Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Root of the Solution

Herb, one of our regulars, remarked tonight after finishing this special how he is consistently surprised at the caliber of food that we put out with just two guys in the kitchen. Aside from never getting enough of someone telling you how great you are, there's a great satisfaction that comes from the fact people really do see the amount of love and preparation that goes into creating a dish, as well as the vision behind it; it's as if that plate of food acts as wordless translator between chef and diner. For me, hearing a satisfied guest recite back to me my own intentions in a special is the best compliment that I can receive.

As we began to talk further, I layed out some of the intricacies that turned what could be a simple chicken dish into the plate in front of him:

The idea for the sauce, or glaze, is what inspired the dish; I began thinking about reconstituting black mission figs and pureeing them, but I hate the gritty texture of their seeds, so I began a long process of blending and straining, five times in fact, to get the texture just right and to remove all of the seeds. For balance and added flavor I finished the glaze with Chinese black vinegar and a reduction of red wine and aromatics (garlic, shallot, bay leaves, etc.). It coats beautifully without any added thickener and has a lustrous shine.

There are many different routes that I could have taken with such a beautiful glaze, but I felt that nothing shows skill like a perfectly cooked chicken breast, and I chose to go with and old favorite - the airline breast.

An airline chicken breast has the first section of the wing, or drumette, attached which not only looks nice, but also adds a little extra flavor and helps keep the meat moist. As a bonus, the wing acts as an anchor by holding the skin in place over the breast, which to me is crucial if you don't want to have an "island" of crispy skin over just the bottom half of the meat. The key is to start it skin side down in a very hot saute pan with just a little oil and roast it in the oven until it is about three-quarters done before flipping it over so that all of the fat is rendered from the skin, leaving it nice and crispy.

Herb is no stranger to Seattle's restaurant scene, so it came as no suprise when he noticed my simple approach to preparing baby root vegetables, the base of the dish, to keep the focus on their natural flavors. I lightly roasted an assortment of baby bunched carrots (purple ones too - the original carrot color), baby pink and white turnips and baby red and golden beets, all nestled over a bed of their own greens that were sauteed in onion and garlic confit and a touch of butter.

As exemplified above by my use of Chinese black vinegar I believe that a well stocked pantry is a chef's gilded bag of tricks. Sometimes all it takes is that one special ingredient to make something unique that "pops".

In the past I have cooked with pomegranate molasses, a reduction of pomegranate juice into the the consistency of maple syrup used in middle eastern cuisines, so since I tend to use my cooking techniques in my mixology, I thought that I would give it a try here.

I thought that it's sweet/tart complexity would compliment our classic cocktail, the Margarita. We do ours a bit differently than others, with the addition of orange slices to the muddled limes, triple sec and tequila.

Served tall and tasty, the way that it should be!!

With Love,