Bill Bettencourt
Alexandra Guarnaschelli's flattened guinea hen with violet mustard glaze, braised lettuce & pig's trotter cracklings.
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Fall/Winter Menu Preview 2006

Judiaann Woo - July/August 2006

Baby, it's cold outside (or it will be soon). Six chefs reveal their plans for the seasons of robust eating ahead.

Cathal Armstrong
Restaurant Eve
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
"We source our ingredients from over 160 different suppliers, but I make an effort to create a relationship with all the farmers that I buy from. It might be as simple as offering them a glass of wine when they come in, getting them fed, or sending them home with something for their wives. The little bit of effort is worth the reward."

Appetizer
Foie gras en croûte. "Make a poor man's brioche, which is another way of saying brioche with a little less butter than the traditional French version. It'll be a little drier, but the texture will be better for this particular application. Season and sear foie gras just for color; allow to cool slightly before encasing in a mini loaf pan lined with rolled out brioche dough. Seal edges and bake in a hot oven for about five minutes. Unmold and cut away a half-inch-thick slice as you would a loaf of bread. Arrange the slice just off to the side of the remaining loaf. Serve with a quenelle of fig jam, a puddle of glace de viande, and garnish with micro chervil."

Entrées
Chesapeake black bass with sweet garlic puree, braised parsnips & white truffles. "To make a sweet garlic puree, it's important to use really fresh garlic, which tends to have a much sweeter taste than garlic that has been allowed to sit around and age. Cook cloves gently in butter until softened; add roughly diced russet potatoes; cover with half-and-half; add a bay leaf; cook until tender; season with salt and pepper; puree to a loose consistency. In a shallow bowl with a wide rim, add a few spoonfuls of the garlic puree and top with a few bâtons of butter-braised parsnip. Over that, add a fillet of Chesapeake black bass sautéed and seasoned just with salt. Shave white truffles, a great indulgence, over the top of it all."

"Three Little Pigs." "This dish features three different preparations of pork, hence the name. The pork is all Berkshire and certified humane. There's a lot of work that goes into getting the three preparations on the plate, but the results are definitely worth it. People seem to enjoy the contrasting flavors and textures that result from the different cooking techniques. First, there's a crisp and tender pork belly, which I flavor with a dry rub of brown sugar, salt, sel rose preserving salt, and dry seasonings such as rosemary, thyme, sage, onion, and garlic. It's braised until fork tender, crisped in a hot pan, and served over braised salsify. The second preparation is pork shoulder cooked in the traditional French method for daube de boeuf (Provençale beef stew) and served shredded, like pulled pork, over a circle of brioche. And the final preparation is head cheese made from a whole hog head flavored with tarragon, thyme, and fennel. It's served at room temperature with a garnish of Dijon mustard and cornichons."

Dessert
Caramelized quince with pine nut ice cream, Manchego air & salted pine nuts. Pastry Chef Tom Wellings. "For the ice cream, toast the pine nuts to release their oils and add them directly to the cold milk and cream to infuse overnight. Strain and add sugar, glucose, trimoline, milk powder, and whole eggs to complete the ice cream base. Serve the pine nut ice cream with spheres of quince cooked in apple cider and caramel. To make the Manchego air, cook grated cheese in water until the mixture becomes elastic; let it infuse for two hours; strain through cheesecloth to separate out the liquid. Bring the liquid to a simmer; add soy lecithin before frothing with an immersion blender to create the air effect. Garnish the plate with some toasted, salted pine nuts."

Randy Rucker
Laidback Manor
Houston
"We definitely have some shock value with our food, but the reception by both other chefs and the local community has been great since day one. We wanted to remove the pretentiousness of fine dining, but it's still nice, and we take our food seriously. Me, my sous chef--in fact our entire kitchen staff--are all under the age of 30. It's a groovy little joint."

Appetizer
Smoked yogurt custard with salmon roe, red beet caramel & poached egg yolk. "Hang the yogurt in cheesecloth for several hours to drain the excess moisture before smoking overnight in a covered box with applewood smoke sticks. The smoke penetrates, similar to incense, without having to apply heat. Add the smoked yogurt to a custard base and bake gently in individual lipped bowls, then cool. The egg yolk is poached in the shell for one hour, using an immersion circulator to keep the water temperature at exactly 63 degrees Celsius [145°F]. When cool, the shell and white are removed to reveal a perfect sphere of yolk that holds its shape but is still quite soft inside. The effect is almost like a natural custard. Place the yolk on top of the custard with a small quenelle of salmon roe and a four-inch-long pipette filled with a glossy red beet caramel made from reduced beet juice flavored with bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, cloves, and Isomalt. Garnish with micro bull's blood. The pipette, from a laboratory equipment supplier, allows the diner to decide how much beet caramel to dispense."

Entrées
Crispy scallop "croutons" with arugula goat cheese puree, dried chorizo & its juice. "To make the dried chorizo and juice, puree Mexican chorizo cooked in a mirepoix with white wine, shellfish stock, and a sachet of fresh herbs that includes saffron before passing through a chinois to separate the solids from the liquid. Reserve the liquid for plating and spread the solids on parchment paper to dehydrate before pulverizing in a spice grinder. For the scallop ‘croutons,' puree fresh sea scallops with egg, cream, and shallot confit to make a mousse; pass through a tamis before piping into four-by-one-inch rectangular flexi-molds; bake in a water bath until just set; cool before slicing into three equal squares. Flash fry parsley, basil, arugula, and chives until crispy, then blend with panko bread crumbs until green in color. Dredge the scallop squares in flour, egg yolks, and the herbed panko before deep frying. Serve three scallop croutons on a puree of arugula and goat cheese flavored with Banyuls wine, salt, and pepper. At service, add soy lecithin to the warmed chorizo juice and froth to create a foam. Spoon some chorizo foam over each scallop and garnish with the chorizo powder and micro arugula."

Texas sika venison with chestnut puree, Asian pear poached in mint & tonka bean reduction. "Sika deer, originally from Japan, are now raised locally at Broken Arrow Ranch in the Texas Hill Country. They have a wonderful flavor that tends to be less gamy than other varieties of venison. Cook the venison loin sous-vide in a vacuum bag with some cinnamon infused grapeseed oil, bay leaf, and thyme before seasoning and searing in a hot pan for color. To serve, smear the chestnut puree across the plate, using an offset palette knife, and lay the medallions of venison on top. Spoon some of the diced Asian pear, cooked in simple syrup with mint and peppercorns, on top. Add a quick line of the tonka bean reduction on the plate with some shavings of roasted chestnuts over the top. The reduction consists of caramelized shallots, vermouth, and venison stock, with a shaving of tonka bean at the very end. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits tonka beans from being used in foods because they can thin blood when ingested in large enough amounts. However, we use a minimal amount. The flavor, reminiscent of vanilla or maple, is very concentrated, and a little goes a long way."

Dessert
Texas pecan financier with pumpkin pie ice cream, "burnt" crème fraîche à la LN2. Pastry Chef Ryan Savoie. "Combine crème fraîche, buttermilk, and heavy cream; hang in cheesecloth to get rid of the excess liquid before cold smoking. Lay smoke sticks directly on the surface for a more intense ‘burnt' flavor. Puree and pass through a tamis before transferring to squeeze bottles for service. For the ice cream, mix pumpkin puree into a standard ice cream base flavored with cookie spices such as cinnamon, clove, allspice, and nutmeg. Instead of cooking the base on the stove, poach sous-vide style and spin the ice cream to order, using a PacoJet. Serve a quenelle of the pumpkin ice cream in a very shallow bowl anchored by some shaved toasted pecans next to a warm pecan financier. Pour some liquid nitrogen into a metal bowl and squeeze drops of the crème fraîche mixture to freeze instantaneously. Use a slotted spoon to remove the flash-frozen balls and sprinkle over the ice cream."

Bob Waggoner
Charleston Grill, Charleston Place Hotel
Charleston, South Carolina
"If you ever get a chance to see where your products are grown or raised, I strongly suggest you seize the opportunity. I gained a whole new appreciation for free-range after spending time at the Broken Arrow Ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where the antelopes run wild over 750 acres. And I know you probably hear this all the time, but people like Farmer Lee Jones at The Chef's Garden in Ohio make my life so much easier. Salt of the earth is what I like to say."

Appetizer
Sambuca/tarragon cured Atlantic salmon with avocado mousseline, fried fennel & lemon oil. "For my version of gravlax, I prefer using whole sides of wild salmon, preferably from the Yukon. Cure the fish using a mix of 60 percent salt to 40 percent sugar with some roughly cracked white peppercorns. Cover with enough Sambuca just to moisten and wrap in plastic with a few bunches of tarragon on both sides. Allow fish to cure for 10 hours before washing off the excess salt and sugar. To serve, slice into quarter-inch-thick slices and fold across one another on a plate. I don't like to slice the pieces too thinly; I prefer something more substantial to bite into. Over each piece of fish, spoon a quenelle of avocado mousseline made by pureeing ripe avocados with crème fraîche, lemon and grapefruit juices, shallots, garlic, salt, and pepper. Garnish with fried fennel, micro fennel sprouts, and a julienne of orchid flower petals. Drizzle the plate with a little lemon juice and olive oil and finish with a dusting of salt and pepper."

Entrées
Low Country triggerfish with pan-seared diver scallops, fried black trumpet mushrooms, celery root puree & Zinfandel emulsion. "Joël Antunes of Joël restaurant in Atlanta is my source for all kinds of hard to find French ingredients. He has someone in France who finds all the best stuff for him, and I, in turn, get my stuff from Joël. I buy all my butter, crème fraîche, and in this case, black trumpet mushrooms, from him. Halve the mushrooms before dredging in flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs; deep fry until crispy. Serve with a puree of celery root cooked in milk and enriched with crème fraîche with some large pan-seared diver scallops and sautéed triggerfish. The triggerfish, a rustic meaty fish, stands up well next to the Zinfandel. To make the beurre rouge, reduce Zinfandel with shallots and strain before emulsifying in the best butter you can afford. My butter of choice, Beurre d'Isigny, is from Normandy. It's gorgeous. Let the Zinfandel emulsion wander across the plate so that you get a little bit of sauce with each bite and scatter some micro celery sprouts and micro chives around so they look like they wandered across the plate as well."

Roasted blackbuck antelope tenderloin with Charleston Grill potato skins. "The blackbuck comes from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas. It looks a bit like a young deer and has great flavor. Season and sear the tenderloin before finishing it in the oven to medium-rare. For the sauce, sauté shallots with some honey and white wine until lightly colored; add chicken demi-glace and reduce before whipping in a little butter; add some finely diced candied orange peel; flambé with Grand Marnier to complete the sauce. Arrange slices of tenderloin over a small bed of caramelized Vidalia onions and spoon the sauce around the plate. Serve with three potato skins made from hollowed out fingerling potatoes that are deep-fried, then filled with caramelized onions and smoky bacon and topped with little chunks of seared foie gras. Garnish with colorful micro greens such as micro bull's blood and garnet amaranth."

Dessert
White chocolate/roasted pear bread pudding with caramel sauce & Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream. Pastry Chef Vinzenz Aschbacher. "This bread pudding uses croissants as the base with a white chocolate custard, white chocolate chunks, and cubes of sweet poached pears. Start by making a standard custard using milk, cream, egg yolks, and sugar; while the mixture is still warm, whisk in some melted white chocolate for added richness and flavor. Pour the custard over the chopped croissants and allow the liquid to soak thoroughly before folding in pieces of solid white chocolate and poached pears. Adding the chocolate in two additions--one melted, one solid--produces a creamy bread pudding with little pockets of melted chocolate here and there. As for the croissants, I think their tender flakiness makes for a nice light texture. Bake the bread pudding in individual soup bowls and serve warm with Tahitian vanilla ice cream."

Alexandra Guarnaschelli
Butter
New York City
"Living and working in France for seven years was such an exciting time for me. It's where I learned to cook for the whole palate and the whole person. I call it pinball cooking, which surprises, delights, and offers an unexpected turn. I kept a journal to help me remember what it was like to walk around the markets and to really taste things for the first time, so those experiences are never too far away."

Appetizer
Purslane salad with American caviar, pickled red onions, crispy burdock root & Banyuls dressing. "Boil new potatoes and thinly slice before dressing lightly in sour cream with a little lemon zest. Arrange the potatoes on a plate and surround with an express pickle of thinly sliced red onion, rinsed in cold water and dressed with caper juice and Banyuls wine. Make a vinaigrette of Banyuls, olive oil, and a dash of hazelnut oil for a woodsy nutty flavor. Depending on how I feel, a squirt of lemon, a bit of mustard, and a pinch of superfine sugar may also come into play. Add some neutral oil to the paddlefish caviar to break it up a bit and dot it over the potatoes and around the plate. I like to use American caviar because I want to support the local caviar market and I think caviar in a salad is a bit out of the ordinary and fun. Dress the purslane leaves with the vinaigrette and arrange on top of the potatoes. Garnish with a crispy deep-fried burdock root tuile. The whole thing should look a bit tousled. I don't like salads to look too perfect."

Entrées
Hawaiian opah with crosnes, clay-baked butterball potatoes & preserved lemon with parsley/lovage aïoli. "Hawaiian opah looks a bit like a wide, stout halibut and has a texture similar to swordfish. Season and sear a boneless skinless fillet over moderate heat until cooked all the way through. Serve with an aïoli of finely chopped preserved lemons, curly leaf parsley, lovage, roasted garlic, olive oil, and orange juice, plus a mixture of crosnes, a little knobby tuber also known as the Chinese artichoke, and roasted butterball potatoes. For the crosnes, sauté them in a little olive oil with salt, pepper, a sprig of thyme, and a splash of water until tender. Cook the German butterball potatoes in a clay pot with a bay leaf, olive oil, and fleur de sel de Guérande from Brittany. To serve, heat the crosnes and potatoes together and add some lovage leaves at the end. Top with some reserved crosnes left in their raw stage dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for a little crunch."

Flattened guinea hen with violet mustard glaze, braised lettuce & pig's trotter cracklings. "Debone half a guinea hen and marinate overnight in yogurt mixed with curry, cumin, coriander, and paprika. Cook skin side down in a cast-iron pan with another pan on top to weigh it down and keep it flat. In the same pan, make a sauce of red wine, violet mustard made from grape must, salt, pepper, and a few tarragon leaves. To prepare the trotters, peel the skin off the feet and braise with sliced cabbage and green apples until the meat is falling off the bone. Fry the reserved skin in hot oil until crispy, adding some thinly sliced shallots at the end. Serve the guinea hen with the braised pork seasoned with some whole-grain mustard and a touch of Tabasco pepper sauce over butter braised Bibb or romaine lettuce with the pork cracklings on top."

Dessert
Warm pears & frangipane with silky Greek yogurt & Beaumes-de-Venise granité. "Beaumes-de-Venise is a Muscatel from the South of France with a wonderful floral flavor reminiscent of honey, but not too sweet. Mix the wine with simple syrup and a splash of lemon juice for the granité. Generously spread a layer of frangipane on a rectangle of pâte brisée and layer with sliced pears poached with vanilla, star anise, Beaumes-de-Venise, and sugar. Dot the top of the pears with more frangipane and bake to order until wonderful and golden. Serve with a yogurt cream made by folding whipped cream into Greek yogurt sweetened with lavender honey and maple syrup. Drizzle more honey on the plate and serve with a nice pile of granité off to the side for a contrast of hot and cold."

Anne Desjardins
L'Eau à la Bouche
Sainte-Adèle, Quebec
*"It's been almost 26 years since we first opened the restaurant. I've always thought cooking to be hard work, and you really have to love it to make it in this industry. For me, it's been easier, because I've had my husband at my side at the hotel. We lived upstairs. Now, my 32 year old son is my executive sous chef. He was practically raised in this kitchen. This year we're adding a Nordic spa to the hotel, with a little cafe where we'll serve small dishes and tapas." *

[Editor's Note: In 2002, Anne Desjardins became the first woman to receive the Renaud-Cyr Award in the chef category from the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food. The prize recognizes the continuous work of a chef with local and regional farmers. She has also been named Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Quebec by the provincial government.]

Appetizer
Pan-seared Gulf of St. Lawrence scallops with frothy porcini cream, toro beets & winter leaves. "I really enjoy cooking with wild mushrooms, and I have some regular customers who come in just to sample my many mushroom recipes. A dish like this is quite simple but full of great earthy flavors. For the porcini cream, simmer equal parts milk and heavy cream with shallots and a little bit of white wine; add porcini; steep two hours; season with salt, pepper, a touch of Tabasco pepper sauce, and a drop of Sherry vinegar; strain; warm gently before frothing with an immersion blender. Sear scallops in olive oil until caramelized on one side but left almost underdone and soft on the other side. Serve the scallops over thin slices of deep red roasted taro beets and some winter greens that have a touch of bitterness, such as baby arugula, tatsoi, or bok choy, wilted in butter and seasoned with salt. Spoon some of the frothy porcini cream around and dot the plate with reduced beet juice."

Entrées
Mirabel pork cooked in two manners. "For a small farm, it's much easier if we purchase a whole side of pork rather than just certain cuts, so we make the most of the situation by offering our diners two different kinds of textures and flavors by using two different cooking methods with the same side of the animal. The Mirabel pork is local, as is the Laurentian organic honey used for the fillet, which is cooked à la minute and glazed with a spiced honey gastrique. The shoulder is braised for several hours in mead, a honey wine, until very tender. To make the gastrique, boil honey to a dark caramel; deglaze with mead; reduce before adding a blend of dry spices including coriander, cayenne, juniper berries, cumin, and nutmeg. Season and sear the fillet. While the meat is resting, lacquer with the honey gastrique before slicing. Arrange medallions of fillet on a plate with a piece of the braised and deboned pork shoulder, sautéed fingerling potatoes, reduced jus, and a line of the dry spices as a garnish."

Organic beef cheeks cooked in red wine with "risotto" of barley, root vegetables, wild mushrooms & local goat cheddar. "Beef cheeks contain a lot of natural collagen, so it's crucial to cook them slowly; otherwise they can be tough and completely inedible. A good braise will result in the most tender piece of meat--so tasty--that it's a real privilege to cook and eat. Braise the cheeks on a bed of onions, carrots, and garlic with salt, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. For the risotto, sauté chopped wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, hedgehogs, black trumpets, or porcini with a brunoise of root vegetables including carrots, parsnips, turnips, and celery root; add precooked barley and a handful of grated cheese to bind. I use a two year old goat's milk cheddar from Tour Nezend Farm. Press the risotto into a ring mold and serve with the beef cheek and some of the reduced jus with a cheddar tuile made in the style of frico."

Dessert
Maple/butternut squash ice cream sandwiches. "Because of its natural sweetness, butternut squash is perfectly suited for autumn desserts, especially when maple syrup is added. To make the ice cream base, flavor a standard crème anglaise with cooked pureed butternut squash and sweeten with maple syrup. To order, sandwich the ice cream between two large soft almond macaroons, served with a macédoine of butternut squash sautéed à la minute in butter with sliced almonds and a pinch of salt. Drizzle a caramel made from maple syrup and balsamic vinegar around the plate. For the best flavor, it's important not to let the maple syrup get too dark and to use a good quality aged balsamic vinegar."

Tim McKee
La Belle Vie
Minneapolis
"Before La Belle Vie moved from Stillwater to the 510 Groveland address, the historic space was occupied for years by The 510 Restaurant. There's a lot of history in this place. It's amazing to think of all the cooks who've come through that kitchen. Every city has a restaurant that serves as the training ground for all the local chefs. That was The 510 and it was sad to see it go, but 27 years is quite a run."

Appetizer
"Tagine" of caramelized foie gras with dried apricots & Moroccan spices. "Instead of the traditional lamb accompaniment, this tagine is topped with Minnesota's own Au Bon Canard foie gras, which is seared and sprinkled with a blend of sugar and ras al hanout before getting caramelized with a blow torch. Before the sugar has a chance to set, sprinkle the foie gras with toasted black and white sesame seeds. Ras al hanout, a Moroccan seasoning blend meaning "head of the shop," can consist of dozens of spices. Ours includes orrisroot, rose petals, turmeric, cayenne, lavender, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, anise, allspice, white pepper, galangal, ginger, and cardamom. The tagine includes onion, tomatoes, golden raisins soaked in Sauternes, dried apricots, and spices all stewed together with duck jus, then reduced."

Entrées
Slow poached arctic char with chanterelles & butter lettuce. "Poach arctic char fillet in lemon juice, white wine, olive oil, garlic, and fresh thyme. Serve the fillet over butter lettuce which has been lightly blanched and heated with butter. Top with chanterelles sautéed in olive oil with shallots and finished with a knob of butter. Serve with a drizzle of two sauces--a reduction of red wine seasoned with garlic, a touch of sugar, and thyme, along with a bright green scallion confit consisting of scallions cooked in olive oil with sugar, pureed with butter, and heated with water."

Moulard duck breast with polenta fondue, yellow turnips, golden beets & fig vinaigrette. "Cook the polenta to a relatively thin consistency while whisking in butter and extra-virgin olive oil before adding grated Parmesan and Robiola cheese. Spoon the polenta on a plate in a teardrop shape and top with a mixture of glazed and sautéed yellow turnips, golden beets, and Brussels sprouts leaves. Next to that, serve a crispy duck confit made by lightly coating the shredded duck in cornstarch before deep frying with some whole leaves of flat leaf parsley. Toss together with a julienne of Belgian endive with some fig vinaigrette made of dried white Mission figs cooked in red and white balsamic vinegars, duck jus, duck cracklings, thyme, duck fat, and olive oil. Fan the Moulard duck breast, cooked to medium-rare, on top and draw a thin line of the strained fig vinaigrette on the plate."

Dessert
Concord grape tasting. Pastry chef Adrienne Odom. "I grew up in New York and have associated Concord grapes with fall ever since the first time I had them as a kid. The grapes have such a short season--maybe four or five weeks--which might be part of their appeal. They have sweet flesh with a tart skin that slips off easily. It's just a great grape. For a tasting, I would include the following four mini portions: a clafoutis with Concord grapes macerated overnight in Savennières; an ice cream soda served in a shot glass with a fresh puree of Concord grapes topped with cava, a sparkling Spanish wine, and a scoop of cream cheese ice cream; warm bomboloni rolled in rosemary sugar and filled with Concord grape jelly infused with lemon and orange peels and a sprig of rosemary; and an ice cream sandwich of salted hazelnut/Concord grape parfait between two layers of chocolate sponge cake."