Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cats Laughing, a Real Thing?

It seems plans are in progress for a Minicon 50  reunion show. Just how this will be organized has yet to be determined but all the original members are up for it. Meanwhile, here's another blast from the past.

This was a fun gig. We got to watch some of the Twin Cities "names" do their thing with the Cats sandwiched in between. As you can see from the date on the set list we'd just released the "basement tape" a few weeks earlier. For some reason we decided to do all original material (I think - you'll have to ask Adam about Cream Pie Blues).

Some of that material didn't last, but my recollection is that we performed well. Fran Courteau, Beth's dad, was there and took some pictures.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kennett Square Mushroom Festival

Every year in early September Kennett Square, PA puts on their Mushroom Festival. It always seems to fall on Beth's work weekend so we normally skip it. This year though I decided to head out anyway, eat some mushroom filled goodies and buy a bunch of fresh 'shrooms for immediate eating and dehydrating. In the past we've gone on Sunday when they have a mushroom soup competition but that wouldn't have been all that much fun without Beth and besides the Eagles were on at 1:00 so I headed out on the 45 minute drive a little after 9:00.

Mushroom Fest is always fun. There's plenty to eat in addition to mushrooms, goofy stuff including a National Fried Mushroom Eating Contest, several cooking competitions, and great people watching, especially the little kids suspiciously eye-balling some of the unfamiliar items.

Many Kennett Square Restaurants Were Serving
Want To Grow Your Own?
They're Healthy!
Mushrooms To Sit On

Mushrooms On Display in the Education Tent

Mushrooms to Buy
You bet I bought some. Three pounds each of Shiitake and Oyster.

After I got back on Saturday afternoon, I started in on the first of the fresh mushroom dishes:

First up, mushroom risotto. I sliced up some crimini mushrooms I already had along with a big bunch of my fresh Shiitake and broke apart the Oyster mushrooms. I sauteed each mushroom separately since each one takes a different length of time to cook. The risotto itself was just regular saffron risotto, though I omitted the usual enrichment of grated parmigiano because I felt it would overpower the mushrooms. I folded the mushrooms in off heat, dished it up and topped each serving with a few sauteed Chanterelles I'd snagged at Iovine Brothers on the way home Friday.

Sunday was mushroom pizza. That's half a batch of Bonci Dough, sliced Scipio Ibrido tomatoes from the garden, lightly sauteed Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms, and mozz topped with the rest of the Chanterelles.

Monday night I started dehydrating the remaining fresh mushrooms. First were the Oyster mushrooms...

I sliced off the fused stems holding together the individual mushrooms and broke them apart into separate pieces. There was no need to rinse then since they don't grow in compost.

They dried overnight at 110° F. I got up a little early, packed them into a quart canning jar and started another batch. I now understand why everyone says you'll want extra trays for your dehydrator.

The Shiitake's were almost as easy. Slice off the tough stems, rinse the caps (they always seem a little dusty to me) and cut them into quarter inch slices. Overnight again and there we have it:

There's abut a half pint more of dried Shiitake's hiding to the right.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pizza al Taglio Class at Vetri

Chef Spence Serves up Pizza #1
Last Tuesday we SEPTA'd into town to attend a class on Pizza al Taglio presented by Amis chef Brad Spence. Chef Spence had returned from Rome and a week working Gabriele Bonci the previous Thursday so this was probably a non-professional's best chance to get some insight into the Bonci magic.

The Vetri demonstration kitchen occupies a former apartment directly above the restaurant with very tight seating for 10 lucky guests. The kitchen is toward the rear of the building and a large "all purpose" space overlooks Spruce St. There are evidently plans to use this space for private events, intimate concerts in conjunction with the Curtis Institute, and so forth.

The class began with frequently refilled glasses of Prosecco while Chef Spence talked about the differences between Roman pizza al taglio dough and other types of pizza. The recipe is pretty simple:

Flour: 1000 grams
Water: 800 grams
Salt: 30 grams
Olive Oil: 40 grams
Yeast: 50 grams fresh, 15 grams dry (use less if you have more time)

Weigh Everything
Chef Spence strongly suggested using a combination of flours. In class we used a dough made from 900 grams of regular '00' flour and 100 grams of spelt flour.

Mix - Don't Knead
After weighing the ingredients into a large bowl they were mixed until a rough dough formed and all the ingredients were well combined.

About 45 minutes after the previous picture
The dough is then allowed to rise for an hour, folding it over on itself every 15 minutes. After the initial rise it goes into the refrigerator for 24 hours.

With the dough explained it was time to try some pizza - that's the one Chef Spence is cutting up in the picture up top. It's just tomato sauce topped with a bunch of prosciutto, arugula, and a drizzle of olive oil.

At this point we shifted from Prosecco to a red wine and began to make our own pizzas. The ten of us divided into 5 teams to build personalized pizzas.

Some old guy came in to try some of Chef Spence's original pie while we worked.

As the pizza baked we drank more wine and chatted about Rome, pizza making, pizza eating...

After about 20 minutes at 500° F the pizzas started coming out. And you know what?

Every darn one was delicious.

Then someone mentioned Nutella.

Oh yeah.

Chef Spence grabbed a left over dough ball, stretched it onto a tray and popped it in the oven while someone went in search of a jar of Nutella.

All of it?
Yep... all of it
Spank It!
As the evening wrapped up Chef Spence and the staff packed to-go boxes with the left over pizza and most of us stepped out into the upstairs dining room for conversation, coffee, mignardises, and grappa. Fortunately, I wouldn't have to start my car for another 90 minutes... (thank you SEPTA).

A fantastic class, with wonderful people, a beautiful space, and a dynamic chef with a contagious love for his craft. Watch the Vetri website and grab the first class that grabs you - you won't regret it.


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