In the land of trendsetters, Laurie Tilson has dished up a lunch recipe so unique that Montecito’s ever-overbooked Lady Leaders are ditching philanthropic fundraisers, putting aside political tte- -ttes, and trashing their normal on-the-dash noon nibble to grab a seat at Tilson’s table. For your vicarious epicurean enjoyment, I offer the Tilson formula for nourishment that provides way more than calories:
Begin with a well-equipped kitchen, preferably commercial grade. For exact replication, and results may vary with different amenities, the Tilson kitchen is approximately 600 square feet and features two Gaggenau ovens, a six-burner Dynasty range with two ovens and a griddle, a Le Cornue rotisserie, two Sub Zero refrigerators, and, of course, one wine cooler.
Preheat said foreign-language kitchen by having had chefs like Pete Clements (formerly of Emilio’s), James Sly (formerly of Lucky’s), and Felicien Cueff (formerly of Citronelle) doing cooking demonstrations previously. Along with said talent, kitchen sets up best if the legendary Julia Child once visited, blessing the kitchen’s culinary efficiency.
With the kitchen suitably preheated, add the main ingredient-a patient private chef. The chef must be good-natured, good-looking, talented, and serene enough to teach his fare to 14 guests whose kitchen skills range from galloping gourmet to the I-know-fork-only level. Tilson’s secret ingredient on this occasion was Texas-born, European-trained chef Roberto Cortez, who adds spice to his competency from the fact he’s cooked for stars like Eddie Murphy, the Rolling Stones, and Melanie Griffth. (His Web site is foodiefetish.com.) For good measure, Tilson stirred in one assistant, Ann Addis, the capable and zesty owner of Metropolus.
Once the dish is set, add ambrosia of multitasking lady leaders. Guest must be proven to handle dining, drinking, and dishing between absorbing lessons on how to make butternut squash apple soup, roasted eggplant-Boursin-basil soup, risotto parmesan, and grapeseed oil seared strip sirloin and herb-buttered chicken breast. Guests must remain conscious for the nearly stupefying finish: a chocolate mousse and apple crisp cake.
Dish gets better if marinated for two hours in champagne. The hostess provided Champagne De Meric Brut on this occasion. After marinating, serve cuisine along with a set of take-home, printed recipes, as guests may be too busy dishing or marinating to take reliable notes.
The result of this effort is a feast that folds together the bounties of taste, learning, and camaraderie, which, when combined, create a nurturing experience and a nearly perfectly nourishing meal!
Among those dining and dishing were Kathy Borgers, Suze Gray Williams, Susan Tuthill, Suzy Cawthon, Leesa Wilson-Goldmuntz, Valerie Rice, Michelle Ebbin, Diane Pannkuk, Marlena Handler, Maili H. Brocke, and, of course, our hostess Laurie Tilson.
Chef Roberto Cortez, the featured chef at Laurie Tilson’s Montecito’s cooking school, provided some extra tips for Montage on-line readers.
A Bit About Roberto:
Roberto has been a private chef for 12 years. He is a Texas native and currently resides in Santa Barbara. He counts Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Eddie Murphy and Microsoft’s Paul Allen as his clients. He was classically trained in France (Ecole Lenotre, Ecole de Escoffier (Ritz Hotel), Bellouet Conseil, Le Cordon Bleu, and L’ Amandiers (“Ecole de Soleil”) and he has also studied in Italy, Canada, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland and a seminar with Albert Adria at Spain’s Chocovic, as well. He is well known for creating classic individual gourmet cakes, some of which are on display at his websites, foodfetish.com and robertocortez.com.
Tips for Pan Searing
- To sear meat or poultry, use grape seed oil. It can take a higher heat without smoking
- Roberto prefers nut oils (walnut, peanut, grape seed), as they are less smoky than olive oil. He heats until the oil smells toasted
- Searing meat retains flavor and gives it a nice crust, but let it rest after removing from heat for at least ten minutes before serving
Tips for Better Rice:
- Use Swanson’s Low Sodium Chicken Broth to cook rice in; if you want added flavor, add extra lobster or fish broth in the last four minutes
- When cooking rice, do not add salt to the cooking pot; add later if necessary
- When cooking rice, do not mix in extra ingredients like seafood, mushrooms or vegetables; added extras in layers, to invigorates the taste buds with each bite. Mixing all ingredients together, Robert says, makes the dish boring after a few bites.
- Roberto’s choice of rice is Il Carnaroli, which can be found at Metropolus Fine Foods Merchant at 216 East Yanonali Street.
Tips for Better Soup:
- When re-heating soup do not bring to a boil. It changes the flavor and cause soup to be bitter.
- Put soup through a strainer several times. The tongue magnifies things and it will appreciate the smoothness created by several strains. Thomas Keller, chef and owner of The French Laundry, puts soup, through the strainer 15 times! A strainer creates smoother texture than a blender or food processor. (If available, chinois, or cone shaped strainer, is best for pureeing.)
Chef Roberto’s Fall Recipe for Butternut Squash Apple Soup
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded
2 cups of apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup onion, diced
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups Swanson’s Low Sodium Chicken Broth
Â¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup whipped cream with cinnamon
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Melt butter in medium saucepan. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add squash and saute for ten minutes. Add apple, sugar, and salt and saute for ten more minutes. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Skin any impurities and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 18 minutes or until squash is tender. Puree n a blender and then strain through a chinois (or tight mesh strainer) and bring back to a boil, skimming impurities. Add heavy cream and puree once again through strainer. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and sugar. Soup may be set aside and refrigerated at this point, to be reheated later. When soup is ready to serve, reheat (do not boil) add one tablespoon of butter and whisk to combine. Roberto served this soup in a shot glass, with a dollop of whipped cream, and sprinkled with cinnamon, and it was just the right amount of this rich, warm, fall treat.
For more Montecito Montage, which comes out every Wednesday online, see independent.com/montecito.