Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bistro A’la Mode brings new menu style to Mesa - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

AS of January 1,2016  I no longer work at Palm Street Culinary or Bistro A'la Mode.  It was a great year and a half, and I will miss them. 

Seriously. Special thanks to the awesome Trevor Godfrey at East Valley Tribune for this great article on the Bistro:  Bistro A’la Mode brings new menu style to Mesa - East Valley Tribune: Mesa!

Some highlights from last week's Menu:

Grown-up Grilled Cheese

9 grain Artisan Rosemary and Herb Turkey and cranberry relish grown-up grilled cheese.
 Grilled ham and Swiss Croissant with bacon jam...
 Grilled 9 grain Artisan bread with French-onion, Swiss cheese and Prime Rib

 Twisted Mac-n-Cheese

Green Chile Enchilada...
 Country Sausage, sweet corn and cream cheese with chives...
 Bacon Blue Cheese with crispy French onions...

Pastries you might have had last week:

 Almond pound cake with grilled pineapple glaze and toffee lemon mousse
 S'more Stacked brownie with homemade graham cracker and milk chocolate hazelnut mousse.
Toasted Pecan Caramel sticky buns...
 French Frangipane Pear and cranberry tart with vanilla bean mousse...
Okay. That's enough torture for all of you who didn't come see us.  Follow us on our new facebook page for more wonderful posts and daily updates on our menu! It changes all the time so you'll never be bored, but it has enough staples that you'll never be scared to come by either. You know who you are. You. Like my husband Ace who orders the same thing every time we go to a restaurant. You can still have everything that is always on the menu. The specials will change all the time though. Be ready.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Twisted Bistro Make-Ahead Mac-n-Cheese

One of my favorite dishes to create daily at  Bistro 'A la Mode is the Twisted Mac-n-Cheese.  It is all from scratch and the flavor of the day changes depending on what I want to do, so it has been a good comfort food creative outlet.   I make a base recipe that is the best make-ahead macaroni and cheese recipe I have ever created for a baked casserole-style Mac. Once the macaroni canvas is made, then I twist it...

This week we did: 

Obviously I won't be sharing the exact recipes I use in the Bistro here on the blog, but if you are looking for a perfect macaroni casserole style recipe, here's my family favorite. 

My Tips for success:

  •  Slightly undercook the pasta.  I generally only cook it about 7 minutes. It will be a little crunchy, but the sauce is a little loose and the noodles will absorb the extra as they bake. This ensures you have a great texture on the pasta, even though it is baked later. 
  • Use subtle spices in the sauce to add depth.  My secret is the mustard, cayanne and a hint of nutmeg. Don't use too much nutmeg or it will taste like pudding. You want it to be subtle, yet enough of a nuance that people beg you for your secret ingredient. I use fresh grated, about 1/16 of a tsp. Just a hint. 
  • Watch the heat when you add the cheese to your sauce. I take my white sauce off the stove, let it cool about 5 minutes, and then add the real cheese. Real cheese in creamy sauces will tend to get a "grainy" texture if it is heated too high, so this step keeps it creamy-luscious.

Chef Tess Make-Ahead Mac-n-cheese
yield: 8 1 cup servings

1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked about 7 minutes (slightly undercooked)
1/2 cup butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 cups milk
1T dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayanne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 lb Monterrey jack cheese, shredded


  • In a gallon sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and saute about 3 minutes until tender, but not burned. Add the flour and stir well with a whisk, about 4 minutes.  Add the milk and remaining ingredients gradually, while whisking and bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer about 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir every 2-3 minutes so the milk doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.  
  • Remove the pan from the heat. Allow it to cool about 5 minutes then stir in the shredded cheese. Smooth perfect cheese sauce can't be done if you cook the cheese on the stove, it will get a grainy texture if the cheese gets too hot...and you want it to be creamy smooth right?
  • In a large 9inch by 13 inch deep casserole pan, lightly grease the pan. Pour the cooked, drained pasta into the pan and season well with salt and pepper.  Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and stir to combine.  
  • Top with breadcrumbs or twisted variation of your choice (see twisted ideas above). Usually just a drizzle of savory sauce and a different crumble of bacon or cheese on top will kick it to the next level of awesome!  I have so many more flavor variations to make it is sometimes scary how my brain works!

To Bake Immediately:
Bake the casserole at 400 degrees until sauce is bubbling and the topping of choice is crisp, about 20-25 minutes. 

To save for later: Cover casserole with foil and place in the fridge. May be kept up to 5 days. Ready to heat and eat. Bake, covered with foil, 400 degrees 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and allow to bake 10 minutes more, until topping is crisp. 

To make into a freezer meal:  Cover with foil, label and date and transfer to the freezer. 
To prepare: Thaw the casserole in the fridge for 24 hours and follow the directions for the refrigerator version. OR bake from frozen, covered with foil 1 hour 20 minutes. I recommend thawing first. It just gives your sauce a really great texture.  

There you go darlings!

Come and see me at the Bistro. I'd love to give you a big hug!

Our Menu PDF

Follow our daily Twisted Mac updated on our page:
 Palm Street Culinary on Facebook

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Episode 41. We Grow Ours Radio Show!

This week I visited my friends  Nick and Don over at We Grow Ours (Episode 41)  and had a blast talking with them about the benefits of good food in your food storage. 

We Grow Ours radio show is centered around teaching people how and why to grow their own foods. Rabbits, Quail, Aquaponics, Gardens and many other methods. We talk to those doing this and learn new things everyday. Come learn with us as we look into food safety, NON-GMO foods, fun ideas and more. Preppers, gardeners, conservatives, and everyone. We all come together to rally around our food, and our food freedoms!

Check them out here! Xoxo!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Best Ever Make-Ahead Potato Gratin Casserole

 Hello my darlings! It has been a crazy couple of weeks as we're busting out all the stops getting things together for the Bistro. Here's where we are so far on the interior. The rest of the equipment is coming really quickly!  The floors, walls and electrical are all in place. There's been a slight delay on the opening date so keep checking should be in the next couple weeks. 

When I haven't been in the kitchen working on perfecting the new menu at Stonebridge Manor we've been catering some remarkable and beautiful weddings. Thing have been so wicked-fun! Benjamin is super easy to work with, quick to smile, and totally professional. Seriously. What's not to love? Look at him. He's just a freakin' fun dude! Yup. I've finally found my match in crazy-weirdness in the kitchen. Big things ahead with this guy!
 At any rate, one of my favorite things to do for large-scale events is get a lot of preparation done the day before the function, and though this isn't the exact recipe we use at the Manor, this is one of my all time favorite potato gratin casserole recipes because of the fact that I can make it ahead of an event and still have time the "day of" to do the fun this...

So, here's the simple recipe for the potatoes. They're perfectly cheesy and loaded with awesome flavor. 

Chef Tess Make-Ahead Potato Gratin
12 servings

5 ½ lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/8th inch thick (about 10 potatoes)
2 cups sour cream
2 cup whole milk
2tsp salt
¼ cup flour

¼ cup butter or olive oil
2 medium onion, minced
3T garlic, minced
2tsp Thyme, fresh (or1 tsp dry)
2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
2tsp white pepper

1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese or Asiago, shredded

Make the gratins: combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Making sure to Prep and assemble the sour cream, milk, salt and flour in a bowl before slicing potatoes (so they don't brown). Do not store sliced potatoes in water or the gratin will be watery and flavorless.

 Saute the minced onion and garlic in butter until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, fennel seeds and pepper. Add the sauted onion mixture into the potato mixture. Turn bowl of potatoes into a 9 by 16 inch GREASED baking dish, pressing the potatoes into a flat even layer.

 Top with cheese. 
  Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees 1 hr 45 minutes. Transfer the gratins from oven to a cooling rack. Cool uncovered 45 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated up to 3 days.
 For service: Remove from the fridge and allow to warm to room temp (about 45 minutes) remove the plastic wrap. Bake at 450 degrees uncovered for 25-30 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

There you go my darlings! Make some great potatoes!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Latest Wedding Cake...Country Natural Fall Cake

 My friend Nikki is getting married today and she asked me to bake her cake. It is a country wedding, very casual, but still classy enough to need something special.

I had to share the pictures.
 What do you think of this trend in cakes?

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Monday, October 6, 2014

Easy 4 Ingredient Homemade Cake Fondant

Recently I taught a class on how to make rolled fondant for cakes and I wanted to share the recipes here on the blog for those who were unable to attend the class. It is really not very difficult to make and tastes a ton better than the stuff in a box, plus it costs a heck-of-a-lot less! We made two varieties, one traditional and one using marshmallows. Both were delicious! My favorite for ease and flavor was by and far the one based on marshmallows. I think a lot of people will be surprised to see how inexpensive it is to make. For around $1 a lb to make compared to up to $10 a pound pre-made and packaged. That adds up quickly when you're frosting a large cake!

My  4 Ingredient Easy Homemade Rolled Fondant 
Adapted from the Cake Boss (here)
  • 16 oz marshmallows, mini
  • 2lb powdered sugar
  • 1Tbsp corn syrup
  • 2 tsp natural flavored oil or flavor extract (here)
Directions: Grease a large wooden spoon or silicon spatula with oil.  Transfer to a plastic bag and cover tightly until ready to use, allowing to rest at least 5 hours.

Melt marshmallow in microwave for about 2 minutes in a large glass bowl. Yes.  I used a microwave. It is just fast and easy. If you want to melt it on the stove, you can do that as well, but it will take about 5 minutes and you'll need to stir it constantly. 
 Add the corn syrup and flavor along with a gradual addition of the sugar, stirring until the sugar is assimilated.
 When dough becomes too stiff to knead by spoon, transfer to a well oiled counter top and knead 5 minutes until smooth. I had to add a little more oil to the surface about half way through kneading.  Some folks have been saying that this can be done by machine, but I've not found a machine strong enough to handle it for home use. The larger commercial bakery mixer will work if you have access to them. 


 Lightly oil the outside surface of the fondant so it doesn't stick.  Transfer to a plastic bag and cover tightly until ready to use, allowing to rest at least 5 hours.

 To cover a cake with fondant: Dust a clean pastry cloth, or a smooth, clean surface, with cornstarch and roll the fondant with a rolling pin until it is approximately 1/4 inch thick. Make sure that the fondant is large enough to fit over the top and sides of the cake. Slide both hands under the fondant and carefully center it on top of a cake that has been freshly iced with butter-cream. (The icing makes the fondant adhere to the cake.) Dust your hands with cornstarch and smooth the fondant, starting at the top and working down the sides until the entire surface is even and flat. Cut off the excess icing around the bottom of the cake with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Decorate the cake with butter-cream or royal icing. This fondant keeps a cake fresh for two days at room temperature. Do not refrigerate a cake with fondant icing. 

Want to see how to make these fabulous roses? 

The next recipe is the more traditional fondant. It has some specialty ingredients like the vegetable glycerin that I had to find at a cake decorating store. You may be able to find it online also. 

Traditional Homemade Rolled Fondant
Adapted from Colette Peters, Cooking Live here
Yield:icing for 2 9-inch cake, 4 inch tall

  • 4 pounds confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup glucose (found in cake decorating stores) or white corn syrup
  • 3 Tbsptablespoons glycerin (found in cake decorating stores)
  • 1 teaspoon oil based desired flavoring 
  • food coloring (if desired)
  • Cornstarch
Directions: In a large bowl (do not use metal), sift the sugar and make a well in the center. In a small saucepan, add the water and sprinkle the gelatin on top to soften for about 5 minutes. Begin to heat the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is dissolved and clear. Do not boil. Turn off the heat and add the glucose and glycerine, stirring until well blended. Add the flavoring. Pour into the well of sugar, and mix until all of the sugar is blended. Use hands to knead icing until it becomes stiff. Add small amounts of confectioner's sugar if the mixture is sticky. Form the mixture into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in an airtight container. This icing works best if allowed to rest at room temperature for about eight hours before using, particularly if the weather is humid. Do not refrigerate. 

There you go! Homemade awesome fondant! cake decorating

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chocolate Waffles of Women's Divine Happiness

 I'm a waffle person. I really am. I shouldn't share this with you but I have got this waffle problem. Wait. She's just using the word "waffle" instead of "awful". What a dork.  I love evil chocolate waffles. They're delightfully divine and well...I shouldn't eat them endlessly. On the other hand...there are five fingers. Look. If chocolate sugar free 9 grain waffles are covered with a no-sugar added natural tart-sweet strawberry amaretto compote with toasted walnuts and fresh slices of banana, I'm really not being evil right? I'm sharing some bliss. Right?

I know what you're thinking,"Enough talk. Spill the beans sista'!" I hear ya. Don't get your girdle in a twist. I can only type so fast and then I need more chocolate to keep up my strength.We've discussed this phenomenon in depth among the ladies and here it is.

 The unmistakable woman chocolate truth:
  • Truth: Never underestimate the power of a woman who needs to eat chocolate and still fit into her jeans. It's an evil vortex of genius.
  •  Truth: All  really bad  female headaches can only be cured by rubbing an intense dark sea salt soiree bar in the mouth and counting to 100.
  •  Truth: The secret cure  to female moodiness that has baffled husbands for years is to do a choc-incantation while holding a chocolate doughnut with each index finger for added balance. This incantation must be done while wearing chocolate ceremonial garb...
  •  Woman wearing ceremonial garb must also be  watching at least 2 hours of Pride and Prejudice...particular during a certain cycle of the moon that will only be discussed in secret woman circles (in hushed tones) for fear that men will actually understand us.
 **Men Please note: there are 3 days in the month that men must never question the seemingly evil chocolate force that overtakes a girl and can only be cured by creamy smooth dark squares of chocolate taken orally...and alone. Let her hide in a closet undisturbed during this phase and you will find peace in the land. Deny her chocolate during this phase...and sleep on the couch with a pillow over your...never mind. I've been told that during menopause this phase is extended from 3 days to 3 years. I'm getting a villa in France for that phase Here.

 To my husband Ace, I'm sorry. 3 years is a long time but I think it would be better if you didn't see me like that. Knowing Ace, he'll probably follow me anyway and just pat my shoulder and say (in a hushed tone), "poor, poor, thing." {By the way if you've never seen my favorite movie Harvey then that last "poor, poor, thing" won't mean a thing to you.}
 There is however, the very high chance that Ace will  throw  his hands in the air and say, "FINE!#$*%***# Have it your way Mrs. INSANE!!...France is really nice this time of year!"  

Here we go ladies. It is time to be sucked into the vortex of evil genius. I sense there is still some good in you. { Giggle. Giggle.}

Chef Tess' Chocolate Waffles of Woman's Divine Happiness

2 cups 9 Grain Baking Mix or My homemade bisquick
1/2 c baker's cocoa
1 tsp Sweet Leaf Stevia Drops stevia drops (I love the vanilla or hazelnut flavored ones)
1/3 cup Whole egg powder or 3/4 cup egg whites or 3 eggs
1/2 tsp grated orange zest (optional)
1 3/4 cup water (use only 1 1/4 cup water if you use real egg)

Directions: Combine all ingredients.

Vanilla creme stevia drops are perhaps my favorite.
 Bake in a well oiled waffle iron. Serve warm with any sugar-free fruit topping of your choice. I use mashed fresh strawberries, and some frozen raspberries topped with some toasted walnuts and banana. 

 Eat chocolate waffles on any day that you as a female crave chocolate. That would be, of course, any day that ends in the letter "y"...As in " y-not eat chocolate today"...and "y-question my authority as a woman?"Wait. She's just using the letter "Y" in place of the word "why". What a dork.

There you go. Make chocolate waffles. Fit in your jeans still. Your training is complete.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess