by Mabel Suen
Tonight, Niche (1831 Sidney Street; 314-773-7755) presents the Bluestem Cookbook Dinner, featuring dishes from chefs Megan and Colby Garrelts of Bluestem, a progressive fine-dining establishment in Kansas City, Missouri, that features reinvented regional flavors from the other side of the state.
The five-course meal will be comprised of dishes from the cookbook as well as dishes created by chef Gerard Craft includes courses such as crispy sweetbreads with roasted radicchio, pickled apple, buttermilk and bourbon pecan molasses; Kansas City strip and short rib with puffed barley, Mienke grits, Thane's kale, pumpernickel and horseradish; and graham cracker pound cake with chocolate-poached pears and tangerine sherbet.
Megan Garrelts says she's looking forward to being in Craft's kitchen, seeing his food and restaurant, and meeting his guests: "There's nothing better than teaming up and having Missouri chefs working together. It's about time, because there are a lot of cool things we're doing in our state."
(Reservations are very limited and cost $115 per person, which includes a personalized copy of the cookbook. Wine pairings are available for an additional $35 per person. Call 314-773-7755 for reservations.)
Get a preview of the Bluestem: The Cookbook by trying out this light and bright soup recipe, and stay tuned to Gut Check later today for a Q&A session with chef Megan Garrelts.
excerpted from Bluestem: The Cookbook, copyright 2011 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Pea Soup, Preserved Lemon, Crème Fraîche
4½ cups fresh English peas, shelled, blanched for 1 minute and chilled 4 cups vegetable stock 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley Salt and freshly ground white pepper 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional) crème fraîche, whipped 1 tablespoon preserved lemon, finely chopped 1 tablespoon freshly crushed pink peppercorns
You'll know that spring has officially arrived when this velvety soup appears at Bluestem. I put it on the menu as soon as fresh English peas become available. The soup bursts with the grassy, sweet flavors of the season. It gets a hit of tanginess from whipped crème fraîche and tart preserved lemons add a bright, fragrant note. Although it's served warm at the restaurant, on a warm spring day I'll make this soup at home and serve it chilled, with a glass of white wine. If you do this, remember to taste and season it just before serving.
Diners at the restaurant often ask how the soup maintains its vibrant, green color. The trick: All of the ingredients are blended together while they are cold, and the soup is kept chilled until it is ready to be served. It is not seasoned or warmed until the very last minute.
At Bluestem, all soups and sauces are poured tableside to give our guests an interactive experience. This allows the diner to see the other ingredients before the liquid is added. It also ensures that the soup makes it to the table without sloshing around and staining the sides of the bowl.
Although fresh peas are preferable, frozen peas are an alternative. You do not need to blanch the frozen peas, but you will want to let them thaw and drain off any extra water. Crush the pink peppercorns between two kitchen towels or in a tightly sealed plastic bag with a rolling pin. Or you can crush the peppercorns between your fingers or the palm of your hands.
In a blender, combine 4 cups of the peas, the vegetable stock, and the parsley. Blend on high speed until the ingredients become a smooth puree. Transfer the soup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
When you are ready to serve, heat the soup over medium heat until it has warmed through (do not boil the soup, which will hasten its discoloration). Season with salt and pepper to taste. At the restaurant, we finish the soup by whisking in a touch of butter to give it a richer texture and flavor.
Place a dollop of whipped crème fraîche in the center of each of 4 soup bowls. Divide the remaining ½ cup peas and the preserved lemon among the bowls, arranging them around the crème fraîche. Sprinkle the crushed pink peppercorns over the top. Pour the warmed soup around the crème fraîche and over the other ingredients at the table.