Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Citrus City

Am I the only one who feels like the summer is slipping away like sand through my fingers??? I have so many ideas that I have to keep a notebook, allowing some concepts to sit on paper and mature like wine in a barrel or whiskey in a cask, waiting to develop or to be combined with another for the perfect plate.

Sometimes ideas are scratched out, sometimes they are seasonal-specific and have to wait until a chance at next year, contending with a whole new batch of inspiration like some bad reality TV shows. But I love my notebook; it's the journal of my journey as a chef, and a visually literal representation of my erratic mind.

I'm about three-quarters through this notebook that I started at the re-opening of Table 219, and maybe a third of the concepts have been used, but as I near the end of a season I find myself scrambling to use those ideas that I love before they have to make the "cut" next year.

This dish is one of those; a concept cast aside after a flurry of seafood ideas but too good to let slip away; one that embodies several aspects of my culinary heritage.

The idea started at the top-left portion of the page where I combine my favorite spice of coriander with fresh orange zest and juice to make a glaze over pan roasted chicken breasts by first simmering chicken stock with Walla Walla onions, ginger, garlic and bourbon, that is pureed and thickened to finish the bone-in chicken once it is cooked to order, basting with the glaze as it rests.

I then used the idea of stuffing local collard greens with a Cajun classic called dirty rice made with the "holy trinity" - onions, red bell peppers and celery along with handmade tasso ham, chicken andouille sausage and chicken livers to create a southern version of dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, paying homage to El Greco - where my notebook left off...

As a balance to the sweetness of the orange glaze I used some locally grown chiles called "goat's horn" and "cherry bomb" that I de-seeded and blanched in boiling water to allow their fruitiness to come through without excessive spiciness. I blended the tamed chiles with softened garlic, scallions and fresh lime juice that I thickened and strained into a squeeze bottle to place little dabs of this refreshing condiment as a garnish.

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Before the summer ends I'd like to get a couple more of the sangria variations in, starting this week with the oxymoronic variety of white sangria.

To be honest, when I first heard about the idea of a white sangria it made even more sense to me than the original. The bright, crisp characteristics of a chilled Chablis makes me think of lounging pool-side a little bit more than any red counterpart, but that's obviously the American in me talking. Besides, what I did next will probably get me ousted from any future wine club.

I wanted to stretch the boundaries of what people think of as sangria, so I did a sort of word game. If a white wine has notes of grapefruit, then why not emphasize that with actual grapefruit? Then, if I like the flavor of fresh sage leaves with grapefruit, why wouldn't it work with the wine?

So I simply marinated summer fruits like nectarines, peaches, white grapes with freshly juiced and zested grapefruit along with some crunchy green apples to keep it all balanced!

With a little luck (or lack of inspiration...) I'll be able to offer one last variation this summer, maybe even an interesting rose version, before we start thinking about fall again.

With Love,