Monday, April 19, 2010

My Dinner with Charlie Baggs (and LeCreuset Winner!)

Thanks to all who entered the first ever Kitchen Notes Giveaway!  Who knew that having a contest could be so fun?  To select the winner, I used Random Integer Generator...
...and the winner is comment #10, Laura.  Congratulations, Laura!  The cobalt blue bakeware set is yours!  Please email me at with your contact information and I'll send the prize your way.
Now, on to the next matter at hand- my dinner with Charlie Baggs!  You may or may not have heard his name before, but I guarantee, he's had an impact on what you eat.  Charlie runs a food service consulting firm specializing in product and flavor development, culinary training, and nutritional labels for a wide variety of big-name companies and restaurants.  His clients include Gerber Baby Food, Tyson Chicken, Tropicana, and Hershey's, just to name a few!  Mike and I, along with our friends Matt and Lindsay, had the opportunity to have dinner, prepared by Charlie and staff, in his research kitchen.  What a treat it was!
Charlie and his staff set a beautiful table and dotted the kitchen with votive candles and bunches of flowers.  We were greeted with some canapes and shooters of butternut squash soup.  Then one of Charlie's chefs, Adam, served as mixologist and whipped up some amazing cocktails using Hum Spirits to start the meal, as well as a trio of non-alcoholic libations to be paired with the amuse bouche.  For the life of me, I can't remember what each one was, but they complemented the flavors of the amuse perfectly!
As we were seated for the meal, Charlie and Katie, his intern from Kendall College, were hard at work finishing  and plating the meal.  They didn't at all object to me nosing my way into the kitchen to take pictures and ask questions.  It's always fun to watch the chefs at work!

On the menu for the evening?
1. Arugula salad with shaved fennel, blood oranges, avocado, spiced pumpkin seeds, and a citrus vinaigrette.
2.  Pan-seared whitefish and asparagus puree with slow roasted eggplant and tomato sauce.
3.  Roasted chicken, flank steak with chimichurri, whipped potatoes, and roasted vegetables.
4.  Cheese plate with dried fruits and spiced nuts.
The meal was amazing- focusing on flavorful presentations of simple ingredients.  The highlight of the meal, aside from having Charlie's 10 year old son as our special guest and honorary server, was the dessert.  They prepared a s'mores pudding parfait, which was so delicious and as I learned later, quite easy to put together.  Chase, Charlie's son, generously shared a copy of the recipe with us and I think it is the perfect dessert to serve when company comes.  Try it for yourself and see what I mean! 
S'Mores Pudding Parfait
From The Hershey Kitchens
1 package (4-serving size) vanilla cook&serve pudding and pie filling mix*
1 cup Hershey's semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs, divided
Toasted miniature marshmallows
1.  Prepare pudding mix as directed on package.
2.  Remove from heat.  Immediately add chocolate chips and stir until melted.
3.  Cool 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4.  Pour into bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto surface.  Refrigerate 3-4 hours or until cold.
5.  To assemble each parfait, place 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs in bottom of each dessert or parfait glass.
6.  Top with 3 tablespoons chocolate pudding.
7.  Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs on top, followed by two more tablespoons of chocolate pudding.
8.  Just before serving, garnish with toasted miniature marshmallows.  (Katie simply placed the marshmallows on top of the dessert and toasted them with a kitchen torch)
9.  Serve immediately!  (Makes 6)

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