After a recent move to New York City to focus more of his attention on Bold Organics, a dairy- and gluten-free frozen pizza collaboration with Washington University alum Aaron Greenwald, chef Eric Brenner brought his culinary talents back to St. Louis on Sat., Aug. 25, for a special cooking demonstration at the newly opened Dierbergs Market at Des Peres.
Inspired by the mission behind Bold Organics pizzas (available locally at Dierbergs), the class aimed to show the everyday cook that allergen-free food doesn't have to be bland or difficult to prepare.
Brenner, former chef at Moxy and Chez Leon, grew up on The Hill and knows how delicious food can be when it's true to form. His new mission is to show those with food allergies (or those just interested in living a healthier lifestyle) that they too can enjoy a wide variety of dishes without compromising taste or cooking time.
The class delved into four recipes (get them all here) for which Brenner provided detailed instruction and offered a variety of cooking tips regardless of allergy or sensitivity. Saturday's centerpiece was fried chicken, but instead of the typical gluten-filled flour coating, Brenner's version used a combination of tapioca and brown rice flour to create a crispy, crunchy finish that was still light and filled with flavor. Though Brenner's recipe called for rice milk in place of regular, he says that those not concerned with dairy could easily replace this with buttermilk and an egg.
Brenner also encouraged the use of spice to add flavor to food that might otherwise be lacking. He was adamant that if a substance is taken out of food, like gluten or dairy, it needs to be replaced with something. With the fried chicken, a generous mix of salt, pepper, cayenne, onion powder, and garlic powder complemented the crunchy texture of brown rice flour and created a bite reminiscent to the traditional fried chicken.
On the side, Brenner offered gluten- and dairy-free cornbread and dairy-free mashed potatoes. Though he cooked his cornbread in a traditional cast iron skillet, he added a jalapeno and bell pepper to kick up flavor and ensure no one would miss the flour. The mashed potatoes begged for roasted garlic and Brenner conceded, adding rosemary to his foil packet. He instructed his students to use a generous hand when it comes to salting the potatoes, slipping in an old restaurant kitchen trick: Too much salt in your soup? Throw in a raw potato and let it soak up the sodium.
The demonstration finished when the infamous flourless chocolate cake, a dessert Brenner served during his time at Moxy, came out of the oven. This ultra-rich dessert uses espresso powder and high-quality bittersweet chocolate to hide any hint of missing flour. Another tip from Brenner – though he doesn't use his microwave very often, he does use it to melt chocolate and butter. Melt in even intervals, stirring in between, and both substances will melt evenly.
A quick survey of those in attendance revealed that less than half were actually gluten-free because of Celiac Disease, and only one was dairy-free. This class is an example of the new allergen-free audience that Brenner is so excited to cook for. Many were new to the world of gluten-free cooking and Brenner displayed passion and excitement to attendees, giving them something to look forward to as they embark on their allergen-free journey.
Dierbergs Markets, multiple locations, dierbergs.com