This post was originally published as a column in the Bloomington Herald Times on May 31, 2006
There is nothing like cooking with professionals to instill a little
humility in the amateur chef. Since I’ve been writing this food column, nearly
four years now, I have found myself in the kitchen with the experts several
times and I always come away with a healthier respect for what they do, and a
better sense of humor about what I do.
It’s the time of year again when I throw my toque in the ring with the
best of them. The third annual Slow Food Chefs of Bloomington Dinner is coming
up on June 11.
For those who don’t know, Slow Food is an international organization
that is all about eating well – pushing back against the fast food tsunami that
threatens to engulf the world by emphasizing a way of eating that is seasonal,
local and leisurely.
What that means on the ground in Bloomington is helping to support local farmers and strengthening the link between farmers
and restaurants. The Chefs Dinner, our big fundraiser of the year, has helped
us subsidize the Winter Farmers’ Market for the past two years, as well as
tastings at the summer market, and, this year, efforts to send four local
farmers to meet and network with small farmers around the world at a conference
in Torino, Italy.
For the Chefs Dinner, Slow Food invites seven of the best chefs around to
prepare a feast – seven courses based on local ingredients, paired with wines,
all to the tune of great local jazz . This year’s dinner features Amanda Cash
(Story Inn), Tad DeLay (Limestone Grille), David Fletcher and Scott Jackman
(BLU Culinary Arts), Alan Simmerman (Bloomington Country Club), Dave Tallent
(Restaurant Tallent), and from Indy, Greg Hardesty (Elements) and Dan Dunville
(Ruth’s Chris Steak House.) And then there is me.
The first year we did this, I thought it would be great to have a little
intermezzo – a palate cleanser to refresh us part way through this very long
and complex meal. I knew just the thing – a grapefruit tarragon sorbet that is
sparkling fresh, easy to make, and could be full of locally grown tarragon. And
since the chefs would be busy, I would volunteer to make the sorbet. I’m a good
cook, I’d made it before. No sweat, I thought.
As it happens, there is a world of difference between making sorbet for
six people and making it for 100-plus. By the time I had made the mixture,
carted it to Neannie’s Cafe, begged them to run it through their gelato maker,
and then stood shivering in the walk-in freezer at the Encore, where we were
holding the dinner that year, in shorts, sandals, and heavy gloves, scooping
more than 200 round pink balls of sorbet into champagne glasses, I needed every
ounce of sense of humor I possessed to keep me from freezing to death.
I knew I needed professional help. Now I am only the assistant to pastry
chef Krissy Tallent, whose capable hands last year turned out a fresh herb
sorbet, and this year will create another tastebud-tingling treat, to help see
us through this extravagant, wonderful meal.
This year’s Slow Food Chefs of Bloomington Dinner will be held at the
newly rebuilt Bloomington Country Club, at 6 p.m. June 11. Tickets are $100 per
person ($40 of that price is tax deductible) and they are on sale at
Bloomingfoods. It’s a great cause, it’s a great meal. Come join us! For more
details, go online to www.slowfoodbloomington.org.
Grapefruit Tarragon Sorbet
(Adapted from Gourmet magazine, January 1999)
4 large red or pink grapefruits (or 2 cups of unsweetened grapefruit
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of light corn syrup
1 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
Squeeze enough juice from grapefruits to measure 2 cups and pour through
a sieve into a large bowl. In a small saucepan, bring water, sugar and tarragon
to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved; simmer 5 minutes. Add corn syrup.
Whisk syrup into grapefruit juice and stir in fresh chopped tarragon. Chill
Freeze mixture in an ice-cream maker. Transfer sorbet to an airtight
container and put in freezer to harden. Sorbet keeps one week.
Makes about 1 quart, serving six.