Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Art of Subtlety

Last Wednesday was our second attendance to Farestart's Guest Chefs on the Waterfront down at Pier 66 and we had a wonderful time! We offered our Deviled Eggs once again and I really thought that we were going to win the Best Appetizer competition after all of the buzz that was going around about our offering, but alas, no dice. At least we gained some exposure while benefiting a great cause. If you are unfamiliar with the event it's an annual fundraiser for their organization that not only gives job training and placement to the homeless and disadvantaged but also provides over 4 million meals to other disadvantaged while doing so. It's a great thing to be apart of and a win-win situation for everyone involved.

My favorite booths (that I got to try) were Salty's on Alki, Cantinetta and Roxy's Diner (their house-smoked pastrami that they offered both this year and last year was outstanding!!). Though they could be considered our competitors I wanted to showcase them here because I'm proud of the work that they've done and the delicious food that they had made. Even though my special wasn't inspired by the food that I tasted, it wasn't due to a lack of trying; I simply knew what I wanted to do beforehand!!

One of my favorite greens is baby arugula and we get a wonderful organic variety here locally that I use in my wildly popular Sauteed Gnocchi with Duck Confit dish. It is sleek, tender and less bitter than its grown up version but still enough to bring balance to a dish. I love it especially now that all of these great stone fruits are available (like, say, nectarines) because I can pair them together for a savory dish without all of that great sweetness becoming overpowering. By thinly slicing small segments of the nectarines they easily suspend within the greens and give the salad hidden bursts of flavor.

For some much needed texture and added richness I did what only a chef with my obsession for pork could do: I deep-fried thin slices of prosciutto into salty, crunchy and chewy spears of goodness that is guaranteed to turn any serious carnivore into a salad junky. And if that wasn't enough meat, I shingled the plate with fine slices of veal that I spiced with freshly ground coriander, juniper berries, fennel and mixed peppercorns before searing, roasting and chilling. In the end I had a subtle base of flavor that was perfectly pink, wonderfully tender and interesting undertones.

I also added a new personal favorite, wheat berries, to give the salad more heft and make it more of an entree. Wheat berries are the dried, whole kernel of wheat before it is ground down into flour and I have found them incredibly filling due to their high fiber and the fact that you can't get any more whole grain! The only downside? It takes an obscene amount of time to cook. I mean, all of the research that I have done says to simmer them for about an hour, but even after soaking them overnight like dried beans I still ended up cooking them for over five hours in chicken stock before they were perfectly tender. A long time, yes, but still worth the wait if you ask me.

To tie it all together I made a vinaigrette by reducing Californian Chardonnay by three-quarters, allowing the naturally occurring acid to concentrate enough to make a vinaigrette with only a little help from champagne vinegar. In my typical style I blended it with shallots and garlic as well as a little fresh thyme, but instead of using just extra virgin olive oil I replaced half of it with the leftover prosciutto frying oil, giving the dressing another little boost of flavor while complementing the ingredients.

Now that cooking is so popular and the Food Network has two channels everyone is always spouting off the key buzz words "big, bold flavors" and how it exemplifies their style of cooking, but the truth is that it takes a dish like this, with its subtle nuances, to show a true mastery of flavor.

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I don't like to flaunt my birthdays, but I do like to make them memorable, and like everyone else, I still want to get my way. Fortunately for our friends what I want is something new and exciting!

A while ago I promised (or threatened) the idea of making a beer float after we received an accidental keg of stout beer and my beer-loving friends showed their enthusiasm. Now that we have a nice milk stout from Left Hand Brewery on the menu I knew that it would take an excuse like my birthday to justify why I would offer such an unusual drink, but since I make my own ice cream with real Madagascar vanilla beans I'm happy with the way that the two play off of each other: its almost as rememberable as your first root beer float.

To be honest, I don't plan to sell a lot of these due to their obscurity and tendency towards being a dessert instead of an actual cocktail, but to my regulars like the Wednesday Night Crew I ask of you: Why not give one a try? Think of it as a updated throwback to the yesteryear of soda jerks, but with a kick!!

With Love,