Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Friends of Mine

In the spirit of the season I wanted to continue using local asparagus during this short window that it's available so I chose to do a variation of a dish that I co-created with my friend and colleague, Tommy Lee, that originally consisted of an asparagus and goat cheese flan with roasted quail and a lingonberry preserve. I really loved the way that sweetness of the preserve interacted with the rich flan, so my inspiration for this week's dish started there.

I kept with the original flan recipe by finely chopping asparagus and pureeing it in a blender with boiled cream and chevre goat's cheese. I strained the mixture before whisking it into whole eggs and slowly baking it into individual molds. As for the preserve I went with a more local variation by simmering rhubarb in sugar, lemon juice and red wine until it was thick and pulpy. The combination was as good if not better than the dish that I remember - the tart rhubarb seems to have added another contrasting flavor to the flan.

Despite being one of my personal favorite forms of poultry, quail is neither popular among the general public nor cheap so I went with something similar in size: the Cornish game hen. Though called a "game hen", it is actually just a young chicken that can be either male or female. I love roasting them whole at home because they are the perfect size for one portion, but at the restaurant it would take too long to cook them that way, so I butchered them down into quarters, leaving the first wing bone attached to the breasts for presentation and added flavor. I saved the breasts to be cooked to order, but I roasted the legs ahead of time so that I could remove the meat and shred it for another component to the dish.

To assemble the dish I sear the breasts skin side down in clarified butter and toss the pan into the oven to crisp the skin before turning them over to cook evenly through. While the breasts are in the oven I heat another saute pan with more clarified butter which I use to brown slices of steamed fingerling potatoes, hon shimeji mushrooms, chives and the reserved leg meat. When the breasts are cooked I place the cold flan in the center, representing the inspiration and focus of the dish and start building from that; lining the plate with the potato-mushroom saute on either side and layering the room temperature rhubarb compote under the breasts.

Now that I am starting to become known for my themed specials, you would think that I would jump at the chance to come up with some sort of Cinco de Mayo-inspired special, but even though this cocktail is made with tequila, it's far from anything that you'll find south of the boarder.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a gamble and start an infusion by combining cinnamon sticks and silver tequila. I wasn't sure what I was going to make with it let alone how well our customers will respond to it, but I knew it was going to be interesting. After poaching pears for the French toast topping last weekend, I realized the perfect pairing.

By poaching ripe pears (which I normally don't do because they are already soft) in honey, lemon juice and water I ended up with a cooking liquid that had inherited all of those flavors, which made for a excellent companion for the cinnamon infused tequila; so complex and intriguing. But then I had the leftover pears, so I thought "If you can put ice in a cocktail and allow it to melt, then why not a sorbet that reinforces the flavors as well!" By pureeing the pears in the cold cooking liquid and churning it in my ice cream machine I ended up with the perfect substitution for ice for this cocktail!
Come in an have a try - you'll be surprised how much you like it, and I can guarantee that you won't find anything like it anywhere else!!

With Love,