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Welcome to Gardens to Tables Travel Articles Savoring the Art of Cooking at the Montage Laguna Beach
Savoring the Art of Cooking at the Montage Laguna Beach Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   

Studio Laguna BeachArt is one of the themes at the Montage Laguna Beach, from the Arts & Crafts design of the resort itself to the California Impressionist paintings gracing the walls to the natural beauty of its bluff-top location overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the arts community of Laguna Beach, California. The culinary arts are also on display in a big way. The resort’s Loft restaurant embraces the principles of sustainability – not to mention an amazing cheese gallery, with a fromagier there to help guests put together the perfect plate (and a sommelier to help pair it with the perfect wine).

And then there’s Studio, the signature restaurant, nestled in its own Craftsman bungalow on the aforementioned bluff. There, Chef Craig Strong presents a menu that changes with the seasons (and his whims – which are not to be underestimated – consider, if you will, his mini caviar taco), all under the theme of “modern French cuisine with California influences.” Guests can order a la carte, enjoy a tasting menu or take in a private dinner at the Chef’s Table with the open-air kitchen in full view. My suggestion while there was to put in a web cam as I know that I, personally, could spend hours just watching the amazing dance they do when preparing the meals. (Click "read more" for rest of story and recipes.)

Chef Craig StrongThose who want to go a step further can arrange for a cooking class with Executive Chef Strong (pictured, right), who is as nice as they come and offers a very accessible (and interactive -- yes, I was, literally, cracking some eggs) approach. In our class, we learned how to make a butternut squash tortellini; scallops with spinach risotto, chanterelle mushrooms and port truffle sauce; and a warm chocolate cake with brandied cherries and vanilla bean ice cream that Chef Strong says is not only incredibly simple (it was) but always impresses. Following are his recipes.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH TORTELLINI

Serves 4-6

FOR THE PASTA
1 ¾ cups flour
6 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon olive oil

FOR THE FILLING
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
¼ cup cream

FOR THE SAUCE
¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
20 sage leaves
3 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

FOR THE PASTA
Combine ingredients and form a dough.  Kneed for 2 minutes.  Allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Roll the dough through a pasta machine.

FOR THE FILLING

Roast the butternut squash in butter until tender.  Add cream, salt and pepper and nutmeg.  Simmer for 2 minutes, puree, then cool.

FOR THE FINISH
Roll out the pasta.  Brush the pasta with egg wash made of 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of cream.  Place the filling on top of the pasta.  Stamp the pasta with cutter and fold into tortellini.  Boil pasta until al dente.

Brown the butter, add sage leaves and pasta.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with hazelnuts.

SCALLOPS WITH SPINACH RISOTTO, CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS AND PORT TRUFFLE SAUCE

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
8 scallops
2 teaspoons olive oil

RISOTTO
1 onion finely diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup risotto rice
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoon parmesan
cheese
1 tablespoon butter
salt

SPINACH PUREE
2 cups spinach
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt

PORT WINE TRUFFLE SAUCE
1 bottle port wine
1 can truffle juice
1 quart cream

GARNISH
2 cups Chanterelle mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
season with sea salt

FOR THE SCALLOPS
Pat scallops dry.  Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Place scallops in the pan for 3 minutes per side.  Remove from heat.

FOR THE RISOTTO
Sauté onion in butter until tender.  Add rice and stir for 2 minutes.  Add wine continuing to stir until wine is reduced.  Add stock, 2 ounces at a time until all is incorporated.  Finish with butter parmesan and spinach puree.

FOR THE PUREE
Bring water and salt to a boil.  Cook spinach in boiling water for 20 seconds.  Cool in ice water bath.  Squeeze out excess water, and puree.

FOR THE SAUCE
Heat port in a sauce pan until reduced by half.  Add truffle juice, continuing to heat until reduced by half.  Add cream, continuing to heat and  reduce by half.  Use immersion blender to froth.

TO FINISH
Sautee  mushrooms in butter and season with salt.  Place risotto in center of plate.  Place scallops on top of risotto and drizzle with sauce.  Garnish with mushrooms.

WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH BRANDIED CHERRIES AND VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS
9 eggs
300 grams sugar
250 grams butter
250 grams dark chocolate
135 grams all purpose flour
1 cup brandied cherries

METHOD
In a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar until light (ribbon stage).  Over double-boiler, melt chocolate and butter.  Fold butter-chocolate into egg mixture.  Sift flour and fold.  Fold in cherries.  Fill buttered and sugared or sprayed and parchment lined molds ½ way with batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream on side.

 
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