Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Succulent Friend

Summer months bring summer words like melons, fresh greens, corn, stone fruit and our local hero: Walla Walla onions. Once spoken they give promise to a certain style of dish that embodies everything that we feel about this time of year in both spirit and cuisine. These ingredients are the cornerstones of inspiration for both chef and home cook alike, allowing us to take full advantage of this season.

This week's idea originated from halves of hollowed out green summer squash, better known as zucchini, that I had slowly roasted to concentrate their flavor and keep them moist, even going as far as using wet towels underneath to prevent the heat from the roasting pan from browning the bottoms, a technique I mirrored while reheating them to assemble the dish.

Even though I started with the squash, the main focus is always on the protein, and since I felt that I needed something that wouldn't overpower its vessel I naturally leaned towards seafood, which meant a visit from my longtime friend, the king crab.

As some of you may know, my love for this sea creature started at an early age and was probably the catalyst that initiated my love for food that lead to me becoming a chef, and yet still today I find its rich and succulent meat irresistible.

But it has become much more to me than that. Now I enjoy the process of removing the meat as much as I do the consumption; it's a meticulous methodology of cracking, twisting, prying and squeezing aided only by a pair of Cutco scissors bought for me by my father-in-law (thanks Bob!!). Just like handmade pasta or a long braise there is a certain amount of Zen to doing it. In the end I stay true to the final product by simply warming the crab in an emulsion of it's cooking liquid and good amount of butter - just like dunking it into a side of drawn butter.

For the base I wanted something fresh and summery, so I grilled whole ears of yellow corn just enough char them a little before I cut the kernels from the cob. To this I made a play on salsa, or more accurately pico de gallo, by adding freshly diced jalapenos, tomatoes, red onion, lime juice and a little twist of Asian with some reconstituted fermented black beans. Finally I drizzled the entire dish with creme fraiche that I made by culturing heavy cream with sour cream to make an uber-rich version of the traditional salsa condiment that was then pureed with fresh cilantro for both color and that authentic flavor.

For the drink special I decided to impart another favorite flavor by adding apple into the mix:

Maybe it's a bit of childhood nostalgia, but I have always loved sour apple (as in Jolly Rancher), so I don't mind using apple pucker liqueur as long as it's in moderation, and after a refreshing brew of herbal tea to inspire me I had a new direction.

In the past I have used an organic hibiscus and agave syrup for many other cocktails, but it seems that this subtle floral concoction is a bottomless well of inspiration. Due to its obvious red color it makes perfect sense to use it as a substitute for cranberry juice in a cosmopolitan, but by substituting sour apple pucker for triple sec and keeping the fresh lime juice and vodka injection I came up with a totally unique cocktail that has depth as well as being refreshing!

With Love,