Plating Up a Sense of Place at Cellardoor
Many factors help make a meal special, yet place is the one most often overlooked. You may be scratching your head about that comment — what does a sense of place have to do with food?
We don’t eat with one sense, after all. All of our senses — and many of our memories — are in play when we cook and eat. Smells and colors evoke memories of our mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. Whipped egg yolks beaten to creamy yellow can bring to mind the Easter dress your sister wore when you were ten. The earthy smell of mushrooms can stir up memories of walks in the woods with your grandfather. The sizzle of a sauté pan can suggest a breakfast where everyone lingered at the table for hours. Atmosphere becomes an integral, inseparable part of the five senses and memory often proves time and place to be as important as taste, smell, and touch when we share a meal.
On April 26, Cellardoor Vineyard and The Edge, two of the most scenic locations in the Midcoast, joined forces to offer a special cooking class and dinner. Edge chef Bryan Dame and manager Natasha Dame led the class in the barn kitchen of the vineyard.
Our first lesson was lemon curd. Bryan and Natasha began the course preparation by mentioning the laying hens the couple raise for the restaurant’s many egg-based recipes. Eight farm-fresh eggs were cracked into a bowl and whisked over hot water. The egg mixture was bright — almost orange — and Bryan explained the freshness of the eggs leads to a brighter color. After a few minutes of whisking the eggs were transformed to the yellow of French butter. Next we prepared rosemary shortbread and a scant half-teaspoon of rosemary added a hint of intrigue and surprise to a tasty standard. The scent of rosemary led to talks about the oceanfront gardens at The Edge, which is perched above commanding, rocky shoreline in Lincolnville.
The guests in the class were divided between those who had visited The Edge and those who wanted to go. Those of us lucky enough to have spent a summer evening on the patio, or a fall Sunday night sampling gourmet pizzas, regaled the others with our experiences. Soon, the atmosphere of The Edge was as present and persistent as the walls and warmth of the two-hundred-year-old barn we were sitting in for the class overlooking the vineyard.
Bryan’s menu took advantage of spring asparagus and mushrooms; butter was in abundance. Seared sirloin with braised veal cheeks and a freshly made steak sauce was the main dish. The sauce was a flavorful accompaniment — robust enough to stand on its own, but subtle enough to be an accent rather than the top note.
The class left the kitchen and gathered in the barn loft around an old hand-hewn farm table. We waited to be spoiled by numerous plates of food we learned how to prepare throughout the class. Of the fourteen people at the table each person knew at least one or two others when they sat down. Although there were some unfamiliar faces, we soon found ourselves sharing stories of places to visit, like the new exhibit at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, and stories of travels, books, and expectations for upcoming art events like Pop the Cork and the Maine in America Celebration.
Before we knew it, desert was in front of us. The dish we first made as a class hours before helped end a delightful afternoon. The shortbread had been transformed into the base of an elegant confection. Dollops of lemon curd and a crown of meringue topped the crisp, slightly savory shortbread. Every plate was a visual treat and the desert was both beautiful and heartfelt. Bryan swirled the hobo symbol of welcome, the logo for Cellardoor, in bright raspberry sauce on each plate. It was a thoughtful, creative gesture and melded the elegance of The Edge with the hominess of the vineyard and reminded us, yet again, atmosphere is a vital ingredient to memorable meals.
Warmed Asparagus & Mushroom Salad
4 egg yolks
4tsp lemon juice
1 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp clarified butter
Blend all ingredients together to emulsify.
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups Panko bread crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs)
3 Tbsp parsley, chopped
Mix melted butter, bread crumb and parsley together
1 lb asparagus, blanched
1 small red onion, julienne
2 cups assorted mushrooms, sautéed in butter
8 slices cooked, crispy bacon, chopped or whole slices for garnish
Mâche, Tender Tiny Lettuce Leaves or Italian parsley leaves for garnish
To Prepare: Combine bread crumb mixture, asparagus, onion and mushrooms in a large casserole dish and bake at 450°F until nicely browned and slightly crisp.
Entrée: Seared Sirloin, Braised Veal Cheeks, Potato Butter and Roasted Broccoli
Steak Sauce – 1 quart
1 cup orange juice
1 cup raisins
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup dijon mustard
¼ cup ketchup
2 tsp chili powder
2 ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
Simmer all ingredients over low heat until raisins are plump.
Puree in blender.
1 – 6oz Sirloin per person
Seasoned with fresh cracked black pepper and Kosher salt
Approx 1/2 Tbsp Butter for each steak
Few sprigs rosemary, or any fresh herb on hand, such a parsley, thyme or sage
Cast Iron or Stainless steel pan
Braised Veal Cheeks
1-2 Cheeks per person
Red Wine or Beef Stock
Wondra® or All Purpose Flour for dusting meat
Salt & Pepper
Canola Oil for searing meat
To prepare veal cheeks: Rinse cheeks under cool running water and marinate overnight in enough red wine to cover completely. Remove cheeks and pat dry with paper towel, reserving the wine.
Bring wine to a simmer and skim off impurities that rise to the surface, set aside for braising.
Season the cheeks with salt & pepper and dust lightly in flour. Heat 1/8 of an inch of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Sear each cheek until golden brown (2-3 minutes each side). Transfer seared cheeks and reserved red wine to a Dutch oven with lid or a coved casserole dish. Braise cheeks in wine at 300°F for 3 ½ to 4 hours until very tender.
Allow cheeks to rest in liquid for at least ½ hour before serving.
Roasted Broccoli – serves four
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oill
Salt & Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
To prepare: Preheat oven to 350 °F
In a large bowl coat broccoli and garlic in oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread flat on a baking sheet and roast until broccoli is tender and slightly crisp (about ½ hour).
Potato Butter – serves four to six
1 lb potatoes — select your favorite variety
½ lb unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 cups sugar
Zest of 6 lemons
1 ½ cups of lemon juice
1 lb unsalted butter
To Prepare: Whisk all ingredients together in the bowl of a double boiler. Cook over double boiler to mixture reaches 180°F. Strain curd through fine mesh or cheese cloth to remove any lumps. Allow mixture to chill to 140 °F. In blender puree mixture with a pound of butter.
Frozen Lemon Mousse
1 cup prepared lemon curd
½ cup whipped cream
Fold together and freeze.
I lb all-purpose flour
6 oz powdered sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 vanilla pod, scrape out seeds and discard pod
13 oz unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
½ tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
To Prepare: Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork cutter butter into dry ingredients to form stiff dough. Add vanilla seeds and rosemary to dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 325F. Roll dough to 1/8th of inch thick on a dry surface and cut into desired shapes. Prick shortbreads with a fork and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for 6-9 minutes until shortbread is firm and slightly golden.
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp water
6 oz of egg whites – 6-7 eggs
To Prepare: Combine sugar and water in a sauce pan over low flame and cook to 260°F. Whip egg whites on high speed of mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly drizzle in the hot sugar while whipping on high speed until firm and fluffy. Transfer meringue to pastry until needed.
Bryan Dame is the chef of The Edge, The Inn at Ocean's Edge, Lincolnville.
The next cooking class at Cellardoor features chef Lawrence Klang of Natalie's, Camdne. The class is full; please look for additional Cellardoor classes here.