Jim Scherer
Chris Parsons' milk-poached day-boat cod crisp veal sweetbreads, artichoke and periwinkle ragout
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Spring/Summer Menu Preview 2009

Judiaann Woo / March 2009

Amazing how many styles of cooking five chefs can high-step down the kitchen runway in anticipation of the seasons just ahead!

Chris Parsons
Catch Restaurant
Winchester, Massachusetts
We focus on seasonal New England seafood prepared using French techniques and global flavor profiles. We work with one fishmonger who handpicks everything for the restaurant; other local vendors source our shellfish and produce. Our menu is about 95 percent seafood and changes just about every day because what's available is subject to the weather.

Appetizer
Sweet Neck Farm oysters en cocotte with ramps, chanterelles & gnocchi à la Parisienne. “I'm envisioning a little lidded cocotte with handles to serve this dish. The lid will be removed tableside to release all the delicate aromas. To make the oyster cream, thinly slice the whites of ramps and shallots; soften in butter; pick through chanterelles, adding the larger and reserving the smaller ones for the gnocchi; sweat; add reserved liquor from the shucked oysters with a splash of cream; simmer; add ramp tops; cook until wilted; puree in a blender; pass through a chinois. Make the gnocchi using a pâte à choux dough flavored with a little Dijon mustard and chopped chives; pipe the dough, cutting off 1/4-inch long pieces, directly into salted simmering water; cook; remove from heat and shock gnocchi in ice water; drain; sauté with reserved smaller chanterelles in butter until golden brown. To assemble, arrange some raw oysters in the bottom of a buttered cocotte along with a few browned gnocchi and chanterelles; spoon the warm oyster cream over the top; bake about five minutes at 425 degrees; serve toasted rye bread on the side.”

Entrées
Gently steamed East Coast halibut with lemon & herbs, salad of fava beans, French breakfast radishes & black trumpets. “Sort out larger black trumpet mushrooms, reserving the smaller ones for the salad. Cook in butter with finely diced shallots until tender; add a splash of chicken stock and extra-virgin olive oil; season; puree until very smooth; pass through a chinois. Season a thick piece of halibut cut from the loin with salt and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil; wrap in cheesecloth; place on a steamer tray sandwiched between fennel fronds, chopped tarragon, thyme, and lemon slices; steam to an internal temperature of 110 degrees. To serve, spoon some of the black trumpet puree on the plate; top with a salad of blanched fava beans, fava blossoms, quartered French breakfast radishes, a julienne of preserved Meyer lemon, and the reserved small black trumpet mushrooms dressed in a vinaigrette of smoked paprika oil, juice from a roasted lemon, finely ground white pepper, and fleur de sel. To make the roasted lemon juice, sear a halved lemon in a dry pan until golden and soft. Top the salad with the steamed halibut; drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and a few drops of the roasted lemon juice.

Milk-poached day boat cod with crispy veal sweetbreads, artichoke/periwinkle ragoût, green garlic & pickled garlic scapes. “This dish consists of a creamy green garlic/fingerling potato puree topped with a mixture of small pearls of Yukon gold potatoes, a brunoise of sun-dried tomatoes, blanched periwinkles, chopped chives, marinated baby artichokes, and nuggets of pan-crisped milk-poached sweetbreads combined with a little warm chicken stock, demi-glace, and butter. Trim top loin of cod into a neat block; poach gently in salted milk with a bouquet garni. To serve, spoon some of the green garlic puree on the plate; top with the ragoût; place cod on top; garnish each with a few pickled garlic scapes and a sweetbread.”

Dessert
Frozen parfait of Whippoorwill Farm strawberries & rhubarb with ginger/lime syrup. “Heat strawberry puree; add softened gelatin sheets; stir to melt gelatin; strain into clean bowl; cool completely; fold in some whipped cream. Make an Italian meringue with cooked sugar; fold into the strawberry cream; pipe strawberry mixture into individual acetate-lined ring molds about two inches wide and three inches tall; freeze. To serve, slice unmolded parfait into three rounds; arrange rounds in a bowl with diced cooked rhubarb and quartered fresh strawberries dressed in a ginger/lime simple syrup.”

Curtis Duffy
Avenues at The Peninsula
Chicago
My first focus is always on the ingredients. From there I want to utilize techniques to help push cuisine forward. For me it's a very thoughtful process. Food must really taste delicious, and then I hope I can make it exciting, too. At the restaurant, we offer four, eight, or 15 course tasting menus based on small plates.

Small plates
Golden beet sponge with spring onions, wood sorrel & snail caviar. “This dish includes two applications of beets, onions in various textures, and snail caviar, which tastes wonderfully of the forest floor. To make the sponge, juice golden beets and season them with salt and a little sugar if needed. Add softened gelatin sheets, two per 100 grams liquid, and warm just to melt. Whisk juice in a stand mixer about 15 minutes, until the texture is really light and fluffy. Mold foam into free-form shapes on acetate sheets; refrigerate until set. To serve, make a divot in the center of each beet sponge and fill in and around divots with a reduction of red beet juice flavored with red wine vinegar and salt and emulsified with olive oil for added body. Garnish the plate with pearls of white snail caviar, pickled and dehydrated spring onions, cipollini jam, and wood sorrel leaves, pods, and flowers. Like the snails themselves, the caviar tastes of their terroir—think of a damp forest covered in moss and dead leaves. The caviar comes from France, where it's cured in local sea salt. The eggs add a nice pop in your mouth and accentuate all the earthy, almost dirty, flavors of the beets.”

Morels, nasturtium, grapevine & toasted fern. “For this dish, get the largest morels you can find. Trim the tip and stem ends and make a single cut down the length of the morels to open them up into a single flat sheet. Brush the morels with olive oil; season with salt and black pepper; grill over grapevine clippings using a hibachi. Serve the morels over a pool of very soft nasturtium custard made by blending bright green nasturtium leaves into a savory custard thickened with agar-agar and blended with olive oil. Garnish with additional fresh nasturtium leaves, flowers, and sliced buds for a peppery floral note. Add lightly grilled leaves from young fiddlehead ferns and a small pile of grapevine ash. The ash, collected and allowed to sit in oil, is decanted after two to three weeks before getting mixed with tapioca maltodextrin starch, which absorbs the liquid to form a paste. In small quantities, the ash adds a nice smoky, somewhat fruity, charcoal-like quality to the dish.”

Wagyu beef cheek cannelloni with sudachi pudding, black sesame brittle & kaffir lime. “The beef cheeks, dry cured and then slowly cooked sous-vide with Southeast Asian flavors, form the base of the ragù filling for this cannelloni. The spice/herb rub consists of Thai long pepper, black cardamom, cumin, allspice, star anise, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, and Thai chiles. The braising liquid starts with a light caramel. Carrots, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, and kaffir lime leaves are then added along with some of the ground spice mixture from the rub. Cook the liquid down to a syrupy consistency before adding basil, mint, cilantro, beef stock, and coconut milk. After cooking two days at 148 degrees, the meat will be pink and very succulent. Remove from heat and cut the beef into small pieces; add to a mixture of sweated garlic, shallots, and ginger; bind with some of the reserved braising liquid and fold in some cilantro and basil at the end. To serve, cook a single sheet of fresh pasta made with duck eggs and shape into a tube around the ragù. Garnish with braised soy beans, ribbons of pickled cucumber, dots of sudachi liquid gel, chopped bits of black sesame brittle, thin slices of olive oil cured red jalapeño, red and green shiso leaves, and kaffir lime foam.”

Dessert Caramelized goat's milk ice cream, rhubarb in three forms, 2008 hay harvest. “The goat's milk comes from Amish farmers just north of Chicago. To caramelize the natural sugars in the milk, cook slowly, remove from heat, and cool—as you would for dulce de leche—until thick and gooey. Whisk in half-and-half and egg yolks to complete the base. For the rhubarb sorbet, cook chopped rhubarb with some sugar and a pinch of salt and puree until smooth. Both ice cream and sorbet are spun separately in a Pacojet before being transferred into separate piping bags fitted with round tips. Pipe ice cream and sorbet separately and randomly down the length of a terrine mold lined with plastic wrap and chill until firm. Serve a slice of the terrine under planks of rhubarb cooked with red wine and sugar set over curls of thinly julienned raw rhubarb and 2008 harvested hay-infused goat's milk fluid gel.”

Jeremy Fox
Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
Napa, California
The name Ubuntu means ‘humanity toward others,' which is how we like to approach our community focused restaurant. We use eggs and dairy but we're a vegetarian or vegetable restaurant. We grow as much as we can on our six and a half acres with plans to double the size of our garden this year. Our menu is comprised of small plates that can be arranged into multiple courses.”

Small plates
Peas with white chocolate, macadamias & chocolate mint. “Peas and chocolate might seem like an unlikely pairing, but the natural sweetness of the peas adds a nice counterpoint to the white chocolate. Shuck English peas and reserve their shells to make pea stock. Wrap pea shells in cheesecloth along with mint stems, shallots, and peppercorns; simmer sachet in water to make a clear golden stock; season; add Champagne vinegar to taste. Serve the chilled pea stock poured tableside over a bowl of blanched English peas dressed in olive oil and Meyer lemon juice with chocolate mint leaves, toasted and chopped macadamia nuts, chopped white chocolate, edible pansies, and pea shoots. Float a few drops of mint oil on top to finish.”

Charred calçots with romesco. “Calçots are the leek- like shoots of a soil-blanched Spanish scallion variety. In Spain, there are festivals devoted to celebrating calçots, which are traditionally grilled over vine cuttings, then wrapped in newspapers to steam and finish cooking. They're typically eaten by hand, dipped in romesco. I plan to stick with tradition and keep things simple. Place calçots in a pizza oven and char before wrapping in Spanish newspapers. To make the romesco, use a mortar and pestle to coarsely grind roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, hazelnuts, almonds, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, smoked paprika, and Sherry vinegar. At the table, guests can peel away the layers of paper, dip the warm calçots in the romesco, and throw their heads back to let the calçots fall into their mouths. They're a little messy but a lot of fun to eat.”

Smoked potato terrine with ficoïde glaciale & black garlic. “For the terrine, simmer fingerling potatoes in salted water before cold smoking over hickory chips. Peel and fork crush some of the potatoes while slicing the rest into random sized pieces. Season potatoes with a mustard vinaigrette and press into a terrine mold. Serve a slice of the chilled terrine over some gribiche aïoli made of egg yolks, olive oil, mustard, and Sherry vinegar with chopped onions, chopped hard-boiled egg, capers, tarragon, and parsley. Garnish the plate with tostones of twice-fried fingerling potatoes and dots of black garlic coulis made by pureeing fermented black garlic ordered from Le Sanctuaire with a little water and salt until smooth. Place a salad of ficoïde glaciale dressed in the same mustard vinaigrette to the side. We grow the French ice plant in our garden. It has a nice, lemony, almost salty flavor with thick, crisp leaves that look as though they're covered in dew.”

Dessert pastry chef Deanie Fox Tempura of spring flowers with Meyer lemon ice cream & nasturtium sabayon. “People tend to think of edible flowers as a garnish, but they're quite delicious in their own right—especially when they're deep-fried. This dessert highlights all the many varieties of edible flowers we have in our garden, including different colors of pansies, nasturtium, plum blossoms, borage flowers, and rose petals. Dip flowers and leaves in a tempura batter lightened with beer; fry until crispy. The vivid color of the flowers will remain visible under the translucent tempura crust. Season flowers with salt and dust with confectioners' sugar. To serve, arrange the fried flowers on a plate with some fresh flowers tucked in between for a textural and visual contrast. Serve with Meyer lemon ice cream, Meyer lemon confit, and nasturtium sabayon. To make the sabayon, cook nasturtium petals in water and blend until smooth. Add sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, and water, if needed, and whisk constantly over a bain-marie until thickened. I love citrus flavors and try to incorporate them into just about all my desserts. The Meyer lemons we have now are from a neighboring restaurant's trees, but we recently planted 35 trees so we'll have our own soon enough.”

John Besh
La Provence Lacombe
Louisiana
La Provence, our French farmhouse restaurant, continues the 40 year old vision of its late chef/owner and my mentor, Chris Kerageorgiou. The food is French-inspired but utilizes Southern ingredients. I grew up in Louisiana, and it's been my mission to support local farmers' markets. Over the years I've become friends with many of the farmers and fisherman of southern Louisiana. In fact, it's not unusual to see their names on my menus. At La Provence, we consciously ignore cutting edge urbanity. Instead, the dishes reflect time-honored and even time-consuming techniques that suit the ‘earthiness' of the ingredients.

Appetizer
The French crawfish boil. “This is by far my favorite contemporary crawfish dish. It is refined but maintains a simple French approach to preparing crawfish. The inspiration for this dish came from a memorable meal experienced at the restaurant Chez Bruno in Les Arcs, France. The pan sauce is so delicious you will want to eat it with a spoon. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat; add a pound of blanched crawfish; sauté three minutes over high heat, stirring often; reduce heat to medium; add shallots and garlic; cook two minutes; remove from the heat; deglaze with Armagnac; place back over the heat to cook for several minutes while flaming the sauce and crawfish; add whipping cream, shellfish stock, tarragon, salt, red pepper flakes, and minced fresh summer truffle; simmer five minutes. Serve in bowls, and don't forget Louisiana French bread for dipping. Splash bibs may be useful.”

Entrées Slow cooked local baby goat with spring vegetables. “Season baby goat shoulder and shanks with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes; sear in a heavy braising pan with olive oil over high heat. Add onions; cook until golden brown; add garlic, tomatoes, anchovy, orange peel, and rosemary; simmer for a few minutes before adding red wine and veal stock; bring to a boil for about two minutes; reduce the heat; simmer for an hour, turning the meat every 15 minutes. Next add carrots, turnips, and potatoes; cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the goat is fork tender, nearly falling off the bone. Season with salt and pepper, then serve."

Loin of Gulf Coast lamb with rosé braised lamb shoulder, butter bean/picholine olive salad & Tourmalet grits. “Gulf Coast lamb is bred specifically to do well in the warm, humid climate of the region. This dish includes two different preparations using the shoulder and loin. Marinate shoulder in garlic, fennel fronds, fennel seeds, black pepper, and lemon peel before braising in rosé and lamb stock until tender. Press and cool the meat before cutting into rectangles. Wrap each rectangle of lamb individually in parchment paper to prevent drying out while warming in the oven. To serve, place pressed lamb shoulder on top of Anson Mill's white antebellum grits cooked in equal parts water and braising liquid flavored with butter, salt, and Tourmalet. This sheep's milk cheese from France has a nutty, herby, grassy quality that reminds me of the lamb. Place some medallions of the medium-rare loin on top of the pressed lamb. To prepare the loin, bone and shape into a roulade and cook sous-vide with garlic and fennel fronds. Sear in a hot pan, basting with butter, and let rest before slicing. Top the loin slices with a chunky sauce/salad of minced anchovies, diced picholine olives, fennel fronds, blanched and diced butter beans, some Tourmalet, lemon juice and zest, salt, and Provençal olive oil.”

Dessert
Strawberry ravioli with Meyer lemons & pistachios. “This dish combines two treasures of south Louisiana: locally grown citrus and sweet Ponchatoula strawberries. For the filling, wash the strawberries, remove the tops, and quarter them. Cook the strawberries down slowly with sugar, Meyer lemon zest, fresh chopped lavender, and a little Grand Marnier, which adds a punch. Simmer until thickened. Once cooled to room temperature, whip them with mascarpone. Follow a standard pasta dough recipe but replace 10 percent of the flour with cocoa powder. Work the dough longer than normal to develop the glutens in the flour, which gives the finished pasta more texture and ‘bite.' Roll out thin; use to make ravioli with the prepared filling. To add contrast, toss pistachios with whipped egg whites, sugar, and sea salt; bake on a sheet pan at 250 degrees until dry. For the pan sauce, take plump, large strawberries and wash, stem, and quarter them; dust with sugar; caramelize in a hot sauté pan; add Grand Marnier, fresh lavender, and lemon thyme. Add blanched ravioli pasta; remove from the heat; toss gently to thicken the sauce in the pan utilizing the starches from the pasta. Heat Meyer lemon juice and zest with sugar and cream; once it reaches a simmer, ‘froth' with an immersion blender and spoon it lightly over the pasta; finish with the toasted pistachios, shaved white chocolate; and fresh chocolate mint.”

Charles Dale
Terra Encantado Resort
Santa Fe, New Mexico
I was born in France and studied romance languages at Princeton and New York University, but it wasn't until I was pursuing graduate studies in diplomacy that I fell in love with the peasant-style French cooking known as la cuisine grand-mère. Over the past 25 years, my cooking style has progressed from what might be described as haute cuisine French to American influenced. Now at Terra, the two ideologies have come together to produce a style that is both modern and rustic.”

Appetizer
Roasted poblano risotto with ramps & morels. “For the risotto, sweat finely diced white onions in a pot with extra-virgin olive oil; add superfino arborio rice and when it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a robust Chardonnay and some aromatic vegetable stock. The high starch content of superfino makes for especially creamy risotto. It's important, also, to season at the beginning and at every stage along the way to ensure that the flavors permeate the entire dish. Cook until the rice grains are just past al dente—translucent but still opaque in the center. Remove from heat and spread partially cooked rice on a baking sheet so that it's less than 1/4-inch thick; cool. Finish cooking rice at pick-up: Heat some of the risotto with vegetable stock and continue cooking as you would a regular risotto, adding fire-roasted, peeled, and finely diced poblanos to taste. Finish with butter and freshly grated Parmesan. Serve risotto topped with ramps glazed in butter, vegetable stock, and thyme; top with morels sautéed with shallots, chopped thyme, and spring garlic.”

Entrées
Frisée salad with fresh local goat cheese, caramelized pepitas, fraises des bois & pine oil vinaigrette. “Toss torn frisée with crumbled local feta from South Mountain Dairy. It has a very mild but aromatic flavor. Add fraises des bois and roasted pepitas. The wild strawberries have a wonderful floral scent. The pumpkin seeds, which add crunch, are simply cooked with sugar and caramelized. Drizzle the salad and plate with a broken vinaigrette of 12 year old balsamic vinegar and pine oil. Balsamic vinegar and strawberries are a classic combination in Italy, and the pine oil is a nice reminder that wild strawberries often grow near the edge of the pine forests.”

Pimentón-scented confit of rabbit with English peas, Thumbelina carrots & grilled spring onions. “Start with a whole rabbit, about three to five pounds. We get ours from a farm just north of Santa Fe. The rabbits are cured for 24 hours in a moist rub of Demerara sugar, salt, sage, garlic, Sherry vinegar, and pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika). Rinse the cured rabbit and slow cook it submerged in lard, as you would duck confit, until very tender. When done, remove rabbit from heat and lard; remove hind legs and loin, keeping both intact. Pull the meat off the remaining carcass and reserve. To serve, warm the pulled meat with a little chicken stock and combine with blanched English peas and glazed Thumbelina carrots. To plate, serve the rabbit ragoût with slices of the loin and braised hind leg. Garnish with grilled spring onions.”

Dessert
Rhubarb clafoutis with lavender ice cream. “I find the combination of rhubarb and lavender to be very intriguing—an appealing sensory match in flavor, color, and aroma. For the clafoutis, mix flour, milk, eggs, butter, and sugar and pour the batter into shallow crème brûlée ramekins. Stud the top generously with candied rhubarb pieces made by cooking peeled and chopped rhubarb in a light simple syrup until softened. Bake clafoutis and serve warm with lavender-infused ice cream garnished with candied lavender. Lavender grows just about everywhere here so the dish feels very much of the region.”