process they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple and finally indigo upon ripening. The bushes typically bear fruit from May through June but peaks in July, which is National Blueberry Month. Blueberries used to be picked by hand until the invention of the blueberry rake by Abijah Tabbutt of Maine in 1822. The blueberry is Maine’s state berry, where twenty five percent of blueberries come from every year.

I can’t wait till they’re ready for picking, then I can experiment with them.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Devil in the Kitchen

Finally, I’ve finished yet another great book. The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White was such a learning opportunity. You don’t realize how much one has accomplished in a lifetime until you’ve read their biography.

White didn’t have formal training of any kind; he just started working in kitchens as a teenager. His first kitchen adventure was Hotel St. George under Stephan Wilkinson. At first he had no interest in food but just saw it as a job. Next he would work for Albert Roux, Raymond Blanc and Pierre Koffman all culinary giants of the time. Here he would gain the experience and confidence, to one day open his own restaurants.

After opening famous Harvey’s and winning two Michelin stars he turned to Restaurant Marco Pierre White at the Hyde Park Hotel. After much hard work he would come to win three Michelin stars in Restaurant Marco Pierre White. After winning three Michelin stars he decided his race was not yet finished. He became obsessed to win Michelin couverts or “knives and forks.” They are awarded for pleasantness, luxury, aesthetics and ambience. Finally The Oak Room in London’s Meridien Hotel would take him there.

After working in kitchens for twenty one year’s, Marco Pierre White hung up the apron. Several factors contributed to his retirement but the primary one was to spend more time with his wife Mati and at the time his two kids, Luciano and Marco. After learning so much from Albert Roux they finally ended their relationship in the late nineties. Albert had intentionally not given Chef of the Year to Marco Pierre White saying it would be bad for the industry.

Only if there were more chefs like Marco Pierre White in the business. The man sacrificed every moment of his life for twenty one years. Most cooks will be lucky if they’re half as good as him but we can all try.