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!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Down Home Goodness!!

The band Alabama once famously said, “Down home, where they know you by name and treat you like family.”  I believe that this statement applies not only to a geographic location but to an experience.  An experience we can only get from food that is unpretentious, inviting, familiar, and nostalgic.  While the “Comfort Food” trend has started to fade into the sunset lets welcome a new revival of grandmother’s classics with fun and exciting twists.

What can be more down home and welcoming on a warm spring day then a refreshing glass of fresh lemonade?  An iced glass of sweet and tart lemonade slowing beading condensation down a glass while grills are blazing and kids are playing in the yard is as Americana as you can get!  What could make this any better?  How about infusing the lemonade with fresh herbs from the garden like rosemary, basil and mint, then spiking the drink with citron vodka and topping each glass with a bubbly splash of spicy ginger beer.  The herbs enhanced the sweetness with a fresh herbal bouquet while the citron intensified the tart lemon flavor with the sparkling ginger beer contributing a surprising and refreshing bite.  Pour me a glass and let’s cook!

Growing up one of my favorite salads was my grandmother’s spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette.  She grew, among other things, the most amazing crisp spinach I have ever had, and every day over the spring and summer my brother and I would go to the farm with her and pick a big basket of dark green foliage.  She created a salad using fresh mushrooms, onions and warm bacon vinaigrette all topped with a perfectly poached egg from those little cups you set in simmering water.  For our adaptation we used grilled Portobello mushrooms, shaved red onion, corn bread croutons, oven poached eggs and a warm sweet and sour red wine vinaigrette.  The succulent mushrooms touched by the char of the grill added a body and meatiness to the salad while the shaved onion and vinaigrette provided an acidic bite.  The cornbread croutons lent a sweetness and crunch to balance the silky texture of the runny oven poached egg.

When I imagine a down home meal potatoes always come to mind.  Mashed, roasted, baked or glazed potatoes are the go to starch for down home celebrations.  My absolute favorite has to be scalloped potatoes, thinly sliced potatoes layered with caramelized onions, cheese and a rich sauce then baked until soft and golden.  How can you make this any more comforting, make a soup!  Introducing New York white cheddar scalloped potato soup with cavolo nero and a sweet balsamic glaze.  We pureed the scalloped potatoes with a hearty splash of cream and chicken stock and barely simmered till a rich and smooth soup was achieved, then we added handfuls of torn cavolo nero ( Italian black Kale) and covered till the greens were wilted but kept a slight snap.  Right before service we topped with a swirl of sweet balsamic vinegar glaze to balance the slight bitter bite of the greens.  Everything you need in one small bowl!

Meatloaf, it has every connotation these days from the horrors of the school cafeteria to the Kobe beef stuffed with foie gras of New York City!  But while the meatloaf slider has come and gone, why not change up the format once more by changing the loaf to a cake, a cup cake!  Presenting our trio of mini meatloaf cupcakes “Iced” with 3 different mashed potatoes icings.   Each little loaf was a bust of flavor between sweet and savory, with the juices from the meat being soaked up by the creamy potato toppings.  A perfect single bite of nostalgia every time!
Meatloaf with caramelized apples and roasted poblano peppers with a chili sweet potato icing, followed by the lamb meatloaf mixed with cherry vermouth chutney topped with preserved lemon and feta whipped potatoes, and lastly our traditional home-style veal with sautéed sweet peppers, onion and garlic then topped with rosemary and Parmesan mashed potatoes.

Now let’s talk ice cream; home-style, rich and velvety, the perfect end to any down home dinner.  But why stick with vanilla; chocolate or strawberry let’s branch out with something bold and crazy!  Let me introduce you to our newest summer sensation, sweet tea ice cream topped with a warm preserved lemon and honey syrup.  The rich tea flavor is infused into the cream then mixed with a touch of pure honey to create a sweet symphony of summer.  The saltiness of the preserved lemon mixes with the sweetness of the honey creates a triumph of flavors reminiscent of your first cold glass of sweet tea.

We can never forget our roots, our culinary traditions that made us who we are today.  Each bite or sip of some down home goodness brings us back to the people and places we love, and that is what comfort food is all about!  Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!