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Published: Tuesday, 3/31/2009

Lesson from the Chefs: Culinary creations showcased at annual dinner

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

The Maumee Valley Chefs Association is a great culinary inspiration for the home cook.

At the group's annual scholarship event last Sunday at the Hilton Garden Inn, the menu for the sit-down dinner included four entrees, each from a different chef and each with a technique and flavor to savor.

"We are trying to give attendees a gourmet selection without the grazing stations [from previous years]," said Jerry Kraushaar, chairman of the event, prior to the event. "We wanted a plated function with one beef entree, one seafood, one chicken, and one vegetarian."

Four chefs came up with unique culinary creations.

Pan-seared Chilean sea bass with a citrus beurre blanc was served with a couscous pilaf prepared by Chef William Richardson II from Tamaron Country Club.

The Chilean sea bass is a special-occasion seafood. "This is one of my personal favorites," said Chef Richardson. "Citrus beurre blanc is one of my specialties. Couscous, I love."

"Most beurre blanc sauces are just lemon and white wine," says the chef, who combines lemon, lime, grapefruit, and a little bit of pineapple. "I put my own little twist on it. It makes it almost Caribbean in feel. That sauce goes good with any fish, including salmon." The catering menu at Tamaron usually includes the citrus beurre blanc with tilapia.

For the beef entree at the dinner, Spinach and Feta Stuffed Beef Tenderloin served with a cabernet demi glace and roasted redskins with rosemary and garlic essences and with blue (cheese) cheesecake was prepared by Chef Doug Corcoran from Rosary Care Center at Lourdes College.

Knowing how to buy this cut of beef is important. "If you buy beef tenderloin, the fat chain may still be on," says the chef. "It's on the back of the tenderloin and runs the full length with circles of fat."

Trim off the fat. There's the chain, the fat, and the silverskin to remove. There's little meat there.

But it's likely the home cook will buy a pre-trimmed beef tenderloin, and he says 16 ounces is enough for six servings. He estimates a whole beef tenderloin is five to six pounds. So for his recipe he uses one-fourth to one-third of a tenderloin.

"I've always enjoyed Florentine items (made with spinach)," he says. "With my health care background, the idea of adding vitamins and fiber from spinach is eating healthy, and it looks appealing."

Prime rib marbling is very good but it has a higher fat content, he notes. So the lean tenderloin brings flavor and a healthy approach to red meat.

Pairing the savory Blue Cheesecake with the entree goes back to "my country club days," says the chef, who began his career working at Highland Meadows Country Club. "We used to make a rib eye a la blue made with a blue cheese mixture. Blue cheese always complements beef."

The idea of the savory cheesecake "makes people think outside the box with cooking," he says.

Chef Marcel Hesseling of Toledo Yacht Club featuring Chef Marcel Catering had a similar idea for the vegetarian entree with Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Cake and Leek-Wild Mushroom Short Stack served with fig-watercress salad with blackberry syrup.

Chef Hesseling volunteered for the vegetarian entree. "It's always more of a challenge," he said. "I worked with students to develop it. They thought it was fun." The three culinary students are Washtenaw Community College graduate assistant Robert Stretch, and LISD Tech Center (Adrian) junior Abby Kroski and senior Dylan Risner.

Called Leek-Wild Mushroom Short Stack, the entree is made with a duxelle (finely chopped mixture of mushrooms, onions, shallots, and herbs sauteed in butter and reduced) and leek crepes made from scratch.

The home cook who wants to simplify the recipe, could consider using premade crepes such as Frieda's French Style Crepes sold in the produce section of many supermarkets.

For the poultry entree, Chef Chris Bates of the Toledo Restaurant Training Center prepared Breast of Chicken a la Louisianne served on a bed of white cheddar cheese grits with asparagus. "It has a Cajun flair and is slightly seasoned," said the chef.

The breast of chicken with the bone still in it was Frenched, "which gives it more presence" on the plate. The starch part of the meal was grits. Chef Bates chose white cheddar cheese for color variety because the Corn Maquechoux sauce, which is "very famous in Louisiana," is yellow. It is a rich sauce with heavy cream, spices, onions, pepper, and corn. Very often it is made with sauteed fresh corn cooked with the "trinity" of vegetables of green pepper, onions, and celery. The corn makes it a little thick.

"I hope to give it balance," he told me prior to the event. "I put a little spin on the entree with the grits, which are usually served for breakfast. But with a savory taste and flavor profile, I am using it as an accompaniment."

The culinary expertise at the ACF MVCA Scholarship and Awards Dinner not only inspires young culinarians who received scholarships from the chefs association and the Northwest Ohio Restaurant Association, it also inspires home cooks. (See article above)

It also shows the diverse job opportunities in the culinary profession, from restaurants and hotels to health care, private clubs, and teaching.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at:

food@theblade.com

or 419-724-6155.



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