Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Winning The Lottery

Not surprisingly, one of the most common questions asked of me as a chef is how do I come up with these specials. The ingredients are usually something that they are familiar with, but it's the composition of them that evokes a "Ah, ha!" or "Why didn't I think of that?!" sort of intimacy that they get from one of my dishes. Maybe food is a more tangible art form than, say, painting or woodcarving, but the process is usually still the same.

I will spare you the intricacies of the inner-workings of my mind (unless I run out of things to write about...), but at least for this week's special I can say in hindsight that it looked a lot like a lottery machine: basic ideas that haven't yet come to fruition flailing around until they are sucked up, usually out of order, revealing the final outcome, win or lose.

Well, not exactly. There is always a method to the madness, and there is also the fact that I HATE TO LOSE! - especially when it comes to the success of my food, so I guess you could call it a rigged lottery drawing....

So where do I begin? Well, there is a price point to consider. As a restaurant we pride ourselves on the fact that everything we offer on our menu is $15 or under, including full-sized portions of fish and steak, so more reasonable cuts of meat need to be featured without sacrificing flavor, and as past posts attest, I love the price and versatility of pork (but that doesn't mean some local wild salmon won't make an appearance soon....)

Also, as much as I hate to admit it, this blog has now played a contributing factor in my decision process. I have to stay on my toes. I can't just stamp out old ideas rehashed enough to fit the current trend with seasonal insertions - if I did this blog would read more like The Lawrence Welk Show transcripts more than anything else...

Finally, to be honest, my mother and step-father were in Seattle this weekend, so I tried to think of a dish that they would enjoy, from both an accessible standpoint as well as something that would intrigue the palates of world travelers.

So here are the winning numbers:

I started with a whole loin of pork, trimmed of any fat and cut into one inch thick medallions, which were marinated in a blend of extra virgin olive oil, shallots, garlic, lemon zest, lime juice, and a medley of herbs. After resting for a couple of hours I pounded each fillet into tender quarter-inch cutlets to be double breaded with sourdough soft pretzels that have been dried and ground into a fine powder, with a mixture of eggs and sour cream to both bind the breading, and to accent the subtle tartness of the sourdough pretzel crust, which is finished by pan-frying the cutlet to order in clarified butter (think of it as a pork pretzel Milanese).

Then I topped the crispy foundation with a salad of watercress - a leafy green within the mustard family that has a slightly bitter and peppery note to it - grilled Walla Walla spring onions, slow roasted tomatoes (a favorite of mine;), finely grated manchego cheese and dressed with a truffle mustard vinaigrette which complements the pretzel crust even more so than the watercress.

A dish even a Mother could be proud of!!!!

This week's drink special was inspired by a recent walk through of our local Asian market, Uwajimaya, a favorite muse of mine. I love strolling the aisles to mull on upcoming dinner specials for the restaurant, and for home as well. While there recently I had come across a bottle of organic hibiscus syrup sweetened with pure agave. Hibiscus is a type of flowering plant that has a wide variety of uses that are healthful such as a natural diuretic and a potential to reduce high blood pressure, but I have to be honest, my use of hibiscus is far from such intentions.

I love it's floral notes with a sweet and sour flavor that I could name ten uses right off of the top of my head, but the first thought that came to me was how beautifully it would work as a margarita. So with a healthy dose of Hornitos Plata tequila and an accent of lime and Triple Sec, the Hibiscus Margarita is here for your enjoyment!!!!!!

By the way, the first most asked question of me as a chef is "What's your specialty?". For this I only have one answer: To be a great chef I must have many specialties; to limit myself to just one would be limiting my guests to just one.

With Love,