Chocolate Chipotle Cake Ruben Ortega (Backstreet Cafe) Serves 8-10 The chipotle puree: 1 7-ounce can of chipotle peppers in adobo (see Note) The cake: 6 eggs 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1 pound semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces 1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 1 and 1/2 tablespoons chipotle puree For the chipotle puree: Drain the can of chipotle peppers and rinse the peppers under running water. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the seeds. Place peppers in a blender along with 3 tablespoons of water and puree until mostly smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and set aside. Preheat oven to 350˚. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring an inch or two of water to a light simmer. In a large stainless steel bowl, combine eggs and sugar and set the bowl over the pot. Reduce the heat to low and whisk the egg and sugar mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the egg mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until thick and pale, about 4-5 minutes. In a separate large stainless steel bowl, add the chocolate and butter and set over the pot with simmering water once again. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a small bowl, add the heavy cream and whip until soft peaks form. Add the chipotle puree and mix well. With the mixer on low, slowly add the melted chocolate to the egg mixture just until combined. Using a spatula, fold in the whipped cream. Scrape the batter into an 8-inch cake pan or individual 5- to 6-ounce ramekins. Set the cake pan in a larger roasting pan with sides that are as high as the cake pan. Place the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven. Fill the roasting pan with enough warm water to reach halfway up the side of the cake pan. Bake until slightly firm, about 25-30 minutes for ramekins, 50 minutes to 1 hour for an 8-inch cake. Carefully remove cake pan from water bath and transfer to a rack to cool. Note: Leftover chipotle puree can be stored for up to two months in the refrigerator. Use it to add smoky heat to stews, soups and braises. Chorizo-Stuffed Dates with Chermoula Sauce Monica Pope (T’afia) Makes 20 stuffed dates The chermoula sauce: 2 garlic cloves, minced 1/3 cup cilantro, minced 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, minced 3/4 teaspoon paprika 1/4 teaspoon cumin A pinch of cayenne pepper Juice of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Salt to taste The stuffed dates: 10 whole dates, halved and seeded 1/4 -1/2 pound of chorizo, depending on the size of the dates 10 slices of medium-thick bacon, cut in half crosswise Preheat oven to 450˚. For the chermoula sauce: Combine the garlic, herbs and spices in a bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice and olive oil and season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. For the dates: Split the chorizo sausages in half and remove the meat from the casing with a spoon. In a pan over medium-high heat, brown the sausage until cooked though, about 4-5 minutes. Drain off any excess fat and set aside to cool. Fill a date half with the cooked chorizo and wrap a slice of bacon around the stuffed date, securing with a toothpick if necessary. Repeat with remaining dates. Place dates on a baking sheet and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes or until bacon is crispy. Remove toothpicks, if using, and serve hot, topped with chermoula sauce. Texas Crimini Mushrooms Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese and Toasted Breadcrumbs Monica Pope (T’afia) Makes 24 stuffed mushrooms 2 teaspoons finely minced red onion 2 teaspoons finely minced red bell pepper 1/4 cup mixed herbs like parsley, chives, tarragon and rosemary 10 ounces Texas goat cheese, or chevre Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 24 Texas crimini mushroom caps, stems removed 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 1/3 cup toasted fine breadcrumbs For the goat cheese filling: Mash together the onion, bell pepper, herbs and goat cheese in bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff each mushroom cap with the goat cheese mixture, slightly mounding the filling. The recipe can be made ahead up to this point and stored for up to 6 hours in the refrigerator before baking. Extra herbed goat cheese can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week and can be used as a filling for other dishes like omelets. Preheat oven to 350˚. Add olive oil and vinegar to a shallow baking dish. Place mushrooms in dish, stuffed side up. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until hot. Top with toasted breadcrumbs and serve. Noe’s Grilled-Then-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Horseradish Soubise, Baby Carrots and Celery Leaves Steven Musolf (Noe Restaurant & Lounge) Serves 3 The short ribs: 2 pounds prime beef short ribs, bone in Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 1 and 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 medium onion, diced medium 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped 1 large carrot, roughly chopped 1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon 10 sprigs fresh thyme 4 sprigs fresh parsley 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 6 whole peppercorns 1 bay leaf 4 cloves garlic 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped Fleur de sel for garnish For the soubise: 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil 2 large Vidalia onions, halved and julienned 1 three-inch piece horseradish, peeled and sliced into _ inch thick pieces 1 quart heavy cream Salt and white pepper to taste For the baby carrots and celery leaves: 9 baby carrots, peeled, with 1/4 inch of green top left intact 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil Salt and white pepper to taste Picked yellow inner leaves of 1 bunch of celery For the short ribs: Preheat an oven to 325˚. Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the short ribs on both sides to establish nice charred grill marks, about 2 minutes each side. Once all the short ribs are grilled, place in a deep braising or roasting pan and set aside. In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until onions begin to turn golden brown about 5 minutes. Add half the wine to deglaze the pan. Pour contents over the short ribs along with the remaining wine. Add the herbs, peppercorns, bay leaf, garlic and tomatoes to the short ribs. Fill the pan with enough water to reach half way up the ribs. Place pan in oven and braise for 4-5 hours or until ribs are fork tender. Remove short ribs from the braising liquid and set aside to cool, then keep refrigerated. Strain the braising liquid into a medium pot, discard the solids. Simmer the braising liquid over medium-low heat until it reaches a sauce consistency. Skim the fat that collects at the top of the liquid. Set aside to cool and refrigerate until ready to serve. For the soubise: Heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat in a medium pot. Add the onions and the horseradish root. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir vegetables until the onions are tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add heavy cream and 2 cups water to the pot. Simmer the mixture over medium-low heat until the horseradish is fork tender, about 20- 25 minutes. Pour mixture into a blender and puree to a velvety consistency. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Set aside. For the baby carrots and celery leaves: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Place carrots in pot and blanch until tender or to desired doneness. Drain and then place carrots into a bowl of ice water to cool. When ready to serve, heat oil in a medium saute pan and saute the baby carrots. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. To finish: Reheat the short ribs in the reduced braising liquid. In another pan, reheat the soubise. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Pour about 1/3 cup of soubise onto each plate. Place a serving of short ribs on top of the soubise and spoon some of the reduced braising liquid over it. Arrange three carrots next to the short ribs. Finish with a pinch of fleur de sel on top of the short ribs and garnish each plate with 6-7 celery leaves. Taquitos de Langosta Hugo Ortega (Backstreet Cafe) Makes 12 taquitos The pico de gallo: 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced small 1 tablespoon small diced yellow onion 2 tablespoons minced cilantro 1 lime, halved Salt to taste The taquitos: 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 and 1/2 pounds lobster tail meat, cut into 12 two-ounce portions 8 cloves garlic, minced 2 small Hass avocados, sliced 12 small 3-inch tortillas For the pico de gallo: Combine the tomatoes, onion and cilantro in a bowl. Add the juice of 1/2 a lime and salt to taste. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add lobster and saute in batches until 1/2 way cooked, about 2-3 minutes. When the last batch is cooked, add all the lobster back to the pan along with the garlic. Saute until garlic is browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Squeeze the remaining 1/2 a lime over the lobster mixture. Set aside. Warm the tortillas in a dry hot pan. To assemble, place a 2-ounce piece of lobster on each warm tortilla. Garnish with an avocado slice and pico de gallo. Serve immediately. Wild Boar Terrine (not tested) Randy Evans (Brennan’s Houston) Makes 18 slices Venison or pork can be substituted for the wild boar. 3 and 3/4 teaspoons salt 1 tablespoon Creole Meat Seasoning 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs 1 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1⁄8 teaspoon curing salt (sodium nitrite) 1 and 1/4 pounds wild boar, cut into half-inch cubes and chilled 1 pound pork butt, cut into half-inch cubes and chilled 1/2 pound pork fat, cut into half-inch cubes and chilled 2 egg whites 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream 1/4 cup red wine 14 strips bacon, divided (see Note) 1/3 cup dried cherries 1/4 cup green peppercorns Instructions: In a large mixing bowl, combine the first seven ingredients and blend thoroughly. Add cold cubed meat and fat. Mix in the egg whites, cream and wine. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Fill another large mixing bowl with ice water; place all grinding equipment in bowl. (If the blade, plates or worm are not ice cold, they could heat up due to the friction during grinding. If this happens, the fat will melt and hinder the emulsification process.) After the equipment and meat have been chilled for 30 minutes, begin the grinding process. Fit grinder with a coarse grinding plate. Feed seasoned cubes of meat into the grinder. Place a mixing bowl resting in an ice-water bath under the grinding plates. Grind all meat into the chilled mixing bowl. Remove bowl from ice-water bath and replace with first bowl used to marinate the cubed meat; mix ground meat. Feed the ground meat through the grinder again to assure emulsification. Mix in cherries and peppercorns by hand. Form one patty and cook in a small sauté pan over medium heat until cooked through; taste to check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Line a 1 and 1/2-foot sheet of plastic wrap with 10 strips of bacon, arranged with edges overlapping each other. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap; roll bacon with a rolling pin. The bacon will be folded over the meat once its packed into the terrine, so the strips need to be very long. Line a terrine mold (1 and 1/2-quart capacity) with the bacon, placing the strips perpendicular to the pan (not parallel to the bottom). Roll remaining bacon strips in the same manner; place two pieces on one end of terrine and the other two on the opposite end, hanging off the ends of the terrine. Pack filling firmly into the bacon-lined terrine. Fold end strips over the top, and then fold the side strips over, tucking the ends of the strips down into the sides of the terrine. Place the lid on the terrine. To bake: Place terrine in a high-sided baking dish; add hot water to baking dish until it’s halfway up the sides of terrine. Bake at 300° for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 155° on a meat thermometer. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Remove lid and place terrine in refrigerator. After 1 hour, place a heavy foil-wrapped block of wood atop the terrine; press overnight to compress the pate, which will enhance its texture. The terrine may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 5 days, or vacuum-sealed and frozen for up to 6 months. Seared Sea Scallops in Fresh Corn Husk with Scrambled Corn and Pumpkin Seed Recado Robert Del Grande (Cafe Annie) Serves 8 The pumpkin seed recado: 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds 1/2 serrano chile, or more to taste 2 garlic cloves 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, plus a few sprigs for garnish 1 tablespoon hoja santa leaf, chopped (or substitute 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped) 1 hard cooked egg, peeled and chopped 1 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream 1/2 lime, juiced The scrambled corn: 4 fresh ears of corn (with green husks) 1 tablespoon butter Salt to taste 1 teaspoon lime juice The scallops: 16 large sea scallops, approximately 1and 1/2 ounces each 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 16 toothpicks For the pumpkin seed recado: In a dry skillet, over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds until light brown. When done, the pumpkin seeds will puff and begin to pop. Remove from skillet and cool. Place skillet back on stove over medium heat and add the serrano chile. Slowly turn chile to toast it and blister the skin. Remove from skillet and place in bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap to allow chile to steam for 5-10 minutes, then remove the skin and seeds and roughly chop. While chile is toasting, put garlic cloves in a small pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and then simmer until the garlic cloves are soft. Remove from the water and smash or roughly chop the garlic. In a food processor, combine the pumpkin seeds, chile, garlic, cilantro, hoja santa leaf (or tarragon), egg and salt. Pulse to form a coarse paste. Add the cream and process until well blended. If the paste is too thick, add a more little cream or water. Refrigerate until serving. Just before serving, add lime juice and mix well. For the scrambled corn: Cut off the base of the ears of corn. Remove the corn husks, saving a few nice husks to wrap the sea scallops. Over a bowl, grate each ear of corn on a cheese grater or box grater. Just before serving, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add the grated corn and stir as though scrambling an egg. The grated corn will quickly thicken and take on the appearance of scrambled eggs. Add salt and lime juice and cook for another 30 seconds. For the sea scallops: Remove and discard the tough muscle on the side of the scallops if it has not already been removed. Tear the reserved corn husks into strips, approximately 1 inch wide. Wrap each sea scallop with the corn husk and fix into place with a toothpick. In a nonstick skillet, heat the butter on medium-high heat until foaming. Add the corn husk wrapped scallops and sear until lightly browned, about 1 minute on each side. Lower the heat and slowly cook until scallops are just firm to the touch, about 5 more minutes. Alternatively, the scallops can be seared in the skillet and then finished in a 350º oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until just firm to the touch. To Serve: Place two corn-husk wrapped scallops on each plate. Spoon a little of the scrambled corn on one side of the scallops and little of the pumpkin seed recado on the other. Sprinkle with salt and garnish with a cilantro sprig. Smoked Texas Quail with Marinated Corn and Grain Mustard Vinaigrette Ryan Pera (The Grove) Serves 6 The brine: 1 gallon water 1 cup salt 1/2 cup sugar 6 quail The marinated corn: 2 ears fresh corn, shucked, brushed with oil, grilled evenly 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon minced shallot 1/2 red bell pepper, diced small 1 and 1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley 1 and 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1/2 serrano chile, with seeds, minced 1 garlic clove, blanched and minced Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste The vinaigrette: 1 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar 1 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon chopped parsley 1/2 teaspoon minced shallot Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste For the brine: Heat 1/2 gallon of water in a pot on the stovetop. When boiling, dissolve the salt and sugar in the water and set aside to cool. Fill another pot, or container with 1/2 gallon of ice water. Add the water with salt and sugar to the ice water. Make sure the water mixture is cold, then add the quail. Leave quail in the brine for at least 2 hours and no more than 4. Remove the quail and rinse under cold water. For the marinated corn: Remove the corn kernels from the cob and place in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and season to taste. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. The vinaigrette can be made up to a day ahead. To smoke the quail: Prepare a charcoal grill. Add mesquite to charcoals and arrange hot coals evenly on either side of the charcoal grate. Place a drip pan in the center of the charcoal grate between the coals to collect drippings. Place the cooking grate over the coals and place quail on the cooking grate, centered over the drip pan. Grill the quail until the meat reaches 165º on a meat thermometer. Serve over marinated corn, drizzle with the mustard vinaigrette. Serve immediately. Grilled Texas Quail Stuffed with Pine Nuts Anita Jaisinghani (Indika Restaurant) Serves 6 The quail: 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 6 tablespoons tamarind chutney, plus more for brushing 1 tablespoon salt 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper 6 quail, semi-boneless preferred The stuffing: 3 tablespoons sunflower oil 1 tablespoon cumin seeds 2 cups finely chopped yellow onion 2 cloves garlic, chopped 3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon Garam Masala Salt to taste For the quail: In a large shallow bowl, combine the olive oil, tamarind chutney, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the quail and turn to coat thoroughly. Set aside to marinate for 15- 20 minutes. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat and a oven to 350˚. In a small saute pan over medium heat, heat up the sunflower oil. Add the cumin seeds and toast for about 30 seconds until they pop and sizzle. Add the chopped onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until soft and golden brown. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute. Take off heat and set aside. In a food processor, grind half the pine nuts with the onion mixture to a smooth consistency. Then, stir in the rest of the ingredients with the other half of the pine nuts to prepare the stuffing. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal portions and stuff inside the birds, securing the legs and wings with butcher’s twine. Grill quail for 2-3 minutes on each side on grill, brushing with more tamarind chutney if desired. Finish cooking in the oven for another 10-12 minutes. Allow the quail to rest a few minutes, then slice each in half lengthwise and serve. Shrimp Cocktail Shot (not tested) Brian Caswell (Reef Houston) Makes 30 shots The consomme: 3 pounds grated horseradish 1 and 1/4 cup white vinegar 7 pounds ketchup 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 3 and 1/2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons sugar 1/4 cup Tabasco sauce 5 cups water 2 and 3/4 cups fresh lemon juice The garnishes: 30 whole boiled shrimp (26-30 count) 3/4 cup finely diced cucumber 3/4 cup finely diced avocado Radish sprouts For the consomme: Soak horseradish in the vinegar for one hour. Blend all remaining ingredients together and pour into a large bowl lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. Bunch up the ends of the cheesecloth, forming a ball with the ingredients. Leaving the ball in the bowl, tie up the ends with butchers twine. Tie the ball to a long wooden spoon. Place two large cans alongside the bowl in the refrigerator and then place the spoon on top of the cans, suspending the ball over the bowl. Leave hanging in the refrigerator overnight, letting the consomme drain into the bowl. For each shot, spoon two tablespoons consommé on the bottom of a shot glass. Place a shrimp over the consommé with the tail sticking out of the glass. Garnish with a teaspoon of cucumber, a teaspoon of avocado and some radish sprouts.