At Inspired Occasions we are constantly searching for new and innovative dishes to wow and amaze our client's and their guests.
This website is designed to take you on a journey by bringing you into our kitchens to observe our culinary creative process from conception to final presentation.
As we create each new dish we will define our inspiration, discuss challenges, present our solutions and post some great pictures along the way.
So join us in the Inspired Occasions Research and Development Test Kitchen for some amazing new dishes! I guarantee an amazing journey!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Preservationist Cuisine

It’s the holidays, the time of year when we all gather together with our loved ones in the spirit of love and family while creating the most stressful situation since the Cuban missile crisis!  Did you brine the turkey?  Where are the eggs and why aren’t they Deviled?!  Who made the pie; wait was I supposed to make the pie?!  When will you people leave me alone??!! 

As the last piece of dessert is served all the stress melts away and we remember why we invited all these people over in the first place.  But after all the cooking we have been doing leading up to and including the holidays we have no intention of stepping back into the heat for the next 48 hours.  And here is where we at LLIO have revitalized some foregone classics to shake up your post-holiday traditions!

I love the old world mindset of preparing for the future.  Back in my grandmothers day nothing went to waste and the bounty of summer was preserved for the lean winter times.  Her canned green beans, beets, pickles and apple butter brought us warmth and joy while the howl of winter was trying to force its way inside. 

Her inspirations led to our creation of some amazing dishes, and to start us of why not an appetizer of smoked duck breast and leg on a wild rice pancake with cranberry and plum chutney.  Here we used a cupboard staple of wild rice mixed with carrots, celery and onions and dried thyme from our garden to create a small but flavorful vessel.  The duck legs and thighs were shredded and acted as a base for our chutney while a perfectly smoked medium rare duck breast was placed on top.  Every bite was a journey of smoke and sweet mixed with fat and earthiness.  The buttery duck melted in your mouth while resting on the “al dente” texture of the pancake.  The flavors of the season in every bite.

With hors d’oeuvres behind us we now focus on the lead, and the star of my preservationist meal is the terrine.  These beautiful and artistic expressions of meat and vegetables sealed away in a shimmering coat of natural gelatin.  This dish was originally created as the perfect meal for French laborers containing everything they needed for a hard day’s work in a self-contained package.  Since its humble roots the terrine evolved to the heights of cuisine only to be discarded by modern chefs moving away from intricate and labor intense productions.  Till now.

Here we have the simple to the complex on display.  Our first dish is a classic made modern terrine of head cheese. This traditional dish was taken to another level by layering the meat with feta cheese, chives, parsley and preserved lemon.  The meat was so flavorful and tender yielding to the fork and coating your lips in rich gelatin.  The hits of herbal parsley and chive were popped by the salty bite of the preserved lemon cutting through the richness of the meat.  A slice of this and a strong beer will set even the most stressful days at ease.

But if you are in the mood for a dish to satisfy and impress those lingering relatives consider serving our new brandied duck breast, pistachio and roasted grape mustardo terrine wrapped in prosciutto.  The terrine was made with pork and veal, with a layer of brandy marinated duck breasts, crushed pistachios and our home made grape mustardo.  The dish was then wrapped in prosciutto like a beautiful Christmas present ready for the table.  The terrine was sliced and served on an arugula and spinach salad with crushed pistachios, shaved black Spanish radish, and drizzled with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The salad was finished with a spoonful of grape mustardo to enhance and compliment the entire dish.  Earthy, sweet, salty and rich, a beautiful and tasty way to celebrate during this holiday season.

Keeping an eye on our past helps us to create a better future, and our future is delicious. Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Colors of Winter

Winter, nature’s blah period.  Winter time in the Midwest always means one of two things; piles of snow that melt during the warm days then freeze at night leaving the city covered in an ever increasing ice shell, or a grey and boring environment where even the birds look bored.  This year we unfortunately have the latter. 

This type of season has always bummed me out, the calendar says winter but without the snow and cold…. It’s just a long fall without the beautiful foliage.  And fall is not the time for my classic winter weather dishes of Coq au Vin, Shepherd’s pie, and my mother’s hearty beef stew.  No this drab, warm and colorless season is in need of some new classics, and I have just the thing.

While the mercury may not be dropping the wind outside still carries enough of a chill for us to desire something warm.  And when I say warm I mean a dish that removes the goose bumps from your arms and the cold in your chest with every bite.

Our new Tuscan Bread Casserole layered with hearty rainbow chard, wild boar sausage, crisp pancetta, rich vegetable stock, and parmesan and gruyere cheese is just the cure.  We toasted thick slices of a locally made whole wheat sourdough bread, and layered it in a dish with sautĂ©ed rainbow chard spiked with hints of rosemary, lemon zest and a pinch of anchovies for body.

Before going into the oven we poured the vegetable stock all over the dish.  As our casserole baked the bread soaked up the liquid causing it to rise like a soufflĂ© becoming lighter while the edges became golden brown and crispy.  Every spoonful was a “mid winter’s night flavor journey”;  the wild boar sausage burst with the flavors of game and Christmas, while the hearty greens were lightened and enhanced by the bright bite of the lemon, while texturally you were treated to a custardy smooth interior and flavorful toasty edges.  A perfect bite for any season!
But you can’t live all winter long on hearty greens, strong cheeses, and good breads.  You need to diversify and lighten things up to truly appreciate all the flavors of the season.  So as a perfect counter balance to our Tuscan casserole we created a light, slightly sweet and every so delicate salad of Arugula, shaved red onion, Fuyu persimmons, toasted pumpkin seeds and a fresh pomegranate vinaigrette.  The sweetness of the persimmons was cut by the sharpness of the shaved onion, and the salted and roasted pumpkin seeds created the perfect texture to round out the dish.  Adding a generous medallion of blue goat cheese will create yet another layer of intense savory flavors and creamy texture.  Cold or hot, rain or shine this salad is for you!

Winter time to me has another meaning, crisps and cobblers.  These classic dishes combine everything we love and need on cold nights. They are sweet, bubbly and always come paired with ice cream!  Keeping along my theme to brighten my winter culinary landscape we created a Persimmon, apple and pear crisp with a savory and sweet pistachio topping.  The combination of sweet flavors with three very distinct textures combined with the crisp topping prepared with salty pistachios made for a spoon full of happiness with every bite.  The crisp topping was given an added bonus with fresh orange zest creating a little holiday “taste bud surprise” on every spoonful. 

Special thanks my latest Test Dinner Crew and all pictures in this article are courtesy of

Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!