The most innovative chefs plan their menus with much more than a passing thought to the changing seasons, and Chef Mindy Ware of Jean Robert’s Table is no exception.
Although being charged with the challenging task of pairing sinful desserts to the menu of one of the country’s pre-eminent Master Chefs, Jean Robert de Cavel, is no small feat, Chef Ware, although ostensibly young, seems to take it all in stride.
As a young child, both of Chef Ware’s parents cooked (her favorite thing to eat is her mother’s lasagna), and she always knew that she wanted to as well—although she pursued a degree in Psychology in college.
However, she returned to her first love and began her career in the culinary field. “I can’t see myself doing anything else. I love it,” says Ware.
Self-taught, she read a lot of cookbooks and did tons of experimentation. She found herself working in some of Cincinnati’s finest kitchens: first a stint in desserts at Nicola’s and then a turn on the hot line at The Palace. She credits her time at Nicola’s for imparting on her some valuable knowledge. Cooking is an art, but pastry is a science, so it’s somewhat unusual to see a pastry chef without formal training, as well as to see a chef span both sweet and savory sides of the kitchen, but Chef Ware does both with aplomb.
Ware joined the staff at Table last October, and from the very beginning she has brought her modest yet well thought out and elegant approach to the plate. The delicately designed dishes are centered on one or two seasonal and market-fresh ingredients, around which the whole idea flows. Last fall, butternut squash was highlighted; in the winter it was dried fruits, nuts, and citrus; and for the spring, of course, fresh berries are a favorite. Everything is done with precision, the colors are vibrant, and textures are rich. And there is, naturally, always a chocolate dish on the menu.
Ware enjoys a vast amount of freedom with her planning the dessert menus at Table. All of her recipes are original, and well worth the effort, including the “Slow Roasted Strawberry Shortcake with Hibiscus and Honey Whipped Cream & White Balsamic and Rhubarb Gastric” she’s sharing with us. Sublime!
- 7 egg yolks
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 5 egg whites
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/3 cup All Purpose flour
- 1/3 cup honey
- zest of 2 lemons
- 8 Tbsp. butter, melted
- 1 vanilla bean, seeded
Slow Roasted Strawberries
- 1 quart strawberries, hulled
- 1/3 cup white wine
Hibiscus Whipped Cream
- ½ oz. dried hibiscus flowers (found at Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- honey, to taste
Rhubarb White Balsamic Gastrique
- 8 oz. white balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
Madeleine Sponge: Whip the egg whites with half of the sugar until soft peaks form and set aside. Blend the rest of the sugar with the yolks. Add lemon zest and vanilla to the yolks, stir in the almond flour and All Purpose flour. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, then mix in the honey and melted butter. Pour onto a sheet tray lined with parchment or a Silpat sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until set and golden. Set aside.
Slow Roasted Strawberries: Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Place strawberries cut side down in a baking pan. Pour in the wine and bake for 2 hours. Set aside.
Hibiscus Whipped Cream: In a small bowl, steep hibiscus flowers in the cream for about a half hour. Strain out the flowers and chill. Whip cream to firm peaks, add in honey to sweeten to taste.
Rhubarb White Balsamic Gastrique: Combine all of the ingredients. Cook on medium-high heat until the syrup is thickened. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature, and blend until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
To assemble: Using a cookie cutter or a knife, cut a rectangle of sponge cake and place it on a plate. Arrange 3 roasted strawberries along the top. Drizzle gastrique over the top and around the sponge. Using two spoons form a quenelle of Hibiscus cream and place next to the sponge. Garnish with pieces of candied rhubarb and hibiscus flowers, fresh strawberries and lemon balm. Serve immediately.