Valrhona: Hot Chocolate Festival

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Last night the hubby and I, along with my dear friend (and talented pastry chef) Kimberly Barrett, attended the Valrhona Hot Chocolate Festival in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

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The event was hosted at L’École Valrhona Du Grand Chocolat located on Water Street in the super trendy Brooklyn neighborhood at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, and just 5 minutes from Manhattan. The facility boasted state of the art equipment, and a very modern, clean, and polished aesthetic. The school offers a place where the public can take basic classes such as Intro to Chocolate and professional chefs can brush up on their Plated Desserts and Chocoart.

The event was full of chefs, media, and chocolate fanatics. There were seven booths set up for each company to showcase their product.

Marie Belle NY had a sweet and salty caramel hot chocolate. It was the first one I tried. It had a really nice flavor, and the kick of salt helped it from being overly sweet.

One of my all time favorite chocolatiers and brands is FIKA. FIKA is a chocolate brand from Sweden with bold flavors and some of the most delicious truffles I have ever had the pleasure to eat. At the showcase, FIKA made a hot chocolate with ancho chile and served a truffle with chile powder and lingonberry. It was beyond delicious and just the right amount of spice and sweetness.

Ladurée was there in full force. Armed with delicate patisserie and a luscious orange scented hot chocolate. Their offering was by far my favorite of the night. Delicate, complex, yet luscious – they transcended me right back to Ladurée in Paris. Je t’aime Ladurèe.

The best part of the event was catching up with my dear friend and talented Chef, Diane Stopford and drinking way too much decadent hot chocolate and sharing laughs with my husband and friend Kim.

To learn more about Valrhona’s new products and initiatives head over to Valrhona-chocolate.com and be sure to check out L’École Valrhona Du Grand Chocolat to be in the know about the latest happenings in the chocolate world.

Cheers

Chef Sean Patrick Gallagher

Chefseanparickgallagher.com

Effortless Baking: French Apple Tart

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When I was in Paris I had this apple dessert, similar to a cheese danish. It was beyond delicious, and I haven’t stopped thinking about since. I couldn’t remember exactly what made it so special, except that it had crème fraîche in it.

So I set out over New Years weekend to make something similar that would bring me back to my time in France.

 

Rustic French Apple Tart

1 package puff pastry

4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2 inch thick

1/2 cup crème fraîche

Frangipane: 6 ounces Almond Paste, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 stick salted butter

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Crust:

  • Take one sheet of puff pastry and gentry roll in out to fit a 9×9 french tart pan
  • Cut any remaining pastry off the tops to make an even, flat base for the dessert.

Frangipane:

  • In a food processor, add almond paste and butter. Whip for a few minutes until combined, light and fluffy.
  • Add sugar, and whip for 1 minute.
  • Add egg, and let whip for another minute until combined and smooth.

Apples:

  • Peel, core, and slice apples about 1/2 an inch thick. If you want to do them ahead, toss them in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to keep from oxidizing. If you will make tart right away, you don’t need to do this step. image2

Assembly:

  • Take your tart pan with pastry already laid into it.
  • Spoon frangipane over the dough evenly.
  • On top of the frangipane layer, spoon the crème fraîche. Smooth it evenly over the top not to combine layers.
  • Next, lay the apples into the crème fraîche, evening in rows of three. They should overlap each other just a little.
  • Brush the top with your egg wash lightly, not to put too much or it will pool over the dessert.
  • Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of the dessert evenly.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes, rotating 2 times.image1(3)

The tart will be done when it is golden brown, the crust has puffed and is cooked all the way through, the apples are soft, and the sugar has caramelized on top.

Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing from the tart pan.

Place on a cooling rack another 10 minutes and serve either warm or room temperature.

This tart takes a small amount of time to assemble, but is super impressive to guests, and absolutely delicious. The flavors of rich almond and tart apple go so well together and when the crème fraîche bakes, it becomes a creamy, almost cheese-like layer in this dessert, making something completely unique and memorable.

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I hope you try this dessert out, and more of my recipes available here on Homegrownmeals.com

Bon Appetit!

 

Sean Patrick Gallagher

Taste of Paris: Miznon

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11695902_844701115977_8803345370097266460_n.jpgThis past Summer I spent two months cooking for a private family abroad in France. It was my first time to France, and I arrived not speaking a word of the language and completely unaware of how life changing the experience was going to be for me.

About a month into my stay in France, I journeyed to Paris for five days. I took a beautiful train ride that cut from the coast of La Baule to the city of Paris.

When I arrived, a car took me to Ile Saint Louis, where I stayed in a stunning chateau. It had floor to ceiling windows that opened out to a large courtyard below and the quiet, quaint streets of the island.

I ventured out into the maze-like streets of Paris. I refused to buy a map, but discover the city of my dreams on my own. I memorized landmarks and navigated my way through the city.

My first day was overwhelming. Starving, I decided to walk through le Marais and find an authentic dining experience in Paris.

Everywhere I looked was filled with tourists. I walked through seemingly endless side streets and alleys until I came across a tiny storefront of a restaurant with patrons spilling out the windows and entryway. I knew I had to eat here. 11836827_844700831547_9000377625054051336_n.jpg

The smell coming through the door of the restaurant was amazing! It smelled of slowly cooked meat, char, and smoke. I pushed through the door and saw a room with fresh produce on wood shelves, big bowls of lemons and heads of cauliflower. The menu was scribbled on a chalkboard wall in bright colored chalk. The kitchen was completely open, and the cooks prepared the food right in front of you as you ordered. There was minimal seating, and the crowd was loud and joyous. It felt like I had entered someones home, like everyone there was family. 11796379_844701135937_8055135375021145522_n.jpg

I stood awkwardly- waiting for someone to wait on me, or take an order – it never happened. I felt so embarrassed, I almost left. Then I decided to step out of my comfort zone, and I plunged myself down at the counter bar, and sat next to a beautiful pregnant woman.

I sat a few minutes, and then pushed myself to talk with her. I nervously asked her if she spoke English, (which she did, thankfully), and then proceeded to ask her how to order. I then explained I was a NYC chef visiting Paris, and wanted to taste the best food the city had to offer. She explained to me that her husband owned the restaurant and that I was indeed in the right place for good food.

She brought her husband over, and the three of us spoke about middle eastern food, restaurants, New York, and Paris. It was one of those experiences you don’t forget, and then the Chef decided to order for me. 11846732_844700891427_8813675508574140144_n.jpg

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The man working the counter was a combination host, maître d, and comedian. He poured me some warm red wine on this balmy  95 degree day. The restaurant was open to the street, and the heat everywhere. My clothes clung tight and wet to my body. A runner brought over some fresh made pita with side dish of tahini with tomato water and spiced olive oil. I dipped the hot fresh pita into the cool spread, and it refreshed me. 11846620_844701190827_7939526496194403906_n.jpg

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11836825_844700991227_537711851019361455_n.jpgNext came out a fresh pita pocket stuffed with thinly sliced steak, fresh parsley, red onion, and tahini sauce. It was served with roasted green chiles on the side for spice. (They’re very spicy!)

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Next came out the most incredible boeuf bourguignon stuffed pita. The combination of french and Israeli flavors are absolutely delicious, and was the singularly most delicious and memorable thing I ate in all of France. At the same time, they brought out a whole roasted head of cauliflower. It was perfectly tender, roasted nicely with salt and oil. You cut off sections as you ate it, and it made for a perfect accompaniment to the meal.

11825810_844701016177_7969641697193079440_n.jpg11013217_844701056097_1822053214430203279_n.jpg11825795_844701066077_1189422550208118183_n.jpgI drank a few more glasses of wine, ate way too much food, and chatted with the owners. Before I left, I was treated to one last indulgence. Apple Tarte Tatin, stuffed in a pita. A classic french dessert, with an Israeli twist. It was so delicious, I’m not sure how it hasn’t blown up into a huge trend around the world. (Maybe it will now!) 🙂

11855844_844701210787_2959316317263413118_n.jpgIf you’re in Paris, and venture into le Marais, you must check out Miznon.

Miznon
Restaurant: Israeli-French Fusion
Address: 22 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004 Paris, France
 

Bon Appetit!
Sean Patrick Gallagher

Simply Entertaining: Sailing NYC

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About a month ago I was asked to go sailing with my best friend, an extremely talented Pastry Chef friend, Kim. Kim asked me to join her on the sailboat of a French chocolatier she does business with. It was a bit last minute, but I knew I wanted to throw something together to entertain. Last minute entertaining doesn’t mean that you can’t pull off something impressive. I keep most items on hand, such as dried fruits and nuts. I pick up fresh fruits, fresh bread, and hand select cheeses from local cheese shops. My favorite spots in NYC are Murray’s Cheeses, the cheese counter at Fairway, and the selection at Beecher’s Cheeses.

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A cheese board is the simplest way to entertain. It’s nearly effortless, and just requires some simple planning. If you are unfamiliar with cheeses, always ask your local cheese monger for some tips or recommendations. They are always happy to share their knowledge and have the best insight into what is at its peak.

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Cheese Board

4-6 Cheeses, preferably

I prefer to have a combination of soft, hard, and semi-hard cheeses. Always a goat cheese, cheddar, a ,washed rind type cheese, such as a Camembert, and a blue.

Perhaps my favorite cheese ever is Winnimere from the Cellars at Jasper Hill in northern Vermont. Winnimere has a pudding-like filling encased in a layer of spruce bark, and can be purchased at Murray’s Cheeses.

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1-2 types fresh fruit

Fresh fruit makes a cheese board. Crisp, tart apples and juicy, sweet grapes make a perfect compliment to cut through rich cheeses.

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1-2 types dried fruit

Dried fruit adds a wonderful texture and sweetness to a cheese board.  I like to go to the bulk section of the grocery and pick out 2-4 ounces of dried figs, dried pears, and dried apricots.

1-2 types of nuts

I always keep nuts on hand. I store pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts in the freezer. They last longer and I pull only what I need. Be sure to toast any nuts before putting them on a cheese board. That toasted, nutty flavor will pair well with any cheese.

2-4 types of breads/crackers

A fresh, crunchy french baguette is a must. I also like seeded breads and whole grain. Having several types of crackers gives options for different cheeses as well. I like long, thin flat-bread crackers and John Wm. Macy’s Cheese Sticks.

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1-2 types of jams, jellies, honey

A jam or jelly of sorts is a great addition to a cheese board. Floral honey and honeycomb also compliment the board well. I love local jams and today, I used a Blackberry jam from a little Jelly Stand in Provincetown, Mass.

Cocktail time!

If the party warrants it, it is always a lovely to serve a special beverage. A specialty cocktail is not only impressive, but a very fun way to start the festivities. I love to start a party with a sparkling beverage or aperitif, to whet the palette and open your appetite.  One of the simplest, and most delicious combination is champagne or sparkling wine topped with elderflower liquor. St. Germain is an elderflower liquor, it pairs beautifully with sparkling wine or mixed into cocktails. Any sort of sparkling wine will work for this cocktail; Cava, Prosecco, or Champagne. You don’t have to buy anything pricey but stay away from the really cheap stuff, it’s filled with sugars and additives and will give you a headache. Just a few raspberries to pop in for a hint of color and something to nosh on at the bottom of the glass.

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The Humming Bird

6 oz of Champagne

2 oz of St. Germain

2 Raspberries

  • Place 2 raspberries in a glass, pour champagne, top with St. Germain

Cocktail Glassware:

Typically a sparkling beverage is served in a flute or tulip glass. I don’t believe this always has to be the case, it certainly depends on the crowd. Having champagne flutes on a sailboat isn’t ideal. I have these little blue tumblers I got in Provincetown at an Army-Navy store, 2 for $1. I love the look of them, and they are so inexpensive that I not afraid to bring them along with me for entertaining.

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Entertaining Extras:

Cocktail napkins

I always have basic white cocktail napkins on hand, but I also recently started to keeping fun patterned and typography napkins as well. Bring something fun that matches the mood of the event.

Plates

I love lightweight disposable bamboo plates in fun shapes. I found these rectangles plates at JB Prince, which is my Chef secret. They have EVERYTHING you ever need to entertain properly or cook like a 5 Star Chef.

Cheese forks, knives

Keep a variety of cheese knives on hand. Harder cheeses require a sharper knife or pick, and softer cheeses need a spreader. Crate and Barrel and Sur la Table have awesome options for cheese knives.

Cheese boards/Dishes

Slate, wood, and porcelain make excellent cheese boards. Thick cut wood from J.K Adams or a beautiful platter from Revol make perfect cheese board options.

Paring Knife, Bread Knife, Wine Key, Offset Spatula

Remember to bring items to make it happen. A paring knife, bread knife, wine key, and small offset spatula will be needed to make it all happen. Make sure you have a small cutting board to work with as well. Ziplock bags and paper towels to clean up and wrap left over cheese in.

Sail Away

With a small amount of planning, and a bit of time, you can pull off an impressive spread. This combo can be used for small gatherings or for a housewarming party. Remember to always add your own flair when entertaining, make it memorable and plan ahead so you can enjoy the party yourself.

Happy Entertaining!

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Cheers
Chef Sean Patrick Gallagher