The team at King Arthur Flour had organized an incredible trip for us bloggers at Blog and Bake 2011, including a very special guest. Sara Moulton, who maintained the titles of Executive Chef at Gourmet Magazine for 23 years, and found her way into the homes of at home cooks through the wonder of the Food Network as one of their first personalities. Her cuisine is approachable, and her methods friendly for an inexperienced cook. Her teaching method is precise, and her explanations are easy to understand. Given all this, I was ecstatic to learn that she would be hosting a cooking demo for us at Blog and Bake, and we would be treated to a dinner with her at the end of the first day!
After a day learning about breads, both yeast and quick breads, for which the one and only Sara Moulton joined our class, we headed back into the kitchen for a demo of the dishes that we would enjoy that evening at dinner. She began by demoing boning a chicken, a task that I will forever be terrified by, but she made it look so easy! A leg, a wing disconnected with ease, and a full breast made it off the carcass in a single piece. I sat in astonishment from my perch. Sara worked quickly and efficiently, showing us how to stuff filling under the membrane of a skin on chicken breast, making sure to show us how easy it is to work with that membrane and how much "give" it has to be fully stuffed. I have used this membrane before during Thanksgiving to butter the meat and season it with sage and spices, however I've always been a little worried about breaking it. Seeing Sara really work the membrane, and stuff massive amounts of spinach stuffing under it was really a revelation. I feel much more confident in my abilities to stuff. She was also careful to note that stuffing chicken in this manner builds a form of insulation, and, as she called it, a foolproof way to make a moist chicken breast!
She also showed us her methods for making mini goat cheese "souffles" (mini muffin pans for the win), spicy caramelized pecans, spaetzle, and mini ginger donuts. As she delved through her secrets to making these fantastic dishes, my stomach began to rumble and I started to really look forward to dinner.
Our evening meal, with special guest Sara Moulton, was served at The Norwich Inn, who had also provided our accommodations for the trip. Our first seated course was a delightful Arugula salad topped with one of the gorgeous goat cheese souffles we had watched Sara make, and the spicy caramelized nuts. The flavors of each of the ingredients came together in a beautiful harmony, with the pepper from the arugula mingling with the velvety tartness of the goat cheese, lightened with the wonderful crunch of the nuts. I loved this as an opening course, its pungent flavors awakened my taste buds and let me know I was in for a treat.
The main course featured the chicken that Sara had demoed in class- plump chicken breasts with a beautiful layer of spinach stuffing mounded under the crisp skin. Sara had been entirely right- the stuffing had insulated the chicken and the result was moist and succulent meat, tender to the fork and full of beautiful flavor. This was served with the spaetzle, as well as a saute of gorgeous mushrooms. The spaetzle, delicate in the flavor paired well with the chicken, and even more so with the earthy mushrooms.
The final course, dessert, was the epitome of decadence. We were served those delightful ginger donuts that Sara had made in class, with a spiked chocolate sauce. I love when ginger, for all of it's spicy goodness, is used in desserts. It is one of those beautiful ingredients that can cross the lines between savory and sweet with ease, and the application here, in donuts, was a perfect way to show off its versatility. The chocolate sauce served with it was the perfect mix of decadence and naughtiness with a generous flavor of alcohol present.
Dinner was a positive delight- each course delicious, and we were lucky enough to be able to not only catch up with the bloggers we had been working a long side all day, but the staff at King Arthur, and Sara Moulton herself. For the record, Sara is an absolute joy. She is funny, extremely knowledgeable and just down right charming. I'm searching the Internet to see if I can link to the recipes she made- if I can't I'll try to type them up for you all!
Love the recap and the pictures are awesome! Sounds like you guys had such a great time!
YUM - it all sounds amazing. I agree that ginger is awesome in desserts.
I'm really jealous! This must have been an incredible experience!
what a cool experience! dinner sounds amazing!
What an amazing experience. I agree - mini muffin tins FTW. I use them ALL the time!
Reading this just makes me miss you guys all the more. It was a delightful two days and I'm so glad to have so many talented new friends to talk food and fun with.
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