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Vail Valley chef writes cookbook, ‘Wood Fire & Champagne Powder,’

Caramie Schnellcschnell@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyPhotographers from the company that published the new Splendido cookbook flew out three different times to get photos of the restaurant staff, kitchen and dining room as well as Beaver Creek resort.
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VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – The newest trend at Vail Valley restaurants isn’t foamy nor is it wrapped in bacon. Truly, you can’t even eat it, though it certainly can help you whip up a fantastic meal. All at once, cookbooks seem to be “the thing” to do. Four valley chefs/restaurants are working with a company in Indiana called Northstar Media Books to self-publish cookbooks. David Walford from Splendido at the Chateau, Daniel Joly from Mirabelle, Sweet Basil and Steven Topple, the executive chef at Beano’s Cabin, are also working on cookbooks. Splendido’s cookbook, called “Wood Fire & Champagne Powder: Colorado Cuisine, Elevated” is being released this week. For years, Splendido diners have asked chef/owner David Walford if he has a cookbook they could buy. The answer, up until now, was always no, but Walford and his staff were always willing to print out the recipe for the oft-requested chocolate souffle or lamb, but it was up to the diner to decipher. “Most of the time its for larger quanities. We don’t work with teaspoons and tablespoons, most call for gallons and kilos and pounds and buckets,” Walford said.

And that was precisely one of the challenges in doing this cookbook, he said. Turning restaurant recipes into home recipes, basically going from a recipe that serves 60 to one that serves 6, is a lot of work. And while there are lots of recipes in the Splendido kitchen, they’re not nearly as detailed as home recipes. “There’s a lot of things you assume the cook or chef knows how to do, so we just say ‘season with this and this and cook it until its done.’ It was kind of scary. I was going ‘is this close enough, exact enough?’ Recipes are not scientific formulas. There’s room for fudge factor there.”In the book introduction, Walford talks extensively about his history as a chef, as well as about his food philosophy:”I don’t profess that our cooking at Splendido is the finest in the country, or that our menu is the most creative,” he writes. “I do know though, that our cooking is honest and that our food is what we say it is all the time. I do not want readers to think that just because these recipes feel right to me, they should follow them slavishly. I believe recipes are merely guidelines. The recipes I have presented here are saying, in essence, ‘Here is a good idea. I recommend you try it this way.'”Walford also urges people to “cook to have fun.””Don’t get too serious about it because it is just cooking. We have very particular ways of doing things in the restaurant, but when you are cooking for yourself, in your own kitchen, you should experiment; it is how one learns. Once you have made a recipe – in your kitchen, with your ingredients, with your hands – it becomes your recipe. Just carry the dish to the table and say, proudly, “Look what I made!”

Walford and his staff began working on the project last March. Since then, Walford, his Chef de Cuisine Brian Ackerman and Pastry Chef Dorothee Drouet all visited the test kitchen in Indiana to dial in the recipes as well as prepare dishes for photos.”It took six days in a studio to take the pictures,” Ackerman said. “I’d bring them a dish how I would like it plated, then we’d style it together, then they’d move the food around with a little toothpick. It was that precise. There’s a lot that goes into it to make it look nice and pretty.”Photographers also visited the restaurant three times to get winter and summer shots of Beaver Creek as well as kitchen and dining scenes of the restaurant.”I wanted the book to be a souvenir of Beaver Creek, as well as a cookbook,” Walford said. “It’s not just a collection of recipes, we also included nice photography of the area.”And indeed they did. There’s plenty of iconic Beaver Creek shots – the ski mountain, Centennial Express, snow-covered aspen meadows. The book is chock full of photos of the whole team: the line chefs, the sous chefs, the waiters, the sommelier and the diners. All of the pieces that make up the Splendido puzzle are here, making it clear that Walford wasn’t looking to make a cookbook about himself and his accomplishments. He also wanted to pay homage to the people who make the restaurant work night after night, which is why they too have a place on the page. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

This is a relative of vanilla ice cream, with the addition of nutmeg and bourbon. It is ideal for holidays. 4 cups of whole milk2 cups of cream1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out18 egg yolks1 1/2 cups sugar1 teaspoon grated nutmeg3/4 cup bourbonIn a large pot over medium-high heat, bring the milk, cream, vanilla bean and seeds to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Using a whisk, slowly add teh hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture. Return the liquid to a clean pan and cook over low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow this mixture to boil. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a mixing bowl and then lower the bowl into a larger bowl holding an ice water bath. Stir for a few minutes and allow the liquid to cool. Finish by stirring in the nutmeg and bourbon. Process in an ice cream machine. Yields 2 quarts

Alyse, a cook at Sweet Basil, gave this recipe to me some time in the 1980s. The combination of sweetness and heat with a crisp crust around meaty pecans make these disappear by the handful. Vegetable oil, for deep frying1 cup sugar2 tablespoons cayenne pepper2 tablespoons dry mustard2 tablespoons red pepper flakes2 tablespoons powdered ginger2 teaspoons cinnamon8 cups pecan halvesIn a deep-fryer or pot, bring vegetable oil to 350 degrees over high heat. Using a thermometer is the best way to be sure your oil is the right temperature. While the oil is coming to temperature, mix together everything else except pecans in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. Blanch the pecans in boiling water for 30 seconds and then drain them (don’t allow them to become dry). Toss them in the bowl with the spices until they are evenly coated. Working in batches, deep-fry the nuts in the 350-degree oil until they are crispy (about 1 minute). Remove them with a slotted spoon to drain and cool on a sheet pan lined with paper towels. (You can bake them at 425 degrees as well, but I don’t think they’re as good.) Serve as a snack or with cocktails. Yields 8 cups

This dish is one of my favorites, and the recipe is simpler than it appears. Once you have all of the pieces assembled, it goes together quite easily. Halibut is a wild fish but can be hard to find fresh during certain times of the year. I would never recommend buying it frozen. If halibut is unavailable, substitute wild striped bass or another good, meaty white fish. Parsley sauce1 bunch Italian parsley, leaves only1 clove garlic1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oilIn a blender, puree the parsley leaves with the garlic clove and 1/4cup olive oil until it is smooth and pourable. You may need to add more olive oil to reach the right consistency. Set aside. Cannellini beans6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil3 cups cooked white beans, drained (fresh or canned)1 /4 cup cream2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves6 tablespoons unsalted buttersalt and ground white pepper to taste1/2 cup loosely packed spinach leaves sliced abotu 1/4-inch wideIn a heavy 2-quart saucepan, cook the sliced garlic with the olive oil, stirring often, until the garlic is lightly toasted. Immediately add the beans, cream and marjoram. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and cook until it turns golden brown, watching it closely to avoid burning the butter. Stir this into the bean mixture and let the beans simmer a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then stir in the spinach. Set aside and keep warm. Lemon confit2 lemons3/4 cup white wine1 teaspoon saltWith a vegetable peeler, peel strips from the lemon’s outermost rind or “zest.” Slice the strips into thin, 1-inch pieces. Put the strips in a saucepan with the white wine and salt and bring to a simmer. Leave this to cook slowly for 10 minutes and then drain, setting aside the lemon confit strips. Parsley-olive salad1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves (about one bunch)1 cup olives, pitted and sliced (Gaeta, picholine, or any good firm green or black olive)1/4 red pepper, thinly sliced1 small shallot, thinly slicedsalt and freshly ground black pepper, to tasteextra-virgin olive oil, to tastelemon juice, to tasteCombine the parsley, olives, red bell pepper and shallot in a salad bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the thinly sliced lemon confit, a bit of salt and pepper, a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss the parsley-olive salad to distribute well. Fish65-ounce skinless Alaskan Halibut fillets (preferred) or any nice fresh white fish filletsalt and ground black pepper to taste6 paper thin slices of prosciuttoextra-virgin olive oil Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Wrap 1 slice of prosciutto around the middle of each fillet so the ham overlaps on the bottom of the fillet. Heat a nonstick oven-safe saut pan over medium heat with the olive oil. Gently cook the fish, top side down first, turning it over and finishing it in the 425-degree oven (3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets). Watch the fish closely; it should be just barely done. Halibut tends to overcook easily. To finish the dish, dollop about 1/4 cup of the beans in the center of each warm plate and spoon a circle of parsley sauce around the beans. Place a fish fillet on top of the bean mixture and then arrange some parsley-olive salad on top of each portion and serve. Serves 6


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