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Pan-roasted Georges Bank scallops with house-cured chourico/organic spring onion ragoût, parsley chip & lemon foam.
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Spring/Summer Menu Preview 2008

Irene Sax - March 2008

Seven chefs warm up to all that's fresh, seasonal, and local.

Jonathan Benno
Per Se
New York City
"Before Per Se opened I spent two years at The French Laundry preparing for this job with no promise that I'd get it. I learned a lot in Napa Valley, but I always knew I wanted to come back East. I'm from Connecticut, and my wife is from New Jersey. We opened here four years ago and it's been an amazing ride."

Nettle velouté with sautéed Florida Everglades frog's legs & spring garlic flan. "Make a traditional velouté by sweating onion, fennel, leek, garlic, and Yukon gold potatoes in butter, then simmering the vegetables with chicken stock until tender. Meanwhile, blanch and shock a mixture of about 90 percent nettle leaves and 10 percent spinach. Blend the velouté and nettles in batches in a blender, pass through a chinois, and put in an iced metal container to preserve the color. Bone the frog's legs, dust the meat with Wondra flour, and sauté in clarified butter with a clove of garlic and sprig of thyme. Toss the now-golden frog's legs in chopped parsley, capers, and lemon zest. For the garlic flan, heat half milk and half cream with thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns; strain into a blender; add roasted garlic puree and agar-agar; blend; heat on the stove to activate the agar-agar; strain; pour into medium soup bowls; refrigerate. When this cools, it will set up like custard and remain firm when reheated. To serve, warm the bowl lined with the flan, arrange the frog's legs over it, and ladle in the soup at the table".

Atlantic bluefin tuna with marinated greenmarket heirloom tomatoes, aged balsamic vinegar & Armando Manni Per Me extra-virgin olive oil 2007. "Gather a variety of beautiful tomatoes; blanch and peel them. Slice the largest, cut the medium-sized ones into wedges, and leave the small ones whole. Compose a salad on a large dinner plate. Slice a one-by-two-inch block of tuna very thinly and lay the ribbons of fish over the tomatoes. Dress with extra-virgin olive oil; we use an exceptional one from a small producer in Tuscany. Season with a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and Maldon sea salt mixed with herbes de Provence; garnish with piccolo basil leaves."

Four Story Hill Farms pan-roasted entrecôte de veau, ris de veau, morels, fava beans, russet potato gnocchi & savory veal jus. "This is a dish for two people. The day before service, soak sweetbreads in cold water for eight hours; blanch and shock; peel off the membranes and fat; press under a medium weight between kitchen towels to compact them and give them an even thinness; brown them; heat in Noilly Pratt white vermouth, white veal stock, mirepoix, and aromatics; as soon as this comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and cool down. The next day, make gnocchi with baked potato, eggs, and flour, rolling the dough into long cylinders and cutting it into inch-long pieces marked with a fork. Husk, peel, and blanch fava beans in salted water. Shallow braise the morels in butter. Tie a veal entrecôte; caramelize it on both sides in butter, garlic, and thyme; roast to medium; cut into six slices: each guest gets three slices of veal and half a sweetbread. At service, halve the sweetbreads, dust with Wondra flour, and sauté in clarified butter with garlic and thyme. To serve, make a ragoût of sautéed gnocchi, morels, and fava beans; put a little veal jus on the plate, spoon the ragoût next to it, and lay the veal slices and sweetbreads to the side."

Gianduiotto con panna. Sébastien Rouxel. "Gianduiotto is a classic Venetian summer dish. To replicate, make gianduja, or chocolate/hazelnut, gelato mixture and fold in toasted hazelnuts. Freeze this in a tureen and, when it's solid, cut blocks the size of an ice cream sandwich. Pipe whipped cream halfway up in a tall glass such as an iced-tea glass. When you drop the ice cream bar into it, the whipped cream will rise to fill the rest of the glass. Hit it with some cocoa powder and serve with a long ice cream soda spoon."

Jonathan Cambra
Castle Hill Inn and Resort
Newport, Rhode Island
"My background is New England Portuguese. My grandfather grew potatoes on Aquidneck Island [officially called Rhode Island, the large island in Narragansett Bay on which Newport is located]. I think this influences my taste for bold, rustic, traditional flavors. We use kale, lots of garlic, Portuguese olive oil, seafood, vegetables, and bread. Everything they say about the Mediterranean diet is true of Portuguese food."

Pan-roasted Georges Bank scallops with house-cured chourico/organic spring onion ragoût, parsley chip & lemon foam. "For the ragoût, render diced chourico [the Portuguese version of Spanish chorizo]; add garlic and bias-cut spring onions; deglaze with white wine and chicken stock; reduce. Marinate the scallops in olive oil, parsley, chervil, and garlic; pan-sear until caramelized; finish in the oven. Place three scallops over a spoonful of ragoût and garnish with a parsley chip made from two thinly sliced russet potatoes sandwiching a parsley leaf, brushed with oil, and baked at 275 degrees covered with parchment paper. Finish the plate with lemon foam made by reducing lemon juice and zest, white wine, and chicken stock, adding heavy cream, and aerating it with the nozzle of an espresso machine or a mini hand mixer."

Maple wood–smoked native striped bass fillet with spring garlic/celeriac "soubise", lobster salpicon & English pea vinaigrette. "Marinate bass fillets in olive oil, chervil, parsley, and garlic, adding a little maple syrup or honey to balance the acidity once they're smoked. Place in a cold smoker and process 10 to 15 minutes; season with kosher salt; pan-sear on one side; flip; finish in a convection oven. Make the ‘soubise' by sautéeing finely diced garlic, celeriac, and onion; add chicken stock and heavy cream; cook until the vegetables are tender; strain, setting aside liquid; puree the vegetable base; add reserved cooking liquid. For the lobster salpicon, sauté onion, garlic, and red pepper in olive oil; deglaze with white wine; fold in cooked lobster meat. For the vinaigrette, puree blanched fresh peas with vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. At service, ladle an ounce of ‘soubise' onto the center of the plate; top with a bass fillet; spoon lobster salpicon over the fish, letting it fall onto the plate; ladle the vinaigrette around the edges."

Bacon-wrapped Colorado lamb rib roast with grilled fennel/golden raisin salad, Old Chatham Camembert polenta cake & Cabernet emulsion. "Remove the lamb rack meat from the bone; rub with olive oil, black pepper, and fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary; wrap with thin slices of bacon; pan-roast until the bacon crisps; finish in a convection oven until medium-rare. Grill quartered, seasoned, and olive oil–rubbed fennel bulbs until charred; finish in the oven with water and a little chicken stock; cool; julienne; add chopped fennel fronds and raisins plumped in white wine. For the polenta cake, sweat onions and garlic; add white wine, chicken stock, and water; add polenta, stirring to prevent clumps; fold in Old Chatham sheep's milk Camembert--rind removed--for a creamy consistency; place on a sheet pan; cool overnight; cut into rounds; dust with flour; pan-fry until crisped. Place one polenta cake in the center of each plate; cover with three lamb slices; top with the fennel salad; sauce with a veal stock/Cabernet Sauvignon mixture pureed in a blender with cold butter."

Local strawberry tasting: frozen sabayon, consommé & vanilla bean wafer. "Make a sabayon; fold in a sieved puree of fresh strawberries and sugar; fold in gelatin bloomed in warm heavy cream; pour this into a cylinder or ring mold; refrigerate 24 hours. For the consommé, warm quartered berries with white wine, water, and sugar; simmer until the liquid turns red; strain and reserve the liquid. Remove the sabayon from the ring mold; set it in a soup bowl; pour the consommé around; place a very thin vanilla bean wafer on the edge of the bowl."

Michael Cimarusti
Los Angeles
"Our menu is 95 percent fish and, because it's difficult to find high quality fish on a consistent basis, we change the menu every day. Maybe a big storm on the East Coast knocked out the fisheries or the boats aren't finding wild salmon this week. That's not going to happen in a steakhouse, where there's no break in the supply chain. We're cooking wild game; it just happens to come from the sea."

Kampachi with white soy sauce & pink grapefruit. "Make a gelée by heating white soy sauce, lime juice, water, garlic, chile flakes, and thyme; strain; add softened gelatin; pour onto half sheet pans; refrigerate to set; cut into two-inch by one-half inch rectangles that are one-half inch thick. Slice kampachi, a Japanese amberjack, as if you were making sashimi; lay five to six slices on parchment paper; season with olive oil and lime juice; put gelée over it; roll the fish around this, making a cylinder. Segment pink grapefruit, reserving the juice. In a small bowl, place grapefruit pieces, then a cylinder of fish, then the grapefruit juice emulsified with olive oil. Garnish with purple chive blossoms."

Roasted wild Japanese medai with fava beans, burdock & rhubarb. "Peel burdock; cut into coin-like segments; vacuum-seal in plastic bags with lemon acidulated water mixed with a little sugar and salt; cook sous-vide for four to six hours in 195 degree water; chill in an ice water bath; open the bags; reserve the burdock and the juice. Peel rhubarb; cut into one-inch segments; cook in water with sugar, a cinnamon stick, orange zest, and star anise; strain; add a 1 percent agar-agar solution; bloom five minutes; boil one minute. When this is cold and firm, put it into a blender and process to a thick pliable gel. Roast the fish with the skin on; warm the favas and burdock together with some of the reserved lemonade sous vide jus. Put the burdock and blanched favas in a bowl with the fish over them; using a squeeze bottle, pipe dots of rhubarb gel around the fish."

Air-chilled Muscovy duck with petits pois. "Make two purees, one of peas and one of pea tendrils with spinach; thin the pea tendril puree with milk and season with piment d'Espelette. Bake peeled and quartered tomatoes at 200 degrees until wrinkled and leathery, about 75 minutes. Shuck and blanch fresh peas; sauté shimeji mushrooms in butter. Soak beef bone marrow in salted water until very white. Roast seasoned duck in a hot oven. On the plate, pipe a spiral of warmed pea puree; put the garnish of blanched peas, mushrooms, bone marrow, and tomato confit in the center with the sliced duck breast laid over it; aerate the pea tendril puree and spoon it around the plate; garnish with pea tendrils."

Gaviotte of strawberries with ras al hanout ice cream, almonds, lemon curd & strawberry syrup. Pastry Chef Adrian Vasquez. "Make a rich garnet syrup by cooking bruised berries with sugar for several hours, then straining and reducing it. Paint a stroke across the plate with this and top with fresh berries mixed with sugar and lime. Add sugared almonds, lemon curd thickened with agar-agar instead of eggs, and a quenelle of ice cream seasoned with the Moroccan spice mixture ras al hanout."

Bruce Sherman
North Pond
"Seasonal cooking is nothing new to me. I lived three years in India, where I learned to cook what was available in my market that day. Chicago is one of the places people are looking to for culinary excitement. We're getting a reputation for being in the forefront of technical innovations. I'm just a cook doing what I know how to do best."

Grilled smoked walleye, cured lardo, sliced peaches, arugula, sweet green garlic & toasted brioche. "This is our version of a summery seafood club sandwich that uses Great Lakes walleye in place of the turkey. Coat the fish with brown sugar, salt, and spices, then cold smoke it. In place of the mayo make a paste of milk-blanched green garlic, honey, and chicken stock; puree it in a blender; pass through a tamis; spread on a slice of toasted brioche. Instead of bacon use slices of lardo cured in salt, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns. This takes a few weeks in the fridge and then longer in the basement. Over the garlic puree place Red Haven peach slices (instead of tomato), then the lardo, and then the smoked walleye, which has been cooked on the grill. Finally, a little baby arugula tossed in mustard vinaigrette and shavings of Parmesan. No frilly toothpicks though."

Slow roasted lamb saddle with sheep's milk ricotta "ravioli", ramps, spiced carrot coulis & mint. "This dish presents lamb three ways. Cut the meat off a saddle of lamb into a long rectangle; season; slowly roast in butter with flowering thyme. This is sliced and served with sheep's milk ‘ravioli' made by lining a ramekin with blanched ramp leaves, filling it with a mixture of ricotta, herbs, tomatoes, and braised minced lamb neck. Also on the plate goes a lamb/pork sausage with golden raisins and pine nuts. To serve, turn out the ‘ravioli' on the plate and add a slice of the saddle, a small sausage, glazed ramp bulbs, and baby carrots cooked with honey and mint. Over the ‘ravioli' spoon an emulsion of carrot and orange juices, fennel, and coriander that's been reduced with stock and cream."

Aromatic poached halibut with stuffed zucchini blossoms, spring vegetables, Chioggia beets & herb purees. "To stuff the zucchini blossoms, prepare a mousseline with halibut trimmings, cream, and eggs; fold in chopped herbs, citrus zest, and a brunoise of gold and green zucchini; pipe the mixture into zucchini blossoms; steam; at pickup toss in a light herb butter. Poach the halibut in vegetable stock fortified with chervil, tarragon, and parsley stems. Glaze small flavorful radishes, snap peas, and golden beets. In a Pacojet, make two purees, one of green herbs and one of candied Chioggia beets. The halibut rests on the herb puree, the zucchini blossom tumbles over the glazed vegetables, and the Chioggia puree shows up as a slash across the front of the plate".

Sweet corn financier with toasted almond crémeux, blueberry jam & gelée & anise/hyssop sorbet. "Make a classic financier, adding sweet corn kernels. For the crémeux: steep sweet corn and toasted almonds in cream; puree; pass through a tamis; beat with egg yolks; stir into an amber caramel until thickened; add gelatin; put in a siphon fitted with a nitrous oxide canister. Make a blueberry jam seasoned with lemon zest and fresh ginger, and a blueberry pâte de fruit made of puree and sugar. This is cut into cubes and rolled in granulated sugar in the traditional manner. To serve, spread jam on the plate with a paintbrush; warm and unmold the financier; siphon the almond crémeux on top; off to the side set a quenelle of anise/hyssop sorbet and a cube of pâte de fruit; sprinkle everything with toasted shaved almonds."

Maxime Bouneou
Fuego, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa
Santa Fe
"When I came to La Posada I worked as a pastry chef, although I had always been in the savory kitchen in France. I prefer cooking on the ‘hot' side, but pastry taught me patience, organization, precision, and struture. What I aim for always is direct flavors from very good ingredients."

Sardine tartlette with citrus rind sorbet. "Build the round tartlette by covering par-baked puff pastry with concassée, fresh sardine fillets marinated in extra-virgin olive oil, fleur de sel, and cracked pepper. Bake eight minutes at 350 degrees, just long enough to cook the sardines. At service, add a sorbet made with orange and Meyer lemon juices and zests, glucose syrup, and a little sugar. Drizzle with a high quality olive oil from Nice and sweet syrupy balsamic vinegar."

Scorpion fish fillet, pommes saffranées, cipollini & bouillabaisse jus. "Braise scorpion fish fillets in a bouillabaisse-like soup made with three kinds of fish, pastis, and saffron. Simmer onions until glazed in white wine vinegar, butter, sugar, and salt. Place the fillets over thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes simmered in a saffron-infused fumet, surround with some onions, and finish with reduced braising liquid, herbs, and extra-virgin olive oil. Maybe from this dish you can tell I'm from Nice."

Corn-fed poussin & cock's combs, leeks, truffle velouté & cold consommé. "Set aside poussin breasts and use the carcasses to make a white poultry stock that's the base for the velouté and consommé. The classic velouté is flavored with black truffles; the consommé is so full of gelatin that when it cools it's almost like aspic. Separately cook the breasts and cock's combs sous-vide with thyme, juniper berries, butter, salt, and pepper. Plate a breast and two cock's combs, coat the breasts with the velouté, add two leeks cooked in vegetable stock, garnish with the cold consommé, a slice of fresh truffle, a drizzle of herb oil, and fleur de sel."

Fôret noir, chocolate fondant, black cherry bavaroise, ganache tendre & griotte sorbet. Pastry Chef Will Fausser. "Trim chocolate fondant cake into a disk and place it in a one serving sized mold lined with acetate. Fill the rest of the mold with black cherry bavarian cream and allow to set in the refrigerator. Remove the mold. Hollow the center of the bavarian, making a ‘bowl' that's filled with soft chocolate ganache and little kirsch-soaked griotte cherries; remove the acetate. Top with a doughnut shaped disk of tempered dark chocolate and put a scoop of black cherry sorbet over the hole in the ‘doughnut.' Tilt a second chocolate disk over the sorbet, place on a plate, and finish with dark griotte syrup and whipped chocolate sauce."

Melissa Close
Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards
Barboursville, Virginia
"I'm from Alabama, and when you grow up with Southern food you basically eat what's growing in the backyard. That's what they do in Italy, which is why I fit right in at Palladio, where we serve classically inspired Italian food."

Fire-roasted peppers stuffed with tuna & capers. "Grill, peel, stem, seed, and remove ribs from bell peppers, one red and one yellow for each plate. Poach fresh tuna in olive oil. Put the cooked fish in a food processor with homemade aïoli, lemon juice and zest, capers, salt, and pepper; puree until smooth; spread on the peppers; roll them up, starting with the short end. Serve with baby lettuces dressed with balsamic vinegar and garnished with capers."

Ravioli with ricotta & fresh peas. "Lay a pasta sheet over a ravioli mold with scallop-edged indentations, like a flower. For the filling, mix fresh ricotta with blanched spring peas, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. After spooning this into the indentations, place another pasta sheet over the top and roll a rolling pin over the tray. While the ravioli are boiling, make a simple dressing by melting butter in a pan with lemon zest, chopped chervil, salt, and pepper. Finish the cooked ravioli in the pan with the dressing and a little of the pasta water."

Veal involtino with asparagus & morels. "Pound flat cutlets taken from the veal eye round; top with fontina and blanched asparagus spears; roll up; tie with twine; season; sear in olive oil. Add morels cooked in butter, white wine, and a ladleful of veal stock; finish in the oven. Serve with new potato gratin and watercress tossed with olive oil and lemon."

Peach soup. "If I have very ripe peaches I'll use them raw; if not, I'll first sauté them briefly in butter until they are tender. Place peeled and pitted peaches in a blender with some peach schnapps and just enough Muscat to make a thick ‘soup' when pureed. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with amaretti cookies and a scoop of peach ice cream."

Jose Garces
Amada and Tinto
"When we prepared to open Amada, which serves regional Spanish cuisine, I kept gravitating to the north. I just love the Basque landscape, the culture, the people, and the food. So I jumped on board with Tinto, which is inspired by Basque cooking. People ask where I'm from in Spain and I tell them I'm from Ecuador."

Kokoxas con guisantes (olive oil–poached hake cheeks with fresh English peas, fava beans, truffled lemon vinaigrette & salsa verde). "Briefly cook the hake cheeks sous-vide with olive oil, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Toss blanched fresh peas and fava beans in a Meyer lemon vinaigrette flavored with truffles. Place four hake cheeks on a plate with a spoonful of the pea/fava bean salad alongside and finish with a salsa verde made with white wine, clam juice, garlic, and parsley then a dusting of Spanish smoked paprika. Serve with a scoop of heirloom tomato sorbet."

Zizak (California spot prawns with asparagus flan, grilled ramps & morel/brandy froth). "This was inspired by a Basque prawn/mushroom stew. Marinate spot prawns in garlic, parsley, extra-virgin olive oil, and lemons. Make an asparagus flan with eggs, cream, pureed poached green asparagus, spinach, and garlic; pour the mixture into two-ounce flan molds; drop the frozen yolk of a quail egg into the center of each; cook in a hot water bath in the oven; unmold onto the center of a plate. Briefly cook the prawns on a plancha; place alongside the flan; place some grilled ramps on the side; surround with a hand blended sauce made with cream, fresh morels, brandy, and lecithin. When customers cut into the flan they break into the quail egg yolk, which makes an additional sauce."

Entrecôte a la planxa (grilled Kobe beef sirloin with confits of tomato, spring onions & fresh piquillo peppers with crispy garlic potatoes, cider demi-glace & Idiazabal emulsion). "First make three purees by cooking tomatoes, onions, and piquillo peppers separately with garlic, thyme, and rosemary for about an hour. Cut two-inch tall potato cylinders; scoop out the centers, blanch and dry them; deep fry until crisp; toss with chopped garlic, parsley, and lemon; pipe the warm purees into the hollows: each plate gets six puree-filled potatoes, two of each kind. Cut the sirloin into five-ounce portions; rub with rosemary and garlic; grill to desired doneness. Plate with the potatoes; surround with beef demi-glace fortified with Vermont farmhouse cider and a frothy hand blended emulsion of vegetable stock, onions, cream, and Idiazabal, a smoked sheep's milk cheese from the Basque region."

Mosaico de melon (charred mosaic of summer melon with ricotta ice cream & spicy strawberry/melon soup). "Cut canary, honeydew, and Crenshaw melons, plus watermelon into small pieces and arrange in a shallow bowl to form a multicolored square. Sprinkle melon with brown sugar and caramelize with a torch. Place a scoop of homemade ricotta ice cream on top of the melon and at the table pour on strawberry/melon soup that's spiced with dried guindilla chiles. This is a very light and refreshing dessert."