This post is sponsored by Best Buy.
Professional chefs are tough on appliances and gadgets. Jamie Malone, chef de cuisine at Sea Change, says she burns through a Vita-Prep every six months or so. And that’s a 3- or 4-horsepower machine costing hundreds of dollars, so you can imagine her expectations are pretty high, even in her home kitchen.
And, there she was, looking admiringly at a home blender at Best Buy in Richfield. “That’s a pretty nice machine,” she said. “It’s got a good motor and it’s not too loud.” Lenny Russo, chef and proprietor of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market, agreed. He had just used the blender to demonstrate his vichyssoise recipe to an audience of shoppers during a storewide event showing off Best Buy’s range of small appliances, discussed online with the tag #smallappliances. The retailer had asked the chefs to put their kitchen appliances through their paces and come up with a few dishes home cooks could use.
While both chefs had just about any appliance imaginable at their disposal, they both kept coming back to a good strong blender and a KitchenAid stand mixer as the essential machines in their own home kitchens.
Malone used the mixer to blend up a creamy tuna salad for tuna melt crostini for her first recipe, building on her theme of creative after-school snacks. Then she returned to it to make each layer of a peanut butter and concord grape parfait (see recipe at the end of this post). After whipping the cream with the balloon whisk attachment, she added a stream of concentrated syrup she had made from this year’s bumper crop of grapes. (Russo, kibitzing off to the side, reminded everyone that if you overwhip your cream, you should just keep going and make butter. He makes cultured butters for Heartland.)
For the next layer, she beat cream cheese and peanut butter until it was as light and airy as the whipped cream. Then she made a crunchy streusel topping, beating butter, flour, sugar ,and oats on low in the mixer until it was chunky — much faster than working through it with your fingertips or a fork — and baked it in a toaster oven.
What goes with peanut butter and jelly after school? How about a soda. Malone juiced fresh celery (“It’s an underappreciated flavor,” she said, “but I really love it.”), mixed it with sweetened green tea, and carbonated it with a Sodastream. Astute readers and conscientious Sodastream owners will note that the company strongly discourages anyone from carbonating anything except water. Malone (pictured below, left, with Steve-O and Falen Bonsett from KDWB) acknowledged this and then went on to give an unexpected demonstration of why this was so: The soda exploded on stage. The chef kept her cool and the soda was delicious. Totally worth it. (And what Sodastream aficionado can honestly say they have never been tempted to go a little off label?)
Russo managed to avoid a blender explosion while making his vichyssoise (see recipe at the end of this post); the model he was using wisely won’t start unless the lid is locked in place. He blended leeks and potatoes, precooked in good-quality local butter, with heavy cream from Castle Rock Creamery, until silky smooth. “The thing about this soup is you can serve it cold in the summer and use the fancy name ‘vichyssoise,’” he noted, “or you can serve it hot in the winter and call it potato-leek soup.”
After the vichyssoise, Russo put the mixer to work lightening up a batch of homemade ricotta, which he then used to top some of the soft, tangy tomatoes he dries for the restaurant — a delightful one-bite appetizer.
And, finally, Russo played around with a home popcorn maker. He topped the popcorn with Smude’s Sunflower Oil, very finely shaved Parmesan, and salt he had infused with rosemary. Sure, you could make popcorn in a pot with a lid, as Malone teased Russo, but even a professional chef, focused on performance and practicality, had to admit that the mini theater-style machine was pretty cute. And made tasty popcorn, too.
Jamie Malone’s Concord Grape and Peanut Butter Parfait
For Peanut Butter Mousse:
– 24oz heavy cream
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 1/2 Tablesoon vanilla extract
– 8 oz cream cheese
– 8 oz peanut butter
– 1 Cup powdered sugar
In a KitchenAid Mixer using the whip attachment whip cream into medium peaks. Set whipped cream aside in the fridge. Next, using the paddle attachment, cream together salt, vanilla extract, cream cheese, peanut butter and powdered sugar. Gently fold one third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Repeat the process twice more with the remaining two thirds. Keep cold.
For Concord Grape Chantilly:
– 16 oz heavy cream
– 1 Cup Concord grape juice, reduced to 2 Tablespoons
– 1/4 Cup powdered sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 8 oz peanut butter
– 1 Cup powdered sugar
Combine all ingredients in a KitchenAid Mixer. Using the whip attachment whip into firm peaks. Keep cold.
For Peanut Streusel:
– 3 Cups AP flour
– 3/4 Cup oats
– 1 Cup brown sugar
– 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 8 oz peanut butter
– 15 oz unsalted cold butter
In a KitchenAid Mixer using the paddle attachment, combine all ingredients until just combined and still chunky. Spread on a baking sheet in on layer and bake in toaster oven at 350, until golden brown. Allow to cool. Pulse in bullet grinder until crumbly.
Layer all ingredients in a parfait cup in the following order- Streusel, Peanut Butter Mousse, Concord Grape Chantilly, Peanut Streusel.
Lenny Russo’s Vichyssoise
– 1 lb. whole unsalted butter
– 3 gal. court-bouillon (see recipe)
– 3 qt. heavy cream
– 5 lb. golden potatoes, peeled and diced ¼
– 5 lb. leeks, white parts only diced ¼
– 2 T. fine sea salt
– 1 T. white pepper, freshly ground
Melt the butter in a large, nonreactive pot over low heat.
Add the leeks and cook them until soft. Add potatoes.
Stir in the court-bouillon. Increase the heat, and bring the pot to a boil.
Cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
Puree in a high speed blender until smooth. Return the soup to a nonreactive pot.
Stir in the cream. Bring the pot to a low simmer.
Turn off the heat, and stir in the salt and pepper.
Chill immediately in an ice water bath.
Transfer to a labeled container with a tight fitting lid.
Serve with chopped chives.