After ejecting a shoplifter from Brooks Brothers, I made it back from Queenstown in one piece. I was so happy to be back. Three days to do whatever I liked upon my return. I decided to do what I currently love doing best, cooking. Dinner at home with friends, to me, is the best form of entertainment. I think to share a meal around a table with good conversation is about as good as it gets.
What do you like to cook? Lately, I have been getting back to my roots preparing dishes from my native Deep South. The hospitality my Mother and Grandmother always showed family, friends and visitors alike, well there is nothing like it. Good food is the foundation but an actual love of entertaining people is the key. Whether served on heirloom china in a chandeliered dining room or enjoyed huddled over a kitchen table, if the host or hostess is congenial then it is an event.
Scott and I asked a few people, six actually, for a supper of Deviled Eggs, Skewered Beef, Black Bean Soup, Fried Chicken, Baked Virginia Ham, Biscuits, Crackling Cornbread, Squash Casserole, Macaroni and Cheese, Rice and Gravy, Turnip Greens and Green Beans. Dessert was a bold departure from the usual Banana Pudding , Blanc Mange or Chocolate Cake. I was perusing the James Beard website and saw an article on a chef from Alabama, Joshua Quick. He cooks at the 360 Grille at Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence, Alabama. Well he concocted this odd dessert of Blueberry Sponge Cake and topped it with a Strawberry and Jalapeno Jelly.Then he paired it with a Buttermilk Ice cream drizzled with a Strawberry-Apple Gastrique. I was intrigued by this and started to look for the recipes. There were none. Thank God for google. The Strawberry sponge cake wasn’t difficult , neither was the buttermilk ice cream. As I am sure you figured, the Strawberry-Jalapeno Jelly receipe was not to be found. I did, however, find gastrique recipes.
How many of you have ever heard of gastriques? I never had until I ran across Mr. Quick’s dessert, but there is an entire repertoire of them. For those who are not familiar with gastriques here is the definition: Gastrique is a reduction of vinegar and sugar brought to light caramelization, to which a little fond (stock) is added. It is a base to which many other ingredients, or just a few, can be added to form a sauce. It is generally used to create a sweet and sour sauce; one of the classics being orange sauce for duck (à l’orange). Mine had sliced strawberries, balsamic vinegar, orange juice concentrate, garlic, sugar, and butter.
The Strawberry-Jalapeno Jelly I had to really think about. The idea of congealed bits of hot crunchy jalapeno suspended with strawberries in Jello, well it grossed me out. The Christmas congealed salads of my childhood are a nightmarish memory of green jello with mystery food caught up inside and I did not want to relive that or put my dinner guest in the awkward position to eat it. I decided to roast hulled strawberries and finely chopped jalapeno. First they were tossed in virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and heavily dusted in granulated sugar. Roasting at 400 degrees deepened the flavors and created a rich syrup. After cooling, strawberry preserves were heated in a saucepan. When they began to simmer I added the roasted strawberries, jalapeno and their gooey syrup. After heating these through, it all went into the refrigerator to thicken. Do you want to know what? EVERYONE raved over it! The cake was light and flavorful. Beleive it or not the strawberry-jalapeno sauce made it sweeter . The mellowed peppers gave a slight kick at the end of the palate. The buttermilk ice cream was rich and tangy and again the garlic and vinegar in the gastric rounded out the flavors nicely. Scott loved it and he is very picky. I enjoyed preparing something that evoked my home and yet was completely new. Thank you Mr. Quick.