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Smithy

Blue Heron and New Scenic Cafe Team Up in Cooking Class

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One of my favorite stores in the Duluth, MN area is The Blue Heron Trading Company. One of my favorite restaurants in the area is The New Scenic Cafe. Therefore, when the Blue Heron offers a cooking class taught by Scott Graden, chef and owner of the New Scenic, that class is not to be missed. Most classes fill up within a day of being announced; Scott's classes typically fill on the very day of announcement. I was lucky enough to get wait-listed and fill in on a cancellation.

 

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I've taken a class or two of Scott's before. He is funny, interesting and creative, and he engages well with his small audience. His classes are clearly taught, with recipes, and they always seem accessible in the sense that those of us attending the class can do the same thing. As a bonus, he always makes it clear that small quantities of things not readily available to the home cook can be gotten "from the back door" of the restaurant if we come and ask: a little butter, some herring roe, sourdough starter. (Just don't ask for too much, or do it too often!) I've never tried it but if I'd had time before we left for the winter I'd have done so.

 

This September's class was titled "New Scenic Feast" and one of its main points was to show that a fine and elaborate feast can be prepared in advance for a large or small gathering, to minimize fuss on the day of the holiday. You can enjoy the wine (beer, whatever) with your guests instead of tearing around like a crazy person and missing the fun. Much of the menu he presented was something that he and his staff had prepared for 300 guests at a festival the following weekend.

 

Instead of making this a single long post as I am prone to do, I'm going to post in stages. It will help me clarify my memories, and give readers a chance to comment or ask questions as we go along. Here are some teaser photos, starting with the menu.

 

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Scott Graden, in the Blue Heron's classoom kitchen:

 

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One of the drinks he provided to pair with an appetizer:

 

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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First up: steelhead tartare with saffron aioli, roe and sourdough rye bread.

 

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The sourdough rye bread is from The New Scenic Cafe and was not part of the recipe batch. The roe came from a local (Lake Superior) fishery, but I apparently didn't write down the fish. Whitefish, I think. This is one of the things I'd like to pick up from the restaurant sometime if possible. You can just see it peeking out from under the baby bitter greens that he used as garnish.

 

The steelhead tartare was diced finely, then combined with olive, sesame and white truffle oils, minced shallot and garlic, dried thyme, chopped chives, and a touch of salt and pepper. ("Would any of you make this?" he asked as we eagerly ate the samples passed out to each of us. Heck yes, we would!)

 

The saffron aioli had a beautiful color, as you can see, and the delicate note of saffron added to it. His instructions are clear and careful.

 

He provided mixed drinks to go with each dish as a companion, but cautioned us sometimes to go easy because one drink had to go with two dishes. None of them was alcoholic. He laughed when someone asked if that was typical for the restaurant. "Oh no," he said, "we serve alcohol there." These drinks were good without the alcohol. (In past classes there has been wine available; of four classes I took this fall, none offered wine. Rules must have changed.)

 

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My drink notes are, unfortunately, sketchy even though no alcohol was involved. This first drink I documented, however; it was called a Bloody Swede. Strained Bloody Mary mix; pickled beet juice; ice; garnishes of dill, lemon and a dill pickle spear. At the restaurant the drink would also include aquavit. It was delicious! The tart flavors played nicely off the steelhead tartare and its accompaniments.

 

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I loved the way the pickle picked up the beet juice stain. I wanted to snatch away the uneaten pickle spears from some of my classmates, but restrained myself.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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The next dish was the Caramelized Carrot Salad with béarnaise, thyme, and bitter & sour greens.

 

"How many of you think a salad has to involve lettuce or some other green vegetable?" he asked, and went on to say that most people do...but that there are plenty of other ways to consider what constitutes a salad, and that other preparations can be made in advance to better effect. As he chatted, he used a vegetable peeler to slice large carrots into long planks. I didn't get a shot of that part, for some reason. The planks were thick enough to hold together, thin enough to bend; maybe 1/8" thick. Then he rolled them into a tight coil, overlapping each plank with the next by an inch or two, and tied them with twine to keep the coils together before they were cooked. This is the best shot I could get of that stage; it's extracted from an overhead mirror shot.

 

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He turned the heat on to medium-high heat and added what looked like 2 pounds of butter, along with an equal quantity of olive oil, to a pan. He laughed at our gasps at the quantity of butter. "None of you is a vegan, I hope!" he grinned. Someone commented on the cholesterol, I think, and he quipped that "if you come to my restaurant, you'll eat well. You can worry about dieting some other time!" The fat needs to be deep enough to baste the carrot "steaks" while they're caramelizing on the bottom.

 

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After they were caramelized on the bottom, he flipped them and added garlic and thyme to the pan. The basting continued until the carrot "steaks" were fork-tender. At this point the garlic, carrot steaks and thyme were removed from the butter/oil combination. The fat could be used for another purpose. The thyme was discarded.

 

All this work, he noted, could be done a day or three in advance, and then the final steps done the day of the feast. The beauty of this kind of salad is that it keeps well. How well does a green salad keep, if it's done days in advance?

 

For service, the steaks and garlic cloves went into a 400F oven to roast for 7 - 10 minutes.

 

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After that the twine was removed and the garnishing / plating began. He put béarnaise sauce on each plate, then put a carrot steak and several garlic cloves atop the sauce. The garnish was a small bouquet of the baby sour greens he used for nearly everything: the greens were baby arugula, sorrel, and other greens I've forgotten.

 

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This dish was brilliant enough that I bought a new sharp vegetable peeler ("they're 5 bucks on Amazon," he noted, but I bought one that night at the Blue Heron for a couple bucks more than that) to try making this at Thanksgiving. If it goes well, I'll do it again at Christmas.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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That's freaking brilliant. I am so going to try that. My mandoline doesn't get a lot of use, and it would be ideal for this.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I just realized that Thanksgiving is coming up fast, and Scott's class on a "New Scenic Feast" was in September!  I'd better get this finished up so y'all can see the rest of his ideas.

 

Peruvian Ceviche used the basic approach to ceviche, but added elements that he said were more typical of Peru than of Mexico. I'll get to those elements in a moment. For the ceviche, it's a fairly standard acid / salt / sugar cure (I admit I generally don't use sugar in mine, but I may in the future). He used scallops in this dish, and was emphatic that dry-packed scallops are the way to go. I don't think I've ever seen them in Duluth, but he noted that you can get anything ("anything!" he emphasized, with a wry grin) from Amazon.

 

The Peruvian elements were fingerling sweet potatoes roasted in olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper; aji amarillo, and maiz chulpa. Sweet red onion slivers and bitter baby greens finished the dish.

 

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I forget what drink he paired with this; it might have been his "Switchell" which was apple cider based. I didn't take good notes on it. It had something sweet - maple syrup? - and something carbonated - ginger ale? - sorry I don't remember more. It was tasty, but I was more interested in the food and he didn't include drink recipes.

 

Two ingredients were brand-new to me, and specifically Peruvian.  The maiz chulpa is a toasted, crunchy, dried large-kernel corn. The nearest equivalent familiar to most of us in the USA would be Corn Nuts, but since I don't like them and I did like these, they can't possibly be similar. (Don't confuse me with the idea that I should maybe try something again after 30 years! ;)) They weren't as tough as I remember Corn Nuts, but they added a nice crunch.

 

The aji amarillo was a smooth sauce made from yellow bell peppers that had been roasted/blistered, then peeled, seeded and chopped. They were blended with green onions, mayonnaise, sour cream, queso fresco, ketchup, lime juice, a touch of salt, and aji paste. What's aji paste, you may ask? Well, it's that other Peruvian ingredient. It's a paste made from aji amarillo chiles, and it's hot. It adds a nice kick. He said that it's a bit reckless to try eating it straight. I didn't get the chance to try that yet, but I certainly enjoyed the finished dish.

 

And yes, you can get the maiz chulpa and the aji amarillo paste on Amazon, and yes, of course I did. Actually, I got the slightly narrower maiz cancha. According to this article, they're both toasted Peruvian corn, just a slight different variety. 

 

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Warmed Black Mission Figs in Browned Butter Maple Sauce, with Danish Blue Cheese, Sage and Ciabatta

 

The penultimate dish was one Scott says is a perennial favorite at the restaurant, to the point that people are disappointed when they can't get it. "We drove all the way up from The Cities for this!" they cry, and he has to disappoint them by pointing out that the figs simply aren't available then. Only fresh black mission figs will do, and when they aren't in season, they simply aren't in season.

 

Here's the initial setup, although the carrots and the aji amarilla sauce near the right weren't part of this dish.

 

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The butter maple sauce was made by melting butter over medium heat, stirring frequently to keep it from burning, until the solids began to turn a light- to medium-brown color, then turning off the heat. After the butter was allowed to cool slightly, maple syrup was added: 1-1/4 cup maple syrup for 1 cup butter. He whisked it together, brought it to a boil, then took it off the heat. Some of the sauce was then used to warm the figs (quartered or cut smaller, depending on their size) and some toasted walnuts. The figs were simply warmed, not cooked, in this sauce.

 

To plate, he put a wedge of cheese in the center, surrounded it with carefully-spooned figs and walnuts, and poured more sauce over the top. The garnish was a few sage leaves, and the accompaniment was slices of warm ciabatta.

 

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There had been oohs and ahs of anticipation over this dish. It was clear that several members of the class had had this at the restaurant and were eagerly awaiting it. A few of us were outliers, though. One woman, when prodded for a response, said, "I thought it would be more special!' to general laughter and a few groans. I must admit that this was my least-favorite dish. I'm not a big fan of blue (or bleu) cheese, and to my tastes the strong cheese didn't necessarily play well with the very-sweet figs and sauce. For that matter, I'm not a big fan of figs or maple syrup either. That said, the maply buttery sauce with the toasted walnuts was excellent. I'll probably look for other applications of that sauce. The sage was a lovely addition.

 


Edited by Smithy spelling: corrected "a few of use" to "a few of us" (log)
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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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The final dish was a beautiful, deceptively simple dessert:

 

Passionfruit Panna Cotta with Lemon and Raspberry Meringues, Oat Crumble, and Flowers.

 

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Beautiful, isn't it?

 

The panna cotta was made with passionfruit puree. He noted that if fresh passionfruit is used it needs to be heated to deactivate the enzyme that prevents gelling; commercially prepared frozen passionfruit puree has probably been heat-pasteurized so the enzyme will already be deactivated. I've never made panna cotta before, although I've heard about it for years. His instructions were clear enough that I think I'm going to try a version of this for dessert at one of our winter feasts. Gelatin in cold water; heavy cream and granulated sugar heated enough to dissolve the sugar, then cooled before adding the gelatin; passionfruit puree added; the lot poured into molds to set. 

 

The base of the dessert was made from an oat crumble that he'd baked and allowed to cool while the panna cotta was being made. He put plastic wrap, held with a rubber band, at the bottom of each panna cotta mold, then sprinkled enough oat crumble into the ring to cover the bottom. When the panna cotta was ready, he poured about half of the panna cotta into each mold, enough to anchor the crumble, and let that start to set. Then he poured the rest of the panna cotta in and set it to chill and fully set.

 

To unmold, he removed the plastic and rubber band, set the ring on a plate, then gently warmed it, using a small torch, so the mold would release.

 

So here's the "deceptively easy" part, and the part I doubt I'll realistically do: he had already piped miniature lemon meringues and raspberry meringues to use as decorations. Each panna cotta got 2 of each of those meringues. The raspberry was sweet and tart; the lemon was tart and sweet; the panna cotta was creamy and sweet; the fresh raspberry garnish set it all off. It was lovely. It was a perfect ending to a delightful class.

 

Here, to conclude my writeup about the class, I'll turn around and show you a bit of the goodies from The Blue Heron Trading Company. This is the sort of stuff we perused during break time. There's a discount for class-takers on the evening of any given class. I expect they do good business! They always get extra money from me.

 

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I do not have a business affiliation with either The Blue Heron Trading Company or The New Scenic Cafe, but I think they're both wonderful places. If you're ever in Duluth, Minnesota, I recommend you check them out.


Edited by Smithy Corrected errors on oat crumble use and dessert assembly; added information about unmolding (log)
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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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