Fall/Winter Menu Preview 2010
Judiaann Woo - July/August 2010
Roasted and braised, touchstone techniques that conjure up the hearth and a wooly blanket. But these five chefs have plenty of modern touches in mind as well, as they plot their courses for the colder months ahead.
New York City
"We have no gimmick. The key to making these dishes work is really about getting back to basics and cooking soulfully prepared dishes with succinct flavors. We train our staff to be thoughtful about ingredients and their preparation, whether it's butchering whole animals, making responsible seafood choices, or artful cooking techniques. We try to be mindful of time and place. We choose ingredients close to home and only when they're in season. We look to the past as inspiration for the future. These are not just words. The food just tastes better when we try a little harder to follow this philosophy."
Razor clam/garlic/kale chowder. "In addition to sourcing locally, I'm also on the lookout for interesting ingredients to help tell a story on my menu. After exploring different garlic varietals from all over the world, I remembered the garlic that's always been a part of my family. Growing up, we never bought garlic because we always grew our own--first by my great grandfather and then by my father. When I took the seeds to a professional garlic grower up in Rome, New York, he was able to identify them as a type of red garlic from Italy that's never been crossed. Talk about a real family heirloom! Over the past four years, he's methodically been able to increase the size and yield to nearly 750 pounds a year. It sounds like a lot but it goes quickly, so we reserve the family garlic for special dishes where it can really shine. In a rondeau, sweat shallots, garlic, and ginger; add razor clams with a splash of white wine, stems of parsley, and thyme. Cover; cook just until the shells begin to open; pull the meat from the shells; strain; reserve the liquid. To serve, bring the soup to a simmer, add a spoonful of sweet garlic puree and a handful of blanched and finely chopped kale leaves and fresh parsley; mix with a hand blender; season with salt and pepper; add the razor clams; finish with sliced garlic confit, a drop of lemon juice, and olive oil. To make the garlic confit, cook whole cloves slowly in olive oil until very tender. For the puree, blanch garlic five times, starting with fresh cold water each time, before simmering in milk and pureeing. It's hard to describe the subtleties in garlic flavor, but it's distinct and worth the effort."
Hampton Bays black eel, grilled over white oak, with caramelized sunchokes, polenta & pickled burdock. "This dish is inspired by my time in Japan, but the goal is not to create a Japanese dish, rather to be inspired by something rooted in our own culture and location. The black eels come to us from Hampton Bays in Long Island. They're skinned and filleted while alive and then pressed overnight on parchment paper–lined sheet trays to flatten before being marinated and skewered. For the marinade, combine white soy sauce, olive oil, honey, and a little vegetable court bouillon of white wine, water, white wine vinegar, onion, celery, leeks, coriander seeds, and star anise. Grill eel over a white oak wood fire. The hard wood provides just the right amount of intense heat without direct contact with the flame. As it's cooking, brush the eel with the marinade about four times to build up the color for a slightly barbecued, lacquered effect. The controlled char will melt away the fat, leaving behind the soft and delicious meat. To serve, brush eel and plate with a dark chicken sauce finished with a good amount of brine from the house-made pickled burdock root; garnish with fire-roasted sunchokes flavored with garlic, rosemary, and polenta. As I put the components together, I'm thinking about how the dish will eat. The soft polenta will catch the scattered pieces of the eel, the roasted sunchoke will be sliced into coins and echo the char of the fire, and the julienne of pickled burdock will add texture, brightness, and aromatics."
House-brined & smoked maple-glazed ham with Brussels sprouts & kabocha squash. "We buy our pigs whole, which requires us to really think about how we're going to use all the parts. The pork legs can be a bit challenging because they're too lean for sausage and too tough for most other preparations. For the past three years we've been making our own smoked hams, but they take up a lot of time and space so I've started testing other options for what to do with the legs. My favorite solution thus far has been to slow bake the hams, sort of like a Sunday roast. First, brine the ham in a solution of water, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, and star anise for eight to 10 days. Then slow roast in the smoker with hickory, brushing on a glaze of maple syrup, homemade mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper for 12 to 15 more hours until dark mahogany in color. Serve chunks, a cross between slices and pulled, with a splash of pork sauce made by adding chopped pickled peppers and some pickling brine to pork stock. Serve with a puree of kabocha squash and mosaic of roasted kabocha and Brussels sprouts. It couldn't get much more homey and rustic than that, which is why I like the idea of serving this dish in the more formal main dining room as opposed to the Tavern."
Chocolate soup with hazelnuts & salted caramel. "Imagine a layered chocolate dessert served in a small rice bowl. On the bottom is a soft salted caramel sauce followed by a layer of light and fluffy chocolate pudding, all covered by a chilled chocolate gianduja. And on top, hovering above it all and suspended by the rim of the bowl, is a crunchy hazelnut tuile. To eat the dessert, you'd use your spoon to break through the tuile, as you would a crème brûlée, to get to the creamy center. The shards of tuile would add a nice contrasting texture to the soft layers beneath."
"At first, people seemed a little surprised to hear that I was opening a restaurant in Napa. I guess they assumed San Francisco would be next, but I've always liked this little town and I have a great deal of respect for the food that's being produced here. To succeed in Napa is quite challenging though. The menus are all highly ingredient driven and the community is small, so you really have to do your research to get in the right circles to know what's available when and from whom. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Angry bone marrow. "I like to incorporate little surprises into my menu, like using an ingredient people wouldn't typically associate with me. In this case, it's bone marrow. The ‘angry' comes from my Morimoto spice blend--chile powder, smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, ground ginger, peppercorns, and sea salt. Dust the bone with the spice mixture before roasting until the marrow is soft and very spreadable. Serve with teriyaki sauce and fresh crudités--radish, celery, and scallion--for dipping. The crisp cold vegetables serve as vessels to pick up the warm, fatty goodness of the bone marrow. The sweet teriyaki balances the heat of the spice. I'd tell you what's in my teriyaki sauce, but that's a secret."
Duck, duck, goose. "I'm having fun with the name, which is my take on the children's game of the same name. For this dish we use a whole Liberty Farms duck, with its different parts presented side-by-side on a rectangular plate. On one end is duck fat–fried rice with the shredded leg meat from duck confit and scrambled duck eggs cooked in foie gras fat. On top would be an icicle of frozen foie gras that melts slowly and provides a contrast of temperature. Served alongside is a little pitcher of warm duck consommé to be poured over it all. Next is sunny-side up fried duck egg. Next to that is duck breast cooked sous-vide in duck fat with star anise and finished on the plancha before getting sliced, with house-made gooseberry jam flavored with vanilla bean and ginger. That's the goose."
Disco tofu. "I got the idea for this dish while having ‘disco' fries at Norman Rose Tavern in Napa, which specializes in American comfort food. Their version is covered with pork sausage gravy and melted cheddar cheese. For my version, I thought why not try to disco up my signature homemade tofu. To make tofu, heat soy milk with bottled water in a ceramic yosedofu pot made just for that purpose. When it reaches the proper temperature, stir in nigari powder and cover for 10 minutes. Nigari powder, which contains magnesium chloride along with some other natural minerals, acts as a coagulant and sets the soy milk into a soft tofu. Top with vine-ripened tomato sauce and layer with slices of pork belly tenderized with brown rice and kelp and braised for 10 hours in soy sauce, tamari, Japanese sugar, water, and sake. Top with coins of fried fingerling potatoes and cover the whole thing with cheddar cheese; place under the salamander until the cheese melts. The pork belly takes 10 hours, the tofu takes 10 minutes, and both melt in your mouth."
Morimoto shaved ice. "What looks like ice is really turnip. That's the surprise. Hand grate peeled Japanese turnip before blanching, shocking, and squeezing out excess liquid. Toss chilled shavings in house-made pomegranate syrup and shape into a dome in a Martini glass. Serve with two kinds of compote: Muscat grape, to represent the white wine grapes, and cherries, to represent the red wine grapes grown in the region. Flavor both with vanilla bean and star anise; sweeten with Japanese sugar, which I find to have a more refined flavor than the regular sugar you find here in the States. Over the top, drizzle a zigzag of molasses and sweetened condensed milk. It's fun and playful, and the texture is great. And it really does look like shaved ice when presented this way."
Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, The Lodge at Sonoma Resort & Spa
"I think of food and wine simultaneously when I plan my menu. Each inspires the other. And now that I've gotten to know a lot of the area winemakers, not only do I think of the characteristics of a particular wine when I'm creating a dish, I also think of the winemakers themselves. If I know the winemaker likes a particular ingredient, I find myself incorporating it in the dish as if I'm creating something just for him. In some ways, I think it helps to tell a fuller story of the wine, the food, and the people who create them."
Seared artisan foie gras with persimmon tarte Tatin & cardamom/black pepper gastrique. "We have a great big persimmon tree in the restaurant's garden that produces a ton of fruit. It's almost an overabundance at times, but they're so delicious that it's not hard to find good uses for them. In the middle of winter when you're craving fruit, it's a beautiful thing. For the tarte Tatin, gently cook sliced persimmons with brown sugar, star anise, cardamom, and a touch of salt; slice; arrange slices over a buttery crust; serve with seared foie gras dusted with a winter spice blend of sea salt, star anise, cardamom, allspice, and a little cinnamon. The foie gras is really local, from about eight blocks away. To make the gastrique, reduce a late harvest Riesling until syrupy; add golden balsamic vinegar; reduce further; add cardamom and freshly ground black pepper; adjust the balance of flavor with honey. Serve the same late harvest Riesling alongside to complement."
Diver scallops, pork belly, smoked pumpkin nage, braised kale, crispy sage. "Over kale braised in bacon fat, alternate seared diver scallops with pieces of slow cooked pork belly. The scallops are seasoned simply with salt and pepper and finished with a little orange butter. The pork belly is first rubbed with sugar, salt, and smoked paprika before being smoked over applewood, then cooked sous-vide for 12 hours. The plate is finished with a pumpkin nage and garnished with fried sage leaves. Last year was our first growing sugar pie pumpkins. We had a lot of luck with them so I'm expecting another good harvest this year. I like that they're super meaty without a lot of seeds. To prepare the pumpkins, cut in half and smoke over applewood; rub pumpkins with butter, brown sugar, salt, and black pepper; bake until soft; scoop out the flesh; puree with butter and a little cream. Both the kale and sage also come from our garden."
Don Watson lamb, Rancho Gordo beans, black garlic, piquillo peppers, Redwood Hill's goat's milk feta. "I just started using Don Watson lamb, and I find the quality to be absolutely amazing. The lambs come in at about 30 to 45 pounds, and having to come up with interesting ways to use the whole lamb has been a good challenge for me. This dish will feature the leg, chop, neck, and shoulder. Braise the neck and shoulder with mirepoix, red wine, and lamb stock; pull the meat from the bones; combine with chopped pickled piquillo peppers and braised gigante beans, a variety of really large lima. The super creamy beans come from Rancho Gordo, a farm right here in Sonoma. Braise them separately in vegetable stock with onions and garlic before finishing with parsley and oregano. Bone and butterfly the leg; stuff with garlic and lemon zest; wrap in caul fat; sear to order along with the chop. Garnish the plate with a puree of black garlic and crumble of local Redwood Hill's goat's milk feta, which has that nice tang we associate with goat cheese."
Bacon/maple doughnuts, espresso semifreddo. "I make this bacon candy using Hobbs' applewood-smoked bacon. I brush the bacon with honey and bake it low and slow until it gets very crumbly. I first started using it as a garnish on soups and other savory courses, but people were always asking for more of it on the side. Last summer, I folded the bacon candy into some peach ice cream, and it was a big hit! This fall, I'm going to use it as a topping on doughnuts. The cake doughnuts, made with sour cream, will be flavored with a bit of cinnamon with orange and lemon zest. To make the semifreddo, fold chilled espresso into whipped cream and freeze into individual dome molds. To serve, unmold semifreddo and arrange next to three mini doughnuts glazed with maple syrup and topped with some sea salt bacon candy. Dust the plate with finely ground espresso powder. I'm a huge coffee fan so this is like getting all my loves on one plate."
XO Le Restaurant, Hôtel Le St-James
"It's really spectacular up here in Québec in the fall--perfect in September and October, when there's a lot available in the markets that gives me ideas for my upcoming menus. But no doubt, it's pretty cold by January. As far as technique goes, we now have access to so many more tools and equipment that allow me to practice ‘precision cooking,' which translates into more consistently executed dishes."
Kona kampachi confit, ginger/mint/grapefruit sake & finger lime/rhubarb ice. "For a first course, I like to start with something fresh or acidic that goes well with Champagne. The temperature and texture should open up the palate. For this dish, the kampachi is just barely cooked in olive oil at a temperature of 65 degrees. The fish will be warm but still mostly raw. For a contrast in temperature, serve three or four slices with ice-cold finger lime/rhubarb granité. Finger limes are these little citrus fruits from Australia, about the size of a thumbnail, which contain small pearls that pop in the mouth with a flavor similar to but not as strong as regular limes. For a sauce, infuse sake with grapefruit, ginger, mint, and lemongrass; cook with simple syrup just long enough to get rid of the alcohol taste; thicken with some xantham gum. Garnish the plate with dehydrated rhubarb and rhubarb gelée."
Kabocha squash consommé, burnt wheat pansôti stuffed with braised oxtail, soy jelly, shaved matsutake mushroom. "Pansôti are stuffed pastas similar to ravioli. For a smoky effect, make the dough with a combination of half burnt flour and half regular. Fill the pasta with braised oxtail meat seasoned with shallots, veal jus, Parmesan, and duxelles. The kabocha squash consommé is made clear utilizing a process known as gelatin clarification. The squash is roasted and then braised in vegetable stock and a little smoky bacon to extract its sweet earthy flavor before gelatin is added. The consommé is then frozen and strained through a fine sieve as it melts. The result is a clear consommé full of all the rich fall flavors you'd expect from a more rustic soup. Garnish with the pansôti, little clouds of foie gras emulsion, cubes of soy jelly made by gelling soy sauce with a combination of gelatin and agar-agar, and top with shavings of fresh matsutake mushrooms."
Seared venison loin, porcini terrine, crosnes, Colombo emulsion, quinoa, quince, salsify. "Venison is one of the top products of Québec. Cook the boneless loin sous-vide before searing and slicing. Serve with crunchy pickled crosnes, also known as Chinese artichokes; a sweet curry emulsion known as Colombo, made with apples, onions, and peaches; puffed quinoa that look a bit like puffed rice; batônettes of cooked quince; and a porcini terrine. The porcini terrine is like an aspic, only presented in a contemporary way. It's made with dried porcini and flavored with black garlic and onions. I find the dried porcini to have more concentrated flavor and a touch of smokiness, which I like. Instead of using traditional gelatin, gel the terrine with iota-carrageenan, which allows the terrine to hold its shape when hot. Set terrine in a shallow pan to set before slicing and draping a sheet over the venison."
Chocolate soil, tonka bean, toasted barley jelly, coffee ice cream, root vegetable paper. "To create a soil-like effect, bake unshaped, unpacked, and loosely scattered clumps of chocolate sablé dough mixed with ground macadamia nuts; cool; crumble with fingers. Over that grate a tonka bean, which has the sweet fragrance of vanilla and nutmeg. Use acetate to mold a tube of sweetened goat's milk infused with toasted barley and set with gelatin. Lay the chocolate soil down on a plate and arrange the tube on top. Serve with a scoop of ice cream made using Gold Nugget coffee from India, which has a lot of spice notes. Over the top, lay a square of root vegetable paper, which might include parsnip, butternut squash, or candy cap mushrooms. To make the paper, simply spread the puree on crisp film and place in a dehydrator until set. Garnish the plate with candied mandarin orange peel, and sprinkle smoked sea salt and Chinese long pepper on top."
"A lot of our cooking is done over fire, embers, or ash. It's an ancient form of cooking, but our knowledge and understanding of ingredients now and how to handle them feel very modern. We try to cook everything to its deepest flavor point, to coax out what's possible from ingredients gathered from their natural environment."
Wild horse mackerel, foraged herbs, chilled broth of dried fish & seaweeds. "The wild horse mackerel comes to us from a tiny village in Japan. It's an amazingly delicious fish, only six or seven inches long, caught by rod and reel. Only a small amount is allocated to the U.S., and if I tell you my source I won't be getting any more. For this preparation, the fish will be served raw but cured over kelp sprinkled with Pangasinan sea salt from the Philippines. The broth is flavored with ma-kombu and two different varieties of smoked and sun-dried fish--flying fish and sardines. Season the broth with white and dark soy sauces from Japan. To serve, slice the cured fish very thinly and brush with a little white soy sauce; plate with some of the chilled broth, a little bit of Spanish olive oil pressed from Hojiblanca olives, Meyer lemon juice, sea salt, and assorted foraged herbs such as wood sorrel, wild fennel, miner's lettuce, glacier lettuce, wild shiso, and allium flowers. Garnish with the crispy fried bones from the mackerel for texture."
Live Monterey spot prawns gently poached in a bouillon of seawater, kelp & coastal stones. "This dish is a good example of how we try to echo and respect the natural flavors inherent in a native environment. The spot prawns come to us live from Monterey Bay. We harvest seawater, kelp, and sea rocks from the same area where the prawns are caught. Then over the embers of coastal wood, we heat and purify the sea rocks, pull them from the flame, and submerge them into the seawater in a cast-iron cauldron over an open fire. To the seawater, add the harvested kelp, wild fennel fronds, fennel bulb, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil, tarragon, and flakes of piment d'Espelette. Gently poach the prawns until they are just barely cooked, allowing the residual heat to carry through and the flavor of the broth to permeate. Serve spot prawns with wild fennel braised in a little chicken bouillon simmered with fennel seeds and olive oil, a spot prawn butter, and nasturtium leaves and flowers."
Marin Sun's goat, braised & roasted over embers, wild flowering rabes, sweet grasses & Douglas fir. "The goats come to us young and whole from a ranch up in Marin County called Marin Sun Farms. Hang them up to dry a bit for optimal flavor and separate out parts for braising and roasting. Over low embers, braise the spare ribs, shank, breast, tongue, and heart in a goat bouillon with garlic, shallots, thyme, bay leaf, and black peppercorns. Roast the heart, sweetbreads, and the whole rack on the bone on a grate over the same embers. To serve, slice off a little bit of each part of the goat and arrange over creamy white Anson Mills grits cooked with chicken stock and butter. Serve with some of the reserved roasting juices, a variety of wild bitter greens like ruby streak mustard, arugula, dandelion, and radish leaves, with a frothy herb milk. To make the herb milk, crush Douglas fir tips and sweet grasses with rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf in a mortar and pestle; infuse into hot milk mixed with goat yogurt; strain; froth with a hand blender."
Citrus soup, Three Africans olive oil, Meiwa kumquat ice cream. "Take a variety of citrus fruits such as yuzu, sudachi, tangerine, and whatever oranges are sweet that month, and juice half of them and cut the rest into sûprèmes and then into irregular shapes. Three Africans is a blend of Ugandan and two different Ethopian coffee beans from Blue Bottle Coffee Company in San Francisco. To make the infused oil, crush the beans and infuse into a good Californian olive oil for two days before straining. To serve, place the citrus fruits in a shallow bowl, top with a quenelle of Meiwa kumquat ice cream, and pour some coffee-infused olive oil around. Combine freshly squeezed pineapple juice with the reserved citrus juice and infuse with crushed pineapple mint leaves to complete the soup, which will be poured tableside."