Retirement kicks off a culinary quest

05/13/2014 1:00 PM

05/20/2014 7:25 PM

Conrad Smith’s creative cookery takes the cake.

After retiring two years ago, Smith has discovered the culinary arts as his creative outlet.

He and wife Gloria, married for two decades, have a blended family of four sons and eight grandchildren. Gloria says that since Conrad has retired, he has taken cooking and grilling to another level.

“Conrad is a great husband and really has turned his occasional grilling into a real art by reading recipes online, studying magazines, watching cooking shows and researching best practices and methods from cooking experts,” she says. “He has done a great job of taking over the cooking duties since I recently went back to work, and I continue to be impressed with his creativity, variety of techniques and processes he has learned.

“When I come home to his meals, I feel I am the luckiest girl in the world.”

Residence:

Overland Park

Occupation:

Retired health care administration executive

Special cooking interest:

Epicurean experimentation

How would you describe your cooking style?

The food I make is made from using simple, non-processed and often fresh ingredients. I like to concoct my own spice blends, and if I read the food’s packaging and can’t define an ingredient, I won’t use it.

I look to recipes for inspiration, and if I find a new recipe, I just can’t follow it verbatim. I am compelled to alter it in some fashion to make it my own. Sometimes the result — shall we say — is less than pleasant, but Gloria is always a good sport and is gracious enough to try my mistakes, too.

What inspires your love of cooking?

I was raised as an “Army brat,” and even though I was born in Rio de Janeiro, my parents were both raised in small Minnesota towns with farm roots. I have lived so many places — South Dakota, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina, Germany and Vietnam — and I feel like I take a piece of food culture with me and use it in my cooking.

My latest food project has been learning about charcuterie, and I have begun experimenting with grinding and making my own sausage. Maybe it’s an homage to my German-Minnesotan roots, but I enjoy making my own homemade Canadian bacon, which requires brining pork for three days and then smoking it.

It seems as though you love the process of cooking and preparing food.

I enjoy making complex soups, gumbos, potpies and meatloaves during the winter months. But I also love to grill and smoke regardless of the weather — some things just cry out for charcoal and smoke.

I’ve made my own vinegars, gelato and homemade granola by experimenting with a variety of dried fruits, nuts and sweeteners, including maple syrup and brown sugar.

We don’t buy soda, so for summer, I create a fresh sparkling mint limeade with hand-squeezed limes, simple sugar infused with homegrown mint, and carbonated water using our Soda Stream.

We love to entertain, and there’s nothing better than surprising a group of appreciative eaters with my latest concoctions.

Why did you choose this recipe to share?

These individual chocolate cakes with fresh raspberry sauce are a favorite of Gloria’s. I usually make the truffles the day before, and the end result is a cake with an intense chocolate flavor with a molten chocolate truffle center.

The addition of Saigon cinnamon is mine in this recipe. When you’re combining the truffle mixture, be careful not to introduce too much air into it. A slow folding technique works best to combine the chocolate and cream. Instead of the rum, you can also use Frangelico, Grand Marnier, Kirsch, Framboise or any other flavored alcohol you like.

When I make a new recipe and Gloria likes it, it goes into a book and — trust me on this — this recipe book continues to grow and grow.

The reason I share this recipe is because Gloria loves it so much, and I love her.

Molten Chocolate Cakes With Raspberry Sauce

Makes 6 servings

Sauce:

1 cup fresh raspberries 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup water 1 cup seedless raspberry jam 1 tablespoon raspberry-flavored liqueur

Cake:

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped 1 tablespoon dark rum 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan preparation 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for pan preparation 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 3 eggs 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon

Garnish:

Confectioners’ sugar Fresh raspberries

To make the sauce:

At least 3 hours before serving, place raspberries, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat and simmer for 4 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Into the bowl of a food processor, pour the cooked raspberry mixture, raspberry jam and liqueur, and pulse until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a plastic container, seal with a lid and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

To make the truffle filling:

Mix semisweet chocolate and rum in a small mixing bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until it begins to simmer, then pour in chocolate/rum mixture and heat it for 1 minute more. Take off heat and stir mixture until smooth. Transfer mixture back into small mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until mixture is chilled and will hold its shape when pinched. Divide chocolate mixture in 6 equal portions (about a rounded tablespoon each), and roll each portion into a ball. Place back into small mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease the bottoms and sides of six (6-ounce) ramekins with butter and dust with sugar, tapping out excess. Place prepared ramekins on baking sheet and set aside.

Melt butter and bittersweet chocolate in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed until mixture turns thick and pale, about 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in cooled butter/melted bittersweet chocolate mixture. Add flour and cinnamon and beat until smooth. Ladle half the batter among the 6 prepared ramekins — about 1/4 cup per ramekin.

Place a chilled chocolate ball in the center of each ramekin, on top of batter. Pour remaining batter evenly — or about 1/4 cup per ramekin — over each chilled chocolate ball and smooth tops. Place baking sheet of ramekins into oven and bake about 15 minutes or until batter is set.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes before running a sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin. Invert ramekin onto a small serving plate. Remove ramekin, exposing chocolate cake. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, garnish with fresh raspberries and a drizzle of raspberry sauce. Continue process for remaining 5 ramekins and serve immediately.

Per cake: 682 calories (48 percent from fat), 39 grams total fat (23 grams saturated), 158 milligrams cholesterol, 89 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 145 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

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