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Stuff we were too lazy to click a check-box for.

 

Blueberry Port Slumps with Almond Dumplings

So you've charred the Angus beef filet, underproofed the potato herb rolls and couldn't find the truffle oil to finish the amuse bouche?  Not to worry, despairing dinner party thrower - blueberry port slumps to the rescue! I know your first thought is "What the heck is a slump?  And why would I feed it to people I like and want to respect me the next day?"  Well here's a quick rundown:  A "slump" is like a "grunt" which is merely a charming Midwest way of referring to dumplings, or biscuits cooked by the steam created by a hot liquid.  In this case, the liquid is something sweet, namely a combination of wild blueberries, port wine, and various other ingredients that comprise the hot tub of deliciousness that will cook the almond dumplings. Did I mention it's a crazy easy recipe that one could do quickly and without too much thinking?  I mean, you've got other things going on, so make it easy on yourself.  Use this dessert to add simple closure after an elaborate meal, or just make it to have around when the snow starts falling.  Believe me, it's up there with a big bowl of macaroni and cheese as far as comfort food goes. FOR THE BLUEBERRY PORT HOT TUB: 4 cups of blueberries (fresh, frozen, preferably wild and untamed like Chef Jack likes 'em) 1/2 cup of sugar 1/4 cup of ruby port 1/2 cup water 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or 1/2 a tsp if you like more) 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg FOR THE ALMOND DUMPLINGS:

Blueberry Port Slumps with Almond Dumplings

3/4 cup all purpose flour 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds (very import to toast!) 4 tbsp. sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 3 tbs unsalted butter, chilled and diced 1/4 cup buttermilk or milk (I prefer buttermilk for its flavor) EQUIPMENT 12 - inch skillet pan with cover food processor From here, it's pretty simple.  Take all the blueberry ingredients and bring to a boil in skillet over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes to soften the berries.  While this is going on, put the flour, almonds, sugar, baking powder and salt into your food processor bowl, and pulse until combined.  Add the butter, just a few chunks at a time, and pulse until mixture forms soft dough. Now here comes the fun part.  Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough into the blueberry hot tub, reduce heat to low and cover.  Simmer until the dumplings are firm and they pass the toothpick test (comes out clean after insertion),which will take about 20-25 minutes depending on the size of your heaping tablespoon.  Once they're done, deposit into eating vessel of choice and eat 'em while they're hot!   You'll thank yourself and so will your happy guests -  the dumplings will melt in your mouth and the port-infused blueberries will make you forget your troubles.  Slumps rule!

One Sassy Sauce

Pasilla chile broth - with meat accompaniment, or just insert straw

I had always wondered about the whole cooking with coffee phenomenon, so I decided to make my Rogue Estate night coffee-themed.  The menu included beef tenderloin seasoned with coffee and cinnamon, coffee-barbecued baby backs, and coffee popsicles.  It all turned out quite well, but one item that really stood out was the accompanying sauce to the beef tenderloin – pasilla chili broth.  The whole experience introduced me to a myriad of new experiences:   I’d never made barbecue sauce, never used coffee as a spice, and certainly never made this very exquisite broth with a chile I'd never heard of.  And all I had to do was follow some simple directions from my very expensive culinary arts book.  Pasilla chile  broth Whole butter                                 ½ oz White onions, roughly chopped        8 oz. Garlic cloves, whole, peeled                 6 Pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into large pieces    ½ oz White corn tortilla, shredded                 ¾ oz Chicken stock                                      20 fl. Oz Heavy cream                                        2 fl oz Kosher salt                                           1 tsp Brown sugar                                         1 tsp Heat medium saucepan over med-hi heat.  Add butter and sauté onions and garlic until brown.  Add the pasilla chiles and tortilla pieces and sauté until golden brown.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  (See?  Easy!)
Reduce to a simmer, cover loosely and cook for ten minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Puree the sauce in a blender until smooth and strain through a china cap, which are very handy if you happen to have one on hand.  If not, a strainer will do the trick.
Add cream (which will magically balance everything), salt and brown sugar and stir to combine.  It shouldn’t be thick – if necessary, thin with water or more stock if necessary, and keep warm until time to serve.  Or drink out of a silver goblet, if you’re so inclined.  It's smoky, rich and lovely as an accompaniment to beef, and may possibly make your toes curl (or your heart racing, but that might be from the butter and cream).  Just a give it a try, and you'll see what I mean when the sauce and meat juices begin to make merry in your mouth.  And then you can brainstorm with your foodie friends about what else you can pour this sauce over.  Oh, the possibilities....

Learning to Let That Freak Flag Fly

The Joe Head cake, created for an art director at Campbell-Ewald

Sometime over the summer, I got a little ahead of myself and had an “audition” at a local, well-known bakery just to have the experience and see what happened.  I’d say it was an ambitious move on my part, because up until my recent decision to take culinary courses at OCC in Farmington, I was a self-taught baker and kind of took pride in the fact that I knew enough to have gotten a little baking business started.  However, I found out that wasn’t quite enough to work in a bakery. For one thing, I couldn’t do buttercream roses, which is a staple in traditional bakeries such as the one I found myself in that summer morning.  I’d never been asked to, I explained to the owner, who quickly showed me how to do one and then pretty much dismissed me for the day.  I went home, having learned my lesson and looked forward to my next class at OCC, which was to cover basic cake decorating skills. Oh, if only that bakery ad had been after I took this course.  After five weeks I had made not only buttercream roses, but royal icing flowers galore.  I was also happy to discover that I had actually figured out how to do some things correctly on my own, but there were still a lot of neat tricks that I learned in that brief time.  It was fun, and exciting to gain new and practical knowledge that I could apply to my business. But there were a couple of things during this course that didn’t really fly with me. The class, I soon discovered, was meant to teach traditional ideas - as in things you’d find at your typical market or corner bakery.  Stuff your mother or grandmother would fawn over, like pastel roses with trailing vines, and perhaps some delicately piped garlands.  I think it was the garlands that upset me.  They’re so…I don’t know, 1955.  For some reason, they irritated me like Steve Allen and his completely unfunny sense of humor.  I believe they make me want to punch someone. There were also some things the chef instructor commented on regarding my work that I just didn’t agree with.  Colors, she insisted, had to be on the intense side – reds the color of tacky nail polish, blues the shade of a gumball.  Yes, all appropriate on children’s cakes and the like, but not my style at all.  I complained to my commercial interior designer husband one afternoon about theses outlandish expectations, and he responded with some good advice:  Take what they teach you, and make it your own. I took his words to heart.   Once I got through the damn course with its garish greens and over-stimulated oranges, I’d use my new skills to further my designs and hopefully make myself more noticeable in the market and, ideally, successful in what I do.  And I know I ain’t gonna get rich from it, but anyone who has a creative outlet knows the joy of being in that zone and just letting what’s inside come out and have a day in the sun.  And that, I know, is something they can’t teach.

Perspectives from the Front of the House

150 West, by Kerry Gluckman of K. Evan Designs

I keep asking myself….”Why me”? Why would a group of professional chefs and dedicated food snobs ask me to be a member of their secret society? I am not a particularly accomplished chef, (although I make a mean omelet). And while I do have a fairly discerning palette, so do many others. I have eaten in some fine and not-so-fine restaurants but that hardly makes me special. So I guess it must be the fact that I’ve spent the last 25 years as a commercial interior designer and have designed and overseen the construction of some 75-plus restaurants and food service projects. Some of these projects you may have heard about: Zingermans Roadhouse (Ann Arbor), Copper Canyon (Southfield), Rocky’s Rotisserie (Novi), Edamame Sushi (Madison Heights) and The Stage & Co. in West Bloomfield, just to name a few. My focus is not where the food is being prepared but rather where it is being consumed, otherwise referred to as ”the front of the house”. That is where my unique perspective comes into play and that, I believe, is why I have been shown the secret handshake and taken the vows. I recently had the pleasure of participating in two Rogue Estate dinner parties, one at the home of good friend and fellow Rogue Ian Malbon and most recently at my own home as it was my wife’s turn to host and lead the preparations. Both evenings were memorable for the food consumed, beverages sipped and level of banter overheard. Chefs, it seems, are a bawdy and profane group. And I mean that as a positive -it was very entertaining! It was at the last event that I was asked to participate and thus offer my first blog to Rogue Estate. My Restaurant Philosophy I have a fairly simple criteria for judging restaurants: Is the price paid for your meal a pleasure to pay or a burden? Take this example.  Tribute, one of my all time favorite restaurants which is sadly now defunct was an ornately designed monument to gastronomy and was very, very pricy. However, both times my wife and I dined there we had amazing meals. The food, service and decor were of an extremely high caliber and paying $150.00-$200.00 for our meal did not offend me in the least.  Conversely, I clearly recall walking out of Morton’s Steakhouse in Southfield before even being served. In a boring, pedestrian and clichéd setting, it took over ten minutes for the waiter to even stop by, water our table and take our drink orders.  By then, we were getting antsy. He then proceeded to take another ten minutes to bring us our drinks, which were totally incorrect and had to be returned. It was at this point I asked the hostess for another server and while we waited many more minutes for our new waiter to arrive we glanced at the menu and saw the entrée prices ranging from $40.00 to $75.00. It was at this point, with a high degree of negativity in the air, that we got up and excused ourselves, much to the chagrin of the flustered hostess She made valiant attempts to get us to stay, even at one point offering us her first born but alas, it was too late! Our evening was already ruined before it even began. Whatever we would have paid would have been too much! As a designer I like high quality design, but that alone cannot save a place with poor food and poor service. With that said, a “dump” with excellent food and service can survive and even thrive……go figure. Restaurant gestalt is a delicate balance between atmosphere, service and food preparation, and if any one of these elements are out of whack the entire endeavor can come tumbling down.   A great example is my all time favorite Detroit restaurant, Roma Café in the Eastern Market. It’s an unremarkable looking place, and looks as if it was decorated by somebody’s grandmother in the 1950’s.  However, with excellent food, service and prices (not to mention singing waiters), I have eaten there many times and have never been disappointed. To summarize, no matter how good a restaurant looks, if the food sucks word will get out and people will not come.  Good food trumps all else! In the coming months I hope to share some restaurant reviews, general thoughts on design and other restaurant related insights with you and my fellow Rogue Estate members. Until then I bid you adieu. Kerry Gluckman

Damn the Torpedoes

A lowly breakfast sausage brought to new heightsThe subject heading on the email was cryptic and hinted of espionage.  I think it said something like “We must talk of a certain matter which is of interest to you” and it was from my former co-worker and longtime foodie friend, Ian.  I expected instructions to follow involving a discreet location and knocking out the shave-and-a-haircut code in a darkened doorway.  But no such luck.  Instead, it was an invitation to join forces with those who were as passionate about finding the perfect morel mushroom as I was.  Menus would be discussed, a theme finalized and I would participate with a dessert and another entrée if I had time. Who was I to pass up such an opportunity?  Besides, I’d heard there was going to be longanisa, so I had to come. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s the Filipino equivalent to a Smoky Link, but tastier.   I had introduced my friend Ian to it many years ago at a barbecue, and it became his personal mission to come up with other uses for the beloved Filipino sausage.  I was intrigued to see what he was going to do with it this time. I was also intrigued by what the evening was going to bring.  The menu looked extraordinary enough, and I was hoping to be able to pull my weight amongst the individuals that had been described to me.  I mean, I cook, and I do it well, but making food for people I hadn’t met whose palates I wasn’t familiar with seemed a bit scary.  But like all new adventures, I went for it.  Because sometimes, you just have to consider the possibilities and say damn the torpedoes. The evening produced a variety of “firsts”.  All of us ate or drank something we’d never had before, and after feasting we concluded that the evening was a huge success.  Now, had I decided that I wanted to live a safe and uneventful life and decline Ian’s invitation to join the Rogue Estate for an evening of food, camaraderie and boozing, then I would have missed several opportunities.  I wouldn’t have tasted two beers that I enjoyed immensely (and that I can still taste if I think on it hard enough), or goyoza with pea sprouts and crab, or softshell crab cooked over pecan wood.  Oh, and let’s not forget the longanisa, skewered with shrimp and green onion and barbecued to perfection.  Meat candy, I believe my husband called it. So, here’s to more “firsts”.  And I hope you, the reader, will be inspired to experience some as well.  Taking a chance can prove quite delicious.