Friday, October 29, 2010

In The Kitchen with Neal Fraser: On Ad Hoc Cooking and Searing Scallops

Last month I attended Los Angeles Magazine's "In the Kitchen" event held at the Snyder Diamond showroom with Chef Neal Fraser of Grace and BLD.

As usual the night starts with some appetizers made by a chef from Sub Zero/Wolf, Brian Beaudry, including endive bites, mushroom with truffle oil on toast, and smoked salmon-wrapped asparagus.


After we sat down, chef Fraser walked us through his recipe of making Sautéed Day Boat Scallops with Risotto, midnight moon, English peas. It turns out that Chef Fraser is quite a funny guy, and apparently hates measuring ingredients (thus claims to be a bad pastry chef). He had actually forgotten to bring some basil for the recipe, but when you're an experienced chef you know what to substitute to get the right results.
Chef Neal Fraser

Rather than following recipes, Chef Fraser pretty much followed his experience and taste. He gave us tips on and what to look for when things are done, etc. For example, try to use canola or grape seed oil for searing since they can handle higher temperature. Also, season the scallops right before sauteing, do not let them sit for long.

If you want to try making the scallops, here's the recipe.
Day Boat Scallop
When asked what wine he usually cooks with, Chef Fraser pointed to white wine from San Antonio Winery, true to his commitment to local sources.

Chef Fraser kept telling us that he's not a baker and was confounded as to what to make for dessert, so he finally opted for Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with market berries. I never knew before that panna cotta is essentially creme brulee with gelatin sheets, so it can hold its shape.
Neal Fraser's Panna Cotta
For all his self deprecation about not being able to make dessert, the panna cotta with the freshly made caramel turned out to be a great and relatively light dessert.

As usual, Ian Blackburn from LearnAboutWine was on hand pairing the food. This time everything is paired with one of the sparkling wines from Domaine Carneros, a Southern Napa winery founded by Champagne Taittinger which maintains the tradition and the classic "méthode champenoise".

The Brut from Domaine Carneros is in the $20-25 price range, and is an exceptionally good buy at that price point. You'd be hard pressed to find a better sparkling wine for the same price. The scallops were paired with Le Rêve, and the panna cotta with Cuvee de la Pompadour Rose. Le Rêve is a great blanc de blancs and I enjoyed it better than the Brut, but alas this one is more in the $75 price range. The Rose paired very well with the panna cotta as well.

I would love to visit Domaine Carneros one day, especially with its 18th-century style chateau modeled after Taittinger's Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne.

Domaine de Carneros
We learned from Ian that small bubbles do tend to indicate better champagne/sparkling wine. Big bubbles mean that the wine hasn't been aged that long in the bottles.

Whether you believe it or not, all I can say is that the Domaine Carneros' sparkling wines have tiny bubbles and they're among the best sparkling wines I've had (champagne excluded).

 One of the best parts of these In the Kitchen events is the goodie bag you get to take home!

A Semler or Saddlerock wine is typically included, and of course, a copy of the most recent issue of Los Angeles Magazine, and other goodies.

This time the goodie bag included two cupcake sandwiches from Frosted Cupcakery, cutely called the Hi-Tops. Since they're small it's so easy to just pop them into your mouth in two bites. Dangerous ... good thing there were only two!
Cupcake Sandwiches from Frosted!

Mark your calendar for the next event: In The Kitchen with Jimmy Shaw of Loteria! Grill on November 10. Details here.



ooh great tip on the small bubbles. never knew that

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