For Chef Ryan Stoy, a meal’s last course is sort of like the passing of the Olympic torch. “Dessert offers an opportunity to remember the last bite — and look forward to the next,” says the Downriver Grill chef.
While dessert fills many health-conscious eaters with apprehension, Stoy says it doesn’t have to be a diet disaster. Instead, desserts can offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy seasonal ingredients and experiment with unique flavor combinations that don’t rely on fat and sugar to wow the tastebuds.
“I honed my love for food in a succession of kitchens in the United States and Europe,” says Stoy, who started out in the food industry as a dishwasher at Marie Callender’s. He liked the trade, and enrolled first at Spokane Skills Center and continued on at the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy (INCA) before traveling the world. In Barcelona, he embraced the country’s culinary staples, especially the meat and seafood.
“In Pamplona, I found myself closing my eyes and enjoying a slow-cooked meat from just a few miles away,” he recalls. Those lessons in locality, seasonality and sustainability have influenced how he works with food to this day.
The world of the professional kitchen is demanding, and Stoy works to make relationships with his team as important as the meals they produce.
“Restaurant work is shrouded with difficulties and intense atmospheres. We work long hours and in hot, dangerous and stressful environments,” says Stoy. “When you spend 40 to 80 hours a week with the same people, they become family. We golf together, go out after work together, share meals and all congratulate each other when our lives experience something great.”
His deep appreciation for other people makes Stoy eager to work with diners who have special needs. “Gluten intolerances are becoming more prevalent,” says Stoy, who even prepares gluten-free desserts. “I always take all food sensitivities with grave seriousness. I try to understand the different diseases, conditions and intolerances so I offer safe choices to my guests. I train my servers to communicate very clearly so we can understand what the guest can and cannot have.
“What is challenging for these dishes,” he says, “is making sure the customer clearly identifies themselves and the severity of their allergy.”
Cinnamon and Turmeric Braised Apples with Pistachio Frozen Yogurt
Aside from the fact that cinnamon and turmeric just taste good together, Chef Ryan Stoy likes these spices for other reasons. “Turmeric is a strong cancer-fi ghting food ingredient. What I really like about cinnamon is it offers a sweet element without having to overdo it with sugar. If we have good apples, we can even omit the sugar all together.”
8 apples, peeled and cut into wedges
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground turmeric
2 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons simple syrup (made by heating up 2 Tbs of water and 4 Tbs of sugar until sugar dissolves)
Over medium heat, toast the cinnamon and turmeric until they begin to slightly color and become aromatic (approximately one minute). Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the apples, sugar and vanilla bean. Sauté the apples until they are well-coated and the sugar melts and starts to become sticky. Add lemon juice and simple syrup and continue to cook over medium heat until apples are fully cooked and soft to the touch. Yield: 6 servings.
Pistachio-Infused House Yogurt
2 cups water
1-1/2 Tablespoons yogurt with active cultures (Greek style)
2 Tablespoons local honey, slightly warmed
1-3/4 cup dry milk powder
1/2 cup roasted pistachio dust
2 cups water
Pour 2 cups of water into a sealable one quart container and stir in the yogurt and honey until dissolved. Whisk in the powdered milk and pistachio dust until completely blended. Fill with remaining water and stir. Once everything is mixed together, close the lid and let it sit for 12-15 hours at a warm temperature. (The process is similar to how you would proof bread at 95-100 degrees. A pilot-lit oven or other warm place works fi ne.) The yogurt will thicken as it sits. Serve chilled or freeze in ice cream freezer. To make pistachio dust at home, grind roasted pistachios till they are light and creamy in a food processor.