Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! As many of you are probably tired of eating turkey by now, this harvest menu from Chef Tracy Cenami Shepos is a delicious way to warm you up as the days get colder. This past month, I had the privilege of photographing the November event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. I love what Homeward Bound is doing through this program — teaching people the skills they need to get out of homelessness!
November’s Marin County Cooking Class was hosted by Chef Tracey Shepos Cenami of Kendall-Jackson Family Wineries. Chef Cenami is a certified artisan cheesemaker who studied at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy. She has worked at New York restaurants, catered, been a consulting chef and helped open Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa. Chef Cenami shared that her mom is a fantastic cook and that her parents loved to eat and would take her and her siblings out to eat with them. She had the opportunity to eat frog legs and foie gras as a young child, giving her the chance to develop discerning taste buds early on.
Chef Cenami’s menu for the evening began with a delicious Lobster-Squash Bisque with Pickled Persimmon.
I love everything lobster, so I was very excited to try this bisque. It was made with carrots, onions, celery, butternut squash, squash and lobster stock, vanilla bean, lemon, olive oil, creme fraiche, lobster meat and Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.
Chef Cenami demonstrated how to properly cut up a lobster and a squash — two food items that might be a bit unfamiliar for home cooks.
The star of this bisque (besides the lobster) were pickled persimmons. I have recently become a fan of persimmons, so this was a fun way to eat them. The pickled persimmons sit overnight in a mixture of water, balsamic vinegar, cloves, sugar, bay leaf and star anise.
I would never think to pair them with lobster, but their sweet and sour flavor balanced well with the creaminess of the soup.
The students were busy in the back preparing the lobster bisque for guests.
The soup was finished with a drizzle of creme fraiche.
The main course of the evening was Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs, Parsnip Puree & Spiced Carrots.
Short ribs totally represent warm, homey comfort food to me, so these were a treat for these brisk evenings. The shorts ribs were made with veal broth, veal stock, tomato paste (which is cooked first to remove any chalky flavor), onions, carrot, celery, thyme, bay leaf, allspice and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chef Cenami emphasized the need to leave the meat alone and let it brown — really brown to a nice dark color!
Here she deglazes the pan with the wine and pours the whole thing into a braising pan.
Chef Cenami shared that whenever you braise anything, you should cook it the day before, cool it in the refrigerator and reheat it the next day, so that the all the flavors come together. I’ve been trying to do this with my stews and pulled pork/carnitas, and it truly makes a huge difference in the way the final dish tastes, but I will say that it’s hard to be patient and wait a whole day before I can eat it!
The parsnip puree was made with parsnips, russet potatoes, heavy cream, and butter. I really enjoyed the flavor of the parsnips — or was it the heavy cream and butter? The parsnips added a slightly sweet component that paired well with the potatoes.
For the carrots, Chef Cenami advised that your baking sheet should be heated in the oven first, so that the oven doesn’t have to heat up both the pan and the vegetables, resulting in crispier vegetables. The spiced carrots were made with cinnamon, cardamon, honey and kosher salt — so good. Nothing like a handful of micro greens to make everything look so pretty!
The meal was finished with a Caramelia Panna Cotta with Caramel Cream & Almond Poppycock.
Chef Cenami first made the caramel cream. She shared that caramel cream is basically a caramel flavored whipped cream.
The caramel should be an amber color when it is ready. However, the best way to check if it’s done is to close your eyes and smell it. I don’t think I could trust just my nose to know if it’s done.
The panna cotta was made with sheet gelatin, Valrhona Carmelia chocolate (similar in flavor to a “rolo”), heavy cream and whole milk.
The mixture was placed into little ramekins and then chilled.
After they are unmolded, a generous dollop of caramel creme is added.
The dessert was topped with a sweet, crunchy Almond Poppycock topping, which was made with brown sugar, butter, dark molasses, sliced raw almonds and smoked Maldon salt (my favorite part)!
Chef Cenami was so fun to watch, and she had tons of energy! Check back next month for Chef John Ash’s international holiday menu. In the meantime, enjoy this delicious recipe for Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs to keep you warm.
Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs
1 1/2 cups veal broth
3 cups veal stock
3 1/2 lbs. beef short ribs, boneless
4 tablespoons rice oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup onions, large dice
1/2 cup carrots, large dice
1/2 cup celery, large dice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
3-4 parsley stems
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit. Bring veal broth and stock to a boil.
2. Season short ribs with salt. In a heavy bottomed sauté pan, brown the short ribs in rice oil over high heat. Transfer browned short ribs to braising pan.
3. Remove excess fat from sauté pan and add vegetables. Cook until caramelized and then add tomato paste. Stir and caramelize tomato paste with vegetables. Add wine to deglaze and scrape bottom of pan. Transfer to braising pan. Add hot veal and water mixture. Add herbs (in a sachet).
4. Cover with parchment and weigh down with perforated hotel pan. Cover with foil and roast in oven for 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Let ribs cool in liquid overnight.
5. Remove from the braising liquid and remove any excess fat, gristle and bone. Skim off any fat from the braising liquid and strain all ingredients out of the braising liquid. Return the liquid to simmer and reduce by half.