Chef: Ty Leon
Position: Owner/Chef, Restaurant Olivia. Denver, Colorado.
How did you get started?
I originally got started in this industry because I wanted to learn how to cook for myself. I was always a hungry kid and was constantly eating, I found that in middle school, the way to eat before lunch started was to take cooking classes for electives and eat what we prepared. From that point on, cooking was all I wanted to do. Now, I couldn't see myself doing anything else, the rush of being "in the zone" on a Friday night is something that I yearn for.
What was your first position?
My very first restaurant position was actually as a busser at Red Lobster, back when I thought that was fine dining. Since then I have been working and staging all over the country, Scottsdale, California, Portland, New York, and, Denver, where I ended up.
I now own, along with two other partners, Restaurant Olivia, which is a pasta focused Italian restaurant.
The story behind the dish:
My Grandmother always made the pies during the Holidays, so every time I make a pie, it reminds me of her. I have always loved pies, fruit pies especially, and make them every chance I get. This dish is a free form crostata using my favorite flavor combination ever, Strawberry and Rhubarb (Strubarb).
In Denver, we usually get a very short spring, so once rhubarb hits the shelves, I load up on it. We preserve an absurd amount of it, turning it into jam or mustard fruits. When not preserving it, it gets turned into pies, tarts, or crostatas. We make some Mint Ice Cream for this recipe, mint works very well in this flavor combination.
All Butter Pie Crust
Yields: 4, 5 oz Crusts
2 ¾ Cups AP Flour
3/4 tsp Salt
½ pound Cold Butter, Diced Very Small
2/3 Cups Cold Water
¼ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
¾ Cups Ice
In a large bowl, mix together the Flour, Salt and small diced Butter. Using your hands, break apart the butter into very small pieces. Do this by rubbing the butter, flour and salt between your palms, as if to “cut” the butter into the flour. Do this until there are no large chunks of butter. In a pitcher, combine together the Vinegar, Water and Ice. The ice is there to make sure your liquid stays very cold. Strain the water mixture into the flour butter mixture, only adding about half of the liquid at first. Gently knead the dough together. Once the liquid is fully absorbed, strain the other half of the water mixture into the dough. Gently knead the ball of dough together. If the dough is still too dry, add 1 more Tbsp of cold water, until you get the consistency you would like. The dough should be slightly sticky. Weigh the ball out into 4, 5 oz balls. Wrap all the balls of dough individually and chill for at least an hour, the dough must be cold before rolling it out. After the dough has chilled, roll each one into an 8-inch circle, about ¼ inch thick. It is alright if the circle isn't perfect, with the way we fold them, you won't be able to tell once they're baked. After you have your disks, start on your Strubarb Filling.
Yields: 4 Crostatas
10 oz Strawberries, Top cut off and quartered
10 oz Rhubarb, Cut into ½ inch pieces
2/3 Cups Sugar
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp Cornstarch Zest of 1 Lemon
1/8 tsp Salt
In a large bowl, mix the Sugar and Cornstarch together first to make sure no lumps form. Once the sugar and cornstarch are combined, add the rest of the ingredients and let the filling macerate for 10 minutes.
To Fill: Divide the Filling evenly between 4 disks, piling it up in the middle and leaving 1 inch of crust around the filling. Next, we crimp the sides together, to do this, start by folding one edge of the round up so that it covers about ⅓ of the filling. From there rotate the crostata clockwise, with every turn, fold the crust up, until the filling is “encased” in a folded crust. Repeat the process with the rest of the crostatas. Once all of your crostatas are folded, transfer them to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Make an egg wash with 1 egg whisked together with 1 Tbsp water. Egg wash the outside of the crostadas, making sure to get into any nooks and crannies that were formed, a very soft pastry brush works very well for this. The last step to do before baking is to sprinkle Demerara Sugar along the crust, this gives the crust a little more texture. Bake the crostadas at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the inside filling looks cooked and the outside crust is golden brown and flaky. Let cool for about 10 minutes, so the filling has a chance to set up. You can either serve them immediately after cooling or cool them completely and use them within a few days. To reheat, preheat the oven to 400 and bake them for 10-12 minutes, until the inside is hot to the touch, reheating them this way will ensure the crust will not get soggy. Serve with Mint and a scoop of Mint Ice Cream or some Whipped Cream.
Mint Ice Cream
22.5 oz Half n Half
½ oz Mint Stems, Reserve the Leaves for Garnish
5 oz Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Paste
8 Egg Yolks
8 oz Condensed Milk
In a pot, bring the Half n Half, sugar and vanilla to a boil. Turn the heat off and steep the mint stems in the half n half for about 1 hour. Strain the mint Stems out of the half n half and temper in the egg yolks by slowly pouring the warm liquid into the yolks while whisking constantly. Transfer the egg and half n half mixture back into the pot and put on high heat. Whisk constantly until the liquid comes to a simmer and thickens slightly. Turn off the heat and add the Condensed milk. Strain the liquid and cool fully before freezing it in your ice cream machine. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream machine, once finished, put into a freezer container with a lid and let it harden for a few hours before use. Scoop on top of the warm crostata and garnish with leaves of mint.
Pastry is different from cooking because you have to consider the chemistry, beauty and flavor. It's not just sugar and eggs thrown together. I tell my pastry chefs to be in tune for all of this. You have to be challenged by using secret or unusual ingredients.
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