It had been 5 years since I had been in California, the last time was in Los Angeles, when Angel and I decided to move to Bulgaria. I had added additional days to my visit to incorporate the Foodbuzz Festival and a trip to wine country; Napa and Sonoma. About a month before my trip, I reserved a space for a cooking demo at The Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus. I had not previously had the opportunity to visit any of the CIA’s campuses and I was quite excited about being surrounded by culinary greatness; to my surprise, I was about the one of the few who attended the demo that felt that way.
This was the second time in my life that I had crossed over the Golden Gate bridge, the first being with my husband on our honeymoon in 2000. The weather was less than stellar on my most recent crossing, but that didn’t stop me from commemorating the event, which was bittersweet without my hubby! The drive through the Napa Valley towards St. Helena was gorgeous. Route 29 was lined with vineyards and estates, which I was informed you could visit and taste for anywhere from $10 – 30 USD, which would be put toward a bottle should you happen to purchase one. Being that I was on a budget that portion of the tour would need to be saved for the next trip.
We arrived at the Greystone campus early. My friend Ross Cobb winemaker from Cobb Wines
ended up joining me demo, which was nice. I had originally anticipated going it alone. The demo was supposed to start at 1:30, but because 44 of the 48 seats were reserved by a team building retreat for Bank of America, they changed the time till 2:00 and we still needed to wait for the tour bus to arrive.
While waiting, I had an opportunity to speak with the chef, Harold Imbrunetti. I asked him the most important question, which was where was the best spot to sit and he suggested second row center. You don’t get to have the first taste, but the best vantage point for the action. When I told him that I was a blogger, he had asked if I had written to him about getting some gourmet organic rubs and marinades from his company Wine Country Chef
for a giveaway. Maybe he will provide me with some after this post.
Our recipe for the day was Frittata with Crispy Potatoes, Spinach and Truffle Essence. Chef Imbrunetti provided us with a recipe, but he said that he has never made the same one twice and then proceeded to make changes to the printed recipe we were given.
Frittata with Crispy Potatoes, Spinach and Truffle Essence:
by CIA Chef Harold Imbrunetti
2 sm russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4″(.63cm) thick
3 tbsp olive oil (he used a hot/spicy Spanish variety)
1 white onion (sweeter in contrast to the leek)
1 lg leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 oz (59ml) water
1 sm bunch of spinach leaves, washed and stemmed
1/4 cup finely grated Vella Dry Jack & parmesan reggiano (any hard cheese)
3 – 4 tbsp (60g) unsalted butter, cold (I think he used more… a lot more)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 oz (29ml) white truffle oil
- Preheat an oven to 350F (180C)
- Place potatoes in a pot with 1 qt (950ml) cold water and 1 tbsp kosher salt.Bring the pot to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes, or until the potatoes are just done through, fork tender. Drain the potatoes carefully, towel dry excess water and set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium burner, make sure the pan is hot before adding the oil. Add the onion and leek, and sauté for two minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Remove from the pan from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Beat the eggs and water together in a bowl. Add the cooled onion and leek, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Heat a 9-inch nonstick skillet with an oven-safe handle over a medium burner. Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and arrange the potato slices in the pan in a single layer. Season the potatoes with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook for three minutes, or until golden brown at the edges.
- Add chunks of cold butter to the egg mixture, then carefully pour half it over the potatoes. Arrange the spinach leaves over the eggs. Cover the spinach with the remaining egg mixture, and sprinkle the surface with the grated cheese.
- Transfer the pant to the oven, and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, or until the eggs have set completely. Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the frittata out onto a large plate.
- Cut the frittata into eighths, and drizzle with white truffle oil just before serving. Serve either hot or at room temperature.
The tour bus arrived and our missing audience filled into their seats… only problem, this was the 4th stop on their wine tasting tour and some of them were a little past tipsy. I knew this was going to be an interesting demo when someone in the back of the room yelled “Bam” as Chef Imbrunetti
seasoned the potatoes with salt, to which Chef Imbrunetti
replied, even Emeril doesn’t even use that anymore! The lively audience didn’t stop there.
This was a difficult post for me to write because I feel like a bit of a food snob. Now I understand that not everyone shares the same passion for food and cooking as I do, but I think people should be respectful of the craft. I happened to be sitting next to one of the most infuriating people in the audience. She was aghast at the number of eggs in the dish, the amount of butter and cheese and she was quite vocal about it… “How many calories is in that?” “How healthy is that for you?””I’m not eating that?” and then the icing on the cake… when the chef was layering the spinach into the dish she shouts “That a lot of spinach!” Needless to say, she and her friends refused to try the dish. This gave her more time to finish her game of hangman, the answer was GET CRUNK!
Some other choice audience quotes: “Is that frozen?”, “What’s leek?”,”Not a green onion?”, “Is their a secret to cracking and egg?” Chef: “In half.”
Overall the demo was good. My only grievance was the camera work. There were two television monitors on either side of the kitchen to give close up details of the action. There were two people controlling the cameras and they were awful. Their timing was off and they were unable to capture the action on screen. If the Chef was chopping something the camera was stuck on a potato or an empty dish. Good thing we had good seats! I did however learn some new tricks like:
- drying to potatoes to help with the browning
- add the butter cold to the egg mixture, so it slowly dispersers through out the dish and helps give the eggs a better texture
- don’t add the potatoes raw because then you have no control over them
- kosher salt helps to bring out the brightness in a dish not saltiness
- when the oil becomes wavy, before it starts smoking, that is the right temperature to crisp the potatoes.