Monday, February 22, 2010

making snowballs

In the restaurant business
there are a few, extra busy days; New Year's Eve, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day... you get the picture. Working in the kitchen on these days the "prep" can be a bit overwhelming. I have always likened the experience to preparing for a snowball fight. As kids we would have epic battles. Starting of course by building a fort, but then spending the better part of the afternoon making snowballs.Then when the fight begins you very shortly start to think, "OH $#!+, I didn't make enough!" When I started cooking professionally the "fight" was my favorite part. It didn't matter what station I was working, the intensity and focus were all powerful. The adrenalin rush lasted well into the night, long after the dinner service had ended. But the prep...the prep was something you had to do. I can remember dreading some of those extra long prep days. They seemed endless. Usually in a hot windowless kitchen, working away, snowball after snowball, just hoping to eventually get to the service; the fun part, the fight. The service was the challenge and the prep was the mundane. snowball after snowball. As I mature, I find that I am getting more and more satisfaction out of the prep. How can I work as efficiently as possible to minimize my time away from my family? Challenging myself to be as organized as possible to make sure the snowball fight is a success. When I was a kid my older brother and his friends usually pummeled me. Now if we have a snow day it's my kids turn. But, at the restaurant, most nights I get to throw more snowballs than anyone else. If I happen to get a thrashing, at least you know I was there, that I care, that I did the prep as best as I possibly could and I was trying to win.
I wanted to offer some kind of snow ball recipe, but instead, I'll share the recipe for the chocolate caramel tart that we served this past Valentines Day. It's made up of three basic recipes that we use in many different ways on the dessert menu. I hope you will give it a try.

for the crust

1 # unsalted butter (soft)
11 oz sugar ( about 1 1/2 cups)
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
28 oz flour (about 5 1/4 cups)

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time blending after each addition, add vanilla, salt, and flour, mix until just combined. This makes enough dough for about 3- 10 inch tarts. It will last a week in the fridge and it freezes nicely. I like to roll it between two sheets of plastic wrap instead of the traditional flour method. For our purposes here roll the dough and form your tart, then chill for twenty minutes, then bake at 350 until golden.

for the caramel

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon sour cream

Over medium heat stir together the sugar, corn syrup, salt , and water continue to stir until the mixture boils. Cook until the mixture turns a dark auburn or registers 365 on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and carefully add the remaining ingredients. ( the caramel likes to spit at you when you do) . Pour into the prebaked tart shell and chill for 2 hours.

for the ganache

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (chopped)

Bring the cream to a boil, pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. If some lumps remain place the ganache over a double boiler and whisk until smooth. If the ganache looks oily or starts to separate add a few drops of water. Pour this over the caramel and chill for 3 hours.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to share! It's a pleasure to read your various insights and wonderful recipes, and they pair beautifully with Rob's gorgeous photographs.

  2. I was just directed to your website by my cousin who raves that your restaurant is her favorite--and she's a real foodie. I am loving this blog, loving the recipes, and loving the photographs! Keep up the great work!!