This Sunday is the Co-op’s Summer Party at Boulevard Park in Bellingham. It is a really big deal this year because our co-op was one of a handful in the nation chosen to take part in promotional videos being produced by the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) for next year, which has been declared by the UN to be the International Year of Cooperatives.
A film crew is flying in from Austin, TX this weekend to shoot footage at both of our stores, at a few local farms (Heritage Lane Farm and Misty Meadows Farm are two of the farms being visited), and at our Summer Party. Kevin Gillespie, who was a finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef season 6, was chosen as the host for the videos and he will also be at our Summer Party to talk to people about why they love co-ops. Click here to read more about him. I’m personally excited because my husband and I will be dining at the new Brandywine Kitchen Sunday night at a dinner party for Kevin – how much fun will that be? (A lot!) He is our all-time favorite contestant from Top Chef and we were pleasantly surprised when we were asked to attend!
In honor of Kevin’s visit, I thought it would be fun to prepare one of his recipes for my demo this week at the Cordata Co-op. Kevin is an advocate for the Slow Food movement and uses locally grown foods at the Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, GA, where he is co-owner and Executive Chef. I searched through his recipes from his season of Top Chef, and settled on his recipe for Honey and Fromage Blanc Mousse, with Glazed Grapes, Olive Oil and Sea Salt.
We don’t carry Fromage Blanc (a mild, creamy, soft white cheese) at the Cordata Co-op, but after doing a little research I found out that Quark would be a decent substitute. Quark is a type of fresh cheese that is similar to cottage cheese, but the curds are much smaller and it is not made using rennet. Créme Fraiche was easy to find at the store, and I rounded out the mousse with some local egg yolks, local honey and local heavy cream from Fresh Breeze.
This recipe is, shall we say, much fancier than I usually prepare for my demos, but it wasn’t really that hard to make (although I still don’t understand how he did this in under an hour on the show!). When the recipe tells you to “whisk like crazy” while cooking the yolks and honey, it really is the best advice – the faster you whisk the shorter time it will take to complete the task. On my trial run of the mousse (I wanted to make sure the quark would work before serving it) I didn’t whisk like crazy, and seemed like it took forever to get to the right consistency. When I made the second batch I whisked like there was no tomorrow and it came together so much quicker! Peeling the grapes before glazing was also a little tedious, but then again I was preparing many more than necessary for the recipe since I wanted to be sure that every sample had a grape.
This dish (Kevin lists it as an appetizer) was pretty amazing – it is sour yet sweet, salty and savory (umami!) all at the same time. Tasters overwhelming loved the surprise flavors, and a family from France even took a copy of the recipe to bring home with them. Enjoy, and I’ll see you at the party tomorrow!
Honey and Fromage Mousse with Wine Glazed Grapes
Recipe by Chef Kevin Gillespie
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 oz honey
- 2 oz Quark or Fromage Blanc
- 1 oz Crème Fraiche
- 1 oz heavy cream
- 1 c black seedless grapes (or your favorite)
- 1 c Chardonnay wine
- 1/2 c sugar
- 2 T butter
- Fresh Thyme (garnish)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (garnish)
- Sea Salt (garnish)
- Cook yolks and honey in a double boiler over medium to medium-low heat. Whisk (like crazy!) until a solid ribbon* forms—the mixture will get very thick and it will be a slow, solid stream when you lift the whisk from the bowl. This will take 10—20 minutes, depending on how “crazy” you are when you whisk!
- Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Once it has cooled, add the Quark/Fromage Blanc, crème fraiche, and heavy cream and mix with your whisk.
- Season with salt to taste, and pour into serving bowls. Place in freezer for 20—30 minutes (it will be more creamy than airy).
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Score the grape skin and cook them into the boiling water for 1 minute. Immediately plunge into an ice bath.
- Carefully remove all the skin from the grapes and cut in half lengthwise.
- Bring Chardonnay and sugar to a boil and reduce it until it has thickened into a syrup (about 20—30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Make sure it doesn’t boil over. Remove from heat.
- Add butter to a saucepan over medium heat and add the grapes. Add the Chardonnay syrup to the pan and cook until the grapes are evenly coated and the sauce is bubbling.
- Remove mousse from freezer.
- Top each bowl with 4-5 grape halves.
- Sprinkle fresh thyme over grapes. Drizzle a high quality extra virgin olive oil over the dish and finish with a sprinkling of sea salt.
This recipe is from Top Chef, Season 6, Episode 13, Quickfire Challenge.
A cooking term describing the texture of an egg-and-sugar mixture that has been beaten until pale and extremely thick. When the beater or whisk is lifted, the batter falls slowly back onto the surface of the mixture, forming a ribbon-like pattern that, after a few seconds, sinks back into the batter.
Dinner with Kevin was excellent and I got to talk quite a bit with him about cooking. He is coming out with a cookbook next year, and gave me permission to use recipes from it, so look for that in the coming year! I asked him about the mousse recipe and he gave me some further tips:
- Make sure that your cheeses are room temperature before mixing with the egg/honey mixture (same goes with your eggs).
- Whip the quark/fromage blanc with a mixer for added lift to the mousse before blending with the egg/honey mousse base.
- During apple season, they make the mousse at the Woodfire Grill using the eggs and honey mousse base and omitting the cheeses – bake an apple (flavored with butter and cinnamon) and serve with the honey mousse.
- Adding a sheet of gelatin also helps with adding lift to the mousse and to stabilize it – this is something they do in the restaurant that is not in the original recipe. You can buy gelatin sheets online, or you can make them (that’s what they do at Kevin’s restaurant). You pretty much just make gelatin and spread it in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and wait for it to dry. Check out the other cool things you can do with it here. I haven’t tried this, but if you are making the recipe and it won’t be consumed for a little while, then this might be a good option to try.