Culinary Vegetable Institute Blog - A culinary retreat for chefs
The Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef’s Garden is the farm’s world class educational, research and event facility designed to inspire every person who walks through its doors. Their mission is to share their knowledge, host culinary events, research new techniques and learn about vegetables from the culinary center’s devoted team of chefs and growers.
At the Culinary Vegetable Institute, we are blessed to be able to explore every iteration of each and every vegetable grown at The Chef’s Garden throughout the year. And, this year, Chef Jamie Simpson got to brainstorm with Farmer Lee Jones to make an extremely difficult decision.
Of all the amazing vegetables grown at the farm, which should we name as vegetable of the year?
As the headline shares, we’ve chosen mixed carrots, and you can find the rationale behind the choice at a blog post at The Chef’s Garden. Reasons include, of course, the marvelously earthy-sweet flavor of the carrot (especially those sustainably farmed in rich loamy soil), its versatility, and the gorgeous hues and unique shapes available to enjoy. (You can find even more reasons at The Chef’s Garden’s blog post.)
As for all of us at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, we now get to have fun, creating the ultimate dishes and dining experiences centered on unique expressions of the carrot.
If this intrigues you, tickets are already available for our March 9th Vegetable Showcase exploration of carrots and potatoes. If you’ve never been to a Vegetable Showcase, you might be looking for a precise menu on our site.
Well, there isn’t one.
With our showcases, we capture the exact moment of time at the farm as we look at every element of the plants being featured, and question how we can incorporate every piece and think about affinities of flavors and experiences in putting together combinations on the plate and dishes on the menu. Then the imagination kicks in, and we get busy in the kitchen.
What you can count on is an evening to remember, and techniques we might incorporate include to:
Does this mean we’ll explore the carrot only during the Vegetable Showcase? Absolutely not! We plan to celebrate mixed carrots throughout 2019—and beyond.
Our Passion for Carrots
Here are just two ways we’ve used carrots to date. One is our pea-and-carrot ice cream sandwiches, where you make cookies and layer veggie ice cream between them; you then freeze this concoction before icing and slicing—and you’ll end up with a fantastic frozen-layered dessert. You can find our recipe at the link we’ve provided above.
And, since using the entire vegetable—in this case, from carrot tip to carrot top—is a guiding principle at both The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute, here’s how to turn carrot tops into a marvelous puree.
Chef Jamie appreciates this particular technique because it allows him to balance flavor and texture; and, when using carrot tops, it adds a wonderful element of surprise—an element that’s understated, he says, “until you eat it.”
If he needed to compare the technique of pureeing vegetables to an art medium, Chef Jamie’s answer is simple: it’s like painting with oils.
We invite you to try this recipe, as well, and then enjoy this “glossy, velvety, thick, complex, vibrantly colored and intensely flavored puree.”
Enjoy this recipe from our wine steward Liz Studer.
.75 oz Drambuie
.5 oz Scotch
.75 oz Beet Juice
.75 oz Cranberry Juice
.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Lemon Verbena Syrup
1 oz. Ginger Beer float
Beet Blush. Lemon Verbena sprig
Scrub, rough chop, and juice 25 baby beets. (Yields approx. 2 cups of juice)
Skim off any foam. Pass juice through a fine strainer.
Add a pinch of citric acid. Chill until service.
Lemon Verbena Syrup:
Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Add ½ cup lemon verbena leaves. (I like to use the bottom leaves from tall stems, reserving the top sprig for garnish). Cover and let steep for approx. 15 minutes. Fine strain leaves from syrup. Let cool completely, then chill.
In a mixing beaker, combine Drambuie, scotch, beet juice, cranberry juice, fresh lemon juice, and lemon verbena syrup.
Stir over ice.
Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
Add 1 oz Ginger Beer. Stir once more.
Garnish with Beet Blush and Lemon Verbena sprig.
Beet Blush Punch first made its appearance for our 2017 Celebration Dinner last December. I wanted to highlight the intense color and flavor of the beets in a low ABV punch to start the evening’s festivities.
The sweet and earthy tones of Drambuie make an excellent complement to our baby beets. Cranberry and lemon lend tartness and acid, while Lemon Verbena and Ginger add aroma and spice. Brilliantly colored Beet Blush and the deep green of Lemon Verbena create a striking visual contrast with the deep red punch.
This cocktail can be pre-batched ahead of time and served out of a punch bowl. A block of ice, frozen with cranberries and lemon verbena leaves, floated in the bowl keeps the drink cold. Ladle approx. 3.5oz of the punch into a glass with fresh ice, top with ginger beer, garnish and serve!
“Sous vide” is a fancy French phrase meaning “under vacuum,” and it’s a cooking technique that the Culinary Vegetable Institute’s Executive Chef, Jamie Simpson, employs almost daily in his kitchen. The sous vide technique begins by vacuum sealing all the ingredients into packets (think space bags for food). Once everything is snug and tight, the sealed packets cook in a low-temperature circulating water bath, slowly and evenly, until the contents reach perfect doneness.
JS: Absolutely. Airplanes do it every day. Everything behind the deli counter at a grocery store is sous vide in the plastic it’s stored in. Bacon. Anything that comes in a vacuum bag is cooked sous vide.
TCG: How is the sous vide method better than steaming or braising?
JS: Steaming and braising each happen in a high moisture environment and these techniques aren’t as accurate as sous vide. The advantage to cooking in an immersion circulator is that you don’t need the same amount of liquid. To braise, you need a pot full of liquid to cover the contents. In a vacuum bag, you only need a spoonful.
TCG: How do know what time/temp to use?
JS: By the speed at which collagen breaks down. The range is huge. I can cook a short rib that eats like a ribeye, or one that eats like a pot roast. The equipment is basically a crock pot. That’s all it is, with a more accurate thermostat.
TCG: What happens to the food when it’s done?
JS: I never serve straight out of the bag. I cook it sous vide to the desired internal temperature and then finish it. I can put it in the deep fryer, sear, broil, grill. You can sous vide a whole lamb rack, then pop it into the fryer. It gives it an even sear all the way around.
TCG: What else can you cook sous vide?
JS: You can cook leafy greens because, in the vacuum bag, with no air, there is no oxygen to cause oxidation. So, the greens maintain their vibrant color. You can poach an egg at a temperature where the white cooks, but the yolk stays liquid. I’ve used it for tempering sauce, making a sabayon (an egg-yolk-based sauce), which is typically cooked over a double boiler. But with sous vide you know the exact temperature and it won’t overcook.
TCG: Anything else you can do using the sous vide technique?
JS: You can make desserts, custard bases, you can temper chocolate. You can make cake – not in a vacuum bag, but in a jar or something, and it puffs up. Same with brioche.
Intrigued? We invite you to browse the Culinary Vegetable Institute’s upcoming calendar of events and register for the one(s) that capture your attention!