The best way to eat a Colorado peach is straight off the tree or from a roadside stand, still warm from the sun. Just dust off the skin, take a bite and let the juice run down your chin as you savor the sweetness. After that, the pros can have a go at capturing that flavor in their own culinary creations. Restaurants around town are bringing in peaches by the crate for salads, cobblers and crisps; here are a few samples of some great peach plates from Lower48 Kitchen, Spruce in the Hotel Boulderado and Flagstaff House -- plus a recipe for Flagstaff House's baked peaches in brioche.
See also: The top ten doughnuts in Denver
Spruce has only been open for about as long as the best peaches have been ready for harvest this summer, but the restaurant in the Hotel Boulderado is already taking advantage of the sweet fruit. Spruce presents Palisade peaches simply, warmed through on the grill with a touch of caramelization to emphasize the natural sugars. A little arugula, a prosciutto "tuile" and a breaded chevre fritter balance out the plating. The warm, tart juices of the peach mingle with the tangy goat cheese to form a savory dish accented by a thick balsamic vinegar, honey and black pepper reduction. It's part of chef Shawn Murrell's goal of showcasing the freshest Colorado ingredients.
Lower48 Kitchen takes a slightly different approach, using a seemingly savory preparation of peaches in a complex dish that still manages to evoke childhood memories of late-summer home-cooked desserts. Chef Alex Figura explains the process of pickling the peaches, which he likens more to an Italian mostarda, since the fruit itself never feels direct heat. Over a five-day period, the peaches are macerated in sugar, drained and recombined with the juices, which are cooked down a little more each day. At each stage, the peaches are tasted and champagne vinegar is added a little at a time. The resulting fruit has a firmer bite than typical preserved peaches, since the juices are drawn from the fruit -- almost dehyrated, according to Figura -- before the liquid is added back.
We ate the pickled peaches in a dessert from the ever-changing menu that combined bright green basil ice cream, a dollop of foamed yogurt Anglaise and a thin and simple oat crisp. If serving preserved peaches during a month when the fresh fruit is so abundant seems strange, one bite reveals the freshness of the season captured in Lower48's preserve. The vinegar is subtle, accenting but not overwhelming the natural tartness.
This exact dessert may not appear on the menu if you decide to seek it out, but Figura says that the pickled peaches will make other appearances -- on a sourdough and American ham open-faced mini-sandwich (not quite a bruschetta) with Parmesan cream, and during Denver Restaurant Week on a pork belly dish with black grits. And he assures that it will appear on another dessert before the season ends.
Keep reading to see Flagstaff House's peaches in brioche, with a recipe...
Flagstaff House slices peaches and bakes them into an eggy and sweet brioche and tops it with housemade goat-cheese ice cream. Here the peaches are soft and cooked through, their juices bleeding into the bread to form an upscale version of a country-style cobbler. The ice cream melts to form a rich sauce with just the slightest tang from the cheese. It's a beautiful way to showcase the full flavor of the fruit as well as its vivid sunset color.
Executive chef Mark Monette's kitchen shared the recipe for this fall dessert. The goat-cheese ice cream recipe is not included, but your favorite brand of vanilla would be a great substitute.
Ingredients 4 fresh peaches, sliced 12 ounces high-gluten flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 2 teaspoons cake yeast 5 eggs 12 ounces butter, softened
Method Put all ingredients except the butter in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix well on medium speed until the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Lower the speed and add soft butter very slowly, mixing periodically. Do not scrape sides. Finish on medium speed until all the butter is incorporated, then pour out of mixer. Let the mixture rest in refrigerator until it is well chilled, then roll out and place peaches inside. Flagstaff's kitchen bakes the brioche in ring molds on a lined tray, but small buttered and floured cake or pastry pans would also work. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with ice cream.
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