Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Large Chef At Home

Savoury ice cream. Not something you run into every day. I saw this recipe being prepared on the Food Network on a show called Chef At Home with Michael Smith. He also has a show called Chef At Large, hence the witty title of my post.

While this might look like a picture of ice cream with chocolate sauce, it is in fact Parmesan Cream with Balsamic Honey Syrup. Here's the recipe.

Parmesan Cream with Balsamic Honey Syrup

For the Parmesan Cream:
* 1 C of 35% whipping cream
* 1½ C of grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

For the Balsamic Syrup:
* 2 C balsamic vinegar
* ½ C honey

For the Parmesan Cream:
Heat cream with vanilla and rosemary. Turn heat down, cover and let infuse for about 10 minutes. Pluck out the rosemary and stir in the cheese until it is thoroughly mixed. Pour into a bowl. Put in fridge to set.

For the Balsamic Syrup:
Pour into a saucepan and reduce by two thirds, until it reaches a thick syrup-like consistency. Refrigerate until cool. Store in a jar in the refrigerator.

These are some deceptively simple-looking directions. The whole premise of the show is that chef Smith is whipping up some dinner for his family, and (apparently) kind of wings it without using recipes. I had my work cut out for me.

I had no problem making the parmesan cream, but it was when I started on the balsamic syrup that the adventure started. Come along with me, won't you?

The entire preparation of the balsamic syrup is expressed in one sentence. I wasn't entirely sure what was involved with "reducing", so I checked the (online) dictionary. This is what I found: The Epicurious.com food dictionary defines "reduce" as "Culinarily, to boil a liquid (usually stock, wine or a sauce mixture) rapidly until the volume is reduced by evaporation, thereby thickening the consistency and intensifying the flavor. Such a mixture is sometimes referred to as a reduction." Hmm. Boil rapidly, eh? I can do that. So, I poured the balsamic and the honey into a saucepan, covered it, and turned on the heat to full, intending to reduce the heat to half when the liquid reached the boil.

I puttered around for a few minutes, and as I was pondering my next move, I was thinking to myself "I wonder how long it takes for balsamic vinegar to reach the boil?". Well, as I thought the word "boil" - it did. I saw some steam starting to escape, so I removed the lid just in time to witness a balsamic volcano that boiled over onto and all over my stovetop. Yikes. There was smoke everywhere. I quickly turned off the burner, and turned on the range hood fan to full. One of the disadvantages of living in a basement apartment is that the ventilation is not wonderful. Anyway, after I got the kitchen largely de-smoked and the stovetop cleaned off somewhat, I put the pot back on a different burner and turned the heat on to half.

And waited.

It took about twenty minutes for the concoction to reduce enough for me to call it 'done', and remove it from the heat. The consistency was fairly thick at this point, and I figured that when it cooled it would be even thicker.

I let the parmesan cream and the balsamic syrup chill in the fridge overnight, and when I got up this morning, everything looked peachy. Despite the fact that eating parmesan cream for breakfast is probably not wisest dietary move I could make, I had to try it. It was delicious, but it took me a few spoonfuls before I got past the "It looks like ice cream, but it doesn't TASTE like ice cream" factor. I'm glad I made this, but I'm not sure whether this would be something I would make on a regular basis. Although, now that I have about a cup of the balsamic syrup already made, making the parm cream itself was a breeze by comparison.


michelle said...

Hmmm, that sounds really good. I mean, I feel like I've gained a pound just by reading about it, but I still really, really want to try it. I bet this would be great for a special ocassion...like a Sunday.

Yeah, boiling balsamic vinegar for a reduction can be not so good. I burned some once, to where it actually got blackened and solid. And it smelled like I lit plastic on fire in my kitchen. I had to throw the pan out, so I feel for your balsamic/honey mishap and hope you got your stovetop cleaned up!

Sue MacLean said...

Hey Ian, I thought I'd see your comments re: scotch and chuckled to see this and the Oscar menu. Looking good! My friend Ruth has a blog about food too, it is at http://onceuponafeast.blogspot.com/Check it out!

The scotch night sounded good. Sorry to have missed it, and the pound of wings. ;)

Tania said...

What an adventure! Just wondering, though: is the parmesan cream meant to be an appetizer or a dessert?

I don't know if you're familiar with Clement's blog, A La Cuisine, but he recently wrote about a bacon-and-egg ice cream that was, in fact, dessert. He, too, had that "looks like ice cream, doesn't taste like ice cream" factor to consider.

Anyway, you have a great site. I'm glad I found it via Hungry in Hogtown!

MM said...

What a fascinating recipe! And I loved how you worded your culinary adventure - very droll. Thanks for including me in your links by the way. Cheers!

Ian said...

Hi All,

Thank you all for your nice comments.

Yeah, the boiling balsamic is definitely a smell you don't want to get up your nose.

Glad you enjoyed my post. The Scotch night was fun. Maybe we'll see you next time.

Yes, this is a dessert. Chef Smith's original presentation was in a martini glass. Very cool.

Thank you! I have also enjoyed reading about your adventures, and your thoughts on "So You Think You Can Dance?".