Chestnut, too many garnishes to list
Sometimes, I think there is no more beautiful color in the world than that of a chestnut.
A few years ago on Christmas Eve, my friends and I roasted chestnuts over open fire. We used a cast-iron pan ... which I forgot to shake and move around as often as I should have, so we (well, I should be fair here and say *I* instead of *we*) ended up burning half of them. Still, the ones I didn't do all Cajun-style were really, really good. I've had quite a fondness for chestnuts these past few years. I didn't eat them a lot as a child, but I've cooked with them and roasted them from time to time, and I really, really like them. To me, they're a bit rich ... so I go easy on the intake. But when I do eat them, they make me smile. It's like a nut that gives you a hug. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) (Or don't.) (See if I care.) (I said "nut.") (HA!) (I'm 12.)
For this recipe, I peeled and skinned the Kuhn Orchards chestnuts in the photo above, and simmered them in cream with salt and a bay leaf, then pureed them with some of the cream before emulsifying with butter. You can see the final result of this process in the final plating photo. I made it a day ahead of time and refrigerated it until it was time to serve.
Another component I made the day before was the bacon powder.
I froze this slab of bacon from Truck Patch Farms, then removed the plastic and grated the hell out of it onto a parchment-lined tray for the dehydrator.
I dehydrated it at 150F degrees for about 50 minutes until it was dry, then stored it in a covered plastic container at room temperature.
The one thing I often don't have good luck with on this blog are making gels. I don't know why. Sometimes they're too tough and not tasty, and other times they don't come together at all and look like surgical waste. I can't explain it. This time, though, the gel gods were smiling upon me and the marsala gel worked! I brought some Marsala wine and a bit of Kelcogel JJ Gellan Gum to a boil (bringing it all together with my immersion blender prior to it coming to a boil), and then a simmer.
I poured it into a shallow pan and let it set up in the fridge overnight. You'll see the beautiful, perfect amber squares in the final plating shot. I pumped my fist to the sky and high-fived myself over this accomplishment and then called my therapist to set up an appointment. I might need to get out of the house more.
Will you look at these gorgeous egg yolks? Just look at them! The eggs are from Smith Meadows Farm. [NOTE: Forrest Pritchard, the farmer/owner/main dude at Smith Meadows writes a pretty funny blog about his farming life. I highly recommend it. He also has a book coming out in Spring 2013.]
Back to the eggies!
I whisked the yolks with some heavy cream, kosher salt, and ground Thai long peppercorns.
I poured the mixture into a plastic bag and cooked it sous vide at 180F degrees for 20 minutes. When I cut away the bag, the eggs looked like this:
I sliced off the ends so I could have a taste, and also squared it off so the pieces on the plate would be prettier. Look how bendy this was:
It tasted pretty fan-darn-tastic on its own, and even better in the finished dish. I sliced what I needed, laid them out on a plate, and covered it with a damp paper towel.
There wasn't really a need to do this next component a day ahead of time, but I did. Chocolate-dipped demarara sugar cubes:
Stored those suckers in the fridge until the next day.
I was on a roll, and kept prepping ingredients. Next up? Onion sticks. I turned this onion into dehydrated, charred-end onion sticks: