Thursday, May 2, 2013

Serenity Cafe Demo

Serenity Café Cooking Demo

            Just recently, I was able to help out my former community, my mother and myself all in one night. Not bad, right?!?  That night was at The Serenity Cafe in Toms River where Chef/Owner Gregory Manning held a cooking demonstration class that was to raise money for his daughter whom is part of the Step of Faith Ministry, Inc. They will soon be traveling to Haiti to help out those who are misfortunate. The $48 ticket was quite a steal to watch the Cooking Light 2012 “Trailblazer Chef of the Year” work his magic while helping out those in the neighborhood spread their charity.

            As for my mother, well she originally bought the tickets for her and my father. As his schedule gets filled up like the Nile, she needed a partner to take his spot. Now honestly, I think I should have been her date in the first place but I’ll spare you my whining. Needless to say, the minute she asked me to go with her, I said I was there, no problem.

            And as for helping myself out, haha, I’m just a hungry gal who loves to eat delicious things, learn about delicious things and clearly share delicious things. Here’s what transpired that night….
            First course: Creamy Balsamic Shrimp & Parmesan Soufflé. Plump and slightly fried shrimp scattered around a spongy Parmesan-laded cake topped with a balsamic glaze that had us all sopping up every last drizzle. Chef Greg explained how even though this dish looks challenging, it really isn’t since the soufflés can be poured into the ramekins the night before. Awesome! The day of cooking, just add the hot water for the bath and bake- viola! I took a lot of notes for the balsamic sauce as this is something I have yet to master. He did it so easily and I learned a key tip: adding a slurry of cornstarch and broth makes sauces “tighter” aka creamier.
            Second Course: Apricot & Cranberry Stuffed Pork Loin with Blackberry Sauce and Bacon Smashed Potatoes. Can you place Thanksgiving on a plate? After eating this dish, apparently so. This was a super cool dish to watch getting prepared. For one, the butter- flying  of the pork was one of those things that only watching could teach.  I wish I had a rewind on that one actually! Also, the blackberry sauce that went from a simple caramel to a boil of berries to then a glaze with strained fruit, brandy and rosemary was like watching something from Kitchen Stadium. Once the pork was all stuffed, wrapped and roasted, Chef Greg quickly mashed the potatoes with what he called an, “awesome baked potato.” Translation: mashed potatoes with cream, bacon, sour cream and butter.  Plating everything  in one serving was just beautiful. The colors popped while the aroma of bacon, pork and berries had all of us salivating for our taste!

            Third Course: S’mores Cheesecake. This was, by far, the best dessert I’ve eaten since 2010! I must say though, the moment I saw Chef Greg coating the crust with chocolate, I knew this was going to be a winner. I loved how he added mini marshmallows and chopped chocolate to the batter so that the entire cake embodied the S’mores theme. The top was flambéed with more marshmallows that I think would be fine if done by a broiler. Once it was delivered before us, the result was one that is universally recognized: silence. Yes, it was that good.

            Coffee was continually poured for all of us in attendance while we shared notes, discussed our opinions and questioned the Chef. The night finished with both my mother and I carrying out leftovers for our husbands who gladly got the remnants of a fundraising feast. Enjoy….


Creamy Balsamic Shrimp & Parmesan Souffle
Source: Gregory Manning, Serenity Cafe
Serves 8

Ingredients :
24 large peeled and deveined shrimp

1 C peeled garlic
½ C oil
½ C good quality balsamic vinegar
½ C chicken stock
1 C heavy cream

1 C milk
2 TSP flour
2 TSP butter
1 C Parmesan Cheese
5 eggs, separated

8 Ramekins

Balsamic Sauce:
1. In a sauce pot, heat oil and garlic together and cook until golden brown, taking care not to burn
2. Drain off oil and reserve, add balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil, reduce by a third
3. Add stock and cream and bring back to boil. Reduce by 1/3 again, remove from heat and puree with stick blender
4. Return to heat and thicken with cornstarch slurry (a little cornstarch and water mixed). Reserve sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Bring milk and flour to a boil and be sure to whisk to prevent scorching
2. Add butter and Parmesan, remove from heat and let cool slightly
3. Add egg yolks and season with salt and pepper
4. In a separate bowl, beat whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into yolk mixture
5. Spray ramekins with food spray and divide filling between them. Bake soufflés in a water bath for 12-15 minutes. Remove and cool slightly
1. Using reserved garlic oil, in a sauté pan heat oil and dust shrimp with cornstarch. Sauté shrimp in batches until all shrimp are cooked
1. Invert soufflé on a plate, place three shrimp around and drizzle with sauce and extra Parmesan Cheese.  

Apricot and Cranberry Stuffed Pork Loin with Blackberry Sauce & Bacon Smashed Potatoes
Source: Chef Gregory Manning, Serenity Café
Serves: 8

2 lb. red bliss potatoes
6 pieces cooked bacon, chopped
1 C sour cream
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 TSP butter
S & P: salt and pepper

1, 4-5 lb piece pork loin
1 C dried apricots
½ C dried cranberries
2 sprigs rosemary
S & P: salt and pepper
Olive oil and foil

½ C sugar
¼ C water
12 oz. fresh blackberries
1 C white wine
½ C blackberry brandy
1 sprig rosemary
4 TSP butter
2 C chicken stock
Cornstarch slurry

1. Place potatoes in a pot and bring to a boil until tender
2. Drain and smash with tongs or fork. Add bacon, sour cream, scallions, butter, and S & P to taste
3. Keep in a warm place
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Place the pork on a cutting board and clean off any excess fat. Butterfly the pork-  watch thisor Starting at the long end a little bit from bottom, cut it partially 1/3 way thru, flatten it out like a butterfly, then cut the next thicker piece partially 1/3 way thru, flatten it out and then cut the remaining thick part partially 1/3 way thru. You should be left with a long thin piece of pork! w
2. Place apricots and rosemary in food processor and pulse until chopped
3. Season pork with S & P and then spread on apricot and cranberries
4. Roll the pork up lengthwise
5. Cut a large piece of foil, place the stuffed pork in the middle. Rub loin with olive oil and more S & P. Close the foil up and seal
6. Roast for 40-45 minutes or until internal temperature is 140 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest, vent foil
1. In a sauce pot, bring sugar and water to a boil, cook until caramel in color
2. Add blackberries, rosemary, wine and brandy. Reduce by half and add stock, bring to boil and let simmer for 10 minutes
3. Strain to remove seeds and rosemary, bring back to boil, add butter, let simmer and thicken with cornstarch slurry (a little cornstarch and water mixed)
4. Season with S & P
1. Place pork loin on a clean cutting board. Place a scoop of potatoes on a plate, slice pork and place on top and follow with sauce. Garnish with rosemary, serve at once

S’mores Cheesecake
Source: Chef Gregory Manning, Serenity Café
Serves: 6-8

1 prepared large graham cracker crust
½ C warmed hot fudge ice cream topping
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 C miniature chocolate chips
1 C miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1. Place shell on a half sheet pan
2. Coat bottom of crust with warmed hot fudge
3. Combine cream cheese and condensed milk in a mixer on low speed until smooth
4. Add vanilla
5. Add eggs, one at a time, until blended but not over mixed
6. Stir in chocolate chips and ½ C of marshmallows
7. Pour over crust and bake for 45 minutes or until set
8. Sprinkle with the additional ½ cup of mini marshmallows and return to oven for about 5 minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown and puffed
9. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen
10. Chill overnight, then remove the sides of pan
11. Just before serving, drizzle with more warmed fudge topping




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