On November 8, I attended a special wine dinner promoting Michel Richard’s new cookbook, “Happy In The Kitchen.” The dinner was hosted at 40 Sardines in Overland Park, Kansas. Rainy Day Books was responsible for sponsoring the event. Chef Richard, Executive Chef and Owner of the famous Citronelle Restaurant in Washington, D.C. was at the event to personally talk about the cookbook and the recipes that he and the 40 Sardines staff prepared for us that evening.
Ray Coursen, owner of Elyse Winery, was also present to talk about the wine pairings.
Here is the menu:
Elyse Winery Rosé
You can read my comments on the pairings and the food on my flickr account.
The meal cost $125 (plus tax and tip) per person and included a signed copy of “Happy In The Kitchen.”
After looking through the cookbook, …
I certainly feel that the title is appropriate. The recipes are fun and have a tongue-and-cheek approach to foods (as you can tell from the title of the dishes mentioned above). Having read about the concepts behind and seen the end-results of many of these dishes, it is apparent that Richard is not only a playful cook, but also has a sense of humor. Unconventionality is the name of the game.
Take, for instance, the “Low Carb-O-Nara.” Instead of pasta, Richard uses blanched shaved onions. They are cooked tender to resemble noodles and are sauced with a creamy traditional carbonara sauce with bits of pancetta sprinkled throughout. Or, how about potato for-rice risotto?
There are straightforward, but stunningly beautiful and simple recipes like salmon stuffed with asparagus spears, and an elegant olive-crusted salmon. The “Duck Duck Beet” is just that – two cuts of duck (breast and thigh) with beat sauce.
For the most part, the recipes are do-able for the average home cook who has a bit of patience. There are many that require a Benriner (or mandolin slicer) and even a few that involve a meat slicer.
I decided to re-create the dessert course from the wine dinner at 40 Sardines – “Le Kit Cat.” Kit Kats are one of the only packaged candy bars that I like. In fact, I love them. And, so does Richard, who combined elements of the American version with a French chocolate that he fondly remembers from childhood containing peanut butter.
“Le Kit Cat” consists of two layers. A bottom layer of dark chocolate and peanut butter “crunch” (bits of crushed cornflakes are folded into the batter before chilling) is topped with a layer of chocolate mousse. You must make this recipe in several stages, as it requires time for chilling to “set” the various chocolate layers.
As a home cook, I’m not sure I have the knife skills, or the knives, to cut “Le Kit Cat” properly. I discovered that the mousse must be quite chilled – even frozen – in order to get precise cuts to produce the finger-like logs. Otherwise, the whole cakepan/baking sheet of chocolate mousse on chocolate turns into a gloppy messy. If you do make this, do as I did and freeze at the various stages in which the recipe calls for refrigeration.
Here are some other tips that the recipe doesn’t mention, some of them are common sense:
1. Work quickly. Hot hands are chocolate pastries’ worst enemy.
2. Make sure the chocolate is really “lip-temperature,” especially when making the mousse – otherwise, you’ll end up with small chocolate-flecked mousse.
3. Freeze the “Le Kit Cat” before cutting.
4. Dust with cocoa after you cut the slab of chocolate into “Kit Kat” fingers.
5. The accompanying hazelnut caramel sauce is fantastic. Do make it.
Have fun, and enjoy!!