We’ve Moved!

Our little In the Making is all grown up, and we are moving to a bigger and better space to see what we can do!

Please bookmark www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com – its our new home.

See you there!


How To Make Chocolate Truffles, Fill A Pastry Bag and Temper Chocolate

Chocolate truffles have a decadent reputation, with good reason. For one, they are chocolate. The other main ingredient is heavy cream. Surprised? Here’s how you make them at home, for birthday presents, dinner parties, or cuz, you know, its Wednesday!

Chocolate Truffles
For the ganache centers:
1 lb good quality bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 T light corn syrup
2 T butter, softened
2 T brandy, cognac, rum, cointreau, or other liquor to your taste

For the enrobing chocolate:
1 lb bittersweet chocolate
~2 cups cocoa powder

For the ganache middles:
Cut the chocolate up into small pieces and put in a bowl. Meanwhile, combine the heavy cream and the corn syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate pieces and let sit, uncovered, until the chocolate is mostly melted, about 3 minutes, then stir to combine and any remaining chocolate lumps should melt away. Add the butter and the liquor and stir until everything is well combined. Pour the ganache onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and allow it to “set up” or harden slightly and lose its shine. Fill a pastry bag and pipe out the truffle centers. Here’s how to do that:

Once you have all of your middles piped out, place the cookie sheet, uncovered, into the refrigerator until the centers are completely firm, at least an hour.

Ganache Centers

The next step is to “enrobe” your centers, or dunk them in melted chocolate. You could just melt chocolate and dunk away, but if you want that characteristic crisp shell around your truffle you have to temper your chocolate. Tempering chocolate means that you have to heat the chocolate up to a temperature high enough to break the chocolate molecules and then cool it down to a temperature where the molecule start to form again in the shape that you want them, in this case truffle-shaped. At least I think that’s how it works. Here is an article from Fine Cooking magazine that explains the food science behind tempering chocolate.

How to temper chocolate:
You’ll need an instant read thermometer

1. Break your 1 pound of bittersweet chocolate up into small pieces and place in a glass bowl.

2. Microwave on High in 30 second increments until the chocolate is mostly melted, stirring at every stop. Then, switch to 10 second increments.

3. When the chocolate is melted, start taking its temperature at 10 second increments until it reaches between 110º and 120º. This is where the chocolate crystals break.

4. Next, you have to cool the chocolate down to between 91º and 87º. There are two ways to do this: stir and take the temperature every 10 seconds until the chocolate cools off on its own, or add “seed” chocolate. This is chocolate that has already been tempered and hardened again, and speeds the cooling process, but I am guessing that if this is your first tempering experience, you don’t have any seed chocolate laying around, so stir.

5. When the chocolate hits 91º it is “in temper” so start dunking! To do this, I drop a ganache center into the chocolate and press it down with a fork to completely coat it. Then, lift it out on the fork, let the excess chocolate drip off and drop into the cocoa powder. Toss GENTLY to coat and then use a slotted spoon to remove the truffle to a parchment-lined cookie sheet to continue to harden, no touching for at least 5 minutes.

6. Repeat until all the ganache centers are enrobed or you get bored – whichever comes first!

Truffle Mess!

This is messy and it takes a while but there are an infinite number of variations – change up the liquor in the ganache, or try rolling the truffles in toasted ground nuts or coconut – or both! So much more fun than going to the store and buying someone else’s creativity, don’t you think?!


We’re Moving!

Our little In the Making is all grown up, and we are moving to a bigger and better space to see what we can do!

Please bookmark www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com – its our new home!

Right now, the content is in both places, but as of May 15th, we will only be posting new stuff to The Gourmand & the Peasant. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should click over and see what we’ve done with the place. Slick new design, fun food photography and tutorial videos are a few of the changes, along with new curtains. Also, sign up for the email or RSS feed at the new site, because if you are getting this message in your inbox, these too will stop on May 15th.

Thank you for all the support over the last year and we hope you enjoy the new Gourmand & the Peasant.

Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

A simple recipe for homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream, assuming you have an ice cream maker – which makes all the difference in the world!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
3 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
8 egg yolks
2 tsp peppermint extract
2 tsp crème de menthe (green or white)
a few drops of green food coloring (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Pour the half-and-half into a medium saucepan and place over a medium burner on the stove.

2. Add the sugar and the salt to the saucepan. Bring to just a simmer.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks.

4. Temper the egg yolks into the cream and put back on the stove until the custard coats the back of your spoon and you can draw a line through with your finger, about 140ºF.

5. Pour hot egg mixture through a sieve into heavy cream in a bowl set over an ice bath. Stir with a rubber spatula until cool. Don’t use a whisk, you don’t want to add any air bubbles.

6. Stir in mint extract, crème de menthe and green color to your look and taste desires. Chill several hours, overnight is best.

7. Following your ice cream maker’s instructions, freeze ice cream base and add chocolate chips for the last minute.

8. Pour ice cream into a container and freeze several hours more.

9. Enjoy!

On the Line with Eric Ripert


On the Line CoverStanding in the newly renovated Astor Center, I met Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin. I was nervous, this being my first official interview, but as soon as the Chef, smiling, relaxed in jeans and a green button-down shirt, walked in looking for me, I was put at ease, in that oh-my-god-I’m-interviewing-Eric-Ripert kind of way. Additionally, he was so comfortable in the rhythym of an interview that I could have been Elvis or the Dalai Lama and his answers would flow just as easily, and authentically.

Chef Eric looked around and nostalgized aloud about the “great parties” thrown at Serafina, the restaurant which inhabited the space some years before. I immediately thought that I’d like to hang out with him and drink but, the consummate professional, I passed on the offer of wine from Le Bernadin’s cellar, until after the interview was over. First though, we took a tour of the Astor Center, the second-floor educational facility owned and operated by Astor Wines, which is located on the ground floor.  The tasting room was being set for the evening’s Wine 101 course and volunteers dressed in black, filled glasses seemingly unimpressed with Eric’s presence. As if Anthony Bordain or James Beard himself had just left. 

Eric was at the Astor Center to promote his new book, On the Line, a detailed account of life in the kitchen of the 3-Michelin starred Le Bernadin. As we made our way though the back halls, Christine Muhlke, author behind the birth of the book arrived, tired and asked for a Campari & soda. She was young and pretty and as a food editor for the NY Times, looked, in equal parts, very busy and very important. We were escorted back into the room where their stage conversation would take place before an audience of eighty or so New York foodies. I had gotten notice of the event through the Village Voice Bites email newsletter. I thought then that lots of people would be there but it turns out that cult foodies who will shell out seventy five bucks to hear a chef talk on a Monday night are actually a rare breed.  

But Eric Ripert isn’t an ordinary chef. He’s not the guy peeling carrots advising me to rethink my career choice. (“There’s still time to be a banker,” I was told while trailing at a restaurant of Le Bernadin caliber, by a 25-year-old sous chef. Apparently he doesn’t watch the news.) Chef Eric is an insipration. He’s normal. Well, kind of normal. I tried to get him to admit that he had some guilty food pleasure, like Doritoes or Mountain Dew and he curled up his plump lips and said “Zeez tings do not apeel to me.” Black truffles and dark chocolate have his heart, though he feels no guilt about any food indulgence and doesn’t understand why anyone else would either. “Or a really good caviar.” What’s there to feel guilty about? 

Growing up in Andorra and France, Eric recalls his first food memory to me: rolling dough for breadsticks. As he talks, he stares at the floor, smiling.  His palms come together and he slides them back and forth as though Mama’s or Granmama’s pate is still there. So how does a kid from the seaside town of Antibes in France achieve such great heights? “I was a terrible student. When I was 15 the Headmaster of my school had a meeting with my parents and he told them ‘he needs to find a profession.'” At this, the young Eric chose culinary school, thus setting in motion a future of truffles and dark chocolate.

On the Line is a detailed account of life at Le Bernadin. From a minute-by-minute account of a typical day, to a glossary of kitchen slang, it is a touching love story, between people, a place and the food that is created there every night, 150,000 plates per year. Christine noted in our conversation that every single one of the 120 employees is valuable and necessary and the place would not run if any one of them was absent. Eric is surprised to hear that this is unique in a workplace. I resist the temptation to regale him with stories of all-to-common office drama and apathy, and instead listen as he speaks so lovingly of the team he has built. He has studied Buddhism for twenty years and Christine credits that, at least partially, with Eric’s ability to lead, without an ego. At this, he bursts a gaffaw laugh and says “Oh, no! I have an ego!” and trails off, neglecting to elaborate.

Eric’s history is one of never-give-up integrity and passion and that unfolds beautifully on every page of On the Line, and his ability to tell a story (cutting his finger on the first day at La Tour d’Argent) to me and also to an audience who filled the room. For an hour or so he and Christine recount the writing of the book, while also filling in gaps that were left “for the sequel.” Christine jokes, but there’s a distinct air of vision in Eric’s talking. He talks openly about anticipating the downturn in the economy several years ago and at that time, decided to broaden his enterprise, write a book for example, and appear as guest on Bravo’s Top Chef, thus exposing Le Bernadin to an audience for whom it may never hit their radar. He’s a brilliant business man in this way. Does he expect the lowly food blogger to have a weekly reservation at Le Bernadin? Of course not. But graduation, anniversary, special occasion? Yes. Through his marketing efforts, an entire audience of aspiring foodies and gourmet junkies have his name permanently engraved in their pop culture memory.

All this, and he’s basically unchanged by the fame his public life has brought him. Christine asks how he feels about the Chef-As-Sex-Symbol status the media attention has brought some. He is suddenly, adorably uncomfortable and humbly pulls his shoulders up to his ears and looks to her for help. “How about Chef-As-Rockstar?” “Look, there is no line of groupies outside of the restaurant when I am leaving at 11pm. No one tries to hug me in Central Park.” He then turns the conversation to his clients, those who come to dine at the restaurant. He posits that going to a restaurant is better than going to a movie, because in a restuarant, you are part of the movie. Advising the culinary students in the audience, he points out the dilemma in seeking fame in the kitchen. “For every one who becomes famous, 100,000 are in the back peeling carrots.” 

Emily & EricChef Eric & I share the opinion that the role of culinary school should not be a launching pad for stardom, and gradation does not equal chefdom, fame and fortune. Eric liberally uses analogies to illustrate his meaning. If someone wants to become an actor to be famous, he says, he will always suck. Its the person who gets on stage and performs beautifully every night, that brings something beautiful to this world that matters, even if fame passes them by.

I asked Eric what he would have been, had he not become a chef and without hesitation says, “a forest ranger.” The love of nature, fishing, hiking, of growing up in the woods; he says “I thought if I could not live passion #1, it would be cool to be paid for passion #2.” Certainly there is no fame or glamour in forestry. “There is no glamour in having your hands in the guts of a fish, either.” 

Le Bernadin
155 W 51st Street, New York, NY 
Astor Center
399 Lafayette St. New York, NY

Spring Vegetable Sauté

This is an excellent side dish that showcases spring peas and asparagus. I added some edamame too for added dimension of texture and flavor. Serve as a side dish for brunch, or as I did, at dinner with grilled lamb chops, malbec-fig reduction and Parmesan polenta.

Spring Vegetable Sauté
kosher salt
1 bunch asparagus
1 1/2 cup fresh, shelled peas (you can use frozen, too)
1 1/2 cup fresh, shelled edamame (you can use frozen here, too)
6T good quality butter (I like European butters, like Plugra, Lurpak or Kerrygold)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup buttermilk
about 1/8 cup mint leaves, torn into small pieces
about 1/8 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1. Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add enough kosher salt so that it tastes like the ocean. Sometimes, this takes cups of salt – fear not!

2. Clean your asparagus. To do this, snap off the bottom of the stalk, and discard (or save for flavoring vegetable stock, or making asparagus soup.) Then, use a vegetable peeler to peel the bottom half of the remaining stalk. Don’t go all the way up to where the flower starts, just get the tough fibrous peel off. Then, cut your spears into 1″ lengths, on the bias.

2. Set up an ice bath. Fill a large bowl with ice and add water.

3. Blanch your asparagus. When the water is at a full rolling boil, drop the asparagus pieces into the pot and wait until they just turn bright green, about 25 seconds. Scoop them out and drop them in the ice bath. This is easiest if you have some kind of basket or metal colander to lower into the pot of water. Otherwise, use a slotted spoon to fish out the veg.

4. Repeat step 3 with the peas.

5. Repeat step 3 with the edamame. You don’t want to blanch all the veg together, because they may need different amounts of time.

6. Drain the vegetables and set aside.

7. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter fat solids just start to turn brown and smell a little nutty, throw in your shallots and cook until just soft, about 2 minutes.

8. Add all the vegetables, toss or stir to coat with the butter mixture and when everything starts to steam, add the buttermilk. Turn up the heat to medium and cook until the liquid evaporates.

9. Remove from the heat, taste and add salt if you need it. Toss in the mint and parsley and stir to evenly distribute. Serve hot.

Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey

whiskey barrelby Mark Peterson

We met Stranahan’s Whiskey at the IACP opening night Gala at the Denver Art Museum. They were there, on the first floor, right when you walked in the door serving up something called a Colorado Cooler, a local mint julep of sorts, cold and refreshing. We were told that the museum frowned upon serving what it saw as shots of whiskey, so samples were available upstairs, straight from the barrel. So that’s where we went and were served a small pour from the spout of a large oak barrel with just a few drops of water to bring out the nuance. In that moment, Emily decided she liked whiskey.

Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is made in downtown Denver. We wanted a bottle to take home as a souvenir and so we found the distillery on a map and walked over. Ben, one of the distillers, met us at the door and seemed a little surprised to have any visitors. But, after hearing our story of why we were there and how we had found him, he poured us a sample of single barrel and invited us farther in to see the distillery.

whiskey still

The Stranahan’s use a custom made combination pot-and-column still. Ben described the mash as being produced with selected yeasts for flavor, as opposed to the open fermentation used by others. He gave us a sample of the mash to try. It tastes tastes like a full-bodied ale, without the carbonation. Then he explains the distillation process and gives a sample of the full-strength alcohol before it is blended with water and barrel aged. It is clear and strong, no doubt,  but has a surprising amount of flavor and depth. Into the barrels it goes for the aging process and is numbered and racked in the adjoining aging room.

aging room

Ben led us to the aging room full of barrels and explained how the distillers select and blend barrels for each bottling run, which basically means a bunch of folks tasting from an assortment of barrels that are ready and blending the percentages so that what comes to the consumer in the bottle is just how they meant it to taste.

Back in the front room we sampled the blended whiskey. It is smooth and flavorful and everything that you could want from a superior spirit, made by hand with care. Each bottle you purchase is signed by the distiller that made it what they were listening to at the time. Distiller Jake was listening to Ry Cooder.

Ben from Stranahan's

Next time you are in Denver, go down and visit the fine people at Stranahan’s, like Ben here. And, ask your local shop to stock the hand-crafted whiskey so that you don’t have to travel to far to get some. Better still.

Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
2405 Blake Street
Denver, CO 80205