Summer pulls everyone this way and that. I myself have two more out of town trips planned, all the while balancing a schedule of classes to teach, demonstrations, and my 3 jobs.
At Veil, we are running on a skeleton crew with our sous chef working “off site” on a yacht for two weeks, and our owner/executive chef at home these past weeks with Jack, the newest member to his family. Tonight our chef de cuisine is also off site.
This leaves no one above me in the pecking order, thus I am in charge. I have had a management title for some time now, “pastry chef”, but never has there been anyone but myself in my department. Save the rare intern under my wing, like the outstanding Jasmine, I am really only in charge of myself.
Sure, I holler at the boys when I find things out of place, and offer guidance when applicable. But it’s been since the day I left Lampreia that I have managed the kitchen.
My reign begins tonight, and runs through the two brunch services this weekend. With all the authority of a substitute teacher, I am using it to do just one thing, run a brunch special.
I tested this dish a while ago, and it’s absolutely delicious. It needed but one thing, strawberries to be in season. This dish could have made it to the dessert menu, but here in the States, where we like to start our day off sweet, it is perfect for a summer brunch.
The dish is composed of warmed disks of cream of wheat, little patties that behave much like polenta. Once warmed, they are served with a mound of fresh strawberries, strawberry sauce, and a billowy cloud of malted whipped cream.
When testing recipes, the plates are left for the staff to taste, who usually pick at it, and leave some politely for those busy with other things. When we put this dish up, I made it 3 times, watching the staff devour it each time. This was fine with me, I improved the pick up and plating each time, and took the compliment.
(The “Pick up” is the steps a cook takes to prepare the food for your dish, from the moment the order is called to them to the time the food is completely plated. This covers everything from how you store the prepared components, to the manner in which you cook and hold them, and the process of putting the food on the plate. A good line cook will constantly watch their pick-up techniques looking for ways to streamline the process and improve quality.)
If you cant make it into Veil this weekend for the first of the season strawberries, and one of our stellar bloody mary’s or my preference the dirty caesar, then try making it at home.
Cream of wheat
3 cups milk
3/4 cups cream of wheat
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1. Bring the milk and brown sugar to a simmer and whisk in cream of wheat. Whisk constantly to avoid lumps, and cook over low heat.
2. Stirring constantly, cook until the cream of wheat is thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes. When the mixture has thickened, stir in the butter, cinnamon, and salt. Pour this into a greased or plastic lined pan, roughly 9 by 9 inches. You can use any pan you have around, it will effect only the thickness of the patties.
3. Allow the cream of wheat to cool and set, and cut it into your desired shape. At Veil we will cut disks, which produces a little waste. To avoid this you can cut squares or triangles that utilize every bit of your cream of wheat.
Malted Whipped cream
2 cups cream
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1. Whisk the malted milk and sugar together, until even. Add the cream and vanilla and whip to medium peaks
4 pints of berries, or what the heck, get the half flat!
Separate the best of the strawberries, reserving them for slicing. If you are short on time, take the B-list berries and immediately puree them with a little sugar in the blender, using as much or as little sweetener as you like. Strain the puree of seeds and serve in a pitcher or bowl with ladle. Slice the remaining berries and toss them with just enough sugar to gloss them.
If you have a little more time on your hands, follow the following process for making strawberry puree. It is worth every extra step you take, and makes for a remarkable puree.
Reheat the cream of wheat by frying them in a thin layer of butter, or alternately warm them on a greased cookie sheet in the oven. You can serve this family style, but the patties are delicate, and do better the less they move, so you might want to take them directly from reheating to the individuals plates.
Serve the berries and whipped cream family style, so each person can take as much or as little as they like