This post was originally published as a column in the Bloomington Herald Times on May 31, 2006
There is nothing like cooking with professionals to instill a little humility in the amateur chef. Since I've been writing this food column, nearly four years now, I have found myself in the kitchen with the experts several times and I always come away with a healthier respect for what they do, and a better sense of humor about what I do.
It's the time of year again when I throw my toque in the ring with the best of them. The third annual Slow Food Chefs of Bloomington Dinner is coming up on June 11.
For those who don't know, Slow Food is an international organization that is all about eating well - pushing back against the fast food tsunami that threatens to engulf the world by emphasizing a way of eating that is seasonal, local and leisurely.
What that means on the ground in Bloomington
For the Chefs Dinner, Slow Food invites seven of the best chefs around to prepare a feast - seven courses based on local ingredients, paired with wines, all to the tune of great local jazz . This year's dinner features Amanda Cash (Story Inn), Tad DeLay (Limestone Grille), David Fletcher and Scott Jackman (BLU Culinary Arts), Alan Simmerman (Bloomington Country Club), Dave Tallent (Restaurant Tallent), and from Indy, Greg Hardesty (Elements) and Dan Dunville (Ruth's Chris Steak House.) And then there is me.
The first year we did this, I thought it would be great to have a little intermezzo - a palate cleanser to refresh us part way through this very long and complex meal. I knew just the thing - a grapefruit tarragon sorbet that is sparkling fresh, easy to make, and could be full of locally grown tarragon. And since the chefs would be busy, I would volunteer to make the sorbet. I'm a good cook, I'd made it before. No sweat, I thought.
As it happens, there is a world of difference between making sorbet for six people and making it for 100-plus. By the time I had made the mixture, carted it to Neannie's Cafe, begged them to run it through their gelato maker, and then stood shivering in the walk-in freezer at the Encore, where we were holding the dinner that year, in shorts, sandals, and heavy gloves, scooping more than 200 round pink balls of sorbet into champagne glasses, I needed every ounce of sense of humor I possessed to keep me from freezing to death.
I knew I needed professional help. Now I am only the assistant to pastry chef Krissy Tallent, whose capable hands last year turned out a fresh herb sorbet, and this year will create another tastebud-tingling treat, to help see us through this extravagant, wonderful meal.
This year's Slow Food Chefs of Bloomington Dinner will be held at the newly rebuilt Bloomington Country Club, at 6 p.m. June 11. Tickets are $100 per person ($40 of that price is tax deductible) and they are on sale at Bloomingfoods. It's a great cause, it's a great meal. Come join us! For more details, go online to www.slowfoodbloomington.org.
Grapefruit Tarragon Sorbet
(Adapted from Gourmet magazine, January 1999)
4 large red or pink grapefruits (or 2 cups of unsweetened grapefruit juice)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of light corn syrup
1 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
Squeeze enough juice from grapefruits to measure 2 cups and pour through a sieve into a large bowl. In a small saucepan, bring water, sugar and tarragon to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved; simmer 5 minutes. Add corn syrup. Whisk syrup into grapefruit juice and stir in fresh chopped tarragon. Chill mixture.
Freeze mixture in an ice-cream maker. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. Sorbet keeps one week.
Makes about 1 quart, serving six.