Author Archives: Travis Brock Kennedy

About Travis Brock Kennedy

Travis Brock Kennedy is the Chief Web Editor of Reclaiming the Good Name of the Epicurean ( www.reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com ), a food-interest blog where the diverse voices of professional chefs, home cooks, writers, artists, and artisans come together to explore and celebrate the world of good food and drink. Travis earned his A.O.S. degree in Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he was an honors graduate and where he was clasically trained in haute and nouvelle French cuisine and pâtisserie, garde manger, world cuisines, and wine. He has worked with renowned chefs including Alain Trouboul, Glenn Wielosinski, Hans Wiegen, and Judy Stein as well as somellier Steve Eliot. Travis' professional experience encompasses a broad spectrum of fine-dining restaurants, resorts, hotels, and catering companies. He works as a professional pastry chef and wine expert. He is also the owner and executive chef of Ma Cuisine - Votre Maison Catering & Events which specializes in creating events large and small centered around excellent food, exciting venus, and good company. He lives with his partner in Los Angeles, California. www.reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com

Potage aux Courgettes

Maundy Thursday at St. John's Cathedral

 

 

This simple cream of zucchini soup, based on a traditional provençal recipe, is what I would definitely call a “crowd pleaser.” I’ve made this soup for groups ranging in size from myself and my partner, to a dozen members of my family surrounding a craftily-elongated dining room table, all the way up to 120 people sitting at a liturgical meal forty feet under the vaulted ceiling of a cathedral…which is precisely what I did last night. I’m a congregant at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles’ West Adams district. Throughout this Lent I have taken part in the cathedral’s formation program, which is a series of intensive classes preparing individuals seeking baptism, confirmation, reception from another denomination, or reaffirmation of faith. This past year has been incredibly wonderful and exciting but has also been profoundly transitional for me. Within the past twelve months I’ve changed jobs four times, have moved from one city to another very different city, have lived with a significant other for the first time in my life, and have finally returned to school (hence the long delay since my last posting). My life is now settling down and I felt myself finding my bearings in Los Angeles. The many changes of the past year have helped me to evaluate the function and value of many of the things that had tacked themselves onto my identity as an adult. As I evaluated who I was in the context of Los Angeles I wanted to take time to evaluate what role, if any, my faith now played in my life. Throughout Lent I’ve done just that. I find myself serenely comfortable with my identity as an Episcopalian and feel recharged and reminded of a values system I am proud of and hope sincerely to develop as a characteristic of who I am.

The candidates who have taken part in the Formation Classes will be baptized, confirmed, received, or reaffirmed by the Bishop tomorrow evening at the Great Vigil of Easter. One of the expectations of the candidates was that they would help serve at the cathedral’s celebration of Maundy Thursday. Last night St. John’s brought the last supper to life with a touching combination of liturgy, worship, and fellowship. The pews were removed from the nave of the cathedral and a great banquet was set. The congregation sat together at table as the lessons were read and the sermon was given, then the congregation came together for the washing of feet after which communion was given. After communion the meal was served.

Because of my training Fr. Dan and Fr. Mark, the deans of the cathedral, approached me about preparing the meal. They told me their vision: a Mediteranean feast complete with trays overflowing with cheeses, nuts, olives, figs, dates, and dried fruits, a simple vegetarian soup, a big salad, loaves of fresh bread, and for dessert more trays overflowing with grapes, fruits, sweetened breads, and chocolate. Almost immediately I knew Potage aux Courgettes would be perfect. The soup is at once an elegant revelation, balanced and decadent…and then a simple, homey manifestation of “comfort food.” The soup is a long-time favorite, something I make when I want to feel safe and secure…something I’ve wanted many times over the tumultuous past twelve months. And perhaps more than anything that’s what I wanted to share with the congregation of St. John’s: the feeling of comfort, love, and the certainty that every one of us is cared for. I can think of no better medium to have shared this message.

Potage aux Courgettes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds od zucchini, tips removed and cut into 1/2-inch thick rondelles

1/2 yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 tablespoons seasoned salt (such as Lawry’s)

1/2 stick of butter

freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)

1 bunch of fresh basil, stems removed and coarsely chopped

2 healthy pinches of ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups of half and half

Directions:

In a soup pot set over medium/medium-high heat melt the butter and heat just until the foam subsides.

Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally to brown.

The onions are done when they look like this, golden brown...maybe a little crispy on some of the edges.

Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE HALF AND HALF (reserve it for later) to the pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Once simmering reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and cover. Cook for 30-40 minutes at just around a simmer until the zucchini are very tender (pierce easily on a fork and almost fall apart. Once done turn off heat and allow to cool to room temperature, covered.

Once cooled to room temperature, ladle the soup into a blender. Do this in batches, fill the blender about half-way full on each batch to make sure the soup purees evenly.

puree for 20-25 seconds.

Once all of the soup has been pureed, pour back into the soup pot and return the heat to medium.

Add the half and half. Stir the soup slowly until it returns just to a simmer. Take care to continue stirring the soup, the half and half will curdle if left still.

 

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Ideas for Entertaining

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Ingredients:
One plain goat cheese log
12 fresh mint leaves
The seeds of half a pomegranate
2 grapefruits cut into citrus sections
Orange Blossom Honey for drizzling

Directions:
Toss together the grapefruit sections and the fresh mint leaves. Place the goat log on your serving dish. Cover the log with grapefruit/mint mixture. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over all then drizzle everything with orange blossom honey

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by | January 19, 2012 · 11:45 pm

The Los Angeles Breakfast-Table Debut

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When I was leaving San Francisco for Los Angeles I sold my dining room table. In a characteristically San Francisco moment of serendipity the response from Craigslist I got was from the owner of Ritual Roasters in The Mission where the husband of my partner (Amanda) and I’s colleague was then representing Ritual at the World Barista Conpetition. Amanda and I are big fans of Ritual coffee and I was able to work out a trade of coffee for furniture, which has made the first several months of my southern California transplant far more enjoyable. This morning we’re enjoying a press of Ethiopian Koke. The elegant, buttery, and lemony qualities of this highly representative Ethiopian coffee paired perfectly with a ruby red grapefruit and toasted, buttered slices of Hanoverian white bread. Good morning, Los Angeles!

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by | December 30, 2011 · 4:53 pm

Taking in some inspiration for forthcoming posts. Bottega Louis at Grand and 7th in downtown Los Angeles is the west coast incarnation of Ladurée Paris

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by | December 28, 2011 · 2:03 pm

Hump Day Vices: Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon

Big, Bright, and Fruity

Tasting Notes:

Wine: Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage: 2009

Price: $22.49

Producer: Cannonball Wine Company

Region & Country: California: 62% Mendocino, 32% Sonoma/ Dry Creek Valey, 4% Napa, 2% Other

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon

Place and Date Purchased: 11/6/2011 Whole Foods Market – Santa Monica, CA

Place and Date Tasted: 11/8/2011 Home – Los Angeles, CA

Appearance: Bright Grape-Juice Purple, extremely light legs.

Nose: Overwhelming aroma of fresh, juicy blackberries, ripe oranges, and pineapple

Taste: Extremely fruity-sweet with a medium-long tart finish.

Finish: Medium-long with progressively intense tannin

Overall Impression: I won’t deny it, this wine tastes great. The only problem is I couldn’t differentiate it from Welch’s Concord Grape Juice if my life depended on it. A good wine should exemplify and carefully explore all the grape has to offer. In the case of Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon the only way I know it’s Cabernet Sauvignon is by reading the label. You don’t get any of the dark, subtle, rich complexity of cabernet in this wine…you get big, dumb fruit and enough of it to keep a room of kindergartners very happy indeed. I wouldn’t be as critical of this bottle as I am were it not for the price…for $22.49 you can get 8 bottles of 2-buck chuck Shiraz and two 2-liters of Pineapple Fanta, mix it together and have about 12 times the drink with the exact same flavor (trust me).

Food Pairing: I’m rarely at a loss for a wine and food pairing but Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon is so insanely sweet it would steamroll anything with a similar flavor profile and would taste off compared to anything different. If you’re going to drink this drink it straight up.

Overall Rating (out of 100 points): 60

Overall Value (1-5 stars): 1 star

Pass, thanks.

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Welcome to Reclaiming the Good Name of the Epicurean, Don McGray!

Travis Brock Kennedy, Chief Web Editor of Reclaiming the Good Name of the Epicurean

When I started Reclaiming the Good Name of the Epicurean this past September I envisioned a website where the diverse voices of professional chefs, home cooks, writers, artists, and artisans could come together to explore and celebrate the world of good food and drink. So far in the young life of this website mine has been the only contributing voice. Although I bring to the website professional cooking experience and classical training my perspective is, as is everyone else’s, limited in many ways.

Don and I on Santana Row in San Jose, California last April

For this reason I am thrilled to announce the addition of Don McGray, Reclaiming the Good Name of the Epicurean’s first contributing writer. Don is a long-time friend who shares my passion for cooking, eating, and celebrating good food and drink. We grew up together on California’s central coast and relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area at the same time. Our shared food experience ranges from tri-tip barbecue in Santa Maria to 2 AM okonomiyaki making in Berkeley to Lobster Rolls in San Francisco’s Castro District and everything you can possibly imagine in-between. We’ve pounded fresh abalone under the redwoods by the Gualala river, we’ve sprayed Febreze on a rotting pot of beans in our high school drama room, and we’ve consumed more alcohol together before our 25th birthdays than most people will consume in a lifetime. In other words we go way back, and the stories will slowly trickle out as we explore the recipes and foods that have fueled the madness thus far.

Don is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley where he double-majored in French and Political Science. He has lived and studied in the Rhône-Alpes region of France and has traveled and dined extensively in Europe. He is an exquisite cook with a broad and varied repertoire. Don will be bringing to the website a vegetarian perspective on cooking which will greatly enrich the content of the site. He lives and works in El Cerrito, a small community on the eastern shore of the San Francisco bay and in addition to his other contributions will also be bringing the geographic perspective of the East Bay to the site.

Don’s first post will be up soon, please join me in welcoming him on board! I’m supremely confident his posts will help the site grow into it’s vision as the place where the epicurean’s passions meet an affection for the greater world of art, music, and literature.

The Great Work Begins!

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The News From France: Tartelettes aux Champignons

Buttery, flakey, and Deeply Delicious

These Parisian mushroom tarts are insanely delicious. Buttery, flakey puff pastry encapsulates a rich and deeply flavorful mushroom, proscuitto, port wine, and garlic mixture that has other-worldly flavor. Serve as a wonderfully warming autumn dinner or as a welcome change of routine for lunch or dinner when the holidays arrive.

 

Ingredients:

For the Mushroom Filling

1/4 ounce dried cépe mushrooms

1/4 ounce dried morel mushrooms

1/2 cup vegetable stock

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1/2 pound fresh white mushrooms

1 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

pinch of cayenne

pinch of nutmeg

coarse kosher salt

1 or 2 thick slices of dry-cured ham such as Bayonne or Proscuitto

1/4 cup port wine

1 egg lightly whipped with 1 tablespoon of whole milk

For the Puff Pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3/4 cup cold unsalted butter

Preparation:

1. Make the Puff Pastry

Start the dough

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

melt two tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat taking care not to brown the butter.

Add the water, salt, vinegar, and melted butter into the well

Whisk the liquid briefly to mix

Using a fork gently fold the flour into the liquid

take care not to overmix, the less mixed the more flakey

You're done mixing when the dough looks like this.

When mixed knead the dough a few times with the palm of your hand

Form the dough into a ball and chill for about two hours

Add in the butter block

Lightly flour a large work surface

roll out to a rough rectangle about 1/4-inch thick

add the chilled butter to the very center third of the (rough) rectangle

Folding like a business letter fold the bottom third of the dough up over the chilled butter in the middle third

Then fold the upper third down over the dough covering the butter. Chill for 30 minutes

Do a series of three roll-outs, three-way-folds, and chills

Pull the chilled dough-and-butter "letter" out onto a lightly floured surface

roll out to a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick

fold the rolled-out dough rectangle back into a business letter starting with the bottom third...

...then folding over the upper third

Chill for thirty minutes. REPEAT THIS PROCESS OF ROLLING OUT, RE-FOLDING, AND CHILLING THREE MORE TIMES.

At the end of the fourth roll-out leave the rolled-out rectangle without re-folding and chill another 30 minutes

2. Prepare the mushroom filling

Combine the dried mushrooms with the stock and heat over medium heat to…

A simmer. Turn off the heat and let the mushrooms cool off for 30-60 minutes, this allows the flavors to infuse.

Chop the garlic and shallots

Slice the white mushrooms

Your ingredients will look like this

Cut rounds out of the rolled-out, chilled puff pastry

And line the tartelette molds you are using. Tonight I'm using a cupcake pan because I left my tartelette pans at the bakery where I am the pastry chef.

A cupcake pan will yield about 5 tartelettes, tartelette pans will yield about 4. Line the pans completely

For decoration I used a fluted-edge pastry roller to cut out leaves. Chill the lined pans, decorations, and remaining dough while you complete the next steps

Drain the liquid out of the mushrooms in the pan. Set the mushrooms aside. Reserve the liquid

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat

Add the shallots and garlic

Sauté until golden

Add the sliced white mushrooms

Sauté until golden. Remove to a bowl and reserve.

In the same pan over medium heat melt two tablespoons of butter

Sprinkle the flour over the butter

Prepare a blonde-colored roux. For details on the production and use of roux check out http://reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com/2011/10/10/back-to-basics-blonde-and-brown-roux/

Add the reserved mushroom/vegetable stock and stir until the roux is combined with the liquid over medium heat

Allow the sauce to chicken slightly, stirring constantly over medium heat

Pour the dried mushrooms you cooked in the stock back in along with the Sauteéd white mushrooms, garlic, and shallot

Stir until combined

Remove the thick, golden mushroom and sauce mixture to a bowl.

Coarsely chop the dried ham or proscuitto

Heat another two tablespoons of butter in the same pan you've been using, when hot add the ham and sauté until golden and crispy

Deglaze the pan by pouring in the port wine and, over medium heat scraping all the dark little flavor nuggets off the bottom of the pan

It will look like this and smell amazingly good

Keeping the heat at medium add the saucy mushroom mixture back into the pan

Stir over medium heat just until combined

Fill the lined tartelette pans just to the top. Take a pastry brush and brush the exposed top of the puff pastry lining the pans with the egg-and-milk mixture (professionals refer to this as "egg wash")

Cut circles out of the remaining puff pastry and cover the mushroom mixture, pressing the dough down over the egg-washed pastry in the pan. Affix the decorations to the top and gently brush egg wash over the tops. The egg wash gived the tartelettes their golden brown color

Bake the tartelettes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 20-30 minutes. If you like your pastries darker cook them until they look like mine, but just pull them out sooner for a lighter, more golden appearance. When the crust is the color you like they're done.

Enjoy with a nice, slightly spicy French red wine. Bordeaux lends itself perfectly to this dish. I would recommend Château Lalande 2001 Bordeaux, for a review of this bottle check out  http://reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com/2011/10/05/hump-day-vices-chateau-lalande-an-exceptional-value-from-bordeaux/. Bon Appétit

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