Cooking Like MAD
MAD. It’s the Danish word for “food” and it’s also the name of the influential two-day symposium for chefs, farmers, eaters and innovators in Copenhagen, Denmark, founded by Noma chef René Redzepi. This year’s MAD conference was held at the end of August, and although I’ve attended MAD several times before, this was the first time I’d be leading one of the over 60 breakout sessions included in the program.
The topics for the sessions ran the gamut from “Kill Your Mother Sauces: Rethinking Chef Training” to “Chef or Rockstar? Media’s Impact on the Food Scene,” and contributed to the symposium’s theme, “Tomorrow’s Kitchen.” My session topic, “Sustainability in Kitchen Staffing: Where are all the cooks going?”, plagues many of restaurants in the Bay Area, and it will undoubtedly be something I’ll need to tackle firsthand after I open my own place, Kantine, in San Francisco next year.
During my session, I presented the causes and effects of the staffing crisis, and then as a group, we discussed possible solutions. Many participants, including industry leaders like Australian chef Kylie Kwong and San Francisco chef Gabriela Cámara were dealing with the problem on an ongoing basis. Staffing their acclaimed restaurant kitchens is a daily and never-ending challenge. It was an intense hour, and as expected, no surefire answer was found, but headway was definitely made.
Before you knew it, our two days of sessions, keynote speeches, introductions, and way too much good coffee were over. MAD traditionally closes with a festive dinner by the harbor, with attendees seated at long communal tables tucked under one of the city’s most picturesque bridges, the Knippelsbro. This year’s dinner was a collaboration of seven local restaurants, with an exquisite dessert of fire pit roasted apples from the restaurant Amass as the last course.
Back in San Francisco, with the apple season well underway, I was inspired to re-create my version of the dish. I browned tart apple chunks on the stovetop in butter and tossed them with fresh oregano leaves. Then I slathered the apples with whipped cream, topped them with a handful of olive oil croutons, and then drizzled black pepper caramel sauce on top.
I love to serve this dessert when entertaining at home and put the apples, cream, crumbs and caramel in separate bowls, allowing guests to dig in themselves. The divine flavors, as well as the sharing among friends, reminds me of my two-day adventure at MAD.
For the olive oil croutons
3 cups Italian-style bread, torn roughly into 1-inch pieces
½ cup olive oil
For the black pepper caramel sauce
1⁄3 cup water
2⁄3 cup sugar
2⁄3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns, ground coarsely
For the apples
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound Braeburn apples, peeled, cored, cut into ½-inch dice
3 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves only
¾ cup heavy cream
1. To make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the bread into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Mix well until thoroughly coated. Spread croutons onto baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes; rotate pan and bake until golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. To make the caramel sauce: Put water and sugar in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the sauce is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.
3. To make the apples: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter; when it has melted and stopped foaming, add apple chunks. Brown the apples on all sides and remove from the pan immediately so they maintain some crispness. Stir in the oregano leaves.
4. In a bowl or mixer, whisk the cream until soft peaks form.
5. To serve, put each component in a bowl by itself, and allow guests to create their own desserts. Alternatively, for individual servings, start with apple chunks on bottom, top with whipped cream, decorate with croutons and serve with caramel sauce on the side.
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Cooking Like MAD was published in the Fall 2016 issue. © 2016 Edible San Francisco. Photo © 2016 Nichole Accettola.