When a Michelin-starred chef arrives, the kitchen staff expects attention to detail. Before a July 27 dinner with Fresh Starts Chef Events, Chef Stefano Masanti lived up to that expectation by arriving before 9 a.m. to oversee the cooking.
The Fresh Starts crew soon discovered he’s no hands-off director. Instead, Chef Stefano – owner of Il Cantinone in Madesimo, Italy — put on his hat to work with students and graduates of Fresh Starts Culinary Academy to make 1,300 ravioli and create a memorable meal.
V. Sattui Winery, where Chef Stefano spends his summers as Events Chef, offered wines from their extensive list – all normally available only at the winery – for his three-course menu.
The chef passed around ingredients and his antique stone cooking pot among the evening’s 120 guests, saying that “cooking is using all your senses.” His recipes often draw on what he cooked with his grandmother — simple food and fresh ingredients.
He sprinkled his cooking demonstration with plenty of stories about his grandfather’s treks to procure vanilla and chocolate for gelato during World War II and his grandmother’s habit to use every part of a chicken.
With the first course, Roast Chicken Ravioli with White Wine Mushroom Sauce, that meant using the browned chicken bones to make stock for the sauce and roasting the skin to blend into the ravioli filling. A deep, authentic roast chicken flavor was the result.
The second course, Beef Cheeks with Truffled Potato Purée, needs planning with 24 to 48 hours required to marinate and 4 to 5 hours needed to slowly cook the meat. The recipe makes this inexpensive cut amazingly tender with a hint of cloves and cinnamon.
The chef’s old-fashioned dessert, Grandfather’s Vanilla Gelato with V. Sattui Madeira Zabaglione, uses simple ingredients but Chef Stefano cautioned against rushing. “To make a good gelato, you have to cook it…and it takes a couple of days.” After cooking, he lets the base mixture sit in the refrigerator overnight.
The zabaglione, on the other hand, is cooked right before serving and poured over the gelato. Served with cocoa-dusted raspberries and a wafer cookie, this dessert was a perfect end to a delicious and entertaining evening.
Chef Stefano met Tom Davies, president of V. Sattui, when the Davies family was vacationing in Italy. They invited the chef and his wife, Rafaella, to visit Napa Valley. Soon the pair began closing their restaurant to spend the off-season at the winery, where the chef also makes salumi and gelato.
Fresh Starts Chef Events’ premier sponsor, The Republic of Tea, underwrote the food cost for the evening, in addition to providing refreshing iced tea at each table. V. Sattui donated the six wines served for the evening, including the award-winning 2013 Preston Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and the flagship Madeira. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos by Neely Wang.
Braised Beef Cheeks – Serves 4 to 6
2 lbs. beef cheeks (ask your butcher to trim so they’re pan-ready)
4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
¾ cup white wine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 whole clove
1 cinnamon stick
6 tablespoons canola oil, for searing
1 quart veal stock
Marinate beef with salt, mustard and other ingredients for 24 to 48 hours.
Drain meat for cooking. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, sear beef in oil until browned on all sides.
Preheat oven to 250°F. Place meat in oven-safe pan with veal stock, then cover and put in oven to braise for 4-5 hours until tender. Remove beef from liquid, let cool.
Blend liquid remaining in pan, then strain. Place over medium heat and reduce to sauce consistency. Season to taste.