Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Coffee?

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[Photograph: Shutterstock]

For many of us, a strongly brewed cup of coffee is the water of life, but there's more to those beans than our daily jolt. Our fresh new panel of chefs weighs in on how to get the most of your grounds, from nutty, bittersweet glazes to toasty rubs, infused oils, and java-scented baked goods.

Intense Coffee Butter

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Tse Wei Lim and Diana Kudayarova]

Since catalyzing Somerville, Massachusetts's Union Square restaurant landscape with their intimate restaurant Journeyman and cocktail bar, backbar, Chef Tse Wei Lim and his wife, Diana Kudayarova, have taken on Kendall Square in Cambridge with Ames Street Deli and Study.

I really like coffee with root vegetables, especially sweet ones like carrots, beets, and sweet potato. There's a great technique that I learned from Daniel Patterson's cookbook, Coi—he loads up two pounds of coffee beans in a roasting pan and layers the carrots on top. Since most of us can't afford to do that, though, I've found a great alternative: coffee butter.

I start with whole coffee beans and cook them sous vide with butter before straining the beans out. It's a fairly intense product—about one pound of coffee beans to two pounds of butter. If you don't have a sous-vide cooker, you can get pretty similar results by combining the butter and coffee in a tightly covered pot and placing it in the oven at the lowest possible temperature (ideally around 170°F) for three to four hours.

I use the butter to glaze carrots that have been roasted in the oven, or to enrich a sweet potato purée. Sometimes, if I'm making croutons, I'll toss my brioche bread with it, throwing in some ground coffee afterward for a crunchy texture and little black speckles.

Bittersweet Burrata Risotto

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[Photograph: Jim Taylor]

Since first learning to cook as a child in his father's restaurant, Chef Michele Brogioni developed a passion for creating dishes that would earn him a Michelin star as head chef at Relais & Châteaux's Il Falconiere in Cortona, Italy. He's currently the executive chef at the iconic Italian restaurant The Leopard at des Artistes in New York City.

I'm Italian, so I can't make it through the morning without my coffee—I drink and cook with it a lot. I love how the rich, bitter flavor of coffee can enhance dishes I've made countless times before, transforming them into something totally new.

One of my favorite applications is risotto, which I enrich with burrata and Parmesan cheese instead of butter. I top it with ground coffee, dried peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes. It's a really weird combination, but it works remarkably well—between the sweetness of the burrata and the bitterness of the coffee, you get something new with every bite.

Coffee-Crusted Venison

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Joe Kindred]

North Carolina native Joe Kindred combines Southern traditions with global influences at Kindred. He's worked at noteworthy restaurants across the country, including the original Nobles in Charlotte, North Carolina; Tru and The Pump Room in Chicago; and Delfina in San Francisco.

I like to add a coffee-crusted venison with chestnuts and Brussels sprouts to our fall menu. We take beans from Summit Coffee down the road, then roast them like you would cashews in order to intensify the flavor. Then we buzz them in a grinder with salt, pepper, and juniper berries, which add a gin-like quality to the seasoning mix, and rub it all over venison; it adds a malty flavor that works really well with the venison's gamy intensity. It's a combination that I learned from my grandfather, who's a good ol' boy from North Carolina. You can grill, roast, or braise the venison—the combination works in pretty much any application.

Chicken Jus

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Rebelle]

Chef Daniel Eddy, formerly of Spring in Paris, is the chef of Rebelle, a French restaurant on New York's Bowery.

Coffee beans from Nicaragua are a childhood memory of mine. At Rebelle, we put some into the jus that's served with one of our chicken dishes. We start by cooking down chicken stock, honey, black peppercorns, white wine, and shallots, and then add a few coffee pods at the end for a nutty, faintly bitter dimension. It's a matter of really striking the perfect balance—you only want enough coffee flavor to make people scratch their heads.

Coffee Oil

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Charles Zhuo]

Chef Charles Zhuo started cooking at Austin's Barley Swine in February 2013 and worked his way up to the title of co–sous chef. With co–sous chef Bradley Nicholson, he creates a 14-course tasting menu based on what local farms have available. Zhuo also oversees fermentation projects, from fish sauce to yogurt to tempeh.

Coffee is great for adding subtle flavor to all manner of dishes. Its nutty aroma lends itself especially well to sweeter-tasting savory dishes. A great way to deliver that flavor with maximum control and minimal effort is to infuse it into oil or butter.

If you're going to use it on a cold application, like a ceviche, infuse it into a neutral oil, letting it sit at room temperature for 24 hours or so. For something warm, though, we use brown butter. Brown enough butter to cover whatever amount of coffee you're using, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then strain. Using coffee grounds will yield a stronger flavor, but it will also extract some of the less desirable ones and impart a harsher flavor. You can use the resulting oil like an essential oil and brush it onto meat or smoked salmon. If you're using it in volume for a product like noodles, I recommend using crushed coffee beans so that you can better control the flavor.

Cured Duck

As executive chef of Orchids at Palm Court in Cincinnati, Todd Kelly manages the seasonal menu of French-inspired dining, maintaining a distinct menu with locally grown produce. Kelly won the 2011 American Culinary Federation U.S.A.'s Chef of 
the Year Award and is one of only six Hilton Signature Chefs in the United States. Under Kelly's direction, Orchids at Palm Court has been named a Forbes Four-Star Restaurant for three consecutive years and a "#1 Restaurant" by Cincinnati Magazine.

We use coffee a lot in the colder months, adding it to rubs for ingredients we plan to smoke or brine. We've used it on pork and beef, but it's incredible on duck. The size of a duck breast strikes a natural balance of meat to seasoning, and the duck's fat content and sweetness work particularly well with the bitterness of coffee grounds.

We essentially make a wet cure of coffee and extremely bitter blackstrap molasses. Then we salt the duck, cure it in coffee and molasses for two to three days, and air-dry it. Finally, we sear it, so it gets a little burnt caramelization from the molasses. The cure really penetrates the breast—it makes an intensely flavorful dish.

Coffee Whipped Cream

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[Photograph: Amy Sinclair]

Abigail Quinn grew up in the kitchen, working with her family's restaurant and developing a passion that took her to Decatur, Georgia's James Beard Award–nominated Cakes & Ale, where she worked her way up from hostess to pastry chef. Now Abigail is one half of the lead team at the restaurant's sister, Proof Bakeshop, where she creates a variety of goods using quality ingredients and traditional techniques with modern and playful twists.

We're practically a coffee shop, so we have leftover coffee that we need to use up all the time. I love coffee and chocolate together, on anything, so we make coffee whipped cream and use it on chocolate mousse or our opera cakes. Instant espresso definitely has its place in baking, but you'll get the most authentic and balanced coffee flavor by toasting and crushing the beans yourself—it really makes the whipped cream shine. It's an easy but impressive, surprising trick for home entertaining.

To pull it off, just toast the beans in a dry pan on low heat until they're fragrant, then crush them with a rolling pin to release their oils. Then heat the cream and steep it with the crushed beans for about an hour. Once it has a strong coffee flavor, I strain it, chill it, and whip it up. It makes a fluffy, slightly bitter, totally unexpected topping that works well on so many desserts.

Ice Cream Glaze

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Jess Perez]

Jessica Perez, pastry chef at the Empty Stomach Restaurant Group, is a pastry aficionado, Zumba addict, and the perfect complement to the exuberant (and a little bit wild) San Antonio trio of Barbaro, Hot Joy, and The Monterey.

I make a coffee glaze with a mixture of melted white chocolate, coffee extract, ground coffee, and cocoa butter. When it's liquefied, you can dip frozen ice cream bars into it for a tiramisu-style dish. The white chocolate allows you to see the coffee grounds, so it's also really visually appealing.

Enhanced Chocolate Chip Cookies

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[Photograph: Brent Herrig]

Thiago Silva is the pastry chef at EMM Group's Catch in New York's Meatpacking District. He is a 2015 Dessert Professional Top 10 Pastry Chef and recently won the Food Network's Chopped, donating his winnings to C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program).

My favorite thing to do with coffee is reduce it and add it to chocolate chip cookie dough. That's how you get the best-tasting cookie dough—I don't care what anyone else says. Whenever I make cookies, I want to pack in as many flavors as possible. When you add the coffee reduction, you're essentially concentrating and enhancing the salt, butter, vanilla, and dark chocolate—it's a lot going on in your mouth, and the coffee's what makes everything pop.

Chocolate Cake

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Joanne Weir]

As the maestra de cocina and co-owner of Copita Tequileria y Comida in Sausalito, California, Chef Joanne Weir focuses on using seasonal, local ingredients in the restaurant's modern Mexican-inspired and 100% gluten-free menus. Weir is also a James Beard Award–winning cookbook author and judge and an international cooking teacher. Her latest book, Kitchen Gypsy, was published in September 2015.

When I was a kid, my mother always added a strong cup of coffee to her chocolate cake batter. I still use it today—the coffee adds richness and depth, and really highlights the bitter and sweet sides of the dark chocolate. People love this cake, and it's the coffee, I swear. My mom was a professional cook, too; I'm fourth-generation!